Full transcript from the top three press conference after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Round 13 of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship, at Imola in Italy.
Featruning race-winner Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) and third-placed Daniel Ricciardo (Renault).
Track interviews conducted by Paul Di Resta
Q: Daniel, you’re getting pretty used to being up here. Another third place in three races. How did that pan out? Daniel Ricciardo: It was a bizarre one. I got into fourth off the start and I felt that was obviously the best we could do with the three at the front. But then Pérez had really good pace. He passed us through the pit sequence and then I think he pitted for the soft at the end with the safety car. We obviously kept track position. I’m not sure what happened to Max but that obviously put us in the fight. Kvyat came out of nowhere in the last few laps, but it was fun. Two podiums in three races as you say. It all just happened very quickly at the end there. It was fun.
Q: Good opportunity to do another Shoey. Is Cyril going to get another tattoo on the other side now as well? DR: He actually just said: “congrats, but I’m not getting a second tattoo”. So maybe someone else in the team. But today I won’t forget the shoey.
Q: Is it a cool track to race on? DR: It is. It obviously is pretty difficult for overtaking but the actual circuit itself is awesome. It’s mega.
Q: Valtteri, you started on pole, you got away perfectly. But you were fighting wounded there. I think you picked up some damage up towards Turn 7 that you couldn’t avoid? Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, I think that made quite a big effect today. The start was good. That was one of the main things to get right today. But on lap 2, suddenly, out of Turn 7, there was debris. I didn’t have time to avoid it…
Q: Did you see the debris then? VB: Yeah, I saw it. I aimed in the middle of the car, at least I tried to no run over that with the tyres but obviously it caused some damage or something that made the car quick difficult to drive.
Q: I guess it was very difficult because we saw Max pressuring you towards the end – a few mistakes and lock-ups – but I guess we can put that down to a lack of downforce? VB: I was really pushing hard to try to avoid Max getting through. I had to push over my limits and that led to a few mistakes so unlucky.
Q: Lewis, outstanding. You obviously broke the record for wins last time out but to come here, perfectly managed on the radio, your strategy, how it all played out and I guess you are delighted? Lewis Hamilton: It was an exhausting race, the speed we were having to go. Obviously I had a poor start. It’s just very overwhelming right now because I look at my crew, this team here. And I know all the guys and girls… the men and women back at the factory, back at the factory in Brackley and Brixworth who… They are the unsung heroes. They are the ones that have really grafted away and never given up. They have just continued to push and elevate and innovate. People watching maybe think we are used to it but it always feels like the first with this team and I think that’s because of the spirit and so I am forever grateful to everyone to be a part of it, to be a part of breaking a breaking record like this. No team has done this before. We have a great leader in our team and also a big thank you to Mercedes, Petronas and all of our partners. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them.
Q: Seven consecutive Constructors’ Championships. That’s mighty force behind you? LH: It’s unbelievable. To come back year on year… I’ll tell you, whilst we have great performance it’s not easy to deliver weekend-in, weekend-out, and for everyone, they are so precise with how they take the car apart and put it back together. Whoo! Seven-time champs. That’s something I’m going to be able to tell my grandchildren one day.
Q: [Mercedes team boss joins in the parc ferme interviews] Toto, can you come in please. Toto, we don’t often see you as elevated as you are. That’s seven consecutive Constructors’ Championships. Lewis broke the record for wins last time out, you can see what that means to all those involved here and equally back at the factory? Toto Wolff: Yeah, I’m not so much into numbers but this is something to be proud of really. We have a group that is just amazing together. We’ve stayed together, we’ve tried to push the benchmark to new levels and we’ve achieved that and it’s just a super proud moment with all these guys and being part of it.
Q: Where do you go from here? I guess you just regroup and you just set that bar even higher again? TW: Yeah, as long as we stay motivated and energised, and you see that within these guys, then I think we can push it furthermore. There will be competition, no doubt, next year, with Max and Honda trying to do a really good job towards the end of the season, so we are looking forward to a new challenge.
Q: You don’t win these championships without having two good drivers. Valtteri was wounded today though. What happened there? TW: Valtteri had a, I think it was a Ferrari piece or a Racing Point piece, about that size, stuck underneath his car. It was debris his overran on lap two. He couldn’t avoid it.
Q: Lewis, another great win to add to your collection – and a shoey! Be honest, what did it taste like? LH: Hahaha! Toe jam! DR: Not as bad as you thought? LH: It definitely didn’t taste great. I mean I don’t really like Champagne as it is, but it definitely tastes worse. But what’s positive is that Daniel’s mum thinks I was a good sport, so I’m grateful for that. I think Daniel had said that I’d once said never, that I would never do it. So there’s a lesson – never say never. It was a good moment… I don’t know I’m just feeling incredibly proud of this team and you know, to live in a moment where we see a team so successful and to be a part of it is quite phenomenal. Something that it the real honour of my life, working for this team and for all these people back at the two factories, Brixworth and Brackley. You know they really are the unsung heroes that are not on TV every weekend. They’re the guys that are working flat out every day during the weeks, crazy hours, to build and to innovate, to raise the bar, so that we can come here and do what we have done today and this year. I really don’t take it for granted that we have had this success. People could say ‘oh, you must be used to it’, and obviously maybe the fans are used to it, but from working inside the sport, you never get used to it. From tomorrow we’ll be focused on what’s next. We’ll be focusing on how we can be better. On Wednesday we’ll be having a big team meeting, trying to understand what could have been done better. We’ll have an analysis of what the next car looks like and what’s needed to raise the bar with the engine, with the driveability, with the ride, with tyre usage, all these different things. That’s because at the core of this team is some real heart and so a big thank you to everyone.
Q: How different does winning the Constructors’ title feel to winning the Drivers’ title? LH: It’s almost more exciting winning the team one. It’s a very strange sport in the sense that it is as team sport but there are two championships and then there is an individual championship, but what is at the core our job is to deliver points and results for the team. So when you win a team championship I think it’s almost better than an individual because it’s something you do collectively, with a large group of people and whilst we are the ones standing on top of the podium we are not above anybody. We are on the same level, we are all part of the chain links. You can tell that everyone is so happy when they get the Constructors’ title. When we do the Christmas party and we celebrate with everyone, everyone just knows that they did a remarkable job and that they have done something that nobody else has done before. That’s cool to be a part of. Even if I was to stop today that would be something that I would be able to share with that large group of people for the rest of my life.
Q: And a quick word on the race. What was it like in the cockpit? LH: It was incredibly intense, very hard, physically quite draining as well, and mentally, mainly because it’s a very fast circuit, very bumpy. Valtteri got a great start. I thought I would get a better start today but it didn’t turn out the way I would have liked and I fell to third. My next strategy was to try and get by the Red Bull but it was just impossible to get close and in trying to get close I was killing the front tyres. So I backed off and just tried to keep within distance. Then Max stopped much earlier than I thought he would and Valtteri stopped to cover him and there was no way I was doing the same. Naturally, at the beginning of the race we get given a bunch of different options of strategy and I understood that if I was in that position the only way to do something was to do something different – to extend as long as I could. But I didn’t know how long that tyre would go, but I think that’s where the race was won today.
Q: Valtteri, before we talk about your race, can we just have a few words from you on the team’s achievement this year? You’ve been at Mercedes for four years. Four world titles. VB: Yeah, for me it’s crazy to thing that I’ve now been part of the team four years in a row to be part of winning the Constructors’ Championship. It’s quite unreal – but I think everything that Lewis said. For me, I’m just really thinking the same. I’m so proud of every single team member, what they’re doing. All the factories and in the race team. We keep raising the bar for every single team member but we do it united. We support each other but the spirit the team has, it’s making these things possible. And I’m really, really proud to be part of it. I think for all of us in the team, it takes a bit of time to understand what we’re doing and what we are achieving – but we should definitely enjoy it because it is amazing and I’m really proud of everyone. So, thanks team.
Q: And looking at your race. As Lewis said, you made a great start – but then you were carrying debris for a large chunk of the race. How did that affect the performance of your car? VB: Actually it was lap two, out of Turn Seven. Like, on the racing line, I didn’t have enough time to react. I saw a big piece of carbon, so I decided the only chance… what I had to do, what I had time to do was aim at least how to hit it. I decided to go straight over it instead of hitting one of the tyres and possibly getting a puncture but, unluckily, it got stuck on the floor – under the floor – and apparently it was like 50 points of downforce which, in lap time, is quite a big chunk. How it affected me, I would say mainly in high-speed corners. I could feel that the car was sliding a bit and in some brakings it was a bit unpredictable, so sometimes I would lock the wheels and sometimes it would stop pretty quickly. It was not really consistent, the downforce I had in the car. It made it really tricky and I could see I just didn’t quite have the pace and Max was putting a lot of pressure and in the end he got through because I had to push over my limits to try and maintain the position. I had a lock-up and that was it. Not my day. I didn’t have a chance with that debris in the car to fight for the win today, unfortunately. But at least we could secure a 1-2, which is a perfect way to secure the seventh title for the team in a row.
Q: Daniel, great to see you back on the podium. Second time in three races. How satisfying is this third place? DR: They’ll all pretty good, for sure. As Lewis touched on, with the wins, I’m also not going to take this for granted. It’s the second in three races but I’m as excited as I was in Nürburgring. It was a bit more… I feel it was a bit more unexpected, this one. We were running P5 with roughly 15 laps to go, I think, and then there was the issue with Max, so that brought out the Safety Car. So I guess that put me in fourth on track, and then Pérez pitted which, yeah, obviously I was smiling about because I was ‘well, that’s given me third on track’ and I knew hanging on with the Hard on the restart was going to be tricky but I was more than happy to fight for it at the end. Track position’s obviously very important around here, so yeah, I think both myself and the team were very willing to keep me out on track. We held on. I think the threat at the end was Kvyat and that was very surprising. I wasn’t sure where he came from but I was told he was on the Soft and he was coming on obviously very strong – but held on and just very, very happy. It’s pretty surreal actually, the first one and to get two now in such close proximity. It’s awesome.
Q: And now Renault third in the Constructors’ Championship, one point ahead of McLaren. DR: OK. It’s so close! That’s awesome. Obviously I saw Esteban off fairly early in the race I believe with a mechanical, so that’s a shame. I don’t know where he was on track but I know he would have had the pace to collect points today I’m sure. So, obviously it’s great that we got big points with one car but I think if we’re going to keep our nose in front for sure we need both cars in the points. It’s a shame, I guess he had some reliability issues today but still got a few races to go and I think we’ll fight until the end for sure – so I’m excited for that.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) It’s a question for Lewis. Do you might talking us through what happened at the start. It sounds like it didn’t quite go as you expected. And also, there was a stage under the Safety Car where the team was quite concerned about you and the delta time – what was happening there? LH: The start, I don’t really know. Just poor grip and… I’d have to look back it but it just felt like it wasn’t particularly fast and obviously I lost ground to both Valtteri and Max. Max, I think, was fortunate to be in P3. In hindsight I could have done a different job. Now I know. Hindsight’s a great thing but I’ll know for next time. And delta, I think just overly cautious and, for whatever reason, the Safety Car was out and the delta wasn’t an issue at that point. We were quite down on the delta.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Question to Lewis please. I believe that before the 2014 engine era started, Aldo Costa said internally at Mercedes that the targets hadn’t been set high enough and the team should aim for multiple titles in a row. Obviously, I would imagine, this has surpassed anybody’s wildest expectations at the beginning. Could you just explain how you believe the team has evolved from when you joined in 2013 and made this success possible? LH: There’s been a lot of changes over the time. What’s really crazy – for me – is that I was brought in, ultimately, to replace Michael, which was such a strange position to be in because, obviously, I’d watched this man dominate the sport and achieve such great things and he was stopping and I was going to be taking his place. The guys that I worked with were his previous mechanics and engineers and what a privileged position to be in. However, they had had quite a difficult time and the car hadn’t been good. I think what was really great was that, when I joined, I was personally able to put my stamp on the car and make a lot of alterations, particularly in 2013. And then we just collectively worked together. I knew that we would have a great engine because they had already started developing the engine before I’d even made my decision to join the team, before I’d signed the contract. Being that I was with Mercedes at McLaren, I was able to go to the factory, I knew what Mercedes was doing, I knew that McLaren was coming out of contract with Mercedes and I knew that I wanted to be with Mercedes-Benz because I think it’s such an iconic brand and I think they were so passionate about what they wanted to achieve. They’ve got such a great history and I knew that they had the power to turn things around. But it took so many incredibly hard working people to collectively come together to really innovate and design some incredibly… some of the most incredible bits of the car… to come together… the puzzle. It’s obviously a big puzzle. To watch it all come together is a real joy and, at the end of the day, there’s only two of us that get to drive it. I think also, the guys are just very level-headed. Even when you’re on the podium, the guys are never too overly-excited. They’re not out celebrating; they’re back at their desks already right now. I know for sure they’ll be back at their desks right now, already doing emails, working on what spares there are for the next race, working on what’s next to try to get ahead of the curve. And that’s what this team’s always been about.
Q: Lewis, were you surprised that Toto Wolff didn’t come on the podium today with you guys? LH: I thought that he was so I was a bit surprised. I thought that’s why he was at the front. We very rarely see him at the front there and he came and did an interview, so I thought that he was coming up – but I think whilst it would have been nice for him to be up there with us, I think that’s a real showing of a leader. He’s not trying to be at the front of every photo. He’s not trying to claim anything. He puts the team first. I think that’s… without doubt he is the best leader here. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, no-one has done as good a job as he has. I think it’s his mentality, the balance of drive, compassion, understanding and ego. All of them come together to create the best boss you could have. Every single person in the team, no-one’s below him, and he really cares about how everyone is doing: ‘how’re things away from the track?’, ‘how’s things at home with your family – is there anything we can do so you can be better at the office?’ He’s a great guy and I feel privileged to have him as our leader. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without his guidance.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Kind of following on from Lewis’s comments there, I wanted to ask… Toto’s just been on Sky saying that he’s reached the end of his shelf life in his current position. He’s earmarked a replacement, he’s not saying who it is, the big indication, of course, is that he’s not going to be within the same role next year. With that in mind, just how concerned are you about next year and – obviously we’re a long way off – but the fact that he won’t be there… you talk about what big effect he in the team, if he’s not there to lead the team, are there any concerns going forward that he won’t be able to repeat this same level of success that you’ve had this year? LH: I don’t even know if I’m going to be here next year so it’s not really a concern for me at the moment. No, I think I understand and we have a lot of deep conversations, Toto and I, so I’m very, very aware of where he is mentally and we share a lot of … and carry a lot of the weight together, I think. Jeez, yeah, I’ve been in a long, long time. I can definitely understand wanting to pull back and give more time to family and those things. I don’t know who he would replaced but again, he’s a leader, he’s not going to put anyone that’s not going to be able to do the job, not going to be up to it, who’s not going to be geared up. He will find the right people. That’s why we have the success we have, we’ve found the right people and put them in the position to be able to shine as bright as possible. He’s just empowered every single person in the team, to be the best they can be. So he will find somebody that’s able to take on and continue… But you know, it’s not one person. The team is not about one person, it’s a collective of a lot of people. Toto doesn’t build the car, it’s a real team effort. But I’m supportive of him, whatever he wants to do, moving forwards.
Q: Valtteri, can we get your thoughts on Toto? You’ve worked with him for many years, even before you were at Mercedes. VB: I think, to be honest, Lewis said everything. I just copy paste it, because I really think the same, that he’s going to be a tough guy to replace in the future and the way he leads the team, he’s a smart guy and he knows exactly what kind of support each team member needs, how much they need, criticism and how to help them to be a better version of themselves and that applies to every single team member and he can really read people well and he’s supportive and he’s done something incredible and I’m fortunate that I’ve known him since 2008 so quite some long time now and he was a bit part of my early career as well. He’s a great guy and whatever he’s going to do in the future I’m going to respect that as well because in the end you’re living for yourself in this life and that’s how it goes.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport.com) Valtteri, are you a bit surprised, in a way, that last week in Portimao you were not allowed to change onto the softs which you actually demanded on the radio whereas this week Lewis was allowed an offset strategy? Is that in line with what you call racing intent? VB: It was two different scenarios, I would say. We went through the plans this morning, what happens if one of us gets under pressure and there’s a possibility that Red Bull could undercut and that was me today, so obviously I had to react and it would have been the same case if I was in Lewis’s position that the only thing I wanted to do is to go long and seek the opportunities and it really paid off for Lewis today and if we were the other way round it would have been the same for me. Obviously Lewis, he had the pace advantage, I think, honestly, partly, for sure today because of the debris I had but we were pretty strong but two completely different scenarios and actually in Portimao, even though I asked for the soft but I couldn’t achieve the target lap anyway, to get the soft to last until the end. The racing intent is good and is working and we are following the rules and it’s completely fair. It’s one of the thing that allows us as a team to actually do the things that we’re doing.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Valtteri, we’ve seen the debris that was caught under your car, it’s quite a massive part. Are you surprised that no one realised it and that we didn’t see a VSC or a yellow flag or whatever? And are you asking these questions to Michael? VB: Actually, I got a warning from my engineers that they could see some gravel, maybe, on lap two in turn seven because they could see some kind of warning somewhere but there was no yellow flag but it was big piece of debris and I didn’t have enough time to react, to go around it so I would have time to decide how I’m going to hit the debris and I decided to go, like, straight over instead of with the tyres. Yeah, it would be good to get more of an understanding why there was not any sign of big piece of carbon because obviously it’s dangerous if there’s flying things around but it sure didn’t help my race today.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Lewis, I don’t know if you’ve had a chance already looking at the trophy but obviously it’s the circuit layout and then there’s a diamond where the Senna tragedy happened. What do you think of the trophy? Does it mean something to you? LH: Well, every trophy does, for sure. When we came back, just before we came in the podium, we saw there was a lady there doing the engraving, which is probably the first time I’ve seen that being done, just before… do they always do that? There was a time when trophies were… when you’re from the young days, from karting, little plastic… but they’re so special, they all had such a great meaning and then as you get through the categories they would get nicer, they would get more expensive and you got to Formula 1 and they were so stunning and… but then we went through a patch where they really did a cost-cutting scheme and we had some really dodgy, really flimsy trophies, those ones did not survive the time but this one, particularly, I think, being that we’ve not had a race here for a long time, it is where I remember the day when I was in karting in ’94 at Rye House when Ayrton passed away so to think that we’re here, 26 year, whatever it is, 26 years later and to be able to win here as he had done many times and so yes, the trophy definitely is a keeper and it felt it had good weight to it so it felt like a… it didn’t feel like a cheapy.
Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Lewis, just wanted to follow up on something you said earlier, you said you don’t even know if you’re going to be here next year. Most take it as a given that you’re going to sign another contract with Mercedes but is there actually a real chance that you won’t be racing in Formula 1 next year? LH: Well, we’re in November and I’m still… it’s crazy that it’s Christmas isn’t that far away. Naturally, I feel great, I still feel very strong, I feel like I could keep going for plenty of months but you know, you mentioned about Toto and shelf-life so there’s multiple things that do stay on the top of my mind but I would like to be here next year but there’s no guarantee of that, for sure. There’s a lot that excites me of the after life so time will tell.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, the World Championship is now on the horizon, you can take the title in Turkey next time out. How does it feel to be on the brink on further history and what do you think it says about your performances this year, that you can seal the title in a 17 race season with three races to spare? LH: We, as a team, have done such a remarkable job, so I fully acknowledge that it’s a collective and we wouldn’t be able to get these one-twos if it wasn’t for these great people behind us. But still, I’ve got a phenomenal driver and teammate who comes in weekend in and weekend out and makes my life very very difficult and so this year, I think it’s… being that you’ve seen the different steps that Valtteri’s taken, he’s getting stronger and stronger, he’s picking up his game, every year, it’s been a great challenge to race alongside him. I definitely think these last couple of years I’ve been able to step into a different… really step it up, quite big strides, I would say, in positive areas and I think that’s come with age. I’m getting older now and whilst not letting my physical side drop off, I’ve been able to really… you’ve seen in the race today… I think getting stronger which feels good. I think this year has been feeling that, being getting stronger and stronger. Definitely really proud of this year’s performances but I couldn’t have done it without these great people working behind me who really provide us with the solid foundation of a reliable car, a fast car, to do what we’ve done, so it’s pretty awesome.