Full transcript from the top three press conference after the Sakhir Grand Prix, Round 16 of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship, at Bahrain International Circuit.
Featuring winner Sergio Perez (Racing Point), second-placed Esteban Ocon (Renault), and third-placed Lance Stroll (Racing Point).
Track interviews conducted by David Coulthard
Q: Sergio Pérez, welcome to the middle step of the podium, welcome to your first victory. Take us through your emotions right now, the first Mexican to do so since 1970.
Sergio PÉREZ: I’m a bit speechless. I hope I’m not dreaming, because I’ve dreamed for so many years of being in this moment. Ten years it took me. Incredible, I mean… I don’t know what to say. After the first lap the race was again gone, same as last weekend. But it was all about not giving up, recovering and going for it, just making the best we possibly could. This season, the luck hasn’t been with us this year but we finally got it and I think we won today on merit. Yeah, the Mercs had some issues but in the end my pace was strong enough to hold George who did a fantastic race today.
Q: That first incident on the first lap in Turn 4 with Charles Leclerc. Explain the emotions right there, because after that the comeback was spectacular.
SP: Yeah, I did a big mistake during the safety car, I locked up my front left tyre badly, so during my first stint I had so much vibrations throughout the stint, but as soon as I recovered onto the second stint… I told my team, you know, this car feels like a limousine, so easy without the vibrations, we had tremendous pace. I think we read the race pretty well throughout the weekend. We came here thinking it would be a two-stop but straight after my long run on Friday we knew what we had to do today.
Q: Now, for people who are tuning into Formula 1 for the first time, amazingly you don’t have a drive for next year, as we speak. How much does this strengthen your resolve that you deserve your place in Formula 1?
SP: Ah, it just makes me a bit more peaceful with myself to be honest. What happens is not so much in my hands at the moment. But I know and I want to keep going, but if I’m not on the grid next year I will be back in ’22.
Q: Grand Prix winner sounds pretty good doesn’t it?
SP: Amazing… amazing
Q: Lance, well your second podium this year. A fantastic result for the Racing Point team. How do you feel first of all, your team-mate getting the victory, talk us through your race?
Lance STROLL: Yeah, amazing race for the team. A part of me is a little bit disappointed as I think I could have won the race. I went a little bit deep on my pit exit after my pit stop and Esteban managed to get by me and then I just didn’t have the pace. I locked up, Sergio went by, but I just didn’t really have the pace to overtake Esteban so I got held up there a little bit. But all in very happy for the team, it’s an unbelievable result and first and third is exactly what we needed for the championship.
Q: You mentioned a mistake into Turn 4, there was an under-rotation, you went a little bit wide. What was it that was particularly challenging in that corner on that lap?
LS: It was just being in the fight with Esteban and Sergio. I was late on the DRS out of 3 and Sergio got a good run on me and then I was defending and I just miscalculated and braked a little bit late and locked up. One of those things. But I’m super happy for Sergio. He’s got a couple of races left for the team and he’s been up there such a long time waiting for the win and it came this weekend so really happy for him.
Q: Esteban, your first podium in Formula 1!
Esteban OCON: I have no words. I cried on the line, that’s how much emotion is going through my mind actually now. It’s been a tough season on our side. It hasn’t paid off all the time but we never stopped pushing. We kept working hard, we kept staying motivated. That was very important. At the moment where less and less people are believing in you, it’s important to believe in yourself and today we made it happen and I’m very pleased with it. It’s hard work but it has paid off.
Q: You talk about whether people are believing in you. The momentum seemed to have been with Daniel, he got that podium earlier in the season, so how important is this for you, to have shown your team ahead of having a pretty handy team-mate joining you next year in Fernando Alonso?
EO: Sure. I mean Daniel is a fantastic benchmark. He has done a fantastic season in his second season with Renault. He has stepped up. Overall, I feel like my progression has been strong as well. I am closing the gap to him and to have that podium is the cherry, the fruit on the cake.
Q: Sergio, what an unbelievable race – and after the disappointment of last weekend as well. You’ve had a couple of minutes for this to sink in now, just describe how you are feeling?
SP: I am a bit shocked, to be honest. I don’t find the words. I’m a bit in the limbo right now. As a driver you dream for this time, to be in this position, for so many years. I worked my whole life for a moment like this. To finally achieve it… It’s difficult to digest. I think it will take a couple of days, but it’s just something incredible, especially coming back from last weekend where it was a very disappointing day for us where we should have been on the podium. Really the last four races we should have been on the podium. But we didn’t give up, especially after lap one, we got knocked out again, you know. I don’t know what happened. I was already doing the corner and I got hit badly behind. I thought the race was over again, but we managed to come back.
Q: How was the car after that incident on lap one?
SP: I guess it must be good, because we had tremendous pace! The car performed really well. The strategy: I think after Friday we knew already what we were doing. We understood really right the track after the first couple of runs. We knew this Bahrain is very different – the layout, the way your work the tyres – so we knew that we were going for the one stop and that made a strong difference today.
Q: You were fifth on the grid today, what were your expectations going into the race?
SP: Podium. I was going for the podium. But on that you really rely on what happens to the Mercedes and the Red Bulls. But yeah, I was really hoping for a podium, I was determined to get one. I got a good launch, a good start and thought I had a good lap one. I was up to second or something like that.
Q: Esteban, coming to you, your first podium in Formula 1. Now, you’ve had an incredible journey to get to this point. Can you just describe what it means to you and your family?
EO: They must be unbelievably happy, I hope. I didn’t have the chance, obviously, to call them yet but as soon as we are done with everything, I will be spending a good time with them. What a journey. What a difficult journey to arrive here – a lot of sacrifices from my early days. Not easy to get into F1 and I stopped, obviously, last year. Not easy to get back in as well. New team, strong team-mate against me and we were seeing the progress this year. It was coming but it never really paid off until today. Today we made it happen. Very pleased. I think this is what was waiting around but we didn’t get the luck we wanted each time. Such a cool race – and congratulations to Checo and also to Lance, my mate, we had a good fight together through Turn Four. It was good fun, I really enjoyed that race. All the emotions that came when I crossed that line. Unbelievable. I never cried for anything but I tell you, today, the tears, they came, and they came for a good reason. So I’m really happy.
Q: It came because it’s your first podium in Formula 1. When was your last podium in motorsport?
EO: Too long ago! My last podium must have been Abu Dhabi GP3 back in 2015. So the new Formula 3, obviously. Since then, I was waiting for more moments like this. Today, it’s right here. What a moment, thank you very much.
Q: And Esteban, same question to you about your expectations coming into the race from P11 on the grid.
EO: Yeah, we had good expectations about today. Obviously we knew what we are going to do with the strategy, coming from outside the top ten, free choice of tyres and that was very interesting for a race like this. The graphs were showing that we were going to be coming in the top five, that it was going to be a very strong comeback and the guys on more stops were going to be struggling a bit. But yeah, we never thought, obviously, that we were going to come this close to the win even. It’s been an awesome race.
Q: Lance, coming to you. Great to see you back on the podium. You’ve had a rough time since your most recent podium in Monza. Just how sweet does it feel to be back in the top three?
LS: Very sweet. Such a great result for the team today. We didn’t have the best day yesterday. In Q2 we picked up some damage on the floor, so we lost a lot of performance in Q3 and that put us on backfoot for today but we, yeah, we had great pace on that first stint and managed to go very long in the race. Unfortunately Esteban got the DRS, he pitted a lap earlier and was right behind me coming out of Turn Two, so he picked up the DRS and got alongside me and managed to get by into Turn Four – but it was some good wheel to wheel action, so had some fun there. Then afterwards it just locked-up into Turn Four, which allowed Sergio by, but y’know, he had better pace on a fresher set of tyres and managed to get by Esteban, whereas I was struggling a little bit, so all-in-all the biggest thing today is the fact that both cars are on the podium. Big points for the team, so it really is a great result for the team today.
Q: And Lance, the foundations for this result were that incredible first stint on the Soft tyre. How difficult was it to just keep going?
LS: It wasn’t so difficult. We had great pace, the tyre wasn’t degging too much but looking back at the race I think the Medium was the much better tyre to be on. Sergio, unluckily got hit after lap one, put the Mediums and he had very good pace. I think it was probably a better tyre to be on. Even though the Soft did feel good, there was much better pace on that Medium. And even Esteban, I think, was closing in on me towards the end on that Medium. But yeah, from where we started, I think we did a great strategy today. It was a very fun race. The Safety Car at the end spiced things up, so we were all wheel-to-wheel, racing for the podium. Sergio pulled away but between the rest of us, I was slowly catching Esteban, not quite enough to get on his DRS but then I had Sainz behind me that was hunting me down. He had some good pace so it was very tense there in the last few laps but great to keep the podium.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – AP) Question for Esteban. You had to sit out for one year, Formula 1, through nothing to do with your form or your results. Sergio is now in a position where he may have to sit out for a year. Just won a race. Very difficult situation he finds himself in. What advice could you give? How did you deal with that unfairness? Psychologically, how did you deal with it, not let it get to you too much?
EO: Yeah, it’s obviously a very tough position to be in. I know well, know how it feels like. I’m glad that Sergio is obviously getting the result, you know? To show everybody that he deserves to be in Formula 1. He’s one of the top guys out there and he can’t be left outside. There’s no… it would not be normal. But sometimes the sport is like that, unfortunately, and you don’t end up in the best situations. On my side obviously it’s been a tough year but I was in good hands. I had a lot of people believing in me and supporting me, which has helped me to come back after a year out – and yeah, here we are. Not easy to get going but after a bit of running, you get there.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Sergio, congratulations on the win. What was the team telling you after the Safety Car near to the end of the race, and how was it when Russell was coming up to you on those new tyres. Do you think you could have held him off to the end even if he hadn’t stopped?
SP: Thanks. I think obviously after what happened in Imola when we did the wrong choice, pitting under the Safety Car, we were clear what we wanted to do here. We were obviously staying out and we were pretty confident I was going to be able to restart those tyres and to go to the end with good pace. I think with George it was going be close but I think I was going to be able to hold him back, because we had good pace. He was about two to three-tenths, sometimes four-tenths, sometimes I was matching him. I think the closest he got was 2.8s. The information that we had as a team was that you needed a difference of eight-tenths of a lap to be able to overtake. It was going to be close but I think given the age of my tyres, given the pace I had towards the end, the pace I had in hand, I was going to be able to hold him back to the end.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Sergio, you’ve been famous throughout your career for keeping tyres alive in difficult circumstances in races. How tough was it today as you recovered from the back of the field, because you also had to race a lot of cars at the same time?
SP: That first stint was pretty hard. We went onto a new set of mediums but I did a big mistake during the safety car. I locked up, warming up the brakes, I locked up badly the front left tyre and since that first lap of the race, I had so bad vibrations but it was hard to keep the steering wheel tight [in my hands]. There were times when I told the team that we should box I was losing lap time but still the pace was strong at that point but what I think what really made our race was to be able to go a bit longer than these two guys and build up a bit of a tyre delta and then we came back strong and we managed to overtake them and I think we had good tyre life until the end, so well done to the team, because we understood quickly enough this Bahrain because it’s very different to the last one that we raced on, in terms of tyre usage, tyre energies, so we done on that, to the team, and nice recovery from last weekend.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Regarding your future, there’s one obvious very good possibility for next year and you’re also mentioned as options for 2022, so how much do you think today’s win has advanced your chances for a good seat, either next year or the year after, and when it comes to those 2022 options, what sort of level of team can you see as a possibility? Is there a path where you can see for that year into a potentially race-winning team or is it something a little bit lower down that you have to accept?
SP: I’ve always said about ’22 there was a race, taking a year out at this stage of my career that I am. I never know what’s going to happen, if I will have the will to come back for doing that, bad year I decide to stop but after today, after the last couple of races, I’m sort of determined to be here, either if it’s next year or the year after. I already have some good options for ’22 so my best option is obviously to keep going on next year but if I have to stop, then it’s not a disaster, I can come back in ’22. The regulations are going to change so much that in a way, I don’t think it will hurt that much the driving side, to get up to speed. I’m at peace with myself, you know. I think Esteban mentioned that drivers like him missing out on seats, so it’s just the way Formula 1 is, it can be really tough and not the best drivers are in Formula 1 unfortunately. So we keep pushing and we keep delivering and I think that’s the best way to do it.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Sergio, you’re only the second driver from your country to win a Grand Prix. How much do you know about the first, Pedro Rodriguez and can you tell us something about what you’ve heard about him please?
SP: Thank you. Yeah, obviously I know a bit about Pedro. Never been able to share experience with any Formula 1 drivers in terms of winning or being on the podium and so on because Pedro was happening many years ago. I heard that he had tremendous talent. Obviously that was another era but all I’ve heard about the talent that he had was very special. Unfortunately he died at a very young age but it’s good, it’s good to have good memories. We are leaving good marks in the sport for Mexicans. It’s not easy to get into Formula 1 and succeed in this sport so it’s important to leave a mark and hopefully in the near term we can have another strong Mexican on the grid.
Q: Checo, how do you think your win will be received back home in Mexico?
SP: Ah, it’s going to be amazing. At this time of the year, in a normal year, I think we are around Mexico, Austin, that region you know, so I think it’s going to be… especially because it’s a good time in the Mexican time [zone]. Normally the races are like six in the morning, seven in the morning. This one, it’s on a Sunday, 11 ‘o clock and I’m sure by now they will be having some good tequilas in half of the country!
Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) Esteban, you said after the race that it’s been a challenging year on your return to the grid and that confidence around you might have been falling down a bit. Can you expand on that and is there a feeling of revenge tonight at your first F1 podium?
EO: Thank you, Julien, it’s been awesome to finally get that result. As you said, it’s not been an easy year but you know we’ve seen that progress coming and it didn’t always turn our way in the end and that’s what’s frustrating in a way. So finally we know it came. We always believed in ourselves, that’s the most important [thing]. When you are not performing at the best in this sport it’s something very difficult as you are getting critics, are getting a lot of different things around but the people around you, who are important, they always support you and that has helped me a lot and the team has helped me to keep believing in myself and keep pushing and today we did so, so very pleased with that.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – AP) Sergio, you mentioned the reaction back home. A friend of mine, who lives in Puebla sent me a message saying that everyone’s Checo tonight. How proud are you to bring that kind of feeling of joy to the Mexican people? What does it mean to you?
SP: It means a lot, a lot to me, especially this year. It’s been very difficult for all the world so to have this kind of happiness at the homes for many Mexicans means a lot to me, for my family, it means… just such a tremendous day, historic day in our sport. I’m just very pleased, you know. You’ve seen the amount of support that I get in my country. Can you imagine what it’s like at the moment?