Full transcript from the top three press conference after from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Round 17 of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship, at Yas Marina Circuit.
Featuring race winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull), second-placed Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) and third-placed Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Track interviews conducted by Martin Brundle
Q: Congratulations Max, a stunning drive, pole position, led every lap, what a perfect way to go into the close season. You really deserved that.
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it was really enjoyable. Yesterday already of course, but today we had a good start and from there on of course you look after the tyres but the car was having really good balance. It was really enjoyable out there today. We did basically everything alright. Once you also start up front you can control the pace a bit more and it makes your life a bit easier.
Q: You had it covered right from the get go. You sounded a little bit nervy for tyres towards the end. You had some vibrations and whether the tyres would go to the end or not?
MV: Yeah, but then also I saw that they were dropping off behind me so I could take it a bit easier. Of course I had to go through a bit of traffic, the backmarkers, but overall it was just a very strong race for the team.
Q: You didn’t fancy any donuts after the race on the pit straight?
MV: No, I enjoyed that I won, I’m going to enjoy the podium and then I’m going to enjoy going home!
Q: Well, we certainly enjoyed watching you race. We’ve recovered the two Mercedes drivers after their donuts on the grid. Valtteri, second in the race, ahead of Lewis on that one, but Max certainly had some pace today.
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, I think Red Bull was too quick today, surprisingly quick today. We thought race pace would be pretty identical but they could really control the race and pull the gap when needed. I was trying everything I could but I couldn’t keep up with them.
Q: So you are satisfied with your race, your pace. That was it; that was all you got today?
VB: I feel like it was a solid race from my side. No mistakes and I felt like I couldn’t get more out of the package we had today. In that sense a good race today but anyways ahead of my team-mate. It’s been a while since I’ve been on the podium, so it’s going to be nice, even though it’s not going to be champagne there.
Q: Well done. It’s a very short off-season. What happens now for you through the winter?
VB: We still have some commitments next week but for sure some time off over Christmas. Hopefully can see the family. It’s been a while. I can’t remember the last time I saw them. Quick reset, quick training block and start again from zero and try to do a bit better.
Q: Any message for the team?
VB: I think the team has been, like I said on the radio, amazing this year. I’m really proud that we get P1 and P2 in the Drivers’ Championship. Amazing season by every single team personnel in all the factories so very thankful.
Q: Lewis, your 165th podium in Formula 1. Seven in a row here but perhaps not the step you wanted today on the podium?
Lewis Hamilton: Oh you can’t win them all! Considering the past couple of weeks I’ve had I’m really generally happy with the weekend. It’s obviously not 100% and not perhaps as good as we would like. But congratulations to Max. That was a really hard race for me, physically. All year, physically I have been fine but today I definitely wasn’t. So, I’m just glad it’s over. Big, big thank you to the tea, for their continued support. It’s still a fantastic result to get two podium finishes for us.
Q: Recovering from COVID-19, you feel that’s impacted on your drive today without doubt?
LH: Physically? Massively. I don’t think I’ve ever been so blown. My body is not feeling great. But look on the bright side: I made it through and you know, I didn’t think anytime last week I would be here so I am truly grateful for my health and to be alive and yeah, looking forward to recovering over the next period of time we have and getting back into training and get my body back to where I know it should be.
Q: And finally, Alex Albon closing you down towards the end?
LH: Yeah, the Red Bulls I think this weekend were just too far out of reach for us. We just couldn’t hold on to the pace they had. Fantastic to see Alex right up there with us and we were having a two-team battle, which is what the sport needs. I really hope and pray in 2022 the cars are better to follow, cos I don’t know, it feels a boring race to watch. As soon as you get within three seconds of someone you are just sliding around and you’re in turbulence the whole time. I really hope that what Ross [Brawn] has proposed really makes a difference. We just need good tyres.
Q: Max well done, great race by you to take the 10th win of your career and what a great way to round out the season?
MV: Yeah, it was an enjoyable race. We had a decent start I think and from there onwards I could manage the gap and could look after my tyres. And then of course the safety car came out at a little bit of an unfortunate time because we then had to do a very long stint on the hard. Luckily the tyre coped with it but you still have to manage it a bit more. The car was really good today. Just a good balance and then you can also look after your tyres and I could then build a gap all the way through the race.
Q: It was a dominant performance from you. Any anxious moments for you?
MV: Just a little bit of vibration on the tyre, so I was think back a little bit to Spa but also of course Imola. I was keeping an eye on it on every straight. But yeah, luckily all good. The pace was still there. The tyres were still performing.
Q: The gap to Mercedes, not just today but all weekend really, have you been surprised by it?
MV: To be honest before I got here I didn’t expect to win the race and be on pole, so maybe a little bit. Of course I also read that they had to turn the engines down a bit, so that’s not helping for them. In general I think still the car performed very strong and better than expected, so of course very happy with that. It’s a great way to finish the season, it’s a good boost for everyone in the team here and of course at the factory and I just hope of course that we learn from the previous years that we have to be stronger in the beginning of the season to be able to give then a little bit of a harder time.
LH: What’s that about the engine?
MV: The MGU-UK.
MV: Yeah that’s what they said?
LH: Is that right? I don’t think that’s the case.
VB: Maybe it is, but we don’t know.
MV: Maybe they just don’t want to tell you!
Q: Valtteri, well done. Ultimately, a pretty lonely race for you this evening. Tell us about your run to the 11th podium of the season.
VB: For sure, tried everything I could and I noticed pretty early on in the first stint that Max and Red Bull had more pace. The first stint was quite understeer-y for me. It was a short stint but I felt that was a bit of a limitation but then we made a bit of an adjustment on the front flap for the second stint and that felt actually, balance-wise, not bad, just not quick enough. So, for sure, it was surprising. We thought that the race pace would be pretty much identical to the Red Bull but it wasn’t the case today. So yeah, obviously I’ve had much worse races this year, so it’s actually, in this kind of season, one of the good ones for me. At least it was nice and clean. Start was good and everything – so could have been a worse way to end the season. And actually, if we think about the big pictures, now in this team, being beaten by Red Bull at the last race of the season, for sure it motivates us even more to work hard over the winter for next year to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Q: And Valtteri, this P2 seals second in the Drivers’ Championship for you as well. How satisfied are you with that?
VB: You know, as a driver when you are in the best team overall this season, being second, it can’t be that satisfying. But, you know, it is something. To be able to contribute to the team this season, getting the fourth constructors’ title for me in the team, and seventh in a row for us, so yeah, it’s better than being third, for sure. I guess I will get a small trophy to take home next week and I’m sure when I’m old and grey I can look this year and yeah, I was second, but hopefully I’ll get a bigger trophy one day.
Q: Lewis, many congratulations to you as well. First up, can you just sum up your run to third place today please?
LH: It was the best I could do. Congrats to Max, it’s a great result, great drive from him all weekend and a great showing that Red Bull has a solid car. As far as I’m aware, we haven’t had any changes to our engine so I think it’s just true pace from them rather than us taking a step back, and I think they’ve worked so hard all through the year so congrats to him and his team. It’s a pretty impossible circuit to… it’s not very easy to overtake through at this circuit and I think it showed, considering we were all relatively close to each other – apart from Max, obviously, who pulled away but even Alex was right behind me so it shows the strength that they had today. So yeah, I’m just glad I made it through and finished off still relatively strong in terms of consistency, not making mistakes in the season. I’m glad it’s done.
Q: Are you frustrated that you didn’t do something different from a strategy point of view during the Virtual Safety Car period?
LH: No, not really, I think… I don’t think there was anything else we could have really done. If I’d stayed out, the pace they would have had on that new tyre, that would just have eaten up the gap that I had and then I would have done a pit stop and lost even more time. So, there’s not really a lot that you could have done. It definitely didn’t make the race particularly exciting. But yeah, it is what it is.
Q: And Lewis, this is podium number 14 for you. How important was it for you to end the season in the car?
LH: I don’t know how important. For me, it’s definitely… it would have been a long gap between Bahrain I and race one. I think it definitely was important for me to get back and just get back to that continuity and finish the year off strong with the team. Yes, we didn’t win but still we got a second and third and I think that’s still a strong result. We still scored more points than Red Bull as a team [sic] so that’s still a strong showing this weekend, and we’ve obviously got a fight on our hands next year, without a doubt these guys are going to be strong as this car he’s driving now is next year’s car pretty much, and the same for us. So, I’m excited for that challenge and that battle that we hopefully will get.
Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Question for Lewis. Lewis, this season’s been very unusual. It’s also been difficult, not least in the concentration of so many races into such a period of time, and on top of that you’ve also suffered with Covid-19 towards the end here. Can you just tell me how to you rate this in terms of it being your hardest season? Has it been your hardest season that you’ve had to take part in and if it’s not, which season has been more difficult than this?
LH: I think it’s almost impossible to say which one is harder than the other because every year you face something new and something different. I think this year, for me personally, I would say it’s been one of the hardest years, if not the hardest year because, you know, we’ve all dealt with isolation. We’ve not been around people. There’s been a great loss of life. Life is not normal. I’m grateful that we got to race and it’s been… these races can take a lot out of you and I think, yeah, for me definitely, I think it’s a great achievement for Formula 1 to have got us back racing. Thank God for the health and wellbeing of everyone here in this sport that’s managed to get safely through the year. Yeah.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) To all three of you: after the virtual safety car and the safety car pit stops, you were on the hard for a very long time to the end of the race. How hard were you able to push through that or was it a case of holding back to make sure you made it to the finish?
MV: How hard? Well, always with a margin because you knew that you had to do quite a lot of laps and then so basically I was just looking at what the guys behind me were doing and of course I was trying to build a little bit of a gap but not, let’s say, in ten laps time, just every lap trying to get a bit out of it to have a bit of a safety margin in case your tyres suddenly drop or whatever but then you couldn’t go flat out but anyway on this track, you cannot do that because it’s just too hard on tyres and the last sector is quite tough.
VB: I think, based on all the simulations and in theory we knew that it should be fine but not create a great amount of margin and what made it difficult was that I could see that Max was pulling gap and of course at the end I didn’t want that gap to grow too much and of course I tried to keep up, at the same time trying to make sure we make it to the end so it was all balancing it out and at some point, the three of us, we can’t keep up with them and we need to try and get to the finish. If we had to do two stops we would have been a lot slower overall so there was not many options.
LH: Not really anything to add. They both answered it pretty well. It was the same for me.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – AP) Max, you said a few minutes ago that if you start the season more strongly you will hopefully be in a better position to challenge. Does today’s result leave you feeling more optimistic than before this weekend, or do still think there’s considerable work to do and do you know where those areas would be?
MV: I honestly don’t want to fit anything at the moment. We know we have to work hard over the winter to be better and stronger because you can’t just rely on this result. We know that we still have to improve the car a lot and we know it’s some areas where we have to really work on and that’s not only on the car but also power-wise – we need more. I hope we learn from the last few years, it’s not like we do it on purpose but yeah, we will definitely go into the winter with a good feeling. It’s always nice to win the last race, I think, for the whole team, especially after a year like this when it’s very tough and a lot of races followed up after each other so yeah, it’s been hard on everyone, especially mechanics but also the people back in the factory manufacturing all the new parts because we brought quite a lot this year. Yeah, good boost and yeah, I just hope that we learn from our mistakes – also at the beginning of this year (those) we made and hopefully build a better car to start next year.
Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Lewis, you said over the weekend that you’re still not 100%. I imagine your priority right now is to getting back to your own bed, but contractually, at least, you don’t have one for next year and I was just wondering when you will sit down with Toto and work out the final details and announce your next contract, if indeed you will?
LH: Hopefully over the next couple of weeks. I would love – we would love to get it done before Christmas, I think. I plan to be here next year; I want to be here next year. I think us, as a team, have more to do together and more to achieve both in the sport but even more outside the sport I think. So yeah, I hope we can begin this week, discussions, and hopefully get it tied up before Christmas.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) To the two Mercedes drivers please. It was Toto Wolff who said you needed to turn down because of a possible MGU-K gremlin, but if that wasn’t the case for the two of you today, how do you explain not being able to match Red Bull as you’d expected?
VB: Honestly, I wasn’t aware that the engine was turned down. I can’t really say much. I don’t know if it was how much it was. So, I don’t know. Red Bull was obviously quicker and for the first time this year they have such a gap on the race pace against us so… not much more to say.
LH: Same really. I don’t… naturally, when we go back now we will ask about it because I wasn’t aware of that, personally. I arrived late Thursday night so I think HPP and Mercedes have done an amazing job this year for us. You like at my reliability, for example, it’s been… managed to finish every race so it’s been really fantastic but there have been issues with other engines that Mercedes have done, for example for the Force India and with the Williams so it’s not… we definitely have work to do so if they have done something then it would make sense for sure and I’m just grateful that we finished now and we’re not going to be using the engines anyway so… they were good enough for us to do donuts!