Full transcript from the FIA-hosted press conference after the Portuguese Grand Prix, Round 3 of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship, at Autodromo do Algarve in Portimao.
Featuring race winner Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), second-placed Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and third-placed Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes).
TRACK INTERVIEWS (Conducted by Paul Di Resta)
Q: Max, started third, finished second, you had a great jump on Lewis at the restart, you got in front but then you made a small mistake in Turn 14. How was your race. Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it was pretty decent. I had a good re-start and then I tried to put the pressure on Valtteri. At the end it think we just lacked a little bit of pace overall, so Lewis got by again and after the pit stop, the warm-up is super hard on these tyres, but I think once we settled in second you could clearly see that around here we were lacking a bit of pace compared to them. But still, second, fastest lap in the last lap…
Q: Ah well, I think you have been deleted for track limits at Turn 14, right at the end. The good thing is it didn’t go to Lewis, it went to Valtteri who took it the lap before you? MV: That’s a bit odd because they were not checking track limits in 14, but whatever?
Q: Well, onto the next race, what’s your feeling? Did you think this was a weekend that would favour Mercedes and then on to Spain where you can make a fight back? MV: Yeah, I think in general this was a bit of an odd weekend in terms of grip. We were not on top of it here but we’ll see again what we can do in Barcelona.
Q: Lewis, I think you’ve got to be pretty pumped for that result – absolutely textbook. But you managed to get the position back and onto the next one? Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, I’m telling you that was such a tough race, physically and mentally. Just keeping everything together… it was very windy out there, obviously, so it was very easy to put a foot wrong. I just didn’t get quite as good a start as Valtteri and then I lost out on the re-start, which was not good. I was not happy about that, naturally. I really had to try and position myself as best I could. I can’t remember, but I think Max made a mistake at some point in the lap, which was like perfect, and I knew that that was going to be the lap I would be as close as I could to him in the last sector. With Valtteri, I had to make the move early on, before the tyres were destroyed and I managed to just get him in Turn 1, just right on the limit. But a great race.
Q: I know you relish the challenge of people and opposition pushing you all the way. What does the next four days look like for you heading to Spain because it’s a very different year with Red Bull this close? LH: Yeah, I think the next few days… We head back home for just a couple of days and it’s about recovery and a lot of physio. Angela will be with me. Recovery and get yourself back, turned around as quickly as possible for the next one. A lot of kind of debriefs, a lot to download today, there are improvements we can make. Today wasn’t all perfect so we look at those areas and we try to turn over the stones.
Q: Valtteri, P3. I know you would have wanted more. You got the fastest lap as Max’s lap got deleted. How did your race go? Valtteri BOTTAS: It was a tricky day today. I don’t really know what happened in the first stint. I just didn’t have the pace, for unknown reasons. So we will need to have a look at that. But afterwards I think the second stint was pretty good but we had a bit of an issue with some sensor or something, so I couldn’t get Max.
Q: Like you say, why did the car become better when it was on half tanks, you were able to push on and even had Toto Wolff on the radio giving you that extra push. It seemed like when the fuel burned off you had the fastest race car? VB: I don’t know really. Overall, we have had a strong package today and I don’t know why in the first stint it didn’t work. We need to look at that but otherwise good points.
Q: Lewis, many congratulations, what a race. First of all, how good does this feel? LH: I’ve been racing a long, long time, and we’ve had a lot of success over the years and I’m really grateful that each one feels new and different and it was a completely different journey today and this weekend to get the result we just got. It’s a much different feeling of course when you are battling so closely with two great drivers. So yeah, it feels fantastic today. I’m very grateful for and really proud of the team. We had a great pit stop and a strong strategy and everyone had just kept their head down to try and extract more and more from this car that we have. So a big thank you to everyone.
Q: You’re not one for statistics, you’ve told us that many times, but this was your 150th points finish for Mercedes. LH: Nice. It really is incredible, right. It’s down to a lot of great, great people working so hard over all these years, so I hope they feel this success.
Q: Couple of key moments to ask you about. The re-start: you said a moment ago you weren’t happy with yours, what happened? LH: (laughs) I lost position, that’s what happened! Well, it was interesting because I was focusing on Valtteri naturally and literally just for a split second I looked in my mirrors to see where Max was and in that split second that’s when Valtteri went. VB: (laughs) I could see looking in the mirrors! LH: Ha! So that wasn’t great and then I was Valtteri’s tow and you (Max) were about to pull out and I pulled out and gave you Valtteri’s tow and I was like, ‘you idiot’, to myself you know. So then after that being behind the two… what a great track. It really enabled us to fight closely in that first stint and I think that’s what the fans want and that’s what I want from a racing point of view. This track is really great because you can have certain different lines in certain corners, a bit like Austin, so it was really awesome.
Q: And eight points the gap between yourself and Max at the top of the table. It’s tight. LH: It’s very tight. I saw that he had gone in for the fastest lap and got it but obviously Valtteri ended up with it at the end. But as you can see I think it is a great fight between Mercedes and Red Bull and I’m sure also down the field and we will be pushing each other right to the last race. We’re going to be sick of each other at the end I would imagine or sick of racing, because there are so many races.
Q: Max, well done. Are you happy with second today, given the relative pace of the cars – or do you feel this was a missed opportunity? MV: I’m pleased. I tried everything I could really. I had a good restart because the actual start, I just missed-out a bit. We didn’t really have particularly a great launch so yeah, I couldn’t really do anything there but then yeah, it was a good fight into Turn One with Lewis. Managed to keep it on the kerb as well, so didn’t have to give the position back like in Bahrain. From there it was just super-close between the three of us. I tried to attack Valtteri but all the time I could not get close enough in those last two corners and then the run onto the straight. By pushing I had a little wobble but I didn’t really lose-out a lot from that. And then Lewis was already super-close behind and he got me into Turn One and then, of course, Lewis was putting the pressure on Valtteri and I just could not stay close to Lewis for that, to also pick up the DRS. But yeah, it was close. I just tried to put the pressure on and, of course, Lewis cleared Valtteri and then I was, I don’t know for how many laps, in Valtteri’s DRS. It was incredible – but it was good. It felt a bit more like… not flat-out racing but at least a bit more than continuously tyre saving. So, yeah, it was nice.
Q: As you say, you spent a lot of time on a Mercedes gearbox today. Tell us about the relative pace of your car and there car. Where was the Mercedes better, where were you better? MV: To be honest, it depends a bit and it’s difficult to tell when you are so close because you anyway lose a lot of downforce. For me, I think the whole weekend we haven’t been really satisfied with the grip in general, the car. Last year this was a very difficult weekend for us and it seemed like it’s still not great for us. Let’s say it like that. It’s a bit difficult to judge, to be honest. I prefer to wait again to Barcelona and see how the progression from the beginning of the season to that track will be. This is a bit of an odd weekend in terms of grip – but clearly we still have to improve and do better because we should be fastest on every single track and in every single condition – because the track is the same for everyone. Still, second place, pretty happy with that. Good fights on the track, also with Valtteri afterwards, after the pit stop. It was quite close in Turn 4, because I washed out a bit but yeah, it was quite a decent race.
Q: Can we just get your thoughts on that gap to Lewis in the Championship? Just eight points. MV: Yeah it’s close. I wish it was closer! It’s a long season and we can’t afford to have any retirement or silly mistakes so we just have to keep on doing what we’re doing.
Q: Valtteri, well done, podium number 58 today. How would you sum-up today’s race? VB: Disappointing. When you start from the pole position, you have only one target for the race and that is to win the race. It didn’t happen today so I’m disappointed – but I don’t really know why in the first stint I didn’t really have the pace. I mean, I felt everything in terms of the race start, the restart, everything was good from my side but I could see quite early on in the race that, with the Mediums, I just didn’t have pace like Lewis and Max had. I have no idea way. I don’t have the explanation. It was better on the Hard tyre and at some point I was catching Max and then I had an issue with one sensor that, I started to lose power and then I lost like five seconds to Max and that was it.
Q: Did the car feel immediately better on the Hard tyre? VB: Not on the first lap. It was really bad but we know the warm-up today with the Hard tyre was going to be tricky. Afterwards, once I got heat in the tyres, it was actually not bad and better than with the Medium. Yeah, lots of things to look at, to analyse and learn from in the next two days before starting to focus for the next race.
Q: There was some encouragement over the radio mid-race from Toto Wolff. Is it slightly unusual for him to do that? VB: No, it’s not. There’s been many times that he’s, you know, opened the radio to say something. It’s all supportive and it shows there’s the support and the passion behind – and it never hurts. Obviously I’m always giving it every single bit I have on track. But yeah, it’s good.
VIDEO CONFERENCE Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, first of all, congratulations on the win. I wonder if you can please talk us through the phase of the race just after the restart when you were behind Max and Valtteri. Were you just hanging back to see what was going to happen with the tyres and how they were going to progress ahead of you as well, or were you pushing flat-out throughout, as Max suggested earlier. Thank you. LH: Thank you. No, I think Max was super-fast on that restart and there was a moment I think we were all very, very close. I fell back, maybe a second or something like that and I needed to get closer but for a moment there was far too big a gap. I wasn’t in the DRS, and I just had to gather my thoughts and made a couple of tweaks in terms of how I was driving and then start on the attack again. Once I did, obviously I got closer and Max, I think, had a small mistake which then put me in a nice position out of Turn 5 and then I just needed to keep that gap through the rest of the lap and that was where I was able to get past him. Then, after that, was just focussing on bridging the gap between myself and Valtteri, who was very quick out of the last corner.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Lewis, two part question for you: one is we’ve seen this a number of times with you now where you are able to follow really closely behind other drivers for a period of laps and still keep the tyres in decent condition and then pull off an overtake. I’d like to ask you how you do that? And secondly, just how energised are you by this close fight you’re having with Max for the championship, and that one’s for Max as well? LH: Well firstly, yes, massively excited and driven – I think we all are, as a team – to be in the fight with Red Bull. This weekend, I think, I feel like maybe Red Bull lost a little bit of performance this weekend, because I don’t think we improved but from the last race to here I think they took a sidestep closer to us this weekend, for whatever reasons. But this is great, this is what we all live for, we live and breathe for, to get up and fight and try and pull out the smallest bits of performance to be able to fight a great competitor. With the tyres, it’s really… I guess it’s just knowledge of the tyres, really and knowing which ones you can lean on and where you can… I can’t really say too much, to be honest. I think everyone was pushing and they put on their tyres. I think I just managed to get the balance pretty sweet, better for the race than it was for qualifying.
Q: Is it different with the new constructions this year? LH: It’s a little bit different. The tyre is slightly different and so there’s a slightly different approach in terms of how you treat the tyres but it’s not a massive different, people wouldn’t notice otherwise normally, but here, this track, there’s not a huge amount of grip and you’ve got the hardest compounds but being that they are the hardest compounds means that they can do the race distance and there’s not a huge amount of wear, so you can push every single lap and I think that’s great, because there are races we’ve been in in the past where we have to do a lot of lift and coasts, slow down to make the tyre go the distance because the pit lane is so long. So I think it was the right tyre for this weekend. MV: Yeah, I think it’s what everyone wants to see but of course what I want as well, because the last few years we have not been close enough so it’s a good start to the season, that’s for sure and I hope it can be like this for the rest of the season because it keeps everyone excited.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis and Max, Nico Rosberg called Lewis’s drive phenomenal today and said that now Max is starting to get a better understanding of how good Lewis is, so I just guess following on from that, Lewis, how good was your performance today? Was it a big statement of intent for the championship in terms of you passed Max and Valtteri on track and I guess to Max, are you now beginning to understand how good Lewis is given that you’re racing him so closely every weekend? LH: I think none of us here are under any illusion of just how hard it is out there for us, how close the battle is and how… we’re all giving absolutely everything in our day-to-day lives in order to be best prepared and deliver at the weekends. The pressure is immense between us all and I think there’s a huge amount of respect between the three of us and obviously with the other drivers here. Of course, it’s always great when you have a race like today where you’re able to follow and overtake and capitalise on the small margins and gaps that have but at the same time, look at the restart. Max had been pulling absolutely everything out of the Red Bull and given us a great run for our money so I think it’s going to be like this for the rest of the season, which I think can be incredibly exciting. MV: Yeah, I don’t need Nico to make me realise how good Lewis is. I know he’s very good, otherwise you don’t win so many championships.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Max and Lewis: you’ve had a wheel-to-wheel fight in all three of the races this year, which is great because it’s quite rare in Formula 1 so 100% of those battles. How have you seen those battles in particular, how much are you enjoying them? They seem forceful but fair from both of you so far. Do you think that’s sustainable, especially as we could have, at this rate, another twenty of those battles this year? MV: Yeah, it’s been really cool, especially when you race a driver, when you know that you can go to the absolute limit, I guess you can trust each other to just race super-hard. I think that’s always really nice because you can see the in the three races we’ve had we haven’t really… well, we gave each… how you say? It’s been really close to each other but predictable. Lewis has never had something like ‘oh, we’re going to crash’ or something. I always have full trust in Lewis that we all give each other enough space. LH: Yeah, I just second that. I think it is naturally down to respect and I think both very, very hard but fair and I think that’s what makes great racing and great racing drivers and I think we will continue to keep it clean and keep it on the edge but I don’t think either of us has a plan to get any closer than we have been.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Another question to Lewis: how do you feel about Max and Valtteri being able to stop at the end of the race to chase the fastest lap point? Before they did that, you were ahead of them. I think Perez may have ended up with the fastest lap anyway but you had much more to lose if you’d come in and the pit stop had gone wrong so how did that go? LH: Yeah, I think… you came in first, right? VB: Max came first, I think. Did you? I don’t know. MV: No, I think you pitted before me, one lap… LH: Otherwise you wouldn’t have pitted. Yeah, I think, for me, I’ve come from third place so for me it was a solid job and there are days when it’s necessary to take the extra risk to take the extra lap but today wasn’t one of those. I think it was just about making sure we finished strong and bag the points, you know, because every point does count but I’d heard that Valtteri had stopped and then I heard that Max had stopped so it was going to be close between the two. At the time, Max had obviously got the point, which takes a little bit off the great result that we had but obviously it didn’t turn out in the end.