2021 Monaco Grand Prix post-race press conference

monaco fia

Full transcript from the FIA top three press conference after the Monaco Grand Prix, Round 5 of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship.

Featuring Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) and Lando Norris (McLaren).

TRACK INTERVIEWS
(Conducted by David Coulthard) 

Q: Lando, I saw you with the team and I can see the joy and happiness in your eyes. Brilliant first podium here in Monaco. Tell us about it? 
Lando NORRIS: I don’t know what to say. I didn’t think I would be here today. It’s down to these guys. It’s always a dream to be on the podium here. It’s extra special. I didn’t think it was going to happen.  A bit of luck and I want to say some good driving and a good car all weekend. We’ve had a strong weekend. So thanks to the boys and girls, this one is for them.

Q: You have had a brilliant start to this season and you are really charging in this championship but the podium here in Monaco is something a little bit extra special? 
LN: It is, especially…
Carlos SAINZ: Come on!

Q: Great to see the brotherhood there. Now either Carlos wants to hurry your interview up… 
LN: He can wait for one minute! This is my glory.
CS: For once I’m happy you are (inaudible).
LN: Yeah, congrats to this guy as well and to Max. It’s special here, so I’ll cherish it. Beautiful trophy boxes and I’m very much looking forward to that as well, so cheers.

Q: Carlos, you were quick all weekend. You were a little bit frustrated that you didn’t get the final lap in quali but this is a great result today?
CS: Yeah, it is a good result. If you would have told me before coming to Monaco I would finish second I would definitely have taken it. It’s just the circumstances of the weekend – having Charles on pole, me missing out in quali yesterday on a good lap – it just maybe doesn’t taste as good as it should but I’m sure when I reflect back on the weekend I will be very happy and proud of the weekend and I think Ferrari as a team they need to be proud about the car and the step they have done this year.

Q: Well, I think they can be very proud of how humble you are, because mixed emotions, Charles with the disappointment ahead of the race. Was that in your mind at all during the grand prix? 
CS: It is. When you see the other car not starting from pole, all of a sudden the responsibility obviously falls to you to salvage a bit the weekend. One car is out, starting from pole, and you want to give the team at least a podium. It was all about getting the start right and then around the pit stops there was a lot of traffic and we were lapping the cars very quickly and obviously Valtteri had the pit stop but even without that I was feeling really good with the car today and I felt like the team at least deserved a podium this weekend.

Q: How fit are you, you’re not even sweating! Your hair is dry!
CS: No, man. It’s easy when you train. Maybe you don’t do that so much, but we are fit!

Q: Congratulations, you’ve got plenty of energy for the party tonight. Max, your first victory in Monaco. The first but I’m sure it won’t be the last. You said before the race it’s only 25 points for a win but it’s so much more here in Monaco? 
Max VERSTAPPEN: It’s so special around here to win. Also for me the first time on the podium here. An amazing race. It’s a lot of laps around here and you really have to keep your focus but yeah, it’s really cool.

Q: You know it’s traditional around here, you have his Serene Highness Prince Albert up there on the podium. You’re supposed to curtsy or bow or something. You’re getting the wave from Prince Albert, so you’ll be joining him soon. At any point in this race were you concerned or once you got off the start and managed to close down Valtteri it was plain sailing or how difficult was the race?
MV: You never know what’s going to happen but it was all about just looking after your tyres and finding a good stop gap of course. The others went earlier and that made it a bit easier for me but I was pretty much in control.

Q: Max, final words, Monaco Grand Prix winner. We saw you with the entire team, we saw you with your partner Kelly. The emotions must be running high. Only your mother and father and your sister to look in the eye and know that you are a winner. 
MV: Yeah, of course you always want to win this grand prix. I remember when I was little already watching this grand prix. When you are standing here of course I’m very proud, but I’m also thinking ahead. It’s still a very long season, but of course this is a great way to continue.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Max, what a sensational day for you. You’ve never previously had a top three finish here and now you’ve won the race. 
MV: Yeah, it’s been an amazing day of course. I think once we had the lead in Turn 1 from there onwards we could manage the pace quite well and look after the tyres, because I mean around here it’s all about just keeping them alive and trying to go as long as you can and find a pit gap. Of course Valtteri at one point was struggling a bit with his tyres and had to pit. Of course it always looks like it’s going quite smoothly but around here keeping the concentration for so long is not easy but overall supper happy to win here.

Q: Can we talk a little bit more about the start? You left Valtteri in no doubt about your intentions. Can you tell us about your launch and the run down to Turn 1?
MV: You know that it’s very hard to pass here around Monaco so you need to of course stay in your position in the start and that’s what I tried to make sure.

Q: One of your main rivals was taken out of the race before it had even started. Can you describe your feeling when you heard that Charles wouldn’t be taking the start?
MV: Of course it’s sad for Charles, starting from pole here at his home grand prix, so it’s never nice to not even do the start. But I think quite quickly you have to shift the focus to yourself and focus on your race. Of course we still had to start in second, which I didn’t think was a great spot to start, on the outside, for me. I thought it was going to be good but I had a bit of wheel spin, so I had to cut across and luckily I stayed in first but the grip wasn’t amazing.

Q: Final one from me. Can we talk about the championship, because this is a significant day? You are leading the world championship for the first time in your career, by four points. Of course, there’s still a long way to go but can you tell us how it feels to see your name at the top of the standings? 
MV: If it’s there at the end of the season, that would be great. Like you said, there is a long way to go. Of course it’s great to bounce back after the last two races where the gap got bigger. Yeah, we still have to work hard, because we know that Mercedes on normal tracks are the ones to beat. But a good, smooth weekend overall I think and this is a great boost for the whole team going forward.

Q: Carlos, coming to you, many congratulations. Your first podium for Ferrari and, to do it here at Monaco as well.
CS: It’s a good feeling. Of course today in particular with starting P4 also – P3, sorry – to finish P2 is a good result. I think the team deserves to at least get a podium this weekend. But yeah, the bittersweet feeling is still there because I’ve had the pace to put it on pole or at least to win this weekend and the fact that, in the end we didn’t quite manage it is not great. Also, I feel for Charles. I feel for the team, that they didn’t manage to start the day from pole. It’s a strange day – but at the same time on a personal level I have to be happy with P2 because it was the maximum that we could achieve today.

Q: Can we talk a little bit more about the pace of the car? I mean, if we were to wind the clock back to the start of the week, how confident were you coming into the Monaco weekend?
CS: Probably if you had told me on Wednesday that I would not be 100% happy about P2, I would have not believed it, to be honest, because we are not normally fighting for this position this year. But then, after the pace of Thursday, I genuinely thought we could win. I was so comfortable in the car and so fast on Thursday and Saturday morning, and through qualifying, I genuinely felt like, OK, I can put it on pole and win my first-ever grand prix in Monaco. Then, obviously, we all know what happened on Saturday and today I had to reset myself. Today I had to change a bit my expectations. I knew that starting fourth, one of the best things that could happen was to finish on the podium. And in the end it was a P2. So, in general, that’s why today I’m happy: in general with the whole weekend, I’m still missing the possibility to win.

Q: Lando, coming to you: fifth-fastest yesterday, third today. A first podium in Monaco for you as well. What a weekend it’s been.
LN: Yeah, it’s been a pretty crazy weekend. I think we came into it with not many expectations… yeah, not many expectations at all but it turned into probably one of our best weekends altogether – bar maybe Imola. The car’s been pretty good to drive, like, I’ve had a lot of confidence, I’ve felt very comfortable and I think that showed yesterday with probably an alright package, not quite there yet compared to these guys – but with that confidence to push the car in qualifying, to be only two-tenths off was a pretty cool achievement for us, even though it was still P5. To then be there, make the most of other people’s mistakes, Bottas’s one with their pit stop, to grab a podium too, so it’s been a cool weekend, especially here in Monaco. It’s even more special than any other track. I’ll cherish it – I’m just hoping there’s plenty more of them and we can do that at other tracks, because I think that’s going to be the harder thing to do.

Q: A lot of pressure from Sergio Pérez at the end. How was the car performing in those closing laps?
LN: Not too well! I think it was mixed. The first stint we were pretty competitive. Pretty similar on pace to what Carlos was doing – and Bottas and Max. Maybe Max was slightly ahead – but I could see on the TV screens when I was going past what lap times Max was doing in the lead and I wasn’t that far behind. I was like, ‘OK, this is going well’. As soon as we put the Hard tyre on, yeah, it kind of turned to the opposite. It was a very hard car to drive. Much easier to lock-up and snatch the front, worse over the bumps and so on. Not a lot of confidence and, as soon as I heard where Sergio was in terms of his tyre strategy, how much later he boxed, I got pretty worried but I kept it on the black stuff, which is the most important, didn’t hit any walls, and as long as you are good out of the last corner and out of Turn 8, and you cover those two places well, he’s not going to pass. So, it wasn’t too bad.

Q: Question to all three of you before we open it to the floor. You’ve been quick around the streets of Monaco. How confident is each of you that you can maintain this form in Baku in two weeks’ time?
MV: It has nothing to do with confidence, to be honest, to be quick in Baku. If you just feel good in the car and the car is doing what you want… I mean I’ve always been quick around Monaco; just I’ve shunted a few too many times. Baku’s a completely different street circuit where you run a lot less downforce because of that long straight and the grip levels also feel quite low there, so you can’t really compare with each other. Normally we should be quite competitive – but let’s see.

Carlos?
CS: Well, I said before coming into this weekend that Monaco would be a good reference for me to know how confident I am in the new car, the new team and, to be honest, I was feeling really, really at home since FP1, so I’ve been fast all weekend. Now, going into Baku, I think that we’re not going to be the best ones on that long straight but at the same time, if we can make the time back on the tight part then we should be OK. I think the one that now should be excited about Baku is my friend Lando Norris here on my left, that he has a…
MV: …a rocket!
LN: whoa, whoa, whoa!
CS: …a bit of a rocket on the straight, and the car was definitely not bad last year in Monza, not bad around Monaco, so maybe I will bet for you! He put me under pressure coming into this weekend saying that I might have the chance to win!
LN: Was I right?
CS: You were right! Of course. Now let’s see if I’m right in Baku.
MV: You should ask money for it. You were clearly right.
LN: You think I should bet on it?

Q: Lando, can we get your thoughts. We know how these guys think you’ll do, how do you think you’ll do?
LN: Ah, it’s going to be a great weekend!
MV: Yeah, he’s going to put it on pole.
LN: We’ll see. These guys are quick on the straights – the guy in the middle is – you need some good straightline speed, you need good confidence on the brakes with that lower downforce, but we’ll see. Two weeks ago in Barcelona we struggled a lot and a bit of that is why we were thinking we were not going to be competitive here, because of the final sector. Although it’s not as slow speed anymore compared to what it used to be, we still struggled in those slow-speed corners, which is why we were thinking we were not going to be good here – but it changes. We’re still learning the car, even though it’s pretty similar to last year. There’s some changes and they’ve definitely affected the car, so we’re better in places, maybe slightly worse in places but yeah, considering we were thinking we were not going to be good here and we came out pretty good… I don’t think it’s good to set too many expectations.
CS [to LN]: So, how are you going to do in Baku?
MV: No expectations…?
LN: I’m just… I’ll be ahead of Carlos!

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) To Max and Carlos: just about the pace of the race after the pit stops. It looked like the gap between the two of you came down a fair bit at that point, so Max, what was happening for you at that point and also Carlos, did you think that if it continued to go down you might be able to get even closer? 
MV: Initially I had Checo in front of me, so they told me he was pushing to get ahead of a few people so just stay behind him and I had to save a bit of fuel anyway. Did that and then of course the gap got a lot smaller but there was nothing that was worrying or anything behind it, just slowly building up to it, because these hard tyres are not very nice to drive around here, they’re like slippery in the beginning, especially when you come out of the pits. I just wanted to settle in first.
CS: Yeah, from my side, I felt a bit stuck behind Valtteri because of the stop, and obviously that was unfortunate but it cleared me to try and get myself in clean air. Looking back, I think the first 20 laps I was pushing but not like crazy and then at some point, I think 20 or 30 laps to the end, I decided to try and close the gap to Max, to put him a bit under pressure, obviously knowing here that the chance of a mistake is super low and that he’s been quick all weekend. Then we went through a phase of a lot of lapped cars, that it was difficult to keep the focus, also it cooled the tyre off and at the same time it opened a lot of graining, the combination of trying to catch Max, coming through blue flags and everything, I just opened a lot the graining and then from then the confidence and the pace wasn’t the same. I had my moment of feeling like I could catch Max and try to put him under pressure a bit but after the blue flags and the graining, it was very, very tricky.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Question for all three: this is one of the youngest podiums in F1 history. I think it’s the third youngest. So I just wondered if the three of you could give your thoughts on how that blend of age, experience and ability works. Do you think we’re heading into this new era for F1 now, because we always have these generational shifts and it seems that you three are very much part of that? 
Q: I think this is the second youngest podium actually. 
MV: Carlos, you ruined it man. You’re too old.
CS: Thank you, thank you, Max. I knew you were going to say it. I knew it was coming. We were talking about it exactly 10 minutes ago!
MV: Lando…
CS: I can start because I’ve been team-mates with both of you…
LN: Elderly first….
CS: …and I can tell you these two guys to my left are quite decent behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car.
MV: Not a road car.
CS: A little bit young and inexperienced sometimes but they’re definitely very, very quick. I think Formula 1 is in good hands for the future. I think the level of drivers this year in general is super high. When you see the qualifying laps, when you go into F1 Live and you check the qualifying laps of everyone and you see not only the young drivers but also people like Lewis etc, it’s just an incredible level and I’m glad to be sharing this grid with so many talented people and comparing myself against them and see how you can do because it pushes you like no other and it’s good as a racing to feel pushed and to feel like you need to always keep finding new limits.
MV: Nothing to add. It was a strong message. That was on point.
LN: Beautiful.
CS: Thank you guys, I’m emotional!
LN: No, he explained it very well.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lando, in the early stages you were given the black and white warning flag for track limits. Can you just explain what was going on there, and then towards the end of the race you asked your engineer not to give you any more communication? What was the reason behind that, was it just too much of a distraction or just not wanting to know the gaps to Pérez?
LN: Yeah, there’s a new rule for this weekend. In the chicane, if you missed the chicane you get a warning and to be honest I only like missed the first apex part, like the first part of the right and I still still went to the left of the second one and lost time in both, both times I locked up there, but I think by about lap seven I had used both my opportunities to go off the track…
CS: One job…
LN: …which I’m sure – well it made my engineer Will extremely nervous and I’m sure it made certain other people very nervous too. So not an ideal start to the race, especially because I knew there were many more laps to go and the final stint, when you can be pushing more, if I made one more mistake and went off I would have a five-second penalty and Pérez would be ahead of me. So yeah, I guess I was pushing a bit and doing a lot of fuel-saving at certain times and just slightly misjudged it and I missed the apex and I got my warning. And in the end I was telling Will to be quiet, because sometimes you just want to focus on what you need to be doing, just driving around the streets of Monaco and you just want to be in your zone, in that way of just driving round, missing the barriers, just feeling confident and not having to think of any other things. So, when he’s telling me there’s a guy 20 seconds ahead, it’s not something I cared too much about and I just wanted to concentrate on driving. Simple as that.

Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) To Carlos, how do you explain the big performance steps by Ferrari this weekend? Is it down to the track, the car or the drivers? 
CS: Hmmm. All three. I think all three is the right answer.
MV: Big cojones?
LN: The drivers? You stepped up this weekend? You stepped up as a driver this weekend?
CS: I always step up in Monaco.
MV: Gets you excited.
LN: You didn’t in quali!
CS: These guys…. Let’s get serious, OK? It was a serious question! And I’m going to say we expected to be good around Monaco. We didn’t expect to be fighting for pole and win but we did expect to be closer to the front. We managed to switch on the tyres with every compound, which always helps around Monaco. We nailed the set-up, which obviously brings a few tenths also. Confidence in the car was high, which also helps. It’s a combination of things that come together and all of a sudden, in a special place like here, you can have a crack at it and we were close.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Max, I know there is a very long way to go this season. I just wondered how important was it this weekend, at a track where you would have expected to be stronger than Mercedes, to land a blow like this? I assume it was above expectations, obviously given how bad a day it was for Lewis but also Mercedes as a whole, in the structure of the championship. 
MV: Well, first of all, actions always speak louder than words. I think that’s a good lesson after this weekend. You know you have to talk on the track. That’s what I like and yes, we, as a team, so far, made the smallest mistakes and that’s why we are ahead. So I hope we can keep that going for the rest of the season.