Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three press conference after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Round 6 of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship, at Baku City Circuit.
Featuring race winner Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing), second-placed Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) and third-placed Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
Track interviews conducted by Paul Di Resta
Q: Pierre Gasly, another podium – outstanding! How does it feel?
Pierre Gasly: Incredible. Honestly, I don’t really know what to say. It was such an insane race and a super intense last two laps. The car has been incredible all weekend and we showed every session we were there. Qualifying was mega. I didn’t know if we could keep up that position or fight for even a podium and in the end we did it. You know, I finished already once first, once second and I missed that third place so it feels incredible to get that podium.
Q: What a battle you had, we’re just seeing it in the background, with Charles Leclerc on the last lap as you started. He passed you, you passed him back and you got your muscles out?
PG: We had to get the elbows out. It was a very difficult race from mid-race onwards, we had an engine issue so we were losing quite a lot of power down the straights. Seb managed to pass us in the middle of the race and I knew these last two laps were going to be very difficult with Charles behind and you know I tried it, every braking. I wasn’t sure if I was going to stop the car but I had to go for it. I really wanted that podium and it really feels incredible after such a good weekend.
Q: There’ll be some nice celebrations tonight with the team?
PG: Yeah, exactly. Some very good points. I’m very happy. Yuki did a good race as well. All in all, a fantastic job and hopefully we can celebrate all together tonight.
Q: Sebastian, something has clicked in the last couple of races. P2, the first Aston Martin podium since they’ve come back to Formula 1. What does this mean to the team?
Sebastian Vettel: I think it means a great deal. Obviously, it’s been a tough start for us and yeah, I think it was a great race. We had good pace; that was key. I had a good start, made some positions straight away, looked after my tyres as soon as everybody went to the pits. I had really good pace to overcut I think Yuki at least and then obviously the re-start worked brilliantly for me and got another two positions there. Yeah, we obviously had fresher tyres, which I guess helped, warming up the tyres later on. Yeah, a great day. I’m over the moon. For the team it’s great, obviously, a podium. We didn’t expect that when we came here. Already on Friday, even though we were nowhere, it felt good. I was quite relaxed. Yesterday we didn’t quite it but today, even sweeter.
Q: I want to talk about yesterday because you had a brand new set of soft tyres for that small dash?
SV: Strategy-wise obviously it’s always better to start further up but that new tyre for sure didn’t hurt because other people had a couple of laps on from qualifying so it helped us to go longer but we really preserved the tyres while and that was the secret, plus the pace that we had. I think in the race as I said the car felt good and that was the key to keep progressing and chipping forward.
Q: Checo, another race win, with Red Bull. What a mad race that was.
Sergio Perez: Yeah, I’m so happy for today. The race, normally Baku is pretty crazy. First of all, I have to say I’m very sorry for Max, because he did a tremendous race and deserved to win, and it would have been incredible to get the one-two for the team. But in the end it is a fantastic day for us. We were close to retire the car but luckily we managed to finish the race. It was quite difficult all the way to the end.
Q: You had a seven-time world champion pushing you all the way through the stints and then when it came down to the restart, tell me what you were thinking when you line up for that restart, what you were going to do?
SP: He had strong pace throughout the race. I think we had a bit of a slow stop as well, so the overcut came a bit closer to him but he just pushed me from lap one onwards. I had the pressure from him pretty much since the beginning. Then at the restart, I had a poor start, so he was alongside me but I was like “I’m not going to miss it” you know. I braked as late as I possible could and he did the same but it didn’t work for him. At least it is a good day for the team.
Q: Has Checo clicked with this Red Bull car now? Can you go confident to the next race that you’re going to be on the same performance?
SP: Yeah, this is definitely a strong boost of confidence for myself and the team.
Q: Checo, many congratulations, what a day for you. Just how sweet was the view from the top step of the podium?
SP: Very, very sweet, of course. I want to start by saying big thanks to all my team. They have given ma massive opportunity. We didn’t have the start of the season we were hoping for. I found my adaptation harder than expected but we have been working extremely hard since day one with the engineers back at the factory and yeah, finally we got a very good result for the team. We have been showing flashes of speed here and there. But I think this weekend everything was looking great until Q3 run one when we got it wrong. But we didn’t let ourselves [get] down. We looked forward and we had a tremendous race, so yeah, I’m extremely pleased with the result today. This definitely gives a big boost of confidence to myself and also to my team, to my side of the garage. We have such a rollercoaster through the seasons, it’s important to enjoy these moments.
Q: Given everything you have just said, does this win feel different to the first one in Sakhir?
SP: Well, getting your first win in Formula 1 is something unbelievable but getting a first win with a new family, with a new team, I feel like it gets you together more. Sharing these moments together is something extremely special. We live for these moments and we are all here to enjoy those Sundays so yeah, it is extremely special. I don’t have that many wins in my career but they all have been very special and today, I have to say the race throughout was flat out and very stressful mentally.
Q: You had great pace throughout. Can I ask you about those last few laps? How nervous were you prior to the restart, about keeping the lead but also about the reliability of your car?
SP: Yeah, it was a big thing. The team asked me, basically, not to weave. I couldn’t warm up the tyres at the restart, so we were trying just to get to the end, it was only two laps to go. It was our race to be lost, you know, because we were in the lead, there’s everything to lose. Not much to win because we were on pole and we just have to do two laps. Getting that start right was a big things and I think we had pretty cold tyres for that restart. Lewis had a better one. I just tried to brake as late as possible. I was like “no way I’m losing this one”. I just tried to brake as late as possible. Lewis was on the inside line, the dirty line and yeah, unfortunate for him. It just shows how vulnerable we are all to mistakes. We are operating at such a high level lap after lap that these things can happen to anyone.
Q: Could you see Lewis’ brakes smoking on the grid?
SP: I was more focused on my brakes to be honest.
SV: Why you were not allowed to weave?
PG: Because Max exploded the tyre.
SP: Because we had a concern about the rack.
Q: Sebastian, what a race by you and Aston Martin. Starting 11th, what were your expectations prior to the start?
SV: Well, I didn’t have many expectations, to be honest. I mean, I knew that the whole weekend I felt good, so I knew we can, you know score some points but I certainly didn’t expect second and the race was really strong. We had a very good first stint. I saved the tyres in the beginning and stayed out longer than most of the people in front of me, which I think helped us later on because, at the restart I had, when the Safety Car came, I was obviously in the mix in P6 and had tyres that were ten laps fresher than everyone else’s. So, probably easier to warm them up and it helped me at the restart to jump Charles and also Pierre. It was quite hairy into Turn Three and Charles was braver than I expected because I initially braked later than him but he opened the brakes and I thought, OK, for sure, he’s going to hit the wall, so I prepared to get to the inside – but he made it. I don’t know how, but he did. After that, I still had a good feeling on the lap after the restart to get him at the end of the lap and jump him there, so after that we were in fourth and could really go with the pace from the group in the front. Then, with the red flag, obviously it’s a shame for Max to lose the lead like that. I don’t know what happened. I think Lance had the same issue, the tyre just failing but I think for us, obviously, we then found ourselves in a good spot, in the podium ranks. As Checo said, just two laps to go so you just try to keep it together. I was again aggressive on the start and had a good start but nowhere to go and then I obviously saw that Lewis misjudged Turn One. Tried to stay a bit closer with Sergio maybe to do something after the first lap but I was too far away and obviously very happy with P2 and the team. I think it’s great for us. We had a very rough start to the season. We expected quite a bit more after such a strong year the team had last year. Can’t wait to get back to have a couple of drinks with the guys.
Q: Seb, you say yourself, of course, you’re very happy with this podium but it’s podium number 122 and your first for Aston Martin. How special does this one feel?
SV: Well, it’s also been a while, so I think it’s always nice if you join a new team get together good results. I sat here on Thursday and said that I’m in it to win and I enjoyed the race because I was getting closer and closer to spots that I enjoy more and more. Obviously when I was P4 I know that’s good points for the team, for myself but as soon as we were in the podium ranks I really also thought that we can have a say if something happens. We need to be there, be sharp. In the red flag I stayed in the car, wanted to stay in the zone and not distract myself, so to be ready and yeah, felt that we obviously did the best we could today. It’s quite comfortable in my car – and I’m one of the only drivers that doesn’t pee in the car, so I can stay in there for any longer.
PG: Do you know any that pees in their car?
SV: Yeah, yeah! You’re not?
PG: No. Clearly not!
SV: I think like half of the grid does. I don’t. I never did. I tried once but it doesn’t work!
Q: One final one from me. After the failure on your team-mate’s car, how concerned were you about a repeat on your car?
SV: Yeah. I didn’t know what happened. Obviously I saw that he lost the car very late in the straight so I thought maybe first he clipped the wall outside of 19, but then I looked the next lap and there was not a scratch, so that would have been very unusual but I couldn’t explain why he would crash so late in the straight. And then the team told me he’s fine. It was strange. Obviously I was on the safer side because my tyres were fresher than everyone else’s but when Max had the same issue, it was quite clear that… who’s next? That sort of thing. I don’t know why but this is not supposed to happen so I think there needs to be a bit of an investigate because it’s probably the worst place of the year you want to have this. It could go massively wrong if you get it wrong so close to also to pit entry, to the wall there. We are doing well over 300kph. Yeah, I was a bit concerned but then with the red flag then I knew we’re all fitting different tyres and it should be fine. I knew it happened around after 30-odd laps because Lance started on the hard tyres and it happened around then and then when Max pitted, it was the same sort of amount of laps. Strange one – but I wasn’t overly concerned because I knew also I would probably be last on the list.
Q: Pierre, coming to you now, you drove brilliantly today and you’re on a roll: sixth in Monaco, now on the podium here. How much of a surprise is this P3 for you?
PG: The whole weekend we showed such a strong performance and it came a bit out of nowhere. We showed some very strong pace in Monaco. We were coming in Baku wondering whether we would be able to show a similar kind of performance. And from lap one I just felt very confident in the car, very comfortable. I was able to push and yeah, we had such good pace all weekend, best quali of the year yesterday, P4, couple of hundredths from the first row and today, we had great pace. Especially at the start of the race where we were keeping up with the top guys. And then from mid-race onwards we had an engine issue so we started to lose performance in the straights. That’s when it started to be a bit more difficult for us. I wasn’t too sure whether we will be able to keep that position but in the end, we did. We even managed to go and get that P3 with our elbows out with Charles in that last few laps. I must say I really enjoyed the battle. It was intense racing, really hard racing but fair racing as well. I like it and I’m super-pleased for all the guys to get our third podium together.
Q: How much time do you think the engine issue was costing you?
PG: I need to have a look at the data – but I was clearly a pretty big difference with Yuki, for example, so the guys told me a lot of engine switches to try to limit the damage but yeah, I was very strong in the second sector and the straight was very hard, and Seb passed us. I could not really do anything there. I knew in the last two laps, whatever I would do, Charles behind would pass me in the straight and that’s what happened. Just got back in the tow and went for it in Turn One, he came back at me in Turn Three and yeah, I had to brake very late. I really pushed my brakes to the limit with Seb. I thought I was going to end in the wall there. I managed to stop it somehow, I don’t know how. I was really late braking and with Charles the same. I really wanted that podium. I took some big risks but it was clearly worth it and I’m super-happy.
Q: And we’ve seen great pace from you and the team on two street tracks now. How hopeful are you of continuing this performance at a permanent race track like Paul Ricard next time out?
PG: Well, next one is my home race and yeah, we know obviously I really want to do well there in front of all the fans and spectators and, especially to go back there as a race winner will feel pretty special. So, you know, as much as we need to analyse and understand when things don’t go well. I think when it does really well, as this weekend, we showed some very, very strong pace all weekend. We need to understand why – because at the moment we don’t really have the answer. Obviously surprises like this are more than welcome more often during the season but I think, more than anything, we need to understand where it came from.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Just following the earlier question to Sebastian about the tyre failures so for Checo and Pierre, how concerned were you guys about your tyres, what kind of things were the teams telling you and what kind of investigation do you think needs to follow here?
SP: Well, at that point of the race, of the red flag, the information that we get is very limited so you don’t want to go into much detail because anyway you’re putting on a new set of tyres at that red flag, so I think it’s something that we have to investigate and see because the speeds and getting a failure there it’s something pretty extreme. Luckily nothing happened today but it’s something that has to be reviewed and make sure that we understand what’s going on.
PG: I must say I guess these two guys are a bit more worried because their two teammates had the issues compared to me. I wasn’t too concerned but now, clearly, in terms of safety, both incidents, I think Lance it happened at 270/280 and for Max over 300kph and at that speed you don’t want to have this kind of failure. First of all, I’m really glad both of them came out of the car OK but more than that, we need to understand exactly what happened to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future. Yeah, there could be a couple of explanations, whether it’s tyres or car-related. I think there will be some investigations but yeah, it’s never nice to see that but I wasn’t too concerned on my side, yeah.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport.com) To Seb, it was a fantastic, thrilling end but even before that, before your first stop actually, before your only stop, you were still lapping quicker than Pierre and it was an overcut race overall today. Do you think there was potential to extend the stint for even a bit longer? And do you think you probably lost a few positions there? I mean not how it turned out in the end but at that point of the race?
SV: It’s a difficult call. We knew it would be a long way to go so I obviously focused on getting the tyres in the best possible after the first laps and then could really benefit from that. They felt good and I was happy to stay out. I told them but I think there was a nice window for us to go and box and after that I think we were very happy to be P6 at that time and we had good pace. I felt, straightway, that we could maybe go a bit faster than Charles but I also wanted to make sure that I keep the tyres nice and safe and easy in the beginning because obviously Lance had the issue after that and yeah, with the re-start, I think it helped us to have fresher tyres. Probably there was margin to be close to staying out a bit longer because the pace was just getting better on the soft tyre and it was a surprise. I think judging how early people went in, we didn’t expect the softs to last that well but today, for us, they did and I think we managed that well and extended what we could. It’s always easier afterwards but I think we obviously wanted to bank the position and get in the groove behind the people – or stay in front of the people that pitted earlier, before they picked up their pace.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Checo, you’ve been on it right the way through the weekend, probably the only bad lap was in Q3 when you had that traffic. Do you feel you’ve got to the bottom of the Red Bull car now and how confident are you that you can carry this pace and understanding of the car over to the more permanent tracks coming up?
SP: Yeah, it certainly feels that I’ve made good progress, not just this weekend, also in Monaco, every weekend the understanding grows and after each weekend we do a very deep analysis, we do a lot of work back in the factory to try to figure out what we can do better as a team. But yes, certainly I think we are getting there, we are improving and I see no reason why going to a different track we cannot be able to have a similar kind of performance. So yeah, definitely my confidence is growing, the understanding with the team is getting there so yeah, I think there’s still… I mean it’s only race number six of the season, there’s still plenty to go but it’s important to keep this momentum and to keep improving, race after race.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport.com) Seb, every sport is a bit of a mind game probably. How helpful is it in that respect to have the result in Monaco first of all, to have this one now? And also, do you feel completely on top of the car now, in terms of driving etc?
SV: Well, it’s probably true. I think at the level that we are at it’s clear that everybody is able to drive a car very quickly so small things can make a big difference and yeah, probably took a little bit longer than I wanted to at the beginning of the season, to get on top of myself and adjusting to the car but yeah, I think I was confident that at some point it start clicking and obviously Monaco was great. I think we had a good result there so that helps. You can argue that it takes off a bit of pressure but I think obviously the expectations in general are fairly high at the beginning of the year so it was good to get a good result and for here, I think we were fairly open-minded. It’s another street circuit, it’s a place where I think you can make a difference if you really feel confident with the car and already on Friday I felt very good, even though the results were bad, but I wasn’t concerned. And then in qualifying unfortunately that one run I had a lock-up and we probably didn’t get the qualifying position we could get but it was one of the races this year where actually our race pace was very strong compared to qualifying pace. I think other events we had a stronger showing in qualifying and then struggled a bit in the race. It was, if anything, the other way around today so I was very surprised when I found myself in the race, at ease, following the AlphaTauris with Yuki in the beginning and feeling faster, feeling also comfortable to follow the Ferrari follow Charles and putting pressure on so that he had to put pressure on Pierre. I think I felt quite comfortable in the car all weekend, which for sure doesn’t hurt, so hopefully we can – similar to Checo – carry that momentum into the next couple of events. France will be a normal track so we will see where we are but hopefully we can fight for points a little bit more regularly.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) To all three: were you guys surprised that the race was re-started with only two laps to go, and were you happy for it to be a standing start given that it was such a short sprint to the line?
PG: The Americans took over so I wasn’t really surprised that we go first with the entertainment. No, I was quite happy. It always brings a bit more excitement. I don’t know, it creates some sort of adrenalin inside you and yeah, I knew there would be some opportunities because you start only for two laps, everybody is a bit like lions out of the cage and everybody goes for everything and tries to make up as many positions as they can in a very short time. I think… I didn’t see the replay of the last two laps but I must say on my side it was very intense, I really enjoyed it. If anything, hopefully in the future they will do the same.
SP: Yeah, as long as we keep the consistency. In Imola we didn’t do it, we didn’t have the standing start but I think it was a bit unfair with the rain there, the right hand side of the track was damp. As long as we keep it consistent, going forward, it certainly helps the fans to be sticking to the TV. I think they have the most enjoyable two laps of the race, you know? And they certainly made it very hard for me.
SV: I think, to be honest, it depends on which side you are, not on which side of the grid. I think if you have a positive outcome and you make up positions then you’re happy about it. If, obviously, the worst case today was probably for Lewis, then you’re not happy about it. But it has become more and more like this in the past, more and more focused on creating a show, so I hope that in the future the races are more exciting. I think today was probably an exciting race for various things happening and so on, but yeah, I think we just need to watch out that it doesn’t become too artificial and we don’t lose the roots of the sport. I think in the end you fight very hard and safety cars obviously… Some things… sometimes you enjoy and sometimes it destroys your race but the main thing obviously is that the safety car comes when it’s really necessary and in those two cases we didn’t even need to argue. I was wondering a little bit why it took so long for the second time when Max had the shunt, for the safety car to come out because it was quite clear that he was standing in the middle of the track and it took a little bit long but we will see… we will find out why. Anyway, to answer the question, I think the fair point is that it depends on the day-by-day basis and how it goes for you.