Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three press conference after the Austrian Grand Prix, Round 9 of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship season, at the Red Bull Ring.
Drivers: Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) and Lando Norris (McLaren).
(Conducted by Christian Klien)
Q: Max Verstappen, winner of the day, what a fantastic weekend it was for you. Another perfect race today. How do you feel about it?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, incredible to be honest. The car was on rails. On every tyre set we put on it was really enjoyable to drive. Pretty insane. I’m a bit amazed myself how today went. I didn’t expect it to be like this. Incredible job by everyone to deliver something like this. Of course when you go into the weekend everyone sees you as the favourite but it’s never easy actually to always deliver what we did today. A great effort by the whole team and also by Honda. I think the whole package… These two weeks especially here have been incredible.
Q: Yep, it seemed like you had everything under control. You did the restart quite late actually. Were you worried that Lando Norris’ top speed was pretty good?
MV: Yeah, I just had to be awake at the start, that I had a little bit of a gap. I knew that if I could go past lap one, or the restart, I could do my own race, but you always have to do that first. But today it has been incredible.
Q: Max, the orange army is back. How did you feel that in the car? Did you feel it once driving?
MV: It was insane today to see all the fans here first of all and of course so much orange, it was just incredible. A great motivation as well, especially on the last lap, the in-lap, there was a lot of orange all over the track, so yeah, thank you very much for coming.
Q: Valtteri it seemed like a better Sunday afternoon after Saturday was pretty tricky looking for Mercedes. How happy are you with P2 today?
Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, for me personally, of course one place better than last week, and I started from fifth. I think as a team we got some decent points considering the gap we have to Red Bull in terms of pure pace. For me, it’s nice to be on the podium in second place. I think it was really the maximum we could get today.
Q: Yeah, you seemed pretty racy on the hard tyre at the end. Was the balance just better or did you just feel better on it?
VB: Actually, they held on pretty well. They were starting to drop towards the end, but also with Lando… I have to say, surprisingly, McLaren was really quick today and actually putting some pressure. There’s two weeks to Silverstone and we have some work to do but now I’m just keen to have some champagne.
Q: Lando, what an afternoon, you can hear it from the crowd. It was a difficult race I guess. Let’s start off at the beginning, you got that five-seconds penalty. I thought it was pretty harsh, what did you think?
Lando NORRIS: First of all, I want to say a big thanks to everyone, all the fans. It was a lot of fun, it was a good race, it was exciting. But I’m disappointed because we should have been second place. I thought that lap one was just racing really. He tried to go around the outside, which was a bit stupid, and he ran off the track himself. I didn’t even push him. I don’t know. I’m frustrated but I’m also happy with P3. We had very good pace and yeah, I’m happy.
Q: Towards the end of the race did you think you had a chance to get Bottas or were the tyres at the end?
LN: No, I think we had good pace and I could keep up with him a lot, even in the dirty air, but no enough to get into the DRS. As soon as I got close to one second I started struggling too much. So, ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ in the end. It’s nice to know that we can be there and that we can race them. It’s probably the first race in many years that we were racing the Mercedes and the Red Bulls but yeah, hopefully we can keep it up next time.
Q: Max, what a brilliant weekend. Just how satisfying has this been?
MV: Yeah, it was of course a very good race. I think on both tyre sets we had good pace and we could manage the pace through the whole stint, so very pleased with that. Also, the car, again we improved it compared to last weekend. We learned a few things to make it last a bit better in the race and I think that showed today. So, very happy overall. And I think also what was very enjoyable to see was all the fans back. To see that crowd, we definitely miss that atmosphere around the track, with so many people.
Q: Was this the best that the car has been this year?
MV: Yeah, I think so. I thought that was last week, but definitely this week was better.
Q: Max, this was win number five, you are 32 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the World Championship, can you tell us tell us a little bit about what it’s like to ride this wave of success? How much are you enjoying it?
MV: Yeah, I’m enjoying it, but I’m also focused on the rest of the season. It is still so long and there are still a lot of points you need to score. We need to make sure that every single weekend we are back up there and we basically use the whole potential of the car. We had a good car here in Austria especially, I think it was just very dominant, but we have to make sure that in Silverstone we are there again and that’s what we will look into now again to make sure we are very competitive there.
Q: Were there any dramas in the race at all?
MV: Not really. You have to take care. I had a few times a few cars in front of me fighting each other and you don’t want to get involved in all that.
Q: Talk us through the safety car restart, because that looked pretty tense from where we were sitting?
MV: Yeah, I mean, I knew that Lando also had good speed, so I had to make sure that I had a good restart. I think it was alright. Of course I also had to defend a bit for Checo so that made my Turn 1 a bit easier. Then of course the draft is a bit gone. But you have to be focused of course to make sure you do a good restart.
Q: Valtteri, coming to you, your fifth podium of the season. How smoothly did things go for you in the race?
VB: I can’t say it was really smooth. It was not an easy race for us and starting fifth and ending up second, I think we really had to fight to get to the place we were. I didn’t think there was much left on the table for us for today. Max had a really straightforward race. He was quick, their car was quick, so I think second was ultimately what we could get from today and yeah, it was not so easy to do the one-stop. Definitely suffering a bit with the tyres but we knew that would be the case anyway.
Q: Were you surprised by the pace of the cars around you? Let’s start with Red Bull. Were you surprised by their pace this weekend?
VB: Red Bull’s pace, no surprise. We saw last week that they were fast and of course we expected them to be fast again, no doubt. I think McLaren made a good step. They were definitely putting some pressure to us in the end and it was quite surprising considering there was quite a few tenths of pace difference last week. So, I don’t know, maybe Lando can tell me later what they found from the week before and then we can improve.
MV: I think he found out that you have to press the throttle pedal 100%…
VB: I told him, yeah. So now he went…
LN: Yeah, I was at 100… It helped.
Q: Valtteri, can you describe the challenge that Mercedes has ahead of it if it’s to win the World Championship this year?
VB: It’s a challenge but, you know, but we’ve been racing on the same track for two weeks and it is clear Red Bull is faster here – but it could be different on some other tracks. I think this track suits their car pretty well, but they’re not slow anywhere else. Silverstone is completely different. There are a lot more high-speed corners and so, we’ll see. We have something planned in terms of new bits for Silverstone. I think after that it will be quiet in terms of new parts but we’ll keep pushing as hard as we can – but we know it’s going to be tough.
Q: So does a lot rest on Silverstone?
VB: I think it would be promising if we can make a step forwards and close the gap but honestly if we look at these two weeks as a whole, I think we’ve made some good damage-limitation against Red Bull considering they’ve been clearly faster.
Q: Lando, another great race by you. Of your four podiums in Formula 1, how special is this one?
LN: I think until there’s still until there’s like a top five, they’re all just as special, because they’ve all meant something different, we’ve always achieved them in a different way. Obviously number one is number one and that’s probably the most special one I’m going to have. But then you have Monaco, you have Imola, which was more of a fight back, and this one was the first one where we were more just there because of our pace, and we were there on merit and we were fighting third and second for the whole race – even until lap 71. It was a lot of fun. I don’t know where this stacks up. They’re all at a similar level. I’m just a bit disappointed. It could have been second and not just third – so maybe this is the worst one.
Q: Were you more competitive in the race than you were expecting?
LN: We didn’t’ really know what to expect, more because our race pace on Friday wasn’t too bad. It was already a step better than last weekend. But also, the track temperature and ambient temperature were helping us a lot so I think relatively we made a step forward from last weekend and I was what, fourth in quali and two-and-a-half tenths off pole and now we were second and half-a-tenth off pole, so we did make a step forward and I think the car was definitely better and nicer to drive, both in qualifying and the longevity of a race. I think just the conditions also helped and our approach to the strategy was a little bit different this weekend compared to the last one after doing our homework and learning from a few things to try to improve on. So, it was a number of things but yeah, the car being slightly better was the main one.
Q: And what about the incident with Sergio Pérez after the Safety Car period. Can you just talk us through it from your point of view?
LN: From my point of view, I think if I want to compare it to anything, it’s the same as Max and Lewis in Imola. Did you get a penalty for that? No. Same thing as that. It’s lap one, or it’s a restart, and I think Sergio, I expect…. maybe he doesn’t know there’s gravel on the exit of that corner and it’s downhill, easy to run wide and it was just what happens. You watch Formula 2 or Formula 3 or any category and people who try to go around the outside there and don’t commit to it end up in the gravel. That’s just the way that corner runs. So, he took the risk, and not me. He didn’t commit to his overtake the way he should have done and yeah, he put himself in the gravel, so I don’t feel it was my mistake but I don’t make the penalties.
Q: Valtteri, while we’re on this topic, Valtteri, did you get a good view of that incident?
VB: Yeah, I had a decent view.
What was your reading?
VB: I’m not the steward. I saw them fighting and Checo going onto the gravel. That happens.
MV: That’s an honest assessment. Straightforward.
VB: That’s how it is!
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) It’s a question to Lando. Lando, how did you find your battles with Lewis today? He came on the radio after he passed you and said you were a great driver. So, how do you react to that as well please?
MV: You are? You’re a great driver?
MV: I didn’t know man!
LN: Thanks. I don’t know what to say. I mean it was tough, it wasn’t easy like the whole if the first stint I think both Mercs were quicker than me which was not a surprise, something I was expecting but to hold them off as well as we did was a little bit of a surprise and for that long into the race. But it was like it was the first time I’ve really raced against him and you know you get to learn how he drives and how he races as well as learning from Valtteri and how he approaches things and when there are risks taken and things like that. Like, as much as I appreciate the kind words it’s not like he was driving perfectly. There were still times he ran wide out of Turn 1 or made a mistake in Turn 3. It’s not like they’re not raceable; you kind of get there and when you have the car to perform and do well, you realise you have a chance against them. It’s hard to ever say that until you’re actually racing against them and your car’s there and you’re going head-to-head. Normally, they’re way too far ahead of me so… It was cool, it’s a good feeling to race against not just Lewis but Valtteri as well and Max and Sergio, to be in that pack and say we’re fighting for a podium because our pace is just that good, was a really good feeling.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Lando, your incident with Sergio takes you to 10 licence penalty points. I believe you will lose two before Silverstone which obviously helps, but I think they were for – bear with me – overtaking under yellows in practice last year, not slowing enough for yellows in qualifying and obviously the Baku red flag pit lane incident this year and then today. I know, as I said, you will lose two of those before Silverstone, but if there was an event next weekend, it would probably be a bit close to a ban for comfort; what’s your view on having that tally for that collection of incidents because it doesn’t really feel like there’s anything really severe in there?
LN: Yeah. Well, just in case, Zak’s is ready to jump in when I can’t… when something happens again. In my opinion, they should be decisions about when someone’s done something dangerous and put someone in harm’s way and done something that they shouldn’t have done and then you have racing and when people have to use common sense. Like my approach of the incident in Baku with the red flag and not boxing when I should have done, like, I didn’t put anyone in harm’s way, in fact it was the opposite and I did everything safely, like why should I deserve penalty points for that? Why should I deserve penalty points today for someone going into the gravel. Yeah, nothing I’ve done is dangerous and I don’t feel like, maybe in some cases you deserve an on-track penalty, because you’ve done something bad in terms of racing and you just made a mistake but then you have things that people do every now and then which are purely dangerous. If you do genuinely overtake in a yellow flag and do something else that’s clearly a rule that will put people in danger then I understand penalty points for a driver and if that adds up you get a driver ban or race ban but for little things like this, it’s stupid in my opinion. It’s not what Formula 1 should be. Yeah, I don’t know. I would expect and hope that other people would back me up on this kind of opinion.
MV: I do. I mean let’s say… how many did you get? Two?
MV: Two. So if you would have six of these incidents, right, today, if you get that six, I don’t think you deserve a ban for what he did today or whatever. I think it’s just not correct. I’ve been there myself, I was at nine at some points myself and yeah… it’s how it goes but I don’t think with the things… actually, what you got the penalty points for, say you would get to 12, you don’t deserve a ban for that. So there’s stuff… I’ve said it before, myself two years ago, that we should look into that but let’s see.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, just regarding the second stop, I think the team said that they found a cut on one of your tyres after they were removed. Could you feel anything in the car? Was there anything that you were aware of, that was going wrong with that or were you just happy to pit and go after fastest lap?
MV: Yeah, I was not sure if they were going to box me for that fastest lap, so I was actually quite happy when they called me in and yeah, of course, they found out the cut but honestly while driving I had no idea, I didn’t feel anything. But better be safe and then I could go for fastest lap so it was perfect.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Lando and then I think Max as well: do you think the rules on what is allowed wheel to wheel; are they clear and consistent because Lando you’ve been punished today for pretty much the same thing Pierre got away with doing to you two weeks ago in France, and Max, probably your move on Charles to win here a couple of years ago would have been punished, based on the logic we saw applied today.
LN: Yeah. I gave the example of Imola with Max and Lewis into Turn 1, like yeah… he ended up off the road but because he put himself there and as a driver you kind of expect… if you don’t commit to a manoeuvre on the outside of a corner, then there’s gravel or whatever and yeah, like I don’t want to complain, because the headline of this is probably going to be Lando said something about the stewards or whatever. I think there are enough cases of when people have done things and like what happened today and got away with it, like you’ve just said, and then I get a penalty today, you know, so… I don’t think everything they do is wrong, there’s a lot of good rules in place and a lot of things they should keep but just using some common sense every now and then and reviewing those incidents from the past and maybe not giving it us straight away in the race, like at least having a chance to speak to me as a driver or Sergio as a driver. I’m sure Sergio would say I pushed him off but instead of just giving a penalty in a race and then not being able to do anything about it, because I had to serve it within the pit stop and yeah, I lost out on P2 because of that. At least give us a chance to debate it and have our word and put our word in and argue it and state our point and then maybe get a penalty but not ruin someone’s race while they’re racing because of something that wasn’t their fault.
Q: Max, Scott referenced your 2019 moment with Charles Leclerc. Is there anything more you want to say?
MV: At the time, I totally agreed, of course, with the decision. Of course, I’ve been on holiday with stewards myself and I paid and I had to sit there with them. The problem is also sometimes the rule book and the wording. Stewards don’t want to give a penalty but sometimes they have to in a way with whatever happens on track. I don’t want to blame the stewards. Yeah, sometimes the rule book is a bit tricky as well in terms of handing out penalties or you need to hand out penalties with something.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Valtteri, there was a period early in the first stint when you fell back from behind Lewis and you were on the radio about driving to Plan A. Can you just explain what that was all about?
VB: Just trying to play the long game and trying not to kill the tyres. I saw Lewis was putting quite a bit of pressure on Lando without really trying to be close and sliding around and just decided to back off slightly and yeah, knowing that most likely it could be one stop and try to have good tyres at the end of the stint, so that was the thinking and I think in the end that was the right thing but yeah, it review everything but that was the plan.