Full transcript from the FIA press conference following the 2021 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, round 13 of the Formula 1 championship.
Drivers: Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), and Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes).
(Conducted by Robert Doornbos)
Q: Max Verstappen you have just won the Dutch Grand Prix in front of the royal family and this amazing crowd. What does this mean to you?
Max VERSTAPPEN: As you can hear already it is just incredible, because the expectations were very high going into the weekend and it’s never easy to fulfil that but I am of course so happy to win here, to take the lead as well in the championship, it’s just an amazing day with just the whole crowd here, it’s incredible.
Q: You had an amazing start, you didn’t put a foot wrong. The team also did a great job, countering Mercedes. Could anything have gone better for you or is this the perfect day of your career?
MV: It’s definitely a very good day. The start was very important and I think we did that well. Then, of course, Mercedes tried to make it very difficult for us but we countered them all the time really well and yeah, we can be really pleased with the whole team performance today.
Q: Well done, congratulations, you are leading the world championship again. Lewis, how was it here? Hard work out there? Sweaty?
Lewis HAMILTON: What a race. What a crowd. Honestly, it has been an amazing weekend. Max did a great job, congratulations to him. I gave it absolutely everything today, flat out, I pushed as hard as I could, but they were just too quick for us. I’ve had an amazing time here in Holland thanks to the crowd, so thank you so much for having us.
Q: Congratulations with P2. You have been so close, 1.5 seconds or 2 seconds behind Max, always looking. It looked like rush hour out there, take us through the traffic?
LH: Yeah, I’m going to call him Noah (sic, Moses) from now on. Every time he got traffic they just moved out of the way and it was very hard to navigate through all the traffic. They just had that upper edge and it’s very hard to follow here.
Q: On the last lap you came in for that extra set of tyres to get the point for fastest lap. Well done. Was it like a mini-qualifying session for you?
LH: Yeah, the last lap was one of the best parts of the race for me. This track is just incredible on a single lap, low fuel. This is now one of my favourite tracks, so I’m looking forward to coming back next year.
Q: Another podium finish for Valtteri Bottas. Valtteri, congratulations. You have been here on the podium here before, you won the F3 Masters here many years ago. Take us through your race. You’re happy with P3?
Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, unfortunately for me it was pretty uneventful. Obviously kept pushing but we we tried a one-stop, so I went for a long first stint and tried to survive with the tyres until the end but at the end we had quite a big gap behind me, so we just made a stop for safety basically. We tried but we just didn’t quite have the pace today.
Q: Did you enjoy, as your team-mate, the new tyre run near the end to get the point for fastest lap?
VB: I didn’t go for the fastest lap, Lewis got it. I think as a team we got solid points.
Q: Well, congratulations. Enjoy the crowd here, they are also here for you.
VB: It’s cool. They’ve been really supportive, so thank you.
Q: Max, the perfect end to an incredible weekend for you. How do you begin to sum up everything that has happened at Zandvoort?
MV: Well, I mean, I know the fans of course they have high expectations when you come here. They of course want you to win but it’s never that straightforward, before you get here, because I think you have seen this whole year already Mercedes and us have been really close to each other and yeah, to deliver on the day, I mean, or course I am very satisfied. Yesterday of course with pole but also to win the race. What was crucial today was first of all the start and then throughout the race just managing that gap that they couldn’t undercut us and yeah, incredible feeling of course to win in front of the fans but also the king was watching with the family so just an amazing day.
Q: With all the fans, with the royal family here, has it been difficult to stay focused amid all the madness?
MV: I’ve been always very focused. I mean I know I have to focus on the driving and that has been quite straightforward but of course naturally there are more distractions, especially when you are on the grid or drive out and there’s more of a crowd but I think we are professional enough to just focus on our job once we are in the car.
Q: On track you seemed to have the answer to Mercedes at every turn – the start, on strategy?
MV: Yeah, the whole race it was quite close between myself and Lewis, he was really putting the pressure on. He was putting some great laps together and I think also after the final stop, at one point on that medium tyres, and I was on the hard tyre, but luckily it was enough at the end. Seventy-two laps around here, pushing, yeah, it was satisfying. It was cool.
Q: And how was the car on the hard tyre?
MV: It was good. I didn’t really feel a big difference to the medium. It felt all OK.
Q: We go to Monza next, a very different race track. What can we expect there?
MV: Well, of course it hasn’t been our best track of the calendar the last few years but of course I know that this year we are competitive in general everywhere but nevertheless, again, we just need to nail the details and then I’m sure we can be competitive.
Q: Lewis, you gave it your best shot. Is there anything you could have done differently today to beat Max?
LH: I think ultimately, congratulations to Max. He just did a better job all around. They were definitely faster today, there wasn’t really a lot that I could do to answer to the lap-times he was putting in from stint one already. It was very, very hard to keep up. And I think Max was just managing from then, whereas I was flat-out, just trying to stay as close as possible. I think today we probably needed everything to be perfect to even have the slightest chance of getting past him through strategy, for example. Pit stops needs to be on point, strategy needed to be on point and traffic also – but none of those three were ideal today, and so… but nonetheless, as a team we got a second and third, got some really good points on them in the Constructors’. That’s a super important one, and we’ll come back next week fighting. I think they’ve taken a bit of a step ahead. But otherwise, what a weekend! The crowd has been insane all weekend. I don’t think I’ve seen… the British crowd is naturally my favourite but these guys, the energy here has been crazy. And I think, where this track is probably better than Silverstone is that the Silverstone circuit, the grandstands are so far away. You need binoculars to see where we are, going around right? Whereas here, they’re right on the track. Like the olden days. We need that, to then maybe fill the crowd in, in other places too.
Q: Lewis, the start: Max seemed to get away very well. How was yours?
LH: It was OK. It felt pretty good but he was a rocket off the start. He was gone. Literally nothing we could do to answer that. They’ve made a big, big step forward this year with their engine. You saw it last year, they weren’t the greatest with starts and I think they obviously have improved their power, just the whole power unit’s massively better this year on all aspects for them – and naturally their driveability and their starts… they’re the quickest starters this year overall. So, we’ve got some work to do in lots of different areas – but yeah, on to the next one.
Q: On to the next one – Monza. It’s a very different kind of track, just your thoughts on that one please.
LH: I really don’t know how it’s going to go. As I said, I think they’ve definitely improved their car with some sort of upgrade in the last race which we didn’t obviously get to see the true pace of it – but we will be on lower downforce, and maybe we can be closer there, maybe. But… yeah, it’s going to be tough.
Q: Valtteri, your 63rd podium in Formula 1. Just talk us through the pace of your car over the 72 laps today.
VB: I think, like Lewis said, I think Red Bull and Max, they had an upper hand today on the pure pace. For me, quite early on I committed to one stop, so it meant that, you know, I couldn’t push the tyre too much, and managing especially in the high-speed corners. We tried to play the long game but it was quite a bit slower today, to try to do one-stop. Even at the very end, I stopped, just for safety, so it was like a hybrid one-stop, not ideal. But yeah, we tried, and for me being in that position was the right thing to try, something different, I guess. Yeah, I really hope that we will have better pace overall in Monza. It’s a very different track – but definitely Red Bull showed all the strengths that they have today, this weekend.
Q: You said earlier it was a pretty uneventful race for you – but you did have a near-miss with Sebastian Vettel in the middle of the race at Turn 3. Talk us through that.
VB: Yeah, he was battling with another car in Turn 3 and then, I don’t know if they touched but Seb suddenly spun, and he was like going up the banking and then down, so I had to choose if I go left or right. I decided to go right when I saw that he was starting to come down. And luckily that was the right choice. Yeah – one of the big highlights of my race!
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport.com) Question is to Valtteri. About the pitstop, Valtteri. When they pitted you, you asked for the reason and you were told it was precautionary, I believe, because of vibrations. Nico Hülkenberg said, on the live commentary on Servus TV: “Valtteri knows that’s not true – it was about getting Lewis the fastest lap point, obviously.” Did you feel that was well-communicated inside the team – because you were then obviously asked to abort your own fastest lap attempt, which you were obviously going for?
VB: To be honest, there was quite a big gap ahead, a big gap behind, so for safety reasons it was a good thing to stop. I think I could have made it to the end much faster than by stopping but in the end the position was the same. It was the safer option to stop at the end. I thought initially we would stop for the fastest lap but then also Lewis had a gap so Lewis stopped. So yeah, I mean, I was pushing on the first lap, sector one, two, like flat-out and then they started asking me to slow down at the end of the lap, and I was just playing around really. Obviously Lewis needs that one extra point more than me. He’s fighting for the World Championship in Drivers’, and as a team we’re trying to get the maximum points, so that’s how it is.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Lewis, you haven’t won a race on genuine pace since Spain. How concerned are you about that in the context of the championship?
LH: Yeah. I’ve given it everything. We’ve given absolutely everything, I think. Even since the first race, these guys have just had such a strong car all year and we’re trying as hard as we can but yeah, we had a couple of races where it looked like we just about had… we were on par with them or just slightly ahead but there’s only been, as you said, only a couple of those and then it took a big leap and it’s been difficult. And I guess, it’s so close that you can’t really overtake in a lot of these places that we’ve been to previously because we are so closely matched. But there’s nothing really more I can say, we just have to keep our heads down and keep working, keep pushing. We are ahead in the team championship which is great but of course we need to pick up some speed, that’s what we want, to be able to win races in future.
Q: Max your thoughts on that as well please?
MV: For me, they did pole position in Silverstone, even though of course it didn’t count as a pole position, and they were ahead in Hungary, where they definitely had more pace than us, just looked better. But of course Hungary was a crazy race with whatever happened, you know with the wet and the start. So I think you shouldn’t look at stats, I think you should look at the realistic pace, what there was and not always look at the race result, because I definitely think that they would have won Hungary if everything went normal, that’s why I really felt, in the break, I was like ‘we really need to speed things up here because otherwise they’re going to run away with it’ and I think we did, we did pick it up a bit. I feel like we still feel a bit more but it’s heading into the right direction. Also, you have to see that there are still quite a lot of different kind of tracks coming up, so it will definitely swing both ways and we just have to keep on it and keep pushing and keep bringing new bits for the car.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Valtteri, you just talked through aborting that quick lap at the end, but obviously you did still set a new fastest lap and briefly took it away from Lewis, even though it wasn’t a really fast lap time. I just wondered, was that because you didn’t back off quite enough as you thought you had in Sector 3 or did you know that you were just completing a lap that Lewis would still be able to beat quite easily?
VB: I knew Lewis was going to stop as well. That information I had and I knew that with a decent amount of lifting [from me] in the last sector he would get it, so no drama.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport magazine.com) Lewis, what did you think when you heard that Valtteri had set the fastest lap? Did you get the information and how big is the risk at the end of the race to go for the fastest lap?
LH: I had no idea, but it doesn’t really matter. If Valtteri had got it, it would have been fine. At the end of the day we needed to get the fastest lap as many points as we can as a team, so if Valtteri gets it or I get it, it doesn’t really make a huge difference. But as I said, I didn’t even know that Valtteri had stopped. I was completely unaware of that. It was my choice to stop. I needed that extra point so I did.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Just want to get your final thoughts on the flares this week. Some drivers asked on Thursday if fans would leave them at home because it would smell in the cockpit and it was obscuring their vision, but how did you guys find it out there today?
MV: The flares? I like the colour! For me, it was fine. Of course, it was a bit difficult to see and of course it shouldn’t… Probably laps to the grid, there was quite a lot in 11 and 12 but I could see the track so… I liked it, orange is a nice colour.
LH: It looks great. There was a period of time when you couldn’t see much through 11 and 12. I don’t really know what to say.
VB: Yeah, there was quite a lot at times but I don’t mind the smell, it’s OK. I hope it’s safe to breathe for everyone. It’s pretty smoky in the grandstand.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Lewis, Spa seems a very long way away now, but this crowd and the reaction, the fans and everything, but I just wondered… you posted on Instagram before this race that you were going to do something special for your fans after what happened in Spa. I just wondered if you could maybe fill us in a bit more on what you’re planning?
LH: Not really. You’ll know once it’s done. It was just really… I know that everyone had a difficult Sunday because we didn’t really give them a race so for my fans that have submitted their tickets, Team LH and I will be giving them something special in the coming weeks.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport magazine.com) Max, when you had to overtake Valtteri, can you explain how you felt, how do you assess the risk at that moment and can you trust another driver who’s in the team of the main competitor 100%?
MV: It was fine. Valtteri’s a very fair racer. He races hard but fair so I always felt good about it. Of course, I knew it was critical to get by at one point. Of course we had already pitted and I could really see that Valtteri was really struggling on these tyres that had really low grip, so the first time I had DRS I just couldn’t get by, but the second lap, yeah, I don’t think there was much life left in the tyres, so out of 11-12 was already super close and I actually, I didn’t lose too much through 13 and so I could get by, but everything was OK.