Full transcript from the press conference after the Sprint Race at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Round 19 of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship, at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Interlagos.
Featuring winner Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), second-placed Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) and third-placed Carlos Sainz (Ferrari).
Track interviews conducted by Felipe Massa
Q: Valtteri, straight away just pulling next to Max. I was looking and I was a little scared that the tyres would survive until the end and we would have some battle at the end, but actually you had traction. So what do you think about the race. Was the start the main thing?
Valtteri VERSTAPPEN: Exactly, today the start was the key thing for me, to have a good start. We gambled a little bit with the Soft tyre. We knew that it would be a benefit for the start and it worked and then it was all about trying to survive to the end. It was tricky at the end but Max still struggled to follow in some of the corners, so I’m glad it worked out perfectly.
Q: Congratulations, you have no idea how the people… the fans are really enjoying the moment you know, every single moment, all the overtaking but especially the start. It’s nice to have them here.
VB: Yeah, thank you for the support. It’s amazing here, so thank you.
Q: Max, what do you think about the start? You were in a good position but maybe a little bit of wheel spin, different grip from the tyres?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, the start itself wasn’t the best. Of course we were on the harder compound so that didn’t help, especially to put the energy in around here wasn’t the easiest. Nevertheless, I think the pace was quite good. It’s just around here once you close up you can’t really pass, but it’s OK.
Q: I saw you in the last corner just try to get close enough to get the effect of the DRS?
MV: Exactly, they are fast on the straight so you need a really good last corner to pass and today it wasn’t possible but we will try again tomorrow.
Q: Carlos, what an amazing start, it was just amazing to see how much grip you had straight away and also in the first corner. Also a big fight the whole way with Checo, just tell us what you think?
Carlos SAINZ: Yeah, well, the start was great. I needed one because starts have been a bit of a thing that I wanted to improve in this second half of the season and to get such a good one today for sure is a good confidence booster and yeah, in the first three corners I just went on the attack. I was always trying to make positions. It was a bit tight with Checo and Max but we made it stick and from there it was suffering a bit with the Soft until the end but I managed to get Checo behind me. It was always on the limit into Turn 1, always very, very tight. I could sometimes defend, sometimes just stay on the outside, but the pace was good and we managed the tyres and we made it.
Q: Is the grip and the pace you had with the tyres also something good for tomorrow?
CS: Yeah, it’s something definitely to consider. But today is quite cold and with this low track temp made a difference today to make the Soft tyre a bit better. Tomorrow at 2pm is I think going to be a bit different. But we did our calculations and it looked like they worked, and that’s the thing.
Q: Well done Valtteri, you won the F1 Sprint at Monza and you’ve won it here as well. You are king of the Sprint. It was a brilliantly judge race by you, just how pleased are you?
VB: It was a good one, you know. Everything went as planned and we opted to start with the Soft tyre because we though the best chance to get the lead was the race start and even with a bit of the risk that the end of the race could be tricky but it worked perfectly. It wasn’t easy at the end, the tyres started to be pretty finished but I just tried to avoid mistakes and tried to keep the focus and today was a good day. And I am also pleased that Lewis could get up to fifth place so that gives him plenty of opportunities for tomorrow and that means we can still, even with the issues of this weekend, have a great result tomorrow.
Q: Tell us about the decision to run the Softs as opposed to the Mediums? How much of a gamble was it really?
VB: It is a bit. As I just explained it gives an advantage for the start and it gives a disadvantage to the end of the race comparted to the Medium. It’s easy to say afterward but it was the right choice for me.
Q: And how much pressure was Max applying throughout the race?
VB: He was sometimes just about within a second and I knew that it’s only going to get more tricky towards the end because the Soft tyre degrades more but, yeah, I think we had a good pace and the following is not easy here, so he couldn’t ever have an opportunity to overtake.
Q: And looking ahead to tomorrow’s 71-lap race, what’s the game plan?
VB: I can’t tell you! I mean, yeah, of course, starting from the pole, hoping to keep the lead and go from there but now it’s pretty open in terms of strategy for every team. Everyone can start with whatever tyre they like. So, we’re going to try to make the best plan we can.
Q: Max, coming to you. Well done to you as well. A front row start for you tomorrow – but as for today, it all happened at the start.
MV: Yeah, I mean we started on the Medium tyre, also I think the track dropped a bit more than we would have liked. And then, besides that, I somehow lost all the gear syncs. So my start was already not as amazing on tyres but then, when you’re upshifting and it’s a terrible shift… so all-in-all that didn’t work out for me. Then of course, I dropped to third on the first lap but then after that, I mean the pace was fine but you can’t overtake around here. The tyres just very quickly overheat and you are stuck – especially when the cars are closely matched on pace: there’s not much you can do in the sprint without a pitstop. So, I just sat behind basically.
Q: And did Valtteri’s Soft tyres hold up longer than you were expecting?
MV: Yeah, well, not really. Of course, I could see that Valtteri was struggling more and more and more but when you are behind, you just follow the same, because your tyres are even warmer because of trying to get closer to get the DRS. So yeah, it didn’t really look like it was a concern for Valtteri, in terms of how close I was.
Q: And the weather conditions are predicting it’s going to be hotter in the grand prix itself tomorrow. How do you think that will affect things?
MV: Yeah, let’s see. It’s going to be quite a bit warmer. I mean, today was also quite a late race, so hopefully that will be a bit better for us – but it’s a bit difficult to say at the moment.
Q: And finally from me Max, can we get your reaction to the reprimand and fine that you received from the stewards this morning.
VB: It’s quite a big fine, so I hope they have a nice dinner and a lot of wine. I hope good expensive wine, that would be nice. They can invite me for dinner as well. I’ll pay for that dinner too.
VB: Do you have to pay for it, or the team?
MV: I do have to pay. So that’s a little bit less FIFA points for me on my laptop.
Q: Carlos, what a start, from fifth on the grid to second.
CS: It was good. It was good. Starts have been a bit of a thing that I wanted to improve since the first half of the season because it used to be one of my strengths in McLaren, Renault and Toro Rosso and it’s been a bit of homework over the last few races to really try and nail them. We’ve put in a lot of work and today definitely started to pay off. Good moves, obviously playing with the guys up here, the Mercs and the Red Bulls, is always a bit more fun and I get to enjoy some good battles.
Q: And how much of a gamble was it for you to start on the Soft tyre?
CS: It was very tough because you know in the end the Soft is better for maybe the first two laps but then from lap three, lap four onwards, once the Soft is nearly overheating, you want a Medium tyre, no? But it’s always that balance to find between start performance and a 24-lap stint or race. We went for the Soft but we were honestly 50:50. And I guess the track dropping there at the end before the race start kind of swung me towards the Soft tyre, just because I thought it was going to be a bit easier to keep it alive – but I still think from lap five onwards the Medium was the better tyre – but yeah, it was a tricky call but I guess we did the right thing.
Q: And tell us about the pressure from Checo Perez. How close did he get?
CS: He got very close pretty much half of the laps that he was behind. I knew like into the last corner, whenever I had a 0.7s gap, then I would have to defend into turn one. When the gap was 0.8s, I would just make it into turn one without having to defend and 0.9s would mean that maybe at the end even need to use my energy, no, so it was exactly the same every lap and I just hearing the gap from engineers – that he did a good job – telling me exactly as the DRS zone, then I could manage the battery to my liking and know whether I had to defend or not but I think his front wing was very close to my diffuser in a couple of brakings into turn one. But like always with Checo, good fun, good fight and good racing.
Q: And Carlos let’s throw it ahead to the Grand Prix tomorrow; you’re starting third so leading by turn four?
CS: I doubt it but you never know in Formula 1. I’m going to keep the same approach of trying to nail the getaway and then being on the aggressive side into turn one and four like I was today and then see what comes tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, just regarding what happened in Parc Fermé after qualifying yesterday. Could you please explain: what were you looking at, what were you doing touching your own car and Lewis Hamilton’s as well?
MV: Well, I was clearly looking at the wing. Yeah, you can see on the video what I did exactly. I was just looking at how much their rear wing was flexing, at that point.
Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) Max, did you have any specific suspicion beforehand on Mercedes’ rear wing, to go and inspect it?
MV: Yeah, of course, there had been talks and of course there are things to still look into because, as I said, at a certain speed it seems like the wing is flexing and of course we had, at the beginning of the season, we had to all change the rear wings a bit because of the back-off but it seems like something is still backing off over there so that’s why I went and had a look.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Valtteri, just wondered how much tyre management were you having to do, especially in the later stages of the race?
VB: I was really fully focusing on trying to do the fastest stint I can, and that means management with the soft tyre so especially in the beginning, I was obviously trying to create a gap but not to kill the tyres immediately and that middle part of that race really, just tried to optimise the pace and that includes quite a bit of management with the soft tyre, especially in certain parts of the track. And towards the end, yeah, I was trying to squeeze out every single bit I had left of the tyres.
Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) Max, just to make it clear, please: you were checking the wing flexibility, not the DRS system, to check whether it was too big?
VB: No, no. It had nothing to do with the DRS, what they were looking at.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Valtteri, we saw Mercedes spend a lot of time running the soft tyres in FP2 and also later on in FP1 yesterday. Was that all about making a plan for today’s race, in the sprint or has it got implications of what you’re going to do tomorrow in the race as well?
VB: I think actually used Softs because we thought the Medium would be better for the sprint but then in FP1 the Soft behaved a bit better than we expected, so then we started to have a look to see if there was an opportunity to use the Soft, even though it was not a new Soft, that means we have plenty of tyres for tomorrow. Let’s see what we come up with, but… that’s all.