Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Top three press conference

Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Top three press conference

Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Top three press conference

Transcript from the post-race interviews and FIA hosted top three press conference after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Round 8 of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship season.

Featuring 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix race winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull), second-placed Sergio Perez (Red Bull) and third-placed George Russell (Mercedes).

Track Interviews conducted by Naomi Schiff

Q: George incredible result today. You said to me earlier that fifth would be the best you could do today. But this is your second [sic, third] podium this year. How happy are you with this result?

George Russell: Yeah, as we said before, you got to be there at the end to pick up the pieces. And thanks so much to all the guys back at Brackley and Brixworth for doing a great job. To get the car to the end is not easy this year with everything that’s going on. The cars are going through a torrid time with the bouncing. And yeah, pleased to bring it home in P3.

Q: Max incredible results for you today. It all seemed to come together. Is this redemption for last year?

Max Verstappen: I mean, you can never make up what you lost last year. But I think today we had an incredible pace in the car, we could really look after the tyres and we could chip away at it, pass for the lead. But then, of course, also maybe a tiny bit lucky with the retirement, but I think nevertheless our car was really good today, so I could have closed that gap. Then of course you have a race on your hands. But overall, yeah, really happy with how the balance of the car was today?

Q: Well, it all definitely came together today. You had the ultimate pace. What was it that clicked for you today?

MV: I don’t know, just tyre behaviour, together with just general grip of course of the car. And you know that’s what you need around here, that you can look after your tyres. So at the end, you know to have a one-two as a team as well, it was a really, really good day for us.

Q: It seems Red Bull has the better race day car. So how confident are you heading to Canada?

MV: I don’t know. I think every weekend is a bit different and you really have to be precise and you really have to be on it with little things for the race management as well. So it can swing around every single race with every single race we do.

Q: Checo, fantastic scoring of points today. You had the pace all weekend long. But today didn’t seem to be with you. What did that come down to?

Sergio Perez: Yeah, unfortunately, we missed the Virtual Safety Car stop. There was some miscommunication and once we wanted it, it was a bit too late. And we were a bit unlucky there because that would have made up our race when we were leading. And then at the restart I just got too much deg, I think, on that medium tyre. The deg was extremely high for me. And it’s something that we have to understand what happened there. Because certainly Max was a lot stronger today on that medium. So yeah, a lot of things that we have to review from today, but it’s still a very good team result.

Q: We heard that there were instructions not to fight today. But do you think you were in a position to fight for the win today?

SP: I think it was the right call made by the team, because at that time Max was a bit further ahead and it was just a good team result and you know, in this place, anything can happen. So at the end of the day, we managed to do a one-two so that’s a great team result.

Press Conference

Q: Many congratulations to the top three finishers of the FIA Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. In third place, George Russell. In second place, Sergio Pérez. And taking his fifth win of the season and the 25th of his Formula 1 career, our winner, Max Verstappen. Huge congratulations, Max, your first podium here in Baku and a welcome result after your misfortune here last year, how sweet is this moment?

MV: Yeah, I think overall it was a very good race. I had a good start, but I couldn’t really go anywhere, of course, as it’s a short run to Turn 1. But after that it was all about just trying to stay there, try to, of course, get a bit of a move on, but it was very hard to pass. So we just waited. Then, of course, the VSC came out. We opted to stay out with both cars and tried to go a bit longer and yeah, it felt good. I had good tyre deg on the mediums, I could get into the lead. And once I put the hard tyre on, I think it would have been a really interesting fight to the end with Charles to see how much we would have caught him, because I think we did have a bit of a pace advantage. Of course unfortunately we never got there to have a fight but yeah, overall it was a good day, strong day and good pace in the car and we could really look after our tyres.

Q: So this is the happiest you’ve been with your car all weekend?

MV: Yeah, absolutely.

Q: Now, Max, this is your 66th podium for Red Bull, which is more than any other driver in the team’s history. Does that stat put a smile on your face?

MV: Well, hopefully many more to come.

Q: And actually we’re talking stats, this is your 25th win, as I said at the start, equalling the greats, Jim Clark and Nicky Lauda.

MV: Yeah, we also do more races a year, right? So if you have a good car… It’s not really comparable, but it’s nice for the books.

Q: And Max, final one from me. Let’s talk championship: this has been a big boost for you today, can we get your thoughts on that?

MV: Yeah, well, I mean, of course, we had our misfortune in the beginning of the year, so we knew that we had to play a bit of catch-up, but then of course it seems like now it’s more or less evened out with the bad luck and you have to score points every single weekend if you want to really fight for the championship. Everyone knows that, everyone of course tries that, but it’s not always that easy.

Q: Okay, many congratulations. Well done. Checo, a great result for you as well. Can you talk us through the crucial moments of the race and let’s start with a staff.

SP: Yeah, it was a great start, to get Charles of the line, and really be able to do your own race. It was looking great all the way up to the Virtual Safety Car. Then there was a bit of miscommunication with the team under the Virtual Safety Car. So we missed the opportunity to pit under the VSC, which was quite costly. And then we hit a lot of deg on that medium tyre after the Virtual Safety Car. So a few things to understand from that today. Certainly Max was quite a lot stronger in that phase of the race. And then it was mainly about bringing home after the Ferrari issue, so yeah, a few things to understand today because I don’t think also the stops were not ideal. So yeah a few bits to understand today to try to improve them for Montreal and improve our race pace because certainly Max deserved the win today.

Q: Checo, just to be clear, did you want to pit during that first VSC?

SP: Well, it’s the team who decides and at the time I didn’t have the information whether we wanted to pit or not. I only got the information too late, once it was too late to pit. Yeah, I’m not the one deciding when to pit, and yeah, unfortunately we have certain communications in place that we know when to pit and when the window’s open – but a few things went wrong today.

Q: And Checo, you were blindingly quick at the start of the race, 1.3 seconds quicker than anyone else on that opening lap, that was the gap to Charles Leclerc. In hindsight, do you think you went too hard too soon?

SP: I need to understand that, to be honest. Right now, it didn’t feel that I was hitting the tyre too hard at the time. It was certainly right at the restart after the Virtual Safety Car that we lost the pace, I think all the way to that stage, things were looking right; things were looking okay. But it was mainly after the virtual safety car when we really dropped the pace massively.

Q: George, many congratulations to you as well. Your third podium of the season. What were your expectations coming into the race?

GR: Not third, to be honest. I think P5 was the maximum we could have achieved on merit, and on pace, let’s say – but obviously this is a team effort, and you’ve got to be there at the end to pick up the pieces, score the points. And for us to show for all the hard work back at Brackley and Brixworth to deliver a reliable car and reliable power unit, and capitalise from others’ misfortunes, whatever you want to call it.

Q: Reading back through your quotes over the weekend here in Baku, the car seems to have been a real handful. Just how challenging a weekend has this been for you? And for Mercedes?

GR: I think the car has been feeling OK to drive, to be honest. The balance is good. Just the challenge is just the bottoming, to be honest, I think it doesn’t matter what boat you’re in either, you’ve got the porpoising and you’re hitting the ground. And if you don’t have porpoising, you’re running the car millimetres to the ground, and you’re bottoming out. And I think, yeah, feeling it on the back at the moment. But nevertheless, as I said, we’ve got to keep on working hard to find more performance and understand what we need to do to unlock that. And yeah, I don’t think we’ll have any major updates or anything to try in Canada, but maybe for Silverstone, we’ll have a better idea.

Q: You’re only 17 points behind Charles Leclerc in the driver’s standings; Mercedes are just 38 points behind Ferrari. Do those stats come as a surprise?

GR: Kind of like what Max said, you’ve got to keep on scoring. You know, this is a Championship where you’ve got the chance to score every single race and it doesn’t matter how fast your car is, if you’re not scoring those points, then your tally is not going to increase. So, as I said here, great work from everybody back at the factories to deliver a reliable car – but we can’t keep on relying on others’ misfortune, and we need to find more performance. And that’s what everyone’s trying their hardest to achieve.

Questions from the floor

Q: (Erik Van Haren – De Telegraaf) Question to Max. Max, do you feel you’re unstoppable, if you look at the race pace, and if you guys can get on top of the Saturday’s because you’re struggling there a little bit? If the Saturdays will be better, who is to stop you?

MV: I think every single weekend is a bit different. But yeah, we know, I think, with the car performance on Saturday we are not as quick as Ferrari for whatever reason. Maybe it helps us on a race day, who knows? But I also want a bit more performance, just for myself on a Saturday, just with the feeling of the car as well. But on a Sunday, in general, it always feels a bit better. But yeah, there is still, of course, enough work to do to try and improve the car. But I guess everyone has the same thing. But again, it was a very good day for us today. It’s still a very young and new car so we will always look to improve. And at the moment, it looks like Saturdays is the biggest room for improvement.

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) A question for you Sergio. You talked about the tyres going off, straight after the VSC ended. Was that anything to do with temperatures? And could you also explain how that played into the swap for position with Max please?

SP: Yeah. I’m sure it’s something related to it. Probably we lost a bit of temperature on those tyres, at that time, together with some wear. So, we just have to understand what happened. And with Max, he was clearly a lot faster at that stage of the race. So yeah, it was the right call not to fight because I didn’t have any pace at the time and Max deserved to be ahead at that point. We also boxed too late. So, there were a few things that played into the result today, but still at the end of the day, Max deserved the win, because he was the faster car.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) George, given that your cars have severe porpoising issues, do you think it has come to the point where Mercedes need to consider a different concept? Or do you think the current concept has the potential to deliver?

GR: I think we’ve got to stay open-minded about everything and go about things logically, analytically, and I think nothing’s off the table at this stage. And ultimately, we’re just trying to deliver a car that is the fastest over a lap. I mean, the porpoising has not been that bad this weekend. We’ve barely had any issues, it’s just the ride and running very close to the ground to get as much performance as possible. But as I said, at the moment, we’re struggling to unlock that. So, as I said, open-minded and nothing’s off the table.

Q: (Elchin Mehdiyev – Trade News Agency) Max, what was your expectation before coming to Baku? Did you expect that you will win this Grand Prix? And the second question is: what’s the difference of Baku to other tracks?

MV: Well, it’s always difficult to know before you get here how competitive you’re going to be. We, of course, know that the fights so far have always been between us and Ferrari but to exactly know where you would be, difficult to say, but I think, yeah, even after yesterday, it was a bit of like, okay, we were behind in qualifying but where are we going to be in the race? So yeah, I never really think about it too much; just see, you know, once you get into the race. Of course, we all have our information but even on a race day a lot of things can change and luckily it was good for us this weekend.

Q: And the track?

MV: Yeah, the track is good. It is enjoyable to drive, just, I think, it’s getting a bit bumpy in some places, especially now with the new cars being so stiff and low to the ground. I think the main straight is way too bumpy, we have to really try and find a bit of a line. So it would be nice if that could be resurfaced for next year. But overall, I think it’s a special track, also the second sector, you know, between the castle bit, it’s quite unique, I would say.

Q: Max, did you discover what went loose between your feet that you reported on the radio?

MV: I don’t know. I didn’t look into the car.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Max, were you worried at any point about Charles’ strategy while he was in the race?

MV: Well, as soon as we got out and they told me the gap, I think it was like 12/13 seconds, that’s quite a bit of a gap to close. But then I saw his pace as like, I think, yeah. I was like, yeah, let’s see if we can fully close that gap. I had confidence that with the car we had today and the pace we had that it would have been an interesting fight to the end.

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) George it’s come to light this morning that F1 teams voted against a suggestion of rules to stop porposing ahead of the season. That’s obviously something you’ve championed this weekend in terms of going to the FIA to see if that’s something that can be eliminated. So I just wonder what your reaction is to finding out that it could have been prevented?

GR: Yeah, I think that was totally understandable because every single team is understanding and developing their cars around a set of regulations and any change, nobody knows what is going to be the consequences. And even us, I think we voted against it. And even now, we want change but who knows what that change is, it’s just us, 20 drivers, we would choose to have a safer ride out there and when you’re going 300kmh between the walls and you barely can keep the car in a straight line. I couldn’t even see my pit board, the car was moving around so much. We have the technology in Formula 1 to resolve this with a click of our fingers, I believe, so as I said, nobody’s looking to take advantage from this, we’re just looking for a safer, easier solution.

Q: (Sándor Mészáros – AutoSport ES Formula) Max, you just mentioned the bad luck for you from the start of the season. And now Charles is in the middle of a bad luck tsunami, let’s say. Do you feel any kind of sympathy for him and in the heat of the title fight is it possible to feel something like this?

MV: I would always say shit happens. Yeah, that’s racing. You know, it happened to me, it happened to many people in the past. Unfortunately, it’s happening to Charles. Yeah. If I will be in the same situation I would also be disappointed. I think that’s very normal. But yeah, it’s about how you come out of it. You always look at how to improve things. That’s what we did as well in the beginning of the season. You learn from it, you don’t like it, you’re angry, but we turned it around, but you always have to stay on it because something else might happen and you always have to prevent these issues from happening.