French Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

French Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

French Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

Transcript from the post-race interviews and FIA hosted top three press conference after the French Grand Prix, Round 12 of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship season.

Featuring 2022 French Grand Prix race winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull), second-placed Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and third-placed George Russell (Mercedes).

Track Interviews conducted by David Coulthard

Q: George Russell, a very hard fought third place on the podium there. Put us in the cockpit. That was quite a battle with Checo Pérez.

George Russell: Thank you, I’m absolutely sweating, I’m a bit knackered now to be honest. It was a long race, a tough race. The pace was strong but we really struggled with the warm-up on that restart and Checo was all over me. But I was glad to see that chequered flag and come home P3.

Q: We just see behind you on the screen here the initial contact you had at the chicane. You were quite vocal to your team, and we heard Toto saying “right, get focused, get on with the job” and then the opportunity came to you late in the race.

GR: Yeah, I mean, I saw him struggling when Sainz got past and I knew that that one opportunity. For me, I was down the inside. The rules are pretty clear: it’s front wheel to rear wheel when you’re on the inside. That’s what I had, he didn’t really leave me much space. But nevertheless, glad I carried on, bringing it home P3 and two podiums for Mercedes. It’s great.

Q: Yeah, it’s been a while since we’ve had two Mercedes drivers up there together, so it will be welcome to see you up there beside Lewis. Congratulations on the podium and we’ll see you in Budapest. So Lewis Hamilton, congratulations, second place. We didn’t see a great deal of you during that race. You were running alone for most of it. But that’s a really strong result.

Lewis Hamilton: Well, I have to always give it up to this big crowd we have here in France. This is the biggest crowd I think we’ve had here. Merci beaucoup. What amazing weather we’ve had. That was actually a tough race because my drinks bottle didn’t work. But what a great result, considering we’ve been so far off these guys all weekend. Reliability is one thing that my team has been amazing at, so a huge congratulations to the team back of the two factories, the team here who without them, we couldn’t get this podium and George did an amazing job today as well.

Q: Explain to the viewers at home: no drink bottle, how much weight would you have lost during that Grand Prix, one of the hardest of the season?

LH: I don’t know. I didn’t see my weight just now, but I would imagine probably around three kilos. So, yeah, it’s enough. I’m looking forward to downing the rest of this drink. I wish everyone back home well, I hope they’ve had an amazing Sunday.

Q: Okay, just one more quick one: qualifying pace didn’t seem like you’d moved forward, but the race pace once again, very strong. What can we hope for Budapest and the next Grand Prix?

LH: Budapest? Well, firstly, I love it in Budapest, I’m super excited to see the crowd there. And I think, I mean, it’s going to be hard to beat the Ferraris and the Red Bulls. You see they have their pace advantage still. But I’m hoping we will bring some sort of upgrade to that track and hopefully take a step forward closer to them. And you know, you can see us in the race, we can at least lean on them a little bit. So hopefully in that race even closer.

Q: OK Lewis, go and get yourself a drink. Thank you very much and well done on your podium. And ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the French Grand Prix, Max Verstappen. So that was kind of a race of two halves for you. We had that first half where you were battling hard and close with Charles, putting pressure on him. He was handling that very well. And then once you made that early stop, we now know that Charles lost the rear at Turn 11. So talk us through those two phases of the race? And we also heard you very sportingly ask your engineer was Charles OK.

Max Verstappen: Yeah, I mean, I think we had really good pace from the start. I was putting pressure on Charles. But following around here with this heat, you know, the tyres are overheating a lot. So I could never really like go for a move, only once, into Turn 11. But yeah, we just tried to stay calm, tried to stay close. Of course we pitted a bit earlier. And yeah, from there onwards, you never know how the race is going to go. But the car was quick today. And of course, unlucky for Charles, I hope he’s OK. From there onwards, I just did my race, looked after the tyres. Because of the pit lane being so long you couldn’t do another stop, so you had to stay out, but the tyres were wearing a lot. So it was all about just looking after the tyres to the end.

Q: Well, you obviously managed the race extremely well. I’m just fascinated by the psychology of your battle with Charles. He’s the man that’s running you closest in the championship so far. Does it feel like any other victory? Does it feel slightly less when you know that your main competitor wasn’t there battling with you right to the end?

MV: I always just try to get the most points possible. And of course, you know, some moves, you see they are on, and sometimes you have to just back out and wait, maybe for the end of the race. And that’s what we did. And I mean, there are plenty more races to come where you have to score points, so yeah, in that aspect, I think today was a great day.

Q: It was a great day indeed. If we can maybe just throw it forward, not long until we go to Hungary before your summer break. Who do you think the characteristics of that race track will suit?

MV: We still have a bit of work to do over a single lap especially, so we’ll just keep working.

Press Conference

Q: A very warm welcome to the top three finishers of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 French Grand Prix. In third place, George Russell. In second place, Lewis Hamilton. And taking the 27th win of his Formula 1 career and his seventh of this 2022 campaign, our winner, Max Verstappen. Max, very well done to you. In the end, it was a relatively comfortable victory for you. Is that how it felt in the cockpit?

MV: Well, once Charles was off, I knew that it was all about managing the tyres to the end, because a two-stop was just slower because of the length of the pit lane unfortunately, which is a bit of a shame, because otherwise, you know, it opens up a bit more opportunities in terms of racing. But yeah, I just gradually increased the gap and I knew of course, the car was good today, we had good pace. So yeah, all about managing tyres to the end.

Q: So, comfortable in the second half, but tell us more about the first half of the race and your battle with Charles. Who had the faster car at that point in the race?

MV: We will never know because we cannot swap cars, but it looked good from our side. I was very happy because I wanted to see immediately if we could follow or not compared to Austria where it was the other way around, where you know, I was in the lead, but I could barely hold on. But this time I think we were a lot more competitive. Of course, our straightline speed was very beneficial, but because of that, of course, in the high-speed we had to be a bit more careful. And yeah, I stayed in his DRS for quite a while, but of course around here even driving on your own the tyres are already getting really hot. So I think by doing that, towards the pit stop, my tyres were a bit too hot. That’s why I think he pulled away a little bit. But it wasn’t anything, like, drastic, the way he was pulling away. So I still had good hope that we would have had a good fight on the other compound as well.

Q: Were you surprised by his pace in the very early laps of the race?

MV: I thought he would be faster, yeah. I thought it would be very hard to follow. But immediately, I could see that our balance was not bad. But again, it can also be just managing a bit, but it looked like we were very competitive. And that’s of course what we like to see.

Q: And Max, this has been a very good result for you in the championship. You’ve extended your lead from 38 points to 63 over Charles. You are sitting pretty at the top.

MV: Well, of course, I mean, it’s a great lead. But a lot of things can happen. And I just want to stay focused. We need a lot more good results. We still need more one-lap pace. And I also think, you know, the next race, Budapest, I think that’s going to be a bit more of a struggle for us, where I think Ferrari is going to be really, really quick. But we’ll see. Again, it’s all about scoring points, every single race even when it’s not your day.

Q: Thank you very much. Thanks. Well done. Keep pushing. Now, Lewis, many congratulations to you as well. Your fourth consecutive podium and your highest finish of the year so far. Can you sum up the weekend for us? Do you feel like you’ve maximised every opportunity?

LH: Yeah, I definitely do. Obviously I missed P1, but Nyck did a great job. And I think collectively as a team, whilst we didn’t have the pace of the lead cars, we… You know, this is an incredible result for us, for George and I to be here. George did a great job today as well. This is progress, even though we’re not necessarily closing the gap as such in race performance, in actual qualifying performance, but this is great points for us. And this is my 300th Grand Prix. Obviously, it was mentioned at the beginning of the weekend and I didn’t really think much of it. And this morning, I woke up just feeling incredibly grateful, just thinking about all the people that have been with me along the way, you know. For Ron and Mercedes giving me the chance when I was young. Martin Whitmarsh. Mansour Ojjeh. Toto, Niki, just Markus… Who am I missing? Dieter… Just all these incredible people that have supported me since I was 13. To then have this just incredible journey with them, every race powered by Mercedes. And so very, very proud to be up here representing them, alongside George and yeah, we’ve just got to keep pushing. Every weekend we’re hoping that we’re going to get a little bit closer. This weekend, we somehow weren’t as close as we hoped, but he was only 10 seconds up the road so that’s a positive.

Q: Well, he was only 10 seconds up the road and you did beat the other Red Bull on pure pace.

LH: Yeah, well, we both did. I think at the beginning keeping them behind was definitely tough, given their straightline speed was just impressive. So having to try and keep them out of the DRS zone was really the trick and then and then just tyre usage I think was probably key today. So yeah, I definitely don’t think George and I expected to be second and third. As you said, this is the highest I’ve been all year. So this is a huge day for me overall and looking forward to taking this positive energy onto Budapest.

Q: Just before we move on, can we have a quick word on the drinks bottle? How tough is it to deal with something like that in these temperatures? Or does adrenaline carry you through?

LH: If I’m really honest, I very rarely drink anyways in the race. I always forget. And I hydrated a lot already before the race, but just by lap 20 I was like “I really could do with a drink” and the thing just didn’t work. And I haven’t tried it for so long. Maybe it’s just not worked for ages. Maybe the water evaporated, who knows? It’s no biggie. Fortunately, afterwards I was able to have a drink.

Q: Now, George, coming to you many congratulations, your fourth podium of the season so far. You’ve had quiet races this year. And you’ve had busy races this year. I think that was definitely the latter.

GR: Yeah, it was pretty entertaining from those last final 15-20 laps, pushing as hard as I could to stay within reach. And then you know, do the overtake on Checo. I was pretty disappointed not to be able to keep that position. I thought it was my corner, I was down the inside I had my front wheels in front of his rear wheels. And to the letter of the law, it was my corner and he squeezed me a bit onto the kerb. He went wide and kept his position. So, I guess we’ll talk about it after but nevertheless, you know, these things have a way of working themselves out and the VSC restart was pretty tasty.

Q: Well, talk us through that. You made Checo look like he was sleeping, but just talk us through the move as you saw it?

GR: It felt pretty straightforward to be honest! I just gunned it when the lights went green, and got the run on him and went around the outside at Turn 14. You sometimes have to try and pre-empt it a little bit. And I think when you’re on the race on your own, you’re just playing it safe and you’re leaving a little bit of margin. I just got a really nice run, timed it perfectly. I think he had to brake a little bit as maybe he was a bit too quick. So, with him braking ,with myself accelerating, it just gave us that closing speed. It was pretty sweet but those laps after weren’t easy.

Q: Can we get your thoughts on the pace of the car? Do you agree with everything Lewis has just said?

GR: I think the gap to Max and Charles, they’re do an extremely good job, the two of them and we’ve still got a couple of tenths to find in race trim; we still need to understand what’s going on with our qualified performance but as a team, we feel like we’re making progress, we feel like we have a direction we can develop a car in now, and that’s something it took us probably a good eight or nine races to truly understand what makes this iteration of car go fast. So, I think we’re excited for the second half of the season.

Questions from the floor

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, do you think Ferrari has turned the corner on the tyre wear it seemed to struggle with early on in the season? Did it seem to be working better on that car than you expected today? And if it has, does that increase pressure on Red Bull to take pole position every race?

MV: They probably, of course, learned quite a lot but then also, you know, people are bringing upgrades and sometimes that also helps tyre degradation. Today, even with them sliding around a bit, they were still very quick in front of us. It just shows that they have a very quick car, and yeah, from our side we know that we have to find – especially over one lap – quite a bit of performance. But you know, we’ll be working on it. I think, like I said, it’s still, of course very important to always score points, even on a bad day, which we did in Austria. But yeah, of course the lead we have is great, but it’s probably a bit bigger than what it should have been when you look at the car performances between the two cars.

Q: (Claire Cottingham – George, we heard Toto come over the radio just to tell you to keep your head down. Obviously, we don’t hear all of the radio but was there a tad more of an exchange with you guys beforehand? Before Toto came on to the radio? Can you talk us through that part of the race?

GR: I think emotions were high then, obviously for all of us, because I felt like I did a mega-move on Checo and ultimately didn’t get to keep the position. And we definitely had a bit more pace there, so, you know, I quite enjoyed hearing Toto on the radio, but ultimately, from my side, you’re going absolutely flat out but… we’re in this together, as a team. And when you’re sat in the car, sometimes you do feel a bit alone, because we’re in the car, we’re doing everything we can, and you don’t know what the engineers are looking at. The engineers don’t totally feel what we’re feeling within the car. And sometimes having these exchanges brings it a little bit closer together.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, Toto was asked yesterday, whether you’d be able to get to 400 races. And he said there was a discussion a few weeks ago where there was an agreement that you could do five, ten years. Obviously, you seem to be quite a happy place. Do you envisage being in here for longer than, say, this current contract?

LH: That’s a lot of races! I firstly just want to be grateful to get to this point. But I still feel fresh and still feel like I’ve got plenty of fuel left in the tank. So, I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I’m enjoying… really, really proud and enjoying arriving every day and working with this incredible group of people. I’m also enjoying working with the sport more than ever. We’ve got some great people leading the sport and having great conversations about the direction we’re going as a sport, so I’m enjoying it more than ever. I would say in that space, of course, I want to get back to winning ways and that’s going to take time, but I’m sure we’ll sit down at some stage and talk about the future. But again, just with our team, I always want to continue to be building. It’s one thing having races, but it’s also continuing the work that we do outside and doing more, which I think Mercedes and us can always do more, and we will.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Lewis, firstly, how do you propose Mercedes prioritise their priorities now? Should they focus on the current car or should they be shifting focus onto next year’s car? And also, given your expression when you heard Max was leading by 63 points, what are your comments on the Drivers’ Championship? And also you’ve fought Ferrari before, do you think you’ve seen a similar pattern in them throwing away the title?

LH: So on one side of things… I’ve completely already forgotten the first one! Just with the rules, the rule change I think has been positive in many ways, however it’s not necessarily really changed the order as such. If you look, there’s always been two teams most likely at the front and there’s been that middle-pack gap and even coming into these new rules, regulations, you’ve pretty much seen that same thing. So I’m hoping that the rules progress and improve and the teams can all be a little bit closer. Moving forwards it’s been great to see the pace of the Ferrari this year. I’m gutted for Charles, who’s being doing a great job, as has Carlos. It’s not easy though, having that pace and that performance and maintaining it. It’s a tough job and I feel for the whole team because I know what that can feel like. But they’re a great team, and they’ll continue to keep their heads down. Yeah, massive gaps, obviously pretty huge so that’s pretty smooth sailing in that space generally. But a lot still can go wrong up ahead so I would just advise them just to continue to push. What was the other question? Oh, yeah, just in terms of our car. Well, the thing is, we’re constantly just learning more about this car so everything that I’m working on with… you know, back at the factory, in the debriefs, trying to articulate how we’re feeling in the car and the things that we want for the next year. And just with my time here, over the years, I feel I’m able to… I know exactly what I want in the car for next year that fundamentally things can’t change, it’s too big to change here with a cost cap this year, so I’m able to – ahead of time – say these are the things I want in the next year’s car. So those things I think are being taken into account and whilst we continue to try and dial this car in, of course bit by bit, as we go into these next weeks, the next couple of months, the full focus will probably be into next year’s car.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, please, just about the rest of the race after the safety car. Did you have any hopes or thoughts about maybe to stay with Max. We were just talking about the tyre degradation. I think the team told you the wind had picked up. How were things in the cockpit for you?

LH: I was trying to keep up with Max. He was just so fast. I was kind of keeping with him for like two, maybe two laps and then… but literally I’m full gas down the straight and he’s pulling away. That’s, I think, the biggest… one of the biggest deficits was the straight line today. So if you’re losing four tenths, whatever it is, three tenths whatever it is on the straight this, there’s nothing you can do about that. So we’ve got to work to improve that for the future. And as I’m sure there’s a couple other places that we could be better. But yeah, if I pushed any more maybe I wouldn’t have seen the end of the race at the same position so I had to also keep in mind keeping the car in one piece and keeping the tyres there. This is the best result we could get.

Q: (Claire Cottingham – Lewis, we were speaking to Andrew Shovlin on Saturday and he was saying it felt to him like he was starting to enjoy it again now that the more engineering side of things, he’s starting to get his head around it now. Does it feel a little bit like that for you as well, stripping everything back to the basics and then now maybe starting to enjoy a little bit more of this season?

LH: 100%. The beginning of the year was not miserable because there could always be way worse but just in terms of… I would say from a driver’s perspective, understanding this car was… it was so confusing. We were trying so many different things, we we’re trying to advance and no trust in the machine beneath you, particularly like the rear end. And that’s really kind of held us back a little bit. So to now be in a position where we’re starting to understand the car a little bit more, we’ve got more consistency coming up, we’re seeing more consistency, it’s given us much more of an enjoyable drive. We still lack performance in some of those areas but we’re slowly getting there. But it’s like small chips, just constantly just chipping away at it. Unfortunately, you can’t take big leaps at the moment. But who knows, maybe one big leap will come at some stage and we’ll be right there.

Q: (Aaron Deckers – Racing News 365) Max, earlier in the weekend you said that the problems from Austria you were not sure if it would be already resolved today: hot conditions, very fast win. Can you confirm now that the problems of that weekend were just a one off, let’s say?

MV: Well, difficult to tell. You can always make mistakes in the coming races as well but I think we learned a lot from that weekend. I think this weekend was a lot more competitive in the race but we had pole in Austria and here we didn’t. I think we have still quite a bit of margin to improve with the car. Just need to keep on working, keep on trying to understand our little weaknesses and try to make them stronger.

Q: (Adam Cooper – Lewis, a lot of people have compared this season with 2009 when you started with a very difficult McLaren, and then they worked away and you won in Hungary, which obviously is the next race. Do you see any parallels with that season? And what do you remember of the struggles of that year and what you learned?

LH: Yeah, I remember it very clearly, 2009. I remember so many elements of it. I remember arriving in February or January I think it was, coming back from winter training and I remember walking along or being in a meeting with the guys and they’re like, yeah we’ve already hit pretty hard our downforce target. And I remember back then they said that from their interpretation, it was 50% less downforce than the previous year. And they’re like, yeah, we’ve already hit targets and I remember being wow, really? That means you’ve probably not set it high enough and I remember getting in the car in Portimão I think it was and it was horrendous to drive. It was the worst car that I had driven apart from the engine was good, but I was three wheeling everywhere, the wheel was coming up massively. So I remember the struggles of that year, qualifying 15th or whatever it was in the first race and then just continuously chipping away and I remember getting a big upgrade at Nürburgring and the radio… they only had one kit and because I was ahead on points, I think it was, I got the upgrade and I remember going through Turn 6 and 7, it was the first time we could take it flat. And I remember I accidentally had the radio on and I made this whoo-hoo kind of noise and they played it back to the guys back in the factory and then we got our first win in Budapest. This year, at the start a season, very, very similar when we were in February sitting down in the room, it looks like a glorious… the set-up… we’d got a lot of performance on the car, a lot of confidence, like, yeah, the car’s going to be good and then you get in the thing and it was bouncing and it’s taken us a long time to fix that, taken a lot of performance off that car to enable it to stop bouncing. But I would say this experience is just an… it’s impressive to see a group of people just continuously not giving up, what you see within these teams. I think we haven’t made that big step that we made in 2009 to enable us perhaps to win in Budapest but who knows. We’re not giving up, we’re staying pedal to the metal. It’s a hot race there. Maybe our car will be good, maybe we can be closer to these guys. I hope so, so much, because I love that track. So I hope the car feels good there.

Q: (Beatrice Zamuner – To all three: obviously today we’ve seen a lot of close battles but how impactful was the heat on following another car from behind, compared to other races with colder temperatures?

GR: I think it was difficult. We’ve made some good progress of the tyres this year, especially on the rear but when you’re battling very close and the front sort of washing out naturally with the aero we really struggle and it’s very difficult to maintain that performance for a very long stint. So as I say I think we’ve made some good progress, we need to keep pushing with the tyres to keep on improving them and allow it to battle harder for longer but as I say, compared to last year I think we’ve made a good step in a number of directions but we need to keep on improving.

MV: Yeah, I think on a track where it’s anyway hard on tyres and with this heat, you know, the tyres are overheating when you try to follow. You could see that, I think, the first few laps I was clearly faster but I could still not get past because the tyres… as soon as you get close they just went through the roof. And yeah, these are things we have to try and work on. I think in general the cars are a lot nicer to follow compared to previous years. The cars are not drastically oversteering or understeering, but yeah, with the tyres, overheating, of course, on some tracks is less of an issue but around here with this heat and rough surface plus the high speed corners it was a bit more difficult.

LH: Well, I didn’t really follow anybody. I was alone most of the time so. Oh yeah, we don’t even get to follow really anyone so I was just in my own air. Fresh air, fresh hot air. Yeah, so that wasn’t an issue for me. Obviously they were in more of a battle but just in general, it’s just very hot here in summer. And fortunately today they give us a little more time after the race to cool down which is a first so thank you guys.