Belgian Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

Belgian Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

Transcript from the post-race interviews and FIA hosted top three press conference after the Belgian Grand Prix, Round 14 of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship season.

Featuring 2022 Belgian Grand Prix race winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull), second-placed Sergio Perez (Red Bull) and third-placed Carlos Sainz (Ferrari).

Track Interviews conducted by Martin Brundle

Q: Carlos Sainz, congratulations, another podium, but you really had to work hard for it today.

Carlos Sainz: Yeah, unfortunately, it was harder than expected. I mean, we got a good start, a good restart after a Safety Car, but the pace was just not there. We had a lot of overheating on the tyres. We were sliding around a lot and yeah, for some reason our package wasn’t quite there this weekend, but in the end we finished on a podium and yeah, we will take it.

Q: George Russell was hunting you down. Were you confident you had enough speed to keep him back?

CS: No. The first two laps were strong, but then we immediately went into high degradation and then I realised that that we were degrading more than what we should. Red Bull, Max and Checo, they were a league of their own today and unfortunately we couldn’t put a stronger fight and we had to survive. We will have to learn why at this track we were not so competitive.

Q: Well, you’ve not got long, because we got two more races coming up soon. So good luck next week in Zandvoort.

CS: Yeah, Zandvoort should be a better track for us. Monza should be advantage Red Bull there. But we will try and win it in Zandvoort.

Q: Thank you. And talking of Red Bull, second place man – Sergio Pérez. Sergio satisfied with that one?

Sergio Perez: Yeah, I really hoped for more. Today was a good opportunity but Max was just flying. He was on another planet and he was untouchable. Especially the first stint was quite poor in terms of degradation, but still it’s a very strong result for the team and I think we managed to get a lot of points today, which is important. Yeah, looking forward.

Q: A 1-2 for the team. A little bit difficult off the start down to the first corner. But you kept your head and pulled it around.

SP: Yeah, there was a bit of chaos on lap one. I had a really poor start and I lost a few positions. I managed to get them all back in Turn 5.

Q: Yeah, you had to keep an eye on Fernando and Lewis getting together in front of you there.

SP: Yeah, it was very hectic that lap one and a lot of contacts.

Q: And our incredible victor, Max Verstappen. A huge crowd here supporting him. You gave them what they wanted. It seemed to me nobody could stop you winning this race today.

Max Verstappen: I was a quite a hectic first lap to try and stay out of trouble. So many things were happening in front of me. But once we settled in after the Safety Car, the car was really on rails. Picked the right places to pass people and we could look after our tyres. That’s how we made our way forward. And after that, once were in the lead, it was all about managing everything. But this whole weekend has been incredible.

Q: It will be to talk to your grandchildren about down the road. P14 on the grid. You won, Fastest lap, driver of the day. You must be so happy?

MV: Of course. It’s been a weekend I couldn’t imagine before. But I think we want more of them. So we keep on working hard.

Q: Alright, so next up, of course, your home Grand Prix in Zandvoort.

MV: Yeah, let’s see what we can do there. I mean, of course I’m going to enjoy today and then we’ll see next week where we can do.

Press Conference

Q: A very warm welcome to the top three finishers of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix. Finishing in third place, Carlos Sainz. In second place, Sergio Pérez. And taking the 29th win of his career, and his ninth of this 2022 campaign, our winner, Max Verstappen. Max, very well done. I don’t know how we sum that one up, but was it the most dominant race weekend of your Formula 1 career?

MV: I think if you look at the whole weekend, yes. The car has been incredible from FP1. I don’t think we expected it to be like this. But you know, sometimes it’s nice when things positively surprise you. And yeah, it’s been really enjoyable to drive the car around here this year. And yeah, of course, we knew we had our difficulties for the race when you start P14. But yeah, we stayed out of trouble on lap one, which wasn’t easy. It was very hectic in front of me. But once everything calmed down with the Safety Car, it was literally just overtaking one car every lap. And once I was back into P3, and I saw that my tyres were actually holding on quite nicely with the Soft compound, I knew that there was a good possibility we could win the race.

Q: Now, you said you didn’t expect the car to be this good. Do you think it’s track specific or have you taken a step forward?

MV: I think our car is very efficient. And then this track I think suits it perfectly, maybe. So I know that some tracks which are coming up might be a little bit more difficult and I expect again a good battle with Ferrari, it was just that yeah, this track seemed to be perfect for the car.

Q: Now you took the lead on lap 12, and that included a couple of Safety Car laps. Did you hit the front even sooner than you were expecting?

MV: To be honest, I didn’t even think about it yesterday. I just wanted to have a good race and I knew that as soon as I was out of trouble after lap one that we could have a good race. But I never really think about what lap I’m going to lead because it’s impossible to imagine.

Q: So let’s throw it forward to Zandvoort next weekend. Do you think it’s going to be closer with Ferrari there?

MV: Yeah, I don’t expect it to be like this. Just because of the track layout, more downforce on the car to get round, less straights as well. So definitely will be closer than here.

Q: Alright, very well done to you. Checo, we’ll come to you now. Very well done to you as well. You’re sixth second place of this season. After your start how confident were you of getting back up here?

SP: Yeah, it didn’t start well, today. It was a very bad start, losing a lot of places. Luckily I managed to stay out of trouble and managed to get George by Turn 5. And then there was a this incident between Fernando and Lewis, so back to P2. Then the Safety Car, so it brought us back into our original position. And yeah, I couldn’t get soon enough through Carlos. I was managing the tyre, starting on the Medium, it was probably a bit harder than expected on the deg, on the initial pace. And then from then on… Still, it’s a great team result.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about the start? What exactly happened to make you so slow?

SP: Yeah. I think there was something with the clutch. As soon as I dropped, I just went straight into wheelspin and here it’s very penalising, the tarmac is really rough at the start. I think normally here if you get a bad start it’s probably one of the worst places to get it because the tarmac is so rough at the start.

Q: We’ve had Max’s thoughts on the pace of the car this weekend. Can we get yours as well?

SP: Yeah, well, I think they got the car was certainly the fastest today. And especially Max was very impressive. The whole weekend, especially come the race, he was just on another level today. So that’s great, great to have, you know, but I think it’s very track specific. I think when we are back to Zandvoort we will have the Ferraris and Mercedes back into contention.

Q: Just one more question for me. You had a pretty good view of what happened between Alonso and Hamilton on the opening lap at Les Combes. What’s your read of that?

SP: I was focused on getting George! And yeah, once I got by, then I saw, I think, Lewis in the air. And I was just focused, again, not to get hit by Fernando who was coming back on track. So yeah, to be honest, difficult to read it.

Q: Carlos, coming to you now. Very well done. But you did start on pole and you’re now third, is there anything more you could have done this afternoon to beat these guys?

CS: No, I don’t think… I think we left nothing on the table today. We were just not strong enough compared to them. They were on another planet this weekend. They were just strong in Quali, strong in the race, better in tyre management, stronger on the straights, stronger in the corners – some of them. And we were just not quick enough, unfortunately, this weekend. After the strong start that I got, the strong restart of the Safety Car, the gap that I had after the first couple of laps, I felt that I was on for a good opportunity. But very quickly, I realised that I went into overheating with a tyres. I was sliding around a lot and it was not going to happen.

Q: Now, we all expected this racetrack to suit Red Bull but have you been surprised by the gap?

CS: Yes, a bit. I think we would lie, if we wouldn’t say that. We are surprised because the gap was certainly much bigger, or the biggest we’ve seen all season across the two teams. And it’s certainly something that we didn’t expect. Which means we need to go back and analyse why, at this sort of track, we are so weak. And, yeah, we still need to analyse, take some conclusions and try to come up with a better low downforce package for Monza in case we are not so strong there also.

Q: How did the hotter conditions today affect the performance of the car?

CS: I was hopeful that the six-to-eight tenths that we saw in Quali were going to come down in the race with a hotter track. It was maybe more being optimistic and hopeful about my prospects for the race. But unfortunately, if anything, it made the gap even bigger, and we were just sliding even more. We had even less grip and we went backwards more quickly than I expected, no? But yeah, as I said, we need to take P3 because this weekend, there was not much more to do, and we saved a decent result.

Q: Just a quick word on the end of the race; a bit of pressure from George Russell. Was it marginal? Or were you just managing things?

CS: No, it was marginal, especially at some point when he boxed with a three or four-lap fresher tyre, which around here is a big delta. On pace, I thought it was going to get very tight at the end but I did a good job at the beginning of the Hard stint to manage the tyre, to have some tyre left for the last five laps, and push. And actually, I managed to match, I think it was Checo’s and George’s pace at the end. It was a struggle, the whole race with the tyres with the pace – but as I said, I don’t think there was much more in it.

Questions from the floor

Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) It’s a question to Max. Max, you had a pretty busy first lap, can you just talk us through that, especially the moments where you had to react quite quickly to, I think it was Lance coming off the gravel, and then also, when you were trying to go on the inside of Lance, I think into Stavelot, Lewis was slowing down on the right-hand side, so you had to do some quick thinking.

MV: The first lap… you know, the thing is that I knew, of course, with the car we had, you don’t want to risk too much. So, then it’s even harder to stay out of trouble. And people were going off in the gravel, coming back on the track. And of course, they are defending their sport. And yeah, I was literally just trying to stay out of it. But you also don’t want to lose too much time. But yeah, then of course with Lewis driving there… well I don’t know the car was broken, I think he was holding up everything. And then everyone of course tries to benefit from that. So then people are going too wide and I went on the inside, but then of course Lewis pulled off, which is correct to do but then I had to move to the left. It was super-hectic, and so much dirt as well, like I pulled off my tear-off because I barely could see anything just because of the previous sector, like everyone just going on the grass, on the gravel, but we survived without damage.

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Question for Max. Your teammate is renowned for his ability to eke life out of the tyres, yet in the first stint you made the Softs last longer than his Mediums. So, can you just explain how you did that? Whether it was the tyres or your style today?

MV: It’s not only today, I think I’m always good on tyres. Maybe people don’t look at it. But yeah, just understanding, experience, trying to set up the car in the best way possible. And sometimes the car reacts better to it and sometimes not. I think when you look at, for example, Austria, we weren’t that great, but I think we learned from that. And we tried to apply that. Yeah, if the car sometimes is that good, everything becomes easier.

Q: (Ronald Vording – It’s a question to Checo. You just said that Max performed on a different level today but just from your side, how do you explain the big gaps, the difference that we saw? Is that because of the upgrades in the last couple of months; maybe the car less to your liking; less suiting your driving style – or do you see different factors?

SP: Well, certainly the car has become quicker from the beginning of the season. But yeah, certainly I’m not as comfortable as I was in the beginning of the season. So, it’s something that I need to work on, on my side to make sure we are able to get the maximum out of the car. Because sometimes you are… things become more natural for you to get the most out of your car. And sometimes you have to work really hard and go very deep in the analysis, to make sure you are able to extract the maximum. So, it seems that we are in that window at the moment. And I really hope that from this weekend, we run the cars slightly different, so we are able to spot some differences that can come bring some performance on our site.

Q: (Bastien Dauby – Max, you said after your world title that whatever comes after could be a bonus. And in 2022, we see… do you agree to the description of upgraded Max Verstappen according to today’s performance?

MV: I think every year you gain experience – but I think you cannot compare years. The cars are completely different, to drive, to race. So yeah, I do think also at this stage of the year, we are a lot more competitive than we were last year. So then naturally, I think that helps a lot in terms of getting the race wins. You know, last year I think around this time, Mercedes was stronger. Of course, we still had a few wins around this time, but I think they were not always on pure pace of the car we had, but as a team we always executed things well. And, like I said you cannot compare the years.

Q: (Laurie Vermeersch – A question to Checo. So now you’re a second on the Championship, still it you have a big gap with Max? Do you think you will play the team game? Or do you still think you have changes to fight for the title?

SP: Yeah, there’s still eight races to go, so anything can really happen. We will try to maximise. It’s very important for us, the Constructors’ as well. So, I think, right now yeah, we are in a great position, but things can change fairly quickly. So, as a team, we want to maximise everything we possibly can, every weekend.

Q: (Niccolo Arnerich – ) Carlos, how much do you think that the new regulations for the floor have affected the result of today?

CS: Honestly, nothing. I think it’s a consequence of truck characteristics and our package is not suiting this, this kind of track. We will see after Zandvoort. I think we need to go to Zandvoort, a high downforce track and see how we perform to take any conclusions but my feeling – and it’s just a feeling – is that we had a bit of an off weekend here with the way maybe the car was performing and the ratio of efficiency around here. And Red Bull had a great weekend, no, and this makes the gap particularly big and I need to wait and see a few more races to analyse that.

Q: (Jaap de Groot – Masters Magazine) Max, this impressive performance of car and driver will create a great spin-off towards Zandvoort. Can you tell me a little bit about when the joy of Spa will end and when your preparation towards Zandvoort will start, so the process from A to B, from Spa to Zandvoort?

MV: To be honest, I already prepared Zandvoort. I am of course enjoying today but then I go home and I don’t really think about F1 too much. And then I jump on the plane on Thursday morning, I think, and then I’ll think about Zandvoort, and then I’ll drive Zandvoort and try to do the best I can. But yeah, for the moment, I did all my work already to prepare in the best way possible on the simulator, what we think is right and everything felt quite decent. But again, we put the car on the track on Friday and we’ll find out.

Q: (Aaron Deckers – Racing News 365) Question to all three: we saw a great Belgian Grand Prix this year, the whole weekend was again great. Next year it will be again on the calendar. How happy are you as a driver? And do you think that the drivers – obviously many of you said that you liked this Grand Prix, you want to race here – did that influence the decision, do you think?

MV: I hope it influenced it but yeah, it’s my favourite track on the calendar. It’s amazing, especially when the car’s really hooked up like yesterday in qualifying, it was really enjoyable to drive. So yeah, from my side, I hope of course we will never stop coming here but of course, at the end of the day, it’s not up to me, but I’m very happy that it’s here and that it’s happening next year.
SP: Yeah, I wish to think differently but I think it was not for the drivers that they’ve kept the place in the calendar so it’s great to have to have Spa, I think. It’s a unique place that we all enjoy coming. The fans, the pure fans really enjoy coming here.

CS: Same. I think it’s one of the best tracks in the calendar. I think they’ve also done a very good job with the changes they’ve done on track. I think putting gravel, getting rid of some tarmac run-offs, making Eau Rouge safer, I think it’s all changes that are in the right direction and I think we need to congratulate the circuit for that. And it makes it for a better show, and we look forward to come back in the future and hopefully it can stay in the calendar long.

Q: (Panagiotis Seitanidis – Car Magazine Greece) Carlos, after what we saw today from Red Bull, how worried are you for Monza, given the fact that it’s so important a race for Ferrari, the tifosi, that you might not have a might not be able to have an answer?

CS: We certainly need to take conclusions from this weekend and analyse why the lower downforce package was not as strong as the lower downforce package of Red Bull. I think it’s also an inherent characteristic of each car. I think clearly in high downforce tracks we’ve been performing better than at the lower ones and it’s a tendency that we’ve seen all year so I wouldn’t be surprised if Red Bull is a bit quicker in Monza, but we certainly want to be a lot closer and put on a fight, no, like it’s been in every track so far this year. Even Baku was where there was lower downforce, we’ve managed to outqualify them and be ahead in the race until we faced some issues so I think we can learn from this weekend. We have two weeks to analyse with the Zandvoort weekend in between where I’m hopeful that our package will be performing a lot better.

Q: (Lennart Bloemhof – Volkstrant) Max, following up on the Spa question, how special was it for you today to have this dominant win on this track near the place where you grew up, with your family watching, also the place where you are now an F1 driver? Did you have some special feelings today about that?

MV: Well, I think in general, it’s just nice to win. I think it’s then of course even nicer and the way we won it, and it’s even better to win it on a track like Spa which is my favourite track. And yeah, I haven’t, of course, driven it a lot in the past, but I’ve been a lot around the go kart track and around. And it’s not far away from where I grew up so yeah, it’s nice to be here and also to bring family members to the track and stuff throughout the weekend. It’s always nice that everyone can be involved so I’m of course very happy with this weekend.

Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) Max, which part of the race did you enjoy more: those hectic early laps where you have lots more to do with other cars, you’re laying the foundations for the victory, or that second phase where you’ve got a bit more free air, you’re catching the lead group and then you’re in front and you’re just putting in fastest sectors, fastest laps in a row?

MV: Yeah, after the safety car restart I would say. The first bit was just too hectic and especially when you… like I said before, with the car we had you don’t want to get damage or whatever because that will be really painful. But then yeah, it was it was nice, I really enjoyed it, passing cars of course, some of them are quite a lot slower than us so it was quite easy to get them but you still need to get them as quickly as possible. So that was definitely the nice part of it. And then of course when you get to the lead about just trying to manage your tyres in the best way possible, you know, being focused on that.

Q: (Rodrigo Franca – Car magazine, Brazil) Max, you were the youngest driver to ever be in Formula 1, the youngest driver to win a Formula 1 race. Do you see you winning races in 15 years in Formula 1 such as, for example, Fernando Alonso, who is racing at 40 years old?

MV: I won’t be around. I don’t see myself driving until I’m 40, in Formula 1 at least. I want to also do other things. But I still have a few more years in Formula 1 for sure.

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Max, you mentioned on the first lap, it was so dusty. You had to rip a visor tear-off. I’ve not checked all the footage to see if it was you or someone else but were you aware that Leclerc had to pit at the end of lap three because visor tear off got stuck in his brakes and caused them to overheat and what your reaction is to that?

MV: Yeah, well, Carlos told me it was a tear-off. I didn’t know. I hope it’s not mine. But there was a lot of stuff, honestly people… they were all pulling stuff out and it’s just super unlucky, to be honest, that that happens. You’re always scared that it happens, especially when you’re in the pack because… especially on a track like this, you are taking them off very quickly, that is your worst nightmare, that these things happen but yeah, unfortunately they do happen.