Japanese Grand Prix: Champion's Press Conference

Japanese Grand Prix: Champion’s Press Conference

Japanese Grand Prix: Champion's Press Conference
Transcript from the post-race FIA hosted Max Verstappen’s Champion’s press conference after the Japanese Grand Prix, Round 18 of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship season.

Featuring 2022 Japanese Grand Prix race winner  and 2022 Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen (Red Bull).

Q: Max, it’s been a wonderful season for you. Does this championship feel any different to last year?

Max Verstappen: Yeah, totally. I mean, very different emotions, of course. But also, that’s because of the whole season anyway being very different. And you’re already starting with completely different cars, completely different way of racing. And then, of course, also, the amount of races we’ve won. But also they all came in quite a different way. Like, last year it was all really qualifying dependent, and that’s how you would normally win a race. Now, even with some engine penalties, it was coming back to the front, it’s really been an enjoyable year. And of course, a very special year, which will be very hard, I think, in the future to match from myself, I think as well. That’s why I think we really have to appreciate it and really enjoy it. We were enjoying it already, probably now we can just enjoy it a little bit more.

Q: And to clinch it here at Suzuka, Honda’s home track?

MV: it would have been perfect. So yeah, it is, at the moment it does feel perfect. Because it’s not only because of just, you know, that we are driving with Honda, you know, we’ve been really working together with them now for a few years, and with all the Japanese fans around. It’s also where we came from together. Because I think everyone, or most people, told us we were crazy when we started to work with them back in the day, is it going to work out, you know, because they had a tough time at that time. But you see, never give up and full dedication to make it work, and that’s what happened. Of course, already last year, we were very competitive, but even better this year. And that’s why I’m really proud of the whole team and I’m also very proud of everyone within Honda for that mentality. Because it’s hard when you have a lot of criticism on you. And there’s a lot of pressure, because people are demanding a lot and you need to perform, and you need to show results. But I think they stayed calm and they knew what they had to do, eventually, and look where we are now.

Q: Can you pick a highlight for us from this season?

MV: I think I have to go for the Spa weekend. Because I think that was just total dominance, which, yeah, these kinds of weekends, they very rarely happen like that. And especially when I came home that night, you know, you start to reflect a bit on the weekend. And you realise that was, yeah, pretty crazy and pretty special.

Q: And on the flip side of that, have there been any low moments?

MV: The main low moments were in the beginning of the season with the retirements, because you know, even if you have a little bit of a bad race, you always have to score points, right. And retiring is the worst thing that can happen.

Q: And at what point in the year did you think, ‘Yeah, I can win this’?

MV: I mean, there were a few moments where I thought, you know, we have a good chance of winning it. But I think the moment where I thought now we are going to win it was I think after Paul Ricard, where the lead, you know, increased by quite a bit. We had a quite competitive car, I knew it was going to be quite close, you know, in the coming races, but I was like, you know, this is a gap which we cannot give away anymore.

Q: And Max, the Constructors’ Championship is close, just how important is it for you to get that across the line as well?

MV: Yeah, absolutely. That is the next target. And I’m going to give it everything I have, of course, to make sure that we’re going to win that one as well.

Questions from the floor

Q: (Ronald Vording – You just said it’s not only your title, but also a big compliment goes out to the team. If you look back to let’s say, Bahrain, what do you anticipate going into the season in terms of competitiveness? Do you expect the team to be so competitive under the new set of regulations? Because you’ve had to go flat out in 2021, and probably made the switch to the new regulations a bit later than let’s say Ferrari and many of the other teams?

MV: Yeah, I mean, naturally, when you’re in such a close battle, some other teams who are not in that battle can start earlier, right, because they have not really a lot to gain in that year. So that’s why we always thought, you know, the start of the season might be a little bit more difficult. But I think already with that start of the season we had, we were actually positively surprised that we were that competitive. But then it’s all about… Even when you’re probably not where you want to be fully, it’s all about scoring points, and we were not doing that. So that was definitely a bit disappointing. But at the other end, we all stayed calm. Of course, we were not happy about what was happening. But we still believed in everything. And yeah, we stayed calm, improved the car, got rid of some weight in the car and yeah, just kept working towards the same direction, the same goal and that’s why we are here now.

Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) After the controversial ending to last year’s season in Abu Dhabi, to seal it here after such a completely dominant display across the season, does this feel like a more satisfying way to take your second title?

MV: Like I said before, it’s just different, because of the whole season. I mean, already last year was very special for me winning a title. But this year has been… anyway, already because of the cars being very different. But also the way we were working as a team with… Okay, we had a tough start, but I think after that we really worked well as a team. We barely made any mistakes. So,. yeah, the two years you cannot compare.

Q: Max, do you think you’ve been driving at a higher level this year compared to last year?

MV: I find that difficult. I think you always look back at a year, what can I do better? And I think you always try to be a more complete driver. But you’re not a robot, you make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes. But it’s all about trying to minimise that and just minimise risk as well in some situations. And yeah, sometimes that works a bit better than other times. But overall, I think throughout the whole season it’s been working very well.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Max, after your last title in Abu Dhabi, you had said that was a goal achieved and everything after that would be a bonus. So from here on, what are the statistics and goals you plan to chase, if any, on a personal level? And what is it going to be like? What are you going to do next?

MV: Well, I mean, I still have a few more years in F1. So I hope that we can be competitive for a few more years. I want to win more races. And potentially, I want to, of course, try and win more titles. But of course, that’s not going to change what I’ve already achieved. And that’s something I’m really proud of. But I think with everyone within the team, and you know, everyone who is involved with us, they deserve even more than what we are showing at the moment. And yeah, as long they are, we can keep them all together. I think we are capable of even more great seasons.

Q: (Laurence Edmondson – ESPN) Congratulations, Max. Sorry, I missed the very start, so apologies if you have already answered this, but with the half points thing, a lot of the teams seemed caught out on how many points you’d get at the end of this race. Also, there was a penalty as well. So what exact point did you realise tonight that you were world champion?

MV: Yeah, exactly. Also, for me, like, during the race, I had no clue what they were going to decide with the points. So of course, the main target was to win the race. But yeah, once I crossed the line, I was like, ‘OK, that was an amazing race. Good points again, but not World Champion yet’. Then I did my interview after the race. And then suddenly, my mechanics started to cheer and I was like: ‘What’s going on?’ And then I realised that Checo was second instead of Charles. But I still didn’t know if it was full points, half points or whatever is 75%. I don’t know how you do it. But then of course, you read through the rules. And Tom [Wood, FIA Media Delegate] came to me and he said that I was the world champion. So then we celebrated. And then suddenly people were telling me ‘no, you’re still missing a point’. So, it was like: ‘Oh, that’s amazing. That’s a bit weird.’ But then eventually we had enough points so then we were world champion again!

Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) Congratulations, Max. You’ve talked a bit about not necessarily thinking you’ve been driving better this season but I wondered, has this season tested you in different ways. At the start of the year, you had to be patient, you had to rebuild after the early setbacks. You didn’t have the fastest car, your pole-to-win ratio this year is pretty impressive when you compare it to the Ferraris, you had races where you started right down the grid in the midfield. How has this year tested you in a different way?

MV: Yeah, I mean, of course, probably people expect a little bit more of you. But at the end for me, that doesn’t really change. It’s just you always look at yourself and say, what can you do better, right? I don’t think necessarily I became a faster driver, because I don’t think at this stage of your career that you suddenly find a tenth or two-tenths in your driving. It’s all about learning from previous seasons and just trying to apply that. And probably that just sometimes, some situations can make you a little bit faster because you know, a little bit better what to do with whatever you know? Can be the car, can be the tyres, just track experience. But yeah, besides that, of course, we didn’t have the fastest car over one lap for most of the season, I would say. Just – I don’t know – it just didn’t really suit our car, the one-lap pace. And being a little bit overweight, of course, in the beginning, quite a bit. That doesn’t help over one lap performance. But I think these new cars, it’s quite interesting, because before you really focus a lot on qualifying, because you knew that it was very hard to pass a car. Now even if your qualifying is not amazing, if you have a good race car, you can still fight and you can still actually pass people. So that’s the beautiful side of the new cars. And that’s why I think, let’s say we had that problem last year where you have a problem in qualifying where you’re not as competitive. I think we wouldn’t have won the amount of races as we did this year because, yeah, this year, pole was nice, but it doesn’t always mean that you’re going to win the race.

Q: (David Schneider– Hersey Shiga) Congratulations Max. Talking to the Japanese fans, they were very happy. You know, they are looking forward to winning the Triple Crown, which means you won in Zandvoort, you won in Honda-land and we’re going to Mexico. What are your expectations going forward?

MV: It’s always been quite a good track for me, I really, somehow enjoy going around there. It’s very different, of course, very low grip and that feels a little bit more like a go-kart around there. We still have to, of course, wait and see how the new car is going to go around there. But so far, I’ve always had really positive memories from that track. And of course, it’s also Checo’s home grand prix. But I think in general, Red Bull will have a lot of support there. But yeah, I know, top speed is important there. We have quite a bit of top speed this year. So that will help. But then again, it’s all about little details, like trying to get your tyres to work well over one lap, trying to make sure that the tyres are holding on over a race distance there as well, which sometimes is actually quite difficult around there. So, still a lot of factors that can go wrong, but it’s definitely a track I’m looking forward to.

Q: (Ronald Vording – You said before that the two titles you have now are quite completely different, in fact, but from your personal feeling, which one has been more enjoyable? I guess you’ve said before the 2021 was so intense, and probably it’s not good to have that intensity every single year. Right?

MV: I think the first one is always the most emotional, but I think this one is definitely the better one, just in terms of performance.

Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) Just to follow that up Max. How is the initial feeling of being World Champion this year compared to last year, because last year for various reasons, there’s obviously a massive outburst of sudden emotion. Whereas this, you’ve been creeping towards this for quite a while. You said earlier that it was after France, you thought you were going to win it. So, does it feel different immediately afterwards?

MV: Yeah, very different emotions. You know, last year, all the way till the last race is probably the worst kind of feeling, going into that last race. But also because at the time, I don’t think we were the quickest anymore, so that also doesn’t help. And this year, I think, yeah, it’s just been very, very different in emotions from the start, all the way through to the year. But you know, both are beautiful and both are, at the end of the day, nice to experience because it’s nice also really have always the pressure on and having to perform to your limit every single lap of the race. But not for too many years in a row. So, I was very happy with the year we had this time around.

Q: (Laurence Edmondson – ESPN) Max, do you have any plans to celebrate? Are you staying in Japan or moving on, going back home to Monaco?

MV: Yeah, I already planned before coming here that I was going to fly back home. But I’ve got four race weekends at least to celebrate so yeah, I mean, of course I’m focused on the result always during a race weekend. But yeah, there is no real pressure anymore but I still want to of course try and win more races because with the car we have now you have to try and take advantage of that. Because you don’t know if you’re ever going to have that again, next year, in the years to come. So, we’ll definitely try to win a few more.

Q: (Ronald Vording – It seems quite dominant now, at least looking at the standings, but this season has had some huge points swings, especially the beginning of the year. Have you, and maybe the team, surprised yourself a little bit? Because I remember after Melbourne that you said, ‘OK, we’re going to need 46 races now to become World Champion this season’.

MV: Yeah, I mean, of course, at the time, you’re also just really upset with the situation, but just looking at how the whole season was going in terms of how close the cars were, yeah it’s very surprising, of course, to have this much of a lead. But when you, of course, look at what happened during the races you can understand. So yeah, I’m, of course, in a way pleased that it was like that. But of course, in any other way you do like, of course, having a close battle. But hopefully we can have that then next year.

Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) Max, when you look back to Bahrain and Australia, those low points, the way the team needed to be picked up and react to what was going on, Have you ever been in that position in your career, where you sort of can see the team is struggling with something and I can’t imagine that the morale was particularly high at that point. How did you deal with that? What was that experience like to go through?

MV: To be honest, we were just very upset. But I think we also, we know that we have to fix it quickly. And to be honest, we were feeling alright. It was not like that we were down in the team. Everyone was like: ‘it’s a long season, a lot of things can happen’. I say it’s true. Absolutely. Just have to try and fix what is going wrong at the moment. And then, of course, anything is possible. But that’s a good thing, I think, about the team: we don’t act really disappointed, or you certainly get a very different feeling within the team. Everyone is of course upset, with what happened, but then we also tried to really quickly fix it and super motivated to try and turn it around. So yeah, it’s maybe a day where you’re a bit upset or two days, but then you’re on calls, and talking to people: what can we do? what can we fix? And how do we move forward. And you get to the next race, and everyone is smiling again. And we all have the same goals. So that’s the thing, the nice part of the team. You always stay quite neutral in success and disappointments. Because I think at the end of the day, that works best because, you have to just keep being focused. Of course, you know, now, it’s amazing, winning all these races and winning the Championship. But then tomorrow, you wake up, like, ‘we still need to win a few more’. That’s just the mentality within the team.

Q: (Kazuki Kasahara – Car Watch) So many Japanese fans, celebrate you, so could you give me your feelings about the Japanese fans’ uniqueness. There have passion, or something?

MV: Yeah, I mean, they love motorsport, they love Formula 1. And they really always dress up for the occasion. And yeah, it’s really nice to be here. First of all, this is amazing track. I love coming to Japan in the first place. And also all the fans, they wait for you, all the evening, all the night, they probably even sleep in their cars to then see you in the morning again, so they are very dedicated. And yeah, it’s definitely very special always to come back here. That’s why three years was definitely too long.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Max, I know this is really early to ask you this question but going into next season, you’re going to have to defend your title for a 24-race long season and a very intense one. So, do you dread going into that season? Or what is the mindset behind going into next year? Now that this year is wrapped up?

MV: Yeah, it’s going to be a long season. I thought this one was already pretty long – but we’ll see. I think as a team, yeah, we’re going to try and, of course, prepare for next year as good as we can. And then yeah, we’ll try to, of course, get it as close as we can to this year, because replicating something like this will be very tough – but I have a lot of good hope within the people in the team that we can create again, a really good car.

Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Max, I know you’ve said before you dreamt of winning the World Championship, I just wonder if any point did you consider you’d be winning multiple World Championships, and whether you did think that? And secondly, where do you think you can go now? I mean, you’ve won, you’ve won two on the trot and you’re in a very good car and in very good form this season. You’re expected to go on to win more championships?

MV: Well, it’s just going to depend on the coming years, right? We have a really good group of people. And I think they also work really well together. So it’s all about just, keeping them together. And so if we keep them together, I think they can achieve a lot. And then of course, if I have a competitive car, I’m confident that we can keep this going. But it also depends on what the competition is going to come up with. But yeah, I really believe in this group. And I really hope that in the coming years, we can enjoy a lot more wins, and potentially, of course, championships.

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Max, you’ve had such a fantastic season but how does it feel to win it in such a confusing circumstances? And what lessons do you think Formula 1 should learn from a situation where as you put it, you didn’t know what they were going to decide on the points? Shouldn’t the point system be clear?

MV: To be honest, I don’t mind that it was a little bit confusing, I find it actually quite funny. Because at the end of the day, it’s not going to change, right? The result? I mean, when I crossed the line, it was anyway, not enough, even if you would give full points. So, in that scenario, you know, wouldn’t have changed anything. About the rules? I honestly, I mean, these are really complex situations with the weather the amount of laps. And then, of course, there’s a difference between if you finish the race or the race gets red flagged early on and then you can’t continue. And there is of course, a difference between the two. So yeah, I do think that if you don’t write enough rules, it’s not good. If you write too many rules, also not good. It’s always really hard to find a middle ground, I think.