Japanese Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

Japanese Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

Transcript from the post-race interviews and FIA hosted top three press conference after the Japanese Grand Prix, Round 18 of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship season.

Featuring 2022 Japanese Grand Prix race winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull), second-placed Sergio Perez (Red Bull) and third-placed Charles Leclerc (Ferrari).

Parc Ferme Interviews (Conducted by Johnny Herbert)

Q: You didn’t get the championship but a great race win here in Suzuka, in front of the fans, you’ve got to be happy with your performance anyway, especially with the limited laps.

Max Verstappen: Exactly. I mean, I was just very happy that we had a race because leaving here without the race would have been terrible. And I mean, the championship, of course, it would have been great to win here but we have a great opportunity of course for the next race.

Q: Sergio, good to see you. A bit of a battle for those last few laps. Tell us a little bit about what happened going into that final chicane?

Sergio Perez: Yeah, it was a little hectic as always with Charles, you know, good racing. We were fighting each other really hard. I tried to make a move at the end. I think he locked up and went off, which was fair race,

Q: It seems Charles has got a five-second penalty for going through the chicane. Max, I think that’s maybe a change for you. Come back in. Charles has got a five-second penalty there after the race he had with Sergio. You’re World Champion.

MV: Very special to do it here in front of all the Honda people, the Japanese fans. Incredible!

Q: He’s off. I’ve lost him as well. I’m going to get Charles to come in here. Charles, a bit frustrated obviously in that last part of the race. How are you feeling?

Charles Leclerc: Well, from lap five onwards to be honest, it was all downhill, really struggling with the tyres. A bit like the last race, no. We are very strong warming up the tyres but then after three four laps we just destroy them. So yeah, a struggle this time. A huge congratulation of course to Max for his second World Championship. And yeah, we’ll keep pushing until the end. It’s obviously frustrating today. The pace was not quite there after four laps. But it’s like this.

Q: Yeah, but I think there’s a lot of people supporting you, Charles, and especially Ferrari. It’s been a battle with Max, you know, so far through this season, until this point, but you’re going to be stronger coming into next season for sure. You’re going to finish off the year strong, yeah?

CL: Exactly. That’s the goal. I mean, I think Max’s title this year was just a matter of time, really. So we expected him to win the world title. Now we need to use those last races in order to become a better team and hopefully, yeah, put him a bit more of a challenge next year.

Q: Sergio, I’m going to get you back in again. Second place. How does it feel to get second place? One-two, obviously with Red Bull.

SP: Yeah, certainly a great result here for Honda, for all the Japanese fans that have been amazing. It’s a great day for our team, you know, now that Max becomes champion, it’s certainly a massive day for all of us.

Q: But it must be really personally good for you as well with that race win you had in Singapore and a great race, a great fight to the end of the race today to get that second.

SP: Yeah, it was certainly nice and we have to keep the momentum going until the end of the season.

Max Verstappen Podium Interview (Conducted by Jenson Button)

Q: Max Verstappen, you are a two-time world champion. How does it feel? I mean, your emotions must be all over the place? You know, you won the race, it was so dominant today, you didn’t think you’d won the championship until after the race. But how are you feeling right now?

MV: It’s crazy. I mean, very mixed emotions, of course, by first of all winning the race, but you know, looking back now, winning the championship, what a year we’ve had so far, it’s been incredible. And something I could have never imagined happening after last year already, you know – fighting until the end, and having such a good car again this year. So, you know, I’m so thankful to everyone who has been contributing to the success, of course, the whole team who is here, but also back at the factory who is constantly working flat out, and they’re never missing any motivation to try and make the car faster. And so yeah, and besides that, I mean, that’s, of course, from the car side, the work we’ve done together with Honda, all the way through, every year just constantly improving rapidly and, you know, to win now twice with them, it’s very emotional, especially also here, with everyone watching. It gives you a little bit more pressure, but it’s good pressure, it’s positive pressure. And so that’s why I’m very proud, you know, that we could do it here.

Q: So the last two years, 2021 and 2022, two very different ways to win a world championship, which one stands out for you?

MV: I think the first one is always a little bit more emotional. But the second one is probably even more beautiful, just the way that we… Well, the season we’ve had with the wins and just the great races and the teamwork, the 1-2s we have had and of course, we’re leading the constructors, so we really want to focus on that as well, to try and secure that. So it’s been a pretty special year and I think, yeah, it’s something you really have to remind yourself of, because these kinds of years you don’t have very often.

Top Three Press Conference

Q: Let’s welcome our race winner and the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen. Max, describe your emotions right now.

MV: Yeah, of course it’s a great feeling. Of course when I crossed the line I didn’t believe that we would have won the title right there because I also didn’t know if we were going to get full points or not but nevertheless, great day. At the end, we could race and the race itself we could manage really well with the car, with the tyres so of course very happy to win here. But then of course I found out – due to of course the five seconds of Charles as well – that would give me the title, but then I was yes? No? I think not everyone was 100 percent sure. At the end it was so yeah, very pleased but it also makes you reflect on the whole season and we had a lot of very special moments, of course. But it’s also very important to look back at what the whole team has achieved and something that is, I think, pretty special and doesn’t really happen that many times. And that’s why I think you really have to enjoy the moment and really appreciate the whole team around you, as well. We’re all travelling a lot and everyone is working very hard towards the same goal. And yeah, I’m pretty sure that it will be very hard to try and replicate a season like this.

Q: Max, it’s been a fantastic season and we’re going to talk more about it in a moment. For now, can we just work through some of the key moments in the race? Talk us through the original start, it was very close between you and Charles on the run to turn one.

MV: Yeah, I had a terrible start but I already had terrible starts to the grid, so I knew it was not going to be amazing and that’s exactly what happened but then I think the outside line into turn one/two is a little bit better because there’s quite a bit of grip on the outside so that’s where I could break a little bit later. But yeah, it was very close but that’s, I think, what people like to see

Q: And can we get your thoughts on the conditions? What were they like when we stopped the race and equally restarting the race?

MV: That first lap I think was really the limit on an intermediate but it kept on raining quite heavily at the time so once the Safety Car came out because of the crashes, yeah, it was too wet even for an extreme tyre. If you would have continued like that it’s impossible to drive and I’m in the lead, you know, the cars behind you can’t see anything. So yeah, it was very difficult and they made the right call. Then the first time they tried to restart it, I think that was definitely not right because it basically just kept on raining harder and harder and there was no real sign of the track being dry or dry enough to drive and I think once we actually got going it was fine. There were a few rivers but we very quickly switched from the extreme to an intermediate anyway so that was definitely the right call.

Q: And final one for me on the race: you were utterly dominant, pulling out 27 seconds in 28 laps. Just how good was the car?

MV: Yeah, the car was very good but it was also… we were looking after the tyres I think quite well. We could keep the front tyres alive which around here is quite tough on these intermediate tyres. And that’s basically I think what gave me such a pace advantage because in that first sector if you have a bit more front grip that helps a lot, but yeah, it was it was very enjoyable. But anyway this track in that kind of condition, with the intermediate it’s also in the wet a really nice track to drive.

Q: Checo coming to you now, it’s your seventh second place of the year. You had a great battle with Charles. How much did you enjoy those closing laps?

SP: Yeah, it was a nice battle again. I think it was really tricky to overtake without DRS. I had to place it into 11 and out of 14 on the way to 17 on the back straight but those places were where Charles was actually strong. I could see that he was managing well his race, his tyres once he ran out of them. And he was making it really hard, you know, so I knew that the only way I could get him was if I push him into a mistake, and yeah, towards the end, I thought there was one more lap left so when he went off, I thought that was going to be the opportunity. But it didn’t happen and we managed to get a good result for the team. And a great one-two.

Q: And Checo, just a word or two on Max winning his second world title.

SG: Well, I think Max has had an incredible season: a lot of respect for him. I’ve said it before: I don’t feel like Red Bull have had a dominant car, to have won the championship the way Max won it, so I think he definitely pulled a gear or two compared to anyone else. I think in the beginning I was a lot closer to him; once he got quite comfortable with the car and I was more uncomfortable with it, he was driving at another level compared to everyone you know. The races that he did were sometimes incredible, incredible to watch so yeah, a lot of respect for him. Very happy for him and for my team. You know it’s a massive achievement to have won the championship here. One-two for Honda as well so it’s definitely a very special day for the whole team.

Q: Charles, thanks for waiting. Great race by you. Can we start just by getting your reaction to the five second penalty after the race?

CL: Well, I don’t have much to say. Yeah, I did a mistake, tried to minimise it obviously by trying to go straight… I was not aware this was the last lap but five seconds penalty was the right thing to do to be honest.

Q: What was the Ferrari like to drive? You seem very competitive after the restart and then dropped away again, a little bit like Singapore last weekend.

CL: Yeah, we were very fast for four or five laps but unfortunately the race was a bit longer than that and the front were just gone after four or five laps and after that it was all about trying to survive until the end of the race. The end of the race was extremely difficult. Obviously Checo was putting quite a bit of pressure behind and I was really, really struggling with both of my front tyres so yeah, at the end, I ended up making a mistake but we were really, struggling today.

Q: And can we just throw it even further back and just get your reaction to the original start and going side by side with Max into turn one.

CL: Yeah, it was fun. It was close. It didn’t last too long. But yeah, it was nice.

Q: Okay, and if we could just get a few words from you on Max and his world title please?

CL: Of course, a huge congratulations to Max and to Red Bull. They’ve done an incredible job this year. Yeah, Max has just been incredible and it’s a title fully deserved and on our side, we’ll try to push for the last four races this season to improve as a team and to hopefully put more of a challenge next year.

Questions from the floor

Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) To all three, if Max wants to chime in, please do. Just can we get your thoughts on what happened at the start of the race, the conditions: how much did it change from the reconnaissance laps to the actual start of the race, with all the spray, poor visibility? And obviously we’ve heard from various drivers about the fact that there was a recovery vehicle on track at one point; in these conditions do you think that should just be a hard rule: no recovery vehicles on track if it’s like it is today?

SP: In any conditions which should never see a crane on track while the cars are out there. You do not really know what can happen there. It doesn’t matter (about) the conditions; it should just never happen and I really hope that this is the last time we get to see in any category the recovery vehicles on track while there are cars out there. I think the first time, when we were on laps to the grid, the track was looking alright, even for inters, but I think it picked up before the race start and especially, I think, during the first lap it picked up even more. So yeah, I think in that regard it was right to stop the race, to start the race at the times we did, but what is really low and was the lowest thing I’ve seen in years was two crane vehicles out there.

MV: Of course, I arrived there first and I saw the crane and I have perfect visibility but when you’re behind, you always try to drive out of the spray: you go left or you go right, because you can’t really see anything and that is when things happen. You drive suddenly left and suddenly you can see a crane or whatever, that would be very dangerous at any speed. So that’s definitely something we need to improve. Yeah, like I mentioned before, that first start was fine for that first lap but then very quickly, because of the hard rain we had at the time, it just became undriveable. And then the second start we did was fine, yeah.

CL: Yeah, we shouldn’t see these type of things. Of course, something happened in 2014 and we all know that and I think we should all learn from it. So yeah, Max said it very well. Once you are first, it’s actually quite OK but once you are behind you don’t see anything. And whenever you try to have a bit more visibility, you can get surprised by having a crane in the middle of the track. So yeah, it shouldn’t happen and I really hope we learn from it and that these things we don’t see them again. Then for the conditions, they changed quite a lot, actually, from the laps to the grid to the actual first lap. There was much more rain, much more standing water and the visibility especially was extremely poor. That changed pretty quickly.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – SportsKeeda) To all three drivers: what else can be done in these conditions to improve the show and not make it confusing for the fans? There were a lot of delays today and we’ve also seen a similar thing in Singapore. What can be done to not have a situation like this?

CL: I think a big problem of these cars is just the visibility. So whatever we can do to try and improve the visibility and minimise the spray, especially behind the cars, this will be hugely beneficial because I believe that sometimes we can actually run for the conditions of the track but just because of the visibility, because it’s so dangerous being behind and you don’t see anything, that we end up not running at all. But yeah, we should try and find a solution, for some reason, to try and minimise the spray.

MV: I didn’t want to take a dig out of everyone but I think we need better rain tyres. If you saw what we could do in the ‘90s or the early 2000s, with the amount of water on the track. I’m very happy to have a few test days, you know, and try all different kinds of tyres but we need better rain tyres because I think the extremes are just slow and they can’t really carry a lot of water away. That’s why everyone always tries to switch very quickly to an intermediate because it’s just so much faster per lap, like you could see from one to the other lap, we went from the extreme to the inter today and we immediately went five seconds at least faster and that is just too big. And that’s why nobody really wants to run that extreme. And when it rained like it did when the red flag came out and you would have put extreme tyres on, I think it would still be really difficult to drive. But then if you compare that to 20 years ago, that would have been perfectly fine. So there must be a solution. Like I said, this is not criticism because I’m very happy to help out. We should look into it. Maybe we can just organise more tests days in the wet and work together, to try and find better tyres to at least have an opportunity to really drive in the wet and not always only drive like two laps on an extreme, switch to intermediate and call it a wet race because a wet race is also normally driven with heavy rain.