Sao Paulo Sprint Race: Top three Press Conference

Sao Paulo Sprint Race: Top three Press Conference

Sao Paulo Sprint Race: Top three Press Conference

Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three press conference after the Sprint Race for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Round 21 of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship, at Interlagos, Brazil, on Saturday.

Featuring Sao Paulo Sprint Race winner George Russell (Mercedes); second-placed Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) and third-placed Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes).

Parc Ferme Interviews (Conducted by Naomi Schiff)

Q: Massive congratulations, George, your first win, a Sprint win. How was that?

George Russell: Yeah, it was incredible. I wasn’t expecting to have that much pace but I think, you know, it goes to show all the hard work everybody’s putting in and the progress we, as a team, have made in these last three races since Austin. The car has been feeling really great. Obviously, you know, difficult to know how Max would have gone on had he been on the soft tyres. But nevertheless, you know, standing here is a great feeling.

Q: Well, there was plenty of action on track during the race. We had a great time watching it. Third time lucky on Max, you made it round, and then it seemed smooth sailing for you from there.

GR: Yeah, I think it’s a little bit difficult, because obviously, this is a Sprint race. And you’ve got to manage that risk, reward. So, even though I was dying to get that victory, I didn’t want to risk it too much and end up with no points and starting at the back. But you know, we made it stick third time lucky. Yeah. Well, it’s

Q: Well, it’s going to be a front-row start for Mercedes tomorrow, because Carlos has got a penalty. What do you guys think you can do for the team here in Brazil?

GR: I mean, it’s crazy to think we’re both starting on the front row and Lewis did a great job coming from P8, so it’s going to be exciting. And I’m sure Max is going to be flying tomorrow, coming through the pack. But we’re in a luxury position that we can maybe split the strategy and go for the win.

Q: Carlos, second place today, unfortunately, you have a penalty for tomorrow’s race. How was that race for you? It seemed in the beginning that you didn’t quite get the tyres where you wanted them. Were you saving them for the end of the race?

Carlos Sainz: Yeah, we normally have a bit more deg than the Mercs and I could see them pushing quite hard. And yeah, I managed to make all the positions at the start or the first couple of laps, getting in the fight with Max and George. I had to be aggressive because obviously tomorrow I’m taking the penalty and in the end I think P2 was the maximum today. I was happy with the race. Happy with the pace. It’s just that the Mercs look like they picked up the pace a lot recently and they are very quick in the race.

Q: There seemed to be a little bit of contact between you and Max. He had front wing damage after the overtake. What was your take on that?

CS: It was on the limit, for sure. They are so difficult to pass and I had to really go tight into Turn 1 in order to pass him. With a Red Bull, you’re either aggressive under braking or you don’t pass them because they’re so quick on the straight that you really need to go for it under braking. I’m sorry if I had a bit of contact but that’s racing and sometimes you need to go for it if you want to make it stick.

Q: OK, well, does team Ferrari have something in the bag for tomorrow?

CS: I mean, we have decent pace this weekend. It’s just that the Mercs maybe have a little bit more pace. It will be interesting to see tomorrow what happens when we all try the Medium like we’re Veratappen today. See how that Medium behaves. And obviously we would need to pass them on track tomorrow, because I’m starting P7, I think Charles is starting P4 or P5, so we’re going to need a good race if we want to beat them.

Q: Okay, well, I wish you the best of luck. Lewis coming on to you. Fantastic race today to come through the field. You’re going to have a front-row start here on what’s now your second home race.

Lewis Hamilton: Boa tarde, Brasil! I’m working on my Portuguese. Obrigado. I’m so, so happy to be here. It’s been an incredible week. Difficult day yesterday, but what a crowd we’ve had today. Starting from eighth, making my way through slowly. Congratulations to George. This just goes to everyone back at the factory, everyone here working on the ground. They’ve just been working so hard this year. This is an amazing result. For us to be on the front row tomorrow is incredible. So from there, we should be able to work as a team and hold off, hopefully, the guys behind

Q: You were both unable to really show the full potential of the car in yesterday’s qualifying, so can we take this result as evidence of what might happen tomorrow?

LH: We’re going to try as hard as we can, yeah. If we can have some good degradation tomorrow, hopefully some good weather, we can have a good fight in our hands.

Q: So you want to give this crowd a win tomorrow, right?

LH: For sure. A win here for Brazil would be incredible.

Press Conference

Q: George, what a fantastic race. You took the chequered flag for the first time in Formula 1, how sweet is this moment for you?

GR: Yeah, I think it’s a pretty big milestone for the whole team. When we look back at where we were at the very first Sprint of the year, I think I finished eighth, I want to say, And where were you [Lewis}? I think you were maybe ninth or something behind us. And here we are going to be lining up one-two tomorrow. I think it’s really exciting. And, you know, so proud of the whole team, to keep on delivering with the car. But it’s going to be interesting tomorrow. Obviously Max is the main man at the moment and those Medium tyres just didn’t seem to work.

Q: Well, George, let’s talk about you. The car seemed to come alive from the beginning. How confident were you coming into the Sprint?

GR: I think we were confident that we could finish second, and we thought Max would probably have quite an easy run to be honest. We knew that if we weren’t ahead of him at Turn 1, it was going to be very difficult to stay ahead of him. I started attacking in the early laps. And I thought once he gets some temperature in his tyres, he’ll be away. And it was a little bit tricky. You had to balance the risk and reward, because obviously, you know, there’s only one extra point… As much as I wanted to win this race today it’s only one extra point and obviously you’re setting yourself up for tomorrow. So you had to be a little bit careful. And you know, Max has got nothing to lose, really. So he was going to be driving aggressively. But you know, definitely, it was pleasing to get the move done in the end.

Q: You said you were waiting for Max to get some temperature into those medium tyres. Was it a clear cut decision for you to start on the soft tyre?

GR: I think it definitely wasn’t clear cut. I think we’ve all recognised that the soft was probably the best performing tyre this weekend in the race, which is quite odd. Obviously that means if you use the Soft today, you’ve got one less tomorrow. So even though Max and Red Bull didn’t have a strong race, they’re probably in a slightly better position than the three of us going into the race tomorrow as they’ve got that one extra set of new softs.

Q: So George, pole position tomorrow. You were on pole in Hungary as well. Does this feel different?

GR: I don’t really know, to be honest. Obviously, we got pole position via a qualifying session. This is the first time we’ve crossed the finish line in first position in a race. It obviously is a little bit of a shame that this wasn’t the race tomorrow. But nevertheless, as I said, it really goes to show the work we’ve done and I think we’re definitely going to be very excited for tomorrow and obviously having Lewis and I one-two on the grid, is going to give us some options of the strategy. And I think we’re going to have to work together to do something different for one of us to try and get the victory for the team tomorrow.

Q: Alright, well, good luck tomorrow and very well done today. Thank you, George. Carlos, we’ll come to you now. Very well done to you as well and after the issues Ferrari had as a team in Mexico last time out, how much better is the car here?

CS: Well, definitely better. We are more on the pace but I would say that still Merc… We don’t know about Red Bull, no, because Max had the Medium and seemed to struggle. But after today Merc, it definitely seems they have the edge over us, especially in race pace again, and Lewis was putting a lot of pressure on me, George was pulling away little by little. So still some more to do in the race if we want to beat them, but at least today I managed to do a good race and get myself in the middle of them, split them. Unfortunately tomorrow I need to take the penalty, which is costly because it would be a lot better if we could start P2 tomorrow, you know, and try something but yeah, we will do our best tomorrow to make it back through the field.

Q: Well what can you achieve? Because with that penalty you’ll start the race from seventh. If the car is as good tomorrow as it was today, what is possible?

CS: I mean it was good but it was difficult I must say. We finished P2 but I spent 10 laps defending from Lewis. I made it past Max, which was quite difficult because of his top speed, but I feel like if tomorrow we will start P2 we would be vulnerable to the two Mercs because they seem to have a better deg, better race pace. But yeah, at least we will be in the mix. Unfortunately, I have to take a penalty, which is a bit the story of my season. Whenever I’m strong and whenever I’m on the pace, I have a setback that weekend, which is a bit the story of the whole season, as I said, but yeah, at least I feel confident. I feel comfortable. I feel like I did a perfect race today. So I’m up for the fight tomorrow.

Q: Very well done today. Thank you, Carlos. Lewis coming to you now, what a race by you as well, eighth to third. You love racing at Interlagos don’t you?

LH: I definitely do. It’s a beautiful place, São Paulo, and the track is just awesome. It’s so good for racing with that long straight. Definitely got to be one of the favourite circuits, I think for us, for us all. Congratulations to George, this is, as George was saying, such an incredible result for us as a team. We’ve all worked so hard through the year. Did we think that we would be at the front, you know, starting on the front row of the Brazilian Grand Prix at the end of the year – not at all. But that’s what everyone’s worked towards. So I’m just really incredibly proud of everybody and thankful to everybody back at the factory for their continued efforts and for not giving up. Same with all the women and men here who’ve worked so hard, on their feet, travelling, being away, you know. This is a good day. Tomorrow, we’ve got to work hard to try and keep them behind us.

Q: Did you expect the car to be this good?

LH: No, I think we go to these different races and we get in the car and we… I think George and I, we don’t really know what we’re going to be expecting. And you can’t really read the team as well, the engineers, they’re kind of ‘this should be OK here’ and then it’s not. So they’re even cautious when they tell us whether we’re going to be good or not. So, yeah, our race pace was particularly strong today. So that’s what puts us in a really good position tomorrow.

Q: Going for the win?

LH: Yeah, we have to… We’ll work together as a team tomorrow. And, you know, this is about the team. We’ve got to get this result for the team. I think it’d be incredibly special. And obviously, we’re chasing the red guys. So it could be good.

Questions from the floor

Q: (Patrica Tarquini – A question to Lewis. This is your second home Grand Prix. People love you. Whenever you go out to the track, they go crazy. Do you think you can give them a victory tomorrow to celebrate with all of them?

LH: Well, firstly, this has been a very humbling week for me, being so warmly welcomed and I received my citizenship here, and the love that I received… My parents have messaged, and they’re just so grateful to everyone in Brazil for the love that they have given their kid, you know. So it would be the greatest dream for sure to get a win here. It’ll be tough to race George tomorrow. But we’ll hopefully have a bit of a battle. And, you know, either way, we’ve got to make sure that we get the points and one-two for the team.

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) A question for both Mercedes drivers. Since the United States you’ve had the last car upgrade of the season. And since then, you’ve stood a chance of winning all three races, albeit Max had that bad pit stop in America. So how different does a car feel? And can you put an estimate on what that update has given you with performance?

GR: It’s difficult to put a number on it. Definitely the car is a little bit slimmer than it probably was at the start of the year. So that’s a bit of free lap time we’ve gained. Probably the characteristics of the car are a little bit better. So it’s definitely difficult to put a single figure on how much the car has improved. But I think the lap times speak for themselves. And, as you said, we’ve had an opportunity as a team to win these last three races. We were nowhere near that at the start of the year. And I think we all feel really confident that we’re on the right track to getting back to where Mercedes belongs. I think that’s really exciting for all of us.

LH: I agree.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) To Lewis and George. I appreciate you probably both want to win for Mercedes tomorrow. But George, individually I guess, you want to win your first Grand Prix. And Lewis, you want to obviously win in Brazil, You said it would be the greatest dream and to keep this record going of winning in every season. So do you anticipate you’ll be free to race each other? Or do you think there might be an element of team orders? How do you expect that to pan out?

GR: There definitely won’t be any team orders. But I think between the two of us we will definitely be strategic to try and get that win for the team. I think as we saw in Mexico that we both did the same strategy and ultimately it affected us both. Sitting here right now, we probably don’t know what the right strategy is going to be. So, you know, we’ll race each other fairly, for sure. And I’m sure we’ll probably be splitting the strategies tomorrow to try and cover all options. And, you know, hopefully one of us comes away happy tomorrow. But I think we, we both recognise based on recent experience, we’re probably going to have to go two separate ways.

Q: Lewis, anything?

LH: Yeah, I think I’ll just say that getting a one-two either way, I’m going to be a happy person, just because of how hard everybody’s worked. But of course, George has done an amazing job this year, and he’ll be pushing for that win – but we’ll, of course, drive carefully and clean. And, yeah, we’ve just always got to just have at the core of it, at the front of our mind, it’s the team. Getting the result for the team. But of course, individually, we’ll do our best to try and get the best result.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – My question is to Carlos, it was pretty tight when you went past Max, can you elaborate a little bit how that situation unfolded from your point of view?

CS: It was tight. I mean, yeah, whenever you’re about to overtake a Red Bull, you know, you’re going to have to risk it on the braking. Because obviously on the straight it’s not like you can pull side by side. We were, both Mercs and I here, talking about it. That passing a Red Bull was probably the toughest thing to do. But, yeah, I had to send it a bit under braking, obviously locked up a bit and went a bit long, which ended up having a bit of contact with Max, but I think that’s also fair. I think it’s part of racing. In the end there was no main damages to both of us. And yeah, it reminded me a bit of the pass I did on Checo here in 2019, where I went very close to the inside wall, which was quite tight, but I made it stick. So quite happy about it.

Q: (Matt Coch – One to George on a slightly different topic. George, with the GPDA, Pierre, is close to a one race ban with a penalty points. He’s just been summoned for driving unnecessarily slowly, so potentially could pick up one today. What’s the GPDA’s position on that? And has there been any conversation with the FIA on that system, noting that the points system hasn’t changed since it was introduced in 2014?

GR: Definitely conversations have been had and I think the FIA will definitely review the points system this year. I think, if any driver was to receive a race ban, it needs to be for something pretty damn serious. And I definitely don’t put Pierre in the category of a dangerous or reckless driver. And a number of his penalty points have been through non-dangerous driving as such, and I don’t know what he did to be driving unnecessarily slow or whatever you just mentioned, but, yeah, it would be a shame to see him take a race ban. And even if he were to get those 12 points, I think we need to reconsider it.

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Question to both Mercedes drivers again, I know we still have the race tomorrow. But after the performance over recent weekends, does it feel much more so now that this is a gap to the leading teams it’s possible to close over just one winter?

LH: Definitely I think it has given us… we’re taking a step. We know that there’s some real changes that we can make with the car to get us back to a better fighting position for next season. Don’t fully understand… like we’ve definitely taken a step forward but it’s almost like the other two teams have taken a step back. I don’t know if that’s right or not, but it definitely feels that way. But yeah, I think we definitely know where we’re going and what we need to do to put us in a fighting position for next year. So we’ll be super, super focused. Everyone I know is already ready to turn up this winter and put in the effort.

GR: I think the factory is going to be pumping on all cylinders across the winter and everybody’s going to be so motivated to come back. This result is such a morale booster for everyone, and what we really needed to keep on pushing. And yeah, I think if we can hit our targets, the targets we’ve set out are absolutely the right ones. And we just need to continue on this path that we’re on and see what we can achieve next year.

Q: Carlos, can I just throw this to you? Do you think Mercedes have taken a step forward? Or do you think Red Bull and Ferrari have taken a step back?

CS: I’m pretty certain we haven’t taken any step backwards. I think they’ve just simply done a better job at improving the car and putting downforce on the car. I don’t feel like they have a lot of a gap to close in the winter, because I feel like today they were the fastest. So if anything, it’s us and Red Bull that need to be aware that, if we want to be quick next year in the race, we need to put some downforce in the car and keep progressing. Because we’ve seen it before: the rate of development at Merc, is second to none. I think they’ve been showing all these past seasons that even if they’re leading, or they’re on the back foot, starting the season, they’re always the team that developed the most. And it shows that we need to have a good winter. And not only that, we will need to develop well during the season next year.

Q: (Patricia Tarquini – Question to Carlos, what challenges do you expect for tomorrow?

CS: Well, the challenge of passing Lando, that today was particularly aggressive with me – I don’t know who he defended for his life and I had to make it stick. But hopefully I can pass him quickly over the line and then join the battle at the front. It’s going to be, I think, exciting like it was today. Probably the order of the cars tomorrow is already more set than the order that we had today. So, it will be more of a strategic race. We will have the two Mercs, the two Red Bulls and the two Ferraris – unless something crazy happens in lap one. And I think it looks like that’s the race pace of the cars. Maybe Max can go back to having a good pace tomorrow, after struggling today with a Medium. Then we need to see, as a team, together with Charles, how we can at least get closer to the Mercs, to lose as many less points as possible tomorrow, which is the target.