Sao Paulo Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

Sao Paulo Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

Sao Paulo Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference
Transcript from the post-race interviews and FIA hosted top three press conference after the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Round 21 of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship season.

Featuring 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix race winner George Russell (Mercedes), second-placed Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and third-placed Carlos Sainz (Ferrari).

Parc Ferme Interviews (Conducted by Felipe Massa)

Q: Carlos, you had a great race, especially at the end, really good pace to get the possibility to be on the podium.

Carlos Sainz: Yeah, I think overall it was a good race. We did have some problems there at the start, with the brakes on fire. We had to stop early, which meant we had to commit to a three-stop that maybe today wasn’t the fastest given the degradation. But from there I pushed flat out to try and catch back up to Checo. We had a good run on Checo at the end. Good podium after starting P7. Yeah, I think we can be happy with that. It’s a shame that Merc were so quick, but congratulations to George.

Q: OK. And the fight for the second position in the Constructors’? How do you think for the last race? How is it going to be?

CS: We’re clearly on a bit of a defence mode, because Merc were untouchable today. They were just simply the quickest car, quicker than the Red Bull, quicker than us. I think it’s been a few weekends like this, like that. So in Abu Dhabi, we need to expect them to win. And we need to either do damage limitation or go for the win ourselves also.

Q: Lewis, are you feel a little bit Brazilian now? Amazing race, driver of the day, so congratulations for your really, really good job. You had a little bit of trouble at the beginning? So how do you think it was that contact with Max and also, afterwards, an amazing race you did.

Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, well, firstly, I’ve got to say huge congratulations to George. What an amazing drive he did today. He did amazing qualifying yesterday. So he truly deserves it. To my team, so proud of everyone back at the factory and here. This is an incredible result. We’ve worked so hard through this year to get a win and so this is hugely deserved for everybody, so a big, big thank you. What can I say, you know how it is with Max, so…

Q: I think you should say something for everyone [here. Every overtake you are doing the whole grandstands were supporting you massively so…

LH: Muito Obrigado. A big, big thank you to everyone in here in Brazil. I’ve really had one of the best weeks of my life here, just with how everyone’s accepted me here and the warm welcome I’ve had, so excited to come back here again and hopefully some holidays in the future.

Q: George, unbelievable! I mean, I can’t imagine you’re feeling, you are even crying. I understand how is the feeling of the first victory. Really congratulations. Yesterday I told you it was the first of many and today you did an amazing job. So just now how you feel? And the pace of your car, the perfect job you did in the race, so really, really congratulations.

George Russell: What an amazing feeling. Just a huge thank you to the whole team for making this possible. It’s been an emotional roller coaster this season. This race was a really tough race. I felt in control. Lewis was super fast and then when I saw the Safety Car, I thought, Jesus, this is going to be a really difficult end. He put me under so much pressure but so happy to come away with the victory.

Q: And how is the feeling? Remember all your career, everything you passed through, you know, starting from the karting, all of the championships that you fight and you arrive here in an amazing season you are doing, really an amazing season, with a team that didn’t start so well. And now you guys show the pace to win. And I think that’s really important and especially that the first victory is yours.

GR: I’m speechless, you know, on the in-lap all of these memories sort of come flooding back, you know, starting off with my mum and dad in go-karting and going through and, you know, all the support I’ve had from the rest of my family, my girlfriend, my trainer, my manager. I mean obviously, you know the likes of Gwen [Lagrue, Mercedes Driver Development Advisor] who gave me the opportunity to get on the programme with Mercedes, and James Vowles and Toto, you know, the list is endless. I can’t thank them enough and, yeah, super proud.

Press Conference

Q: As you can see, our winner is not yet with us. So we’re going to start with our second and third place finishers. Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz, a very warm welcome to you guys. Lewis, let’s start with you. What a day for Mercedes, a one-two for the team, and a fabulous comeback drive by you as well. Just sum it up for us.

LH: It was an incredible day, an incredible weekend, and week actually, just overall. So many amazing experiences, from Monday onwards. And this is really a dream for all the team. I think everyone truly deserves this amazing result. Everyone has worked so hard through the year. And we’ve been through such a difficult kind of phase. But we never gave up hope that we could get back to winning ways. And so, I’m really proud to be a part of this team and to get a one-two, despite the challenges through the year, and despite the challenges today.

Q: Lewis, you talk about the challenges, and you’ve been involved in many one-twos in your career, but because of everything that’s happened already this year, does that make this all the sweeter?

LH: Definitely, definitely. I think every one-two is an amazing feeling. I definitely have, in the past, experienced us having a one-two and I think because at stages it was more regular it almost loses that specialness, you know, so to have had this drought and this period of time and to finally get back there, I think it’s a wonderful achievement for everybody.

Q: Your competitors all think that Mercedes had the fastest car here in what areas was it especially strong?

LH: I really don’t know, if I’m honest. It’s a strange feeling, because we definitely have taken steps forwards. But it’s almost like the others kind of fell off a little bit this weekend, maybe? I don’t know. But the car had been really great to drive all weekend – very consistent, very smooth, no major issues. And, yeah, we didn’t bring any upgrades to the last race or this one. So I think we’re just slowly starting to understand the car more and more and get it working in a sweeter spot.

Q: Your race was compromised, I think we can say, by the collision with Max Verstappen after the first restart. How do you see what happened?

LH: I don’t really have much of an opinion about it, to be honest. For me, all I thought in that moment was that I thought the car would have to retire. Because I felt something, the rear wasn’t feeling the same after that. And for me, it was like, I was going to lose the team the one-two. And so like, all I could think of. So I was driving over across the grass, back onto the track and all I could think of was how can I get back to giving the team that incredible result. So just for me, it’s kind of, again, not how you fall, it’s how you get back up. And I’m proud of the job we’ve all done and huge congratulations to George.

Q: How important is it for the team to be hitting this run of form as we head into the winter break?

LH: It is the most important thing for us to have this result. This is a massive boost to the whole team’s morale. Going into the winter, the team knows that we’re on the right track. And we are still the best team. We will get back to having this more consistent I think next year and I’m excited for that battle.

Q: Very well done. Thank you, Lewis. And our race winner, George Russell, is joining us now. George, huge congratulations. You’ve no doubt dreamt of this moment. Tell us about the reality.

GR: Yeah, just so many emotions, I think I’ve dreamt of this moment, for sure, many, many times. And you never really know how it’s going to pan out and I think the race was well managed, everything was under control. I knew how quick Lewis was and when that Safety Car came out, I thought ‘God this is going to be very, very tricky now’. But I put together a really strong string of laps. Very little mistakes and you know the pressure Lewis put me under was immense. But I’m so proud of the whole team. The progress we’ve made since the start of the year is just unbelievable. And what a boost it’s going to give us going into next season.

Q: Now, after your performance in the Sprint yesterday, just tell us how you were feeling coming into this race? Were you calm? Were you nervous? Did this one somehow feel different?

GR: I was pretty relaxed, to be honest. I think it’s sort of, like, a mentality. And if you have the mentality that if you just do everything right, you know, make a clean start, do your thing, get into the groove, then you can win this race. And I knew having Lewis alongside me and Max in my mirrors, it was not going to be a straightforward race. But we believed and we were having a lot of conversations this morning, as a team, strategically, how we were going to try and tackle getting this victory for the team. And to come away with a one-two is just unreal.

Q: You nailed the big moments, the start and the restarts. Just how tricky was it to get them right?

GR: Yeah, definitely tricky, for sure. But you just have to go through the process and treat it as if it’s any other. There was a sort of a moment in the race where I was looking a lot at my mirrors, you know, seeing Lewis there, but I sort of realised I just need to look forward now. And the only way I’m going to win this race, is by looking ahead, driving as fast as I can, making no mistakes. And you know, my engineer was on the radio, giving me the gaps, probably four times a lap. And it was always between 1.1 and 1.3, 1.1, 1.4, 1.1. I just wanted that little extra half a second buffer. It was only when I came into Sector 3 on the last lap that I knew we’d got it.

Q: You did at one point come on the radio and say, “Oh, are we racing this last 10 laps of the race?” Were you surprised with the answer you got?

GR: Yes, and no. Because we’ve always said that we’re free to race. Toto and the team have put a lot of faith and trust in Lewis and I and we’ve obviously had a few side-by-side moments throughout this year and has always been respectful and I think we’ve got a huge amount of respect for one another. I think I just wanted to understand the position, because if we weren’t… I knew how important that one-two was for the team. So if we weren’t racing, it was kind of like, ‘bring the car home’; if we were racing, it was a quali lap every single lap and you’re risking every corner. Because the laps just had to be perfect. So yeah, obviously happy to have won it that way.

Q: Final one from me. I think a lot of people are going to want to know, how are you going to celebrate this one?

GR: I was talking to Carlos just now, we’re on the same flight tonight going direct to Abu Dhabi. So, it’s a 15hour flight. So yeah…

CS: I said ‘drinks are on me’.

GR: I think they’re free on the plane aren’t they?

CS: That’s why they’re on me!

Q: Carlos, great drive by you as well. Your ninth podium of the year, one of the most satisfying for you?

CS: Yeah, definitely. Especially because I think it’s been a very solid weekend with a few setbacks, like the penalty and that tear-off stuck on my on my brake duct that nearly caused me to retire and I had a brake on fire, which I thought it was pretty much over. Also having to commit to a three-stop so early. I thought this is not probably the right strategy. But for me, from that point onwards, it felt like I had to just forget about everything and push flat-out to the end and see where this takes me. And the good thing is that we managed to recover a lot of pace. We were very fast. We were going to challenging Checo towards the end, even on this comeback and yeah, to finally get the podium was a really good feeling.

Q: You mentioned the issue with the tear-off in the rear right brake duct. Were there any issues with the brakes after that?

CS: There were issues, I think, for one or two laps before, where I think we overheated a lot the brakes and this made the tyre also overheat, and I was suffering a lot also with concentration and keeping the car in the right place and then we boxed, the pit-stop because of that was probably maybe a bit slow. It forced us into a three-stop but once we stopped, everything was good to push. We had a decent stint on the soft, having to pass a lot of people but then the race really came alive when I put the new Medium again in the middle of the race and here is where I could do some good lap times and get myself back in the race.

Q: Can I ask you about the decision to start on the Medium, because we saw Red Bull struggling yesterday. I think you said even yesterday that the Soft was the right time to start the Sprint on so why the decision to go Medium today?

CS: Well I felt like starting P7, there was really nothing to lose by taking the Medium out of the way in the first stint because, for me, it was going to be fairly easy to pass Lando and be the last car of the of the top six, on a Medium and take that Medium out of the way and then be free to have the Softs, in the two-thirds of the race – if you call that a two-stop – and I felt like my race was going to come alive towards the end of the race, but then I had to take out the Medium out of the way on Lap 14 and it meant that I was on a three-stop and had to change tyres all the time and was difficult to get a bit into a rhythm because of that. But I think we did the right call. And in the end, I don’t know if it would have changed much, if I would have started on Soft or not.

Q: Final one from me. Charles was asking to swap places with you at the end of the race. What did you make of that?

CS: Yeah, got to know this at the end of the race, because to me on the radio, nothing came from my engineer or the team. So I just got to know this half an hour ago when I jumped out of the car. So I have nothing to comment.

Questions from the floor

Q: (Frédéric Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to Lewis and George. For George, can you speak about the two restarts you made, and for Lewis, have you been surprised by the first one of George?

GR: For me, this circuit is always very difficult because the line is so late. Yeah, I don’t really have anything more to say. I think it was two good restarts. And it’s always challenging from second, but going that late doesn’t give the opportunity for the driver to get the slipstream so yeah, nothing more to say.

LH: Yeah, generally pretty decent restarts. No major issues. George did a great job.

Q: (Bruna Rodrigues – So for both of Mercedes drivers, this huge improvement of the W13 had in this end of season can be a good sign about the development of the car for the next year, or maybe not? Thank you.

LH: Definitely is a great, great sign. For a long, long period of time, we can really, truly understand what the problem was or how to fix it. And it was difficult, because we kept trying and trying and trying and every time something new came, we still had the problems we had. So this is really, really huge. We know where our North Star is, we know where we need to put all our efforts in to this winter. And yeah, I’m so proud of the team for all the incredible hard work. We wouldn’t be able to be up here today without them.

Q: George, how much confidence do you have going into Abu Dhabi?

GR: I’m going into Abu Dhabi, I think, will probably be similar to… my gut is saying similar to Ferrari. I think maybe a small step behind Red Bull. I think the last two races have been quite slow-speed circuits and that’s where we’ve sort of excelled this this season. But the progress we’ve made as a team has just been unbelievable. And since Austin, we’ve, as a team fought for victory, or had the possibility for victory, every single race. So, the boost it’s given all of us and the confidence it’s given everybody back at the factory… as I said yesterday, the factory is going to be pumping over the winter. And we’re going to be given everything we’ve got to come out in that very first test with a car that that can compete from race one.

Q: (Bárbara Mendonça – Globo esporte) George, congratulations, you told us previously this week that ‘happier’ would be a better word when it came to the progress of the W13, instead of ‘happy’. Are you actually happy instead of happier with the pace today and what can you share with us about that?

GR: I think, in all honesty, the feeling is not too dissimilar to what it felt like at the start of the year. The only difference is when we crossed the line and an engineer comes into radio it’s talking top fives always as opposed to out in Q2, or whatever. So, I think that gives us – especially Lewis and I, so much confidence because if this is what we’re capable of doing as a team, when the car is still performance… sub-optimally, ]who knows what we can achieve? When we get it into a nicer window. And we really think next year, we’re going to have a car that, its characteristics, will be filling nicer, which will give Lewis and I more confidence to push it. But generally, the team have just been adding global performance and that’s why the lap times keep getting faster.

Q: George, happier maybe but if you took this car back to Bahrain now, how much quicker would it be?

GR: Definitely well over a second, I would say. I think in Bahrain I qualified ninth. At Imola, both Lewis and I were out in Q2. Yeah, we were fighting with Alfa Romeo and Haas at the start of the season and well over a second, at points, behind Ferrari who were looking the most dominant team at the time. I think it really goes to show the improvement we’ve made. We lost so much time trying to solve the porpoising issues and that really hurt our development. I think that’s why we’re seeing such a jump in performance in these past eight races. It’s because we’re no longer focusing on the porpoising and we’re now focused on bringing performance.

Q: (Rodrigo França – RF1) George and Lewis: it’s about the Brazilian Grand Prix and the atmosphere. George, for you, Interlagos will always be a special place, your first win so I would like you to comment on your memories of the Brazilian Grand Prix and Interlagos. And to Lewis, how was your first Grand Prix as a Brazilian citizen, as you received the honour on Monday?

GR: Brazil and Sao Paulo is always going to hold a special place in my heart, no doubt. I remember being on the grid last year, and being about a metre and a half away from the fans and everybody was just going crazy. The passion for Formula 1 here is just immense and yeah, so proud to get my victory in a place that has so much history and character in Formula 1.

LH: This is the greatest crowd I’ve ever seen here. When we did the drivers’ parade, all weekend there’s been the most incredible energy here in Brazil. I’ve been here all week: Brasilia on Monday, San Paolo Tuesday, Rio Wednesday and then Sao Paulo the rest of the week and it’s just been… Visiting children, with the Senna family, it’s been an overwhelming week and one that I will definitely always remember I think, because on top of that we got back to where we belong as a team. So yeah, amazing.

Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Diario AS) Carlos, your last race weekends were very consistent in terms of pace, qualifying and overtaking. Do you already feel like the old Carlos finally got on top of this Ferrari?

CS: Yeah, I think so. I think the level that I am now is the level I should have been at the beginning of the season, so it’s not that suddenly I’m good, it’s just, I think, yeah: simply that I just got to understand the car. We put a lot of effort with my engineers to get me comfortable with it and I’ve had to change obviously a lot of the driving things to be competitive with this car. But yeah, the good thing is that it gives me a lot of confidence going into next year, and that I’m finally driving at the level that I know I’m capable of.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, just going back to the incident with Max, he’s been largely accident-free this year but with you back on the scene, you were both involved in the collision, you said afterwards ‘you know how it is with Max.’ Do you think that he has a particular problem with you? And if he does, does that concern you from a safety perspective and moving forward?

LH: I’m not concerned. Yeah, don’t have any concerns, I think. I think it’s natural when you have the success and the numbers on your chest, that you become a bit of a target. But it’s okay. It’s nothing that I have not dealt with before.

Q: (Patricia Tarquini – George, when you cross the chequered flag, what were your feelings? Who did you think of?

GR: I was pretty impressed at how quickly I started crying, to be honest, once I crossed the line. It was literally by the time we were at Turn 2 I was… Tears were flooding. I just thought of my family to be honest – everybody’s back at home. I’ve got my mum at home with my girlfriend, I’ve got my sister with her husband, my brother with my father and his two children, so all of my closest family were a little bit spread out, but I know that they were all watching together and as soon as I got my phone straight after the race, called them all in a group FaceTime. It’s just been such an emotional roller coaster and journey for all of us, from go-karting, travelling up and down the country in the campervan with my parents, to the support my brother and sister gave me and the support my girlfriend’s given me throughout this whole season. It’s not a straightforward life in Formula 1. We’re all living our dreams but your emotions vary substantially based on performance and you’re coming home from a weekend either very happy and things are good or coming home pretty disappointed. No, it’s difficult for everybody and I sort of feel that for all of us, but not just my family. Everybody who’s supported me throughout my journey who’s given me this opportunity: Mercedes, Gwen [Lagrue], who’s been a huge part of giving me this opportunity. For people who don’t know, Gwen is the manager of the Mercedes driver programme and he’s the one who got me in with Mercedes in the beginning. And then so much support from Mercedes, with Williams, the people who have supported me throughout my journey in karting, Formula 4, Formula 3. The list is endless. All these thoughts just go rushing through your mind over the course of that 60 seconds and yeah, definitely a bit emotional, for sure.

Q: (Maria Clara Castro – Gazeta Press) George, you had right beside you Lewis Hamilton, one of your greatest inspirations in motor sport. So if you could go back to the old days and tell your younger self, what would you tell?

GR: I think it’s like a realisation for all of us. When I think of this now, I think of the photo of Lewis and I from 2009, which we’d probably both appreciate is not shared too much, because we’re both not looking our finest. But it’s just unbelievable, firstly, how quickly time flies, and it makes you realise you need to make the most of every single moment. And here we are 13 years later, team-mates on this journey together. And we’ve truly been on this journey together this year, our goals have been clear, we need to work together to get Mercedes back to where they belong. And so we’re really pleased that we have such a good, honest, transparent relationship. And we’re here to win. We’re here to fight. And I think it just shows all the efforts that everybody’s been putting in throughout this season.

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Lewis, you talked about initially feeling like you might have to retire the car but was there any lasting damage? Did you have to work around anything at all. I know at the end of the race sometimes you like to have a poke around the car. Did you spot anything around the floor that suggested it was damaged?

LH: Well, yesterday there was a lot of damage from all the debris of the cars colliding ahead of me so I had a bunch of different broken bits on the car and I had lost quite a bit of downforce yesterday. But today, it was difficult to say. I couldn’t really see where on the car where we had touched. I definitely thought that I had a puncture on my right rear when I got back on track and I could definitely feel the rear didn’t feel as stable as it had done prior to that, but I managed to make changes on my steering wheel and kind of reconfigured the balance a little bit but I think there’s something perhaps not 100% perfect, but we still got the one-two.