Transcript from the post-race interviews and FIA hosted top three press conference after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Round 22 of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship season, at Yas Marina Circuit.
Featuring 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix race winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull), second-placed Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and third-placed Sergio Perez (Red Bull), in addition to an extra interview with Sebastian Vettel (Asto Martin)
Parc Ferme Interviews (Conducted by Jenson Button)
Q: Checo, I mean, it looked like a tough race out there for you and you’ve missed out on that P1 by one point (sic). How was it for you?
Sergio Perez: Yeah, I mean, it’s how it is. Sometimes everything can be really close. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to be happy. You know, I gave it all. We gave it all through the season. And I’m sure we will come back stronger for next year.
Q: This season there have been a lot of ups and downs for you. Yesterday, it looked great in qualifying. For me, it just felt that a little bit more and you would have had that pole position and we could have had a very different story. But what positives can you really take from the 2022 season?
SP: Well, certainly, you know, we had great moments, great battling. I struggled a bit with these tyres this year, you know, in terms of managing the tyres in the race. So hopefully that can be something that we will improve for next year, and generally just be a bit stronger.
Q: Excellent. OK, well enjoy the winter and we look forward to you giving a bit more next year.
SP: Thank you, mate.
Q: Charles, it looks like it took a lot out of you that race?
Charles Leclerc: Yeah, it did. I was 110% from the first lap to the last lap. Honestly, we had the perfect race for us, there was not much more today. I knew that the only possibility for us to beat Checo today was with a different strategy and playing with the tyre management, which we did really well today. And we managed to make the one-stop work. So really, really happy.
Q: Yeah, it looked like it was a big strategy call by the team, which is great to see them making really positive calls and yourself. P2 in the championship. Congratulations.
CL: Yeah, thank you. I mean, I really hope next year we can do a step forward in order to fight for the championship. But considering where we were last year, it’s a really big step forward. I think we improved throughout the end of the season in terms of strategy. We still need to work in terms of race pace, because coming to Sunday we seem to struggle a bit more. But we’ll push during the winter break in order to catch them back a little.
Q: Max, fantastic victory, double world champion, win the last race of the season. It seems like it’s the perfect season for you?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it was a good race. It was all about tyre management. I think we looked after the Mediums quite well. And then on the Hard tyres it was literally managing from lap one to the end, but incredible, you know, to win again here and 15th win of the season is unbelievable.
Q: Yeah, it’s been a been an outstanding year for you. What do you take from such a special year? Obviously, last year, it was a little bit more competitive, with fighting with Lewis for the championship, but this year, you’ve walked away with it.
MV: It’s been really enjoyable, you know, to work with the whole team and to be able to achieve something like this this year. I know it’s going to be hard to replicate something like this. But it’s also very good motivation to try and do well again next year.
Sebastian Vettel Interview
Q: Congratulations, Seb, four World Championships and you score points in your last race. How are you feeling?
Sebastian Vettel: Well, you know how it is. I wish it would have been up a couple more points. But yeah, I enjoyed the race. I think it was a bit of a different warm-up today to get into the race but once the lights go off, it’s full-on race mode. I think, about today, we obviously didn’t go for maybe the best strategy, so it was a shame, because I think we could have turned the Constructors’ Championship around for us. But yeah, overall obviously a big day and a big thank you for all the support. So many flags, so many smiling faces, which has been very, very special, very nice and yeah, I’m sure I’m going to miss it more than I understand right now.
Q: Just talking about the race today. You looked like you were fighting with the Alpines. It looked like you could have finished so much higher and it just went away from you guys.
SV: Obviously we then opted to stay out and you know, once the tyres were getting older, we were going backwards, but once we committed to the one-stop, I think that was it. But it was obviously the slower strategy today. So, not so enjoyable when you are in the car and you are going backwards. I was fighting through the people and had a nice battle with Daniel, but just couldn’t get close enough. But yeah, I think it’s nice also with him to fight the last couple of laps. And, you know, both of us finishing the points. So yeah, it’s been a big weekend.
Q: Seb, you have the microphone, please leave us with a message.
SV: Well, I don’t have that much more to say. I feel a bit empty, to be honest, it’s been a big weekend. But I can only repeat, you know: I think the last two years have been very, maybe disappointing from a sporting point of view, but very, very useful and important to me in my life, a lot of things happened. A lot of things that I realised. I think it’s a huge privilege being in the position that we are in and with that comes some responsibility. So I hope to pass on a little bit to the other drivers to carry on some of the good work. It’s great to see that, you know, we have the power to inspire you with what we do and what we say. So I think there are far bigger and far more important things than racing in circles, but obviously it’s what we love and through that if we can transfer some of the really important values that’s big. And I think for that the last two years have been have been great for me. So thank you for the support. Thank you for the messages, the letters and all the love in general. So yeah, I will miss that. But it’s been an absolute joy throughout my career, so thank you. Thank you.
Q: Well done Max, what a way to end the year, with an incredibly dominant win. Just how much satisfaction does this one give you?
MV: It was a good race. I knew that if I would want to do a two-stop, it was a little bit compromised because I didn’t have two Hard tyres, so my target was always to try and make sure that the one-stop was going to work. On the Medium tyres initially, I think we had very good pace – just my last three laps on that tyre was a little more tricky but I had to get to a certain lap, right? And I think we managed to extend that stint quite well. And, yeah, once I put the hard tyres on, I brought them in quite nicely because I had a good gap. And at one point, I wanted to go a little bit faster, but we were still not sure if the tyre was going to hold on for the whole stint to the end. So, it was a bit of management to see if you could make it but then at one point, I hit, kind of a crossover where then the two-stop is not going to work anymore. But luckily, at that point, the tyres were really good and I could just continue to the end.
Q: And car balance, was that good?
MV: Yeah, it was very nice.
Q: So, I mean, just compare it to what you had in Brazil last weekend…
MV: Ah, completely different weekend. I mean, Brazil, we had a lot of struggles. And I think we understood already quite a bit what went wrong there. But yeah, from the start, we were a lot more competitive here.
Q: So Max, give us your final thoughts on what’s been an incredibly dominant year by you.
MV: It has been a great team effort, especially after our tough start to the year, to turn it around like that, I would have never imagined that, like nobody in the team. But it’s been really enjoyable to be part of this team. We have a lot of fun. Of course, we focus on the performance but you also need to really enjoy the moment, appreciate the moment. And I think we definitely did that. We will do but we already also focusing on next year. You always say you try to do better. I know it’s hard to do a lot better than this but you should always try to aim for that.
Q: Which has been your best win?
Q: And look, we’ve got 105 days until it all kicks off again in Bahrain next year. What’s the plan over the winter for you?
MV: Try not to do too much! Relax a bit, have holidays, spend time with family and friends.
Q: Charles, coming to you. P2 In the race and in the World Championship, just how tense was it getting in those closing stages as Checo was closing?
CL: It, it was really, really tricky. Especially at the end of the stint on the Hard, even though we did a really, really good management to be honest. It’s tricky, because when you get to the end of the race, the front-locking started to become a problem, so it was very easy to do a mistake. But at the end, we kept everything under control and managed to keep Checo behind. But I think today was a really, really perfect execution from our side. I don’t think we had the pace of the Red Bulls still, and our goal from the beginning was to try and push Checo do something different, which we did perfectly. And again, with a great tyre management, we made the one-stop work, which eventually got us the second place.
Q: Just talk us through that tyre management. Max referred to it as well. How difficult was it to get that one stop to work?
CL: It was really difficult, especially on the Medium starts because obviously you do the first part of the race trying not to fight too much. But obviously in the first few laps Lewis was quite close after that. I don’t know what happened, I think he had to give the position back to Carlos. And then at that point, I could manage my tyres a little bit better. It gave me a little bit of breathing space. And then from that moment onwards, then I think we did a great job.
Q: Was the plan always to one-stop? Or would you have done the opposite to what Checo was doing?
CL: The plan was always to do a one-stop. But yeah, we managed to push them into doing two stops.
Q: Looking back at the year as a whole. How do you sum it up?
CL: It’s difficult to sum it up. I mean, obviously, if I take a step back, considering from how far we come from last year, it’s an amazing step forward. But obviously I cannot ignore our middle part of the season that has been super-frustrating. We went from leading the Championship with quite a bit of points to being behind by quite a bit of points. And that was a frustrating part of the of the season. So yeah, all in all, we just need to take all the mistakes that we’ve done this year and try to improve for next year. I think we really did some step forwards in terms of strategy and the way we have been taking decisions recently, in the last few races. Unfortunately, it was a bit more difficult to show it because the pace is not as good as the beginning of the season. But I’m confident that in terms of pace, we will manage to catch Red Bull back next year.
Q: And what’s the plan for you over the next 105 days?
CL: Oh, pretty similar to Max. Try to do the least things possible. Obviously it’s a long season and next year is going to be even longer. So yeah, I’ll just relax with family and friends.
Q: Checo coming to you now, you came close but were just over a second shy at the flag. How frustrating is it to get this close to P2 in the Championship?
SP: Well, I think it’s how this sport really works. You know, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Today, I think Ferrari and Charles did a fantastic race. They have great tyre management. And they were stronger than us, especially on that first stint. I died towards the end. And that made it a little bit tricky, our strategy. And it was that second stint, while I was behind Max, Max was on a one-stop, I was on a two-stop, and then I ended-up not being able to, to maximise this stint, and I couldn’t push as much as we should have pushed on that second stint. But at the end of the day, we gave it all. And that’s what really matters.
Q: When you were being held-up by Max, did you consider converting to a one-stop?
SP: Yeah, we were discussing it at some points. But, yeah, I think we thought that the deg was going to be higher than it really is. And we just didn’t push as much as we should have pushed on that second stint, and probably will left two seconds on the table there.
Q: And the season as a whole? This is your 11th podium of the season. How do you sum it all up?
SP: Yeah, it’s been… like Max said, how we started the first few races as a team, with the reliability issues that we had, to come away and have done such a strong job as a team, it’s very encouraging. And I really hope that we can keep this momentum going for Red Bull, and come back next year even stronger. I believe that the competition will be a lot closer for next year. So, I really hope that we can keep this momentum going.
Q: And what’s next for you?
SP: Time to relax a bit, play some golf, get the handicap down.
Questions from the floor
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to Charles please. This appears to be a great recovery from where things sat for Ferrari in FP2. We heard you asking your engineer in that session, ‘why are we so slow on the race pace?’ What would you say was the key to that recovery and this excellent tyre preservation you had in the second stint today?
CL: Well, I think it was a combination of changing the setup from Friday to Saturday and putting a bit more importance on the race, and, and obviously the driving style also that I’ve changed quite a bit overnight from Friday to Saturday. And this paid off today.
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) It’s a question to Max. You’ve said before that the focus is pretty much on 2023, also in the factory, while some other teams, especially Mercedes, brought some major upgrades in the last couple of weeks, still, you managed to get a really, really dominant win in here. So what does it tell you going into next season? And we expect the pecking order to be much closer than it was at the beginning of this year, especially with Ferrari and Mercedes?
MV: I do think it will be closer. People are understanding the cars a lot more. And, yeah, over time all the teams will just edge closer. But from our side, yeah, it’s been a really positive weekend. So that’s, of course, really encouraging also for next year. But we also know now, over the winter, we really have to keep pushing and keep trying to find performance and not only performance, understanding, possibly the tyres even more, because the tyres will change a bit for next year. So yeah, let’s see how we are going to manage all of that.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Max, last year, you said with the battle with Lewis, that you could not take any more of the intense championships that go down to the wire. Given that if Mercedes are also in the mix next year? Are you prepared for a back and forth title over the course of 24 races? And to the other two drivers, if you were to be in more than a mix like that, do you think these intense seasons would get too much for you? And how would you be prepared for that?
MV: If you’re not prepared, then it’s better to stop already, right? I mean, I think we’re all racers and we love racing. Of course it’s just that it’s nice to have a season like I had last year but it’s also nice to have a season like I have this year. It just would be very tough if you have that every single year you know, the year I had last year but that also doesn’t really happen in Formula 1 so it should be okay.
CL: Yeah, I agree. I think we are all prepared for longer seasons. I hope it will be tight. It’s always nice to have a fight until the until the end. But yeah, I’m prepared for more races and for a longer fight hopefully.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Charles, you praised your team for developing strategy and pit-stop execution but you did say there was a drop off in pace. Could you clarify, now, at the end of the season, how much that was related to the technical directive after Spa when it did look like there was a decline with tyres and speed?
CL: I honestly, I mean, not I, but we, honestly don’t believe that this has hurt us. We don’t believe that it has hurt us. But, yeah, obviously, we’ve been looking into it quite a lot and we don’t think it’s coming from that.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Checo, you said your tyres died towards the end of the first stint, so was it always the plan for you to stop twice? Or did that happening force you on to a two-stopper?
SP: Yeah, that was always the plan for us. We, we knew we were going on to the two-stop. And by the way, we probably thought after the first stint that the deg was higher than it was really in the end, so we didn’t push as much as we should on the two-stop, especially in the second stint.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, obviously you were running ahead of Charles by a good chunk in the final few laps as Checo was closing in? Was there ever a call for you to drop back and maybe hold him up enough that Checo can make a move?
MV: No, there was not, but also that is quite a tricky call to make. You also don’t want to end up… of course, you can possibly block but is that fair racing? I think not the nicest way going out of the season, like that. And it looked like Checo was catching him enough to try and actually get a move but then he lost quite a bit of time with that bit of a fuss between… was it Pierre and Alex probably? You lost quite a bit of time with that, because I was watching the screen. But yeah, unfortunate. I think, like Checo said, that second stint, because the deg was quite high on the Medium, in hindsight, probably, as a team, we could have pushed a bit more on that on that middle stint for Checo, but that’s always easy to say afterwards. At the time, we thought that we had to be a little bit careful on the tyres. Again, we’ve had a lot of great weekends, but even in great weekends, there are always things that you can learn.
Q: (Panagiotis Seitanidis – Car Magazine Greece) Charles, the season started very well and ended in a different way. I guess it’s a mix of things that lead to that result. Can you prioritise this list? And secondly, what are the lessons you have learned after the season that will make you come back even stronger next season?
CL: Well, honestly there are three key elements. It’s difficult to rank them but reliability has been a problem at one point of the season, which we paid the price for later on with penalties and other things. Strategy, I think we’ve done too many mistakes at one point of the season and tyre management. We haven’t been consistent enough at our 100%. Today was a good race but we also sometimes have very bad races and we don’t seem to have the understanding yet of how to have a good tyre management all the time. So these are the three key aspects in which we are focusing on at the moment. I felt like strategy has been definitely a step forward in the last few races, as I was saying before. Difficult to show because we don’t have the pace that we had at the beginning of the year but the way we communicate, the way we take decisions is better. Of course, there was a few mistakes, but I think we took better decisions coming race day. Tyres, strategy and obviously reliability that we cannot forget are the three things that we’ll be focusing on.
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) Max, I don’t think drivers particularly look forward to it after the long season we had, but we do have a tyre test coming up on Tuesday. How important is that and the data for the process you just talked about in the winter? And secondly, what are your first ideas about the 2023 tyres that you’ve tested so far?
MV: Yeah, let’s wait and see. We’ve tested a few different things so let’s see what they will bring here and then get our conclusions on it. And yeah, it’s important to get the first read and make sure that we already have a basic understanding before we go into next season. But again, every track is different, so yeah, it’s of course always nice to run these tyres but throughout the season, you will always learn a lot about them.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Charles, is there anything apart from the team on a personal level or where do you think you could have pushed extra in this championship, on an individual level? Or where do you think you could have pushed more to give a better fight or even to clinch this championship?
CL: Well, if anything, I could have pushed less on some occasions like in France, but no, I think in the first few years, there was always an area in particular where I was focusing on because I knew it was a weak point. I think now, it’s been quite a few years that I’m in Formula 1 and it’s more about getting the details and being at my 100% as often as possible. So, yeah, this is where I will try to focus on next year to try and be on my 100%. And then I’m confident that whenever I’m at my 100% I am really good.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Sergio, it has been mentioned about being held up behind Pierre Gasly, I just want your thoughts on that incident. At the time you decided to give them a hand gesture, and then how you felt that impacted the late battle with Charles?
SP: Well, I certainly lost a bit, probably a second or so or probably more. It was clearly blue flags, but he was in a fight and it’s pretty hard not to give up the position. I think he was thinking to go for the move but I just end up being there and I thought he left it opens. I went for it and luckily I could brake at the last minute otherwise there would have been contact so I think in normal conditions that will certainly be a penalty for Pierre but it is the last race. I’m just happy to go home, don’t discuss anything and it’s how it goes sometimes. So nothing really more to add.