Monaco Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

Monaco Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

Monaco Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three Monaco Grand Prix, Round 6 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship.

Featuring the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), second-placed Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) and third-placed Esteban Ocon (Alpine).

Track interviews conducted by David Coulthard

Q: Max Verstappen, your second victory around the streets of Monte Carlo, your 39th victory in total. It looked like dominance, but that was not an easy race today?

Max Verstappen: No, it was quite a difficult one, because we were on the Medium initially. And of course, Fernando was on the Hard tyre, so we didn’t want to go that long, but we had to stay out because the rain was coming. So we didn’t know really what was going on. And yeah, the tyre was graining and then it took a few laps to get through that graining phase and then the pace picked up a little bit, but it was still very tricky to drive. Then it started to rain, lap by lap a bit more than more. So at one point, of course, we had to make the call to go on to the Inters, but it was incredibly slippery. When you’re that far in the lead you don’t want to push too hard. But also you don’t want to lose too much time. So it’s quite difficult, you know, in that scenario. I clipped the walls a few times. It was super difficult out there, but that’s Monaco!

Q: It’s Monaco indeed. You say you clipped the wall. It looked like you were trying to run down the barrier between Portier 1 and Portier 2, before entering the tunnel. That must have been a heart-in-the-mouth moment?

MV: Yeah, I locked the rears and I couldn’t get out of it. So it’s just trying to control it with a bit of drifting. But luckily, the wall, in a way, stopped it from sliding even more.

Q: How important is this victory in Monaco? We talk about it being the jewel in the crown of the Grand Prix season.

MV: Yeah, it’s super nice to win it. It is also super nice to win it, I think, in the way we did today, with the weather and everything, to stay calm and bring it home. And yeah, again, a lot of points for the team as well. So it’s great.

Q: And further extending your lead in the World Championship.

MV: Yeah, exactly that.

Q: Well, go and enjoy the podium ceremony. Now, Fernando Alonso, your fifth podium in six races. You are Mr Consistent this year. We thought that you were really going to try and get around Max into Turn 1 but you stayed true to your word, you just focused on consolidating that second place in really difficult conditions.

Fernando Alonso: Yeah, it was difficult. Also, we opted to start on the Hard tyre. So we gave up a little bit the possibility into Turn 1, due to the short run. And we thought to play a long game with the strategy but Max drove super well on the Medium tyres to extend that first stint. So we didn’t have any chance. Then at the end the rain, made things complicated out there. And it was not easy to drive around.

Q: You are one of the most experienced Grand Prix drivers out there. You are the most experienced driver out there! Put us in the cockpit in those sorts of conditions. You know, I remember doing a warm-up here where I couldn’t get full power around the lap.

FA: Exactly, exactly. Not full power around the lap. Braking was extremely fragile into Turn 5, into Turn 10. So yeah, it was not easy and I was surprised that there was no Safety Cars, no incidents. So I think everyone was doing an amazing job today to keep the cars on track.

Q: And now we have a third place finisher, Esteban Ocon. What a timely moment for you to have your third podium in what is the 50th race for Alpine. You drove beautifully all weekend in incredibly difficult conditions. Where has this turn of form come from?

Esteban Ocon: Esty Besty’s on the podium, baby! Yeah, I mean we’ve done it. It was superb weekend from everyone at the team. You know, from the first day, from the simulator to really all the practice sessions, we improved the car from beginning to end and yeah, we didn’t make a wrong foot any time, even when we put the Inter tyres, it was the perfect lap to do so. And yeah, I’m just enjoying the moment now. It’s been a while since I’ve been on the podium and I hope this is the first of many.

Q: We heard from Max Verstappen that he touched the wall a few times. We saw him ride the barrier between the Portiers. Did you have any contact during the Grand Prix?

EO: I’ve touched the wall enough yesterday! I didn’t have today. So yeah, it gives less of a heart attack to the team.

Press Conference

Q: Max, what a race, what a win. Monaco in the wet. How tough was that?

MV: Yeah, it was quite hectic towards the end. But also, I think the whole race was all about like management. Because, Fernando starting on the Hard made me do a very long stint, probably almost double to what we would have liked, but because of the rain in the area, we couldn’t really stop. I mean, if it would have been nice and sunny, I would have stopped, put the Hard tyre on, and you catch up and you wait until Fernando does his pitstop, but we couldn’t do that because the risk of rain was around so I had to stay out. The tyres were graining, I had to go through that graining phase, which wasn’t that easy. But then luckily it picked up a little bit but then of course, it started to rain. And with really worn tyres, to go through there was not really enjoyable. Clipped a few barriers, especially on my in-lap, I think. It was very, very difficult. But even on the Intermediates after that, it was still very slippery through the second sector. It was quite wet there. And yeah, the hard bit is that, you have a good lead, but of course, you don’t want to risk too much, but also you don’t want to drive too slow, because then you have no temperature in your tyres. So, just trying to find a bit the middle ground initially was a bit tough, but then after a few laps, I think I settled in and felt quite comfortable.

Q: What was your reaction when you looked across and saw Fernando on the hard tyre at the start?

MV: I mean, I wasn’t really shocked or anything, but because of the weather, I knew that my first stint could be a long one.

Q: And, of course, this is your 39th win for Red Bull, surpassing Sebastian Vettel’s tally for the team. What does that mean to you?

MV: If you have a good car for a while, you can break these kinds of numbers. But yeah, it’s great. I mean, I would have never thought that I would be in this position in my career. When I grew up, I wanted to be a Formula 1 driver and winning these races is amazing. It’s better than I could have ever imagined, for sure.

Q: Fernando, coming to you now. Great job as well. Second place your best result of the season so far. How would you sum up your emotions after today’s race?

FA: I’m very happy. I think the race was not easy to execute. When the rain came, made things a little bit difficult for everybody. Especially when you are on a podium place, you don’t want anything strange to happen, any choas. And yeah, I was expecting a lot of Safety Cars and things, which didn’t come. I think everyone was behaving really well and controlling a very difficult car – between [Turns] Five and Eight especially. So yeah, I have been few times third this year; today second, so we only miss that one step.

Q: Did that extra stop for the Medium tyre cost you a chance of winning this Grand Prix?

FA: I don’t know. I heard this question in the TV pen as well. Which, I was surprised a little bit. I didn’t leave the race from the cockpit, as you probably saw on the outside. For me, it was very clear that the track on that lap we stop was completely dry, apart from Turn 7 and 8. So, how will put the Inters? It was completely dry, 99 per cent of the track. So, I stopped for dries. The weather forecast, it was small shower, and the small quantity of rain as well, what we had, as a team, and we had a lot of margin behind us, to put the dry tyres and, if necessary, the Inter tyres, so, you know, maybe it was extra safe, I don’t know. But that minute and a half that it took to go through Turns 5, 6, 7 and 8 again, it changed completely, so the out-lap on the dry tyres, it was very wet when I go to those corners, but the lap that we stopped, it was completely dry.

Q: How would you think it would have played out had the race stay dry?

FA: I think we didn’t have a chance, to be honest. I think we were brave on the strategy: it’s not normal that you start on the first row of the grid and you choose the Hard tyre, trying to do the opposite of the leaders. And that shows the commitment from the team and how aggressive everyone was in Aston Martin, trying to get the win. We knew that it was some downside that the strategy we could have ended-up maybe P5, P6 or something like that, out of the podium. But this morning, we discussed it and we said we’ve had couple of podiums this year so we go for all or nothing, we start on the Hard tyre. And we didn’t have the pace. That was the only problem we had in the race. I think the strategy was good. The Medium tyre was behaving surprisingly good in our opinion. We were hoping for more graining or bigger degradation and Max was able to drive 50 laps on an amazing pace, and that was the reason why he won the race. Not because the strategy: he was just faster than us.

Q: Esteban, the first Frenchman on the podium here at Monaco since Olivier Panis, in 1996, your first podium since you won in Hungary, of course, what does this one mean to you?

EO: It’s been a while, feels good, I can tell you that! I’m speechless at the moment. I’m a little bit on my cloud still. You know, before the weekend, if you told us that we are going to be in the top 10, we would have been happy. It would have been a strong weekend. But we are not in the top 10, we are not in the top five, we are on the podium this weekend here in Monaco. And yeah, that shows really that never stopped believing. You know, we had a difficult start to the season but from the first session, I felt strong in the car, felt confident at the wheel. I was able to push, session after sessions, closer to the limit than I’m usually doing in Monaco. And, and yeah, I mean, that allowed me to do the lap I did yesterday, which is obviously 90 per cent of the job – normally – in Monaco. But it was not really the case today! Today has been a little bit of a harder race. We hold that podium for a while, we had it secure but you know, I got a touch from Carlos at one stage, got damage on the on the back of the car. And then the rain shuffled everything again, and we had to choose to take the Inters at the right time. And we did so. And from there on I was under a huge amount of pressure from Lewis. We seems to be always the two fighting together when the conditions are like that! So yeah, we know each other well in those conditions. And yeah, until the last lap, he was pushing flat-out. He was quicker in the wet section from Five to Eight, and I was quicker on the dry sections. But yeah, it’s been an incredibly tough race to get under control but the reward is immense. So, I’m extremely pleased.

Q: Have you been surprised by the pace of your car this weekend?

EO: Yeah, I have been. I think, as soon as we put it down from the simulator days, really to all the practice sessions, we’ve been improving step-by-step and never stopping doing it. And it’s been a very different weekend compared to my usual Monaco weekends, where I was not afraid to go close to the walls very early. And that’s what we’ve done. And yeah, extremely surprised us for sure. I think we should keep feet to the ground at the moment. Obviously, we’re on the podium here, we will enjoy all together. And yeah, I want to thank all the team, obviously Enstone, Viry, the team on-site here. That podium, not win, not yet! That podium is all for them. But yeah, Barcelona is going to be a very different characteristic. A track that everyone knows and a good test for us to see where we are exactly.

Questions from the floor

Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Diario AS) Fernando, how far do you see yourself from the title fight? You’ve been steady this season. Your results are fourth, third, second, and now you’re 12 points behind Checo. Do you think at some point during the season, you can get closer to the Red Bulls?

FA: Let’s see. I think in any other… of the seasons that I remember, back in the 2000s or early 2010s, I will be leading the championship with the results that I got this year but now there is Red Bull and Max dominating every race and even with great results, you’re just stepping behind them, every race. So I don’t know. We didn’t have the best car in 2010 and we arrived leading the championship in Abu Dhabi. We didn’t have the best car in ’12 and we still fight for the championship until the last lap in Brazil. So the championship is long, we will not give up. We will need weekends where Red Bull has some issues like Sergio had here with the DNF or zero points. And if Max has one or two of those, we will be a little bit closer in the championship. This is motorsport. Anything can happen. But on pure pace. I think we don’t have the chance yet. But we will not give up for sure.

Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) Max, on your first five laps on intermediate tyres, you started to lose a little bit of time to Fernando, I think it was about five seconds in the first five laps. Could you just explain, basically, whether it was just a case of getting the tyres warmed in and then how you’re able to stabilise that and then expand your gap?

MV: Well, it was just that I had a big lead and I didn’t want to risk trying to be the same pace or faster and then end up in the wall. You have to be a little bit more careful. It’s just not take too much risk but at the same time, of course not drive too slowly. I think I had Lando in my gearbox as well so at one point, I was like, well, I do need to speed up a bit. But yeah, it’s not a comfortable situation to be in, when it’s like that to run here in the wet but luckily after five laps to change a few things on the steering wheel as well to just give me a bit of a better balance and that definitely helped as well.

Q: (Rodrigo Franca – Car Magazine, Brazil) Fernando, so you had third, second and the win seems close now in 2023. And it’s 10 years of your last win, and especially in the Spanish Grand Prix when you had your last win. So I would like to ask if you think that’s possible for your fans in Spain, and it would be a great story for your new fans from Netflix, right?

FA: Yeah, it will be but I don’t think that I will not put any pressure on my team or myself into next week. We saw today on race pace… yesterday was very close in qualifying but today in the race, we saw Red Bull again, very dominant. So we have to accept that things into next weekend will be maybe as we saw in any other race this year, where Red Bull is untouchable. And we have to see in a normal circuit, what is the package of Mercedes and the upgrades that Ferrari will bring apparently to Barcelona as well. So we have to have the feet on the ground and as I said in Miami, it’s going to be a few weekends in the year that we will just be seventh and eighth and we have to accept that and some others that we will fight for podiums. So I will not get into Barcelona, thinking that I will win, and disappoint anyone. We have to have the feet on the ground.

Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Esteban, you mentioned how much this obviously means for the whole team but particularly after Laurent’s recent comments about the team’s performance and where it’s at at the moment. How much of a big boost is this to everyone at Enstone, and I guess to show that you guys are going in the right direction?

EO: Why everyone’s delighted, that’s for sure. Formula 1 is unpredictable. You don’t know what’s going to happen and at the moment how tight the field is, a little bit more pace can change your weekend completely. And, and yeah, this weekend, it’s been an awesome one, an awesome preparation and yeah, as I keep saying, we keep pushing, we don’t stop believing and hopefully that’s the first podium of many.

Q: (Pedro Fermin Flores – TheGodFlores) Max, first of all congratulations for your win. Some time ago, teams and drivers said that Monaco will be like a first match ball to beat Red Bull and you. You finally win the race, you’ll win the match ball. Do you think they will have much more races during the season and in case, which one do you think will be the next? And for Fernando, a very difficult question: what it means when you were in the podium, and you put your foot on the step of winners? It was a kind of message for your great friend, Max as next time I will be there or perhaps don’t wait for me tonight to take care of the flowers or your home?

MV: I don’t know, to be honest, where the next one can be but it can be next week, because we always need to be perfect to really get everything out of it. We know that in the race we are very strong. But like Fernando said, we cannot afford the DNFs and stuff. And yeah, we need to just try and keep improving. I mean street circuits, I think, overall it’s always a little bit more hectic, a bit more chaos around it. But yeah, it’s difficult to say which track can be the next one.

FA: Nothing really. I will always take a picture and on position one at the end after the champagne. So yeah, I touch it a few times already this year, but I will love to receive the trophy from there. But yeah, I’m not getting obsessed with this to be honest. I will be happy fighting for the championship with all second places until the end of the year or fighting for the championship next year. This year is just a gift, what we are having every weekend is just a celebration on the team. We didn’t expect this and this is just a build up into next year so hopefully good things are coming.

Q: (Gerard Bos – Formula1.nl) Towards the end of the race, you were losing your car almost couple of times, almost hitting the barriers. Why didn’t you slow down a little bit more because you had a margin of almost 19 seconds towards Alonso?

MV: My engineer was asking me the same thing but it’s more when you’re on a rhythm, it’s better to just stay in that. I think just one time out of 16 I clipped the barrier. But I thought I had a bit more margin and then I just I touched those… okay, I didn’t have the margin. But yeah, it was fine. It’s better to be in a rhythm and feel good than slowing down and then be a bit out of your zone, and then also your tyres get colder. It’s not what you like, they were already quite cold, so which is better, I think to stay in that because I was not overdriving it or whatever, it was just in my own zone.

Q: (Carlos Miguel – MARCA) Fernando, you are one of the drivers who knows how to read a race. I don’t know the race, you understand that, but maybe you could race with an extra stop and without put inters in the first stop. And the other part of the question: is you ask to the box on the radio, do you ask about I want inters?

FA: As I said before, when it started raining into turn five, six, and seven, I was with the hard tyres and they were quite old with 50 laps and it was difficult to put temperature on those tyres and in that part of the circuit. So we thought about stopping and the decision was to stop for the mediums or the inters. I asked about the forecast; they said there’s gonna be a short shower, but we don’t know the quantity but it shouldn’t be not too heavy. And yeah, I said we go for the dries, we go for dries because turns five, six, seven it was a few drops of rain and the rest of the circuit was dry. And then it rains heavier. And then the inters was a better choice. It stopped raining or it only rains in those three corners for five minutes and then you’ve made the right choice. This is wet races in Formula 1. But we had huge margin behind to do two stops if needed, one for the dries and one extra for the inters and we thought it was the right thing. So it was a complex race to read, to execute and we are P2 so I know there were a lot of questions in the TV pen as well about treating the inters and try to win the race but honestly, this is a different race than what we saw in the team. And we are P2 so we are very happy, very happy with the race because the P1 was very fast today, on any tyre, in any condition Max was always 15 or 20 seconds in front of us. So there was no chance to win today.

Q: (Sergio Lillo Martinez – Relevo.com) Esteban, I don’t know if this is a turning point for Alpine after your start of the season and if you have feel some kind of envy for Fernando, seeing that he has been on the podium almost every race this season and last year was your teammate?

MV: … 500 starts, just mentioned it.

EO: Yeah, that’s true, actually.

MV: The clock is ticking.

EO: Forgot the question… We will see next week. I think it’s a very different track in terms of characteristic here but clearly the car fell more alive and I had a lot more confidence in it to start the weekend. So we did bring some updates that were supposed to be quite small but everything we had it goes in the right direction today. Yeah, it definitely felt good and I hope that this is the start of something, but I think we need to keep our feet to the ground, see where we are next weekend. It’s going to be a good test. And then yeah, we’ll see. And about the next part of the question, I think, big respect to Aston Martin for what they are doing. I think they’ve shown really the way that this is possible, to go from the midfield to be a top team and we should all take example of that.