Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three Spanish Grand Prix, at the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, Round 7 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship.
Featuring the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), second-placed Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and third-placed George Russell (Mercedes).
Track interviews conducted by Nico Rosberg
Q: Max Verstappen, what an incredible performance once again from you today. Is this the most enjoyable time ever for you in your Formula 1 career?
Max Verstappen: I mean, it’s a big pleasure, you know, to drive with a car like this. And I think yeah, it showed again today. I mean, we had quite a lot of different types of strategies out there. I think for most of the race, we were on the right one. But yeah, again, a win here it’s incredible.
Q: Max, behind us we just saw that great battle with Carlos Sainz into Turn 1. Take us through that. Was that really on the edge?
MV: I had the harder compound, of course, and I knew the start was maybe going to be a bit tricky. And yeah, going around the outside into Turn 1 is always quite difficult but luckily, nothing happened.
Q: Are you happy to distance your main title rival in Pérez?
MV: I mean, we had another strong weekend and that’s what I like to see for myself from the team. And hopefully, you know, we can just keep that up throughout the year.
Q: Lewis, the crowd is really cheering for you there. That’s nice to see here in Spain. That seemed to be an awesome performance from you, right? Did it feel good?
Lewis Hamilton: Man, what an awesome crowd we have here, like every year. Gracias to everyone here in Barcelona. What a result for our team! We definitely didn’t expect to have the result we had today. So I just really wanted to take my hat off to my team. A big, big thank you to everyone back at the factory for continuing to push and for bringing us a little bit closer to the Bulls. They’re still a bit ahead, but we will keep chasing them down. But this is an amazing result. George did a great job today as well.
Q: It’s so cool to see the positivity, also on the radio there on the in-lap and everything. How far can you still go then? I mean, huge jump there from one race to the next. Now, suddenly, do you think you can still give them a run for their money perhaps a bit later on?
LH: They are a little bit too quick at the moment. But we’re working at it. So just one step at a time. And if we can get close by the end of the year, that’d be awesome. But if not, next year.
Q: And you’re still flat out motivated, right?
LH: Flat out. No lifting.
Q: George, P3 for you after quite a difficult day yesterday. Are you surprised in a way?
George Russell: A little bit surprised for sure, I think. Kudos to the team for giving me a really great car today. I mean, that was a fun race for us, starting from P12 and coming all the way to P3. A sign of things to come hopefully.
Q: Does it actually also feel better to drive? Is it the best feeling you’ve had so far this year in the car?
GR: Yeah, it definitely feels better. You know, you’re just putting in those lap times and you compare it with the guys around you – with the Astons and the Ferraris – and we were just quicker and quicker. So we know we brought some more downforce to the car. We know things are in a better window. So yeah, really pleased to be on the podium.
Q: Very well done Max, a beautifully controlled race. How comfortable were you out front?
MV: I think it was important to try to keep the lead in Turn 1. I know it’s quite tight. But actually, we had a very good start. And then from there onwards I just tried to manage the pace on the Medium. I knew everyone behind me mainly was on a Soft, and I think especially in those last eight laps of that stint I could really create a big gap. And then, of course, we went onto the Hard tyre. And I actually expected them to be a little bit better. But somehow, they just didn’t have a lot of grip and I was actually sliding around quite a bit. The pace was still OK, but I couldn’t really create much more of a gap, not how I would have liked. But then of course, we just did the amount of laps we had to do on that tyre and then we pitted again for the Soft and that actually felt a lot nicer to drive.
Q: Talk us through the decision to start on the Medium tyre, because you won this race last year starting on the Soft?
MV: Yeah, for me it was just very close between a Medium or Soft. The life of a Medium is probably a little bit better than the Soft tyre. That’s why I decided to start on the Medium.
Q: And was there more pace in the car this afternoon had you needed it?
MV: I guess so. If you had to try and catch up, let’s say, probably yes. But it’s not necessary. It’s all about managing your tyres trying to reach the stint length.
Q: Now, quite a lot was made on TV of you getting the black and white flag for track limits? I think it was Turns 5 and 10. Can you just talk us through what was going on there?
MV: Yeah, I went over the white line three times. It happens sometimes. Some tracks it’s a bit easier to do and I was struggling a little bit with the harder tyres to keep it within the white lines. But once I had that last warning then I had to keep it within the white lines. But it’s not an issue really.
Q: And Max, you’re now 53 points ahead of your team-mate in the World Championship. You’ve led every lap of the last two Grands Prix. You were fastest in FP1, FP2, FP3 and qualifying here, just how sweet is this period for you?
MV: It’s a good period. But you know, we have to keep on working and trying to find more performance. I’m happy in the car. And I think the last few race weekends have definitely been a lot more positive for me. But this is one weekend where I think it went really well. But we also know that maybe some other tracks it’s not like this, you know, so a lot of races to come where we again have to perform really well to try and win the race.
Q: Alright, very well done to you and thank you very much, Max. Lewis coming to you. Very well done as well. Your 11th podium here in Barcelona. How sweet was this podium?
LH: This one was very special. I think we got a great reception from the crowd here and to be able to share the podium with my team-mate I think it’s really special, given just the journey that we’ve been on together to try to close the gap to the guys ahead. This is a really amazing day for us.
Q: Now everyone’s talking about the upgrades. How did the car feel to drive over a race distance?
LH: The car felt great today. Friday was a real struggle with the balance, it was way out of the window. It was very hard to drive, very unpredictable. And then we did some great work overnight. We’ve got a great team, with Mick back in the simulator on Friday night and he did some great work, which helped us get on the right track on Saturday. I think we did pretty decent work in trying to understand the different downforce levels. And in the race today the car felt great. But honestly I just couldn’t match the times that Max was doing. And for George to come from 12th to third is just remarkable. So, really awesome result for us as a team.
Q: Great result as a team – but the team was quick here, at this race last year as well. So, is it too early to draw too many conclusions?
LH: Yep! I mean, they normally say if you’re quick in Barcelona then the car should generally be good everywhere, but I think we will be strong in the next races. There will be times when the Aston may be slightly ahead, or the Ferrari maybe is ahead but I think our race pace continues to be a strength of ours, as it was last year. And now I think this weekend particularly, we’ve understood the car even more. So, I think we can count on that being strong moving forward. We’ve just got to try to lift the overall performance of the car a little bit more to try to close the gap to these guys.
Q: Final one from me. Lando, right at the start of the race. You two made contact. Can you just talk us through that incident from your point of view?
LH: I just felt a big hit from behind but obviously Max and Carlos went quite wide and deep into Turn 1 and then they were coming back across, and I basically got in the wake, so I had to be patient, and then I got a hit from behind. I think it was a shame for Lando because he did such an amazing job yesterday. It’s great to see McLaren up there on the second row and I think today even if he was ahead of me going into the corner, we would have overtaken him because we had slightly more pace race trim-wise. And so yeah, not ended up being a great result for him but I think if he was just a little more patient today, he would have had probably a better result but we live and we learn.
Q: George, coming to you now, great to see you back on the podium for the first time since Brazil last year. From 12th on the grid, what did you think would be possible coming into this race?
GR: I think after yesterday we knew it was going to be a challenge but woke up with a bit more positivity and I thought we could definitely move forward, probably fight for P5, P6. I thought P3 would be a little bit out of reach – but the car was really, really great today; the team did a great job with the strategy and it was a really satisfying race, making some good moves on the people around me. Huge thanks to the whole team for bringing these updates forward but equally, we’re not going to get carried away just after this one race, because we know it might be slightly different in the future races, and I think generally Aston and Ferrari were a little bit more off the pace than normal.
Q: At what point in this grand prix did the podium become real for you?
GR: I think quite early on, to be honest. Even after that first stint I believed it was possible when I saw the other cars peeling into the pits: my tyres were feeling good; the car was feeling good, so I think even after two laps I thought, ‘you know what, we can do this today’.
Q: Final one from me. Your thoughts on the performance of the car and how it felt to drive.
GR: Today it was feeling really strong but we know we’ve got more improvements to be made. A little bit cooler today, which maybe played into our favour. We know our race pace is good but certainly we need to make a big step forward to catch-up the Red Bulls and we’re not solely satisfied with P2 and P3. Although it’s a good step forward, we’ve got our sights set right at the very top.
Questions from the floor
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to Max please. I wondered if you could perhaps explain a little bit more about your struggles on that Hard tyre. You’ve spoken before about how things behind the wheel are harder than they look – because it appeared pretty smooth for you this weekend. Was that the case again – especially on that Hard tyre?
MV: It was a worse Medium, to be on the same kind of deg and it was just sliding a lot more. And once I felt that, you just have to do your laps on it. Then of course, luckily we had another pit stop but it was definitely not the most enjoyable stint I’ve ever done in my life – but luckily the car is still fast, so you don’t really lose time. I didn’t expect that with this Hard compound but sometimes you have these surprises. Like I said, it wasn’t as enjoyable and probably a little bit harder to drive.
Q: (Frédéric Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to Lewis and Max. Lewis, you said you couldn’t match the time of Max. Is there a grand prix where you will be able to match him this year – or will you have to wait next year? And for Max, are you worried about the come back of the two Mercedes?
LH: With the current car that we have, I don’t think we’ll be matching their performance but we’re working on improving the car. So, with the current package we’re limited to the pace that we had today, but I think there’s a huge amount of work and studying and improvement that we hopefully will have coming in the future. Naturally, they should also be progressing through the year, so we need to be taking big chunks out of them with every step we take. I think today they were a good few tenths ahead of us. Maybe half a second ahead of us per lap – and on a single lap, that’s a little bit bigger – but I think we’re going in the right direction and I know we have something in the pipeline moving forward, so I’m hoping that at least by the end of the year, maybe we can could challenge them. I’m more focused on making sure next year we have the car to challenge them from day one. And the further we continue to push this car this year, the more that impacts next year also, in some ways. But the more we learn about this car also, that also sets us in the right direction. It’s trying to find the right balance. They’re so far ahead and ultimately Max will continue to win this year – but that means they can start on their development for next year sooner, earlier than anyone else if they haven’t already – and that’s the danger. So, we’ve just got to keep working hard but also try to get the right balance.
Q: And Lewis, will you be at Mercedes next year to drive this car?
LH: Well, I haven’t signed anything yet but I think we’re meeting with Toto tomorrow, so hopefully we can get something done.
Q: Max, your thoughts on the Mercedes’ pace?
MV: I think they had a very strong race, to be honest. I think they are improving but from our side, it’s not about being worried. We just have to focus on ourselves, trying to keep on improving the car. At the moment it all looks great but you can’t’ stand still in this world. We just keep trying to find things on the car, try to learn – like today understand why the Hard wasn’t working with the car. And yeah, we’ll see what happens in the coming races. I don’t know if there are going to be tracks that are better or worse. We’ll find out.
Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Lewis and George, can you tell me how the car felt today? Was it the best car you’ve had underneath you in the past year and a half?
GR: Yeah, I think so, but we go to so many different circuits. The car naturally feels really, really strong. A lot of these new circuits with the new tarmac and when you go to a track like here or Bahrain, there’s a lot of tyre deg. Today, it probably felt the best it’s ever felt around Barcelona because of the cooler conditions. But definitely this season, probably the best it’s felt, the most together it’s felt and as Lewis said, the team’s done a really, really great job. The work that Mick and the simulator team are doing overnight, they were there well past midnight to help us with the setup and get it in a good window for the race today. So we are making strides in the right direction. We just need to make sure, especially into next year, that we hit the ground running because I think we as a team probably develop faster than anybody else.
LH: Yeah, for me, definitely the best car’s been the past year and a half. So that’s kudos to the amazing group of people we have back at the factory who continue to work hard and push the car forward. So it felt the best this weekend; it felt the best yesterday and today than it’s felt for the past 14/15 months, whatever it is. And so that’s super encouraging, I think not only for me but for everybody in the team. This will be a big boost for everybody’s morale. And we’re going to take that energy on to developing the car.
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) Max, yesterday you said you expected Checo to be P2. So are you actually surprised by the step that Mercedes has made with the upgrades and secondly, as Barcelona is quite a good test circuit normally, do you expect them to be the team to look out for the most for the rest of the season, even though your own advantage is quite big?
MV: To be honest, these are all question marks I cannot really answer because it can be track-dependent. I didn’t know. That looks good. (Lewis puts sunglasses on) Maybe we come here with our helmets on next time? But honestly I can’t answer that question because I don’t know and also why did Checo not finish second? I don’t know.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Question to Lewis, one to Max as well, please. Lewis, you dropped a subtle hint there rather a large one, shall we say. You’ve not signed your contract yet but you’re meeting Toto tomorrow. Is there anything that you can tell us about that? Are you confident of getting it done? If so, how important is it to get it done, allowing you to concentrate on pushing the team forward? For Max, just bringing it back to you. You were obviously told to keep within the white lines, risking a penalty. You kind of ignored that and just pushed ahead and got your fastest lap and the bonus point. Do they tell you off – the team – after doing that? Or do they give you a little bit of freedom to get away with things like that?
MV: Well, I kept it within the white lines, I just went a bit faster on the lap. So I didn’t do anything wrong. They don’t know how much pace I have in the car, right, when they tell me this is the fastest lap, don’t bother, but I knew that I could do it. So yeah, I just had to keep it within the white lines but this is something I think we can laugh about already. I was laughing about it with Helmut after the race so I’m pretty sure that they’re quite happy.
LH: Yeah, it wasn’t a subtle hint. We’ve had so many meetings. It’s just another one of the meetings that we’re having. I’m keeping my glasses on because it’s so bright. And yeah, you can see today my results, my performance is not affected by that. But…
MV: You will get the meme now, when you said that with the glasses, looking cool.
LH: It’s always something that’s at the back of your mind so once that’s done, then you’re able to then focus more and think about the future , but as I said I’m working as hard as I can with this team and I see so much strength within the team, I think they’re still so hungry. On the podium today was really, really, really special to be able to see them in the distance… I saw them at the back, they’re always at the back. But to be able to see the excitement in all the people that I’ve worked with such a long time. And when we go back right now there’ll be a great energy within the office but these guys, they’ll take two seconds to enjoy themselves and be happy and then they’ll be back down into the books and trying to figure out how we can win the next race so that’s what I love about them.
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) George, a couple of questions for you. Can you explain what happened when you thought it was raining when it was sweat inside your visor? And was there a point when you past – I believe it was Carlos – and I think Marcus came over the radio and said ‘a solid job’ you’re like ‘just solid’ and then Toto chipped in. Were you surprised to hear Toto at that moment?
GR: Firstly with the sweat, I had my hair dangling down in the first stint, I think I didn’t quite get it in my balaclava and that was annoying me because it was in my peripheral vision. And then as I was sweating because it wasn’t in my balaclava, it was dripping down onto my face. And then when I was braking, it was coming onto my visor so with the grey clouds, and then the spots of water on the visor I thought it was rain. So that was a bit of a bit of an embarrassing one. But moving on. And then no, I think it was just a bit of a joke with Marcus, because we have a bit of back and forth I think. Toto likes the big radio messages of encouragement. And Marcus and I sometimes say… just be nice and calm in a situation is sometimes the best way to get the result. But yeah, it was a pretty decent move on Carlos and yeah, I thought it was a little bit more than solid, but it’s just good laugh.
Q: (Tom Morgan – The Telegraph) Lewis, you mentioned hunger just now. Is this upward trajectory with the car, does it really take you back to some of your hungriest times in your career, and just make you feel younger again? How does it rank? And then how would this rank alongside the great achievements of your career to get yourself competitive alongside Red Bull again?
LH: I think my hunger has never really shifted, I would say. No, don’t feel like that’s… I think I’m in a really great place in my life and I think I’m really happy where I am in my life and I think I’ve got all the ducks in a row, like where I’m able to really focus. Got a great, great, great team around me both off track and on track. There’s great stuff that’s happening with Mission 44 that’s got a great team in London, working on that. And we’re starting to see impact. I’ve got a great team of engineers here that… been with Bono for a long, long time and feel like Bono’s really doing… what Bono and Mike and all the guys are doing is such a such a fantastic job. And I think for me, I feel fit and healthy and I think that was a very solid, very solid race for me. And I think, yeah, I want to keep going for as long as I can. But I want to be where he is [indicating Max]. And or racing him at least. So that’s super, super-focused on getting to that point and yeah, a long way to go. But there’s time,
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, can you just go over again the move against Carlos at Turn 1? Why did you feel it was so important to keep him behind there and defend as hard as you did, given it’s looked pretty easy at times for the Red Bull to get past other cars on the straights this season?
MV: Just imagine it the other way around? I mean it would have been the same story. So yeah, I defend my position like they would have defended their position. So I think it’s quite straightforward.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Max, Lewis was saying that he’s looking forward to hopefully racing you again. How excited would you be by the prospect of perhaps another championship battle with Lewis and George thrown into the mix, too?
MV: Yeah, I think it’s great for the sport in general, right, if you have more teams fighting upfront. That’s, I think, what they want to achieve so honestly that would be amazing, to have more drivers really up there, and hopefully throughout the year it will already get closer and maybe next year there are more teams really up there.