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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 01: Sprint winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing (C), Second placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing (L) and Third placed Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari (R) pose for a photo with their trophies in parc ferme during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 01, 2023 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Austria Sprint Race Top Three Press Conference

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 01: Sprint winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing (C), Second placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing (L) and Third placed Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari (R) pose for a photo with their trophies in parc ferme during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 01, 2023 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three press conference after the Sprint Race at the Austrian Grand Prix, Round 8 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship, at Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.

Featuring winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), second-placed Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing) and third-placed Carlos Sainz (Ferrari).

Parc Ferme interviews by Naomi Schiff

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Q: Carlos congratulations. A recovery to start that race fifth, and then third. It seemed like you really had the pace out there. How much are those upgrades working for you this weekend? 
Carlos SAINZ: Yeah, tricky conditions out there, especially because it’s the first time that we run with the Inter the whole weekend, so you never know what to expect from the balance, from the grip on the track, and to do it in the middle of a race and to experiment in the middle of a race is never easy, but it looked like we had decent pace. I was struggling a little bit in the high speed at the beginning of the race. Then I managed to gain a bit the pace back and I could stay close to Checo, but the Red Bulls were just too quick for us today.

Q: It seemed like you could maintain that pressure on Checo for quite a long time during the race but at the end there you both were lapping a little bit slower than Max at the front. Did you not have the grip you needed on those Inters at the end?
CS: I think they were maybe a bit quicker, but there was a point in the middle of the race when we were passing Hülkenberg that maybe I felt a bit more confident, then the track dried up, I degraded a bit my tyres and then I couldn’t really stay very close to Checo in dirty air. But it’s still a good result, a good day for me today, so we will try and put it together again tomorrow.

Q: Well done. Six points in the bag and there is another race tomorrow. Checo, congratulations. Second there today but it seemed like you managed to get off the line really quickly today?
Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, it was a good start and then we had a bit of a fight with Max. I ended up losing a position to Nico. He was very strong in the first few laps, so it was quite hard to get by him.

Q: It seemed like you went quite hard on your team-mate on the run up to Turn 2 and then you felt that he blocked you in Turn 3. Can you run us through that? 
SP: Yeah, I think Max was angry that I went into Turn 2 but I didn’t see him there, I just had a very bad Turn 1, so I tried to protect. But once I realised that he was there I opened up the door and gave the place back into Turn 2. But it’s all fine. We just spoke about it because the visibility, although we were one and two it was very bad, the visibility, out there.

Q: What about the pace during the race? It seemed that after that Turn 3 battle, Turn 4 with Hülkenberg you couldn’t really seem to close that gap up any more to Max? 
SP: Yeah, I think once I got Nico it was all about managing the tyre to make sure that we made it to the end, because otherwise it would have been really easy to miss out, especially with people boxing onto the slicks. I think once I went by Nico it was just bringing it home.

Q: Tomorrow’s another day, congratulations. Max, congratulations, the fans here are totally behind you. But it seems today you were unstoppable once again. 
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, the start was ideal, a bit of wheel spin, but you know after that, after lap one, once we got back in the lead, it was good. I mean just managing the tyres, knowing that if it wasn’t going to rain any more then, you know, 24 laps on an Intermediate it’s quite a lot, but they were hanging in there. I think, of course, the last five laps the slicks were quite a bit faster, but I think for us, so far in the lead, it didn’t make sense to pit, you know. We just hung in there with the Inters which worked well.

Q: Well, it seemed today the only obstacles for you were, potentially, that start, and then your team-mate on the way up to Turn 3. Can you talk us through those two incidents?
MV: It was a little bit of a hairy moment out of Turn 1. And of course when you get forced onto the grass, it’s very slippery, but we managed to keep the car under control and from there we just did our race again.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Max, very well done. In the end it was another dominant performance by you, but it was very close on that opening lap. Can you talk us through the battle with Checo?
MV: Yeah, I didn’t have a great start and then just had a lot of wheel spin, oscillations going on and then you just lose out massively. And then out of Turn 1 had a little moment there, where I had to go with two wheels on the grass, which was very slippery. But then got back on and braked quite late into Turn 3. And then it was all like, two or three wide going into Turn 4. And then we all settled in. And yeah, we knew… I think everyone knew that 24 laps on an Intermediate when the track is drying is quite long. So it was all about just trying to look after the tyres while trying to drive fast as well. But that’s not always the easiest. But yeah, I could extend the gap and look after my tyres quite well. And then in the last few laps I had a few cars around me with slick tyres also, you know, passing and fighting and I just had to stay alert. But I think the race itself went very well.

Q: Max, we haven’t seen you and Checo fight wheel-to-wheel for a few races. Do you feel Checo overstepped the mark in any way?
MV: It’s not about that. I think, you know, we just spoke about it. Because when the moment happens, of course, you don’t know why it gets to that. But then after the race, we talked about it and it’s all good.

Q: Now, as you said, 24 laps on the Intermediate tyre is tough. Just how tough was it to keep the tyres alive?
MV: Yeah, I mean, you can just see already now, the Inters on the car are quite destroyed. But I mean, it’s quite normal, right? The track is also drying quite a lot. So just trying to be smooth. It’s hard to explain, you know, when the track is drying a lot there’s not a lot you can do, but you’re just hoping that they are hanging in there. I mean, of course, some people came through the field on slick tyres. But for us, I don’t think that was an option, really. I mean, we were quite far in the lead and you don’t want to risk anything on an out lap or whatever. So for us, it was better to just stay on the Inter and drive to the end.

Q: Max, if we have similar conditions in the grand prix tomorrow, what did you learn today that might help you tomorrow?
MV: That we’re quick! It should be alright then.

Q: Checo, great job by you, you made a great start, but just talk us through the opening lap, from your point of view please?
SP: Yeah, I had a good start and went a bit deep into Turn 1 so at the exit, I’m just trying to protect my line, didn’t realise that Max was pretty much alongside me, and that he was into the grass. The visibility was quite poor, although it wasn’t raining that much on those first laps. Although I was leading, it was quite hard to see behind, and when I realised Max was there, it was just a little bit too late. And that was it. We spoke about it after the race and yeah, it was just a bit of a shame that I lost the place to Nico, but other than that, I think we got the maximum points for the team and that’s pretty much it.

Q: How was the car today? Do you feel happier with it than you have done for quite a while now?
SP: Well, already yesterday, if it were not for the track limits, I think I would have qualified a lot higher than I did, so yesterday I got caught out with it unfortunately – but I think this weekend has been more solid than the last few.

Q: You’ve had a tough time since Miami. Just how good is everything that’s happened this weekend for your confidence?
SP: I mean, I haven’t lost it, you know, you don’t go from winning races to all of a sudden being a very bad driver. I think people in the sport forget the amount of detail we are operating at. When you don’t have everything together, then you see a big difference. But yeah, I know that I’ve had a rough period. Many drivers have had that but it seems to be even bigger when a Red Bull driver has it.

Q: Just talking of a rough period, you’re sounding quite rough still, bit nasally, how are you in yourself?
SP: Yeah, I’m not that good. Just recovering. It’s going to be a tough race tomorrow.

Q: Carlos, it seems that you’ve been really comfortable in your car all day, right from that first stunning lap in SQ1.
CS: yeah, obviously happy to be here, third, especially given how the day started, that I couldn’t even do the laps at the beginning of Q1, that I had to do a bit of a crazy lap at the end of Q1 to go though only on one push-lap in mixed conditions. And since then, really I’ve felt really comfortable in the car. Also did a couple of good laps in Q3 on used tyres, on Medium tyres. Today just flowed nicely through the Sprint, did a decent start and then kept my pace, followed Checo, was trying some laps to get closer but like always, the dirty air and the graining with the Inters, didn’t allow me to put any more pressure than what I did – but at least the pace was good and I had a very good day.

Q: Had you got past Nico Hülkenberg a little bit earlier, do you think that may have changed your race?
CS: No, I think that I passed him on the first lap that I could really, the first lap… once Checo passed him, I passed him the lap after. He was very quick, Nico at the beginning, and then I guess he degraded the tyres a bit more than us. But then, yeah, around the time I passed Nico, is when I had my tyres in the best operating window and I had quite a lot of pace – but Checo was just a bit too far and we couldn’t catch up. But in general, was a solid race, was very easy to put a foot wrong out there today, first time on the Inters all weekend – so you never know what grip you are going to have.

Q: Also, the first time you’ve gone 24 consecutive laps with the upgraded car. How was the feeling? What can you tell us?
CS: Not bad, not bad. Obviously Max was very far ahead but we also had to do the first part of the race behind Nico. I don’t know. I don’t know how it will be tomorrow with the degradation, with the pace. I hope the car feels as good as it’s felt in Qualifying, which would mean it would be a good race to try and finish in the podium with two cars tomorrow.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Same question to the two Red Bull drivers please. You’ve talked about Turn 1 and Turn 2, heading up the hill. Could you please talk us through what happened at Turns 3 and 4? It looked like in both cases you were quite far away from the apex. Checo, you were off into run-off at Turn 2. Were you both satisfied everything was done correctly in those two corners?
MV: I mean, it’s wet, so you cannot drive on the normal line anyway because there’s less grip there. That’s why also Turn 3,  4 especially, at the outside, in the beginning, had more grip, so that’s where you want to be with the car anyway. And then, of course, when it dries up, you start to move more and more to the inside.
SP: Yeah, nothing really to add. I think we’ve spoken about it. First lap, it’s always tricky in these conditions. So yeah, there is no issues.

Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) For Max and Checo on a similar topic. Obviously the result’s great today but are you absolutely 100% that everything that happened in those battles was just purely circumstantial – or is there something to learn for the future – because obviously there were other cars around that could take advantage of that situation? Fine today: on another day, it might have compromised the result.
MV: It might have. But it didn’t. And yeah… we don’t need to make this a big story, you know? It’s what happens sometimes. We talk about it, we clear it, and that’s fine. That’s how human beings work sometimes.  You question, you answer, solve it, done. Don’t need to write a whole article about it. I hope. Or maybe you can – to get the clicks! If you want.
SP: The race was too boring so this might be the story!
MV: ‘Opinion’, you know. And then get people to answer.

Q: Checo, a few thoughts from you on this topic?
SP: Make a big article about it!

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Max, obviously sad news from Spa. I know you tweeted, I just wanted to get some more words from you on that incident, tragedy there?
MV: Yeah, incredibly sad. I didn’t know him, of course, personally. Of course, he was a Dutch racing driver, up-and-coming racing driver as well, who had the same dreams as we had when we were at that age, wanting to get to Formula 1 or whatever. And yeah, it’s incredibly sad for the whole family, everyone involved, the team,  MP Motorsport. I know quite a lot of people there. Again, we have to look into these kinds of situations. It’s easy to blame the track, but I think also looking at how wet it was and these kinds of things. Yeah, definitely there are things that we have to look at for the future, what we can do better to protect drivers, because I think today it was unnecessary, clearly.

Q: (Zsolt Godina – F1Vilag.hu) How difficult was it to decide on which tyres you will start the race? Did you have any discussions with your teams, 10 minutes before the formation lap to start on slicks?
MV: Well, when I drove to the grid it was only really the last three corners and Turn 1 but it kept on raining, so it was quite clear for me at least to start on the Inter. When I heard there was a car on slicks, I was like ‘good luck!’. It was very slippery for sure in the beginning, so I think for us it was quite straightforward to put the inters on.
SP: Yeah, when we went to the grid, it was obviously a lot better. I went on the Inter and it was raining pretty much only into Turn 9 and 10. So I think the slick was definitely coming into play but as soon as it started raining harder there was no chance for this slick and the grip was extremely low as well at the start of the race. There was more water than I thought.
CS: Yeah once I saw how much it was raining on the grid and how wet it was on the main straight even getting off the line honestly would have been… You would have been sitting duck so I guess it was pretty easy to judge the starting tyre. Obviously the main question was going to be what’s going to happen within 10 laps, 15 laps and if the track was going to dry quick enough for a slick.

Q: (Carlos Platella – FormulaPassion.it) Carlos, you said that you struggled a little bit in the high-speed section today, do you think it’s still a sign of the aero problems, the same problem for Ferrari?
CS: No, I think it was a pure balance thing that we elected to drive on the car today. In the wet we’ve been struggling sometimes with Intermediate tyres to protect the front tyres. I elected to just run a very aggressive balance and probably overdid it and I was oversteering a lot in the high-speed corners due to this, which is not ideal. It takes away a bit of confidence. So yeah, first time on the Inter in the whole weekend so you never know where to put the balance and probably overstepped it. But it’s not a negative sign at all. I think we should guide ourselves by the balance in the dry when we optimise the car and when we did that it looks like we picked up some decent speed in the high-speed corners this weekend.

Q: (Carlos Miguel Gomez – Marca) Carlos, this morning you had a very harsh moment with the brake-by-wire problem. Was that the most difficult moments of season, that tension? And the second question is about this podium. Is this a real sign that Ferrari is in a good way?
CS: Yeah, this morning wasn’t easy. When you are in the middle of a Qualifying out lap and you realise you’ve lost the brakes and then you’re in the garage and you see the clock counting down then you see obviously all your rivals getting their laps in on a drying track, which is normally what do you need to do to gain confidence, I was pretty much thinking the day was a bit over, because I thought I was going to get out-Qualified in Q1 and all that. But then I did an out lap and I just closed my eyes and went for it. I did probably one of the craziest laps of my career, because I had one timed lap only and the track was drying and I didn’t know where the grip was and I just sent it and went P1 and yeah, I actually enjoyed it. Still, thinking about it, it was quite crazy, but so to be up here, P3 today after how the day started and how it went, it was a very good feeling. And I do believe we are on the right track. Hopefully this starts to be the beginning of the turnaround but the end of the turnaround is still far away, you saw it today with how far ahead Max was. But I want to believe this is the beginning of the turnaround. Let’s see tomorrow.

Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Diario AS) Carlos, this is the first top three for you this year. How much are you, the driver, responsible for being back here? Also, when you see your team-mate was suffering a bit today with these tricky conditions? How much is the car? How much is because of the car is improving with some upgrades?
CS: I felt comfortable all weekend. I did, as I said, some really good laps this morning and this put me on a very good state of mind and very good feeling with a car today after making some progress from yesterday. Honestly, I think this year I’ve been quite close to what the car is capable of doing. I know there’s been a lot of P5s, and a lot of jokes going around that I can only finish P5 for so many consecutive races, but I honestly believe there’s not much more we need this year in the first few races but I hope tomorrow there’s more than a P5 on the cards and I can also maximise it and get the second top three on the first proper top three of the season.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, just to take you back to an incident in qualifying earlier today at the end of Q1 with Lewis Hamilton. He got in your way when you were finishing your fast lap at the final corner. You then overtook him when you finished that fast lap and you both seemed to back off coming out of Turn 1. Could you please explain what happened there from your point of view?
MV: Yeah, he blocked me into the last corner, so I had to brake more and I lost like three tenths, so that wasn’t ideal, I think not correct. There was still a few seconds on the clock so I wasn’t sure that my lap time was going to be safe so I wanted to continue but yeah, ran out of time, space, with the two cars like that, which was a bit of a shame.