Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three press conference after the Dutch Grand Prix, Round 13 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship, at Zandvoort.
Featuring race winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull), second-placed Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) and third-placed Pierre Gasly (Alpine).
Track interviews conducted by Giedo van der Garde
Q: Pierre Gasly, P3. Man, I think that must be satisfying, no? What a result for you and the team, the first podium for you together with Alpine.
Pierre Gasly: All I want to say is, let’s go! Yes! I’m feeling so stoked, honestly. What a race, coming back from the summer break and, you know, it hasn’t been the easiest start of the year, just trying to improve race by race and it was good to get some time off, come back and straight into it. We had a third place in Spa in the Sprint, it wasn’t exactly like a normal podium and I’m super pleased for all the guys to get that P3.
Q: When you heard Pérez had a five seconds penalty, I guess you were pushing flat out in the last few laps?
PG: Yeah, I was pretty upset that I got a five second penalty earlier in the race and I was like ‘OK, now it’s 1-1’, and then, yeah, obviously I tried to push as hard as I could to stay within five seconds, and managed to do it. It was a very long race. Very challenging from start to finish and it was greatly executed from all the guys.
Q: Perfect, enjoy it, man. Fernando, P2. Why is it always you love those tricky conditions, on the beginning, at the end, it looks like in the rain, half wet, this is really your thing?
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, it was a very intense race, obviously at the beginning with wet conditions we were very, very fast. And we stopped maybe one lap too late, but the same as the leaders. And yeah, the car was flying today – very competitive, very easy to drive. In these conditions, you need a car that you can trust and I did try the car a lot today. So, I did enjoy, thanks to all the fans. The energy that we live here in Zandvoort is very unique. It was two years ago when this race came, I thought I will never experience maybe the Zandvoort podium because I was not in a position to think about that. And today it’s going to be very special to share the podium with Max and Pierre now.
Q: That’s nice to hear. Was it hard for you, because there’s like a party going on and you have this wait with the red flag and you have to jump back in the car you have to concentrate, but the crowd was going mad. I guess it must be hard to get back in the zone?
FA: Yeah, it is one of those races that is difficult, as you said, to concentrate, to stay focused for such a long period of time but yeah, as I said, I think this is a very special race track, with all the fans and the energy going on, so you feel always very focused. Happy for Max, congratulations to everyone. I did think about trying a move in the last restart but then I thought maybe I cannot exit the circuit so I stayed calm in second.
Q: Enjoy, man. Max Verstappen, for the third time in a row the winner of the Heineken Dutch Grand Prix. This must feel amazing?
Max Verstappen: Incredible and also today they didn’t make it easy for us I think with the weather to make all the time the right calls. But yeah, incredibly proud. I mean, I already had goosebumps when they were playing the national anthem before the start. And you know, even with all the bad weather, the rain, the fans were still going at it, so an incredible atmosphere.
Q: You also now equalled Sebastian Vettel with nine wins in a row. I think that’s mega spectacular. Are you up for the 10th one next week?
MV: I’ll think about it next week. I’m first going to enjoy this weekend. You know it’s always tough. The pressure is on to perform and very happy of course to win here.
Q: Max, what an extraordinary race. So much action, so much tension. How satisfying was it to deliver the win?
MV: Yeah, it’s fantastic. Look at this [shows bags of sweets]. I got this now. It’s the highlight of the day for me. Well, yeah, I mean, the race itself was very hectic, of course. I mean, lining up and seeing the rain coming down, yeah, it was tough to make the right calls. I mean, I thought together with the team, you know, they told me, like, the rain is coming, but maybe not enough to switch to an Inter or maybe survive for a few laps, you know, so we decided together to stay out for one more lap, but that at the end of day was then the wrong call. But it made the race definitely more fun, because from there onwards I had to pass a few cars, I had to close the gap up front. But luckily I think within a few laps I closed down like 10 seconds of the gap. So that was very important for the rest of my race. And when we went on to the slick tyres as well, I think that the tyres were holding on quite well on the car for my stint and it was very enjoyable to drive. But then you think you’re going to have, let’s say, an easy ride home, and then they tell me 10, 15 laps before the end, there’s some rain coming again. And this time it was not just some rain, it was quite a lot. So we pit for Inters and within a lap it almost becomes undriveable on an Inter and we opted to go to an extreme. But the problem we have at the moment is that the Intermediate is basically too good compared to the extreme. So even when there’s a downpour like that you still actually want to be on an Inter because it’s faster, but at one point there were so many rivers on the track it just becomes incredibly dangerous. So at the time, I was a bit, well, not upset, but disappointed with the red flag. But I guess in hindsight, with so many people on Intermediates it was probably the right thing to do.
Q: And Max the car seemed competitive in all conditions.
MV: Yeah, it was quick on the Intermediates and quick on the Soft tyres as well.
Q: Now, what were the most stressful moments in that race? And how worried were you by Fernando, just ahead of that mini-Sprint at the end?
MV: Yeah, I think the first laps on the slicks were quite stressful. You don’t want to immediately go off the track. And also knowing how much grip there is still out there on the tyres, with the amount of water coming down, was not easy. And of course the final restart, you know, with seven laps ago, six laps to go or whatever, I knew that my first lap the whole weekend already has not been the best with warm-up, so I knew that I had to survive that first lap. And yeah, Fernando was pushing very hard behind and I could see him close in my mirrors. But once I had the temperature in my tyres it was all well balanced again.
Q: And you’ve equalled Sebastian Vettel’s record of nine in a row and the team’s unbeaten run this season continues. Can we get your thoughts on that?
MV: Yeah, it was probably one of the more difficult races to win again. But yeah, nine in a row was something I never even thought about. So yeah, very happy with that. But I think I’m in general very happy to win here in front of my own crowd.
Q: Max, very well done to you. Thank you. I’m sure there’ll be some more questions in a minute. Fernando, coming to you now. What a race, your seventh podium of the season. You seem to have incredible pace in all conditions as well?
FA: Yes, today the car was really working really well. And yeah, I felt confident driving. I had trust in the car, which obviously in these conditions you need that level of trust in how much you push. And yeah, the car was fast in dry, it was fast on Inters and probably our most competitive part was at the beginning of the race when it was just a few drops of rain but we still were on the slick Tire. And yeah, quickly we switched to the Inters, so we could not capitalise on that. But we still made some moves – in Turn 3 at the start, on Alex and George, and also on Lando on lap two. So yeah, I was quite happy with the race and it was one of those Sundays where you feel connected with the car, you feel in sync with the car, and everything you do, the car is just answering perfectly.
Q: You were running some upgrades here. Do you think you’ve got back to where you were earlier in the season? Or is it too early to say after a race like that?
FA: I think it’s too early to say. I think that the car is better than the previous events that’s for sure. I felt the car was, as I said, easier to drive. We were more competitive. We’ve been in the top five in every session this weekend. It was not only in the race where we were fast. I think we felt competitive since Friday. But Monza next week is a completely different layout, minimum downforce there and drag. And let’s see if we can still be competitive.
Q: You said on the radio, ‘we will win one soon’, maybe there. One final one from me, Fernando, just give us your thoughts going into that mini-Sprint at the end? Were you thinking about winning or were you thinking of just defending second?
FA: I was thinking about trying. So I was not conservative, let’s say! I thought about what to do, a lot, in the red flag period. So I thought, what were the possibilities, obviously, the move into Turn 2 was something that was in my head, also into Turn 1. I discussed it with the team as well. That was my feeling, that I wanted to try today. But obviously, I don’t want to compromise any big points for the team, because second was very important as well. But they were happy with me to try. I think they have the trust in me as well and in whatever I decide. So yeah, at the restart, I tried in Turn 4 launching the lap, trying to be flat in the banking with the cold tyres, which is a little bit risky, and tried to be side-by-side at least into Turn 1 but I was not that close. So after that I tried some different lines – inside, outside – the opposite of Max for the first lap, in case one of the lines was very grippy or much grippier than he is. And yeah, it was close, but not enough.
Q: Very well done to you, thank you. Pierre, third in the sprint at Spa and then third in the Dutch Grand Prix at the very next race. Feels like you’re on a roll?
PG: Yeah. Yeah, it looks like that. Yeah, I mean, it was extremely tricky today, as Fernando and Max said. All the conditions were pretty much thrown at us from the start. We ended up on slicks in the dry, in damp conditions, then feeding the Inters on the wet, but then on a drying track. So it was all about adapting yourself to the conditions and really playing with the limits. But after the summer break, I was really excited to get back in the car and today was probably the most fun I’ve had all season. Very exciting to be fighting for these positions. And yeah, they were important goals to make but the whole team executed a very strong race. And I’m pleased, because we haven’t been very fortunate since the start of the year, kind of involved in some unfortunate situations on many occasions, which goes to some points and which kind of built some frustration but you’ve got to keep your head down and always trying to improve what you can on yourself, and today it paid off. So yeah, big congrats to the guys and a great way to restart the second part of the year,
Q: Your jump up the order today was made right at the beginning of the race, but you stayed there. Did the pace of the car surprise you in the dry?
PG: I mean, we knew we were starting outside the points and there was this rain coming. Took a good start and out of that last corner, I saw the rain, I could see the intensity, and I saw the opportunity and the reward. So I called it straightaway. I wanted to box, also to benefit from a slightly drier track to warm up the tyres on that first lap. And it really worked out well. So it put us in a strong position, fourth place straightaway. Then there were 71 laps to go. So still a pretty long day at the office. But it felt great. We managed to pull away from the Ferrari, we had a five second penalty, which wasn’t great and put us back behind Carlos, which we had to overtake after that. But all in all, there’s some very good pace and good calls from the team and good strategy. So I’m happy to start this second part of the season in that way.
Q: And was it difficult to stay within five seconds of Perez at the end?
PG: It’s never easy to stay within five seconds of a Red Bull, that’s for sure. But you know, I mean, I saw the opportunity, I knew what was on the table and yeah, just gave everything I had out there. And actually, I expected to struggle a bit more with a warm-up initially, but the conditions were not too bad. So, it was yeah, pretty much a couple of qualifying laps at the end, which were really rewarding and I can feel what he was feeling: I went through it a couple laps before with these five seconds penalties. So yeah, I just tried to get everything I could.
Q: And how much confidence does this result give you going into Monza next weekend?
PG: I think it does give some confidence. I think it’s definitely coming more together with a team. It’s obviously this sort-of adaptation part, since the start of the year, trying to learn from each-other. Last weekend in Spa we had a good top-three finish in the Sprint in Intermediate conditions, like in the wet. Again today, we managed to make the best out of these conditions. There is a clear trend that the car seems to work a bit better in the wet. Now we’ve got to improve and keep working because we’re still slightly further back in the dry. But there were definitely some good signs of pace today and we need to go from there.
Questions from the floor
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for you Max. Will you agree that it’s mostly about risk management for you at the moment, and how is it working with the risk management for you? Is it coming naturally or are you thinking about things like Fernando just explained?
MV: Yeah. Especially in the beginning. And also, when you have this kind of tricky race, for sure, it was a lot about risk management. I mean, when I compare it to a few years ago, where I’m not fighting for the championship, I’m driving completely different for sure. But that’s fine. I mean, even while driving like this, I know that they have a car, which is capable of a lot. So that probably helps to, to be a little bit more in control, I guess.
Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) Max, some people underestimate how hard it can be when, even if you’ve got the fastest car, to keep winning. Is this kind of race the ultimate example of just how hard it can be to keep a win streak going in? How satisfying is it to win a grand prix this complicated?
MV: Yeah, absolutely, I mean, even if you have the best – and I think there have been more dominant cars in the past than what we have at the moment and they haven’t been able to do so, to win nine in a row, whatever, the consecutive wins we have as a team. So yeah, it is hard and especially like today, it’s easy to make a wrong call or even drop it yourself in the gravel or whatever. So, yeah, it’s never that straightforward unfortunately.
Q: (Jesús Balseiro – Diario AS) A question to Fernando. What do you do on Turn 3, first lap. How did you overtake Albon and Russell through the inside on that special corner?
FA: It was FP1 or FP2 it was wet and in one of the out-laps I let a few cars go on the normal racing line and I found a lot of grip on the inside casually, by just letting people go. So, I kept in my head, all the time, all the weekend, in case it was wet. I was ready to try again and, to be honest, when we were on the grid, and the red lights were on for the start of the race, there were a lot of drops in the visor. So, that’s the worst feeling you can have. Because you are ready to start the race on a slick tyre, and on your visor, you see that it’s raining, So, you have no idea of the grip that you will find in Turn 1 braking, or Turn 3. So, I thought everyone will be a little bit cautious in Turn 3 with the grip level, and also just outside Turn 3 there is paint in the Aramco, so you have to be a little bit cautious there. So I thought about the inside line, it could work and yeah, we overtook those two cars. Definitely, that should be the overtake of the month, again. I hope.
Q: (Ronald Vording – motorsport.com) It’s a twofold question to Max. You talked about laps on the Intermediate, when you closed down Checo. At one point you were over four seconds quicker than him. Just how special were those laps behind the wheel, and how many risks did you take there? And secondly, if you compare this Zandvoort win to the previous two, how much more tricky and maybe also how much more rewarding, is this one?
MV: I mean, I knew I had good pace on the Intermediates and I knew that when I had to push, the whole weekend already, you know we were quick. So, it was more about just keeping them alive for whenever you would need them, if there was more rain coming or whatever. So, in the beginning, I think, it was pretty good. But yeah, to compare the wins, I think all of them have been different. So, this one definitely was definitely the hardest one to make all them the right calls to the end.
Q: (Kevin Scheuren – motorsport-total.com) Question to Pierre please. You had a nice wheel-to-wheel battle with Max in the early stages of the race, where it seemed he pushed you a little bit wide in Turn 3. Can you talk us through that moment from your perspective? Especially concerning how stewards may note such a situation – and in other situations they don’t note it and investigate it.
PG: I think I’ve I finished more than five seconds behind Max, so it doesn’t really matter to me, depends how much Fernando pays me, then we can discuss how much you’re willing to give! Yeah, it was a wheel-to-wheel battle and, I mean, Max knew that if you’ll push me slightly wider on the paint in the wet, if I put a wheel on there, then I’ll just understeer wide. It was on the limit. Yeah, if I’ll be in his position, and you’ve got to pass a car, you’ll play with the limit and that’s why you will try. So I’m not too fussy about it. Yeah, it’s just racing. And yeah, close racing.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) One for Max and one for Fernando. Max, since Miami you’ve moved on to another level compared to Checo and everybody else. Has anything in particular happened? Can you explain why that is? And Fernando, what do you make of what Max has achieved so far this year? Do you think he’s operating on a level separate from anyone else? Or do you think you or Lewis, for example, could challenge him if you were in the same car?
MV: Yeah, I think I learned a lot from the race in Baku, how to do some things with the car, how to set it up. Of course, I didn’t win that race in Baku but actually I really tried a lot of stuff and different tools in the car. That’s why throughout the race it was a little bit inconsistent, but at one point, I got into a good rhythm with what I found. But then I damaged my tyres a bit too much. But it was like ‘OK, that’s quite interesting for the next races’. And I basically implemented that and it has helped me on every track.
FA: Yeah, it is underestimated sometimes what Max is achieving. I agree with the comment and the question that your colleague made before. I think to win in such a dominant matter in any of the professional sports, it is so complicated. So to be at the same level of him, obviously, we have a lot of self-confidence, drivers in general. So I do believe that I can do good as well. I don’t know about Lewis, but me, yes! And Lewis as well, and everyone, I think you need to enter in a mood, in a state that you are, as I said before, connected with a car. I think days like today, I felt that I was at my best and have been giving 100% of what I felt and my abilities on a racing car, but maybe in Spa I was not at that level or in Austria or something like that. So you always feel that there is room to improve and you are not 100% happy with yourself, as I am today. And I think Max is achieving that 100% more often than us at the moment, than any of the drivers, so that’s why he’s dominating.
Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) Max, when the second downpour started to come towards the very end of the race, I think you were asked if you wanted to come in and you decided to ask the team to delay your stop a lap. Could you explain your thought process there? Were you just sort of a little bit scared of burning up the Inters too early or did you just feel already quite good?
MV: Yeah, I mean, that lap was definitely too dry in the back, but it started raining, like, on the main street, for example. Then I went again and I came again through Sector 2 and it was still dry. But I don’t know, of course, what’s going on the main straight or Turn 1 and apparently it was really coming down. So then the team told me ‘no, no, you have to come in this lap’. So, it’s a bit of feeling, I think, also, from both sides, you know. Sometimes it can be a little bit more up to you , sometimes a bit more up to the team. And at the end of the day, you have to trust each other in making the right call. And I was very happy that they called me in that the second time around.
Q: (Ed Spencer – Total-motorsport.com) A question to Pierre. Pierre, today you ended a podium drought of over two years. How sweet does it feel considering that the first half of the season was fairly tricky?
PG: Well, it’s obviously very satisfying when you get a reward for the work that we’re all putting in in the team. I think objectively, you’ve got to look at the package that you’ve got. And obviously last year, with AlphaTauri we were nowhere near a podium finish at any point. We just didn’t have the speed. I think this year we came close in Monaco, running in third position and it was clearly a missed opportunity, with the, sort of, extra stop, which wasn’t necessary. But no, it’s a sort of season where you’ve just got to keep trying, just keep trying again and again and there’s going to be a point where things are going to click and today it did, and it was probably the most challenging race of the year. There were a lot of obstacles. There were many moments where we could have got it wrong. But as a team, we just tried to maximise that and that’s why I’m really pleased and I’m really proud of the team, because we haven’t been really fortunate but you’ve got to keep trying and keep looking at yourself and seeing the areas where you can improve. And that’s what we’ve been doing. The top three in Spa didn’t feel the same. Obviously, it was a third place, but it’s a Sprint and I didn’t get to go on the podium. But clearly, this one feels a lot better. And I hope we can build up from there with the guys.