Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three press conference after the Singapore Grand Prix, Round 15 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship.
Featuring race winner Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), second-placed Lando Norris (McLaren) and third-placed Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes).
Track interviews conducted by David Coulthard
Q: Carlos Sainz, your second grand prix victory and, I have to say, what strategically-brilliant racing you had there. You did one-stop, your tyres were gone at the end, but you did it under the heat of Singapore.
Carlos Sainz: Yeah, an incredible feeling. An incredible weekend. I want to thank everyone in Ferrari for making this huge effort to turn around and manage to win this season after a tricky beginning – but now this weekend, we nailed the race, we did everything that we had to do. We did it perfect and we brought home a P1 that I’m sure all Italy, all Ferrari is going to be proud and happy today.
Q: I don’t know what you were doing in the summer break but since you came back, your performances, you can see the hunger and desire. You’ve been beautifully rewarded with that victory here today – but it was like a chess match. You were very strategic in the beginning but then in the end you had to push one hundred per cent.
CS: Yeah, it was all about, given our limitations with tyre wear and degradation, all about managing the beginning of the stints to make sure I made it to the target laps that we wanted to do on each compound. Obviously a Safety Car forced us to pit even earlier than we wanted and I knew it was going to be a long stint on Hard. I had to give George… I had to get him slowing down, don’t give him a Safety Car or a Medium tyre opportunity – and it worked to perfection. It was just quite tight at the end – but we gave Lando a bit of DRS to help him and in the end we made it P1.
Q: See, I find that incredible, that you’re thinking ‘I’m going to help Lando, so he then isn’t under pressure from the Mercedes’. Other than the obviously, the fact that you were being hunted down in the last few laps, was there any scary moments in that grand prix for you?
CS: I felt under control, to be honest. It was… I always felt like I had the head space and the pace in hand to do whatever I wanted to do. I’m not going to lie, you’re under pressure and you obviously are very close to making any kind of mistake but I felt under control, I felt like I could manage well and we brought it home. That was the best feeling, y’know? Over the moon right now.
Q: Lando, you’ve equalled your best result. You’re getting closer to that first victory but after what was the usual Singapore madness with the Safety Cars and the uncertainty on the tyres, you, like Carlos, only did one stop. It was a hot, hard race at the end there.
Lando Norris: It was. But Carlos was generous helping me get DRS. It helped my race, and also helped his. It was tough. We knew it was going to be tough as soon as the Mercedes boxed, especially with only a couple of cars for them to overtake. But we’re on the podium, P2, we held them off, we did everything we needed to do and more – so super-happy!
Q: We saw George Russell was pushing hard and was being pushed hard by his team-mate, and in the end he clipped the wall and went out of the grand prix. That was really the last bit of pressure you had.
LN: I know. I hit the wall on the last lap at the same place.
Q: You hit the wall?
LN: I did the same. I think he copied me! Just did it even worse. No, I feel for him, he fought a tough race, he was probably one of the quickest… he was the quickest today, I would say. So, it helped me a bit: the last couple of corners I could chill just a little bit more. Good points for the whole team as well with Oscar there – but everyone – Carlos, Charles, Lewis and George, we all pushed each other the whole way. It was stressful but it paid off.
Q: It’s an obviously question in the heat of Singapore but put us in the cockpit. Physically, how tough was that grand prix?
LN: I’m good to go! Do it again!
Q: Lewis Hamilton, third place, not the ultimate result you want but brilliant comeback, strategically, at the end. This is your 196th podium and your seventh here in Singapore. We saw you battle hard with your team-mate, we heard you on the radio saying “tell George to hurry-up!” and then, unfortunately, he clipped the wall.
Lewis Hamilton: Well, firstly, congratulations to Carlos and Lando, they did a great job today, their strategy worked. We rolled the dice this weekend, we went on with a different amount of tyres into Qualifying, with the option to be able to do what we’ve done today. I felt like it was a two-stop but I think the team did an amazing job today to really get us back up there. It’s a little bit of a shame about the first corner, but nonetheless I just kept my head down, kept pushing. And, of course, extremely unfortunate for George. We were pushing so hard to catch these guys and our tyres were so hot. But I know he’ll bounce back. He’s been phenomenal all weekend.
Q: We saw you sitting just before coming up to the interview. This is a hard race – but that’s why you love it.
LH: Yeah, this is how it should be. It’s incredibly hot. I think I only lost 2kg today, so it’s not so bad.
Q: Carlos, what a race, many congratulations, tension throughout. What aspect of this victory are you most proud of?
CS: It’s difficult to pick one. Honestly everything. Everything. We have to be extremely proud of the weekend that we’ve put together. We’ve had one opportunity this year to win the race, which was here in Singapore, and we nailed it. We didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend and yeah, there was a lot of moments out there where we were a bit under pressure and we kept it calm, we kept our plan, our strategy. We had to play with tyre degradation, with pit-stop gaps, with DRS, and playing with all that, and managing to keep everything under control, we managed to bring home a win that was never easy, but that definitely feels incredible.
Q: Given your pace all weekend, just how confident were you prior to the start?
CS: Yeah, it was very difficult to tell before the race whether we would have the race pace to win but I felt like even if we didn’t, by managing and controlling the gaps and controlling the pace and the tyre degradation, I could create myself the opportunity to win. Obviously keeping P1 at the start and then from there controlling the race. It was a whole plan and that Safety Car came a bit too early and going into a Hard tyre on Lap 20 wasn’t my preference, especially because I had managed very well the Medium and I felt like we could have gone a lot longer. But it was the right call and then yeah, that stint on Hards was always under control until the VSC came out and gave the Mercs the opportunity to two-stop. And we were clearly under a lot of pressure there at the end.
Q: Well, how nervous were you about the Mercs in those closing laps?
CS: At the beginning, not so nervous because I felt like I had a lot of pace in hand to push the last 12-15 laps. But immediately, I felt like as soon as I started pushing, my tyre degradation started to kick in. And I think Lando and I were sliding a lot, then it surprised me quite a lot how quickly the Mercs managed to pass Charles and close the gap on Lando and me. And at that point, I thought okay, it’s not going to be easy and these last five, six laps is going to be a fight. And at that point, obviously I had to change a bit the strategy. I had to give Lando a bit of a cheeky DRS boost, and that helped us to keep them behind and win the race and get the get the win for Ferrari that feels great.
Q: How did you manage the gap to Lando without leaving yourself open to attack from Lando?
CS: It’s always tricky. Because you always put yourself under extra pressure, no? Because then you know that then you cannot have a lock-up. You cannot have a single mistake or a snap because it means that then Lando’s going to have a chance to overtake you if he’s on DRS. So yeah, at that point you decide to give him the DRS, hoping that that’s going to be enough to keep the Mercs behind. There was in particularly one lap that I think Lando defended into 16-17, and then I had to slow down a lot into T1-2-3 to give him DRS again. I think that move actually, saved my race, saved also Lando’s P2 because I feel like there, if not, I would have been also dead meat, if the Mercs would have passed Lando, I think they could have got passed me pretty easily.
Q: So Carlos, quick at Monza last time out, brilliant race victory here in Singapore. What does this mean for Suzuka next weekend?
CS: Honestly, I don’t think it means much, I think this year, it’s going to be a bit like this. We’ve had two great weekends in a row, but I think the two tracks that we’ve been to have suited our car. In particularly this one, a high downforce track. I’m incredibly proud of the effort that the team has done to bring a much better high downforce package here, and be much more competitive than in Zandvoort – but I still think there’s going to be tough weekends out there where we’re not going to be fighting for podiums, and we’re going to get P5s, P6. We just need to make sure we keep getting those if that’s the maximum that the team and the car can do those weekends. But what I’m more proud of is that we had one chance to win this year, and the team under pressure responded. I also responded and we managed to put together a perfect weekend in the one chance that the Red Bull and the situation gave us, and the speaks well of the progress that Ferrari is doing, we are doing in terms of race execution.
Q: Thank you. Lando, coming to you. Great race by you as well. Tell us, in those closing stages where was your focus? Going for the win or protecting P2 from George?
LN: It was protecting P2. George couldn’t overtake me, he struggled to overtake me when he had a five, six tenths advantage, so the chances of me getting past Carlos with maybe a one-tenth advantage, there was no chance. Carlos played it smart. There was no need for me to try and attack him. The more I attacked him, probably the more vulnerable I would have been from both the guys behind and I wouldn’t be sitting here, we wouldn’t be on the podium if I played it differently, you know. So, it was stressful, stressful last few laps, for sure. I think we both knew as soon as the VSC came out, we had to put in a stint-and-a-half and try to open up the gap as big as possible. But they still caught us. And then it was about not making a mistake. I knew with George, he was going to pressure me a lot. He did and I had to defend quite a bit into 15, or 14. That’s when Carlos backed off after that when there was a little bit of a gap and allowed me to get the DRS which was very helpful. So I think we together played it in a smart way to get the Mercs to stay behind us. The last lap then I had a bit more of a breather. I hit the wall, where George also hit the wall, but I hit it with the front so I kind of panicked a bit, thinking maybe I just messed it all up, but it damaged the steering, in terms of it was just off-centre. But luckily, it wasn’t nothing more than that. So an amazing race, a stressful race from start to finish. A lot of management, but perfectly executed.
Q: Did you think Carlos was helping you initially or did you think he was making mistakes?
LN: I mean, he made a couple of mistakes. But no, I think our pace was strong. Honestly, I think initially I started to catch him myself. I think our pace was a bit better towards the end of stints. The Ferrari was probably better in the initial part of stints. So, I think that would have caught up to him ever so slightly anyway. I think I would have got into DRS. But it was more that when there was a gap, when I was most under pressure from George, that’s when he most helped me out. So yeah, I guess it helped me keep him from not getting under pressure, from getting attacked, because I’m sure if I had got overtaken, Carlos would have had a lot more stress too, you know? But he drove a good race. Both George and Lewis and, of course, Carlos, drove a great race to not make any mistakes, not have any lock-ups or any of these things, and finish the way we did.
Q: Strategically, how challenging was it out there? Were you tempted to pit during the VSC yourself?
LN: Nope. If we went to Safety Car, we would have boxed, but VSC not. I think on paper, the Mercs were… if there was no traffic, they didn’t have to overtake, the Merc strategy was way, way faster. If we weren’t in a way, they would have been 10 seconds ahead of us quite easily. But there’s always the task of overtaking, which in Singapore is one of the hardest tasks, and especially at the end. And with a couple of those attacks from George, I think he just put his tyres a little bit over the edge. And he didn’t attack me as much after that main attack that he did. It’s always a difficult challenge here in Singapore, the management and looking after the tyres, but you are kind-of a bit dictated to by the guys ahead of you. And, of course, looking in the mirrors to the guys behind you. But we had a perfect pit-stop to get ahead of Charles and a perfect strategy to get ahead of the Mercedes as well. So, the team did an excellent job today.
Q: And it was the first race back for your race engineer, Will Joseph, after he’s been on paternity leave. How helpful was he guiding you through it?
LN: I mean, he’s always been very helpful. I’ve been with Will since 2018, 2017 in fact. He was my first engineer that I was introduced to and then guy that I worked with. So, it’s a good relationship I have with Will. And even Jarv [Andrew Jarvis], my performance engineer, he’s come back after being away for three years. So, it’s our first podium together as well, which is nice. Actually, our first podium ever together, because he left end of ’19 and we went on to score a podium in the first race in 2020, in Austria. So, this will be our first podium together. But they’ve been working extremely hard. The whole team have and of course we’ve had the upgrades this weekend. So, I do have to say a big thanks to the whole team because the progress we made from where we were in the beginning of the year to now is quite exceptional, to be on par with Ferrari and Mercedes and beating Red Bull on a weekend like this. So, I’m proud of all of them. We know we have a lot more work to do, but it’s paying off.
Q: Very well done to you. Lewis, coming to you. Look, can we start by talking about the decision to pit during the VSC? Was it clear cut in your mind that it was the right thing to do?
LH: Yeah, I think so. I mean, we needed to take the risk, have a shot at trying to get past some of these guys and going for the win. I think we had really good pace. So I think the team did a great job. I don’t know, I think George was in second at the time, and maybe if I was in his position, I probably would have stayed out and at least kept the McLaren behind. But we gave it a shot. And it was really fun to be hunting these guys down. But as Lando said it was just too difficult to pass in the end.
Q: What you quicker than George in that last stint?
LH: I mean, based on our times, I think I was about a half-a-second a lap up. But I think it was just… It’s so difficult to overtake here, you need like, a second-and-a-half deficit to the car ahead. And what was really surprising is that the Hard hadn’t dropped off as much as we would have thought but also our tyres dropped off a lot in trying to catch up the huge gap that were behind.
Q: Lewis, how much was this race a case of ‘what if’ for you? I mean, had you not had to give those two positions back at the start of the race, do you think you could have at least… well, do you think could have won?
LH: I think Carlos today had really good pace. So I think I can’t say that it would have been easy to have won today. But I think I think our car was very strong. I think if I had qualified better yesterday, perhaps third, or even on the front row with these guys, perhaps we would have been of course in a better place. And I think, as a team, we would have been able to work better together. But when you separate the cars a little bit more, it makes it really hard to work against two other drivers from another team. So, I’ve got to do a better job there. But I’m really grateful for the hard work that everyone continues to do. Great pit stops from the lads in the garage, and faultless in their performance through the weekend. And also, with strategy and everything. So, I think we are progressing. We’ve just got to keep working away.
Questions from the floor
Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) A question for Carlos. Carlos, that win completes a very, very high-class weekend for you and comes off the back of the performance at Monza and Zandvoort before it. You seem to be in a really rich vein of form after the summer break but do you feel you were performing at this before the summer break, or is it in this run of races where it’s really come together and manifested itself in these kinds of complete performances?
CS: Yeah, I think in terms of car and driving understanding, I think before the summer break there was this already decent feeling with everything. I just sat down with my engineers in the summer break and we said okay, what can we do to start putting the whole weekend together, because clearly we have a lot of pace, we were doing some good things but we are never putting the whole thing together, so let’s see what we can do to improve that and start having consistent performances in the second half, because the potential is clearly there this year. And yeah, Zandvoort was a very good weekend, Monza was almost perfect and here I feel like it was the perfect one. Makes me very happy and proud that when you work, you analyse, and you also have the speed like I’ve had the this weekend. It is it is always paying off and now we managed to put everything together and, yeah, very happy for the engineers, for the mechanics, the team, everyone.
Q: (Jesús Balseiro – Diario AS) Question to Carlos. Ferrari clearly bet on you today to win the race, they even use Charles to build your gap at the first stint. This wasn’t like that in the past, even in Monza, they left you to fight – so what has changed? How did you manage to prove to Ferrari you can be the race winner and the first choice for a race?
CS: I honestly don’t think the team bet on me. I think we were trying to do the best possible race for both cars, and that was coming by Charles obviously keeping a bit of a gap and a bit of a breather in case there was a Safety Car. That is exactly what happened, no? So, to be honest, this weekend, I just had a lot of pace and I was feeling at one with the car, and I had everything under control, those last five laps before the Safety Car, I managed to extract also a lot of pace out of those Medium tyres. I don’t know, I just felt comfortable, I felt everything under control and, of course, when you are the lead car, it’s always going to be easier.
Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) Carlos, obviously that DRS strategy did work in your favour and I guess in very intense circumstances it requires a lot of clarity of thought. Was this something that you’d kind of considered and had premeditated or you just kind of improvising in the moment?
CS: This is a sort of strategy that you always keep in the back of your head in tracks like Singapore, where it might come in useful at some point. The thing is, obviously, it’s easy to think about it, at least, it’s easy to have in mind, but it’s a lot more difficult to execute it because it does put you under some extra pressure and it comes with its risks. And it’s all about having that commitment to do it and to put yourself under that extra risk. But I felt like that was my only real chance of winning the race and I wanted to win, especially when I heard that 1.3s/ 1.4s gap up to Lando after he defended into 16, to take the decision to slow down in Turn One and Turn Three. I was like ‘well, I hope these works’ because if not it could look really, really bad on me, but it worked. Some days you need to trust your instincts, trust your feeling. I’ve been trusting that, these last two weekends and it’s working well.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – SportsKeeda) Lewis, as an experienced driver on the grid and you’ve been in special situations throughout your career, what is the difference between getting it all together in a pressured situation like today and getting it completely wrong as in the case of your team-mate? What is the thought process behind maintaining your calm and just pulling through a good result by the end of it?
LH: Well, we’re all trying to be millimetre-perfect out there and it’s very, very easy to make mistakes, it’s very easy too for any us to have been in the position that George was in. He’s been driving phenomenally all weekend, so it was really unfortunate for him – last lap – to finish that way. But he continues to grow, he’s continuing to improve so I know that he’s going to keep getting stronger and faster and if there’s any way I can help, I will be a part of that naturally in the next couple of years. But yeah, I have a lot of experience, I’ve been here a long time so putting together a race is… not that it’s easy but the race is where I’m most comfortable on track and yeah, I think it’s just keeping your head down, it’s trying not to make… but if you look at last year for example, I made a mistake in Turn Seven and went off and crashed into the wall so it can happen to any one of us and it’s just one of those things.
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Carlos and Lando, Carlos, on the radio you said it was a nice bit of CarLando action to keep the Mercs at bay. For you guys is it extra special given you’re such good friends, former teammates who have worked together for a great result for the pair of you?
CS: It always feels a bit better when you have someone that you get on well with and that you respect, both as a driver and as an athlete. As a person, it always feels better to share those good moments. And don’t get me wrong, I think if he would have had a chance to pass me at any point he would have gone for it, for the win, but I just knew that that 0.8s/0.9s gap was enough to know that we could play smart. But yeah, what was obviously a great moment and we were joking about it and having a good laugh about the weekend and yeah, enjoying the moment.
LN: I haven’t much more to add. I think Carlos has said it well, it’s always nice to be on the podium with whoever that you respect and get along with so the first time we’ve been able to be P1 and P2 – it’s in the wrong order! – but it’s alright for now. And yeah, I guess we had our first podium in Monaco, we were both there, so yeah, for Carlos to be on the top step is obviously great and he deserves it. He’s done a very good job the last few weekends but to be up there too and to share it and yeah, just all of us, we’ve always got along since 2018, 2019 so yeah, always a pleasure and I’m sure and I hope there’ll be more moments like it.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, also Lando and Carlos if they’d like to answer: we obviously saw the Red Bulls have struggled here this weekend and a lot of sports fans are probably saying this was the race of the season. Does it give you hope that this could be the beginning of the end of a Red Bulls dominance, of Max dominance and we might see a more level playing field going forward?
LH: I don’t know what… I wasn’t really watching much of others this weekend so I don’t really know why they’re off pace-wise. But I think it’s great to see that others are… McLarens have picked up huge amount of pace, it’s great to see that Ferrari have really stepped it up and I think it’s a positive. I think, probably if you think about it, they haven’t been developing. Obviously McLaren brought an upgrade here. Others are bringing upgrades, they’re working on next year’s car. They have less wind tunnel time so then they’re probably using some of this year’s on to next year’s. They would have definitely migrated before us. So no, I think it’s just one of those things. They are so clear ahead that maybe they’re developing their car less and we are still pushing to develop our current one. But time will tell.
CS: I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re still winning the last few races of the season. I think Singapore gave us the chance and we just did well. But I still think the Red Bull is going to be up there in the remainder of the season and they’re going to be very, very, very, very difficult to beat. I just think it’s great for F1 if Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Aston would be that two, three-tenths quicker every race, to challenge them in race pace. I think the racing this year would be incredible and it would be eight drivers fighting for wins, a bit like we saw today with four or five guys out there fighting for a win around a street track. So it just shows the potential F1 has to create an incredible show. But it’s true that if Red Bull have nailed the car this year and they were doing such an amazing job they deserve to win everything that they’re winning. So yeah, obviously dreaming a bit about what F1 could be if we would all catch up a bit on them and in this second half of the season and next year.
LN: No, I don’t have much more to add. If Red Bull weren’t here, I would have had two race wins already! So yeah, I think there’s always been great battles. Sometimes it’s the best of the rest pack. Now the best of the rest is… I wouldn’t say it’s just us, I don’t think Aston are far behind and they were, at the beginning of the season, very close but they’ve dropped off. AlphaTauri were very quick this weekend, just didn’t put it together when they needed to. I think it’s great, I think that often if you didn’t have the best team there, the best team always seems to kind-of dominate and take away the show from the rest of it. But often if you took away Mercedes a few years ago, when you take away Red Bull now, the battles for the rest of the positions I think would have been incredible: many different winners every race or every season. And even for us this year, if we could compete a bit more against Red Bull, Mercedes would have won, Ferrari would have won, we potentially could have won in Silverstone and Budapest. So yeah, I have dreamed a little bit but I’m sure, like Carlos said, they’re going to be back on track next weekend. I don’t know what they struggled with this weekend but when I watched his onboard yesterday, I kind of laughed because I’ve never seen a car that bad before. But yeah, Max also laughed about it. So, we’ll see next weekend. I think they’ll probably be back at the top.
Q: (Zuhrah Beevi – VAVEL.com) Lewis, another fantastic performance, claiming your 196th podium in the process. So, do you think you can hit the milestone of 200 podiums by the end of this season?
LH: Jeez. Only 200. You guys haven’t even done 196 races have you? Ultimately, I’ve been very, very fortunate to work with some amazing people, incredibly talented people over the years and so incredibly grateful to have been able to work with them and have the opportunity to have those podiums. I have no idea where we will be in the coming races but this weekend… we’ve had pace to be fighting for that top three this weekend. And it’d be interesting to see where it is in the next couple of tracks we go to. Yeah, I hope I can at least get another podium this year. That’d be great.