United States Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

United States Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

United States Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three press conference after the United States Grand Prix, Round 18 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship.

Featuring race winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull), second-placed Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and third-placed Lando Norris (McLaren).

Track interviews conducted by Jenson Button

Q: Congratulations Max Verstappen, you’ve just won the US Grand Prix. Some might say ‘it’s just a Max Verstappen win’ – but that one looked a little bit more complicated than normal.

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, of course, I mean it started already with starting in P6 but I think the whole race, I was struggling a lot with the brakes and around here, there are quite a few braking points and couldn’t really have the same feeling as yesterday – so that definitely made my race a bit tougher out there today – but yeah, you could see it was very close at the end – and also with the backmarkers, you know? With the tyres already going, it makes it all a bit more difficult.

Q: Were you biding your time through the race, because I think a lot of us expected you to be in the lead a lot earlier? It took 28-29 laps before you challenged for the lead.

MV: Yeah, of course, I mean, you don’t want to destroy the tyres but, like I said before, I was struggling a lot on the braking. So it took quite a while to find at least a bit of a middle way.

Q: How does it feel to be part of the 50 wins group with this guy here, Lewis Hamilton, and only a few others?

MV: I mean, that’s of course, incredible. To win my 50th grand prix here as well. Yeah, very proud, of course, and we’ll just keep on trying to push for more.

Q: Lewis, watching the whole weekend this weekend, you’ve looked faultless. It looks like you feel at home in this car, you have confidence in this upgrade and so close to challenging Max today.

Lewis HAMILTON: First of all, I think we have to congratulate these guys. This team has just done an incredible job all year long, just dominated, and Max has been really flawless, so we were catching him towards the end and I was hopeful – but we needed some more laps. We had… the team did an amazing job this weekend, so much work to bring this upgrade here, and honestly, it was really difficult after the last race. Firstly, with like, everything that’s going on in the world, and then obviously the big mistake that I made. And I really felt like I let the team down so much, so I had to go through a real deep process of getting myself back to here, and it was just one of those experiences of ‘it’s not how you fall, it’s how you get back up’, so came in fighting, felt great and really happy with this result.

Q: It must feel pretty special here because I know, having worked with you, how much this place means to you. Obviously racing in America but this circuit, you’re a bit of an expert when it comes to this track.

LH: I’ve just always loved the States, ever since I was like eight years old, first to Albuquerque, then Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which I can’t wait for us to go and race – but you know, I’d always felt really welcome here. The people have been so welcoming, and getting to work with lots of great companies, so it’s a really progressive country and I’m super-grateful for the support that we have.

Q: You’ve done so much for this sport Lewis, so it’s lovely to see you fighting at the front again.

LH: Thanks man. Cheers. Thank you, guys.

Q: Lando, if it was a Sprint, it would have been yours!

LH: But it wasn’t!

Q: You couldn’t quite hold on but the pace looked so good in the first stint.

Lando NORRIS: Yeah, leading the race I could control it a lot but just not enough today – but I’m happy, it was a good race from my side. We knew our struggles, we knew what was going to be difficult today, and it was just the degradation – but the pace over the first ten laps of every stint, the pace in the beginning, was strong. I just couldn’t hold on long enough. We’re getting there. Progress every weekend – just some more steps needed.

Q: You’re also racing with the two best in the business at the moment. Pretty aggressive defending from yourself out there on Lewis at Turn 1.

LN: I just tried but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the tyres left at the end. You saw how quickly he pulled away at the end. So, I had to look after my own race. I did the best I could. I had to push and look after the tyres, and it was just too difficult today. Maybe if it was a cooler track, would have suited us a little bit more – but it wasn’t. But I’m still happy. The team have done an excellent job. To finish on the podium here was better than we were expecting, coming into the weekend. So, very happy!

Press Conference

Q: Max, very well done to you, another brilliant win – but you had to fight hard for this one. Talk us through it – both the rough and the smooth.

MV: Yeah. I mean, we had a good start, and then the first stint, I tried to be patient but, at the same time, following for so long did hurt my tyres a little bit. But at the same time, I was struggling a lot with the brakes, compared to yesterday. So, I couldn’t really be that nice on them, and the tyres under braking, and just being very inconsistent. And that basically carried on for the rest of the race, where, compared to yesterday, that was quite a big factor because I never really had a lot of confidence to be consistent under braking. Nevertheless, I think as a team we did the right strategy, we pitted at the right time and basically, because of that, I could work my way forward. So, yeah, I think we did everything correct today – but I was hoping for a little bit more pace – because yesterday I think we were a lot more competitive.

Q: At what point in the race did the brake problems occur – and in terms of lap-time, what was it costing you.

MV: Just Lap One. And that was the only thing that we changed from yesterday. That made it very difficult. I couldn’t get on top of it. It’s very rare that I have it in F1 – but today it did come up, and just made it a bit more difficult.

Q: Was there any point in the race where you thought: ‘I might not win this’?

MV: Once I was in the lead, I think the gap was OK – but with a few laps to go, there was some backmarkers, and my tyres were not feeling that great. The Hard tyre was not very good today, but I think the gap was just big enough and not too many laps left.

Q: And Max, you’ve told us many times this year you enjoy having a good battle out there, and you had to work your way forward today, racing both of the guys alongside you here. How much did you enjoy it?

MV: Yeah, it was good, but I think in general, today the pace was a lot closer than maybe some other races and naturally, that does make it more exciting and yeah, you need to be really on top of things. And at the same time, of course I was not entirely happy because I was struggling myself with the brakes. So then, your confidence is not that fantastic.

Q: And finally, can we get a word on win number 50, which to within one victory of the great Alain Prost. It’s another extraordinary milestone in your career.

MV: Yeah. I mean, of course, it’s a great number. Still rookie numbers compared to Lewis but for sure it’s a great number. I’m very happy with it, very proud of it – but let’s try to win a few more.

Q: Lewis, coming to you now. Your best result since the Spanish Grand Prix back in May. How much satisfaction does this race give you?

LH: Yes, obviously last race was very difficult, to go home so empty-handed wasn’t great, so to be able to turn it around shows a real strength-in-depth for the team, and I felt great from Lap One on Friday. Had a good recovery week, and felt solid in the car. This is the first weekend that I’ve really felt the upgrades work, so felt really positive, incredibly grateful – because I know how hard everyone’s working back at the factory. So, it’s nice to finally see the rewards of their hard work and to feel it in the car as well.

Q: Just 2.2s behind Max at the flag. Do you think you could have won this one if you hadn’t done the offset strategy and you’d gone for track position?

LH: Yes. I mean, I do think we would have been in a fighting position to fight with Max. I think we made our life a lot harder today than it probably needed to be. I think it was probably going to be hard anyways because these two are very quick. I think overall, our starts this weekend, normally we have really great starts but we struggled with our starts this weekend so we lost ground more often than not. And I think in one of the pitstops, I might have been a bit long, which then made it harder for the guys and then the stop wasn’t that great overall. So, there’s lots of areas that we could have been better but the positives are that we were, at points, matching them for pace, and to be only two seconds back afterwards, at the end of the pace is, I think, a good sign.

Q: What is the overriding emotion right now? Is it frustration that you didn’t win? Or are you looking at the positives and the pace of the car this weekend?

LH: No, no. I mean, second is great. And, you know, to come in this weekend and actually have real strength and it’s a solid second, it’s not just making second, it was a solid second. So I feel really positive, because we still got a few races up ahead. And I don’t know how the car’s going to be in these next races, but maybe if we’re in a position like this and we get the strategy right and get the pit stop right, maybe we’ll be right on their tails, and looking at some good racing. So I’m excited.

Q: You talk about good racing. Did you enjoy your battle with Lando?

LH: I enjoyed my battle with everyone. I mean, I had the two Ferraris I had to get by and had a little battle with those two. And then, yeah, the battle with Lando… He came across at quite an angle. And so, then I had dodge to the right side and then cut back. It was pretty cool. I enjoyed it.

Q: Well, Lando, can we just start on that point? Talk us through the battle with Lewis?

LN: I think it was quite an easy one for him, to be honest. I mean, it’s always good fun. You know, I felt like I was always in the vulnerable position, the one defending, and just clearly didn’t have the pace at the end of any of the stints today. Tyre degradation was just not on par with these two guys. And I think both Red Bull and Mercedes, always, not just this weekend pace set the standard of tyre degradation and race pace, and that’s probably our biggest weakness at this current point in time. So it was good fun. Yeah, the battles, controlling the race at the beginning, my start was very good, you know, to get into the lead – that was, let’s say, a podium maker. I think without that it would have made my race a lot more tough. So a lot of things were great. The pit stops were amazing, again, by the team. So a lot of things were great. And that was a good day for us.

Q: You say you didn’t have the pace in any of the stints. Do you include the first in when you were leading the race?

LN: Yes, I just I think it’s much easier to lead. It’s not often I get to do it, but it’s easier to kind of just control the tyres and look after them and things like that. It comes with the challenge of dictating the pace a little bit and not over-pushing, not under-pushing, but I think it was clear how much quicker Lewis was already, you know. As soon as he got past the guys behind. There was a couple of laps where he probably just got the battery back up and things like that and then as soon as he pushed on he was quite a bit quicker. So I think, you know, all weekend, I think we get close in qualifying. I think in qualifying the new tyres mask a lot of our issues. But, if you look at the overlays and the GPS of how much time we lose in slow-speed corners, I’m surprised to still be able to race them on a day like today, so I’m very happy. And yeah, I know I wish for a little bit more when you lead so much of the race, but I didn’t think we could have done much more.

Q: OK. McLaren have overtaken Aston Martin for fourth in the Constructors’ Championship today. Can we get your thoughts on that and the gap to Ferrari which is 88 points?

LN: I just wish it had got bigger! I don’t know what you want me to say to that! That’s I guess where we’re looking? It’s our target. I think we’re in a we’re in a good rhythm. It’s been clear that Aston… I don’t know, they seem to have managed to make the car slower and slower with every upgrade that they’ve bought… They have! I mean they were racing Aston in the beginning of the year and I don’t know where they finished today. But you know, they were out in Q1 and then they’ve been struggling, so I don’t know what their issues are. But you know, they were very strong, they had a lot of points in the first half of the season and in the second half they’ve been struggling, and for us it’s vice versa. So I think the main thing is that when you look at where we were, how bad Bahrain was for us, how many seconds off pole we were, you know my six pit stops in the first race of the season, I lost my PU straight away… So there are things that sort of put us on the back foot from the beginning and when you look at where we are now, to be fighting against a Red Bull, which was an unrealistic target for almost anyone, and fighting against a Mercedes… As much as we are disappointed that we can’t go for a race win, when you put it in perspective of where we were and how much we’ve improved, I think it’s still an amazing day for us.

Questions from the floor

Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) It’s a two-fold question to Max about the brake issue. First of all, Helmut Marko just told me that the brakes have been changed. But were there any indications early in the weekend that something like this might occur? And secondly, can you elaborate a bit on how different the feeling under braking was compared to normal, also, given the concentration level you needed, and you didn’t really want Gianpiero to talk to you under braking?

MV: Yeah, I just couldn’t feel the brakes. I very easily locked the fronts and I tried to adjust it and I was locking the rears. And this is something very weird, because normally, I never really have issues with braking. So this is just something that we need to understand, why that was today. Because, you know, when you have locking fronts or rears, you’re killing also your tyres. So that definitely didn’t help today, compared to yesterday, because I think yesterday, the feeling I had with the car was really amazing. And today, it was not that great. But nevertheless, you know, we still won the race. So that’s the most important [thing]. And the talking under braking? When you’re struggling already under braking and you don’t feel that confident, I politely asked not to be spoken to. You’re laughing but I said please when I asked!

Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Lewis, you said about this being a strong second place and the first time you’ve really felt the upgrade make that kind of step forward over the past two years. Is this the most hopeful you’ve felt about Mercedes’ future direction and bridging that gap to Red Bull?

LH: Well, I mean, look, we had Brazil last year, all the sudden out of nowhere we were competitive. And then towards the end, again, I think we developed pretty well. And we weren’t necessarily the quickest, but we were closer at the end of the year. But yeah, I think this is definitely the most positive I’ve felt this year, but in general this has not been a terrible year. And just knowing the work that’s happening, I’m in constant contact with the Head of Aero and the team back [at the factory]. I just feel like everyone’s really on their toes and really ready to go. There’s lots of things that we can improve on in terms of processes and all of us, but I’m excited. I definitely believe that we’re going in the right direction.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, I wonder if you could just please expand on why you’re so certain that if the strategy had been different today, you think you could have fought for the win? Is it because Max might have stayed behind you after the first round of pit stops? Or if you guys had had a battle, you’d have been able to stay close to the DRS?

LH: Oh, well, it’s not necessarily that I’m certain. I mean, at the end of the day, I was 1.8s, I think it is, behind Lando at the beginning, and there’s a huge undercut. There’s a two-second undercut. So in that moment, most likely we should have probably pitted and I would come out ahead.. we would have been close, but potentially [we would have] overtaken Lando in that scenario. It would have still been close between us all, because I think we were all similar in pace. But yeah, I think we just lost too much time in extending. I really dropped off a cliff in performance. And then when I came out, these guys were miles up the road, you know. When Max came into the pits, he wasn’t even close to me. So I don’t know how many seconds you gained, it must have been 10 seconds on me.

MV: I think it was two or three seconds behind? Three seconds behind?

LH: Three seconds behind but then you came out like six seconds ahead of me.

MV: Yeah. Yeah, you lost a lot.

LH: Also, the offset is helpful in order to you know… When their tyres are starting to drop. But that didn’t seem like it really made a big enough difference. It was really hard to close up that big gap that I had. We were all doing similar times. They both drove really well.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – SportsKeeda) COTA seems to be one of the bumpy circuits on the calendar with a lot of patchy asphalt. How much did that factor into your performance today and can anything be done for next year where they can resurface the whole track instead of having these patches all around to make it harder with F1 cars in particular?

MV: Yeah, it needs to be redone because at the moment it feels like it’s better suited to a rally car. Like I’m jumping and bouncing around. In an F1 car probably you don’t even see it as much because of course we are glued to the ground because of the downforce but the bumps and jumps that we have in some places, this is way too much. I don’t think it’s F1 level. I love this track. Honestly, the layout is amazing but we definitely need new tarmac and it needs to be a lot smoother for the coming years because we already asking for this for I think quite a few years, and it’s not really been done.

LH: Yeah, I agree with Max, it’s bumpy. I like some of some of the bumps because it adds character to a circuit, but there’s way too many. As drivers in the GPDA we are open to discussing with them and helping them, like maybe not doing the whole thing so it costs a fortune. From the last corner to the start line, for example, that’s smooth but then the rest of it might not be. The pit lane is smooth but there are other areas that for sure they could patch up and improve.

LN: They’ve covered it. It would be helpful if they didn’t put tarmac in a braking zone as well. They’ve resurfaced some places and they start the tarmac at the 100-metre board into Turn 12, which is where we brake. So just little things they could do. From what I heard they’re resurfacing the first sector or something next year, so we’ll hope it’s a little bit better.

Q: (Stew Myrick – The Horn) Lewis on the last lap, it felt like you were chipping away at Max’s lead and especially coming down the back straightaway. But as soon as you came through Turn 12 something happened, it looked like the lead expanded, something happened there. Was it lapped traffic or something? What kept you in P2 coming out of Turn 12, Turn 13?

LH: No, I started to catch him and I saw the traffic was… I was hopeful that the traffic might help me reel him in a little bit quicker which I think inevitably there was a little bit of time he lost through there. But I think maybe his tyres were going off more. But no, I think I was reeling him in on that last lap but not enough through the whole lap to be able to overtake him late on in the lap. I needed at least another lap to be even closer. Maybe one more lap I would have been closer into 11 and maybe been in a fighting position, maybe two. But yeah, there were no problems on the lap, I didn’t lose anything, didn’t have any problems. Just my tyres were also starting to fade a little bit, but yeah, that’s it.

Q: (Sahil Kapur – NBC) Lando, do any of the remaining track characteristics or otherwise this year give you optimism about scoring that first win and how does McLaren rise into P4 in the Constructors’ bode well or otherwise for your prospects next year?

LN: Do I think our best chances have gone? I would say yes. I think Qatar was our best chance of winning a race. And I missed out on that one. So I don’t want to say no, I don’t say like never. I think there’s no super high speeds… Suzuka-style circuits left, Qatar-style circuits left which is where we’re strong and like I said, if you looked at the GPS and the overlays of how bad we are in the slow speed I’m not looking forward to Brazil. I think we’re going to be pretty shocking there.

MV: Abu Dhabi? You’re normally quite good there.

LN: Abu Dhabi, we’d like to finish on a high.

MV: Abu Dhabi specialist.

LN: Am I? No comment.

MV: You’re always quick there. You are always quick there!

LN: Me? OK, not the car. Maybe Abu Dhabi, you never know. We’ll see. I don’t think they’re any good ones for us coming up. I think our best have gone. I just want to be hopeful that we can do good results and I think we can still fight for podiums but these guys are too quick for me. I would say they’ve quicker all weekend on average. We just about keep up in qualifying when we have that new rubber and super low fuel and things like that. We can look decent, but I think realistically we’re not at that level as a general package with these guys. So yeah, not great ones coming up but Vegas, Abu Dhabi are probably the better ones.

Q: (Mark Cipolloni – Autoracing1.com) Max, the rules the way they are, you guys have less wind tunnel time than the others. Both of their teams appear to be catching you as the season has been going on. Does that concern you? And has it been because your team stopped development of this car and focused on next year’s car? Is that why they’re catching you? Or is there some other reason that you think might be behind it?

MV: Yeah, our latest update has already been a while. But yeah, clearly, of course, at the moment they’re catching and it’s going to be interesting to see where everyone is going to be next year, the first race. But those are the rules, right? When you’re the leading team you have less windtunnel time and honestly, I think it’s correct, it’s fine, I think that’s good for the sport. And time will tell, of course, how competitive we’re all going to be next year. I think the good thing is, of course, that the rules are not really changing, so whatever you do now, I think you’re learning a lot for next year anyway. So it’s not like you’re focusing fully on this year, and instead you need to rebuild for next year. So I think it’s absolutely correct what Mercedes is doing as well, to try and understand more of their car. But at the same time, of course, for sure we are working on next year but at the same time, of course, we’re also trying to continue to improve our package that we that we’ve got at the moment.

Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Lewis, obviously you’re happy with this upgrade. The car has been somewhat unpredictable this year. Does it feel like it might be becoming a bit more predictable? And does it give you any confidence that a win might be possible before the end of this year?

LH: Yeah, definitely I think the step that we were able to take this weekend has given me a little bit more confidence in the car, to throw it into the corners. So yeah, it was positive. I really enjoyed driving around this track. There are still some of the fundamental issues that we’re having with the car, which won’t change ’till next year. But it was really positive, as I said, to feel that the steps that we are taking… maybe it was only a 10th upgrade, for example, but there was at least a 10th of confidence, for example, that it gave me. So it’s quite interesting what you see when you do have those, it’s like a double knock-on effect.