Full transcript from the FIA-hosted press conference after the Mexico City Grand Prix, Round 19 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship.
Features race winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull), second-placed Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and thrid-place Charles Leclerc (Ferrari). Parc Ferme interviews by Jenson Button.
Track Interviews (Conducted by Jenson Button)
Q: Congratulations Max Verstappen, you’ve just won the Mexico City Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it’s been incredible, you know? Of course, unfortunately Checo retired on lap one but the crowd stayed and there have been amazing, so yeah, incredible!
Q: That’s great to see. Great the support here for Formula 1 as a whole. Sixteen victories in one season Max. You’ve just broken your own world record in a season. How does that feel?
MV: I mean, to be honest, we are experiencing an incredible season. And again today, as well of course, we had to start P3, but I think the pace of the car was very, very good. We tried to do a different strategy to everyone else and unfortunately with the red flag we couldn’t really show it basically. But nevertheless on those tyres, at the end, I think we were very strong.
Q: So what’s in store for Max now? You must have another goal set?
MV: Seventeen, 19, I don’t know!
Lewis Hamilton: These guys are amazing! [indicating the crowd]
Q: Lewis just enjoying the atmosphere from the crowd here in this stadium. It’s great to see and you seemed so happy when you got out of the car, high-fiving the mechanics and all.
LH: Yeah, I’ve got to say a big thank you to this incredible crowd. Mexico, they’ve been giving us these great races here every year. And I genuinely love coming to this city. The food is fantastic and the people are beautiful. So thank you all, gracias. And otherwise, yeah, I mean, I feel fresh. We weren’t having to push crazy hard out there. But this is a great result considering we started sixth. I’m really proud of the team. This is a really difficult couple of weeks and to bounce back from a difficult weekend, last weekend with the end result, this is really, really well done.
Q: You put that to bed. You just got a P2, great result. And you guys chose the Medium tyre at the end of the race, which I think most of us [thought] was going to fall off a cliff but you were able to hold on to it.
LH: Yeah, I was thinking it wasn’t going to last but I did some real sweet finesse. I was trying to drive like you!
Q: Charles, it’s always a difficult weekend and a difficult race when you’re fighting with a local hero. Can you just mention what happened in Turn 1?
Charles Leclerc: A lot of booing… A lot of booing. Guys. I mean, honestly, I had nowhere to go. So I was a bit in between the two Red Bulls and unfortunately I touched Checo, but I had nowhere to go. It’s life. It damaged my car and unfortunately it ended the race of Checo. But yeah, on our end, we maximised our race. It’s life and of course I’m disappointed to end the race of Checo like that, but I really didn’t do it on purpose and I had nowhere to go.
Q: Yeah, three into one in that corner is very difficult. What did you think when the race was red-flagged half way through and you had to do that whole start process again, because they’ve not been your strong point this year, Ferrari, as a team.
CL: Yeah, we struggled a little bit with a Hard after the restart. Lewis was really quick on the Medium and then they managed to have really good degradation. So yeah, they were just better today and it’s life.
Q: Max, very well done to you. From Turn 1 onwards, this victory never looked in doubt. How did it feel from inside the cockpit?
MV: Yeah, I think that start definitely made it a bit easier for me in the first stint as well. Also, because I was going to do a two-stop, so yeah, that, of course, gave me those extra couple seconds that would look great on the plot anyway, if we would have made it happen. So, yeah, just the tyres around here, it’s always very hard to manage, but I think we had quite decent pace in them. And then of course, we opted to box a bit earlier. And yeah, I think also on the Hard tyre, we were quite competitive and I closed a lot of that that pit stop back down. So yeah, I think it would have been quite interesting to the end, you know, to see how much faster I could have gone a new set of Hard tyres. Yeah, I think the strategy was looking great. But then of course, we had the red flag. So basically, everything that we did, we could throw in the bin and start over. But again, it was all about having a good start and trying to keep the lead into Turn 1, which we did. And after that it was just pace management to the end to keep the tyres alive, looking after the car, the brakes, you know, everything.
Q: It was two excellent starts from you this afternoon. Can you talk us through the first one? You got away very well, but how nervous were you being three wide going into Turn 1?
MV: No, not nervous at all. I mean, it’s not the first time that I’ve been two-wide or three-wide into Turn 1 here. But also, I mean, we all trust each other. And of course, we’re all on the limit, braking into the corner, but it was all fine, I think. But then yeah, of course, I saw on my outside that something happened. But yeah, luckily, on the inside, we could stay out of trouble.
Q: You mentioned the red flag period. Did you have any concerns about the Hard tyre and the restart?
MV: Well, for me, it was quite clear that we had to do the last stint on that Hard tyre. Luckily, it had only done one lap. So that helped. But of course in the start, normally, the Hard tyres is a bit more difficult to get off the line, but we actually had quite a decent start on that tyre as well.
Q: And Max, final one from me. Another record falls your way this afternoon. Sweet 16, your 16th win of this season. It’s been 31 wins since the start of last season, which is as many as Nigel Mansell scored in his entire career. Just give us your thoughts, please?
MV: It’s been another incredible season. I mean, the car has been unbelievable to drive in most places. So, you know, when you then, as a team, work really well together and you try not to make too many mistakes over the whole season, then you can achieve something like this. So of course, I’m very proud of the achievement, because I think after last year, when I won 15, I was like, ‘well, if I can ever try and replicate something like that, I will be very happy’ and now we are here with 16. So yeah, just very happy with everyone’s performance in the team, you know, for the whole year for basically not making a lot of mistakes.
Q: Very well done. Thank you, Max. Lewis, if we can come to you. Great race by you today. Another second place. This one, you get to keep. Just how much satisfaction did this give you?
LH: [Laughs] So far! Don’t speak too soon! But yeah, congrats to Max. Yeah, great day. I was not expecting to be up here with these guys. Difficult weekend, it started out, but yeah, I just kept my nose clean at the beginning of the race and then just really trying to manage the tyres and maximise and progress forwards. And when I noticed that I had the pace on Carlos, I knew that with the undercut, it really worked quite well. So, the team did a great job I think with strategy. And then of course the red flag probably played into our hands in terms of getting onto the fresher tyre at the end. But I just I didn’t know if whether or not the Medium would make it that long. I was trying to see if I could close the gap to Max but he was long gone and I could only just about equal his times. But great result for the team, really proud of everyone.
Q: Given that you weren’t that happy with the car during practice, where was it better today? What have you changed?
LH: Didn’t change… Well, we didn’t change anything obviously since qualifying. I think the car is just quite peaky in qualifying on light fuel. But when you put a load of fuel in it, the car just handles nicer. Just nice to drive and I think we struck a really nice set-up this weekend and particularly today for the race. Then, other than that, it’s just really good tyre management. And so yeah, I generally enjoyed it. It’s not the most physical of races, being that you can’t push all the way, you’re saving. You’re doing 200, 300 metres of lift and coast to keep the car cool and stop it from failing. So, yeah, but I was I was definitely hoping maybe there’ll be an opportunity to get closer to Max, but maybe next week.
Q: Lewis, you talk about tyre management, you set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap on those Mediums. Does that suggest you could have pushed a little bit harder than you actually did during that stint?
LH: Yeah, for sure. I could have pushed a little bit harder but I did at one time try to see, okay, I think I’ve saved enough, let me see if I can try and close this gap to Max. I think it was like 10 laps to go, and I did a 22.0 and Max did a 21.9. I was like, ah, I’ll leave it. He was just cruising at 21.9. So yeah, so I thought I’d leave it there. And also, I had to be cautious, just careful because obviously my tyres… if I really pushed them for the last 10 laps, they probably would have opened up, and who knows, maybe Charles would have caught me up. So, I just had to be cautious with that.
Q: There wasn’t much lift and coast from you on Lap 40 when you passed Charles Leclerc. Talk us through that move.
LH: Yeah, honestly, this weekend, we’ve been very, very slow on the straight. In general, we’ve were quite draggy on the straights more often than not but this weekend, you know, like yesterday, we were losing like two-and-a-half tenths just into Turn 1 before we even start braking. So, these guys were very slippery on the straights so, trying to follow closely through Turns 16 and 17 was, was really the only way that I could get close enough and have an opportunity to make the DRS impactful. And yeah, finally, I pressed every button on the steering wheel, maximum power. And I didn’t know how far across he was going to go. But split second decision, I decided to go to the right. There’s just enough space there but Charles was really fair. But yeah, great racing.
Q: And Lewis Mercedes had the second fastest car today. How much confidence does this give you going into the São Paulo Grand Prix next weekend?
LH: It definitely gives us a lot of confidence. I mean, last year, at the same time, we were doing the same thing, but last year, I think we were three-tenths behind Max in quali – or something like that, and I came second again but he walked off with it. So, we’re really just mirroring what we did last year. So, we have to make some real big changes for next year. Because obviously, in Bahrain earlier this year, they’re 1.5 seconds a lap faster than us at least. So key is to make sure that’s not the case in Bahrain, but I think hopefully these next couple of races will be close. But I’d probably put money on it that he’d get to 18, 19, with that car.
Q: Charles, coming to you, your fourth podium of the year, very well done to you. In terms of the win, was there any coming back after what happened at Turn 1?
CL: Oh, well, I mean, we broke part of the front wing into Turn 1 and then on the radio, they told me that we were lacking, I think, 10 or 15 points. But to be honest, I managed to drive around it and it didn’t feel too bad. So that was positive. Of course, it’s never ideal to lose so many downforce points into Turn 1, but it’s like this, and then we managed to do a good race from that moment onwards. But of course, it compromised a little bit our race.
Q: Can you talk us through what happened at Turn 1 with Checo as well, from your point of view. He says it’s a racing accident, what’s your thought?
CL: I think exactly the same. I mean, I had nowhere to go. I tried to stay on the right as much as possible, as close as I could to Max. But unfortunately, there was no space anymore for me to be any more to the right. I think Checo was probably not aware that I had Max on my rights and started to turn in. And when I saw that, I knew that we will collide at one point, which we did. And after that, I was extremely surprised that I could the finish the race anyway.
Q: So given that, are you very pleased to be on the podium?
CL: Very pleased is not the word, because I mean, yesterday was again, a really good day, a really good Saturday. Really good pace in qualifying, but then we don’t quite have the car to win races on Sunday. So, that’s where we are going to try and put all our effort into for next year, in order to be better for the Sunday.
Q: What about next weekend in Brazil? What can you do that?
CL: I mean, it’s a Sprint race. We’ve been pretty good at Sprint races this season. So, I hope just the same next week.
Questions from the floor
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) A question to Lewis please. About the race to the end from the second restart. How did you go about getting those Mediums to last longer than the Hards on the Ferrari? You spoke about a ‘sweet finesse’ to Jenson Button. But what does that actually mean in practice? Thank you.
LH: Yeah, I mean, it’s really just… it’s about how much you’re sliding the tyre, it’s about the balance that you have. If you have too much wing in… too much front end in the car, then the car is like… imagine it a bit like a seesaw. You want to start a long stint – or a stint – with the car understeering, because as the rears go off, the seesaw tips, and then it goes to oversteer. And when it goes to oversteer, that’s when you’re lost most often. Unless it’s the other way around, where the front tyres are the issue, for example. And, just finding that balance is very, very difficult. And it’s… you go out and do your laps of the grid, for example, on a Soft tyre, it requires a different setting for the Medium tyre. And I think just really then, just focusing on all of the three sections and figuring out how to… where you can and can’t push. And I think today was just a really great balance of lift and coast and tyre saving. And it’s a technique. I mean, all the drivers know about it.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) A question to Charles. When it comes to the Hard tyre, did it not suit your car? Or were you pace-managing? Because the pace seemed to have dropped after the red flag. So, was the significant amount of tyre deg involved, particularly after the point?
CL: No, I think it still confirms the weaknesses of our car, where it’s a very peaky car. And whenever we get out of the optimal window of the car, we are losing too much time. And that’s exactly what happened on the Hard. At first, I thought I could do quite a good job once we stopped. But then there was a red flag, the tyres cooled down, we went back out and the feeling was just not the same and I couldn’t find the feeling again with the tyres. So it’s a bit of a shame because before that it was really good, especially on the Medium. But we’ll look into it, again, on the Hard to try and understand what went wrong there, in order to improve that in the future. But I think short term, there’s no big fixes. I think every time we are, as I said, a bit out of the optimal window, we lose too much time.
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) A question to Max. Helmut Marko just said he was betting with Gianpiero if you would lead into Turn 1 or not. Today, you had two great starts. I know in Austin, you already complimented your start engineer. Can you explain a bit more how much effort has been put into improving the starts and are there any reasons in particular why you are much happier with the start in recent weeks?
MV: No, I think it’s just doing our procedures a bit better, understanding the tyre grip, it’s clutch settings. I think we just have been probably a bit more sharp on that. And I think at the beginning of the year, we had a bit of an issue but then we fixed the issue but then I think we still didn’t do the right thing with tyre temperature, clutch setting. And yeah, it’s all very sensitive. if you’re just next to it, you might have too much wheelspin or not enough engagement. It’s very difficult to get right and I think today especially it was very good.
Q: (Marisol Rojas – El Economista) Max, do you consider Checo’s exit strategy was going to be so risky or it was worth it to try it anyway?
MV: I understand because it’s his home Grand Prix. You want to be on the podium, I fully understand that he went around the outside and he tried. Looking, of course, at the footage, I think he could have left a little bit more space but on the other hand if it would have worked, you look amazing. I think it’s just more that excitement of wanting to be on the podium and this time it didn’t work out, unfortunately.
Q: (Jose Antonio Cortes – ESPN deportes) Lewis, the distance between you and Checo right now is only 20 points. How achievable do you see now the second place in the championship for you?
LH: It’s mostly dependent on Checo’s weekends really. They have the championship-winning car. He’s just been unfortunate, I think, in some scenarios. Obviously I’ve lost quite a lot of points in the last two races but he lost points today. So it’s swings and roundabouts. I think coming into the weekend, having lost points last week, I didn’t think I would really be in shooting range particularly but after today, yeah, we’ll just give it our best shot. Honestly, it’s not going to make a big difference to my life, whether I come second or third. It’s more important to get the team second in the Constructors and so that’s what I’m focused on. It’s a bonus if we get second in the Drivers.
Q: (Carolina Figuerosa – Mas Por Mas) Charles, it’s your first podium in Mexico? How is this feeling? What was the difference between plan A, B or C in this race?
CL: I’m not going to say the plans we had but it was quite straightforward for this race. Obviously, it’s my first podium in Mexico. I think it’s one of the most special podiums. On the other hand, on a day like this, it’s obviously not the most enjoyable one as there was quite a few booings once I got there. But yeah, I can understand that there’s a lot of disappointments for fans that have been waiting for this moment for a whole year and then they see their favourite driver out in Turn 1, which is a shame but again, as I said on the incident, I couldn’t do anything better.
Q: (Jose Gabriel – Soy Referee) Max, you say that obviously Checo took a big risk going into Turn 1. But how you see it from your side? Because obviously, with the cars there it’s easy to see everyone so how you see from your car, seeing Checo trying to overtake Leclerc and gain the lead?
MV: At the time, I didn’t really see a lot. At one point, I just saw that a car was a bit flying in the air, but then I saw the footage after the race and then you can comment on it. But while driving it’s a bit hard because I was mainly focusing on Charles, because I couldn’t see what was happening on the outside.
Q: (Amelia Rosales – Q8 Magazine) I’m following up on the confident question, could you share the pivotal moments you had during this race? And how prepared do you feel for Brazil?
LH: Coming from a difficult race in Qatar, then having a good race in Austin really helps you leap on to the next race. So this puts us in a good position for next week. But I think the pivotal moments I think, was obviously what happened at turn one that opened up the doors a little bit for us to gain a position there, at least one position there. And I think just striking the right balance on the setup and then just making the right decisions in terms of when to push, when to try to overtake and when not to. Tyre management was really the key. I think stopping early to get past the Ferrari. Normally here it’s difficult to know whether you have an undercut or overcut but the undercut was really quite strong. So that was their chance, they should have stopped either before us or just after us. And then after that was really the opportunity with the safety car. Obviously we stopped earlier so I didn’t know how long I would be able to take that hard tyre all the way to the end. I was a bit worried because they had seven laps younger tyres or something like that. But yeah, so when the red flag came out, I was like yeah, a bit of breathing space.
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) Max, in the first half of the race we heard some radio comments about Turn 3 and you said ‘yeah, I tried but the car’s not very lovely around there’. Could you explain the background to that a little bit? Was there a little issue or not?
MV: No, it was just a kerb. I tried to also clip the kerb like people around me were doing but I was like a pogo stick sometimes. I tried, just trying different lines. GP’s my race engineer, but I think at one point he was trying to be the driver. We have those discussion sometimes, sometimes I’m the race engineer and then he’s the driver. We just swap roles.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Charles, can you confirm, did the front wing get changed and replaced during the red flag? And did that change how the car felt? Did it contribute perhaps to why you didn’t have the same feeling as before?
CL: I’m pretty sure the car was better with a full front wing than before when we had half. On the other end, I don’t know if the car is completely fine. I think also we have to check it tonight because obviously when I saw Checo with his rear wheel touching my front wheel, I was like, okay, that’s done for me. And then I did two, three corners and it didn’t feel too bad. Obviously, not all great but not too bad and I could finish the race. So yeah, after the red flag we could fix the front wing, but it might be that we find also some other small things that weren’t in the right place.