Full transcript from the FIA-hosted top three press conference after the Sao Paulo Grand Prix Sprint Race, part of Round 20 of the 2023 Formul1 World Championship at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace at Interlagos in Brazil.
Featuring race winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), second-placed Lando Norris (McLaren) and third-placed Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing). Parc Ferme interview conducted by Naomi Schiff.
Q: Checo, congratulations on third place for you today. We saw some really nice battles between you and George. How was the race from your perspective? Sergio Perez: Yeah, it was not an easy one. I had a terrible start, ended-up losing a place to George and then another place to Lewis into Turn 4, and from then on, I was fighting. I had to use all of my tyres and then I think I paid the price towards the end. Overall, it’s been a good day, good points there – but unfortunately, I think without the start, we could have been a lot further up.
Q: We heard a lot of interaction on the radio between Max and GP about tyre deg and maintaining the tyres. Were you dealing with that a lot in the car as well? And, as you said, those battles didn’t allow you really to not push as much as you would need to. SP: Yeah, the problem I had is that I couldn’t manage. I had to push and we know that this place is very sensitive for that. So, I ended up pushing a lot and unfortunately in the end it ended-up costing us.
Q: Well, you scored six points there, Lewis only scored two. That gives you four points more in the buffer between the two of you. How important is that for you? SP: Obviously it’s important – but it’s more important to keep the momentum going now. We had a very good day overall and yeah, hopefully tomorrow, which is the main race, we can consolidate on a strong result.
Q: Lando, unfortunately not the win you would have wanted to have today, but it’s still a second place. What happened off the line? Seemed like reaction times initially were pretty decent and then at the end Max just seemed to have more power. Lando Norris: No, he doesn’t have more power. I think I have more power, but, I don’t know. I have to review it. It’s something to look back on to. Like you said, my initial start was good but the second phase of the launch… maybe I was just a bit conservative. I don’t think I had any wheelspin. I was just a little bit on the safe side. Things to improve for tomorrow but nevertheless, caught sleeping a little bit with George on Lap One but the pace was strong after. I tried to go after Max, but just didn’t have enough. But it was good fun.
Q: You say the pace was strong but it seemed that Max was managing quite a lot initially when you were in striking distance, and then at the end he pulled quite a bit gap. Does that make you a little bit more concerned for tomorrow? You’ve got to fight back from Seventh I believe it is… LN: Sixth! Q: Does that concern you for tomorrow? Or what did you feel about your race pace compared to those around you? LN: There was no-one around me, apart from Max, and he’s in a Red Bull, so no, I’m not concerned. If anything, encouraged a lot with how good our pace was today. We’re not fighting necessarily Max. I think we’re talking about competing against one of the best drivers in one of the best cars that’s ever been in Formula 1. We’re not going to be suddenly fighting a Red Bull in a track which we almost didn’t expect to be as good as it has been again. So, many good surprises and a lot of positives for us. Of course, tomorrow I’ll try again but I’ll have to do a bit more overtaking.
Q: Tomorrow’s another day. Maybe we’ll see another Mexico drive from sixth place. LN: I’ll try.
Q: Max, congratulations, that’s another victory this season for a Sprint race. How was it out there for you? Max Verstappen: yeah, I think it was, of course, important to try to get ahead at the start. I think the initial launch wasn’t, let’s say, amazing but the second part of the start was very good. So, we got alongside and yeah, then it was all about management. You know here, this track, there’s a lot of deg. The tyres are wearing a lot. So, 24 laps on one tyre set is very long, so just trying to maintain a constant lap-time, and I think we managed the race quite well out there today.
Q: Where you surprised to see though, how much deg there was. Because there was quite a bit of conversation between you and your engineer. We were surprised to see the whole grid, the majority of the whole grid was on Softs, and then for you all, or most of you to be managing, was that a bit of a surprise or expected? MV: No, I mean, last year was very difficult for us around here, so today was much better but yeah, it’s still, for everyone out there, you know, you can’t push flat-out. It’s all about just keeping the tyres under control – and I think we did that well today.
Q: Well, tomorrow’s another day. Are you encouraged by your pace today for a potential victory tomorrow in front of a crowd that you like to visit quite a lot. MV: Yeah, it’s a great start. I think we learned a lot during that race and hopefully we can do something similar tomorrow.
SAO PAULO SPRINT RACE PRESS CONFERENCE
Q: Max, many congratulations. In terms of the win, you did the damage at the start. Just talk us through those opening moments of the race, first of all. MV: Yeah, I think the initial getaway wasn’t that fantastic. I think my release wasn’t very good, but then the second bit was very strong, and I could get alongside. So that definitely helped, of course in the beginning of the race. We know 24 laps around here, it’s all about tyre management. Yeah, just incredibly difficult around here. A lot of deg. I mean, last year we were struggling a lot with that already in the Sprint race and that’s why I was a bit careful. And yeah, luckily it worked out. I mean, the whole race, the tyres, they don’t feel particularly great around here. But yeah, with the management that we did, I think it worked out and we won the race.
Q: At what point in the race did you start managing the tyres? MV: The out lap!
Q: Are you serious? You were managing from the start? MV: There is not one lap where I pushed flat-out. You can’t. It’s impossible.
Q: OK, so you take Lando at the start, and thereafter, it looked like you were controlling the pace, keeping Lando where you wanted him. Is that the case? MV: Yeah. It’s like handing a cookie! I’m joking. I think, like I said, it’s all about management. At one point in the race it looked like, you know, Lando was catching a bit, and then I had a better feeling with the car again and I could look after the tyres a bit better and I could pull away again at the end, so yeah, it was close. And I think tomorrow also we have pit stops in the race, so you never know what can happen.
Q: Let’s just talk a little bit more about tomorrow. You’re going to be starting on the other side of the grid. I guess Lando cleaned your grid spot for you today. MV: Put some rubber down! Yeah, we’ll see. Tomorrow again is also a bit of a different start on full fuel loads, so I think it requires again, a bit of a different launch but we’ll find out tomorrow.
Q: Max very well done today. Lando, talk us through those opening moments of the race from your point of view. Just how good was your initial launch and then the run into Turn 1? LN: Talk you through it… I was first and then second… I don’t know, I think I have to re-watch it. I’m not sure what happened. My reaction and initial drop was good but then the second phase, not so good. But that’s all I know for now. So yeah, tough opening lap I would say. Obviously not what I wanted and then always difficult to manage the tyres as much as you want, when you’re in second. But still a good race, it was still good fun. I was caught sleeping a little bit with George. He was pushing a lot on the opening couple laps and I feel like maybe he paid the price quite heavily on lap three and four and five and six and seven and eight, all the way to the end. But I tried then to get into the DRS of Max. I thought if I had an opportunity, I would try and get it early on, so I could kind of control the race a little bit more from out front and in some cleaner air. But I never quite got close enough and I struggled just a little bit too much, especially in the last five laps of the race, to look after the tyres as much as Max was able to do. But nevertheless a strong race and good points.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your tyre wear? Were you managing from the out lap as well, like Max? LN: I was managing in qualifying already. These are the tyres from quali, right? So yeah, it’s a tough circuit. You don’t feel like you can push anywhere. It’s kind of always a little bit like this, but it feels, I don’t know, similar to COTA in a way, like you do two laps then after that you’ve got no grip and you’re managing and you have one little wheel spin and it costs you two or three tenths straightaway. So again, a management-based race. Positives, because this definitely wasn’t a circuit where we were expecting to be at all close to the Red Bull. If you look at the data from last year and where we’re good and bad this definitely wasn’t up there with one of the good ones. And we weren’t expecting it to be, necessarily, a very good one and sometimes we’re good in quali and then quite poor in the race. But today we were good compared to everyone, except Max. So yeah, tough, but a good day for us.
Q: How much confidence does that give you ahead of tomorrow’s Grand Prix? LN: I mean, it’s always different. Definitely good confidence. You know, I didn’t do any more laps than three in a row in FP1. So we were a bit blindsided with what to expect, but of course, that was our choice. But maybe we weren’t best prepared for what to expect today, but still to be so good was a positive sign. And we’ll try and maximise that for tomorrow. Of course, I think we know what we’re aiming for. Probably not P1. But up there in the top three is probably our goal.
Q: Checo, coming to you now, great to see you back in the top three, Monza feels like quite a long time ago. SP: It is
Q: Tell us about your race. Let’s look at the positives, first of all. It was a very aggressive one but you pulled off some fantastic overtakes. Did you enjoy it? SP: Yeah, at that time, there was a race, but at that point, when the guys in the lead were looking after the tyres, I was sliding around fighting with Lewis, with George and I ended up paying the price later on in the race. I had a quite a bad start and poor first lap in general, losing another place to Lewis into Turn 4, which meant I had to use much more my tyres and I wanted to.
Q: Tell us a little bit more about the start? What happened there? SP: I think I just undershooted (sic) a bit, with the grip there was, and ended up losing a place to George.
Q: Now, you say you had to use your tyres too early in the race and then you suffered later on. But you seem much more confident in the car this weekend in Brazil. Is that the reality of the situation? SP: Well, I think from Austin onwards we’ve been a lot better than we’ve shown on pace, you know, but for some reason or another we haven’t been able to put it all together. I think in Mexico we were also strong. And obviously, here it’s been a good, solid day with the morning. And yesterday, we were very lucky with the Q3 conditions, and then getting the yellow flag at the end. But other than that, I think it’s been a good pace.
Q: Checo final one from me. You pulled some stunning overtakes today. What is it about this race track that promotes overtaking to the extent that it does? SP: I think it’s a lot to do with the degradation, you know. You hit a lot of degradation, as we saw today. Obviously, everyone will learn from the race today and tomorrow will try to improve what everyone had, including me. But generally, it’s a race when if you are close in the DRS zone, if you have good traction around the corner, then everything’s possible.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) A question for all three drivers. You’ve spoken a lot about having to save your tyres and manage and degradation being very, very high. And it seems almost the opposite of what’s trying to be achieved with the idea of a Sprint race and having everyone kind of push flat out. So going into next year, I know there’s some changes in the pipeline, but what sort of things would you like to see in future and to make it a little bit more, I guess, racy for you guys? MV: Just a normal race weekend, please. Thank you. I’m not interested in any change. I don’t like it.
Q: Lando, on the topic of Sprints is there anything you could suggest? LN: On the topic of Sprints? Nope. I don’t know, it doesn’t matter what we say. Our choices rarely have much effect with anything. Especially with this. So, everything seems dictated by team bosses and what they want to do and what they choose to do. I mean, you say we’re not pushing, but you still push to the limit you have. Of course you’re not pushing like it’s qualifying. I don’t think you’ve ever pushed like it’s qualifying, probably ever in Formula 1. But you still saw good racing apparently, from everyone behind. So if everyone is pushing flat out, I would say you almost probably see less overtakes than what you did today. So in that sense, you’re probably asking for a more boring race, which is not what you want. So I think what we had today was tough and maybe not the most enjoyable, you don’t feel like you’re pushing that much but you’re still driving on the limit of the grip you’ve got and all of those things. It’s still a challenge for us behind the wheel. I think it’s exciting for the people who get it right and people who don’t get it right. But if you’ve got no degradation at all, then I’d probably say you’re not going to have one overtake for the whole race. SP: Yeah, I think we all drive to the limit that we have, like Lando says. I think if they want to get this format of Sprint races, we’ve got to change it. I would propose a reverse grid, something like that to make it more interesting for the fans, because I don’t think it’s working, what we want to achieve. And yeah, nothing really happens in these sorts of races.
Q: Are you serious about a reverse grid? Would you welcome that? SP: Yeah I would. I think it would mix up things and create more opportunities, a lot more overtaking. I mean, if we want to keep this format, give it a go on something quite different. Because I think for the last two years this sort of event hasn’t brought a lot of good racing.
Q: (Erwin Jaeggi – Motorsport.com) There was a new rule for qualifying, where you can’t stand still at the end of the pit lane anymore. I just wanted your opinion on this, please. MV: Absolutely terrible, I think, because on this track you have quite a long pit exit and there are some walls. But on some other tracks, if we implement this, you’re driving very slowly on to a straight where people are passing with 300+, and you are maybe driving 15/20 to make a gap, which is I think extremely dangerous. So for me, this doesn’t work at all, it just creates even more trouble. Look at what was happening yesterday, people going on the grass, including myself, to try and pass cars. It’s just a mess. Every single qualifying you have six to eight cars getting noted for driving too slow with the minimum time. I don’t know what we’re trying to achieve. LN: I don’t mind, to be honest. Again, we have no say in these rules. They just get implemented no matter if we think it’s good or bad for the sport. Same with the minimum lap time stuff. I got a reprimand this morning for two cars ahead of me coming out of the pit lane, or one crossing over the Safety Car line, one coming out of pit lane at the same time. I can’t overtake, otherwise I’m going to be racing on a qualifying lap, which is stupid. So I have to back off, and therefore I’m below the minimum time and I get a reprimand for that. It’s just a silly thing. Not that the stewards made the wrong decision, it’s just a rule that shouldn’t be in my opinion, because I did absolutely nothing wrong. I didn’t block anyone. I didn’t get in anyone’s way. I’ve just not overtaken and caused a race in qualifying and I get a reprimand for that. So just silly things. And even with this, it’s a tough one. Of course, people do go slowly and things like that, but if you’re scared of it, just go out of the pit lane earlier and avoid all the queueing. It’s quite a simple one. The only point is when you have like four minutes left on the clock or two minutes left on the clock, and you’ve got a guy at the front of the queue who just waits 30 seconds, 20 seconds. Does a Fernando and Lewis, back in McLaren, and you kind of screw everyone over, so that’s the only probably unfair thing. But I think there’s just more and more rules for everything and it just causes more and more havoc for everyone. SP: I think this rule that was in place, we all knew the rule and I think the people that didn’t respect it got penalised with it yesterday and it’s how it should be. Whether it’s a good thing or not, it’s a rule and we have to stick to them. And we all knew the rules to follow from their preview notes, so I think it’s good, the stewards finally are sticking to the rules.
Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) Lando, as competitive as the McLaren does look, you seem to be making a big difference this weekend, given the gap between you and Oscar. I wonder how well do you think you’re driving this weekend? I know you said after qualifying earlier to use your words that you’re ‘so shit at qualifying’ but what do you really think about the performance you’ve done this weekend? LN: Obviously, I know probably a bit more than what everyone sees, but my last few weekends have been very strong. I probably say like the last four or five weekends have been my strongest in terms of absolute pace and extracting the maximum out of the car. I just made those silly little mistakes here and there in qualifying, whether it was Mexico or previous races. But a lot of these times the pace was probably some of my strongest and the best I’ve been driving, if it wasn’t for these little things. And, of course, then I’m disappointed at times and I always say I should have been on pole or I should have been second and there just have been a lot of should-have, would-have, could-haves, which I understand, but it’s because it’s the truth. I think today we proved it, but yesterday we probably should have been on pole if we did as good of a job as we did today. That same goes for us in Qatar. And the last two, three weekends, I feel like I’ve been on top of things a lot more. And I have felt very comfortable. There’s still a lot of things which I’m not comfortable with but I definitely feel most on top of the car than I ever have been. And some of that is figuring out weaknesses that I have with the car and just things that I’m struggling with. And some of it is just confidence and putting things together and executing laps and executing good races and things like that. So I don’t think it’s just this weekend or anything’s suddenly changed. But here, Mexico, Suzuka, Texas, Qatar, I think all of these have been some very good races, very good performances, extremely good pace, probably in every single one but just a few too many of these little mistakes. And I think that’s why I’ve been disappointed, it’s when you’re missing out on a pole or P2. You feel like you’ve missed out on some very good opportunities. And we need it for the championship. We want it against Astons and things like that. So yeah, just some difficult moments and things I know I need to work on as a driver, but I know it and working on it. So yeah, a good weekend for me so far. Of course, not a great job as team yesterday in qualifying but I feel like we made up for it today.
Q: (Mat Coch – Speedcafe.com) Just picking up on something that Lando said about the drivers not being listened to. It’s not the first time that those comments have been made across a couple of different topics. You’ve got the GPDA to represent you, but it doesn’t have any formal power. Do you as drivers feel that? You’re listened to both I guess as individuals and through the GPDA? And would you like to see some sort of formal representation in things like the F1 Commission and the governance of the sport? LN: I’ll just correct you, because you’re probably going to headline it ‘stewards don’t listen to what drivers say’, but I definitely didn’t say that. I just said that we don’t have control of the decisions. Of course, they listen to us and they take it on board but if we go ask ‘can you please do this’ all of a sudden, of course they listen to it but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be something that gets changed straightaway. And sometimes it’s for later on down the line. So don’t misquote me. MV: Yeah, I think it just sometimes has too many rules that they have to take into account and too many politics as well to make a change or decision. Of course, I would like to, as the GPDA, to have a say. I would like to be the owner of F1 if I could, you know what I mean, but that’s not the real world. But, yeah, we keep expressing our concerns, but also what has been done correctly. And we keep that dialogue, let’s say, open, we try to always make them listen, and we listen as well, we tried to communicate and we’ll see what comes out of it in the coming years. SP: I think would be nicer if the GPDA could have a little bit more influence, because GPDA is not just a single driver. It’s the board, it’s the majority of all of us that are living the sport and yeah, it would be nice to see in the near future that they will consider more the opinion of the GPDA as an association.