Full transcript from the FIA-hosted press conference after the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Round 20 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship.
Features race winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull), second-placed Lando Norris (McLaren) and third-placed Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin).
Track Interviews (Conducted by Mark Webber)
Q: Max Verstappen, another victory, the 17th victory of the year. It was relatively straightforward, built off a beautiful Qualifying session, which was tricky, got the pole with that on Friday. Run us through your afternoon, mate.
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, I think the starts were very important today, both of them, I think, were very good, and after that, the whole race was about the management of the tyres. We were good on any tyre but I think especially that middle stint, we could create a bit of a gap and I thought that was very strong there.
Q: It must have been quite lonely at times though mate, it’s a long-old race here, 71 laps, any mice in the machinery? Did your mind start to drift on other topics, or did you manage to keep it all together?
MV: It all looked quite good, but with the high deg around here, you were constantly correcting the car – so your focus always needed to be there. But luckily, it worked out great today.
Q: So, a few weeks off now mate, Vegas, you must be looking forward to that one. First time there, street race, racing at night…
MV: Very different to this one. I mean, a lot colder. Let’s see what the track grip will do. Street circuit, new for everyone, and I think it will be full of surprises for sure.
Q: Lando Norris, another podium mate, well done. Yourself and McLaren, absolutely on fire. You executed that beautifully. The starts were tricky, obviously, two different starts. Run us through your afternoon, mate, how do you think it went?
Lando NORRIS: Very good, couldn’t have gone much better, to be honest. Good pace, similar to yesterday, which is the main thing, and a much better start at the beginning to get from sixth to second, which was a nice surprise. But my start yesterday was not so good, so I tried to work on it, and it got better. But then, the second start, I was just a little bit aggressive on it. Still happy. P2 is as good as we can get nowadays and for the time being – but very happy for the rest of it.
Q: Absolutely. Was there any part of the race where you felt there was still a chance that Max might leave the door open for you?
LN: Not really! I mean, there’s little bits where the tyres come back to you a little bit and you can push on – but Max always seemed to have an answer to everything, which is a shame. But fair play to him, he drove a good race, so yeah, tough, with the wind conditions and everything but P2 is a good result.
Q: Cometh the man, cometh the hour, here he is. Mate, there’s no doubt about you, you just never give up. That was an extraordinary last few laps. You’re under so much pressure for so long from Sergio in obviously a far quicker car behind you. DRS, he was trying to manipulate the move here and there, so run us through those last two laps mate, that was absolutely special?
Fernando ALONSO: Yeah, for me it was like 30 laps that I had the pressure from Checo, but yeah, when he passed me, two laps to the end, I thought OK, going on the podium is not possible any more – but then he braked a little bit late in to Turn 1 and I said, ‘OK, I go for it into 4’. And yeah, this is a phenomenal result for the team. We’ve been struggling for a couple of months already, especially the last two events with two retirements. So, this podium is for them, for everyone in the factory, and yeah, we keep fighting until the last lap.
Q: Some of the developments have been a bit tricky but this race, it looks like, you’ve been strong in all conditions – and it’s a big result for the team.
FA: Yeah, obviously we’re still learning about the car. These cars are so complex aerodynamically, so, yeah, we’ve been experimenting a little bit to find the direction for next year, without forgetting this year that we’re still competing. So, happy for the result and now to Vegas!
Q: Max, very well done. You’ve extended your record tally of wins in a season to 17. You drove beautifully. How much did you enjoy this one?
MV: Yeah, I think it was good. I mean, also, maybe it looks fully easy from the outside, but I think for most of every stint, Lando was matching my lap-times. It was always like the last five to ten laps when it seemed like then, of course, we had better tyre deg. But yeah, the beginning of every stint, I definitely had to focus a lot and I couldn’t afford to make mistakes. And around here with the high deg as well, it’s not the easiest to drive. It’s not like you can just relax and let the car just roll into the corners without any consequence. You had to be really on it. And yeah, luckily, everything we did today, also strategy-wise, pit stops, were good. So, very happy about that.
Q: You talked about the beginning of each stint. Well, we saw that, just after the restart, when Lando was very close to you for a lap. How hard were you having to defend just then?
MV: He suddenly closed a lot. I didn’t expect him to have a run into Turn 1, but yeah, I had to use my battery a bit. And for one lap, into 1, into 4, I had to defend. And then I had to, of course, try and maintain that gap. But I think what also was very important at that stage of the stint was to really look after the tyres. To make sure that you have a good lap to pit.
Q: You say you’re having to look after the tyres. Was the situation better today than it was in the Sprint yesterday, with the soft tyre in particular?
MV: Well, I mean, with the high fuel loads, normally, of course, it’s a bit harder, you have to be more careful, which I think we did, especially in the beginning. But I guess also the track temperature being a bit lower helped. So, I guess pretty similar at the end.
Q: And can we talk about the original start? No Charles Leclerc alongside you? How does that change your outlook at that particular moment?
MV: I mean, you could still have wheel-spin and still lose positions but, of course when the nearest car, like, it’s not there, you can afford to maybe have a little bit of a worse start. But, at the end of the day, once the lights go on, you’re focused on trying to do the best start you can do.
Q: Final one from me, Max. Next up, Las Vegas, it’s a new track, a street track. How much are you going to relish that challenge?
MV: Yeah, well, I’ll deal with that once I arrive to the track. I mean, there’s still a lot to do. I still need to go on the simulator. I still don’t even know the track, to be honest. So, the last time I tried it on the F1 game, I think I hit more walls than I was going straight. So, let’s hope that’s not the case when I start driving there! But yeah, I mean, it’s going to be very different to here: very low temperatures, of course in the night there. Street circuit. We have no experience there. We don’t know the track grip. All new. So maybe it will give you a few surprises. I don’t know.
Q: Lando, let’s cut to the chase. Was that your best start in Formula 1? Sixth to second in just a few metres.
LN: In terms of position changes? Yes. I don’t think it’s the quickest one but it’s all relative at the end of the day. So, it was a pleasant surprise to come out in P2 already after Turn 1. I was expecting, and we planned a lot for, like, you know, 20 laps in traffic and some overtakes and a bit of fun. And I still had fun, but from P2 already. So, it was a good step up from yesterday. Obviously, that’s where I lost out to Max. Not because I had a bad start, I still had one of the best starts on the grid. It’s just Max’s – especially with that second phase – was extremely strong. So more just comes and goes and today we did some more homework on it and tried to get everything in a better window, and it all paid off. So yep, a good surprise and a good step up from yesterday.
Q: Second start didn’t look quite as sharp and it got pretty close with Lewis Hamilton at Turn 1 as well.
LN: Yeah… but I held onto second, so it was fine.
Q: Now, we’ve just heard Max’s analysis of Red Bull versus McLaren today. Do you agree with it, in that your pace was similar at the start of each stint but then he then pulled the gap?
LN: Yeah, I think similar to what we saw yesterday in the Sprint. I’m not far behind for the first 10-15, 17 laps but that final phase, I just drop-off a bit too much. I don’t know if it’s just we’re a bit slower and I’m pushing a bit more to try to keep up, and then I pay the price or it’s just a little bit of our tyre degradation is not quite as good and we suffer in the slow speed quite a bit with the rears, and that’s where we struggle then with the lap time in the end. So, yeah, clear things to improve on, like I said yesterday, but still a very positive day for us.
Q: And do you think an overtake was genuinely on, on that lap when you were very close to Max after the restart?
LN: Was it on? I mean, I tried. I just wasn’t… we struggled too much in Turn 10, Turn 12. It’s where the Red Bull’s extremely competitive and where we struggle, have struggled all weekend. Apart from when we’re on new tyres, and of course on that restart, I used my new tyres and Max didn’t. So, I thought if I was going to have one opportunity, it was going to be there and then. So I used all of my battery, and of course, had DRS and then you do start catching them very quickly. I had a good line in Turn 1, Turn 2, but Max also had a lot of grip. So, you know, if it was maybe later on in the stint, his line in Turn 1, Turn 2 would have been a lot more compromised and a bigger penalty, but because the tyres were still fresh and provide a lot of grip, he got a good enough exit that I then only got alongside him, just before the braking zone for Turn 4. So, I mean, I tried, I would have tried to get past him if I could, and I wanted to, but just a couple more metres would have been lovely.
Q: Final one from me, Lando. Can we get your thoughts on Vegas and whether you think McLaren are going to be competitive?
LN: No idea. I mean, I don’t think we were expecting to be as competitive here as we have been. So we’re still surprising ourselves. I gave up on guessing where we’re going to be nowadays. I mean, probably after Bahrain I didn’t want to think of where we’re going to be. But yeah, it comes and goes, you know. I think everyone expected Mercedes to be extremely strong this weekend and they were nowhere. [Everyone] expected Ferrari to be a bit more competitive and weren’t, so I think no one really knows. Everyone just guesses and presumes but no one knows until we just get on track. So just let’s wait and see.
Q: Fernando coming to you now. What a memorable race for you, just 53 thousandths of a second ahead of Checo at the flag. It’s your eighth podium of the season. But surely, this is the sweetest of them all?
FA: I’m not sure, the closest that’s for sure! Yeah, it was a very intense race. And there was no time to relax. Very strategic race as well – saving the tyres, saving the battery always, in case you need it on a DRS opportunity for Checo. And yeah, honestly, I thought that I had things under control in the last stint, until maybe five laps to the end, where I started pushing a little bit more. I had more juice in the tyres and I thought everything was fine. And Checo was playing the same game. He had good tyres at the end of the race and he overtook me two laps to the end. And I thought ‘OK, this is gone’ and then I had one more chance and it was enough.
Q: How did you stay ahead of him without DRS for so many laps?
FA: I think when you run just in front of another car, you have better downforce, you have clean air and that was maybe good for maintenance of tyre management. And he was struggling a little bit to go into Turns 10, 11 and 12 behind another car. And that was probably the game that we were playing. Those three corners were crucial for the overtaking opportunity. And yeah, when you are the car in front, you have better grip, always.
Q: How much of a shot in the arm is this, for both you and the team, after what’s been a handful of very difficult races for Aston Martin?
FA: It is very nice. I think we’ve been struggling for a few months. But the last two races were probably quite painful. We had to experiment a little bit on a few things on the car to really understand the direction that we were going and we have to go for next year’s car as well. So those races were painful, especially Mexico. I think we were very slow as a team, as a performance and yeah, I think it was nice to see everyone in the team very focused, the determination in the team was so nice from the outside to see and to go deep in the analysis and get back stronger here in Interlagos. So that was nice to witness from the outside, in a way, and to see everyone united into the same direction. And yeah, I was a little bit concerned, no doubt, for the last few races and maybe the final part of the championship and now, yeah, I cannot wait to go to Vegas. So it’s a very different energy when you have a performing car.
Q: Well, can you continue this for the last two races?
FA: I think so. At least closer to these than Mexico, that’s for sure. I think there are a couple of things that have been understood inside the team and the direction to go and we had some hopes for this race and they proved to be right. And now, why not to be competitive in the last two. I don’t know if [it would be] the level of the podium. Today, we had a good race. We had Charles, obviously, going off on the formation lap with the problem. We had the Mercedes underperforming, Checo starting at the back, so there were a couple of factors that helped us to be on the podium. But, you know, hopefully in the mix, that will be a happy place for us.
Q: Talking of happy, how much did you enjoy today?
Questions from the floor
Q: (Barbara De Oliveira Medonça – Globo.com) Max, no matter what happens in Vegas and Abu Dhabi, at the end of the 2023 season, you have won at least 77.2% of the races of the season. So you’ve officially beaten Ascari’s 1952 record of 75%. So we’re officially looking at the most dominant season in Formula 1 history. Do these numbers still resonate with you? Do they still motivate you? Or has it all gotten a bit too familiar?
MV: It’s not about that. I mean, it’s not something that when I joined Formula 1, I need to have a 75% win record over a season you know. These kinds of things come along when everything just works really well. You know, I feel good in the car, the car is very competitive, and the team barely makes mistakes as well. So then you can get a season like we are having. So for me it’s more about just enjoying the moment and trying to maximise every single opportunity.
Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Diario AS) Fernando, can you elaborate a bit more? How were you managing to keep Checo behind? Different lines, maybe? Different use of the kerbs, as we could see from the outside? And especially how did you manage to keep yourself close to the Red Bull for the last attempt?
FA: I don’t know. I think, as I said before, being the car in front, you have a little bit of an advantage in terms of grip in the last three corners. So I was just making sure… Not making any mistake in those three corners, because if not, Checo will be too close. I was using the energy also in the straights just to make sure that there was no opportunity for Checo. And yeah, in the lines, we were just changing lines sometimes. I didn’t want to be always on the same line, if possible, like this. If he goes on the inside, I was from time to time on the inside from time to time on the outside. So it was not a clear direction for him to really change the racing line and take the opportunity for some clean air. So I was just trying to get some turbulence to his front nose.
Q: (Maria Clara Castro – Car Magazine, Brazil) Congratulations to all three of you, but my question goes to Lando. You said on Thursday, during the press conference, that you didn’t have great memories from Brazil. So looking back to the whole weekend in general, would you say that Brazil has at least a little bit won Landinho’s heart?
LN: Yeah, I now love Brazil, it’s one of my favourite places. Yeah, I mean, I just haven’t had any good weekends. It’s not that I have not liked Brazil. I’ve loved it. And you know, I’m going to spend the next four days here. I came out already on the Monday before and spent some time with my friends. So I do enjoy it here. And, you know, away from the circuit I’ve always enjoyed. I just haven’t had any good races and I think of course this weekend has turned things around a little bit, so yes, it’s definitely been a positive weekend. It’s definitely boosted my confidence here in Brazil as an outline. And I think that’s a very good thing. So I’ve enjoyed it. Yes, it’s been a good weekend. Another pole… Pole position? I would never count a Sprint race pole like a proper pole or a Sprint race win as a proper win. But yeah, I think it’s been a very good weekend from start to finish and I’ve enjoyed it. I enjoy the challenges, I enjoy the people and I have a lot of friends here, like I said then. So for Landin, Land.. between Portuguese and… Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese. I didn’t want to say it wrong. I’m not going to say Brazilian. There is quite a … Landinho and ‘Lanjinho’… I’m still working on it.
Q: (Pedro Krug – RF1 Journalismo) Lando, today you managed to keep the same pace as Max for part of the race? Do you think if the team gives you a car to fight for wins next year, maybe a title?
LN: Maybe. I’ve just been just saying to Max, since we bought this upgrade to Austria, I’ve been the second highest scoring driver on the grid. I think we’ve been the second highest scoring team, potentially. Of course, we’ve taken some massive steps forward and at the same time, considering we’re talking about fighting the Red Bull, I think it’s still a very, very good thing, for what we’ve achieved this year. We’re talking about one of the best drivers in Formula 1 ever, in one of the most dominating cars and obviously it’s a pairing and things have to go well together, but we’re talking about a guy who’s scored 16…. Is it 17, oh, 17, I apologise… one of the most dominated years in Formula 1 history. And for us to go from where we were in Bahrain to getting close and talking about fighting a Red Bull I think are very good signs for us. And we know we still have plenty more things to come next year. So I’m excited. Having that as a thought, it’s quite a faraway thought. I don’t want to think of that just now, there’s no point thinking of it until next year but I’ll be optimistic and I believe we can do it as a team.
Q: (Bernardo Correa Bercht – Correio do Povo) Fernando, a bit of a nostalgia question: I wanted you to compare this drive today, the defensive drive and stuff, with back in 2005, Imola against Michael Schumacher.
FA: Yes, I do remember. (To Lando) How old were you? Five!? It was easier in 2005 because it was non-DRS. So that was probably easier. Now with the DRS, it seems a little bit different and you have to play things a little bit differently as well. And tyre management is also very different than back then, where you can maybe push the tyre all the way.
Q: (Q: (Bernardo Correa Bercht – Correio do Povo) But if you didn’t have DRS you couldn’t come back?
FA: Yeah, true, true. If in 2005 you lose the position, then it’s bye bye, you cannot recover and here I had another chance. It has been introduced to provide a little bit better show and today is a good example of that because you get overtaken two laps from the end and then you have another chance, especially here in Brazil. We saw yesterday as well, when there is an overtaking done into Turn 1, there is a possibility – a strong possibility – that into Turn 4 someone will get the position back. So that’s why we see some very nice battles in races always in Interlagos. It has been a spectacular weekend, as always here in Brazil. Sometimes it’s the weather providing this great show and I think this weekend without any rain or any weather we saw incredible races. So there is something in this track that always give a perfect opportunity for Formula 1 to shine and it was nice.
Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) Lando and potentially Max as well. Lando obviously made a fantastic attempt to try and get the lead for a Max. We saw you fall away a little bit after that. Was that a sort of strategic retreat and you were going to come back at him later or was that just a matter of tyres falling away? And Max, obviously you’ve not had much competition out on track this season. Was it enjoyable to have a little bit of a battle with Lando? And is it something that, even though you’ve made all of these great races and had all of these wins, you’re missing that element of it?
LN: Yeah, it was a strategic retreat! The opportunity to race against Max was only going to be for a few laps. We weren’t going to find, all of a sudden, the pace we needed to compete against him for a whole race. And Fernando was behind me. We know that their race pace, especially when the majority of the time when it’s high deg and certain things that they can have very good race pace. So yesterday he didn’t have clean air, today he was going to be in an opportunity, in a position to potentially just achieve a lot more and I didn’t want to compromise my own race by having one more attempt. At the same time, I was low on battery and those types of things. And if you overheat the tyres too much too early you can pay the price quite heavily. I tried. It wasn’t worth a second attempt as much as I would have loved to and I think potentially could have done. Just it wasn’t worth the risk and potential consequences of then being in the hands of Fernando and the people behind. So yeah, it was good fun. I thought if there was a little bit more space, or if I was literally a couple metres further down, things could have been a little bit different. But at the same time, to then try to keep Max behind for the rest of the race would have been a whole new challenge. So, good that we’re getting there and I had an attempt. I think that’s one of my first attempts at really trying to race past him, ever, in my career in Formula 1, which is a good thing, but yeah, that last little thing needs to click and then we can do it more often.
MV: Yeah, I don’t mind of course fighting but I’ve also done many years in F1 where you win two races a year and the rest you are driving to be P5, so I’m just enjoying the moment and embracing it and also enjoying driving of course up front with a bit of a gap.
Q: (Fred Ferret – L’Equipe) Fernando, is there a move that you are particularly proud of in that race, defending or attacking Checo?
FA: Obviously the last lap, overtaking him, it was quite a lot of commitment because we were both all or nothing in a few corners. But I think to be honest, the most important overtaking of the race has been Hamilton into Turn 4 on lap one. That changed my race. If I start P4 and I have to fight with Hamilton in the first stint even if I can eventually get him from lap 10 or whatever, my tyres will never be in a condition to extend the first stint and then have a tyre advantage to Checo in the second stint and third stint, so for me there is one crucial moment of my race and it’s lap one, into Turn 4 with Hamilton.
Q: (Rodrigo França – Car Magazine) We’re heading to Las Vegas, the third race in the US. Of course Liberty Media turns some of Americans’ emotions of Formula 1. Do you drivers like it, the behind the scenes stories that Netflix and everything or are you just focused on the driving part?
MV: No. No. I don’t know, probably I’m a bit more old school in that. I wish social media never existed. Freedom of speech, right?
FA: Yeah. I’m very focused on the racing and not on this show. I never saw any of this Drive to Survive, even Season 1 or whatever, I never saw any episode. Did you?
MV: Do you drive to survive? I drive to have fun.
FA: On Saturdays, yes. We go there, we race even sometimes the parade laps or presentations and things like that, they are not always in our dream preparation before the race. So we try to balance. We know it’s important for the sport but I think drivers, teams, even for you guys in the media it’s a very long season, a lot of travelling and we just go for racing, this is what we love but the outside package is sometimes a little bit too much but we understand it.
LN: I pretty much echo their thoughts to be honest, nothing much different. I watched, I think, the first episode I was ever in, which was end of Season 1 and that was it. That was all I saw. The thing is, when you know everything that goes on, it’s nice when they make you look good but then sometimes they also make you look bad. And it’s like the real truth at the end of the day. It’s still a show, it’s to entertain people. It’s not there to provide maybe the most honest things about everything. I know, it’s for the business, right? It’s a business, Formula 1, it’s an entertainment. As much as I don’t do it for entertainment, if it didn’t get televised and all of those things wouldn’t really matter. I just want to do the driving, and that’s why I’m here. I’m not here to do all the interviews and enjoy all of this stuff. I love Formula 1 because I love to drive and compete against these guys and race and do all of that stuff. And even since I’ve started, the media has risen a lot more, but in the business world, it probably makes sense because there’s more money and all of those things, and that’s normally how it works. But as drivers, it’s not the thing that we enjoy too much of, but some perks of it, I guess.