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Bahrain GP Top Three Press Conference

Bahrain GP Top Three Press Conference

Bahrain GP Top Three Press Conference

Full transcript from the FIA-hosted press conference after the Bahrain GP, Round 1 of the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship at Sakhir Circuit.

Features 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull), second-placed Sergio Perez (Red Bull) and third-placed Carlos Sainz (Ferrari).

Track Interviews (Conducted by David Coulthard)

Q: Max Verstappen, congratulations! Back-to-back victories and your 55th Grand Prix victory.

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, unbelievable. I think today it went even better than expected. I think the car was really nice to drive on every compound and I think we had a lot of pace. And yeah, it was super enjoyable to drive today. We really stayed out of trouble. And yeah, great start to the year. I mean, it couldn’t have been better.

Q: No, absolutely. Clean sweep. You led every lap, fastest lap by a sizeable margin. It looked like play time for you out there.

MV: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I felt really good in the car. And yeah, it’s always very special to have these kinds of days because they don’t happen that often, you know, that it just all goes perfect, then you’re just at one with the car and everything just feels great.

Q: You had to be quite defensive into the first corner. We can always expect that here. But thereafter, no issues?

MV: Yeah, I think the start was good. Of course, the first corner is a very tight hairpin. So naturally, you want to defend the inside just to be safe, so that’s what we did. And basically, from there onwards, we just focused on our own race.

Q: You don’t get long to celebrate this victory, because in a few days we’re heading to Saudi for Round 2.

MV: Yeah but that’s fine, you know. It’s a long season. And it’s a great place in the world to be anyway. So for me, yeah, a couple of days’ rest and we go again.

Q: OK Max, congratulations on your victory. Thank you. And now Checo Pérez, same result is last year, but great comeback from your fifth place in qualifying. Satisfied with your race?

Sergio PÉREZ: I think it was the maximum we could have achieved. It was a quite a tricky race, you know, with the management of the tyres – I think there’s plenty we will learn from tonight’s race, which will be important for the championship. But overall, I think it’s a great way to start the season.

Q: So just expand on that. What were the issues you were managing on the tyres and was it compound to compound?

SP: it was really compound to compound, the amount of sliding we were having, we would have some issues with the engine braking, the driveability, which is not easy around here, because there is plenty of low-speed. But like I say, you know, I’m sure we will analyse all of that tonight and make sure we learn for Jeddah.

Q: Less than a week away, so you don’t have long to come back and then try and build on this result.

SP: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s a good team momentum and we’ve got to keep it up for the coming weekend.

Q: Finally, our third-place finisher. Carlos, you were feisty out there, you were really, you know, looking like you wanted that podium result. Great drive.

Carlos SAINZ: I felt really good out there today. The start wasn’t ideal but from then on I just managed my tyres well. And then from there, I could do my pace, overtook two or three cars on the way to the podium and then keeping up with a Red Bull there at the end, which was a pleasant surprise. Still not enough, not where we want to be, but a good step forward compared to last year and a solid start to the season.

Q: Good start indeed. Different compounds at the end of the Grand Prix there. What were you learning? This is the first race of the season so you’re sizing up your opposition?

CS: Yeah, we had a very clear plan, using Soft and then two Hards. With the Hard on our car we feel a bit more comfortable, because it overheats less, it degrades less. It is a bit of a trickier tyre with warm-up and with front locking but then once we get it working in our guard, you can push on it. In the Red Bull you can see different traits, different strategy choices, but I think also that’s the beauty of F1. And yeah, we could play around a bit with strategy today.

Q: Now the beauty of Formula 1 is it’s the race that never ends. In one week we’ll be in Saudi. Is that a circuit that will play to the strengths of your car, do you think, or how do you see it looking forward?

CS: Let’s see. It’s the first different circuit that we go with these new 2024 cars, so it will be a bit of a surprise for everyone to see where we are. I expect the cars like the McLaren and the Red Bull that last year they were very good in high-speed circuits to be competitive there. But you know our car has also improved in the high speed so hopefully we can be also stronger.

Press Conference

Q: Well, Max, first race of the season, your first win of the season. Was progress on track as straightforward as it looked?

MV: I think today was probably better than expected. The thing that changed was the wind and the intensity of it. So yeah, it just felt a bit better. I just had a better feeling with the car and I could look after my tyres quite well at the same time. So that was very positive. Probably a bit more how it was in testing as well. I just felt very comfortable with the car. That really showed today, so I’m very happy to kickstart the season like this, but also as a team, to have a 1-2 is just fantastic. But I also think that in general other teams are closer. I just think that today everything just worked really, really well, and I of course don’t expect that to happen every single Grand Prix in the near future but still, we’ll take it, we’ll look back at it, of course, we’ll analyse it and we’ll try to improve further.

Q: George Russell said after qualifying yesterday that he thought you had half a second a lap over everybody else. What did you make of the gap to everyone?

MV: Of course, I don’t know how they approach their long runs, you know, with fuel loads and whatever. But from our side, it was definitely not expected to be a half a second ahead, for sure not. But yeah, it was probably a bit better than I thought today.

Q: And you say the car feels more like it was in testing. Is it still a bit of a relief to come out of the first race, having had the domination that you had?

MV: Yeah, but also at the same time you could see in qualifying it was very tight and yeah, there are things that we can do better and that’s what we’ll focus on you know for the coming races.

Q: Well, let’s throw it forward to the next race. how much confidence do you have going to Saudi Arabia?

MV: It’s a completely different track layout, a lot more high-speed corners. The tarmac, of course, is completely different to what it is here, so less degradation. Naturally, probably that will help other teams as well compared to us. It seems like for us always it’s better to have these kind of tracks, so I don’t expect that to be easy.

Q: All right, very well done today. Thank you, Max. Checo, coming to you, great race from fifth on the grid. Just how satisfied are you with your progress?

SP: Yeah, I think starting from P5, it’s always nice to make good progress. There were a lot of battles on track, which around this place, you just go into a very different strategy once that happens. You are sliding a lot more in traffic. And I think overall, it’s a very good team result. Yeah, it was quite close with the Ferraris, with the Mercs early on. We were fighting with the DRS, obviously, being a lap earlier. It just changes a few things out there.

Q: And you were on the Soft tyre in that final stint. You had Carlos just behind on the Hard tyre. Were you concerned going into that stage of the race?

SP: Yeah, I knew that it was just about managing, you know, because he obviously pushed us to stop early and we just stopped quite early, actually. And it was going to be a very long stint, so we managed to progressively build a gap, keep that gap between us consistent and I think it worked well. We had a few other issues with the car towards the end of the race that meant that our degradation was getting quite a lot worse towards the end of the race.

Q: Even without that degradation, just how comfortable are you in the RB20?

SP: Yeah, I think today was a very nice surprise. We were expecting definitely the people around us to be a lot stronger. I think, like Max says, you know, this is probably the worst place for degradation. So I think the better it is, the closer you will get. So Jeddah will be a very different challenge, so it will be interesting to see where we are there.

Q: How much are you looking forward to Jeddah, of course, scene of your victory there last year?

SP: Yeah, a lot. You know, I think also I believe that the car will be strong there with the high-speed content. So I think there should be another strong weekend for us.

Q: All right. Well done today. Thank you, Checo. Carlos, coming to you now. Fourth in the opening race last year, third this year. Given everything that’s happened to you over the winter, just how important is this podium?

CS: I think it’s just important to start the season well, start the season with a strong race, not just for my future, just for myself, you know, because last year I spent a lot of the races, you know, looking in my mirror, saving tyres, defending my position. And I remember at the car launch saying, yeah, this year I wish we had a car to go racing, you know, and attack people and don’t care too much about the tires and make some overtaking moves and look forward rather than look backwards. And it’s exactly what we got. You know, I got an attacking race, a really good race pace and from there everything felt really good to finish P3. It wasn’t a straightforward and an easy race, but yeah, I enjoyed it a lot.

Q: It was a very clean race for you. Did you have any of the braking issues that Charles had?

CS: Yes, the first stint and the beginning of the second stint, whenever we were in traffic, we were having a lot of brake vibrations and the pedal at one point started to go long. So it was always a balancing act between, do I go for it and try to get rid of the dirty air and overtake people, or do I start saving my brakes because they’re going to fail or something’s going to happen? I started saving by moving a bit on the straight to cool the side that it was getting hotter and the vibration started to get better. And then I could start to make moves and move forward. But as I said, the start wasn’t great. The brakes were still a bit of a limitation for a bit. And then once everything settled, I could do my pace, do my overtakes and go for the podium.

Q: Tell us more about those overtakes and specifically the ones on Charles Leclerc, because from outside the car, it looked very close. How did they feel inside the car?

CS: It never felt close inside the car. Whenever I do an overtake on my team-mate I will always try and leave as much margin as possible, and I try and do it whenever I feel like I’m fully under control and I’m not putting any car at risk. And that’s exactly what I did. I felt like a very good move. And yeah, always keeping an eye on Charles and not making him also lose time or anything like that.

Q: And just give us your thoughts on that final stint. We heard from Checo about him being on the Soft, you being on the Hard. What were you feeling at that moment in the race? Did you think P2 was on?

CS: You guys need to consider that we’ve been testing here three days and I’ve been seeing that Red Bull degradation on Soft and it’s exactly the same as ours on the Hard. So as soon as I knew Red Bull had a new Soft for the last stint, and Checo had it, it’s not like I went, ‘OK, this is my chance’. I’ve seen the long runs they did on the C3 tyre, the Soft tyre in testing, and you could see that they basically have the same deg on the Soft than what everyone has on the Hard. So I wasn’t getting too excited. Also, I was in a bit of an uncomfortable position, you know, because you’re there in the two-, three-second margin, which is where you get all the dirty air, but you don’t get the advantage of the DRS and the slipstream, so you’re just sliding a bit more. If I would have been within a second or maybe five seconds behind, I think on the Hard tyre I could have maybe showed a bit more the true pace of the car and my pace today. But in that two, three seconds is the worst place to be and I could never mount any proper challenge on Checo today.

Q: Carlos, you’ve talked about Red Bull’s deg on the soft tyre. Are you surprised by their overall pace in the race? Has it come as a surprise?

CS: Again, no. When I saw the long runs of Max and Checo on FP2 and then the long runs of testing, there’s no secrets. We’ve been here three days. I knew they had a three-, four-tenth advantage, maybe not half a second like George was saying, depending on track conditions. But I knew it was going to be very difficult to beat the Red Bulls. They also kept a new Soft, which shows a bit what the intentions and their plans were. So I knew the Red Bulls today were going to be very, very difficult to beat. So to keep up with one of them and have the possibility to fight is already a good surprise. I think we were at one of their strongest tracks of the season with very high tyre deg at the rear. Hopefully when we go to a more front-limited track and maybe better tarmac, our car will come alive and we will be able to mount a better challenge on Max for the win.

Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Diario AS) Question for Carlos. After one year being quite defensive, how does it feel to be that aggressive again to show the people and the team bosses that you’re still a very aggressive driver that can perform those kind of overtakes?

CS: Yeah, it’s actually a bit of a relief, you know, because I remember last year, the last race where I was attacking was Austria. And we’re talking about 13, 14 races ago. And then the rest of the races last year, you just had to manage. You just had to look in the mirrors. You just had to control your pace. And there were very little opportunities to go and overtake people. And I love going racing, and I love going overtaking, being aggressive, attacking. And with last year’s car, it was simply impossible to do that. As soon as we were in dirty air, as soon as we overheated the tires, as soon as we pushed a bit too much, it was game over. And this year to come to the most rear-limited track of the season, the highest degradation, and do an overtaking. attacking race for me is a relief and it gives me a feeling that we will be able to do this more often this year. It doesn’t mean we will do it every race at all, because I still think one of our strongest parts of our car is qualifying, so I think we will still qualify maybe ahead of what maybe our true position is, but at least we’re not degrading and defending like crazy like we were doing last year.

Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) question to Max. If you compare the tight qualifying yesterday to today’s dominance, is that mainly due to the conditions you talked about, or is it also with the new Red Bull concept still the case that the Red Bull car is just way stronger in the race than in qualifying? And if that’s the case, is it something you pay more attention to with your setup choices, or is it just natural to the Red Bull cars?

MV: Yeah, I do think that we are just not that great on one lap performance for whatever reason with the car. But luckily it’s very good in the race for most tracks. Naturally, of course, you focus a little bit more on the race, but yeah, it just seems like other teams can maybe extract a little bit more over one lap than us for whatever reason. So that’s what we’ll look at for the coming races. But yeah, I really think that also just… The circumstances today with the wind helped us out a bit more compared to the last two days. So probably it was not in our favor with how the car is responding at the moment.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Another question for Max. Max, you lapped half the grid today. What kind of a season do we expect from you? Is it breaking more records, or do you really expect for there to be a fight at some point of the season or is it going to be just straightforward, another one like last year in your case?

MV: Well, I don’t really think about that. I go race-by-race because there are so many different scenarios. And this is a very particular track as well. Probably one of our strongest anyway. So I don’t want to think about these kind of things yet. I just want to now focus on what to improve from this race onwards. And then look at Jetta, how we prepare there. But I’m not looking ahead too much.

Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) A question for both Max and Checo, please. Just on that extra set of Soft tyres that you had in the race, given the degradation around here, did it kind of seem like a little bit of a risk for you when the strategy was first presented to you? Or were you just kind of super confident that you kind of had it all in the bag?

MV: From my side, it was quite clear after testing and also practice that we needed to do what we did with the Soft being a good tyre and the Hard being the Hard. So never big question marks, to be honest.

SP: Yeah, it was straightforward. I think the Hard is just not performing as well as with the other teams. And we seem to be better looking after the Soft. So it worked really well to be able to save a new Soft.

Q: (Marco Canseco – Marca) From outside, for Carlos, the question. From outside, it seems that Ferrari tried to undercut against you. Is that the case?

CS: I don’t think it was an intended undercut. I think Charles degraded the tyres probably a bit earlier than me, and they decided to keep me out for three or four laps. Honestly, those three or four laps were very strong. I think I managed to go down to 37s, low 37s again. So it was worth it. And then, yeah, luckily it didn’t compromise my race because I could pass Charles fairly quickly and go and attack George, which I passed also quite quickly. So I don’t think I lost too much race time on that situation.

Q: (Taylor Palin – Motorsport Monday) Sergio, you said yesterday that you expected following another car to be tougher this season. A question to both you and Carlos: was that the case today? And to Max, what did you make of DRS being activated after lap one? Is that something you agree with, and did you have it in mind before the race?

SP: Thanks. I think it definitely changes the way you race, you know, and especially with the cars around you when you are in a fight and straight away you get DRS. Like I saw Carlos, he lost DRS early on and he was just out of contention for a while. And the car ahead going straight into the clean air, it’s basically going on his own, has to use more of his tyres, so it’s a bit of a disadvantage if you are fighting, I think, in places like Baku or even Jeddah, you know, having that sort of… I think the racing is going to be different. It does create a difference to the car ahead in the first few laps. So, yeah, it’s going to be interesting, I think. The whole first stint between Mercedes, Ferrari and myself was very racy throughout. So I think that the change in DRS is making a difference.

CS: I think a lot of strategy comes into play, especially with how sensitive the tyres are to pushing. So on one side, you want to push to get out of the DRS or to get into the DRS. And then on the other hand, you want to save tyres because we all know how sensitive the tyres are in the first few laps to pushing. So it’s a very fine line. I elected to, as soon as I saw I didn’t have pressure from behind. I decided to manage my tyres and it paid off instead of getting into the DRS battle. So and then I could overtake them. No problem. And yeah, it’s going to be track dependent. It’s going to be, I think, a very tricky season going 24 races like that. We had it on the Sprints last year. So yeah, it’s going to be a challenge. But another interesting thing to think about.

MV: Yeah, I mean, also from my side, knowing how much to push or not. I think the first lap, Charles, was in the DRS at least once. But yeah, you want to push and save your tyres, so it’s making that decision. But for sure, on some tracks, it will be quite tricky because the DRS can be very powerful. So it might create some, let’s say, interesting battles or situations.

Q: (Marijn Abbenhuijs – AD Sportwereld) Right after the race, you said it was a special day today because it’s not often as perfect as it was today, but we’ve seen you dominating pretty much every race since a long time. What made today even better than most of the already very good races you had last year?

MV: I think today everything just went really well. The balance, the feeling for myself in the car. And that is not always like that. I mean, sometimes you win races, but you’re maybe not very happy with how you were feeling with the car or the balance of the car. But yeah, today that was all very good.

Q: (Sönke Sievers – Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) A question to Carlos and Max, please. What do you think, how much locked in is the advantage of Red Bull at this moment? Will anyone even be able to catch them until we get a new rule set in 2026?

CS: I think the advantage of Red Bull in Bahrain is what you saw today very, very clearly. I think it’s interesting how they can keep the C3 Soft tyre alive for a bit longer than the rest, how they tend to overheat a bit less. Maybe that’s what makes the car also not as competitive in quality and so good in the race in a track like Bahrain. now we need more samples. But I expect Red Bull always to be better in the race like they were last year. Look at the last eight races between Charles and me. We managed to do some pole positions a lot of front rows but then max in the race was pulling away massively and Checo was always able to overtake us. So Yeah, I hope that this year’s trait is not as exaggerated and we’ve done a good step forward in that sense, which already I felt today. But they are still ahead. So now it’s time to get our heads down and start developing this car to keep closing the gap in the race.

MV: Yeah, I mean, this weekend, of course, I think in the race, we’re still very strong. But if you look at qualifying, I, of course, put it on pole. But the fastest lap was done in Q2 by Charles, you know. So over one lap, I don’t think it’s that straightforward. And every track is different. So maybe we rock up in Jeddah and you have a different feeling. And naturally, on tracks with lower degradation, teams will be closer. And yeah, luckily, we don’t have too many Singapores on the calendar. Otherwise, it might be a bit of a struggle for us. But let’s see this year if it’s a bit better on street circuits as well.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) A question for Carlos. Carlos, Charles mentioned in the media band that the front brakes were overheating. Was this a problem that you discovered in preseason testing, or has it just come up this weekend?

CS: I don’t know the level of severity he had but for me it was at one point pretty bad too. It’s something that you cannot discover in testing because in testing you never put yourself in 10 laps consecutive behind four cars getting all the hot air from the four cars in front and the brakes never cool down. I tried not to panic. I tried to put the side that was more heated, and I took a different line on the straights to cool them down. And yeah, at one point, the pedal started to go quite long and also a lot of brake vibrations, which changes your feeling on the braking quite a lot. But yeah, I kept it cool, managed them, and as soon as I got a bit of clean air, it cleared and it became a lot better. But it’s something that we definitely maybe need to take a bit more margin going into the next few races.

Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) A question to Max and Checo. Obviously, Red Bull is running a slightly new car concept this year. Purely as a driver, if you compare the new concept to the RB19, is it giving you, as a driver, and in terms of driving style, any different feelings than the RB19, or i@s it all very similar? And secondly, it’s still kind of a relief to see that this new concept is working flawless, basically, because some other teams on the grid could not make different car concepts work.

MV: I think the feeling in the car is pretty similar, just a little bit better. I think that is what we really wanted. I mean, last year’s car was already very good, with some tiny improvements here and there. I think especially also a bit more low speed, the car just feels a bit better. But overall, when I jumped in, it didn’t feel like a completely different car to drive or whatever. So that was positive. And, yeah, for sure, it’s always a little bit of, you know, maybe for me more than the team, a question mark. Like, if you look at the car, you’re like, oh, is this going to work? But clearly, you know, they have done their homework. They trust all the simulations and also the wind tunnel. And it has shown the last few years, you know, that they have been very good at it.

SP: Yeah, I think it was definitely a risk, you know, to change the concept, but everything has been working. The car, it’s very similar balance-wise to what we had last year. It’s just, like Max says, just better in all regards. But I think we… we’re still learning of our new car like everyone is. so I think when we take it to very different circuits we we’re going to be learning a lot. so hopefully we keep this progression going and we are able to develop the car stronger than our rivals.

Q: (Carlos Miguel – Diario Marca) Carlos, is this race the proof that you can be the real alternative to these two guys this year?

CS: I hope we can be. I think we are a bit too far at the moment to mount a proper challenge for race wins if they put everything together and they make everything perfect. But the base that we have on the car this year and the aero platform and just the car that we’ve put on track feels and drives a lot more normal than last year. And from here, if we offset this level of downforce, you know, and we just keep adding downforce to this car, I think we can start getting closer to them. But we need to start doing it from now, because if not, they they’re going to start pushing and getting far away.