Join DRAKE at STAKE F1 PARTNER
Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Top Three Press Conference

Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Top Three Press Conference

Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Top Three Press Conference

Full transcript from the FIA-hosted press conference after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Round 7 of the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship at Imola.

Features 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), second-placed Lando Norris (McLaren)and third-placed Charles Leclerc (Ferrari).

Track Interviews (Conducted by Vicky Piria)

Q: Max, what a race. A great start but Lando really put pressure on you. Were you under pressure at the end?

Max VERSTAPPEN: I mean, the whole race I had to push flat out. Maybe we had an issue. On the Medium tyres, we were quite strong. On the Hard tyres, it was just a bit more difficult to manage, and especially the last 10 or 15 laps, I had no grip anymore. I was really sliding a lot. I saw Lando closing in. So the last 10 laps it was just flat out. It’s very difficult when the tyres aren’t working anymore and you have to go flat out. I couldn’t afford to make too many mistakes. Luckily, we didn’t and super happy of course to win here today.

Q: Friday, you look like you really didn’t like the car, you weren’t at home with a car. And you really switched things around, you know, you and your team, and you just completely changed page, you know, from day to night. How do you do that with your team? Like, how much are you a leader there?

MV: I mean, we changed a lot on the car. Of course we didn’t have a lot of information going into the race. Maybe that’s why on the Hard tyres it was a bit more difficult for us. But I think from where we started the weekend to now, I mean we can be incredibly pleased with the pole and the win, so I will take that.

Q: Lando, that was close! Do you think with a few extra laps you could have got Max?

Lando NORRIS: Yeah. It hurts me to say but one or two more laps and I think I would have had him. Tough, A shame. I fought hard right until the very last lap. We just lost out a little bit too much to Max in the beginning. He was he was much better in the first stint and obviously in the second stint we were stronger, but yeah, just was a tough first half and a much better second half. One or two more laps would have been beautiful, but just not today.

Q: But you must be so happy. You stepped into Miami with a complete different car. I mean, back then do you think that you could be battling with Max here in Imola?

LN: Yeah, I mean all weekend, yes. I think we’re at a point now where we can happily say we’re in the position of Ferrari and Red Bull. So yeah, it’s what we have to get used to. But the team are doing a good job. I think we’re all doing a very good job. So it’s business as usual. It’s focusing on doing the same things, it’s just we’re fighting for first or second now. So yeah, it’s still a surprise to say that it’s frustrating not to win. But after last weekend and the improvements we made it’s what we should start to expect.

Q: Charles, your first podium in Imola, you must be happy?

Charles LECLERC: Yeah, at least it’s a podium. Of course I’m only very happy when I win. And today we didn’t quite make it. We were very fast at the beginning of the stint with the Hard. I started to push to try and put some pressure on Lando but later on they were they were incredibly quick. But all in all, I think the race pace today was quite strong. We lacked yesterday in qualifying. After looking, we missed on the first straight especially, which we will look into. On the rest of the lap we were quick so it’s looking good for the for the rest of the season. But yeah, it’s incredible anyway to be on the podium with all the tifosi here in Imola.

Q: Is it looking good also for the next race? Obviously it’s your home race.

CL: Yeah, Monaco is going to be a very special of course, as special as here in Imola. Obviously there’s a lot of reds and yeah, it’s always amazing to see that.

Press Conference

Q: Well done, Max. What a performance by you. It was very close in the end. Just how tough were those last few laps in particular?

MV: Yeah, I think first of all, in the race, like on the Mediums, I think it was very good. I didn’t expect that kind of pace after what we did so far in the weekend. But we could have somehow keep the balance together. So that felt really nice. But then as soon as I swapped to the Hard tyres, it was definitely… I mean, maybe not the first five to 10 laps, but after that I was like, I’m not sure I can bring this to the end, you know, because the tyres just fell out of the operating window and yeah, it was just like driving on ice really snappy and just you can feel when the tyres are not gripping up anymore like Turn 7, I almost ended up in the grandstand for my feeling, at some point. Just very difficult, really weird lines that I had to take. Those last 10 laps you know I was really trying to survive with the tyres and then suddenly Lando really picked up pace. So, yeah, I could see him, of course, catch up. I was not sure if I could keep him behind, but I was just trying to do the best I could, pushing as hard as I could with the grip that I had. And, yeah, luckily, it was just enough laps.

Q: How concerned were you about Lando? And at what point in the race did it become a reality that he was going to threaten?

MV: Well, I mean, as soon as it was like half a second a lap, I was like, whoa, that’s a lot. But the other hand, you can’t do anything about it. So I was just trying to do my pace. You cannot suddenly try and force a half a second out of it when you don’t have the balance. So I was just trying to really not make mistakes, really try to drive around the balance issues that I had and be quick on the straight. So that’s basically what I think helped me a bit at the end. Also, with the rear wing that we had, we were quite fast on the straight. And yeah, that probably helped a bit in the last few laps to defend.

Q: Given where the car was on Friday, were you overall pleased with its performance today?

MV: Yeah, Friday we were nowhere in the long runs. I had no good feeling at all. Even on Saturday morning, we tried another long run and that was also severely off, so not happy at all. But then I think already going into qualifying, the car felt a lot better. So I knew that today was going to be better, but I had no clue how much better. And we also didn’t have a lot of tyre data, so maybe we did something wrong with that, you know. Maybe it worked quite OK for the Medium, but then it didn’t work at all for the Hard tyres. So this is something that we need to understand and analyse.

Q: What does all this mean for Monaco next weekend?

MV: Nothing, because Monaco is again completely different. But you can see, of course, it’s clearly very close now. I think I had a bit more pace on the Medium, but then I didn’t have that pace on the Hard. And at the end of the day, we basically came over the line like we almost started the race. It was incredibly close and Monaco is always very hectic. You need to really nail all of qualifying to get a lap together there, get the tyres to work as well when it matters, it’s always very tricky. Monaco is very special, I would say, in that sense.

Q: And Max, this is your second victory this weekend following your win in the virtual 24 hours at the Nürburgring. Have you ever done the double before?

MV: Well, not in a day. And definitely not also a virtual. But yeah, that’s great. I mean, we prepared a lot for it also. So of course, I’m very happy with that result as well.

Q: Do any night stints last night?

MV: Well, I mean, evening stints. Not in the night. In the night, I had to sleep.

Q: Alright, look, very well done today. Thank you, Max. Lando, let’s come to you next. Just seven tenths of a second behind Max at the line. What were you thinking in those closing laps?

LN: I was just praying for one more lap. I was just praying for someone to say one more lap. I don’t know why. But yeah, I mean, I just did everything I could. I was pushing like hell to get there and catch up and have a chance. But as soon as you get within two seconds, you start to lose downforce and grip. The tyres start to overheat again. I kind of struggled for a couple laps, but once I understood how I had to drive again, like the last lap I managed to get there, and seven tenths, like one more lap, at least he would have had to defend into Turn 1, and maybe something could have come from that, but one lap too late. It’s a shame, but it is what it is, and we just struggled too much in the beginning of the race.

Q: Well, I was going to say, if you could run this race again, is there anything that you’d do differently? that would give you a chance of beating Max?

LN: Yeah, I would probably take out like four holes of front wing and do the same again. Like Max said, once the tyres are where they are, you can’t actually do a lot. So, I mean, we were expecting it to be a little bit colder today than what it was. So we kind of set up the car more for colder conditions rather than hot. And I think I paid the price in general. So that’s why I had to do so much of an introduction to the tyres and kind of bring them up so gently and look after them. Because if I didn’t, I just would have fallen off a cliff like the others did. So my only chance was to drive my race. And that meant being under pressure from Charles for more laps than I would have liked. But as soon as I kind of cleared the traffic and got back into my own rhythm, then I felt good with the car. The tyres kind of came back to me and I could push and I was happy. So from then on, the pace was amazing. And so it’s a good sign. It’s always a good thing to have is good race pace. But clearly when it’s hotter and there’s more degradation to the rear tyres, we start to struggle a lot more. And this is something we know. And maybe we could have prepared for a little bit more. But nevertheless, I’m happy with the outcome.

Q: Same question that I asked Max. What does all this mean for Monaco next weekend?

LN: Yeah, nothing. It’s such a different circuit, so not a lot, really. I mean, for the team, it’s very good. It gives them a good amount of confidence. We’re on the right track. We’re fighting against Ferraris and Red Bulls and that’s the expectation now. This is where we are and this is what we have to do. So if we were anything worse than second today, I think we didn’t do a good job and we would have been disappointed. So, yeah, I think we want to do the same again, but it’s such a different track. We kind of need to say how we are on Friday and ask me again then.

Q: You said coming into this weekend that you thought McLaren had the third fastest car. Do you still feel that?

LN: Maybe the fifth or sixth now. It’s close. Like, I don’t know what I’m going to say. It depends on your driving. Honestly, I think we’re all very close. In quali, maybe you would have put us a bit ahead of them yesterday. You know, without Max’s slipstream, we would have been ahead. And without Oscar’s penalty, like, we would have had a 1-2 on the grid for today. So probably in quali, you had the best car today. I think… It’s more down to driving than car. You know, I think if you push a bit too much, you deg off. If you go too slow, you’re too slow. It’s all about the driver judging it and driving to the correct limit. I don’t think you can just say this car was quicker, this car was slower today. So I think it’s tight enough. And when you’re split by one-tenth in qualifying, you can’t really say this guy was way better than the other one, you know. So hopefully it continues like that because it’s exciting, it’s tough, and it’s… Yeah, it gets you excited every weekend, so I’m looking forward to the next few.

Q: Thank you, Lando. Well done. And, Charles, well done to you. You’re the first Ferrari driver in the top three here at Imola since Michael Schumacher in 2006. Let’s start with that. Just how sweet was it up there on the podium?

CL: I mean, it’s always very special to be on the podium here in Imola. However, obviously, I’m never satisfied with a P3. You always want to be on the top step of the podium. But considering everything, I think we have lost mostly what could have been yesterday in qualifying. And this we will analyse. But today in the race, as Lando said, I think we were all very, very close. And it was all about who was pushing when exactly in the race. And then the podium was very special, as it always is when we are in Italy.

Q: When you look at the weekend as a whole, how have the upgrades performed? Have they done what you were expecting them to do?

CL: I think, first of all, it’s not the best track to judge upgrades, mostly because kerb riding is such a thing here that if you have a good car on kerbs, then that could hide a bit more what is the real order. The good thing is that everything we expected from those upgrades, we had it. In terms of data, it did exactly what it was supposed to do, which is always a good thing. And then looking back at yesterday, re-analysing qualifying, I think we basically lost everything at the launch. For some reason, we had a slightly different power strategy compared to McLaren and Red Bull, and we lost everything on the run down to Turn 2. Max, on top of that, had the slipstream. But this is something we’ll have to look into, because especially on a track like this, track position is absolutely everything. And when you only have a tenth in between Red Bull, McLaren, and ourselves, we need to do everything perfect. And the third place today cost us maybe a better result in the race.

Q: OK, final one from me. You’ve been working with a new race engineer here, Brian Bozzi. How was your first race together?

CL: He has done very well. I mean, it’s always very tricky whenever you change, especially in the middle of the season, like it was the case here. So there was lots of new things that he had to get up to speed to. I also had Johannes, who was my performance engineer, who was new on track. So I had two persons in my team that were new in their role and that was quite difficult at the beginning, but actually they’ve done an incredible job and it went really well. Now we’ll work on that and try to get better, but it’s a really good start.

Questions from the floor

Q: (Florian Niedermair– Motorsportmagazine.com) Question to Max. First of all, congratulations on your victory. And then second, about the track limits. You got a warning, a black and white flag early on in the race. First of all, were you aware of that? And second, how did you adjust your driving style afterwards and in what corners did you get maybe be a little bit more conservative?

MV: Yeah, I mean, they updated me, of course, with the track limits, tto just be a bit more careful from that point onwards. But the problem was also, I guess, in the beginning, I was understeering a lot on the Medium, and that was pushing me a bit off sometimes if I missed the apex. So after that, on the Hard tyres also, just leaving a bit more margin. Of course, the last few laps when Lando was catching me it was a bit harder because I had to naturally really use the track as much as I could. But we stayed within the lines, but definitely, it does require then a bit more focus, of course. Every exit, you have to be really sure what you’re doing.

Q: (Zsolt Godina – F1VILAG.hu) Lando, you said a lot of times that you have quite a lot of limitations with your car in the slow corners. How concerning is that for Monaco, especially, and have you noticed any changes in that regard?

LN: Yeah, I mean, we have a couple changes for Monaco, like I’m sure everyone does, and you set up the car completely differently to what you would set up the car here. I don’t think it correlates exactly the same. I think when we can just set the car up for slow speed, we’re better. But when you have to set it up for high-speed, medium-speed, and slow-speed, that’s when we make the most of our strengths, which is high and medium, and we take the hit in slow-speed. But, yeah, we have some little things, and even the upgrade we had last weekend helped us a little bit move in the right direction. My worst corner on track today was Turn 14, 15, the slowest part of the circuit. And that’s where I was losing most of my time still. So we still have that as a weakness. And we know that. We’re working on it. And it doesn’t make me too concerned for Monaco because it’s a track where you want a good car, but you also just need to commit to everything. It’s such a fast circuit. It’s not like you kind of just turn the wheel slowly. You have to commit. You have to judge how close you’re going to get to the apexes and that kind of thing. So there’s a big element of risk. And when that comes into play, it kind of spreads out things a little bit too. So, yeah, I’m not concerned. I’m excited to go to Monaco. I’m sure everyone is, because it’s so cool. At least excited for Saturday. And yeah, can’t wait.

Q: (Daniel Moxon – Daily Mirror) Lando, two races now since you brought these upgrades to your car. A win in Miami and you ran Max really close here. Do you feel confident enough to think that you might be able to challenge him at most circuits maybe going forward now with this upgrade? Or are you going to tell me that it’s too early to say that?

LN: No, I mean, I would hope so. There’s no reason after a couple tracks you would want to deny it. We also had a second in China, so we’ve had second, first, second, you know, and I think that’s good signs, but for the same case, I make a one-tenth mistake yesterday and I’m like three positions back. We probably don’t have a McLaren driver on the podium or whatever, so then all of a sudden you’re like, oh, it’s not as good as it looks. But I think we’re extracting everything we can out of the car, and when we do that, we’re here. But we’re on the right track. The team has done such a good job for us to be standing here. Many people didn’t expect us to still be able to improve so much and to catch up with Red Bull. I don’t think we’re at their level just yet. As we saw today, they still have areas where they’re better and maybe some areas where we are better now, which is a good sign. But yeah, I think there’s going to be tracks where we can be stronger. I’m still looking forward to a couple of those tracks, but there’s going to be somewhere a little bit off still. So we’re working on those places and if we work and improve on them as much as we have the rest of the car, then I’m excited that we can definitely continue to fight them in more races.

Q: (Giovanni Messi – Tutto Motori Web) Max, did you have a specific problem with the Hard tyre during the last stint? Because comparing with the first stint, you were so slower. Did you have a specific problem or not?

MV: Yeah, I just couldn’t really get the tyres to work. It just felt like they were not operating in the right temperature window. And that just got worse and worse. So the last 15 laps for me was really like driving on ice. They were not responding anymore. So that’s something that we have to analyse.

Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) A question for Lando, please. Lando, I think around Lap 40, Lap 41, you were told that Charles was trying quite hard behind you. You said, ‘I’m trying too, but he’s a lot quicker’. And then five laps later, you’ve taken the second out of Max. You’ve gapped Charles by quite a lot. What kind of changed there? Was it the cars around you just sort of falling off? Was it your own fortunes changing? Can you sort of explain a little bit about that transition point, please? Thank you.

LN: Honestly, I don’t know. I asked them pretty early on. Because as soon as I went on the Hard tyre, I didn’t feel great. And I was slow on the Medium relative to Max. And I wasn’t comfortable as soon as I came out on the Hard tyre. So I quite quickly asked, like, ‘where am I struggling?’ And they’re like, ‘oh, they’re just pushing more than you’. But I was asking because I just felt slow and I didn’t feel like I could push a lot more. So as soon as I started to push, I felt like I, you know, I’d oversteer, I’d understeer, lock tyres. It was just the tyres were not in a good window. And I think it’s clear, you know, with Max saying a similar thing, that as soon as they’re not in the right window, just you can’t push. You don’t have the confidence with the car. So I had to just manage things as best I could. And when I say I’m pushing, it doesn’t mean you’re 110%. Pushing can still be 90%. You’re just pushing to the limit of what you want to do. But I basically changed all my switches on the steering wheel to try and help the rear tyres and try to kill the fronts, because I just had too much front at that point. And maybe five, 10 laps later, things started to come back to me. So making all these changes and changing the differential and the brake balance and all of those things really allowed me to kind of bring the tyres back into a good window. As soon as I got there, I felt confident enough to push. And as soon as I felt like I could push, it kind of spiralled in the right direction. Just more coincidence that it was that timing more than anything. But when Charles was behind me, I didn’t have a lot more than what I had. And if I did, I probably would have made a mistake and went off track. So yeah, it was tricky. But as soon as Charles made the mistake, it gave me a bit of breathing room. I was like, ‘OK, maybe now I can try to push it a little bit more’. And it started to come back to me. It’s tough. It’s so tricky on this kind of circuit. you have a couple laps where you don’t oversteer and things feel better but then you oversteer and then things feel worse, so you can feel very quickly up and down. It’s just so sensitive with the tyres and that kind of stuff. I think we have a good understanding of it, it’s just today we probably didn’t do the best job especially in the first half of the race.

Q: (Gianluigi Paolucci – F1 in Generale) Question for Charles. After the mistake you made challenging Lando, how much were you managing fuel and tyres, or you had problems?

CL: No, to be honest my pace was quite similar for the whole stint. It’s more Lando that then gained quite a bit of pace, and it was not possible for me to come back within DRS. Then I was in a very awkward gap to Lando where you don’t get the benefits of the DRS, but you are just losing in corners, which at the beginning of the stint with the Hard, with our pace advantage, I could get within DRS. But then as soon as I lost it, It was also at the same time Lando started to push a bit more. And the two things put together made me go back a little bit. But I also had to try something a little bit different. I knew that by managing the tyres and attacking Lando at the end it was not the right thing because the pace advantage was not enough. So I just tried at the beginning to put him under a bit more pressure. But yeah, it wasn’t enough.

Q: (Rodrigo França – Car Magazine Brazil) Max, congratulations for your win. Considering the problems you had with set-up on the car since Friday, do you consider today’s performance one of the best you had in Formula 1?

MV: I would say definitely this year in terms of how we managed to just, you know, turn things around. I mean, in general this year, of course, we had a really good car so far. But, yeah, for whatever reason, we didn’t get on top of things from the start. I do think, of course, from yesterday qualifying onwards, it all looked a bit more normal. But maybe we were not on top of things for the race still, because on the Hard tyres, for sure, something was not optimized, because I just never felt like the tyres were working on our car. So that’s something that we have to analyse. But clearly the teams around us, you know, they are catching up and they’re doing a really good job. So we also need to try and find improvements, you know, from our side.

Q: (Arjan Schouten, AD Spoerwereld) Max, can you tell me, physically, how are you feeling now? Because you must be exhausted after a double shift and two difficult days, also a difficult Friday.

MV: I’m just broken from the bumps, to be honest. My back, everything is hurting. It’s not so much from the physical side of things, but just it was so bumpy out there. Already after like 20 laps, I could really feel my back. So I’m just looking forward to laying in bed. Maybe take some painkillers. And a massage, I don’t know. .

Q: (Zsolt Godina – F1VILAG.hu) Charles, next race, Monaco. You were not the luckiest guy there in the last few years. How confident are you that you could get that first win? And can you please tell me how special is the race on the streets where you grow up?

CL: Monaco is very special for me. True that it hasn’t been the most successful race for me until now. However, the pace was always there and that gives me the confidence that it will be the case this year too. However, Monaco is so specific that we need to start a little bit from a blank page. And yeah, free practice is super, super important to build the pace little by little. But I’m confident we’ll be strong. And as I’ve said many times, obviously, it’s the same roads that I took by bus to go to school when I was younger. Now it’s in a Formula 1 car. So that makes it extra special for me. So I’m really looking forward to it. To be in Monaco, a very special track I think for every driver because it’s a very challenging track and extra special for me, as it’s my home race.

Q: (Nate Saunders – ESPN) Lando, question for you. Max has been asked a couple of times this weekend about the sim racing and stuff. I know that’s something you used to do quite a lot of. Are you surprised that Max is so keen to kind of, or was keen this weekend to kind of get involved in that race? What kind of physical toll something like that takes on your body? And would you ever consider doing that between qualifying and a race, kind of taking on multiple stints of a sim race like that?

MV: You know we had the 24 hours of Spa.

LN: We won races together already. I’ve done my bit!

MV: He’s retired. It’s like ‘I’ve done that’.

LN: I mean, I’ve just never tried. I don’t have a simulator in my motorhome. I mean, I still, I definitely don’t do it as much as what I used to. More because I kind of play golf. Max hates golf. Like, that’s…

MV: I’m not an old man.

LN: Yeah. Well, same. But, yeah, I’ve just never tried. I wouldn’t be, like, I’d be up for it. I stayed up and watched the fight last night. So, I never sleep much anyway. I’ll just go with the shadow boxing. I don’t think it would have had the biggest toll. Otherwise, he probably wouldn’t have done it. Yeah, so he didn’t drive too late. He did a couple of stints. And he prepared for it and that kind of thing. But at least it’s not a physical thing. It’s more just mentally it can hurt you a bit. But I probably stayed up later than he did. What time do you sleep?

MV: I did watch the fight as well.

LN: Oh you did! So, I mean, I went to bed, like, I don’t know what it was, 2am or something. I didn’t get my 10 or 8 hours or whatever it is, and I was watching the golf, so I had a lot, and Indianapolis, so I was doing my bit, but… Yeah, I had like four screens going on. I’ve got a full set-up, just not a sim set-up. No, I respect it. It’s obviously something I grew up doing so much of. I think I paid the price of doing so much of it and not many other things when I grew up. My life was literally racing, sim racing, and then school when I had to go. And I didn’t do anything else. I never went out. I didn’t do any of this when I was a kid. I never went out with my friends and that kind of stuff. I was a bit of a loner. Now I’m just kind of making up for my lost time, that I get to go outside and I’m kind of doing other things and enjoying that more than the sim stuff. And maybe if I did less sim stuff and more other things, maybe I would still be doing my sim racing. I think just kind of how I grew up and stuff has led me away from it a little bit more than maybe what Max has done, and maybe Max did a bit the opposite. I still love it. I still enjoy it. I still play online and do stuff with my mates online. I still enjoy it, but not something I thought of doing on a Saturday night.