1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull)
2 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
3 – Lando NORRIS (McLaren)
(Conducted by Martin Brundle)
Q: Max, congratulations, that was a wild afternoon, but you had it covered; a great victory.
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it was very challenging out there, especially in the beginning. It was very hard to stay on track to be honest; it was very slippery., and then of course with the tires degrading in the wet, and then choosing the right moment to go onto slicks is never easy. I think we managed everything well., and then a little moment on my restart…
Q: That was so close?
Verstappen: Yeah, but everything else went really well today, so of course very happy with that.
Q: What happened on that re-start? Just trying to warm the tires?
Verstappen: Yeah, a little moment when I was just trying to warm it with throttle, but luckily we didn’t spin.
Q: But you had a wonderful run down to the first corner on the original start to take the lead.
Verstappen: Yeah, I was surprised myself. Last year we had been struggling a little bit off the line but we had worked really hard to make that better, and you saw it in Bahrain but now in these tricky conditions I think we did a great job.
Q: Lewis just took the fastest lap towards the end, so he is still a point ahead of you in the world championship, but you are right back in there.
Verstappen: Yeah, but it’s a long season, so let’s stay calm.
Q: Lewis, where do we start on that race? Congratulations for bringing it back in second place.
Lewis HAMILTON: Thank you. First, congratulations to Max. He did a fantastic job today. Just solid work from him, and also to Lando – what an awesome job, and so good to see McLaren back up there. On my side it was not the greatest of days. It’s the first time I’ve made a mistake in a long time but I’m grateful I was able to bring the car home still.
Q: Take us through that error at Tosa. You were passing some lapped cars?
Hamilton: Yeah, there was only one dry line, and I guess I was in a bit too much of a hurry to get by everyone. Coming to the inside, I could see it was wet, and I was trying to stop but the thing wouldn’t stop, and it sent me off. A bit unfortunate but I’m really, really grateful that we got to get going again, and to get some points for the team was really important today.
Q: So, during the red flag break, did you ever imagine that you would still be leading the world championship, and that you would finish second?
Hamilton: I wasn’t thinking about. I was just trying to get over the gutting feeling it is when you make a mistake, and just moving on from it, and just learning real quick, and you don’t have time to dwell on it so that’s what I did – get back into the racing spirit. I didn’t know whether or not we would be able to overtake because again, offline was going to be wet, but still had some great battles with all the guys.
Q: Lando, on the podium again, second time. Whoa, that was… you were really having to defend hard but your pace was so strong.
Lando NORRIS: Thanks. I’m happy. I think a nice recovery after yesterday. It was a long race. A tough one but I didn’t start so well, y’know. It was a tough start but I came back through. I had good pace. I tried hanging on to second but Lewis was a bit too quick for me today so… yeah, it’s nice to be fighting these guys. It’s nice to be there on merit, and there on pure pace –, and hopefully we can have some more in the future.
Q: With Lewis in your mirrors, you kept your head. There was a lot of pressure there, and you were talking about a bit of clutch-slip – so you were managing a few things]
Norris: Yeah. That was my knee-pad, was hitting my clutch-paddle so that was my own mistake. We opted to go on the Softs for the restart, and I had good pace for the first 10 or 15 laps but I knew I was going to struggle a lot towards the end – especially with Lewis behind me. It was not going to be an easy one. But I tried. I held on for two or three or four laps but in the end I just couldn’t hang on – but I’m happy with third. I’m not disappointed.
Q: Well, the fans appreciated it. They voted you driver of the day.
Norris: They did? I didn’t think I had any fans! But thank you very much.
Q: Max, many congratulations. That was a very impressive win in what were at times very difficult conditions. How satisfying is it to win a race like that?
Verstappen: Yeah, it’s never easy a race like this; it’s quite stressful out there to make the right calls. The key, I think, was to have that good launch, which was also a bit of a surprise to me! After last year, where we always struggled in the wet, over the winter, and the beginning of the year we definitely made some improvements with that, and today it was very good. But then after that, to make the right call from intermediate to slick tires was not easy because I saw a few guys ahead of me on slicks tires but they were struggling a lot. But even on the intermediates… they were finished, so to keep on going was difficult, a lot of sliding around, so if you would go a few centimeters off line you could lose the car, so not easy out there. But once we put on the slicks all fine. But then of course we had the red flag, with so much debris into Turn 2, so basically the advantage was gone., and then I had my moment on the restart. That was a big one. Some secret tire warming going on, but after that it was fine.
Q: In terms of setting up the win, how important was it for you to take the lead at the first start?
Verstappen: You always try to make the best start possible, and once I saw the launch was very good of course you go for it. But of course it was very important around here.
Q: Lewis, that was a very eventful for you. What’s your overriding emotion after that race?
Hamilton: Grateful. Max did a great job today, and so did Lando. I think juts really grateful for the lesson. I didn’t get away the best at the start, it was very tricky conditions at the start. But we’re only human, so just that bit of a mistake was one to learn from. I’m just grateful I could get going again, and get back into the race. It’s not how you fall; it’s how you get up. Really awesome to get back to second. I had a good battle with Lando towards the end. I definitely didn’t know I would be here when I was facing that barrier.
Q: It wasn’t only Lando that you were battling with. How much did you enjoy the charge back up the field?
Hamilton: Oh, I loved it! Honestly, that’s how my career actually started when I was younger. When I was a kid coming through we had a really dodgy old go-kart, so I was always starting at the back. So it just took me back to my roots. It’s a really hard track to overtake on, but I think that Turn 2 curb changed the balance in some way, and I think it worked well for that dry condition we were in.
Q: Lando, coming to you. Well done on taking your second podium in Formula 1. The last 24 hours have been an emotional rollercoaster for you. How do you sum-up the weekend?
Norris: On the whole I’m very pleased with the… with myself but the team as well. I think apart from Q3 it was a pretty perfect weekend, I want to say. We improved the car a lot over the first couple of days, from Friday into Saturday, and through the sessions, and so on, and we didn’t start on the best foot – but we improved a lot. I felt like I did a very good job in qualifying. Was the first time I only had to do one run in both Q1, and Q2, so I did good enough laps to save the tires, give myself a good opportunity into Q3, and be pretty close to pole position, and then, effectively almost P3, and then get put down to P7. It was near-perfect from my side, and the team’s. I think we did a very good job. I was disappointed yesterday so to come back to third today after a pretty eventful race for myself, and, I’m sure, the others as well, was rewarding for myself, but more importantly, the team.
Q: Did you enjoy that battle with Lewis?
Norris: It was tough. We made the decision to go on the Softs. I wasn’t so confident to get the tires working. It’s not an easy track to overtake on – Lewis might say otherwise! – but I think it was the right decision. Apart from Max’s little moment, I though Charles was going to drive ahead of Max on the restart, as he was off-track, so didn’t take advantage of that but he had a lot of wheelspin on the restart when Max went, and that’s the fault of the Mediums, and their decision. We made our decision to go on the Softs, I got a good launch, good restart, and got ahead of him. I pretty much started saving the tires from lap one after the restart, knowing that the last couple of laps were going to be pretty tough., and they were. Especially with Lewis at the end. I think a lot of focus is the last couple of corners, getting the deployment right, using the battery in the right way. So, I was trying to save up as much as possible. In the end, I didn’t have enough rear tire out of the last two corners, and the chicane to hold him behind but I tried. It was a nice little battle. It’s nice to be racing unusual cars, I guess for us, a Red Bull, a Mercedes, and Ferraris, and things like that. It’s nice to be going up against them. Hopefully we can have some more of that in the future.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) This is for Max, and Lewis. Max, you’ve seen you had the fastest car in Bahrain, you saw what can happen if things don’t go quite right; Lewis, you’ve seen what you’re up against with Max, and Red Bull after two races now. What sort of headspace are you two in as you look forward to a championship fight that the rest of us have massively high anticipation for?
Verstappen: It’s a very long season. We just have to keep on working very hard. I’m very happy with the result, of course, today but that’s today. I’m of course going to be happy about today, but tomorrow, we start again. We have to keep on improving because there’s still a lot of work to be able to keep doing this the whole season.
Q:, and enjoying racing this guy?
Verstappen: Oh course. If I would be driving P10, it’s not enjoyable. It’s great to be fighting against Lewis, Mercedes who, I think, as a team, they have been so dominant, and they’re very difficult to beat. So to be able to sit here now, now two races in a row, we were very, very competitive, that’s very promising but no guarantees.
Q: Lewis please?
Hamilton: Yeah, excited for the battle. I think this is really the first time in a long time that Red Bull have had a championship-winning car, so I think it’s going to be close all the way through the year –, and it’s just going to be, hopefully, more, and more of these battles.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll) Question to all three drivers – but probably starting with Max. Max, when you had the situation at the restart, do you think that Leclerc was actually entitled to go past? Because we have a situation earlier in the race where Pérez was off track, got passed by two drivers, and they didn’t have any sanctions. So do you think he needed to brake in that situation?, and probably the opinion of the other drivers as well.
Verstappen: I was off track for a bit – but once I was back on the track of course I was driving slow because I was recovering, getting my steering wheel straight – but then I don’t think you can pass any more. I think when you see a car drifting like that in front of you, first of all, I think you just back-out because you don’t know where it’s going to go. I don’t know. It’s seconds. Maybe you have a chance of two or three seconds to do it. It’s so tricky out there with tires. You don’t want to also react to it – maybe you spin yourself. It can happen.
Q: Lewis, any thoughts on this?
Hamilton: I don’t even know what happened. I was way back!
Q: Lando, did you see?
Norris: Oh yeah, I had a great view of it. Quite funny actually. I think Charles could have gone past him in my opinion. At that stage Max was out of control, and going left, and Charles kind-of just hit the brakes, and slowed down, and stopped. At some point he has to go past Max because he was facing the barrier for a lot of the corner. I don’t know. We have to maybe ask the guys in charge what the exact ruling is for going off, as off-track, all four wheels off the track, and example of yesterday – but at the same time Max was going very slow, so it was like Leclerc… Charles could have driven past him at the point. I’m not sure. I think if I was in P2, I would have gone for it because you have a chance at winning then. It’s a risk worth it.
Q: (Alex Kalinaukas – Autosport) Lewis, just about the incident where you were stuck in the gravel at Tosa. It seemed to take you a while before you sort of got the wheel turned, and then reversed out so can you explain what was going on at the time, and why it took a bit longer than maybe you would have liked to get out of there?
Hamilton: Yeah, it just wouldn’t go into reverse so I was holding the reverse button, and it took forever to engage. I didn’t think it was going to work. I tried reversing, and then tried to kind of do a burn out spin to get going again, and I was back in the barrier so then it took a long time again to get back in reverse., and when I was reversing, I was like I’ve just got to keep going backwards, and work my way out in reverse, and if I hadn’t done that I would probably still have been there now so I’m grateful for it.
Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Lewis, I know you’ll be disappointed after what you said was a tiny mistake but nonetheless it was a great performance to come back to second. How would you rate a performance like that compared to say, for example, some of the easier wins you have had in your career? How much satisfaction can you glean from coming back from what looked like to be sort of almost race-ending mistake?
Hamilton: Thank you Giles. You’re right up against the camera so we can only see your forehead. I think, in life, when you experience whatever form of adversity in terms of challenges or mistakes, and mishaps or whatever barriers you find that you have to get over or hurdles, it’s always more satisfying when you overcome them. It’s not the mistakes that define you, again it’s not how you fall, it’s how you get back up, and I think definitely in that moment, for me, you know I don’t make too many mistakes, and it was gutting in that position but I honestly feel like these things happen for a reason, and the others did a fantastic job, but I remember just sitting there, looking at the barrier, and I refused to think that the race was over. I refused to believe that the race was done. I could have obviously just turned the car off, and got out but I’m grateful that I didn’t. I’m grateful that I did do a reverse, and then after that just kind of getting out the car, and trying to switch the anger, and turn it into positive energy so that I could get back in, and race forwards. It’s an amazing lesson to be sent, and experience.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Lewis, you obviously talked of your reaction to the mistake there at the hairpin, but what about afterwards because I think that dropped you a lap down when you had to come in afterwards, and then obviously the red flags re-set the race for you so I guess that was the second defining moment that set up the charge thereafter so what was going through your head when you sort of had to work out what was still on the table?
Hamilton: Yeah, once I got going again, again, a lot of relief but of course I knew I had been in the gravel for minutes so I had no idea how far behind I would but of course I knew that I probably would be a lap down, and when I found out that was I was a lap down I didn’t know what I was going to be able to do but it was such tricky conditions out there, it was inevitable something was going to happen at some stage further up in the race, everyone switching over to the slick tires, and you could say there was a really fortunate moment in the race that allowed us to get back on the same lap, and then back into the race so again, just really grateful for it.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Just for Lewis, I guess this is 19 points gained. You could have walked away with zero. I know it’s early days but how important do you think that will be in this championship, which looks like it’s going to be pretty close between you two, and Max, were you a bit miffed when you saw that Lewis had crossed the line second, given he started the re-start in ninth?
Hamilton: I think, without doubt, getting back to second, and getting these points today will be very valuable through the season. If I’d lost 25 points today, that would have been hard to recover with the fact… based on the fact that Red Bull – it’s the first time that they’ve had a championship-winning car, their car is incredible fast. They were faster than us this weekend, definitely in qualifying trim but it looks like a little bit also in race trim. But I don’t know if they made a couple of mistakes, I think they did, Max did in qualifying for example otherwise he would have been on pole. But we’ve got a real close battle which we love the fact that it’s a close battle, and it’s great to see McLaren back up there after such a long time, it’s great to see Ferrari looking strong so there’s going to be a lot of exciting races up ahead, and challenging for all of us in so many different ways.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Same question to both Max, and Lewis: could you just talk us through what happened at the first corner where you touched, and from your perspectives please, and what did you make of what the other driver did in that incident?
Verstappen: I don’t think we touched.
Hamilton: We did. We did.
Verstappen: We touched?
Verstappen: I need to see the video then.
Hamilton: I think my endplate got damaged. I don’t know exactly.
Verstappen: Alright. From my… I didn’t think we touched so I don’t know. I need to watch the video again.
Q: Max, just talk us through the hundred meters leading up to the corner as well, from your perspective, and then we’ll come to Lewis.
Verstappen: Yeah, so I had a good launch so I was just gaining speed, speed, speed but then you go to turn two, and it’s a bit difficult to judge your braking point, with the tires, cold tires, you don’t want to out-brake yourself because this track, with all the gravel around, and stuff, it’s easy to damage your car, and we went in to turn two of course, side-by-side but it’s difficult to expect the grip on the first lap. I also ended up a bit wider than I wanted, and then Lewis was also there but at one point these yellow sausages to yeah. Then I saw Lewis had to go over them.
Hamilton: I didn’t get a good start. Max got a better start than me, and then I think I was slightly ahead going into turn two but I was basically avoiding us coming together. Max was just coming, and coming, and coming across. Of course, we had that touch, and I had to use the exit, take those big kerbs but I’m grateful I just got it through it, and didn’t damage much more than the endplate.