Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas won the first race of the season for Mercedes in a chaotic Austrian Grand Prix.
He was joined on the podium by two unlikely names in the forms of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris.
The trio headed off to tell the media all about it.
1 – Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)
2 – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari)
3 – Lando NORRIS (McLaren)
(Conducted by Jenson Button)
Q: Valtteri, wow! I mean the pressure on you through that race. One safety car, fair enough, but two and the tyre changes for people behind you, but you held it together man. Congratulations.
Valtteri BOTTAS: Thank you, yeah. There was definitely quite a bit of pressure all through the race. I mean one safety car was still OK, but with the last safety car, I was like: ‘Come on, again?’ There were so many chances to get the lead if I made even a small mistake. He was really quick today, but I managed to keep it together and I could really control the race from my side and obviously no better way to start the season.
Q: Yeah, it’s such an important way to start the season. Having Lewis bearing down on you for most of that race must have been so, so tough. Especially because you had warnings from the team over sensor issues. We saw so many failures out there, I think because of the gearbox, that must have added even more pressure?
VB: Yeah, we had to manage the car quite a lot, so couldn’t really use4 all the kerbs and at some point I was slightly worried that everything would be OK, but I’m glad, both of the cars managed to finish and in the teams standings we’re leading and that’s a very good sign.
Congratulations on an epic win.
Q: Charles, I bet you didn’t expect that result today?
Charles LECLERC: I did not expect it either. A huge surprise but a good one. I think we did everything perfect today to finish second. We had a little bit of luck obviously, with Lewis’ penalty and some crashes here and there but it’s part of the race too and yeah, that was the goal – to take every opportunity we had, even though we didn’t have the pace to finish where we were I think. But P2 – I’m extremely satisfied. There’s still a lot of work to do. We are still far away, we are not where we want to be, but anything is possible, so we need to keep the mental strong, all the team work as a team and I’m pretty sure we will come back where want, but it will take time.
Q: You still made the moves count when you had to out there. You were making some great moves in the race. Every time there was an opportunity you seemed to take it and when you are in the position you are, you really have to.
CL: Yeah, I wanted to be very aggressive because at every safety car I was seeing I was really struggling on exit of Turn 1 all the way to Turn 3 and I knew that there was no opportunity for me here but I knew that my opportunity would come if someone would do a mistake and Lando slowed down a little bit with Sergio at one point and I went for it. And the other one with Sergio also was pretty tough but I really enjoyed it.
Q: Where is Lando? I really want to give you a hug now mate, but I can’t. No words. Awesome. A fantastic race. You guys were always near the front but you got there in the end, you got that first podium. How does it feel?
Lando NORRIS: I don’t know, I’m speechless I think. The were a few points during the race where I thought I kind of fudged it up quite a bit. I dropped to fifth with a few laps to go. Carlos was almost getting past me, but I didn’t give up and I managed to get past Pérez and I ended up on the podium! It was a long race but I kept going, I kept trying to give it my all. A pretty cool last few laps having to push as much as I can, and you can tell, I’m a bit out of breath. I’m so happy and proud of the team. Considering where we were a few years ago, to last year, to now, I think is a pretty cool achievement and I’m proud to be part of it all.
Q: As you should be. Obviously when you lose your rhythm around here it’s very tricky and as you said you almost got passed by Carlos but then you came back so strong and then you attacked Checo. Very aggressive but it had to be done I guess t6o get within the five-second limit of Lewis. And also you must have a message for this team that has produced this great car for you this weekend?
LN:The last few laps… when I had to get past Checo, I just knew he had a five-second penalty but nothing more than that. I always seemed to struggle when I was close to the cars ahead, I always seemed more vulnerable to the guys behind. So I knew… not just because of Lewis, because I didn’t know at that time, but I knew I had to try to get past him and then there was the Lewis penalty that came up and then I had to turn it up a little bit and start pushing. Like you said, it’s a lot about rhythm here and I had three really tough laps, locking up, and it was going downhill quite quickly but I recovered well I think and I’m here so I’m happy.
Q: Valtteri, many congratulations. You led every lap but it looked far from easy. Just talk us through it?
VB: Well, winning a Formula 1 Grand Prix is never easy but today definitely come easy at all. In the first stint Lewis lost a bit of time getting through the Red Bulls, so there was quite a bit of margin. So the first stint actually wasn’t that bad, because I had a decent gap, so I could really control and really make sure we could get to the target stop lap. And I tried to do the right things with the tyres and maintaining the car. The second stint, there was never like massive pressure because I was in front and I could really make sure that we could make it to the end. But there were all these variables in the race. We had some issues with some sensors that were getting damaged by the vibration of the pretty harsh kerbs here, so I had to avoid kerbing. So that costs quite a bit of lap time. And whe4n you’re in the lead, safety car after another, and by the last one I was like “come on”, because in the lead you just want things to be constant and trouble free. So there were many variables. I managed to dodge many bullets today and get the win.
Q: And the re-starts each time, you nailed them?
VB: Yeah, I think I’m starting to master the re-starts on this track soon, because we had so many today. But you always try to do something different each time., I think the last one was a bit on the limit with safety car line one, crossing with the safety car, but otherwise they were good.
Q: Charles, after you day yesterday when you qualified seventh, I guess you must be very pleased today?
CL: Well I’m extremely happy. It feels like a victory today. We have been struggling from the beginning of the weekend. We’ve had luck in this race with the various safety cars, crashes, penalties but in the end we stayed on track. I gave my maximum and I think we managed the race perfectly with the package we have for the moment and to have a P2, a second place, with the performance we had all weekend, we made the best out of it and I’m extremely happy about our result because the performance is not where we want to be.
Q: And was the car much more competitive today than it was over one lap yesterday?
CL: No. No, unfortunately not. We are quick around the corners but we struggle, so we will have a new package in Hungary to try to fix a little bit more this issue. But we will see. It has been a very, very difficult race today, struggling to overtake and every time someone was making a mistake then I was being very aggressive to try to take the opportunity, which I did, and I’m very happy again to be P2.
Q: Well done, Lando, coming to you. Your first podium in Formula 1. You’ve had a few minutes now to digest it all. What are your emotions now.
LN: I don’t know… I need to get another one of these (masks). This one is full of champagne, which I’m very happy to say, but it’s like suction, I can’t breathe in it! I’m realty struggling. Cheers. Sorry. I’m just so happy. I was very happy after yesterday. I think we overachieved. We didn’t overachieve but we just maximised everything we had. We just did better than we thought we were going to do because we knew Ferrari were strong and the Racing Points were strong and we knew they were going to be strong today, which they were compared to us. I think today’s race highlighted that we had to keep on pushing through the whole race. Obviously it’s nice when you have a car which is compared to last year more competitive and you can be there or thereabouts on safety car re-starts and so on. I’m so happy, because it very easily could have been the opposite of the result I have right now. I almost got back down to sixth after Charles passed me and it was kind of going downhill and I was all over the place, locking up, going wide, but I knew I had good pace in the car so I had to get my head down and try to get past Perez when he got a five second penalty and yeah, I was fairly aggressive with my overtake but I had to be at that point and then Lewis had a five-second and I only managed to get him on the final lap of the race. I think it was 5.8 onto the final lap and I managed to get it down to 4.8, so I wasn’t in the position I was in and if I didn’t put in the fastest lap of the race, which I’m very proud of, I wouldn’t be here. I just want to say big thanks to the team. I’m probably rambling on a lot but I’m just super happy.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Question to Valtteri. When you had the instruction to back off a bit and keep off the kerbs, how difficult was it to adapt your style while still maintaining the pace, while driving effectively a narrower track – especially knowing you had Lewis behind you and unsure about much he was moderating his speed and keeping off the kerbs when there was a race-win at stake?
VB: Initially it was a tricky one because I was watching in the mirrors and I could see Lewis still pushing pretty hard and making use of all the track – but obviously you want to prioritise the reliability. It took a couple of laps to really optimise the new way of driving and avoiding the kerbs. At least… the kerbs here, the more you go onto them, the vibration just kind of ramps up. So you get a feel what is still OK and what is too much. There’s only a few places where you really need to take care, so after one or two laps, we got used to it. In the end, when I tried for the fastest lap, I think a couple of laps to go, I still was off the kerbs. It didn’t feel right but I had to do it.
Q: (Laurence Edmondson – ESPN) Question for Valtteri. You had a problem in FP2 with the gearbox – was that the same issue that emerged in the race. And then also, were there any calls from the team to stop the racing at the front between you and Lewis – and where you aware that you were actually backing him off the podium at the end, when he caught up with you and obviously had the five seconds penalty?
VB: At any point, there was no call from the team that we would stop racing each other but I got the message that Lewis also has to avoid the kerbs, so in that sense we were in the same boat. For me, the whole race was… I could really control and make sure we get safely to the end with a good amount of tyres left and so on. There was no massive trouble at any point. I got the message that he’s got a five second penalty but there was a double yellow, so obviously you have to slow down quite a bit so then I feel like some drivers maybe slow down a bit less so they could catch-up. At the same time, we were still not using the kerbs. So, I tried to compromise making sure I really get to the flag and win the race, not risk too much, but also I tried to go as fast as I could within those limits. It’s not really my fault that he got the five seconds penalty.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Question for Valtteri, slightly off-topic compared to what the other guys are taking about. I want to talk about pancakes. I’ve noticed on your social media that you’ve been having pancakes on Sundays. Is that the new replacement for porridge. Is it a lucky little thing you’ve got going on – you seem to be doing quite well for it?
VB: You know the porridge is hidden in the pancakes. I still use the power of porridge but in the pancakes. My girlfriend always makes them on Sunday. We use oats in them – it’s kind of porridge as well. On top of that, I have a bit of porridge before the race. So, that’s the best thing to have. Lots of power.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Question for Charles. Charles, you took a couple of wins last and had some really good drives. Where would you rate this one in comparison to those. And also, you trailed Pérez and Lando for much of the race. What made the difference in the closing laps – because obviously you and Lando both had new tyres then as well.
CL: I would rate this one probably as one of my best races since I arrived in Formula 1 because I really didn’t do many mistakes. I’m extremely happy with the performance, also with the strategy, with our choices. It’s not been easy because in the first part of the race the race was actually pretty boring for us but I really pushed to stay focussed and yeah, we were doing some quite good lap times. We were extracting the maximum out of the car and it paid off at the end, so that was great. And towards the end of the race, it was very tricky because Lando had the new tyres too and I was struggling a lot at the restarts to stay behind them, until Turn Four and then, in all the high speed, we were very quick but in the whole first sector we were struggling a lot. I was just waiting for an opportunity, which I had when Lando tried to overtake Sergio but then I think while he lost a little bit of time, I just went for it and then the same for Sergio a few laps later. I saw an opportunity and I just went for it.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Question for Lando. I think I’m right in saying you’re the third youngest podium finisher of all time in Formula 1, youngest British driver to finish on the podium. Can you just explain a little bit about what that means – particularly from the British perspective, beating the likes of Lewis Hamilton and the rest to be the youngest driver to ever finish on the podium.
LN: I don’t know. I don’t have a great answer for it. I think… yeah… just being on the podium no matter what other scenario there is, unless it’s probably the youngest-ever winner or something like that, then I think I’m just very happy to be on the podium in the first place but for something to come along with it such as what you just mentioned, it’s an added bonus – but it’s not like I’ve gone out of my way to beat these records or anything. I think it’s really a bonus that comes along with hard work and getting the podium in the first place. So, yeah, it’s an extra, and it’s nice to know something’s written down and there’s a little extra that goes along with my first podium but I’m… yes… at the end of the day it’s not the sole objective for why I’m here in Formula 1. It’s not just to break records, it’s to try to win races in the first place and try to do well. It’s a nice record to have, I’m proud of it but I’m happier to just be on the podium, rather than breaking any record.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) All three of you. You all had great races but it’s the first race that we’ve had without spectators and also with these special conditions. I just wondered if you could say how it felt racing without the crowd and how hard it was to restrain yourselves afterwards given the necessary self-distancing?
VB: During racing, no difference. Obviously you are fully focussed on your race and the driving.
LN: Do you not ever see the crowds?
VB: Not really! So yeah, during the race your full focus is on the thing. So, no difference but I have to say, what I’ve really enjoyed in the normal F1 is before the race, when we do the drivers’ parade, really seeing the support to all the drivers, seeing the spectators, all the fans, all the flags of different nationalities. It really brings a nice atmosphere before the race, as well as after the race, especially if you have a good result like I had today, it would be nice to share it with that atmosphere that we, for sure, are lacking a little bit now, and to celebrate with the spectators. But, I know there are many loyal fans to me watching at home and I know the most important people to me, my family, they’re watching, they’re supporting and they’re living in the moment with me. But no doubt we’re lacking a bit of atmosphere – but it is what it is. Better to be racing like this than not racing at all – I’m sure we’re still making many people happy that are able to watch the racing. But like post-race, all the procedures, how it goes. I think we’re all still learning but I think, I have to say, FIA, FOM, F1 has done a really nice job with setting everything up, and all the teams as well. It feels very pretty bullet-proof, nicely organised, pretty clear and everything – so we all feel the risk of anyone really getting ill is very minimal. That’s good. I think everyone in our team, we feel very safe racing here.
CL: It’s very strange. We are lacking the passion of the fan, which is why I love the sport so much, to see the passion of people that are watching you. I actually look in the grandstands during the race. Obviously not today because there was not much to look at – but yeah, I miss this. But, as Valtteri said, it’s better to race like this than nothing, so very happy to have been back on track and hopefully the fans enjoyed it from home, and hopefully once it’s safe to do so, they’ll be able to come back. It will definitely be better. And also, as Valtteri said again, the podium, normally there’s cheers, people yelling, this time it was not that way, but it’s like this for now and it’s the best we can do.
LN: I agree with both them really. I think we can all be happy we’re here racing and procedures that are put in place are pretty bulletproof like he said but it’s a bit different for me. These guys are used to being on the podium quite a bit, for me it’s my first time and I think it’s something that makes it so special is always having the crowds there, celebrating there with you, whether they are always your fans or not. It just makes up the atmosphere so much and it adds a lot of excitement and so on, so for me to be here now, there’s no fans to share with and so on, makes it a bit more difficult and it’s still enjoyable but it’s hard to share it as much. I don’t know, like they said, we’re all happy we’re here racing. I think it’s that better than we’re here and there’s no fans rather than nothing at all but hopefully in the future, not too long, we can have the fans back in.
Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-Magazin.com) Question for Valtteri: you were talking a bit about the last lap. That must have been a pretty strange feeling because in the end you’re fighting or you’re helping your biggest competitor for the championship by risking your own result when you go that fast. How strange was that situation and was it ever considered to swap this position?
VB: It didn’t feel strange to me, these kind of situations, sometimes in racing, you just get into these situations and you have to deal with them and I was just trying to calculate the risk. I really wanted to win the race, obviously, and think about the points for the team but with the circumstances and the issue we had with reliability concerns obviously you don’t want to take too much risk by trying to find two tenths every lap by hammering the kerbs and then I get a DNF on the last lap, that would not be ideal so I tried to do the best I could really and there wasn’t for sure no discussion, at least, that I know about swapping position and in that way securing more points or anything. I don’t know, I wouldn’t think so.
Q: (Chris Medland – Racer) Couple of questions for Lando: would you just explain what you were told on that final lap, obviously setting fastest lap? Did the team just say give it everything or were you given a target? What instruction did you get? And secondly, you started third and were fighting near the front on the fringe of the podium, could you notice a difference in your own personal confidence racing with these at the front throughout?
LN: I think the last few laps were… it was kind of difficult because initially I only knew about Sergio having the penalty and I was P4 at that point I think, or P5 and obviously I still wanted P4 and I had pace and he was on the outside so I initially had to judge what risk I would take to try and get past him or whether I would hold position and I would just get the position freely through his penalty but I had much better pace and Carlos was right behind me so Carlos would have gone for every move he could have done, just like he did. So I knew I had to get past him but at that point I still didn’t know about Lewis having the penalty either so I was happy to get past him in the first place and I had clean air which was good for me and I could start putting down some decent laps and start catching Charles a little bit but he was still too far ahead to really catch. And then I think it was with three laps to go that I got told that Lewis had the five second penalty and yeah, we used the rest of our engine modes and obviously I pushed it a bit more in terms of track limits and using the kerbs, because like Valtteri said, it’s quite harsh on the car and when you can, you don’t need to take the risks and you may be backing off a little bit but we didn’t really have any concerns so while I was told I could get on with it and really push it and I took the risks that I needed to but yeah, on the final lap I managed to close in, I don’t know what it was, over a second and a bit on Lewis so that was a key. I got the podium on the final lap of the race. If I was any further back or I didn’t put in as good as a lap, I wouldn’t be here so thankfully we have the car which was quick enough, that I was able to close that… because you know, if it was this time last year I wouldn’t have had the car capable of doing so so it shows our improvement as a team and improvement to the upgrades and development over the winter.
Q: And Lando, how were confidence levels out there?
LN: It’s cool to be able to race at the front, especially off the grid. I was a little bit nervous, I’m not going to lie. All of my practice starts went pretty terribly. I hit anti-stall on every single one actually so I was dreading it, kind of, but I knew Max was on the medium so I knew I had a good chance against him and looking back at last year we were the best starters of the whole grid. I was confident, still, at the same time but lacking a bit of confidence in myself and not making sure I hit anti-stall again and yeah, I had a good start compared to Max and similar to Valtteri, I think. So it was high enough, I had confidence in what I needed to do and achieve and racing with these guys, but at the same time we knew from the very beginning who we were really racing against, even though it ended up as it did I think we definitely weren’t as quick as the Ferrari or the Racing Point today so… We managed to beat three of them, two Racing Points and one of the Ferraris, so I’m very happy with that.
Q: (Mark Hughes – The Race) Valtteri, I just wanted to ask you about the end of that first stint. The safety car came out (lap 26), what sort of shape were you in at that point because Lewis was pulling… How far away were you from your planned stop and what shape were you in with tyres?
VB: Ah yes, we stopped at that point, yes. Actually we were not that far from stopping, I think, less than ten laps from the planned stop lap so just about to try and lift the pace. Obviously with the big gap I had at the beginning I could really manage the first stint and make sure that… but from my point of view, the best thing to do for me to win the race was to go as long as possible, so I tried to manage quite a lot in the beginning and middle of the stint and towards the end I would have slept. I would have had a bit more margin to raise the pace so everything was pretty much under control, like I felt really towards the end of the race but just (unclear) every single safety car there’s always a risk. You only need one lock-up or a poor restart and you can lose everything. But at that point, yeah, everything was still OK.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Charles, you were behind Seb in the opening practice sessions and then got ahead through qualifying and then obviously in the race today. Was there anything particularly that you changed across the weekend?
CL: No, to be honest on Friday I haven’t been driving well but I was just driving, I was not very happy with the car either but the driving was not well, where I wanted it to be, so I was quite hard after Friday, and then I was quite a lot happier with both the car and my driving on Saturday morning and put everything together in qualifying so I was happy with this. And then the same for the race pace on Friday afternoon, which was pretty bad, actually very bad on my side and Seb’s one was quite a lot better so I worked hard but I drove a lot better today so yeah, there’s quite a bit on driving from Friday to Saturday but also on the car so we just put everything together for Saturday.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Got a bit of a food theme thing going on here. Lando, a picture of the salmon, couldn’t do it this time round due to social distancing and all that. … with the photo?
LN: Ah. Yet to be decided. We definitely have to do something but it’s obviously got to be within a few rules. Maybe some photoshop will come into it and make it look like something but we’re not going to do the same as last year, we’re thinking of something new, because I definitely want to share this salmon with the team and remember it so that’s the reason I always do it. We can always look back at it and remember the good moments. Something is going to be happening but not decided on what it’s going to be yet.
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