Italian Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

Transcript from the post-race interviews and FIA hosted top three press conference after the Italian Grand Prix, Round 16 of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship season.

Featuring 2022 Italian Grand Prix race winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull), second-placed Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and third-placed George Russell (Mercedes).

Track Interviews conducted by Martin Brundle.

Q: Max, congratulations, your fifth consecutive victory, your 31st in Formula 1. You are unstoppable at the moment.

Max Verstappen: Yeah, we had a great race. On every compound, we were quickest. And the deg was very good, so we had a really good race car. I was just controlling the gap at the end, but of course then the Safety Car came out. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a restart. But overall, we had again a really good day.

Q: Take us through the early laps, you made six places overall in the race and some of them quite quickly.

MV: Yes, the start was very good. I had a clean chicane. And then I could quickly, you know, get back into my rhythm and get into second. And yeah, we just… It was really good on the tyres and was really enjoyable to drive today, even though it was quite tough out there. But yeah, a great day for us.

Q: Well, remarkably it’s going to be your first time up on this glorious podium!

MV: Yeah, took a bit of time to be on a great podium like this but finally we won it.

Q: Charles, second place, a bit frustrating for you? And particularly at the end, and you were keen to clearly, as many people, to go racing again.

Charles Leclerc: Yeah, I mean, the end was frustrating. I wish we could have ended up racing, but unfortunately then we were second at that place, no, because of what happened before. So, it’s a shame. Overall, I gave it all today. I wish I could have won in front of the amazing tifosi we have here, but I just couldn’t today.

Q: You made the early stop under the Virtual Safety Car. Was that just to do something different to Red Bull to cover off their pace?

CL: To be honest, we didn’t know what they were going to do behind, so we took that choice.

Q: And you were happy with that?

CL: Well, obviously we finished P2, so I’m not extremely happy with the race but we’ll work on that.

Q: And where can you go from here? Where can you find the extra speed needed for the rest of the season?

CL: I don’t know. I think the pace was quite strong today. We’ll have to look into it but I think we were quite strong but, yeah, it just wasn’t enough.

Q: George. Congratulations, yet another podium for you and a really solid drive. You must be really satisfied with that?

George Russell: Yeah, thank you. I think I said on the radio to the team, it doesn’t matter if we’re fast or slow, we keep getting these podiums. Unfortunately, this weekend we definitely weren’t where we wanted to be as a team but nevertheless we can look back on these three races – two podiums and a P4. We’ve got to be satisfied with that.

Q: You put the Hard tyres on and somehow you made them work. They weren’t ideal today.

GR: I mean, we had to do something different if we wanted to fight with Max and Charles, but unfortunately they were just too quick for us today. I’m pleased that we tried something, that’s what we have to do in the position we are at the moment.

Q: You’re proudly wearing the Union flag of course. It’s been a time of great sadness and reflection back in the UK and all around the world indeed after the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

GR: Absolutely. It’s an incredibly sad time around the world and for the British people, but what a life and a life that should be celebrated.

Press Conference

Q: Another storming drive from you Max, many congratulations and finally you got to experience the podium here at Monza. How was it up there?

MV: Umm, yeah, we had a great view. It’s a… It’s a nice area, you know, to stand on.

Q: Great atmosphere? There were a lot of flares…

MV: Well, the atmosphere for me, it was not amazing. But it is what it is.

Q: Okay. Well, talk us through your race. You said yesterday that your wing level would help you more in the race than it would in qualifying. Was that the case?

MV: I think so, yeah. I mean, today was very hot and we could really look after our tyres. Of course, it helped a lot that I had a great first lap, and I could clear most of the cars before they got into, let’s say, a DRS train. And, yeah, from there onwards, basically, both tyres sets felt great and I could extend the first one a bit. And even on the Mediums, everything worked out really well.

Q: Were you surprised by how quickly you hit the front?

MV: Well, I mean, you never know what is going to happen before Turn 1, right. But yeah, it worked out really well for me.

Q: Anything else you could have done differently today? Were you tempted to pit during the VSC period like Charles?

MV: Yeah, they told me opposite Charles, so it could have gone either way, I guess.

Q: Now, Max, you’ve won five races in a row. Just tell us what is it like to ride this wave of success?

MV: Yeah, I mean, of course, it’s amazing what we are experiencing within the team. I think, you know, we are having an amazing year. And it’s important to enjoy it as well. I think we’ve had a lot of different challenges on different kinds of tracks and now the car really seems to work at every track. And yeah, we are extremely pleased.

Q: Have you experienced anything like this before in your career, and I include karting in that?

MV: Yeah, my final year in karting. But it’s very different in terms of feelings. At the time, your goal is Formula 1, so of course you’re enjoying what you’re achieving but you also think there’s such a long way still left before you get to Formula 1. So it’s a bit of a different wave of excitement and what you feel. But that final year in go-karting was nice, too.

Q: Charles, we’ll come to you next. You didn’t win but you got a wonderful reception from the tifosi on the podium. Just how emotional was it up there?

CL: It’s always incredible. Then, as you said, starting from pole, I wanted to get that win. And we didn’t. So it’s a bit… yeah… not the best day, but the podium makes it a lot better.

Q: Was there anything you could have done differently to stop Max?

CL: Honestly, I think the first choice was to stop under the Virtual Safety Car. I think we all had the doubt. I think if I wouldn’t have done it, Max would have done it. It was a bit unfortunate, because in the middle of the pit lane, we had the Virtual Safety Car ending, so we didn’t get all the benefits of stopping at that moment. And from that moment onward, we were a little bit on the back foot – but yeah, it’s like this.

Q: There was a radio discussion at one point in the race in which you were asked not to short shift. Can you explain why that was the case?

CL: No, I had a bit of a strange behaviour out of Turn 5 on the bump there and so we were just trying to figure it out and try to not get this small problem. It wasn’t costing a lot of time but it wasn’t so great to drive.

Q: Charles, just looking at the bigger picture. You were closer to Red Bull here than you were at Spa. Do you take some encouragement from this race weekend in terms of the pace of the car?

CL: Yes, exactly. After Spa, I think we were quite worried. We were very, very far in qualifying but also in race pace, compared to Red Bull. I think this weekend we’ve been working massively, especially FP1, FP2, trying to test different directions for this car and it was better. Yesterday we were fighting for pole, which was a surprise Today the pace was also much, much better. We cannot forget either that our car is maybe not the best for this type of track – but I think it was a positive weekend overall.

Q: George, coming to you now, your seventh podium of the season. What were your expectations coming into the race?

GR: I think how Max and Red Bull performed were kind-of in-line with our expectations, especially ahead of the weekend. But I think Ferrari, and Charles especially, surprised us a bit with how strong they performed. I thought we maybe had half a chance to battle with Charles today, but he showed some really strong pace. And it was just quite a long and lonely race to be honest. Our car certainly wasn’t performing at its best around this circuit. I think we have a good idea why that is, and sort-of happy that these low downforce, high-speed circuits are behind us now.

Q: You talk about battling Charles. You were side by side going into Turn 1. It got pretty tight…

GR: Yeah! Got pretty tight! What was that quote, was it Montoya said in Imola, 2004? “If you couldn’t see me there on the outside…”

CL: I don’t know – but in the last race it was pretty tight with you too!

GR: Yeah, it was all good.

MV: You didn’t see him, right?

CL: I didn’t see him, with these new cars it’s difficult!

MV: Of course!

GR: Charles had the inside line, and he had the right to push me a bit wide. So, that was the most exciting part of my race, to be honest.

Q: You said a moment ago, that you think you understand why the car performed as it did. Can I ask you about its performance on the Hard tyre? And would you take that compound again?

GR: Probably not, no, to be honest. But I think, to be fair to the whole of our team, we weren’t really planning on using the Hard and we didn’t think it was a fantastic tyre. But we just felt like we had to do something different to Max and Charles. If we stayed on the Medium, if we did Soft-Medium as they planned, we were going to finish behind them. So, it was a risk worth taking. But being on a Medium, it wouldn’t have transformed the race either.

Q: Were you worried about Carlos at the end of the race?

GR: No, not at all, to be honest. I think we have that pretty well covered.

Q: And we go to a very different track next. Do you think Singapore will offer Mercedes an opportunity?

GR: More so than we’ve seen here, there’s no doubt about it. I think, on paper, Singapore should suit our car – but when we look back at the street circuits of Monaco and Azerbaijan, our car doesn’t fare too well over the bumps. So, we’re not too sure how it will fall out. But we need to keep on pushing, keep on improving the car and I’m pleased that we’ve got a clear direction we need to go now.

Questions from the floor

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Question to both Max and Charles? Can I just get your thoughts on the safety car procedure at the end? Charles, I’m assuming you wanted to fight Max. Max, was there any part of you that wished it had been clear air, so you could have had a sprint right at the end?

MV: Yeah – but from what I understood, was that the car was stuck in gear and that’s why it took so long . Because, of course, when the car’s parked there, there is no gap where you can push the car into, compared to some other places. And that’s why the crane had to come. And that’s why I guess they just run out of time. So, I guess it was very unfortunate. Normally, I think everyone wants to finish under green flag. But yeah, unfortunately, we were just short of laps. But I mean, I had a new Soft as well so I was not too worried. I mean, even if it was one lap shootout.

Q: Charles?

CL: Yeah, obviously I really wanted for this race to start again. But yeah, I mean, from the car, I didn’t understand because the last time we passed through, the track was clean. So, I really thought that we will restart again. But it didn’t happen. So maybe there are things in the background that I didn’t know that didn’t make the restart possible.

Q: George, can we just get your thoughts on this as well?

GR: It’s just racing, I think. It’s obviously not always easy when the car stops in an awkward place. We always want to end a race under green flag but you know, what can you do? It’s just how the game goes. And I don’t know what the race picture looked like but I don’t think it would have changed the result, either way. What is clear though, is these one-stop races, minimal tyre deg, they don’t seem to offer that much of an exciting race – but I don’t know, I haven’t obviously seen what the race was like behind us.

Q: (Ronald Vording – motorsport.com) To Max and George: both of you know Nyck de Vries quite well. Today he made his Formula 1, debut finished P9 so got some points. I don’t think you’ve seen too much of it in the car but what do you make of that performance? And does it show that he deserves a full time spot on this grid?

MV: I saw him battling in front of me when he was defending tenth at the time. And, yeah, for Nyck to jump in and deliver this performance is definitely… you know, it’s not easy at all. I think he did a great job from the things I saw, also in terms of defending. He just kept his cool, didn’t make mistakes and I’m very happy for him to score the points. It’s impressive, of course, in your first race,

Q: Did you enjoy the Dutch row of the grid?

MV: Yeah, a bit unexpected, right? We talked about it last night. I know him very well. He’s a great friend of mine.

Q: George?

GR: Yeah, he obviously did an excellent job and yeah, impressive. Throughout all of our karting career – the three of us race against him – knew him well, and he was always one of the very best and there’s no doubt he’s deserve another place in Formula 1. So that’s just how the sport is. Sometimes, you know, there’s 20 drivers, not everybody gets an opportunity but certainly now he’s proved everything he has to.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Charles, the VSC period lasted only a portion of your pitstop. Do you think maybe if it would have lasted longer, you could have beaten Max? And to the other two drivers, do you think the safety car rules that are there need tweaking after what has been seen?

CL: Well, I think we need to look first at how much we lost. I think it will have been very, very difficult anyway. We probably would have had a bit more margin to Max behind and maybe we will have just give a shot to finish the race on a medium, which was not a possibility because Max was too close with these fresh tyres so we knew we just had to stop before he caught us, so yeah, it was like that.

MV: I think I just explained what happened with the car being stuck in gear just took too long and you run out of laps, and then they still had to get rid of a few cars in between which then… you need them to catch up. We ran out of laps, they needed to extend the race but that’s not possible.

GR: Yeah, the same. You can’t extend the race. Following Abu Dhabi, we had some discussions about races ending under the safety car. I think we looked at every single race since ’98 and it happened 10 times. Maybe that’s wrong, don’t quote me on that but maybe it’s worth looking at. But you can’t extend the race without enough so it’s just how it is.

Q: (Aaron Dekkers – Racing News 365) Max, I would like to ask another question on Nyck de Vries. Yesterday we had contact with him and he just told us that he even couldn’t sleep last night he was so nervous. Just before the race I saw you were going to him after the national anthem. What did you tell him?

MV: First of all, enjoy it and don’t think about it too much, don’t stress about it too much. I remember my first one… it happens so quickly everything but I think more probably if you just tell yourself we’ll see what happens instead of really stressing out. I need a good start. I need a good first lap. You shouldn’t think about that and I think he handled everything really well of course. But yeah, it’s nice. We know each other really well so it was just a quick little motivation speech.

Q: George was it reminiscent of Bahrain 2020? Is what Nyck was going through this weekend your experiences with Mercedes?

GR: I think probably tougher for him to be honest than it was for me because I was obviously a full time race driver then and equally as well for him jumping from Aston Martin on Friday into a Williams; it’s a different car, the seating position is different. I remember when I was doing testing with Mercedes, Force India at the time and driving F2 it took quite a few laps just to get used to the different feeling of how those cars reacted. As I said, there’s not a lot more to say; to score points on your debut in a Williams, it’s pretty spectacular no doubt.

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Max, I don’t want to put words in your mouth but at the Dutch Grand Prix obviously there was controversy over fans using flares. You’ve had that today; there was booing during the anthems, booing at you. What did you make of that and Charles, would you like to add your perspective on the tifosi today?

MV: When it happens, of course, everyone speaks to me about it, with the booing and stuff. But at the end of the day, I’m here to try and win the race which done. Some people, of course, they can’t appreciate that but that’s of course because they’re very passionate fan of a different team. And this is what it is. It’s not going to spoil my day. I’m just enjoying the moment.

CL: I think nobody likes booing and I think it shouldn’t happen. That’s it. But then for the flares, personally I think it’s okay when it’s used maybe before the formation lap or laps to the grid or something. But then sometimes during the race, it can be a bit confusing for us. But it’s the way it is. After the chequered flag there was a little bit but to me this was not too disturbing.

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Charles, this season there has obviously been a lot of back and forth between what the public have said about Ferrari’s strategy and how the team or defend it. Can you just nail down today? I know you’ve said it could have turned on its head when it was right to pit under the VSC or not but are you happy with that call or not happy with that call?

CL: Well, I think if you look at our season as a whole, for sure there’s been mistakes and we need to get better. If today was a clear mistake, I don’t think so because it was just our choice and looking back at it, you just cannot predict whenever the VSC is going to end. If I was not stopping Max will have pitted and he will have had the same problem as I did. So nothing to blame on anybody there. Just a little bit unlucky, and probably missing a little bit of pace too.

Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) Max, at the beginning of the year you were not quite happy with the front end of the car, especially in Monaco, a street circuit. The next one is quite interesting in that regard: Singapore with a lot of 90 degree corners. Do you see that as a good test of the car or is the package so much better, there’s not going to be any issue?

MV: I explained before: because the car was very overweight, it was just the wrong place of the car as well overweight so that’s why it was just understeering a lot more and prone to front locking. So I don’t think it will be a problem in Singapore but maybe we encounter different kind of things. We haven’t been there in a while, it’s normally quite a bumpy track, so we just need to work on the setup, see how these cars react to the bumps and try to go as fast as possible.