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Singapore GP: Post Race press conference

NEWS STORY
22/09/2019

Today's post-race press conference with Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen.

Track Interviews - Conducted by David Coulthard

Sebastian Vettel, welcome back, 53rd victory, it's been over a year, that must feel sweet?
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, it does. Obviously I'm a bit sweaty. No, I'm very happy. Great race. I think, first of all, big congratulations to the team. Obviously the start of the season has been difficult for us but in recent weeks I think we started to come alive. Really proud of everyone's work back home. Secondly, I really want to thank the fans. Obviously the last couple of weeks for me have been not the best, but it's been incredible to be honest to get so much support, so many letters, so many nice messages, yeah, people telling their own stories of when things might not go well and so on, so it gave me a lot of strength, belief and I tried to put it all into the track today, into the car and it's nice when it pays off.

Well, you know the game, you know there's been criticism of late - this is the perfect way to answer it. Talk us through that strategy call. Now, my understanding is that lead car get the call on the pit stop, so when you saw Charles go past the pits did you drive that strategy call to come in and go for the undercut?
SV: It was a very late call. I thought it was a bit early, because I wasn't sure that we could make the tyres last in the second stint. Obviously then I just gave it everything on the out lap because I saw the two cars in front of me not pitting, especially Lewis. I was then very surprised obviously the lap later to come out ahead. Then it's been quite busy managing the tyres, going through traffic. I was trying to go through and slice through as quick as I could, maybe then to get a cushion and control it at the end but it didn't work when the safety car came out. Obviously we controlled it to the end. The car was getting better and better. It was tricky at the re-starts on cold tyres but I think as first car you always have an advantage.

I just want to push you on that. Did you make the call or was that your engineer?
SV: No, I was think... just the corner before, like Turn 21, the last turn before the pit entry I received the call. I don't know if somebody pitted or all of a sudden the gap was big enough, but for me it worked today so I'm happy.

Congratulations. Charles, astonishing performance yesterday, all looking great out front and then of course, just as I was asking there to Seb about strategy, that's what undid this opportunity for you to win this grand prix. How are you feeling?
Charles Leclerc: Oh, it's always difficult to lose a win like that but in the end it's a one-two for the team, so I'm very happy for that. It's the first one-two for the season. All the guys deserve it. We arrived here hoping for maybe a podium and we go back home with a one-two, so for that extremely happy. Then, of course, disappointed on my side, as anyone would be. It's like this, sometimes it goes that way and I'll come back stronger.

Interesting that you say you came here maybe hoping for a podium. This track does sometimes throw an unusual result but do you have confidence that the issues that you had with the car prior to the summer are now resolved with the update?
CL: Let's wait for a few grands prix but it looks positive here, a lot more positive than we expected. Quali pace, race pace was strong too, so they've done an amazing job.

Just one more on the strategy. You were controlling the pace at the beginning, backing everyone up and there was no clear gap to drop into. How aware were you that the undercut was always going to be there as a risk and how much did that come as a surprise?
CL: Yeah, this was the strategy. The strategy was fixed at the beginning of the race. I stick to the plan. Then, at the end the most important thing is that we finished one-two.

Max, well, more than maybe you expected coming into the race. Qualifying close but not quite as strong as we've seen from Red Bull in recent years... Third place though, you've got to be happy.
Max Verstappen: Absolutely. The whole race went well. Of course in the beginning it was all going really slow so everybody was very close together. Then I started to struggle a bit with the tyres so we boxed and actually that was quite a good call as we undercut Lewis at the end. From there onwards it was all about just managing the tyres home. It was a bit tricky with the safety cars at the re-starts because the tyres they get quite cold. In general happy to be on the podium. It's always difficult to overtake here, so to do it by strategy is of course very positive. A good amount of points. A lot of things to analyse and to work on but still, happy to be in the top three.

Three safety cars, did that take the pressure off physically, it was almost a two-hour race?
MV: Not really, because you have to warm up your tyres, so you're actually working harder than when you are going flat out. It's always going to be a tough race, especially at the end with Lewis pushing on, it was good, it keeps you going flat out until the end. It's a good workout.

Press Conference

Charles, congratulations, second place. A good result for you but it was decided on strategy. Tell us how surprised were you when you saw that Seb had pitted?
CL: I was surprised because obviously I was not aware in the car, but I guess if this decision has been made it was for the good of the team and it had to be the only way for us to do a one-two. So if it's the case I completely understand it, but obviously from the car it's very frustrating. So not completely happy but yeah, anyway the overall result of the weekend is very positive. We hoped for at least one car on the podium for this weekend and we go back home with a one-two, which we definitely did not expect on a track like this. So this is very positive.

You've said already that you're going to come back stronger. What have you learned today?
CL: Well, to be honest, today I don't think I could have done much things better or differently. Yeah, the only thing probably is I will ask a bit more about the strategy around me and who is not, because I was not aware, so I don't know if I should have pushed a bit earlier during my first stint. I don't know, we have plenty of data anyway and I will analyse it.

Max, great result for you to come home ahead of both Mercedes. Is there anything you could have done differently to have beaten one of the red cars?
MV: No. (Laughs). It's very simple. I could make it a huge story, but no.

So you're satisfied that was as a good as it was going to be. After qualifying you said the performance wasn't good enough. Was the car better today?
MV: It was a bit better. I think in the race I could follow, a bit. I was not in a position to attack but at least I could follow the cars ahead of me around, they never really pulled away. Of course initially it was all about tyre management anyway, so I was driving really slowly. I think we pitted at the right time, undercut Lewis, that was very positive and from there onwards it was just about staying alert with the safety car re-starts as well, but I think we managed everything quite well and I think for us after the difficulties we had in qualifying it was still good to be on the podium.

Questions From The Floor

(Frederic Ferret - l'Equipe) A question to Charles. In the morning briefing for the strategy, was there a plan where the second would go undercut or the first?
CL: No, we didn't speak about that plan so I think that will be one of the discussions too to try and understand why we didn't speak about that situation before. But it's impossible to go through all the possibilities in a race, all of them are unique but no, we didn't speak about this particular situation.

(Laurence Edmondson - ESPN) Charles, you said that you didn't know that Seb had pitted. Do you think had you known that, you had the pace in the car at that time to push that little bit harder on your in-lap and make the difference and come back out on track ahead of Seb?
CL: At that time obviously the tyres were quite dead but probably before I had quite a lot of margin. In the first few laps, obviously we wanted to go as slow as we possibly could for the guys behind to not have the window to pit. So yeah, in that period I could have done a much better job but I stick to the plan and I think that's what helped us to do one-two today - so yeah, you can always do something better but at the end I stick to the plan.

Sebastian Vettel, your fifth win here in Singapore. Welcome back to the middle seat. It's been a while. What is your overriding emotion right now?
SV: Happy! Obviously it's been a good night. I knew that it would be tricky from where we started. I was trying to push as hard as I can at the start. It was very close with Lewis, very fair but very close, so I couldn't really get ahead of him. And then I knew that, usually the races around here start very slow, and I knew that Charles would probably take it easy to control the race, which he did. Back in the train obviously it's not so easy to stay close to the car in front, looking after your tyres, so that's what I tried to do, to be able to stay with them as much as I could once they were picking up the pace. And I knew before the race that, as soon as I get my call to box, that's when I can try to make something with this race. So that's what I tried to do. It was very late, just last corner before the pit entry. I pushed as hard as I could on the out-lap. I think I was surprised Lewis didn't react the lap after - but also surprised that they had such strong pace for a couple of laps. So we obviously had to clear them, and once that was done I really tried to slice through traffic as good as I could to have a bit of a cushion and maybe control the race from there. Didn't work when the Safety Cars came but yeah, So I think the overriding emotion right now is just happy with how the night went.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Marina Bay, here.

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