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French GP: Post Race press conference

NEWS STORY
20/06/2021

Today's post-race press conference with Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez.

Track Interviews - Conducted by Martin Brundle.

Q: Max, did you enjoy that as much as we did?
Max Verstappen: Towards the end, yes! In the beginning it was super difficult out there with the wind. One lap you had OK balance and the next lap you were just sliding everywhere. Really difficult to keep the car stable. Once we made the first pit stop then you could clearly see that on the hard tyres they were pushing me hard from behind but then when we made the call to do a two-stop, luckily at the end that paid off. We had to work hard for it but of course very rewarding.

Q: Was there a point towards the end where you thought, 'I'm not sure I'm going to catch him'?
MV: It's difficult because there were quite a lot of backmarkers to go through but luckily they all did well and we could have a good fight to the end.

Q: What happened in the first corner?
MV: I just lost the rear. I tried to correct it, correct it, correct it, but it just kept going, so...

Q: This is a big statement, for you to beat Mercedes here. What does it mean for the championship and the rest of the season?
MV: As you could see the whole race we were fighting each other so I think it will be like this for the rest of the season.

Q: Well done Lewis, second place; you tried your best. Somehow you were finding some speed and some pace out of those tyres towards the end but it wasn't quite enough.
Lewis Hamilton: No. Congrats to Max, he did a great job today. They just had better strength all weekend and just considering that we had such a difficult Friday I'm really happy with today's result. Of course we didn't win and we were in the lead but I had no tyres left at the end and unfortunately lost the position. But still, it was a good race.

Q: It was a great race to watch. You two head-to-head. If that's what we are going to be one of the all-time great seasons.
LH: Yeah, we've got to find some pace, that's for sure. Most of the time we lost today was just on the straights. We've definitely got to dig deep, try to find out what that is - whether it's power or drag. But we've still got a good package. I'm not really sure how we lost position today...

Q: Well, the undercut was really powerful.
LH: Sure. Well, we didn't know how strong that was going to be or not. What was really surprising was to run out of that front tyre so early on but obviously they had a good strategy and it worked really well for him.

Q: When Max pitted for the second time what were your thoughts then?
LH: He was already quite far ahead so the only option I really had was to stay out, because again he was undercutting me, so he would come out ahead and I wouldn't be able to get past as they were too quick on the straights. The only option was to stay out as long as possible and hope the tyres held together.

Q: Another podium Sergio, congratulations. A bit steady at the start , you kept your tyres well, went long and it played out beautifully.
Sergio Perez: Yeah, it paid out, you know. It was important to stay within the leaders. For the first five or ten laps the car was pretty much undriveable with the wind. We obviously ran less downforce today so it was pretty hard to keep up behind. But then probably the wind was getting calmer and the track was getting better and I started to pick up my rhythm. We managed to go quite long on the first stint and I think that really paid off towards the end. I think the deg was quite a lot higher than expected today. So yeah I think all of us we did a great race, a great strategy from the team and I'm happy that we won the race today and good points for the team.

Press Conference

Q: Max, that was a brilliant and breathless race, well done. You've had a few minutes to digest this now. How much pleasure does this one give you?
MV: It was certainly not easy. Especially at the beginning I would say was really tricky for me. I had my moment in Turn 1, where I honestly really got caught out. I turned in thinking it was fine and then suddenly I kept losing the rear. I had to go off track and then I lost the position. Of course I was really upset at the time but you also have to think ahead. It was still a long race and a lot could happen. I just tried to follow. I think it rained overnight and this morning and with F3 driving I think they took a bit of rubber off and it was quite gusty out there today, a bit more wind than yesterday and I think it just took until the middle of the race for us to get back into a nice balance and in the beginning I was just oversteering a lot and it was difficult to really put the power down. We had a good out lap on the hard tyre and I got ahead of Lewis, which was very unexpected because I honestly thought I had a good out lap but I thought I would just slot in behind him and then I saw he was coming out of the pits and I had an opportunity to go for it and for eight laps, I don't know how many laps, Lewis was giving it his all to come by so it was not easy to keep him behind. And then of course we opted to go for the two-stop and I was like 'OK, let's see if it's going to work out', because you never know around here. And also the backmarkers were not making it easy to clear them and gain a lot of time every lap. But as soon as I was getting close I could see, of course Lewis on the tyres he was on, they were really worn and there was not much left on it and as soon as I got in the DRS with the top speed and the wing level we chose, let's see it was a fairly easy pass, but of course also having fresher tyres. It worked out but it was very tight, yeah.

Q: And were you always convinced by the two-stop strategy or were you a bit nervous at the time of the change that you'd left yourself too much to do? Because it was 18 seconds behind, 19 laps to go.
MV: Yeah, well, even if I wouldn't agree to it, I could have been talking on my radio but they wouldn't have understood me anyway.

Talk us through the radio drama.
MV: I don't know. It was literally next to my mouth. I tried to change it but it was always in the same position as previous races and stuff, so I don't know what happened.

Did it make your race that much more complicated?
MV: No. I just couldn't talk back to them but they could feed me all the information and that's the most important because the stops were done. I couldn't talk to them but what can you do?

Q: And Max, final one from me. Just how much confidence does this whole weekend give you? The pace of the car, what you were able to achieve and, looking ahead in particular.
MV: Of course it's very promising. The conditions, how they were in the beginning was not easy for us but then, again towards the end, I think the car started to come together again and we were very competitive. So, yeah, very pleased for that and I hope we can keep this up.

Q: Lewis, coming to you, this felt like a reversal of Barcelona a few weeks back. You were the one being hunted down this time. Just how gut-wrenching was it to lose the race so close to the end?
LH: It's not gut-wrenching at all. I think we did a great job today. It just didn't work out but I don't particularly feel... I'm not massively disappointed. I think I did the best job I could today and, of course there were things we could have done slightly better but overall they've been quicker than us all weekend so it's a true reflection of the pace they have. And so... yeah.

Q: Given where you started the weekend and the changes you had to make prior to qualifying, how much better did the car feel in the race?
LH: Compared to practice I wouldn't say that it felt much better. In the race, as Max was saying, it was gusty, it was slippery, so it was quite tricky out there with the conditions and so I would say today, condition-wise, it was worse for us and that made it really challenging from all the way around the lap. It was just inconsistent all the way around the lap.

Q: And Lewis, given the pace of the Red Bull today, do you think a more aggressive strategy could have made any difference? Could anything have made any difference to the end result, do you think?
LH: I'm sure if we look, with hindsight, for sure if we had stopped earlier, before they had stopped, come out ahead, and just gone onto a two-stop, probably could have won the race - but it would have still been very difficult. Their pace was generally very, very strong. I was able to keep them at bay when he was behind me but if he had not made a mistake in Turn 1, they would have just led the race all the way, probably.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Paul Ricard, here.

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