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Saudi Arabian GP: Post Race press conference

NEWS STORY
28/03/2022

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

Track Interviews - Conducted by David Coulthard

Q: Max Verstappen, well, what a race; 2022 is go! it wasn't the start you needed in Bahrain but this was a brilliant weekend for you and some really close and respectful racing with Charles.
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it was really tough, but a good race. I mean, we were battling hard at the front and yeah, we just tried to play the long game. They were really quick through corners, we were quick on the straight. But the tyres were wearing out quite quick around here. You could see at the end, I think we had a little bit more pace, so I just tried to get by. It wasn't easy, playing smart tricks in the last corner, but eventually I managed to get ahead. But even after that he was constantly in the DRS and then with the yellow flags in the last lap, just knowing how much you should lift, whether it was allowed or not. It was tough but I'm really happy that we finally kickstarted the season.

Q: Just put us in the cockpit with, as you say, smart tricks running into the DRS, we're just seeing the lock up, you both locked up going to where the DRS line is, we can see it on the screen behind you, and then coming onto the start/finish for the pass. This strategy you're having to deploy, this is a new form of racing.
MV: Yeah, it seems like once you get quite close, because I think the cars, when you get to within half a second, you actually can have a good exit. And I think that makes a lot more tricky to actually do the pass, let's say in the last corner compared to last year, so it's a lot harder to plan your pass.

Q: OK, well, you are the winner tonight, so congratulations. Charles Leclerc. Well, you did everything in that grand prix right. I take my hat off to you in terms of when you first allowed Max to overtake you into the last corner, the dummy you threw, I thought you had a problem. But you were strategically making sure you had the DRS. That was some smart racing.?
Charles Leclerc: Yeah, it was, but it wasn't enough today. But oh my god, I really enjoyed that race. Again, it's hard racing, but fair. And every race should be like this. So it was fun. I'm of course disappointed. I wanted to win today. We just missed. I mean, we had two very different configurations with Max and Checo and both the Ferraris. We were quite quick in the corners, but quite slow in the straight, because we put more downforce and so it was extremely difficult for me to cover Max in the straights, but it's like this, and he did a great job and it was a fun race.

Q: Did I hear correctly, you were on the radio congratulating Max, acknowledging that this was a great battle. The respect is there.
CL: Oh, yeah. It's always been there, especially when you finish a race like this, honestly. I mean, we are on a street track, we've been pushing like I've rarely pushed before, to the absolute limits and we take risks at the end. So of course there is respect, but I'm a bit disappointed.

Q: Carlos, a little bit of confusion before the safety car start. We heard you on the radio very clearly, the safety car line here a little bit tricky when you come out of the pit lane. Overall your thoughts on your race?
Carlos Sainz: Yeah it was close call there with Checo but in the end I think he got a bit unlucky with a safety car obviously but the rules are the rules and I think I was just ahead at the safety car line and it was my position then, and since then it was all about holding on to P3. The Red Bulls were super quick in the last 10 laps after the tyres cooled down on the safety car, on the virtual. They were flying and they were putting pressure on us. For me this race was a bit of progress from Bahrain. I think I managed to find a bit more rhythm with the car. Still some tenths to find but I think I will end up getting there.

Press Conference

Q: Many congratulations to the top three finishes of the FIA Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in third place, Carlos Sainz. In second place, Charles Leclerc. And taking his first victory of 2022, and the 21st victory of his Formula 1 career, our winner, Max Verstappen. What a race Max, more tremendous racing between you and Charles, crossing the line just half a second apart. What were those closing laps like from your point of view?
MV: Qualifying laps! It was tough. I didn't really feel that happy on the medium. All the time, when you would get close to the car ahead the tyres would die. So there was not much racing going on there. So it was a little bit frustrating to just sit there and wait for the right lap to pit so you could go onto the other tyres, because as soon as we went on to the hard tyre I had a much better feeling. So then I of course tried to stay close with Charles after the safety car restart and, yeah, I was just trying to keep the gap more or less the same. And that was basically it, you know, just trying to match the lap times, trying to get a bit closer, then he was pulling away a bit. I got a bit closer again. And yeah, then of course, we had the VSC at the end. And then it's always a bit of a question mark, you know, what's going to happen after with the tyres, of course, because they cooled down a lot, but it seemed like we had quite a good first few laps on that restart. I had a good feeling with the car and the tyres were still only holding on quite well through the high speed. And of course, I then had a few good opportunities, but Charles really played it smart in the last corner. So it was not easy for me to actually get by. And of course then I had to line myself up again to have another go at it. And eventually I had the go and I got ahead but then once I was ahead it was really like four laps flat out trying to stay ahead because Charles was consistently in my DRS. So yeah, it was quite tough out there.

Q: It was great to watch and a real game of cat and mouse. Were you having to apply some old karting tactics out there?
MV: Well, in go-karting you can rub a bit, you know, with the sidepods and stuff. That's unfortunately not possible anymore in Formula cars. But we have done that in the past. I think we are okay.

Q: And Max from a performance point of view, how was the car? Do you feel you've taken a step forward since Bahrain?
MV: Difficult to say if it's a step forward, but I think we are always learning and of course every track is different as well, in terms of what you need from the car, so still a lot of things to look at. Because clearly yesterday I wasn't very happy and also in the first stint it still wasn't how I would have liked it to be. But having said that, I think in general, being the car following you just open up your tyre a bit sooner and it's not great out there. Because as soon as I felt like I was in clean air, the car actually did change a bit in balance. So yeah, we'll have a look but still quite a few things of course to get on top of because it's a very new car still.

Q: Charles, coming to you now. It was very close in the end. Did you enjoy the fight, and did the yellow flag on the penultimate lap cost you?
CL: I definitely enjoyed the fight. It's obviously disappointing to lose the win so late in the race but it was a fun fight. It was very difficult because we had two cars that were in a very different place. I was very strong in the first sector, in all the corners, and basically much less strong in the straights. So it was very, very tricky. I tried to have the DRS in the last corner. It worked twice but it didn't the last time and then obviously there was this yellow flag. I don't know if we are speaking about the same yellow flag but I think the one where I could have had a chance to at least be alongside was the one into Turn 1 where I had no DRS there, so this was a little bit of a shame but it's part of the game! We'll try again next race.

Q: Now, you talked earlier about being able to push hard throughout the race. So, tell us about the tyres. How consistent were they tonight?
CL: They were consistent, but the first run was a bit more difficult. I think we did a great job by managing those Mediums, because it wasn't easy following Checo. But, towards the end we actually had quite a good pace on those Mediums. And then on the Hard, it felt nice whenever I had a little bit of margin I felt like I could keep the gap to Max but then obviously with the Safety Cars with the Virtual Safety Cars as soon as he got within DRS range, everything became a bit trickier there. But yeah, it's like this.

Q: And Charles, tell us about that first pit stop. Lots of radio chat between you and the pit wall. Were you ready to pit or was it all an effort to try and persuade Red Bull to put Perez in?
CL: No, no. We were ready to pit. I mean, yes we basically went for the opposite to Checo in front, and he boxed that lap, so yeah, I think we did the right choice.

Q: Carlos coming to you, another podium many congratulations. First up, were you happier with the car here than you were seven days ago in Bahrain?
CS: I was happier than in Bahrain, definitely. There's been a bit of progress done from my side of the garage, with the feeling with the car. Also, having the opportunity to come to this track, one hundred days only after we were here with last year's car has given me a much clearer picture of the type of corner and the two or three corners that I'm still lacking with this car - because it's quite clear for me now, it has given me a great opportunity to understand fully the magnitude of how much I need to adapt and how much I need to get the car bit more to my liking. I felt like today we did a small step in the right direction and you know still... well, while I'm still not 100 per cent with the car, to keep bringing the points and the podiums is important, until I will get back to 100 per cent and it will be time to join these guys at the top for the fights.

Q: Talk us through the start. It seems you made a very good getaway but lost out to Max on the exit of Turn 2. How much did that compromise your race?
CS: Yeah, it's a very narrow start here. So I had a very good launch out of the start. And then I was squeezed a bit in between Checo and Charles, and I had to lift and this gave Max the opportunity to go on the inside, and pass me outside of Two with a better run. I was just basically a bit unlucky because I think I was just boxed in, due to my good start and I had to lift. So yeah, the good thing is that it was a good start and they're going to be important for this year. Those good starts. And we need to keep them up.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Jeddah, here.

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