Today's post-race press conference with Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez and George Russell.
Track Interviews - Conducted by Mark Webber
Q: Well, George Russell, fantastic podium performance mate, a little bit lucky with the Safety Car but ultimately you drove an extraordinary race. You must be stoked with the performance of the car today?
George Russell: Yeah, absolutely. I mean you've got to be in it to win it. We capitalised from others' misfortunes and obviously we got a little bit lucky today, probably twice, but you know we take it and there's so much hard work going on back at base Brackley and Brixworth to try and get us back to the front, so to be standing on the podium is special.
Q: I saw you off camera, going to your team, going to the mechanics. It just means so much to you guys given the start that you've had and the high standards that Mercedes in the organisation has to get a podium for yourself, Lewis has had one in Bahrain, you're always there, you never give the opposition a free pass do you?
GR: You know, we're never going to give up. We've got to keep on fighting and this weekend we were a long way behind our rivals but here we are standing on the podium so you know, we've got to keep this up while we're on the backfoot and I'm sure we'll get there after a few more races.
Q: Looking forward to the next one buddy, what do you think? We're getting back to Europe. Upgrades?
GR: I think it's going to take some time until we can fight these boys in red and blue, they are pretty exceptional at the moment but if anyone can do it, Mercedes can, so let's go for it.
Q: Well done. George, good job. Sergio, great drive mate. I think you got everything out of the car today. You did what you could. The start looked a little bit tricky down into Turn 1. Run us through that first of all.
Sergio Perez: Yeah, that was a bit tricky. You know, getting my position, Lewis overtook me on the inside, he broke really late, he had a really good turn one and Yeah, after that it was about getting him. Then the Virtual Safety Car and so on. My first stint was very poor, in terms of degradation we struggled quite a lot. Then on the hard with the Safety Car, we were a bit unlucky that we lost two positions, which we recovered later. Yeah, it's a good result but unfortunately we lost Max, you know, it would have been great to have a double podium for the team. But yeah, looking forward you know, we've been a bit unlucky in the first two races.
Q: Absolutely. Run us through that move with Lewis around the outside into the fast chicane, it was a phenomenal move and then all the Safety Cars helped him on the fight back with you on the rundown to turn 11?
SP: Yeah, always with Lewis it's very entertaining. Very hard racer but very fair. Yeah, we always have fun together.
Q: Well done. Enjoy your flight back to Mexico tonight. And here's the man of the moment. My God, driver of the day, fastest lap, mate you were on another level today. Record crowd here in Australia, it was a phenomenal turn out to see (unclear)... Was that the easiest win of your career so far?
Charles Leclerc: I mean, in Formula 1... It's the first one where we could control a little bit the gap and honestly, what a car today. Of course I did a good job all weekend, but it was not possible without the car and this weekend, especially on race pace, we were extremely strong, tyre felt great from the first lap to the last lap. We were managing the tyres extremely well. And I'm just so happy.
Q: Well done, mate. Run us through those restarts because you had to deal with two of those. Little bit nerve wracking on the front straight with the restarts, making sure that you didn't have to deal with Max on the brakes for Turn 1 or Turn 3?
CL: It was very difficult, especially the Safety Car restart, I had a huge understeer into the last corner and I was like 'whoa, it's going to be difficult to get that first position', but then, yeah, we managed to do so and after the first two or three corners I managed to regain the grip and then the pace was back so yeah, incredible to win here.
Q: Just one last one. I heard on the radio on the in lap, I'm starting to sense a little bit of belief here. You know this momentum, the car's been very strong at all types of circuits and now you must be looking forward to getting back to Europe to see if this momentum [continues] and [you can] start to put a huge campaign [together] to fight against everyone that can, you know, throw the battle against you guys?
CL: Yeah, well, obviously we only had the third race, so it's difficult to think about the championship, but to be honest, we've got a very strong car, a very reliable car too. And for now, we've always been there, so I hope it continues like this and if it does, then we probably have chances for the championship, which obviously makes me smile after the last two years that have been difficult for the team and obviously for myself, so it's great to be back in this position.
Q: Many congratulations to the top three finishers of the FIA Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix. In third place, George Russell. In second place, Sergio Pérez. And taking the fourth win of his Formula 1 career and his second of the 2022 campaign, our winner Charles Leclerc. Charles, what a remarkable day for you and for Ferrari. First up, were you surprised by your level of dominance today?
CL: I think we were all surprised by our pace. Yes, because I mean, on the medium, already, towards the end of the stint, we were extremely strong, we managed those tyres extremely well. We didn't have too much graining, so yeah, the pace was very strong. And then on the hard, we probably expected Red Bull to be a bit closer in terms of pace, but also there we seem to have the upper hand. And yeah, after qualifying and FP2, we didn't see that performance difference between us and Red Bull. So it was a very good surprise.
Q: Now, you looked to have it pretty much under control throughout. But there was one nervous moment, at least for us watching. And that came at one of the restarts. So just talk us through what happened there?
CL: Yeah, I tried to prepare the last corner as much as possible, staying on the left, but I actually took quite a bit of old rubber and I just couldn't turn for the last corner. So I lost so much. And then we were side-by-side with Max for the first corner, I managed to stay in the lead and then it got much better with the tyres and then we could pull a gap to have a bit more margin.
Q: Now Charles, two wins and a second place from the opening three races. You're now 34 points ahead in the World Championship. And you're heading to one of Ferrari's home races next, can you imagine the level of excitement at Imola in two weekends' time?
CL: Oh, yeah, I can imagine it, but I don't want to think about it too much. Because it's still very early in the season. Obviously, it's good to be in the lead of the championship, I think I lead by 37 or 34 points. 34 - it's OK. Thirty-four points is always good to take wherever you are in the calendar but, yeah, I don't want to focus too much on the championship for now. Italy will be incredible, but we need to approach the race weekend, just like we approached the first three weekends. I think it's extremely important not to put on ourself extra pressure and not try to overdo things. Because we are working, I think, as a team extremely well since the beginning of the season and yeah, we just need to keep doing our job, just like we did in the first three weekends.
Q: Checo, coming to you now, given the pace of Ferrari this afternoon, it seems second was the maximum for you today. Would you agree with that assessment?
SP: Yes, certainly. I think Ferrari was super strong today. We couldn't match them at any point. I think it's the first weekend that they are a step ahead. I think we've been really close in qualifying Shin brace. Even yesterday, I think we were a bit close in qualifying and race, even yesterday, it felt like we were a bit closer than we've shown. But yeah, today, they were on another level. I think we also were a bit too poor with our balance. We took a bit of the wrong directions with the car. So, I think there is good analysis to be done. We run the two cars a bit different. So, I think there is a good analysis to do. I'm sure we will learn a lot from this weekend because... yeah, we seem to be a bit harder on the tyres than Ferrari.
Q: Now, we saw a wonderful scrap between you and Lewis Hamilton at one point on the lap. Do you think the new layout here at Albert Park promoted overtaking? Do you think it was better than it was last time we were here in 2019?
SP: Well, it was a shame they took the DRS out because I think the racing could have been a bit better with it. But yeah, it was nice. I think it's always nice to battle Lewis. It's always very hard racing with him - but fair.
Q: George, coming to you now. It was a brilliant race from you today. Well done. But how much of a surprise is this third place?
GR: I think it's credit to the team back at Brackley and Brixworth because obviously we want more performance and we are a step behind Ferrari and Red Bull in terms of pace, but you've got to be there at the end if you want to pick up the points, and that's what we've done on a number of occasions now. And I mean, this weekend we were the fifth fastest team behind these two guys and obviously McLaren and Alpine. And currently standing P3 on the podium and P2 in the Championship is pretty crazy.
Q: Well, looking at the pace of the car next, how much progress have you made with it this weekend?
GR: I'd love to say we've made a lot of progress but I think we've got to look at the lap times and we haven't closed the gap at all to these guys to the right of me. And we know we've got a lot of work to do but I have faith that we can get there. We know the potential is in the car. And we've got a lot of work to do to extract that performance. It won't happen overnight; it won't happen in the next race, but I do think in time we will get there. So, for the time being, if we keep picking up these results, it's keeping us in the mix.
Q: And just quickly, tell us what you were thinking when you saw the Safety Car come out for Sebastian Vettel's stricken car.
GR: What was I thinking? I was thinking 'Happy Days', to be honest! No, we obviously had a bit of fortune there - but that's part of the game, part of the sport. Sometimes it goes your way. Sometimes it doesn't. And yeah, I've been on both ends a number of times before and it's just part of motor sport.
Check out our Sunday gallery from Melbourne, here.