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Azerbaijan GP: Post Race press conference


Track Interviews - Conducted by Damon Hill

Charles, long, hard race. You got pole position, but you knew you couldn't keep up with the pace of the Red Bulls. But a valiant effort. How do you feel about it?
Charles Leclerc: Yeah, I mean, they are in another league once it comes to the race. So, the really good lap managed to put us in front, but then over 51 laps it was just not possible. They have so much more pace than we do in race pace. So yeah, as I said yesterday, I think they found something that we didn't yet. And that's where our focus is at the moment. Everybody's working flat out to try and understand what we can do in the races, especially to just get more performance.

Do you feel like you've closed the gap, that Ferrari are getting at least a little closer to the Red Bulls?
CL: Honestly, the feeling is a little bit better, but when I see the gap - and I'm pretty sure that when you have this type of gap you're probably not pushing 100% - so yeah, we don't really know how much we have closed the gap. The feeling is a little bit better, but again also the Aston Martin was really quick today. So we still have a lot of work.

Otherwise, a lonely race. You got a little bit of pressure there from Fernando at the end. The old fox, he doesn't leave you alone does he?
CL: Yeah, no, he was pushing. I knew what his intentions were at the beginning, because he always does that - trying to keep the tyres at the beginning of the stint and pushing at the end. So I tried to do the same. And at the end, it was close, but not enough for Fernando today.

Max, well, you got the long race you wanted, but perhaps not the result that you wanted. You got very unlucky with the Safety Car. But other than that, the pace of Sergio, were you not able to catch him? How did it go?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, I think of course, the Safety Car was a bit unlucky, then I had to push again. I tried to stay very close, to try and get into the DRS. But I think the tyres were overheating a bit because of that, of course, trying to follow. But also the balance. I was struggling to be really consistent. So I was playing around with the tools a little bit. And I think once I got that sorted, I would say the last 10 laps were actually quite good again, but just a little bit too late but I think a lot of things learned again throughout the race and, of course, at the end of the day a good team result.

And it's also good for the championship, isn't it? I mean, you know, the gap has closed a little bit between you and Sergio, so it's going to be tense for the rest of the season?
MV: I don't know. I mean, we know it's a very long season. And like I said, a lot of things are learned again. I mean, Baku is again, quite different to Miami, and Miami is going to be, again, very different to the other tracks we go to. But yeah, you keep learning, you know. It can never be perfect all the time. I think they're always days that you can learn.

A tiring race? We saw you actually touch the tyres a couple of times, I think?
MV: Yeah, a few times we hit the wall, around the lap. So we were of course pushing, but that's also part of a street circuit.

Well done and good luck for the next one. Sergio, now, I think you're now officially the only person who has won two Baku Grands Prix.
Sergio Perez: Two and a half!

Congratulations, what a fantastic drive. We just mentioned to Max that you got a little bit of a break there with the Safety Car. You stayed out, Max was just coming in at the wrong time.
SP: Yeah, it really worked out today for us. We managed to stay in the DRS train and we managed to keep the pressure on Max. Yeah, I think we had better deg on that first stint. I think it was looking good from that side. Then the Safety Car came and bunched everyone up. So it was, again, another race on the Hard tyres.

There is clearly not much between you, the pace between you and Max on this circuit. I mean, it could have been different if you'd come out behind. Do you think if you come out from behind Max, you could have raced him to the end? Or was it always going to be a stalemate?
SP: I think it was very close between us. I mean, we pushed to the maximum today. I mean, we both clipped the wall a few times. We were both pushing out there. The way Max pushed me through all the race was really hard, but we managed to keep him under control.

Yeah, it was great, because your team came on to you and said 'what was going on at Turn 15' and you were keeping it quiet. But you hit the wall on the right.
SP: Really hard! I had a little bit of luck, especially with that front right, that it didn't blow up.

Press Conference

Checo, very well done to you. Sprint victory yesterday, winner of the Grand Prix today. What a weekend for you.
SP: Yeah, it was a great weekend overall, you know. We delivered when we had to. It was a lot of pressure. I felt that with this format it puts a lot of stress on the drivers, on the engineers, the mechanics. So the way we delivered over the weekend was great. Yesterday, we executed a good race. But I think today, the way we pushed each other, Max and myself, pretty much from lap one onwards, once we got Charles, it was basically a race between us from the start to the end. I think that first stint was a big key to my race today.

It was a very intense battle, similar to Saudi in many ways. How did it feel in the cockpit?
SP: Very intense, you know. The first stint was super intense, just making sure I stayed in that DRS. And then once I was in the DRS, just pushing Max to make sure that he used his tyres and I think that was one of the keys. But then once we were on the Hard compound, it was really hard, you know, to keep Max behind, because I knew that as soon as he would get DRS then that's it, really. So just to keep him behind the DRS was a massive challenge. And we were pushing each other massively. We really gave it all, lap after lap. And I'm really happy to come away with this victory.

Can we talk through a couple of the key moments? First of all, your overtake on Charles early in the race?
SP: Yeah, that was key, you know, because once Max got by I knew that it was really important not to lose too much time with Charles, because if I were to lose too much time with Max then it will be really difficult to catch him. Luckily, I managed to spend just a lap behind Charles. And once I was able to clear him then lap by lap I got into the DRS from Max and that really made my race. Once I was in his DRS, it was about time to overtake him, but he obviously pitted. And then we got the Safety Car, so I got a bit lucky there.

Also, in terms of luck, you clipped the wall in Turn 15 late in the race? How did that affect the handling of the car, if at all?
SP: It actually helped me! I was struggling with the front end, so somehow I picked up a bit of front end. So something to see, but no, in all honesty, I was quite concerned, because the paranoia starts and you start to look at the tyre and I was looking at the tyre and my engineer asked me what happened on 15 and I'm like, 'wait, I'm just looking that everything is OK with the tyre', so yeah, it was one of those moments where you drop a bit of concentration and in this place you cannot really, it doesn't matter where you are in the race, you cannot lose your concentration at all.

Checo, this has been your best ever start to a Grand Prix season - two wins from four and you're now just six points behind your team-mate. How do you view the bigger picture of the season now?
SP: Well, I think it's a long year ahead, you know. I really believe that we are in the fight. I think without the problems we had in the qualifying in Melbourne, we should be a lot closer. So, it's important not to have those problems ever again and to minimise the problems, because I think at the end of the day, it's just very important to make sure that whenever we cannot win, finish second and it's still a good day still.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Baku here.


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