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Belgian GP: Post Sprint press conference


Track Interviews - Conducted by Naomi Schiff

Max, congratulations, you are today's Sprint winner. Once again, unstoppable. But the start didn't seem so simple. You chose to opt to stay out and only come in for Inters on the second lap. Was that the wrong call?
Max Verstappen: No, I think it was just a safer call. I mean, I could come in first, but I might be blocked by other cars, there might be a Safety Car and then you lose-out massively, so, I didn't mind to stay out. I mean, we lost one position, but we know that we are quick and I think that you could see that when we put the Inter tyres on. We were flying. So it was OK.

We heard you mention on the radio that you were struggling to wake-up your brakes. However, you still had a lead of over six seconds at the end. So, how much of a struggle was that in the car for you?
MV: No, we were just trying to get an even split on the brakes. But it was all under control, the car was quick. Tyres were holding on. Just tiny, little issues.

Well, tomorrow you start down in sixth. Was there anything to learn following Oscar yesterday in these conditions from behind first place?
MV: I don't know. I mean, I need to pass a few cars ,so I think the biggest risk is just lap one, Turn 1. All these kind of things. Everything is always very tricky there. As long as we stay out of trouble, I think we'll have a quick car.

Oscar, congratulations, you lead some Formula 1 laps for the first time in your career. First of all, tell us, how are you feeling?
Oscar Piastri: Very, very happy, we tried our best. We boxed when the Safety Car came in, led a few laps, tried my best but we were no match for Max. Nice to be up there in P2. I think, apart from Max, our pace was really strong, so full credit to the team again. The last three weekends we've had, it's been pretty special, compared to where we have been. So, I can't thank them enough for the car. We've still got a little bit of work to do - clearly - to get right to the top, but it's a lot nicer to be up there. To lead my first laps was a day I won't forget.

Well, you're 22 years young in your rookie season in Formula 1. You've led those laps, and then you have the pressure of two-time World Champion Max Verstappen behind you. What was that feeling? And, in that moment, did you feel the Safety Car was going to play in your favour, or against you?
OP: I thought the Safety Car was going to be in my favour - it meant less laps to try to hold him behind, but I looked out of Turn 1, I felt like I got a decent restart, I looked at the top of Eau Rouge and he was basically on top of me already. I couldn't keep him behind on the straight. Clearly, we have a little more work to do but I'm very happy to get the good points. First... I would say podium but I don't really know what this is... so first top three in a sort-of race. I'll enjoy it and hopefully we can have a good race tomorrow.

Pierre, congratulations, you can hear the support of your team behind here. Just how are you feeling after a run of quite a few tough races for you and Alpine?
Pierre Gasly: Well, yeah, I must say, it feels amazing. I'm extremely happy to finish in the top three, especially here in Spa, which feels some kind of home race for us without the French Grand Prix. So, it was a very, very difficult conditions but no, I'm extremely happy. We pitted at the right time and managed to hold off Lewis until the end, so it does feel very special to do it here as well in Spa and obviously, I have a thought for Anthoine. I'm just extremely pleased for the whole team because it hasn't been the smoothest start to the year and managed to put things together here today.

Well, it was a 50/50 split between those who came in for Inters and those didn't. For you it seemed to work in your favour - but towards the end of the race you had the pressure of Lewis Hamilton closing down on you. How hard was that to deal with in these tricky conditions?
PG: Yeah, I must say I gave it everything. I could see him coming back, getting closer and I was just trying to focus on my driving, making clean laps, one after the other. It wasn't easy, the tyres were degrading, and I just gave it all and it paid off. I'm just super-happy for all the guys and I will go for it again tomorrow.

Press Conference

Max, very well done to you. Another Sprint race win in the bag. What were the biggest challenges for you out there this afternoon?
MV: I think just to make the call when to pit. I said already to the team, I know we can pit straight away. It's very risky in case of having all the cars come in as well, who would pit behind me, and then of course you have to hold your car, or a Safety Car lap one, you never know, that can happen quite often in these kind of conditions. So, I think we just took the safer option to at least do one lap. Maybe there would be a Safety Car and you're unlucky. There wasn't a Safety Car so I knew I wouldn't lose out, because the extreme tyres are a lot slower around here than an Inter. So yeah, we did the pitstop. I had a little wait as well for the Ferrari, and I came out behind Oscar and then of course I knew I had to get by him at some point. I could see that within two laps, he was already struggling a lot more with the tyres. Like they were just overheating more and then I guess with our top speed as well, I had a good run after the Safety Car.

Max, how much fun is it to be racing someone new? Some fresh blood, if you like?
MV: Yeah... first time? It's always good. I mean, I've been in that position as well, where the younger guy comes in. It's nice, and it's great also. I think Oscar is having a very strong season in general, but I think also this weekend he has been really on it. It's always nice to, for the first time, basically, race.

Max, you've won the race - but good was your car and how much confidence does it give you ahead of the grand prix itself tomorrow.
MV: yeah, car was quick. We knew already over one lap we were anyway not bad, but also in the race it seemed like we were quite good on keeping the tyres alive. So hopefully, we can do the same tomorrow if it's dry. But tomorrow, of course, I'm starting a bit further back. I need to be careful to not have any damage on the car. And as soon as I have a clean lap one, I think from there onwards, yeah, we can move forwards.

One more question from me. Can we just get your thoughts on the Safety Car formation laps and the rolling start?
MV: I think the rolling start was a smart thing to do in these kinds of conditions because I think nobody could really see what was happening in front, and especially on the new tarmac around here, there's a lot more standing water, so I think it would have been quite dangerous out of Turn One and through Eau Rouge, and I don't think you want that when all the cars are super-close and there is a little moment. So, I think that was a good choice. I think we could have raced a little bit earlier - maybe two laps earlier - but again, I prefer to do it like this than go out there when it's unsafe and they release us. So, it's OK.

Oscar, many congratulations, your first top three finish in Formula 1. What a moment for you.
OP: Yeah, it was a good Sprint. I think it was pretty obvious for us to box on the first lap. Obviously we had the same risk as Max of potentially getting stuck with everyone coming it - but it worked out really well and managed to lead a few laps, which was cool. So really enjoyed it. Think we struggled a bit with keeping the tyres alive. Yeah, that was pretty much all we could have achieved today, so I'm very happy.

You've led many races in your career in the junior formulas. Did it feel any different out front in Formula 1?
OP: I mean you're always focusing on trying to just do the best laps you can. I mean, when you've got Max and his car behind you, it doesn't put your nerves at ease, put it that way. So I knew it was going to be difficult to hold him behind, of course. I probably wasn't expecting him to catch me literally at the top of Eau Rouge after the Safety Car restart, but such is our straight line speed. So yeah, it was cool. I was just focusing on trying to do the best job I could, knowing that it was probably going to be a when Max came past, rather than an if. But yeah, I tried my best. And I think second was all we all had.

Tell us a little bit more about that Safety Car restart. How much did you plan for that prior to the race?
OP: We didn't. Yeah, I mean, I've done quite a few Safety Car restarts before, so it's nothing new. But of course, you just try and do the best job you can in tricky conditions, with quite low tyre temps at that point. So yeah, I tried the best that I could. I think I went a bit wide at Turn 1, which didn't help things, but I don't think it really made much difference. No, it was nice to be able to control a Safety Car restart again and hopefully there's a few more opportunities in the future.

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1. Posted by kenji, 30/07/2023 1:27

"A great little race. Thoroughly enjoyable. To those who declined to watch, well you missed some exciting racing in difficult conditions. "

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