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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Post Race press conference


Track Interviews - Conducted by David Coulthard

Q: George Russell, third place and well appreciated by the crowd here. That has made the difference, you have secured second in the Constructors' Championship for the team and that means a lot.
George Russell: It means a huge amount. There are so many people back at the factory, in Brackley and Brixworth, who have worked so hard to achieve. It has been a really challenging season. I've let the side down a couple of times this year. So, pleased to bring it across the line today. It was tight with Checo at the end. I thought Charles was going to back me up but respect to him for keeping it clean.... and I can chill out now.

Q: Yeah, you've got to sweat on your brow. You had to really fight hard there. You knew that Checo, very late in the race, got that five-second penalty. Were you able to compute what was happening with Charles and the gaps or were the team keeping you informed?
GR: I mean, I came out of the pits on a second set of Hards. I was managing a bit and then Checo just came from nowhere. So, I don't know what happened there. They had great pace. It was really tense at the end. The tyres were dropping off. But just really pleased to have secured P2 for the team. And I'm sure everyone will have a few drinks tonight.

Q: Well, you say that, but you also told me ahead of the Grand Prix that you've not been feeling 100% for a couple of weeks.
GR: I was probably coughing four times a lap then, so it was pretty miserable out there, which didn't help things. But, as I said, just a massive relief to have brought the car home in P3. Can't believe it's only the second podium of the year, but really happy to end the season this way.

Q: It's a very well deserved podium and congratulations. So we're just being joined by Charles as he applies all his jewellery. Very nice. Would you like to finish putting them on before the interview? Would you like to finish putting your jewellery on? Or is it a gift?
Charles Leclerc: It's actually a sponsor.

Q: Ah, OK. I thought you were just being generous! Charles, great thinking in the cockpit there at the end to allow Checo to overtake you. I wasn't part of the final part of the commentary, I was coming here to do the interviews. Was that something that you discussed with the team beforehand? Or was it all in those last few moments?
CL: No, no, it was all in the last few minutes, because Checo had five seconds penalty. So we had to help him, in a way, for him to finish in front of George with the five seconds. I tried to give him the DRS and a slipstream. But unfortunately that wasn't enough. So, on one hand, I'm really happy because on a weekend like this, honestly, there wasn't one thing we could have done better as a team. I think it was definitely not a given that we were in the second fastest car this weekend. But we did an incredible job, doing everything right - strategy, qualifying. It's just a shame that we finished third in the Constructors'. That's all that mattered to me in this end of season. And we didn't achieve that. But yeah, anyway, I would like to thank the team for doing such incredible work and for working so incredibly hard since the first race. We knew that it was going to be an uphill season because we lacked performance compared to where we wanted. But the team has done an incredible job, pushing until the last race.

Q: Just put us back in the race start. It looked like there were two opportunities for you to go wheel-to-wheel with Max. Turn 1, of course, and then down at the end of the back straight into Turn 6. What was happening there? Because it looked like you've done enough to get the pass done.
CL: Yeah, I obviously wanted to try and get that first place. But we also know that in the race, we lack some pace compared to them. So even if I would have passed Max there, I probably would have gotten overtaken again, three or four laps later. And at the end, my only target was to beat the Mercedes. So I didn't want to lose too much tyre juice and also time with Max. But yeah, it was fun.

Q: OK, Charles, Congratulations on finishing the season with a podium.
CL: Thank you very much. Thank you.

Q: And ladies and gentlemen, at the end of what's been an incredible season for Max. An unbelievable 19th victory of the year. How are you feeling right now?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, an incredible season. It was a bit emotional on the in-lap. You know, it was the last time I was sitting in the car, which has of course given me a lot. So yeah, I'm of course very proud to win here at the last race. But I have to say a big thank you to everyone at Red Bull. It's just been an incredible year. It will be hard to do something similar again, but we definitely enjoyed this year.

Q: It looked like it and can I just compliment you on your donuts at the end?
MV: You taught me how to do it!

Q: You did it beautifully, and positioned your car there. Now, how would you reflect, beyond thanking your team here? This is where you won your first world title. You wrapped up your third much earlier in the season. Difficult to imagine it can get better than this.
MV: Yeah it'll be very hard to have another season like this, we know that. Of course, you always want to do better, but sometimes doing better is not only race wins and eventually winning the championship but we'll see, you know. We are working hard for next year to have again a very competitive car. For sure, all the other teams out there want to try and beat us next year and we are ready for the battle. But in the meantime, we are going to enjoy a little bit this year as well.

Q: Well, Max, as you are the champion, maybe the final words to the fans that you've seen all around the world, not just here in Abu Dhabi, but it's been an exceptional year for Formula 1.
MV: Yeah, it's been incredible you know, sold out in basically every place we went to. Great fan support and again, also here. I hope you guys enjoyed the race today as well and you saw all your favourite drivers do well. And, of course, thank you very much for cheering us on.

Press Conference

Q: Max, very well done to you. You've ended the season as you started in Bahrain, nine months ago, with a dominant win. You looked untouchable out there. How sweet was it?
MV: Yeah, it was, of course, a good race. I mean, the first stint, I didn't really know what to expect, because I didn't do a long run. So I probably took it a bit too easy in the beginning, but I guess that was better than trying to push ahead and destroy the tyres. So I took a few laps. But then I also think the Medium was just not as good as expected. So then we had to pit, because I saw everyone around me also pitting and, you know, on the Hard tyres, everything felt a bit more normal, a bit more easy to manage with the temperatures and basically I could extend my lead lap after lap. And yeah, it was pretty straightforward. I think for not having done a long run, the car felt quite decent out there.

Q: You were taking it easy in the early laps. That wasn't the case when Charles was right up next to you.
MV: No, of course, I mean, the first lap, you cannot take it easy.

Q: Tell us about that battle?
MV: It was good. I think. Yeah, we raced well. I didn't expect Charles to go on the left into Turn 6 but it was a good move. But I think at the same time, of course, Charles also had to think about the Championship, you know, for the team. So yeah, it was good. I enjoyed that.

Q: And Max, your lights to flag win means you've passed 1,000 laps led in a single season. Proof, of it when needed, of how untouchable you've been this year. Does that stat impress you?
MV: Well, I knew it was on the cards, of course, going into the race. And also, from the engineering side with the strategy, we wanted to, of course, try and plan it in a way that I wouldn't pit too early. So, just wait for others to pit. Of course, to try and achieve that it was maybe not always the, let's say, the fastest strategy. But I wanted to stay in the lead, of course to get the laps in.

Q: And so ends your record-breaking season. When you've retired from racing, Max, many years down the road, what will you remember most about this year?
MV: I think the just the team spirit. Not so much the wins or the, whatever, poles or laps led, just the enjoyment we had as a team. Because, yeah, the wins are great, of course but I think it's also very important to have a good atmosphere in the team and have a lot of fun. And just the people you work with, there's a lot of smart people in the team. And I also know that whatever you do in motor racing, I think it never will top that. So yeah, just seeing everyone at work, trying to do the best they can every day, and give it all out there for you. Yeah, that's really nice to see.

Q: Charles, let's come to you. Great job by you to claim your sixth podium of the season. Did the race pan out as you'd expected?
CL: Hmmm... well, yeah, more or less, I think we were a bit more competitive than what we expected. I think we expect to be a bit on the backfoot compared to Mercedes or McLaren, but I guess, apart from that, everything was as expected. I mean, Max was stronger as expected but we had quite good tyre management. We were expected to struggle mostly with overheating. That is normally one of our weaknesses. But today we did quite a good job on that.

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