After the Las Vegas Grand Prix, its winner, Max Verstappen, spoke about the events of the race on the new city track, and also expressed a wish that next year the weekend schedule would be changed.
Question: Throughout the entire race, from start to finish, there was constant struggle on the track, all sorts of events happened – how did you manage to cope with everything that befell you and still win?
Max Verstappen: Very good question. I just kept fighting. I mean, of course, the race was a bit hectic, and it all started with a 5 second penalty, and then I had to pit due to tire degradation – our car for some reason did not work very well on the Medium tires .
After that I got into traffic and had to be patient to deal with the cars ahead. But things were going well for us, although then there was a small clash with George Russell. I guess he didn’t see me and the front fender on my car was damaged.
Fortunately, its structure still remained intact, which was very important. And then the safety car came out onto the track, we made another pit stop and put on a second set of hard tires. And then the fun began! What I mean is that between me and Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc there were also McLaren and Alpine cars, but when I got ahead of them, I could already start arguing for the victory, after which I had to attack with full force until the very finish. And it was really great!
Question: Can you list in chronological order everything that happened in Turn 1? How would you comment on what happened there? And how did you react to the 5-second penalty?
Max Verstappen: The start was good, but then I had to brake quite late to protect my position, but I think I moved a little to the inside of the track, and it was quite muddy there. On this track, as soon as you get outside the racing line, grip is at a very low level.
That’s what happened: I braked, but there was no clutch. I didn’t intend to push Charles off the track, but I couldn’t slow down and kept sliding to the right on all four wheels. So we had to pull over to the side of the road.
You understand, at such moments the adrenaline also goes through the roof, and I didn’t like the stewards’ decision. But, analyzing these events, I think they did the right thing. But after this 5-second penalty, of course, it was a little more difficult to get ahead.
Question: There was a large oil slick in front of your car on the starting field – how did you manage to get around it? There was an incident between you and Charles, and on the track you fought a real battle, but after the race you calmly communicated with each other. Does this indicate that you have developed a good relationship over the years?
Max Verstappen: If oil spills on the track, this is not an ideal scenario. Oil leaked from historic cars during the Pilots’ Parade, and this probably needs to be sorted out. It’s a shame this happened. Because of this, at the start I had to take a little to the left.
After which, of course, a small incident occurred, and I explained to Charles how it happened – I think my actions were quite natural, we did this back in the days of karting. It’s good when fighting on the track is fun, and everyone on this track has had one or another duel, so there is always something to talk about.
Question: You mentioned that the car did not perform the best on Medium tires – what was the reason for this?
Max Verstappen: I don’t know yet. This remains to be analyzed. Because during training these tires worked fine.
Question: How was the car’s behavior on hard tires? It looks like the pace was good, even with the damaged front wing…
Max Verstappen: Yes, I think hard rubber resisted granulation better, because on the Medium I had exactly this problem, and the level of grip began to decrease. But on Hard there were no such difficulties, and this definitely helped.
Question: In terms of 5-second penalties, do you think George deserved to be punished for that incident?
Max Verstappen: It is always difficult to judge such incidents, because he did not do it intentionally. I think he just didn’t expect me to overtake him in that corner. I moved to the inside path, and he turned as if no one was there. So I guess he just didn’t see me.
Question: You have already said that the final part of the race gave you pleasure. Could you share your impressions about this route? Why was the fight on it so interesting?
Max Verstappen: I think due to the fact that the degradation of hard rubber was at such a low level. Of course, this was also facilitated by the slipstream effect on long straights. Perhaps it was also partly a headwind that blew along a straight line.
I suppose when you are chasing an opponent, you waste almost no time in slow corners. And then there are many high-speed sections on the track – from the 4th to the 5th turn, from the 9th to the 12th, and also, of course, all the way to the 12th to 14th and from the 16th to 1st th. All this makes the racing much more interesting.
Question: Can we say that in this regard the race in Las Vegas was the best of the season?
Max Verstappen: First we need to remember all the other races, so it’s difficult to comment, but the race is fun, I liked it.
Question: Say a few words about your partner, because today Sergio Perez secured 2nd place in the individual championship…
Max Verstappen: Yes, the team initially set this goal, so we are very pleased. Even on the last lap I tried to give Sergio the opportunity to take advantage of the slipstream behind my car, but unfortunately he did not have enough top speed to hold off Charles Leclerc. It’s a pity, of course, because it would have been even better if we had provided Red Bull with a winning double.
Question: How would you react if the FIA decided not to fine you, but asked you to return Leclerc’s position? Would you accept it? Or do you think that a 5-second penalty is a more profitable option for you?
Max Verstappen: At that moment we chose to maintain the leading position and received a 5-second penalty. Ultimately I don’t know which is better. It doesn’t matter now because I served my fine, right? If you give up the position, you’ll end up losing the same five seconds, so I guess it doesn’t make much of a difference.
Question: Before the start of the weekend, you criticized this stage quite harshly, saying that the Las Vegas Grand Prix is 99% show, and only 1% sport. But now you’ve won probably one of the best races of the season, if not the best. Returning to the pit lane after the finish, you sang Viva Las Vegas (Elvis Presley’s 1964 hit) while driving. Have you still not changed your opinion about this stage, or has Las Vegas won you over?
Max Verstappen: I always assumed that this race would be interesting. I never had any questions about the track, and today everything was really fun. That’s the only thing I want to emphasize: it was fun. I hope everyone enjoyed the race. The effect of DRS was strong, but also contributed to an interesting fight on the track.
Christian Horner actually made me sing and I couldn’t disappoint the team, so I had to. But I definitely need to take some vocal lessons – I guess I’ll have to do that!
Question: The weekend was preceded by a lot of hype, but in the end it all ended with an exciting race. What would you like to change before the next Las Vegas Grand Prix?
Max Verstappen: I think, of course, we need to adjust the weekend schedule. Another thing is that next year this probably won’t work, but at least we can make the calendar more convenient, because we fly from Las Vegas to Abu Dhabi, and the time difference will be very large, as much as 12 hours. Especially at the end of the season, when everyone is tired. I think this is already a bit of overkill.
Perhaps ideally it would be worth finding some other dates. I think it would be better to arrange the away stages so that it would be something like an American tour. I understand that in terms of ticket sales this will not be an ideal situation, but perhaps some solution can be found.
Question: Flying from here to Abu Dhabi will be an ordeal for everyone. How are you going to deal with it?
Max Verstappen: I’ll try to get some sleep on the flight so I can follow the schedule for next weekend. But I will confuse what time zone I am in, because in Las Vegas we lived almost on Japanese time. I don’t know, I’ll try to do something all the time to reduce the effects of the flight, maybe I’ll work out a little.