(Conducted by David Coulthard)
Q: Valtteri Bottas, our race winner! Welcome back, we’ve been expecting you.
Valtteri BOTTAS: Thank you. It’s been a while. It feels good. It’s nice.
Q: Over a year since your last win. Now, it wasn’t dominant in terms of the distance to your competitors but it was dominant in the way you appeared to run that race. I saw one little moment on the exit of Turn 1 where you go sideways and we know that can be a difficult corner but otherwise it was textbook.
VB: Yeah, from my side, I have to say, it was probably one of the best races I’ve had, ever. Apart from that one little slide everything was under control but like I said before the race the car has been really good in every condition and I had really good confidence with it and I could really control it. It’s not easy to choose the strategy here with these conditions, when to stop, to which tyres, everything. But I’m glad everything went smooth for once for me. Yeah, it’s nice.
Q: It seemed very much under control, but put us in the cockpit. How difficult are those sorts of conditions for a race driver?
VB: Yeah, when there is only one drying line it doesn’t need much for you to go off so I definitely need to focus all through the race. A difficult one and a well-earned victory.
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Q: Valtteri, huge congratulations to you, you’ve won again. It’s been a while so just how sweet does this one feel?
VB: Very sweet, actually. Overall, I think it was one of my best races in terms of how it went from beginning to the end. To some people it could have looked easy but it’s far from that in these conditions. You can’t do any mistakes and it’s quite easy to do mistakes in the conditions and when it’s drying, when there is only one dry line. Just everything went smoothly which I’m very glad [about]. The car has been good in any conditions this weekend and that makes things easier but I could really control; it and I would say the key thing today was the tyre management and not to kill the tyres at the beginning of the stint and trying to play the long game.
Q: How much pressure did you feel from Max today?
VB: I would say in the beginning of the race, the first few laps, he was definitely trying to keep up and put pressure but then I think he also realised that he needed to manage the tyres but if I’m honest, at the end of the race, in the second stint, I was surprised by the pace difference, so I could really focus on my own thing and in any case always I was just looking ahead and focusing on my thing and trying to avoid mistakes.
Q: You’ve said already that it’s not easy out there in these conditions. Just how tricky were the track conditions today and how difficult was it to make the right strategy calls?
VB: The track, luckily, is quite grippy, even with the wet conditions, the inter conditions, so it makes it a bit better, well, a lot better than last year. It was like night and day to last year. And in terms of my race I had probably the worst race of my career here last year and now one of the best, so a lot better. But yeah, it’s still easy to make mistakes. When you wear down the inter tyres, it’s almost like a slick tyre and it doesn’t behave that well in the wet patches, so you try to avoid the critical bits. Sorry, what was the other question?
Q: Strategy calls.
VB: Yeah, I think it worked well. Obviously Max stopping triggered us stopping but I think it was the right time. If I look at the whole race, I think that was the right point. It was not clear at any point if it’s going to be dry [tyres] or not at some point, so we needed to go pretty long in the first stint and it was good.
Q: And how much confidence does this win give you going forward for the remainder of the season?
VB: Well, I’ve had the confidence always really, but it’s nice to have a win and the reminder that you can win races. It’s been a while, like I said. But, to be honest, after Monza I’ve been feeling very relaxed in any case and been able to just focus only on driving and for sure that helps.
Q: Final one from me. How quick to you think the car will be at COTA? The next race.
VB: I don’t have a crystal ball but I think on paper I think it should be one of the good ones, hopefully. That’s what we hope – but we’ll work hard in the next two weeks to make sure we’re in a position to fight for the win again.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) A couple of questions to Valtteri, please. First of all, congratulations on the victory. I just wondered did you and Mercedes ever consider trying to get through the race without stopping for fresh inters? And when you did and you came out behind the Ferrari, how concerned were you that you might not be able to get back by and how was that battle with Leclerc at Turn 1?
VB: Thank you. I don’t think… Well, at least from my side I didn’t consider going through the whole race with one set, because at some point I started to feel a bit of vibration from the tyres and they were like slicks and eventually you would get the canvas, so I always had it in my mind that we would be stopping at some point, but I don’t know about the team yet, what they were thinking about. But I’m glad we stopped. Obviously Max stopped first and we covered him. And then when I was gaining to Charles, he was still on his first set of tyres. He was really quick on the parts that were a bit drier and I was quicker on the parts that were a bit wetter because I had fresh tyres and just when I was closing onto him my tyres started to grain quite a bit, but I was still catching him obviously and then obviously my tyres grained to the point that they were slicks again and then they were fine. There was a bit of a pace difference and he had a couple of lock-ups and when I got him he had a bit of a snap in the last corner and that helped.
Q: How close to slick tyres were we at the end of the race?
VB: At the very end of the race it was definitely getting closer. At any point of the race I never thought it would be slicks. I still think the last lap would have been tricky to be on slicks. It’s tricky here; it’s drying very slowly.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Valtteri, you were talking about the fact that these conditions are really tricky and I think earlier, immediately out of the car, you said it was one of your best races ever. I just wondered how satisfying is it to get a win, such an emphatic win in conditions like this, especially, here, in conditions like this when I guess 12 months ago would have been one of the least satisfying races that you’d experienced?
VB: It’s satisfying, of course, winning and having a good race, that’s for sure. And like I said earlier, last time around here, I lost count how many spins I had in the race, I think it was five or six, so at least I didn’t spin today, so that’s a step forward.
Max VERSTAPPEN: You could have done a spin. It would have been a bit more interesting to the end.
VB: Yeah, could have done, maybe last lap.
VB: Like a 360.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsportmagazin.com) How difficult were the first laps on the new tyres, because I guess you usually want to use the grip of the fresh tyres but on the other hand you have to save them a bit for the rest of the stint, so how difficult was it?
VB: The track has been really, really grippy so… and actually on the out lap I managed to keep temperature instead of losing it, so actually it was OK and, like Max said, just backed off a bit in places, not to destroy the tyres.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Valtteri, I suspect you might not have a complete ranking of your 10 wins so far but I just wondered if the conditions and the circumstances of a race like today put this win at or near the very top?
VB: Yeah. I don’t have a list of what is the best, second, third. But yeah, it’s up there. I think overall, obviously a win is a win but in tricky conditions and actually having a bit of a margin and so on it’s high up there. The main thing is that I didn’t do any mistakes, only one that I had a bit of a snap in Turn 1 on the exit, that was the only one, but apart from that it’s really clean which is ideal and makes me happy.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Valtteri, you mentioned you were feeling quite relaxed after Monza. I just wondered how things have been with the team since then, since it was announced you won’t be coming back in 2022? And how warmly did they greet your win today?
VB: I think the team has been good, nothing has really changed, everything as normal and the team has a good spirit overall and we’re really motivated for the rest of the year and working hard as always. I only saw them from the podium and when I got out of the car it was good, obviously. Yeah, everyone seemed happy.
Q: Valtteri, given that you’re leaving at the end of the year, are you still being involved in all of the meetings that you always have been or are they starting to exclude you a bit?
VB: Yes, I’m in every meeting that I’ve been in before, in these five years. If there’s other meetings, I don’t know about those, so for me, everything is normal!