Hungarian GP 2021

AUGUST 1, 2021

Sunday Press Conference

Esteban Ocon, Lewis Hamilton, Hungarian GP 2021
© Alpine

1 – Esteban OCON (Alpine)
2 – Sebastian VETTEL (Aston Martin)
3 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)


(Conducted by Johnny Herbert)

Q: Sebastian, second. That was mighty close. Did you think you were ever going to get past Esteban there?

Sebastian VETTEL: I don’t know what you said, but obviously I am a little bit disappointed because I felt I was a little bit faster for the majority of the race but Esteban didn’t do a single mistake and I didn’t really get close enough. It’s not an easy track to overtake so I really pushed very, very hard but he stayed on track and well deserved for him to celebrate his first victory. Obviously it is a great result for us but when it is that close you are always looking at the win rather than the second.

Q: Give us a little understanding of what it was like for you going down to Turn 1 when all that mayhem went off?

Vettel: Well, I had a very, very bad start but it turned out to be the best place to be. Obviously there was a lot of stuff going on ahead of me but I took it easy and took the inside line that was clean and found myself basically at the front of the pack, so that definitely made our race today.

Q: It’s your 123rd podium. That’s got to be a good thing for you as well, because actually that was a good performance. You didn’t win but the performance was still good.

Vettel: Yeah, I think we are very close with Esteban in terms of pace and I pushed so hard. I tried to push him into a mistake and it’s so difficult in the middle sector, the final part of it to stay close enough. Otherwise I think I could have tried something but like I said he did well to defend like he did and not run into a mistake.

Q: Lewis Hamilton, what a race. Frustrating day?

Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, well, first of all I’ve got to say a huge congratulations to the Alpine team and to Ocon. He’s been a shining star for some time now so it’s been a long time coming and I’m really, really happy for him. It’s great to Aston Martin up there. Their best result so far and I know there is more to come. Otherwise, generally we have had an amazing crowd this weekend so thank you for all being here. Today was definitely tough and we always make it difficult for ourselves. Crazy to think we were the only ones on the grid at the start but these things happen and we learn from them. I gave it everything and I had nothing left at the end.

Q: Tell us about, not the initial start, because you probably didn’t see much, but the second start when you were the only man to take that start. What went wrong there?

Hamilton: I was telling the team how the track was through the lap but they said the rain was coming when we got in the car and I thought they had other information. I saw everyone diving in, but anyways…

Q: Well, you’ve taken the championship lead, you’ve got to be happy with that ?

Hamilton: Yeah, I mean, we cam here this weekend and we definitely didn’t know how it was going to go and considering the circumstances today I’ll take it.

Q: Lewis, well done. And your winner – Esteban Ocon, 24 years old, the 11th winner of a grand prix. What does it feel like?

Esteban OCON: What a moment, what a moment! It feels so good. It’s the first victory since the Renault Group came back into Formula 1. We had some difficult moments this season, which we overcame with the tea. We cam back to a fantastic pace in Silverstone and you know, victory today! What can I say? It’s fantastic, so congrats to Fernando as well because I think the win is also thanks to him, all the fights that he did, his teamwork all that. It’s been a fantastic day.

Q: You were under an immense amount of pressure from Sebastian there. You dealt with that beautifully. This win, the way the team have worked so hard for you, the support you’ve got. What few words have you got for them?

Ocon: Well, just a big thank you, for the trust that everybody is putting in me. In difficult moments when you are out of Q1, when you are P17, you don’t know where you are exactly and the team kept a big trust in me and we are back where we belong so that’s fantastic. But Sebastian was mega quick the whole race, put me a big pressure, but we managed tyo hold him off, so that was a great effort.

Q: And it was lovely to see Fernando waiting here for you to come back. He gave you a big hug as well.

Ocon: It’s been awesome to work with Fernando, since the beginning of the year. We are forming a real shock duo I would say. We are working together we are pushing the team to try to improve and get close to the pack in front. Everybody told me a lot of things about Fernando before I came but everything is wrong and I can tell you he is a fantastic guy inside working and I am really enjoying the collaboration we have together.

Q: So tonight? It’s going to be a big night for you. And mum and dad as well. They put a lot of effort into your career?

Ocon: I wish everyone was here at this moment. I am flying early tomorrow morning and we are going to have a great Monday, I tell you. I wish everyone was here but it is difficult travel restriction-wise but hopefully that will change soon.


Q: Esteban, without wanting to be rude, I know Sebastian Vettel is on a very tight schedule. We’ve got lots of questions for you but I might start with Sebastian?

Ocon: No problem. A pleasure. I have loads of time.

Q: Thank you. Sebastian, you said immediately after the race you were frustrated but it was a great race by you. What, in the end, made the difference in your battles with Esteban?

Vettel: I think Esteban made the difference. He drove fantastic. He had a fantastic race and he didn’t do a mistake. Frustration is maybe a big word. Obviously emotions run high after the line and I was a bit down because I thought we really have a chance for a big surprise today but the surprise was on Esteban’s side and he deserves it, so not much point to look for excuses. The guy won his first grand prix and the moment… It’s his day and his moment. I tried everything to push him into a mistake. He had some minor lock-ups, but nothing big. It’s obviously not easy to pass here but it’s also not easy to stay controlled and smooth like he did under pressure. So well done Esteban.

Q: You did also lose one second in your pit stop compared to him. Was that also the difference today?

Vettel: Probably. I need to have a look. I pushed really hard on the way in and probably a bit too hard and locked the rears and triggered the anti-stall. Then I pushed like crazy on the out-lap. It was close but… yeah. I tried, you know. I n the end I have no regrets. I really tried to make a difference. I knew we were coming from a long way back. Like I said, it’s not our race lost, it’s his race won.

Q: It’s been a couple of years since you last won a race, just how much did you enjoy a race-long fight at the front?

Vettel: For sure it’s more exciting. In the end it’s what I’m driving for. I’ve been in that position for so many years. I knew that today we got lucky but it was a great feeling to fight for something meaningful, for the podium and for the win for the entire race, so I did enjoy that. Really enjoyed the chase but I was looking for that climax that didn’t come. But yeah, nevertheless, I think it was fun today.

Q: You say you got lucky, can you just talk us through the first 500 metres of this grand prix?

Vettel: Yeah, with the first start, I had a really bad start and it turned out to be the right place to be, so I did lucky get lucky in the end. I took a bit of margin and people in front… In these conditions it’s so easy to make a mistake and as we saw it can be quite costly. I really planned to be on the inside and it turned out to be the place to be. Other people were taking each other out and I had a clear track. Esteban obviously reacted at the last second and was on a similar trajectory then and we were in a good place. With the restart it was clear probably for both of us to go slick. I was surprised to see Lewis staying out and that made our race.

Q: Esteban, the floor is now yours. First of all, can you try to put into words what this means to you?

Ocon: Yeah, I mean what a fantastic moment. I don’t have much words, to be fair. It’s crazy. We were just talking about it with the team not too long ago, that the next step to get for us would be the top step, as we did P2 last year. We were not expecting that to be today, for sure. I can be thankful for the trust the team put in me, you know? We come from a moment where three difficult races, the team gave me trust on that. We overcame the difficult situation and found our pace back in Silverstone and this weekend, I think it has been a great quali and a fantastic race, you know? Of course there has been a lot of incidents in that race but you know, as we are in the position, we are chasing opportunities the whole time. Today we got it, so what a moment. I will remember that forever.

Q: Esteban, you’ve dreamt of this moment since you first started karting. Was that view from the top step of the podium as you dreamt it would be?

Ocon: Exactly, yes. Exactly, yes. And on this track as well. I can sound weird but it’s not the favourite track of many drivers, I would say but it is one of my favourites, for sure. On the calendar it is in the top two. Probably step one now. But yeah, I love just coming here and the support we get, the track, the flow it has. It’s an excellent track. I was telling the team I didn’t have a great record here but I think the record just got good now.

Q: This is your first win since GP3 in 2015. Did you feel rusty out front or did it all come straight back?

Ocon: No, I didn’t feel rusty and I’m sorry to disappoint but it’s easier to fight at the front like we did now, to manage the opponents that are behind, than to fight in the midfield how we are doing. This is much harder. So, you know, we had good training the whole time. The whole time in Formula 1 I had pretty good training. The fight in the midfield is a lot tougher than what’s happening in the front. It was hard with Seb putting a lot of pressure, he gave me a hard time but you know, when you are ahead, you have clean air. You are the one who is dictating the pace on such a track. And yeah, in the end we just made everything perfect, from the start, which was a difficult decision, because Lewis normally doesn’t take wrong decisions – never, I’ve never seen him taking a wrong decision, so to box when you are P2 on the road, it’s a bit heart-breaking at first, but glad that we did it because we were a long way ahead and yeah, the guys did a great pit stop as well. I heard you say that Sebastian had a slow stop, that’s probably what made the difference because they would probably have undercut us on that, so yeah, the guys in the garage again, top job by them.

Q: Sebastian said earlier that you were inch-perfect out front – but were there any moments at all during the grand prix where it got close?

Ocon: Yes!

Q: I’m thinking of one instance I think with Antonio Giovinazzi as he was coming out of the pits.

Ocon: Yes. I was not enjoying blue flags, I have to say. Blue flags and me is not a great story, either behind or now in front. Yeah, it was very, very close. Once I got the dirty air, I think we were a little bit slower overall than Sebastian in this race and that slowed me down, basically. I was struggling to get into the blue flag or Antonio, for him to clear, and Sebastian got DRS because of that, and yeah, I mean he almost made a move. He was very, very close. A bit too close for comfort. I just managed to put the gap then, in the tight section and yeah, the car felt amazing in that tight section. We could pull the gap, so yeah, not all under control but yeah, good enough!

Q: I asked Sebastian this question, could you just talk us through the opening moments of the original start?

Ocon: Yes, we had a chat with Lance before the race because Lance is an awesome starter in races and he loves those conditions as much as I do normally. We always end up closer to the front on those, and he said it’s the moment to go, it’s easy to make a mistake, obviously, but I’m glad he avoided me. He made, obviously a bit of a way for me, so I got a bit lucky. Of course. But, y’know, I’m glad I could have been behind Lewis.

Hamilton: I’m so happy for you buddy, been a long time coming.

Ocon: Yes!

Q: Esteban, this is your team’s first win for eight years. Just describe what is going to happen later tonight.

Ocon: It is an awesome moment in my career. I don’t have words to describe it – but it’s the first win for the Renault Group since they came back in Formula 1. After what we’ve been through, after the difficult times, just the trust that they’ve put in me, I’m glad that they get this reward. I also want to say a special thanks to Fernando who has been fighting like a lion in that race, because that probably contributed also to giving us a gap, giving us a bit of a breather. I said it to many different press out there, I received a lot of bad comments about Fernando before he joined the team and I tell you that we are forming a great duo together, we are pushing the team in the same direction and hopefully it’s the first win of many for us and hopefully we can share a podium in short moments.

Q: Lewis, it’s great to see you. You’ve driven 277 grands prix but we’ve rarely seen you look this drained after a race. Can you just describe how tough it is and how you’re feeling?

Hamilton: Once again, just a big congratulations to this dude here. What an amazing result for him and his team. Fernando gave me hell out there! It was awesome racing, pretty on edge at least once but great racing. And yeah, really difficult weekend, or day, obviously I had a lot of work to do from the back. Very hard to follow here but just giving it absolutely everything right until the last lap. I hoped that I could maybe catch these guys. Maybe a couple of laps more we could have a bit of a duel – but I’m actually glad that we didn't have any more laps because this is very much needed. I think in his journey, this shows to everyone out there his potential. He’s racing against a two-times World Champion. Fernando’s not an easy driver to beat. So this really speaks volumes. I’m just so exhausted afterwards. It was one of the weirdest experiences I’ve had on the podium.

Q: You mentioned Fernando Alonso. How much did you enjoy your battle with him out there today?

Hamilton: Yeah. Now, looking back on it, it was amazing. It really, really was fantastic. I wish the cars could follow closer and excited for what the cars are like next year. Hopefully that eradicates a lot of that bad drafting that we have here. But yeah, it’s a really difficult circuit to overtaken in general, and to follow particularly in that last sector but great, great wheel-to-wheel battles. It literally was wheel-to-wheel at least once and yeah… I don’t really have much more to say about it. When you’re racing against a two-time World Champion he probably is one of the hardest drivers – but fair. I’d say today was a little bit over on the limit.

Ocon: He has to do that to keep you behind!

Hamilton: yeah, I totally get it and I would do the same for my team.


Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Esteban, congratulations on the victory. I wondered about the decision to go to slicks ahead of that second start. Was it something you guys had discussed under the red flag or was it a decision you made coming around back towards the pits? And then, also, what happened when George Russell lined up alongside you and got past you coming out of the pitlane and got past you, coming out of the pit lane? How was that from your point of view? Thank you.

Ocon: Yeah, there was a lot going on, for sure. When I saw Lewis going on Inters, I saw Sebastian behind on Inters, I felt quite relaxed because, from where we were, there was quite a lot of water still, clearly – but the sun came out and basically the track was drying at such speed that we were not expecting I think anybody. So, we arrive into Turn One and it was dry already. So I said to the team because it’s another start after the red flag, so you are able to talk. If we were not able to talk, probably would have been a different story. But yeah, it was clear to me that it was dry, so I was discussing it with the team what to do. What put me in a bit of doubt was Lewis continuing straight – because Lewis and the team, Mercedes, they usually don’t make mistakes at all, so yeah, I got a bit in doubt once that happened but it was definitely the clear thing to do, so we box. Great pit stop by the guys, I came back in front of everybody at the line and yeah, got the Medium. It was working straight away, it was quite warm out there. I was quite slow to react because I never did a start from the pit lane like this, it was my first one, so I thought he was allowed to overtake, so I didn’t say anything to the stewards or the team. I though George reacted better than us and passed us. So, I was ready to fight – but apparently it’s not allowed. So, yeah, I got the lead back after that.

Q: (Christian Menath) Lewis, can you talk us through that situation, after the restart, why you didn’t pit? Did you know that there was the chance to pit after the formation lap and how was the communication with the team?

Hamilton: Yeah, I know that we can pit. Obviously we all started on the inters and I tried, just through the formation lap, giving the team information. It was dry in all the corners and so I kept telling them: dry, dry, dry and they said to stay out. I don’t really understand but I’m sure it is top off… definitely a mistake from us all but we win and lose as a team and we bear the burden of the mistakes together and we just keep fighting. The team did an amazing job with the strategy, with the pit stops and I just had to make it work out there, so it was flat chat for the entire race and very, very hard with tyre temperatures and that but nonetheless I enjoyed it.

Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Lewis, we’ve just been told that you had to go and see the team doctor because you were suffering from fatigue and a bit of dizziness. Firstly, are you OK and secondly, what do you think caused that?

Hamilton: I’m OK, yeah. Yeah, I had real dizziness and everything got a bit blurry on the podium. I’ve been fighting all year, really, with the health, you know staying healthy after what happened at the end of last year and it’s still… it’s a battle.

Ocon: If I can just jump on that. It was really a hard race. In general, on this track, with the heat, the humidity, the corners and you get the combination. You don’t have a breather here, so you need to really fight the car until the end. I feel flat, I feel completely dead as well. It’s not that Lewis has certain issue or not, but I tell you, I will have a good sleep tonight as well.

Hamilton: After you party!

Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) A question for Sebastian please and then if Lewis wants to weight in as well….

Q: Scott, can I stop you there. Sebastian has had to leave so he’s not actually in the room so please away to Lewis.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Absolutely. Lewis, Seb wore a shirt with the pride colours on the grid and it’s looks like he’s been summoned the stewards around the procedure, to do with that. It’s obviously something similar to what you had last year with your Breonna Taylor T-shirt and falling foul of the FIA protocols. We don’t know, obviously, what the outcome will be for Seb but are you hoping that for this sort of thing there can be a bit of common sense applied because obviously I know it breaches FIA protocol but Seb was trying to a send a positive message earlier?

Hamilton: I think it’s wonderful that Seb has taken a stance this weekend, really to speak out for those in the LBGTQ+ community here. I spoke at the beginning of the weekend and I think it was important for him to do so, so I don’t think he… he probably won’t be in too much trouble but we have to make a stance. We are pushing diversity and inclusivity and that community 100 per cent includes that… is included in that. I’m proud of him for it.

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Lewis, you seem to have made a significant step forward as a team this weekend. Do you have an explanation for that at the moment and do you think you can carry it forward beyond this race?

Hamilton: I hope so. I really hope so. I tell you it’s definitely been a hard slog for us in terms of trying to… those guys with their update, they had I think a combination of things but they took a really good step once we got the midpoint. Monaco onwards was intense and the upgrade really has worked and then we’ve just been working on our procedure through the weekend and trying to extract more from the car and I think now we’re a lot closer. This weekend has been very strong and definitely surprising to see how strong it is compared to them so proud of everyone back at the factory, as I said, who continue to not give up. Even with today, the big mess-up, the team has still not given up, keep pushing and that’s what we do. We never give up. We keep pushing and fighting and I’m so honoured to be able to race for a team like this and we learn from these mistakes, unfortunately, we wish they didn’t happen, but it’s not how you fall, it’s how you get back up.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll) Lewis, at one point Toto came on the radio and he said, I believe it was ‘you can win this, Lewis.’ Does that provide extra motivation for you, when it’s a different voice than Bono’s? So what does it do when Toto comes on the radio, which is quite unusual?

Hamilton: He’s got a great heart, Toto, but with all due respect, when I got the call, I was like, I want whatever they’re smoking at the end of this race! Because you guys were so far ahead and I had to make another pit stop at the same time and I was like, impossible to catch you guys…

Ocon: He believes in you, man.

Hamilton: For sure, when you’re out there it can definitely seem lonely at some stages, you know, and sometimes you’ve got such tunnel vision that it’s like ten laps, it’s like a light year. It’s just so much time has gone by in that period of time, it feels like you’re travelling through time, it’s a very, very strange experience and then you forget that people are on the other line, so it’s nice to be reminded that they’re there.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, just picking up on some comments that you made earlier about your health. You obviously tested positive for COVID in December and there’s obviously been a lot made about long COVID. Do you think that’s something that you’re suffering from, given what you had earlier?

Hamilton: I haven’t spoken to anyone particularly about it but I think it is lingering. I remember the effects of when I had it and training’s been different since then and the levels of fatigue that you get is different and it’s a real challenge, as I said. Just continue to try and train and prepare the best way I can. Yeah. Today, I think, as well as yesterday, maybe it’s hydration. I don’t know but I’ve definitely not had that experience. I had that something similar in Silverstone but this is way worse.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, just a specific one again, about the second start. As you were coming round, you were reporting that there was something quite heavy, left hand down on the steering. Can you just explain what the feeling there, and also did that have any impact on the decision-making process whether to come and pit for slicks or not?

Hamilton: No, it didn’t. I went to the grid on slicks and the steering was straight and then we put the wets on and the steering wasn’t straight and I didn’t understand it. As I pulled away for the first start, it felt like the car was pulling a little bit to the left and yeah, didn’t understand it but they said it was fine. I don’t think the balance was spectacular in the race so it will be interesting to see what exactly it is, if anything, but we’ll look, we’ll go through it with a fine comb.