Q: Pierre, such a happy podium today. No doubt you’ve dreamt of this moment. How does the reality compare to the dream?
PG: It’s amazing. Honestly, I’m lost for words right now. I’m still struggling to realise what’s happened for us. My first win in Formula 1… A couple of months ago I got my first podium in Brazil and then today it’s my first win, in Monza with AlphaTauri, which is an Italian team. It could not have been better and we worked so hard, day by day, race after race, after everything that happened to me in the last 18 months, I could not have hoped for a better way to get my first win.
Q: And it seems you really did want to soak up that podium. You didn’t want to leave?
PG: I didn’t want to leave, because these kind of moments… You never know how many times you are going to be able to enjoy these kinds of times. I wish we could have had all the tifosi and all the grandstands full of people, because it’s probably one of the best races to be on the podium, right up there. Obviously 2020 style is a bit different but nevertheless I just wanted to sit down and take a moment for myself to go through the thoughts that were crossing my mind and just enjoy that moment.
Q: And just about the race: the timing of your pit stop was perfect but also those last few laps when Carlos Sainz was closing in on you, how much pressure were you under?
PG: After the restart I think we had 28 laps to go. I managed to pass Lance into Turn 1 and I think this really helped me for the rest of the race. Lewis pitted, I think on lap one, and then after that I was on my own. It reminded me of my Formula 2 days when you are leading the race and just focusing on your own driving, corner by corner. I pushed so hard at the start because I wanted to break the tow from the guys behind and I didn’t have anyone in front on me so I knew I had to make the time in the corners and the last five laps were really hard and my tyres were completely gone. I was sideways in every corner and I could see Carlos slowly closing the gap and I know myself I would have been so pissed with myself if I would have lost that win in the last few laps. I just gave everything I had and I’m so happy I managed to get my first race win in Formula 1.
Q: Carlos, coming to you, lovely to actually see you on the podium this time, unlike in Brazil where you got promoted after the race. Pierre has already told us that his tyres were shot at the end of the race. What conditions were yours in?
CS: Well, my tyres were four laps older and obviously I was struggling also. But the pace we had today was incredible. Honestly, the gap that I managed to open with the rest of the midfield in the first stint and after that, managing to go through the whole five cars I had in front to end up chasing Pierre. Definitely felt really nice and felt like I had a good shot for victory. Then once I got to 1.5s I got stuck. The tow, as we see with these cars and the dirty air, starts affecting you a lot in traction, in braking. Mini lock-ups, oversteers and I think we were both a bit rallying for a minute because we were both struggling with tyres. But yeah, happy. Happy to finish in P2. Obviously disappointed to not get the win because today we had a lot of pace and we felt that without that red flag it would have been a different story because I know I was the virtual race leader with Hamilton’s penalty. But that red flag came, and I managed to recover my positions and made it nearly to Pierre – which would have been nice but I think he deserves it and congrats.
Q: As you say, you were running P2 on merit. Are you surprised by the pace of the McLaren this weekend?
CS: Yeah, a bit surprised, of course – because we didn’t expect to be that strong. Especially what I didn’t expect is for everyone behind us to not be able to overtake us and to open that five-second gap that gave me that buffer before the first stop, then the Safety Car came out and I knew I had lost all that hard work earned. And then I very quickly realised that Lewis was going to get a penalty and I would have been the virtual race leader on the fresher tyres, and I just had to go through the field and get myself to P1 and push like mad – but the red flag came out. It was a rollercoaster of emotions because I was then lying in P6 with the same tyres as everyone in front of me. Even on a used tyre for me from the Safety Car, and I was a bit angry – and a bit disappointed, to say the least. But I managed to recover, and nearly made it. I think we can be proud because today I left nothing on the table in Monza. So I’m going to bed calm that I know that I didn’t leave one single tenth out there.
Q: Many congratulations, well done Carlos – and many congratulations to you too Lance. First podium since Baku in 2017. How sweet does this feel?
LS: Yeah, it’s been a long time coming. A part of me is a little bit frustrated. I had a terrible restart after the red flag. I fell back to P6 and had a good fight with Carlos in the first lap after the restart but lost out to him and then I made my way back to third. Yeah, I gave it everything I could – but I’m very happy for Pierre and I think everyone drove a great race in this room. It was an awesome race and I’m really happy to be back on the podium.
Q: We’ve seen great pace from you and the RP20 this weekend. Is it fair to say there’s been a bit of a breakthrough in performance with the car?
LS: Yeah, we made a big step from Friday to Saturday. I didn’t have the best day yesterday, to be honest, so I was bit on the backfoot coming into today but, y’know, this game, a big part of it is luck and timing and staying out on the Soft tyre for that long gave us an opportunity to fit a new set under the red flag and make up some positions. We gave it everything today and I’m just really happy for the team to get this great result.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to both Pierre and Carlos please. What were you thinking in terms of tactics when the gap was coming down right at the end. Pierre, at one stage we saw you weaving to try to break the tow. Carlos, you mention sliding and both of you rallying at one point. What were you thinking about? Where to attack and where you were stronger or weaker compared to each other.
PG: I knew the closer Carlos was getting, the more slipstream he would get, so I knew he started around four seconds and then at three seconds which was probably the idea gap for the slipstream. So he was going to get closer and closer. I tried to push as hard as I could in the corners on the tyres, which obviously means you have more degradation but it was my only way to make lap time. The last few laps I had big, big moments through the Lesmos, through Ascari, just trying to give everything because I could see him becoming bigger and bigger in my mirrors. I knew I was struggling with traction a lot in Turn One. So, there was one place he could try was either DRS the first chicane or the second chicane but I tried to… yeah I saw he wasn’t getting closer and closer and once he got to 1.5s, except for that last lap, I managed to save the energy, just to be able to defend in case he would try something. And yeah, we kept him behind but lucky the race wasn’t much longer because with this Medium tyre I think I didn’t have any rubber left at the end. So, it was the right time to finish the race.
CS: Difficult to explain everything that was going on but I guess since the moment I started catching Pierre, my main target was to get within DRS and then knowing that he would have to defend and use the battery to defend. Honestly, we’ve been very strong here on the straights this weekend, we’ve been very, very quick all weekend on the straights and the only thing I haven’t done this weekend is to get a tow – because I know that our car doesn’t work very well on the tow, we are very affected by the dirty air. So, as soon as I got to within 1.5s I started feeling that dirty air; I started feeling the car a lot more loose, a lot more difficult to get the lap time and the grip in the corners. So, I was trying to maximise the tow, maximise everything I could but the car was starting to struggle a bit behind Pierre. Then suddenly in the last lap and a half I saw him start doing the small mistakes that allowed me to get into the DRS and then I crossed the start finish four-tenths, which would have given me a good run into Turn One if it was one lap more. But, unfortunately it wasn’t one lap more and it is what it is. He did a tremendous job defending and I’m not going to say anything. I know I left nothing on the table. I think those four-tenths reflect very well what we both did and I think it’s a good finish to the race.
Q: (Julien Billiotte – Auto Hebdo) Question to Pierre. First of all, many congratulations. It’s fair to say French fans were not really emotionally ready for a day like this. Are you aware of how big this is on the scene of French motorsports? And also, what went through your mind at the end on the podium when we saw you sitting in a reflective mood?
PG: How big it is? Personally I know how important it was for me to get my first race win in Formula 1 and in the end it’s only my third season in F1, even though I’ve been through a lot in the last two years, I still feel I’m quite new to this world and improving year after year and just getting better the whole time. So, I would have never expected that a year ago when I got back to Toro Rosso. The podium was already unexpected and a big, big highlight last year. And then I wasn’t ready for that win today, even though you always try to imagine the best scenario, the best car, the best race, everything the best way. We know that it happened only once in the whole history of Toro Rosso in Formula 1. Franz actually told me, “you know we’ve done it in the wet, I’m really proud of you because today we’ve done it in the dry now.” Yeah, it was very difficult but I’m just happy to show my speed. I’ve worked on myself day after day, race after race since last year and just trying to get stronger all the time. I’m really happy that today I get the reward for all the hard work that we’ve done with AlphaTauri and also with Honda.
And all that was going through your mind on the podium?
PG: Yeah, exactly. I sat down and had a lot of things crossing my mind. First of all, I through of my family, my friends, my brothers and all these people that supported me and just kept pushing me the whole time, and you just remember everything you’ve been through. I was just trying to imagine all of these people down from the podium, all the tifosi that should be there. It was a very special moment. As I said, being a crazy ride in the last few months and it’s just unbelievable. I’m still struggling to realise what we’ve just achieved.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Pierre, the only guy to have won a race for your team was also at Monza and he was fast-tracked up to Red Bull pretty quickly. I just wondered is that a move you would like next season, is it a good move, and are you ready for it?
PG: I think I’m ready but as I said, it’s not up to me to make that call. The only thing I’ve done since they moved me back to Toro Rosso has been just to focus on myself and just show what I can do. When I get the right tools in my hand I’m really happy that the performance we’ve shown – and I’m not only talking about Brazil but I think generally, we’ve been pretty strong most of the time. We’ve had some really strong qualifyings, really strong races since. We’ll see what happens but I think there have been many, many strong drivers in Toro Rosso. I’m really happy to be one of the two that have managed to get a win for this team. Obviously I guess the strong results should be rewarded with something but we will see what happens. At the moment it’s not something I really want to think about. I just want to enjoy this moment, because it’s my first win in F1 and I will have time to think about this later.
Q: (Abhishek Takle – Midday) Carlos, as a future Ferrari driver, what would it have meant for you to win at Monza today? Not winning, not withstanding, what was it like to stand on the Monza podium? I know there weren’t any fans today but if you could describe that, especially as a future Ferrari driver.
CS: Well, what I’m sure is today, if there would have been tifosi there, they would have been pretty happy and proud and that makes me excited about the future and a bit gutted that there was no one today down there, apart obviously from my team and everyone involved in Formula 1, but it makes me excited and makes me look forward to the future and hopefully it’s my first podium in Monza, not my last and hopefully many will come with Ferrari. I’m ready for it, I cannot wait for it to happen and I just cannot imagine what it would have been with 100,000 people. We get to finish on the podium in the coolest race of the season and no one is there to see us. Hopefully we will get it in the future. I think we all have the potential to do it again so let’s see.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Pierre, obviously the key was the timing of the first pit stop but what were you thinking at the time that happened, because it could have gone a lot of different ways and it also seemed that maybe the early timing was partly motivated by having to release your teammate on the other side, behind you, so were you thinking that could have actually been a bad move at the time, even though it turned out, the way the race happened to be the making of it?
PG: Yeah, to be fair, once we pitted and I just exited the pit lane I saw safety car, I came on the radio and I was like ‘is that a joke? We just pitted like exactly at the worst time possible.’ They just told me ‘OK, the pit entry is closed’ so that’s what happened, and in the end it turned out to be a very lucky move. There was no way we could have planned this. I think today we’ve had a little star with us, a little angel, let’s say, taking care of us and obviously we’ve got pretty lucky on that one and after obviously there was still thirty laps to do which were very difficult but that was clearly a turning point.
Q: (Laurence Edmondson – ESPN) My question is about the red flag period because at that point we knew that Lewis was going to have to take that penalty, so you were all in contention for the win so for each of you, what was going through your head in that moment, how much were you talking to your engineers and how did you get yourself in the frame of mind to go and actually race again?
LS: Yeah, it definitely threw a curveball at us. We’re not used to getting out of the car halfway through the race. I think it was just important to re-set and get back into it. It was an amazing opportunity in the race to start from second, knowing that Lewis had a ten second time penalty. I wasn’t actually aware of the stop and go, I just thought it was a ten second time (penalty). It was unexpected but it created a lot of excitement in the race, that’s for sure.
PG: Yeah, to be fair, they told that to me when we had the red flag and I was like, just not focused on Lewis because he was just going to pit and come back through the field and finish 20 seconds ahead of us to I was like let’s do our own race, focus on the guys around. I think for us it was a tricky call between the hard tyre and the medium tyre at the time because we didn’t know if it was a rolling start or a standing start. We opted for the medium, which was better for the race start and yeah, he boxed on lap one and to be fair, I expected him to come back through the field and the same with Valtteri. I thought these two guys would just coming flying past us but it wasn’t the case but yeah, the team knew, apparently, that it wasn’t going to be that easy for them to catch us and yeah, apparently it was the case.
CS: Yeah, a roller coaster of emotions really. As you can imagine, I was very, very disappointed with the red flag and angry and I had rage in myself and again, I was again thinking about the bad luck and this season and everything and we had to re-start on four lap old medium tyres which is not easy and I knew that the two Alfas in front of me had new softs, one of them had to pit, Hamilton to pit so maybe I was in contention for a podium but maybe the win with Pierre knowing how quick they had been all weekend, I knew it was going to be tricky if Pierre and Lance got a good start. So disappointed because I knew it was going to be a race with them and maybe I could make it to third but honestly, since the restart, I just put my head down, tried to do everything I could to focus on catching them both and had a great battle with Lance on lap one and then from there on, with that medium tyre that didn’t feel great, I just pushed as hard as I could, to try and making it to Pierre and I nearly did but at the point of the red flag I was negative and I was disappointed and I thought I had lost the chance of a win and potentially of a podium also, which would have been nice. But we recovered nicely and we didn’t make it.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Pierre, you’ve obviously been through a lot in the last year. Can you tell us how you’ve managed to stay strong in your self-belief after your demotion back to Toro Rosso last year and then of course you lost Anthoine Hubert as well and how you rebuilt yourself to this position, to get this win and how it feels to achieve this?
PG: That was a purely a tough moment last year. I grew up with four brothers and I think, like personally, as a child, I had to work through quite difficult moments, which built me a pretty strong character and I always had to fight for everything I wanted. I always, in some way, managed to turn that negative energy into something positive and I knew last year what happened, deep inside me, obviously I felt hurt and I didn’t feel it was fair to myself and I really wanted to make a clear point in that moment but look, I know I’m fast, I know what I can do, I know I can believe, I’ve been fighting for victories, for pole, championships in my early years, in my career and that’s what I want in F1. I really worked very hard with the team and I knew that with them I had everything in my hands to show my potential. After, I just tried to focus on my own performance, not really looking at the others, taking race after race, looking at what I can improved on my side, what I can improve with the team, with my engineers, just to extract more from myself and more from that package and combination and yeah, honestly I can’t be happier with the team I have at the moment. They are doing an amazing job; they are giving me everything I need to be competitive every single weekend. Sometimes we are fast enough for the top eight, sometimes for top ten, sometimes top twelve but at the end of the day, they really put all the energy for my own performance which I really appreciate and I’m really thankful for because thanks to that, today gave us my first race win in Formula 1.