FIA post-qualifying press conference - 70th Anniversary Grand Prix
1. Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes), 2. Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), 3. Nico HULKENBERG (Racing Point)
(Conducted by Paul Di Resta)
Q: Valtteri, that was a pretty epic lap – right at the end. I was watching the sectors all the way through and you nipped it right in the last sector. What does that feel like?
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, it feels good. I just love qualifyings and especially when it goes well it’s a good feeling. Really nice to get everything out of myself and out of the car. I thin set-up-wise we made good steps from last weekend and that’s why I think the qualifying performance from me was better today then last weekend. Really pleased with that and proud to drive this amazing car, it’s so quick.
Q: It’s been a pretty good week – new contract from Mercedes to continue on from after the difficult race you had last week. How has that changes you mentally? Do you think you have come out of stronger because you’ve got that stability and the championship goes on?
VB: Well, of course mentally, when you’re starting from the pole, you can only aim to win the race and obviously the starting point is good. I think the race pace is good. The first job is to get a good start off the line, as I had last weekend, and go from there. But the mentality is to try to win it.
Q: Lewis, it was a pretty close battle with Valtteri. Obviously he just nipped it at the end. Your first lap was very good and your second just improved. What can you say about it?
Lewis Hamilton: I wasn’t that great! Valtteri did a good job and deserved the pole I guess; for me it just wasn’t a perfect last lap.
Q: Obviously ahead tomorrow. It was difficult to do a one-stop last week, do you feel it’s going to be harder tomorrow with the softer compounds or do you think because you’ve that experience you can manage it differently?
LH: I don’t think many people will be managing with a softer… I was already managing last weekend and the tyre didn’t make it to the end. It’s highly unlikely I think many people will do a one-stop tomorrow.
Q: Nico, it’s been some kind of course in the last 10 days but quite a special feeling to be standing there. Only second grand prix in, only drafted in at the last minute - tell us?
Nico Hulkenberg: Yeah, crazy last week, or seven or eight days or whatever it is now. Obviously last week a big high to come back and then the low on Sunday, so very extreme. This weekend I felt much better in the car, much more prepared. Quali was still tricky. In Q2 I made life hard for myself a but and I was scared that I had damaged the car and then Q3, was just head down, full beans, whatever I had. I’m a bit surprised to be honest to stand here but obviously big smile on my face but obviously a lot of respect for the race tomorrow.
Q: You’ve got a difficult day tomorrow. Obviously fitness is going to a key thing, because preparing for a race is always a hard thing. You didn’t get a chance last week. What can you expect?
NH: Yeah, that’s definitely going to hurt tomorrow, not having last week’s experience, not having gone through motions there with the start and everything, because it’s still new with this car. But we’ll do what we can. I’ll try to learn fast and to keep the car where it deserves to be.
Q: And from a marketing point of view, that’s put you back on the list to speak some teams for next year?
NH: Well, it’s only Saturday. It’s always Sunday that always matters the most, but it’s one of those nice little highlights but you know it’s no time to cheer yet, because tomorrow is the big day.
Q: Valtteri, great lap at the end, just six one hundredths of a second faster than your team-mate. Where did you find the time on that final lap?
VB: Thanks. Very good feeling to be on pole. I love the qualifying and especially here in Silverstone. It’s pretty good fun. The feeling was from the practice sessions that the medium could be even faster than the soft tyre so that’s why in Q2, when we had both compounds, I knew that there would be still good opportunities to improve on the second run and yeah, the first run was OK, but I knew there was a bit missing and I could find more. There was no one key place, it was just about getting a nice clean lap and putting sectors together. It was a good lap, no doubt, so good feeling.
Q: And looking ahead to tomorrow’s race, can you give us any thoughts on strategy?
VB: To be honest I think one stop could be quite difficult here with the compounds we have here this weekend. So I think things are going to be a bit different than last weekend in terms of strategy. I’m sure the guys will be looking at all the options overnight and obviously myself the expectation tomorrow, there’s nothing more than to win the race when you start from pole.
Q: Lewis, coming to you, this is the 67th front-row lockout for Mercedes, but the roles are reversed from last weekend between you and Valtteri. How was your car at the end of the session?
LH: It was good. Valtteri did a fantastic job today; he was just too quick for me. The first lap in qualifying was fairly decent and the last one wasn’t spectacular. Ultimately he did a better job, so I’m happy though for the team to have a 1-2 and to see another great result for Racing Point.
Q: Let’s move on to Racing Point. What a statement of intent from you, Nico. Tell us how good that lap was at the end and also how much more comfortable you feel in the team and in the car from last week.
NH: Yeah, much more. Obviously last weekend was really extreme – Formula 1 comeback within 10 hours, just getting back in the paddock without any preparation 10 minutes before a session was challenging to say the least. But good fun at the same time. But this week I had all these days to digest the feelings of the car and I felt much better prepared for this weekend and he lap in quali was good. In Q2 I made life a bit hard myself, going off in the first run. In Q3 I didn’t think much. I was just giving it everything, trying to squeeze everything out of the car and the tyres and myself, which is also a challenge this weekend and yeah, quite happy to be here.
Q: What were you expectations coming in?
NH: This weekend?
Q: This session? Did you think P3 was on?
NH: No, I didn’t. I think we always had good one-lap pace this weekend. I was pretty confident we could make it into the top 10. To be third, couldn’t really expect that and didn’t really expect that to be honest. Of course a bit of a surprise but for today a nice one to take.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for Nico. First of all, congratulations. As you’ve mentioned, you’re much better prepared this weekend but something that’s still missing is a race simulation – a proper race simulation – because you didn’t have it last weekend. How were your long runs yesterday? Do you still have to learn the tyres or do you already know them from last year? And also, the Racing Point didn’t look like the best car on race pace the whole season so far – but could the softer tyre choice help you because you have to do two stops?
NH: The long runs yesterday were quite good. I felt comfortable in the car and, I think, better than last week. I think the team found some good things and made some improvements there in terms of race pace, so that should hopefully help. Tyres is the least of my worries because I think they’re still pretty similar to the last few years and kind of know what to expect – but everything else is obviously going to be new and kind of the first time, so that side is obviously more exciting and a bit more difficult.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Question to the two Mercedes drivers. Last weekend when Red Bull were so far off the pace, they admitted they didn’t have an answer to the way you were able to step it up through the weekend. Can you just talk a little bit about the progress you are able to make through qualifying. Do you have extra engine modes you can go to in Q2 and Q3 or is it just natural evolution in the track and yourselves?
VB: I think, of course from last weekend to this week we’ve been just really working on everything that we can improve with the car, and also for us, me and Lewis, driving-wise, we’ve been trying to find more. I think we’ve been able to in terms of set-up and – at least for me, driving-wise – find a bit more. The same process goes throughout the weekend. So I think we’ve been able to go in the right direction from the beginning of this weekend until the qualifying and in the qualifying session, obviously car set-up-wise there’s not much you can do. There’s obviously tyre temperatures that we are run-by-run learning more and then we tried to nail it in Q3 when it comes to out-laps and all that. And the same with the engine. We know that with the quick car we have, we don’t necessarily have to use the highest engine modes in Q1 and, of course, if we can save the engine, we save it and yeah, obviously towards the end of the quali, we are going to be running the full power, so for sure there is a lap-time difference as well but I think also us drivers, we’re learning throughout the session and the tyre and out-lap performance is pretty important and that improved a lot during the qualifying as well.
LH: I haven’t got anything to add. I think Valtteri answered it pretty well.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Question to Nico, congratulations on a brilliant result. A lot of fans out there are very excited about you returning this weekend and perhaps breaking that long-awaited podium drought. How special, remarkable, crazy would it be if were to do that tomorrow and finally get that monkey off your back and get a podium?
NH: Yeah, I knew this was going to come up now, obviously. To be honest, it’s very challenging and difficult circumstances but I know I have a fast car beneath me. So it’s just trying to make sure to do everything right. Obviously it’s starting lap one. It’s going to be also new for me but I think I’ll just try to get it right with all the experience that I have and then we’ll race. Obviously a couple of races behind the other guys but I still remember what it feels like. Just try not to think too much, keep my head down and have a good race tomorrow.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to both Mercedes drivers please. Could you explain the thinking behind the run plan in Q3. Was it a case of going out, getting a banker lap on the Softs and then switching, both of you, to the Mediums or did the team allow you individually to chose what to do – and what was the reason behind the switch in the middle of that session? Thank you.
LH: I think we decided as a team. We both, Valtteri and I, agreed that the Medium tyre was better, so that’s why we saved it for the end.
Valtteri, anything to add?
VB: Yeah, like I said, we saw in practice that there’s not much in it. When it came down to the decisions, we decided the Medium was most likely going to be the faster. That’s why we saved it to the end, because normally at the end of the session the track is the fastest, so wanted to maximise everything.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Question for Valtteri please. Can you just run through a little bit the process of what you went through since last week to find the car improvements? Roughly, what have you done, what characteristics have you dialled in or dialled out that have allowed you to do this today?
VB: Of course I can’t go too much into set-up details but we’ve been able to improve the car set-up, I think, for me. I think I had a slight deficit last weekend in qualifying, just in terms of the direction I went during last weekend. I don’t think it was a bad race car but I hope now it’s optimised for both. Always between the races we analyse everything from the race weekend set-up, from my driving in qualifying and in the race and I try to be better. At least today I managed to do some things better than I did last weekend. It is a pretty standard process, to be honest. I don’t want to go into details of the set-up, just I feel better in qualifying today than a week ago.
Valtteri, have you been on the simulator this week back at the factory?
VB: Yes, I have.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Nico, on the mental and physical challenges of coming back into F1 over the last eight days; mentally, how different have you found it going into these weekends, I guess with less pressure a fulltime driver because maybe expectations are a little bit lower? And physically, how did you feel last week and yesterday on the longer runs, and how do you expect your neck to hold up tomorrow?
NH: Yeah, I think you’re quite right. Obviously I’m just here as a temporary guest so naturally expectations are a bit different and I’m just going with the flow, especially last week, obviously, you couldn’t expect too much. But emotionally, obviously, the high coming back on Friday and then Sunday the big low not being able to make it to the race and now, back here, so yeah, it’s been a pretty wild week in a positive way. Physically, yeah, it’s been tough, these G-forces. These cars are brutally fast and the change of direction and the peak G is pretty impressive. No gym in the world and no training can really prepare you for that so… I definitely feel it. I’m going to get biggest tape that I have on tomorrow but I think I will survive somehow.
Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Nico, after all the criticism Racing Point have had over the last few days and the punishment they’ve received, does this result for you feel like vindication for the team and the car they built, and the fact that they are still allowed to continue to race it?
NH: Well, that’s one side I have not totally kept up with and it’s not really my cup of tea or my problem at the moment. Obviously that’s team management that are dealing with that so I don’t really have anything to say about that.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) A question, again, back to the Mercedes drivers: Max Verstappen will be starting the race from fourth place on the hard tyre; how is that compound in terms of the base? Is it a better race tyre and if so, does that give him an advantage over you guys earlier in the race?
VB: Yes, the hard this weekend is obviously the same tyre as the medium last weekend. I think it’s a good race tyre. For sure, it can go longer than the compound everyone else is pretty much starting on in the top ten, so obviously there is a small deficit at the race start itself but then it’s a bit more robust, less overheating, more durable. I think everyone learned quite a lot about that tyre already last weekend. I think we have two new sets of hards.
Q: Were you tempted to try and get through on the hard?
VB: Not really, no. That was not in – at least, didn’t come into my ears in the discussions. I hope we made the right choice. Obviously we managed to get the front row, so that’s always good.
Q: Lewis, what’s your take on the hard tyre, Max being on the hard tyre tomorrow?
LH: I think it could be good. Gives a bit of a difference, it will make it more interesting. We’re not doing it this weekend, last weekend. It will be interesting.
Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-magazin.com) Nico, do you think you have a realistic chance to keep Max behind you tomorrow?
NH: Whilst I would like to say yes, obviously that’s going to be very tough and challenging given all the circumstances but you never know. I feel the car is decent and this weekend it’s just – since last week – finding my feet with the car but I’m much more connected with it. But I think it’s very tough to answer and obviously speculative but for me it’s not really about that, it’s about getting a good race in and hopefully taking some points home for the team.
Q: Can we get your thoughts about Max being on the hard tyre at the start?
NH: Yeah, I think the harder compounds, they have been performing pretty well here so we will definitely, I think… not a bad option for him, I feel. It could play out well for him at the end of the day if he doesn’t miss the train.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Lewis, you’ve spoken a few times in the past at the frustration when sometimes other drivers can learn from your tricks and your data etc and in more recent times you’ve spoken how that keeps driving you to continue, but it seems this is a case were obviously Valtteri’s been able to put the effort in, do his homework, learn from everything he did and you did last weekend and find more gains, whereas you’re probably closer to the – last weekend, obviously you were closer to the ultimate ceiling. Although Valtteri’s done a great job, is there a little bit of you that’s thinking it’s part of the… your advantage being eroded by that whole process and the fact that you can’t keep some of that to yourself in competition?
LH: No. At the end of the day, we driver, we go out and we continue to push. I was in the sim too, although we weren’t particularly working on this race but no, I improved this weekend also so Valtteri just did a better job right at the end. I don’t feel any way about it. Still got a long race tomorrow and I will bring everything I can to try and beat this guy.