FIA post-qualifying press conference – Great Britain
1. Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), 2. Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes), 3. Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull)
TRACK INTERVIEWS (Conducted by Jenson Button)
Q: Lewis, not the easiest route to that pole position but an amazing couple of laps there in Q3?
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, ultimately, obviously there is a relatively big gap between us and third place, but it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day Valtteri is pushing me right to the limit and he’d been doing such a fantastic job all weekend and I made some changes going into qualifying and it was worse, so it was a real struggle out there. This track is just awesome because, as you know, with a gust of wind, you have a head wind, a tail wind, a cross wind in different parts of the circuit. It’s like juggling balls whilst you’re on a moving plate, at high speed. Then, obviously we had that spin. Qualifying is a lot about confidence building, as you know, and damn, I had that spin. I was already down, I was struggling through the first section every lap and I don’t know how but with some deep breaths I managed to compose myself and Q3 started off the right way. It still wasn’t perfect the first laps but still a really clean lap and the second one even better. It never gets old for sure.
Q: I bet. As you can see this is quite an unusual British Grand Prix. I know how you love the fans, it really does lift you here. Have you got a message for the guys who aren’t able to be here today?
LH: Yeah, honestly… look, you see them [the grandstands], all empty here. Normally you have the sirens going off, you see the flags everywhere, you see smoke and the atmosphere here is buzzing normally. You normally get out of the car and there is a different energy, so we definitely miss them. But hopefully they are happy with that turnaround back home and I again just want to say a huge thank you to the team, the guys at the factory, not far away from here, who are constantly working tirelessly to push us forwards, develop and we’re continuing to do so and I’m really proud to be a part of it.
Q: Valtteri, it was looking so strong through Q1, Q2 and this guy, after a spin, was just, just able to pip you in Q3?
Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, it was a pretty good qualifying in Q3 really. I felt really comfortable with the car and with both tyre compounds and I was really just waiting for Q3 to get everything right. But by the time of Q3 I started to drift a bit more with the rear end than I was hoping. I don’t really know, Lewis found more than me, so ultimately he did a really good job today. It’s disappointing and I need to look into it.
Q: Looking to tomorrow, it looks like it’s a two-horse race tomorrow, you guys are so far in front of the rest. Are you able to do anything with the strategy, to find a different way to the finish line to challenge Lewis?
VB: I think my long run performance this weekend has been really good and I believe there will be opportunities and Lewis last year managed to win it from second place with a different strategy to me, so yeah, everything is still wide open and no doubt the guys will try to mix it up behind so we will see.
Q: Max, it must be really tricky after a session like that. You’ve got the maximum out of the car and you’re a second behind the guys in front pretty much. What can you take from this qualifying session?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Well, I think the lap itself at the end of Q3 was pretty good, but you could see of course very early onwards in qualifying they were just way too fast, like they have been the last few races. You just have to accept that. You try to do the best we can and that’s P3 for us. So I’m pretty pleased with that. Also, after Hungary, to come back and be P3 in qualifying I think is a good start. In the race, you know, again, it’s different. Automatically you’re a little bit closer in the race. I don’t say I’m going to fight them but at least you have a fighting chance starting third.
Q: We know you’re going to fight them, Max. How is the car around here. We all know Silverstone is a very open track, very windy today. Does that have a big effect on what the car is doing?
MV: With these new type of cars from the last few years they are very sensitive to wind because they are that big and that wide. And especially here in Silverstone, you could really feel, like yesterday, for example, it was really tricky in the low-speed corners and today the wind changes and it becomes a completely different car. Luckily, in the right way, because today it was a lot more fun to drive. But yes, it is very sensitive.
Q: Lewis, pole number 91 was certainly a very good one. What were your expectations going into Q3. Did you think a 24.3 was possible?
LH: Well, honestly I don’t really know what the previous records are or laps that we have done in previous years here. I don’t really look at that. It’s not really necessarily the number I’m looking at. What matter is what the position is. I don’t even really look at the time when I come across the line. I’m generally just trying to make sure that I’m up on my previous best time. But it’s pretty incredible the performance here this weekend. This track is really one of the best tracks in the world, especially when the wind is right, like today, and the temperatures are just right. It’s so fast and flowing. The speed that we’re able to carry through Maggotts and Becketts is… I remember when I did my first test here I never would have thought that one day we would be doing the speeds we are at some stage. And then secondly, this team is remarkable and I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who continues to do a great job back at the factory and also here during the weekends, because bit by bit we continue to step forwards. We’re still powering ahead, we’re not resting on the performance that we have, we’re trying to push the boundaries and the limits and that’s the most impressive thing I think about this team.
Q: Awesome in Q3 Lewis, bit of a wake-up call for you in Q2. Just talk us through that incident down at Luffield?
LH: Yeah, it really wasn’t a nice qualifying session for me. We’d made some big changes overnight, we went out in FP3 and the car was actually feeling… night and day difference probably for everyone with the wind change, and the track temperature change… and the car was feeling pretty good but the easy thing is to stay where you are and just leave it and hope for the best but we’re always, as I said, looking to move forwards and so made a couple of subtle changes and it was worse and you’re stuck with that once the qualifying starts. So, I had this inconsistency with the balance of the car and I was struggling and obviously I got into Q2, had that big snap and spin – which is my first spin in some time. Luckily the tyres were fine. We came in, I got to go back out on another fresh set, which was fine, but then it’s just really trying to recompose yourself and get yourself back in line because it’s really just building blocks when you go through qualifying. And that was probably the hardest turnaround, I would say, knowing that Valtteri had just been putting in quick lap after quick lap. So to go into Q3 with a kind of fresh reset mentally, and putting in those two laps, yeah, I feel great. But Valtteri’s been pushing me all weekend. He’s incredibly quick here, so I think I had a tenth-and-a-half advantage to him after the first lap and I knew that he would pick up some pace in that second run, so the pressure was still on to go out and do better. So, really grateful. While we really, really missed the roar of the fans and the energy of the fans here this weekend, hopefully back home they enjoyed that today.
VB: As Lewis says, it was quick lap after quick lap from you but you talked earlier about the rear end causing you a few problems in Q3. Can you talk to us a little bit more about that? Where was it causing you problems?
VB: It was a pretty smooth session otherwise. Had some really clean laps and could really build on lap by lap. The car was feeling pretty good, just the balance of the car throughout the qualifying was drifting a bit more towards oversteer. I don’t know if the track temp was getting higher or what was it but on both runs in Q3 I really struggled to attack the slow speed corners as I did before – and the same in Turn 12 – Turn 13. I started to struggle with the rear end – just a bit snappy. And at the same time Lewis obviously had a perfect lap in the end – or at least near to perfection. It was a pretty impressive lap time and I just couldn’t quite match it with the balance I had but otherwise it was OK. Obviously a bit disappointed being second, as it was a strong session otherwise – but yeah, that’s the usual. It is tomorrow that counts but at this point really thankful the car is so strong. It’s amazing and the team is doing such a great job with it and it’s a pleasure to drive.
Q: Max, talk us through your session and how good your lap was in Q3. And then just tell us, are you surprised or not by the gap to Lewis Hamilton. One Second.
MV: No, I’m not surprised. We are clearly still learning about the car, trying to improve it. But I think overall the qualifying itself was pretty OK. I mean, I was pretty much all the time in third. There’s not much more I think I could do. I think also my final lap in Q3 was pretty good. I had a bit of a moment out of the last corner but… it’s just a big gap and just tried to do the best we can and for us, that’s third at the moment. So we did that. Yeah, it’s a better position than seventh, let’s say that, to start the race.
Q: Can you take the fight to Mercedes tomorrow?
MV: Normally not, but we just hope to have a clean start and from there onwards I just try to do the best I can in the car and if that’s try to follow them a bit, we can be happy with that and score some points.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to both of the Mercedes drivers please. It looked like you struggled quite a lot yesterday in practice, obviously it was very, very hot and windy but in a different direction. Was that cured by the changing conditions today, particularly the lower temperatures, or was it just significant set-up gains that you guys found overnight? Thank you.
LH: I think it was probably a mixture of both. I think really fantastic work by the engineers overnight just analysing where we were and how to perfect the balance of the car. Part of it was that, and then I think today, just being 10°C cooler – or whatever it is – and the wind being in a slightly different direction, really shifted things I think for us. And the hotter it got for us yesterday, it got generally worse for us. We have understood that overnight and we corrected that today.
Anything to add to that Valtteri?
VB: No, that’s all.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for both Mercedes drivers. Do you expect to be allowed to use different race strategies to race each other tomorrow?
LH: Honestly, I think it’s the same as always. We have a philosophy and an approach as a team and we just continue to… we don’t change things unnecessarily. So, I don't think that there will be any difference here. Also, it’s not really of a benefit. Today it is quite clear which strategy on tracks like this, just like last year. Actually, it was a little bit less clear, I think perhaps, than last year but it’s generally pretty straightforward, so it’s unlikely we’re going to change anything.
Q: Valtteri, what do you have to do to beat the guy on your left?
VB: For sure we’ll try everything. It’s still very close between us in the championship points, so of course I’m going to do everything I can and of course will look overnight with the engineers what we can do and if there’s anything different I can do. But yes, we have a certain philosophy and usually the car ahead can kind of choose the strategy a bit more, as a bit of a priority, which is fair enough. That’s how it goes – but you never know. We saw a pretty different race from mine and Lewis’ side last year. So, we’ll see.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Max, Christian Horner was telling us yesterday that the team made a big effort to try and understand the data gained from Hungary and putting it into action here. Do you feel that the car is more well sorted than it was in Hungary, and now it’s just a question of pace or are you still struggling to find exactly where the balance is?
MV: I think, yeah, compared to Hungary it’s for sure better. Hungary was not really good. Of course, there are still things that need to be improved and we are working on it, but I think it’s now just purely working on balance as well, yeah, finding more performance in that. We do understand where it’s coming from; now it’s just time, of course, to put different parts onto the car and make it faster.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, you usually used to have 140,000 people coming here to watch you race at Silverstone and cheer you on. How much of a motivating factor would it be to deliver that win to them watching at home tomorrow, particularly given everything that’s going on in the world at the moment? And secondly, is there any sort of movement on your new Mercedes contract?
LH: To the second part, no, there’s no discussion at all, nothing decided. Yeah, obviously with the… I kept it in mind. Normally when I approach this weekend there this much much different feeling, I think it’s part excitement and also nerves when you come to this race, knowing how many people do come. And that nervousness is just really through just wanting to excel and deliver for everybody, because you go on a pretty incredible journey together. And so I try to keep that in mind still this weekend; whilst I didn’t have that same feeling coming, knowing that no-one’s going to be here, and I just really tried to remember how… reminisce the last years and try and somehow get that energy and utilise it today which is not so easy but I do, as I said, I hope… I can’t imagine how many people watching and if it’s the same energy-wise back home where they are, if it’s the same as it is when we’re at the track. But I hope this gives some people some hope.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Max, obviously last year Red Bull had some struggles at the start of the season but the upgrades introduced, Canada through to France, that sort of time, really switched on the car and got it going. Do you think something similar can happen this year in terms of relatively small changes, with time can really unlock the potential? Do you think there’s a slightly wider ranging problem that will take a little bit longer to sort out and make the car both have the performance and the consistency that you need?
MV: I didn’t think, yeah, for sure we can improve the car quite a bit, but the problem is that the gap is so big to the guys ahead that it will be very hard to close so yeah, I believe the guys are working flat out of course to improve the car, so I’m confident they can do that but of course also the others are not standing still so yeah, we have a lot of hard work in front of us but let’s see what we can do.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) To Max: looking at what we saw in practice yesterday when it was very, very hot and you were able to get close to the Mercedes’ times on the long runs, and then there’s a big gap today when the temperature comes down, do you think that Red Bull is closer to Mercedes when the temperatures are higher?
MV: Oh yeah, but we would still be quite a few tenths down. I don’t think the warm weather makes such a big difference. If it would have been 35 degrees today I would still be third, so it wouldn’t… it would have helped me maybe a little bit but not that much.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) To all three: obviously Nico Hulkenberg is back on the grid, very last minute. He is basically three Grand Prix weekends and three pre-season test days behind you guys so I guess he’s physically going through what you went through on the first day of Barcelona testing, except he hasn’t spent the last few months physically preparing for that. How difficult do you think he’ll find it in the Grand Prix with I guess, mainly on his neck, how big a challenge do you think it is?
LH: Definitely not the best one to come to, your first practice, your first race for the neck. Copse is flat out so it’s a pretty intense combination of corners so I wouldn’t be surprised if this morning he woke up with quite a few bruises and sore but he’s generally always been really in good shape. I saw him walking in, he looked like he never left. But think it’s even more so, it’s probably the prep is a big part, your understanding of the car, that’s probably the biggest part. When you don’t know the car, you don’t know the tools you have or the simulations that the team uses. I can’t even tell you how far behind he is with that. But he is a great driver but if anyone can do it. It will be him, for sure.
MV: I could see after the first practice his neck was hanging to one side. He has quite a long neck so that is also… that’s not nice to have in F1. It’s tough, because I spoke to him about it back in the day when he was still in F1 fulltime. He didn’t enjoy that. It’s tough, you can train as much as you want; the first time you go in an F1 car with these speeds, especially around here, you will be sore. You can train every day with your neck but the first time it’s always going to be sore so I’m 100 per cent sure of course, when he woke up today he felt it. But anyway, it doesn’t matter to him anyway, he’s happy to be here and he should be here anyway because I think he still deserves his spot on the grid.
VB: Yeah, I’m sure he will be sore and as you said, he’s probably not been prepared, physically, to drive a Formula 1 like we all did for the first race but I think he’s done really good, I think it’s a big challenge for him, with such short notice, he was setting some good lap times but obviously big experience from the past. I hope he has a good race tomorrow.