FIA post-qualifying press conference - Mexico
1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), 2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
(Conducted by Jenson Button)
Q: Max, not the result you were after. It was looking so good all the way through the weekend and through Q1 and Q2. The first run in Q3 you had a little bit oversteer and then you had the issue in the second run of Q3 with Tsunoda off track.
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it seemed like through qualifying the balance went away a little bit but then actually in the last lap I was on for a good lap but then I don’t know what happened in front of me but there were two guys going off so I thought there was going to be a yellow flag, so I backed out and the lap is of course destroyed. Even with that and not having a great balance I think we could still have gone for that pole lap. Third is not amazing but I think it’s still better than starting second.
Q: This weekend we have seen a lot of footage of your rear wing, the Red Bull mechanics playing around with your rear wing, putting Gurney and even some tape on the rear wing. Has that had an effect not just on performance but confidence going into qualifying?
MV: Yeah, we had to repair them but I think at the end, when we went in qualifying, everything was like normal. Of course, it’s not ideal but I don’t think it’s a reason why it was a bit of a struggle for us in qualifying.
Q: Do you feel you can take the fight to these guys tomorrow?
MV: Yeah, absolutely. It’s just that qualifying didn’t go our way but we are not using these tyres anyway tomorrow, so still a lot to fight for.
Q: Lewis, we all want to get pole position, but you must be pretty happy with that – in front of both Red Bulls, your team-mate in pole position, you’re in a great position for that Turn 1?
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, Valtteri did an amazing job. I’m so proud of Valtteri. I think he has been driving so well in these last few races so it’s really great for the team, they have been working so hard. We didn’t think we had the pace this weekend, so to lock out the front row is pretty special, and obviously gives us a good fight with the others tomorrow.
Q: What’s changed? Because it looks like there was a four or five tenths gap to Red Bull and now you guys seem the guys to beat.
LH: I really have no idea. They were like six tenths ahead at some stage and then four tenths ahead, but whatever happened, once we got to qualifying all of a sudden we had better pace. I’m just as shocked as everyone but we’ll still take it.
Q: What a team effort. It must be great having your team-mate beside you. I’m sure there is great strategy going into tomorrow?
LH: Yeah, naturally I would love to be in his position, but again he did a fantastic Q1, sorry Q3 run 1. I gave him a pull but he did the better job today.
Q: Valtteri, I have to say that was a pretty, pretty impressive performance. You must feel pretty proud of yourself and happy with what you have just achieved?
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah. It was awesome laps, especially my lap on the first run in Q3. I couldn’t quite match the same last sector in the second one but I think honestly that first run in Q3 was one of my best laps, and it’s a good feeling.
Q: Throughout practice it looked like you weren’t able to get on the first lap. It looked like it was six or seven laps into a run, You have obviously played around with the set-up and it has given you more confidence to give it all on lap one of a run.
VB: Yeah, this morning the car was feeling good. We were lacking a bit of pace on lap one but I think with the higher temperatures this afternoon than in the morning it came our way I think. Also I tried to optimise everything with tyre temps and set-up and it was a joy to drive.
Q: P1 for tomorrow, you can see Turn 1 from just about from where you’re starting. There must be a lot of strategy going into what’s going to happen tomorrow. It’s such a long straight down to Turn 1 from that start line.
VB: It is a long straight and for sure the cars behind with the tow will have good opportunities, so we’ll need a good start. But at least, as a team, it’s great that we have two cars ahead and hopefully we can try to keep our positions somehow.
Q: Valtteri, what a lap. Given the pace of the car in practice is this a little bit of a surprise to you?
VB: I definitely surprised myself and I think our performance as a team we seemed to be a little bit off, especially on a single lap, against Red Bull, so I would say yeah, the performance in Q3 was a bit of a surprise but it was a good lap. I think we managed to optimise the set-up since practice three this morning and also everything with the tyre temperatures, out laps, managed to get everything near perfection and that was the result, so obviously really rewarding.
Q: You say it was a good lap but what made the difference in terms of the car performance in qualifying?
VB: It’s quite a tricky track to put a good lap together, there are many technical sections and corner combinations, and running over the kerbs it’s so easy to lose five hundredths or even a tenth. So I think getting a nice clean lap together and I think getting the tyre temperatures in the optimal window was a big thing today and also the balance for us, definitely in qualifying, I had the best I’ve had this weekend.
Q: Was this the best of your 19 pole positions so far?
VB: I feel it’s like one of the good laps. It’s hard to remember exactly what’s the best but it’s up there definitely and I really enjoyed it.
Q: Let’s throw it forward to tomorrow now. You clearly have the pace over one lap, have you got it over a race distance?
VB: That’s what we find out tomorrow. I think at least what we saw from the long runs in practice we seem pretty similar to Red Bull. I think it’s going to be difficult at the start of the race no doubt because obviously it’s good that we have both cars on the front row but they are right behind us. They have a big tow into Turn 1 so it could be an interesting beginning of the race and we need to figure out how to stay in front.
Q: Lewis, great lap as well. Now we’ve got a Mercedes front row lock-out here in Mexico. What were your expectations coming into the session?
LH: First, huge congratulations to Valtteri, he did an amazing job today. That lap, I couldn’t really match it and we came into this weekend from P1 onwards, we’ve generally been behind by around half a second, so through the whole weekend just working away at trying to improve the car, extract as much as we can from it, but knowing that they have generally got higher downforce than us. They have a bit of a bigger wing that they use in places like Monaco. So we’ve struggled in certain parts of the track so it’s a real surprise and a shock to us to see that we are on the front row. I don’t really have an answer for it but I’ll take it for sure and really grateful to be up there with Valtteri, for the team, to get a one-two.
Q: Were there any radical set-up changes prior to the session?
LH: No, nothing. We very rarely do that. It was small tweaks. To be honest I really struggled. I didn’t really like the set-up of the car today. It was good in P3 but I struggled with it in qualifying.
Q: Let’s throw it forward to tomorrow. You were the winner the last time we raced in Mexico back in 2019. How confident are you of a repeat of that tomorrow?
LH: Well, once again, we have been behind. All our results over these past free practice sessions have shown we are behind not only in qualifying from around three tenths on a single lap but also in race trim, so who knows. I think track position is pretty important here so we will work as a team to try and battle and keep it.
Q: Max coming to you, well done as well. Had you not tripped over that AlphaTauri on your final lap, do you think pole was on?
MV: I mean that’s always ‘if’, right? But before that we were struggling somehow with just getting the tyre to work. On the Mediums, it wasn’t too bad but then on the Softs, going into Q3, it just didn’t click in the first run. It just was a terrible lap. Just no grip. So, I knew of course there was a lot more in it, if we could find a better balance with the tyres. And it was a little bit better in the final run. And it was definitely on, you know, for a good lap and you know, challenge Valtteri’s time. But I don’t know what happened in front of me, but it must have been Yuki holding up first Checo and then both of them, of course, had to go wide and then I thought, you know because you arrive so quick it’s difficult to pinpoint what’s happening. I just saw a lot of dust, so I thought a car crashed and you know now with the yellow flag rules, I’ve been caught with that already here in Mexico, I backed out of it a bit and then no yellow flag came so I continued pushing but of course that’s already like two-and-a-half tenths gone. So, my lap was basically finished. What can you do? I’ll have a look at what happened there exactly – but of course it was very unfortunate and not a great place to be after being so competitive the whole weekend but still, like Valtteri said, it’s also a long run to Turn One. Starting third, normally on the cleaner side, there’s been a lot of dust, so let’s see. It’s a, you know, long race.
Q: Max, as you say, you’ve been so competitive all weekend. How surprised are you by the pace of Mercedes in qualifying?
MV: No, I think we were just really slow and just terrible grip in Q3. I think my last lap, we recovered that a bit. We were just getting the tyres in a little bit in a better window but were still, let’s say, not to what we would have liked and how the car has been behaving in all the practice sessions. So that’s a bit of a mystery but tomorrow we mainly race on different tyres anyway, so I expect the balance to be good again.
Q: Better in the race but can I just get your thoughts on the pace of Mercedes?
MV: Like I just said, we just had a terrible qualifying, so nothing surprising.
Q: OK, well it leaves us with an intriguing race tomorrow. Are you expecting a tough strategic battle?
MV: We have all the cars there now, so it’s the four of us. Hopefully it’s going to be exciting. Also, maybe the pit wall can be a decisive factor, who knows, but we’ll find out tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Thanks Tom, it’s a question to Valtteri please. Valtteri, congrats on pole position. I just wondered what happened on the second run in Q3. It looked like you guys didn’t go any quicker there. Thank you.
VB: Thank you. Second run. It wasn’t too bad. I think I was more or less zero on my time before Sector Three but just had a bit more rear overheating so lost a bit of traction in the final sector. I think I obviously tried to shave-off any time I had compared to the first run and had to push a bit more maybe in places and it wasn't rewarding then in the last sector.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Thanks Tom. To Max this time please. Max, we saw Red Bull working on the rear wing of both cars ahead of qualifying and there was a bit of tape. It was picked up on TV cameras on the end of your rear wing. What was that all about? Was there damage to those parts picked up? And did it hamper your performance in qualifying? Thank you.
MV: Yeah, they were cracked after FP3 so we had to patch them up and basically they were like new to start qualifying, so I don’t think that had anything to do with it – but of course we’ll have a look into it again.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Thank you Tom. Another one to Max please. Just following up on a radio message you put out, I think it was in Q2, I could be wrong, just about hitting the kerbs quite hard at Turn Two. You asked the team to check if there was any damage was picked up. Was any found in that incident? Thank you.
MV: Er no. They checked the car and everything. Everything was alright.
Q: (Jim Vertuno – AP) Yes, one for Lewis and Valtteri. There’s been so much talk over the last couple of days about potential team orders within Red Bull, about what they would do in terms of who would get a chance to win this race. Did that motivate Mercedes at all to… to get in the game here?
Q: Valtteri, let’s start with you.
VB: Sorry, I didn’t quite understand the last part.
Q: I think, did all the talk of team orders at Red Bull provide a source of motivation for you guys at Mercedes. Jim, is that it?
Q: (Jim Vertuno – AP) Yes.
VB: I would say that we have just been really focusing on our job this weekend. We had a difficult Friday, we saw that we were behind Red Bull and even this morning, we were not where we should, should have been, so at least my mind has been just trying to find lap time and trying to find the best set-up for the quali and race. That’s all.
LH: Yeah, pretty much the same. We’ve just been focusing on ourselves. We didn’t even know that was happening.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Thank you. This is to all three of you. The run down to the first corner here, it’s not as notorious as Russia but is it effectively the same as Russia where it’s effectively an advantage to be starting third, for example, Max for you, and Valtteri and Lewis, if that’s the case, how difficult do you think it’s going to be to keep the Red Bulls behind you?
LH: It’s a little bit different. It’s obviously probably almost as long, if not, yeah, I don’t know exactly. It feels exactly the same sort of length but obviously in Russia there’s a lot more drag and a lot more tow-effect. Here there’s less but still there is a tow effect and so you know, Valtteri and I will no doubt work as a team to try and hold one-two for the team.
VB: Yeah, like Lewis said, it’s maybe a bit less drag here, so but I think to maintain the first two places, you still need a really good start. If the guys behind us have even a little bit better start then they will have an upper hand, so…
MV: Yeah, I mean it’s a very long run, yeah, I mean it’s a long run but it depends on how your start is and everything so I guess we’ll just find out tomorrow.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Thanks Tom. Another question to Max please, just on the lack of grip you had in Q3. You reported a similar thing at the end of FP3, coming on the radio saying there was suddenly no grip. I just wondered whether the two things were linked. Thank you.
MV: Not necessarily, because I think the start of Q1 it was good. Even Q2 I mean it was alright. Yeah. We’ll have to check the out-laps and stuff and of course, yeah, between the first run and the second run in Q3 already there was a bit of a difference as well. So yeah, a few things to analyse. But overall, of course not great.