FIA post-qualifying press conference – Sao Paulo
1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), 2 – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), 3 – Lance STROLL (Aston Martin)
(Conducted by James Hinchcliffe)
Q: Max, congratulations, 31st pole of your career. Obviously, this is not the end to Q3 that anybody was really expecting. We noticed all day long that you guys were going out right at the start of the session. How much of that decision was based on the weather coming in?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, I mean, we didn't know when it would hit in qualifying but we thought it would hit. But this is of course, insane weather. Charles and I were just discussing, our laps, they felt terrible but I don’t know, I think the wind started to change and started to be very strong. And we lost a lot of lap time because of it. But yeah, it was all quite hectic in the last lap.
Q: Well, that aside, you got the lap in when you needed to. Let's look ahead to the Grand Prix on Sunday. Limited practice, obviously, on a Sprint weekend, but how do you think the car is going to be in race trim?
MV: It seems that it's all very close. You can see that already in qualifying. I expect the same also in the race around here. There’s always quite a lot of deg from the tyres. So it's all about that management. And last year, of course, we didn't get that right. But I think we are a bit better this year.
Q: Alright. Well, I look forward to seeing what you can do tomorrow and on Sunday. Charles Leclerc for Ferrari, another front-row start again, these Sprint weekends really seem to be beneficial for you?
Charles LECLERC: Yeah, it works. Well, for us, to be honest today was… In my whole career I've never experienced something like that! From the Turn 4 onwards I couldn't… I mean, there was no rain, but the car was extremely difficult to drive, no grip. I was thinking about just coming in at the end of the lap. And then I finished in P2. So it's a really good surprise. But it's a very weird one, I think for everybody out on track today. But I'm happy to be on the front row anyway.
Q: How hard is it for you and the team to try to make those calls on when to go in when the conditions are changing so quickly like that?
CL: It's always very difficult. But yeah, today was obviously the right choice. And we did everything we wanted to do. So that's good.
Q: How do you feel about the race? Obviously, this track has a little bit higher tyre deg than some others, but are you confident with the car you’ve got?
CL: I mean, let's see. I don't know about the race yet. In those Sprint weekends, there's always a big question mark on the race pace. But I hope it will be a good one. And yeah, hopefully there won't be too much rain tomorrow and Sunday.
Q: And P3, Lance Stroll for Aston Martin. Not a bad result, all things considered. Just talk us through the session? So difficult, so tricky in these conditions, but you pulled it off when it mattered.
Lance STROLL: Yeah, for sure the car was feeling good throughout the session, and Q3 was really tricky. My lap was pretty bad. But I think conditions changed a lot. So I had a few lock-ups and missed some apexes. But in the end, yeah, good enough for the top three, which is a great result.
Q: Yeah, it's your first time in Q3 here in Brazil. And you're starting P3. So that's huge. And we know that the team brought some upgrades a few races ago, it's been a bit of a struggle. How important is it for you guys to have a strong race on Sunday and bring home some points, kind of get the momentum back going in your direction?
LS: Yeah, I mean, it's been tricky, the last couple of weekends. You know, I had a good race in Austin, but then a few days later in Mexico, a really tough weekend. So today was a great day.
Q: Max, many congratulations. That was a hard-won pole position after what looked like a very intense session?
MV: Yeah, the gaps were very, very small between everyone. So yeah, through Q1, Q2, you could see that everyone was using a lot of tyre sets and that made it quite interesting, I think. And then, of course, we lined up to go out for Q3 and you could see the sky was just black. And I was like, wow, if that rain hits it’s going to be a lot. So the out lap was quite quick and then we went for the lap, the first sector felt alright, and then the rest of the lap felt shocking. So I think what happened, of course, throughout the lap was that the rain was coming in, it was not hitting the track yet, but the wind increased a lot. And it changed direction with a tailwind in the middle sector. And yeah, the car was just sliding all over the place. I was shouting on the radio, like, ‘what the hell happened?’ Like, you know, we are nowhere. But the team just told me to keep pushing because they said everyone was struggling out there. But I've never experienced something like that, that it's such a big influence on car balance. But you could also see the weather incoming was quite extreme.
Q: So if Q3 was very difficult because of the weather, maybe Q1 and Q2 were a better barometer of car performance. You did come on the radio at one point and say it was jumping around a bit. Just how was the car earlier on in the session?
MV: Yeah, it was a bit difficult over the bumps. I don't know why that was the case, because we didn't really touch the car. And so we need to understand that because, yeah, on the bumps it was not very comfortable. But yeah, we tried to work our way around it. The gaps were just very, very close. I think we were quite competitive. I think no one really knew who was going to be first in Q3 If it would have been a normal session without the weather incoming. But then that makes it quite interesting for Sunday as well, to see how everything will evolve with the long-run pace.
Q: And for the Sprint Shootout tomorrow morning, of course.
MV: Oh, yeah, we have to do that as well.
Q: So do you think there's more lap time on the table? Do you think we can get quicker tomorrow if it's dry?
MV: I don't know. It depends on the wind direction as well, what we get tomorrow. But yeah, I think it will be close again. So we'll see.
Q: Charles, great job as well. Looks like the car has been good all day. Just how was the session for you?
CL: It was good. Q1 was really good. We only put one set of new Softs and we were straightaway doing a really good job with the lap, the car was feeling great. We had done quite a bit of change since FP1 and it went in the right direction. So I was happy. In Q2, I just knew I had to just put a lap on the board, which we did and that was good enough. And then in Q3, as Max said, I've never experienced that in my career. I mean, the wind change was crazy. There was just absolutely no grip from Sector 2 onwards, which was extremely confusing, because you had no idea where the balance would be in the corner you would get into, and it made things very interesting. But luckily, I kept it more or less tidy. Even though I was thinking of coming in at the end of the lap. It felt so bad that I was like, ‘OK, this is not good enough, I'm P10 for sure’. But luckily, I wasn't and second place is good.
Q: Do you think the car was good enough for pole position, had it been a more normal Q3?
CL: I don't know. I feel like with the lower temperatures in Q2, we maybe struggled a little bit more. So I don't think it would have been enough for pole but I think it would have been close.
Q: OK, now we know the one-lap pace of the car is good. We've seen that over these last three races. What about the long runs? How was it in practice? How confident are you for the rest of the weekend?
CL: Ah, we didn't do a lot of long runs. As always in these type of formats we don't have time to do enough long runs. So it's very difficult to predict what's going to happen on Sunday. But one thing for sure is that it's our weakness and we need to work on that. So we'll try and prepare Sunday and obviously tomorrow in the best way possible.
Q: Lance, very well done. Good to see you here. Now, you were up there throughout qualifying. So how satisfied are you with the session as a whole, not only Q3?
LS: Yeah, very satisfied. The car was feeling good throughout the whole session, which was good. And yeah, Q3, in the end, was really weird. I think the conditions changed a lot. The wind changed. So my lap was super messy and you know, lock-ups, missing corners, but in the end, good enough for a top three. So that's good, you know. It was a good session. You know, overall throughout the whole session we were competitive and I was feeling good in the car. So it was definitely a much better day for us than we've had in a while.
Q: Well, what a transformation it's been in just five days from Mexico to here. How different does the car feel around Interlagos compared to Mexico last weekend?
LS: Yeah, very different. Sure, sure.
Q: Can you elaborate a little bit? Where does the car feel better?
LS; Well, Mexico is a tough track for everyone. High altitude, and, you know, low grip. So, I don't think anyone ever feels great in Mexico. But we definitely have a much better car here than we've had, you know, for a while. And, yeah, the balance was good all day. Felt good grip in the car. And then that's when you can just kind of keep improving and tidy things up. And, you know, keep it clean. So, yeah, it was good.
Q: Lance, you've got your team-mate alongside you on the grid as well, after what has been a very difficult period for Aston Martin. Just how important is this result for everybody, both at the track and back at Silverstone?
LS: Yeah, it's good. I mean, I don't think we're third on paper. I mean, the conditions and stuff in Q3 were a little funny. And, you know, I think we managed to execute well, that's for sure. I think we did well, going early at the front of the queue and getting in our lap early, before the rain came. I know a lot of people missed their laps, or didn't get clean laps in. So that was a good effort. But we'll see what we can do in the race. You know, the points are on Sunday. But it's still a huge step from Mexico and Austin. We had a good race in Austin. But Friday, Saturday were difficult. So today's definitely the best quali and pace we've had in a long time.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Lance, well done. You've had a lot of bad luck this season. Do you feel you finally got a little bit of good luck today? And can you just give us a read on the upgrades? Did you feel that they're working at this circuit? And going forward for Aston Martin in particular into next season that you've got a platform now on which you can work?
LS: I guess time will tell. If we build on today and we can keep up this form in other places… Yeah, I mean, I don't think we were lucky today. I think we made our own luck. I think we did well going, like I said, at the front of the queue and getting good track position. And yeah, the weather was coming in. So I think that was smart. But I still really felt like crap in the car. You know, like these guys said, it was really tricky in Q3 and I think the wind changed direction. So it was still really tough, but I think we did a good job getting both cars, me and Fernando, at the front of the queue. And the team did a good job of giving us an attempt at the front of the queue and before the bad weather came in, and it looks like a lot of guys missed their laps or didn't get them in for whatever reason. So I think we made our own luck today.
Q: (Felipe Leite – Gazeta Sportiva) Charles, Max, Lance, congratulations to all your results. A question to you all, if I may. In Q3 today, we had both Red Bull cars, Ferrari, Aston Martin, McLaren, and also both Mercedes cars. I wanted to know if that's a clear cut indicator that the power of forces here at Interlagos is well set for Sunday?
MV: I don't know. I mean, it was all very tight. I mean, of course, I think in general, these cars they do finish in the top 10 a little bit more than the others, but it rarely happens that I think it's like that in Q3. This track, you know, it's a short lap time, not that many corners and if you make one little mistake or whatever, it's easy to miss out.
CL: Yeah, I think today was a bit the luck of the draw, to get those five teams, both cars in Q3, because as Max said, it's so tight, that it was really down to nothing to get to Q3. So yeah, I don't think that's too indicative.
LS: I think it's tight to get out of Q1! I think it's tight for everyone. You know, here, short lap and yeah, I mean, even for me getting out of Q1, I think is hard. I mean you still have to do a good job. And yeah, it just goes to the show how tight the grid is.
Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) A question to all three drivers, please. Obviously, throughout Q1 and Q2, there seemed to be this looming threat of rain. And, you know, I think people were doing, like, three runs, four runs, maybe even on several sets of tyres. For you guys, how dynamic was working out what run plans you were going to do throughout the sessions? And secondly, when you're having to do so many quick laps in such a short space of time, how do compartmentalise that?
MV: I think it's also of course, because we only had FP1. So for example, I didn't even have a lap on the Soft tyres, so naturally, in Q1, there is always a bit more margin in your lap time. It was extremely tight. So if you didn't do a good lap, you were out. So that's why I think many people put like two sets or even three sets, some of them. And also, that just continued through the qualifying. There was always that threat of rain, but I think in Q1 and Q2 it was quite clear that it was still not happening, but because of the pace of everyone else you were forced to put new tyres on basically.
CL: I don't have anything to add.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Charles, did you get any kind of read in the sole practice session today as to your race pace, and whether you've got a hope of challenging Max off the line on Sunday?
CL: I mean, on these Sprint weekends it’s very difficult to have a read. We did few laps. But again, I think the fuel levels of everybody is very different in this FP1 on such a format. So very difficult to have a proper reading on who is fast, who is not. The feeling was OK. Whether this will be enough to challenge the Red Bull, I think this is a bit of another story, because this year, unfortunately they are very, very strong and much stronger than us coming the Sunday. So we've got a lot of work to do. Realistically, I would say, maybe not. But as always, if there's the opportunity to pass at the start and then to block him for all the other laps then I'll take that.