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FIA post-qualifying press conference – Australia

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and

DRIVERS

1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), 2 – Carlos SAINZ (Ferrari), 3 – Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull Racing)

TRACK INTERVIEWS
(Conducted by Alex Brundle)

Q: Max, a hat-trick of poles to start the year. That must be a great feeling.

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it was a bit unexpected, I think, today in qualifying, but very happy with Q3. I think both of those laps, they felt really, really nice, and that was very enjoyable. But, yeah, it was a bit of a tricky weekend so far, but, yeah, we managed to be there at the end, so I'm very happy with that.

Q: You've got a big challenge this weekend from Ferrari. Can you keep them behind in what's going to be a very strategic race tomorrow?

MV: Yeah, they seem very quick also in the long run. So a bit of a question mark for tomorrow, but I guess that makes it very exciting. So we'll find out tomorrow.

Q: Outstanding lap, brilliant pole, congratulations. Carlos, from missing the race in Jeddah to finding yourself in P2 in qualifying today, that is a journey!

Carlos SAINZ: Yeah, thanks a lot. It's been a tough couple of weeks, you know, a lot of days in bed, waiting for this moment, to see if I could be here today and, yeah, to make it to this weekend and then obviously to put it on the front row after leading through qualifying, I was almost not believing it, especially after how tough it's been. But very happy to be here, very happy to be challenging the Red Bulls this weekend. I was a bit rusty at the beginning yesterday, but then I got up to speed and I could finally find the pace and feeling good with the car.

Q: A long way to go in the race tomorrow. How are you feeling in the car? Are you feeling fully recovered or still a little bit of discomfort?

CS: I'm not going to lie. I'm not in my most comfortable state when I'm driving out there, but I can get it done. And as far as I can get it done without the pain... Obviously, a lot of discomfort and weird feelings, but no pain, so it allows me to push flat out.

Q: Brilliant lap, outstanding performance. Brave stuff. Thank you very much.

CS: Cheers.

Q: Sergio, great lap. Was there any more in the car? Do you think you could have challenged the Ferrari for second or even Max for pole?

Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, I think definitely there was a bit more in it. My first sector was not great, especially Turn 1. I think on my final attempt, I didn't hook up the whole combination, which straightaway is a tenth, a tenth-and-a-half. But I'm happy. I think given how we've been during the weekend, it's been a very nice progression. I think tomorrow we got to fight on our hands to the Ferrari and to the rest of the field because I think the degradation is going to be very high. So I think, yeah, starting position is not that relevant at the moment.

Q: You look like you have a little bit of straight line speed advantage against the Ferrari. Do you think that's going to help you out tomorrow in attacking and defending those positions?

SP: Yeah, we will find out tomorrow. I think we've changed a bit our strategy for tomorrow and let's see who can survive the most on the gradation side.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Max, many congratulations to you. What a performance in Q3. You said a moment ago it hasn't been easy this weekend. So how satisfying is this pole?

MV: Yeah, I'm very happy with that. I think so far this weekend it's been a bit tough to find a good balance in the car. And even throughout qualifying, Q1, Q2, I didn't really feel like fighting for pole. But then we made some little tickles on the car and that seemed to help me in Q3 to really push it to the limit. And both of my laps I felt quite happy with it. I mean, there are always things that you can improve, but overall, yeah, very satisfied with the performance.

Q: Both laps… Well, you got quicker and quicker in Q3. Do you think there was more to come or was the car bang on by the end of it?

MV: No, I mean more to come. I tried to do the best I could. I mean I think if you go corner after corner, yeah maybe there are a few things that you can do better but it is always you know when you're under pressure flat out around this track it's very hard to nail every single corner, like on any other track. But in general of course very pleased with the laps that we did

Q: And you had a bit of a disrupted practice leading up to qualifying. How's that going to play out in the race tomorrow? Do you feel a little bit underprepared?

MV: Not really. I mean, we did quite a bit, even this morning. So from that side, I don't think so. It's just that it was a bit harder to find a good balance in the car. So we'll find out tomorrow if it's going to be good enough in the race because it looks like Ferrari is also very fast and quite comfortable the whole weekend already. So, yeah, hopefully it will be an interesting race tomorrow.

Q: Do you feel Ferrari are closer to Red Bull this weekend than they have been at the previous two?

MV: Yeah, maybe it's because we were not on top of things, but they looked well dialled in, let's say, like that from the start. And probably from our side, it was a bit the opposite way. And yeah, we managed to improve it. But the race is going to be quite tough with the softer compounds that we have this year. So yeah, we'll find out tomorrow.

Q: Alright. Best of luck with that. Well done. Thank you. Carlos, what a comeback. I mean, first of all, how are you feeling in the car?

CS: Thank you. Yeah, it feels OK. I mean, as I said at the beginning of the weekend, I don't feel 100%. I think it's impossible to feel 100% after spending seven to 10 days in bed like I did just trying to recover. But the good thing, you know, is that I had no pain. I just have the discomfort, and obviously everything feels a bit weird inside, but I can push. Especially today, I could push flat out. Yesterday, I took it easy at the beginning, Had to do some tweaks to the seat, to the belts, to the brake pedal. But today, you know, when the adrenaline came up in quali and I could close the visor and go for it, I could go for it, which is a good thing. So yeah, hopefully tomorrow I still do another step of recovery, putting a lot of emphasis on physiotherapy and recovery, you know, these days. All of it is focused around it and hopefully tomorrow I can be OK.

Q: Good luck with that. Let's just talk about the qualifying session. You were fastest in Q1 and Q2. Are you a little bit disappointed not to be on pole?

CS: It's a bit of… I think you can see it both ways. I think if you would have told me two weeks ago when I got the appendix removed that I would be in Australia ready to go again and fighting for pole position, I would have 100% taken it. After being P1 in Q1, P1 in Q2, and knowing that I left some time on the table in Q3, it's obviously a bit disappointing, but it's normal also. I didn't do quali in Jeddah. I'm probably a bit out of shape also and I'm probably still learning this new car. I missed a qualifying session in Jeddah and a full race. So probably there were things there in Jeddah that I could have learned through quali that I could have applied today that I couldn't apply in Q3. And the car surprised me in a couple of corners once we started to crank in the flap. And yeah, it wasn't the cleanest of laps. But as I said, if you would have told me even five days ago that I travelled here still recovering, that I could be on the grid and fighting for pole, I would have taken it.

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Second placed qualifier Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari and Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing talk in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 23, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Q: Alright. And where are you looking tomorrow? How high are you aiming? Do you think you can beat Max?

CS: I think nowadays you need to be 100% to beat Max and today I wasn't. And probably due to that, I missed out on pole. I think today if I would have done 100% good job, pole position could have been possible. And if I would have felt 100% and I would have done Jeddah, I think that 59 was achievable with the way I was driving. and the way I felt in the car, and tomorrow will be the same. I need to be 100% to beat Max. I will give it my absolute everything to do it because it's been a while since Singapore, and he's been on that top step since. But yeah, if there's one weekend where we have a good pace, it's this one. Tricky track to overtake, tricky on tyres. So who knows? I think we might have a chance.

Q: Alright. Well, best of luck and well done today. And Checo, coming to you now. Very close to making it a Red Bull 1-2 on the grid. Just talk us through what happened at the end of Q3 there.

SP: Yeah, got my full lap in place. I think I messed up a bit in Sector 1. And I think there was a little bit more in it. I think it's been a very tricky qualifying with the tyres, just getting the best out of them and through the lap. In all different sectors the requirements seem to be very different, sector to sector. So I think overall, yeah, I think definitely P2 was achievable today, but I think Max, the lap he did was quite strong. But I'm not too concerned. I think it's going to be a long race tomorrow. Degradation is going to be very high. So I think as long as we are able to have good pace in the race, we should be able to come through.

Q: Max said a moment ago that it hasn't been an easy weekend for him, dialling in the car with various issues. How's it been on your side of the garage?

SP: It hasn't been a straightforward weekend. I think we've been playing around with where we started on the base set-up and where we ended up. We've changed quite a bit. Just chasing the balance, chasing trying to have the degradation for tomorrow. We've done some bits and we'll see what we are able to do. If the things we've done will have an impact on degradation tomorrow.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Luke Smith - The Athletic) Max, a question for you about the tickles you made to your car through qualifying. Was it pretty much standard in terms of making adjustments to the set-up as you're going through the session? Was it slightly more than normal as you're trying to find that sweet spot? How much have you guys been chasing things a bit more this weekend?

MV: Yeah, quite a bit more than I would have liked, of course. And the same in qualifying. I think Q1 and Q2 was still quite difficult for me. But yeah, we just tried to fine-tune little things that we could throughout qualifying, and they made that little difference to push a bit harder.

Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Diairio AS) Question for Carlos. What kind of race do you imagine tomorrow from second place? And is it a problem not to have your teammate close to you, Charles, starting fifth instead of fourth or even third?

CS: I haven't thought about it, to be honest. I haven't given it too much of a thought. I was just going through quali there in my head rather than going through tomorrow. But, well, first of all, it's high degradation in Medium compound. obviously the Hard hasn't been touched yet by many teams or by anyone really, so there's a lot of unknowns going into tomorrow. The biggest thing we saw is that it's very easy to grain the Medium tyre. So being in traffic behind the Red Bull might not be the best for that tyre. And then let's see how the Hard behaves, if the Hard is a good tyre or not. But for sure, having two cars is always better than one. But the race pace today and yesterday has been good enough to make me believe that if I'm feeling good tomorrow, I can give it a run for the win. If not, we will have to keep learning and keep seeing how we can keep getting closer to Max, obviously leaving everything to see how I feel also during the race physical-wise.

Q: Carlos, you referred a couple of times now to how you feel tomorrow. What can you do between now and the start of the grand prix to make yourself feel better? Can you give us any insight?

CS: Keep doing what I've been doing up until now, which is working and it's helping me to be here today. What I've been up to over the last few days, I'll let you know maybe after the weekend. But I can tell you it's been a lot of things. And yeah, I'll let you know later in the weekend or after the weekend. But keep doing what I've been doing up until now that this allowed me to be here.

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Carlos, you talked about weird feelings. Can you describe a little bit more what physically you're going through after the operation when you're in the car?

CS: Yeah. Without going into too much detail, as I said, I feel like… It's exactly what Alex told me before jumping in the car. He said when he got his appendix removed, just with the G-Force, everything in the inside just feels like it's moving more than normal and you need some confidence to brace the core and the body as you used to do before, but you get used to it. It's something that you... There is no pain. There is nothing to worry about. It's just a weird feeling that you have to get used to while driving, especially these circuits. We're pulling 5 or 6 Gs in some of the brakings and some of the corners. So yeah, obviously, everything is moving. But as I said, without pain, and I can deal with it, and I can adapt to it also.

Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) Question for all three, please. I just want to ask a little bit about that kind of transition from FP3 to qualifying, because it seemed in that session, you guys particularly were sort of struggling to, I guess, improve on the softs relative to the mediums. So what was it that you kind of found during that interim process that gave you a little bit more confidence going into qualifying?

MV: The track was also a bit warmer compared to FP3. So naturally, the track is also a bit slower to start with. Probably also with all the other categories driving, it takes a few laps before our rubber is put down again fully. And that then gives you a bit more grip, I guess.

CS: I was very happy with the Medium tyre this morning, particularly in the high-speed corner. The Soft is a tyre that I just cannot drive with full confidence and keeps surprising me, with the front saturating and the rear giving you snaps because the carcass is just, I think, too soft for my liking. So yeah, it was actually nearly P1 on the Medium. So if you would have given me four sets of Mediums for quali, maybe I would have taken them. But yeah, come quali with a higher track temp, as Max said, You can do a lap time in the low speed with a Soft and then in the high speed survive with not a lot of confidence, but survive. It actually cost me in the Q3 lap that moment in 9 and 10.

SP: Yeah, I think it's mainly the Soft tyre is quite tricky. I think it's really soft for this track. So I think when you are on the Medium, you feel more comfortable. You can push pretty much throughout the lap. And on the Soft, it always feels like a bit of survival mode, a bit of tyre management. If you take too much out of the tyre in a corner, then it can easily make you lose a lot of lap time for the next corner.

Q: (Dominic Criniti – SEN Radio) Question for Max. Considering the way last year's race ended, do you have any extra motivation this year to put on a bit of a statement performance?

MV: Why?

Q: Q: (Dominic Criniti – SEN Radio) Because of the way the race ended last year?

MV: A win is a win. It doesn't matter, right? But it was just a bit messy last year with too many red flags. So let's just hope that that is not the case this year and that we can have a good race in general because I think the fans, they deserve that. It's always a great race to be at. And yeah, I do think that it can be an interesting race tomorrow.

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