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FIA post-qualifying press conference – China

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 20: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle

DRIVERS

1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), 2 – Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull Racing), 3 – Fernando ALONSO (Aston Martin)

TRACK INTERVIEWS
(Conducted by Ho-Pin Tung)

Q: Max, your fifth pole position of the season. The 100th pole position for Red Bull Racing. You kept going faster throughout the session. How was your lap, it looked amazing?

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, I think, you know, after the Sprint race it gave us a few more ideas for the car. And I think the car worked even better in qualifying now. So yeah, definitely very happy with how the whole of qualifying went. The car was really nice to drive. And also in Q3, I think that final lap felt really decent, and also very happy to be able to drive here in the dry. Yeah, the conditions were pretty good. So it was a lot of fun.

Q: We saw a lot of track evolution throughout the session. Can you explain and share how difficult is it to adapt to these changing conditions?

MV: I think also coming out of a race, when you then go back to low fuel, it probably takes always one lap to get comfortable again. Plus, and of course, new tyres are getting put on every single time, so you know a bit where you can find a little bit more in every single corner, you know, little references. And also, because yesterday we had a bit of rain, we had extra sets of tyres, so you could practice a bit more. And that's why I think every time… Besides I think only my first one in Q3 every time we were going a bit faster. I think the track evolution wasn't that massive around here, but that's fine.

Q: Checo, the Red Bull clearly feels at home here in Shanghai, please share with us how was your qualifying?

Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, it was very intense. I nearly got knocked out in Q1. I had traffic with one of the Williams and I had to abort my lap. I came back, go back out on hot, used tyres and just made it through, P15. It was just a very messy start to qualifying. And then Q2 was a little bit more straightforward. I could really get a read into the balance. And we were making some nice progress through the session. And yeah, unfortunately there in the end, it was just not enough to get Max but overall it's a tremendous team result because the track has changed a lot. We changed a lot the car as well to adapt to the conditions. So hopefully that will also pay out tomorrow.

Q: It was just not enough to catch Max in qualifying. This morning in the Sprint you had to come from further back. How confident are you from this position that you can fight him tomorrow?

SP: Yeah, I think it's everything to play for tomorrow. We can be fighting from there. And we can definitely have a strong rhythm. And we've shown today that we have a fairly good pace in the long run. So I look forward for tomorrow.

Q: Fernando, perhaps after disappointment from the Sprint, this must feel amazing. You didn't get your best personal Sector 1 on that lap. Would more have been possible?

Fernando ALONSO: Yeah. I mean, I don't know how far [ahead] Checo is. But yeah, Sector 1, I had a moment in Turn 1 and 2, I nearly lost the car. And then I said, ‘Okay, I keep going or I abort the lap?’, you know, because I lost like two tenths in two corners. But yeah, we didn't give up. We kept pushing all through the lap. Yeah, we said a good lap time. I think the car did improve since this morning. We made a few set-up changes. Let's see tomorrow if we can translate that into points.

Q: How beneficial has this parc fermé opening been for you? And how confident are you that you can translate it into good results tomorrow for the race?

FA: Well, I think it's the same for everybody. You cannot change the car completely because you are into the rhythm of the weekend. But you can still make some small set-up changes. Some of them are just for balance problems, but some of them are just guesses that you do into tomorrow's race and you flip the coin. So until tomorrow afternoon we will not know the answer but extremely happy and proud of the team. We are not giving up, we are not in the position we want yet, but we keep pushing.

Q: Fernando, a lot of crowds cheering for you here. You are immensely popular here in China. Anything you want to share with the Chinese fans?

FA: This is incredible, honestly. One of the best races of the year. Thanks to the fans, you know, they are so enthusiastic about the sport in general and they're so supportive of every driver on every team. So thank you, xièxiè, and see you tomorrow.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Very well done Max, quickest in every segment of qualifying. It looked like a very smooth session for you, but can you talk us through that final lap of Q3 when you found three tenths?

MV: Yeah, it was a bit confusing in Q3 where on the first run I went slower than in Q2. It might have been the wind, because it’s very difficult to understand that anyway. Around here with the wind direction it’s very sensitive to the balance of the car. But yeah, then for the final run I didn’t really know what to expect, but you just push on and everything just came a bit together, the grip felt a little bit more normal and I managed to improve, That was very nice. I think overall, the whole of qualifying I was very happy with the car, it felt very well balanced as well, so of course naturally then you can push on and that was crucial to being on pole today.

Q: You mentioned the wind, but how did the track conditions ramp up during the session?

MV: For me personally, it didn’t really feel like there was a massive track evolution. Q1 maybe a little bit but also partly I guess because you come out of a race with a lot of deg, where then you put new tyres on, low fuel, you have to get into it a little bit as well, on your own side as well. But from Q2 to Q3 it was very little.

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 20: Third placed qualifier Fernando Alonso of Spain and Aston Martin F1 Team and Second placed qualifier Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing talk in parc ferme after qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 20, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Q: Max, you’ve said in the past that you’re not a man for statistics but I want to throw a couple at you. You’re the first driver since Mika Häkkinen in 1999 to take pole in the opening five races of the season and this was Red Bull’s 100th pole position in the team’s history as well. Can we get your reaction to both of those stats?

MV: Yeah, before I jumped in the car, Christian told me that if I get pole today it could be number 100 for the team. So I said “OK, that’s nice, I’ll try, you know, I’ll give it a good go’. Of course, that’s an incredible achievement for the whole team. Of course a big contribution from Seb, back in the day. But yeah fantastic to have the 1-2 in qualifying. It shows the car is again working really well and from my side it’s been a really good start to the year. I feel very confident in qualifying even compared to last year. Just a shame that we retired in Melbourne as we could have had already a very strong lead bit overall, still a great start.

Q: Max, looking ahead to tomorrow’s race, how did the 19-lap race this morning help your preparations?

MV: It definitely gave you a bit more of an idea with the deg, what to look at, what to work on for tomorrow. Of course, thew wind direction is going to change again tomorrow, so the balance of the car in some corners will be a bit different again, but I think if the car is even half as good as what it as in the Sprint I think we will be alright.

Q: Checo, coming to you. Great job by you as well, your best grid position here at the Shanghai International Circuit. You found a lot in that final run of Q3, just talk us through it?

SP: Yeah I didn’t have a good run in my first run of Q3, which really set me back. I don’t know what happened. Obviously tyres were a little bit cooler, but yeah, it was just a step worse. We were playing around with the front wing. So I felt like it just put us on the back foot for my final run. And then all of a sudden in the final run thing, the track was just getting quite a bit better and I managed to put a good lap together. And yeah, I think just all the way to that lap has been a very messy qualifying, starting from Q1. I nearly was knocked out and qualified 15th. I had traffic on my first attempt with a Williams and had to come back to the pits, so I was just out of position a lot of the time and unfortunately, you know, with a change of wind it was important to be out there at the right time to make sure that you get that progression, that learning from these new conditions.

Q: Did you change the car much after the Sprint?

SP: Yeah, we did a lot of changes, trying to adapt to the to the new conditions. Effectively, like Max says, the change in wind has been quite substantial. And I think given that it's quite a low-grip circuit, a bit of a change in the wind conditions does affect a lot more than probably other places. So, yeah, we learned a lot from the conditions earlier in the Sprint and we adjusted accordingly. So that was important for me to have a read on.

Q: You say you adjust accordingly, can you just give us a few pointers as to what areas of the car you are changing?

SP: Yeah, well, we did suffer a lot with a tyre deg, with rear deg especially. So yeah, just making sure that we were able to have a more stable platform was important. But obviously, that doesn't come for free, you know, and then you're making other compromises in different sort of corner speeds and yeah, I just couldn't get a good read through the conditions. I think my first proper lap was seen in Q2, run two. And yeah, then run one in Q3 was quite far off. So it wasn't the smoothest qualifying session out there. But it still is a good result for tomorrow.

Q: All's well, that ends well. Thank you, Checo, and Fernando we’ll come to you now. Great performance by you, just how good was that lap in Q3?

FA: It was very good, but not perfect. I had a moment Turn 1 and 2. I lost the car. And actually, in Turn 3, I was just thinking if it was better to abort the lap and come in, or keep on going. And I said I will brake very late into 6, try to recover that time. I recovered one tenth and I said, ‘OK, I keep going’. I recovered another tenth in Turns 9 and 10. And I said, ‘OK, now let's go for the final two corners’. And it was very much needed, because within two tenths there are like six cars, and we are leading that group of those two tenths, so happy with the lap, happy with qualifying. And these kind of laps and moments are very encouraging for the future. Happy for the team, proud of all of them. We never give up. We are not in a strong position yet, especially on race conditions, we are still maybe the fourth, fifth fastest team, but we still fighting to be better and better and today's result shows that.

Q: Can you just spell it out for us? Without that start to the lap, do you think you could have held on to that P2 that you had after the first run?

FA: I don't know. We just check now the times and it's like two tenths between Checo and myself. It’s more or less what I lost. So yeah, it will be close with Checo. But it doesn't change too much to be P2, P3. We are completely out of position for tomorrow with whatever position we are. I think seventh, eighth, ninth is our natural order tomorrow when we see the chequered flag, but we are qualifying extremely well this year and we’ll take it.

Q: You say P2, P3 doesn't really matter, but is the inside or the outside the preferable grid starting position here?

FA: I started P3 this morning, and it didn't seem to have a big difference actually. Lewis started P2 and had a great start, so I think both sides are the same. It's more into 1, 2, and 3, all the action, and hopefully a clean start and we can finish the race.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Diario AS) Fernando, what do you expect for the race tomorrow? Is it the classic race, looking into the mirrors until and you maybe get to your natural position? And also, you got a penalty one hour before quali. What's your comment on that?

FA: Yeah, I expect a difficult race. I mean, we are slower than the Ferraris, slower than the McLarens and probably the Mercedes. We are qualifying them often and then in the race we just need to wait and see. When they come, how fast they come and how many laps we can defend those positions. But it happened so far in the first four races, so I guess this fifth race is going to be no different. So yeah, I expect a race that is going to be difficult for us. But you know, we can’t say sorry for being too fast in qualifying, so let's take it. And then in in this morning, yeah, I received a penalty which obviously, I will not agree, but they have all the power to do what they think is is right and we have to accept it and move on.

Q: (Erwin Jaeggi – Motorsport.com) A question for all three. How do you feel the track development over the weekend, given the special treatment the asphalt has, has been?

MV: Not massive. I would say maybe in FP1 a bit. But for me the track evolution wasn't that big in qualifying also. I think some people thought that maybe after FP1 you would drive the, whatever, the paint off, but it's still there more or less so. Yeah, it's fairly stable, I would say.

Q: Checo agrees. Fernando?

FA: I think the biggest issue was in wet conditions, to be honest. It was very, very slippery. So hopefully tomorrow we have a dry race and I think it's going to be good.

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