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FIA post-qualifying press conference – Miami

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MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 04: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red

DRIVERS

1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), 2 – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), 3 – Carlos SAINZ (Ferrari)

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Here with your pole sitter, Max Verstappen. Max, 38th career pole, six out of six for the season in Grand Prix qualifying. Great start to this weekend. Well, not start, you've already started! You've already done very well so far. But yesterday, you were surprised in qualifying to get the pole based on how the car felt. Did it feel a little bit better today? It looks pretty hooked up?

Max VERSTAPPEN: I think we definitely improved the car a bit, but I don't know what it is, every single year that we come here, I find it extremely difficult to be very consistent with the car feeling, the tyre feeling over one lap. It's just super hard to make sure that Sector 1 feels good and sector three at the end of the lap. To make that happen together is incredibly tough. And again, today, it was really about finding that balance. I think we did OK. I mean, it's not, let's say, the most enjoyable lap out of my career just because of how slippery it is and how, like… You're not very confident on the lap. But we are on pole, and that's, of course, the most important.

Q: You controlled the Sprint race from the front, had a decent gap at the finish, but you even said maybe not the best car. Do you think you've improved it in race trim as well?

MV: It definitely feels a little bit more under control, which I was looking for. So hopefully that will help us out tomorrow, but we'll find out.

Q: Start obviously super key here. Charles got a pretty good launch. Have you looked at the start from the Sprint race? Are you going to change anything for tomorrow?

MV: Yeah, I think we know what we did wrong, what I did wrong as well, so I'm sure that if I do my things correctly and we're just very good with what we have been doing in the last few starts, then normally it should be all right.

Q: Well, congratulations. Best of luck. Charles P2, another front-row start this weekend. Same front row as we saw in the Sprint race, but the car looks on the absolute ragged edge out there. How did it feel from in the cockpit? Did you leave anything on the table?

Charles LECLERC: It felt so much on the limit. Obviously, it was very close until Q3, where when we started to push for the last one or two tenths, we started to lose the tyres in Sector 2 and 3, overheating them quite a bit. Sector 1 was actually feeling really good, but then Sector 2 and 3 we were losing too much. So today, that's where we lost a little bit of time. However, the race is long tomorrow. This morning we showed a good pace. So I hope tomorrow we can put Max under a bit more pressure.

Q: Well, you had a great start this morning in the Sprint race, got alongside him, nearly got that position in the first turn. Is that, you think, your best opportunity to try to get in front off the start and really control the pace from there?

CL: Yeah, this and keeping the DRS if we don't get past by Turn 1. DRS is super powerful here. And if we lose it after the first lap, then it's always difficult to come back within DRS. So we must not lose it. But first of all, there will be the start. This morning we had a good one. And tomorrow I'll try to have an even better one.

Q: Alright. Best of luck tomorrow. Congratulations on another front row start for Ferrari here in Miami. Third place team-mate Carlos Sainz walks up to the cheers of the crowd. Carlos, congrats. Inside row two. Decent step up from Sprint qualifying. How'd the car feel out there?

Carlos SAINZ: Yeah, honestly, a bit of a shame about this morning. I couldn't get past Daniel, but I know that the pace was there. I knew that with a clean quali, I could be in the top three. And yeah, we managed to do some clean laps. It's really tricky around here with the new Soft. Every lap is a bit of an adventure with the wind. You don't know what's going to happen. And keeping all this in mind, the laps were not too bad.

Q: You say the wind is an issue here. Also, the temperature is very hot out there. Are you guys concerned at all about tomorrow from inside the cockpit and also from just taking care of the tyres?

CS: Yeah, it's just that you always finish the lap and you feel like you could have gone so much faster having a cleaner lap. But it's almost impossible to put a perfect, clean lap around here. There's always one place where you slide, one place where you overheat the tyre, one place where the wind hits you different and you start struggling. So it's a very tricky balance, very tricky track to drive and uh yeah that's why being P3, clean side of the road for tomorrow might be a good place to start.

Q: The fans here in Miami, big cheers as you walked up here. What's it like racing in front of this crowd?

CS: Yeah it's amazing, like always in Miami really. Every time we come, every year the fans have really good energy, they give us good vibes and we enjoy coming here a lot.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Congratulations, Max. It was tight at the front between you and Charles in particular. Just how satisfied were you with how Q3 played out?

MV: I think It has just been extremely difficult to put a lap in where everything just works. For some reason it's just extremely difficult to make the tyres work around the whole lap. Yeah, sometimes you have little moments here and there and it's just not very consistent, let's say it like that. And that makes it very difficult to, let's say, try and hit a perfect lap. So every lap that you put on the board was a bit of guessing what was going to happen, which doesn't make it very nice to drive. But I think we handled the situation well. We did the best we could and the car definitely felt a little bit nicer compared to yesterday.

Q: Is the track more unpredictable this year than last year? Because pole is slower this year.

MV: No, I think it's quite warm, but also it is very slippery around here. The tyres don't really seem to work that well. When you combine those things, it just makes it really tricky.

Q: Were you happier with the car in this qualifying session than you were in Sprint quali yesterday?

MV: Yeah, it definitely felt a bit more connected, let's say it like that, a bit more predictable, which hopefully will help me tomorrow in the race.

Q: Let's briefly talk about the race. You've got both Ferraris immediately behind. Does that make the race potentially more complicated for you?

MV: Honestly, the only thing that we can control is within ourselves. So that's what we'll focus on. As long as I'm happy with my balance in the race, I think we'll be alright. Yeah, it just needs to be a bit better than what we had today in the race. I think if we can achieve something like that, that we're in a bit of a happier window, then I'm sure we'll be quick.

MV: Alright. Good luck. Thanks for that. Charles, let's come to you now. Two front-row starts for you this weekend. How happy are you with your car?

CL: Happy. I mean, I didn't change much of it since this morning. A little bit of fine-tuning, but all in all, we were quite in a good place. However, as Max said, it's extremely tricky to put a lap together. Tyres, especially in the second sector, are very inconsistent. And there are quite a few corners where you don't really know what you're going to get. And that makes it very, very difficult. So it was a very tricky qualifying. But second is not a bad place to start the race.

Q: What about that second lap in Q3? Talk us through that.

CL: I went all-in, but obviously it was a little bit too much. But at the end, I don't think many drivers, I think apart from Checo, the drivers at the front didn't really improve on that second timed lap, so I don't know if anything has changed wind-wise or whatsoever. But all in all, I think the first timed lap was pretty good. There were still some corners where I was not extremely happy but it was very, very difficult to put the tyres in the right window for the whole lap and I think that was the same for everybody.

Q: Charles, the Ferrari is more competitive here than it was in China a couple of weeks ago. Can you just try and explain why you think that is?

CL: It's a little bit of track characteristics. I think there are still things that are a little bit not understood yet. As in China, we were struggling mostly with the low-speed and here there are quite a few low-speed corners, but we seem to be stronger. So we'll look into it and try to understand, but we've got two very good examples and I'm sure that we'll manage to have conclusions very soon.

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MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 04: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Third placed qualifier Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari talk in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Miami at Miami International Autodrome on May 04, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Clive Rose - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Q: Alright, best of luck. Thank you for that. Carlos, coming to you now. How did the session pan out for you?

CS: Yeah, not bad. I made some progress compared to yesterday. And I had a better feeling with the car, which allowed me to push the limits a bit better. At the same time, same as these guys, you know, it was a bit of a lottery out there, putting a lap together was extremely difficult. You always end the lap feeling like you could have gone two or three tenths quicker if you clean it up, But you never actually get to clean it up because next lap you always do a small mistake here and there and you leave another two tenths. And also I think we all are left with the same frustrating kind of feeling, that it's extremely difficult to put a lap together. Overall, I think tight margins, good progress and a good position to start tomorrow.

Q: What about the race? Do you think you and Charles can be Max's equal in terms of performance tomorrow?

CS: I think when Max starts in front, it's always difficult to find ways to beat him. Having two cars is our best possible bet in trying to do that. And we will give it our best shot, knowing that is… Obviously, if you look at the last statistics, it's going to be extremely difficult, but we'll give it our best shot.

Q: Given the unpredictable nature of the laps today, do you think strategy-wise it'll be different to last year tomorrow?

CS: No, unfortunately, I think the tyre compounds are a bit on the conservative side for this Grand Prix. I think we could have done maybe with softer compounds and maybe a bit more strategy variability. So, yeah, I don't expect much differences to last year.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, on your second run in Q3, it looked like you were, I think, purple sector or quicker in the first sector, but obviously slower after that. Was there a particular moment you felt cost you or just, as you were saying, is the combination of everything and the tyres going away?

MV: It's just super unpredictable. It's quite frustrating. I mean, it's not really fun to drive like that. But, yeah, I can't tell you what went wrong because I did the same thing and then you come out of corners and you suddenly lose one tenth or whatever. I'm like, ‘alright? It's just a bit less grip’. It's just, you know, some qualifyings you go in saying ‘OK, I can improve here and there’. You know, the tyres are quite consistent and you can just push. Here it just feels like you have no idea really, like, what you're going to get. And that makes it really difficult. And yeah, I mean, my first sector was a little bit better, but then the middle sector, it just fell away from me again for whatever reason. And then I think I was quite equal into the last corner. So I just tried to brake a bit later, like a tiny front lock. And then you miss the momentum out of the corner. Yeah, that's what it is.

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sports) Charles, for you. At least from your on-track interviews so far today, you sounded a bit more optimistic about beating Max in the race, or at least challenging him, than you have done so far this year. But he's walked every single race this year that he's finished. So, why?

CL: Just the Sprint race we were a little bit closer to what uh to what we normally see. However I also said that Max wasn't really happy with his car this morning in the Sprint race. So we need to see how much of a step forward he does tomorrow, being happier with the car. But as I said, we did some fine tuning on our side. We're also confident we did a step forward. so we'll see. But if we have a similar pace like we've seen this morning then I think with strategy you can always put a bit more a bit more pressure. And I hope that is the case. We've got the two cars in the front, so it's a good opportunity.

Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Diario AS) A question for the two Ferrari drivers. What do you think about the first corner here, about the start? In China, you two lost two places each. And also this morning, the start was a bit messy. So do you think the first corner is a place to put Max under pressure, or maybe the race is way longer than the start?

CL: I mean, the first corner is obviously always important. And Max has a very strong race pace. So yeah, it's definitely an opportunity to attack. But that's only if there is an opportunity to attack. This morning, there was. I didn’t make the pass. Tomorrow, if we manage to make it, then I will be happy. And if not, we'll be a bit more patient and try to keep those tyres to attack later on. CS: Same. I think I almost suffered a bit the consequences of that tough start here in the Sprint. I did a really, really good start, and I nearly overtook Checo and Daniel, but then I think Checo overdid it in Turn 1 and it cost us both a position. So, yeah, I think there's things that can happen, although I think over the last few years it is true that everyone seems to be getting away at the start. It's very similar. There's no more the differences that you could see in the past. I think everyone more or less gets off the line at the same pace, you know, and it's difficult to make the difference there.

Q: (Dan Lawrence – Motorsport Monday) Question for Carlos. In the Sprint, obviously, you got stuck behind Daniel there. It was difficult to pass. With the opening of Parc Fermé between Sprint and Grand Prix qualifying, have you found anything in the car that could perhaps help you sort of maybe fight and make more moves in the race?

CS: No. Unfortunately, no. I think it's a matter of a trade, you know, that you choose between downforce, power unit settings, etc. I think Daniel and Honda this weekend, they seem to have a lot of acceleration out of the low-speed corners and this was allowing them to be a very tough car to overtake. You could see that Checo on the Honda power unit managed to more or less make it stick. Obviously, they are also a bit more friendly to the Red Bulls than they are to the Ferraris because of obvious reasons. But apart from that, yeah, it was honestly very tricky. The only thing missing there was the mistake yesterday in the Sprint quali that made me start behind Daniel in the race. And when you put the compromises for set-up you don't expect to start behind an RB. So tomorrow we're starting in a more of a normal place and we'll fight people with similar downforce levels to us and similar top speed levels. And yeah, this move should make it better.

Q: (Rodrigo França – Car Magazine, Brazil) Question to the three drivers. Do you drivers feel that you get more attention in the US? Do you think Formula 1 is getting more popular in the United States since you begin the career in Formula 1, comparing the last years?

MV: For sure. I mean, compared to 2015, I think it has grown a lot. I think if you compare it to the population they have, it's still very, very low. But for sure we get, yeah, recognised a lot more. I prefer, of course, that I was not known. but no, it's good. I mean the fan atmosphere is great. You can see it's a lot busier in the cities. I mean, our prime example is of course Austin, you know. From 2015 to now it's definitely a lot busier, a lot more fans in town, recognising you in the hotels as well and that's great for the sport.

CL: Yeah, not much to add. I mean, obviously, it has changed quite a bit since my first years in 2018. It's good to see. I thought you were speaking about tension or pressure. Yeah, for us, it doesn't change much. If anything, there's, as Max said, still a little bit less. It's not like Europe, let's say, but it's growing, which is nice.

Q: What's been the fan reaction to the blue?

CL: I think everybody expected more blue on the car, but I think everybody loved the actual kit, which is great, but to me a Ferrari should be red, so I'm happy it's not an all-blue car.

CS: Yeah, same. I think it's great to see the sport growing in the US. It's not the only place where it's growing. I was very impressed with China. After five years without going to China, you really can feel the difference, you know, last weekend out in Shanghai, the difference between China five years ago to China now, the amount of fans there were and how involved they were with the sport is unbelievable. And the US is more progressive because we are growing, I think, in a more progressive way. And it's great to see. Yeah, sometimes in the cities, it gets a bit hectic, like Max was saying, or coming into a track. But it's a price that you pay for maybe being a bit more recognised, a bit more famous, which is yeah, a good problem to have for the sport.

Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) It's a question to Max about the unpredictability. Do you have a clue what is the main factor behind it? Is it just a unique layout of the circuit? I remember last year you talked about the Mickey Mouse section of the track. Or is it that the tyres we have nowadays are just not suitable for this condition? And the second part of the question, do you agree with Carlos that the tyree choice is a bit too conservative for this weekend?

MV: I think it's everything. So the track, the tyres, the car, the weather… Yeah, it's just very low grip. Yeah, they overheat very quickly for whatever reason. Yeah, I think they are conservative. But at the same time, we're already overheating, which, yeah… I mean, I would like a bit more races like two stops, three stops. I think it's a lot more fun than having a straightforward one-stop. It's not really that challenging, I think, also for the teams and drivers also. So yeah, when you have a race like in China, you can do a two-stop. I think it just opens up a bit more flexibility in the pit windows and it's a lot more fun. Maybe we could try to go softer, but we have to speak to Pirelli about that. I don't know if they want to do that. It's a lot of things that come together that make it very tricky around here. I think the cornering speeds are also super low. So if your tyre is a little bit out of the window and you slide a little bit, you lose immediately a lot of lap time in the low-speed corners. So yeah if we would have a few more fast corners that would be in general I think always a bit more preferred.

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