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FIA post-qualifying press conference – Saudi Arabia

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Leclerc -

DRIVERS

1 – Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull), 2 – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), 3 – Carlos SAINZ (Ferrari)

TRACK INTERVIEWS

(Conducted by Johnny Herbert)

Q: Well, Sergio Pérez pole position here in Saudi Arabia. How does that feel?

SERGIO PÉREZ: Well, it took me a couple of races, but what a lap, man. Unbelievable. I could do 1000 laps and I don't think I could beat that lap. It was unbelievable.

Q: And you’ve got to be happy for tomorrow because you're in the perfect position.

SP: Yeah, we weren't really expecting to match the Ferraris in qualifying we were focusing mainly into the race, so hopefully we get them tomorrow.

Q: Charles Leclerc, second, how are you feeling after that lap?

Charles LECLERC: The lap felt good honestly. I'm very happy with the lap. All qualifying it was all about just keeping it on track and not doing any mistakes, which would have been very costly, and then in Q3 in a second lap, I just went for it and I more or less put everything together. There's a bit here and there, but, yeah, I definitely did not expect Checo to come with that lap time, so congratulations to him. And I'm pretty sure he did an incredible job today.

Q: Another day tomorrow, eh?

CL: Yeah, it's another day tomorrow and hopefully we'll have a good start.

Q: Carlos, third position, how was the lap?

CL: The lap for P3 was pretty good. It was on a used tyre because a used tyre for some reason this weekend is giving me a better feeling. The new tyre for me is very digital, very tricky to handle. And when I went on new for the last run of Q3, I just didn't have any rear grip and I struggled, so for a used tyre it wasn't that bad. But again, Checo and Charles beat me by a little, so it's still OK.

Q: It's going to be a great race tomorrow, eh?

CS: It's going be exciting. All four cars mixed up, between the Ferraris and the Red Bulls, so we will play around I think with each other with strategy and passes, which should be an exciting race.

PRESS CONFEERENCE

Q: Many congratulations to the top three qualifiers for the FIA Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. In third place, Carlos Sainz. In second place. Charles Leclerc. And taking the first pole position of his Formula 1 career, our polesitter, Sergio Pérez. Checo, it's been a while. This is start number 215. Many congratulations. First up. How do you feel?

SP: Yeah, first of all, I have to say, well done to the whole team. It's been a tough weekend in Bahrain, where we were so disappointed to miss both cars. But the team didn't put their heads down and we kept pushing. We felt we were not as strong as we feel we're going to be in the race. So it's already a very good sign to be on pole. And yeah, overall, I think it was so difficult this qualifying because if you remember, in Q2, we stopped like for half an hour and just keeping your head, keeping in focus. It's quite difficult and it's a lot of time that you have to stay focused to be thinking what you have to do to make sure you put that perfect lap and I put it when it mattered. I mean, I can do another 1000 laps, and I don't think I can improve this lap time.

Q: It was a 57 minute delay, Checo. But does it mean even more to you to get this first pole on such a demanding street track?

SP: Definitely. I think there is no other circuit like this. If I can get pole here, I can get pole anywhere in the world. So this is definitely the most demanding place to get the perfect lap, you know, the level of risk, the level of precision you’ve got to have around this place is just tremendous.

Q: And you were third fastest after the first runs of Q3. Where did you find the extra time?

SP: I think the amount of risk that I had to take, you know, but I think risk together with precision, you know, just nailing it on all the entries. But the level of risk was extremely high. It could very easily go on.

Q: Well, many congratulations to you. Charles, coming to you now. First up, were you expecting that lap from Checo and Red Bull?

CL: No, I wasn't and fair play to Checo. It has to be an incredible lap because I knew I had done quite a good lap. And then Checo just came out and did better. So yeah, a great job to him. I struggled a bit more in the last sector and I think the risk that he took have probably paid at the end.

Q: What about your preparations for the race tomorrow? Do you feel you've got a good race car underneath?

CL: Yes, I think we do. I think it's very strange because we're actually quicker with the use tyres than the new tyres and we need to understand that as a team, just to be a bit better prepared for next race with these new tyres, and to put them in the right window. But overall, I think for the race tomorrow, I'm quite confident. I think we were quick this morning during the race simulation. So yeah, pretty confident for tomorrow.

Q: Carlos coming to you. Well done to you as well. Fastest in Q1 and Q2 and the first runs of Q3. Did you think pole was on?

CS: I thought pole was on, yeah after probably the first run of Q3, because I knew that I had done the lab on the used tyre in Q3 because this weekend, for some reason, as Charles said, I feel a lot better with a used tyre than what I what I feel with a new tyre, which in the end, probably it has cost me pole position, doing my fastest lap of qualifying in Q3, run one with a used that is giving me a better feeling, and not being able to improve on a new, is just what I need to dig into with the team and see why these new tyre is giving us those extra snaps of oversteer in high speed, that in the end, they take out a lot of confidence and they don't allow you to improve on lap time. So, overall, quite pleased because I've been there or thereabouts again the whole quali – but in the end it’s fair play to Checo for that mega lap that he did, and obviously to Charles for nearly beating him. So, all good.

Q: As you say, still a bit to dig into, as far as the tyres are concerned but are you happier with the car this weekend than you were in Bahrain?

CS: I've been trying a lot of different things, particularly Friday, I played with the setup around a lot more than maybe I would do on a normal Friday, just to explore a bit the car. So now, for me, the Friday's are going to be a bit more in that side: experimental – to try to understand the car and try to put it a bit more to my liking. And then for Quali, I just put everything together, to be quite strong. And I felt like, yeah, probably this weekend, particularly in qualifying, I felt even stronger than Bahrain. Now I need to see in this pace I can replicate tomorrow in the race, which should be possible and yeah, I'm excited to see what progress we've done.

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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 26: Pole position qualifier Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 26, 2022 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) A question to all three drivers. This week's Stefano Domenicali has said there's potentially 30 circuits that could be on, as part of a 24-race calendar. So, given the crashes seem today, the events of the past 24 hours, should this circuit be one of the ones that is kept?

SP: Well, I think it's something that makes no sense, you know, to waste any energy on that. At the moment, we are just done qualifying. I think there's definitely some considerations that we will have to do as a group and see what's best for the sport going forwards.

CL: Yeah, I agree. I don't want to go too much into details on this subject now, but it's definitely a discussion that we should have after this race, once everything calms down and we'll look back at it, and then we'll see.

CS: I agree. I think there will need to be discussions after this race. Because clearly what has happened in the last 24 hours is… is definitely a point of discussion and considerations that we need to take going into the future.

Q: (Jérémy Satis – AutoHebdo) How difficult was it to handle such a long interruption, after Mick’s crash in Q2. For all three drivers.

CL: Yeah, it was, it was very tricky because, especially on a street circuit, it's all about building up to that last lap in Q3 and actually putting everything together in Q3, and all the laps before are just useful for the driver to just push a little bit more the limit every time, but then with such a big break, it’s a bit like a reset. So, then you need to restart this build-up. So yeah, it was it was it was definitely tricky to then go on it, straight away out of the box.

CS: Yeah, I didn't realise that it was nearly an hour. I stayed in the car and probably should have jumped out because I was for one hour in the car doing nothing. I stayed there just waiting. I thought it was going to be shorter.

CL: I think we’re the only two staying in the car!

CS: I feel like stepping out of the car is not good because I feel like I disconnect when I jump out of the car, and I prefer to stay in – but probably this time was a bit too long for staying in. And I took off the helmet at some point, just to get some fresh air. But apart from that, tough. Yes, of course tough because, as Charles said, in a street circuit, it’s all about the warm-up and the build-up. And all of a sudden, to have an hour break is like, hmmm… yeah, go and find the walls again. And the eyes need to adapt to the speeds that we do. You guys need to think that we're going to 300kph in between walls and the eye and the reflexes adapt to that. So yeah, it was a tough situation but we are Formula 1 drivers and we just go out and do it I guess.

Q: Checo, these guys stayed in their cars. What did you do?

SP: I went out and…

CS: …Couple of tequila shots and pole position!

SP: …couple of tequila shots and put it on pole!

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade - Sportskeeda) Checo, for tomorrow’s race, how do you think your race pace is compared to the Ferrari drivers. And to all three drivers, do you think the circuit needs further tweaks, given today’s incidents?

SP: I think it's definitely the most dangerous place in the calendar. That's no secret about it. It’s a circuit that really demands a lot from the drivers, from the cars, from the teams. If you get it wrong, it can be a huge accident. I feel like, I don't know if there's something we can do into [Turns] 22 and 23, because those are really high-speed sections. And it's more about the going into the race, but I think it's the same after qualifying. The last thing I want to think is about the track, and I think going forwards it’s again a discussion. In all fairness, they've done a good effort in couple of months to change a bit the circuit.

Q: Checo, before we move on your race pace, as well?

SP: We've been focusing more on race pace than qualifying. We've we felt that we've given away some qualifying performance to gain it in the race but obviously we're going to see tomorrow. I expect these two are going to be very strong but I really hope that we can have a strong race tomorrow.

CL: Yeah, it is a very challenging place. It is one of the reasons why I like this track but I still believe that there are things that we can do to improve some places. The first sector is obviously extremely high speed and it can be quite, well, very tricky in some places, as we've seen with Mick now so maybe there are few things that we can change for the future. But it is a very challenging track and I can't hide also the excitement that I have driving on this track, especially on a qualifying lap. It feels amazing. But yeah, safety comes first and maybe we can do something more there.

CS: Yeah, I'm also a bit in two minds now because in one way, I love the adrenaline rush that our qualifying lap gives you around here. But at the same time, you know that here if you crash it probably hurts a bit more than in any other place in the calendar because the walls are closer and the speed is higher. Probably we are as drivers, we are very confident around here. Just because we know that the safety of the cockpit nowadays is very high and this gives us the… you know when you see an accident like Mick’s gives us a bit the tranquility that even at those speeds, the car is protecting you because the FIA has done a great job in giving us very safe cockpits. But at the same time, is it really worth it? Having that huge accident when you can maybe hopefully push the walls a bit more further out and gives us a bit more space to slow down the car if we lose it like Mick lost it today. It's a discussion that we need to have because it's probably a bit on the limit. And it's exciting for Formula 1. It's exciting for us, but it's also on the limit.

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) This is for all three drivers. Yesterday, you spent four hours in a meeting. It seems that there were concerns about the safety of the race. How close did you come to asking the race to be called off? And people have been talking about being given reassurances. How can they give you reassurances when if a missile can hit an oil refinery, you would expect it could also be able to hit a track nine miles away?

CL: I think we don't really want to go into details about what we discussed there. I think it was more of a matter of just coming together as drivers, share our opinions, our feelings at that moment because obviously it was a… it's a tricky moment to say the least. And yeah, and I think it was very useful for all of us to speak about this all together. And as it is a tricky matter, obviously, it took quite a bit of time. But there was yeah, I think it's normal in those situations. Now we are here anyway. And I think we have to listen to the people that are taking care about the security here. And we have to trust them. So yeah, I don't really know what to say more.

SP: Yeah, definitely we discussed and we were concerned about our safety, but also the safety of our mechanics, engineers, everyone in here. But obviously, there is so much we know as drivers so it was just important. We got all together at the end of the day, this is our sport and we are all in it together. And yeah, we felt that the right thing was to go ahead and just race and like Charles says, there is not a lot of detail to be said.

CS: Yeah, not a lot to add. Probably those same questions that Andrew was asking himself, we were also asking to ourselves yesterday night, and we were discussing all these matters between us moving forward. Obviously, considering all the possible scenarios, but in the end, as drivers, we all came together, you need to think that it's 20 of us with 20 opinions, 20 considerations, 20 different people talking so it's always going to take a long time. And in the end, we all concluded that probably the best way to move forward is to listen to the authorities here, trust them and there's not much more that we can do. But, yeah, everything was clear at the end. And I think it's time to focus on the race. It's time to focus enough on the Formula 1 race that we need to do in the next couple of days and there will be plenty to discuss in the future.

Q: (Beatrice Zamuner – Funoanalisitecnica.com) Charles, actually given that yesterday you could not complete your high fuel simulation due to the mistake you made, how much do you think this is going to impact your race?

CL: Well, we changed a little bit our programme this morning in FP3 and we managed to do some few laps in high fuel which I think went well so I don't think it will impact us that much.

Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Diario AS) Carlos, what do you expect here about the start with Charles in front and Max right at the back? How good or neutral is the clean side here? And how confident do you feel with this procedure so far with this car?

CS: Yeah, I expect an exciting start. Honestly, Checo in front, Max behind, Red Bulls on the dirty side, us on the clean side but at the same time here in this tarmac, there's so much grip, clean or dirty side I don't think makes much of a difference. I think it’s just going to be an exciting race. And I look forward to it. I think it's a great battle and to have two cars in one tenth and a half, two tenths like we saw today. And I think it's great for Formula 1 to have all four drivers just battling it out there. And I think we all have good respect for each other.

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