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FIA post-qualifying press conference – Spain

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BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 22: 2nd placed qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red

1. Lando Norris (McLaren), 2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

TRACK INTERVIEWS

(Conducted by Marc Gene)

Q: Lando Norris, pole position.

Lando NORRIS: It was pretty much a perfect lap. You know you're on a good lap when you're getting excited but the whole thing went perfectly in the end. So, close, still, but super, super happy. One of my, I'd say, my best pole positions. I've not had many but out of the ones I've had, my best. We've been close all weekend, but really this was just about a perfect lap and that's what I did today. So it was cool, the fans and my supporters here are amazing, so a big thanks to everyone cheering me on.

Q: As you say, this is only your second pole position, but it looks like this weekend you were really one of the favourites. I mean, what is this that you are so fast this weekend, for your car and for yourself?

LN: It's not. I mean, it's not just this weekend. You know, we've been quick the last two months. Since Miami, we've been very strong. And we probably missed out on a pole by just not doing a perfect lap. And today was the perfect lap. So I would say Max and Red Bull seemed a little bit stronger all weekend than we did. But we made some changes for the final run. I had some little places to improve and I did exactly that. So, yeah, super happy to be on pole.

Q: And final question for tomorrow. Do you think you can convert that pole into a race win? Of course, I guess!

LN: That's our target, but I know it's going to be tough against Max, against Lewis and everyone behind, but we're here to win now, so that's my plan.

Q: Congratulations, enjoy it. Max, it was a very close battle. You've been on pole position more than anyone. You were having some difficulties this weekend, but again today you were very fast. Did you think you had a chance today to be on pole after Q1 and Q2?

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, I think in qualifying it was all coming together a bit nicer. The whole weekend we've been trying to find a bit of a connected balance because in all the practice sessions it was very difficult. So I was quite happy in qualifying. I mean, even in Q3 I got a nice little tow from Checo to Turn 1 to really extract everything we could and unfortunately it was just not enough. But that is how it goes sometimes. I think overall we can still be very happy with this performance in qualifying and it's definitely all to play for tomorrow.

Q: The slipstream was just chance or did you work for it? And then how much did the temperature affect things? Because it was much cooler this afternoon than this morning.

MV: Yeah, just by chance. I didn't even know initially where Checo was on the lap and then they told me where he was so I was like, ;I'll try to hang on to him’. And yeah, besides that, with the temperature, I do think it was a bit more fun in qualifying. But even I think throughout qualifying, the wind started to pick up a little bit. Maybe that made it a bit more difficult for us in Q3, but overall a good performance again in qualifying.

Q: You've been having an easy time in the past, now it's a bit more challenging. What do you prefer? The challenge that you have from your competitors or to have easy poles like in the past?

MV: You know, at the end of the day, they're never really easy poles because you're always in a battle with yourself. But, of course, now it's with more teams, and I think that is good for Formula 1 in general, and, of course, when it's always that close for a pole position, I think that's always great.

Q: Lewis Hamilton, you have a lot of supporters everywhere you go. Big crowd. Today, I guess you are happy to be P3. Were you expecting more? How happy are you with your lap and with your position for qualifying?

Lewis HAMILTON: I'm really happy. Firstly, thank you everyone. So, so happy to be here and super grateful to be up in the top three. It's been quite a difficult year so a huge amount of work from everyone back at the factory and finally we're starting to see those incremental steps moving closer to the guys ahead. I didn't expect us to be fighting for pole necessarily but every now and then it looked like there were bits there and maybe we'll be close and so to be there I'm just grateful.

Q: So can we say really that you've made, as a team, a big step in the last few grands prix? It looked like in Canada. That is a confirmation, I guess. That's a very demanding track.

LH: Yeah, we've made huge steps forwards. And it's really just down to every single individual back at the factory who's pushing in design, pushing in making the new parts that we get to bring as early as possible to these races. And slowly the car is crafting into a racing machine that we can hopefully fight the guys at the front. So George did a great job as well today. So hopefully tomorrow we can apply pressure on the two cars ahead.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Lando, what a moment for you. Just to begin with, how good does this feel?

LN: It feels great, yeah. I mean, poles always feel good, and it's the second one in my career. I mean, I've had two Sprint race poles, but I don't regard that at all as a pole position. So, yeah, this is the second one of my career. It's been a while since Sochi, all the way back then, so... Yeah, it feels great. I mean, it was an amazing lap. Honestly, it was my best lap by a long way. I pretty much put the whole lap together, so I got a nice slipstream. I think probably my best corner around the lap, every single part of it put together. Max was a bit ahead in Q1, Q2. I knew I had to kind of do something perfect in Q3 to do it. And that’s exactly what I did. So I'm pretty happy that I managed to pull off probably my best lap that I've done probably ever.

Q: You say it's your perfect lap. I was going to say, how many times in your career have you driven the perfect lap in qualifying?

LN: I mean, I'm probably going to get back and Jarv, my engineer, is going to tell me that I've messed something up, but I think it's so tricky nowadays, with the car and the tyres, and we're pushing so much, just to put everything together. You might be able to do half of it once and half of it another or mix it up, but to kind of put all of it right at that limit is very tricky and I'm sure every driver would say the same. So very rewarding when you do and when you do it and end up on pole because of it, it's even sweeter.

Q: You were there or thereabouts throughout practice. What were your expectations coming into this session? Did you always believe pole was on the cards?

LN: I think so. I mean, we're always close. I don't think any practice was split by more than a tenth between the top five. So I was expecting the same as that, and I think it was. Probably Max was always two and a half tenths ahead of everyone, both Q1 and Q2 in the runs we did. And we did three laps, you know, we did three runs, four runs in the end altogether. So you do four laps throughout the whole of qualifying. But every time was like missing a little bit to Max and a lot of it was high speed. So I knew for the final lap, I've got to go balls out and do it, you know. And I managed to get that little bit, like that, you know, 200ths, 300ths, 400ths that I was needing to get out of Max I managed to get. So I'm happy the risks paid off and for all of it to come together when I needed it most was great.

Q: Let's throw it forward to the Grand Prix. What are your biggest concerns going into this Grand Prix?

LN: I don't have any concerns. I mean I'm excited. It's a long run down to Turn 1. It's probably one of the places you don't want to start on pole, but it's an opportunity for us to go out and try and win a race you know. We've not done loads of long running. We've done a bit and I think we were close, as it always has been. I think tomorrow is not like this car is way quicker. I think between Mercedes, ourselves, Red Bull, Ferrari, there's eight cars that could have probably been on pole today and that have a chance of probably winning the race tomorrow. So it's about making the least mistakes, similar to today, and just trying to execute another good race that we normally do.

Q: Alright. Very well done today. Good luck tomorrow Lando, thank you. Max, coming to you now. After improving on your second run of Q3, did you think you had it? Did you think you'd done enough for pole?

MV: The lap itself was good. I mean, I even also got a tow to Turn 1. I think in general, when you look at it, the whole of qualifying was just miles better than practice for me. I always felt like the car was not really connected in all the free practice sessions. So when I went into qualifying, it just clicked much better. And I think in the very high speed, we were particularly strong around the laps, with Turns 3, 9, and the last corner, which were quite comfortably flat. But I guess in a way probably that's why we were not improving that much in the final few runs because those corners are flat, so there's nothing to gain, and then there are not that many corners left around the track. So I did make my gains but I probably was already flat where maybe Lando wasn't flat before and then you just lose out a little bit with that. So maybe a bit too draggy for qualifying, looking back at it, But that's something that is always very easy to say afterwards because the whole of the weekend we were just sliding around too much and now probably it was finally hooked up and you probably would have turned down the wing a little bit, but that's how it goes.

Q: You say it all clicked for qualifying. What are the main reasons for that? Do you think the cloud cover helped you a little bit as well?

MV: No, we made some set-up changes again to the car and it all just felt a bit more normal.

Q: Talking of more normal, how good has this weekend been for Red Bull when you compare it to the previous three weekends? How much of a step forward have you made?

MV: I think it's been OK, but not good enough, clearly. These kinds of tracks, I was hoping, of course, to be ahead. But the other teams are catching up. We've seen this already in the last few races, so it's definitely a lot harder. We need to do everything perfect to be first. We just need to bring more performance to the car.

Q: And let's throw it forward to the race. Lando has talked about the long run to Turn 1. Of course, you'd like to be on pole, but is P2 actually sometimes quite a good place to start here because you can get a tow down that long straight?

MV: Yeah, you do. But I would always want to start first. It's a bit easier to defend like that. I think our top speeds are all quite similarish and we don't have DRS, of course, into Turn 1 with the start. So again, it all depends on how good your start is going to be. It is such a long race, so many laps that you have to do on these tyres around here that anything can happen.

Q: Alright. Very well done today. Thank you. And Lewis, welcome back to the top three. It's good to have you back in here. How sweet has today been for you from a performance point of view?

LH: I think it's been OK. It's good to be back up here. I miss being on this sofa, although it's not from IKEA. But generally, it's great to see that we're progressing. Really, you've seen over the last couple of races that we're slowly climbing closer to the guys up front. So I think there's a little bit more performance in the car today, but it's really on the knife edge. So we've got some improvements to make to the car. But yeah, as I said, I'm really happy to be P3, it is a pretty good spot to be in for the start with that long straight down to Turn 1.

Q: And Lewis, you're just a tenth of a second off pole position. Did you expect to be that close coming in?

LH: Three tenths off. Yeah, so it's a pretty big chunk. For a track like this, it's not too bad. I think, as I said, through the lap, there's a little bit of time, I think. It probably could have been two tenths, but still they have a slight advantage. But for us to be that close on the track like this is a real good showing that we're going in the right direction. As I said, we've got some improvements that we need to bring over the next few races in order for us to be properly in range of those guys.

Q: OK, so you're three tenths off pole, but do you think you can challenge for the victory tomorrow?

LH: I think it would be very difficult. I think these two will be very quick, but position is everything so I think we'll… You know, also there's two of us, so hopefully we can apply pressure as a team to both of the cars ahead in order to maybe play out something in strategy and slowly climb up. I think it's all about degradation tomorrow and how you look after the tyres, so we won't know until we get into that first run.

Q: I was going to say, what was your deg like during practice?

LH: It was pretty decent. I don't know if it was as good as Max's, but I'll try and make it better tomorrow.

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BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 22: Pole position qualifier Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren attends the press conference after qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Spain at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on June 22, 2024 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsportmagazin.com) Question for Max. Actually, two questions. First part, you mentioned the wing level, probably you went for the bigger rear wing. It was too draggy for qualifying, but do you think it is better for the race than it was for qualifying? And second part of the question is, was that the final wake-up call you needed?

MV: Yeah, honestly, like it's easy to say now. Of course, we ran the big wing. But up until qualifying, it was just the car was not stable enough. So I think we did fix it. And then also, probably with the conditions becoming colder and colder, you just run out of basically corners to make a difference because some corners become flat out because of that. And then, yeah, you become a bit draggy. In terms of wake-up call, I think we are pretty much very awake already with what's happening. So, yeah, we need to push on. We need to bring parts faster, better. I mean, we've had a very dominant car last year. That is very, like… I mean, it's completely gone, naturally. And, yeah, we just need to really try and make a step ahead again.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) A couple of questions to Lando, please. You mentioned about the risks you took on that second run, but was there anything in particular that the team was able to help you with about pointing out perhaps where you could take those risks, etc? And also, we saw some quite worrying scenes in the paddock today with the team's motorhome. I just wondered, did that impact your preparations or anything, and what's going on at the team there?

LN: Thanks. Yeah, I mean, first of all, from that side, the best thing is everyone’s safe, everyone's doing well. Yeah, so that's probably the best news from everything. One person was taken to hospital just for some check-ups, but all good otherwise. So a bit of a scare for the whole team, never a nice thing. But just a bit more of probably a stressful day than I would have liked. Yeah, I lost my shoes. That was probably as bad as it got for me, honestly. I mean, yeah, just different. I mean, I've not been in my normal room. I've not been able to maybe relax and chill out as much as what I normally do. I've had a lot of offers from people, so it's been great. But a lot of the teams, honestly, have been very, very nice to us, McLaren, in offering help and things like that. So that was all good from that side. But a shame that it won't be used today or tomorrow, I don't think, for anything, maybe not into the future, but that's not anything that I know about for now. So that was that. And from the team side, from the final laps, I mean, just the two high speeds, so Turn 9 and the last corner, the two where... The car's moving around, it's bouncing a little bit. It just doesn't fill you with confidence going around such a corner when the car's doing those things. It can be quite unpredictable in such a high-speed corner. It's a bit nerve-wracking to commit and know when to take the risks. Over the weekend, I took risks in pushing and running into the gravel a few times and damaged the floor a little bit here and there. I've been pushing the limits, I'd say, the whole weekend, but maybe not as much in the very high speed, where the consequences are more. But when I looked at the data after Q1, Q2, I was losing probably a tenth and a half, almost two tenths, just to Max in two corners. And that was just the two corners where I was least comfortable, but it was just about kind of committing and hoping I came out on the other side in one piece. And for that final lap, that's exactly what I needed to do, and it's exactly what I did. We made some small changes for the rest of the track, but nothing to do with 9 and 14. That was just whether I wanted to take the risk of kind of pushing that bit more and trying to get that little bit that I needed for a pole.

Q: (Ben Hunt – Autosport) Lando, just following up on that. I saw you this morning when you were sitting outside and you just had your socks on. So I wondered what equipment… Did you have to borrow anything else? Is there anything in your driver room that you need to get back because you've not been allowed back into the motorhome? And just more on that, just how it has impacted you. You mentioned that you can't go in your driver room. So where did you spend time in between practice and qualifying and who did the lunch, all that sort of stuff, please?

LN: I mean it's all been a little bit messy but I think I have one or two sets of everything and I think they managed to get some stuff out but some of it's probably not the best to use or it smells pretty bad from the fire. Some things I got out, but I like to listen to my music and stuff before and Oscar complains a lot because my music's so loud, pre-sessions. But I just didn't have that this time and I'm up in the engineering office and Oscar's down in the truck below. And that's Zak's office that I've taken over. So now Zak's a bit unhappy that Zak's in there. Honestly, nothing's been an issue. And I've never been that guy to kind of complain about these things. Honestly, I could just be doing nothing and just jump in the car when I need to but when you have an ability to kind of have a few minutes to yourself and a couple of those things, you take them, because you want to just relax and think to yourself for a few minutes before you go out and do it. Nothing for today. Maybe tomorrow will impact me a bit more that I can't get that quiet time that that I love. But it's not the end of the world, so I'm not going to complain about it.

Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) Max, besides the need for updates that you mentioned, you also talked before about Red Bull needing cleaner weekends. How would you rate this one in terms of execution so far, both with introducing the little upgrades and also how yesterday started off?

MV: Clean. We had no issues from what we've experienced in the last few weeks, but it took a bit of fine-tuning and to get the car quick, I would say. But I don't feel like it's always you know just fine-tuning. Sometimes also it just seems like we are lacking a bit of pace. So we need to yeah just try and be more competitive.

Q: (Pilar Celebrovsky – The Paddock Magazine) Congratulations, Lewis, welcome back. You have mentioned you don't really feel you have the pace to fight for the victory, but how realistic is to believe that you could fight for the podium considering you have one Red Bull and two Ferraris behind in terms of pace?

LH: I think the bigger concern probably is the Ferraris behind us. Obviously, we were all within half a tenth, I think, from third to fifth. I think it was fifth or sixth. And they had an upgrade this weekend, so I think their long pace look quite strong. So I think it's more working together as a team and trying to hold position at least. If we happen to have more pace available to us and we're able to hold on to these guys, then it's game on. But we really won't know until tomorrow. And degradation is always the key here. And when you have a really good rear end, you can save your balance, but you can save the rear tyres. So that's going to be key for tomorrow.

Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) For Lando and Max, a question for you guys. We've come very, very close on a couple of occasions to a proper race-long fight between you guys. Canada obviously had all the factors involved. Are you guys relishing the chance to really fight it out tomorrow if all is dry and normal? I mean, you guys have got a great relationship, obviously, but I think we're all waiting to see that fight between you two.

LN: I mean, I hope not. I hope I can have just a good start and kind of control it from there. But I'm sure the whole race I'm going to be under pressure and going to have to make those kind of calls. But, yeah, I mean, I look forward to it. I look forward to racing against anyone. And probably Max is the guy on the track that I've raced the least, just because he's always been too far ahead. Yeah, happy to now kind of be there and I'm sure whether I'm first or second tomorrow coming out of Turn 1, it's going to be a fight till pretty much the end of the race. So I'm excited. I look forward to it. I've not had many opportunities to do so. When I have, he's normally been about a second lap quicker, but that's not the case anymore. So yeah, I'm excited to just race against him and have some fun.

MV: Yeah, I mean, for sure I would like to win tomorrow, naturally. I think it's still a bit unknown where we are, like all of us, in terms of pure pace in the long runs. I'm hoping, of course, it's going to be all very close, like it has been in the last few races. And I think, yeah, with the high deg around here as well, you need to really look after your tyres. I don't know, of course, in what state the track will be as well tomorrow with potential rain, of course, overnight and in the morning. So all these kind of things, of course, come into play.

Q: (Dan Lawrence – Motorsport Monday) Question for Lando. Since the win in Miami, not only the team but yourself seem to have elevated your level. Challenging for wins in Imola, in Canada, in Monaco, being the closest challenges to Ferrari. Would you say this is the most confident you and the team have ever felt?

LN: I mean, certainly from a team side, absolutely. It's the best the car's been. So when the car's good, then you've got to be more confident. And yeah, I mean, Imola, like you said, Canada, I think we should have had a better chance and we didn't do the best of jobs, but we should have had a better chance. Certainly there's been enough opportunities now to probably fight for a win or the fact that we had the pace to win a race. So 100% from a team point of view and I think… I mean I said at the beginning of the season we were going to win and we were going to fight against Red Bull and that they weren't going to dominate like they had done and it's turned out exactly to be that. which is I think good for everyone, including everyone watching. But we have more to do. I don't think we had potentially the best car out there today. I feel like I did a perfect lap and was only just about on pole. But it's very difficult to know. I think everyone in the top 10 is at such a high level that it's probably hard to differentiate what the differences are between what drivers are able to achieve. So from that side, absolutely. From a personal side, I would say so. I think I've commented in the last few weeks about just not having that ability to kind of unlock something more come qualifying and find a limit and just get a bit stuck. I just found it hard or very difficult to progress a lot through qualifying and kind of just get into a nice flow and a good rhythm. So we've been working pretty hard on the simulator and with my team on trying to improve on all of these things, because comparing to others, comparing to Oscar in areas, I just wasn't comfortable and I wasn't confident that I was able to go out and just do what I needed to get done. But this weekend, I kind of come in with a different approach and reset some things and definitely I feel like I've been on a better footing. So I have been. I've been confident. It's not often I say that, that I've been confident. But the last couple of months, the car's been performing well. It's a bit more to what I want. Definitely not where I need it and where I am so most confident, but we're working on it. And I think it's all credits to the team because without the car that we have today, I wouldn't be on pole.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) There's been various occasions so far this season where you've looked really quite strong in practice and then come qualifying, it's not come together. Not the case at this event. I just wondered what do you think made the difference this time?

LH: I still feel like I lost performance going into the, you know… I still lost a little bit going into quali. It's all about perspective. Maybe they just moved forwards, but I definitely feel like there was a little bit more. But just as you start to push the car, it doesn't like it. So in practice, when you leave a little bit of margin, the car feels quite nice. But it's when you start to really lean on it to try and get that extra bit of lap time out where we really struggle. And I think it's all in the tyres. So you saw in P1, I was seven tenths down due to an issue with the blankets. And then we got it sorted for the following sessions. So, it puts you a little bit on the back foot. But yeah, otherwise, the car, as I said, it's good that we're up here and it's the best qualifying I've had this year, so I'm really grateful for it.

Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-magazin.com) Question to all three of you. How the grid is for tomorrow. Do you think the first eight cars are more determined by the driver performance today or more by the car performance?

LN: All driver!

MV: I mean, there's so many good drivers out there, right? Of course, you know, naturally, I think sometimes you hit a better lap than other times. That's how it goes in life. But, yeah, I mean, there's so many… I think if you look at it, I think there were so many great laps driven. But sometimes, for whatever reason, you know, it might not click or come together. Some cars, they work a bit better on particular tracks. But... Yeah, I mean, again, it might also be completely different tomorrow, right? I mean, one car might feel a lot more comfortable in the race on tyres or whatever. So we've seen that in quite a few qualifyings where, you know, some of the other teams, they're quite close in qualifying, but then actually in the race, they drop off quite a lot. You can also argue why is that, right? It's just very complicated, honestly, this sport, in general, to understand. You know, tyres are very crucial. And of course, that's honestly the only part that really touches the tarmac as well, right? So just understanding that already is critical.

LN: I was joking! I mean, you need a good car.

MV: It's OK!

LN: I just don't want to sound like an idiot! He probably put that as the headline already. No, I mean, you need a good car under you. Like we've seen with Mercedes. When they've not had a good car, I'm sure Lewis and George have driven some good laps, but... Sometimes you do your best laps and you're fifth, tenth. I think when you go back to Canada, I think that's probably a little bit the driver. When it's so close, that's probably a little bit more down to driver and getting that last little bit out. I think today, and every day, is a lot down to what you can do as a driver. And my lap was perfect, pretty close to. Without that, I would have been second. So I feel like I made a difference today in executing a perfect lap. But I had a car which I had confidence in to get that lap time out of. It's a combination, like Max said. It's complicated. It's not as simple as you're saying, one or the other. There's so many factors going on. It's difficult to describe it to you guys on what it's like.

Q: (Vladimir Rogovets - SB Belarus Segodniya) This track today hasn't the last chicane and you have today good result. is it better without chicane? it is better for you or for your car?

LH: I've not driven this car on the old track, but I think we've been relatively good in the low speed. So, I don't know, I think these last two corners are more enjoyable. The last corner is full gas at 280 or something like that kilometres an hour, which is amazing. And it's really, really challenging, on the knife edge, heart in your mouth sort of corner. So much, much better than the small chicane that we used to have. And I think it is better to follow and should provide better racing. I think it did already last year. So whether or not our car is as good as theirs in the high speed, I'll look at the data, but it's probably relatively close.

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