Q: Sebastian, you raced here in Austria when you were a teenager: have you built up a special relationship with this region?
Sebastian Vettel: Yes, you are right. I’ve known this track for quite some time now, as well as the people. Especially with my close relationship to the Red Bull family this track has a special meaning to me. Also in regards to my career at Ferrari this track has a special meaning, as it was here that I drove my first Ferrari, although it was not the latest version.
Q: What’s your guess - and hope - will Ferrari be able to get any closer to Mercedes at this track?
SV: Looking back at the course of this season, we see that we have been able to raise our overall pace. For sure there have been tracks that have suited us better, but that goes for the others as well. Generally speaking I think that we should be getting a bit closer to Mercedes, even though we should not take the European Grand Prix as our reference. I see us at the moment right between Mercedes and Red Bull Racing.
Q: But today was a bit of a drama day for you: first gravel and then gearbox change which is going to mean five places back on the grid - how would you sum up all this?
SV: That sounds pretty severe! (laughs) But the car feels good. Of course we have to fiddle overnight to see what we can do. It’s no secret that the rain during FP2 didn’t help us - but everybody was hampered by that so there is no big gain for anybody.
Q: How did your ‘excursion’ to the gravel feel?
SV: To be honest: not good. And to be honest: it was very surprising. We had an issue with the brakes - and there you go! It completely caught me on the wrong foot. But thank god nothing happened to the car, as there was a huge run-off - and that is paramount!
Q: With these difficult weather conditions today can you say anything about the new engine upgrade that Ferrari has brought to this race? Was there time enough to have a valid impression?
SV: From what I have experienced it is doing what is it supposed to do. Sure the conditions did not allow having a final say - but my first impression is that it is better. And that is good basis to build on! In the end you are never fully satisfied and always want more - but that seems to be the nature of the sport! (laughs)
Q: How much are you allowed to change on the set-up during the qualifying if it rains?
SV: Generally you are not allowed to change anything on the set-up. There are only a few things that you can change, such as the settings of the front wing and play with the tyre pressures. Other than that there is only the things left that the drivers can change on the steering wheel like the brake proportioning and the differential. So you have to work with what you have got, and maybe just fine-tune a few things. For sure the tension in oneself is increasing from Q1 until Q3. If you reach Q3 it matters a lot if your set of tyres allow one fast lap or more, and if you still have a set of tyres left. All of this then comes down to keeping your nerves together and being able to attack full throttle this one crucial lap. If you make your perfect lap then you will get rewarded with a good result.
Q: There is new asphalt on the track - what have you made of it in the dry and the wet, and will it help anybody in the race?
SV: We think that the track will be faster in the race, which is great for us as we always have very good race pace. What that means in terms of lap time in qualifying we will see. Overall the new tarmac feels super. It has a lot of grip and is a definite step forward. I would say that no other racetrack has done such a good job in terms of tarmac as here. It feels of one piece! So let’s see what it does for us in the course of the weekend. Much will depend on the weather - and we already have experience of the gravel so we know that we didn’t miss anything there! (laughs)