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Australian GP: Post Qualifying press conference

NEWS STORY
16/03/2019

Today's post-qualifying press conference with Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel.

Lewis, every winter you go away, every winter you come back, driver-team combination, you come out, you get pole position here and you deliver a performance that's just incredible.
Lewis Hamilton: Oh man, I'm shaking, it was so close out there. We've got this incredible crowd here today; thank you everyone for coming out and creating this atmosphere. What a beautiful day. Coming from testing, from winter, we had no idea where we would be. We were hoping of course to be where we are, we've been working towards that; the guys back at the factory have been working so hard. And on the weekend also they have just been working to perfection. Valtteri did an exceptional job out there; it was very close. It's great to see the top 16 or 17 are within a second; I think that's an improvement in the regulations, so it should be an exciting season.

Sixth consecutive pole position here in Melbourne. Eight times you've been on pole, matching Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna for pole positions at a track, what does that record mean?
LH: I didn't even know about that. That's news to me. All I can say is that my family are here and I wouldn't be doing what I do without my dad, who taught me everything, and he's here with me. So big thank you to him but I couldn't have done it without this great team.

Well done, all the best for tomorrow. Valtteri, P2 on the grid, front row start. I think more importantly a very strong day for the team. You almost did it but just missing out on that last run with a little bit of performance.
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, we really made some good progress. I had a difficult practice three and we could turn things around for the qualifying. All the session was feeling good. The quali three, lap one, was really nice, I enjoyed that. Unfortunately not quite enough for pole, but Lewis had a good lap in the end and I struggled a bit in the first sector in the last run. Anyways, it was fun and I look forward to tomorrow.

You've been away, you said you were going to have a different winter reset. You've come back fighting and you've made him work for it, haven't you?
VB: Yeah. Of course I'd prefer to be on pole, but the race is tomorrow and I'm starting on the front row. But I have to say that, as a team, after a quite tricky winter testing they have done an amazing job to turn the car around and be in this good shape.

All the best for tomorrow. Sebastian, second row of the grid, third [place]. I think everyone thought after what we saw at Barcelona that Ferrari were going to start strong. Where do you feel [the team is] after the last couple of days?
Sebastian Vettel: I don't know. Congrats to Lewis and Valtteri, they had, by the looks of it, a very today qualifying. For us it was OK. I had an off in Q2, which wasn't planned but I tried. I don't know. The car feels alright, it's not that there is anything wrong (inaudible) but today I thought it was OK. I think compared to those guys we were just not quick enough. The race is tomorrow, though. I think we have a good car nonetheless. This track is very specific so not worried too much, but for sure it's not great. I would have loved for it to be the other way round.

To play the long game is a big thing this year. You've won this race more than a few times. Can you win this grand prix tomorrow?
SV: Of course. I think we can. You never know what's happening. Last year we got a bit lucky but the race is over when there's the chequered flag. I think we have a good car, we have a good race car and we are in good form. Obviously Mercedes are the clear favourites after the result today and the pace they have shown so far. But we are here to race. Otherwise it would be quite dull. I think all the people would agree. We'll see what happens tomorrow. I think our starts are pretty handy, so we'll go from there.

Press Conference

Lewis that was a huge second lap in Q3. How satisfying is that?
LH: The second lap was definitely a lot better than the first, which is not always the case. It's always quite difficult on the second lap to pull that amount of time out. But on the first lap I made a mistake, which is unusual for me. It was OK, I just brushed it off and kept moving. We just kept working away, chipping away at our pace and our balance throughout the weekend. As I said, coming from Barcelona, we made some really big steps forward in the last couple of days with set-up and we brought that here and it seems to have worked. There was also a little bit of work done after that two weeks, were we analysed everything and made some small corrections. I really was not expecting to see the performance difference that we have here. It had been so close throughout the whole weekend between us all. It's amazing to see how close the top 16 are, I think there was a second between us all at one point. That's a real positive for rule regulations. It's a bit difficult when you have a session like that to grasp exactly what just happened but I'm very proud to be up here and very grateful for everyone who has worked so hard throughout the winter and this couldn't be a better way to start the year. But Valtteri was doing some incredible laps out there, so I really had to pull something special out at the end to stay ahead of him.

High praise from your team-mate Valtteri. Just talk us through the session and that second lap in Q3 in particularly.
VB: First of all, I think, a bit like Lewis I'm a little bit blown away about the performance we had today. Obviously yesterday was looking good but it's always practice. It was the first session this year that really counts, in terms of lap times, and I don't think anyone in the team could have imagined we'd be in this position after the testing we had but everyone's been working so hard and that made this possible. But it's only one session: tomorrow is the main day. From my side, I really enjoyed the qualifying. I had a difficult FP3. Wasn't really happy with the car. We made some changes and really felt more confident in the qualifying and got some nice, clean laps. The first lap in Q3 was pretty good. I was quite happy with that. I knew that there was still something to improve in the second run but for some reason just lost some time in the first couple of corners. I think Turn One and Turns Three and Four. I did a little bit slower out-lap due to traffic, so maybe the tyres weren't quite ready - but Lewis did a great lap in the end, so well done for that but, I mean, we're just all happy in the team to be in this position.

Sebastian, we saw a little off for you in Q2. How did that affect the performance of the car going into Q3?
SV: It didn't. During winter testing I was joking with Valtteri that I was quite jealous he did some rallying in the winter. Maybe it was in the back of my mind and I wanted to try some myself - but not the right time. I tried, obviously, to find the limits in Q2, and went a little bit over the limit. Fortunately the car was fine. Q3, run one, or generally Q3 was fine. Overall, that fortunately did not impact our qualifying.

And how surprised are you by the gap to the Mercedes drivers?
SV: Certainly surprised. I think everybody is - probably even themselves. I think yesterday we didn't have a good day. Today felt better but in terms of gap and pace, it was very similar. For sure there's some homework for us to do to understand. I still think we have a great car and we should be better than this - so I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We'll see over... I don't know how many laps... 56? 58? 58 laps we have some time to get a proper read of where we are - but certainly Mercedes are the clear favourite if you have such a big gap and comfort throughout qualifying. All the sessions. We've got to live with it today but tomorrow is a new day. We've done it before, around here especially, so, we'll see.

Questions From The Floor

(Scott Mitchell - Autosport) Sebastian, you talked about you still think you've got a great car. Did you feel that here, you're missing something that you felt you had at Barcelona, or is it just that Mercedes have made a surprising leap up the order, basically?
SV: Well, it's difficult to compare. We have something like 10, 15 degrees more ambient, hotter track, different circuit, so overall different conditions - but the car felt really good at testing and probably around here, so far this weekend it didn't feel as good - yet. As I said, yesterday was a difficult day for us. It was tricky. Today felt a bit better - but there's not an awful lot of time to try different things. Obviously you have to get on with it and the sessions come fast: especially in qualifying, you can't really change much. If anything, you get a better understanding of maybe where you're losing out or where it feels uncomfortable. So for us, I think, there is still a bit of margin but certainly the gap is there today, and it was a surprise. We didn't expect it coming here but now it is that way. And, as I said, we focus on tomorrow and don't worry about the gap now.

(Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Valtteri, first time you are in the front row here. How big a difference does it make in a circuit like this - especially compared to last year when you were nowhere after qualifying.
VB: I was in the wall after qualifying! I was somewhere! Historically, it's not been the best track for me, honestly. I've never felt like I've had a great qualifying or race here for some reason. But, I mean, I think I managed to build it up well this weekend. Really started from zero this weekend, trying to learn session by session, and was pretty pleased with the car and driving and the main thing, in the qualifying, especially the first lap in Quali 3, I was really enjoying the driving and that's when the lap-times were good. So, yeah, obviously there were still things I could have done better, as Lewis showed in the last lap, but it was close enough - so much better, for example, than the year before.

(Christian Menath - motorsport-magazin.com) Question for Seb. Would you say it's fair to say you have a bit more problem to extract maximum performance out of the soft tyre - because yesterday the long run looked a bit better compared to the others and today in Q1, when you had the medium tyre on, you were not that far away?
SV: Well, it's difficult to read Q1. I think people are playing around with how much, first of all, how much they push, how much they push the engine especially. I think everybody was surprised how much the track picked up as well in Q1. So, Q1 is not a great session to read into. I wouldn't say we have a problem extracting the grip from the tyres. Obviously there is a lack somewhere, because we are too slow - but didn't feel like it. I was very happy with the laps that I had in Q1 on the medium compound - but hard to have a reference because nobody else was really on that tyre at that time, so yeah, for tomorrow, we'll see. Tyres so far this weekend were no headache and should be quite straightforward tomorrow. I expect a solid race from the tyres.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Melbourne, here.

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