Today's post-qualifying press conference with Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen.
Track Interviews - Conducted by Paul Di Resta
Lewis, I think anyone watching that session would just think you were on another level. Very dominant, how did it feel?
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, today a very, very clean session. Every lap was just getting better and better. We did a lot of great work in the background. It's a really important pole for me because I woke up to the saddest news of Chadwick passing away. It's been such a heavy year for all of us and that news just really broke me. It was not easy to get back in focus coming in today with that hanging on my heart, but I was like 'I want to go out there and drive to perfection'. What he has done for our people, what he's done for... this superhero shows all these young kids that it's possible. He was such a shining light. So we carry that forever.
I think the greatest respect goes to your focus, Lewis. Everybody else was looking for tows, you were just out at the front very confident in the job you had to do personally and that's what you did.
LH: Yeah, I studied that and of course there have been times where we have had to try to get a tow. You've got these three difficult sections where you've got the straight line in the first section, which is pretty straightforward, but getting the right wing level here is not so easy and some, as you can see, are really quick in the first and last sector but not so good in the middle sector. We are not the strongest I would say in the first and the last but the middle is really, really strong and I think for me this weekend it was my choice to go first or second out of Valtteri and I chose to go first. I just wanted to be out in the clean air not having to worry about people up ahead of me, getting a gap in the last corner, wondering whether it's four or eight seconds gap - because you're still getting a tow from someone at seven seconds behind and I didn't want anything coming in my way so it worked out perfectly I think.
And driving these cars around Spa? It must be pretty special?
LH: Oh man, it was incredible. That session, as I said it was going better and better but it's really been learning to exploit... the track's a bit different to when you were driving it, in the sense of the run-off areas, so you can really pick up the gas a lot earlier. Focusing on the exits around here is actually important. I didn't make any mistakes on any of my laps but the Q3 run one lap was ace and I was thinking 'there's probably no way I'm going to beat that' but Turn 1 has probably been a weakness for me the last few years, just got stronger and stronger through there and I saw I was up out of Turn 1 and then I just kept beeping away throughout the lap, so that was a very, very, very, very good lap so I'm happy with that.
Valtteri, it was your birthday yesterday, you had a very good session but it looked like you were struggling through Turn 1 and from there on in the lap you just didn't have the edge on Lewis?
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, Turn 1 was a bit inconsistent. I think we got the car right there, just in Q1 (sic) in the first run, the tyres were too cool or something at the start of the lap, so I had a bit of a lock-up. The first run was there. The second run felt actually pretty good overall, so I don't really know why the gap to Lewis [is big]. I'm not too bothered, because I know that second place is quite a good place to start here. It should be an interesting run into Turn 5.
I was going to say the slipstream here is big and if you can tuck yourself in there ahead of Eau Rouge there are benefits above that. More importantly you've got to beat Lewis tomorrow to really think about the championship don't you?
VB: Yeah, of course I need to attack if I still want to keep the title hopes there. It's not over until it's over and I'm definitely going to go for it. The first lap is a great opportunity because here the racing is always pretty good. I know already there will be opportunities to do it.
Max, lining up P3, I guess you'll be satisfied with that coming into the session but to narrowly miss out by one hundredth at the end of the lap and I heard you say you had some energy that left you right at the end of that?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, for us overall it's been a very positive weekend so far. We came here and we thought it was going to be really tricky for us and actually to be P3 and that close to Valtteri. Of course we are still half a second to Lewis but I think overall I can be very pleased with that. The lap was decent. I might have run out of energy a bit, but of course it's distributed around the whole lap, so it was probably the fastest way of getting the lap time, so very pleased, a good day and a lot of opportunities for tomorrow.
Do you think you can fight the Mercedes in the dry or are you going to be doing a rain dance tomorrow morning to try to get some mixed weather in there?
MV: I don't know. Of course if you look at the lap time difference to Lewis I don't think we suddenly in a race can start to fight him. Around here you never know, like you said, with the weather as well, I hope that will come into play it makes it a bit more difficult for everyone, and it's a bit more fun as well, especially on this track. If there's a bit of weather around it's a lot of fun.
Lewis, what a lap, what a session. It's a sizeable margin over the entire field. Where did you find the time?
LH: I think it was just a little bit everywhere. Ultimately, the team did such a great job over these past couple of days - just timing, as you saw, getting out on front of everyone at the end. It was nice to have a clear straightaway ahead of me and then otherwise just working away at the set-up. With the engineers we are just constantly pushing each other to improve. It's not an easy thing to do and continue to raise the bar but I think we've done a really great job this weekend with the guys here and the guys back at the factory, so a big thank you to them. And then otherwise it was just focusing, studying the lap and then executing. That's got to be one of the cleanest qualifying sessions I think I've ever had. Every lap was bang on the dot. No mistakes, no real issues. Q3 is always a hard one because you want to get the first lap and the first lap was great and I thought it was pretty much a perfect lap and then I managed to go out and find a little bit more in a couple of other areas. It was nice to have that gap, that six tenths in the first laps, then I could really explore on that next one and try to take even more of a risk. Yeah, a phenomenal feeling driving around this track, because it's incredible how fast it's become.
...and 1.3s faster than last year as well.
LH: Again, that's the evolution of our cars, of the technology and the evolution of our engineers who continue to elevate. They're just getting smarter and more efficient every year. I was saying downstairs, it's not been an easy day for the world. Our superhero, a superhero died last night, so that was really weighing heavy on me today, so I was so driven to deliver a good performance today so I could dedicate it to Chad who I was really, really lucky I got to meet him once and tell him how awesome he was. Because not all these... I remember when I was a kid, Superman was the hero. Didn't look like me but I still thought Superman was the greatest. And so, when Chad became the king, when he became a superhero in Wakanda, it was such a special day for so many people because I know that young kids, like myself, will be able to now look up to him and see that is possible to be able to do what he did. So this one's dedicated to him.
Valtteri, coming to you. It looked like you were slightly chasing the car during that session. How was it for you at the end of Q3?
VB: It was not too bad. I would say Practice Three was OK, just the second runs, I think I had some traffic or something so didn't get really clean laps, but then in qualifying itself, everything was feeling pretty OK. Just the first run in Q3, I had a lock-up into Turn One. I don't think I got my tyres warm enough on the out-lap. So, at the end it was down to the second run. I knew everything was still possible, and it was a clean lap. Not maybe the best Turn One but it was OK and otherwise the lap was nice and clean and really felt like I was pushing the limits. Obviously quite a bit gap. Not sure yet why but Lewis did a good job today. I'm not too bothered because I know second place is quite a good place. It's always quite an interesting run into Turn Five. So, looking forward to tomorrow.
A lot is going to rest on that opening lap tomorrow. How much can you plan?
VB: Of course you can plan something but then in the end every start is always different. Of course we look at all the other starts here in previous years and try to take learnings and be prepared for any situation - but you have to go with instinct as well. We will try to find a way to make things interesting.
Max, so close with Valtteri today, what was it, one-hundredth of a second? Were you surprised to be that close to a Mercedes around here?
MV: I don't know. I think overall, it's been a very positive weekend, I think. We expected to come here with the long straights around here, it's never going to be the easiest for us but I think we managed to find a good a good balance on the car actually straight away when we came here, from FP1, so that helps. Yeah, it's been a positive weekend. I didn't really have a lot to complain. If I'm not mistaken, this is the closest we've been to Mercedes in qualifying, on a track where we didn't expect it to bet like this - so yeah, very, very happy with that. Qualifying went pretty smooth. It was all about, for us, well, trying to have a little bit of a tow, to have a little bit of top speed but of course, you try not to be affected in the middle sector but of course everybody is trying to get that tow. So, getting to the last chicane to prepare the lap and sometimes I was not ideal, getting into Turn One but I think in in Q3 it was fine, and I could do my lap like I wanted it. Very pleased to be here again.
How confident are you for the race? You were fastest in second practice yesterday.
MV: Yes, well, over one lap yesterday. Friday is just Friday, as you can see. It will not be easy but I'm of course going to try to follow and see what happens. And also, we have to wait and see what happens. Also, we have to wait and see what the weather is going to do because, around Spa, you never know if it's going to be dry or rainy.
Check out our Saturday gallery from Spa, here.