Today's post-qualifying press conference with Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas.
Track Interviews - Conducted by Stoffel Vandoorne
Q: Valtteri, it was looking so good after Q2, what happened in Q3? Tell us about qualifying?
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, it's been looking pretty good all weekend, you know. I felt the pace being really good and also Q1 and Q2 was nice and smooth but Q3, to be honest I don't know. I found some gains but obviously my rivals found some more. I think here is pretty sensitive with the tyres, getting them right. The first in Q3 my tyres were too cold. Second run, I don't know, I just couldn't go any quicker. Some question marks but I think actually it's a pretty good place to start third here and I think I'm on the right tyre as well.
Q: Exactly. Starting from third, it's a long way up to Turn 1. What do you think about the race tomorrow?
VB: Yeah, I remember once I started third here and I know what happened then, so for sure I will try to do the same and I really think I will have an advantage with the medium tyre in the first stint, so still all to play for.
Q: Max congratulations, P2 on the grid. What a fantastic recovery from yesterday?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, we were struggling a bit to find the right balance with the car on this track, it's quite slippery round here. Even this morning I was not entirely happy and through qualifying we were really working on trying to nail the balance and in the Q3, the final run especially, it was not bad. So to be second on the grid, I didn't expect, so very, very pleased with that.
Q: And it's a good position for tomorrow as well. Second is not a bad position here as with the draft to Turn 1 maybe there is an opportunity?
MV: Yeah, absolutely. If we can have a decent start then the tow effect is very big around here so if I can get a good draft who knows what is going to happen into Turn 2. It's going to be interesting anyway with the tyres as well tomorrow.
Q: Lewis, congratulations, what an awesome drive. I mean, challenging qualifying for you; you had that red flag in Q2 which put you a little on the back foot, but what an amazing drive in Q3.
Lewis Hamilton: Well, firstly, I have to say a big, big hi to all the fans that are here. I've missed the fans so much through the year. I can't tell you how great it is to see people. I hope everyone has their mask on and staying safe. This morning when I left the hotel I had a couple of fans there with their Black Lives Matter masks on and I'm just so humbled by everyone's support and how everyone has worked this year. So it's really great to see everybody. The session was... oh, it was one of the worst qualifying sessions; it was horrible. Heart in your mouth the whole way. The first problem, I think I got the time taken away. It's the first time I've gone wide there the whole weekend. I wanted to stay out and do another lap and get a banker, but they said come in and get new tyres and then the red flag came out. It was a real risk once we got out on that next tyre at the end. Ultimately, I'm starting on the soft tyre, which is not good. It's nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole, with the draggier cars we have this year. So, undoubtedly I'm most likely to get dragged past tomorrow and both the cars I'm racing against, they are both on the medium tomorrow, so definitely it's going to make it hard to win the race tomorrow. But nonetheless I'm going to stay positive and try to figure out how I can navigate my way through, get a good start maybe, and we'll see.
Q: Lewis, many congratulations, that was an eventful session for but can we just start by talking about Q3? The car just got faster and faster - two great laps.
LH: Yeah. You want to start with Q3 first? It's a lot to skip over and just to go straight to Q3, but it was one of the hardest qualifying sessions I can remember having being that everything was just so rushed and there was panic and there was just all sorts going on. And then obviously timing once you're out there, when we went out for the second run, sorry in Q2, and then just having to calm myself down and find my centre, you know, calm my heart down and wanting to deliver in Q3. I was adamant. I had no choice. I had to deliver on those two laps. Valtteri had been doing great all weekend. Nothing new in that respect but I knew I needed to have a perfect lap, particularly on the first run to get the pole. Obviously pole position is not great here; it never has been. Still, going for pole is what we do. The first lap was really great. I thought it was going to be very difficult to improve on it, but I think I managed to just improve just a tiny bit I think on the second lap. I'm super grateful to everyone for just about keeping their cool. And it could be a lot, lot worse. I could be out of the top 10, so I'm really grateful I go to compete.
Q: Just talk us through those final moments of Q2 now, when you crossed the line with one and a half seconds to spare?
LH: It was horrible! I wanted to start on the medium. I didn't want to go to... I mean the whole session was just not great. I went wide out of Turn 18, which was my fault, but the first time I had done that all weekend. Then I was like, "let me stay out and just get a banker lap in", and they asked me to come in, which ultimately... I mean, hindsight is always a good thing to have, but I don't know if it was the right call. But then we went back out and then the red flag came out and we all waited at the end of the pit lane. And I nearly spun at Turn 1 because the tyre temperatures were so low. I think I overtook one car going into the second to last corner or two cars I think it was, but then I got blocked by the Renault, and I was dead slow in the middle of the last corner about to start the lap and I could just hear Bonno saying "Go, go, go, go, go, go!" so I was just gunning to try to get across the line, so very, very fortunate. I don't think that was just luck, I think it was just the right timing for us.
Q: Just a quick word on strategy for tomorrow. You're going to be on the front row on the Soft tyre alongside Max who's going to be on the Medium.
LH: As I was saying before, it's not a good place to start at all and I think this year you're seeing our cars are more draggy and there's more tow this year than we've seen in other years, so... yeah. I generally expect one of these two to come flying by at some point. So, I think I'm just going to focus on my race and just try to run the fastest race I can. Obviously I'm on the worst tyre to start on the race but generally it's a good tyre to do an actual start but it doesn't have... it has the biggest degradation, ten times more than any other tyre, I think it is. So that's going to be a struggle. I don't know if that puts me onto a two-stop, I don't know, unlikely because the pit lane is too slow, so I'm just going to have to nurse those tyres as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they're going to be pulling away so going to sit down tonight to try to figure out if there's a different kind of race I can do tomorrow to keep my position.
Q: Max, coming to you, your 13th front row start and your first here in Sochi, with that fabulous final lap of Q3. Was that one of your best?
MV: Yeah, I think so. It felt really good. Trying to find the right balance because I was actually struggling quite a bit throughout qualifying to really nail all the entry speeds, because I was oversteering a lot. So, step-by-step I think we were doing a better job. Q3, run one was a bit better but the second run, made a few changes and that just gave me a little bit more grip and, on this track, you really need a lot of entry grip, so yeah, that was very satisfying. It was a really nice lap to drive. It's not pole position but for me, to be on the first row, I definitely didn't expect that going into qualifying.
Q: Like Lewis, you had a drama-filled end to Q2 but for different reasons because you decided to abort your final lap and you just made it through to Q3.
MV: Yeah, I mean, I wanted to start on the Medium but the field, of course, is very, very close on lap time so it was very hard. I did my very best to do the best lap I could on that tyre but it was not easy because I was already struggling for grip and then going onto a harder compound was even more difficult to find that grip. Then going into that last corner, after the red flag, when I was back onto the Soft tyres, they told me 'abort, abort', so I stopped. But of course the finish line is quite short after the last corner. Of course happy that we did it, and we just made it through.
Q: Lewis has just told us that he's got a difficult race ahead of him tomorrow. Are you feeling confident starting on the Medium tyre?
MV: Yeah, I think for us it's the best way going into the race. Of course I'm starting a bit on the dirty side so I'm not sure how much that's going to affect it but yeah, overall I think the Mercedes guys are a bit faster in race pace so I'll try my very best to stay with them and see what happens but first of all I think we... well, I would like to have a good start, and by start I mean once I go full throttle to have full power, that would be nice and then not get taken out. After two retirements I think it's good to score some points again.
Q: Valtteri, coming to you, how tricky is it to manage a session like that when there's so much going on?
VB: Well, for me there was not so much going on. It was actually pretty straightforward from my side, so I think I was quite fortunate that all the happenings didn't really affect me. Q1, Q2 from my side was pretty good. Car was feeling good and the pace seemed to be there - unlike in Q3.
Q: Well, talk us through Q3, particularly that final lap.
VB: Q3 was a tricky one, so in the first run I didn't feel my tyres were ready, so out of the last corner, starting the lap, I had a big snap so lost a couple of tenths on the run down to Turn 2. Turn 2, massive oversteer and tyres only came in towards the end of the lap. So yeah, I was just waiting for the second run then and, you know, there was no mistakes as such, Turn 2, maybe there was a tiny lock-up, went a bit wide but, to be honest, I don't really get it why I couldn't match Lewis' times in Q3. Just didn't feel I was gaining much grip from previous sessions. I think even Q2 felt better, so a few question marks from me about what really happened - or maybe I was just playing games and wanted to start third.
Check out our Saturday gallery from Sochi, here.