Today's post-qualifying press conference with Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
Track Interviews - Conducted by Johnny Herbert
Max, that was a bit of a tough session for you, obviously you had that problem earlier on. Tell us about getting yourself into third position?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it was not a great qualifying because of that. I only did two laps in Q1 and then you want to go out and get that run in in Q2 and then with the trouble it was a bit tricky. Also, on the medium tyres: OK we got through and we did our lap but then it just doesn't give you a good reference to get into Q3 and we definitely seemed to struggle a bit with that. The first run in Q3 - just not a lot of grip. I think the second run was a little bit better but yeah, just difficult. At the end of the day P3 - not bad. I personally expected to be a little bit closer, to be able to fight them a little bit more but I think after Q2 we just lost our way a little bit.
What about the race track itself. It's great that we have come back to Imola but is there a particular part of the track where you think: “this is good fun round here”?
MV: The track is really cool. It's really enjoyable to drive. I initially though it was going to be a bit too narrow for these cars but it's fine. I really enjoy it. I hope that tomorrow we can also have a really cool race here.
Valtteri, pole position man, you must be a happy one because that's your 15th, but you had to fight for it.
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, you always have to. It's never to get pole positions. I really enjoy this track when you push flat out; it's beautiful. I knew I had to improve on the last lap and I found those small gains that were needed and it's a great feeling when you get those and definitely I had the shakes after. It's good fun.
Tell us about that. It seemed to be that last sector that was not quite there. What did you do differently to get that extra bit of speed?
VB: For me it was Turns 2 and 3, that's something I was really working on today and only got there at the end. And the last couple of corners as well. I struggled when I tried to risk and go for it. I struggled with a bit of instability with the car. But I knew that on the last lap I had to try so I risked it and the car it just managed to turn in nicely. It was good.
That must give you a lot of confidence taking it into tomorrow. What are you expecting to have from your team-mate going into Turn 1? And again your race is something. It's going to be interesting to see how the race pans out for you?
VB: Yeah it's going to be a good fight. It's one of the longest runs on the calendar into Turn 1, so no doubt Lewis and Max will be chasing me but it's a good place to start and hopefully the pace is good and yeah, game on.
Lewis, second position, you must be a bit frustrated about that. But he just finally pipped you on that last lap you did.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, Valtteri did a great job and it was a pretty piss poor lap from myself! But these things happen. You can't always get it perfect. But what a beautiful place we're in here in Italy. The track: it's unbelievable the speeds we are going round this track. Grateful to be here. Grateful for the performance we have, which is really remarkable. It feels better than it did in the last race. Yeah, it was a real challenge out there, but I enjoyed it.
What about the race, because your team-mate is always going to be a threat but Max? They had a few problems in that session but overall do you think he's going to be a bigger threat tomorrow compared to last time?
LH: Yeah, they were very strong on their race runs. What is unfortunate really with this track is that it is so beautiful to drive but you are going to see... I'm pretty certain you are going to see a pretty boring race tomorrow. You can overtake on this long straight but it's quite narrow. But you can't follow. Once you get into Turn 1 there is no single place to overtake anywhere else. It's going to be a challenge for people following but as I said the DRS will hopefully give some overtaking opportunities into Turn 1 for people. For us, that means... as you see we are within half a tenth of each other and to have an opportunity of overtaking I think you have to have a gain of something like two seconds or something to the car ahead to have a chance. Nonetheless, I'm going to give it everything I've got tomorrow and fingers crossed.
What's the best part of the track and why?
LH: I would say location. They don't build tracks this anymore. I don't know why the new guys can't build a track like this. It's just a classic and it has the history, which helps, and I would say location, it's in one of the most beautiful places here in Italy.
Valtteri, many congratulations. So close between you and Lewis. How good was that final lap of Q3?
VB: Well, obviously I didn't have much experience of this track but once we got down to the qualifying session and the laps keep getting faster and faster and you really start to appreciate this track more and more and towards the end of qualifying when you are flat out on this track it's really beautiful and enjoyable to drive. A proper old school track and that's what we all like. The last lap it was good enough. I think no one, I doubt they had perfect laps with the short amount of practice and having to be on the limit just in one day, getting the rhythm quickly. But it was good enough and definitely better than the first lap I had in Q3. There were a few places on track where I had to make big gains and luckily most of the losses I managed tyo minimise and the areas I was quick I tried to make them even better.
With only practice session ahead of qualifying, how much of an unknown is the race tomorrow?
VB: For sure it's unknown. We got some long runs in practice. I think quite a lot of cars had graining on the soft tyre. That's one of the reasons we qualified on the medium tyres. That felt OK. For surer there are questions marks but at least the starting point for the race is good.
Lewis, it was a great battle between team-mates for pole position. In the end, just less than a tenth between you. You didn't seem happy immediately after the session. Were there any particular issues on your laps in Q3?
LH: What do you mean 'I didn't seem happy?' I'm second! I think I was fine. Valtteri did a great job today, so ultimately in Q3 both laps weren't that great, to be honest. The first lap was OK and the second one was pretty poor. To only have been that far away, considering, it's not so bad. We live to fight another day tomorrow.
You've said it's a beautiful track. Can you give us some idea of the challenge of Imola?
LH: The speed that we're doing from Turn 2 onwards. It's really intense. The lap is just non-stop, medium-high speed. The grip is very, very high and so, naturally, the faster you're going, the harder it is to be inch-perfect. And so, Valtteri did a great job today. It's not going to be a great race circuit, that's for sure. I'd be really surprised if it's a great race to watch tomorrow - because once you get into Turn 2, you can't follow. Yeah. I hope I'm wrong.
So the key to winning the Grand Prix is the start?
LH: Qualifying is... it's perhaps a little bit like Monaco in that sense. I think the strategy as well. It's going to be interesting tomorrow. There are usually only a couple of options. It won't be as good as the last race in terms of the opportunities to overtake, places that you can follow. But, as I said, maybe we'll be surprised.
Max, coming to you. It seemed like a tough qualifying. First up, what was the issue in Q2 that kept you in the garage for so long?
MV: I don't know exactly what it was. Of course, the bodywork had to go off and I think the mechanics did a very good job to fix my car but it ruined, a bit, my qualifying because you have to go out on a Medium, try to nail the lap. We just managed to go through, of course, on that, but yeah, the reference was a bit off. The first lap then in Q3, the tyres were too cold because I was a bit in the middle of the train. I never really got into a nice rhythm where you know that, 'OK, I have a bit of time left here, I can push a bit harder' It was all a bit messy so, even in Q3, the last lap, I was, 'well, I think we could have done a bit better here if we just had a smoother qualifying. But if you have that in Q2 and you have to qualify on a different tyre as well, mid-way through then yeah, it's not great. I didn't expect, of course, to beat them in qualifying. I just wanted to be a bit closer, make it a bit more exciting - but today, it was just very tricky and I never really found that rhythm that you get throughout qualifying, that you know 'OK we put a new tyre-set on and I know where to find my lap time'. I was just still learning to go faster. Bit of a shame but still, P3, so back in my seat!
Do you expect to be closer to these guys tomorrow?
MV: Long run was alright, so hopefully we'll be a bit similar tomorrow. Let's hope that, top-speed-wise, we're on a good position tomorrow. I don't think it's going to be very easy to pass anyway but we'll see. We'll see what we can do.
(Alex Kalinauckas - Autosport) Question for Valtteri please. You mentioned when you got out of the car that you had to really risk it on that last, final lap. Could you explain where in particular you felt you had to take those extra risks - and how close to the edge did you come with those? Thank you.
VB: There's a couple of points on this track - every track but this one especially with such a limited practice and experience - I had some issues sometimes in Turn 2 with locking up, trying to brake too late. Sometimes into the last two corners, the downhill braking, I braked too late, and that's why I lost a bit of momentum out of those corners, so it's just small things like that. There was no time to be wasted under braking, which I wasn't in places yet quite comfortable - but I'm glad I could get there eventually and, in the last run for sure you're not holding back. You either go for it or go home. I'm glad it was a good-enough lap.
Check out our Saturday gallery from Imola, here.