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Sakhir GP: Post Qualifying press conference

NEWS STORY
05/12/2020

Today's post-qualifying press conference with Valtteri Bottas, George Russell and Max Verstappen.

Track Interviews - Conducted by Paul Di Resta

Q: Valtteri, P1 today and a great strategy by Mercedes as well to do three sets of tyres in Q3. A lot of pressure of you this weekend with a new team-mate, but you got the job?
Valtteri Bottas: For sure, it's a different situation to have a new team-mate but fundamentally I wanted to focus on my own doing, not to waste any energy anywhere else and I think I managed to do that. I think strategy-wise we are in a great place as a team and good to see George locking the front row as well. It's good to be on pole, I'm happy with that, but not my best qualifying, but I'm happy it was enough.

Q: That's the main thing. Tell me about this new circuit layout and what are your expectations with strategy and how the race is going to pan out?
VB: It's bit of an unknown really how the racing is going to be. It didn't feel that easy to follow or pass so I'm really glad to be on the pole side and go from there. But hopefully we will see a fun race. It feels like a bit of a Mickey Mouse circuit, it's quite bumpy and twisty. Let's see tomorrow.

Q: George, first Q3 appearance, P2 missed out by two hundredths of a second, three cars within half a tenth. Tell me how the last few days have been and is there a sense of relief now you have got on the front row, because that was an epic performance?
George Russell: Thank you, yeah. It's been incredibly intense, so much to learn, the car, the seat - everything. It's just so different. It felt really alien to begin with and it's just a really different way of driving to be honest. You're trying to unlearn what I learned at Williams and re-learn how to drive this car fast. I tried a lot of things in FP3 and it didn't go well at all. To be honest I would have been happy just to get through to Q3 after final practice. Really pleased and we got it all pretty much all together on the final lap. Gutted to miss out on pole by 20 milliseconds. But if you had told me last week I'd be qualifying P2 on the grid next week, I would not have believed you.

Q: It's the first time you've been beaten by a team-mate in Formula 1, which is important, but since you got that call from Toto you've got to be delighted where you've ended up and the progression you've had?
GR: Massively. You know Valtteri has pushed Lewis a huge amount in qualifying over the year and statistically I think there's only a tenth between them and we all know how great Lewis is. Just to be behind Valtteri, coming in last minute, two days of prep, I'm pleased. So let's see what we can do tomorrow.

Q: And a whole new experience tomorrow racing Max, racing Valtteri?
GR: Absolutely. Obviously I've got nobody in front of me, which I've not experienced for a long, long time. It's going to be tricky. It's going to be really tricky. Qualifying is what I feel most comfortable with, it's balls out, everything you've got, and tomorrow you need a bit more control, a bit more finesse, and I just haven't had the experience yet. I'll give it my all and I'll see what I can do.

Q: Max, I don't know if Mercedes just tricked you into something there doing the three sets but you narrowly missed out but well within this race and after yesterday you looked quite strong.
Max Verstappen: Yeah, they did their three sets or whatever, but from our side we had a good qualifying. It's a very short lap, not many corners. Pleased to be a bit nearer in P3. I tried to be as close as I can today. It is a bit closer than normal but I think the layout explains that as well. But of course tomorrow we are also as well starting on different tyres so this will be quite interesting to see how it's going to play our for us. Like I've said before we have nothing to lose so it's better to have a bit of fun tomorrow and see what we can do.

Q: You are on that clean side of the grid and you have got the benefit of the tyres, probably three or four metres at the start. George is obviously not used to racing at the front and you have to take advantage of that haven't you, if you want to take the fight to Valtteri?
MV: Yeah, wherever possible of course. We'll find out tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it. All the lap times are so close to each other it's all going to depend also on the start but even then with so many laps, management, it's not going to be easy.

Press Conference

Q: Valtteri, many congratulations on what is the 16th pole of your career and your fourth of 2020. That was a very intense session to watch and lap times were very close but ultimately you came through. You must feel very satisfied?
VB: Yeah, yesterday was quite a tricky day for me personally. But today was a lot better. The car felt more complete and more driveable and I could really build lap by lap in practice three and then with a good feeling in the qualifying. Just slightly disappointed in myself at the end with the lap, that I didn't improve at the end. But I was the only car without a tow. The lap was not that great so I couldn't improve on the last run. I'm really happy to be on pole. In the end that's how it is. On a track like this you can't really make a difference, so the gaps are really small as you can see. I have to say George did a really good job. He was really building up to it and you could see the progress in qualifying. Really happy for us as a team that we can be one-two on the grid and it's another big achievement for us.

Q: There was a lot of talk before the session about traffic management. In reality how tricky was it?
VB: For me in general it was quite OK. I think in Q2 there was one run that was a bit compromised because we were on the medium tyres and we had to do faster out laps than the other so it was a bit messy. But apart from that not too bad. Obviously this weekend it was my call to choose whether I go first or second. I was first and I was still expecting to have one car ahead of me in Q3, but I didn't but I'm glad still you know that I could get a good enough lap.+

Q: George, you missed out on P1 by just two one hundredths of a second. How satisfied are you with your first qualifying session in Mercedes?
GR: Yeah, incredible. I guess, you know, yesterday was a good day. Got into the car, working really well with the team and then just building on it lap after lap. And then into P3 it was a really, really woeful session - just pushing too hard, trying this, trying that, and it just didn't come together, so to be honest after P3 I would have been satisfied just getting into Q3 almost, but no, really happy. I think Valtteri has been on it all weekend, even if the lap times yesterday didn't quite show it, the true pace was always there. It's been really tough for me to jump in last minute, learn a new car, working with new engineers, understanding the set-up, how to make this car go fast, because it's a completely different ball game really. I am really pleased. In some ways being so close makes it slightly frustrating but if you told me four days ago that I would be qualifying P2 this weekend, I would have thought you'd have been having my pants down.

Q: How clean was your final lap of Q3?
GR: It was alright. I've been really struggling at Turn 1 all weekend. Oddly last week, that was my strongest corners and we were really strong there. This weekend I've been really weak compared to Valtteri, he's been taking loads of lap time out of me. That was my weak point. I don't know what it was I just couldn't get on the throttle. After that every single time from Turn 4 onwards it felt great. The car was absolutely on rails and it was a real joy to drive. Just that Turn 1 and 2 were really letting me down. I'm sure I'm going to look on the data and Valtteri is going to be much quicker than me through there again and it's going to frustrate me but nevertheless, like I said, first qualifying with Mercedes, 20 milliseconds behind pole, got to be pretty pleased.

Q: Max, coming to you, you're starting P3 tomorrow, but you must have thought pole was on as well - just half a tenth behind Valtteri.
MV: Pole was on. After that first run I was two-tenths behind so I knew it was going to be difficult but you always try to be as close as you can. At the end, to be within a tenth wasn't bad - but of course Valtteri didn't have a tow and didn't improve on his final lap. To be P3 is good for us I think on a track like this. I'm used to sitting in this chair. It might actually have my prints! I think at the end of this season, I'm going to take this seat home. It's very comfortable.

Q: Now Max, what about the race tomorrow? Do you feel you can really take the fight to these guys? You seemed pleased after practice with your long run pace.
MV: Let's see. I'm starting on a different tyre already, so that's going to be interesting and from there onwards, last week our long runs, they looked quite good - but then again in the race we just came a bit short, so that was, yeah, a bit of a shame but let's see if it's going to be any better this week on, of course, the outer layout. Hopefully it is but we'll find out tomorrow.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Bahrain, here.

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