Today's post-qualifying press conference with Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen.
Track Interviews - Conducted by Davide Valsecchi
Well done Checo, wonderful performance. First row for you, second position. How was your quali because you surprised everyone by improving, improving and then at the end second position?
Sergio Perez: Yeah, first of all, I have to say well done to team. Yesterday I made a mistake and I made them work hard during the day, so it's a good recovery. The most important thing is that we are showing progress. I never expected to be here today, you know, [after] where we were yesterday. We've been improving. It's just important. P2 today. I should have been on pole today. I did a mistake today on my final corner. I think it's everything positive. We just have to make sure that we keep progressing and tomorrow is what matters.
Tell me about tomorrow. Usually it's your strongest part of the weekend, the race. What do you think about the race?
SP: Yeah, I think anything can happen tomorrow. We are on a different strategy to Lewis and Max. It's going to be interesting to see what we can do and most important, get those points, get that learning, which is the priority at the moment.
Ciao, Max. How was your quali? You struggled a bit in the last part of the quali. Third position, same strategy as Lewis Hamilton for tomorrow: how was your day?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, not so good. In Q3 I went off at Turn 3, so a bit messy; just not a good lap. But you can't be good every time. We'll see what went wrong but it was definitely not the easiest in Q3, but still P3, which is a good starting position.
Tell me please about tomorrow, because it seems the opposite of Bahrain, where you were alone against two Mercedes. Tomorrow you will be two Red Bulls against one Mercedes. How will be your race?
MV: Yeah, it's going to be interesting. Of course we have the two cars on different tyres, so we will see how that will work out but we will try to make it difficult for them.
Lewis, what a day. Your numbers, your quali was just amazing from outside. 99 pole positions, 30 different circuits; the record of all time. Congratulations, how was your day?
Lewis Hamilton: Thank you. Today's been great, obviously. I definitely didn't expect us to be ahead of two Red Bulls. I think they have been so quick this weekend. There were times when they were six tenths ahead and we didn't really know where we would be. But the car was already feeling a lot better from the beginning this weekend. So mad respect to the team for the hard work to really narrow down the window.
Please, tell me about tomorrow, because it will be opposite to Bahrain. You are alone against the two Red Bulls behind, it will be not easy at all. What do you expect from tomorrow?
LH: Oh, I love it! I love the challenge. I think it's great that we've finally got the two Red Bulls behind there. I think it's going to definitely make strategy harder and it's going to be a real challenge tomorrow because they've got great race pace. I think their pace was looking strongest for the race in the long runs yesterday. But I'm just so happy. The first lap was really, really nice, really clean. There were some improvements on the second lap but it wasn't quite as good as the first one. I'm really grateful. I came round the last corner and heard that I got the pole and I was super grateful.
Lewis, tremendous performance, well done. It's so close between Mercedes and Red Bull this year, just how satisfying is this pole?
LH: Thank you. I'm just amazed at how close it is and how exciting that is. It really adds to the fire and the adrenalin rush. I didn't know whether or not these guys had improved on that last lap for quite some time and so I was definitely nervous and that's the excitement of closer racing. But really grateful to the team. We came here and the car was feeling better already from the first lap out and I think that's probably track dependant but really good steps forward. Just one step forward all weekend and fantastic work from everyone.
You say the car feels better, can you tell us a bit more about that? Where are the improvements over Bahrain a few weeks ago?
LH: Well, Bahrain the temperatures are a lot different and the track surface is a lot different. In Bahrain we always struggle with overheating and a lot of cross winds and we don't seem to have that here and it's a lot cooler and we are very rarely over with the temperature of the tyres. So that's kind of brought us more in line with the Red Bulls and I think it's really just focusing on balance. Refining the balance is a very narrow window of tyres operating at their best and also our car is probably more on a knife edge I would say than previous years.
Can you just describe the thrill of a qualifying lap around Imola? So narrow, so fast...
LH: It's incredibly fast here and the speeds that we are doing and the accuracy we need. I mean, you saw with Lando, a couple of inches to the right and you're off track and over the track limits and you really need to use every inch of the road. And the speed that we're travelling through those first couple of corners - it's all medium and high-speed corners here, there are no real slow corners - it's phenomenal. It's a beautiful lap. And it's obviously got the history. I remember watching Mika and Ayrton and Michael here, so it's pretty phenomenal to come to a circuit like this and have a good day like today.
Checo, coming to you, many congratulations, this is your first front row start in Formula 1. How good was not only your Q3 lap but your session as a whole?
SP: Yeah, thanks. It was a very good session from our side, because every time we are in the car we are making big steps. So it was a good session in that regard. Every time I drive this car I'm learning something new and that's pretty good. If there's a place that you don't want to come in your second race with a new team, it's probably Imola. It's one of the most difficult circuits around to put a lap together. The limit is... as Lewis described, everything is so narrow, you are millimetres all the time from the grass, you know. To be here in my second race is a pretty good step from our side, which shows that we are definitely making good steps. But the most important is that we keep making those steps and that the we understand today why we went quick and that we can keep that level of consistency, just getting better.
You mentioned a mistake on your final lap. Just how much time do you think it cost you?
SP: Enough to be on pole position.
OK, that's frustrating, but looking ahead to the race. How important is the start?
SP: It's very important. Today has been a good day but what matters is tomorrow. I think we have a fantastic car for the race. We are on a different strategy to Lewis and I think as a team we are going to be pushing pretty hard and hopefully tomorrow a Red Bull wins.
Max, after the frustrations of yesterday with the driveshaft failure, just how good was the car today, first of all?
MV: It felt alright in FP3 and yeah, just in qualifying a few... you change tyre from Soft to Medium, try to put your lap in and it was all coming along nicely, then in Q3 the final run... yeah. I just didn't have a good lap. I mean, I went off in Turn 3 with two wheels. I know that Honda makes good lawnmowers but I don't think this is suited for that. At least I tried. Yeah, I know, it was really just a scrappy lap and I haven't had that in the long time, so we just need to understand why that happened. Nevertheless, I think we were very close to that's positive and I think, like Checo said, we have two cars close to Lewis on different tyres, so hopefully that will give some excitement tomorrow.
We can sense the frustration now but looking at the positives, what is the race pace of the Red Bull like around here?
MV: Yesterday it seemed alright. I didn't do any long runs but we'll have a look at it. I don't think it will be a big issue but it's hard to overtake here, so we'll see what we can do.
Final question from me. Do you feel Mercedes have closed the gap to Red Bull here, compared to Bahrain?
MV: It's always difficult to say but at least from what I can see it all seems a bit more, let's say, under control, a bit more predictable on onboards.
(Alex Kalinauckas - Autosport) Question for Lewis. First all of, congrats on pole position. I was just wondering, could you please just talk us through your two runs in Q3. I think you were fractionally slower on your second run. So just what was different compared to the first one that got you pole?
LH: yep, thanks Alex. I think honestly, once we finished P3, for example, we had that gap to the Red Bulls, I couldn't go sixth-tenths faster - but we just kept our heads down and worked on just tweaking the car a little bit into qualifying. Generally very, very smooth. Great strategy in terms of getting us out in nice clean air on all of our runs. And, of course, I managed to do my time on the Medium, and then I got to have a practice run on the Soft, and then I knew, going into qualifying and particularly that last lap, was going to take something special. It really had to be the most perfect lap that I could do - and a little bit more, in order to beat the Red Bulls. They really have been fast all weekend. So, I didn't honestly know whether or not we could do it. Like that last lap, it started up... the first lap, for example, of Q3, started I think a tenth up out of Turns 1 and 2 and I knew that I was onto a good lap but the second sector lost a little bit in Turn 12. The second time around, unfortunately came out of Turn 2 and 3 a tenth and a half down, I think it was, or a tenth down, and by the time I got to Turn 9, I was a tenth and a half down but managed to regain that through the middle and the last sector. So, having those two together I think would have been the perfect, perfect lap - but I'm honestly so happy with that lap. The first lap really is obviously where it counted. So, grateful for it.
Check out our Saturday gallery from Imola, here.