Today's post-qualifying press conference with Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas.
Track Interviews - Conducted by Pedro de la Rosa
Max, well done, what a lap. After Q2 we thought no one would break into the 16s. You nearly had it there, only three hundredths. How was your lap?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it was good. I struggled a little bit in Q1 but I think then we sorted out the balance for Q2, which was pretty good. In Q3 for me both laps were pretty decent. I think only the second run was a little not worse for whatever reason. It's quite dusty around here so the wind changes a lot. Nevertheless I think second for us here on this track was very good today. We know that they are hard to beat around here, so to be that close we have to be happy with that.
And for tomorrow, starting second. I mean you have done it from further back. It is possible here. It's nearly 600 metres to Turn 1.
MV: Yeah, it's a long run to Turn 1 but of course first you have to make sure to have a good start. Since the pace is there, so of course I hope we can have a good race as well.
Tyre management tomorrow will be key do you think?
MV: Yeah, around here with all the fast corners and tyres overheating, tyre management is very important so we need to make sure that we are on top of that tomorrow.
Did you have to manage the tyre temperature during quali as well?
MV: As you could see, our out laps were so slow. Just to make sure that in the last sector the tyres survive everyone is more or less doing the same thing. But it's nice around here. It's a proper track with a lot of fast corners and especially in qualifying with low fuel it's amazing to drive.
I'm so happy to be interviewing here on your 100th pole. Lewis, this is a magic number and a magic moment, so how was your lap? Was it perfect, Mr Perfect?
Lewis Hamilton: Well, P3 was looking really good. I think we have been strong all weekend. We made some changes and I had a bit of anxiety about the changes we were potentially going to make for qualifying and you are always trying to make the car better. But it is a bit of a gamble because you've also got to keep the race in mind also. Anyway, we made this change and as soon as I got out I was like: "this is immediately the wrong one." It was my call at the end but it was really hard. So that's why I was behind the whole way through qualifying and I was making small tweaks here and there and trying to elevate pace-wise but the first lap was the best lap I got through the whole session, which was great. I tried to improve on the next lap and I think I was a tenth up but I couldn't keep it. But wow, I can't believe that we are at 100 and it's really down to the men and women back at the factory who are continuously raising the bar and just never giving up. The support that I have... it's been a dream for me to work with these guys and the journey we have been on has been immense. Who would have thought that at the end of 2012 when we made the decision to partner that we would be qualifying at 100. I feel very humbled, very grateful. I'm ecstatic, like it's my first.
Tell us about the lap because in Q2 you couldn't break the 16s, you were in mid 17s, but then, bang, the first lap was like... where did that come from?
LH: Yeah, so as I said, the set-up I had made, I just had so much understeer. The car was very lazy. It wouldn't turn round corners the way I want. So you're waiting and waiting. I made small adjustments within what we are able to change in order to get the car to turn and that's a combination of many things and then it's just pulling every millisecond together and it was my cleanest lap. I will always remember that one.
Valtteri, congratulations, third position, on the clean side, everything can happy from there.
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, that was close. I was definitely in for the battle for the pole. I think the first runs in Q3 were faster runs. I'm just a bit gutted because in Turn 10 I had a snap at the apex of Turn 10 and I lost a tenth and that's the margin for the pole. But otherwise, yeah, we have a strong package and it's going to be a good fight tomorrow, no doubt.
How was the tyre degradation during the long runs on Friday? Can you fight for the win tomorrow?
VB: I think it's going to be very close between us and Red Bull and here if you can keep the tyres in good condition you are going to be more competitive around the pit stops. I think there is even the possibility of people doing one stop or two stops. I'm not going to reveal to you ours but we'll see tomorrow.
Lewis, you're not one for statistics, you've told us that many times, but 100 is a magical milestone and you are clearly buzzing. Can you tell us what this means to you?
LH: Yeah, it's naturally when you've just got out of the car... it's always difficult to assess in the moment but wow, I've been racing a long time and the 100 mark is something I don't think anybody and particularly me thought I would ever get to that number. But when I think about it I just think about all the people that have helped me get there. It's not only the amazing team I have here but it's also the incredible group of men and women back the factory, at both factories, who just never cease to amaze me, who continue to raise the bar. There are so many people we don't get to see each other all the time but we are connected. There are these great debriefs that we have but this journey that we have been on all these years has been remarkable and it's been so enjoyable and it's crazy that it is 100 and it felt like one of the first. That for me is even more special. There have been so many qualifying sessions, so many near misses, so many mistakes and so many moments of growth and I love how close it is between us all. I think that's great for the fans and I think that's exciting for me also. And also the people that are only just behind us.
How different are the emotions now after pole 100 compared to pole number one back in Montreal in 2007?
LH: I would say very similar. I can't remember exactly the feeling in 2007. I think back then it was where I was pushing for equality in terms of fuel load alongside my team-mate and the first time they gave us the equal fuel load... I don't know if people know but like 10 kilos of fuel here is worth over three tenths of a second, so if you're carrying an extra lap or so of more fuel that's a tenth and a half or so... That was special and kind of felt amazing firstly to reassure that I was able to do what I did back then and here we are 100 qualifying sessions or whatever it is, 100 poles, and I still feel as young. I'm good. Keep going.
And Lewis, just a quick word on Q3 in particular. You had yellows in the final sector in your first run, did that cost you, or had they stopped by the time you get there?
LH: I don't remember seeing that.
Checo Perez had gone off at Turn 13...
LH: There was a bunch of gravel on the track and there was a puff of smoke. I came up on Turn 13 and didn't know, so I've lifted and let a bit of time on the table. Max obviously did an amazing job in Q2 and there was no way we could do seven-tenths quicker and then, naturally for them, they've picked up a lot of pace today with the change of wing. It's given them some nice speed on the straight, and so that's put them in a lot more contention with us, yeah, but that last lap was everything because, going into qualifying I made a change to the car and, as soon as I did the first lap I was like: "that was not a good change!" It's crazy that, after all these years, you're still trying to find those small improvements. Our cars are quite a bit different so I was just trying to see if I could just get maximum out of it, because that's all I got. And it was just about enough.
Max coming to you, well done, your first time on the front row here in Spain and just three-hundredths of a second behind Lewis. First up, can you visualise that three-hundredths? Where you might have been able to get that pole position today.
MV: I don't know, I haven't looked into the data - but it doesn't matter. It was a good qualifying session. Q1 was a little bit of a struggle. For me the wind picked up a bit differently and yeah, just not a great balance - but then we sorted it out for Q2 and that was a pretty good lap - but around here it's quite gusty and these cars are super-sensitive to it and yeah, I think it was just perfect conditions and a very good lap. But then even in Q3 we managed to improve again. Like Lewis said, there was a bit of gravel going into 13, I think it was, so you can't do your normal line, but of course it's the same for everyone. But nevertheless, it was a good lap. I was pretty happy with it, how the whole of qualifying went, to be honest.
We haven't talked much yet about tomorrow's race. How close do you think it's going to be between yourself and Mercedes?
MV: It's of course difficult to predict at the moment. I think we were quite decent in the long runs but they also of course looked strong. So, we know that it's hard to overtake around here and to be following closely, so we'll have to wait and see tomorrow - but I'm always optimistic and positive that we can do a good job and have a good race, and I hope, of course, that it's going to be as close as today.
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