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Azerbaijan GP: Post Qualifying press conference

NEWS STORY
05/06/2021

Today's post-qualifying press conference with Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Track Interviews - Conducted by Johnny Herbert

Q: That qualifying was unbelievable. My heart was on the rev limiter, but for you, Charles Leclerc, pole position. Tell us about that lap?
Charles Leclerc: It was quite a shit lap I thought! There were two or three corners where I did mistakes but of course I had the big tow from Lewis in the last sector, which helped me a little bit. But overall I think we would have been thereabouts for pole anyway without the slipstream so it's a good day. I did not expect to be as competitive as we were today. I think I was improving again with the red flag but yeah, it's like this, another pole. I'm happy anyway. Hopefully it's all good for Carlos. I haven't seen the crash so I have no ideas but I hope all OK for the team.

Q: Second pole position on the trot. That must feel absolutely brilliant. It must give a lot of motivation to you, the driver, but Ferrari as well?
CL: Yeah, it feels very good. On the other hand it is with a red flag again. I wish we had it on a normal track but in the end a pole is a pole.

Q: For the race tomorrow, how does the car feel? Do you think you can give it a good go with all those very tough drivers around you?
CL: Yeah, the car felt quite OK, but I believe Mercedes and Red Bull have something more than we have, in the race especially. We have seen that in FP2. Here it will be very difficult, It's not like Monaco; they can overtake. But I will try to do the best job possible and hopefully we can keep that first place but it's going to be very difficult.

Q: Lewis, what a result. Were you expecting that? Tell us about the lap first?
Lewis Hamilton: The lap was OK. I think we definitely weren't expecting that and this is such a monumental result for us because we have been struggling like you wouldn't believe all weekend, you can see it. We kept our composure. We continue to have difficult discussions in the background, challenging each other and just never taking no for an answer. We've moved around and made so many changes over these two days, just chasing our tails. It's been so difficult. But I think the work overnight and particularly between the sessions has been amazing from the team and I'm really proud of everyone for keeping positive and to be up there so close to these guys it's a great, great start.

Q: The track didn't look as if it was suiting you. Did the cooler track surface help you? You had a lot more shading around the circuit?
LH: I don't think that helps us because it's crazy trying to switch these tyres on. Working and trying to find the envelope for this car is... it's been like the biggest challenge we've had in a long time, trying to understand what the car really wants. She has not been happy all weekend. She's been a bit of a disaster, so for us to be up here and even Valtteri getting into the top 10 that's a massive leap and that's down to great, great teamwork, so big thanks to everyone.

Q: Challenges have been difficult. You have a big challenge tomorrow. How do you feel you will be in a competitive way in the race?
LH: Well, our race pace was a lot better than our single lap pace. We're miles off on a single lap, but we're a lot closer in race pace. We don't understand why but I would like to think we are in the same position so we can take the fight to these guys.

Q: Max, I can see it in your face, how frustrating was that today?
Max Verstappen: Ah, just a stupid qualifying to be honest. Anyway it is what it is. Still P3, we have a good car, a good recovery from FP3 of course and everything was working out fine and all this shit is all the time happening. I don't care. In Q3... it's just unfortunate. It's a street circuit so these things can happen. Like I said, our car is strong so I just hope tomorrow in the race we can look after our tyres and score good points.

Q: For tomorrow, for the race, you still must feel very positive from that point of view.
MV: Yeah, I know. We are still up there. Of course I would have liked to start a bit further ahead, but it's still all to play for. As you can see, qualifying there are a lot of things happening, so maybe in the race these things can happen again. But let's hope for a clean start and we'll see from there.

Q: Of course you are up against Lewis, your title contender, in front. That's going to be one hell of a battle. But are you looking forward to that?
MV: Yeah of course, there are three different cars as well. It's always good to have that.

Press Conference

Q: Charles, many congratulations, another stunning pole lap by you. How does it feel?
CL: It feels good. It feels better than Monaco. Even though it still doesn't feel as good as a pole position should feel just because for the red flags. On the other hand I'm very happy with the performance we have had all weekend. We were quite surprised. We definitely didn't expect this type of performance, so it is looking good for the future and we need to keep pushing like that. But for now, it's all good. About the lap I'm pretty happy. Turns 4, 5 and 6 I'm not very happy about it but then I had Lewis or Valtteri, I don't know, to help me a little bit in the last sector so very happy to be on pole tomorrow.

Q: You say you weren't expecting this level of performance coming into the session, so what were you expecting?
CL: I think to be more of less like McLaren, even a little bit behind, These were the ones we were considering to be our main rivals here. Then FP1, FP2, FP3, we were surprised but we thought that there was something more in Quali, a bit like Monaco at the end but to a bigger extent.

Q: What about the long run pace of the car? Goals for tomorrow?
CL: Oh, I think it's going to be difficult to keep these two behind me. In FP2 we weren't as strong as Red Bull or Mercedes so we need to keep working and keep pushing for tomorrow but it's not going to be an easy race.

Q: Well done, Charles, and all good with the drive shaft?
CL: Ha! Yeah, this time yes. For me. I hope for Carlos too.

Q: Lewis, coming to you, very well done and what a recovery by you and Mercedes. Just how much satisfaction does this give you?
LH: Honestly, it's one of the greatest feelings for us, for the experience we've gone through, for the difficult experience we've gone through and being out of the top ten all weekend and really struggling to understand and extract performance from our car but it's... yeah, it feels fantastic. Congratulations to Charles who did a fantastic job given the difficult circumstances out there. Yeah, just a bit overwhelming, really happy to be up here, grateful to have got the lap in and puts us in for a much different race than we anticipated after yesterday.

Q: Lewis, how good was the lap? Was there more to come, do you think?
LH: I think there was a little bit more to come, so I was excited for the last run. I think it would have been close but I can't say that I would have been quicker than Charles but I definitely think there was time left on the table. I think I was a little bit too close to Valtteri on that first lap. So, I struggled. I was a bit down in the middle sector because I was just too close to the car ahead - but anyways, I will take it. We've got a long race tomorrow. It's very difficult race here but just really, incredibly proud of the guys, the whole crew for the amazing work. For everyone just being open-minded. We've made a lot of changes, there's been so much work back at the factory overnight, and then obviously even during today, so, I hope everyone's happy and we've still got to do the job tomorrow.

Q: Lewis, you ended Friday here in Baku 11th. Is this the biggest overnight turnaround you've experienced in your career at Mercedes?
LH: It wasn't overnight! We got to P3 and it was still pretty much a disaster in P3. So, it's the biggest jump that we've been able to make on an actual day between P3 and Quali, for sure. It literally was night and day, the car. We discovered something at the end of P3 and I continued to push down in that direction and it paid dividends, so I'm really happy about it.

Q: Max, coming on to you, clearly a very frustrating day. First up, how good was the car?
MV: Yeah, I think the car... I mean it was just building up confidence. It's not easy around here with the braking and stuff. Then yeah, the whole qualifying, to be honest, with so many red flags. Yep, it didn't make it easy for all of us. But yeah, the car felt good. Bit of a scrappy qualifying. Especially in Q3. The lap itself was actually, I think, quite decent. Basically I would have liked a tow as well to the line. Bit slow on the straight but it is what it is.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Baku, here.

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