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Belgian GP: Post Qualifying press conference

NEWS STORY
28/08/2021

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

Track Interviews - Conducted by Mark Webber

George Russell, oh my God mate. First front-row start in Formula 1 (sic)? What a performance.
George Russell: I don't know what to say to be honest. I thought we would be doing a good job to get out of Q1 given how we got on yesterday and now we're here standing here on the front. I think we did an amazing job today. I was on the attack always at the right time. The car was feeling great. I had so much confidence so on to tomorrow now.

The start in Q1, an inspired call on intermediates. You looked great in that session and then run us though that last lap then because the level of grip you found under the circumstances, under pressure, with the red flags and everything. Extraordinary performance.
GR: Yeah, I think I was in the fortunate position that I had nothing to lose. We were in Q3, which is not the norm for us, and we just had to go for it. We saved a full maximum engine mode for the last lap and we just thought 'you know what, let's go for it'. Buzzing, absolutely buzzing. But obviously tomorrow is the important one and we have to go out there and score some points.

Well, you know, P2 is good here so we can have a bit of a nibble for the lead can't we, up into Les Combes?
GR: That's the plan, that's the plan! If it's there for the taking we will go for it. Mega.

Well done mate, sleep well tonight and good luck for tomorrow. Max, congratulations, pole position. Pretty much a home grand prix for you here in Belgium. It's been challenging conditions all weekend but it must be very satisfying to get pole position and sort of run the race off the front row tomorrow?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it's been a really tricky qualifying. It's hard to keep the car on track, switching the tyres on as well, at the right time. Also the long break between Q2 and Q3, it's not easy then to settle in and learn the track conditions again but at the end we were first and that's the most important thing. It's an amazing track to drive but very challenging in the wet.

Run us through the different tyres because obviously on the extremes not many people got much mileage on that and we had a big shut with Lando at the top of the hill at Eau Rouge. Is it challenging switching between the two wet tyres at this venue?
MV: Yeah, as you could see in Q1 a lot of people, including myself, went out on the extremes but it was just very slow. It was really a lot seconds off the pace and naturally you switch to the intermediate but of course that tyre cannot handle a lot of standing water so there also it becomes quite tricky, so lovely weather. Overall super happy to have a qualifying like this after the break, to have a pole position again. A good day.

Lewis, that looked like pretty challenging conditions for you. It looked like the car was not that easy to drive in intermediate conditions throughout the whole of qualifying. Are you pretty relieved that you got to qualify that far up at the end or did you want more, of course you want to be on the front row?
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, it's been a very difficult day for everyone. I just tried to stay positive, focused and calm. Well done to Max, he did a great job right at the end. My first lap was really good, the second one I struggled a little bit. Also, a great job by George, that was just fantastic.

Phenomenal lap by him. For tomorrow's race in terms of mixed conditions. The intermediates are going off quite quickly, is it going to be quite hard on the strategy, not just on the track drying off and going wet again, but are the intermediates good in those transitions?
LH: Yeah, if it's like this tomorrow it will be tricky. There is this balance of straight line speed versus that mid-section downforce. I think we tried to strike the best balance possible, maybe it's not the best for today but we will see tomorrow exactly how good it is. Otherwise I'm really grateful to the team for keeping their cool in this session and tomorrow is another day and hopefully we have better weather, hopefully for the fans because they are probably drenched out there today.

You've nearly got another wingman up there with George another Mercedes-powered car. Having him up the front there in terms of strategy maybe putting a bit of pressure on Max with the pair of you?
LH: Yeah, I don't really know what happened with Valtteri, a bit unfortunate because I think they have two Red Bulls not too far away, so that's going to make a little bit harder in terms of strategy as I think Valtteri has a penalty also. But nonetheless we will do everything we can and tomorrow is another day. I hope that it is not crazy rain like this but interchangeable could be fun.

Press Conference

Max, huge congratulations that was the ninth pole of your career, just how tough was it out there?
MV: I think all qualifying it was pretty tricky because conditions-wise with the track but also to get the tyres in the right window. It was really difficult to find a gap, to not have problems with the visibility. Overall it was important to stay on track and do your laps at the right time. It was just building up like that through Q1 and Q2 and then we had quite a long break because of the crash and then to go straight into Q3 with conditions like that it was very tricky, because the track looks very wet and you want to go out on an extreme but these tyres were extremely slow so then you go out on an inter, which is not really made for a lot of water on track. Yeah, it was difficult. But this track is amazing to drive in the dry and when you then have a wet qualifying, it's pretty... I wouldn't say scary but it's really interesting and quite extreme in Q3 when you know that you have to push and try to go to the limit in the wet here.

How confident were you coming into the session?
MV: Difficult to tell. We didn't really run a lot in FP3. You don't know what the conditions are going to be because clearly you could it was raining and then it was drying. You need a little bit of luck as well to be at the right time on track. Yeah difficult to tell going into this session.

The forecast for tomorrow looks unpredictable at best. Just tell us about the performance of your car in all conditions. Are you confident, wet or dry?
MV: Yeah, I'm quite confident. We had a good Friday straightaway out of the box. The car felt quite decent. There were no big dramas. There are always things to fine-tune but it felt quite good, and today in the wet, it's never easy, it's always moving around - but yeah, it's alright. You just need to make sure that tomorrow we have a clean first lap and then we'll see. Again, changing conditions and a lot of things can happen.

George, coming to you. What a performance. You were on pole position for a short while as well. Try and put into words what you've just done?
GR: Not too sure, to be honest. I mean, an incredible team effort. I think the car was really on it in these wet conditions and there's so much that has to go right, all the little details, to give the driver the confidence, because we aren't doing many laps, the conditions are so tricky, constantly changing, you've got to be... you've got to have that confidence to be able to extract the most, and obviously we had the extreme tyres on at the start, which were the incorrect tyres, and I only had one lap at the end. I think being in Q3 gave me the fortunate... I was in the fortunate position that I could put it all on the table, and just absolutely go for it. So... yeah... I was definitely not expecting to be on the front row this weekend, that's for sure.

What were you expecting? Because you were ninth in the final practice session earlier today.
GR: I thought if it was wet, Q3 was definitely a possibility. I had good confidence in the wet around this circuit: it's a place I enjoy in these conditions. Throughout the junior ranks you get to drive this place a lot and more times than not it is wet - but getting into a Q3 was an achievement in itself, and we had no more new Inter tyres, so we actually were on a used set of Inters for Q3. So, I was expected P9,8,7 really. When my engineer came on the radio telling me all the drivers who were slotting in behind me, I thought: "crikey, this could be a good one!" and then Max obviously just pipped me, so you know, we're in a great position but no points for qualifying, so eyes on tomorrow.

About tomorrow. What are your goals. What are you hoping for?
GR: We've obviously got to be realistic, we've got incredibly fast cars behind us but if the conditions stay the same, we've got a car that's probably quick enough on merit in the top ten but if we're starting from the front row, there's no reason why we can't try to hold that position for the majority of the race. But, you know, I don't think I'm going to do anything stupid with the cars around me that are clearly going to be faster than us - but there's no reason why we can't finish, if conditions are like this, top five, and just maximise it. Points is an absolute minimum.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Spa, here.

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