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Qatar GP: Post Qualifying press conference

NEWS STORY
20/11/2021

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

Track Interviews - Conducted by David Coulthard

Q: So Max, you're first to the interviews but sadly for you, you are second in qualifying. Just not the pace underlying in the car or was there more you could have done?
Valtteri Verstappen: No, I think just lacking a bit of pace. It's been just a bit more tricky for us, again. In Qualifying you could clearly see... I mean Checo is not even in Q3, so this shows that we are definitely struggling a bit more than normal. But nevertheless, still second, so all to play for but of course I wish we could have fought for more.

Q: As you say, second gives you a good position to try to launch it at the start. Looking forward to the race, we haven't been seeing, in free practice, high deg on the tyres. Is there much that can be done with strategy here or are you already almost in the position where the start and the first corner will decide this grand prix?
MV: It always difficult to say, because we have never really done a race here, so that's a lot of unknowns. I don't really think about these things too much. We just need to work on our start and we'll see where we end up.

Q: You mentioned the start. It is a very long run to the first corner and it's not a big stop, so anything that you will play through in your mind tonight or with the engineers?
MV: Not really. Of course we will go over qualifying and we will just focus on the race in general.

Q: Our pole-sitter, Lewis Hamilton, the fine form from Brazil continues. That's quite the gap to Max Verstappen in second.
Lewis Hamilton: First, hi everyone! How are you guys doing? It's my first time racing here so it's good to see new fans. Yesterday was a really difficult day for me. Thursday and Friday I wasn't feeling too well. I really struggled throughout practice and I was just off yesterday. I really had to dig deep. I was here until midnight last night working with the engineers, who also always work so late, they are such hard workers, and found a lot of areas in which I can improve. We made some changes for P3 and it seemed to work. Of course you've got to try to carry that through into qualifying. I'm so grateful for the timings they put us out on track, we didn't have traffic. That last lap was beautiful. It was a really sweet lap. This track is amazing to drive, it's incredibly fast, all medium- and high-speed corners and it felt good.

Q: Just to clarify, when you said you didn't feel too well, do you mean in terms of balance in the car or physically?
LH: Yeah, I had a bit of a stomach-ache from Wednesday but felt fantastic today. I slept really well last night and that made a big difference.

Q: I'm going to assume you are going to sleep well tonight as well, because that's a bit of a pace advantage. But it's a long run down to the first corner so any concerns for the race and give us a little insight into what you expect on strategy?
LH: Yeah, being that it's such a fast circuit, I don't think from the little bit of experience we have had through practice, it's not the easiest of circuits to follow but it's also not massively degrading on the tyres and I think the top three of us at least are all on the medium tyres and the hard is a C1 so it looks like it could go quite a long way. But it could be a one or a two. We'll find out tomorrow. Yeah, fairly decent long run down to Turn 1. There's a tailwind but it's nice and wide into Turn1 , so I will be giving everything.

Q: Finally, the man that's had a great run of poles of late and you certainly looked very strong through all the practice sessions, but it seemed to slip away when it came to this qualifying session. Explain to us why?
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, it's been a good weekend so far until the qualifying for me and I felt really comfortable in the car but I don't know what happened overnight. I could feel in FP3 for sure that the wind was different to yesterday. I was still fastest but I really had to push a lot so I knew that I couldn't find much more. In quali I struggled quite a bit, especially in Turn 1, so I struggled to get the tyres read, unlike yesterday evening. I need to have a look but obviously I tried my best and I'm a little bit confused as to what happened overnight.

Q: In Brazil we saw you be the ultimate team player, moving out of the way for Lewis. You obviously don't have, as you said on the grid, the ability to do that, but you do have the ability to go for it into Turn1. Will your approach be any different given the championship battle?
VB: Yeah, I mean, I don't really have much to lose personally. I hope the grid is going to be good on the clean side for me and Lewis and go from there. But obviously we've got two cars against Max and I'm sure we can do something.

Press Conference

Q: Tremendous final lap in Q3, Lewis, well done. It looked exhilarating out there, talk us through it?
LH: It was. The wind changed like 180 degrees from yesterday and once you get through Turn 1 the downforce is amazing around the track and obviously it's such high speeds, it's only one relatively slower corner, which is Turn 6, but otherwise it's all medium and high speed and it's all about getting the flow and using all the track but it was really beautiful out there today, especially under the night lights. I generally really enjoyed it and I didn't know that I was going to gain as much time as I did on that last lap. Normally it's a bit of a struggle on the second run in Q3 but over the last couple of races I've managed to put a nice clean lap together. It felt amazing.

Q: Are you surprised by the gap to Max, it's more than four tenths?
LH: Of course. Same as in the last race. Probably the last three races in qualifying we have been ahead of them, which has been a bit of a surprise. Today definitely wasn't expecting to have as big a gap as that. I looked, I was relatively comfortable and was around tenth or so ahead throughout the session, but to be able to pull out that extra time felt great and it's a great showing of the hard work, all the guys, as I said we were here until midnight last night. The guys were here even later than that. Really great work from everyone.

Q: What about tomorrow then? How confident are you? How's the long-run pace of the car?
LH: Long-run pace in good. We always end up getting closer... or our pace closes up to each other when it comes to race pace and yeah, I think the car is a in a good place. It's a difficult circuit to follow so, yeah, I'm looking forward to the start.

Q: Max, coming to you now. Great effort by you out there today. How easy has it been to dial-in your car for this racetrack?
MV: It's been a bit up and down. I was quite happy for FP1, not so happy in FP2 and FP3. Then I was actually happy in quali again but just not quick enough. That sometimes happens. There were a few corners where I would have liked to go faster but tried everything and there's just not a lot of extra pace coming, you know? You think you do a better corner but there's not much more lap-time actually. So yeah, the last few races qualifying has been a bit more of a struggle for us. So, we definitely, of course, need to try and understand, and try to be better, like we always try to be. My last lap, I thought I had a really good lap, and then I heard the difference in lap time and thought, 'wow, didn't even need to risk it then if it's such a big gap' - but nevertheless, I had a lot of fun out there you know? Qualifying here has been really cool. It's a really beautiful track and a lot of fun to drive. Of course, it would have been even more fun if it had been a bit faster - but you know sometimes that happens. Nevertheless, still being second is OK - but it's a big gap. And also, for tomorrow, yeah, when it's such a gap it's going to be tricky, but we never give up.

Q: And tomorrow you're also going to be the meat in a Mercedes sandwich - at least at the start of the race. How much harder will that make the task for you?
MV: I mean I've been used to that, the last few years has been like that.

LH: Could be the lettuce!

MV: Tomato?

LH: It'd be a vegan sandwich!

MV: I mean it's fine. We've had it before, so I'll just try to do the best I can.

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