Today's post-qualifying press conference with Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris.
Track Interviews - Conducted by David Coulthard
Max, what a difference a week makes, you could have had the pole in Saudi Arabia, you have the pole for the final grand prix of the season. Where did you find the lap?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it's of course an amazing feeling. We definitely improved the car again in qualifying because so far this weekend it had been a bit on and off. But incredibly happy with this. This is of course what we wanted. It is never easy, especially with their form in the last few races. Yeah, now I'm just looking forward to tomorrow because of course that's the most important thing.
That's where the points are tomorrow. We have conflicting tyre strategy - you are on the Soft and Lewis Hamilton on the medium. Can you throw it forward from Friday, what that is going to mean in terms of strategy?
MV: I mean I felt good on both tyres. Naturally, now, in the evening, it's a bit cooler, so it should be a bit easier for the Soft tyres but we will see tomorrow. Of course it's very important to have a good start and from there onwards we will just try to do the race to our very best and we will see where we end up.
You guys are brilliant at deflecting questions regarding pressure but you must feel a little bit of weight lifted from your shoulders with that qualifying result?
MV: I was very relaxed going into qualifying. I know I always do the best I can and I know my team always gives me the best possible car. We have been doing that the whole year and again today that worked really well.
Lewis, great to see the respect there between Max and you as you walked up, you did the fist bump. The battle between you is going to continue into tomorrow evening. You looked like the man on form and the betting was all on your for pole position. Clearly it hasn't quite worked out. Talk us through that session?
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, first of all, Max did a great lap today, so... Yeah, we just couldn't compete with that time there. It was looking very strong through practice. Firstly, we have got a great crowd here, regardless of the boos, I'm just grateful to see people here, healthy. We couldn't answer to that lap, it was a fantastic lap from him. But we are in a good position, I would like to think, with our tyres tomorrow and I hope that we can have a good race.
Put us in the cockpit, Lewis. I got the sense that wasn't a really clean lap from you, I get the sense there was more pace from the car. Is that the case and how do we throw this forward to the all-important grand prix?
LH: Yeah, well, as you saw, the first lap I dropped a little bit of time in the last, in Turn 5, but the last lap was nice and clean, I just couldn't go any quicker. I don't know if it's tyre prep or something in terms of the out lap but nonetheless I couldn't beat that time that he did today, he fully deserved the pole.
We just heard from Max that he was super relaxed before qualifying. He must be elated because you know the importance of pole. You've done this a lot of times before, you're a seven-times world champion. So, a little bit of disappointment or all it's going forward now to the opportunity?
LH: No, I'm still on the front row, we've got the difference, obviously, between the tyres but I am grateful that I can see where he is and we can try to navigate from there.
Lando... Look at that smile. Where did that lap come from?
Lando Nnorris: I don't know really! It came already Q3, run one. I made some improvements but also a few mistakes and I just needed a clean lap in the end. I went for pole, it didn't quite work out, I was still a little bit off. It was a nice lap and to be P3 was a little bit of a surprise.
Now, it won't be lost on you as you celebrate this strong end to the season for McLaren that you have one of the best seats in the house on the run down to the first corner of this championship battle.
LN: Yeah, I'm a bit nervous. I kind of want to just stay where I am and just watch everything unfold over the first few laps or even the whole race. I don't want to get involved too much because it can cause a lot of controversy. I don't know. I don't know whether I should go for the move, not go for the move, you tell me! But I'll do my best and if I have a chance I will go for it.
Well done Max, that was a fabulous lap by you, just talk us through it first of all.
MV: So far our weekend has been a bit on and off in terms of balance but I think for qualifying we made the right decisions and as I soon as I went in to qualifying I had a bit of a better feeling. Nevertheless, Q1, not perfect, still need to fine tune a couple of things. From Q2 onwards it was a bit better. But of course in Q2 I had my flat spot on the mediums so I had to go out on the Soft again. Then in Q3, basically, both laps, the last lap until 13, I was more or less on the same lap time so, yeah, the car felt pretty decent in these final two laps.
Couple of questions about the end of Q3. We saw you working well with your team-mate Sergio Pérez. How much help did he give you?
MV: For sure on that first run it was very nice and then on my second run I had a very good exit out of 7 so I actually didn't even lose time on that straight on my own, just with the following the cars, but for sure for that first run it was a nice tow.
A quick word on the start tyre. You are going to be on the Soft. Was that always the plan?
MV: Well, naturally, it wasn't because I wanted to try to start on the medium but I flat-spotted that one. But I felt good yesterday as well on the long run on the Soft. So it was not a difficult decision to make to say. "OK, we will focus on the Softs".
Just a quick word on how you are feeling. Are you excited?
MV: Yeah, of course, naturally when you are first, that's where you want to be, so definitely looking forward to tomorrow.
Lewis, great job from you as well. How was the car, first of all? How was the lap?
LH: The car was good. Max did a great job on that final lap. Generally, through practice, P3 at least and into qualifying, the car was feeling solid. Through the qualifying session it felt like it got a bit harder to try to gain speed, and the last two laps weren't easy to really pull out the time. I don't know if it's track temp or what - but the last lap was OK. Definitely can't complain but, of course, we wish we would be a bit quicker today.
We've just heard Max talking about the way he worked with his team-mate during Q3. Was that discussed at Mercedes? You and Valtteri working together.
LH: No. No it wasn't discussed. We've never, ever really done that, so...
Let's talk about the start tyre. You're going to be on the Medium, Max is on the Soft. Straightforward decision for you to start on that tyre?
LH: Yeah. It's interesting. I'm always kind of sceptical with everything, so it'll be interesting when we go back and look at the information and onboard laps. It's very rare that people lock-up in Turn 1 but if he truly did lock-up in Turn 1 then maybe whether or not we'll be in the better position in terms of that tyre or maybe they know something we don't and that Soft tyre was their plan all the time. We struggled, I think, a little bit more on the Soft tyre for long runs, so I think we've got the right tyre but I guess we'll see tomorrow.
Lewis, you're on the front row. Quick word about how you're feeling. Are you excited as well?
LH: Yeah. I feel good. I'm happy that I'm on the front row. I can see my opponent. Obviously it's going to be a little bit harder at the start off the Medium tyre as opposed to the Soft tyre but nonetheless, I'm giving it everything.
Lando, coming to you. Fantastic to see you here in the top three, your best qualifying since Monza. How are you feeling? How please are you?
LN: Massively pleased. Very surprised to be here. Also very happy at the same time, obviously. I think we were confident all weekend that we could get to qualifying and put in a good performance but probably not to be this high up on the grid - so yeah, very happy, especially with my lap I did in Q3. It was definitely just putting it all together. It was a very clean and nice lap. And of course it put me here ahead of the people I want to be ahead of, so... happy.
The car seems a lot more competitive than it has been in recent races. Why is that? Is it something to do with the layout? Have you found something with set-up?
LN: Just layout. The car is still so sensitive to different types of corners and banked corners, not-banked corners and so on, so yeah. Qatar we were very competitive as well, we were quicker than Ferrari but apart from that, in the last bunch we've generally been a bit slower. So, to come here, to be ahead, I think it was very close between us, I was only something like five-hundredths ahead of Carlos, so it's not like we're miles quicker and are going to be comfortable tomorrow - but definitely just edging them out was definitely a good thing for myself but also a good thing for the team.
And you're going to get a great view tomorrow at the start of the two Championship protagonists. Looking forward to that?
LN: Of course. I think I'm in the best seat for tomorrow, so I'm very excited to see everything unfold, to see what goes on. I think it's just a genuine pleasure to be in this position, to see everything that's been going on this season between Max and Lewis and to watch the battles, to watch the racing because I have a lot of respect for them. Yeah, I'm very happy to be P3, not only because it's a good position to start but because it gives me the prime position for the view tomorrow.
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