Today's post-qualfying press conference with Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz.
Track Interviews - Conducted by David Coulthard
Q: The new era of Formula 1 and Charles the first pole position of the year. What a fantastic start for Ferrari, they're back!
Charles Leclerc: Yeah, it feels good. The last two years have been incredibly difficult for the team and yeah we were quite hopeful that this new opportunity for us was an opportunity to be back in the front. I think we have worked together extremely well as a team to find ourselves again in a position to fight for better places. Very happy with today. It has been a very tricky qualifying session. I wasn't completely happy with my driving but I managed to do that lap in Q3 and we're starting from pole so I'm very happy.
Q: Very humble as ever, saying you weren't happy with your driving. You were the fastest man today. Put us in the cockpit. We have a radically different car, we have different tyres, it's a new season and it's the first time you are running in absolute qualifying performance. How did it feel in comparison and is there any room to improve?
CL: Of course there is, of course. Also from the driving point it's completely different compared to last year. Testing was very useful for this and I tried many different driving styles and I still have to find the perfect one. So yeah, there is definitely more to come, hopefully, from us.
Q: Pace-wise we have got the first comparison. It's never the same day in history but we can see the lap time comparison now with these new cars. We have been talking a lot about a little bit of increase in pace and maybe not quite so nimble at low speed. when it came to qualifying trim though, what was the feeling?
CL: It feels quite good. We were pretty sure that Red Bull was going to be a bit quicker than us also in qualifying but yeah, good surprise that wasn't the case. Now we need to finish the weekend on a high tomorrow. It's not going to be easy. Tyre degradation here is a thing, especially with this increase in weight this year. So we need to focus on that and hopefully have a good race tomorrow.
Q: So the message is that today was great but cautious approach for the actual race pace relative to Red Bull?
CL: Yeah, yeah, definitely I will stay cautious. The pace is there but the race is long and anything can happen so we need to stay on it.
Q: Max great to see you here in the top three. Not the position you would have wanted but what it does do is confirm that Ferrari look like your competitor right now. Was there anything left there or was that pure performance on this day?
Max Verstappen: It's a bit difficult to tell. I think it was a bit hit and miss. Q2 seemed quite good and then Q3 was a bit more of a struggle to get the balance together. Nevertheless I think it was alright. I think we have a good car, a good race car, which at the end of the day is the most important thing. It was a good day overall. It's a good start to the new era.
Q: You actually seen, not subdued, but Charles is talking a little bit about let's see what the race is tomorrow. This is the first opportunity for you all to really exploit the performance of these cars. Let's see what it was like in your cockpit. How was the balance, how did the car feel with these radical changes?
MV: Not fantastic but also not too bad, otherwise you could not be in this position. There are a few things of course to look into and we will try to do better for next time. But here it's a bit of... you want to be good in qualifying but you really want to make sure your car is working for the race because the tyres are really struggling a lot more there and it is a bit different to some other tracks. It was nice you know. Really nice battle with Carlos and with Charles at the end. They did a good over the winter and hopefully it's going to be an exciting race.
Q: You must be disappointed that Mercedes are off the pace?
MV: Very. Very...
Q: Carlos, race drivers always want to be number one in the team in terms of outright pace. Was there any more in the car today or was that what you could deliver?
Carlos Sainz: Well, there was that extra tenth that Charles managed to extract at the end but I am quite happy with the progress I have made this weekend. I have been very far off, really struggling with this car, to understand how to drive it and I've been more than half a second behind all weekend, so to be even fighting for the pole position today in qualifying was good news for me and to put together a good lap there at the beginning of Q3 and not managing to extract that last tenth is a pity but at the same time it is deserved. Charles has been ahead the whole weekend and he deserved the pole position and he did such a great job.
Q: Are you able to tell the fans around the world, you've been working with your engineers to bring that deficit down. How do you go about? Is it using data, working with your engineers, braking later?
CS: The problem is I've never been so far behind. Last year at the max, I was a couple of tenths in some circuits where I was not entirely comfortable. This weekend I have had to fight a seven to eight-tenths deficit from FP1 and having to catch up. I just don't understand the car fully yet. I am struggling. I am thinking a lot while driving and this takes a bit of space out of my head when IO am driving, but at the same time I was in the fight for pole position so I cannot complain too much., They managed to extract that last tenth when it counted but for how much I am thinking while driving, I'll take it.
Q: Welcome to the top three qualifiers for the 2022 FIA Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix. In third place, Carlos Sainz, in second place, Max Verstappen, and taking the 10th pole position of his career, our pole sitter, Charles Leclerc. Many congratulations Charles, what a brilliant final lap by you. Just how much pleasure does this performance give you?
CL: A lot. Obviously, the last two years for the team have been extremely difficult. After 2019, that was positive, we had two very difficult years where I knew it was just a matter of time before we got back to the top because we were working well but until you actually do it, you always have doubts. And finally this season we managed to do a car that is back to where it deserves, which is to be at least in the mix for the top positions. And today the car was great. It wasn't an easy qualifying session very difficult to put the tyres in the right window and to actually put a lap together. I struggled quite a bit during qualifying. But the last Q3 lap was good enough for Paul, so very happy about this.
Q: You said it was the smoothest session for you. Is that what you're referring to when you talk about the tyre temps?
CL: Yeah, exactly. It was very difficult. For some reason it was... I don't know why I didn't have this problem during the whole weekend, but this evening was a bit more difficult on my side and, and struggling especially for the first sector. I've been quite slow during all qualifying even on my fast lap, but after that the car was feeling very good.
Q: And Charles, how much confidence does it give you to have translated your pace in testing to qualifying when it matters?
CL: It definitely feels very good. Again, there's been a lot of work, we've had a very smooth test, we kept more or less the same car from test number one, which helps us with the knowledge of this car, we know the car quite well. But we were quite sure that Red Bull will be in front by a little bit. But actually, once we put everything together, the car seems to be very competitive. So it's nice.
Q: Max, coming to you, another great lap by yourself, just talk us through the lap, that final one of Q3.
MV: It was a bit hit and miss, just getting the balance together. Of course, this track is always quite difficult for that, just the layout, with the wind, that makes it a bit more tricky and, yeah, I had a really good feeling in Q2, and then my first run in Q3, I didn't really enjoy it. Just sliding around a bit much and then I made a tiny correction for the last run, which helped me in some areas but then suddenly, I lost like a tenth in one corner, then gained a bit, then lost a bit, so it was a bit hit and miss everywhere and that's of course, not what you want, but nevertheless, I mean it's the first race of the season and we are competitive, and that's the most important. Now, we just need to keep working on the car and understand these things when you really take the fuel out and are really pushing it to the limit to see what you can do better. So, overall of course, it's a great start and also for tomorrow, I think we've got a good race car. All the time when I've been on race fuel the car has been feeling quite stable and good on tyres, and that's of course very important.
Q: Now, there was no need to run your start tyre in Q2 this evening. How did that change your approach to the session?
MV: We've had weekends last year where of course you want to start on the harder compounds, and some weekends you just did what we did now, right? So, at the end of the day, nothing really changed. And anyway, the compounds are, of course, very different, compared to the differences we had last year.
Q: Carlos, fastest after the first run on Q3, do you know where that last tenth went?
CS: Once I look into the data, probably I'll find out, not yet but glad to be fighting for pole position. It's been a very difficult weekend for me. I've been... slow! Simply as that. Charles has been doing a much better job than me all weekend and I have been playing catch-up. Honestly there have been points this weekend that I was very far behind so by the time I hit quali and I was fighting for pole, I was a bit more relieved but yeah, in the last lap he did a very good lap. I think he put together everything and at that point you just need to congratulate and say good job to a team, no? Because it's great news to be to be fighting back in pole positions, first time for me also fighting for pole. So yeah, quite, quite interesting, and an exciting times ahead.
Q: You say it's been a difficult weekend for you so far. How prepared are you for tomorrow's race?
CS: Not entirely prepared, because the long runs yesterday that I did, I was also slow. So that's my last reference. I don't know if I will manage to translate the qualifying pace into race pace. So, a bit of a question mark there for me. But I will work overnight to try and find out. At the moment I'm just having to think a lot while driving and it's taking quite a lot of space out of my head while driving because every corner I need to really understand what the car is doing and I probably just don't exactly know what's going on. But overall, we managed to put ourselves back in the fight and tomorrow we are in the fight, so we will go for it.
Check out our Saturday gallery from Bahrain, here.