Today's post-qualifying press conference with Sergio Perez, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
Track Interviews - Conducted by Johnny Herbert
Q: Well, Sergio Perez pole position here in Saudi Arabia. How does that feel?
Sergio Perez: Well, it took me a couple of races, but what a lap, man. Unbelievable. I could do 1000 laps and I don't think I could beat that lap. It was unbelievable.
Q: And you've got to be happy for tomorrow because you're in the perfect position.
SP: Yeah, we weren't really expecting to match the Ferraris in qualifying we were focusing mainly into the race, so hopefully we get them tomorrow.
Q: Charles Leclerc, second, how are you feeling after that lap?
Charles Leclerc: The lap felt good honestly. I'm very happy with the lap. All qualifying it was all about just keeping it on track and not doing any mistakes, which would have been very costly, and then in Q3 in a second lap, I just went for it and I more or less put everything together. There's a bit here and there, but, yeah, I definitely did not expect Checo to come with that lap time, so congratulations to him. And I'm pretty sure he did an incredible job today.
Q: Another day tomorrow, eh?
CL: Yeah, it's another day tomorrow and hopefully we'll have a good start.
Q: Carlos, third position, how was the lap?
CL: The lap for P3 was pretty good. It was on a used tyre because a used tyre for some reason this weekend is giving me a better feeling. The new tyre for me is very digital, very tricky to handle. And when I went on new for the last run of Q3, I just didn't have any rear grip and I struggled, so for a used tyre it wasn't that bad. But again, Checo and Charles beat me by a little, so it's still OK.
Q: It's going to be a great race tomorrow, eh?
CS: It's going be exciting. All four cars mixed up, between the Ferraris and the Red Bulls, so we will play around I think with each other with strategy and passes, which should be an exciting race.
Q: Many congratulations to the top three qualifiers for the FIA Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. In third place, Carlos Sainz. In second place. Charles Leclerc. And taking the first pole position of his Formula 1 career, our polesitter, Sergio Perez. Checo, it's been a while. This is start number 215. Many congratulations. First up. How do you feel?
SP: Yeah, first of all, I have to say, well done to the whole team. It's been a tough weekend in Bahrain, where we were so disappointed to miss both cars. But the team didn't put their heads down and we kept pushing. We felt we were not as strong as we feel we're going to be in the race. So it's already a very good sign to be on pole. And yeah, overall, I think it was so difficult this qualifying because if you remember, in Q2, we stopped like for half an hour and just keeping your head, keeping in focus. It's quite difficult and it's a lot of time that you have to stay focused to be thinking what you have to do to make sure you put that perfect lap and I put it when it mattered. I mean, I can do another 1000 laps, and I don't think I can improve this lap time.
Q: It was a 57 minute delay, Checo. But does it mean even more to you to get this first pole on such a demanding street track?
SP: Definitely. I think there is no other circuit like this. If I can get pole here, I can get pole anywhere in the world. So this is definitely the most demanding place to get the perfect lap, you know, the level of risk, the level of precision you've got to have around this place is just tremendous.
Q: And you were third fastest after the first runs of Q3. Where did you find the extra time?
SP: I think the amount of risk that I had to take, you know, but I think risk together with precision, you know, just nailing it on all the entries. But the level of risk was extremely high. It could very easily go on.
Q: Well, many congratulations to you. Charles, coming to you now. First up, were you expecting that lap from Checo and Red Bull?
CL: No, I wasn't and fair play to Checo. It has to be an incredible lap because I knew I had done quite a good lap. And then Checo just came out and did better. So yeah, a great job to him. I struggled a bit more in the last sector and I think the risk that he took have probably paid at the end.
Q: What about your preparations for the race tomorrow? Do you feel you've got a good race car underneath?
CL: Yes, I think we do. I think it's very strange because we're actually quicker with the use tyres than the new tyres and we need to understand that as a team, just to be a bit better prepared for next race with these new tyres, and to put them in the right window. But overall, I think for the race tomorrow, I'm quite confident. I think we were quick this morning during the race simulation. So yeah, pretty confident for tomorrow.
Q: Carlos coming to you. Well done to you as well. Fastest in Q1 and Q2 and the first runs of Q3. Did you think pole was on?
CS: I thought pole was on, yeah after probably the first run of Q3, because I knew that I had done the lab on the used tyre in Q3 because this weekend, for some reason, as Charles said, I feel a lot better with a used tyre than what I what I feel with a new tyre, which in the end, probably it has cost me pole position, doing my fastest lap of qualifying in Q3, run one with a used that is giving me a better feeling, and not being able to improve on a new, is just what I need to dig into with the team and see why these new tyre is giving us those extra snaps of oversteer in high speed, that in the end, they take out a lot of confidence and they don't allow you to improve on lap time. So, overall, quite pleased because I've been there or thereabouts again the whole quali - but in the end it's fair play to Checo for that mega lap that he did, and obviously to Charles for nearly beating him. So, all good.
Q: As you say, still a bit to dig into, as far as the tyres are concerned but are you happier with the car this weekend than you were in Bahrain?
CS: I've been trying a lot of different things, particularly Friday, I played with the setup around a lot more than maybe I would do on a normal Friday, just to explore a bit the car. So now, for me, the Friday's are going to be a bit more in that side: experimental - to try to understand the car and try to put it a bit more to my liking. And then for Quali, I just put everything together, to be quite strong. And I felt like, yeah, probably this weekend, particularly in qualifying, I felt even stronger than Bahrain. Now I need to see in this pace I can replicate tomorrow in the race, which should be possible and yeah, I'm excited to see what progress we've done.
Questions From The Floor
Q: (Matt Kew - Autosport) A question to all three drivers. This week's Stefano Domenicali has said there's potentially 30 circuits that could be on, as part of a 24-race calendar. So, given the crashes seem today, the events of the past 24 hours, should this circuit be one of the ones that is kept?
SP: Well, I think it's something that makes no sense, you know, to waste any energy on that. At the moment, we are just done qualifying. I think there's definitely some considerations that we will have to do as a group and see what's best for the sport going forwards.
CL: Yeah, I agree. I don't want to go too much into details on this subject now, but it's definitely a discussion that we should have after this race, once everything calms down and we'll look back at it, and then we'll see.
CS: I agree. I think there will need to be discussions after this race. Because clearly what has happened in the last 24 hours is... is definitely a point of discussion and considerations that we need to take going into the future.
Q: (Jeremy Satis - AutoHebdo) How difficult was it to handle such a long interruption, after Mick's crash in Q2. For all three drivers.
CL: Yeah, it was, it was very tricky because, especially on a street circuit, it's all about building up to that last lap in Q3 and actually putting everything together in Q3, and all the laps before are just useful for the driver to just push a little bit more the limit every time, but then with such a big break, it's a bit like a reset. So, then you need to restart this build-up. So yeah, it was it was it was definitely tricky to then go on it, straight away out of the box.
CS: Yeah, I didn't realise that it was nearly an hour. I stayed in the car and probably should have jumped out because I was for one hour in the car doing nothing. I stayed there just waiting. I thought it was going to be shorter.
CL: I think we're the only two staying in the car!
CS: I feel like stepping out of the car is not good because I feel like I disconnect when I jump out of the car, and I prefer to stay in - but probably this time was a bit too long for staying in. And I took off the helmet at some point, just to get some fresh air. But apart from that, tough. Yes, of course tough because, as Charles said, in a street circuit, it's all about the warm-up and the build-up. And all of a sudden, to have an hour break is like, hmmm... yeah, go and find the walls again. And the eyes need to adapt to the speeds that we do. You guys need to think that we're going to 300kph in between walls and the eye and the reflexes adapt to that. So yeah, it was a tough situation but we are Formula 1 drivers and we just go out and do it I guess.
Q: Checo, these guys stayed in their cars. What did you do?
SP: I went out and...
CS: ...Couple of tequila shots and pole position!
SP: ...couple of tequila shots and put it on pole!
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade - Sportskeeda) Checo, for tomorrow's race, how do you think your race pace is compared to the Ferrari drivers. And to all three drivers, do you think the circuit needs further tweaks, given today's incidents?
SP: I think it's definitely the most dangerous place in the calendar. That's no secret about it. It's a circuit that really demands a lot from the drivers, from the cars, from the teams. If you get it wrong, it can be a huge accident. I feel like, I don't know if there's something we can do into [Turns] 22 and 23, because those are really high-speed sections. And it's more about the going into the race, but I think it's the same after qualifying. The last thing I want to think is about the track, and I think going forwards it's again a discussion. In all fairness, they've done a good effort in couple of months to change a bit the circuit.
Check out our Saturday gallery from Jeddah, here.