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Japanese GP: Post Qualifying press conference


Today's post-qualifying press conference with Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz

Parc Ferme Interviews - Conducted by Johnny Herbert

Max Verstappen, pole position, fifth of the season, 18th in your career? Tell us a little about the lap. How was it?
Max Verstappen: It was pretty incredible to drive here again, and especially in qualifying, when you're on low fuel these cars really come alive through the first sector. So yeah, of course very happy to be on pole, but also in general, just super happy to be back here.

We could see you were looking at the back of the car, something sort of fell off. What could you see?
MV: I lost a part, a part of the duct on my final lap, so probably that's why I couldn't really improve. But nevertheless, the first lap was good enough.

And you're being investigated, it seems at the moment, about Lando. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
MV: Yeah, I was just, you know, driving quite slow and I wanted to accelerate but my tyres were quite cold. So then I had a big moment. And then of course, Lando was trying to pass me at the same time, so he had to avoid me a little bit, but luckily, nothing happened.

Well, tomorrow for the race you've done the right thing today with pole position. You're going for the championship tomorrow. How do you feel with the race car?
MV: Yeah, it will be interesting first of all to see the weather. I mean, some say it's going to be dry, some say it's going be raining at some point during the race, so we just need to see what happens with that. And I'm quite confident we have a good car so yeah, excited for tomorrow.

Charles, a bit frustrating. It seems that middle sector here was really good for you. Tell us a little bit about the first and maybe the third sector?
Charles Leclerc: Yeah, well, it's a very tricky lap around here because whenever you are first in the first sector, then you lose out in the last sector. And I tried to find that balance in the last lap, but lost a little bit the tyres in the last sector and lost a little bit of time. So yeah, it's so close though with everyone, so that's nice, and we'll try to have a good race from there.

Yeah, what about tomorrow? Because it is mighty close, like you've said, but of course it's so important to get off the line going down towards one. And the race car itself? How does it feel do you think, going into Sunday?
CL: I mean, we have a very limited amount of data going into the race so that's always a challenge but the feeling was good with a car, so yeah, let's wait and see about the conditions. It seems we will have a bit of rain somewhere in the race, so yeah, it should be a fun race.

A lot of Charlie Leclerc fans here and Ferrari fans, are you get to take it to Max tomorrow?
CL: Yeah, it's always nice to be here and see so many people passionate about the sport and being so creative, so hopefully we can give a good show tomorrow.

And Carlos Sainz, a mighty tight top three. Tell us a little bit about the lap itself.
Carlos Sainz: Yeah, it was a very clean lap, a very good laugh all the way until the last corner that I picked up quite a bit of wheelspin, probably used to be too much credit from my rear tyres in that lap and yeah, it's a shame to be half a tenth again from pole you know. It's been so many qualis now with Max and Charles that we are all within half a tenth. And the last half a tenth tends to fall more to the other side. Hopefully, yeah, towards the end of the season this half a tenth falls a bit more to my side and I can get a pole position.

Yeah, and of course, speaking to the other two guys, obviously, tomorrow's weather is looking a little bit suspect. But the Ferrari itself, how is it going to work? If it's wet or if it's dry, what's going to favour you?
CS: Yeah, I think the weather tomorrow is going to play its part. The rain is going to arrive. We don't know if it's going to arrive at two o'clock, three or four, which is after the race. So yeah, I think there's plenty of things that could happen tomorrow. There's also a great opportunity starting in P3, you know. We managed to save also a set of softs in case we need it, so, yeah, I think we are in a good position to fight Max tomorrow.

Press Conference

Brilliant job, Max, your first pole at Suzuka. How sweet was that first lap in Q3?
MV: Yeah, it was, I think a pretty good lap at the time. Of course, you know, there's normally always a bit of track evolution going on after every run. But at the time, I think it was a good lap. The balance of the car was quite good. So then, of course, it's really enjoyable to be pushing here, especially through that first sector.

You say it's enjoyable, and you clearly love driving the car here. Just how much of a driving challenge is this track - and how rewarding is it when you get it right?
MV: Yeah, it's all about just finding the right balance for that first sector. And, you know, once the car is hooked up there, you get a lot of confidence and you can really push it through this combination of corners, and it's definitely one of the best on the calendar.

And can you tell us a little bit more about what happened at the start of Q3 when Lando Norris caught you going quite slowly through 130R?
MV: Yeah, we were all on our out lap. And yeah, we were all lining up to try and create a gap to everyone. And somehow he still wanted to get me into the chicane. But I was at the point of accelerating but I was on very cold tyres, so I had like a little moment and that's why you had to drive around me. But you know, if you're just a bit more respectful than everyone is anyway already lining up. I don't think anyone is trying to pass into that last chicane. So basically, by trying to pass me you create that kind of problem.

And final one for me. You can win your second world title tomorrow. How does it feel to be so close to something so special?
MV: I'm not thinking about it too much. Just taking it day-by-day. I think what was most important is that we would have a competitive car and clearly we had that today in Qualifying, and I hope of course it's going to be the same tomorrow in the race - because we do need a perfect race to be able to win it tomorrow. But at least it's a good start.

Charles, if we could come to you now, many congratulations to you as well. You found a lot of time in Q3, just how good was the car?
CL: The car was good, I was struggling more with the tyres to put everything together, first and last sector especially. The more I was pushing in the first sector, the more I was going slow in the last sector, losing a little bit the tyres. So, it was a tricky one but overall the car felt good.

They were your first laps in the dry this weekend. Just tell us as well what it feels like to drive a car that's clearly hooked-up around the Suzuka Circuit?
CL: It's incredible. Especially the first sector feels crazy. There's so much grip. And in Q3, once you go for that last lap, it really feels special. So yeah, it was a fun qualifying.

And do you get that sensation at any other racetrack?
CL: Well, I really like the sensation of the street tracks I think it's really fun too. It's a bit of a different thing, but Silverstone I guess is pretty similar on the quali lap.

Let's throw it ahead to the race tomorrow. What impact does the wet weather from yesterday have on your plans?
CL: Well, not much data to look at for tomorrow, apart from the few laps that we did this morning, race run in FP3. So yeah, going a little bit into the unknown but it looks like the conditions are also pretty unpredictable for tomorrow. We don't really know whether it's going to rain or not. Or maybe both. So yeah, we'll see.

Carlos coming to you now half a tenth of a second from pole position. Just how good was your lap?
CS: It was a good lap. Clean all the way until the last chicane. There, probably I overcooked a bit a tyre, going into that last chicane and it cost me quite a bit of lap time. But another half-a-tenth that we could have got there but yeah, a bit fed-up of being half-a-tenth off pole. I think it's been a few qualis now, consecutives in Zandvoort, also before the summer break where we are, all three, very tight with each other but somehow it tends to fall into Max or Charles' hands instead of mine, which hopefully towards the end of the season I will end up getting one and get it out of the way.

With so little dry running this weekend, how close to perfect was the car?
CS: It was pretty close. I think we managed to hook up a good balance in FP3, which is a good sign. It means we understand the car and we know the baseline set up normally works well in every track now. It's now a matter of who that last half-a-tenth falls in favour of, which today was in favour of Max. At other circuits, it's in favour of us. But it's super tight, at least in quali.

Max mentioned track evolution: just how much do you feel the track conditions changed during the session?
CS: Here, there's not only track evolution, but a lot of driver evolution and I think especially, when we have a bit of margin in Q1 and Q2, when you really go for it in Q3, you really go down on lap times, like we did. And we went to find that those last two or three tenths from the car that were particularly exciting to find around this track, because you really put yourself on the limit and you put the car properly on the limit with a lot of G-force here. And it's one of these trucks that gives you just a lot of pleasure to drive in that limit, and it's the best thing in Q3.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Suzuka here.


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