Track Interviews - Conducted by Naomi Schiff
Q: Max, congratulations, your first pole position here in Australia. It's never been a great one for you. But today, it was enough. How was the lap for you?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, I think the last run was very good. I mean, the whole weekend has been very tough to get the tyres in the right window, to push straight away. But it all worked out in Q3. So yeah, very happy with the lap. And of course, very happy to be in pole position. And yeah, already looking forward to tomorrow, really.
Q: Now, you had some challenges in that session. We heard you complaining about downshifts, as well as the battery. Is reliability a concern for you in tomorrow's race?
MV: No, normally not. I think we always try to fine tune and we'll continue to do that.
Q: Now, tomorrow you're going to have a lot of challenges ahead of you. As you said, the track was very tricky out there, there was even some wildlife for you to contend with out there today.
MV: Yeah, almost hit a bird! Luckily, that didn't happen. Yeah, that happens sometimes on the street circuit, but I think tomorrow we will have a good race car. But again, it's quite tricky on the tyres to keep them alive and stuff. So it's going to be an interesting race for sure.
Q: So are you confident that you have the package tomorrow to get revenge here in Australia and finally take home the win?
MV: I have been on the podium once but I want to be on a different step this time.
Q: George, congratulations, front-row start for you. How are you feeling?
George Russell: We wasn't (sic) expecting that, that's for sure! Yeah, a lot of hard work going on back at a factory and here in Melbourne. And wow, what a session for us. You know, the car felt alive. The lap at the end was right on the limit. And I've got to be honest, I was a little bit disappointed that we didn't get pole position. It's one of those things, how your expectations change so quickly in this sport. We probably would have been happy with a top four, top five yesterday, but the car felt awesome. And it goes to show we've definitely got potential still to come.
Q: Well, as you say, it's quite a surprise to everyone that you guys are on the front row today. You haven't brought a lot of changes to the car this weekend. But clearly there's been a big step forward.
GR: It must be the jet lag programme we're doing! Something's got to be right! I don't know. I don't know. So yeah, we've got to understand obviously, when you have good days and bad days, but we'll take it. We'll take it and we're excited for tomorrow. It's going to be tough against Max, but definitely very, very happy to be lining up in P2.
Q: Fantastic. Wish you the best of luck. Lewis, congratulations. The crowd is loving you here. You hoped for some rain, it didn't happen today, but it looked pretty good today anyway?
Lewis Hamilton: Oh, yeah. I'm so happy with this. What's up Melbourne? How are you doing? This is totally unexpected. I'm really, really proud of the team. George did a fantastic job today, so for us to be up on the two front rows is honestly a dream for us. We're all working as hard as we can to get right back up the front and to be this close to the Red Bull is honestly incredible. So I hope tomorrow we can give them a bit of a run for their money. And we hope the weather is good.
Q: Your first fast lap, you put it on pole to begin with, and there was a massive roar from the crowd. But we saw that in your second run, you had a little bit of an issue with traffic. Did that affect your second run?
LH: The second lap wasn't as good as obviously the first one. I did get a little bit further ahead in the last sector, but ultimately, yeah, I lost out a little bit at the beginning. But I'm not disappointed. I'm super grateful for this position and I'm just going to work as hard as I can to try and move forward tomorrow.
Q: Well, you've got Fernando on the grid next to you tomorrow. Is that a challenge for you tomorrow? What is your goal?
LH: To get to first! Yeah, I'm going to try and see... I'll be hoping for a day like the first year, 2007, Turn 1 here, that would be awesome. I don't know if anyone here remembers but yeah, that'd be awesome if we can do that.
Q: Max, very well done to you. Point two-five ahead of the field. Just how good was that final lap?
MV: Yeah, the last lap was pretty decent. Up until then it was just really tricky to find the grip and to try to nail it on one lap. I think you could see everyone was doing either like a build or were going faster on the second attempt. But yeah, I only had time in that last run to go out and just go for that first time. But this time, yeah, it worked out. So yeah, very happy with that.
Q: So, disrupted practice sessions here at Albert Park. Just can you talk to us about the session as a whole and how you feel it went from Q1 through to Q3.
MV: I think overall, it was going quite well. You know, Q1, Q2, Q3. But like I said, just very tough to get the tyres to work in Turn 1, you know, to get that comfortable feeling through that corner. I think that has been a bit the story again the whole week. And I also think it wouldn't have mattered if we had full running in FP1 and FP2, just on the performance lap, but it seems very tricky with this new tarmac around here since last year.
Q: And with that disruption to practice, how is tomorrow going to play out? Do you feel a little bit undercooked as we go into the race? Have you done all of the homework that you need to do?
MV: Yeah, I mean, I did a long run in in FP3. So I had a bit of a read on the tyres. And yeah, I don't think it's a straightforward race with the tyres. But I think what we've shown so far this year, I think the car normally is good in the race.
Q: And Max, are you surprised to have these two guys sat next to you?
MV: I'm a little bit surprised, maybe they are also a little bit surprised! But I guess it's a good thing. But again, it's all about just having the tyres in the right window, and I guess they did a good job with that as well.
Q: George, coming to you, then. How much of a surprise is this result?
GR: Yes, it is a surprise, there's no doubt about it. I think we're learning more and more about this car. We know it's not where we want it to be. But it's probably evolved, just with the set-up, since Bahrain to Jeddah, to here. We've seen that performance improvement with the exact same car. For sure tyres played a big part this weekend, as Max alluded to, and the pace on that final lap was quite surprising. Really pleased to be just two and a half tenths off, when you know, we were a second off on other occasions. So yeah, let's see what tomorrow brings.
Q: You say the set-up has evolved from race to race, just how much better does the car feel here than either of the first two races?
GR: I think the feeling of the car is not the limitation, to be honest. The car feels pretty decent. It's probably the best F1 car I've ever driven, or raced, sorry - probably excluding the obvious 2020 experience with Mercedes. But we're just lacking a bit of downforce. We know we've made some huge gains over the past two or three weeks in the wind tunnel, and hopefully we'll be bringing that to the track sooner rather than later. But, you know, this result today is going to give us a huge amount of confidence, regardless of what tomorrow brings, over the course of the next four weeks, because if we can deliver a performance like this with a car that is definitely quite a bit off the pace, it shows good promise for when we bring our first upgrade.
Q: How has this Qualifying session changed your ambitions for the race tomorrow?
GR: We've got to go for it, haven't we? We've got to go for a win. Max is going to be extremely fast, there's no hiding that. I think it's difficult to overtake around this circuit, so the start, lap one, is going to be vital - but the Red Bull has extraordinary top speed. So, it's going to be very difficult to fight with Max. But let's see. Let's see how we get on. We've got to do our own race. If the opportunity is there, we will go for it.
Q: Lewis, great to have you back up here as well. George said this is unexpected. How do you explain the turnaround at Mercedes?
LH: I think it's perhaps track-specific, but I think ultimately there's no one in the team that's had their heads down, in terms of giving up, everyone's been working incredibly hard to try to squeeze the most out of what we currently have. We are, as George mentioned, a little bit down on downforce, where we really want to be. But everything came together today. So I mean, it feels amazing to be up here, either side of Max. And I really hope that tomorrow, we can somehow hold on to him. He might pull away into the distance like he has done in the past, but we'll give it our best shot.
Q: Just how realistic is it for us to think you could challenge for the win?
LH: I think it's difficult to say. I mean, I haven't even done a long run. So tomorrow, going into the race, will be the first time I do so. And I've not seen where we tally up compared to them. But I mean, I think they generally have... we have to expect they're going to be a quarter of a second, half a second, at least, quicker than us. But maybe in the tow, maybe we can just about hold on; maybe the fact that there's two of us and only one Red Bull, maybe with strategy, maybe we can apply some pressure to them. So, we'll see.
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