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Azerbaijan GP: Post Qualifying press conference


Parc Ferme Interviews - Conducted by Mark Webber

Q: Well Sergio Pérez, that was an interesting evening of qualifying. It was a tight session, as always here in Azerbaijan. You've had a great run here in the past, how was your session tonight?
Sergio Perez: Yeah, it started really tricky, with Q1, with the amount of red flags that we had there. And then sticking to the same set, you know, you don't want to waste any more sets in Q1. So that was difficult, the warm-up. And just to get through, without making mistakes, without much practice, it was pretty challenging, I think the team has done a great job. I'm a bit disappointed to be sitting in P3, because I felt there was more in it. My lap wasn't that clean. But I mean, if there is a circuit where you can race then it's definitely here.

Q: Were you surprised by Ferrari's pace? Charles, a pretty solid lap from him.
SP: We knew they were going to be very strong, they're very efficient, so we knew coming here that Ferrari was going to be the biggest threat to us. I think Charles has done a tremendous lap as well.

Q: Max, that was a very interesting qualifying mate, very, very tight. After the first set an identical time to Charles, and then not quite enough at the end. Did you feel you got the most out of it? I know it's a tough venue to put it all together but it looked tight.
Max Verstappen: It's always tough around here, you know, to really put the whole lap together. I think, also, the second one, we tried something different on the lap, which maybe was not ideal for the lap time at the end. But around here it's just really hard, you know. In Q3 you're on the limit and then trying to make everything perfect is not the easiest. But nevertheless, I mean, we're P2. We know that we have a very good race car. So all in all, it's not bad, because you always want to start ahead but we'll have to pass one car.

Q: Yeah, and quite extraordinary. I mean, this is qualifying for Sunday's race. Tomorrow, the next lap you do is straight into qualifying again, ready for the Sprint race tomorrow night. So it's a very strange format, but are you looking forward to going straight out of the box in the morning and going again?
MV: Yeah, looking forward to it, to see what we can do there and maybe we can find a few little things to do better. But overall, it's all about just keeping it clean, you know. It's super easy around here to make a mistake. So that's definitely what we don't want to do. Then we'll see what happens tomorrow.

Q: Charles, pole position! That was a very impressive lap. It was a tight qualifying session, as always around here in Azerbaijan. Concentration to the absolute maximum. To see you guys brushing the walls and really threading the needle. Not easy to get the tyres in the window. So were you surprised with pole? Did you think you'd get it tonight?
Charles Leclerc: For sure, I'm surprised. I mean, we came into the weekend thinking that it would be a great weekend if we are in front of Aston and Mercedes in qualifying and in the end we are on pole, so it's a really good surprise. We must not forget that our race pace maybe still behind the Red Bulls, so it's going to be difficult to keep the lead, but that's the target. I'm really, really happy with the lap. I mean, it's a very challenging weekend overall for us drivers, because we had very little time to practice. We only had one FP1 and then you need to be straight on it, but the feeling was good since the start so I was really, really happy.

Q: We saw the Ferrari, a little bit both you and Carlos, down the escape roads, just trying to pick those braking points off, to get the confidence up in those braking points. Obviously you put it together when it counted, but going out of the gates tomorrow, first thing into qualifying, are there any challenges in those braking areas you've got to try and work on overnight?
CL: It's going to be challenging because we haven't run the Medium yet. So, tomorrow in qualifying will be the first time, and we need to be on it because we only have one set, so no room for mistakes. But again the pace seems strong, so hopefully we can learn in SQ1 and SQ2 and then push in SQ3 and there we know the car is good.

Press Conference

Q: Charles, many congratulations. You continue your fabulous record here in Baku? How good does this pole feel?
CL: Really good, especially considering the beginning of the season I've had. I mean, obviously, we haven't had the greatest of beginnings. But it's great to be back on pole. Honestly, I did not expect it. I think we came into the weekend thinking that it would be a great result if we were in front of the Astons and the Mercedes, and we find ourselves on pole. So really, really happy with that. We need to see obviously tomorrow for the Sprint race and for the race on Sunday, as I think we are a little bit more on the back foot there. But anyway, a really good surprise and extremely happy with my lap.

Q: It needed a second run in Q3 after you and Max set identical times early on, where did you find the time on that last lap?
CL: Well, I think on street circuits, you always try and do one lap in Q3, pushing obviously more than any other laps before. But then for the last attempt you just put everything in and see how it goes. So it was a close call in Turn 1. But overall it was quite a clean lap and yeah, again, really happy with the lap.

Q: Clean lap. You're happy with it? Was it one of your best polls in Formula 1?
CL: I felt like whenever you have the excitement of pole, you want to say yes. But it was definitely a really, really good one. Whether it was the best or not, I don't know. I remember in '21 here, it was also a pretty good lap and I think it was even more of a surprise. But it was definitely a really, really good lap.

Q: Only the one on-track session prior to qualifying. How did the track conditions change during qualifying itself?
CL: Quite a lot. But I was surprised in FP1 with the grip there was. I think the new tarmac helped it a little bit and the grip was good. Then there's, of course, a lot of track evolution, a lot of driver evolution, especially on a track like this, but it was much better than what I thought.

Q: All right, very well done to you. Max, coming to you now, your first front-row start here in Baku, so very well done for that. You've had two poles in 2023, just how do you feel about this front-row start?
MV: Well, it's not bad. I mean, it's better than last! No, I mean, it's been alright. It's just, it's tough to put the whole lap together around here. And yeah, also, the last run in Q3 was maybe not the cleanest. We also tried a bit of a different out lap. And I didn't really feel it was better. And when you have that feeling already, then you are on your lap, not as confident as the lap before. And I think that's why also the lap time didn't really come out of it. But I mean, at the end of the day, it's also not really bad for us. I mean, we know that we have a quick race car and, yeah, we have to try and of course use that, mainly on Sunday. But first, of course, we'll wait and see what we can do tomorrow.

Q: Issues on the second lap of Q3. But what about the first lap of Q3? Were you pleased with that one?
MV: Yeah, it was alright. It was, yeah, fine. You know, you just keep it out of the walls, keep it clean.

Q: What have you learned in qualifying today that might help you in the Sprint Shootout tomorrow?
MV: Well, in qualifying, not so much. I mean, I think the race is a bit different, you know. You cannot attack like you do in qualifying, and also the way the car behaves on the tyres is completely different. So, you know, on street circuits like this, I think qualifying and the race are quite different.

Q: And are you surprised by the pace of Charles today?
MV: Not really of Charles. I mean, we know that he's been really good around here. Otherwise you don't get three poles in a row, right? So, yeah, he felt good today, he had a lot of confidence. I think he always has a lot of confidence, which is good. And then around here, you know, you really get everything out of it. And that's why he put it on pole.

Q: And with just the one practice session today are there still a lot of question marks going into Sunday's race?
MV: Not so much. I mean, I felt quite good in FP1 with the little long run we did. So I think we'll learn a little bit more tomorrow during the Sprint race, which probably gives you even more of an idea for Sunday?

Q: Checo, coming to you now. Just point two of a second off Charles. Can you picture where you lost that time today?
SP: I think in Turn 3 I lost more than a tenth. I went really deep. And yeah, just in general not putting a clean lap, with so many corners around. And there's always a combination if you don't get the, like, one corner right, like Turn 6, then always Turn 7 can be a bit tricky. Five and 6, there is a combination in that corner. So I think all in all, it wasn't a very clean lap. I think certainly, I had more pace than what I've shown today. But I'm still in the fight, you know. I think with this tricky Qualifying and very little time to get ready for Quali, it was just important to make sure that we are in a good position for Sunday.

Q: And given where you were on the Saturday of Melbourne. Are there a lot of positives that you take from this session today?
SP: Well, it's much better being P3 than not even making it through Q1.

Q: Are you happy with the car?
SP: I think I'm getting back my confidence. It really knocked my confidence quite a bit, if I'm honest, what happened in Melbourne, especially with, you know, we had a three-week break and then you go straight into Qualifying pretty much. And it's all about braking here, having that confidence on the barking and I think I'm getting there.

Q: How was the visibility during Q3? It didn't start till 6.15pm local time here in Baku, was the sun issue?
SP: Yeah, it was pretty much blind going through to the chicane, through the castle. It was pretty difficult. But I had a reference, so I knew where to stick it. So it worked out alright.


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