Track Interviews - Conducted by David Coulthard
Max Verstappen, pole position. There was a little bit of everything in that Qualifying session but in the end, a very impressive full half a second quicker than the second man.
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it was a very tricky Qualifying. Starting, of course, with the Intermediates but also, the track surface is quite slippery, the new tarmac. So yeah, it was all about putting your laps in but also staying out of trouble. I think we managed that quite well but then also at the end, when we could go onto the slick tyres again, there was like one dry line in some places and we had to risk it a bit - but that last lap was very enjoyable.
The management between yourself and the race team there, getting you out on track, the only time it looked like a questionable decision was you went out on the Intermediate when the track was just starting to dry, and others had gone out on slicks. We heard you on team radio questioning.
MV: Yeah, I mean, we've been to some other places already where we've had wet races and stuff, and I think this was the first time we came here with this kind of conditions. So, I think we underestimated maybe a little bit, with the wind as well, and then the sun coming out, how quickly it dries. So, it's again all about experience and lessons you take forward but at the end of the day, it didn't matter. We still did the right thing.
We're obviously in your home country, a lot of support here. You've delivered stage one, which is the pole position. It's been another fantastic crowd.
MV: Yeah, I mean the pressure is always there to perform. When you can pull it off, it's incredible.
And the man that's been pushing Max all weekend, it really did look like you had a chance in these changeable conditions. Second is still a great result for you.
Lando Norris: Thank you. No, I'm happy still. P2 was a good result, I guess, in these kind of conditions. Every now and again you hope Max makes a mistake and he doesn't. Frustrating in a little way but I'm very happy. The team's done a good job. It was a chaotic qualifying but another P2, so... good.
You mentioned the conditions. It's really challenging when you know, as the clock ticks down, you want to be one of the last across the line. How stressful is a changing weather conditions Qualifying like that?
LN: Qualifying is always stressful, no matter what the conditions. But definitely now it's definitely trickier. Like the first half of the lap was mega, the second half was probably one of the worst second halves that I've done! So, it peaked very early on. It's tough, but I really enjoy these conditions. I've always enjoyed the conditions, it's when we do well. So, I'm taking the P2 still.
When you say it peaked very early in your lap, was that the tyres peaked or the driver peaked?
LN: The driver! The driver. Tyres were good 'til the end. The driver peaked very early, so I've got a bit of work to do. Not the most comfortable but good enough, so I'll take it.
Finally, our third-placed man. You kept us waiting right until the very end to pop that third place in. That was a tricky session but you must be happy.
George Russell: Yeah, absolutely. Really great session, happy to be here in P3. Quali was one of my strengths at the start of the year and it's just been going a little bit wrong recently, so it was good to have that break, came in with a fresh set of ideas, good reset and we're in a great place tomorrow to fight for a podium.
We heard Lando say there that he's owning the fact that he peaked too early in the lap. How was your lap overall?
GR: The lap was OK, to be honest. We know we always struggle either when it's very wet or it's the crossover onto slicks and we've got to get that temperature into the tyres but we know the Saturday is the strength on Sundays. It's going to be an exciting race. I'm sure Max will be having his Sunday drive and waving to the crowd on his way tomorrow - but hopefully we can have a good fight with Alex, Lando and the rest of the guys.
You mention Alex there. The Williams has been incredibly strong - but are you really looking one place back rather than one place forwards?
GR: Yeah. I'm really happy for Williams and for Alex. I said before the session, I saw the guys on the pit-wall looking pretty happy with their performance and I flew over here with Alex, and I said 'what are your expectations for the weekend?' and he said 'I think we're going to be rubbish!' so, he got that one slightly wrong! As I said, really well done to Max but also to Alex and Williams.
Max, very well done. First question, how stressful was that?
MV: It was quite slippery out there. So, it was easy to make a mistake or whatever, especially on the new tarmac, so Sector One, Sector Three was quite slippery. And especially on the Intermediates, in the beginning, to get the temperature and get going was a bit difficult. And you had to do a few laps to get into a rhythm and have the tyres up to temperature. And then of course, we were getting closer to Q3, it was drying out. I initially didn't think it was going to be dry enough but I think with the wind around here, and then the sun coming out, it actually dried faster than I expected. So, I went out on the Inter and then quickly realised that was the wrong tyre. So we boxed, put the slick on but then unfortunately, of course, there was a red flag. But it was still very tricky, I think, conditions in Turns One and Two at the time, like only one proper dry line. So, it's easy to get to make a mistake. And then, of course, we had a bit of a delay. And then, of course, also Charles had his moment. So, at one point, the dry line was becoming a bit wider. So, that, I think, helped a bit. But then again, you know, you have to really get a bit out of your comfort zone in that final lap because it's still not entirely dry everywhere. But luckily the lap was good.
Well, how good was it?
MV: I started the lap, I went into Turn One, I though, oh, that's it, I braked way too late. So probably my Turn One wasn't fantastic. But I think the rest of the lap was okay. I felt okay with the car.
Now, pole position is always very satisfying. But how important is it here at Zandvoort? Is it going to be difficult to overtake tomorrow? Just give us your thoughts on that.
MV: I think in general, when you have the pace in the car, you can overtake even though, of course, on this track is a little bit harder than maybe on some other tracks. But if you're really faster, you will be able to pass. But it's always nice in front of your home crowd, you know, to take pole position. I mean, they come here, and they expect you to do it but it's not always that easy. And especially with a qualifying like this. It's never that straightforward and you always need to be out at the right time. But luckily, we did that.
And Max, I said earlier, it's your eighth pole of 2023. Is this the most satisfying one?
MV: I've had a few good ones. Well, I guess Spa didn't count, did it? That was probably also really satisfying. But I mean, we've had a lot of these qualifyings lately where we start in the wet, go to the dry. It's always quite entertaining, I think.
Lando, coming to you now. Your second front row start of the season. As you went into that final lap of Q3, how hopeful were you of getting the pole?
LN: I thought there was a chance at least. I knew my lap in Q3, Run 1 was decent but I knew everyone's going to improve a huge amount. I knew there was plenty of places and time for me to gain on that lap. So, it's difficult because even when you think you're doing... you know, I was one second up after already, what, six corners, seven corners? It gets you a bit excited. But you know, everyone else is probably doing a similar thing. So, my first half a lap was very good, my second half was pretty terrible. I had a double shift out of Turn 10, which probably cost me a couple of tenths, but at the same time, nothing would have got me enough to get past Max. He did a good job. These conditions, where you hope something might come your way and it didn't today, but P2 was a good result for us.
Ultimately, were you surprised by the lap-time that Max was able to do?
LN: No, no. It's never a surprise anymore.
But the gap, the gap to you in those conditions?
MV: No, not really, I know I made a few mistakes, probably three-tenths worth, which puts me two-tenths off, and I think that's about right.
What about the pace of your car over a long run? What are your hopes for tomorrow? Are you looking to challenge Max? Are you going to be looking in your mirrors?
LN: I'll challenge him probably two laps, then he'll drive away. I think there's quite a bit of tyre degradation here and not our forte, let's say, when it comes into play, we start to struggle quite a bit in certain corners. But we've improved the car quite a bit, I think, since Friday, so I want to be a little bit more hopeful. I'm not going to say no, like I'm not going to give it a try, but Max is always on another level when it comes to Sunday, in tyre degradation and race pace. So, there's opportunities, but it's going to be tough.
Check out our Saturday gallery from Zandvoort here.