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Qatar GP: Post Qualifying press conference


Track Interviews - Conducted by Naomi Schiff

Q: Max, congratulations. It's another pole position for you on this all important weekend. Is this a step to show what's possible this weekend?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, I mean a great start to the weekend. It's quite tricky out there, you know, with the new tarmac, it still needs to rubber in. Very peaky grip. So as soon as you over-push it a little bit, the rear wants to step out and stuff, but of course very happy to be on pole. It's been a good day for us.

Q: Obviously, tomorrow is a big day for you. You could already be crowned three-time World Champion tomorrow. So if that does happen, what does this race mean on Sunday to you?
MV: Well, I want to win it, of course. I mean, we put it on pole, so naturally you want to, of course, win the race. But first of all let's make sure that tomorrow we have a good day as well. I think the car is quick. Of course tomorrow, let's say, well, morning, afternoon, however you like it, I think it's going to be, again, a bit more difficult for to get the tyres ready to work well, with the sand coming onto the track as well. But yeah, it's a great start to the weekend. The car is working well. That's all I could hope for really.

Q: Good luck tomorrow and enjoy it out there. Thank you. George, congratulations, tough weekend, with only one practice session on a track that a lot of the teams don't have a lot of data on. How tricky was it for you out there today?
George Russell: Yeah, it was a really tricky day for everybody. It was new tarmac, it was really slippery, super windy here, so all the sand is blowing onto the track. And we went out in qualifying and the lap times were just immense compared to what we were doing this morning. So that was good, fun, really happy to be P3 (sic). This is a bit better than we expected.

Q: Tomorrow we'll have a better idea of what the race pace is going to look like. But, you know, looking forward to Sunday, what do you think is going to be possible from where you're starting?
GR: Yeah, I mean, Lando and the McLarens are really quick at the moment. We obviously know Red Bull and Max are in a league of their own. But our fight at the moment is with Ferrari to secure P2 in the Constructors' Championship, we need to be consistent and go from there.

Press Conference

Q: Max, very well done to you. It looked like a tricky session to navigate. But you've taken another emphatic pole. How good was the car?
MV: Yeah, I mean, I think it was difficult for everyone out there, you know, with the new tarmac, there was not a lot of grip. And as soon as you, I wouldn't even say overstep it, but you tried to just carry a little bit more speed into the corner, the rear really wants to step out and that made it very tricky to find the limit in qualifying run after run, to see how much the track was improving, but then not overdo it. We tried to just follow the track as best as we could. And yeah, my first run in Q3 was good. I was happy with the balance of the car, considering the track conditions. Overall, a good day and more than I could have hoped for really, because it's always a bit hectic, you know, the Sprint format, to after one session optimise the car. And then especially with this new tarmac as well, it's probably even more difficult, but it was good.

Q: Given your pole advantage at Suzuka last time out. How confident were you going into the session?
MV: I felt good. Well, FP1 was OK. But it was all about just fine-tuning a few things and just seeing what the track was going to do, because I had no clue how much it was going to improve.

Q: You talk about the surface a lot. What about the wind out there today? Did that make it tricky?
MV: Also. I mean, some places, of course, you had a headwind and then a tailwind, and the car was a bit all over the place because of it. But you have to try and drive around it.

Q: And Max, had you completed that second lap of Q3, how much more was there to come?
MV: I have no idea, because I only got to Turn 4. But the lap before was alright. But for sure, there's always a little bit more to it, because the track I think was improving every time. But it was OK.

Q: Now, Max, if you score just three points in the Sprint race tomorrow, you'll be a three-time World Champion by the time you line up on pole position for the race on Sunday. That's a thought. How are you approaching the remainder of the weekend as a result?
MV: Same as always. I mean, it doesn't really change anything. I just want to have a good weekend. And of course, I know in the back of my mind that's happening, but it doesn't add any extra pressure or whatever. I just want to enjoy the weekend and try to do the best I can.

Q: George, coming to you. Many congratulations, a second front-row start in the last three races for you. The pace of the car was good. Has that come as a bit of a surprise this weekend?
GR: Yeah, I think it's been interesting, the second half of the season. The quali pace has been really quite exceptional compared to the start of this year. And I'm feeling really confident in the car. But this weekend, we definitely weren't expecting to be lining up P2 and P3 on the grid for Sunday. So that is a real pleasant surprise. Of course, Lando was ahead of us and his marginal off wasn't the different for his pace advantage. So, we know that we're half a step behind McLaren. But equally, our fight is with Ferrari at the moment. That's our aim for the remainder of the season. And we just need to secure as many points as possible to seal that off.

Q: But what about the fight with McLaren here? Oscar Piastri is going to be starting sixth. Lando, back in 10th. Do you think you've got the pace to beat them?
GR: Yeah, definitely. I think we see that the pace converges a little bit come Sunday. Lando was exceptionally fast in Suzuka, so he's really going to be the biggest threat. But there's no reason why we can't both fight for a podium. But there's a lot of unknowns. We don't know how the tyre degradation is going to be, the tyre wear, if it's a one-stop or two-stop. And the track is just constantly changing. And you know, the very first lap in qualifying was, I think, two seconds quicker than the quickest lap in FP1, which was probably the biggest jump I think I've ever experienced in Formula 1, so we don't know what tomorrow and Sunday are going to bring.

Q: You were fifth fastest in Q1 this evening. You were fifth fastest in Q2. Did you find something? Did you make a jump in Q3 relative to where you'd been earlier in the session?
GR: I think in Q1 I actually made a mistake on my lap. I lost three tenths, so I think I could have been right up there in the top three. Q2 I ran the used tyre. [Coughs] God, I don't know what's going on at the moment . [Coughs] Yeah, stay hydrated! And yeah, in Q2 it was the used tyres, so I think P5 was a strong result. So, it was no big surprise to be sort of fighting for the top three in Q3.

Q: On Sunday, can you do anything about the man in the middle?
GR: Probably waving him goodbye, I think, after Turn 1. Max has done an exceptional job. He deserves to be champion this year. Of course, you know, Formula 1, we love the competition, but we can't take anything away from what he and Red Bull have done. And we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and raise our game into next year and give them a challenge.

Q: Lewis, many congratulations. Good to see you in P3. As the others have said it was a tricky session. How difficult was it to navigate, from your point of view?
Lewis Hamilton: No more difficult than any other qualifying session. They're always difficult. Yeah, it was obviously a bit windy today. But otherwise, pretty straightforward.

Q: You were fastest in Q2. So the inherent pace of the car was there. Same question that I asked George, really. Were you surprised by the pace you had here in Qatar?
LH: Absolutely. I mean, it's always confusing, because obviously in P1 [sic], you now I was nearly out of Q1, sorry. Which is incredibly frustrating in that moment. But then we get into Q2 and all of a sudden, we're right up there. So it's very, very strange. But it's great for all the team for us to be up there. And George did a great job today. So for us to be so close, it's pretty awesome. I mean, for me, it was a relatively average qualifying session, Q1 and Q3 particularly. Yeah, if I was able to find that, put together the lap that I did in... That came too early, in Q2. I wish I had that for Q3.

Q: Can you just talk us through Q1? That must have been a nervous moment for you. What was going on?
LH: Yeah, just timing. We left the garage a little bit too late. We didn't get to finish our lap on the medium. And we came in and I think just a bit out of sync, and then just couldn't put it put it back together. It was quite tricky out there. And there's a lot of traffic. So when you come to the end of the lap, you had to back up a lot. But generally, I was really grateful to get through.

Q: And looking ahead to the race on Sunday. Where's your battle?
LH: With everyone around me.

Q: Not the man in the middle. But I mean, I suppose, specifically...
LH: No, I'm battling the guy to the right of me for sure. I think, yeah, I'll give it everything to try and fight him. Maybe like George said, maybe he will just disappear like he does in most of the other races, but maybe we'll be able to fight.

Q: What about this battle with Sergio Pérez for P2 in the championship. He's starting the race back in 13th. Is that on your mind as you go into the race?
LH: No, I'm trying to win the race. It doesn't matter who I'm fighting against.

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