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Mexican GP: Post Qualifying press conference


Track Interviews - Conducted by James Hinchcliffe

Charles Leclerc, incredible result for you and Ferrari, back-to-back pole positions. I don't think after practice there are many people in the paddock that would have put money on an all-Ferrari front row. Do you include yourself in that group? Did you guys know you had this kind of pace?
Charles Leclerc: Absolutely not. Then, it's been two weekends in a row we say that, so then people will start not believing us anymore. But to be honest, I did not expect to be on pole position today. We thought we were lacking quite a bit after FP3. But for some reason, once we put everything together, it went well, with the new tyres we gained a lot. But I'm already focusing on tomorrow's race, because while I'm in pole position, but now we need to convert it into a win tomorrow. And of course, it's going to be very difficult.

So obviously that wasn't the case last week, strategy maybe not going your way. What do you have to do differently tomorrow to convert this pole to a win?
CL: Well, just focusing on ourselves. We've had a pretty good pace all weekend. I'm not sure whether it's enough to be challenging for the win, but we'll try everything in our hands to try and get it. And let's see tomorrow.

Longest run from pole position down to Turn 1 here, over 800 metres. Does that mean you have to approach the start or approach Turn 1 any differently to try to maintain the lead out of the first corner?
CL: Ah, first place here, I'm not sure it's the best starting place. But anyway, that's fine. I'm happy. I'll take that pole position. I'm really happy with today. And now let's, as I said, finalise it tomorrow.

Excellent. Congratulations. And keeping the theme with all the drivers in red on the front row, Carlos, incredible qualifying performance from where you guys were in practice, talk us through your session?
Carlos Sainz: It was a very strange one. Honestly, the whole weekend, I struggled to put a lap together and the first lap that I put together was that Q3, run one and suddenly I was P1 at the time then Charles beat me by half a tenth, one tenth. But I just struggle to understand where suddenly we can find half a second and then go half a second slower on the next lap. It's very tricky with the tyres. The feeling with the car is very strange around this circuit. But we managed to put a good lap when it counted and it puts us in a good position for tomorrow.

So, you got it done in qualifying. Are you confident in your race pace? How was practice on full fuel? And what do you think you guys can realistically get done tomorrow?
CS: Well, clearly we are not as strong on high fuel as we are in low fuel. I think our car benefits a lot from that new tyre, that soft tyre peak at the rear. We're going to see how we can do tomorrow to keep those tyres alive, to keep that Red Bull behind, because having two cars in front it's a good advantage. So yeah, we're going to try our best.

Great result for you, great results for Ferrari. Congratulations on the front row. Max, how are you? Difficult session out there with these track conditions. It's a low-grip circuit, lowest downforce that these car see all year, how tricky is it to get that perfect lap here in qualifying?
Max Verstappen: It's very difficult, you know. It's very low grip around here, of course, because of the altitude. So when you try to push a little bit more, it just tries to go away from you. And I think that happened a little bit in Q3, where we just couldn't put it together, especially also the last sector seemed like we're struggling a little bit more than I would have liked. But nevertheless, it was still close and it's still a very long race and a lot of laps to be raced and that's where, of course, you score the points.

You've won from a various number of positions on the grid, so I've got to think you're still pretty confident going into tomorrow with your race car?
MV: I am. I mean, of course, I would have liked start first, but we'll have a good slipstream to Turn 1 and we'll see what happens.

Alright, odds that you're leading coming out of Turn 1, what do you think?
MV: I'll give it a good go!

Press Conference

Charles, many congratulations, two poles in two weekends for you. But how much of a surprise is this one?
CL: I don't know. As I said earlier, it's again a really big surprise. But we keep saying that every time we do a pole position, so people will stop believing in what we say. But I did not expect it. And this time until really late in the session. I think in most of the other sessions from Q1 we were on it and then we saw that there was a potential for pole position. There, until Q3, we had no idea that it was inside the car. And yeah, for some reason in Q3 I managed to put more or less everything together apart from the last sector. And straight away the lap time came straight away. So that was a good surprise. But I think it still shows us that our car is still a bit peaky. And we need to work in that direction for it to make it better in all conditions.

Did you make any changes to the car prior to the session?
CL: No. Actually, this weekend, I did not change the car that much!

OK, well, you found I think it was eight tenths of a second between Q2 and Q3. Where did you find that time?
CL: Just having a cleaner lap. In Q2, it was a bit messy with the traffic exiting the pit lane. The warm-up is super important and it's very, very difficult to put the tyres in the right window here. So everything makes a difference. It was a very bad on the out lap and then I had a bit of traffic also in my lap, and all of that made a huge difference. But it made a much bigger difference than what I thought, because even though I knew there was a bit more time coming, I did not expect to gain eight tenths.

So the car surprised you in qualifying. Can it surprise you in the race tomorrow? Just how much confidence do you have?
CL: Well, I hope so. It's a very difficult race here. Everything can happen, especially with the cooling. Whichever car is behind will do a bit more management, so that can play in our favour. But for that we need to do a good start. And starting first here, it's always tricky to keep that position into the first corner, but we've had pretty good starts this year. So I'm confident we can keep that first place into Turn 1 and then we'll try and do our best race.

Where do you see the main danger coming from? Do you think it's Carlos? Or is Max still favourite as we go into tomorrow?
CL: I mean, this year, clearly, Max has been extremely strong on the race pace. So at the moment it's Max. We still have a lot of work to do as a team, I think, to match them with our race pace.

Alright, very well done today. Thank you. Carlos, coming to you. You found more than a second between Q2 and Q3, where did you find that time?
CS: Honestly, it's been a tricky weekend again. Putting laps together has been extremely difficult for me on the Soft tyre. And yeah, up until Q3, run one I hadn't done a good lap all weekend. And then suddenly that lap, even though it had a snap in Turn 8/9, that I nearly lost the car, it was a pretty good lap. But when I saw 17.2 on the dash, I was like, 'yeah, I don't know where this is coming from right now'. But it just shows, like Charles said, that there's still something that we need to understand, something that we need to look at - why our car suddenly, when it comes to low fuel and Soft tyres and Q3, high grip, it comes alive and then suddenly, in some sessions, or on higher fuel, more worn tyres, then it's a trickier car. It's something that we're working on and something that sometimes gives us some very good surprises and sometimes some other not so good ones, so we'll work on it.

Looking ahead to the race tomorrow, Pirelli have gone one step softer with their compounds this year, how much more strategic is this race going to be?
CS: I think last year everyone did a one stop anyway with a C4 and a C3. I think this year, which is the same tyres that we have available for tomorrow, so it doesn't change much the picture - but I feel like this year the tyres are trickier to manage. We saw FP2 and FP3, more graining on both front and rear axles and I think it's going to mean that the race is going to be a lot trickier than what it was last year, no? And yeah, it will be all about the management of the temperature of the tyres, but also the temperature of the engine and how we can put together the most consistent, trouble-free race.

How confident are you? Podium possible or do you think you can win this race?
CS: I don't know. I think it's impossible to tell around Mexico. Obviously if we do laps like we do today we can aim for the podium or the win but to do that for 71 laps in our car is a bit trickier. Also, with our tyre management, it's trickier and 71 laps, I think, normally that is where Red Bull makes a difference but together with Charles, we will try and do everything we can do to keep him behind and try to challenge that win.

Max coming to you. How surprised are you by the pace of the Ferraris today?
MV: Yeah, I mean, it's always difficult to tell, you know? I'm not part of their team, so I don't know what's going on. But yeah, I personally just expected it to be a little bit better in evolution through Qualifying from our side. And I think that's what we were lacking a little bit. I think Q1 was okay, Q2 wasn't too bad but then it just seemed to like, fall away from us, like the improvements were not big enough, coming into Q3. But this track is also extremely difficult in qualifying, to basically almost, let's say, hit the perfect lap. Because it's so low grip, if you tried to push a little bit more, you might overheat the tyres, or you have a little slide. And that's, I think, what happened to me today, where I tried to find a little bit more time, but then the balance wasn't exactly there. And then you're sliding, you overheat your tyres, and then in the last sector, you have no tyres left. And that's basically a bit I think what happened. Yeah, it's just this track is very, very difficult to put a perfect lap together.

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