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Japanese GP: FIA Qualifying Press Conference

October 7 2017

 FIA Qualifying Press Conference

1 Ė Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
2 Ė Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)
3 Ė Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari)


(Conducted by Jenson Button and David Coulthard)
JB: Lewis this is your first time qualifying on pole in Suzuka. Absolutely immense, great job buddy, but itís not just that, you have just shattered the qualifying lap record of Felipe Massa, set back in 2006 by 1.7 seconds. How does it feel?
Lewis HAMILTON: Incredible. Firstly, look at this crowd Ė we have such a great crowd. Itís been a really good day and every lap was fantastic. You were rapid here, Nico was rapid here, I never really got a great balance in the past and I never did great in qualifying, so to finally get the balance behind me, with the great work of my engineers, and the great timing from all the mechanics, I finally got on track and did the time. And the car is crazy here, I wish you could feel it, man!
JB: Yeah, watching you through the Esses, it looks unbelievable, the changes of direction. But from the word go in qualifying it was there.
LH: Yeah, itís my first time. Iím running out of opportunities to get this pole, so I was like ďIíve got to make sure I make it stick todayĒ. Valtteri did a great job. Obviously he is going to have the penalty at the start but still he has a great opportunity in the race to get up there with us.
JB: Letís go and speak to Valtteri. Good job buddy. We had breakfast, sort of, together this morning and obviously itís not been the easiest weekend for you, but pretty awesome to come away with P2.
KR: Yeah, itís been a really difficult weekend and obviously went off this morning. The guys did a great job getting the car back together. My driving was really getting better through the qualifying. I think there was still something to be found. But P1 and P2 at this point, but obviously with the gearbox penalty Iím starting seventh.
JB: Yeah, itís not easy as we know starting further back, but the car looks immense around here and you, as you said, have done a fantastic job today. But watching from the outside, watching the cars through here itís the only time I really, really miss driving these beasts.
VB: I tell you, you are missing a lot!
JB: I know, good job buddy. Sebastian, how are you doing?
Sebastian VETTEL: Fine.
JB: These two were just unbelievably quick today, especially Lewis. Heís definitely sorted out his qualifying around Suzuka. P3 but obviously youíre starting the race from second. We all know thatís not a bad position to start here. How are you feeling, buddy?
SV: Ah well, I mean qualifying has been quite good to be honest. Iím reasonably happy. I tried everything on the last run. I know I had to take a bit more risk, but it didnít work, I ran out of track at the exit of the Esses. But I knew that if Valtteri got past, we would still be on the front row. I would have loved to have been a bit quicker, but quite amazing with the new cars around here. I love the track and itís been a very special day. Thanks for the support, there are a lot of Ferrari fans, so arigato.
JB: And as we know, Turn 1, you never know. Starting on the front row there is always the possibility of making it stick at Turn 1, so have a good one buddy, good job. Lewis, do you want to jump in here DC?
DC: Lewis, that was spectacular to watch. Standing in the commentary box there were moments when I couldnít believe how fast that car was going through the corners. Big congratulations, it sets you up perfectly for tomorrow, looking forward to the race?
LH: Yeah, itís going to be a different view here. Iíve never really had this view here, you know what itís like. Weíve worked hard for the car to hopefully work well in the race. Those Esses really kill the tyres, so Iím hoping weíre in a good position for that. Naturally the Ferraris will be rapid, as they always are, but I plan to keep them behind.
Well Lewis, you obliterated the lap record. Every lap you did during that session was faster than the one before. It looked very smooth from where we were sitting. Talk us through the session and how good was that last lap?
LH: It definitely was a fantastic session. I donít know if people watching realise, but how your team time everything in terms of what time you go out, positioning, the preparation with the mechanics Ė all that stuff has to work perfectly. The team were just so on form, as they always are, but that worked perfectly and enabled me to get out in the right time and in the right space and deliver the laps, so hugely grateful to everyone for all their hard work. And the laps: yeah, very much on it. Didnít make one mistake each lap, just got better and better. Itís really about building a foundation, which you do in Q1, and then building upon it lap after lap and hopefully you donít have any mistakes. It was just every single lap apart from the last lap, which was up, but I think it was Q3 run one, which was the lap. Just incredible to come here with this car. This track has always been one of the greatest, if not the greatest circuits, and with this car itís just mind blowing. I wish you could feel what we feel. Itís always been one of the craziest rollercoaster rides but with the downforce we have now Ė I think itís three seconds faster than weíve been before Ė itís insane the speeds, this car is throwing us around inside. But the way you are able to throw the car around is like the craziest rollercoaster ride, which I love. So I hope the cars continue to get better, as they have this year. Itís incredible for meÖ. Ten years or whatever it is, my first pole position here. So tenth time lucky, so Iím grateful for that.
Well, it was a great qualifying performance. I think a lot of people will be wondering whatís the race pace going to be like, particularly after what happened in Malaysia last weekend. Are you confident youíve got that as well?
LH: Well, we got some running in P1 and P3. P1 felt better than P3. The car is a lot different this weekend and a lot more enjoyable to drive. Last weekend was a bit of a disaster but we still got pole, which was unusual. Generally, I believe, we take step a bit slower when we get to the races, whereas the Ferraris do the opposite. I think thatís really the philosophy of how our cars are designed, difference-wise. I think in the race weíre going to be OK. But for sure the Ferraris were very, very quick in the last race so it will be interesting to see the pace they have. Kimi did a decent run, as well as Sebastian, today. Weíll see. Weíve put ourselves in the best fighting position and obviously itís me and Sebastian on the front row Ė I wouldnít want it any other way.
Q: Valtteri, coming to you, itís been a topsy-turvy kind of day for you, that accident in final practice and then pulling it all together and getting that lap together at the end. Talk us through how difficult it was to claw it back from the low of final practice.
VB: Well, first of all I want to say well done to Lewis again for the pole. And I really want to thank the team. Like Lewis said, theyíve done a great job through the qualifying. Weíre always the right time on the track and in perfect gaps. Just everything went very smoothly so that allowed also me to just really focus on the driving itself. With the incident, I had in practice three, there was some extra work for the guys. They did really well to get the car together. It worked perfectly, so thanks for that. Itís been a tricky weekend, not quite so clean so far, and going slightly over a kerb in practice three can make a massive difference. Had to reset, go for it. I used the soft tyre in quali two, so that mixed my rhythm slightly, I think but could get some improvements step by step. The lap in the end, it was not perfect but not that far off.
Q: Sebastian, talk us through your session. Third fastest. Youíre going to be, as weíve heard, on the front row of the grid tomorrow, due to that penalty for Valtteri but first of all, qualifying, how was it for you?
SV: Pretty good, Iím pretty happy, to be honest, the car balance was getting better and better. Obviously, we were lacking a bit of performance but all in all I think it was a positive day. I think the car should be a bit better in the race. The last run in Q3, I tried a little bit more than there maybe was but I obviously knew the gap behind was quite big and Valtteri wasn't really a threat because he gets the penalty tomorrow. So, took a bit more risk, didnít work but still happy with third and then a front row for tomorrow. Weíll see. I think our starts lately have been quite good. Weíll see what we can do.
Q: And are you confident youíll have the legs of the Mercedes in race conditions?
SV: I donít know which sort of pace they will have. Obviously, you always know what you are doing but they have been a bit up and down: last week they werenít very quick; this weekend they seem to be back to normal, so I think so far this year has been very close. I expect it to be very close tomorrow. For us, I think normally we are a bit stronger in the race compared to quali, so thatís where I guess we get together and see what we can do, at the start and then during the race.
Q: (Michael Schmidt Ė Auto Motor und Sport) Lewis, last week you struggled and nobody in the team really seemed to have an explanation for it. This weekend, only seven days later, you are flying. Do you know why?
LH: I think we have an idea. I think thereís a lot of analysis thatís gone in to understanding it so I think we do understand, yes. Itís not something we can particularly rapidly change, but weíre in a cooler climate here, so thatís definitely one thing that adds to it.
Q: (Graham Harris Ė Motorsport Monday) Question for Lewis. Your first pole at Suzuka, youíve never really hooked it up here, youíve had competitive cars in the past Ė whatís so different this year? You seem to be absolutely blinding through every corner.
LH: Itís interesting because every single time Iíve struggled here. Struggled with finding the right balance, generally not alwaysÖ often not starting on the right foot and then just struggling where to find the placement. Sometimes Iíve started on the right foot and led the car in completely the wrong direction. Yeah, so itís always been up and down. This is the first time Ė and I would say definitely the first car that Iíve really felt that itís been underneath me all weekend. Small tweaks here and there but in the right direction. So, I think fundamentally a better job done globally. Particularly with my engineers. My engineer understanding what I need from the car and vice versa: what I need from my engineers and the car. Itís worked out better this time. My knowledge of the car is better than itís been before Ė which has enabled me then to go out and do the job, so Iím reallyÖ itís really, really a confidence builder for us as a group, me and my engineers and mechanics. I donít mind that itís taken that long. I hope that I can capitalise on todayís great work.
Q: (Heikki Kulta Ė Turun Sanomat) Valtteri, how important was it for you to beat Kimi as you seemed to be on the same tactic as him?
VB: Yeah, of course it is good to start ahead. I think he also got on the softs in Q2 so we are mostly likely going to be on a similar strategy for the race, so Iíve definitely got the upper hand in the race in that way but weíll need to see how their race pace is and again itís going to be a long race but itís just a real shameÖ it would have been better to start one and two as a team, that would have been nice but that is what it is.
Q: (Mark Mann-Bryans Ė Press Association) Lewis, your car in the last few months has been labelled capricious, a diva Ė I believe you even said on Thursday itís a bit stubborn. But is it days like today when she makes it up to you?
LH: Definitely, definitely. Itís been a great car in qualifying this year particularly, and qualifying for me is probably the most enjoyable part of the weekend, so being able to put together laps like today is the one you wait for, all weekend: Q3, round one and two are really what motorsport is all about. Itís about ultimate performance from myself but also from the car. So it is definitely great when she comes together on days like this which is important. We were perhaps on the back foot here, perhaps wonít be as great a position to be in but letís hope that sheís not stubborn tomorrow.
Q: (Heikki Kulta Ė Turun Sanomat) Sebastian, how important would it be for your championship campaign to have a normal qualifying for both of the Ferraris?
SV: Well, I donít know. Obviously there was a small issue this morning that lead into the problem with Kimiís car, certainly not ideal but it is what it is. I think the car is quick so even ifÖ I think last weekend showed that even if you Ė well, not necessarily qualify out of position Ė but if you start out of position then you can still get back. Iím sure that he can have a strong race from where he starts.
Q: (Graham Harris Ė Motorsport Monday) To all three of you: with missing FP2 basically yesterday and this morningís practice session having two reds, did this affect any of your programmes, leading up to qualifying and do you feel you have enough laps in and also the changing characteristics of the circuit? FP1 was essentially dry and the rest were wet or damp. How did this affect your qualifying going into qualifying?
VB: Yeah, definitely you would always prefer to do more laps, thereís always more track time, possibilities to learn more and make the car better and fine-tune your driving, get the confidence, so definitely for me, missing practice two and then half of the practice three wasnít ideal. Then you need to make the most out of the limited time you have and try and improve during the qualifying.
LH: Fortunately, it didnít get in the way of it really. I got a bit of a run in in P3 in the rain. If anything, that might have been a benefit to me , because if Iíd had P2 in the dry maybe I wouldnít be on pole, because we would push the car to make changes and whatever and wouldnít have ended up where we were so pretty grateful for the rain that came. Often when you miss a session, it does definitely put you a little bit further down the ladder from where you potentially could be but I think I managed to still reach there so I do think it was potentially a benefit for me, missing P2.
SV: Donít think much impact. I think we got enough laps for performance runs. Obviously the long run preparation wasnít as usual but by the end of the season you know the car, you know the tyres so itís not a big deal. I think the biggest change for tomorrow will be the conditions. I think there should be sunshine which makes everything a bit hotter, so letís see how that goes.


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