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Chinese GP: FIA Qualifying Press Conference

April 14 2019

 FIA Qualifying Press Conference

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


(Conducted by Martin Brundle)

Q: Congratulations Valtteri, the 1000th championship event, the world championship leader, and youíre on pole position; you worked for that one?

Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, itís been a good weekend so far, I mean, starting from the pole. I felt already really comfortable this morning in the practice. In the qualifying, honestly, I struggled a bit in Q3 to get the perfect lap in, but it was good enough.

Q: It looked like you had it covered, though. You just had an ounce of extra speed. And the lap unfolded nicely?

VB: Yeah, the lap was OK. Like I said, not completely how I wanted, but luckily it was good enough for pole and the car has been really good this weekend. And Lewis also managed to improve a lot during the qualifying; it was super close.

Q: Well, your fans seem very happy up there. Lewis: 59th front-row lockout for the team and second place for you today, though. Valtteri certainly showed some speed, but you didnít give up on it.

Lewis HAMILTON: No, I didnít give up. I kept pushing right to the end. Big congratulations to Valtteri, heís been stellar all weekend. Iíve been struggling and fighting the car all weekend. Weíve been chipping away at it and Iím much, much happier. You know, it was eight tenths at once stage, the gap between us, so to be as close as we are at the end is fantastic. This is an incredible result for the team. There was a little bit more time left on the table there, but thatís cool, Iíll try and get it tomorrow.

Q: So, race pace Ė youíve got the Ferraris in your mirrors, are you comfortable for the race?

LH: Well, theyíre particularly quick in the straights but itís evident this weekend that weíve been able to pull some performance from the corners so just great work from the guys at the factory analysing the test and the last two races, so this is really, really positive for us, really happy.

Q: Well done. Sebastian, take us through the lap. Mercedes just had a little bit too much for the Ferrari team today?

Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, unfortunately it seems to be like that. I think right from Q1 they just seemed to start off from a better place. I think we had a good session. Maybe there was a tiny bit more but I actually was quite happy that I managed the final attempt, because I was quite marginal with time, the team told me that we only had 10 seconds margin. So I then hurried up and made sure I crossed the line in time. I think there was maybe a little bit more, but overall not enough to beat these guys today.

Q: So, satisfied with third, but youíve got a very fast car in a straight line and youíre sitting pretty for the race?

SV: Yeah, but they are bloody quick in the corners! So you choose! For us, obviously when we get close I think we have an advantage in a straight line so maybe we can do something there. But the race is long and weíll take it from there, but it should be a good day tomorrow.


Q: Valtteri, congratulations, youíve been quick all weekend. How were those laps in Q3, both of them good enough for pole position?

VB: Yeah, the weekend so far has been very good. Obviously tomorrow is the big day but at least on single lap itís been competitive and as a team weíve been super strong. I think in the Q3, honestly, during those two runs I never got the perfect lap, there was always something, but thatís how it goes. The pace was good, so yeah, it was enough for pole.

Q: The one-lap pace is clearly very good, but whatís the long-run pace like?

VB: Thatís something we will honestly find out tomorrow but looking from Friday itís been pretty close among the top three teams, so there are many question marks but today is encouraging and weíll go for it.

Q: Well done Valtteri, good luck tomorrow. Lewis, you said a moment ago that youíve been fighting the car this weekend but you seemed to make good gains with it during that qualifying session. Where have you improved it?

LH: The car hasnít improved fromÖ you canít change it in qualifying so it was just reallyÖ As I said I was struggling with the car throughout the weekend, all day yesterday and even today, even into Q2. But I made a couple of changes to the settings on the wheel and some changes to the line and I managed to bridge the gap. Honestly, Iím quite proud of the job weíve done considering how far away I was earlier on in the sessions and Valtteri has been quick all weekend, so he deserved the pole.

Q: And what are your thoughts on the gap to Ferrari this weekend?

LH: I donít even know what it is, soÖ

Q: Well, given that you were behind them in Bahrain two weeks ago, the pendulum has swung the other way here.

LH: Yeah, I think thatís how itís going to be from race to race. Some cars suit some tracks better than others.

Q: Sebastian, first of all your thoughts on the gap to Mercedes.

SV: Too big. Weíd like it to be the other way around, obviously. I think we had a decent session. Obviously important if we canít beat them to be right behind them, buying us some options tomorrow, hopefully.

Q: Talk to us a little bit more about that session. How was it for you? How did the track conditions improve?

SV: The track, I think, ramped up. I think you can see the lap times, from where we started in Q1 to Q3. Obviously thereís a bit in yourself, a bit in the engine modes and stuff what people are doing but I think thatís fairly normal. On our side we were able to improve the car from where it was yesterday, so Iím reasonably happy with that, but not entirely happy. I think there was a little bit more. It was a bit tricky today to put the laps together.


Q: (Christian Menath Ė Queston for you Seb. There was quite a busy out-lap in Q3, the last one, think you overtook several cars; Max wasnít happy because he didnít make his lap. Think the other Red Bull didnít, both Haas. Can you talk us through that Ė and is it a general problem in F1 now?

SV: No, I donít thinkÖ I guess everyone timed it around the same, so we all left for the same spot. And if youíre at the end of the train, which I was, then it was quite difficult. And when the team told me we only have ten seconds margin to cross the line in time to make another attempt. I had to think of something. I do not know if others were not told. If everyone would have sped up the way I did, then yeah, we would have all made it. But I obviously prioritised to make the lap. It felt like others were not aware.

Q: (David Coath Ė A question for each of you. It is the 1000th grand prix and we know itís another race for you. Can you enjoy the moment or is it something youíll have to look back on more further years down the line?


LH: For me itís not really much of a moment. Itís just another race. Weíre here to win. Itís great for the sport.

Valtteri, your thoughts?

VB: Yeah, here to focus on myself, our teamís job and try to do the best job we can. In the end itís only numbers but obviously itís a big one, so congrats to F1.


SV: Well, itís not up to us, obviously. Itís a bit more colourful than other races but I think inside the car and for the result itself, it makes no difference.

Q: (Lawrence Edmondson Ė ESPN) Question for Seb. You said you werenít very confident with the car in Australia, it seemed to be the same again in Bahrain. Has that changed coming here? Have you started to get what you want? And, if youíre not, how much more is there to get out of this car?

SV: I think we have a strong platform to work from. Obviously we started very well in Barcelona and the feeling was really good, and really strong. Since then, I think weíve struggled a little bit to repeat that, so yeah, the past two races, weíve had little issues here and there. Bahrain didnít go my way. Saturday was not bad, we had a small problem, otherwise I could have been better, Sunday yeah, struggling in the first stint as much as in Australia the second stint. Here and there not happy. Obviously you try to drive around the problems and try to set up the car differently. I think we are getting more and more there, understanding maybe some things related to different tracks, which Barcelona doesnít show because itís different but, as I said, the car is strong, so itís up to us to extract the performance.

Q: (Phil Duncan Ė PA) Seb, Bernie Ecclestone was speaking earlier this week suggesting that it could take into consideration that you might want to retire. Do you envisage being in the sport beyond your next contract?

LH: Itís the moustache!

SV: Heís got one too now, I donít know what you call it when itís all around. Goatee. Well, certainly Iím not going to driveÖ Iím not going to be in Formula One as long as he was, thatís for sure. Yeah, but I hope Iím going to be as fit and as sharp as he is today when Iím hopefully that old. Yeah, I donít know, to be honest. At the moment I feel on top of my game, I feel that I know what Iím doing and yeah, Iím very very self-critical, very ambitious and I put a lot of expectation on to myself. I love driving, I love the sensation of the speed, I love fighting with these guys so thereís a lot of things that at the moment I really like and Iíll miss so thatís why itís not an option to quit tomorrow, Iím quite happy to race. And then, yeah, Iíve got the contract but thatís a piece of paper and then we see what happens.

Q: (Car Magazine, Greece) Valtteri, you were under a lot of pressure last year and you had an outburst at the beginning of this season with your win. Youíre now leading the championship, you have pole position, where are you confidence-wise?

VB: Confidence-wise Iím good, thanks for asking. Itís been a good start of the year, first of all for me personally and for us as a team. Itís been optimal but itís all at the beginning of the year I feel confident. Today was a good day and hopefully tomorrow will be again, but itís a long season ahead.

Q: (Stuart Codling Ė Autosport) Lewis, you said in response to Tomís question you tried different lines and settings to cure the problems youíve been having. Was that purely a function of trying to get the tyre temperatures balanced across both axles? It kind of looked Ė certainly in FP3 around turn three Ė as if you were having particular difficulty getting the car to bite in at the exit of turn three compared with other people.

LH: I donít know. Valtteri was particularly quick in the first sector so I was experimenting throughout the session, finally got the quickest sector in the end but a little bit too late but still, itís all about making improvements. It wasnít to do with tyre temperature, it was just really to do a balance and getting the flow, utilising the grip in the right areas. But as I said, Iíve been struggling with the car so I was just battling the thing. Itís obviously a great car but this year I think the first few races are always quite tricky with a new car. You see it shifts a little bit later on in the season when you get a better understanding.

Q: (Christian Menath Ė It looked a bit strange with the soft tyre and the medium tyre; I think Lewis, you went in Q2 on another set of mediums and you were the fastest. Do you think itís a bit strange here, the behaviour between soft and medium? Do you expect that this could swing around something for tomorrow, because youíre probably not going to drive on the soft as you did today?

SV: Iím not sure I understood the question. Yeah, Valtteri understood. Go ahead. No, I didnít reallyÖ

VB: Yeah, I can explain to you and then you answer Well, the thing is here the soft tyreÖ itís a very high energy track. Thereís long corners which put a lot of load on the tyres and actually the soft degrades more during the lap, even one lap, than the medium so soft might be a lot quicker at the beginning of the lap but by the end of the lap it is slower than the medium tyre, so thatís why thereís no massive time difference. I think tomorrow, as normal, mediumís going to the better tyre after a few laps as usual, but thatís something we will find out tomorrow.

SV: Thank you, Valtteri, for the explanation. It makes complete sense what he was saying soÖ Yeah, I should listen more in these meetings about tyres. Not much to add. I think itís always a bit of a surprise to us when we are much closer with the harder compound compared to the softest compound. But Valtteri explained why very well.


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