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Austrian GP: FIA Qualifying Press Conference

June 30 2019

 FIA Qualifying Press Conference

1 Ė Charles LECLERC (Ferrari)
2 Ė Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
3 Ė Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing)


(Conducted by Paul Di Resta)

Q: [Question inaudible]

Charles LECLERC: In FP1 I struggled a little bit and then we did some changes and then from FP2 it was quite good. A big pleasure to drive this car on the limit; it just felt great, and very happy to bring the pole position back home. But tomorrow we need to finish the job.

Q: A very different tyres strategy to Mercedes who are going to be your ultimate challenge. Youíre starting on the soft; theyíre starting on the medium. Do you firmly believe you went the right way?

CL: Yeah, on actually what we tested in FP2 we are pretty happy with the choice we made, so weíll try tomorrow.

Q: And itís going to be pretty hot tomorrow. What are the conditions going to be like?

CL: Itís going to be very difficult, physically, first, because itís very, very warm, but also for the car, so yeah it will be all about management of everything and hopefully a good result tomorrow.

Q: Well done, it was an epic lap. Lewis, that was a nervy session, it looked like everyone was hunting for a slipstream. We heard the team trying to put you in that position, I think you tried to position yourself well for that last run, but Charles did a very good job.

Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, congratulations to Charles, heís been quick all weekend. Weíve just not really been able to keep up with them this weekend. Positioning was so difficult out there and I was always at the front so I was never getting a slipstream. Luckily on that last lap I was in an OK position, but it was very tight right at the end. I didnít know if I was going to get to start the lap or not. I saw three cars behind me trying to start their lap. So, a bit of a panic, but nonetheless Iím grateful. Max has been driving really well all weekend as well. I think itís cool to see three different teams in the top three positions.

Q: Last Saturday you were keen to get Charles to race. Youíre up against it tomorrow, youíre going to have to fight these two for this win arenít you?

LH: Yeah, Iíll go and fight the young íuns, man! Itís cool. Iím representing for the more grown men I guess. Nonetheless Iím excited to get out there and race with these guys, theyíre both so talented, so fingers crossed we can put on a good show for them tomorrow.

Q: Max, you got the biggest cheer today. Red Bullís home race, I donít think you could have asked for much more. Could be a front-row start, as Hamilton is under investigation for a Q1 infringement with infringement, but how strong was that?

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, Iím actually really happy at the moment. For us, this is an amazing result on this track, which is not easy for us. The whole weekendÖ I think also again with the upgrades we brought here the car seems to be working again better.

Q: You won this race last year and youíve put yourself in a strong position. How much does it mean to you to have this support around the track?

MV: Itís great. It puts a big smile on my face and hopefully I can give them a great result tomorrow.


Q: Charles, both of those laps in Q3 were good enough for pole position. Tremendous performance by you and the team, just how satisfying is this for you?

CL: Obviously Iím extremely happy. We have been competitive since FP2 but itís always difficult to do a lap when you need to in Q3, but we did, so Iím very happy. We changed a little bit the car after the first run in Q3. I knew it would be a compromise a little bit for the first sector but actually it wasnít that bad and then I improved quite a lot in the third sector, which was nice to see. Very happy for the team for the pole position but itís a shame for Seb, as I think probably the two cars should be closer to first and second, so yeah, a bit of a shame for the team but very happy for my own performance.

Q: And just looking ahead to the race, how confident are you about the race pace of your car?

CL: Well, on Friday actually it didnít look bad compared to Mercedes but also Red Bull, so we are pretty happy I think. We are quite competitive this weekend. I think tomorrow the start will be very important. There is a long straight after it, but there is a long straight after it, but normally we are quite fast on the straights so hopefully we can keep first position in the first three corners, but the pace itself looks promising.

Q: Lewis, itís been a bit of a tricky weekend for Mercedes so far. Great lap from you at the end to get second place but can you just tell us about the performance of you car and how that session was for you?

LH: Well, firstly congratulations to Charles, he did a great job. Heís done a great job all weekend. For us, yeah, weíve been chipping away at it, but early from the get go we noticed a bit of a deficit to the Ferraris. We thought it would be a bit closer than it was but they eked out some more time in P3 and going into qualifying. We definitely under-estimated how fast they would be, I would say. I think ultimately on the straights, they really kill us on the straights, so theyíve got that extra bit of power that really works well here and I guess they just managed to figure out how to get their car to work around the medium and high-speed corners. I think for us, the car has been feeling good, but as I said, we canít do much more on the straights and Iím not really quite sure why it is we lose time on the straights but thatís something weíre working towards. The last part was really difficult. I think there were three cars right behind me going into the last corner, everyone was waiting and waiting and waiting and pushing it to the limit. We rarely go out right at the end of qualifying but as you could see it was quite a bit windier today and I think tow was probably important. Nonetheless Iím really happy with the position to get up here and Iím excited to have a race with these two.

Q: Youíre under investigation for an incident in Q1 with Kimi RšikkŲnen, whatís your take on that?

LH: One of the teamís cars came by and I was braking for the hairpin at Turn 3 and I saw the other one coming so I got off the brakes and tried to go straight on to try and go out the way because I didnít want to meet them in the corner. I donít think I met them in the corner but I think that probably put him off I would have thought, so it wasnít ideal. I wasnít aware that that car was coming so not the easiest.

Q: Max, congratulations on third place. How satisfying is it for you to split the Mercedes this afternoon?

MV: Well, just in general, I think our whole weekend, the performance has been a lot better. Before we came here I was actually not really looking forward to it, to qualifying, because I knew that it was going to be hard Ė but actually with the new updates weíve got to the car, I think yeah, we gained a bit of performance and I was really happy with the car throughout qualifying and I think in the corners as well, we looked very competitive. We do know that we are lacking quite a bit of pace to Ferrari and even to Mercedes of course on the straights but knowing this is not a great track for us, itís still a great result in qualifying.

Q: And thereís a huge amount of support for you this weekend. Whatís it like to have a Mexican wave follow you around the race track.

MV: Yeah. Itís a Dutch wave but OK! Itís good. Itís bringing a big smile to my face, of course. I mean, itís not giving me extra lap-time unfortunately. Itís a good motivation to have and I canít wait for tomorrow.


Q: (Christian Nimmervoll Ė Lewis, just how much to you think the drag is around this track in qualifying and do you think there can even be a benefit for you tomorrow at the start, considering youíre behind Charles?

LH: The drag? Oh, the slipstream. Iíve not really been behind the other cars. In Montreal you saw just how difficult it is to follow a Ferrari, even in the slipstream they tend to pull away. I think the little bit of an advantage they have is a little bit different in qualifying compared to the race Ė but yeah, I donít even know if Iíll be starting where I am now, so weíll wait and see.

Q: (Andrew Benson Ė BBC Sport) Charles, there seems to be something about you and these tracks with big braking points into slow corners. Is there something about your style that helps you in these? Youíve had an advantage over Seb all weekend it seems.

CL: Overall, as I said in Paul Ricard, Iíve changed a little bit the approach from Paul Ricard and I really felt I did a step forward. Then, Austria is also my favourite track, so it might fit a little bit better to my driving style but overall, I think, since Paul Ricard, I did a step forward. And I can feel it in car so, happy with this. Yeah, thatís it.

Q: (Scott Mitchell Ė Autosport) To Charles and Max. All the attention for Ferrari is often on the straight line speed Ė but you had a really strong performance in the middle sector and at the end. Have you added a bit more downforce to the set-up this weekend to target the corners? And to Max, you talked about having a little bit updated, stronger car performance here. How much better has it been behind the wheel this weekend?

CL: I think our main issue in the last few grand prix was the front. We didnít have enough front. I think this weekend it was quite a bit better. We tried different set-ups also, set-up philosophy, and it seems to be a bit better. So, it doesnít mean that weíll do a big step-up for the other races but for here it worked pretty well. I think the most time gained on the second sector is because of a stronger front compared to the last grand prix.


MV: Yeah. I think the things we bought, they just gave me more grip in general. I didnít really have big problems before with a lot of oversteer or a lot of understeer, just not a lot of overall grip. I think that seems to be improved again. Thatís very positive.

Q: (Maria Reyer Ė Question to Charles, we saw you using the Soft tyre in Q2, so youíre starting on Soft and the Mercedes on the Medium. Why did you use the Soft tyre there?

CL: Well, we did some analysis after FP2, like every team does after the race simulation, and the Soft looked pretty good so we are pretty happy with our strategy. Definitely different than Red Bull and Mercedes but yeah, only tomorrow will tell who as right to so that choice but Iím happy with it.

Q: (Pťter VŠmosi Ė Racing Line) Question to Lewis and Max. Silly season 2020 is opened now. Can you imagine that you both can be team-mates next year?

LH: People are always making up stuff. Itís the first Iíve heard of it. I think the teamís pretty happy with Valtteri and me. So I do know Max is definitely interested in opportunities. I donít know, maybe. If there is, then great. I donít mind driving with you. Iíll drive against whoever.

MV: I guess thereís people who know more than me!

Q: (Dan Knutson Ė Auto Action / Speed Sport) Charles, was the team keeping you informed of what was wrong with Sebís car and were there any concerns about your car?

CL: Yes, I was informed. Not exactly what happened Ė because I donít know yet Ė but I was informed he had some issues with the car. They didnít feel concern on my side. I donít think they were Ė maybe they were behind the computers but they werenít showing it to me. So no, I donít think so.

Q: (Carlo Platella Ė Charles, this is your second pole position; are you going to approach the race in a different way from Bahrain?

CL: No, I think my approach to the race itself didnít change much from the beginning of the season. I did a change of approach for qualifying but not so much for the race. And for now Iím pretty happy with it so no.

Q: (Andrew Benson Ė BBC Sport) Slipstreaming is obviously becoming a huge issue in qualifying with these cars with extra drag. Itís kind of funny to hear you talking about it all the time over the radio, particularly you Lewis. Today we heard loads from you. What do you think about that? Do you think slipstreaming should be such an important part of setting the fastest lap time in qualifying?

LH: For us itís because weíre slow on the straights and theyíre fast so we need to regain it somewhere but they do it IndyCar. Itís not everywhere. Most places we donít use slipstreaming, but there are places like this, Monza with long straights where itís beneficial. I think thatís just another element that comes into it. I donít think it should be a problem, personally.

CL: Yeah, same opinion. I think itís always a compromise. It depends on the track, what you gain on the straight on some tracks you lose even more in the corners but here itís not the case, we just win more on the straight by taking a slipstream so thatís why there was quite a bit of fight to try and have the best slipstream. Actually the last lap was pretty tricky because there was a train of cars. The only thing is that I feel that some cars - not of the top cars - but in the last lap they were slowing down unnecessarily. They had quite a big gap in front and that creates quite a problem for the cars behind but apart from that I think itís part of racing.

MV: Yeah, not much more to add.

Q: (Luke Smith Ė Charles, you talked about your change of approach in regards to qualifying from Paul Ricard. Could you talk a little bit more about what exactly you have approached with your approach and do you think that adjustment is the biggest thing youíve learned so far this year with Ferrari?

CL: Well as Iíve explained, just to be a little more step-by-step during the qualifying sessions. I probably over-pushed and then on the set-up side try to anticipate the track evolution which is quite a big factor now in Formula One, so just these two and I certainly found quite a bit of time.

Q: (Peter Hlawicka Ė Lewis, how big an advantage is it to start on mediums and how confident are you that you can win tomorrow?

LH: If we get to start the race in the positionsÖ if I get to start the race with those guys I think it will be quite a fun race. This is a track that you can follow a little a bit more but still it will be quite difficult at the top between the few of us. I think the Ferraris are particularly very quick on the long runs, not only on the short runs so it will not be so easy to keep up with Charles but I gave it everything I had. If I can stay in the tow, for example and be there Ė if weíre on a different tyre, maybe we will be able to offset each other. Them starting on that tyre would tend to think they are going for a two (stop race) most likely unless that tyre goes a lot further than we anticipate. I donít have the numbers but on the medium tyre hopefully we will able to go longer. I think a one and two (stop race) are very close so how you work them, safety cars and all those different things, it will be interesting but at least it makes it interesting hopefully.

Q: (Daniel Majer Ė Lewis, now that you are leading the championship, tomorrow there is going to be a head-to-head battle between those other two guys. Will you consider that now you are leading the championship and itís not necessary to beat them, it would be good if you finish on the podium or you will fight as it would be the first or the last race of the season?

LH: Youíve not been here too long, hunh? You donít know me. Those of you who know me well, know me slightly better. I would say no, of course. I try to have a balanced approach between aggression and conservative and of course I will be pushing for the win tomorrow, thatís ultimately always the goal and it should be nothing more and nothing less. As I said, itís not going be easy to get close to be passing the Ferraris. I think theyíve been very very quick all weekend but of course I will be giving it absolutely everything. I donít like ever settling for anything but first. Have you seen Talladega Nights?

MV: Itís good, I like it.

LH: Very good viewing. So that (inaudible).

CL: Havenít seen it.

LH: You need to watch it.

Q: (Bart Pooijeweert - Max, yesterday Helmut Marko confirmed there is an escape clause in your contract. Can you tell the details about it?

MV: What do you think, my friend? Of course not! Why would I? I know, but I donít care.


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