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Austrian GP: FIA Qualifying Press Conference

July 5 2020

 FIA Qualifying Press Conference

1 Ė Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)
2 Ė Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
3 Ė Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing)

(Conducted by Paul Di Resta)

Q: Valtteri, thatís race one of 2020 and youíve qualified on pole position. What is this like? Youíve been dreaming about this for a long time and obviously envisioned it Ė but to get the job done must to nice.
Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, it feels really good. Iíve missed these feelings, yíknow, after the qualifying. Shakes. Itís something special, when you push the car to the limit. Obviously been preparing for this for a long time and it feels so good. Canít say more than that. Our team, amazing job. We seem to be in our own league.

Q: And obviously Mercedes have given you a great car. I guess you saw that in the winter but theyíve continued their progression, and what a gap youíve got to your rivals.
VB: Itís very impressive to see. Itís only the first qualifying of the season but Iím so impressed, so thanks everyone in the team, all the factories. Itís a truly amazing car to drive. Obviously, a good result today but tomorrow is what matters.

Q: Lewis, itís on the front row. Youíve looked in control all weekend but I guess you must be happy with a one-two for Mercedes and youíre lining up alongside Valtteri.
Lewis HAMILTON: Yes, itís a great job by Valtteri. I mean this is a great start to the season and happy to be here.

Q: And obviously, going into the race tomorrow, Mercedes are in a great position to try and do this but just give us a sense of just how good this team is, given that youíve arrived here another year and you look like youíre in good spirits and good fighting.
LH: I think we show year-on-year that we continue to be the best team. I think that's because we are open-minded, we are current with the times, the guys that I work with, theyíre never too stubborn to admit they might be wrong at some stages, and weíre constantly always learning from each other and always pushing the boundaries and thereís not really any politics within the team, so itís a unit, a united team that weíve pushed together. Thatís why every year we come back. Because thatís not necessarily always the same in teams.

Q: And just lastly, seeing it was quite a lot of traffic at the end of that to start that final run there. Was that confusing or did that affect you, your last lap?
LH: No, no, not confusing. I came around Turn Four and I think there was a big puff of dust and I didnít know where the car was or anything like that but I managed to see that Valtteri was just about to come back on the track, and yeah, fortunately it didnít really affect the lap, and he kept his position and so did I. SoÖ

Q: Max, the best of the rest again but lining up tomorrow on the Medium tyre, you must be pretty happy about that.
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah. I mean, Iím happy first of all to be P3 but also yeah, we have a different starting tyre. Itís going to be interesting; itís going to be quite a bit warmer tomorrow, so yeah, I hope thatís going to play in our advantage Ė but clearly today Mercedes was on a different level unfortunately. Letís see how we can do tomorrow.

Q: Weíre expecting warmer temperatures tomorrow. You came alive last year when it got hotter, you didnít get off-put by the shaky start but you managed to fight to the end. Do you think this Red Bull this year will allow you to attack Mercedes?
MV: Last year we were also a little off in qualifying so I expect we are a bit better in the race. Now, Iím the only one on a different tyre in the top ten, so yeah, Iím just looking forward to it. We have nothing to lose, so Iíll try to make it as difficult as possible for them.


Q: Valtteri, many congratulations, what an electrifying session. What a great car. What a lap at the start of Q3. Just talk us through the session.
VB: Obviously the first thing what I said on the interview on the grid was that Iíve definitely missed this kind of adrenaline rush and the feeling you get from pushing these machines to the limit and, you know, trying to be at your personal peak and concentration and performance. Itís so much fun. And I really enjoyed the session. For me, the qualifying wasÖ I finally managed to unlock some performance from myself and from the car for the qualifying. There were certain corners that I sometimes got them right but mostly I was just a bit off. Just throughout the qualifying I managed to build the confidence and found the areas that I was missing and managed to get some good laps and put the pieces together and , just like I said, just really, really enjoyed and just surprised obviously with the gap to the other teams, and it just shows the strength Ė the amazing strength of this team and itís just so impressive.

Q: Was there more time on the table after that first run in Q3, or was that run the run. Was it near-perfect?
VB: No, I think there was a bit more time on the table. I think I was slightly up on my second lap until I ran a bit wide in Turn Four on the gravel and went off the track. So that was my mistake. It wasnít quite perfect but it was super-close with Lewis, so Iím glad it was good enough.

Q: Lewis, you are half a second faster than the first non-Mercedes car. Just how much confidence does that give you at the start of this season?
LH: Well, we definitely didnít expect to have that gap but itís just a true showing of all the great work everyone back at the factory continues to do. Valtteri did a fantastic job today with his lap and itís amazing. I donít really know what to say. We did not expect to have that sort of gap. We thought we were definitely quick enough to be fighting for the lead Ė but there were different showings from the other teams: sometimes quick, sometimes a little bit further behind. Yeah, so thatís the true showing of our car and we plan to try to improve on that.

Q: And what about your own car during Q3? Were you happy with it?
LH: Yeah, the car was great. Just didnít manage to put the greatest laps together. So, work for myself today and just go back to the drawing board and work harder.

Q: Max, are you surprised by the gap to the Mercedes.
MV: Well, I was not entirely happy with the balance. Some corners were good, some were not, so then the gap can be a bit bigger but still I think, yeah, half a second is quite a decent gap. What can you say about it? We just need to work harder and try to close that. Iím happy that in Q2 I could squeeze a lap on the Medium tyre out, so weíre starting with that. Letís see. Maybe tomorrow is a bit warmer; maybe that helps a bit. Hopefully also the race. Weíve never been the quickest over one lap on this track and hopefully in the race it will come a bit closer. But yeah, I donít know. Still, best of the rest, Iís a good start into the season and now we just have to work to close that gap.

Q: Do you think youíll need to do something different tomorrow to stand a chance of beating these guys?
MV: I donít know. I guess time will tell and weíll find out during the race. Iíve just going to try the best we can from our side and see how the tyres are holding on, and weíll see.


Q: (Christian Menath Ė Question for both Mercedes drivers. Considering the gap you had today, do you expect to fight just between the two of you tomorrow or also with Max with his different strategy?
VB: For sure, race and long runs itís always a different story and weíve seen many times that Red Bull has had a good race car and the race depends on so many different things Ė and we havenít been able to compare any of the teams on longer runs that maybe ten laps Ė so we didnít take anythingÖ with the mentality that itís going to be easy for us. We are prepared for threat from other teams, not just the two of us, soÖ and we do expect it.

Lewis, your thoughts
LH: I agree with Valtteri. Not really very much more to say. I think itís going to be a close race still. Heís on the medium tyre so a slightly different strategy and theyíre very quick on race pace Ė so it should be a lot closer tomorrow, I would expect.

Q: (Alan Baldwin Ė Reuters) Question for Max. You and Charles had a good battle last year but the Ferraris are way off the pace at the moment Ė not just Ferrari but the Ferrari-powered teams. I just wondered for your thoughts on that and why that might be.
MV: Well, I guess you have to ask Ferrari about that! The engineers. I donít know, Iím driving with the Honda-powered car so I have no information why that is.

Shall we just get the Mercedes driversí thoughts on that. Lewis? Ferrariís pace?
LH: Where are they? I donít know.

Quite far back. Sebastian didnít make it through to Q3.
LH:Not expecting them to be that far behind but, as Max said, I donít know what their reasons are, soÖ

VB: Just really surprising.

Q: (Scott Mitchell Ė The Race) Question to all three: how did you find it now that youíre leaning on the car again and searching for those last few thousandths of a second. Itís a short lap here so everything counts and obviously there was a suggestion that there may be a few people that could be rusty after such a long time off.
LH: It felt great. Honestly the training and rehabilitation work that I was able to do during the period of time has meant that Iíve come back feeling fitter and back to doing what we do best. It doesnít make qualifying any easier and it doesnít make extracting the maximum from the car any easier but I think it was a pretty solid opening two days.

Valtteri, you touched on the adrenaline earlier. Any more thoughts.
VB: I think there was a slight ramp-up in my performance during the weekend. I think it was getting better and better and I was getting more and more confident with everything Ė especially throughout the qualifying and today, but by the end of the qualifying it felt as usual and not reallyÖ I canít say that Iíve been away from the car for so long a time.

MV: For me it felt pretty much the same as always. I never really stopped racing. Iíve been also doing some track days. That helps. I mean, itís not a Formula One car but still, youíre driving it to the limit and it doesnít matter what car it is, if you drive it to the limit, you are working and you are trying to push yourself to the limit, so when I jump back in the F1 car, a few laps, you get used to the speed, and the cornering, of course, but yeah, once we got to qualifying it felt like you never really left. Anyway, we have so much time in practice to drive, I think itís quite easy to get back into it.

Q: Well, Max, you were one of the few drivers not to test a Formula One car prior to coming here. Just how many laps did it take yesterday to feel comfortable?
MV: Not many. Also you build up the weekend, right, so youíre not straightaway (inaudible) but yeah, I think anyway, as a Formula One driver, it shouldnít take you too many laps to get used to it.

Q: (Luke Smith Ė Autosport) Question for Lewis: we know the drivers have been talking a lot about an anti-racism message and showing support ahead of tomorrowís race; are you happy with how these talks have gone? Are you happy with the support that your peers have shown you and what about your own plans ahead of tomorrowís race? Are you planning to take a knee?
LH: Honestly, I donít have any plans at the moment. Iíve not thought that far forward but Iím sure over the evening we willÖ we spoke a bit in the driversí briefing and yup, interesting but itís good that weíre kind of all at least in discussion and I donít know what weíll see tomorrow. I think, potentially, people paying their respects in their own ways.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas Ė Autosport) Question for Lewis. Lewis, you mentioned seeing a cloud of dust when you got out of your car, presumably from Valtteriís off. How much of a distraction was that and were there any yellow flags that you had to contend with as well?
LH: Not that I saw, no. I came round the corner, I got on the power and I wasÖ I thought that Valtteri perhaps had just gone wide and come back on the track further up the road so I was looking out for the gravel on the track and for a car on the track but there was nothing there so I continued. Then I saw, as I was going into Ė I think it was turn six Ė that Valtteri was much further to the left, yeah, so it happened pretty quick. It was a pretty big puff of dust.

Q: (Chris Medland Ė Racer) Question to Lewis just following up from what you just said about the driver meeting and you said it was interesting, what was being discussed in there. Is there anything youíve maybe been unhappy with from the other drivers, or any sort of lack of support youíve felt or on the other side has there been anything particularly positive that youíd like to highlight?
LH: Well, just in the meeting I just acknowledged a lot of the drivers thatÖ obviously there was an interpretation of a message that I had posted, asking for people to speak out and their silence and just saying thank-you to those who have said something on their social media platforms Ďcos theyíve got a great voice, a great platform and then encouraging the others that havenít to say something and I just described the scenario that silence is generally really complicit so there still is some silence in some cases but I think itís also part of a dialogue of people trying to understand, because there are still people that donít fully understand exactly what is happening and what are the reasons for these protests. So I continue to try and be that guide, try to influence and make people (inaudible) what they can with it.

Q: (Laurence Edmondson Ė ESPN) Question to both Mercedes drivers Ė I hope it hasnít been answered already but obviously Max is starting on the medium tyre and youíre starting on the soft, was there ever a consideration to try and start on the medium or did you just feel that there wasnít enough pace advantage over the rest of the field to risk that in Q2?
VB: Iím sure that the team has analysed all the possible options obviously for the race start tyre, so yeah, we decided before qualifying itís just going to be soft that weíre going to go for but yes, we thought about it before but all the indications for us to be performing at our best in the race against others we decided to go for the soft.
LH: Pretty much the same.

Q: (Erik van Haren Ė De Telegraaf) Question for Max: Max, we talked about going for the World title in Barcelona in February and then you said it will be painful if the gap to Mercedes was like half a second at the beginning of the season, so whatís your feeling now, looking at the gap today?
MV: Well, itís of course not what we want so weíll analyseÖ but anyway, I was not very happy with the overall balance we had in the car so as soon as we can solve that a bit better then maybe it already looks a bit nicer Ė that doesnít say we would have beaten them but letís see. Itís eight races, we have another weekend here anyway so weíll just take this on board, learn a lot, try this weekend and hopefully we can do better next week. There are no dramas yet, maybe in Holland it is but I donít care. I just focus on myself and the team, you know, and then weíll see what happens.

Q: (Scott Mitchell Ė The Race) Question for the Mercedes drivers: we obviously saw you using the DAS system in a Grand Prix weekend for the first time and again in qualifying. Is it already a part of the natural toolset that you have, does it feel natural using it and is it the sort of thing that you can actually feel the result of when you start your qualifying lap or is it more hidden in the data?
LH: No, itís something you can feel, the adjustments that you are able to make, you do feel it and yeah, I think itís obviously proven to be fully legal and itís something that weíre proud of and we are still trying to get on top of it in terms of understanding it so itís not been used a massive amount but we will, I think, understand it more and more as we go through it.
VB: Yeah, I think I really agree with thatís how it is. I think thereís still probably more potential in depending tracks and conditions but yes, we have been using it and itís becoming quite natural too. Obviously itís not a massive thing in terms of performance but every small thing helps and when we put lots of small things together it can be big.
Q: Max, just on this topic, would you like to see Red Bull use its own version of DAS this season?
MV: Well, I think theyíve already answered it, right, with such a short calendar it would be hard to implement but letís see. I would like to see a lot of things on the car but you just have to be realistic.

Q: (Ben Hunt Ė The Sun) Couple of questions: just wanted to find out from Max your point of view: are you entirely satisfied with the FIA and their decision with regard to the protest that Red Bull made over the DAS system? And to the Mercedes drivers, did you fear that you may have it taken away, were there any concerns that you would lose that ability to use it?
MV: Well, itís not up to me really to judge that is it? I leave that up to the team. Iím also not the one protesting, Iím just focused on putting the laps in.
LH: I found out really late last night. It wasnít a concern to me because Iíd spoken to James and all the team and I trust the team implicitly and so I knew that I was comfortable with our position and that the great idea was legal, as I said, and so there were no problems.
VB: Also for me, I didnít really expect to have anything in the car that would be illegal at the start of the weekend so I guess the team was prepared to have some issues with other teams thinking it is illegal but obviously I trust that we donít have anything illegal in the car so I had no worries at any point.

Q: (Chris Medland Ė Racer) Max, we spoke earlier about the gap to Mercedes and how big that might be but we saw the midfield was potentially closer in testing. Are you surprised how close it got to you in Q3? I think Lando was only just over a tenth behind you.
MV: Yeah, but I was never worried that they would jump ahead of us. Itís a short lap and if youíre happy with the balance then you can do a good lap so no, Iím not too worried about that.

Q: (Phil Duncan Ė PA) Lewis, earlier this week you called for the grid to be united. Do you think tomorrow, before the race, we see some drivers go down on their knee and some not going down on their knee. Do you think that shows that the sport isnít united and perhaps thereís an issue there?
LH: Well, we know thereís an issue so we donít need an experience like tomorrow to prove that there is an issue.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas Ė Autosport) Max, we understand that you and your teammate were running different specifications when it came to the nose and the front wing. What can you tell us were the reasons behind that and how much of a difference does it make having the newer front wing?
MV: Well, there was only one set so yeah, they gave it to me. We are still understanding the difference between the wings but itís different philosophies behind it. I canít really tell you how much of a difference it is because I donít know. Yeah, weíre learning, weíre understanding different things.

Q: (Christian Menath Ė It looked like Lewis had the edge in the first sector but Valtteri in the second one; this was the case a number of times. Is this right or wrong and do you have an explanation for that?
VB: I think (unclear) pretty small, small differences but maybe turn one or sometimes the corner that I couldnít quite get it right but also this weekend I was the first car out so there were a few times that I had no tow at all and the first sector is quite a bit of straight so it could be explained also with that.
LH: No no, ultimately Valtteri just did a better job today.


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