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Russian GP: FIA Qualifying Press Conference

September 29 2019

 FIA Qualifying Press Conference

1 Ė Charles LECLERC (Ferrari)
2 Ė Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
3 Ė Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari)

(Conducted by Jenson Button)

Q: Charles, all I can say is, wow! What a dominant performance. All of the way through practice, yesterday, today, qualifying Ė you really are on a role.
Charles LECLERC: Yeah, the car felt amazing. It definitely feels great to be back on pole. I donít know if itís the best track to start on pole. The straight is very long after the start. Tomorrow the start will be very important as always, but here probably even more, because of the straight length.

Q: Itís still the best place to be in. The last person to score four [consecutive] pole positions for Ferrari was Michael Schumacher. That must make you feel pretty special?
CL: Yeah it definitely feels very, very special, but I donít really want to think about those kind of stats for now. I just want to focus on the job. Thereís still a long way to go until tomorrow. Itís definitely a good start, weíve been competitive all weekend long and the race simulation seems positive too, so itís looking good for tomorrow.

Q: Congratulations. Lewis, I must say, all the way through qualifying, obviously the Ferraris have had the upper hand, but as always you pulled the lap out there at the end and got the best out of the car?
Lewis HAMILTON: Iíll tell you, it was a tough qualifying session, because these guys have some crazy speeds on the straights. They go to another level, you know. That whole party mode you talked about us having, they have something else beyond that Ė jet mode! Nonetheless, I gave it absolutely everything I had at the end and the team did such a great job to just tinker and push forwards. Iím so glad it came together. I wasnít expecting to get on the front row for sure, so Iím really, really happy with it nonetheless.

Q: And the great thing for you guys also is that you have the medium tyres for the start of the race. It looks like you knew they would be quick in qualifying so youíve gone for a slightly different strategy for the race.
LH: Yeah, well we know that they are on a slightly lower drag level this weekend plus they have that power, so weíve got to try something. Youíve seen the last couple of races weíve been behind all the way, so weíre fortunate enough to opt for another strategy and I think the team have done a really good job with putting us in that position. Itís a long way down to Turn 1, so itís not always the best for starts on the harder tyre, but Iím going to try to two the hell out of Charles if I get the chance. But itís going to be hard because they get good starts as well.

Q: Sebastian, not the easiest qualifying Iím sure. Q1 was pretty tricky: one little mistake and all hell broke loose after that. But, P3, youíve got the run down to Turn 1 and Iím sure that after the last race, with the strategy and winning that race, there are still a lot of opportunities tomorrow?
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, definitely. Obviously Iím not entirely happy, I think I couldnít extract the absolute maximum from the car. As you said, it was a bit disruptive in Q1 but by the time we got to Q3 I thought it was OK. You spoke about Turn 1, itís a long way, obviously weíll see. Weíre on different tyres strategies compared to the Mercs, so I think the race will be decided tomorrow. The speed is there so letís keep it up.

Q: As you said, thereís a long straight down to Turn 2. You guys are pretty quick in a straight line too. For us itís going to be great watching, but itís going to be pretty crazy for you guys into Turn 2?
SV: Yeah, first you need a good start; then you worry about the rest, sort of thing. Letís see. Obviously thereís potentially an advantage if you are behind but I guess if you are behind you always tend to say that, so letís see what happens.


Q: Charles, you got progressively quicker as the session went on. Where were you finding the time?
CL: I donít think I had any clean laps before the one of Q3. The first lap of Q3 felt very good. The second lap: very good until Turn 16, where I lost rears, and I lost a little bit of lap time. But overall the car was just coming together. The balance was better and better. I was adjusting a little bit the aero balance and I just felt more and more confident.

Q: And what about your confidence for tomorrowís race Ė the long run pace of your car?
CL: I believe that the long run pace yesterday was extremely positive, I think probably the most positive of the whole season, so this is looking good. But itís going to be an interesting race. I mean, Mercedes are starting on the medium, so I think the strategy will play a role. I think we did the right choice to start on the soft, but we will see tomorrow.

Q: Good luck with that and well done today. Lewis, if we could come on to you. You sounded very happy at the end of the session, happy to split the Ferraris for the second week in a row. How good was your lap?
LH: Pretty decent. It was a pretty good lap. Honestly, it was a really good lap. Last time, Singapore felt like a really good lap as well, itís justÖ I was just saying to Charles out there that already by Turn 1 we were already three tenths down or something like that, so itís very, very hard. But nonetheless I pushed, we pushed, as hard as we could and I was really, really happy with the lap. It all came together. That last one was the best of the weekend Ė as it should be Ė and no mistakes or anything like that, so I really feel like I got everything and maybe a little bit more from the car to split the Ferraris once again, which is not an easy task.

Q: Charles thinks itís going to be a strategic battle tomorrow. Do you feel the same way?
LH: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I think the team did a great job to put us on the mediums and naturally from the two tyres thereís obviously a delta and the softer the tyre the better the start. So it will be a little bit tough off the start tomorrow. But even if we were in the lead, if we were on pole for example, they are just so fast on the straights by the time we get to Turn 1, which is the little kink, they blast past us with the jet fuel or whatever it is. So, yeah, it is about strategy, which is why we are on a different tyre and I hope that we can utilise that and keep the pressure on. If youíve seen the couple of races weíve had weíve been right with them but Iím hoping tomorrow we can really give them a good fight.

Q: Sebastian, coming to you, it seemed a good opening lap of Q3 for you but then it seems to slip away on that second lap. Is that a fair assessment?
SV: Not really. I was quite happy in general. Obviously a bit disruptive with Q1 where we got a bit unfortunate with yellow flags and stuff. I thought by the time we got to Q3 that was fine. I think overall I was pretty happy with the car. I just felt that there was more in the car that, yeah, I couldnít get to. Nevertheless, I think tomorrow is a long race. I think we have good pace for the race. It will be very interesting with the Mercedes on different tyres to start with, so letís see what happens.


Q: (Frederic Ferret Ė LíEquipe) Lewis, how important was it to be on the first row for tomorrowís race? And would it be crucial to be at the second corner first, before the Ferraris to avoid what happened last week in Singapore?
LH: Time will tell. But, of course, if Iím able to try and somehow keep Seb behind, and thereís only one car ahead, for example, that changes things on top. So, naturally weíre going to push as hard as we can but itís going to be very, very hard. Down to Turn One itís a long drag Ė but Iím sure weíll have a good battle, one way or another.

Q: (Christian Menath Ė Question for all three of you. You all sounded pretty confident that youíre on the right tyre, even though you have different ones. Can you explain why you are confident this is the right tyre youíre starting on? Do you think this has to do with the car that the tyre suits better to your car Ė or is it only strategic reasons?
CL: On our side I think the start is very important here and we thought that the benefits of starting on Soft was big. And then there was not much difference, in terms of degradation, from the Soft to the Medium. So, yeah, we thought it was worth it to make it our start tyre.
LH: I just wanted to be on something different.

Is that what it now takes to beat these guys? Youíve got to roll the dice?
LH: I donít know. I havenít beaten them for a while! So I canít tell you. Iíll tell you at the end of tomorrow.

Q: (Scott Mitchell Ė Autosport) To all three. Charles, this is your fourth pole in a row. You were asked downstairs, youíre the first person to do that for Ferrari since Michael, which is obviously pretty special. Are you on a roll at the moment in qualifying where you feel like you canít do anything wrong, and everything comes together. And to Lewis and Seb, youíve both had massive success in Formula One, been on this sort of run Ė what does it do for you as a driver when you have this sort of succession of poles?
CL: Of course I felt confident going into qualifying but at the end anythingÖ I mean at one point itís going to end, so whether itís now or later, I donít know. So, the only thing Iím trying to do is focus on myself, try to have exactly the same procedure as Iíve had since the last four races and notÖ yeah, I definitely donít come in the car thinking it will be easy and that it will come together alone. I just try to keep working as I did in the last few races, and then hopefully the lap time comes.

Lewis, how does it feel? The importance of momentum, invincibility when youíre on a roll?
LH: I donít know Ė Iíve never felt invincible. Of course, when you get on a roll, it doesnít really makeÖ from my experience, itís nice, for sure but it doesnít make a difference. So if itís separated: one pole; one second; one pole, it doesnít make any difference to me. But heís stealing all the poles right now, so itís going to be very, very hard to beat their poles when theyíre so fast on the straights but weíre working at it.

SV: I donít know Ė itís been a while for me! Yeah, I think you take every session separately, so youíre not really trying to look back. I think itís just about nailing every session.

Q: (Dzhastina Golopolosova Ė The Paddock Magazine) Question to Charles. Mercedes dominated here for five years and today you showed that you can break this trend. What do you think about tomorrow?
CL: For nowÖ I mean the race it tomorrow. It will be very important to stay in front, and they were also strong in the race pace, as theyíve always been since the beginning of the season, so, it obviously feels good to be on pole here. I think Singapore was a big surprise for everyone, for us to be in front and here, I think we felt we had our chances, considering how quick we were in Singapore. Yeah, I mean it feels good to break that but we need to finish the job tomorrow.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi Ė La Gazzetta dello Sport) Charles, Jenson already mentioned the record that you equalled today with Michael Schumacher but I want to consider with you that there was this past 19 years from that and there are some other guys, for example Seb, who are with you that couldnít do that. So how is your feeling, to think that today is an historical day not only for you but for Ferrari?
CL: As I said, it feels good but it doesnít change my approach to the other weekends and as Seb and Lewis said, every time you go into a session, you take it just normally, without thinking about the others, the last poles Iíve had. So yeah, obviously it feels great but I donít want to think about these things and I just want to focus on the job ahead.

Q: (Giusto Ferronato Ė La Gazzetta dello Sport) For both Ferrari drivers: in Italy probably now many people are thinking that you have found the solution to win all the races. Is this correct or they are too optimistic?
CL: I think we need to keep our feet on the ground. Obviously at the moment we are in a good momentum, we are having really good performances but at the end it doesnít changeÖ Mercedes are still quite ahead in the overall championship, which at the end is what matters the most. I think we need to keep our heads down, keep working. Of course at the moment it seems that itís working our way but I will not say it will be like this for the rest of the season, so we need to keep working.
SV: Not much to add so maybe too optimistic. I think we need to wait until tomorrow. I think at the last race obviously it was difficult to pass. I think Mercedes was faster than us in the race so we will see what happens tomorrow with different strategy.

Q: Sebastian, is this the best Ferrari youíve driven?
SV: I think the car got a lot better since the beginning of the year when we started to really struggle. Obviously we had a bit of a high at winter testing. I think we understood what it takes and I think the step in Singapore in particular seemed to help us and allowed us to make another step forward. But I think the í17 car out of the box was probably the best so far.

Q: (Frederic Ferret Ė LíEquipe) Sebastian, have you looked at all the data with Charles on the exercise of pole and have you found where he is better than you since the return of the summer?
SV: Well, obviously in qualifying here and there. I think we didnít have the best sessions on my side. I think obviously today Charles was faster so itís pretty easy to see where heís faster but itís a little bit here and there. I donít think thereís any pattern standing out, saying that heís always faster in the same type of corner. As I said, obviously the last couple of races was closer than maybe it looked on the result so we will see what happens tomorrow. Usually come race day Iím getting more and more confident in the car and pace has never been a problem in the race so we will see what happens.

Q: (Scott Mitchell Ė Autosport) Lewis, youíve mentioned the deficit youíve got at the moment to Ferrari and where you feel that deficit is so how deep are you having to dig inside yourself for a lap like this? You had a big gap to Valtteri today for example and you said your Singapore lap was also very good.
LH: Yeah. Honestly I feel like that maybe the last couple of laps have felt worthy, like pole-worthy in terms of how this has come together and optimising within the car. Naturally obviously they are faster than us and Charles has done a good job but I mean in terms of being as close to the limit as possible and yeah, I think Iíve just been getting more and more comfortable with the car, I think in this second half of the season, a little bit more comfortable with it, even though weíve lost a little performance compared to them but thereís still work to do collectively, in all of us, including myself so we just keep working on that. Please donít write that the wrong way, pole-worthy, I was meaning in terms of what do youÖ putting the perfect lap together, I feel like each time Iím getting as close to that as possible and then you finish the lap and itís quite a long way off pole but it feels like quite an achievement to get in between the two Ferraris who have a bit of a delta to us at the moment.


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