Full transcript from the top three qualifying press conference after qualifying for the British Grand Prix, Round 10 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Silverstone.
Featuring: Pole-winner Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), second-placed Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and third-placed Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
Track interviews conducted by David Coulthard
Q: Valtteri Bottas, pole position here at Silverstone. It’s been a while – Barcelona your last one – but you must be particularly proud of that one?
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, it feels very good. It just reminds you of why you do this, these kinds of feelings, but yeah, it’s been pretty close all weekend, and today, with Lewis and just really, really happy to get a good lap and be on pole.
Q: Put us in the cockpit. You had the provisional pole you would look at the overlay and realise that Lewis had made a mistake at Brooklands and you know you have to dig deep and find something. You didn’t manage to improve on that time but where was your mind on the lap in terms of know how good the previous one was?
VB: Yeah, I knew the first lap was good but it was not perfect. Honestly I should have improved on the second run. I didn’t quite get the lap together, especially in the first part of the lap, but I’m glad it was enough. It’s not easy to get a good lap together, it’s easy to do mistakes and I think everyone was struggling a bit, so happy to be on top.
Q: I’m not sure the crowd are happy with what you’ve done but congratulations?
VB: Thank you.
Q: Lewis Hamilton, it was close and you worked that hard, but we saw you had that little wobble in the second-last lap in qualifying. Tell us about your actual ultimate lap, it’s a tiny gap between you and Valtteri…
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, firstly, congratulations to Valtteri, he did a solid job throughout qualifying. Ultimately not good enough, We had worked hard throughout the session but it just got a little bit away from us. We sacrificed a lap in Q2, which would have helped get a reading of where the car was, but we didn’t end up doing that. At the end I had that mistake on the first lap and the second one just wasn’t that great so fair play to Valtteri he did the job. But it’s a long race tomorrow, we’ve got a great crowd here and hopefully I can do something good for them tomorrow.
Q: The crowd are willing you on. It’s another grand prix, or is it? It’s more than just a grand prix, the British Grand Prix for you?
LH: Yeah, completely. It’s the best grand prix of the year and it’s really because of the energy the3 people bring. These tracks are great layouts and designs and areas of space but without people like this to fill it up and bring energy it’s nothing. That’s why we’ve got the best fans here in England.
Q: Charles, well done, fastest Ferrari driver but that’s ultimately not your goal. We looked through free practice and Ferrari looked like they could challenge Mercedes but in the end it was a tough one for you?
Charles Leclerc: Yeah, well, I think also in Q2, up to Q2 we were quite good but then in Q3 Mercedes turned up a little bit the engine, and they were very, very quick also round the corners, that’s where we need to work, we know it. Third place is the best we could have done today and I’m very happy about it.
Q: I saw you having a close look at the Mercedes car. This is the one time on a weekend when it’s acceptable to be a little bit nosy. Anything standing out there that you like?
CL: No, just looking at the state of the tyres, that’s nothing special.
Q: Valtteri, a tremendous lap by you at the start of Q3. Very tight between you and your team-mate. Just how good was that first lap?
VB: It was good. Obviously good enough for pole. There was not much in it between me and Lewis in the end. But still, going into the second run, there were a couple of place where it was clear there was margin to improve so I wouldn’t say it was a perfect lap, but I doubt anyone got a perfect lap today. It was not easy to get everything right and super-sensitive to tiny mistakes here and there with this new tarmac and also with a bit of wind. But yeah, I’m happy that it was enough and it’s definitely a good feeling.
Q: Valtteri, you now have more poles this season than any other driver. Is that significant to you and have you worked specifically on qualifying this year, something more than previous seasons?
VB: It’s not that I have been specifically been working on it. Obviously you always try to improve your performance both on low- and high-fuel, short and long runs. I think the biggest thing for me to work on is the pure race pace definitely, in some kinds of conditions. I mean, year-by-year you are always learning and you get quicker if you work. The main thing is to turn those poles into wins and that’s the main thing for tomorrow.
Q: Congratulations. Lewis, motorsport is full of ifs, buts and maybes. Had you not made that error at Brooklands on your first lap in Q3 and got a complete lap in might it have been different?
LH: It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. You can’t go back, you can only go forwards. Valtteri did the job, so congratulations to him. And for us, yeah, it just wasn’t the best of qualifying sessions. But there’s a long race tomorrow so I just have to see how I can convert the position I’m in to progress forward. I think the long run yesterday was good, so I hope we can utilise the tyre advantage we have, in the sense of starting on the mediums, so hopefully we can do a good job with that tomorrow.
Q: Did the track conditions fluctuate a lot during that session?
LH: Not really. It’s a little bit gusty here. That’s why it’s so great here at Silverstone, because it’s spread over such a vast piece of land and sometimes it’s raining on one section of the track and not another and it’s gusty in some places and not so much in other places. It really bodes well for a tough track to finish a lap on.
Q: Charles, like Lewis, you came on the radio and said you had made a mistake on that first run in Q3. Do you feel there was more out there today?
CL: No, I don’t think so. Very, very happy with my lap. I think in the last corner I maybe could have done a little bit better, but not much. Overall, I think we are very happy with the performance, very close to Mercedes and we did not expect it. We thought we would be struggling more this weekend. We have been struggling since FP1 with the front end of the car, still in qualifying, but a little bit less. So yeah, it’s a good qualifying session for us. Of course, I would have hoped for a higher position, but third is the best we could have done today.
Q: As with Austria you will start the race on the soft tyre, the guys next to you are going to be on the medium tyre. How do you see the tyre war playing out .
CL: Again, it was thought. So we wanted to do that. Again, in Austria it wasn’t a bad choice. That’s not what made us finish second there so we are pretty happy here too.
Questions from the Floor
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Charles, just following up on the Q2 and the soft tyre. You made the first run on the medium tyre and then set the fastest lap on the soft. Was it always the plan to qualify with the soft, because yesterday’s long runs didn’t look that great and it was a bit surprising to us that you improved your time?
CL: Yes, it was planned like this. The race run was not great yesterday but it was not due to the tyre, as I said. We had some issues with the front end and I think it got better today, so we will see tomorrow whether we have a significant improvement on the long runs, but it was not due to the tyre.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Valtteri and Lewis: Lewis, after practice yesterday you talked about having a little bit of difficulty with the balance of the car, the rear was stepping out a bit. Did that carry into today or were you happy with the car. Valtteri, you started strongly yesterday, has that just continued and do you just feel very happy with the balance of the car?
VB: Well, yeah, from the very beginning, since the first practice the feeling was quite nice. There was definitely room for improvement, especially with the rear end of the car, mainly on the entry of the corners. I think we managed to get it a bit better. It was still the weakness in a couple of places the rear end of the car but it’s not been a massive drama. I managed to build up from yesterday, except for practice three, I was a bit off the pace. I just tried to reset and remind myself of everything I was capable of doing yesterday and it turned out to be good.
Q: And Lewis?
LH: Yeah the car was good. We made a big step forward, so no problems.
Q: (Simon Amberley – Nevis Radio) To Charles: it was mentioned yesterday that maybe the Ferrari race pace wasn’t quite as strong as Mercedes, but with the gaps today and the difference on the tyres do you think possibly if you get a jump at the start, of getting Valtteri and Lewis, do you think you can maybe dictate the pace a bit more?
CL: That’s definitely the target – to try to use our tyre advantage, especially at the start, to gain positions and then try to keep them. Keeping them will be very difficult because they are extremely quick in race runs but that’s the target.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – liviooricchiof1.com) Lewis, from the outside it didn’t appear that you had the car in your hands all the time. Is it because of the circumstances or maybe you have a set-up thinking more of the race?
LH: No, the set-up suited race trim best and I think yesterday I really did struggle with it on a single lap and of course I was trying to improve it over the evening and into today. It felt great into P3 and it felt really good at the star5 of the Q sessions and it kind of deteriorated through the session, so it got harder and harder, back towards a similar problem we had yesterday – as you saw in Turn 6 for example. But it was also windy. The race trim is still good. I didn’t want to move from the set-up I had, too far away, because it worked so well on the long run yesterday. Fingers crossed the strength in the race should be quite good but again it depends on what position we are in and how the wind is and a bunch of other factors.
Q: (Yassmin Abdel-Magied – The Guardian) I’ve got a slightly less technical question. Lewis, this is your home race and there’s lot of British flags out there and you’ve talked about loving coming back to the UK but there’s contention because you live in Monaco, and your accent isn’t maybe as British as others because you spend a lot of time in the US. So, why do you think that people question your Britishness.
LH: I don’t really know. I don’t really have a good answer for that.
VB: We all live in Monaco!
LH: We all do live in Monaco. It’s crazy now because every driver… I remember growing up, you remember watching Jenson Button and all the youngsters come through, and every one migrated to Monaco and no-one ever said anything about it at the time. Of course, when I did, they had something to say about it. But no matter how often you go abroad or elsewhere in the world, you come back to the UK and you see the beautiful countryside, you see this great… y’know, the history of Formula One and motorsport which is really here, and I see all my family who are also here and this is, of course, feels like where my heart is and ultimately fully British. Of course, I still like to honour my family heritage. My family are from the Caribbean. But… I don’t know. People have a right to their own opinion. If you look around, there’s a lot of Team LH caps. The support that I’ve had has been just incredible and it’s been growing over the years, and whilst, of course, there’s always going to be people with negative views on things, I feel like every day is an opportunity to try to turn those that do have a negative view on things. I guess over time I’ll do more and more positive things for the country. Ultimately, I go to all these race and I lift the British flag proudly. There’s no-one else in this sport that’s raised it so high. At the moment, probably that’s not enough. I’ll keep looking out for what else I can do. And for those who do follow me, I really do appreciate their support.
Q: (Mike Doodson – Honorary) Lewis, there’s been some dramas here at Silverstone with the surface and they seem to have got everything done pretty quickly, but there were quite a lot of incidents at Turn Six yesterday. I wonder if you could tell us – you had one too, I think, there – can you tell us what was wrong there and is it better today and is the circuit settling down?
LH: Ultimately last year, we’d come out of Turn Four and it was the bumpiest straight that probably you’ve ever been on before, rattling your teeth out for most of us. Also, for the motorbikes, it was quite bumpy then. In other areas it was OK. I think they’ve redone it this year; it’s much better on that straight but there are – and I guess it’s just the way it goes – but bumps into Turn Six are pretty hardcore but I think more so it’s the crosswind people are struggling with there. Maybe the bumps and also the crosswind that you have there, which everyone struggles with, and I’ve also struggled with – but then there’s also Turn Seven, it’s very bumpy but then the straight down to Copse is good, and then up to Maggotts and Becketts it’s good. It’s fantastic, and then after Maggotts and Becketts, down Stowe Straight it’s great, 15, 16, 17. So, it’s pretty much spot-on, perfect, apart from three bumps at the entry of Six and exit of Seven.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to all three drivers. What kind of weather do you expect tomorrow and what is the weather that will suit more the strategy you chose for the first tyre you will start on.
CL: I haven’t watched the forecast yet, so I don’t really know – but I guess, yeah, in Silverstone it’s often very unpredictable, and as we’ve seen in the last two days, you can have drops any time. So, it will make the race quite interesting if it’s like this. Then, if I can choose, the best would probably have a good start on the Soft, do seven laps and then big rain and keep this position. But I don’t choose. I think it will be very unpredictable anyway.
VB: Like yesterday there was no proper chance of rain but it still had a bit of drizzle, so I think anything can come from the sky, you never know – and no idea what will be best for us. At least it’s cooler than Austria, so that’s always good news but anything else, we should be OK.
LH: I’m down for some good old English weather tomorrow! Good old English weather is sunny, hale, rain! Sun, snow, the whole mixture. No, naturally it’s better for all the fans when it’s dry but I don’t mind if it rains either way. It’s really great, this track, in the wet. I guess we’ll all discuss whether we do the rain dance tonight or not.
Q: (Rob Harris – AP) Hi Lewis, it came down to six milliseconds today. Some quotes around from Nico Rosberg saying that, if he’d been travelling and partying in LA, then he’d be qualifying down in tenth – but you can cope with it, he was suggesting. When you assess things, do you think the clearing of the mind outweighs the travel by… sort of… going to LA between races like that and having the trips?
LH: I think naturally it’s easy to say that. People to have views. I do have five world titles. They didn’t come on their own. You know me.
VB: I think you gain time by partying. As a Finn, it’s a feeling.
LH: Valtteri parties way more than me!
VB: I have a party, I gain lap time, so…
LH: I think ultimately, when I started doing the travels and focussing on these other things, people always had… there was always the issue and people would have comments on it. Particularly the pressure of then having to arrive and making sure you definitely delivered the same. It took a long time to break that mould, and I’ve done it time and time and time again. My preparation comes first. I’ve felt fantastic all weekend. The pressure’s quite high here, obviously being your home grand prix, and so I don’t look upon that lightly, and I prepare the best way I can. But also, I do what I want – I don’t do what you think I should do, or anyone else thinks I should do. Only I know what’s right for me – and again, that’s what’s led me to five world titles. And don’t forget the amount of wins I have, all of that stuff, so… yeah.
Q: (Keith Collantine – racefans.net) Question for Charles, you’ve said a few times in recent races you feel you’ve raised your game in qualifying recently. The clearest way we can see that is you’ve just out-qualified Sebastian for the third race in a row – but how much more do you think there is that you can find in the Ferrari? And particularly today, was there the extra eight hundredths of a second that you needed to be sitting where Valtteri is sitting?
CL: At the time, as I said earlier, I think out main issue is the front end. Once we’ll fix this, I’m pretty sure there will be quite a bit of performance in that – because also again, in qualifying today, especially the third sector, I was struggling quite a lot with the front end to grip-up. So yeah, there’s still a lot of performance into that, whether we’ll know how to overcome this issue is another matter, so we need to be working very hard on that, and hopefully some performance will come when we fix this.
Q: (Tom Jackson – City Press) Charles, both Red Bulls split you and Sebastian today. Do you think tomorrow you will be able to comfortably stay ahead of them or do you expect a fight with them more than you do with the Mercedes?
CL: If we look at the Friday race simulations, I think it’s going to be very difficult to fight with – or at least Lewis’s race run was very very strong so yeah, we need to work on that but Red Bull seems to be very quick also in the race runs so it’s going to be tricky. If we manage to gain some positions at the start, it’s a track where it’s quite hard to overtake so then we have some chances to keep them but if not I guess it’s going to be very difficult to fight with them.
Q: (Laurence Edmonson – ESPN) Valtteri, two of your pole positions earlier this year didn’t quite go to plan, the starts didn’t work out. Can you just explain if you’ve anything to try and rectify that and how the other starts have been and whether you’ve found a solution to it?
VB: Yeah, I’ve definitely been working a lot on the starts this year and especially after the couple of not ideal ones, so I’ve been focusing a lot and feel much more comfortable with the starts than earlier in the year. Obviously every start is going to be different, we always have different circumstances, different set of tyres, temperatures but yeah, feel more confident and obviously aiming for a good start tomorrow and use the good grid position.
Q: (Sam Hall – Autoweek) Lewis, this year it seems that you’ve found qualifying a little bit harder to get pole on the Saturdays. Is the car a bit more difficult to get the one lap pace out of or is it something that’s changed with you as a driver?
LH: No, I think… we’re not halfway through the year yet. We’ve definitely had some poles but Valtteri has done some great laps throughout qualifying. It definitely has been a car that’s a little bit… I think with the tyres it’s a little bit harder to get it perfect every single time but it’s just qualifying, if you’ve seen a lot of the races, it doesn’t necessarily always determine what happens always in the race. Of course it’s great to always start at the front. It makes your day a little bit more simple but nonetheless it’s really great that we continue to work forwards as a team and lock out the front row. I’m really proud to be a part of that and still to get a one-two today is still significant, considering we have all of our team actually coming this weekend. Of course, Valtteri and I, I think we have a great relationship, we always want to beat each other but I’ll go back, look at the data today, did a better job and tomorrow you’ll do a great job as well and the duel tomorrow is who can do a better job tomorrow. There’s plenty more pole positions up for grabs between all of us so just got to keep working hard.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Valtteri and Lewis; Valtteri, when we spoke you said the time is now for you to start effectively getting your elbows out. Indeed, is this the time that you’re starting to sense that? Lewis, are you prepared to race against what I guess we could call Valtteri 2.1, new version, newly enthused, ready to go again after a good start and obviously a bit of a slump but coming back?
VB: Well, if you look at the points, for sure the championship fight is still on. Obviously I’m the one chasing, I’m behind with I don’t know the exact number but roughly thirty points or something but so many races to go and it’s going to be a lot up to me and my performance, so definitely every single opportunity there is I need to get those and if I don’t get those then Lewis is going to be far away and not be able to reach in terms of points so tomorrow is super important, but so is the race after and the race after. The season is still long so I really need to try and take those opportunities and for sure will do everything I can to keep that lead tomorrow.
Q: Lewis, your thoughts on Valtteri 2.1?
LH: 2.1 or 2.4 or what’s the difference? I work closely with this guy, it’s Valtteri. I just see him as the man he is. Obviously we’re still fighting for the title. I don’t feel necessarily that he’s the only one chasing, I’m still chasing. I try to put an imaginary individual ahead of yourself. For me, I generally kind of put the previous year’s performances so last year’s myself ahead of me, for example and that’s my target: to improve and beat that, but on days like this I’m behind another so he’s now the guy that I’m chasing. So as long as you’ve always got a goal to chase, then you can always make improvements, you always have strides to make and so that’s my approach always.
Q: (Simon Amberley – Nevis Radio) The past couple of races we’ve had incidents that have been reviewed after the race which have either potentially affected the result or have affected the result. Has this been discussed within the drivers’ meetings and can we expect results to actually stand at the end of the race and drivers to be able to race more aggressively in future races including here?
LW: I was focusing on folding… I don’t know what the question was.
CL: I’m always up for hard racing so very happy if they relax a little bit on the fights but I think consistency is key. At the end, I think they also need time to review some incidents or sometimes it be bad to wait for the results but at the end I think it’s the best way to take the right decision.
VB: Yeah, I’m a big fan of hard racing as well so the harder we can race, but safe and fair, is always good and obviously for everyone it’s always better to have the results as quickly as possible and penalties as quickly as possible but sometimes they need to review more which is understandable.
LH: I feel exactly the same as these two guys. I still don’t know what the question was really! But close racing is always yeah, what he just said. Sorry. It wasn’t intentional to miss what the question was. About tough racing, was it? I haven’t discussed it. No. I don’t think it was brought up in the drivers’ briefing either. I think the last race was good. I don’t know what Charles thought of the incident he had.
CL: No, I thought it was OK. The only thing is consistency as I said. I feel like there have been some incidents in the past this year that have been not analysed or penalised, sorry, for much less than that, so that’s the only thing. I think consistency is very important but if it’s clear that we can race that way then I’m more than happy to race like this and I think every driver likes to race that way.
LH: I agree again! I think it’s really hard with the consistency thing because we’ve got these rules that… but every scenario is different but you have to apply the same rule to it so it’s… that’s why they’ve got some of the guys that are at the stewards, some even have to interpret certain a way what has happened at certain way and as Charles said, consistency is really what we want to try and get. But I think every year you go through all the lessons or they, together in the sport, go through the lessons and learn and improve and people told us that it needs to get better and so I’m sure we will.