Full transcript from the top three press conference after qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, Round 6 of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship, at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Featuring pole winner Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), second-placed Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) and third-placed Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing)
Track interviews conducted by Johnny Herbert
Q: Valtteri, how frustrating was that. That was so close, I think it was seven-hundredths of a second. You tried your best eh? Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, I knew it was going to be close with Lewis as always and in the end in his first run the lap was really nice and clean, especially in sector three. All-day today I’ve been (inaudible) in sector three, so it was getting better and better, but still not quite good enough. Of course, it’s annoying but he did a good job and as a team again, first row.
Q: For the championship, you’re still in it. You’ve still got a chance being on that front row. Do you think you’ve got the car to beat Lewis tomorrow? VB: I think the start will be the best opportunity for me. Again, on Friday my long runs were competitive. I will have the pace but still the start will be the best chance.
Q: Is it quite simply that you have to get into Turn 1 first or is there more to it? VB: I’ll try to get there first. Trust me.
Q: Lewis, 92nd pole, your fifth in Barcelona. How difficult was that session? Because the temperatures are so high, something that you guys are not used to at all. Lewis Hamilton: I mean it’s summer man! But it’s definitely the first time I’ve been in Barcelona when it’s this hot. It’s tough. It’s so fast around here. It’s the fastest we’ve ever been around here. The forces through your body are pretty intense. The tyres are what we’re really struggling with. You see us crawling around on the out lap, it’s just to keep temperature out of the tyres. But even with those sort of laps you still have temperatures rising. That’s what we are trying to manage on the laps. I couldn’t go quicker on my second lap. I thought I could but it just wasn’t a great lap. The first one was decent I guess, which did the job thankfully. These guys do such an awesome job. We’re constantly learning. I was here with the guys until 10pm, just looking over all the details, how we can improve and what are the areas, particularly for the race, that we could get better, because these Red Bulls are super fast.
Q: Give us an idea of how difficult it is to drive around this circuit in these hot conditions. What are your problems – is it understeer or oversteer? LH: The problems are all physical. The amount that you are able to brake now, the amount you have to apply to the brake is even heavier before, so there is a lot of stress through your core. You’re flat out through three and through nine, so there is a lot of stress on your neck and your whole body just wants to move to the side of the car. As it’s so hot you have to be even more careful on the throttle not to overheat the tyres. Balance-wise it’s quite windy, if you look at the flags. We have a headwind into Turn 1 so it’s pretty good into Turn 1 but then in Turn 4 you have a tailwind, Turn 9 you have a tailwind, 10 you have a tailwind, so there are corners where you know you can push and some that you can’t and you are still trying to find that limit and that’s when the car snaps away. But that’s what we all do and I have a huge amount of respect for all the guys here who are battling the same issues as myself.
Q: Briefly about tomorrow. Starting on pole position, the perfect place but you’ve got Valtteri who was so close to you in qualifying and Max is there as well? LH: Yeah, it’s such a long way down to Turn 1 here, so the job is not done that’s for sure. It’s very hard to follow here. Positioning is good but it will be hard to hold pole position, but that’s what I’ve got to work on and try to get the best out of it I can.
Q: Max, I suppose that was what you were expecting to happen today. Were you happy with the performance? Max Verstappen: Yeah, I mean that’s the maximum we can do at the moment. The whole weekend we have been P3 so yeah, pretty happy with that. I just hope we can be a bit closer in the race. Yesterday in the long runs it didn’t seem to bad but of course tomorrow is a different day so we’ll have to see.
Q: You had some good long runs, do you expect it to come your way tomorrow? Do you expect to challenge the Mercedes? MV: Difficult to say at the moment. I felt happy in the car. I just hope that I can apply a bit of pressure. I know that it is very hard to overtake around here, but we’re going to do everything we can to be close to them and top try to make a bit difficult.
Q: Lewis, thrilling session. You were fastest in all three sessions of qualifying, how satisfied are you with pole number 92? LH: It’s definitely been a good Saturday. I’m smiling under this. But it had been a really big challenge this weekend for us all – the physical demands of this track, being that we’re faster than ever before, but more so just managing these tyres in the temperatures. It’s very, very hot out there and as you can see different people were trying different things on out laps. Also there is always a bit of a gust in the afternoon always here in Barcelona, so it makes for quite a tricky session but overnight progressed forwards rather than backwards, which is always a good thing. Each first lap was strong, which I was happy with. The one in Q3 was solid, but I felt like I could improve, but I wasn’t able to do it on the second lap. Fortunately neither did the strong dude next to me. He’s keeping me honest and it’s obviously very close between us and so every millisecond counts. I’m really just incredibly grateful to the guys for continuing to push. It’s not easy to do weekend in, weekend out. I’m constantly impressed by the open-mindedness and the things we are doing. But tomorrow is going to be tough when we get to the race. The scenario is different. Over a single lap we seem to have the edge over the Red Bulls but this weekend we seem to be pretty much on par on race pace, so it’s going to be a tough battle with Max tomorrow.
Q: Lewis, you’ve told us many times that you are not motivated by stats, but that is your 150th front-row start in F1. What does that mean? LH: Wow! I don’t know really what to say except for… Look, we are the ones who get to sit here and front all this incredible effort from so many people and I have been really, really fortunate over the years, even back to my McLaren days, to work with incredibly intelligent and driven people who have helped me sit in this room. So I am incredibly grateful to those that have helped. And blown away, still to this day, by the decision to move to this team and see the growth that we have had. I don’t’ think we have plateaued at the top with the championships we have, we continuously get better each year, as people see. I’ve been saying for a long time that I am a chink in the chain, without realising that chink is not actually a good thing. I’m just another link in the big chain of so many people and I just try to play my part as best I can.
Q: Let’s come to you now Valtteri, so fast in that qualifying session, fastest, in fact, in Sectors One and Two – but you weren’t able to grab pole. Are you a little bit frustrated? VB: Well, for sure, you know I was trying to get the pole and it was always going to be pretty close, I think between me and Lewis at least, and I knew it was going to be about milliseconds in the end. Sector 1 and 2 started to feel pretty good, so I think by Sector 3… I have to say since this morning Sector 3 was a bit of a problematic Turn 10, Turn 12 was a bit of an issue for me in terms of balance and finding the best way around it, because every day here, with the wind, with the track temperatures different but it was getting better and better in the qualifying – just not quite good enough. I think Lewis was pretty consistent in Sector 3 and he managed to get a good lap in Q3. So yeah, he did a better job today. Of course, it’s annoying for me but I have to look at the big picture. Still starting on the front row, really strong team performance, which always I’m really proud of. And still, there’s all the opportunities for tomorrow.
Q: How much slippier, compared to normal is this track, in these track temperatures, off-line? Because you’re starting on the inside tomorrow. It’s going to be a drag race down to Turn 1. Do you think it’s going to be difficult to make a good start from P2. VB: I have no idea, to be honest, how the track conditions is left and right. Normally we get all that information in the reports. The team will analyse that. For now, I don’t know. I hope it will be good enough grip to grab the lead.
Q: Max, congratulations, your first top-three start here in Barcelona. Was it a clean session for you? MV: Yeah. I mean it seems like I have a subscription on P3. I think I’ve been P3 the whole weekend. It was alright. I tried of course, to be as close as possible. Also, pretty happy with my lap. I think we extracted the most out of the car. We can’t complain really. I think the car was pretty competitive. Of course, there are still areas where we can do a better job – but we are definitely improving the car, which is good.
Q: And have you got the car underneath you to beat the guys next to you tomorrow in the race? MV: Well, I felt very happy in the long run yesterday, with the balance of the car and the wear of the tyres as well. But yeah, tomorrow again, is a new day and we’ll have to try and show it again. Of course, I hope that I can be close to them and put the pressure on.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to Max. You and Red Bull have made a nice habit of going on a contrary strategy in Q2. Obviously nobody did that this time around. Could you just explain why you didn’t go that way this time? MV: Basically because I think the soft tyre is good enough to start the race on. Normally the softest compound is a bit more tricky as it falls apart quite quickly. I think it’s alright at the track here.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for Max. You said in Q1 that the car feels a bit weird. What was the reason for that and the change afterwards? MV: I don’t know. I went through Turn 2 and I could see the left-front wheel coming up – which was very odd – but it didn’t happen afterwards. They checked everything, and everything was fine, so I honestly don’t know what felt so weird. It was quite gusty out there as well. Bit odd but luckily it didn’t come back.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Question to all three but starting off with Max. Max, you twice referenced the tyres in your previous answers. Pirelli had said, coming into this weekend that this could be one of the hardest weekends for tyres and, mindful of what happened at Silverstone, what are you guys expecting during the race? Would it be anywhere near what Pirelli have possibly predicted? MV: I think, first of all, since the new tarmac is on this track, I think it’s a bit better on tyres. Seems like a bit more rear grip. So, I guess that helps. And, of course, the energy in the tyres is not as high as in Silverstone. So, for sure, that is helping to keep the tyres a bit more under control – but that last sector, there’s so many tight corners, you still have to, of course, manage them. LH: We expect these guys to be, probably a little bit better I would imagine. It’s definitely not going to be easy for us. I don’t think we’ll have the same problems we had last week – but obviously we’ll find out when we get in the race. We’ve got those hot conditions but we have a harder compound, so fingers crossed that helps. I wouldn’t put it past us having problems tomorrow but we’ll see. VB: I think we are expecting less issues than last weekend, just because it’s a different type of track and so far we’ve seen no issues with blistering or things like what happened at Silverstone. I think it’s going to be difficult. Here always if it’s hot it’s just always about the overheating, especially the tyre surface overheating and trying to manage that. And yes, we’ve seen Red Bull is pretty strong when it’s warm, and when it’s all about tyre management. Hopefully better that Silverstone.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Question to Lewis and Valtteri. Toto yesterday spoke about his future at the team. It was hardly a tub-thumping ‘he’s going to stay’. He’s weighing up his options. I just wanted to gauge your feelings. Will you be happy to sign a new contract with Mercedes knowing that he’s not here? Valtteri, does that change your thinking? Will you miss Toto if he wasn’t part of the team? And if I may, a question to Max as well, which is, is it just a case of putting the pressure on the Mercedes, or it tomorrow just trying to get a result. LH: What you’ve got to remember is that it’s a team of so many people. There’s almost 2,000 people in the team, or something like that. It’s not just down to one person, one individual. So yes, that’s not determining whether or not I stay. I think what we’ve built… I’ve been a part of growing with this team and growing with that growth. The strength is there through and through, so, as I said, it’s not just one individual. I think everyone has to do what’s best for them. What’s best for their career and happiness at the end of the day. I think it’s smart for him. I think everyone needs to sit, take a moment and evaluate what they want to do moving forwards. Whether it suits them and their families and their future dreams. We’ve done so much already together in this period of time. I hope he stays because it’s fun working with him, and it’s fun negotiating with him and fun having the up and downs. So, I’m truly grateful to Toto and I’ll be fully supportive in whatever he decides to do. VB: I think Toto has been a really important part of the team and being a big part of helping the team to get to the state where it is now but just like Lewis said, it’s not all about one person, we’re a big team, there are so many important personnel in the team and everyone needs to be able to work together so I really agree that whatever he does, I just hope he makes a decision what he really wants to do and it makes him happy. That’s it, that’s what life’s all about: only do things that make you happy, follow your dreams. But of course, it would be a shame to see him go. I have no idea, to be honest, what’s happening in the background. I’m just focusing on driving and yes, I would definitely sign with the team even though Toto wasn’t here because, as Lewis said, it’s not about one person but (he’s a) very important man.
Q: Max, coming to you, looking at the race tomorrow, is it just a case of putting pressure on Mercedes? MV: Well, I mean, I just keep driving behind them. On a distance, it’s not going to happen so yeah, if I have that opportunity, of course, to be close then you have to be there, you have to push it but let’s just wait and see tomorrow. Yesterday I felt good, let’s hope it’s going to be the same tomorrow and then I hope that we just have an entertaining race at the end of the day.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Question to all three, slightly leftfield but it was a fairly straightforward qualifying session. All three of you are in a situation at the moment where the two Mercedes drivers have pretty much each other to focus on in qualifying and Max, as you’ve said, you’ve got a subscription to P3. In The Last Dance, the documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, Jordan talks about making up little animosities in his mind and things like that, stories lines, to motivate himself when he wants to take himself to a new level. How do you guys motivate yourselves to go to the new level and at the moment, when things are fairly straightforward in qualifying, do you ever employ any tricks like that? LH: Me first… I don’t think I’ve had to… I mean Valtteri is on my tail and pushing things to the limit and is exceptionally fast so I don’t really need to find new motivation. Every year, of course, you have to re-focus and figure out what is going to be your motivating factor but yeah, that’s Michael, what works for Michael won’t work for me. Every individual probably has a different way of getting in the zone, finding that courage to go where others perhaps won’t.
Q: How have your preparations for qualifying changed over the last 14 years? LH: Jeez, I don’t even remember but it’s definitely… I mean, I’m a lot older now so the things I know now I didn’t know back when I was 22/23. I naturally had raw ability back then but I had no control and understanding of who I really was and what made me tick, what was good to do, what was not good to do and so a complete different machine to today, I would say. And that’s probably why you see… my consistency was pretty good in that first year but I would say that my consistency has definitely got better over these last five or six years, probably. I think that’s probably been my greatest strength. VB: For me I find the motivation is the goal that I have in my career and that dream and goal that I set to myself as a young kid so that gives me motivation, that keeps me pushing myself for more and yeah, when there’s tough times in the end, there’s always that same reason that gets me to get up and move and try to do things better. That’s producing it for me. MV: Yeah, I think like Lewis said, everybody is different in the end of it. You find different ways of preparing yourself or the way you behave, the way you perform, so yeah, for me it’s… from a very young age I always had somebody around me, like my Dad, pushing me hard because of course when you’re a little kid initially there’s a lot to learn and I definitely learned that, the motivation, always wanting to perform, always trying to get the best out yourself and how to get the best out of yourself is by never stop learning, never think that it’s good enough. When you win races, when you take pole positions, whatever, there are always things you can improve, there are always little details. In F1 it’s never big things, it’s marginal things but you can always improve so that’s what I just try to look at, even though sometimes it’s not good on my own, P3 whatever, I can all the time, I think there is always room for that improvement so that’s just how I keep myself pushing forward and of course try to close that gap to the guys ahead.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to the two Mercedes drivers please: what was the reason why you didn’t improve on your final laps in Q3? Was there a slight change in the conditions or something on the track, because Lewis, in particular, you said at the start of this you felt that your first run in Q3 was solid but you felt that you could improve but you didn’t, so yeah, why was that? VB: I don’t think conditions really changed, at least it felt like they didn’t really improve for the second run. I thought I was going to improve because when I crossed the line I was one tenth up from my previous time but then obviously it went to zero so maybe I just got a bit more distance, that’s how the time delta works. I don’t know, I thought it was a bit better on the second run, but it just wasn’t. I don’t think the track really changed. LH: I’m not really sure. There is track ramp and then the track temperature can vary and the wind can vary. Yeah, the first lap felt OK but then in some areas within the limit and so I knew that there were some areas where I could improve and then when I just went on the next one; the tyres just didn’t feel the same and the grip wasn’t the same for me so it was just overall a really poor second lap, but I kept going but it was nowhere near as good as the first one.