Full transcript from the top-three press conference after qualifying for the Eifel Grand Prix, Round 11 of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship, at Nürburgring, Germany.
Featuring pole-winner Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), second-placed Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and third-placed Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
Track interviews conducted by Paul Di Resta
Q: Max, P3, it looked like you were in the fight right to the end but you narrowly missed out. How was it? Max Verstappen: Yeah, it was an interesting qualifying and after missing the whole of yesterday it was very busy today. Overall, I think at least in qualifying, just in Q3, where it really mattered, I was understeering a bit too much. When it’s so cold and you’re understeering, you’re graining the front tyres, so basically heating up the rubber, which cost me a bit of lap time. We’re getting closer towards Mercedes, which I think is very positive, so in a way, a little bit disappointed, I was expecting a little more, but it is what it is and overall I can still be wrong
Q: The positive, as you say, is that you’re closer to Mercedes. Does that mean you are going to race better, because generally you come closer to matching them on a Sunday? MV: I hope so. It’s going to be even colder tomorrow, so it’s going to be even more interesting seeing what the tyres are going to do, how they are going to be behave. So let’s see. It’s a fun track to drive so I’m just looking forward to tomorrow and let’s see what we can do.
Q: Well done Valtteri. Three purple sectors, best of anybody, got the job done. Right time, full of confidence on the back of that win last time out? Valtteri Bottas: Thanks yeah. It’s such a nice feeling when you get it on the last lap, your last chance. The last lap in qualifying for me was spot on, just what I needed. It was pretty tricky obviously with a short practice and with these conditions getting the tyres in a sweet spot on the out laps that was probably the biggest thing today.
Q: Was that the biggest thing to take in qualifying – tyre preparation – because you were obviously behind Lewis and he was dictating the speed but you got the sectors nailed? VB: Yeah, of course we were leaving more of the less the same time from the garage and it was his decision to go first and there’s still different things you can try to do on the out lap, whether it’s about braking or these kinds of things, but ultimately I got the tyres there and then the lap was really nice.
Q: Do you think you can take this on and win tomorrow? VB: Of course I believe so. That’s the only goal for tomorrow, so hopefully we can have a good start.
Q: Lewis, it was a nice battle all the way to the end, Max was obviously in that as well. Is there anywhere you feel like you could have extracted a bit more to challenge Valtteri? Lewis Hamilton: I’m sure when I look at the data there will be something. It’s plenty of time, obviously it’s two tenths ahead, so he did a great and congrats to him.
Q: Back at the Nürburgring. Is it a track you like to drive? It’s nice to see the cars going round here after a few years of not being here? LH: It’s an amazing circuit. It’s one of the historic circuits we have, so it definitely is great to be back here.
Q: What’s going to make the difference tomorrow, because obviously the conditions are not ideal, it’s different to what we are normally used to? What’s going to be the biggest challenge? LH: I don’t really know if I’m honest. I guess I’ll find out tonight. Naturally the graining particularly in these conditions, being this cool. How the tyres behave. Whether it’s a one or two-stop. How long the tyres will go. Obviously we’re all on the soft to start with at the start. Whether or not there’s a safety car. Going round behind a safety car in these conditions is going to be tough with these temperatures, so there’s a lot to play for tomorrow. I need to get my head down.
Q: Valtteri, many congratulations, great lap on your final run of Q3. How much did you enjoy that? VB: Yeah of course you enjoy it when you manage to put it on pole and especially when it’s the last lap that really counts and when you get a good lap and it’s enough for pole, it’s a really good feeling, one of those feelings and sensations why we do this.
Q: Of your three poles with this car this year, would you say that’s your most satisfying? VB: I don’t know. I don’t really remember. It’s always a nice feeling, but yeah with that lap, that was pretty tidy, and you know, I got all the details right and you know, I was also struggling a bit in the first sector through qualifying but really in the last lap I managed to get it all right, so it was a good feeling.
Q: And looking ahead to the race tomorrow, Valtteri, keen to keep the momentum going from Russia? VB: yeah, of course, but again it’s going to be a new day tomorrow, so just need to focus on the small details that are going to matter, so the first of those is going to be the race start, so can’t enjoy the pole too much because tomorrow is the day that really matters.
Q: Well done Valtteri. Lewis, just pipped by your team-mate today. You were slower in Q3 than you were in Q2, where did the pace slip away? LH: I’m not really sure. I’d have to go back and have a look, but definitely Q2 looked and felt good but when I got to Q3 it just didn’t feel good either run. Just the grip didn’t feel the same.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the session? With the lack of running yesterday, how much did that compromise your pace and the set-up of the car during qualifying? LH: Well, I don’t think we need to be here on Fridays so it was totally fine for me. VB: Much better with one practice. MV: It’s exciting.
Q: Lewis let’s throw ahead to the race. Valtteri has already pinpointed the start, what are you thoughts on what’s going through your mind ahead of the race? LH: Not too much right this second. I think I’ll just try to understand what happened today. Tomorrow is a long race. We’ll see tomorrow with the weather. It’s a lot cooler here. Not the easiest place to overtake either. But there could be lots of opportunities, so I’ll be pushing hard.
Q: Max, you were quickest after the first runs of Q3 but these guys just slipped ahead of you on that final lap. You must have through it was on for a while? MV: Yeah. It’s always difficult to say but overall I think today has been pretty OK. The car’s been handling quite well, quali as well. I felt quite comfortable. Of course, there were a few little balance things I would have liked to get improved but, of course, short notice. Overall I think it was a good qualifying. I just struggle a bit with understeer – and I don’t like understeer but also this track, at the moment when it’s so cold, with the tyres, yeah, it just didn’t come towards us, dry qualifying. I think from the beginning it was fine but then it just slipped away a bit. When you’re understeering, you can’t carry that mid-corner speed through the corners, you have to V-style it a bit more and you lose a bit of time. Still, a good qualifying. To be that close to them.
Q: You guys were nearly two seconds faster than the previous qualifying record here at the Nürburgring. Can you just tell us what it’s like to drive these cars around this track? MV: I mean any track! They are so fast. We get used to it but of course if we were to jump in a car of 2015 – 2016 it would be a bit of a shock to us for sure. But yeah, these cars are incredible. You have so much grip – but still when you’re pushing in qualifying you still feel you are lacking grip. You always want to go faster – but it’s still impressive stuff, to be that much faster on a track like this.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for all three of you. With proper preparation to the qualifying session, how much would you say is still in your package? One from the driver and also from the car? VB: It’s so difficult to say a number but for sure no doubt that the more you have practice, you get all the fine details right and especially Friday you have the whole night between the sessions to look at things and learn about things from the car and driver. So, I think with more practice would have been a tiny bit quicker. I can’t say a number but honestly, I think currently, in the normal weekend, I feel like there’s too much practice. Everyone finds their ways and set-ups and the optimal things in terms of driving and the car set-up – but if there would be a bit less practice, maybe some teams can get it right, some drivers can get it right, and some don’t. I kind of like it with a bit less practice.
Q: Lewis? LH: The same. There’s not really much more to add to it.
Q: Max, anything? MV: yeah, for sure. You would go a little bit faster. Especially when you have little issues or whatever, you can go over it through a whole night. You can look at it back in the factory as well, work in the simulator and stuff but overall, like Valtteri said, we have a lot of practice. You also take your time y’know? To settle in. Now, that’s it’s only one session you’re straight away on it I think a bit more than what you would normally do in FP1 or whatever, so, it evens-out a bit but there are always little things that can be improved.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Question to Max. Max, this is obviously a very competitive performance from yourself. What do you put that down to? On the engine side is it slightly better because the straights are a little bit shorter so there’s no repeat of clipping or anything like that? And is the car just working a little bit better in recent races? MV: I think the engine is the same. We brought a few upgrades, so the car is working a bit better. Of course, with only having run today there are still a lot of things to go through and analyse and optimise as well, because of the understeer I had in the car – but it’s definitely a good step forward, so we are on the right way. I just hope we can keep heading into that direction and keep improving.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) The record is still up for grabs tomorrow. Would it mean more to equal Schumacher’s venue at an iconic venue like the Nürburgring – a track where Schumacher has won five times? LH: Honestly it wouldn’t make any difference. I’ve got my work cut-out tomorrow. It’s not something I particularly think about. If and when it happens, it’ll be great – but right now these two are making it pretty hard for me. I’m enjoying this battle I’m having with these guys.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to the two Mercedes drivers please. We saw you out on the Medium tyres early on in Q2. Could you just explain what the thinking behind that was – and were you ever really expecting to get through on that harder rubber? Thanks. LH: I could have got through on that tyre. I wanted to start on it – just because I wanted to do something different – but the team chose for us to both be on the same tyre. We’ll see whether it was the right choice tomorrow. I’m sure it’s the right choice. I think the other one would have been a little bit hard. VB: We tried obviously the Medium tyre this morning in the practice, once – but when he had it, it was a pretty green track and tricky to get a proper read off the tyre, how it’s behaving. When the track gets better, we tried it and for me, that run was quite poor. I couldn’t get enough temperature on the out-lap in the tyres. I’m happy to be on the soft.
Q: Max, just while we’re on the subject of Q2 and tyre choice, were you tempted by the Medium? MV: No, because we made a plan to just stick with the Soft tyre.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Lewis, just following the question there. We know we do keep saying you’re not focused on the record, but we do keep asking you about it. Is it a case of just wanting to get it done and dusted and then focus on winning the championship? You just want to get that over and done with now? LH: Not particularly, no. I just not really bothered by… I know you keep asking me questions about it. I can’t tell you. I don’t feel a particular way about it right now. I’m solely focused on trying to do the best job I can. If that gets me to that win then great but of course, I’m not looking short term, I’m looking further ahead, you know.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Valtteri, you mentioned that perhaps some drivers thrive more in this kind of situation, when there’s less track time, and based on history, going right back to Williams days, you’ve always been pretty strong when the track’s green, so I presume you consider yourself to be one of those. What do you think the reasons are? It kind of plays to your strengths in terms of picking up the track grip, just getting on top of the car to a certain level pretty quickly? Why are you so strong in that area? VB: I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m any better than any other driver adapting to things. I’m sure that every driver in Formula 1 needs to be hugely talented and hugely reactive and adaptive to different conditions and to learn quickly, corner by corner, lap by lap. I don’t know. I really like it. I always like the process of finding the small details quickly and since a kid, driving different kind of things, whether it was ice and snow and all kinds of conditions, I’ve always like it and luckily from a young age I found it really interesting, the process of getting quickly to a certain pace and then better. I can’t say more. I think all the drivers here are talented, but I like it.
Q: Looking forward to Imola? VB: Yeah, for sure.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Max, as you say, you’ve been getting closer to Mercedes in the last few races. I know you’ve been improving the car but has it improved in terms of nervousness which you were struggling with earlier in the year as well as just downforce and something, three tenths is normally the sort of margin in qualifying where you’re in the fight in the race, so do you think you can take it to them tomorrow? MV: There are a few unknowns here, of course. We haven’t done proper long runs but yeah, the car has been improved throughout the year, of course, like a lot of other teams of course, but from our side, it was all about just calming everything down a bit and connect the rear with the front a bit more and that, so far, seems to work this weekend. I actually ended up understeering for once. That’s nice. We just keep on working. We know that (at) the start of the year a few things were not right. We tried to address it, we tried to learn and we tried to make it better and see what we can improve, also for next year that we don’t make the same mistakes.
Q: (Abhishek Takle – Midday) Valtteri, in the context of today’s performance do you look back on your Russian win as perhaps a turning point, do you feel like you’ve unlocked a higher level of performance, so to speak, following that win? VB: I can’t say that, obviously, and we haven’t raced in this race but at least today was good. I felt like I was performing well and obviously being on pole is a good achievement but it is the race that matters and I never had a doubt that I couldn’t be on pole but it’s… or win races but of course it’s a nice thing to get it, I can’t see it’s a turning point because I’ve been feeling upbeat all year long and I’ve been so close many times, anyway, this season, to win but it’s just things happened come together. If I could predict the future, I would say, yes or no for that question.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) To all three: I appreciate, as Max said, you haven’t had the chance to have any proper long running but we are expecting things to be even colder tomorrow. How might that impact the race, how will it affect your tyres and your tyre management driving? Will it have any different impact to other races we’ve seen? LH: If it’s… jeez, any colder than this, we’ll have to… race with my scarf on, jeez. I think the usual effects from the track getting colder is the wear, usually or the load or the front tyres usually suffer a little bit more, we generally have a little bit more understeer potentially. If there are safety cars, restarting our tyres is going to be a struggle, that’s for sure but we’re all in the same boat. I don’t really know how far the tyres will go but obviously when it gets a bit colder, generally you can go a little bit further as they work in a slightly different range so yeah, I hope this is still exciting tomorrow. VB: I think there are many unknowns for every team with their lack of running. There’s not much data, apart from winter testing in these kind of temperatures, so I think yeah, when you’re going to have to change the compound during the race from soft it’s going to be unknown how it handles and in the first thing so hopefully it can make it interesting. MV: How about we find out tomorrow?