Full transcript from the top three drivers’ press conference after qualifying for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Round 13 of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship, at Imola in Italy.
Featuring pole-winner Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Max Verstappen (Red Bull).
Track interviews conducted by Johnny Herbert
Q: Max, that was a bit of a tough session for you, obviously you had that problem earlier on. Tell us about getting yourself into third position? Max Vesratppen: Yeah, it was not a great qualifying because of that. I only did two laps in Q1 and then you want to go out and get that run in in Q2 and then with the trouble it was a bit tricky. Also, on the medium tyres: OK we got through and we did our lap but then it just doesn’t give you a good reference to get into Q3 and we definitely seemed to struggle a bit with that. The first run in Q3 – just not a lot of grip. I think the second run was a little bit better but yeah, just difficult. At the end of the day P3 – not bad. I personally expected to be a little bit closer, to be able to fight them a little bit more but I think after Q2 we just lost our way a little bit.
Q: What about the race track itself. It’s great that we have come back to Imola but is there a particular part of the track where you think: “this is good fun round here”? MV: The track is really cool. It’s really enjoyable to drive. I initially though it was going to be a bit too narrow for these cars but it’s fine. I really enjoy it. I hope that tomorrow we can also have a really cool race here.
Q: Valtteri, pole position man, you must be a happy one because that’s your 15th, but you had to fight for it. Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, you always have to. It’s never to get pole positions. I really enjoy this track when you push flat out; it’s beautiful. I knew I had to improve on the last lap and I found those small gains that were needed and it’s a great feeling when you get those and definitely I had the shakes after. It’s good fun.
Q: Tell us about that. It seemed to be that last sector that was not quite there. What did you do differently to get that extra bit of speed? VB: For me it was Turns 2 and 3, that’s something I was really working on today and only got there at the end. And the last couple of corners as well. I struggled when I tried to risk and go for it. I struggled with a bit of instability with the car. But I knew that on the last lap I had to try so I risked it and the car it just managed to turn in nicely. It was good.
Q: That must give you a lot of confidence taking it into tomorrow. What are you expecting to have from your team-mate going into Turn 1? And again your race is something. It’s going to be interesting to see how the race pans out for you? VB: Yeah it’s going to be a good fight. It’s one of the longest runs on the calendar into Turn 1, so no doubt Lewis and Max will be chasing me but it’s a good place to start and hopefully the pace is good and yeah, game on.
Q: Lewis, second position, you must be a bit frustrated about that. But he just finally pipped you on that last lap you did. Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, Valtteri did a great job and it was a pretty piss poor lap from myself! But these things happen. You can’t always get it perfect. But what a beautiful place we’re in here in Italy. The track: it’s unbelievable the speeds we are going round this track. Grateful to be here. Grateful for the performance we have, which is really remarkable. It feels better than it did in the last race. Yeah, it was a real challenge out there, but I enjoyed it.
Q: What about the race, because your team-mate is always going to be a threat but Max? They had a few problems in that session but overall do you think he’s going to be a bigger threat tomorrow compared to last time? LH: Yeah, they were very strong on their race runs. What is unfortunate really with this track is that it is so beautiful to drive but you are going to see… I’m pretty certain you are going to see a pretty boring race tomorrow. You can overtake on this long straight but it’s quite narrow. But you can’t follow. Once you get into Turn 1 there is no single place to overtake anywhere else. It’s going to be a challenge for people following but as I said the DRS will hopefully give some overtaking opportunities into Turn 1 for people. For us, that means… as you see we are within half a tenth of each other and to have an opportunity of overtaking I think you have to have a gain of something like two seconds or something to the car ahead to have a chance. Nonetheless, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got tomorrow and fingers crossed.
Q: What’s the best part of the track and why? LH: I would say location. They don’t build tracks this anymore. I don’t know why the new guys can’t build a track like this. It’s just a classic and it has the history, which helps, and I would say location, it’s in one of the most beautiful places here in Italy.
Q: Valtteri, many congratulations. So close between you and Lewis. How good was that final lap of Q3? VB: Well, obviously I didn’t have much experience of this track but once we got down to the qualifying session and the laps keep getting faster and faster and you really start to appreciate this track more and more and towards the end of qualifying when you are flat out on this track it’s really beautiful and enjoyable to drive. A proper old school track and that’s what we all like. The last lap it was good enough. I think no one, I doubt they had perfect laps with the short amount of practice and having to be on the limit just in one day, getting the rhythm quickly. But it was good enough and definitely better than the first lap I had in Q3. There were a few places on track where I had to make big gains and luckily most of the losses I managed tyo minimise and the areas I was quick I tried to make them even better.
Q: With only practice session ahead of qualifying, how much of an unknown is the race tomorrow? VB: For sure it’s unknown. We got some long runs in practice. I think quite a lot of cars had graining on the soft tyre. That’s one of the reasons we qualified on the medium tyres. That felt OK. For surer there are questions marks but at least the starting point for the race is good.
Q: Lewis, it was a great battle between team-mates for pole position. In the end, just less than a tenth between you. You didn’t seem happy immediately after the session. Were there any particular issues on your laps in Q3? LH: What do you mean ‘I didn’t seem happy?’ I’m second! I think I was fine. Valtteri did a great job today, so ultimately in Q3 both laps weren’t that great, to be honest. The first lap was OK and the second one was pretty poor. To only have been that far away, considering, it’s not so bad. We live to fight another day tomorrow.
Q: You’ve said it’s a beautiful track. Can you give us some idea of the challenge of Imola? LH: The speed that we’re doing from Turn 2 onwards. It’s really intense. The lap is just non-stop, medium-high speed. The grip is very, very high and so, naturally, the faster you’re going, the harder it is to be inch-perfect. And so, Valtteri did a great job today. It’s not going to be a great race circuit, that’s for sure. I’d be really surprised if it’s a great race to watch tomorrow – because once you get into Turn 2, you can’t follow. Yeah. I hope I’m wrong.
Q: So the key to winning the Grand Prix is the start? LH: Qualifying is… it’s perhaps a little bit like Monaco in that sense. I think the strategy as well. It’s going to be interesting tomorrow. There are usually only a couple of options. It won’t be as good as the last race in terms of the opportunities to overtake, places that you can follow. But, as I said, maybe we’ll be surprised.
Q: Max, coming to you. It seemed like a tough qualifying. First up, what was the issue in Q2 that kept you in the garage for so long? MV: I don’t know exactly what it was. Of course, the bodywork had to go off and I think the mechanics did a very good job to fix my car but it ruined, a bit, my qualifying because you have to go out on a Medium, try to nail the lap. We just managed to go through, of course, on that, but yeah, the reference was a bit off. The first lap then in Q3, the tyres were too cold because I was a bit in the middle of the train. I never really got into a nice rhythm where you know that, ‘OK, I have a bit of time left here, I can push a bit harder’ It was all a bit messy so, even in Q3, the last lap, I was, ‘well, I think we could have done a bit better here if we just had a smoother qualifying. But if you have that in Q2 and you have to qualify on a different tyre as well, mid-way through then yeah, it’s not great. I didn’t expect, of course, to beat them in qualifying. I just wanted to be a bit closer, make it a bit more exciting – but today, it was just very tricky and I never really found that rhythm that you get throughout qualifying, that you know ‘OK we put a new tyre-set on and I know where to find my lap time’. I was just still learning to go faster. Bit of a shame but still, P3, so back in my seat!
Q: Do you expect to be closer to these guys tomorrow? MV: Long run was alright, so hopefully we’ll be a bit similar tomorrow. Let’s hope that, top-speed-wise, we’re on a good position tomorrow. I don’t think it’s going to be very easy to pass anyway but we’ll see. We’ll see what we can do.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question for Valtteri please. You mentioned when you got out of the car that you had to really risk it on that last, final lap. Could you explain where in particular you felt you had to take those extra risks – and how close to the edge did you come with those? Thank you. VB: There’s a couple of points on this track – every track but this one especially with such a limited practice and experience – I had some issues sometimes in Turn 2 with locking up, trying to brake too late. Sometimes into the last two corners, the downhill braking, I braked too late, and that’s why I lost a bit of momentum out of those corners, so it’s just small things like that. There was no time to be wasted under braking, which I wasn’t in places yet quite comfortable – but I’m glad I could get there eventually and, in the last run for sure you’re not holding back. You either go for it or go home. I’m glad it was a good-enough lap.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) First part of the question for Max. Can you explain how it felt in the car in Q2 when you lost the power? Was it feeling like you don’t have the MGU-K power? And then for all three of you, how was the programme today in the only practice session with the long runs? How many did you do compared to a normal weekend? Thank you. MV: No, I had power. Then not. Then it kicked in again. Then not. They told me to keep going but I said, ‘guys, I’m losing quite a bit of lap-time here on the straight’ because at one point I aborted because it didn’t make sense to continue. We’ll have more detailed look what exactly went wrong. I didn’t speak to my engineers yet because it doesn’t make sense to go through qualifying discussing what broke. Just focus on the job. It’s not so lovely but luckily we’re still here.
Q: And Max, your programme today? MV: Yeah, it was nice. We hit the ground running, quite smoothly. I didn’t really have a lot of problems with the car, like no balance issues, so then of course it’s great when you have only one practice session but of course when you’re struggling a bit more with the car then you would like to have another practice session, so I guess sometimes it’s good, sometimes you will experience a bit more trouble. VB: For sure, it’s always a compromise. You know you can’t only do short runs or only do long runs, so you have to compromise the time a bit but what was a nice thing was actually to have three sets of tyres so it meant we could run pretty much the whole practice instead of… we see sometimes on Friday that we’re sitting around quite a bit because of the limited tyres so that was nice and put up the session, but for sure a compromise between short and long runs. LH: The same as theirs. It was great. I much prefer just the two days.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Question for the two Mercedes drivers: Valtteri, you’ve had some choice words for your critics at times. This is, I think, your fourth pole this year and on an old school track as well so do you think your performances are under-rated? And Lewis, you often speak about how hard Valtteri pushes you. Could you just give your view on how high a level he’s performing at, please? VB: I don’t really think about that, how people rate me. It’s something that I think is a wrong area to focus on and for sure, sometimes we get criticism – I think everyone does, that’s normal in life and there’s always people who want to drag you down but I just try to turn it into positive energy and try to use it was a strength. So I’m not really one to comment if I’m under rated or over rated, whatever. It’s not something that I should think about, I’m just focusing on my driving, trying to get pole, trying to get wins, that’s my job, that’s what I like to do. LH: I don’t really think I need to say much. I mean, Jeez, he just got pole position. He’s ahead of me. I have more poles than anyone here so it’s not like I’m a slowpoke, so he’s doing an amazing job and I think his result today speaks for itself. I don’t really need to say much more. He does his talking on the track and that’s the great thing about Valtteri, but I don’t think there’s many people who can do what he’s doing, if I’m really honest, so I’ve got a huge amount of respect for him.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Max, you seem to be a lot closer to the Mercedes in qualifying but not so much in the race. I know what you said just now that you hoped to be closer, but if we look at the past couple of races it appears as though you’re closer in qualifying, not so much the race. Do you put this down to a difference in the hybrid systems or what do you put it down to? And then the other question is given the number of issues you’ve had with Honda recently, do you really believe it’s the right way for the team to go with Honda engines in the future, under their own brand or whatever independent engine they’re going to have? MV: Well, first of all, that last bit: I don’t know how to comment on that, to be honest. I guess we just have to wait and see what’s going to happen. OK, we have had two retirements this year but I think in general they’ve done a great job and I’m very happy to work with Honda, they’re great guys and they are very, very motivated and they will never give up and I like that mentality. I think it’s a bit track-dependent, so where, for example, you are clipping a lot, it seems that we are a bit more prone to that so of course you lose a bit more lap time on the straights so if you compare to last year as well, it seems like last year from qualifying to the race we would gain a bit and it seems like maybe now qualifying seems a little bit better and then in the race we struggle a bit more with that. But yeah, it’s not on every track. To be honest, I mean, Nürburgring wasn’t that bad. I think we were quite competitive. It was just a few corners where it seemed like we were struggling a bit and that’s why Lewis was just opening the gap on me. Last race, I don’t know, I just found it very tricky to comment on that one because of first of all the first lap but also the tarmac and everything. I was on a different strategy. I don’t think there is a trend. I just see that when you are a bit more limited with the energy you can lose over a lap in the race, it seems like it’s… yeah, we don’t have the same amount of release, at least on the straights, so we’ll have to work harder to try and improve that.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Again, to the two Mercedes drivers: again, you’re starting on the medium tyres at the start of the race. Obviously a harder compound, we saw what happened last weekend. Are you expecting a similar thing to happen, or is that negated by the softer tyres this weekend and a different track surface. And also, to Valtteri, it looks as if pole position is slightly off the racing line; does that give you a little bit of a disadvantage compared to starting second? VB: I don’t know the facts: is there more grip on the left or right hand side? For sure it’s maybe not as clean as some other places. There are some different bits of tarmac on the grid in some places, so it’s an unknown. That’s something we’re going to find out tomorrow. Yeah, for sure, try and get more heat than last weekend. I think the rain played quite a big part in Portimão and the new tarmac. I’m sure we will try everything we can. I think even though it could be tricky at the beginning of the race, I really hope and there’s always a reason why we go for the medium, that it is a better race tyre but we’ll see. LH: Yeah, pretty much the same as Valtteri. It should be different here; the surface is different.