Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three press conference after qualifying for the Styrian Grand Prix, Round 8 of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship at Red Bull Ring.
Featuring pole-winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), second-placed Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) and third-placed Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Track interviews conducted by Johnny Herbert
Q: Valtteri Bottas, second, a bit of a difficult weekend for you. Of course you have that three-place grid penalty, but the performance in qualifying, were you happy with that?
Valtteri BOTTAS: Yes. Shame about the penalty as obviously that means I’m starting fifth tomorrow. I would have preferred to start second. It was a strong qualifying. If I look at practice two and practice three I still struggled a bit but with the set-up we found the right direction and it was a much better feeling. I really felt good in the car and I got the most out of the car. Just the first run in Q3 I had traffic with Tsunoda, so I lost a couple of tenths there so I don’t know maybe there was a bit more to come.
Q: What about the race? Obviously you are on the right tyre with that medium one. Is it something that you feel race pace-wise you can really get in the mix?
VB: Yeah, of course we knew I am going to have the penalty, so we though the medium was going to be the best option so we used two sets of mediums in Q2 to try and start the race with the medium and hopefully at least on the soft runners we can have a bit of an advantage. It’s a new day tomorrow, a long race ahead, so anything is possible.
Q: Do you think you can attack the Red Bulls, because…
VB: Yes, definitely.
Q: I like it. That’s what we like to hear, well done. Now, the man at the top of the pile. Max Verstappen, you’ve got to be happy with that. You seem to be on fire this weekend?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it’s been a very good weekend. Again in qualifying the car was really good to drive. It was not easy to deal with the traffic in the last few corners to get a clean run but I think that first lap in Q3 was good enough at the end. I had a good first sector. Super happy to be on pole here at home. Always nice to see a Red Bull car first here.
Q: Give us an idea of what that lap was like, because from the outside you seemed to be throwing everything at it, as you’d expect. You seemed to be right on the edge, getting everything out of the car. What was the lap like?
MV: When you look at the track, you think there are not that many corners but the corners you have on the track are quite difficult. So even in Turn 1, braking for Turn 3, the crest, braking downhill into 4, it’s definitely a small track but it’s really hard to get a good lap out of it. I think that first lap in Q3 was not to bad. Of course it’s never perfect, but it was good enough.
Q: We always talk about confidence in sport, but you must have so much confidence going into the race tomorrow. So do you think it’s going to be an easy one for you or are you expecting a tough one?
MV: It’s never easy. I wish sometimes it was easy but at the end that’s good for racing. I’m sure again tomorrow it will be very tight, so hopefully again it will as interesting as in France.
Q: Lewis, a bit of a frustrating day for you. It just seemed as if the car just wasn’t quite underneath you during that final lap you had?
Lewis HAMILTON: Firstly, well done to Max. They have been so fast this weekend and I’ve been giving it absolutely everything and it just wasn’t the greatest of sessions. But nonetheless we’re still on the front row, obviously after the penalty. I did everything I could and we go into the race tomorrow for a fight.
Q: What about the race tomorrow? You have the right tyre with the medium. Can you really attack Max? I think when we saw on the long ruins you weren’t that far away at all. You seemed to be really close. Do you expect that tomorrow?
LH: They’ve generally had a quarter of a second on us all weekend. I think we managed to eke closer in qualifying but in race trim yesterday they were 0.25s ahead of us most of the time so it will be interesting to see whether or not we can manage it. I don’t think we have the raw pace to overtake them that’s for sure but we might just be able to keep up.
Q: So this is all going to be about getting as many points as you can tomorrow, because you don’t think you’re going to be able to attack Max then from what I can understand there?
LH: Well, I’m going to be giving it everything obviously but I’m just talking about pure pace. But maybe tomorrow we’ll be surprised. Maybe it rains. Who knows.
Q: Max, many congratulations. Another tremendous pole by you. Just how good were you in the car out there today?
MV: I think it clicked quite well in qualifying. We made a few little adjustments and it seemed like that was a good step forwards. So, yeah, just getting through the tyres, making sure that you would qualify on the Medium in Q2 because the gaps around here, with all the other teams as well are quite small, so it was not, let’s say, super easy to get through Q2 with that tyre – but we managed to do that. Yeah, pretty pleased in Q3. That first lap was pretty good, my second run was a little bit worse, just because I was the last one in the train so I think my tyres were just a little bit too cold to start the lap. Nevertheless, yeah, it was a good qualifying.
Q: As you say, that first lap in Q3 was ‘pretty good’ to quote you. Just how close to the perfect lap was it?
MV: I find it always quite difficult around here. There are not many corners but still there are… like Turn 3, 4, it’s easy to lose like one, one-a-half tenths if you just miss an apex, or you are too deep in or on the exit, you have a moment, so I would say there are a few other tracks out there which are a bit easier to nail the lap but yeah, it was good. I’m never satisfied but it was pretty good.
Q: And you’ve got Lewis with you on the front row tomorrow. Another close race in prospect?
MV: I guess so. Yeah. It seems like in the long runs again we are quite closely matched. Of course that’s yesterday, tomorrow is a bit of a different day. We’ll see tomorrow but I expect it, of course, to again be close. Hopefully it will be an exciting one again.
Q: Valtteri, well done, another great qualifying for you. How pleased are you with the job you did today?
VB: I honestly think it was good qualifying. I think I’ve been a little bit lost with the set-up during the weekend so far. But being able to go in the right direction with the set-up, we’ve been working closely with Lewis as well to try to find the optimal set-up and definitely got some guidance from his side of the garage this weekend because I was definitely lacking a bit of pace on Friday and was a bit confused about which way to go and yeah, we were working as a team and found the right direction. I think thanks to that I found the confidence in the car and felt good. That last lap, there were definitely not two-tenths on the table so I think Max and Red Bull were faster today. It was a good lap and I’m pleased for that. Of course, it’s a shame I have the penalty but obviously the job today was to try and maximise the situation.
Q: Can you shed a little bit more light on the work that you and Lewis have shared this weekend? What information was particularly useful for you?
VB: It’s nothing new, to be honest. It’s always very open in terms of what kind of set-ups we’re running and what are we planning to do etc., so it’s nothing unusual. I don’t want to go into the fine details but I think we’re discovering a lot about the car now, that it can go so many different ways with the set-up and it’s actually quite easy to get confused, which direction to go. We keep learning and we keep optimising and yeah… we need to keep learning because it is a tough battle ahead still this season.
Q: And, as you say, you’ve got that three place grid penalty tomorrow. You’re going to start fifth. How easy is it to move forward around the Red Bull Ring?
VB: I don’t think it’s the easiest. I think the middle sector, the high-speed corners and the last two corners is a tricky part to follow closely but there’s long straights and, if you have the pace, if you have the right strategy for sure we can move up – and that’s of course going to be the aim. In terms of strategy we’re starting with the Medium tyre. I think there’s some guys I’m battling with who are starting on the Soft, so that can play a part.
Q: Lewis, coming to you, clearly pushing very hard throughout that session. Just how tough was it for you out there?
LH: It was a difficult session for me. I’ve generally had a really good weekend so far. Of course not as quick as Max but I did a lot of work before the event and then the car was feeling great all day yesterday. We’ve just been chipping away at it. Each change is just trying to eke-out 10ms or something. And then I got into qualifying and the car just didn’t feel as great as it did in P3. I don’t fully understand it. I wouldn’t say I was particularly that quick in qualifying but nonetheless I’m really happy to be where we are. As Valtteri said, the next two-tenths is a little bit difficult. They’ve had straight-line speed again this weekend, which is hard for us to compete with. But I’m really proud of the team for just continuing to push hard, not leave any stone unturned.
Q: What were your expectations coming into qualifying?
LH: I don’t really have any expectation. I just expected to have – I wanted to have a good session, I wanted to deliver decent laps and in P3 I did a lap I was like ‘that’s the one that I need for Q3’ and I got nowhere near it. But these things happen. We gave it everything and we’ve got a long race tomorrow so I hope that the balance works for us. It’s going to be a tough battle with these guys. I think they’ve generally had the edge throughout the weekend and the analysis last night was that they are a quarter of a second ahead on long run pace. I hope through work we’ve closed that gap.
Q: Max referred to the queue at the start of that final run in Q3. You jumped ahead. Did that in any way cost you on that final lap?
LH: Definitely. Yeah, in hindsight… I mean, I knew that everyone was just going so slow and I was worried about not having the tyres up to temperature but I went on all the dirty lines, so I was just picking up all the dirt on the tyres and then a poor exit out of the last corner so already by Turn 1
I was a tenth down and already by Turn 3 I was two tenths down, so no hope in that respect and then naturally tried to over-drive to gather that pace, that time lost, back and it didn’t work.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Valtteri, can you give us a little bit more explanation as to what happened with your incident in the pit lane yesterday. You were using second gear, it said on the stewards’ report, presumably to reduce wheelspin because of the problems that you both had in France, so why did you have so much wheelspin? What happened? Why did it go so wrong?
VB: It definitely caught me out. I never imagined that would happen in the pit lane but yeah, we decided to try something different, launch with the second gear, because sometimes with a higher gear you have lower revs and maybe you can manage to wheelspin or the initial part is not so aggressive but then once I got the wheelspin, it really caught me out and I don’t know, perhaps the line in the pit lane was still slightly damp from the drizzle. I just couldn’t hold it. Obviously quite a different behaviour in second gear than first gear. So that happened.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, we saw you doing three runs in Q3. I just wondered if you could explain the thinking behind that and then did it work out as you hoped?
LH: Just I was told that I had three tyres and I could use them all so I said yes, I threw everything at it, give it three shots in the hope to close the gap of two tenths to Max but yeah, as I said, the last one not great when there’s all those people out there and you’re not able to get the temperature in the tyres. But, you know, as I said, we did everything that we could.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) To Valtteri and then Lewis please. Valtteri, just on the penalty that you’ve got, do you think that’s a fair punishment for what happened and then to Lewis, were you trying the pit box exit in second gear as well?
VB: My personal view is [that it’s] quite harsh. I never imagined after that that there would be a penalty but of course other teams, when they see the opportunity, they complained that it was dangerous etc so that we would get penalised. That’s how it goes, so everyone is always trying to screw you over in this sport. I mean yes, it can be a dangerous situation if there’s many people in the pit lane but…
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Max, this is for you: we’ve seen in the past that the Honda engine’s had an advantage at circuits at altitude: Brazil, Mexico and here. Do you think that’s carried over into this year on the evidence of this weekend?
MV: We’ve always been quite good with altitude but I think next time I’m going to bring a print-out of the rear wing difference we’re running and then I’m going to hand it over to every single journalist so everyone…. Because I get these questions now, two questions, like two or three weeks now, that we are really quick on the straight and yes we are but look at our rear wing, I don’t think it’s exactly the same and for sure, Honda did a great job compared to last year, from our first engine to the engine we have in the car now it’s all about reliability, improvements and no clear advantage on pure power so I’m going to fire up my printer next time and I’m going to hand over a few shots.
Q: Lewis, I’m sorry, I interrupted Scott’s questions about second gear getaways. Have you tried that?
LH: No, I haven’t tried that.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, sometimes you’ve spoken in the past of the difficulty of running the medium tyres in Q2 and then getting back up to speed in the first run of Q3. That didn’t happen today, your pole time came from the first run in Q3, was it easier making that step and that adjustment this time around?
MV: I think my engineer actually fired me up on that one because he was upset that I didn’t do the cycle lap on the soft so he came on the radio when I boxed and he was like ‘I know you were held up into Turn 1 but you should have pushed for the lap, to see how the tyres were’ so I didn’t answer but I think secretly inside it did fire me up to push a bit harder on that first run in Q3.