Full transcript from the top three post-qualifying press conference at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix, Round 11 of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship, at Hungaroring, Budapest.
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: Max, what was that lap like. You didn’t quite have the speed you needed to get that pole position. Four tenths, did you expect it to be that much?
Max VERSTAPPEN: It’s always difficult to say, the gap. But clearly the whole weekend so far we have been a bit behind and it showed again in qualifying. So not what we wanted but nevertheless we are still there in P3 and we will see what we can do. But yeah, so far not what I want.
Q: Happy with the strategy, going for those softer tyres for the start of the race and Mercedes being on the medium? How do you feel about that choice?
MV: Yeah, it’s of course going to be different. The grip was quite a bit higher on these tyres so of course we will find out tomorrow. It’s going to be really hot. So naturally of course a softer tyre will not last as long as a medium but nevertheless it will give us a good opportunity off the line.
Q: And is that really the main reason for choosing the soft?
MV: No, it was just because the others were also on the soft and they were improving their lap time and my lap time on the medium would have really been on the edge for the top 10 so that’s why we decided to finish the lap.
Q: Valtteri, second on the grid, got to be happy with that lap?
Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, I mean it was OK. I have to say a little bit in Q2 I lost the rhythm slightly when we used the medium tyres and it wasn’t easy to get back to the rhythm with the soft tyres. The grip difference was pretty big. And Lewis had a really good lap on the first run, unlike me. It’s good to be two Mercedes at the front.
Q: And this has been a good performance all weekend from you. You’ve got those medium tyres, you’ve got that front row, what are you expecting from tomorrow?
VB: Tomorrow will be exciting. The Red Bulls are on the soft tyres and we are on the mediums and it’s all to play for and it’s going to be a good battle. I’m looking forward to it. First of all, it’s great to see so many people here supporting, so thank you.
Q: Lewis, from the outside that looked like a wild lap. Lewis, brilliant lap, from the outside it looked absolutely brilliant, what was it like in the car?
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, it was an amazing qualifying that last one. It’s been amazing teamwork from everyone this weekend, Valtteri included, just trying to push the car forwards, developing constantly. The guys at the factory have not left any stone unturned. It’s been amazing to see everyone come together and rallying up and pushing forward. And I appreciate the great support I have here. Honestly, I’ve never actually felt so great with the booing; if anything it just fuels me. So I don’t really mind it. It’s alright.
Q: What about the race? You’ve got the pole position and you’ve got those medium tyres as well. That does seem to be a good thing for the race tomorrow. Are you expecting that Red Bull to challenge you down to Turn 1?
LH: Well, I think the soft tyres is worth something like five metres down into Turn 1. It’s a long way down to Turn 1. It’s surprising to see the guys behind us… I think everyone in the top 10 is on the soft except for us. We will see. It’s definitely great having a lock-out for our team, it’s the first time in a long time, so a big, big thank you to everyone back at the factory. I hope the weather is good for everyone tomorrow. Enjoy the sun and stay safe.
Q: Lewis, many congratulations, your eighth pole in Hungary. How please were you with your first run in Q3?
LH: Thank you. Yeah, the first run… The lap really felt beautiful. It was a real build up. A lot of qualifying sessions you sometimes get your best lap in Q1 or Q2 or something like that. It never goes always to plan whereas today I got the best lap Q3, run one. So I was really, really happy with it. I had the song YMCA just on my mind the whole session. I’m not really sure why, I haven’t really been listening to it but that was what was the motivator today so I guess it bodes well for the weekend.
VB: Are you going to sing it?
LH: It’s a great song!
Q: That was a brilliant lap. Looking at your second run in Q3, that was a very slow out lap. Did that compromise your preparations in any way because we did see you lock a tyre just into Turn 14?
LH: So, prep laps, difficult and we were behind a lot of… I think we were the last three or four cars and yeah, it definitely wasn’t perfect and I’d say right towards the end probably lost too much temperature on the tyres in the front, so the start of the lap wasn’t great and it didn’t really seem to get better later on through the lap. But I’m really grateful that the team worked so hard to get the car where it is today. Valtteri did an astonishing job today, really boosting the team into the front row, which is honestly… I don’t remember the last time we had a front row together. So super positive and it’s all down to the amazing work back at the factory and the men and women here are doing a phenomenal job and with everything going on around us, in the outside world and everything, people are just staying focused and staying centred and I’m really proud of everyone.
Q: Did you expect to be so much faster than Red Bull here?
LH: Definitely, definitely not. This is a track that they’ve been very strong at for a long time. And given the improvements they made earlier on this year, we thought that we obviously closed the gap a little bit in the last race but we thought they would still have a little bit of an edge. We saw today that they changed from their big wing to their smaller wing today, whether or not that’s hampered them, I don’t know but yeah, it was definitely a real surprise to see us have that sort of pace on them. Of course we’re happy with that.
Q: And Lewis, you’re going for your ton. If you win tomorrow, it’ll be win number one hundred. What would that mean?
LH: I don’t know – and I don’t like really to think of it. There’s a lot of… this is not even half the job, or whatever. Tomorrow’s a long race, we don’t know what weather’s around us. It’s such a challenging circuit and these… the whole top four will not be easy to beat, and so we’ve got a long run down to Turn 1, so it’s going to be challenging tomorrow, especially if the temperatures are like this, so it should be an exciting race.
Q: Valtteri, your fourth consecutive front row here in Hungary. You’re consistently fastest. How pleased were you with your fastest lap?
VB: To be honest, not 100 per cent pleased. I’m pleased that, as a team, we could get the front row. Like Lewis said, we really haven’t had that form for a while, so that shows that the hard work is paying off – and Lewis did an amazing lap in Q3, run 1 that I just couldn’t quite match, and for me the issue was I lost a bit the rhythm in Q2 with the Medium tyre, so I didn’t feel that comfortable with the rear end of the car. So then it was not easy to go back on the Soft and really attack it fully. So, it was not so clean. Definitely not my best laps of the weekend but still, you know, good enough to get to the front row, so that’s good. But also, I want to add. I don’t normally say about these kinds of things and what I think but I heard a lot of booing at the end of the qualifying and I don’t understand it. I would like the people to question themselves, that behaviour. I don’t think it’s fair. We are here as athletes to give every single bit we have for the sport we love. Like Lewis did an amazing lap at the end and then you get booing. So I think people… just question yourself. It’s not right, it’s not fair and we don’t want to see these kind of things.
Q: Thank you Valtteri. Just a final question about the performance of the car. Like Lewis, you didn’t improve on your second run in Q3. Where did the pace go for you?
VB: I don’t know. It was a bit weird. I lost a bit in Sector 1, Sector 2. It just didn’t feel like the same grip level towards the end. It’s the same for everyone and it’s not the first time we’ve seen this season that Q3 run 1 has been better.
Q: And well done to you too Max. First up, can you talk us through Q3? Were you expecting more pace from the car?
MV: Well, basically, I went a bit backwards compared to my Q2 lap of course. Just didn’t have the same grip over the lap. I don’t know if it was track related or tyre related but yeah, just didn’t have the same balance in the car to push so then yeah, naturally around here the corners follow up really quickly, so if you don’t feel good in one corner, the next won’t be great. Just lost a bit of lap time but nevertheless, I don’t think even with that we could have had pole. Not the greatest weekend so far. I think in general just always been a bit behind and yeah, we just need to analyse why that is. I think Silverstone was quite strong. Of course I know they brought new bits again to the car so yeah, we just need to of course work on ourselves and then try to improve the situation because of course we cannot be happy with this.
Q: Was your final run in Q3 compromised by the slow out-lap of the two Mercedes in front of you?
MV: I don’t know. Of course the tyres were a bit cold – but I wouldn’t have gained four-tenths if the tyres would have been a bit warmer.
Q: And do you feel your pace is closer to Mercedes in race conditions?
MV: I have no clue. I didn’t have a representative long run – so we’ll find out tomorrow.
Q: And Max, can we just get your thoughts please on the booing towards Lewis just as he was getting out of the car there at the end of qualifying?
MV: I was in the garage, I didn’t pay attention to what was happening outside.
Q: I’ve got a question to both you and Lewis now. There’s been a lot of talk about what happened on the opening lap at Silverstone. If you two end up wheel-to-wheel after the start tomorrow…
MV: Can we just already stop about this because it’s… we’ve had so many f**ing questions about this. It’s just ridiculous, honestly. Honestly, the whole Thursday we’ve been answering this stupid s**t all the time. So can we just stop about it please? We are racers. We will race. And of course we are going to race hard but fair. We’ll just be pushing each other.
Lewis, anything from you?
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Max, could you just run through the process of how you ended up setting a time on the soft tyre at the end of Q2 because obviously you could have gone out on the medium again if you wanted to commit to the medium? I know that it’s normal to go for a soft tyre guarantee lap and then back out of it and I know why you didn’t do that this time. I’m just more interested in why you didn’t go for a second run on the medium.
MV: We talked about it and they told me that they wanted to go on the soft instead and then keep the medium new so we ran that and then yeah, quite a lot of people actually improved their lap time. At the end of the day it would have been safe to go through but only with two or three hundredths I don’t think you want to risk it that much so that’s why they told me to finish the lap. It is what it is. We’ll find out tomorrow how the tyres are going to behave.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, just about the final warm-up lap tactics; I know you’ve spoken about it earlier but it looked like you were going a little bit slowly down the pit lane and then at the pit exit as well so I wondered if you’d just talk us through what was happening there?
LH: Yeah, I mean, as I said we were one of the last of the cars out. I know that ahead of those guys, ahead of Valtteri and whoever was ahead of him, would all bunch up towards the end of the lap so I tried to make as big a gap as possible and then even still with that, at the end of the lap we still had to all back off and wait for everyone to get going, so just trying to make sure that I had the best gap ahead of me but ultimately I think none of us probably had the best tyre prep for that lap because everyone was going slow.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, obviously just going back to the booing that you got from the fans. It was obviously quite a strong reception, so I just really wanted to get your thoughts on that. There are also a few banners out there. One says: ‘Sir Cheat. Karma is on its way’, so there’s obviously a bit of a negative attitude towards you against (sic) some of the fans. And Max, I know you were asked about the booing there, but when you won the sprint race at Silverstone, I don’t think you received such a poor reception from the British crowd, so I just wanted to get your response to your fans booing Lewis?
LH: I don’t really have anything to say to it. People have a right to… it’s a sport, right, and people act wild when it’s sport. It’s competition and take it to heart. I just… I must be doing something right to be up front. Yeah. It’s pretty good for me otherwise.
MV: Yeah, well, what do you want me to say? It’s not correct of course but at the end of the day I think we are drivers. We shouldn’t get disturbed by these kind of things, you know. You should anyway just focus on what you have to do and that’s deliver in the car. Luckily we wear helmets actually when you’re driving, of course, when it matters you don’t hear anything. That’s maybe a bit different to other sports, probably we are quite lucky with that but at the end, like I said, of course it’s not nice but it shouldn’t influence any of us. I think we are all very professional and know what we had to do on track anyway.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport.com) Lewis, but if any of the other drivers want to answer I’m happy to get that as well. About those tactics ahead of the last lap in Q3, we’ve had that a couple of times already this year and Christian Horner said in the television interview that it was a bit of gamesmanship but basically it was your right to do it Lewis because you had track position. And Roman Grosjean tweeted immediately that it was not pretty if it was done on purpose so I guess the question is was it done on purpose or is it legitimate tactics to do it if it was?
LH: I mean it’s so silly, man. I mean everyone was going slow. Did you not watch everybody else? I don’t understand. Do you think I could have gone quicker and then been just close to Valtteri? Everyone was doing a slow out lap so it was no different to any other lap. Of course each time we’re going out we’re trying to prepare the tyres and keep them cooler because they get so hot throughout the lap so I’m not playing any tactics, I don’t need to play any tactics man. I know what I’m doing in the car and I’m fast enough, I don’t need to add tactics so… Those that are making the comments clearly don’t know anything about the job that we’re doing here, which is probably why they’re not driving here.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Max, given the fact that the pace of the car hasn’t been as you’d hoped, is it actually a positive for you to be on that alternate strategy even though probably in an ideal world the medium start is the preferred tyre, at least unless you do something a little bit different to maybe make something happen?
MV: Yeah. I anyway didn’t have a representative long run so of course I know it’s going to be super-warm tomorrow so naturally a soft tyre won’t last as long as medium tyre but yeah, maybe it gives a little bit of an advantage in the start. Who knows? And I had to finish my lap otherwise it would have been super close so we’ll find out of course tomorrow, after the race if it was right or wrong and then again we’ll learn from that and we’ll take that into account for future races but at the moment I can’t really say if it was good or bad.