Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three press conferences after qualifying for the Dutch Grand Prix, Round 12 of the 2021 Formula 1Wolrd Championship, at Circuit Zandvoort.
Featuring pole winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing); second-placed Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and third-placed Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes).
Track interviews by Giedo van der Garde
Q: Max Verstappen, pole position in front of your home crowd. It must be an amazing feeling?
Max Verstappen: It’s an amazing feeling of course to get pole position here. The crowd is incredible and today was also very enjoyable. The car was really nice to drive. This track as well, once the fuel comes out it’s really cool.
Q: Yeah, the crowd is crazy, you see all orange. It’s enjoyable I guess for you, but what do you think about the race tomorrow?
MV: Yeah, it’s of course the best starting position, we know passing is difficult I don’t expect it to be an easy race, a lot of laps around here and the tyres are struggling through the higher speed but yeah, today was good so I hope of course we can finish it off tomorrow.
Q: Lewis, that was close in the end.
Lewis Hamilton: So close. So close! First I want to say a big, big thank you to all the orange fans here, the Dutch fans. What an amazing venue, what an amazing track and I really do genuinely love coming to this country. I really appreciate the welcome. There are great sporting fans here. It’s just been good an I really appreciate it. Max did an amazing lap and I was so close to… I was trying to catch him but with obviously with yesterday’s session missed it made it a little bit difficult of a day but I gave it absolutely everything, but he did a fantastic lap and he deserves the pole.
Q: Obviously you were here 16 years ago in the Masters and you won the race, but what do you think about tomorrow’s race?
LH: It’s going to be tough, It’s a difficult circuit to overtake but what a place for us to be racing. I think strategy will come into it a lot. But we are going to see a crowd like this. We haven’t seen a crowd like this in a while. It’s really great to see so many people here and I hope the track helps us provide a good race. It’s a very, very tough circuit, which is what makes it so fantastic to drive.
Q: Valtteri, P3, good result. Already since FP1 it looked quite. Looked like the car was handling quite well and you were already enjoying it here?
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, it’s definitely an enjoyable track with a nice atmosphere as well, so it’s good fun. The car has been feeling good. We are still lacking a bit in Sector 1, especially in Turn 2 and 3 compared to Red Bull and they were a bit out of reach today but we still got two cars into the top three, so all to play for.
Q: Tomorrow, do you think you have some possibilities to overtake on this track?
VB : It’s quite a hard track to overtake on but the race start is always an opportunity and of course the strategy, so I am sure we are still going to see an exciting race tomorrow.
Q: Max, what a pole lap by you at the end of Q3. Just how good was it and how much did you enjoy it?
MV: It was already a lot of fun I have to say from FP1 but to drive this track in qualifying when you have got very low fuel, it was incredible, especially Sector 2 was really enjoyable to drive. Even the banked corners. OK, the last corner is flat but it’s a nice sensation and Turn 3 as well, you really go up and yeah, it’s been really incredible and of course driving at home, with all these fans, they were of course going crazy every time I was crossing the line, so to have a pole position is of course very satisfying.
Q: How hooked up has the car been this weekend?
MV: Yeah, I think today again was a good step forward compared to yesterday. Yeah, very happy in general with how today went. No big problems, so very happy with that.
Q: Looking at the race: how important do you think pole is likely to be here?
MV: Yeah, it’s still very difficult to pass around here, even in qualifying you know everyone was trying to find the gap, not like some other tracks where everyone is trying to find the tow. I do think it’s going to be tough, but also it’s quite tough on tyres around here with all the high-speed corners, so it’s not a very straightforward race. There are a lot of laps around here but of course, it’s important to be upfront.
Q: You mentioned the fans a moment ago. Is this atmosphere even better than you anticipated?
MV: Of course, I already had a bit of a feel from Austria, Belgium, but of course I know that once you are in Holland and the fans don’t need to travel that far, yeah, it’s going to be even better, right? So to see so much orange, even with not even the maximum capacity allowed, yeah, it’s an incredible atmosphere. You can ever hear it now! They are going crazy!
Q: Lewis, it is an incredible atmosphere as Max said. Do you think there are many team LH fans out there?
LH: Well, I haven’t really looked necessarily too much at the crowds, apart from when we just came in there and we saw the whole pit straight completely full. But I know yesterday there was a plane that went up with a team LH fan. It was awesome to see so I definitely know that I’ve got team LH Netherlands here. But in general, the response from everyone having me here has been great, even just driving in has been really pleasant, so I’m really grateful and what a track. Whoo! It is absolutely incredible driving this track, with the banked corners and today was one of the sessions that I have enjoyed the most, qualifying. Qualifying here is just phenomenal with a light car. So close at the end but obviously yesterday didn’t help but I’m glad we got back to where we needed to be today.
Q: Lewis, just talk us through Q3 specifically. You were just three-hundredths of a second behind Max in the end, so close, fastest in the final sector as well. Just how good was that lap?
LH: Max has been incredibly fast through the first sector and that’s an area where we’ve really been working hard at improving with the car balance over the night and through P3 into qualifying, and just slowly chipping away at it. It’s a circuit where you need to continue to chip away and build that confidence – but the lap was… particularly the second and third sector, the third sector was really on the edge, you saw the last corner, there wasn’t any road left, so I was really, really happy with it. I think it’s great that we were able to get that close because obviously, they pulled quite far ahead at one point pace-wise. I still think, if we had another session, again, we would all go quicker and I think there’s more time to find.
Q: And Lewis, just your thoughts on the race tomorrow. What opportunities are there out there for you?
LH: Well, I haven’t done any long-running, so I don’t really know too much of what the track’s like with heavy fuel. I only have my reference from 2005 and I don’t remember that! No doubt it’s going to be tough tomorrow. Just from watching these guys, I think Max and his team were quicker than us, I think, on the long run – but it’s not a track that you can particularly overtake in, so it’s going to be strategy tomorrow and how you can utilise the tyres. The start will be fun.
Q: Valtteri, perhaps we could start by talking about the long-run pace of Mercedes. You got more running than your teammate in the second practice session yesterday. What do you think you’ve got underneath you?
VB: I think like Lewis said, Red Bull seem pretty quick in the long runs so, for sure, it’s not going to be easy to challenge them – but of course we try, and we will have two cars against one of them, so that’s always good news. There’s always the start as well, so there will be opportunities, and strategy-wise, I don’t know if it’s going to be one or two stops, so anything is still possible and it’s not like they’re miles away, so looking forward.
Q: And what about your qualifying session Valtteri? How clean was it?
VB:First run in Q3 was good. I was happy with the lap, felt like I got pretty much everything out of the package, that was the feeling. Second lap, it was going well until Turn 11. I braked a bit too late, collected a bit of gravel in Turn 12. I think I got a bit too greedy towards the end of the lap. But anyway, pole was just a little bit out of reach for me today but otherwise OK. It’s good to be in the top three, and that opens up all the opportunities for good teamwork for tomorrow.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for Lewis. You mentioned that you’re losing a lot in Sector 1. I think that Shov said yesterday the problem is Turns 2 and 3, especially the banked corner. Can you specify a bit? Is it only that one corner – and do you know why you’re losing time there?
LH: It is mainly the exit of 2. They’re a lot quicker, and particularly 3, they’re a lot quicker. We’re generally down, I think I was even on that lap, I think it’s something like, I was told 0.18, I was told still, so close to two-tenths we’re losing in that area. It’s difficult to say exactly what it is – but there’s something. Some characteristic of our car that doesn’t like that corner. But still, it’s incredibly fun and, again, I think also having time in the car to just chip away at it, continue to try different lines. Obviously there was a lot of time lost yesterday. Lost a whole session so didn’t really get that practice and getting the car to where it needed to be. Fortunately Valtteri did some great work yesterday, set-up-wise and so, that gave me some guidance. But yeah, I think it got closer towards the end but still there’s more time there. And I hope that tomorrow we can somehow capture that.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Max, you’ve looked so at home from the first lap, all weekend. Have you got something new on the car this weekend? What is it that’s making you look so confident out of track?
MV: I didn’t do any simulator sessions before I got here, so I guess that was the key. Normally I do quite a bit of simulator work! I also didn’t do it for Spa, and I have to say, out of the box, the car was actually quite OK – so I guess that’s the secret! I don’t know. We haven’t really driven this track a lot. Of course I’ve done a few show runs but that’s a completely different car. I only did two laps, I think, when the track was opened with the banking. But yeah, it’s a nice, flowing track, old school. A bit of a Suzuka feeling. Of course, Sector 1 in Suzuka is incredible. It’s difficult to find something like it. It’s really challenging and I really enjoy tracks like this.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Max, on your final Q3 run it looked like you crossed the line without using DRS. Did you just choose not to use it, was there a fault in the car at that point?
MV: Is that so? I don’t know! For me, the problem started earlier out of Turn 3. It’s quite bumpy and I had a double-shift, and I was two-tenths up on my lap and then I lost one and a half tenths, all the way to Turn 7. And then you also use more energy, because you’re a gear higher, and so I de-rated as well. So, I don’t know. I need to check. I was not aware that my DRS was closed to the line – but it’s not very long.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Max and Lewis, you’ve both said that it’s going to be difficult to overtake tomorrow. How important is that opening lap going to be in terms of Max, from your position, defending to Lewis, and Lewis trying to make that move on Max? Do you think we might see some fireworks on that first lap?
MV: I guess time will tell – but I think as drivers you always try to do the best start you can to Turn 1 and then see what happens afterwards. Yeah. I mean, like I said, everyone always tries to do their best right? On the first lap to just try and gain a position of defend a position. Depends where you are at.
LH: Not much more to add.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) To all three of you: I just wondered what you thought the best corner on the track was and why? Is it maybe Hugenholtzbocht turn three or Scheivlak, Turn 7 and also on the subject of turn three, what do you think of that type of corner that something that Formula 1 could use in the future and what benefits or disadvantages does it bring?
VB: Today my favourite was Turn 7. It was flat out, not super easily but it’s so fast. In the car it’s an incredible feeling. Yeah, Turn 7 and then Turn 8, I do really enjoy that. And banked corners, overall, they’re always nice. The more they’re banked, it makes the corner faster, it opens up more opportunities for different lines. I would imagine it’s also good for racing so they would be more than welcome in other tracks.
MV: Yeah, Scheivlak, Turn 7, it’s definitely the best but even as Valtteri said, after that, it’s just that whole… it’s just so flowing and so fast, you feel the grip of a Formula 1 car and with the banked corners, I think it’s very good. You could see it already a bit in Mugello as well. Of course the banking is not as severe as here but the thing is that when we have these cars which are so wide and have so much downforce, you cannot do the same line when you are behind so you need the opportunity to go either up or down, depends on how the corner is. So yeah, the more banking or the width of the track can help as long as we don’t have off camber corners because when it’s off cambered, you can only do one line even when you are behind, because if you want to go on the outside, you just lose so much grip. So it’s a lesson maybe, for other tracks or future tracks, that do not build any off camber corners.
LH: For me, I think Turn 3. Even though it’s our weakest corner, it’s amazing that the banking is very different to what we’ve seen in the past. Banked corners are really awesome to drive. Even 13 and 14 are great to drive also.
Q: Lewis, is Turn 14 here similar to the final corner at Indianapolis, back in the day? Do you remember?
LH: Similar. I think in Indy we were much quicker there. There was a much longer run to it so you were going through there faster but similar. Because it’s slower, it’s relatively easy for us. I think when you’re in Indy, you’re hitting much higher speeds through there. Still relatively easy, but with a different feeling coming from down the bank and back up as it is here.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport.com) To all three, following up on the circuit, really. It looks quite unconventional from the outside but absolutely spectacular. Is this the best track, in your view, that Formula 1 is currently racing at and do you feel comfortable with barriers being quite close to the circuit at some points?
MV: My favourite track is still Spa but for me, I think in general when you have quite a bit of downforce on the car, it’s always going to feel better, right, because the car is not sliding around as much and especially a track like this, where also you have a few blind entries, it’s all about just building up that confidence throughout the weekend which on some new tracks, where there’s so much run-off, you don’t really have that, because if you make a mistake you just run wide. Here, in some places you cannot make that mistake and run off because you get into the gravel and you can hit the walls so it’s a different kind of sensation to it and feeling but yeah, it’s definitely in my top five.
Q: And what about having the barriers quite close in some places?
MV: It’s old school, you never want to hit a barrier, it hurts but it’s part of it. We also race in Monaco, right? There, the barriers are, of course, even closer. I know that myself! But yeah, it’s part of it, it’s good. Of course, safety is important on the outside. I think also today we saw that. Nicholas had a big off but with the TecPro barriers it’s well protected. It’s never nice to hit it but it’s still very safe.
LH: I think it’s a great track. I like the old school circuits way better. I would just go along with all the other original circuits: Suzuka, Silverstone and Spa. They’re the kind of the OG circuits and this one’s been phenomenal to drive. I personally like that type of run off area. As Max was saying, it’s more old school and I think today people have been safe but it’s like the olden days in the sense that it doesn’t reward mistakes and that’s how they should be.
VB: Also goes definitely quite… well, it is high on my list as a track. I can’t say it’s the best one on the calendar but one of the good ones, for sure. And with the barriers, you tend to worry about them once you go off and you’re waiting for the impact, so you don’t really think about it but as a type of track, old school, I really enjoy it.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Max, you know you said that you weren’t aware that you didn’t have the DRS open on the run to the line; I just wondered if you had a rough idea of how much time that might be worth? It’s not the longest run on the calendar but presumably you would have sacrificed some lap time there.
MV: Yeah, I need to see, I had no clue that it was closed. Together, of course, what I said before with the double upshift, of course it’s not ideal. Was there a bit more time in it? Luckily it was enough for pole so yeah, I’ll have a look at it because I didn’t know.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport magazine) For all three of you: there have been some scenes that look ridiculous from the outside, cars going so slow and even stopping in the pit exit. Can I have your opinion on that please?
LH: I don’t think… I don’t really know why that’s ridiculous. We all need to get gaps, that’s just how it is. I don’t think it’s unsafe for anyone, it’s in the pit lane, everyone’s going slow so you just try to optimise your time and you need… it’s a downforce dependent circuit. You can’t be up the back of someone when you do a lap, so you need at least a six/seven second gap.
MV: It doesn’t look the best, of course, from the outside, but yeah, we all needed a gap. I complained on the radio why everyone was stopping out of the pits but luckily at the end of the day we all had our gaps and everything was fine. I think it’s more, of course, if you do get held up or… I think it was in Q1 out of 11 or 12, there were like five/ six cars in the way of Seb, I think it was. That, of course, is not what you want. It’s better, of course, that it happens in the exit of the pit lane.
VB: Nothing to add, really. It obviously increases the effect – the more cars are slowing down and in the front then the ones at the back of the train need to slow down even more because everyone is getting bigger gaps so… But at least everyone got the lap, that’s the main thing.