Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three press conference after qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, Round 1 of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship, at Sakhir.
Featuring pole winner Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), second-placed, Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and third-placed Carlos Sainz (Ferrari).
Parc Ferme interviews conducted by David Coulthard
Q: The new era of Formula 1 and Charles the first pole position of the year. What a fantastic start for Ferrari, they’re back!
Charles Leclerc: Yeah, it feels good. The last two years have been incredibly difficult for the team and yeah we were quite hopeful that this new opportunity for us was an opportunity to be back in the front. I think we have worked together extremely well as a team to find ourselves again in a position to fight for better places. Very happy with today. It has been a very tricky qualifying session. I wasn’t completely happy with my driving but I managed to do that lap in Q3 and we’re starting from pole so I’m very happy.
Q: Very humble as ever, saying you weren’t happy with your driving. You were the fastest man today. Put us in the cockpit. We have a radically different car, we have different tyres, it’s a new season and it’s the first time you are running in absolute qualifying performance. How di dit feel in comparison and is there any room to improve?
CL: Of course there is, of course. Also from the driving point it’s completely different compared to last year. Testing was very useful for this and I tried many different driving styles and I still have to find the perfect one. So yeah, there is definitely more to come, hopefully, from us.
Q: Pace-wise we have got the first comparison. It’s never the same day in history but we can see the lap time comparison now with these new cars. We have been talking a lot about a little bit of increase in pace and maybe not quite so nimble at low speed. when it came to qualifying trim though, what was the feeling?
CL: It feels quite good. We were pretty sure that Red Bull was going to be a bit quicker than us also in qualifying but yeah, good surprise that wasn’t the case. Now we need to finish the weekend on a high tomorrow. It’s not going to be easy. Tyre degradation here is a thing, especially with this increase in weight this year. So we need to focus on that and hopefully have a good race tomorrow.
Q: So the message is that today was great but cautious approach for the actual race pace relative to Red Bull?
CL: Yeah, yeah, definitely I will stay cautious. The pace is there but the race is long and anything can happen so we need to stay on it.
Q: Max great to see you here in the top three. Not the position you would have wanted but what it does do is confirm that Ferrari look like your competitor right now. Was there anything left there or was that pure performance on this day?
Max Verstappen: It’s a bit difficult to tell. I think it was a bit hit and miss. Q2 seemed quite good and then Q3 was a bit more of a struggle to get the balance together. Nevertheless I think it was alright. I think we have a good car, a good race car, which at the end of the day is the most important thing. It was a good day overall. It’s a good start to the new era.
Q: You actually seen, not subdued, but Charles is talking a little bit about let’s see what the race is tomorrow. This is the first opportunity for you all to really exploit the performance of these cars. Let’s see what it was like in your cockpit. How was the balance, how did the car feel with these radical changes?
MV: Not fantastic but also not too bad, otherwise you could not be in this position. There are a few things of course to look into and we will try to do better for next time. But here it’s a bit of… you want to be good in qualifying but you really want to make sure your car is working for the race because the tyres are really struggling a lot more there and it is a bit different to some other tracks. It was nice you know. Really nice battle with Carlos and with Charles at the end. They did a good over the winter and hopefully it’s going to be an exciting race.
Q: You must be disappointed that Mercedes are off the pace?
MV: Very. Very…
Q: Carlos, race drivers always want to be number one in the team in terms of outright pace. Was there any more in the car today or was that what you could deliver?
Carlos Sainz: Well, there was that extra tenth that Charles managed to extract at the end but I am quite happy with the progress I have made this weekend. I have been very far off, really struggling with this car, to understand how to drive it and I’ve been more than half a second behind all weekend, so to be even fighting for the pole position today in qualifying was good news for me and to put together a good lap there at the beginning of Q3 and not managing to extract that last tenth is a pity but at the same time it is deserved. Charles has been ahead the whole weekend and he deserved the pole position and he did such a great job.
Q: Are you able to tell the fans around the world, you’ve been working with your engineers to bring that deficit down. How do you go about? Is it using data, working with your engineers, braking later?
CS: The problem is I’ve never been so far behind. Last year at the max, I was a couple of tenths in some circuits where I was not entirely comfortable. This weekend I have had to fight a seven to eight-tenths deficit from FP1 and having to catch up. I just don’t understand the car fully yet. I am struggling. I am thinking a lot while driving and this takes a bit of space out of my head when IO am driving, but at the same time I was in the fight for pole position so I cannot complain too much., They managed to extract that last tenth when it counted but for how much I am thinking while driving, I’ll take it.
Q: Welcome to the top three qualifiers for the 2022 FIA Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix. In third place, Carlos Sainz, in second place, Max Verstappen, and taking the 10th pole position of his career, our pole sitter, Charles Leclerc. Many congratulations Charles, what a brilliant final lap by you. Just how much pleasure does this performance give you?
CL: A lot. Obviously, the last two years for the team have been extremely difficult. After 2019, that was positive, we had two very difficult years where I knew it was just a matter of time before we got back to the top because we were working well but until you actually do it, you always have doubts. And finally this season we managed to do a car that is back to where it deserves, which is to be at least in the mix for the top positions. And today the car was great. It wasn’t an easy qualifying session very difficult to put the tyres in the right window and to actually put a lap together. I struggled quite a bit during qualifying. But the last Q3 lap was good enough for Paul, so very happy about this.
Q: You said it was the smoothest session for you. Is that what you’re referring to when you talk about the tyre temps??
CL: Yeah, exactly. It was very difficult. For some reason it was… I don’t know why I didn’t have this problem during the whole weekend, but this evening was a bit more difficult on my side and, and struggling especially for the first sector. I’ve been quite slow during all qualifying even on my fast lap, but after that the car was feeling very good.
Q: And Charles, how much confidence does it give you to have translated your pace in testing to qualifying when it matters?
CL: It definitely feels very good. Again, there’s been a lot of work, we’ve had a very smooth test, we kept more or less the same car from test number one, which helps us with the knowledge of this car, we know the car quite well. But we were quite sure that Red Bull will be in front by a little bit. But actually, once we put everything together, the car seems to be very competitive. So it’s nice.
Q: Max, coming to you, another great lap by yourself, just talk us through the lap, that final one of Q3.
MV: It was a bit hit and miss, just getting the balance together. Of course, this track is always quite difficult for that, just the layout, with the wind, that makes it a bit more tricky and, yeah, I had a really good feeling in Q2, and then my first run in Q3, I didn’t really enjoy it. Just sliding around a bit much and then I made a tiny correction for the last run, which helped me in some areas but then suddenly, I lost like a tenth in one corner, then gained a bit, then lost a bit, so it was a bit hit and miss everywhere and that’s of course, not what you want, but nevertheless, I mean it’s the first race of the season and we are competitive, and that’s the most important. Now, we just need to keep working on the car and understand these things when you really take the fuel out and are really pushing it to the limit to see what you can do better. So, overall of course, it’s a great start and also for tomorrow, I think we’ve got a good race car. All the time when I’ve been on race fuel the car has been feeling quite stable and good on tyres, and that’s of course very important.
Q: Now, there was no need to run your start tyre in Q2 this evening. How did that change your approach to the session?
MV: We’ve had weekends last year where of course you want to start on the harder compounds, and some weekends you just did what we did now, right? So, at the end of the day, nothing really changed. And anyway, the compounds are, of course, very different, compared to the differences we had last year.
Q: Carlos, fastest after the first run on Q3, do you know where that last tenth went?
CS: Once I look into the data, probably I’ll find out, not yet but glad to be fighting for pole position. It’s been a very difficult weekend for me. I’ve been… slow! Simply as that. Charles has been doing a much better job than me all weekend and I have been playing catch-up. Honestly there have been points this weekend that I was very far behind so by the time I hit quali and I was fighting for pole, I was a bit more relieved but yeah, in the last lap he did a very good lap. I think he put together everything and at that point you just need to congratulate and say good job to a team, no? Because it’s great news to be to be fighting back in pole positions, first time for me also fighting for pole. So yeah, quite, quite interesting, and an exciting times ahead.
Q: You say it’s been a difficult weekend for you so far. How prepared are you for tomorrow’s race?
CS: Not entirely prepared, because the long runs yesterday that I did, I was also slow. So that’s my last reference. I don’t know if I will manage to translate the qualifying pace into race pace. So, a bit of a question mark there for me. But I will work overnight to try and find out. At the moment I’m just having to think a lot while driving and it’s taking quite a lot of space out of my head while driving because every corner I need to really understand what the car is doing and I probably just don’t exactly know what’s going on. But overall, we managed to put ourselves back in the fight and tomorrow we are in the fight, so we will go for it.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to the three drivers. Have you thought that Mercedes could be in the mix? And do you think that they still can be able to win tomorrow?
CL: I, personally, still had the doubt after FP3. Obviously, it was quite obvious that they were not at ease. But yeah, considering what happens in the years before they were hiding their gains quite a lot, maybe a bit more this year? Well, actually, they weren’t hiding their gains. They were struggling more than other years. So yeah, but I still expected them maybe to be fighting for… with us. Then for the race tomorrow. I mean, considering their pace of today, I don’t think so but let’s wait and see.
MV: Well, you can clearly see of, course, the bouncing they have. I think the car is not so easy to drive. So again, also, for them, it seems a bit like a hit and miss. Like sometimes it can do a decent lap and sometimes it’s a bit more difficult to nail the balance. So yeah, I think they just need to figure out a few things. But I think if they can figure out that package can be really quick. So, we just have to keep working hard. And, of course, it’s nice to be ahead now but I also know from last year, how quickly they can develop a car. And actually, at one point, it was very difficult to beat that car. So, things can change really quickly and especially with new regulations as well. You know, I think there’s still a lot of unknown areas in the car where you suddenly can find a lot of performance. So yeah, it’s good for now, from our side, but I expect them for sure to work very hard and try to close that gap.
CS: Yeah, I think yeah, they will be back. I think Mercedes have been known also, not only for starting strongly, but mainly for finishing strong in the last few seasons. And maybe they’ve been… for sure, they’ve been honest and it is true they have been struggling because they were not in the fight for pole today. And it’s a surprise to see. But at the same time, I strongly believe that they will get themselves back in the mix. They are a great team, and they will be back fighting with us. So, we need to keep an eye on them and keep fighting with our development because this year, their rate of development is going to be huge.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to Charles please. Charles, you mentioned it wasn’t the smoothest of qualifying sessions, you were behind Carlos after that first run in Q3. Where do you think you found the time on your final lap? Where were you particularly better that meant you got pole position today?
CL: Just putting everything together. Before it was a bit too messy. There was always a mistake here and there. On my first lap, I nearly lost it in Turn Seven, which was quite tricky, but still managed to put everything together, more or less. And again, struggling with the tyres, especially for the first sector I’ve been I’ve been struggling a lot. So in the last run it felt a little bit better for that but we still need to understand because it didn’t feel as good as it did for the whole weekend. So yeah, there was maybe a little bit of performance left there.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for Max. Max you said you changed something between the first outing in Q3 to the to the second one. We heard you on the radio complaining about something. Was it just a prep you did different or did you change something on the front wing, tyre pressures or whatever?
MV: No, front wing as well. But yeah, also basically my two laps in Q3 were not like Q2. The first one just because we tried something different and the second one because I had to create a gap, so that it was not ideal, but yeah, we will look into it. I mean, it’s not a big drama.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question. Max based on how the car felt in testing, how it felt in the practice sessions, are you surprised that the Ferrari beat you today in qualifying?
MV: I always knew it was going to be really close. And it’s really going to be about, you know, just the details because when you’re that close, I think, between the teams then when you’re really pushing to the limit in qualifying, it’s all about just finding that last bit to really make a difference. And I thought I had it in Q2, I felt really comfortable, but then it just slipped away a little bit in Q3. But it’s okay. I know it’s there, so that’s the positive.
Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Diario AS) Question for Carlos. What kind of race are you imagine for tomorrow, starting third, especially considering if these cars are easier to follow now?
CS: I personally think if the pace of the three cars are similar, I think it could be exciting race, because we are actually able to follow closer, we don’t need to open such big gaps to manage tyres, like we had to do in the past. At least that’s my personal feeling. So, it could be a bit more close racing. It doesn’t mean like it could be overtaking all over the place but maybe the cars can run a bit closer between each other, in cases where the pace is similar. From what I’ve seen, Max in particular, had very strong race pace, yesterday, and today, whenever he put the high fuel on. Maybe he has a small advantage there. So, as a team, we need to make sure that we try and do a step for tomorrow, and we can keep up with him and keep him behind, and if we can pass him that’s better.
Q: (Carlos Miguel – Marca) I have two questions. One is for Carlos. Are you thinking to start a big attack to Max and to Max, are you afraid of the good starts normally made by Carlos?
MV: I know Carlos is very good in the starts, already back in Toro Rosso it was the case.
CS: I don’t know how our starts compare. With the new cars the start performance has changed quite a bit. And it feels different inside the cockpit. So I don’t know where we are. It’s the same that we didn’t know where we are coming into qualifying. We don’t know where we are in start performance so there is a big question mark there. Obviously if I get a good run at the start and in the clean side, of course, you need to be in attack mode, no, but it’s such an unknown how much the others are better or worse at the starts that it’s impossible to know.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazine.com) Question for both Ferrari drivers: you sounded a bit concerned about the race pace. Yesterday, it looked like you did two laps on the soft tyre, didn’t do too many long runs. Do you think you sacrificed a bit the race pace for pole position?
CL: No, I don’t think so. I think we did actually quite a bit of high fuel laps during testing so that’s why maybe we – in FP2 – we didn’t do as much as we normally do. But yeah, our priority was still to get some information on the short runs, which we did yesterday, which definitely helped for today’s qualifying performance but I don’t think we have compromised in any way the performance for tomorrow’s race.
CS: I don’t know really. I have been chasing the one lap performance all weekend, this is true because I’ve been far behind and I’ve been focusing on that so the long run is a big unknown for me. Charles’ long runs don’t look bad at all, but still looks like the Red Bull had a very strong long run. So no, we haven’t compromised the car but at the same time, I haven’t been focusing too much on it.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Another question to the two Ferrari drivers. What is the atmosphere like inside the team having put together this new car, what’s gone on in testing, and of course this great result today in qualifying?
CL: Well with today I don’t know, I haven’t seen the team yet but I’m pretty sure that everyone is very happy. Again, I’ve been… and with Carlos also last year, it’s been a very difficult year. And it’s not easy after 2019 to do a step, a step down and just not be fighting for as exciting positions as you were before is never easy for our team. But I think we reacted the best in the best way possible and then during these tests, we straightaway felt that there was a good feeling with the car but we never really knew where we were compared to the others. I mean, it looked good, but it was only winter testing so to finally show it for real in qualifying, now that everyone is at 100% feels extremely good and I’m pretty sure that the whole team is extremely happy about these results today but we are also aware that we cannot relax on this. Red Bull will for sure develop furthermore their car and Mercedes so we need to we need to keep pushing and hopefully finalise tomorrow.
CS: No I think we… the team has been extremely focused in the last few days, we haven’t believed at any point that it was going to be easy. And I think we did a very smooth qualifying, no mistakes. Now we need to keep it that way going into tomorrow. Yeah, I see the team focused, confident but not overconfident or not over celebrating at all. We have the reality that we know we are Ferrari, that it is part where we should be and we cannot get too excited about it. It’s obviously good news and everyone will be happy today but it’s still a long way to go in a year. And it’s only the first qualifying and first race.
Q: (Fred Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to the three drivers: have you any concern about the bouncing with the whole fuel load during the race tomorrow?
MV: No I think we had a nice way of setting up the car for that. It’s not really been a big deal.
CL: Yeah, for us maybe it’s a bit trickier but I believe that it shouldn’t be too much of an issue tomorrow. It’s quite inconsistent and it’s difficult to predict whenever you are going to have it or not. So we’ll see tomorrow. But until now, it hasn’t been a big concern. Of course, you can feel it a little bit but it wasn’t too much of a problem for me.
CS: Same I think it’s been a lot more under control this weekend and in Barcelona, for example but it’s still in the back of our minds, it’s still happening now and then, also in qualifying we had some instances of it and maybe it was a bit tricky but come tomorrow, you’re pushing a bit less so I don’t expect it to affect us too much.
Q: (Matt Coch – Speedcafe.com) The event notes said that the white line was the edge of the track and we saw in qualifying a few drivers appearing to exceed that but not having their time deleted. What have you been told about track limits? And how comfortable are you with that in tomorrow’s race?
CS: I don’t know who you’re talking about, who didn’t get the lap deleted for exceeding the white line. If it was in turn four then I’m surprised because turned four, it’s been very clear to all of us that you cannot go over the white line. If it was somewhere else on track. I’m not sure they were monitoring us as precisely as turn four. For turn four, that is the corner where you gain the most advantage by running wide. You say there’s been people not penalised for going wide then maybe I’m a bit surprised.
Q: Charles, is it very clear what you’ve been told?
CL: Yes, yes. It has been very clear. Yeah, you just need to be to have one wheel within the white line, everywhere, which I think is good. I will maybe prefer to have the curb because you fill it a little bit more but if it’s consistent, the white line is great, too. And it was very clear for me.
MV: Yeah, yeah, it was very clear.
Q: Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) To the two Ferrari drivers: you’re both in the top three. There’s an Alfa Romeo and a Haas in Q3 as well. What does that say about the step that Ferrari has made with its new engine for this year?
CL: I haven’t seen the data yet but it definitely feels better than last year and it’s a step in the right direction. I think that obviously, the one Haas and the Alfa shows that we’ve made a step forward but it’s not to underestimate also the work that they’ve done because they were also very quick in corners, so yeah, I think it’s a combination of both the car and the engine but speaking of ourselves, it’s definitely a step forward and we look quite strong in the straights now so it’s good to see this.
CS: No, I think we cannot underestimate obviously the progress done on the power unit side so just a big thank you, and a great job to everyone on the power unit department because for sure it’s helping also the other teams. We need to keep pushing, because it’s not like Max was slow in the straights at all or the Mercs, so we need to keep pushing on that front but at least this year it looks like we’ve done another step in the right direction, and it’s good to see from the engine department.