Hungary Qualifying: Top Three Press Conference

Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three press conference after qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, Round 12 of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship at Hungaroring featuring pole-winner Goerge Russell (Mercedes), second-placed Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) and third-placed Charles Leclerc (Ferrari).

Parc Ferme Interviews conducted by Naomi Schiff

Q: Charles, maybe not the result you wanted today but do you take any satisfaction in the fact that your main rival in the championship is only 10th?

Charles Leclerc: Yeah, I mean, mostly we are focusing on ourselves. So today, it’s not been a great day. I’ve been struggling massively with the tyres and just had a lot of inconsistency to put the tyres in the right window with those conditions. And so I struggled to put a lap together, but we’ll look into it. I’m pretty sure we’ve got the pace in the car to come back a bit more at the front tomorrow. So we’ll focus on that and hopefully we have a better Sunday.

Q: Your overall pace in the Ferrari garage this weekend has been pretty impressive. So does that give you comfort for tomorrow’s race, which seems to be in your favour?

CL: Yeah, the pace is there. So we just need to understand what went on with the tyres today and I’m pretty sure that we can come back tomorrow.

Q: Good luck for tomorrow. Carlos, congratulations. It seemed to be your qualifying today but just at the last minute, George got the pole position. You seem to be much more comfortable in that Ferrari at the moment.

Carlos Sainz: Yeah, definitely. Feeling better and better every race and every qualifying session. Today I felt like I had a base to do a pole position. It went away from us there in the last sector with a few snaps through the lap. But congratulations to George because he must have done a pretty good lap there in the Merc. And yeah, we will race from P2 tomorrow.

Q: Well, we saw you come through the field in France, so we know that you know how to battle. This track is not easy to overtake on, but do you have the hope that you can win the race tomorrow?

CS: Yeah, I think we have the pace. Obviously the start and the tyre management will play a key role like always. The Mercedes race pace is a bit of an unknown and we will have to see how the race plays out tomorrow. And if we can get them on the start then better but I think it will be an exciting race.

Q: Okay, well, we wish you the best of luck. George massive congratulations. The fans are obviously extremely happy for your first pole position in Formula 1. How are you feeling?

George Russell: Over the moon, absolutely buzzing. I mean, yesterday was probably our worst Friday of the season and everybody last night was working so hard. We didn’t really know what direction to go in. And then that last lap, got round Turn 1, mega Turn 1, went round Turn 2, Turn 2 was mega. And the lap time just kept on coming and kept on coming. And I came across the line, looked at the screen and saw we went P1. And that was an incredible, incredible feeling.

Q: Well, it’s obviously an incredible personal moment for you. But it’s also an incredible moment for Team Mercedes. So are you telling us that Mercedes is back?

GR: I don’t know, to be honest. We need to look into it and understand where that came from today. There’s a few ideas we have. At the end of the day, there’s no points for qualifying. But we generally have good race pace, but the Ferraris looked very fast on Friday, but we’re going to be absolutely going for it. But either way, that was a pretty special day, no doubt.

Press Conference

Q: A very warm welcome to the top three qualifiers for the 2022 FIA Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix. In third place, Charles Leclerc. In second place, Carlos Sainz. And taking his first pole position in Formula 1 our polesitter, George Russell. George, as I say, your first pole in F1. And at such a demanding and technical racetrack as the Hungaroring as well. Very well done. You’ve had a few minutes to reflect now. First of all, describe the significance of this moment for you and for your career.

GR: For me, I’m not really thinking about myself to be honest, but for us as a team it’s massive. Yesterday was probably our toughest Friday of the whole season. We were all here until 11pm last night, scratching our heads and morale was pretty down. And we felt pretty lost. And to come back and grab pole position 24 hours later, it’s just such a [good] feeling, because I know what we went through last night. And there are no points for qualifying but I guess getting this result for all of us is pretty, pretty huge.

Q: How different is the car you’ve been driving today compared to the one you had on Friday?

GR: I think today, we just got it perfectly in the window on that last lap. I went round Turn 1 and I was a tenth and a half up. I went round Turn 2 and I was three tenths up and everything was just perfectly in the window. And when you’re on one of those laps, and you’re in the groove, in the rhythm, it just keeps on coming and keeps on coming. I think everybody struggled quite a lot with tyres. A lot of people struggled this morning in the wet with the tyres. And we’ve been going all over the place to try and get our heads around it. But fortunately, we sort of nailed it on that last run.

Q: George, you’ve driven some mighty qualifying laps in your career. How good was that one?

GR: Dare I say better than the Spa one, I don’t know! I don’t think the feeling of this pole and the feeling of that Spa lap, I don’t think I’ll ever have qualifyings that will ever come close to these two feelings. Because obviously this was my first. As a team we’ve struggled so much. At Williams we were so far behind so to get that second was massive. So you know, this is what racing is about. This is why I wake up every single day and I want to be world champion, because feeling like this is something you can’t really dream of.

Q: No dry running this morning, a difficult day yesterday. So how much of an unknown is your long-run pace going into tomorrow’s Grand Prix?

GR: It’s a total unknown. We’ve turned the car upside down since yesterday. Conditions are changing and it’s going to be much cooler tomorrow. Our high fuel pace was probably the worst it’s ever been yesterday and Ferrari look pretty exceptional. But you know, we’re behind the curve at the moment, but we’ll be absolutely going for it. And, you know, victory is what we’re going for.

Q: Carlos, coming to you now. So close to another pole position for you. How good was the car today? How good was that final lap?

CS: Yeah, it was good. I felt like today I had everything more-or-less under control through the whole Qualifying. We keep making steps in the right direction, which keeps getting me more comfortable and more together with the car, and today there were some good laps over there. But yeah, probably that Q3 Run 2 lap was nothing special. And it was not good enough for pole. So, a bit disappointed, because with a perfect lap for sure I could have been up there. But I guess George did a very good lap today in the Merc and he deserves that one. So congrats.

Q: And given the problems that George has just described, that Mercedes went through yesterday. How much confidence do you have going into this grand prix?

CS: Well, clearly the track conditions, as they’ve switched, especially particularly on Soft tyres, maybe they haven’t gone in our direction because yesterday we seem to have a pace advantage that we certainly didn’t have today, even Q1, Q2. Going through those two sessions, we were not… we didn’t have the margin that we had in other races this year. And we had to make sure we put on a set of new tyres and do it at the right time because the midfield was certainly closer to us than where they were yesterday. And for us, we’ve been struggling to get the tyres into temperature over one lap here. We are certainly not particularly happy about today, the way the car and everything was handling, but with a perfect lap, I could have put it up there. So, that’s why I’m a bit disappointed.

Q: Charles, coming to you now. It wasn’t the smoothest of sessions for you but you chipped away at it. How good was the car on that final run?

CL: No, today I struggled massively, especially in Q3. Q1, Q2, I felt quite good. We were doing good steps in the right direction but then in Q3, I don’t know what happened. The track changed a little bit, the sun came out, and suddenly the tyres were definitely not in the right window. So, I struggled a lot with inconsistency. I did the first lap in Q3, that was quite slow. And then the second lap that was more or less okay. But yeah, we paid a little bit the price of not having the tyres in the right window. But yeah, congratulations to George. It’s a special one: the first pole, and he did an amazing job.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the track evolution during the session. It was pretty breathless. How difficult was it to keep a gauge on that?

CL: I mean, on my side, it was quite okay Q1 and Q2, but then Q3, for some reason. I Don’t know what we did; we need to analyse because there was something that was feeling a bit weird. So yeah, we’ll look into it because the feeling was just not good.

Q: Tyres have dominated qualifying today. Give us a little indication of strategy tomorrow. How many pit stops?

CL: Between one and three! We’ll see. I think the performance is there. We are quite quick, so hopefully we can gain some places tomorrow.

Questions from the floor

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) George, I know you touched on it briefly but Spa last year; Russia last year, this one today? In terms of pure driving, where you’re taking it to the limit, which one do you think was your best?

GR: I think the nature of this circuit, when you get everything absolutely hooked up, nothing comes close, because it’s so fast, so flowing, every corner leads on to the next. It’s so difficult to compare very different conditions, but pure driving probably the one today.

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) A question to both Ferrari drivers. Given it’s been a comparatively bad day for Red Bull, was it important for the team to hold talks tonight on driver order and how to nail strategy to really capitalise on it tomorrow?

CL: Honestly, I mean, at the end, we need just to do the best job possible. So, focus on ourselves. I don’t think there’s anything needed there, or just obviously not taking any risk in between cars. But that’s normal. So, I don’t think anything special for tomorrow, no.

CS: Nothing to add.

Q: (Frédéric Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to George. You said that you worked yesterday very late, was it to put the tyre on the right temperature today, or to have a good car for tomorrow’s race?

GR: They were more, probably, chats of overall philosophy. And if we’re going in the right direction, as a team. We’ve been closing the gap but obviously yesterday was a disastrous day. We believe that there were many reasons as to why, and they all added up to making us well over a second off the pace. But that felt like we were being a bit generous. But then to have a day like today. Maybe P1 on pure pace – obviously Max had a bit of an issue – who knows, but we definitely turned it around. And we’re probably back to where we kind-of hope to hope to be.

Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber – Agence EFE) Question for Carlos. Carlos, if you improve your result of today, tomorrow you’ll have your second victory in Formula 1. What shall happen tomorrow for this to be true?

CS: I guess get a good start first of all, and then nail the tyre management. I think it’s going to be quite tricky. There was quite a lot of deg yesterday, on all tyres. I think the race is going to be a long race. 70 laps. Yeah, I think it’s still a lot to play for. As I said, the race pace of the Merc is going to be an unknown and we don’t know if they’re going to be as quick as today or not. And I think we have to stay open-minded, do the best we can. But yeah, I felt very comfortable with the car all weekend so we should be quick tomorrow.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA). Well done George, you said after you finish your lap, that today basically counts for nothing, it’s all about tomorrow. So, have you allowed yourself to imagine what it would be like to win? Obviously getting pole is great, but winning’s another feat altogether.

GR: No, you don’t even think about it. You take each day at a time; you don’t get carried away with yourself and you just focus. Step by step, getting off the line, good start, good first stint. Is it going to be a one, two or three stop? Charles said it’s going to be between a one and a three. I don’t think he was probably joking there. Based on Friday, could be a three but based on the conditions of tomorrow, it might be a one. So, we know we have, relatively speaking, a faster race car than we do a qualifying car. If that’s going to be the case again this weekend, I’ll be very shocked. I think we just absolutely nailed today 100 per cent and got every last millisecond out of it.

Q: (Panagiatis Seitanidas – Car Magazine, Greece) George, congratulations on the pole position. Given the fact that this is a track where you can defend, how confident you are that you’re going to add your name on the list of the first time winners on this track?

GR: Hopefully, we’re not planning to defend and we’re just driving off into the sunset. But I know the guys around me and even Max, they’re not going to make it easy. As I said, generally speaking, we feel like we have a faster race car. This is a good place where you need a good qualifying, no doubt, but it’s still a circuit that if you have a faster race car, it counts for more than if you have a faster qualifying car. So if it’s a two or a three stop race, you won’t be able to defend, let’s say, because the other cars can go early, they can go late and they’ll find a way past.

Q: (Annett Johanics – Origo.hu) George almost all the time you seem very confident. Where is it coming from? Have you ever doubted that you will achieve this, what you have achieved today?

GR: Personally I’ve never doubted it. I think it’s clear we’ve had a difficult season as a team. Qualifying historically for me has been one of my strengths. This year I’ve struggled a little bit but Budapest is a circuit I’ve always loved, I’ve always been fast here and I always knew if the car and myself were working perfectly together there’s no reason why we can’t achieve great things. So yeah, tonight, good night’s sleep, focus everything for tomorrow. But this is a huge day for us regardless.

Q: (Eva Vandor – HVG) To the Ferrari drivers: Max is starting from P10 tomorrow, does that look like a safe distance from your point of view?

CS: I don’t know if it’s safe, I don’t know what do you mean by safe, but I think tomorrow our target is to win the race not focus too much where Max is because we know that if we want to get points in the championship, the easiest way to do that is by winning so independent of where Max is we want to go for that win.

CL: Yeah, nothing to add. I think we’ll try and go for the win. And, and yeah, Max is starting tenth so it might take him a bit more laps to come back to the front but we’ll just focus on ourselves and try to win the race.

Q: (Godina Zsolt – F1vilag) To the Ferrari drivers: you were quite good on tyre management in Austria and in France as well. Tomorrow will be much cooler than it was yesterday. How confident are you regarding this?

CL: I think things will change quite a bit compared to what we’ve seen yesterday so we just need to be able to adapt as quickly as possible. On my side I struggled with tyres today but tomorrow the race is going to be a complete different thing. So yeah, quite a bit of work tonight to understand in which direction it’s going to go for tomorrow and to be as ready as possible.

CS: Yeah, we need to see how with these conditions, this wind, how the car behaves in stabilised conditions, you know. Today’s a soft tyre, you start dealing with it quite cold out of the box and the car is behaving one way or the other. But tomorrow when the tyres are up to temperature in a sustainable condition the car could change completely, and hopefully we’re going to find a bit more pace than today and we can have a strong run in the first stint and go from there. I think the car has been quick all weekend so there’s no reason why not to believe that tomorrow we should be strong.

Q: (Kevin Scheuren – Motorsport-total.com) George, you’re very good, very well against Lewis Hamilton this year, this season. Now your first pole position for you personally, how much would it mean for you personally if you would have the first win of the season for Mercedes and as far as going up, confirmation of the path you’ve taken over the last few years to come down?

GR: That stat being the first one to get the first victory for your team is meaningless. I think we’re both here wanting to fight for World Championships and to do that you need pole positions and you need race victories. We need to work together. Today was a great day, but something like that I I’m not focused about, I just want to do the best job possible, as simple as that.

Q: (Alto Ono – Racefans) George, you mentioned that you turned the car upside down last night. What things did you and the team focus on in terms of changes overnight?

GR: Well, we made a big step forward so I’m not going to tell you about that. In Formula 1, it’s (about) fine margins and there’s so many fine margins and so many different aspects and when you get everything into that perfect window, the car can just fly. Equally, if one thing is just out, it can compromise everything. So there’s no guarantees, the changes we made overnight will translate into performance tomorrow, there’s no guarantees it will translate into performance in the future races, but for sure, for today, for the conditions it did. So let’s review again tomorrow.

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) George, you’re being so measured and calm and controlled about it. Can you give us a sense of the emotions that must be going through you? How you feel about this?

GR: To be honest, I’m already thinking about tomorrow. I’m thinking about the run off the line, turn one, how can I try and keep a lead, and what I’m going to have to do to win the race. You know, getting a pole position is great, having a good Saturday is great but as I learned quite a lot last year, and as I’ve also learned a lot this year, Saturday doesn’t mean a huge amount. Sunday is when the points and prizes are won but I’m just so happy for what it means to us as a team, the progress we’ve made, and obviously going into the summer break, having a Saturday like this and a qualifying like this was huge. So we’ll do our best to have a great day tomorrow. But yeah, I think we can be happy that we’ve at least had one good Saturday from the first 12 or 13 races.