Full transcript from the top three press conference after qualifying for the United States Grand Prix, Round 19 of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship, at The Circuit of the Americas.
Featuring top three in the session, pole winner Carlos Sainz (Ferrari); second-placed Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and third-placed Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing).
Parc Ferme interviews conducted by Danica Patrick
Q: Max, it’s been a very emotional day for the whole team at Red Bull to lose Dietrich. Tell me how you’re feeling right now.
Max Verstappen: Yeah, I mean it’s been hard news I think for everyone. I think what he has meant for Red Bull but also for the sport and especially also for me, what he has done for me in general, my career so far and generally my life, you know. It’s really tough. It’s a very tough day and yeah, we tried of course and we gave it everything today in qualifying. Unfortunately, we missed out by a little bit. But there’s still a race ahead of course, and yeah, we’re going to try to make him proud tomorrow.
Q: What’s it going to take to win from the second row? Everybody that’s won here has won from the first row, with obviously how big this would be to get your 13th win in the season and also with the news today. To win tomorrow, what are you going to have to do?
MV: Well, I think our car normally in the race is a bit stronger than qualifying and I think already today in qualifying it was very fine margins. If you could switch your tyres on a bit better, I think that would have made a difference. But nonetheless, you know, we are there and I’m expecting a good race tomorrow.
Q: Charles, tell me about that lap. This is a tricky track. There’s fast, there’s slow stuff. How hard is it to put one whole lap together and is there something out there that could have been different that would have set you on the pole?
Charles Leclerc: It is obviously really difficult, especially with the wind, the car changes a lot from lap to lap. But yeah, overall, I did my best. The last lap wasn’t the best. Carlos did a better job today and deserves to be on pole. I’ll be starting a bit further back because of the penalty. But the goal is to try and come back to the front as quickly as possible.
Q: This is a sad day for everyone with the loss of Dietrich today. Tell me about what it means to have someone like that in the sport, that believes in racing, and everything that we love so much, to lose someone like that?
CL: It is incredibly sad. But apart from everything that he has done in his career, which is incredible, he’s a human being and it is a really sad loss for motor sport. So yeah, all my thoughts go to the family and friends.
Q: How much are you thinking about winning the race tomorrow versus the championship? Is there anything that you plan to do differently? Are you going to be careful in any way, because the championship is so close for second place?
CL: Yeah, well, I’ll give my best as always. Again, we are starting I think 12th or 11th with the engine penalty that we have. So yeah, I’ll give my best. No crazy risks but if there’s an opportunity I will I’ll be here to take it.
Q: Good luck. Carlos, what an incredible lap. Walk me through the lap. How was that for you? Were you in flow?
Carlos Sainz: It was fun, a lot of fun. Very tricky out there with these winds that we have today. So gusty that every corner is a bit of an adventure with these cars. You don’t know how much grip you’re going to get or how much grip to expect but I managed to put together a good lap without mistakes and yeah, pole position that was a long time coming after a few qualies in the dry, getting very close to it but not quite getting there.
Q: What does it take to have a good day on Sunday, with how easy it is to make mistakes? Like, what is it that you’re going to have to put together to stay where you’re at?
CS: Yeah, I’m not going to lie, I think for tomorrow Red Bull are still favourites. I think they normally have the better race pace. They normally get us in the race because they have a very, yeah, Max does a great job and Red Bull has a very good car in race trim. But we’re going to do everything we can to try and stay ahead tomorrow and win the race, which would be an amazing way to start these last four races.
Q: Carlos, what a tremendous qualifying session for you, just talk us through that final lap of Q3?
CS: Yeah, it was, it was good. Right from Q1 I had a good feeling with a car. So yeah, it was all about building it up until Q3 and putting the lap together in Q3. Yeah, it was quite tricky out there, a lot of wind, which means in some corners you never know what to expect. You have to have faith that the car is going to stay stuck to the ground and carry a lot of speed without knowing what the wind is going to do. But yeah, a bit of an adventure out there, but it was cool. It was a lot of fun. Like always, Austin is a great track to drive and I always enjoy it.
Q: You told us on Thursday that your one lap pace is there now. Can you tell us a little bit more about what has clicked between you and your car?
CS: It’s been a long year, obviously, from the beginning of the year struggling with the car and little by little making steps forward. I feel like the last five to seven races have been very close to the limit already in quali, but the pole position in the dry was never quite coming. It has been extremely tight with these two guys since before the summer break. But for some reason or another, I was falling half a tenth short, and I really wanted to make one stick and today was great to get it and get that out of the way.
Q: Now this race at COTA has always been one from the front row of the grid. How do you see the challenges ahead tomorrow, when you will have Max lining up alongside you after the grid penalties have been applied?
CS: I think, you know, tomorrow we are going to try everything we can to stay ahead and win the race. But at the same time, we are realistic. And we know what Red Bull is capable of doing on Sundays. They are favourites in that way for tomorrow because they always manage to put a very good Sunday together with tyre management, with race execution. So it will be a good test to try and try and do it. I would love to win tomorrow. This is my target and that’s what I’m going to try. But I’m also realistic that it’s going to be tough out there.
Q: Charles, coming to you now. Second fastest today. Quickest after the first runs of Q3 and you ended up just 0.1s behind your teammate. Can you see where that time went?
CL: When you speak about such a small margin, you can always do better. But every driver can do better in Q3 when you see the lap afterwards. So, Carlos did a better job today and he deserves to be on pole. It was close. It was very, very tricky with the wind. And yeah, I won’t be starting P2 tomorrow because of the penalty, so the race will be a bit uphill for me but we’ll give it all and try to come back at the front as quickly as possible.
Q: Charles, just tell us a little bit more about that second lap of Q3. Did the car look a little bit looser?
CL: Yeah. But to be honest, that’s how I like it. Maybe too loose in the last corner and I lost quite a bit there but yeah, it’s okay.
Q: You have this 10-place penalty tomorrow. What’s going to be possible for you?
CL: I don’t know but I will try to make some places as quickly as possible in the first few laps so I can be in the fight and join these two guys at the front as quickly as possible.
Q: Max, many congratulations to you. Another great effort, although I’m sure the shine has been taken off it following the news of Dietrich’s passing.
MV: Yeah, of course. I mean, for us it was, I think, a tough entry to qualifying. And then you don’t really care about the result as well, you know? it doesn’t matter because we’re more about what happened today and also what he has meant to everyone within the whole team, what he has built up in Formula One, the company itself Red Bull, and personally to me, because without him, I wouldn’t be sitting here today and I wouldn’t have had the success I’ve had. So yeah, it’s incredibly tough for everyone in the team, and luckily I got to see him a couple of weeks back. So we could spend a little bit of time together. But it’s still a tough day.
Q: Just to bring it back to today and the performance of the car. Just a few words from you about how the car felt out there.
MV: It was alright. It was very tricky today with the wind out there, especially in the first sector in the high-speed corners, when you have the tailwind on this track it makes it really tricky. But besides that, also getting the tyres in the right window wasn’t the easiest. So, we tried a few different things. I think at the end of the day, we were competitive on both strategies that we tried. Just in my first lap in Q3, I lost like three-tenths in the first corner, just hitting a few bumps and losing the rear. It was just really tricky out there. And then the second run was good in Sector One, Sector Two, we look very strong. And then I ran out of tyres a little bit in the last sector with big oversteer in the second-to-last corner. But all in all, we’re still very close to pole. Last race, it was the other way around where I was on pole, but it was all fine margins. And now, you know, when you don’t get it entirely together, you are P3 but at the same distance between the three cars. So yeah, I think still it’s a great result. I mean, we know that we have a quick race car, so I think anyway tomorrow we should be strong.
Q: And do you agree with Carlos that you start favourite tomorrow?
MV: Ah, it doesn’t matter if you’re a favourite or not. I’m just going to have fun out there.
Questions from the floor
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to Carlos please. I think it’s four times you were within a 10th of a second of getting pole. I think you mentioned you’re getting frustrated with that at the last race. What do you think was the one key thing that really made the difference to you overcoming that stat today? Thanks.
CS: Well, I kept my head down, you know, and kept trusting that one day was going to come. Also, I keep trying different things in free practice to keep getting the car a bit more to my liking. I keep trying different things on driving style, on set-up, on toys, on everything you know? Some weekends I get it wrong, others I get it right and it gives me a bit of an edge, and I can keep progressing. I think keeping faith, and keeping trust that it was going to come was the key. And obviously keep making a clean lap. You know, there’s been qualifying this year where I was half a 10th of pole and I had done a fairly big mistake in the last sector or in the second sector that had cost me, so also having a decently clean lab for the wind conditions that were out there contributed.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Two questions for Max. You mentioned the situation with the tyres, I think you started the first attempt in Q3 with a used set of tyres. Can you explain the thinking behind it? Was it easier to get them into the window? And the second question is about Turn 1, because we’ve seen some… Mick spun in Turn 1, you have a moment? Is it that the bumps there are getting worse?
MV: The first one, it’s just different strategies we tried. So they were scrubbed from that out-in I did in Q2. So, it was just something to try. And it clearly didn’t work out in Turn 1. But yeah, I mean, for sure the bumps around here. It’s not like normal bumps you get on a track just by running and the cars grinding. Here, the earth, of course, is moving a lot more and it makes it quite difficult in some places to drive in general. So probably that also makes Turn 1 quite a bit harder again, this year.
Q: (Jesús Balseiro – Diario AS) Question to Carlos, you spoke about your improvements on the Saturday during the second part of the season. But how confident are you in your race pace on the Sunday, for tomorrow?
CS: This weekend, it hasn’t been too bad. We’ve had quite a lot of degradation, I think across the whole grid. We know when there’s a lot of degradation sometimes we struggle a bit more than Red Bull or Mercedes. So, we need to keep an eye on that. But the pace itself has been good. So, there’s nothing to not be confident to try and go for the win tomorrow and try and put together a good race. But we are also aware that with the temperatures tomorrow, it could be a tough day out there.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Charles, could you please explain the problem that stopped you doing a high fuel run in FP3? And does Ferrari go into the race lacking a bit of race data against Red Bull?
CL: It was a small cut on the tyre that we didn’t want to take any risks so nothing too big really. I don’t think so. We’ve got this FP2 run also that nobody could do just because I didn’t run in FP1. So I could use the medium which gave us a little bit of data, a little bit less data this morning in FP3 but all in all, I don’t think it will be a factor that will… that has compromised us for the race tomorrow.
Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsportmagazin.com) Have you been happy with the explanation you’ve been given from the FIA about the incidents in Suzuka and how fast they reacted? And, most importantly, do you welcome the step to revert to only one race director?
CL: For now, to be honest, we haven’t discussed it too much. There was a long paper that I haven’t got the time to read yet. But I think the target is to speak about it at the next race. So yeah, I still need to go through the paper to be honest.
CS: Yeah, same. We all decided to postpone the Suzuka talks to Mexico due to a lot of drivers not having the time to read the paper and have these three or four days to read it and comment with our teams and everyone involved to see what other ideas we can come up with. But yeah, visibility was discussed, which for me is actually nearly more important than anything else.
Q: Can you comment on the race director situation?
CS: I’m going to keep my thoughts to myself on that one, and I’m going to let the FIA know what is my preference, but I really trust that the FIA are doing everything they can do to keep improving. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a tough year for them and we all want progress and we all want to go in the right direction, and we’re going to do everything we can to help them.
MV: Yeah, I think the main issue in Suzuka was the visibility because of course, for myself, when I drove past Carlos’s car with the tractor or the crane or however you call it, you see it, of course, but when you are behind, and nobody tells you, or communicates to the teams that there is a crane on the track, and you suddenly come out of the spray, because that’s the thing you do, right, when you’re behind a car, I always try to go left or right to see. And if you don’t know that there is a crane there, then, yeah, I can understand, of course, people get quite upset. So probably already there, knowing that we have these visibility issues, you can communicate faster and better about ‘guys, we have to send a crane onto the track to get the car away.’ I think that would have helped already a lot. So that’s, I think, for sure what will change for the future if it happens again. And then yeah, the rest of Suzuka, this is an ongoing topic which I think is also not something you can easily solve overnight. And about the race director situation, from my side I guess time will tell what is right. Do you need one? Do you need two? Do you need three? Five? I don’t know. It’s difficult.
Q: (Jeff Gluck – The Athletic) Max, how important is the single season wins record to you and have you been thinking about that this weekend at all so far?
MV: I know the opportunity is there and I know that we have a quick car. But I’m anyway not really busy with stats or whatever, because you can’t compare them anyway because also now like we’re doing more races so if you have a competitive car, there’s a bigger opportunity of you reaching that. So I don’t like to compare to, let’s say, people who have raced in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, early 2000s because it’s impossible. So I just focus on what I can do every single weekend, try to get the best out of myself, out of the car and if we keep doing that, I’m just happy with that stat but not about potentially winning 13 or 14 races in a year.
Q: (Jim Vertuno – Associated Press) Max, I know that the news is still pretty fresh but I’m wondering if you’ve got a particular memory of Dietrich or maybe the first time you met him or something that stands out for you in your career?
MV: For me, Dietrich was always super kind and caring and he didn’t like to be in the foreground, like he always was there but he didn’t want to be in front of the cameras. When you get to know him more personally he was super nice. He was a big race fan, but I think the commitment he has shown to Formula 1 and basically to have two Formula 1 teams is incredible and also the amount of young talent he has supported throughout all these years. And especially from my side, to believe in me from such a young age and also really see that relationship grow, year after year, was very special. And yeah, I will forever remember those… or the final visit I had with him, what we talked about, and just the time we spent during that day for me was, at the time already, very, very special but it’s definitely even more special now.
Q: Can I put that question to you Carlos, as a former Red Bull driver: a memory of Dietrich?
CS: Yeah, I would like to, first of all, send my condolences to his family and to the whole Red Bull family, because I knew Dietrich quite a lot and I’ve been also helped a lot by his support in the past. I wouldn’t been in Formula 1 without him, I wouldn’t have reached Formula 1 without him and, yeah, the amount of things that he’s done for motor sport, not only Formula 1 and young drivers but if you think about how many Red Bull logos are out there in all the categories from MotoGP to F1, to all the sports that you can think about and how he has supported young talent, how many people have been supported by him and by his vision, by his idea, is crazy and I think he was a super important guy, a super nice guy, a guy that I always enjoy being around and from here I want to send my condolences and rest in peace.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, you mentioned that Red Bull tried a lot of different tactics throughout qualifying to get the best out of the tyres. What was it that made you settle on going for that extra prep lap for the second run in Q3, please?
MV: It was just very difficult, I think, to switch on the tyres, I think, for everyone out there. I just wanted to try something different. I mean, of course, we analyse what was the best but at the end of the day, we are still in a great starting position. Nothing is lost. Nothing is won of course today. We just have to be there. And like I said before, like I know we have a quick race car so if we have a clean first lap I know that we can have a very good race.