Featuring pole-winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), second-placed Carlos Sainz and third-placed Lando Norris (McLaren)
Parc Ferme interviews conducted by Marc Gené
Q: Max Verstappen, pole position for the first time at the Spanish Grand Prix! Well done. Tell me how good was the lap? It looked easy. I’m sure it was not but it looked easy. Max Verstappen: The car was really good. I mean, of course, you know, Qualifying started off a bit tricky with the weather. But, you know, once it started to dry out and now in Q3 as well, yeah, the car was on rails, and it was really, really enjoyable to drive today.
Q: You’ve won Barcelona, of course last year, and the first win for you. How special was that win and how special do you think it would be to win also here tomorrow? MV: Yeah, I mean, I love coming to Barcelona in general. I love the track. I love the fans. You know, they really love racing. And I had a lot of great memories here and hopefully tomorrow we can add another one.
Q: Señores, Carlos Sainz! I don’t know if you could hear them but when the car went by they were really pushing for you. How nice was it to get that front row, the best result for you this season? Carlos Sainz: Yeah and I needed it because it was super tight. Very, very tricky conditions out there today and even getting through Q1, Q2 without any issues and putting a good lap only with one set in Q3 was probably one of the most tricky Qualis I’ve had here in Barcelona in terms of conditions, but we did it. I think we are in the best possible position going into tomorrow. And now we can focus on trying to get that podium tomorrow.
Q: Max is a little bit ahead but how good was your lap? Did you still have some time? Or was it as good as it could be? CS: It was very good today. I felt like I was driving very well. You know, it’s always one tenth here, one tenth there but I was pushing everything. I didn’t leave anything on the table today. I was pushing flat out. It was very tight, even with McLaren, with Alpine, with Mercedes, Aston. We were all in the same group, basically, this weekend. So I think P2 was as far as I could make it today and that 12.7 was pretty good today.
Q: Lando, I don’t know if you were expecting it. You’ve been very fast from the very beginning. In Qualifying you know. How come you came to life like that? Lando Norris: I have no idea. I am surprised to be here! Amazing job, P3. I lost P2, but it’s a home race for Carlos so I thought I would give him a couple of tenths, you know. Yeah, very happy. P3, it’s nice. The whole of Qualifying we were quite quick, so all good.
Q: You have a lot of fans as well for you here in Barcelona. Two questions into one: the first is, how much did you like the new section, the last corner looks super-fast? And then, how difficult were conditions in Q1 because we saw a lot of drivers making mistakes. LN: I mean, it seems to be good for us. So I would say I like it. It’s one of our strengths, the high-speed corners, so yeah, I’m very happy. A difficult qualifying but always in these conditions, the tricky ones, we seem to do well. They seem to suit me.
BARCELONA QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE
Q: Max, your first pole in Spain. That first run in Q3 looked mighty. How did it feel from inside the car? MV: Yeah, I think overall, you know, the whole Barcelona weekend it has been really enjoyable to drive the car. It was really hooked up. Of course you always try to find little improvements on the car. But yeah, it’s been really good. Of course, qualifying started off a little bit tricky. You needed to be on the track at the right time, not making mistakes. But we did that. And of course going into Q3 I knew there was quite a bit of potential left in the car, so I could finally push it to the limit in that first run and the car was really quick. Then, of course, we went out again for the second run and that would have been even better. But, yeah, I think GP got a bit excited! He told me to abort.
Q: I was going to say, was there more time in the car on that second run had you needed it? MV: Yeah, it was. I was going faster going into Turn 10.
Q: Now how easy has it been to dial in the car this weekend? Because your teammate hasn’t had it so easy. He’ll be starting back in 11th. MV: I have to say from the start, the car was pretty good. I mean, I only made tiny little adjustments, but I felt comfortable straight away: long runs, short runs. I mean, it’s never easy to get to the limit in a Formula 1 car but it’s just been very enjoyable to drive, it gives you a lot of confidence and when you have all that, you can really push it to the limit.
Q: And, looking ahead to the race in Bareclona, how do you think the new layout will affect tyre wear, will affect the racing? MV: I think wear is always high around here so, for sure, with another two fast right-handers that won’t help the wear – but it’s a lot more enjoyable to drive. I mean, going into that last corner brings a smile on my face because that’s where an F1 car really comes alive.
Q: Carlos, huge congratulations to you. Your best quali of the season and your best-ever grid position here in Barcelona. How good does this moment feel for you? CS: Yeah, it feels very good as you can imagine, especially because today I really felt like we extracted everything out of the car. And it’s been a bit of a tough weekend, you know, getting used to the new upgrades, getting them to work in the sweet spot of the car. We’ve had some trickier sessions, some easier ones but finally hooked it up in Quali, all through Q1, Q2, Q3. It felt really good progress, still not where we want to be because it’s quite a big gap to Max, especially when you can see that he was coming even faster on the second lap. But at least it’s our first step and we’re focusing on understanding this new car.
Q: A similar story at Ferrari to Red Bull in the way that the teammates have had different fortunes. How difficult has it been to dial in the new upgrades? CS: I don’t know exactly what happened to Charles but it’s been the same story of the whole year. It feels like it’s a very narrow window for us; very narrow window for the car; very tricky car to drive. And as soon as the conditions get tricky, it can go one way or the other and you’re fighting very different balances and it’s a very fine line for me today. It worked out okay, it was tough, because now it looks like the midfield is really starting to close-up with us. You have the likes of the Alpines, even the Haas, Lando with the McLarens are appearing and just joining us in that fight for second or third best. Obviously Red Bull are in a league of their own but then everyone else, it looks like it’s really, really tight out there.
Q: It’s a long run to the first corner here in Barcelona. What’s the plan at the start? CS: Yeah, I wouldn’t have minded if Lewis or Lando would have out-qualified me, because here the clean side is probably a bit better for the start but at the same time it’s all about also the tow and how lucky you get, if you can get a tow or not in the run down to Turn One. Yeah, I don’t know. Obviously we’ll try to give it all into Turn One and go and get that podium. And if Max does something strange, then get a win.
Q: Lando coming to you now, what a brilliant lap by you. Are you surprised by the pace of the car this weekend so far in Bareclona? LN: I would say yes. I think after FP1, we said it was probably one of our worst FP1s of the season, in terms of pace. So to be sat here today, I think it’s quite a big surprise for all of us. I think the conditions – the cooler conditions – things just started to come our way a little bit. So yeah, just feels a bit odd. I definitely wasn’t thinking at all to be in the top three today. But I’m very happy to be here. So, good day.
Q: After FP1, did you make a lot of changes? LN: No, just small things really. I think nowadays you can get the car quite quickly in a reasonable window, is just playing around with little things here and there. No, that’s why I say it probably came a bit more towards us, rather than us, rather than us chasing too many things. But it also felt like I did some good laps. I felt confident, let’s say even with the car being a bit of a struggle, I still felt confident in maximising it and getting the most out of the car every run. Especially come qualifying, I just felt again another step of confidence. So yeah, felt good, especially when you get to see your name at the top a bit more often! It definitely just motivates you that little bit more. Good position for tomorrow.
Q: Well, what about tomorrow? How confident are you? LN: Not very! Yeah, not very. You never know, the pace could be mega and I could catch Max and overtake him. Hopefully he doesn’t hold me up like in Monaco – but we’ll see. It’s a new day, like we didn’t expect to be as good today as we were and, like Carlos said, we’re on the clean side of the grid. I let him have this one because I want to make it out of the track alive tonight. So yeah, we’ll do our best for tomorrow but the aim is just to get some good points for both myself and for Oscar.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Jeremy Satis – Auto Hebdo) The order is a bit unusual today. What do you think is the main reason for that? Is it the cooler and changing conditions – or do you think it’s just the cars are tighter and tighter. For all three drivers please. MV: Well, I mean, I am where I expected to be, going into this weekend. And I mean, to be honest, I also expected Carlos to be there. I just didn’t expect Lando to be there, but that’s a good surprise. Well, no, sorry. I didn’t expect McLaren to be there. Sorry, I have to rephrase. I always expect Lando to be high up. The Alpine looks good but there have been lately improving quite a bit. So, for me, there are no real big shocks, I would say. CS: I think it is getting a bit tight, especially since Monaco, I don’t know if people who started bringing upgrades maybe to Imola… Imola didn’t happen but then to Monaco, I think maybe the field is compressing. I think also a short lap, like in Monaco and here – 1m12s – also makes it look even tighter. And also for us, honestly, I don’t think it’s the best track for Ferrari: a lot of high speed corners and at the moment, those are where we are struggling the most, which is our main point of focus. LN: I mean, yeah, I’m shocked to be here. We haven’t really brought anything to the car this weekend. No, the last upgrade we had was Baku with the different floor. And even that didn’t give us a lot of performance, just kind of different direction to go in. So yeah, we’ve not really brought too many big things, just some very, very small things that always help little bits. But the whole field just seems very close this weekend, since FP1 already. The distance to Red Bull has been – let’s say from a midfield point of view, closer than it has been. And then just everyone, you know, with the Haas, the Alpines, the Astons. And then I guess we’re a bit of a surprise today. In a good way. I’m happy – but like I said, we didn’t really change anything this weekend. It’s the same car that we’ve been struggling with. So nice to see some good points from it.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, just about abandoning that second run in Q3. What is it you think the team was worried about? Was it because they’d seen a couple of cars go off in the gravel there at the final corner in Barcelona’s new layout? And on that final corner, were you ever able to take it flat out there? MV: No, I was just to save the tyres. Maybe we need it tomorrow, you don’t know. So we already said that in the garage that if they wouldn’t, of course, be in front of me then maybe we wouldn’t complete the lap. So that’s what we did. And yeah, unfortunately, the last corner wasn’t flat for me. Never really got to try it. Maybe I would have tried on the last lap. Who knows? It sometimes just comes up when you get into the corner you’re like ‘maybe it’s flat’. But I think FP2 was quite close. Unfortunately we can’t try that tomorrow. Well, I mean, we can try it but then you won’t make the corner. But you want me to try that one? Yeah, over time cars are improving so I think next year, if we come back, then probably it’s flat.
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) Max, you said you liked the new Barcelona layout. Do you feel it’s also a bit better for Red Bull, given your car is really good in the high speed corners? And if tyre deg is higher tomorrow, then normally tyre management linked to race pace is even the strongest point? MV: I mean, realistically it’s only one corner. You know, the other corner is flat out for everyone. I don’t think it hurts us. And then also for the tyre wear, yeah, in general, it’s high so even if we would have had the other layout, I don’t think it would have been very, very different in terms of looking after your tyres. But yeah, we know that we are normally good on tyre deg and hopefully we can show that again tomorrow.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez – Agencia EFE) Carlos, congratulations. When you arrived to Barcelona, you said you wanted to get your first podium of the season. Would you be happy enough if you repeat this place tomorrow? Or are you thinking higher right now? CS: I think it will be still tough to get, especially Checo coming from P11 with a Red Bull. But as soon as I get back to the engineers, I think they will tell me that the simulation suggests that the Red Bull should still finish ahead of us and then it will be a fight with Lando and Mercedes, the Astons that I don’t know exactly what happened to them today, but they normally have really, really good race pace. So yeah, I think it’s still going to be a tough, tough call to get a podium tomorrow. So we put ourselves in the best possible position to achieve that but I still think it’s going to be a good fight for it tomorrow.
Q: (Rodrigo Franca – Car Magazine, Brazil) Max, you are an enthusiast of virtual racing simulators and I-racing. How much that preparation, that virtual preparation helps you in your career and also to win titles and victories in real Formula 1? MV: It’s like my hobby but I take it very seriously. And I think it never hurts because you always test yourself. I mainly drive other kinds of cars on online platforms and F1 but you’re always thinking about what can I improve also driving-wise but also setup-wise and that’s what I enjoy. I go to bed probably thinking more about the simulator or like a car there than what I do sometimes in F1, just because I also want to do well there. It sometimes takes up a lot of time but I love it. And it’s difficult to say if it actually helps me in Formula 1, but I definitely think it doesn’t hurt. And also in your off-season you do that, but when I jump back in a Formula 1 car it feels like I never left.
Q: (Ronald Vording – motorsport.com) Max, we started off these new regulations with three completely different philosophies: zero pod at Mercedes, in-wash at Ferrari and the Red Bull philosophy. Now teams are moving more and more towards Red Bull. Christian Horner called it flattering, what’s your reaction to it, to the kind of copying? And did you expect it to happen sooner or later? MV: I think our next upgrade will be without sidepods! So then everyone can go back to that! I don’t know. It’s just how we designed the car but it’s not only the sidepods, it’s a lot of things that have to come together. And I’m not even the aero specialist there. I think we learned a lot over the years and now with the new regulation, we hit the ground running and we understood what was going on and that helps a lot. You can immediately focus on other things and hopefully, of course, we can keep that momentum going because everyone is of course pushing very hard to catch up. But also from our side, we are never satisfied, we always want more.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, could you please talk us through that first run in Barcelona Q3, the one that got you pole position? Were there any particular places you felt went really good in gained you time and any others where you were struggling? MV: I think in general, the high speed you know, the car has been really good. Yeah, like the combination turn one, two, three was good. Turn nine was very enjoyable. And then the last sector was OK-ish but I think the main lap time gains were probably initially like one, two, three, four and probably six. What is it, seven? Seven. It just all felt quite connected so once you have that feeling, you can really push all the entries and that gives you quite a bit of lap time around here.
Q: (Pedro Flores – Pi lane) Carlos, first of all, congratulations. I just say that the simulation of Ferrari says that perhaps Checo will arrive. What about the simulation from Charles? Will Charles arrive and in case he arrives, do you have any kind of order to help him to go up? CS: No, I don’t and I don’t expect to have. Obviously we’re starting in very different positions and I hope that he can come back through the field as fast as possible. But I don’t know, I haven’t seen how our race pace compares to the rest of the field. As you said or as I said, I expect Red Bull to have more than half a second to a second of race pace advantage in that window, like they always have and that around Barcelona, fifty-something laps is a lot of seconds so it doesn’t matter where they’re starting. But the rest of the field I think is tight and it’s going to be a good fight.
Q: (Carlo Platella – Formulapassion.it) Carlos, did you notice any improvement or different behaviour of the car with the new package her in Barcelona? CS: Well, the new package was meant to improve mainly the medium to low speed and in that area, we have definitely felt a step in the right direction. And as I said before the Barcelona weekend, a step into a different direction is not so much a big upgrade or a big change in our performance but opening a bit of a different window of working range for the car. That was the main target of this upgrade, not to suddenly go half a second quicker. And yeah, I think that is doing the job and it’s working well. We also want to make the car more predictable, more drivable, easier to put together a lap and hopefully it will go in this direction but unfortunately, we’ve come to a track that it doesn’t suit our package. Our high speed performance really hasn’t been good since the beginning of the season. Since Australia, we’ve been struggling with the balance and with the bouncing and still many things that is happening to us in high speed. So yeah, we just want to now focus on that and see if we can improve that because as you saw, low speed for us is actually not bad at all.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lando, you seemed pretty confident all day, first on the inters in the rain in FP3 you went to slicks before anybody else in that session as well. Did that give you a boost going into qualifying? How’s it been feeling all day? LN: I tend to be always one of the first to try those things. For my own feeling and confidence, I tend to do it quite a bit. Sometimes it really doesn’t work out and you can be close to crashing. But sometimes it’s more just an information type of thing, in case it’s like this tomorrow, if it was a bit more say intermediate, slick in qualifying, I think I would have had a slight advantage to other people. I think I felt decent. I wouldn’t say we felt anywhere near this good, and like I said on Friday, we all sat down and we were thinking it’s going to be tough to get over Q1. I don’t know. Sometimes we outperform that quite a bit and we do well but I think apart from maybe Bahrain, this was our worst Friday of the season so I really wasn’t that hopeful. But things just seem to come together, other people struggled a bit more today than maybe us overperforming kind of thing or being our true potential. And like I said, we’ve not really changed the car that much so there was nothing which has given me a lot of confidence to… or any reasons why we were going to be that good today. We’re still pretty poor in many areas, but high speed has always been one of our strengths for years and slow speed quite the opposite. So I think this Barcelona layout has helped us, so it has benefited us a bit more. I think already FP2 was flat in turn three, flat in turn nine, probably one of the few guys apart from Red Bull who did that? So yeah, I think it’s a track where more of the strengths have been able to be shown, even though Monaco wasn’t bad. We do struggle a lot in the slow speed corners so that’s still the area we know we want to take big steps forward.