Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three press conference after Qualifying for the Dutch Grand Prix, Round 13 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship, at Circuit Zandvoort.
Featuring pole winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), second-placed Lando Norris (McLaren) and third-placed George Russell (Mercedes). Post-qualifying track interviews conducted by David Coulthard
Q: Max Verstappen, pole position. There was a little bit of everything in that Qualifying session but in the end, a very impressive full half a second quicker than the second man. Max Verstappen: Yeah, it was a very tricky Qualifying. Starting, of course, with the Intermediates but also, the track surface is quite slippery, the new tarmac. So yeah, it was all about putting your laps in but also staying out of trouble. I think we managed that quite well but then also at the end, when we could go onto the slick tyres again, there was like one dry line in some places and we had to risk it a bit – but that last lap was very enjoyable.
Q: The management between yourself and the race team there, getting you out on track, the only time it looked like a questionable decision was you went out on the Intermediate when the track was just starting to dry, and others had gone out on slicks. We heard you on team radio questioning. MV: Yeah, I mean, we’ve been to some other places already where we’ve had wet races and stuff, and I think this was the first time we came here with this kind of conditions. So, I think we underestimated maybe a little bit, with the wind as well, and then the sun coming out, how quickly it dries. So, it’s again all about experience and lessons you take forward but at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. We still did the right thing.
Q: We’re obviously in your home country, a lot of support here. You’ve delivered stage one, which is the pole position. It’s been another fantastic crowd. MV: Yeah, I mean the pressure is always there to perform. When you can pull it off, it’s incredible.
Q: And the man that’s been pushing Max all weekend, it really did look like you had a chance in these changeable conditions. Second is still a great result for you. Lando Norris: Thank you. No, I’m happy still. P2 was a good result, I guess, in these kind of conditions. Every now and again you hope Max makes a mistake and he doesn’t. Frustrating in a little way but I’m very happy. The team’s done a good job. It was a chaotic qualifying but another P2, so… good.
Q: You mentioned the conditions. It’s really challenging when you know, as the clock ticks down, you want to be one of the last across the line. How stressful is a changing weather conditions Qualifying like that? LN: Qualifying is always stressful, no matter what the conditions. But definitely now it’s definitely trickier. Like the first half of the lap was mega, the second half was probably one of the worst second halves that I’ve done! So, it peaked very early on. It’s tought, but I really enjoy these conditions. I’ve always enjoyed the conditions, it’s when we do well. So, I’m taking the P2 still.
Q: When you say it peaked very early in your lap, was that the tyres peaked or the driver peaked? LN: The driver! The driver. Tyres were good ‘til the end. The driver peaked very early, so I’ve got a bit of work to do. Not the most comfortable but good enough, so I’ll take it.
Q: Finally, our third-placed man. You kept us waiting right until the very end to pop that third place in. That was a tricky session but you must be happy. George Russell: Yeah, absolutely. Really great session, happy to be here in P3. Quali was one of my strengths at the start of the year and it’s just been going a little bit wrong recently, so it was good to have that break, came in with a fresh set of ideas, good reset and we’re in a great place tomorrow to fight for a podium.
Q: We heard Lando say there that he’s owning the fact that he peaked too early in the lap. How was your lap overall? GR: The lap was OK, to be honest. We know we always struggle either when it’s very wet or it’s the crossover onto slicks and we’ve got to get that temperature into the tyres but we know the Saturday is the strength on Sundays. It’s going to be an exciting race. I’m sure Max will be having his Sunday drive and waving to the crowd on his way tomorrow – but hopefully we can have a good fight with Alex, Lando and the rest of the guys.
Q: You mention Alex there. The Williams has been incredibly strong – but are you really looking one place back rather than one place forwards? GR: Yeah. I’m really happy for Williams and for Alex. I said before the session, I saw the guys on the pit-wall looking pretty happy with their performance and I flew over here with Alex, and I said ‘what are your expectations for the weekend?’ and he said ‘I think we’re going to be rubbish!’ so, he got that one slightly wrong! As I said, really well done to Max but also to Alex and Williams.
Q: Max, very well done. First question, how stressful was that? MV: It was quite slippery out there. So, it was easy to make a mistake or whatever, especially on the new tarmac, so Sector One, Sector Three was quite slippery. And especially on the Intermediates, in the beginning, to get the temperature and get going was a bit difficult. And you had to do a few laps to get into a rhythm and have the tyres up to temperature. And then of course, we were getting closer to Q3, it was drying out. I initially didn’t think it was going to be dry enough but I think with the wind around here, and then the sun coming out, it actually dried faster than I expected. So, I went out on the Inter and then quickly realised that was the wrong tyre. So we boxed, put the slick on but then unfortunately, of course, there was a red flag. But it was still very tricky, I think, conditions in Turns One and Two at the time, like only one proper dry line. So, it’s easy to get to make a mistake. And then, of course, we had a bit of a delay. And then, of course, also Charles had his moment. So, at one point, the dry line was becoming a bit wider. So, that, I think, helped a bit. But then again, you know, you have to really get a bit out of your comfort zone in that final lap because it’s still not entirely dry everywhere. But luckily the lap was good.
Q: Well, how good was it? MV: I started the lap, I went into Turn One, I though, oh, that’s it, I braked way too late. So probably my Turn One wasn’t fantastic. But I think the rest of the lap was okay. I felt okay with the car.
Q: Now, pole position is always very satisfying. But how important is it here at Zandvoort? Is it going to be difficult to overtake tomorrow? Just give us your thoughts on that. MV: I think in general, when you have the pace in the car, you can overtake even though, of course, on this track is a little bit harder than maybe on some other tracks. But if you’re really faster, you will be able to pass. But it’s always nice in front of your home crowd, you know, to take pole position. I mean, they come here, and they expect you to do it but it’s not always that easy. And especially with a qualifying like this. It’s never that straightforward and you always need to be out at the right time. But luckily, we did that.
Q: And Max, I said earlier, it’s your eighth pole of 2023. Is this the most satisfying one? MV: I’ve had a few good ones. Well, I guess Spa didn’t count, did it? That was probably also really satisfying. But I mean, we’ve had a lot of these qualifyings lately where we start in the wet, go to the dry. It’s always quite entertaining, I think.
Q: Lando, coming to you now. Your second front row start of the season. As you went into that final lap of Q3, how hopeful were you of getting the pole? LN: I thought there was a chance at least. I knew my lap in Q3, Run 1 was decent but I knew everyone’s going to improve a huge amount. I knew there was plenty of places and time for me to gain on that lap. So, it’s difficult because even when you think you’re doing… you know, I was one second up after already, what, six corners, seven corners? It gets you a bit excited. But you know, everyone else is probably doing a similar thing. So, my first half a lap was very good, my second half was pretty terrible. I had a double shift out of Turn 10, which probably cost me a couple of tenths, but at the same time, nothing would have got me enough to get past Max. He did a good job. These conditions, where you hope something might come your way and it didn’t today, but P2 was a good result for us.
Q: Ultimately, were you surprised by the lap-time that Max was able to do? LN: No, no. It’s never a surprise anymore.
Q: But the gap, the gap to you in those conditions? MV: No, not really, I know I made a few mistakes, probably three-tenths worth, which puts me two-tenths off, and I think that’s about right.
Q: What about the pace of your car over a long run? What are your hopes for tomorrow? Are you looking to challenge Max? Are you going to be looking in your mirrors? LN: I’ll challenge him probably two laps, then he’ll drive away. I think there’s quite a bit of tyre degradation here and not our forte, let’s say, when it comes into play, we start to struggle quite a bit in certain corners. But we’ve improved the car quite a bit, I think, since Friday, so I want to be a little bit more hopeful. I’m not going to say no, like I’m not going to give it a try, but Max is always on another level when it comes to Sunday, in tyre degradation and race pace. So, there’s opportunities, but it’s going to be tough.
Q: Lando for you and McLaren, how reassuring is it to have started the second half of the season like this? LN: I mean, I think we’re pretty reassured already after Silverstone, that things were looking a lot better. Even after Austria, we were confident things took a big step forward. And they did and we went on to score two podiums, had a tricky Spa, but still a P7. And we come to a track which we know suits us a bit more and we proved it today again. So, the team has done an excellent job – I’ve said countless times, but they’ve really made a massive step forward from where we were to where we are now. And days like this, when you reward them, is always a good thing. So, we’ll keep pushing. I keep saying we’re not far away, but at the same time, we’re still quite far. So yeah, we’ll keep our heads down.
Q: George, many congratulations as well. Just how satisfied are you after that one? GR: Yeah, very satisfied to be honest. Qualifying was one of my strengths at the start of the year and generally a session that I really enjoyed but the last few races before the break had been a real struggle for me. Things were pretty scrappy and was never really going towards us and had some bad sessions so it was good to have the little break, coming into this weekend with a fresh set of eyes: a good reset. And really please just to get back in the groove and put in a good performance.
Q: Well, how good was that last lap? You were just two tenths shy of Lando; was the lap perfect or could you have taken Lando? GR: I think what Max said… it’s always very challenging in those conditions. You have 10/15 minutes waiting for a red flag, you go out one lap, the track’s evolved by a second and a half or two seconds. I was pretty satisfied with the lap. There’s obviously always more you can do. I think we always tend to struggle a bit when the track’s either very wet and you’re trying to get the temperature in the intermediate tyres, or on that crossover when it’s just going to slicks and you’re trying to get the temperature into the slicks. So to end up P3 in those conditions I was very happy but we know we have a faster car on Sunday so starting third is a great spot.
Q: Right, and you were on the podium here last year so how confident are you of being back in the press conference tomorrow? GR: Yeah, I think it’s going to be a good race. As Lando said, a lot of tyre degradation so it gives you a few opportunities with the strategy. I don’t think we’ll have the pace to fight with Max. As Lando said, he’s a bit of a league of his own at the moment, but I’m confident Lando and I can have a good fight. Obviously great to see Alex there in P4. He’ll probably be in the mix at the beginning of the race and then we’ll have to see the progress of Checo. He’s probably going to be the next threat from behind.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) It’s a question to all three starting with Max, please. How surprised are you guys to see Alex Albon and Williams this far up the grid on a relatively high downforce track? And also how pleased are you for Alex to fight for these kinds of positions again? Max, you’ve been his teammate before and George, you have a lot of experience yourself from Williams. So how good is it to see them back there? MV: Yeah, I didn’t know of course what to expect with other teams coming in but they have been quick all weekend and they’ve been quick in the wet, they’ve been quick and dry so that’s very impressive to see. And that’s great for the sport as well, that more teams are up there. And yeah, very happy for Alex himself. He’s a great guy, he was my teammate before. We always had a good time and yeah, very happy for him to be up there and have – for at least this weekend – a very competitive car. LN: I wouldn’t say it’s a big, big surprise because they’ve been very competitive at certain places but every now and then, like Silverstone was a similar thing. He was P1 through practice and so on. Now, they just managed to keep it more through qualifying and into Q3 especially. So I’m happy for him and the whole team. Logan was there all the way pretty much into Q3. They look strong, they made some big progress this season. And yes, good to have them in the battle too. GR: Yeah, similar to what the guys said, really pleased to see him up there and it goes to show when you get your confidence how that can really transform the performance but Williams is making a huge amount of progress at the moment and I think James Vowles is having a really positive impact there. I think he’s definitely the best man for the job for what Williams need at the moment for their resurgence. Yeah, it’s great to see more than just the top teams fighting and that’s what we want in Formula 1, we want everybody to have a chance if they do a good job.
Q: (Carlo Platella – FormulaPassion.it) Max, prior to the summer break Pierre Wache said that the performance in high downforce at low speed was the main weakness of the car. Do you still think so? MV: I think, yeah, low speed… I’d also… like bumpy tracks, kerbs. Like max downforce, high downforce, probably we would like to have a bit more, but at the moment, you can’t have everything. So it’s also a way of the philosophy of our design team, how they designed the car. So not all the tracks, of course, are high downforce. Of course, you always try to optimise things so I think it’s literally trying to find little improvements here and there and that’s what we continue to do.
Q: (Dirk Kramer – ANP) Max, did you think it was safe enough to go out to race after all the crashes and also third practice and in the Formula 2 sprint race? MV: Well, there’s a difference between racing and doing qualifying and normally qualifying you always look for your own spot, you create a bit of a gap and I think everything was absolutely fine. But again, it’s so easy to make a mistake when it’s quite slippery out there or when you go from intermediates to slick tyres while the track is still a bit damp. So yeah, mistakes are easily made, but I think it was definitely safe enough to drive.
Q: (Arjan Schouten – AD Sportwereld) Max, you know this track inside out you’ve been here so many times, so much history, but this looked like really a new challenge in these cars and these conditions this wet after the two first sunny editions of the last years. Do you appreciate the track even more now after this experience? MV: I know how challenging the track is in the dry and the wet from before so yeah, I think also with drivers I think we like in other places where you have a lot of runoff, even when you make a tiny mistake you just go through the extra tarmac run-off or whatever and you continue here. In some places, that is just not possible. And especially then to really pull the lap out when it matters, it is definitely more challenging than most places we go to.
Q: (Joost Smedema – NOS) Max, how was it like during qualifying in these tricky conditions and with red flags in Q3, knowing being one of the best drivers this season, the best driver in the best car, how hard is it to be focused, to keep yourself concentrated during time in the pit? MV: I have done this now quite a few times in my career, during the qualifyings, it doesn’t matter. Of course, if you have the best car or the worst car on the grid, like the kind of approach you have is the same: when it really matters, you try to do the best lap you can. And after my first run in Q3, it was not good enough so I had a few places to improve but I knew that… of course at the end of qualifying you always risk a bit more but it was more like a banker lap. But it’s still good to see where you can improve and you’re just thinking about that. And then once you drive out you look at how much the track has dried and how much more you’re able to push in some places compared to the previous laps; that’s what you do.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Max, you’re not necessarily one for records, but you can obviously equal Seb’s run of nine straight wins here tomorrow. What would that mean to you? And particularly doing it somewhere like here? And just to George and Lando also, does Max feel unbeatable at the moment? MV: Well, I think after like five wins in a row or something like that, Seb texted me, you know ‘well done, what you’re doing at the moment, keep it up’ and something like ‘you’re going to do it’. But you know, I was like, ‘that’s nine wins in a row, it’s something very impressive’ and I never thought I will be able to be already on eight. I mean, if it’s possible tomorrow of course I’ll go for it, but it’s not something I have in the back of my head, constantly like ‘I need to do this, I need to do this’. I’m not in this sport to try and break records. I’m just here to win in the moment. LN: I’ll say no, just because there’s been times when we’ve been very close, you know? Yeah, there’s been plenty of times it’s been super, super close, whether Max has made a mistake and therefore it’s close or not, but there’s two differences, whether it’s Qualifying or the race. I think in the race, at the minute, we’ve kind of got no chance unless someone gets unlucky or he gets unlucky and something happens. Just got a very good driver in a good car and he’s doing the job he needs to do. So I think full respect to that. But I wouldn’t say no, because there’s always a chance, like on a day like today when he can make a mistake. Sadly, he doesn’t, but it can happen. It happens to everyone and it can still happen to him. So there’s a time and a place and we’re kind of still waiting, everyone’s waiting for it to happen, but just not today. GR: Yeah, same as Lando, definitely. I think Max and Red Bull are doing an amazing job at the moment. But I think we just need to turn up a little bit more, apply a little bit more pressure. I think they’ve got a really nice buffer at the moment. And when you’re in that rhythm, you’re in that groove, you can afford to make a small mistake and still be in a really great spot. There’s a lot less pressure than when you know if you make a small mistake, it’s going to cost you a couple of positions. So we’re going to keep on working. You know, for sure, they’re the guys to beat at the moment. But we just need to focus on ourselves. Keep looking in the mirror, and just seeing where we can improve. And we’ll get there. We’ll get there.
Q: (Sam Cooper – Planet F1) Max, when you and the team are discussing strategy, either this evening or tomorrow morning are you thinking about the drivers that start alongside you and maybe what their style is? Or are you more focused on just yourself and the car? MV: I mean, I know that they start very well. But I think mainly you just think about your own strategy. And then of course, you go through the scenarios that in case you got passed, or whatever, you know, there are a lot of things that you take into account for tomorrow. But mainly you focus on your own strategy, because that’s what you can control. So that’s what we’ll do.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) A question to Lando. It has been three weekends now. How confident are you with your car and its pace? Do you think it will unlock more performance over the next 10 races? And how confident are you of keeping Mercedes and other cars, other contenders in the midfield at bay? LN: Sadly, I would say I’m still more worried about the people behind than the car in front, which is, I think, still a good thing. You know, we didn’t expect to really challenge the Red Bull at all when we had the upgrade in Austria. And I think we’re still pleasantly surprised by how competitive we’ve been. A mixture of us taking a step forward and, you know, Aston taking, I would say, a step backward from where they were at the beginning of the season, and Ferrari just not looking as good as they were last year or they were also in the beginning of the season. So there’s definitely more to come. Even like the rear wing that we have. We’ve chose this one today just because of a, yeah, safety with these conditions, you know, and not wanting to… We lost one yesterday, so just want to make sure I’ve got it for future weekends. So there was a bit of lag time in the bag, right? If we just used the other rear wing we brought this weekend, it’s a step forward, it’s a more efficient wing. But we chose not to use it. So there are little things that we’re going to consistently try to bring. Maybe not for much longer, because there’s a time when we focus to next year. But there’s more to come and I think because the car has taken so many big steps forward, we’re confident that it’s alive and there’s more things to improve.
Q: (Kieran Jackson – The Independent) George, you said just after the session that Qualifying was one of your strengths at the start of the year but you kind of lost your way. Why do you think that is? Can you put it down to one reason in particular and if so, what changed today for you? GR: I think going back to the small point on pressure before, I think when you continue to focus on yourself, you don’t worry about anybody else, you just get in that groove and you keep on moving forward and you find yourself in a really good spiral and when things start to get a little bit more challenging you want to work harder you want to focus on the details and I think sometimes myself and the small team around me were maybe overthinking things, chasing the last millisecond, but not focusing too much on the temps that we could lose if we get the traffic wrong in Qualifying or if we’re not getting the tyres in the right window. Then, you know, even a few things in my personal life, just making sure that there’s as little to worry about as possible. And this break was so, so needed for me, spending some time with my family, with my friends. And you know, just coming into this weekend in a really good spot. Feeling good about myself, feeling happy, feeling refreshed and I think a lot is to be said about just being in the right frame of mind.
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) A question to all three. This weekend, we’ve seen quite some moments in the Hugenholtzbocht. So, Turn 3, with the banking… MV: Ask them to repeat that! [George and Lando fail to pronounce the name] GR: You guys are playing with us here. That’s not the name [laughs]
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) Anyway, we’ve seen some moments there, with Magnussen today and also Max, I guess you had a little moment in FP3 as well. Just how tricky is it in the rain and how different do we need to approach that corner compared to the dry? MV: Honestly, I don’t know why I went off. I wasn’t even pushing. I just suddenly lost the car. Maybe it was just going too slow to the corner. But yeah, that last bit of the banking was extremely slippery for whatever reason, if it was rubber or dirt laying around. So yeah, the line on the exit was a little bit different to the dry for a long time. But yeah, I don’t know why, in general, I think just that new tarmac was very slippery. And maybe with the banking, it made it a bit more tricky. LN: No, nothing more to add. Just the conditions, I mean, we’ve seen people crash last year, right? And the year before. I think Carlos had quite a big one there last year. So it can just catch you out. It’s easy to make that kind of mistake. I guess Oscar made it yesterday, too. Tough, especially with these conditions, it’s even easier, just because you feel like you can attack it so much but as you kind of hit the dip a lot of things can happen, then the grip feels good, but then almost gets a lot worse the closer to the exit you get. You feel like you can almost overdo it very easily. So it’s a good challenge in both conditions, but even more so in the rain. GR: I feel like a lot of circuits, recently, they re-tarmac parts of the track if it’s a bit bumpy, or if the tarmac is degrading, and then you find you’ve got half of the track which is really old tarmac and it’s sort of broken up and you have got really good grip from the wet tyres and the new tarmac is like a bit like a bowling alley. So in the dry conditions, there’s lots of grip. But as soon as there’s a bit of water down there, it gets really slippery, and just trying to judge that across a lap when you’ve got first corner is old tarmac, second, third corners are new tarmac, then old tarmac, back to new tarmac, you just got to be aware of these small details.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Question to Max. Max, given the last two races and the situation with your trophy, if Lando joins you on the podium, are you planning to guard your trophy in any way this time? MV: Well, I mean, I have to give the trophy anyway to the team, so do what you want! Well, I think this one looks quite solid. I mean, it’s different material. I guess we’ll find out there.