leclerc sainz verstappen italian gp qualifying f1

Italian Grand Prix: Qualifying Press Conference

leclerc sainz verstappen italian gp qualifying f1

Full transcript from the top three FIA-hosted press conference after Qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix, at Circuit Internazionale di Monza, Round 14 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship

Featuring pole winner Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), second-placed Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) and third-placed Charles Leclerc (Ferrari). Track interviews conducted by Davide Valsecchi.

Q: Charles, how was your feeling? I was asking how was your lap? You were all alone and everyone was following you. Less than a tenth from pole position but only third on the grid? How is your feeling also about this amazing crowd?
Charles Leclerc: I mean, my feeling can only be amazing with the tifosi of course. On my side, I’m a bit disappointed. I obviously wanted to be first but seeing that Carlos is P1 is great for Ferrari. He has done an incredible job all weekend. I’ve been struggling quite a bit more, FP1, FP2, FP3 but in Qualifying I managed to put everything together, so I was really happy. Then unfortunately in Q3 I didn’t have a slipstream and probably this cost us one position at least, but it’s life, we should be happy. Especially on my side, I’ve been struggling a lot… They [the tifosi] are just incredible. I don’t smile very often when I’m P3 but obviously being here and having that much support is an amazing feeling.

Q: So I guess there is the right feeling to be on the podium tomorrow, right?
CL: Exactly. And we’ll try to do first and second with Carlos.

Q: Max, you were all alone against the two Ferraris. At one moment you were on pole and then Carlos beat your lap time? How was it on the track today? 
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it was good. I think we made some good improvements compared to yesterday and in Qualifying you could see every qualifying session was very tight, so I’m happy to be second today.

Q: And about tomorrow, you are ready to fight, because we have the two Ferraris and all the fans here. It will not be so easy for you, no? 
MV: Yeah, of course, but it’s nice to see, and of course tomorrow we’ll try to win the race. Normally we have a quick race car but first, you know, just enjoy today and then I will focus on tomorrow.

Q: Carlos, what an amazing lap. Tell us about your driving, because in the middle sector, you were just phenomenal? Probably it’s there where you catch your pole position today.
Carlos SAINZ: Honestly, it’s been such an intense Qualifying especially in Q3, you know. All three of us went for it, we were very, very on the limit. And in that last lap, I knew I had some lap time to come in Ascari and Parabolica and I went for it. And it worked well. Why not, because I really pushed hard, you know, on that last lap.

Q: And tell me about this. I mean, goosebumps sometimes, right?
CS: Goosebumps since I crossed the finish line. The whole in-lap, watching the crowd and obviously getting out of the car and seeing this, I haven’t stopped the goosebumps. It’s incredible. But in the hotel, arriving to the track. Everywhere we go, it’s just noise, support and encouragement and it’s the best feeling you can have as a driver, as an athlete.

Q: And about tomorrow, are you aiming for that podium up there?
CS: Yeah, that’s the number one target. Tomorrow I’m going to give it everything to hold on to that P1. A good start, a good first stint, see if we can battle Max. Normally in the long runs, he’s quicker but I’m going to give it all.

ITALIAN GRAND PRIX QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Carlos, belated happy birthday. What a sensational final lap by you. Just how sweet is this moment: pole for Ferrari at Monza? 
CS: It’s difficult to put into words, to describe the feeling. It’s just amazing, you know. Just the whole weekend really, since we arrived here on Wednesday, the support and the feeling with the crowd and the energy that they put into us, it’s incredible. I had my birthday yesterday also, so I enjoyed that and I’m pretty sure it gave me also a good feeling, good vibes and good energy into today. I’ve been feeling very comfortable with the car and I put together, honestly, one of my best laps there in Q3, run two, to settle pole. It was tight with these two, like it used to be last year, and like it gets to be normally and I enjoyed a lot that lap.

Q: As you say, you’ve been fast all weekend. The car seems very hooked up. Just what are its strengths around Monza?
CS: Well, I guess our efficiency. Like we’ve seen in some tracks this year, it’s pretty good and the car, honestly, since we put it on track on FP1, it just felt completely different to what it did in Zandvoort and it is what it is. It’s what we’re getting this year: we’re getting some very good weekends and some other very tough ones, we just need to make sure on the good ones we, we try to maximise, like we did today, and in the tough ones, we learn how to suffer and get the best out of it. But honestly, the car today, I cannot fault it. It was a really, really good balance. It gave me a lot of confidence through Sector 2, Ascari and Parabolica, and it’s there I think where I could make the major difference when it counted, taking a bit more risks.

Q: Now, there was one potential hiccup in Q1 when, and I’m quoting: “You were reported to the stewards for disobeying the Race Director’s instructions concerning the maximum lap time.” What happened there?
CS: Yeah, I’m not very worried about that, because I had to slow down so much to not impede other cars that were on fastest laps that it was almost impossible to respect the delta that the Race Director put us, because if I would have respected it, I would have impeded my competitors. So I just played it safe, preferred to not impede anyone. And even if I was, I think, one or two seconds off the Delta, I think that’s safer than actually impeding someone.

Q: And that is why there is no further action. But let’s look ahead to the race tomorrow… 
CS: Yeah, thank you. Don’t scare me!

Q: Sorry! Let’s look ahead to the race tomorrow. Have you got the car to do it to win around here?
CS: Well, we’ve got the motivation and the energy to do it. The car, it has been very good all weekend, especially over one lap. From what I’ve seen through the long runs, I’m not going to lie, it’s trickier. It’s not the same picture as in Quali. That Red Bull, as soon as you put five or six laps on the tyre, and everything starts to degrade a bit, it’s where they come, their strengths, and the race pace that we’ve seen all year. But hopefully I can get a good start and then I can make Max and Checo behind and Charles’ life, obviously, as difficult as possible. But I think we will need to work well as a team and give it our best shot. I think it’s a good opportunity tomorrow, but also being realistic, the Red Bull should be quicker. We’re just going to try and make their life as complicated as possible and try to take the win.

Q: Max, coming to you now. So tell us about Qualifying for you. After eight consecutive pole positions, it’s P2 for you here at Monza.
MV: So now you do count my Spa pole! OK [laughs]. Yeah, I think it was just very tight. You know, you could see Q1, Q2, Q3. Yeah, it was… every run, you could see that we were very closely matched. And I think this weekend, especially from my side, I think Friday was a little bit more tricky, but I think we can’t really complain. So many weekends in a row where we put the car on the track and it has been easy going, it has been really well set-up and it seemed like here it was just a little more difficult to find the right trade-off of downforce for us. But I was very happy this morning. I thought the car’s working well on one lap and on the long run as well. So, yeah, I’m happy with second, to be honest. Here in Monza it’s always very tight. Sometimes you might jump ahead, sometimes you’re just behind but I’m confident for tomorrow.

Q: How good was that final lap in Q3?
MV: It was good. Just pushing as hard as I could. On a track like this, with low downforce, it’s not always the easiest, but it was enjoyable out there.

Q: And do you agree with Carlos that you have a better race car than him?
MV: I mean, so far this year, yes. So hopefully it will be the same tomorrow.

Q: Charles, coming to you, very well done as well. Amazing moment to have two Ferraris in the top three. Just talk us through Q3 first of all, from your point of view.
CL: Well, our Q3 was really on the limit. I mean, the two laps I’ve done, I was really happy with my laps. But we were very close with Max and Carlos. To be honest, it’s not something that I expected. Until now it’s been such a difficult weekend for me. Yesterday, I went into a direction that was completely wrong with the car set-up and I really struggled to put a lap together. This morning in FP3 was all about adapting to that new car, following the direction of Carlos’ set-up. And then in Quali, I managed to put everything together and I’m really happy with the performance we’ve shown today. Yes, it’s only P3 and I’m never completely happy with third place but considering where we started the weekend, it’s not a bad place to be.

Q: Charles, what took you in that different direction set-up wise, yesterday?
CL: I had a feeling that this was the right direction to go. But obviously after FP2, I realised that it wasn’t. It’s as simple as that. And yeah, then it was all about re-adapting to everything in FP3 as quickly as possible, but also there I have been quite inconsistent. And then, coming into Qualifying, I put everything together. And the last lap in Q3 was really good. I mean, Carlos has done an incredible job since FP1, he’s been on it, and in Q3 as well, his lap was really, really good. But yeah, happier to be that close.

Q: And with the ATA this weekend. We’ve seen all three tyre compounds used in that Qualifying session. How did the car perform on each tyre?
CL: Well, I think it wasn’t too bad. Compared to the others, I feel we probably struggled a bit more on the Hard, especially on the first lap, straight out the box. We seem to struggle a bit more to put them into temperature but, apart from that, it was good on all three compounds.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Jesús Balseiro – Diario AS) Question for Carlos. How realistic is it to think about the race win tomorrow? I mean what has to happen for you to fight for a win tomorrow?
CS:  I think it can happen. I think nothing is impossible tomorrow, especially starting from P1. If I get a good start, I’m going to do everything I can to stay ahead of Max.  I think, looking back at this year, one hundred per cent of races, they’ve been quicker and they’ve been clearly quicker no? So that makes me feel like it’s not going to be easy at all and they’re going to try a way past one way or another, no? But, you know, something could happen. We could also have a particularly good day tomorrow and get the win. So I’m just going to try, and go open-minded into tomorrow, drive us as I want to win the race and then adapt to the circumstances and to the race pace of each car.

Q: (Carlos Miguel – Marca) Question for Carlos. I don’t know if you know that there is a Monza statistic that, from ’19 nobody repeats victory. Last year Max won in Monza. Could you good for you, no?
CS: Maybe you should ask Max? But honestly, I don’t believe in statistics too much. And these kind of how – do you call them, curses or whatever? I think on Sunday wins the one who deserves the most and normally the one who is quicker – unless something happens. And I’m just going to try to be that one. The faster one and the one that puts everything together and go into tomorrow also trying to enjoy the day, y’know? Enjoy starting on pole in Monza with Ferrari. Good energy, good vibes. And then yeah, just enjoy myself out there, because it’s going to be fun.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Another question to Carlos please. Congratulations on pole position. You mentioned, just at the end of Q3, you took particular risks at Ascari and the Parabolic. Just wondered if you could talk us through those please – and how you felt that made the difference?
CS: Yeah, I think it’s typical here in Monza. You have such a light feeling with a car that you never really are willing in practice to take the car to the absolute limit until really Q3 when it counts, and I’ve had a few good laps here in the past in Q3. I remember my McLaren days and even last year in Ferrari also, I had a really good run around Ascari and Parabolica when you go and remove – a bit – that fear and you’re going to take the ultimate risk and today work again. You just go into that corner that is an incredibly fast corner, where the car feels incredibly light and you just hope it grips – and it did. Like it’s been doing all weekend. This car has been giving me that extra confidence and extra feeling to push through there. And I think I had a very good run through there and I could take pole by hundredths. But yeah, it was good fun. Honestly this Qualifying session, I enjoyed it a lot. I enjoyed the battle already from Q3 Run One, where we did point-five, all three of us. I knew it was going to be super, super tight and all about the details and risks going into the second run and it was really good fun.

Q: (Claire Cottingham – Racefans.net) Question for Carlos and for Max.  Carlos for you, how impressed have you been for your own Qualifying throughout the whole season? And then to get to where you are now in pole position, obviously. And Max? How surprised are you by their pace? Carlos has been on it all weekend. It’s been quite an impressive performance. Thank you.
CS: Honestly, this year, yeah, it’s been an up-and-down year in terms of pace. And some races we are there, some others were not. But I’ve been feeling a lot more at home with the car since the beginning of the season and I feel like I understand a lot better how to drive it, and how to set it up a bit more to where I want the car to be. And yeah, I’ve been having a – in terms of pace and getting pace out of the car – a smoother season. And I am hoping that this second half I just can put more weekends together like I did in Zandvoort and it becomes a bit smoother from here onwards and we just maximise where we are.
MV: Not really surprised, they were quick also last year. Also when you look at their rear wing, it seems like it’s quite well optimised for Monza where I think our wing especially for one lap is maybe not the best optimization but for the race normally it should be better. So yeah, nothing shocking to be honest.

Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) To all three, starting with Max, please. This is the second weekend with the ATA. I know you were not fond of it in Hungary. At least we saw some more running here in Monza but what are your thoughts on it, also the FIA will review it after this weekend and look at it for 2024 but what are your thoughts on it so far?
MV: For me, it’s not necessary.  It doesn’t really change anything.  The quickest cars anyway at the front and normally also the quickest cars on the harder compounds are even better so it probably makes it even worse for the teams in the back.
CS: I think the FP1 and FP2 and FP3 are maybe a bit more of a pain with the tyre allocation, just not being able to put as many new tyres and learn from the car and maybe waiting around in the garage for a bit longer than… Honestly in qualifying, I like it. I like hard, medium soft; having to adapt, having to find the grip. It becomes a bit more improvisation and a bit more like yeah, improvisation and feeling of how much grip you’re going to find in Q2 and Q3. But the rest of the weekend I wish we could have a bit more running and a bit more tyres;  just Q1,  Q2, Q3,  I like it.
CL: I’m not a big fan of it. Q1 Q2, Q3 is okay but free practice is not great. I don’t like it.

Q: (Fabio Marchi – Mundo Deportivo)  Carlos, what do you feel and what do you think in the very previous moment that you have to start your last lap? Do you think ‘let’s go, I am matador and I will show you’? 
CS: I don’t… I tell to myself ‘Vamos, Carlos’. I don’t know. Have you ever been that person to realise what you’re thinking.  I think we’re going so fast and we’re so pumped of adrenaline that you don’t really have time to tell yourself much. You’re just seeing turn one come at 340 kph and with these cars that jumped around you cannot even see turn one because of the vibrations and the speed that we’re doing. So you’re just trying to find your braking point as much as you can and even sometimes it’s quite difficult to find it. So I don’t have time to tell myself ‘vamos’ or anything like that. I’m looking from the beginning of the straight, seeing where’s my braking point is, because I need to find it.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) To the two Ferrari drivers:  how much does Ferrari’s iconic status mount  pressure on you to perform? Also, do you think it’s unfair that Ferrari lately has drawn the most criticism for his lack of performance, compared to other iconic names on the grid that are not performing so well?
CL: Unfair or fair, at the end we are Ferrari so of course there’s a lot of noise around the team and we need to deal with it. None of us are happy in the team of the performance we are showing at the moment, apart from today, of course, where we are quite proud and happy. But the rest of the season for now has been very difficult. And we are also aware so it’s normal that people are talking a lot about Ferrari, because Ferrari is Ferrari and because of all the history they have in the sport and now it’s our duty to make everything in order to come back at the top. Then for the pressure;  me personally I don’t feel more pressure coming here. It’s just motivation. It’s a long week for us;  obviously we start already from Monday or Tuesday at the simulator and then we’ve got events in Milan and we feel so much support. You can really feel how much it means to the whole country, this Grand Prix, and how much Ferrari means to them. So it is very special. You can feel the responsibility, but at the end it’s a lot more motivation than pressure.
CS: Yeah, I would agree with Charles. I wouldn’t call it pressure, I would call it a sense of responsibility and a sense of wanting to give this crowd and this country the best possible version of yourself, both off  the track and on the track with your performance. Honestly I cannot be enjoying this weekend more than I’ve been enjoying it from the beginning and it’s been like that for the last three years, since I’m a Ferrari driver.  I just cannot remember or cannot think about a better feeling than being a Ferrari driver in Monza. And it’s a dream come true, something that I’m sure I will remember for the rest of my life, to be going through these years of experience, feeling this, something that I consider myself extremely lucky to do. And yeah, it’s responsibility more than pressure. And the other question was: vamos?  Pressure? No, that was the one I answered. No, there was another question. Yeah, okay. Good.

Q: (Umberto Zapelloni – Il Foglio) Carlos, can we say that the level today has been the best lap of your life? 
CS: Probably my three pole positions – you count four because of Max last year in Spa but I think three proper pole positions you know –  I’m fair, not the statistics, must be very, very good laps and my best laps but I’ve always done good laps around Monza. Sometimes I’ve had the car for pole, other times  no. This one is for sure up there. I am not sure if it’s the best one.  I’ve done so many Qualifyings in F1: 150+, 180 Qualifyings, so to pick this one… for sure it’s the most special position. Is it my best lap ever around the circuit? I’m not sure, I cannot remember but definitely one that I’ve enjoyed the most.

Q: (Fred Ferret – L’Equipe) Max, last week Fernando said that he thought about being in front of you and he would have put himself in danger, leaving Zandvoort. Do you think that going P2 tomorrow could be the best for you to go out of the track tomorrow night? 
MV: Oh no, I don’t think like that. I’m only here to win and then we’ll figure out what happens leaving the track but the fans, they of course support Ferrari and of course they will always want to see a red car win but they are also sensible, you know, they’re not hooligans, so it’s all okay.
CS: You can also go in a helicopter if not.
MV: Yeah, or just barge through it, have to run out of the way so it will be okay –  no, I’m joking. It will be fine.

Ends