Austrian Grand Prix Qualifying Top Three Press Conference

Austrian Grand Prix Qualifying Top Three Press Conference

Austrian Grand Prix Qualifying Top Three Press Conference

Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three press conference after Qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, Round 11 of the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship, at the Red Bull Ring.

Parc ferme interviews conducted by Jolyon Palmer featuring the top three in the Qualifying session in Spielberg: P1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), P2 Lando Norris (McLaren), and P3 George Russell (Mercedes).

Track Interviews Conducted by Jolyon Palmer

Q: Max Verstappen, pole position. I have to say, you were in a league of your own today. How was it?


Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, the qualifying went really well. We tried to adjust the car a little bit after the things that we learned this morning. I think it worked well. Of course, the track is a bit warmer than yesterday, so it made it all a bit trickier to drive, but, yeah, the car felt a lot better for me today. I could really attack the corners a bit more, and, yeah, and every run was just on point and was very enjoyable out there.

Q: We’ve come off a run of poles being decided by 0.00 for George and you. Also, a couple of hundredths. Even yesterday, nine hundredths. But with the set-up changes, you’re feeling the confidence, and you’ve just flattened everyone by tenths around a short circuit.

MV: Yeah, exactly. It’s been a while since we’ve actually been on pole. So it’s great. It’s a great feeling. The team has been working really hard to try and make the car more competitive. I think this is a great statement, and hopefully we can, of course, also show that tomorrow in the race.

Q: But we did see a good fight in the race earlier on, in the Sprint. You’ve got still one McLaren starting alongside you. You know how to race Lando now. Any thoughts about that before the Grand Prix?

MV: Yeah, of course, it’s always nice to race. Hopefully it will be a tight battle again tomorrow, but we’ll see tomorrow. I’m not thinking about that too much. I’m just very happy with how the car was performing today, and hopefully it will translate also in race pace.

Q: Lando, how was that?

Lando NORRIS: No, good quali. I think it was as much as we could do today, Max was, like you said, a league of his own. Clearly much quicker than what we had, so I’m happy. Tricky conditions, felt a bit more difficult than it was yesterday, a lot closer, so more difficult to get the laps in and to kind of perfect the laps, but it was good enough, and I’ll take it.

Q: And in terms of the race, you’ve had a dress rehearsal now. Started second, Max was on pole. You had a lovely fight earlier on. Are you thinking in a longer race, the Grand Prix distance, it might help a little bit?

LN: I mean, it’s tough. When you look at the pace today, it’s clear that we’re going to have to give it a lot. We’re going to need something extra to kind of go our way in order to beat the pace of Max and the Red Bulls. I’ll try. I’ll do a better job than I did this morning, that’s for sure. Yeah, I’m excited. I look forward to it. And it’s a long race. Many things can happen. And normally we’re better in the races than we are in qualifying. So let’s see.

Q: All right. Well done, Lando. Hopefully you can give us a great race. George Russell, back in the top three. Mercedes back in the top three for the third Saturday qualifying in a row. You’ve got to be happy with that.

George RUSSELL: Yeah, absolutely. The car’s feeling really great at the moment. Obviously, the team have worked so hard bringing these upgrades. And it feels like we’ve got a real fight on our hands, especially with Ferrari. I think we’re still a little bit behind McLaren and Max and Red Bull were flying today, but it’s definitely going in the right direction for us.

Q: It didn’t look like the easiest Sprint for you and the team. You were not far away from the Ferraris, but missing a little bit compared to the top two. You seemed more competitive in this session. Did you change much on the car?

GR: Yeah, we definitely changed a few things. We changed the wing level, which helped a little bit. I think that helped the tyre deg for tomorrow. So happy to be in P3, because I think we compromised qualifying a little bit to help the race tomorrow. But the fact is McLaren still have that edge on us. But as I said, three races in a row for us that we’re in the top three with Lewis and I, and that feels really great.

Q: What are the thoughts for tomorrow? Dreaming of the top step or elbows out to keep the podium?

GR: I mean, these two are pretty dicey in the Sprint race, so I think I’ll sit back, watch them do their thing and hopefully just sneak through on the inside! But realistically, they’ve got the pace on us. Our race is probably going to be behind us, unfortunately, and it’s important that we don’t compromise our race too much battling with these guys, but let’s see.

Press Conference

Q: Very well done, Max. A very impressive pole position today. Just how pleased are you with the session and that final lap of Q3?

MV: I think the whole session went really well. The car was in a better window. I could push a bit more, rely on the grip of the car, the balance. It was very enjoyable. I was just trying to progress through Q1 without using a new set. And that worked. And then from there, we just tried to fine-tune the balance here and there a little bit. But every lap that I did was feeling good. And then it’s all about, of course, trying to just nail every corner. It’s been a while that I’ve felt like this in the car and also looking at the gap. The last few races, I’ve always been very close in front or behind. So this was definitely very positive, I think, for the team.

Q: Max, Lando talked about doing the perfect qualifying lap in Barcelona last weekend. Was this close to perfection for you?

MV: It was good. There are probably always things that can be done better, for sure, when I look back at the lap. I felt confident. I knew that if I did a solid lap, it was going to be good enough for pole. And that’s what I did today. And that’s what matters. We definitely worked hard as a team to try and be more competitive compared to the last few rounds. And it seems to work. So I’m definitely happy with that, I guess. Of course, you always try to nail laps in qualifying. Some are a bit better than others. This one was for sure very good. I’m probably never going to say it’s a perfect lap, but it was a good lap.

Q: Are you surprised by the gap to your rivals?

MV: Yeah. I mean, of course, it’s a short lap, and the gap was quite big. But at the other end, I also felt really good with the car, and the balance was there. So then you can really push and attack the corners. And I guess that then made it such a gap.

Q: So the car is very good over one lap. You’ve established that today. What about the long run pace tomorrow?

MV: Yeah, that’s, of course, something that I hope is going to be good as well. But I will find out tomorrow. I felt like, yeah, the car just improved a bit balance wise, which hopefully will help the tyres tomorrow as well, because it’s still going to be a hot and long race. So you really have to look after the tyres. And that’s what we’ll try to do.

Q: All right, very well done today. Thank you, Max. Lando, let’s come to you. Another front row start for you here. How was your lap?

LN: It was pretty good. It was pretty good, but not amazing. Just a bit trickier today than it was yesterday for, you know, wind and conditions and stuff like that. But relatively we were much further back, closer to the Mercedes and Ferraris than we were relative to Max. So a bit of it was in my lap. Like, definitely yesterday I probably did a better lap and made up for some of it and I think today there was at least one or two tenths in just doing a very good lap from my side, but definitely not enough to get Max. So he did a good job and Red Bull made a good step from where they were yesterday. And clearly, yeah, they were a lot quicker than what we could achieve today. So still P2, still front row. And yeah, hopefully we can turn that into something good tomorrow.

Q: Have you managed to improve your car from where you were yesterday?

LN: I mean, it doesn’t look like it! We hope so. We changed a couple little things, but I think we always do a very good job in kind of just getting the car going from the off in a pretty close to the best way we can, and the most optimised way that we can. So I think we already did a good job all weekend. Maybe others just were able to improve more than we could, and we optimised things earlier in the weekend. But we think we took a step forward. It’s just various things made things trickier.

Q: Let’s throw it forward to the race tomorrow. It’s your second race start here alongside Max Verstappen. What’s the plan?

LN: Kind of the same, but not! Yeah, just tidying up a few things from before. Yeah, I know what I did wrong, it was obviously very clear. But from the pace advantage Max had today, that’s probably going to carry into something tomorrow as well. So I’m not sure even today if I had a perfect run of things and if it was just between Max and myself, I’m not sure I probably would have had the pace to quite keep up with what Max was able to do. Then into quali today, it showed that they were just a pretty good step ahead of us. So we’ll see. It’s another day. Things can change and conditions are going to be very warm again. So the races have been good to us lately. It’s been one of our strengths relative to qualifying. So excited to see what we can do.

Q: Alright. Thank you, Lando. George, coming to you. Very well done as well. How pleased are you with your session as a whole?

GR: Yeah, it felt a good session, similar to Lando. I think the gap to Max was bigger than we expected. We made a few changes with the car, which I think will help us tomorrow. And then that last lap in Q3 was all a bit messy. I had to let quite a few people by on my out lap. And then during the lap, I could just see dust everywhere and gravel on the track. And that’s pretty frustrating as a driver when you go through a corner, you just see gravel everywhere. So there’s a bit more in it, but really pleased to end up P3, not too sure where Oscar got his lap deleted. And hopefully we can fight for the podium tomorrow.

Q: Well, what about that? Tell us about the long-run pace here?

GR: Yeah, I think Lando and Oscar seem a little bit quicker than us. Obviously Max is down the road at the moment. So I don’t know where Oscar ended up finishing, but I’m confident Lewis and I can probably beat the Ferraris tomorrow and hopefully hold up Oscar’s progress. Where did he qualify? He was seventh, OK. But yeah, it’s a long race, high degradation, anything can happen.

Q: So what about the start? Round the outside, sweeping into the lead at Turn 1, is that the plan?

GR: What do you reckon? No, I think it’s a bit more challenging here. I think these guys always get their elbows out. So maybe this time it’s sit back and watch it all take place. But no, I think last week I lost a lot of time battling with Lando and probably focused too much on the guys ahead of me. And ultimately that cost me the position to Lewis and almost with Charles as well. So as I said, I think the race is behind us tomorrow.

Questions from the floor

Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) Question for Max, please. You spoke briefly about the changes to balance that you experienced during this qualifying session, given the performance over yesterday and earlier on today. What were you asking for over lunch to kind of make that next step? How did you kind of turn the dial up, so to speak?

MV: Yeah, just a more stable balance, a bit more connected front to rear. And that worked out well. Yeah, I think we made the right changes. And then you can see that it’s little things that sometimes can actually make quite a bit of a difference in lap time. So I’m, of course, very happy with that because, like I said before, we haven’t had the easiest of runs, and I think pure pace has been a bit harder for us compared to the last two years. So this is definitely very positive for everyone.