Full transcript from the top three press conference after qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix, Round 20 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Autódromo José Carlos Pace in Interlagos, Sao Paulo.
Featuring pole winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), second-placed Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) and third-placed Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes).
Trackside interviews conducted by Paul Di Resta
Q: Max, congratulations – pole position. It looked like the perfect driver/car combination today; nothing was going to stop you?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, our car was really good. I think throughout qualifying the track temperature was changing a bit so we had to adjust for that, but yeah, straight away from Q1 the car was flying and it was really enjoyable to drive, so very happy with this pole position.
Q: How nerve-racking was it? We saw you make a small mistake in the middle sector on your first run. It still put you quickest but you had to put the final touches on that to try to improve.
MV: Yeah, I tried a different line, but also the track was a bit warmer and that gave me a bit more oversteer and then, of course, I went a bit wide. The second lap, luckily, was a bit better, so yeah, all; good.
Q: And this track owes you something from last year.
MV: I will, of course, try to finish to the plan.
Q: Sebastian, second again, narrowly missing out on pole, but I guess you’ve got to be satisfied that you’re on the front row?
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, I had a bit of a wobble in the exit of the last corner on the first run but I think Max improved his time, so fair play and I think it’s his pole position. Yeah, happy with the front row. Now we will see what we can do tomorrow. The car has been good. I think it got better throughout qualifying, which was the target. I think we improved it and I hope that we can keep that momentum for the race.
Q: How do you see the race panning out? Do you think you are in the mix to race Red Bull, or do you think they’re too quick?
SV: It will be difficult. Both Red Bull and Mercedes look a bit stronger managing tyres, but we are there for a reason: we’ve got the speed and we’ve got the power, so let’s see what the race brings. I am carefully optimistic. I think it should be a good race.
Q: Great, have fun. Lewis, it was a great battle at the top between three of the big teams. You must be happy where you are, at the same time that you’re in the mix for tomorrow?
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, definitely. Congrats to Max, a great lap by him. We seemed quite competitive in P3 and then we seemed to lose going into qualifying, or they gained. But no, nonetheless, I’m very happy that I was able to divide the Ferraris, that’s always a tough challenge. We’ve been down on power, I guess, compared to the others particularly, that’s where we lose most of our time. But nonetheless, I guess it absolutely everything that I had and I’m glad at the end, my best lap of the session was my last run – awesome.
Q: On the back of your sixth world title, Lewis, I know this is a pretty special place for you to come. You embrace Ayrton Senna and see the Brazilian fans. What’s it going to mean tomorrow?
LH: Yeah, I mean, this is such a tough race to win. The track is very, very challenging and there’s so much history here, so every time we come, of course for me… I’m often putting Senna’s helmet design on my helmet, just reminiscent… I remember watching him winning here and how crazy the crowd went. But I seem to have a lot of support here, so obrigado to everyone here.
Q: Taking the second pole position of his Formula 1 career, Max Verstappen. Max you couldn’t…
MV: You said two; I have three. I consider myself this is my third.
SV: Ah, yeah.
MV: And then Hungary. So this is my third. He said second. This is my third.
Q: We can discuss this afterwards, Max! You couldn’t have been more dominant throughout qualifying. Just how good was that final lap of Q3 and how surprised have you been at the dominance of the Red Bull car around this Interlagos track?
MV: I think the last few races have already been quite strong. I think from today we changed the car a but from yesterday and it seemed to work really well and especially in qualifying it really came alive. It had really good balance. Already in Q2 it felt really good.
LH: You turned more power up?
MV: You don’t do that through qualifying? And then Q3 I think also the track got a bit warmer, so it was a bit more tricky to get the lap time out of it…
SV: Go ahead…
MV: Why are you laughing?
SV: I’m in a world of my own. You go ahead.
Q: How good was that last lap though?
MV: The last lap was pretty decent. It was alright. There are always things you can do better, but it was good enough.
Q: And you’ve already touched on the track temperature. Is that how you explain how you were a tiny bit quicker in Q2 than in Q3?
MV: Like I just explained to them, I didn’t tuck in on my last run, but I did that in Q2, which gave me two tenths or a one-tenth advantage. That’s why we had such good top speed.
Q: And Max, are you confident for tomorrow? Do you feel that you have a good race car under you?
MV: Yeah, I guess so. The car already yesterday was not bad. I think today it improved, so normally it should also be better in the race but I guess we have to find out.
Q: Sebastian, just a tiny bit off pole today. Were you pleased with the balance of your car?
SV: Yeah, I was actually. It was getting better. I think we were a bit shy yesterday, more aggressive this morning, which was a step forward, and in quali it seemed to go up and get better – but I think also the track ramped-up, so yeah, obviously it’s good to, y’know, get in the front row. I was having a very good first attempt in Q3, went a little bit wide in the final turn – I don’t think I was the only one – but yeah, I think Max’s second time was a bit far away so I think we have to admit that we got beaten fair and square today. It was a bit of a surprise… not to see them that quick but to see them that quick on the straights. So, a little bit suspicious…
MV: For once it’s you then!
Q: And Sebastian, looking ahead to tomorrow, do you think you’ve got a competitive race car under you?
SV: Yeah, I think so. Obviously, we know the race for us is maybe not as strong as quali but I was quite pleased with the balance and we, therefore, did another long run this morning in practice and it felt much better than yesterday. So that gives me hope for tomorrow.
Q: Lewis, coming on to you, didn’t look like an easy session for you – only time in the top three was right at the end of Q3. Could you just give us your thoughts on your car and how the session went?
LH: It’s not too often it always goes particularly easy but it was definitely a challenging session. I think P3 was really strong for us and obviously once we got to qualifying, these guys had great pace and we were losing out to Max on the straights by quite a chunk, which is where the majority of the time was coming from but just kept chipping away at it. The last lap was as really as good as it could get really for us. The car actually felt really good, we were just lacking a little bit of pace on the straights but hopefully tomorrow that’ll put us in a good position in terms of longevity on the stints. Maybe. Who knows? But otherwise I’m happy to be able to split the Ferraris. It always puts a smile on my face.
Q: Lewis, looking ahead to the race, now that the Championship’s in the bag, can we expect any different approach from you or anything different from you?
LH: My approach is pretty much the same all year long but maybe we can try to be a bit more aggressive tomorrow, we can have some fun with these guys – but yeah, I don’t particularly see that there’s any reason to make any changes. That’s ultimately what’s got me to where I am today, so I’ll just continue with that.
Questions from the Floor
Q: (Livio Oricchio – liviooricchioF1.com) The question is to Max and I ask also Sebastian and Lewis to comment. Max, you were really fast in the last sector, which is 1,200m full throttle. Can you make a comment about the development of the Honda engine? Also, Lewis, Mercedes power unit and Sebastian, Ferrari, comment about development of Honda please.
MV: Well, I was not the fastest in the last sector but we were the fastest in the second sector, which is where the most corners are. I think throughout the whole year, both from the chassis side and the engine side, we’ve made good gains and yeah, we just continue to work like that. And also experiment for next year. So yeah, very happy of course with the progress throughout the season.
SV: Well, obviously there’s no progress from one race to another because it’s the same engine I support. I don’t know, I haven’t checked but I don’t think they have introduced a new spec. I think it was a bit of a surprise, usually we’ve seen a lot of qualifying sessions and we were always a bit faster than everyone on the straights, losing a bit in the corners but today we were as quick, or Max and Alex were as fast on the straights as us, so… that’s about it. I don’t know why. I don’t think, I mean I know we didn’t do anything different, so…
Q: Lewis, Honda’s progress this year?
LH: It’s obviously great for the sport that we have another manufacturer that’s starting to produce good engines and helping the third team get up there. I don’t fully understand it because we’ve only had the few engines that we’ve had. I don’t know if you can bring upgrades to the engine, I don’t know. Anyway, they’re very, very quick and we’ve got work to do, that’s for sure but my boys back home are working as hard as they can for next year.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Lewis, there seems to be a growing support for you to be knighted back at home, given your achievements. Just your thoughts please? Obviously a massive privilege. Motorsport is often overlooked in the Queen’s Honours List but obviously you’ve done something which only two people have done, winning the title six times, so your thoughts on that?
LH: Honestly, I don’t really like to think too much about it. Just the fact that people have mentioned it, it’s already an honour, but it’s not been something that I’ve been chasing in my life. If, at any point, that was to happen, I don’t particularly know how I would handle it. I have stood in front of Her Majesty The Queen before and it was pretty incredible and I think she’s just awesome. Again, I don’t think it’s going to happen, and again, it doesn’t bother me if it doesn’t. It doesn’t mean I’m not British. It doesn’t mean I’m not continuing to try and raise the flag as well as I can but I do appreciate all the support I’ve had from my fans and also from the British media.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Why don’t you think you’ll get it?
LH: I don’t know, I just don’t think about it. I don’t know.
SV: Do you get a sword? That would be cool if you get to keep the sword.
LH: It’s just not something that you grow up thinking of. I’m really grateful just to be… I’ve got the MBE next Monday. It’s cool.
MV: Is it going to be MBE, OBE, what else?
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) He will be Sir Lewis. You’ll have to call him Sir Lewis.
MV: You don’t have to, do you?
SV: We are so much older than Max, he has to call us mister, at least, and then you’ve got to call Lewis Sir.
Q: (Gianfranco Papini – Momento GP) Sebastian, what do you think is going to be the key to defeat Max in the race tomorrow?
SV: Well, we know that they are very quick in the race as well so I think… yeah, we did improve our car. The key will be to have a good start, I think, ideally get ahead and then I think we manage the tyres, we make the right call on strategy so we will see what happens tomorrow. I think in the end, we are racing here in Interlagos and for some reason there is always something crazy happening, so it might rain tomorrow, even though they say it’s sunshine but here you never know.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Max, including the pole in Mexico, this is the first time that Red Bull have had three poles in the V6 turbo hybrid era so how significant is it for the team and for Honda to have a milestone like that in the first year? And to Lewis, Seb mentioned that he’s a bit surprised to see their performance here, especially in a straight line. Are you surprised as well?
MV: Yeah, of course it’s good. Like I said before, we’ve been continuously improving throughout the season. Of course some tracks have been a bit better for us than others. Already last year I think here we were quite good but yeah, I think again we made a step forward this year, we learned from our mistakes in some recent races and we came back stronger and everything is working well so yeah, of course very happy with three poles but at the end of the day there are more races than that and we want more pole positions.
LH: I don’t really know what to say. Yeah, of course, didn’t expect to come here and see… because I don’t think in the last race they had a speed deficit to us so… On top of that, they were quickest in the middle sector so they’ve obviously still got the same amount of downforce but obviously more power this weekend and considering we are at higher altitude, I have no idea where that stuff comes from.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – liviooricchiof1.com) Lewis, yesterday with the asphalt at 23 degrees, you and Valtteri were a little faster in the simulation of the race with the medium tyres and also hard. Do you think now, with the new conditions and the asphalt more hot you can keep this small advantage you have from both these guys in race conditions?
LH: I really have no idea. I think in general our race trim has often been quite good. I think the cars… these guys seem to continue to step it up a little bit more in terms of their performances have been improving, improving through the year. I think it’s definitely going to be a close race tomorrow, it’s not an easy track to overtake on but tyre durability has been a strength of ours or at least, I’ve found for me, so if that’s the same tomorrow then hopefully yeah, I can utilise that.