DRIVERS 1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing) 2 – Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull Racing) 3 – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari)
PARC FERMÉ INTERVIEWS
(Conducted by David Coulthard)
Q: Max, great way to set yourself up for the final race of the season – your seventh pole of this year and your 20th overall. Take us on a lap round this track.
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it was a bit of an up and down qualifying, you know. It started off quite well. Q2 was a little bit more messy. I honestly don’t know why. With that tyres set I just couldn’t get the grip together. But then in Q3 it all felt a bit more normal. And yeah, we had a bit of a scare, the car turned off before the first run. So we had to reboot everything. And then we went out and both of the laps were good enough, so of course very pleased with that. But also very happy that both cars are on the front row because we know that of course we want to win the race but we also want to finish second with Checo in the championship. So that’s definitely a great start for tomorrow.
Q: Yeah, we heard you on the radio referring to great teamwork there out on the track. You were helping Checo a little bit on the back straight, so perfectly poised to try and control this race?
MV: Yeah, I mean, it always sounds great. For sure today was amazing. I still expect it to be a good battle tomorrow, but at least we have both cars there and we can we can do what we want.
Q: OK, well, Max, we’ll let you enjoy that pole position and good luck for tomorrow. Sergio Pérez, it was close, you’ve been quick all weekend, you weren’t quite able to get the pole. But second is still a good starting place for tomorrow.
Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, it’s a good starting [place]. I think we didn’t make that that final step in Q3. Especially Q3 run one wasn’t that good? So we were a bit behind but it’s good, you know. It’s good to lock out that front row for tomorrow. Max did a great job also for me, you know, we worked together as a team really strongly on that final run. So yeah, looking forward to tomorrow, which is the day that really matters.
Q: So tomorrow your eyes are on trying to secure that second place in the Drivers’ Championship. You seem to have a lot of fan support here willing you on.
SP: Yeah, thank you very much all the fans that are here and I really hope that tomorrow we can have a strong race.
Q: I know it’s all about qualifying today but just very briefly throw us forward. What are we expecting tomorrow race strategy wise?
SP: I think it’s going to be a very interesting one, you know, given how strong Ferrari will be, Mercedes, you know. With Max it will be an interesting one tomorrow.
Q: Excellent. Well go and debrief enjoy tonight and we’ll see you on track tomorrow. Charles, you’ve been the qualifying king this year, but unfortunately today the pace wasn’t quite there. Anything more you could have done on that lap?
Charles LECLERC: I locked up in Turn 6/7, but to be honest, it is the place we deserve. Today the Red Bulls were stronger. But we are still in quite a good position for tomorrow. But it’s going to be close with Checo for sure.
Q: Well, put us into that battle. There are some good places to overtake on this track, plenty of DRS zones. Seems like the Red Bulls are going to be working together. So what’s that going to do for your strategy?
CL: Well, I mean, I’m sure we can work together to with Carlos, I have no doubt on that. And we’ll try to maximise the team result. We know Red Bull is a bit stronger on the Sunday so it’s going to be tricky, but we are going to give it all and hopefully we can get that second place in the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships.
Q: Just a quick reflection on that: it’s been a long season, but it’s been a great season for you on outright pace. Where is your mind at now? Ate you ready for your winter holiday or you’re just, ‘agh, what could have been?’
CL: I mean, first, before going on holiday we need to focus on tomorrow. Obviously after the last two very difficult years for the team its’ good to have done a step forward. And it would be great for the team to get that second place in the Constructors’ especially, so I’ll push for that and then we’ll go into holidays, rest and hopefully come back stronger next year.
Q: Many congratulations, Max. In the end, you did two laps good enough for the pole. Just talk us through Q3.
MV: Yeah, Q3 was good. Before that, it was all a bit up and down. But Q3, first run, I mean, even there, it started a bit chaotic, where I was supposed to, of course, drive out in front of Checo. But as soon as I wanted to start my engine, everything just turned off. So, we had to reboot the car. And then yeah, luckily, I still managed to get out, a bit delayed, which is also not great with the tyres. But we still managed to keep everything under control and did a good lap. So, I was happy with that. And the second one was a little bit more straightforward but it wasn’t it wasn’t easy to find a lot more lap time. It’s just a little bit in the last sector. But I think overall this weekend for us as a team, also, we’ve been on it, the car has been quick again basically a little bit more like back to normal.
Q: Well, after the issues in Brazil last weekend, how important is it to get things back on track at this race?
MV: We knew that we had a quick car, I think we just made a few mistakes in Brazil, in hindsight. I can’t go into too much detail about it but the thing is, with the Sprint race, when you have one practice and you don’t nail it there, you are stuck with it for the rest of the weekend. And that’s basically what we had. And then you know it’s going to be a bit of a struggle. But again, maybe we can do something better in terms of our preparation before going there. So that’s again, a lesson learned. But once we got here, I think the work at the simulator paid off and immediately, I could see were in FP1, you know, Checo feeling quite happy, also Liam in the car, he seemed straightaway on it. So it means that the car is in a good window. And then when I jumped in and FP2, it was just about fine tuning a few things.
Q: You mentioned, Liam. He drove your car in FP1. That lost practice session, was that one of the reasons why quali started in a slightly scrappy way for you?
MV: No, not at all. Because as soon as I jumped in, in FP2 It was good. So, it didn’t really feel like lost track time to me. It was just very up-and-down. Like the first Q1 was good but then in Q2, I put a new tyre set on and it was massively, like, rear-limited. And even when I went out again on that set, and then I just put a new tyre set on in Q3 and everything was solved again, So it’s a bit of a mystery.
Q: Look, Max, let’s throw it forward to the race tomorrow. What are going to be the main considerations for you?
MV: To try to win it you mean? Just looking after the tyres. That’s going to be key.
Q: Checo, coming to you now. Your first top-three start here at Yas Marina. What was your fastest lap like?
SP: Yeah, it was a good session. It was looking better after Q2, then Q3, it didn’t start that well, especially run one, wasn’t ideal. Then the second run was quite a lot better. Not enough for pole, though. So still, I think being on the front row for the team it’s a good result, especially after the weekend we come from, you know, in São Paulo where we struggled quite a bit. It’s nice to be back.
Q: How much did the tow from Max help in that second run?
SP: Yeah, it certainly did. I think we worked really well as a team today. And I could feel, especially Sector 2, it was working. What you gain, you lose a bit in Sector 3, but generally, I think certainly it was a positive thing.
Q: Now you’re starting ahead of your main rival for P2 in the World Championship, how difficult is it going to be to stay ahead of Charles tomorrow?
SP: Yeah, it’s going be a difficult race. I do expect them to be strong. So, it’s going to be a close battle with Charles, so it will be an interesting one for tomorrow.
Q: How do you feel going into the race? Are you nervous? Excited?
SP: It’s quite exciting. It’s great to be playing for something in the final race. So it is good.
Q: Charles, I’m going to start by talking about tomorrow. Do you think you can beat these guys?
CL: Yeah, well, let’s see. It’s difficult to know for now. We’ve had a difficult FP2. During the race simulations, it felt definitely quite a bit better this morning. But we had no reference, so it’s a bit of a question mark for now. I felt like we are in a better place compared to yesterday. Whether this is enough to beat the Red Bulls tomorrow I don’t know yet. But we’ll give it all.
Q: Tyre deg has been an issue in recent races. Do you think that’s there’s going to be a repeat tomorrow?
CL: We put quite a lot of attention this weekend on it. So I hope not.
Q: And what about qualifying? Do you feel you got the maximum out of the car? Were there any issues during the session at all?
CL: No, as Mark said, it was really, really tricky to put the tyres in the right window, and you will get a very different feeling from one lap to another. And it was also quite a lot about management, even in Qualifying. If you were pushing First and Second Sector, then you will lose it all in Sector 3. So I tried to find that balance that I think I found in the last lap of Q3. But it wasn’t enough to challenge Checo. We were also a little bit alone. I had no slipstream, so I don’t know how much this… we paid the price. But yeah, overall, looking forward to tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) The same question to the two Red Bull drivers please: Could you just explain the thinking behind the tow plan, and had Max’s car fired up as expected ahead of the first runs, Checo, would you have been running ahead and given him a tow there or Max, were you’re going to lead Checo both times?
MV: No, well, so going into the weekend, we gave Checo the option to choose what he would like: do you want to go first or behind? He chose to go behind and that was also the plan in qualifying but like I said, I was planned to go ahead in the first run as well but my engine… yeah, everything just turned off. But luckily, we got it together for the second one.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Max, who do you think poses the biggest threat tomorrow, Mercedes or Ferrari? And what exactly will be the plan tomorrow at the start to help Checo? And Charles, do you think with Red Bull having the edge in the race pace, that Ferrari would have to go slightly more aggressive on their strategy?
MV: It’s difficult to tell at the moment. I think, from our side, we looked good in FP2 with the long run and it seemed like both Ferrari and Mercedes seemed to struggle a little bit more at the time. But I don’t know what they have done overnight so I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. I think as a team, we just need to stay ahead of them, that’s very clear, because that means that also Checo is ahead in the championship.
CL: Yeah, well, difficult to say for the strategy. I think we’ll have to see once we are in the race, and what are the opportunities at that moment. Obviously, Carlos is starting right behind me and hopefully we can put a bit of pressure on Checo by doing different things.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Sergio, it was said that yesterday you were running in high downforce compared to Max. Is that what made the difference on a lap today and do you expect it to then give you more tomorrow?
SP: We were certainly trying different stuff yesterday, certainly in FP1. Track conditions were fairly different so going into FP2, we decided to split cars and try different stuff and we ended up coming back to a different level to Max.
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) Max, basically, to follow up the previous question, are you actually surprised to see Mercedes so far back here? Since Austin, they’ve always made a strong impression? And do you think that’s related to the layout maybe or anything else?
MV: Maybe the layout, but honestly it is a bit of a mystery but even for us we didn’t expect to be so slow in Brazil so clearly we don’t always seem to understand where we are really good or just pretty average. But a little surprised, but I mean, who knows, maybe they focus more on the long run and sacrifice a little bit of one lap performance. You never know.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Charles, just looking ahead to the race tomorrow, if you do get the chance, how hard are you going to be pushing to beat Checo and finish second in the championship? How much does that mean to you to finish second in the championship for so long you’d hoped to win?
CL: I mean, regardless of the championship, if there’s an opportunity, I’ll try and go for it. So yeah, I’ll go for it if there’s an opportunity.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Previously it was difficult overtaking in Abu Dhabi, at this circuit. How much difference do you think it will make tomorrow with the new cars? Do you think there’ll be more overtaking or it will be very similar to the races before?
MV: Well, I think in general on average, this year, it has been a bit better to follow of course. The only penalty with that is of course the drag is a little bit less so sometimes it seems you need a little bit of a longer DRS to try and then get by. I do think with the new layout turn five is an improvement to attack into six. Turn nine, I think is a little bit too quick. You only can really fight if you are like side by side but even then the car on the inside with the banking, it’s tough. I like the quick corner because that’s more fun and in a Formula 1 car but I think actually to have a proper braking zone and possibly like just a hairpin, I think that would have been better for racing, but at least turn five I think is an improvement.
SP: Yeah, nothing really to add. I think we will see a bit more than last year but fairly similar to what we’ve seen this year. So I think probably the degradation seems to be a bit higher, which can be a bit more interesting in the race tomorrow. So we’ll see. I don’t think anyone has done a proper long run so it will be an interesting race tomorrow.