Belgian GP Saturday Press Conference
1 – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari)
2 – Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari)
3 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
(Conducted by Timo Glock)
Q: Well done for today. You seemed to be totally in control of the weekend so far and you got a really good lap in. How did it feel like in qualifying for you?
Charles LECLERC: It felt good. Obviously the first sector was not exactly what I wanted, especially in the first corner, we had to go very slow to prepare the lap because there was a lot of traffic. I struggled for that a bit, but after that from the second corner onwards then we were very strong and it felt amazing.
Q: It seemed like you were the only guy who stayed out of trouble on the out laps, because everyone struggled to find a clean spot, but you managed it really well, or not?
Leclerc: Yeah, that's what I asked actually when I was in the garage – to not really care about the slipstream, it was just too much of a mess to prepare the tyres and the lap overall, so ~I wanted to be alone and yeah, it worked out, so I'm happy.
Q: Good feeling for tomorrow for the race?
Leclerc: Yeah, we were struggling a little bit more during the race pace yesterday, so we need to work on that. But, yeah, looking at the pace today I'm pretty sure we will be strong.
Q: Seb, well done today, P2. I think when I saw you in the middle of the same like Charles, you struggled on the out lap to get the tyres into the right window. Was that the key problem today?
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, I mean in the end it's good that we secured the first row. To fight for pole, I was sort of in the queue; it doesn't help, but no excuses. We look forward to the race tomorrow. I think we have good pace in the car, so hopefully we can show it also over, what is it 44 laps?
Q: But you didn't seem that happen on the long run pace yesterday. You think tomorrow it's going to be OK when it's a lot cooler?
Vettel: Yeah, I think it should be better. The car was better today, so we'll see. Obviously temperatures should drop overnight, which makes a difference, but it's the same for everyone.
Q: Thanks. Lewis, first of all I think we need to talk about your mechanics. They did an awesome job.
Q: You were nearly crashing, I think even Valtteri on the out lap, because it was a mess as well. Was it for you hard to get the tyres in as well, because everyone seemed to be affected by that?
Hamilton: Yeah, that was a bit slow. Obviously he was trying to keep the tow of the car in front, so I was trying to hold behind him and everyone was behind me, so it's really tricky. But nonetheless Ferrari have done a great job today, Charles did an exceptional job and I hope we can bring the fight to them in the race tomorrow.
Q: I think your long-run pace was very good yesterday and there is a chance for you on the long straight to attack the Ferraris straight away. Are you happy that it's going to be 10 degrees cooler tomorrow? Is that helping you out?
Hamilton: I don't know, I'd have to ask my engineers. Either way I'm going to give it everything and hopefully give these guys a good race.
Q: Charles, many congratulations, you dominated all three segments of qualifying. Can you tell us how it feels to be on pole by seven tenths of a second?
Leclerc: It obviously feels amazing. It was very tricky, especially in Q3 I struggled quite a lot, the start of the lap was always very, very messy, because there was quite a lot of traffic with all the cars around but in the end I managed to do the full lap correctly and I'm very happy. I definitely did not expect to be that much ahead, but very happy with my lap anyway.
Q: Well, came close to winning in Bahrain earlier this year, so given your level of dominance so far this weekend how confident are you for tomorrow?
Leclerc: I don't know. I think we have been quick since FP1 but once we did the race simulations in FP2 we weren't as quick, so I think it's not going to be easy tomorrow. We will try to give everything. The gap is quite big today but it doesn't mean it will be like that tomorrow, so we will working hard to improve on the race run we did yesterday and we will see.
Q: Well done again. Sebastian, you said on your cool-down lap "what a mess". Can you just describe the session and particularly Q3 from your point of view?
Vettel: Uhh, messy! I think I was getting into a sort of a rhythm, maybe it took a little bit longer for me today to really get a hold of the car but it felt quite good. But then in Q3 it was quite messy, with everybody trying to get a tow and a lot of queuing for the last corner, which made it very tricky and, yeah, obviously the tyres then are not where they were probably supposed to be and being further back it I think it wasn't ideal. Anyways, Charles did a better job today, also with that, so now looking forward to tomorrow. I felt the car was quite good, which is the most important thing so let's see tomorrow with the change in ambient conditions, in track conditions, what the race is going to be like.
Q: Thank you and good luck tomorrow. Lewis, it's been an impressive comeback by you and the team after your crash in final practice. First of all, any lasting physical effects from that crash and how was the car in qualifying?
Hamilton: Firstly, it's been an interesting weekend so far. We struggled obviously a little bit in the first session with some problems and then, yeah, I made a big mistake this morning with the change we made and it just didn't feel great out there and obviously I had that incident. But the guys did an incredible job, incredibly diligent, to perfection – taking the car apart and rebuilding it. There's so much pressure on those guys through the weekend and naturally I don't ever want to put them in that position, but I think they relished the challenge and so really proud of them. So going into this session I was just hoping that I've got the car in the right place and ultimately hoping I can pay them back with a good qualifying session and I think today was really smooth and I think the team did an amazing job in terms of where they put us out there. It was a little bit tricky when everyone was slowing down but nonetheless, congratulations to Charles, he's been so quick all weekend. But I think in the long run we can at least give them a bit of a challenge tomorrow. I think a bit of the straight speed, which is where generally all the speed is, it's usually not there so much in the race, so hopefully we'll be there or thereabout with them tomorrow and can put in maybe some interesting strategies, we'll see.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Christian Menath) Question for you Seb. You said you didn't get into the rhythm very fast; it took a bit of time for you. Do you have an explanation for that – because yesterday it looked like you lost quite a lot time on the straights?
Vettel: No, not really. I don't think we lost time on the straights. I think nothing out of the ordinary, so… No, I think it was quite tricky to get the car where I wanted it to be for one lap, and it was better in qualifying. I struggled a bit yesterday afternoon, this morning, but, as I said, by qualifying it was fine and then obviously towards the last part of quali it was a bit messy again, not ideal preparing the lap, so yeah, I'm not happy with the final attempt, it wasn't clean. So, yeah, I'm not worried, I think pace-wise it was looking quite good and let's see what we get tomorrow. Obviously a big change in terms of temps. Let's see how we adapt.
Q: (Erik Bielderman – L'Equipe) Lewis, when you don't claim the pole position, like today, do you head into the Sunday's race in a more excited mood because of the challenge that awaits you?
Hamilton: When you're on pole, you're always the happiest, naturally – but nonetheless, yeah, I'm happy that we have a fight. I think we knew that coming here, that it was going to be challenging. We didn't know where the Red Bulls or Ferraris would be but we knew the Ferraris would be extremely quick given that they've been fastest on all the straights throughout the year. That's a big gap: seven-tenths is a huge margin but nonetheless I think in the race trim it looked like it was a lot closer. So yeah, I'm excited that I'm in a position where hopefully I can try and battle these guys tomorrow. That makes it more fun for us, for me – and for the fans, hopefully.
Q: (Godina Zsolt) Charles, congratulations, you said a few weeks ago that Sebastian is doing a better job in terms of tyre management. Were you able to work on that this weekend, and don't you think that this could be the key to win this race tomorrow?
Leclerc: Well, I've been analysing quite a lot Hungary. Actually, maybe it looked worse than it actually was but there's definitely some work to do on my side on this. So, we'll see if tomorrow it pays off. I changed a few things – very small things – but details always makes the difference at this level. So, yeah, we'll see tomorrow if it's any better.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – AP) Question for Charles. Obviously you've come close to winning in Bahrain and also in Austria. Bahrain was nothing to do with you. What have you taken from those two races; those two close calls that you can perhaps take into tomorrow to give you a bit more of an edge?
Leclerc: I mean obviously Bahrain was nothing to do with me, so not much to take from there. Austria, I think there were lessons learnt but I think I already showed it after in Silverstone, as I already speak about the aggressivity (sic) level I had with my opponents – but apart from this, nothing. I guess, at first it feels a bit weird when you are coming to Formula 1 and you do your first laps in the lead. So, the more laps I am in the lead, the more comfortable I am. And this feels good.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto Motor und Sport) Possibly to all of you. When you were queuing up in your out-laps, what was more important for a perfect lap afterwards: to get a good tow or to have the tyres in the window? And was it possible at all to achieve both targets?
Hamilton: On the perfect scenario you got the tow and the tyres in the window. In Q3 I don't think so, no because everyone was backing up. Obviously we had that really slow section with Hülkenberg, I think it was, and then Valtteri and myself and then again in the next one, everyone again was backing up into the last one, so I think the second one was a little bit of a better position, a chance, but still, it's very, very tricky. I don't think they were both… they were optimum for all of us.
Q: Charles, how was it for you?
Leclerc: Yeah, at first I really targeted the perfect slipstream for the first run in Q3 but after that I really felt that the tyres weren't ready for Turn One and I actually lost quite a bit of time. So then, for the second run in Q3, I just asked the team to send me whenever the car was ready, to be alone and to try to do the job alone, without slipstreams, which I think, yeah, in my opinion, on my car, it felt better to have the tyres in the right window than having the slipstream. So, we went as soon as possible – but obviously we found anyway some cars in front.
Vettel: Well, obviously it was more important to get the tyres in the right position for me. Or in the right place. I was, on both laps, too close to the cars in front and the tyres not right to start the lap with. So yeah, it was a lose-lose. The straights were good – but I was too close and lost quite a lot, I think also in Sector Two.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis, coming here, obviously Mercedes has the upgraded engine across for you and Valtteri and the customer cars. Two out of six of those cars have now had failures: Pérez's car on fire and then Robert's in the Williams in the qualifying. For you, going into tomorrow, does that present any concerns or do you just trust your team to analyse it and make whatever countermeasures they need to make.
Hamilton: I don't know the details of why the engines have gone, so I have nothing to worry about currently because I don't know anything about it really. I'm sure, when I get back, I'm sure they're trying to analyse it and they'll give us a bit of an idea – but still, I've just got to keep my head down and do what I do and what will be will be. There's not much I can do about it, so there's no point worrying about it.
Q: (Luke Smith) Charles, you spoke earlier in the season about your need to focus on qualifying and the build-up through all three sessions. I guess a third pole of the season proves your strategy is working; a sixth race in a row you've out-qualified your team-mate as well. Do you feel that you've cracked the code to F1 qualifying now?
Leclerc: I've done some changes on qualifying and yeah, I definitely feel the difference, and feel it's going the good way. As I said in Hungary, now I need to focus a little bit on the race because in some races I haven't been as good as I wanted to. So, now I'm trying to focus on that, to rebalance a little bit and we'll see how it goes.
Q: (Viktor Bognar – Magyar Szo) In the past weeks, in the mainstream media and social media it's all about burning the rainforest and efforts of the global climate change. Do you think that Formula One should or could do something more to raise awareness to this problem? And do you agree with the way how Formula One promotes efficiency and sustainability at the moment?
Vettel: I think it's a very important subject. I feel that Formula One has a wordwide operating platform and should do a lot more. I don't think that just promoting the efficiency of our engines is enough plus I think unfortunately a large part of our technology inside the car will not go onto the road so you can argue about the necessity. So I think - not just on track but also off track - I think Formula One could do a lot more and should set an example because I think it is a very serious matter and serious subject.
Leclerc: OK, to be honest it's only my second season in Formula One. I'm not completely aware about how everything works on the engine so maybe I need a bit more experience to understand all of this.
Hamilton: I've been here for a long time. I don't really know what their current plans are but I think they are working towards a goal in trying to improve the carbon footprint that we have as a sport. But I think up until now the job we've done in the sport – they haven't done anything, particularly I think when Bernie was in place, there wasn't a lot being done then. So we are in the position where we are now, beginning to shift. If you look at the V8s and the V10s, we are now using a third less fuel than we used to use in a race distance, so that's already a step forward but there is absolutely more that we can do. Also, on things like the amount of plastic that's used throughout the weekend – I've got three bottles right here. I'm not opening them, but someone will drink these and that becomes waste so I think the amount of waste that comes out of a race weekend, also through all these weekends, we can do a lot about that and so I'm trying to encourage Ross and his team to make a change. And as a team, I'm pushing Mercedes to be the leaders in that, so hopefully soon you're going to see some positive changes from our side.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) Lewis, we very rarely see mistakes from you. Can you put your finger on what happened there? Was it a loss of concentration? Can you figure out what happened, you made that mistake?
Hamilton: You're looking way too deep into it, man. Shit happens. I'm only human. I think my track record has been pretty good but it sometimes happens and yes, it's frustrating and it never feels good, whether it's in your first year or if it's in your 13th year whatever, it doesn't really make any difference but you can always learn from it. So there's always a silver lining, there's always an opportunity to pick yourself up, to rebuild and there's always an experience with your guys and I think today was a massive challenge for the team. I think they did an exceptional job and I'm really happy, generally, with the job that I did in qualifying, so collectively it's a positive. But I go in the back of the garage and I see my broken parts and I'm like 'oh my baby' but they'll fix it, they'll fix those parts hopefully or maybe I'll have to put them up in Toto's office or something and sign it and say sorry.
Q: (Christian Menath) This queuing thing in Q3 seems to be a bigger topic this season. There were quite a few occasions now where things happened like this. Do you think you need some stricter rules, what is allowed there? At some point it looked a bit ridiculous when other cars were on their fast lap and came and they were queuing up, five, six, seven cars whatever.
Vettel: I'm not in favour of any more rules. I think we have too many anyway.
Leclerc: I didn't personally feel that it was worse than last year, at least. I felt that last year was as bad, actually. Everyone is trying to have a tow, which is normal but yeah, I agree with Seb also. I don't think it should be another rule written in the book for this particular case.
Hamilton: I don't remember ever going that slow before last year.
Vettel: I think what should change, actually, what we should take from this – seriously – is that tyre-wise we shouldn't be so much on the limit so obviously you're fighting for a tow and so on but you're also fighting to get into the optimum window which years ago it wasn't that critical, whereas now it is. So you're fighting for the best spot on the track which will hit the climb or the peak next week in Monza for finding the right tow because it does make a difference but it has also been part of those type of track, let's say. But I feel if we had better tyres we could play with probably a bit more speed and so on.
Hamilton: I agree with Seb. Every weekend they put the pressures up so high it's crazy, which again makes it a little bit harder for us but the tyres are so hard so getting them working, and they're talking about taking blankets off for the future, we'll never get temperature in the tyres if they do that. I think this year is definitely the slowest we've been. Today felt a little bit dangerous at one point because we were going round turn 15 on the kerb and there was a car coming and I couldn't move, go on the grass. I was stuck behind Valtteri and I think the next… Hulkenberg or whatever. I can imagine if I was on a lap and I was coming round that everyone was crawling around at five miles an hour it would be a bit of a worry and a bit of a distraction so I'm not really sure what we can do to stop it from happening but maybe we have to be on the pit speed limiter or something like that. You shouldn't be able to go five miles an hour or two or whatever we were doing because we were literally going as slow as possible to let people past. I did it in Austria, I think, to let everyone by because I was the first car out there and the tow is so strong this year with this car. They talk about the front wing being easier to follow, it's just caused a lot more drag. This is a draggier car this year so the slipstream is even more powerful or the tow is more powerful than we've ever experienced.
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