After one of the most shambolic endings to a qualifying session in Formula 1 history, the top three faced the assembled media.
DRIVERS – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)
TRACK INTERVIEWS (Conducted by Paul Di Resta)
Q: Charles, you must have to pinch yourself at the moment, to come here on the back of that win in Spa, to claim pole position in front of Ferrari’s home crowd. And when you get that reception when you draw up, it must be incredible?
Charles LECLERC: It feels unbelievable. Already on Wednesday in Milan was just incredible and today to see so many people feels absolutely amazing. Happy with the pole but it’s a shame that at the end there was a big mess. I hoped for the last lap but that was enough with what happened for the pole.
Q: A pole is a pole, regardless of what happened. But tomorrow there’s a big day ahead. Do you feel that you’ve got the pace to take the win to these home fans?
CL: Yeah, I think the pace was quiet good actually during the race simulations in FP2 so it’s looking positive, better than in Spa, so let’s hope for a good race tomorrow.
Q: Lewis, I know you’re never happy unless you’re getting pole position, but I guess that at the end of the day Ferrari were always going to be strong here. You’re on the row and at the same time you missed out on the last run because of all the tactics for getting that tow. How do you sum it up?
Lewis HAMILTON: To be honest, I have to be grateful that I’m on the front row. We get to have a fight with the Ferraris tomorrow, which is nice. We’ve split them, so as a team it’s a really good position for us to be in. It is definitely a bit of an anti-climax that we couldn’t all go out and do that last final lap, that’s one of the most exciting ones we have. It’s crazy with this timing that we have, the system we have, where everyone backs up, everyone is trying to get a position and they times us out. They basically timed us out. It’s interesting – get pole position in the first run and then just time everyone out.
Q: I know normally you look for free space in qualifying but it seems like the two has been extra important this year. Is it strange as a driver to have that tactic when you go into a session, knowing that you have to be four or five seconds behind someone?
LH: Yeah, definitely. I mean on the out lap it’s dangerous for us all. There are people slowing down, you don’t know who is alongside you and that. It’s definitely risky business out there but it’s kind of enjoyable at the same time. But for us we are down on the Ferraris in a straight line, so we particularly need. I think others also do. I think it’s with this new wing, the drag is much bigger this year, so everyone is focusing on that. But honestly just to be up here on the front row, we can give them a good fight tomorrow.
Q: Valtteri, that was quite a difficult session. You almost had a lap cancelled, just before the red flag came out but it got reinstated, and luckily because that last run didn’t come off.
Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, I was quite unlucky there and also I had a yellow flag in the first run in the last corners so I had to lift off and I believe I lost the pole because of that. Obviously the last run was a bit of a mess for everyone. But the pace was good. Happy still to be very much at the front because it’s tomorrow that counts.
Q: How much fun are these cars to drive around Monza. Is it a place you enjoy?
VB: It’s always good fun. Definitely enjoying it and for sure I’m going to enjoy tomorrow.
Q: Charles, it was very close, less than one tenth of a second separating all three of you on the panel. But you’ve done it, you’ve got pole at Monza, so how does it feel?
CL: Obviously the feeling I got when I went out of the car, hearing the crowd cheer so loud is absolutely amazing. On the other hand a bit of a shame for the team, Seb couldn’t do his second timed lap; he was very quick. I felt like a 1-2 was an opportunity even though these two guys were extremely quick and it was very, very close. But yeah, the whole qualifying was a big mess with all the slipstreaming and having the best one. But very happy with this pole position.
Q: And throwing it forward to tomorrow’s race, do you think you’ve got a closer fight on your hands than you did last week at Spa?
CL: Yes, I think the race pace was more positive compared to what we had the Friday in Spa, so on that we are pretty confident. But the start will be very important, as always. But there is quite a long way here from the start to the first corner so the start will be very important.
Q: Well done, good luck tomorrow. Charles has described the quali session as a bit of a mess. Just talk us through what happened at the end of Q3 from your point of view.
LH: Well, it’s then same as has happened for some races now. The drag is a big issue here, the tow is a key to getting a good lap. Everyone was slowing right down and also blocking the way, so you couldn’t really get through. It was pretty dangerous. I nearly crashed a couple of times trying to stay out of the way of the guys that were braking ahead of me and then people trying to come past me. Nonetheless, Charles did a great job. I was a little bit unfortunate with Kimi spinning in front of me, so I had to lift in the last corner. That was really our pole lap lost there. It would have been nice to have obviously been able to compete on that last lap, get to really thresh out the cars and see who really had that little edge right at the end.
Q: Was there more time in your car?
LH: Definitely. Definitely. But I’m sure it’s the same for all of us. The track progresses so you can find little bits here and there. Also, I was quite close behind Kimi, so I was losing out a little bit through the corners, so you are trying to find the right compromise. But tomorrow there’s still a long, long way to the finish line so we’ll try to put ourselves in the best position. This is great for us to be able to separate the Ferraris and we can work together as a team tomorrow and try to overhaul him and fortunately not have the Ferrari in the way this time… Vettel.
Q: Valtteri, another quite messy qualifying session, with your first time having to be reinstated and then what happened at the end of Q3, so do you feel that the whole thing was a bit of a compromise for you?
VB: It definitely was. I think it was compromised for sure for many drivers so in that kind of messy session it’s always good to be ending up in the top three. The same for me as for Lewis, and I was actually more far back. I had the yellow flags for Kimi so I had to lift off properly and I also feel I lost the pole there. It’s annoying when it could have been possible but it could have been a lot worse today. I hope we can really learn something from the last run because everyone pretty much missed their lap. There were two cars going slow at the front and no one could get by. So not ideal but we are here, very much close to the front and it’s going to be a good fight tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) First part of the question for you Charles: could you talk us through, I think you were behind Seb at the beginning of the lap then did you decide on your own to just go flat-out and make it to the line on time? And for both Mercedes drivers, did you think about ‘OK, I have to go fast now otherwise I won’t make it,’ or is it something that you’re just relying on the team what they say to you?
CL: To be completely honest, the plan was that, in the first run, Seb was giving me the tow and in the second run, I will give him the tow. So, I actually went out of the box in front of him, and then there was the huge mess after Turns One and Two and the McLaren and a Renault – I don’t know whoever that was – they stopped in the middle of the track and we had nowhere to go. Seb overtakes me there, because of the mess, because obviously we were aware it was quite tight on time, and then I stayed, basically, behind Seb, until the last straight where I’ve heard also on the radio “you can overtake Seb,” so I overtook him – but I had no time for me either to start the lap, so yeah, it was a shame – but I don’t think I could have done much more.
And for the Mercedes drivers, how reliant were you on the pitwall? Lewis?
LH: Well, naturally, you’re listening to your delta, understanding whether you’ve still got time left but I tried to get through… I was supposed to be behind Valtteri but I overtook him, knowing that I needed to get further ahead, but I couldn’t overtake everyone, they were weaving and braking and it was like trying to avoid carnage all the time. So, we had a couple of people I think were holding everyone up, trying to, I guess, let people by but yeah, a bit of an anti-climax, I think, probably for all of you. Maybe they should have extended the session or something like that, so we could finish, or something – I’m not really sure how we’re going to get around this. Everyone’s brake testing and slowing down to let others past, just to get a tow. I’m not sure how we’re going to get around that in the future. But… yeah… in hindsight I wish I just went out earlier. Just got out there and got a clean lap. That would have been great.
Valtteri, anything you can add from your point of view?
VB: No, it’s the same. Same view for me. It was a bit of a mess and I was also just behind other cars, exit of Turn Two, and things started to go very slowly and, short on time, and everyone was pretty much in the same boat.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis, we heard you over the radio after Q3, and again down on the grid, that it was an interesting tactic from Ferrari – because obviously Charles was on pole after the first run. Do you think it was intentional? A clever play from them to back them up? And how unflattering do you think the whole thing looked for F1?
LH: Honestly, I don’t know how many cars were up ahead, so I don’t know… Charles just said it was a couple of other cars up ahead so maybe it was them – but ultimately it worked out well for them. I really don’t know what else to say. It would have been nice to just finish the lap and both put the pedal to the metal but it didn’t happen and we move forwards.
Lewis, how did it look for Formula 1, just to follow up on Scott’s question?
LH: I don’t think it looks good but I’m not a fan so I’ll let the fans decide on that. I think fans get excited, at least I remember I used to get really excited about watching qualifying and all the way down to that last minute, so it’s down for you guys to have an opinion. For me, just as a driver, I would have loved to have obviously driven more qualifying. One of the best stages of the weekend. I think some drivers didn’t even have a lap – is it true that Seb didn’t even have a lap? Is that right? Yep, it is the way it is.
Q: (Luke Smith – crash.net) This is the second race in a row now that this has happened. Lewis, you used the word ‘dangerous’ both at Spa and here as well. For all three of you, do you think a qualifying format rethink it required to avoid situations like this happening again?
VB: Well, these two tracks, we’ve seen this is really specific on the tows and I think Spa and Monza are the biggest gains on the straightline speed you can get really, being behind another car, and here especially. So, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue in most of the tracks, like at the next race where, for sure, everyone just tried to find a clear gap. But for tracks like this, it’s always been a bit like that, and maybe now a bit more extreme, with the cars getting more draggier and more of a gain being in the slipstream.
CL: Yeah, as Valtteri said, it’s only on a few tracks during the season where we have this issue. I’ve got no quick fix to try and help this quickly – but maybe we can all think about to to try and understand. It has always been like this. I think slipstream has always been that way. I don’t really know what to say. We just need to analyse a little bit more, the situation. I think today was special, was definitely not the intention from our side. Obviously there was also Seb that was capable of having the pole position and we obviously didn’t want to sacrifice one car for the pole of the other so, yeah, it was quite tricky. I definitely think that situations like after the second corner shouldn’t happen when there are two cars side-by-side. I cannot go at 20kph, we couldn’t pass and I think most of the drivers behind wanted to pass but didn’t have the opportunity so, yeah, these situations have made a big mess towards the end and that’s why so many cars didn’t make it to start their laps. But yeah, that’s it.
Lewis, your thoughts
LH: I don’t really have an answer, to be honest. I don’t remember every qualifying session this year but it was similar last year, I think. We were all trying to get a gap, which continues to be key. In some places, you want a bigger gap, in some places it’s all about the tow, so each track’s specific. I always through they could do something different on weekends anyways, different weekends, depending on the track but it’s highly unlikely that’s going to happen.
Q: Do you think we’ll see such an extreme case going forwards, looking at the last seven races?
LH: I’m sure it’s going to continue. Positioning is key. If we were to… everyone going out as late as we just did there, for example, with two minutes to go, it’s going to continue to be an issue in places where you particularly need a tow. It won’t be until someone crashes that they’ll change it, most likely.
Q: (Godina Zsolt – f1vilag.hu) Charles, Sebastian is going to start from P4 tomorrow. How difficult will it be to keep behind the Mercedes cars compared to Spa?
CL: Well, it’s obviously going to be very, very difficult because, first of all, they are quick, secondly, slipstream and DRS are very important here – but I think the race pace looks better than what it was in Spa, so on that we are pretty confident – but for sure it’s going to be very difficult to keep them behind. As I said, I think a very good start from myself and also from Seb will be very important for the good result of the team tomorrow.
Q: (Carlo Ferraro – Fuoritraiettoria.com) We saw more than half of the Formula Three field getting grid penalties for driving unnecessarily slowly on their warm-up lap. Do you think this may or should happen today as well?
LH: Honestly I don’t know. It’s not our… it’s the system probably needs to shift a little bit maybe. I don’t think they should start handing out penalties. We just need to look upon it and reflect a little bit and see what we can do to make it better, make it better for the fans and make it less dangerous. Like they already made a change today that we have to finish the out lap within a certain delta time but even that’s still too slow. There’s improvements we can make, for sure, for safety but also for the spectators to watch. CL: Yeah, I agree and today actually is quite difficult. If you put the penalty to one, you put the penalty to the 10 drivers that were in Q3 because we were all together. VB: Nothing to say, really.
Q: (Simon Istvan Janos – V4NA) We have seen a very nasty accident this morning in Formula Three at the Parabolica. There was a very high kerb. It has been removed by Formula One qualifying; what was your impression of the accident, very close to Anthoine’s accident, within one week? And my other question is if you, as drivers, were consulted before removing it today?
VB: Yeah, obviously a big accident. I saw it afterwards. At least from me… no one asked me if the kerb should be taken off or not but my view would have been for sure because we’ve seen an accident like this so for sure and it was actually not making any difference to the track limits because people were going off the track before the bump so it was in the wrong place and wrong height obviously. I’m sure there’s a lesson learned. It’s a super high-speed place and if you hit it at the wrong angle obviously those kind of things can happen so… Definitely not so good for safety that one but I’m sure something learned today.
CL: Yeah, I think it was maybe a bit pointless to put a kerb like this, once they said they would look at the track limits there, because anyway if you go out, you have your lap and the next lap deleted. But I was quite a fan of gravel there in the past. I think that was quite a good fix for every track limits.
LH: Did you drive here with the gravel?
CL: Yup, in Formula 3.
LH: Yeah, I agree with him. It was much better when it was grass and gravel on the exit there because I remember you used to come into that corner, you kind of… you were a bit nervous going in too deep because you might end up in the wall. The grass would pull you out wide and you’d pay the price for pushing beyond the limit. So now you can go beyond the limit and that’s the biggest – for me – the biggest problem with all these run-off areas that are tarmac now. We didn’t need to be consulted about the kerb. It’s a band-aid on the issue of putting tarmac there in the first place. I don’t think they needed tarmac round there.
Q: (Joe van Burik – Racing News 365) Lewis, on Instagram you shared an image of an article featuring Max responding to quotes from Nico Rosberg, being a critic of his driving style in Spa. What do you think of a former World Champion being so explicit about how modern day F1 drivers talk?
LH: I don’t really think much of it, to be honest. I thought it was really funny – I think Max is generally a really funny guy so I was cracking up when I saw it. It’s interesting because obviously we know what it’s like – all the drivers have all been here and know what it’s like being criticised from the public and when [they are] in the sport moan about being criticised by people from the outside and then when drivers retire they become those critics, so it’s an interesting dynamic. And also some of those… unfortunately drivers become irrelevant when they retire and ultimate have to hang on to utilise other people’s light to keep them in the light and so… but that’s the way of sport, I guess.
Q: (Fabio Seghetta – Tutomotorsport.com) Charles, did you think that you had more advantage over the Mercedes cars during free practice or do you think that this gap has been reduce during qualifying?
CL: I think they’ve been quick all weekend, to be honest. I expected them to be very quick today. The straightline speeds are not as different compared to Spa. I think we were surprised to see them so quick on the straights during free practice. I think it was the same in qualifying, so yeah, I think it’s been the same from free practice to qualifying.
Q: (Giovanni Messi – News Formula One Italy) Charles, do you think that here Ferrari can be better race pace than in Spa, looking also at the time that we see in free practice yesterday ?
CL: Yeah, as I said earlier, I think in FP2 the race pace was a bit more positive compared to the race pace that we had in FP2 in Spa. It looks a little bit better but again, here the tow and the DRS has a bigger effect, so it’s going to be difficult to lead.
Q: (Christian Menath – MotorsportMagazin.com) Considering the weather forecast for tomorrow, for rain, did any one of you change the set-up for the rain, raise a bit more wing than you would usually have gone for for qualifying?
LH: Position is everything, so you want to go quick on the straight so no, you want to take absolutely everything off as possible to go as quick as you can.
CL: Same for us.
Follow all the action from the Italian Grand Prix with the PlanetF1 live centre