Pole-sitter Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel faced the media after qualifying for the Singapore GP.
TRACK INTERVIEWS (Conducted by Paul Di Resta)
Q: Charles, congratulations to you. I mean, man, that’s three out of three pole positions. Everyone expected at Spa and Monza but you’ve lifted it to another level?
Charles LECLERC: I’m extremely happy about today. If you look at the lap, it was a good lap, a very good lap, but there were some moments where I thought I’d lost the car that I took back and at the end, finishing the lap, we are in pole position. I would like to thank the team so much for what they have done. I mean, we came here knowing that it would be a difficult track for us but the team has done an amazing job to bring the package that we needed and I’m extremely happy to be on pole for tomorrow.
Q: On the back of Monza they did bring this package and it certainly revitalised this car around this track. Explains how it feels and why it is so different?
CL: Well, we brought some new bits and they worked properly, which was good to see. It’s not always the case, but it was this weekend. I’ve had a very tough Friday. Yesterday was definitely not my day; I didn’t feel comfortable in the car, but I worked quite hard and today it paid off, so very happy.
Q: All the best for tomorrow, that team is fully behind you and I hope you put a good race on. Lewis, you needed a superhuman lap after your first run in Q3 to put yourself on the front row and to put yourself in position to fight this man?
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, I don’t know where Ferrari picked up their pace today as this is potentially not one of their tracks, but they did a great job. Charles obviously put some great laps in and it really needed something special at the end so I gave it absolutely everything I had. It was very, very close to the wall a couple of times but it was as much as I could get out of the car and I’m very, very happy to be on the front row in the mix with them so we can try to divide them tomorrow.
Q: I guess your confidence in the race pace will pay off tomorrow and this is a hard race. It’s a long one that you’ve got to be there at the end?
LH: Yeah, I think tomorrow we can be aggressive…
Q: Different to Monza?
LH: Ha! Well, it’s a street track but we’ll see.
Q: Sebastian congratulations, the crowd are behind you. I know you had a very good lap at the start of Q3 there. It slipped away at the end but I guess overall you should be satisfied?
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, obviously not really with Q3 – the final attempt should have been better. Overall, the car was making sense, I was feeling good and I was able to improve run by run, so maybe I peaked a bit too early. I think the track was probably bit faster at the end. As I said obviously I had a tiny wobble, so no point finishing the lap because I was already quite a bit behind, but it puts us in a good position for tomorrow.
Q: You’ve got a lot of experience around here, you’ve won races, and you know it’s a long game. Are you feeling confident with the car you’ve got when it’s heavy and with high degradation?
SV: Well it will certainly feel different tomorrow than it did today, but overall, yes. I think it should be a good race, so let’s see what the tyres will do, if we are able to push the full two hours, or if we have to manage, but one way or another it’s always fun around here so looking forward to it.
Q: Charles, many congratulations, that looked like a sensational lap. Can you just describe that pole position lap to us?
CL: It was quite a crazy lap. The first one I compromised it. I started the lap too close to Lewis and that compromised the second sector and then I had quite a bit of pressure to perform on the last lap so I gave it all. There were quite a bit of mistakes, I lost the car quite a few times and I’ve seen myself in the wall at least twice or three times in the lap, but it felt amazing, the car was great. Friday was a very difficult day for me and to come here in qualifying and do the pole position feels absolutely amazing.
Q: How surprised are you by the pace of the car this weekend?
CL: Very surprised, because even though we knew there was a bit more to come yesterday we did not expect to challenge neither the Mercedes nor the Red Bulls. It’s quite a big surprise for the whole team but it juts proves how good a job they have done back at the factory and today it’s also thanks to them if we are on pole.
Q: Lewis, if I can come to you and maybe start with that subject. How surprised are you at the pace of the Ferraris?
LH: Well, we obviously came into the weekend knowing we would have a fight with the Red Bulls and it’s just knowing how the Ferraris have been in other places with high downforce, they’ve not been so strong – Budapest for example – and all of a sudden they’ve brought an upgrade here and it seems to have worked. Of course we were not expecting to have such a strong performance from them and to have that deficit to them. But they did a great job and I’m grateful that was able to split them – only just. But we were definitely lacking pace today, it was definitely a struggle out there to battle with them and be up there. I like how close it was between us all and hopefully that puts us in good stead for more good fights.
Q: And how was Q3 for you – quite a big jump between your first and second runs?
LH: The day has not been that great. I mean yesterday was a much smoother day for me and today was just a little bit of a… I feel like performance was lost a little bit today or else everyone else just improved. But Q3 the first lap run was so-so, didn’t feel so good. Obviously we were a second away and it looked like quite a leap to catch them up but yeah, then I just managed to pull back half a second in that last run, a nice clean run, but still just two tenths down in that first sector, which is obviously where it was lost.
Q: Sebastian, Lewis says he wasn’t pleased with his first run of Q3 but you were fastest of everyone. How was that final segment of qualifying for you?
SV: It started off very good and then, the last run, I think already in sector one, lost a little bit and was playing catch-up, and trying to take more and more risks throughout the lap which didn’t pay off. And then yeah, the last lap obviously didn’t come together. So, I think, yeah, overall it’s a good result of us putting the car, y’know, first and third for the team is great. I think it wasn’t the track where we expected to be so strong, so happy with that but obviously not happy with the very end of Q3. I think the car was good today and pole was up for grasp – but let’s see what happens tomorrow.
Q: What about tomorrow? The long run pace of Ferrari versus that of Mercedes and Red Bull?
SV: It was worse yesterday but yeah, I think we were able to extract quite a bit more from the car today, so let’s hope tomorrow is more like today.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to Charles. Can you tell us more about the two hard moments you had near the wall and how you catch the car in that time. Where was it?
CL: I think whenever you lose the car, you don’t really know how you do it, it just comes instinctive and, yeah, these two times you are thinking about I think is exit of Turn Three and exit of Turn 11. These ones were quite big times. I was actually quite surprised I didn’t lose so much time by losing it that much but yeah, everything after that went smooth and I was just giving it all. So, yeah, it felt quite intense in the car but I’m very happy.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) To Charles and Seb, the upgrade here, how much of a difference has that made? How different does the car feel to Hungary, for example, high downforce. And Lewis, you talked about that deficit that you had in sector one. The Ferraris have been really quick on the straights this year, how ominous is it that they have picked up a bit of downforce as well?
CL: On my side I struggle to compare two tracks. It’s quite difficult but performance-wise, it seems that it’s working. I think data-wise it was working yesterday for the engineers too. I think, from Hungary to now, we’ve understood also the car better in a way that we know the balance we need to achieve in order to have the best performance and I think that has also showed in the results on track. So, I think it’s a combination of knowing where the balance needs to be and the improvements that we’ve made on the car.
Q: Sebastian, anything you can add: Hungary to here?
SV: First of all, different tracks. In Hungary, if you speak about qualifying, maybe it’s the one to compare but for now, for tomorrow, we don’t know yet. I think we didn’t have such a great balance. I think some corners were very good; other corners we lost a lot. It seems like this weekend we’re not losing in those corners that we were losing in Hungary. So I think it’s mostly adding performance to the car and in the right place, so we were able to trim the balance, so that, yeah, we could extract more performance.
Q: And Lewis, how ominous is the pace of the red cars?
LH: I don’t know where they’ve picked up their pace, obviously. For a street circuit like this, earlier in the year they were not as close but they’ve obviously done a great job. I don’t really know where we’re losing it. Obviously in that first sector is a bit of a loss to us. I think some part of it is straight line but then they’ve been able to match us in the middle and the last sector, so I think just overall, clearly a big step for them and we’ll just keep pushing. We’ve not had an upgrade really for a while, so maybe when that comes it’ll help us a little bit.
Q: (Laurence Edmondson – ESPN) Another question to the Ferrari drivers. Can you explain why you were losing so much time yesterday and how much you changed today to find all that pace – because it seems like a real night and day shift between yesterday and today?
SV: Well, not that much. Obviously, yeah, yesterday we suffered with a lack of front grip, so we tried to put more front in the car. I think tonight with the temperatures dropping, etcetera, it seemed to come alive for us. I think that’s the biggest difference. In terms of spec, and so on, it’s exactly the same as yesterday.
CL: Yeah, I was not happy with my driving yesterday. I think there was quite a bit into it. It was not a great day for me. So, I improved quite a lot driving today. And, as Seb said, also the balance we improved quite a bit from yesterday to today.
Q: (David Coath – motorlat.com) A question for each of you please. With the reverse grid proposals, you would be starting 20th, 19th and 18th. Your thoughts please on any discussion that people talk about a reverse grid.
CL: I would not be happy. I’m a lot happier to start first tomorrow but yeah, I don’t think it’s the solution for Formula 1. I think the best shall win and start in the best place and not reversing that order. I don’t think it’s the solution.
LH: I don’t really know what to say to it. People that propose that don’t really know what they’re talking about.
SV: I think it’s complete bullshit to be honest. I think we know… if you want to improve things I think it’s very clear we need to string the field more together, we need to have better racing. So, it’s just a plaster. I don’t know which genius came up with this but it’s not the solution. It’s completely the wrong approach.
LH: He said it better than me…
Q: (Daniele Sparisci – Corriera della Sera) To the Ferrari drivers: when did you start realising that pole was possible? This morning in FP3 did you see the car improving so much?
CL: I thought the car was improving in FP3 but I expected Mercedes… It wasn’t a clean run for Mercedes and Red Bull this morning. We didn’t really know what to think but I think from then Q1 and then yeah, through Q1 I understood that we could have an opportunity for pole.
SV: To be honest, I think Q2 is normally when people start putting serious references in and we were about there. By then I realised that we might have a chance for pole. The car felt very good.
Q: (Oliver Davies – Sportskeeda.com) Charles, that’s three pole positions in a row, a fifth career pole position all in this season. Just how confident are you, how big is it, has it grown more and more each week because you’re only 21 but you’re achieving things very young? How do you feel so far?
CL: It feels great but yeah, you enjoy qualifying for a very short time because then you need to focus on the race and in the end there are no points awarded for the pole position, which is a shame. It’s great, it’s very good to see that we are on pole on a track like this where we expected to struggle but on the other hand, me personally, I’m just focusing on the race now and I will, of course, be very happy if I’m in the same position tomorrow.
Q: (Joe van Burik – RacingNews 365) Charles, how does it feel after two victories and now the pole position for tomorrow, to be the young driver everyone is looking at after Max has had his success earlier this season?
CL: Well, it feels good, it means I’m doing well so that’s good. I think a pole position always feels like very, very good, just because we are all on the limit, we are all trying to put everything in this one lap and once you manage to put everything you wanted in that lap and that you finally get pole position it always feels amazing.
Q: (Andreas Haupt – Auto Motor und Sport) Sebastian, do you feel that with a perfect lap you could have matched Charles’s lap time or even be ahead of him and what was the problem on the second lap in the first sector?
SV: Well, I didn’t do it so obviously it’s all if and so on. I think the lap time was possible so I thought the first run was good, it was a good reference but I thought that especially in sector three I had quite a bit of lap time in hand and parts in sector two. And then in the last attempt I lost the car a little bit through turn three in sector one and then again in turn nine. From that point onwards I was a little bit down compared to the previous lap and was sort of trying to catch up and probably did push a little bit too hard so simple as that. Then had a bigger mistake in 18 so from that point onwards that was quite a lot of lap time lost. As I said before, the car was good, I felt good so obviously a shame that I didn’t put together the last attempt in Q3 but I think it was there today.
Q: (Oliver Davies – Sportskeeda.com) A question for all three drivers: out of all the races on the F1 calendar, would you say this is probably the most brutal test out of them all, because of the conditions out there on the track?
SV: Yeh, but brutal in which regard? Physically? Well I think physically it’s tough because obviously it’s very hot and there’s hardly any place to rest. In terms of bumps, it was a lot worse ten years ago, they’ve made it a lot better throughout the years. Yeah, I think in the race it will be a different story because we have to manage tyres most likely, so it would be a lot more fun if we had the possibility to push nearly as hard as in qualifying throughout the whole race. That would be the ultimate test so tomorrow will be quite a bit easier in that regard, but still, it’s a long race.
CL: Yeah, as Seb said, physically it’s demanding but I also think that mentally it’s quite demanding because obviously being a track circuit you cannot lose any concentration and the first mistake you make you pay (for) it so yeah, I really like driving here.
LH: I feel the same as these guys. They answered it exactly the same as I would answer it.