1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing)
2 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
3 – Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull Racing)
(Conducted by Danica Patrick)
Q: Max, congratulations. Where did you find so much speed throughout the weekend? You’ve been getting faster, and faster, and faster.
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it was quite exciting out there, also of course in Q2 trying to make a lap time with the hard compound, and then in Q3 my first lap wasn’t amazing, but then in the final lap it also started spitting, like a bit drizzle, in the last sector especially. I was not sure if I was going to hang onto my lap time, but it was enough, and of course to put the lap time in, and be in pole position, but also to be P1, and P3 as a team was a very strong performance.
Q: It’s very impressive. So, you’ve got a huge championship battle coming, front row, you, and Lewis. How do you feel about tomorrow?
MV: I guess that’s what people like, and from here onwards we of course just hope to have a good start, and work together as a team to get the best possible result.
Q: Sergio, how does it feel? The fans are so excited here in Austin. How did the run feel for you? How did the fans feel? ?
Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, well, we were really close you know. On that final lap I think we did a great job as a team. Unfortunately, my final lap wasn’t as good throughout the lap. I improved through the first sector quite a bit, but I wasn’t able to just keep it progressively. I think the rain hit me a bit too hard in the final sector. There were spots of rain, and I lost some grip in two corners, and I could just see my delta way off.
Q: It still looks impressive from our point of view. How do you think the race is going to go tomorrow? What do you think your biggest challenge will be?
SP: Yeah, I think tomorrow it’s a very long race. I think the qualifying position is not too relevant. I think tomorrow we are going to have a pretty long race. There will be a lot of degradation on these tires, and yeah, I’m looking forward to it.
Q: Lewis, good effort. It looked like the first run in Q3 was a little bit of struggle at the end, but the next run was a little bit quicker, but you just missed it. Where could you have found a little bit more speed?
Lewis HAMILTON: Well, firstly I want to acknowledge the crowd we’ve got here. We’ve got a great crowd this weekend. Every time we come to Austin we always have this amazing crowd, and fortunately really good weather. We are grateful for it. I gave it everything today. It was a bit of a struggle through qualifying. I think from P1 onwards we kind of fell back a little bit, and those guys were incredibly quick through qualifying. I was happy with my last lap. Of course there are always areas where you can improve, but I think that was pretty much everything we had. So we will just work as hard as we can tomorrow. It’s good positioning for tomorrow, so hopefully it will be a good race down to Turn 1.
Q: There is a lot going on in the garage with everything going on technically as well as everything on track with Max, what is your mindset for tomorrow?
LH: The mindset is to win the race, and to give these guys the best race they’ve seen.
Q: Max, how good was the session, and also that final lap in particular?
MV: It was a little bit up, and down I would say. Just getting to the limit of the car felt a little bit difficult for me this whole weekend so far, to try, and get that last bit out of it. Even in qualifying I had to work up to it. Then, on the mediums I actually felt really good. I think in Q2 that was a good lap. It seemed like they suited me a bit more in terms of driving. The first run in Q3 again wasn’t perfect. I just couldn’t really get the same out of it in terms of feeling compared to Q2. So then I had to dig deep in Q3, run two, and then it even started like spitting a bit on your visor in the last sector so it wasn’t ideal, but yeah, to be on pole is great especially on a weekend so far, like I said, where it was a bit more difficult to find that last bit.
Q: Did that rain at the end cost you anything?
MV: Difficult to say, but it’s not nice when it starts spitting on the visor, but then of course you are on your quali lap so you’re just going to go for it.
Q:, and what about the race pace of your car? It’s been quite difficult to read from the outside this weekend.
MV: Yeah, I had a bit of traffic as well on my long runs, but everything felt quite normal. I do think we also improved the car a little bit today so hopefully that will be better for tomorrow., but I guess we will find out tomorrow, but there were no big problems.
Q: It’s much hotter than it was two years ago here in Austin. Does that make the race that much more complicated for you guys?
MV: Well, not for us. It’s mainly just tire wear, and tire deg, which I think we have to look at a bit more closely. Also again, we have a little bit of information, but also we’ll find out throughout the race how they are holding up.
Q: Max, it looks like we have a hell of a race on our hands tomorrow, your championship rival alongside you on the front row. How much are you looking forward to it?
MV: Like any other race we’ve had so far this season. I think we have had a lot of good races, and good battles already this season. I think we are all just looking forward to another one.
Q: Lewis, it was incredibly tight in the end. Sum up quali for us?
LH: Yeah, it was fun. It was definitely a difficult session. I would say for us since P1 it’s been a little bit tougher, we have been making lots of changes to try to improve the car., but it’s been a real challenge, and going into qualifying I think the first session wasn’t that great. Q1 wasn’t spectacular, but it started to improve, particularly on the medium tire, and the last two runs were pretty good. I think they have just been pretty quick all weekend, and I think we were able to match them or be ahead in P1, but since then they have really pulled a lot. You can tell that the car is quick because obviously both of them are up there, and pulling in some seriously good laps., but we are in a good position to fight them tomorrow, and I hope we can.
Q: Do you think you will be more competitive with them in the race than you were in qualifying, just lap for lap.
LH: Time will tell. I have no idea.
Q:, and what about tomorrow? You’re starting on the inside of the front row. How much grip is there from that grid position?
LH: The last time we started there was…. Two years ago I think I was in fifth or something. I don’t remember. It was a long time ago in the wet. I think that I started second there. As far as I am aware there is not a huge difference between the two, but we will find out tomorrow.
Q: Last one from me. There is a huge atmosphere here, 140,000 fans. How infectious is that support?
LH: It’s hugely infectious. This is one of the best races of the year, and it’s simply because of that city, and the crowd we get here. The Americans, and the Mexicans that have come over, there is a real crazy buzz as soon as you arrive at the gates of the circuit, and it carries through the whole weekend, and I’m excited to see them turn out tomorrow, and I hope we can give them a good race.
Q: Checo, coming to you, when you were fastest after the first runs of Q3, we could hear the roar of the crowd, could you hear it from inside the car?
SP: Not really, I was just into my own thing. I knew that there was some time to find so I thought that this could be my day, you know? Unfortunately, I didn’t put it all together then in the end when it counted., but still, I think we are in a good position. I think it’s going to be a pretty long race tomorrow, so not too concerned about the qualifying. I think there are plenty of opportunities for tomorrow.
Q: Checo, you seem a little bit frustrated, but do you take confidence from this performance today?
SP: Yeah, definitely. Not just from today, starting the weekend, it shows just how hard we are working behind the scenes, you know, to try to get on top of the car, together with my engineers. We haven’t had the year we were hoping. The adaptation has been longer than expected, but we’ve been working flat-out, and yeah, we can see the progress, and yeah, I can just expect to keep getting better.
Q:, and what’s the goal in the race tomorrow for you?
SP: To maximise every opportunity. I think there is a long race ahead of us tomorrow, and hopefully we can bring a one-two for the team tomorrow.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Question to all three please. Given the course of the Q3, all three of you were on pole position at one stage. Just how tense was that final run –, and how difficult was it with the cars looking so closely matched, and there being hundredths of a second between you at any point?
MV: Well, I mean I knew I had to find a bit more in the last run, so then naturally it’s a bit more exciting, and this track as well. It’s an amazing track, but it’s very hard, especially in the high speed, to nail every single lap, because of how quick you are going through these corners, and then also the first sector, completely different to the second sector, and then again the second sector again is different to the last sector, where some other tracks you have quite similar corners – so there’s a lot going on, and a lot of changes as well, you’re doing throughout the lap. Once you then, of course, put it together as good as possible, it’s of course a nice relief.
LH: I didn’t feel it was intense at all. When you’re in the car, you’re just doing what you love doing. So, it’s pretty chill. For me, I was struggling with the car a little bit, and I was just trying to maximize at all the corners, to try, and put the best lap I could together, but amongst it all is a really good lap, but whether or not that would have been able to really compete with their speed this weekend… I mean they were just too quick today.
SP: It was pretty tense, but I knew it was all down to the final chance. How much I was able to find. I was on a pretty good lap I think, in Turn 1 itself I was able to find a couple of tenths, I just couldn’t keep it up completely throughout the lap, and yeah, didn’t get a hundred per cent out of the car today. I think Max did a fantastic job, same as Lewis, so we finish where we deserve today, I think.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to Sergio please. Just following on from what you were saying there. With the differences between the first, and second run in Q3, did the track conditions… did you feel that cost you at all where the temperature dropped a little bit, and the drizzle that Max mentioned.
SP: I was the last car on track, and I felt like it did cost me a bit, especially in 13, and 15, especially in 15, I just couldn’t find any grip. Whether that’s from the increase of rain or I just didn’t find any grip. There was quite a lot of rain coming in, and yeah, it’s probably a bit of confidence going through there, and knowing that it’s a bit wet. I felt like I lost quite a bit of time. I think it was quite a bit faster, and just lost my lap-time through there.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC, via email) Question to Lewis, and Max. Lewis, why do you think Mercedes have struggled compared to the last few races at this track?
LH: I don’t really know. It started off good, it felt good through P1, and then bit by bit they’ve got faster, and I don’t know if we’ve got slower, but yeah, it’s been a real struggle with the car, compared to normally when we’re here. Part of it is probably overheating with tires, which is affecting, I’m sure, everyone, but yeah, it’s been a challenge.
And to you Max, why do you guys think you’ve moved forward, relative to Mercedes?
MV: Well, I mean, I wasn’t very happy yesterday, and, of course, I wasn’t still entirely happy today, but we definitely went into the right direction, so that helped., but yeah, after FP1 I was like ‘oh, OK, it’s quite a big gap.’, but I think slowly, we just improved a bit, and then today we seemed to jump ahead. Of course, that’s a great effort from the whole team. I mean, after Turkey, I think we were not entirely happy with the performance there, but of course that’s quite a different track, also still with the tarmac, in terms of feeling as well, and again tires, they are the only things that are touching the ground, and they have a lot of different behaviors all year, so if you can maybe find a bit there it can make a difference as well, also at this track.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Max, and Lewis, obviously the opening corner could prove pretty decisive as to who wins tomorrow’s race. How do you both plan to tackle the start, and do either of the incidents you two have had together this year, will they be on your mind when the lights go out tomorrow?
MV: Like we always try, as professionals. I don’t see why we always have to keep bringing this up. It’s not like we are the only ones who have touched, you know, in this sport, and these things happen, unfortunately, but I think we are on the front row again, and everyone is just expecting a great race, and that’s what we also expect, I think, as drivers. We just want to have a really good race.
LH: Yeah, I hope we’ll make it through turn one, and we get a good race. I don’t think it’s all decided on turn 1.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Lewis, there was an incident between yourself, and Max yesterday in the second practice session where you ran him wide into the final corner, and you had a wheel-to-wheel battle going up the main straight up the hill into turn 1. What was your thinking behind that? Was that you laying down any kind of marker? Was no quarter given, no matter what the session, and how does that bode for tomorrow’s race; similar things, can we expect?
LH: Well firstly, I didn’t run him wide. He decided to go round the outside, and ended up going wide because… you can ask him, but we were battling into the last corner…, and it’s a silly thing. It’s all fun, and games. We’ll have fun tomorrow, and give it everything as you would expect, no real difference to any other part of the season, and yeah, that’s all.
Q: (Tucker C. Toole – National Geographic) This is for Max, and Lewis. In recent years F1’s popularity has continued to grow, similar to the crowd this weekend. How do you see the sport continuing to thrive, and evolve like it is now?
LH: It’s the best sport in the world so people are only just catching onto it, but that’s OK. There’s a lot of people in the world so I can only see it continuing to go upwards, if it gets more exciting, particularly with the rule changes we have coming in the next year, so it’s amazing to see the crowd growing, and the excitement, and the buzz for the sport to grow, because it is an amazing sport.
MV: Yeah, you can clearly see also here the popularity in America, I mean it’s become a lot bigger so it’s great to see, and of course I hope that that can continue all over the world, but of course already very happy to see that here in Austin, and just to create an amazing atmosphere because at the end of the day it’s very important to have so many fans next to the track. If you compare to last year, the whole season without fans was really empty, and yeah, it’s amazing to see the full crowd here this weekend.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Max, just going back to what you were saying about where Red Bull started the weekend, and the progress you’ve been able to make. You obviously had quite a messy run through practice, just either with lack of pace in FP1, not getting a representative lap time on the board. When it came to qualifying, was it easy to put that behind you, and focus on the task in hand or did you go into qualifying a little bit apprehensive as to where exactly your performance level would be?
MV: I mean, my lap time got cancelled in FP3, but I had a good feeling in the car, but then yeah, again in qualifying, I wasn’t entirely happy, and like I explained before, we were just chasing maybe a bit of balance, just for myself. Like normally I always feel very comfortable in the car, and I easily get up to speed, but just seems on this track, this weekend has been a bit more difficult, but it can’t be smooth all the time, right? That also makes it challenging, and fun because otherwise it gets boring if it’s always too easy. I think as a team, yeah, we worked very well together. They also, of course, tried to help me out to try, and improve, and at the end, to then just put it together in Q3 is of course what you want. It’s not always what you get, but it worked out this weekend.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, how encouraged are you by this result in terms of the title fight? Would you say it’s something of a surprise, given how well Mercedes have gone here historically, and also that the run of form of that team has been in recent races?
MV: Yeah, maybe a tiny bit of a surprise, but you can clearly see it has been swinging a bit throughout the whole season. Luckily it’s still doing that, and yeah, we’ll see. I’m of course happy with the performance we’ve had today, let’s find out tomorrow in the race – again, it’s a different story, and then of course we’ll move on again to the next race, and that again can be a different story because you can maybe look like favorites going into the weekend, but you still need to pay attention to every single detail, to try, and make it work. It’s so closely matched that if you maybe miss one tiny detail or you just can’t bring it together for whatever reason you miss out, and that’s what happened for us, for example, in Turkey.