Press Conference – Portugal 2020
A sunny day in Portugal and today, we had qualifying which saw Lewis Hamilton take pole with his team-mate right behind in P2.
For Bottas, whilst things were looking like they were going his way, Lewis Hamilton just set the top time – at the end of Q3, taking the position of P1.
Throughout qualifying, Max Verstappen was the main threat for Mercedes – putting the pressure on the team. Out of the two Red Bull drivers, it’s easy to say there’s a firm number 1 driver and that’s Max Verstappen.
He’s consistent and delivers. Give him a championship winning car and he’ll be a tough driver to beat!
We should have a great race on our hands tomorrow. Bottas will want to prove his point and show that he can compete with his team-mate and Hamilton will, of course, want to retain the lead.
Let’s take a look and see what the top3 drivers had to say following Qualifying.
TRACK INTERVIEWS (Conducted by David Coulthard)
Question: Valtteri, I feel for you. You look like you owned the track this weekend. You were setting the lap times for Hamilton to chase. We had the unusual change of you going to the medium tyre at the end and again Lewis was just able to pip you?
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, obviously at the end we decided to go for the medium, based on just a feeling. Previously in the qualifying the medium actually felt a tiny bit quicker than the soft and that was the reason and then it was choosing if we do two timed laps with a cool-down in between or just one timed lap.
With one timed lap you can have less fuel in the car but you might struggle with the tyre warm-up. I went with that. It was my decision to go for one timed because it worked in Q2 but apparently it seems like doing two timed laps for Lewis was better.
Question: With the benefit of hindsight, did you feel that on that one timed lap that there was still a little bit more you could have done or was that all you could get out of the car?
Valtterin Bottas: It was a decent lap, not perfect. It’s been tricky here to get really clean laps this weekend, as that’s just the way the track is. The lap was good. I think ultimately I should have gone for two timed as well.
Question: Throwing it forward to tomorrow, dirty side of the track for the start, does that mean you’ll be in a slightly more defensive position than attacking?
Valtteri Bottas: For sure, it would have been nice to be on the clean side in P1, but I will do whatever I can from P2.
Question: Max, well done. You’re getting attacked by a wasp there but you were trying to attack the Mercedes. It was pretty close, so are you reasonably happy on this circuit how close you get the lap times in quali?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, I think the whole weekend already… This track with the new tarmac at the moment it’s quite difficult to bring the tyres in, so it’s a bit hit and miss.
I’m happy with Q3, the lap itself was pretty decent – just very difficult to get the front tyres and the rear tyres to match. Again P3, not too far behind and still a lot to play for tomorrow, so hopefully we can stay close.
Question: Clean side of the grid and we know that is going to compromise Valtteri a little bit off the start. A reasonable run down into Turn 1 but it’s not really a big overtaking corner?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, exactly, I think Turn 1 is not really a place to dive or whatever…
Question: You tried that already in free practice!
Max Verstappen: Ha, ha! It was not the intention of course!
The start is going to be important but even then we don’t have a lot of information about how the tyres are going to hold up, so we’ll just feel our way into the race and see what’s going to happen.
Question: Lewis, nice to have a crowd here for you to wave at for some of these races. A few British flags up there. Your 97th pole position?
Lewis Hamilton: Ah, it’s amazing. You’ve got the British flag here, the African flag, the South African flag. I can’t tell you how hard that was today.
Yes, we’ve got a great car but you’ve got to drive the nuts off it to pull out a lap and Valtteri has been so quick this weekend. As you’ve seen, he’s topped every session.
So I’ve just been digging and digging and digging to find that extra time. At the end there I chose to do three laps, to give me a chance to have a stab at beating his time.
I think he decided to do one, so I was like ‘OK, this could provide me an opportunity’ and it worked. That last lap it got better and better as I went through it.
Question: It’s nice of you to recognise what a strong job Valtteri’s been doing, all year in qualifying actually, and he’s rueing the fact that he decided to do one timed lap. Who drives that decision? Was that something that you pushed with your engineer to say ‘look, guys, I need those three laps’?
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, the team were communicating really well with us and they gave us the option basically, to both of us. We had the choice of going on to the soft or the medium and we both chose to go to the medium.
He chose to do one lap and I chose to do three, as we had the time, and I got out there nice and early.
The tyres are very hard here this weekend, we’ve got the hardest of the compounds and getting them to work here, believe it or not, it’s very, very difficult. So that’s why I wanted to have an extra run, just in case the first one wasn’t that great and it worked perfectly.
Question: Just a word on this circuit: of all the pole positions you’ve had, how good was this to drive?
Lewis Hamilton: Oh God, it’s hardcore. It’s a really, really hardcore circuit. I’m sure you’ve been around it maybe, but there are places where you can’t see where you are going.
You’re looking at the sky for periods of time. Understanding your braking points, there are no references when you’re looking at the sky. It really is one of the most challenging circuits I’ve been too.
The surface is strange. I don’t know if the fans know but each surface naturally is different that we go to. This is a very closed, very smooth surface and it doesn’t work the tyres the same as Barcelona for example. So, that’s made it incredibly challenging to get not only the front tyres in but the rears in.
We’ve had times in free practice where the front tyres are working but the rears weren’t and we’ve had times where none of the tyres are working, so today has been better but the team has just continued to keep their heads down and do a fantastic job so a big, big thank you to them.
Driver Press Conference
Question: Lewis, you had to fight for that one but in the end a tremendous final lap in Q3.
Lewis Hamilton: Well, it’s always a fight but I would say this track combined with… the smoothness of the track, the difficulty that we have with these tyres and the battle that I’m having with Valtteri is making it harder and harder for me each weekend.
He’s been quickest all weekend this weekend, all through practice and even into some of this session.
I didn’t know whether or not I was going to get a lap that would be able to compete with his – I was always off a tenth or half a tenth or whatever it is – but the decision I took at the end was what created the opportunity.
We were both given the opportunity to choose between the soft and the medium tyre, which is kind of counter-intuitive, in terms of going to the medium, because usually we just stay on the soft throughout Q3 but the idea of having an extra lap, an extra chance, an extra stab at getting pole looked good to me so I chose to go that extra lap and I think Valtteri (Bottas) chose the one, but he still did a great job and it was very, very tough and I had to dig very deep.
Luckily I think I got the last sector just about right but still it was so close.
Question: Was the track improving throughout qualifying? Was that one of the reasons why you chose to do two laps?
Lewis Hamilton: No, it doesn’t feel like there is any track ramp on this track. I don’t know if the rubber is going down at all. It’s pretty much felt the same throughout the weekend, which in terms of grip is not good!
The track is great to drive. It’s just incredibly slippery, even though we have all this downforce. These tyres don’t like it here that’s for sure. The medium looked strong.
Valtteri did a great job in Q2 with his medium. He looked very quick, particularly in the middle sector.
The first lap wasn’t that good on that tyre. Luckily the temperatures were just right for the second lap and that was where I was able to make the difference.
Question: Valtteri, coming to you. Yet again, so close to pole position. Talk us through once more, if you would, just the decision to do the one timed lap at the end of Q3.
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, the first decision was obviously which tyre we go, but based on what I felt before in Q2, I felt like the Medium was actually a tiny bit better than the Soft tyre over the whole timed lap, so went for the Medium and then it was about doing one or two timed.
Obviously the benefit going of going for one, you can fuel for just one timed; if you do two laps you have to fuel for two laps, which is more weight, so based on what I felt in Q2 – and it was a good feeling with the tyres on a single lap – I went for it again in Q3.
Ultimately it was the wrong decision but I think maybe the track temp – I don’t know – dropped slightly or I just couldn’t get the tyres to feel quite the same as they felt in Q2.
At the end of that lap I was just hoping I could have one more lap but obviously didn’t have the fuel. Wrong call from my side and it is annoying for sure but Lewis did a good job at the end.
Question: You’ve been quick all weekend, fastest in the all the practice sessions. Just give us your thoughts on the track and perhaps just tell us how quickly you got up to speed, and why you feel quite so at home here?
Valtteri Bottas: It’s a really nice track. It’s a bit different to many other places, just for the elevation and the blindness of some corners. It’s just consistently up and down really, and some pretty cool corners.
It’s nothing new really to have a track that no-one really has any experience of. We’ve had that this year and will have that again next weekend.
It’s just really the usual process of looking at the details and going step-by-step. So far it was a good weekend until the qualifying but obviously tomorrow is the day that counts.
Question: Coming to you now Max, can you just sum-up quali for us, and your tyre decisions, the conundrum you had at the end of Q3: Soft versus Medium?
Max Verstappen: For us it was very straightforward. We just committed to Softs for the whole of qualifying. But I think already the whole weekend has been really tricky with getting the tyres to work and besides that I think it’s not only tyres but also the tarmac is also very slippery.
Just one line you can take but overall still good, of course, to be third but confusing throughout qualifying.
Did my fastest lap time in Q1 and after that I couldn’t replicate it just because I didn’t have the same grip. Of course, you know the time runs down in Q2 and Q3, you have even less time to do your laps and it just seemed like it was a bit more difficult for us to get the tyres in, let’s say, a better window, even though I think in Q3, compared to Q2, it felt a bit better, let’s say, on one timed lap.
So, on the very first timed lap. So, it was better but not… for me not personally enjoyable to drive at the moment, with the tyres and grip on the track, because, I mean, I was here in January and I thought it was going to be amazing to drive a Formula 1 car.
I mean, the scenery, everything is perfect but the grip we have… For me personally, you can’t really push, you’re just driving on ice. It’s a bit of a shame.
Question: What about the pace of the RB16 relative to the two Mercedes. Do you feel you were as close here as you were at the Nürburgring two weeks ago?
Max Verstappen: Well, I think yeah, we were very close, just a bit difficult to really judge, again, the performance because of tyres and grip.
I think we have to go to a track again where we have been driving before, y’know, like the last few years, and see where we are – because we have a bit more knowledge there.
These kind of events are sometimes hit and miss: sometimes you can do them a bit better than others but still, to be P3 and quite close to them is a good achievement, I think.