Driver Interviews – United States Qualifying
Location: Texas, United States
Circuit: Circuit of the Americas (COTA)
What a qualifying session we had! It was close between all the drivers – even having the McLaren of Lando Norris in P1 at one point too!
All the drivers pushed their cars and it’s safe to say that we should have a great race ahead of us.
Lets take a look and see what the drivers had to say following Qualifying which sees Valtteri Bottas on pole, closely followed by Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen in P3.
Mercedes – United States Grand Prix Qualifying
Mercedes managed to pick up the pace and it was a close battle between the teams for pole – just edging through was Valtteri Bottas, taking pole for the 2019 United States Grand Prix.
His team-mate, Lewis Hamilton will start from P5 and he’ll need to stay out of trouble at the start of the race – keeping ahead of the midfield pack.
Valtteri Bottas, 1st, 1:32.029
Valtteri Bottas: “This is very satisfying – it’s been a while since we’ve last been on pole, so this is a great feeling. I was struggling with the car yesterday, but we’ve made a number of changes overnight and today the car felt much better.”
“I knew going into qualifying that the car had the potential to fight at the front, I just had to get a good lap together. I’m very pleased with my first lap in Q3; it wasn’t quite perfect, but good enough to put us on pole. It’s always an advantage to start from the front; now it’s up to me to try and maintain the lead at the start tomorrow.”
“Our long runs looked good yesterday, so hopefully we can get a strong result in the race.”
Lewis Hamilton, 5th, 1:32.321
James Allison – Technical Director
“This is our first pole since before the summer break and what a welcome pole it was – incredibly tight, incredibly exciting and fantastic to have Valtteri put our car on the top step today.”
“It wasn’t such a happy session for Lewis and a bit of a surprise because he was very strong on the first two sessions. But I think he would be the first to say that was a bit of a messy couple of laps in Q3. He’ll live to fight another day tomorrow, we had good pace in the car in the long runs on Friday and we hope that we can make that count tomorrow in the race.”
Toto Wolff – Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“That was an exciting qualifying session – it was very tight, with a few cars within just a few tenths. It’s been a little while since we’ve been on pole and it’s a very good feeling to start from the front again, we’ve all missed it.”
“Valtteri had a strong qualifying and put in a brilliant first lap in Q3 which was good enough to secure pole. Lewis had a trickier time, it just wasn’t his qualifying session today, so we’ll take a look at what happened.”
“Tomorrow looks set to be an interesting race, it appears to be quite close between the top teams in terms of race pace. It’s still all to play for from P1 and P5 on the grid, so we’ll give it our all and see how it plays out.”
Ferrari – United States Grand Prix Qualifying
Leclerc didn’t get off to a good start – as we all saw, the driver pulled over to one side in FP3 with an engine problem, seeing his session end there.
Before Qualifying started, the team worked hard and detected an oil leak however back in Qualifying, he pushed as much as could – starting the race in P4.
Sebastian Vettel however seemed to have a very good day – with a close battle between the top 3, it could have been pole for anyone of them.
Starting the race in P2 – we should have a great start, great battles and close racing between the top 3 at least – not forgetting the two drivers – P4 (Leclerc) and P5 (Hamilton).
Sebastian Vettel, 2nd, 1:32.041
Sebastian Vettel: “Tomorrow on the grid, I’ll be eight metres behind Valtteri, which will seem strange as the gap today in qualifying was definitely smaller! 12 thousandths is really very little and so I can definitely say I was a little bit unlucky.”
“I have to admit that, on my first run, there was maybe some room to be faster, as my aim was to set a good time and then improve on my second set of tyres.”
“Unfortunately, I was a bit too aggressive and maybe the track had got a bit slower and that’s where the time that might have put me on pole, escaped me.”
“It’s not bad being on the front row here, as was proved by Kimi’s start last year. It will be important to get everything right at the start and not make any mistakes when it comes to our tyre strategy.”
“We saw last Sunday that sometimes taking a risk can pay off, so we will study the situation very carefully before the start. Friday’s race pace wasn’t that strong, but I think all aspects of the car have improved today, so we will just have to see where we are in the race.”
Charles Leclerc, 4th, 1:32.137
Charles Leclerc: “I lost some track time this weekend, having missed half of FP1 and the whole of FP3 today, so qualifying was not so easy. It’s not ideal, but it’s part of racing. After Q2, I was a bit more confident in the car, but in Q3, our competitors were just too quick.”
“I do always expect more, but I think we can be satisfied with P4 today if we take all the various factors into consideration.”
“My focus has now shifted to the race. The start is always tricky here and I hope that it will present us with some opportunities. The track is quite bumpy, but I like that because it makes things interesting.”
“The way in which you deal with the bumps affects the car balance, so it is something you can influence as a driver. Our race pace was not the best yesterday, so we have worked on the car and I am optimist that the changes we have made will pay off.”
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
“It was really tight today, which I think is good for the fight, it’s good for the sport, but as Ferrari we are a little bit disappointed, because Seb was so close to the pole time.”
“It was a shame that Charles was unable to take part in the morning session because of the engine problem. The lack of running meant he had no time to get a good understanding of the car following the set-up changes we had made to it overnight. I am sure he would have done a much better job with more track time.”
“It’s going to be a long race tomorrow and we will need a good start and a good strategy to do well. We hope there will be some exciting battles to provide a great show to the fans.”
“It will be important for the drivers to get into a rhythm, while tyre degradation will be a key factor. I believe we have improved from yesterday and I am sure our drivers are in a position to challenge their rivals.”
“It’s true that we have started from the front a few times without winning, so let’s see if this time we can turn things around.”
Red Bull – United States Grand Prix Qualifying
Red Bull had split strategies in Q2, sending Verstappen out with medium tyres and Albon out on the soft tyres – both of their drivers made it through and will be quite interesting to see how it all goes during the race.
Verstappen managed the better lap overall, starting the race in P3 with Albon in P6.
Max Verstappen, 3rd, 1:32.096
Max Verstappen: “It has been a good weekend so far and for us to be this competitive on this track is very positive and it shows that the car is working really well. I think in general Q3 for everyone was a bit more tricky than Q2 because of a change in grip but to be P3 and that close to P1 is a good result and I’m happy with it.”
“Of course, we would have liked to be P1 with that margin but this is still a good start and now we just have to hope for a competitive race. We are starting more towards the front than usual at this track, the car balance is good, I think the engine power has also improved and we are all so close.”
“A lot will depend on the tyre life and strategy tomorrow but whatever happens it should be a good race and I’m looking forward to it.”
Alex Albon, 6th, 1:32.548
Alex Albon: “In the end I’m quite happy and I think we did a good job in qualifying had it not been for my mistake on the last lap. FP1 was pretty good but I struggled in FP2 and FP3 which were two difficult sessions.”
“I found the rhythm again in qualifying and I was three tenths up on my final Q3 run before I ran wide and got my time deleted. I think as drivers we prefer circuits that don’t allow you to break track limits because if there’s something there to stop you, it will.”
“It was my last lap in Q3 where you’re always pushing for an extra couple of hundredths and it was one of those things. I think I was on for a 1:32.2 which isn’t the same pace as the guys ahead but I was more or less there. We’re the first to start on the soft tyre tomorrow so hopefully it gives us a launch advantage and we can overtake a couple of cars into Turn 1.”
“We just need to avoid the carnage and then hopefully we’re in the fight. I think our race pace is always pretty good and let’s see what the weather does tomorrow. If it’s warmer than today, my tyres will degrade quicker but then the others will have to two stop, so let’s see what happens!”
McLaren – United States Qualifying
As briefly mentioned above, Norris managed to raise a few eyebrows and show the potential of the team – getting good times through in P3 and topping the time in Q1!
It looks set to be a great race for the team – Norris starting in P7 with his team-mate, Sainz starting in P8.
Carlos Sainz, 7th, 1:32.847
Carlos Sainz: “Great quali today! We managed to extract the absolute maximum out of the car. Two very good laps in Q3 means I’ll be starting again right behind the top teams in P7. I’m expecting a challenging day tomorrow because the wind is changing again from where it was yesterday, and that can make our race trickier.”
“So, heads down, good work tonight and let’s make sure we finish it off tomorrow. Congratulations to the whole team again. Both cars leading the midfield is always a good sign.”
Lando Norris, 8th, 1:33.175
Lando Norris: “A reasonable qualifying. It was a decent job through Q1 and Q2. I just had some traffic on my Q1, run one laps, which meant I had to use a second set of tyres, and I only had one set for the final quali.”
“I always had a better second run and so in Q3, when I only had one chance, I struggled a little bit more as everyone ahead of me had two sets of new tyres. P7 for Carlos and P8 for me is as good as we could get today.”
Alfa Romeo – United States Qualifying
Despite a decent start to the year, it seems that lately Alfa Romeo aren’t being as consistent as they would like – with both their cars being eliminated from Q1.
Kimi Raikkonen, 17th, 1:34.369
Kimi Raikkonen: “It’s a disappointment to be out in Q1 after a good morning session. I made a mistake braking into turn 12, locked a wheel and that cost me at least three tenths, which would have placed me four or five places higher and into Q2.”
“That was pretty much it after that – without the mistake, I would have easily made the cut. We’ll have a lot of work to do to get back into this but we are going to try our best.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 16th, 1:34.226
Antonio Giovinazzi: “We were expecting a lot more today, especially after an FP3 session where we looked pretty good, but in the end I missed out on a place in Q2 for a very small margin, less than a tenth.”
“Starting where we are, the race will be difficult. We will need to understand how to maximise our race pace, believe in ourselves and see where that takes us.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“We had made some big steps forward this morning and were quite confident going into qualifying, but in the end we fell short. It is disappointing to lose both cars in Q1, even though the margins were so small that a single tenth of a second here or there would have placed us in Q2.”
“It will not be easy to make up ground starting from the back, but we will try to recover what is possible and make the best use of whatever opportunity we will get.”
Lots more coming soon!