FIA Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying Press Conference – With Team and Driver Interviews
Today we had the Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying session which saw Lewis Hamilton equal Michael Schumacher’s pole position record of 68 poles.
After qualifying, Ross Brawn took to the grid with a message for Lewis Hamilton on the achievement – with a statement / message from the Schumacher family…. you can see all the details below.
Grid Interviews – Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying Press Conference
Ross Brawn: “I’m here to deliver a very special message from Corinna Schumacher and the Schumacher family, who want to congratulate you on equalling Michael’s record and as they said “Michael always said that records are there to be beaten” sending a very special thanks and Congratulations, Lewis, Well done!”
Q: Lewis, that was some lap. It was mighty – tell all the fans, tell everyone at home, how good does it feel to hook one up like that around here?
Lewis Hamilton: “Yeah, well first of all, I want to give a big shout out to all the fans here, they’re amazing as always every year that we come here.”
“There are a lot of Brits, a lot of people from the Netherlands, from all over, so thank you so much for coming out. I can’t believe it.”
“A big thank you to my team, Ross was a big part of me being here at this team so the success we have had, he is much a part of that as well but the team have done an amazing job.”
“Valtteri did a great job to be up here ahead of the Ferrari’s – an amazing feeling. This is one of my favourite circuits, so to come here and put a lap together like that is a dream. I’ve got the best job in the world so I’m just grateful to be here.”
Q: To equal Michael Schumacher’s record on the track where he made his debut, the track where he took his first Grand Prix victory – it’s something special too.
Lewis Hamilton: “It is and to hear that message that Ross just gave, I just have to say a big thank you, I pray for Michael and his family all the time. I’ve had the privilege of racing with him, from Karting days in Kerpen to on the track and always admired him and still do today. I’m just honoured to be up there with him now in the poles but he will still be one of the greatest of all time.”
Q: Congratulations. Seb, that was some lap at the end to get on the front row, you needed that didn’t you?
Sebastian Vettel: “Yeah, it was the right time. I had a very good feeling in Q1, the get go was really go but then I lost that feeling a little bit, I had a bit light front end, especially then through sector two with the medium-, high-speed corners. I was lacking a little bit of response.”
“The last lap the car was a little bit more alive, immediately I could feel it turning into Turn 1. And then I have to also admit that I was a bit lucky with Kimi, he had to abort his lap but he gave me a very, very nice tow, which I think made it a bit more comfortable with Valtteri.”
“Obviously it’s very important. Good position today, great job from the team, very happy, so looking forward to the race.”
Q: We know these guys are worries about your long-run pace. Are you confident in it?
Sebastian Vettel: “They should be! So far it has been looking pretty good, so I hope we can keep it up. The car, on one lap, I thought all weekend it was a bit trickier to get it together.”
“Consecutive laps with high fuel I felt really good, so let’s see what we can do with the strategy tomorrow as well, but for sure Mercedes will be quick. But, we don’t have to hide.”
“We are on the front row for a reason. We have the speed and we should have it in the race.”
Q: Congratulations. Valtteri, are you annoyed that he just pipped you at the end there? As he said, he got a tow from Kimi coming up the back and without that it might have been an all-Mercedes front row.
Valtteri Bottas: “Yeah, of course it would have been nice to be one-two tomorrow, but it’s not a bad starting place. I was aiming for pole today, but to be honest Lewis has been doing and absolutely perfect job all weekend and for some reason I’ve been struggling and I just haven’t been able to get close enough, so we’ll need to investigate why.”
“That’s something we’ll need to understand but already my thoughts are for tomorrow.”
Q: Everyone is focusing on those two guys for the title, bit you are in the hunt for the title as much as both of them. How much do you want the win tomorrow to prove to everybody, as much as to them, that you’re here, you’re fighting and it’s as much yours as it is theirs?
Valtteri Bottas: “Getting my first couple of wins this year you just want more, so of course that is going to be the mission for me tomorrow and main thing as a team is that we get a strong result.”
“But I’ll do everything I can and I don’t mind if they are being looked at more than me, I’ll just keep doing my job and trying to get better and better.”
Q: Can’t wait for tomorrow. Lewis, you’ve got the championship leader on the front row with you, you’ve got your team-mate inches behind you and he’s very much in the hunt for this title as well, really the second half of the season couldn’t be starting any better for Formula One could it?
Lewis Hamilton: “Well, we had a great holiday and we’ve come back feeling fresh and this is the perfect way to start the weekend.”
“The second half is going to be tough for all of us, the team, the people back at the factory, but we’re geared up for the second half, so I hope that we can bring it.”
Press Conference – Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying
Q: Lewis, many congratulations, a day I’m sure you’ve been looking forward to for some time. The magic number – 68 – you’ve equalled the all-time record of Michael Schumacher. And what a place to do it – a track that is so synonymous with Schumacher, and with a record fastest ever lap of track. Your feelings?
Lewis Hamilton: “Yeah, it’s a special day, definitely.”
“To be honest, I knew it was on the horizon and I knew at some stage I’d be getting that 68th pole but I really hadn’t thought about it very much. I didn’t apply pressure, I was like “it could come soon, it could take a long time”, but now being there, it’s an unusual place to be.”
“I remember coming here in 1996, my first grand prix, and watching Michael come by out of Turn 1 and the engine just shook my rib cage – it was incredible.”
“That was when my love for the sport took another step. And to think that God knows how long later I’m now equal to him on poles, it’s very surreal and very much a humbling experience, particularly knowing that Michael is such a legend. It’s an incredible feat that he achieved and I feel very proud to be up there with him.”
Q: It’s a special day generally in numbers – 4.2 seconds faster this year’s pole compared to last years. The average generally this year has been around 2-2.5s, can you break it down for us why this weekend is so far much faster around this track with these cars?
Lewis Hamilton: “It’s a medium-high downforce circuit so it’s to do this engine being more powerful than it was last year, for all of us.”
“We’ve got a lot more downforce, so the speed that we are going through the corners, it’s so much faster than it was last year. It’s a longer circuit, there’s more time at full throttle, so DRS counts for more than it perhaps has done at other places. A combination of those I would assume.”
“Yeah, it feels amazing around this track. It always does, but to have a car as we have here and the set-up I was able to work with my engineers, to achieve the balance was great, and to really be able to lean on the car around this circuit, I’ve never had such a feeling.”
“Turn 10, was nearly flat, which is insane, I’ve definitely never experienced that in my time whilst in Formula One. We’re just like Ricky Bobby – we want to go faster, and it is a great feeling when you do.”
Q: Congratulations, very special day. Sebastian, it was important for Mercedes today that they get two cars on the front row and it was very important for you that they didn’t. It took you a while to get there, so under the circumstances would you class that a very special lap on your behalf?
Sebastian Vettel: “Not just on my behalf. I think I had a little bit of help from a friend. Kimi had to abort his lap and he was very generous in giving me a tow in the last sector and that got me about two tenths so that helped and it made it a bit more comfortable with Valtteri looking at the result.”
“Q1 I was really happy, the car was amazing. Q2 the main job was to get through, and then Q3 first lap I was missing a little bit the feel for the front.”
“The second run in Q3 was better in that regard. So I was very happy with the last lap and as I said obviously with a little bit of a help it was quite nice. It was then tricky getting into the last corner, because knowing that you arrive so much faster with the tow and braking is never easy, it’s easy to miss it for the last corner. But I managed to get it right and to get it across the line so that was useful.”
“The pace has been good this weekend. I think less for one lap, more so for long runs, so let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Q: Your long-run pace yesterday looked very promising compared to the Mercedes so does that give you some hope for tomorrow. There is a strange start to this race as well, because you don’t necessarily always want to be the first car down the straight in the opening stages as there is an opportunity for P2 to get ahead?
Sebastian Vettel: “Yeah that’s right. Well, we’ll see when we get to that. I think the start is still very important and you try to do your best there and try to take it from there.”
“I think the long run pace looked good yesterday, also this morning. Obviously we didn’t do a lot of laps overall this weekend, it’s a long lap, so the amount of laps you get is not that much compared to other tracks.”
“But, as I said, the car was really good, especially for the race, so now we hope to confirm that. Tomorrow will be a tough day though, I mean start, first laps, as you said big straights, tows and in general strategy around here so we will see what happens.”
Q: Coming to you Valtteri, you had second place, again it took you a while to get to that point, and then obviously Sebastian took it away from you. He’s explained that the tow had a part to play in it – but did you feel you were on your A-game today?
Valtteri Bottas: “Yeah, first of all congrats to Lewis for the pole and for the 69th (68th) it’s a mega-achievement. I’ve only got two so some way to go.”
“This whole weekend for some reason I’ve been not really close enough to be able to challenge for that pole. For sure Lewis has been really on it but I’m slightly confused why I’ve not been able to get quite close enough.”
“Still need to find some answers for me. The balance of the car has been feeling really good. Been just really lacking overall grip and that way, losing a lot of time in the high-speed corners in Sector Two.”
“So, yeah, was always going to be a bit tricky to challenge for the pole, unfortunately. Would have been nice to at least be second but Sebastian got ahead.”
“But still, second row and I’m sure as a team we can do good tomorrow.”
Q: As we were just saying, the Ferrari, the long run pace on the ultrasoft yesterday and again the long run pace this morning looked pretty handy, but what was striking about you guys is that your soft tyre pace is pretty strong. Presumably, strategy-wise, you’re counting on that tomorrow to get in front of Sebastian before the chequered flag.
Valtteri Bottas: “Yeah, it is going to be a long race and here we know always anything can happen and you never know with the weather as well.”
“It’s going to be a day full of opportunities for me as well, starting third.”
“Probably going to see different behaviour with the different cars, with the different tyre compounds. So, should be interesting.”
DRIVER INTERVIEWS – Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying
Red Bull Racing
Max Verstappen: “I was really happy with my lap in Q1. It couldn’t have been much better to be honest as I feel I put everything together and got the best performance out of the car possible.”
“I think the lap felt better than P5, last year I was P2 and I think it felt just as good this year but I’m happy with the result anyway and would say it was a perfect qualifying.”
“I am positively surprised we are so close to Ferrari, Lewis was way ahead but in the race I think we can be close so perhaps a good result is possible.”
“Our strength is in sector 2 so we will work even harder there to improve a bit but in general the balance of the car was great and that allowed me to execute a very good Qualifying session.”
“Although the car felt good today, I still think we need a bit of luck to do something special tomorrow but for now it looks like it will be a dry race so let’s hope that changes overnight and I think then we can fight properly.”
“As I left the pit lane, there was a guy on the fence in all orange waving me on – it’s awesome.”
Daniel Ricciardo: “We were a bit off in Q1 but I knew that there was more time and then in Q2, we got closer to the pace that we needed.”
“Unfortunately in Q3, when you really start to get everything out of it, we couldn’t get much more and I felt like if I pushed more in one part of the track it killed me in another part so I don’t really feel we had the car to compete one lap at 100%.”
“I just feel a little bit limited with the balance but I’m going to be optimistic and say if that’s the case, maybe we have got a more consistent car for the race.”
“If we’re not getting the peak our of the tyre then maybe we can sustain a relatively good pace for longer than the other so that’s what I’m betting on.”
Christian Horner – Team Principal (Red Bull Racing)
“I think fifth and sixth were unfortunately the predictable outcome of today’s Qualifying but both drivers delivered the maximum they could.”
“Max in particular looked very strong in the last run and it should be an interesting race – there can always be a weather element here in Spa so, you never know.”
“With a huge amount of ‘home’ support and an enormous crowd that has turned out to support Max this weekend, this is hopefully worth a few tenths too!”
“Incredible teamwork between our two drivers today“
Fernando Alonso: “In the end, today was a positive day for us – if you look at the overall performance.”
“We were 1.5 seconds from P1 in Q2 and this for us is like pole position however, at the end of the lap, because of the issue we had, we didn’t manage to make it into Q3 but it could have been possible today.”
“The team did a great job and we tried to take benefit from Stoffel’s penalty to help the car take some slipstream on the straights but, at the wrong – on the last attempt in Q2- we had a problem with deployment and I lost six tenths between Turns 11 and 12 so I aborted the lap because it was no longer possible to improve.”
“We’ll start from P11 tomorrow – which here in Spa is a bit of a surprise for us anyway and maybe, being on new tyres and choosing the compound is better than starting 10th.”
Stoffel Vandoorne – “It’s been reasonably positive today – I’ve been preparing for the race all weekend because I know that I’ll be starting from the back.”
“Today was all about helping Fernando to try and get both cars into Q2 and then help him with the slipstream and that’s what we did but unfortunately he just missed out on Q3.”
“Now we have to focus on tomorrow. I know that starting from 20th means that I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
“I hope that I can rely on the usual Spa weather like I could yesterday in the practice sessions – that would definitely help us! We knew that it would be difficult here and we tried all we could today and I tried to help the team as much as possible and it’s a shame that Fernando missed out.”
“It was good teamwork today, Fernando and I have a very good relationship – we’ve shown that in the past and we’ve shown that again today, we work well together and I’m sure the situation will come where I’ll need his help.”
“This weekend is so special for me, there are a lot of fans here and I have friends and family that are here to cheer me on – it definitely gives you that extra bit of motivation for my home Grand Prix.”
Sauber – Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying
Marcus Ericsson: “We knew that today’s qualifying would be a bit more difficult for us as it is a power sensitive track.”
“Considering this technical issue I had in FP3, and the small amount of laps that I was able to complete, the team did a good job to optimise the car.”
“The car felt good however, we have to find a way to improve our performance, the weather can also play a crucial part in the outcome of the race tomorrow so we will have to see.”
Pascal Wehrlein: “Overall, today was a better day for me in terms of track time and I ran a good amount of laps during Free Practice 3.”
“Unfortunately our performance is not where we would like it to be yet and we are always looking at the data and working on different ways to find a way to improve the car – especially for tomorrow’s race.”
There’s lots more coming soon tomorrow ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix so make sure you keep checking back for all the latest.
Images – Kym Illman F1