(Conducted by Paul Di Resta)
Q: Lewis you had a pretty dominant pole position last weekend in Austria and you’ve come here and, it’s just flashed up on the screen, you’ve scored your 90th pole position in F1. What does that mean?
Lewis HAMILTON: Crazy. I have to pinch myself. It just doesn’t register. It’s quite humbling to be honest. I gess to work with an incredible group of people, without whom I wouldn’t be able to have the opportunity to do so. So massively thankful to the everyone back home and the guys here who do such an amazing job. And Valtteri doesn’t make it easy for me at all. It requires absolute perfection when it comes to doing laps and qualifying like that is one of the things I enjoy doing most.
Q: Watching onboard the car looks on rails. You’re connected with aren’t you?
LH: I’m definitely connected with it. She’s definitely not on rails. I’m sure it looks like that compared to some other people but it was nicely hooked up today and not far off the rails.
Q: You’re going for your eighth win at a single event to match Michael Schumacher. You must be pretty confident you can achieve that given where you’re starting?
LH: Oh man, it’s a long run down to Turn 1 so nothing is a given here. We’ve just got to do the work this evening and ultimately I’ve got to deliver on the start tomorrow. It is quite a long race and we don’t know what this weather is going to do fort us tomorrow but for sure I’ll have my head down and I’ll be focusing as hard as I can to bring home a 1-2 for the team.
Q: Valtteri, all the way to the end there, you just out missed by a tenth but I guess you must be pretty happy to qualify on the front row?
Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, of course, I knew, I saw in FP3 that it was going to be a close battle with Lewis at least and I think as a team we were again on a really strong level and pretty far from other teams, which is good for us. My laps were OK. At the end the Q3 lap was actually really good but I just couldn’t go faster and Lewis did a great job today to get the pole, as always. It’s going to be a bit of a drag race between us into Turn 1 so I look forward to that.
Q: You’re still the championship leader and you’re alongside him and the run to Turn 1 is important. Is that your best tactic tomorrow, to get a clean run to Turn 1?
VB: Yeah, of course, if you look at the points it’s a good situation but what I need is to win races to maintain that. That’s going to be the only goal tomorrow and I’m sure the first lap will be interesting.
Q: Lewis, congratulations. What a Q3 session for you. 1.1 seconds faster than last year’s pole. How did that final lap feel?
LH: It felt great. In general, qualifying altogether felt really solid. The team have done an incredible job. Valtteri and I, we owe it really to this great group of people back at the factory and here who are just constantly pushing the bar higher. I’m really proud to work with them and to get to drive a car like this around the track is really awesome. Turn 11 was really flat for us today, which is quite insane, the speeds we go through there. It’s quite impressive to see how far the technology has advanced. Valtteri did a great job today, applying a lot of pressure, but Hungary has always been a good hunting ground for me. But I’m aware that qualifying isn’t everything here and it’s a long race and a long run down to Turn 1. I want to say a big congrats to Lance as well, it’s awesome to have the three Mercedes up here.
Q: Lewis, where are the gains from last year, where does the lap feel differently particularly?
LH: The high speed particularly is quite a lot different, so Turn 4, Turn 8 and particularly Turn 11. But it’s a little bit everywhere I would say. The efficiency of the car through the low and medium-speed corners is definitely better than last year but the high speed particularly, as I was saying, you can nearly take it flat, whereas before it was a little lift.
Q: Valtteri, great lap and so close to Lewis at the end. Little bit of frustration from you, how do you feel?
VB: Yeah, for sure. I saw in practice that it was going to be a close battle between us in qualifying and practice three didn’t feel too bad. To be honest in the beginning of the qualifying until the end of Q3 I was struggling in the first sector mainly, so Turn 1 braking, I wasn’t so comfortable there, so I lost a little bit of time. Turn 2 also, I struggled a little bit with snappiness from the rear end of the car. I think when the track improved the car was starting to come together and at the end I have to say the lap was pretty good actually, so I thought I might have a chance with that lap really, but Lewis was just a tenth or under quicker so ultimately he did a better job in qualifying and that’s why he’s on pole.
Q: How’s the long run pace of the car?
VB: I think it’s pretty strong from the small amount of data we managed to gather in practice one. Of course we missed a lot of the running practice two so a lot of question marks there but I think overall the package we have should be good in the race as well.
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Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Lewis, is this the best car you’ve ever driven, and can you give some insight into how the team do it. How do they keep producing these incredible cars, year after year, moving forward in this way?
LH: I don’t really remember driving the last car [to Valtteri] Do you remember driving the last car? Ultimately, it is an evolution of last year’s car so, without doubt it is a better can than last year. We go through a whole season and during the season Valtteri and I work closely together to point out the issues and the limitations with these cars and we work closely with our engineers to advance it and, with the designers, we have quite a lot of meetings back at the factory together to make sure we leave no stone unturned. There’s no big-headedness or ignorance between any of the engineers and between us. There’s just a real transparent discussion and no idea is too big or bold. We just continuous push at that. I think we continue to inspire each other and then the guys back at the factory are hungry. They want to break down… continue to raise the bar, and they are the best at what they do. It’s impressive to see each year. There’s an incredible amount of confidence that I have in them, naturally from these years, and I think we go from strength to strength as our relationship grows, as our understanding of each other, as how we work, continues to improve.
Q: Lewis, can I just throw that question to Valtteri as well. How do Mercedes keep doing it?
VB: I think Lewis really answered it very well. Working very united and so many talented people. And when the team works very synchronised, the results are going to be good. Obviously it comes also from the top, how the team is led. Different people in the correct positions makes a big difference. I think as a team I can see everyone just peaking, weekend after weekend, year after year, which is really enjoyable and really impressive to be part of.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Question for Lewis and Valtteri. How much of a shock is it to see how much Red Bull are struggling, and to look at the timesheets and see Max Verstappen 1.4s down, given they were expected to give you a bit more of a fight this weekend?
LH: I didn’t know that was the case. That is a really big gap. Definitely wasn’t expecting them to be as off as they have been this weekend – because this has been a… you saw the pace of them last year. This is not a power circuit, it is more about the car, the mechanical grip and aero package. We would have definitely thought that they would have… I thought they had a better package than today’s results show. I don’t know if they’ve all had great laps or not but still, either way, that’s a big, big gap.
VB: Very surprising for sure. I was expecting them to be maybe potentially closer here than in Austria. Also, I don’t know the details about how their session went. Was it nothing clean or was their other issues? But the whole weekend they’ve not really been that close – so yeah, just surprising. Obviously I don’t know the details why.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines/Racefans.net) To both Mercedes drivers: when you have a dominant car as you currently have, which makes it a lot easier to pull out top drawer performances, does this in any way devalue your ability and in turn, does it in any way affect your market value?
VB: I’m not really a professional of market values and I don’t really think about those things. I just want to drive the car as fast as I can and I want to achieve my goals. Obviously the goal for me today was to be on pole position; I missed it by a tenth or less so I didn’t reach my goal, but that’s my (unclear) I just think about that really, nothing else, but I wouldn’t see why it would devalue Lewis’s pole today or my P2. Obviously, yes, we have a gap to the other teams but I think between me and Lewis we are really pushing each other to the next level as well and with the fine details, we are both able to find all the time session by session. For sure that helps, you know. I don’t think about that really.
LH: I think, at the end of the day, we perform at the highest level that there is here in Formula 1. We still go out there and it’s not that easy for us, it’s just a different platform of course, if our car handles perhaps better than some people’s. But we’re not just drivers, the drivers work with our brands and our image helps also bring in funds which enables us to do what we do. We’ve got a great marketing team, we’ve got a fantastic sponsorship team, we’ve got the best in every department, basically, and without having the best in every department, we probably wouldn’t be where we are today so no, I don’t think it devalues us, I think it strengthens us as a team.
Q: And Lewis, how good was what you did behind the wheel today? You’ve had a lot of pole positions, this was number 90 but was this one of your better ones?
LH: Honestly, I don’t remember all the laps I’ve done. Every time we go into qualifying, I’m always trying to raise the bar. Obviously Valtteri gets faster and faster as the years go on and the challenge gets tougher and tougher so I have to remain focused, I have to continue to pull out the best laps I could possibly deliver in order to stay ahead of him because he’s driving exceptionally well. Obviously the rain hit qualifying, the last one was I think… those are the days that you can really show your capabilities. I think today was a solid lap, absolutely very very happy with how qualifying went and obviously it’s very close. There’s always improvements that you can make; it’s very very surreal to have the… it doesn’t seem real to have 90 poles.
Q: (Abhishek Takle – Mid-day) To Lewis and Valtteri: Mercedes have proven their dominance at two different types of circuit. Do you see the title battle staying out as a fight between you two now, especially given that you’re going to have fewer races this season than you normally would, which gives your rivals less time to make up any ground on you?
LH: Whatever the case, it’s intense. We are performing at the absolute maximum of our capabilities, we’re really right on the ragged edge. Yes we’ve got a fast car but we’re on the ragged edge of that and we’re throwing that thing round. We’d like to believe that anyone else can do it so that’s what we’re going to continue to do. It’s very close between us. The great thing about Valtteri and I as team partners, we really help push the team together in the same direction. Valtteri is not asking for one thing and I’m asking for another; there’s great harmony within the team because of the respect that we have and that just adds a bonus to our working environment.
VB: Yeah, I think the question for now, of course we’ve seen… we’ve performed really well on two different types of tracks. Obviously it’s still early days in the season but of course we’re going to be in a strong position and we look at the situation, I think the main (fight for the) title is going to be between me and Lewis but yeah, I think we need to just really focus on our performance and of course you never know, some teams might improve more and so we just keep pushing and we’ll see but for now it looks like that.
Q: Valtteri, how exciting is it for you that it might be a two horse race between you and Lewis?
VB: Well, I’m excited. I can’t wait to have more races and race and improve and get good results and whether it’s just the title fight between one driver one car, it’s how it is. If it’s more, that’s also fine.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) To both Mercedes drivers: how close do you expect Racing Point to get to you in the race, especially considering how quick that car looks as they came through the field at the last race?
LH: It’s impressive to see them improving and getting on top of the car. It’s incredible to see them on the second row. It’s great to have a mix-up, a little bit more of a mix-up. They’ve shown great performance in the last two races so I’m really excited for them, happy for the drivers and looking forward to seeing what they can do. Fight them as hard as we can tomorrow. We are racing together so expect them to be on form.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, I know you’ve sort of spoken about the 90 poles but it’s now 22 more than any other driver managed. More than Schumacher, 25 more than Senna. It’s a staggering number in many ways. Can you tell us more what it means to you?
LH: You know I’m not one for numbers. As I said, when I was driving into the pit lane and I saw 90 up there, I completely forgot that I even had 89 before and I don’t really know where the second person is so but of course I’ve been living my dream since I’ve been in Formula 1 and today it just doesn’t seem real. But what I have to continue to remind myself is that every single weekend I still have to deliver, I cannot just show up and they won’t climb on their own. I have to come here and do the due diligence, I have to do the homework, I have to continue to push the engineers, in the tyre department, in the engine department, the vehicle dynamics, all over and really try and extract the maximum from them, because otherwise this guy’s going to catch up. Obviously he’s right next to me so yeah, I think that’s the thing that makes me most happy is that coming into a weekend, not always delivering one hundred percent which it needs, one hundred percent to beat Valtteri. It’s incredible.