DRIVERS – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull), Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), Charles LECLERC (Sauber)
Q: Charles, what a season it’s turning out to be. You’ve scored in five of the last six races, Q2 in the last six races. Clearly you’ve found a sweet-spot with the car. How much confidence do you have coming into this weekend?
Charles LECLERC: Well, as I’ve said before, the confidence is not so high because I’m always looking at the negatives after each grand prix and yeah, there’s still plenty of negatives. I did some mistakes in Paul Ricard, and again in Austria but yeah, we’ve been in the points consistently, which is great. We definitely did not expect it. Q2, six times in a row now I think, which is, again, quite crazy. I expect a bit more of a difficult weekend here, especially with high speed corners but we’ll try to push and hopefully we’ll have a very positive weekend again.
Q: You’ve told us about the negatives but let’s just reflect on the positives of the last few races. You’re clearly getting on very well with the car. Have you surprised yourself at how quickly you’ve got up to speed?
CL: To be honest I had very difficult first three weekends this season but then we really did a step in Baku with the approach of the setup especially. I was asking something completely wrong to the engineers in these first three weekends, and then it went a lot better. So, yeah, for now it is going very, very well, and we just need to keep working like that.
Q: It’s not easy to be in a team that’s rebuilding, as is the case with Sauber, yet you seem to be dealing with it very well. How much are you enjoying that process and what are you learning?
CL: It’s great to see the hard work of the team and that it pays off on the track. It’s not like we’re having a revolutionary change and upgrades – but any time we’ve put something on the car it went in the right direction. And yeah, we’ve seen that on track and it’s not always a given in Formula One. Sometimes you bring something and it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do on track. So, yeah, the team’s doing a great job on that, and they are giving me a car that is easy to drive also. So, everything is going good.
Q: Max, a quick moment’s reflection on four days ago, that victory for the team’s home race in Austria and those crazy scenes with those Dutch fans after the race. How do you reflect on it all, four days on?
Max VERSTAPPEN: I think it was a little bit of an unexpected victory but, of course, I think they’re very nice to take, especially after Friday and Saturday where we didn’t look fantastic. Then, going into the race, I immediately felt I had a bit better balance in the car, I could at least push it a bit more in the fast corners where we were losing out before. And then yeah, of course, the Mercedes cars in front of me, with Valtteri having a problem, disappearing and then, with the Virtual Safety Car, I think the team did a good job to anticipate that and make the pitstop. And then from there onwards it was all about tyre management and I think we were on top of that. Or course, at the end the Ferrari’s same close but we managed it well, with the whole team and yeah, of course we’re happy to win.
Q: One of your best victories?
MV: Yeah. I keep saying that. I think they’re all nice if you win. This one was very unexpected and I think that makes it a little bit more special.
Q: You’ve had three consecutive podiums now, you’re building some momentum – so where do you feel Red Bull Racing sit in the pecking order among those top teams?
MV: Difficult to say. I think it depends on the track. If the straights are pretty long, then we are third. If they’re not too many straights, I think we have the best chassis, so we are very competitive. But yeah, to make a win in Austria is good because normally we’d expect to lose points on the others – and we didn’t, so that’s good. Let’s see what we can do here.
Q: Let’s talk a little bit more about that. There are some long straights here at Silverstone but there are some fast corners as well. How do you see it panning out this weekend?
MV: I think the problem is that some corners now, they became flat-out and then it basically becomes a double straight, and that’s just very painful. Like Turn One, you’ve got Copse which is flat. It’s a bit of a shame for us. I’m not expecting us to be, like, super-competitive but we’ll there. More or less. So, let’s see what’s going to happen during the race.
Q: Lewis, you’re going for record win number six here at Silverstone; your fifth in a row. You know coming into this weekend there’s going to be a huge amount of support in the grandstands for you. Can you give us your thoughts coming into your home grand prix?
Lewis HAMILTON: It’s the same as every year really: the British Grand Prix is obviously the most special, in the sense of all the races that we get to do – for me. It’s a real privilege. I was just watching some of the replays of last year, and if you look at the end, and it shows you all of the positions and obviously to see the Union Flag up there is always a great feeling. The fans here are just incredible and the weather is the best it’s ever been. We’re fighting for a World Cup, so I think it’s just a really great time for sport.
Q: Why is this race different for you?
LH: Just because of the fans.
Q: We talked about last weekend with Max, just to reflect on your race in Austria. What follow-ups have there been in the factory? Is there anything you can tell us about why you retired – and are you confident you’re not going to have any problems this weekend?
LH: Obviously, we know it was a difficult weekend and of course we have all wished it wasn’t the way it was but what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Honestly, the spirit within the team is stronger than it’s ever been. These experiences we’ve been having and how we’ve been handling them, have really united us more than any other year. There’s a great energy within team. So, while it was a painful experience, it actually brought us closer. I think it made us stronger. I think coming here there’s been some fixes already, immediately after the race, as soon as they got the car back, I think that evening there was a fix that was designed and put into test mode. So, the team was super on it and I’m confident we’ve done everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Hans Straus – Media Group Limburg) Max, how do you feel about the triple-header? Is it business as usual or is it extra-difficult for you?
MV: It’s a little bit busier but I think as a driver, yeah, we don’t really feel the issues. I think it’s mainly just the mechanics with families and stuff. It’s getting quite busy, for them especially.
Q: (Beatrice Zamuner – Motorlat.com) Question to Charles: given the fact Sauber has been on the way up technically and also in terms of competitiveness, would you like to continue being part of this project next year?
CL: Well, it’s obviously very interesting to be part of this project, as I was saying. We are growing races after races. They are bringing packages and we keep going more and more to the front, so that’s good to see. Then yeah, we’ll have to see for next year. We’ll have to see what other opportunities I get. And then we’ll see. For now, I’m really focussing on this year. Trying to develop the car, like we did. I think we are… yeah, it’s above expectations, what we are doing for now. As a team I don’t think we thought we would develop as good as we are now. So, that’s great to see, and then we’ll see next year.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – Globoesporte.com) Lewis, do you believe in this circuit, the new spec of your car, used first time in Austria, can appear more? It’s a more real circuit than in Spielberg?
LH: I think the two tracks actually hold some similarities in corner speed and corner pace. Like if you look at the middle and last sector of the last race, as opposed to here. But this is a more demanding circuit, particularly with the temperatures we have here. All the high-speed corners. Copse is most-likely going to be flat; Turn One is going to be flat. It’s going to be one of the hardest races on the tyres, I would imagine. But in terms of car performance, yeah, for sure, we’ll be able to extend… spread the legs of the car more here – but that’s the same for everyone. And high-speed is not really a problem in the cars for us nowadays. We’ve got these big wings, massive tyres, so it should be… it’ll be the fastest we’ve ever driver here so it’s going to be pretty good fun.
Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action & Speed Sport) Charles, as you say, the team is improving the car, bringing upgrades. How much better are you, compared to the beginning of the season? You yourself, at just getting more speed out of the car?
CL: As I said earlier. I think it’s a combination of what I was asking of the car, that was completely wrong in the first three races, and then you are in quite a negative spiral where the car is very difficult to drive, so you try to push more, and you do more errors, and everything is going quite badly. Then, when I understood which balance I wanted in this car, when I arrived in Baku and went with a much more stable balance, especially for the city track, and then we kept that for the rest of the season. And that went in a good direction, also for me, because I could push the limit. It was easier to feel the limit. And then we worked on that and it made a big step for me also because it was just easier to drive.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Lewis, you’ve had an up and down season so far. You’ve had some great weekends and some weekends where you have struggled a bit more. How would you describe the way it’s been for you, yourself, and do you have any indication that it might be like last year, where you developed an incredible momentum in the second half of the season, after you had spent time getting used to everything?
LH: I think it’s impossible to say how the rest of the season is going to go. What I can say, as I said just a minute ago, from experiences like we had yesterday, the team are very, very reactive. We’re trying to be proactive, but it’s great to be able to be reactive as well. We have been making a lot of improvements in the car, my feeling for the car, my understanding – that just naturally grows for a driver throughout the year and for a team as you become more aware of the tyres, the strengths and weaknesses of the package you have. I think everyone is going to continue to shift and get a bit better, but ultimately we want to be improving faster than the others if possible. But it has been an up and down season and I can’t really explain it. Part of it is tyres, part of it is that it is a much more competitive year than last year, that we’re fighting two teams. It’s a lot closer, there is a lot more pressure on. It’s how the sport should be, in the sense that you’re squeezing more out of the cars and out of the drivers as well. I think it’s not a bad thing.
Lewis, I asked Max to give his thoughts on the pecking order at the front of Formula 1 at the moment, what’s your take on that?
LH: The pecking order among teams?
LH: I don’t really know.