Japanese Grand Prix: Post Qualifying press conference

Japanese Grand Prix: Post Qualifying press conference

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Track Interviews – Conducted by Jean Alesi

Lando, how enjoyable it is to fight for the pole position in Suzuka?Lando Norris: Always exciting. You don’t get many chances, but we had a good car today. I could fight. I did some good laps, especially in Q3. So I’m very happy with today. It’s always enjoyable here in front of the fans and a good one for us as McLaren. You know, we had a good race her last year. We had a good race last weekend. So nice to still be here.

Historically, McLaren are always competitive in Suzuka. You are looking to be on the podium tomorrow?LN: Of course. You know we’ve had a good weekend. We’ve made some good steps forward. We’re trying to catch up to these two Red Bulls but they’re doing a good job, the whole team’s doing a good job, so fair play to them. But we’re working hard and the hard work is paying off slowly, so we’ll keep pushing. But today’s a good start to the weekend. Tomorrow is the main job.

We wish you good luck and I think all the fans are looking forward to the race tomorrow. Thank you. Checo, what do you have for breakfast? Did you eat a lion? Sergio Perez: Yeah, it was close today, really close with Max. It felt like a good lap. It was quite tricky out there, actually. Especially closing out the laps it was quite easy to lose a couple of tenths into the last section, into the chicane, So we hooked it in all together, but unfortunately it was just not enough.

With the last run, you were very close to pole position. Did you believe it was possible for you?SP: Yeah, I think we’ve been really close all weekend, all the way through qualifying as well. And when you are in that little margins, you know, anything can make a difference. I didn’t have a great exit opening up the lap, so probably that could have been the difference, you know, but I think we are in a good position for tomorrow. I think our long-run pace hasn’t been that strong this morning, but we worked quite a bit, so hopefully tomorrow we will be able to be strong.

We have seen some Mexican flags in the middle of the Japanese fans, so we wish you the best for tomorrow. SP: Yes, thank you.

Max, well done. It’s fantastic. I mean, to watch you all during the day, this morning, especially in Spoon, we were very shocked at the speed you carried into the corner. But today was tough you for the pole?Max Verstappen: Yeah, it was quite close at the end. I think overall, you know, this track is very sensitive with the tyres, you know, with the tarmac being really aggressive. And when you really want to go to the limit, it doesn’t always work out. But nevertheless, I think, you know, the most important thing is to be on pole. Of course you want every lap to be perfect but around a track like this that’s not always the case. But yeah overall very good day good starting position for tomorrow and of course tomorrow is what counts.

To be with your team-mate next to you for the start, you feel maybe more relaxed for tomorrow? MV: Well, I mean it’s great as a team of course to be P1 and P2 and hopefully of course we can keep that going also for tomorrow.

Press Conference

Fantastic pole, Max. Very well done. Can you start by describing how good those Q3 laps felt?MV: I think around here in Suzuka it’s always very nice when the fuel comes out, the balance is more or less there and then you can push flat out. So it’s always very, very nice. And of course with the cars improving every single year, it makes it even better, especially the high speed. It feels really, really cool. So that made it really nice today.

You went quicker on that final lap of Q3, but I did want to ask, did you lose any time coming through 130R when you came across George Russell?MV: Well, I started to lose time from Turn 13 onwards, so it’s very sensitive around here with the tyres. As soon as you push maybe a bit too hard in Sector 1, you run out of tyres at the end, and that’s what happened to me in my final lap. So that’s why I didn’t really improve a lot. Also, my last chicane, because the front tyres were giving up, I didn’t hit the kerb how it should have been. Let’s say that wasn’t ideal, but it was still good enough. Of course, I always want it to be perfect, but that’s not possible. Luckily, it was still good enough today.

Max, tell us about the conditions out there, the wind, the track evolution during the session? MV: Yeah, I mean, it’s a lot of flat out around this track. So you gain, of course, a little bit in Sector 1, but it’s not like a second here and there. So the evolution is there, but I didn’t feel like it was massive throughout qualifying. It’s more, I think, just fine-tuning the car and then really risking it all in Q3.

Final one from me. You said yesterday that the competition looked closer here, and that was certainly the case over one lap. Are you expecting it to be this close in the race?MV: Yeah, I think so far I haven’t been happy with my long runs. I think the pace wasn’t what I would have liked. So it’s a bit of a question mark going into tomorrow because looking at the long runs, especially Ferrari, they look very comfortable. So maybe they were not so quick over one lap today, but they were definitely fast in the long run. So we’ll have to wait and see how that will evolve tomorrow in the race.

McLaren?LN: Also quite decent. So, yeah, I’m just not very happy with myself, you know, with how my long run was. So then, actually, of course, everyone else looks a bit better.

Very well done today. Thank you, Max. Checo, coming to you now. Great job by you. Just one-tenth shy of Max. How pleased are you with your session?SP: Yeah, it was, like Max said, everything was on the margin. It was so easy to lose a tenth or two just by over-pushing a little bit in some of the corners. The amount of energy that we put into the tyres around here, it’s quite high, so it was quite difficult just to get the perfect lap nailed. It was close. It was close today, but I think the whole weekend has been good. We’ve made some good progress. We managed to keep that consistency through the qualifying. And now, yeah, let’s see what we are able to do tomorrow. I don’t think we are looking great at the moment in our long-run pace, but we’ve done some changes and hopefully that will translate into a better race pace.

Checo, you say the whole weekend has been good. You seem much more comfortable in the car here compared to last year where you were eight tenths off Max in qualifying. What do you put that down to?SP: Like Carlos would say, we stopped inventing. We were playing around with the car far too much and just going through it and I think now we have a much better base. We are a lot happier, and the weekends just progress. And I think when we came here last year, we were at the stage of our season where anything was working. And when you are in that, you just go around circles and circles. And then we found out in the end, towards the end of the year, that it was better. just step back and don’t try to chase it too much with the set-up because then you start compromising other things. And I think that’s been the case for this year. So yeah, I’m a lot more comfortable, a lot more happier and the confidence is slowly coming back.

Very well done. Thank you. Lando, coming to you now. Best of the rest today, just two tenths shy of pole. Did you expect to be that close coming into the session?LN: Closer, but probably not as close as we were today. It was close between many people, you know, us, Mercedes, Aston, Ferrari. They didn’t seem to have quite the advantage as the last few weekends. So between eight cars, we knew it was going to be tricky. So to come out on top, behind the fastest two, I think is a good job by us. So I’m happy. It was tricky to put in the good laps, but my two Q3 laps I was the happiest with, which is always a good bonus. And two tenths is not far away. I think if we kind of look back to where we were last year we were even further away, I think five tenths off of pole. And this is the first track we’ve come back to, which is where we had our upgrades last season. So I think it’s our best comparison of how we’ve improved over the winter and we’re quite a bit closer. So I think that’s a very good sign.

You’re quite a bit closer compared to the opening three races as well. Is that track specific or have you found something on the car this weekend?LN: The car’s exactly the same.

What about the race then? What can you do about the two guys sat next to you?LN: I don’t know. There’s not a lot to do. You know, first lap, try and get a good start. Obviously last year I was side by side with Max into Turn 1. So hopefully trying to redo that. But it’s tricky. They’re quick. They complained about their race pace, but I don’t think they’ve had a bad race in the last, four or five years, so I think they’re going to be good tomorrow. Of course we’ve got a lot of pressure from behind so we have to keep an eye on the mirrors. But at the same time I want to go forward and I think we have pace to stay where we are, so that’s my goal.

What about going forward though? Do you think this is your best chance in recent memory of at least beating one of them?LN: I’ll say yes. It’s so tricky. Sergio’s doing a good job, so that’s one much harder car to kind of keep up with. But we proved last year when we were further away from them that we could keep in touch and not be miles behind. So that will be our target for tomorrow. But I think realistically, we’re still too far away to challenge them. They’re too quick for us. Yes, we are quicker in quali, but in the race, normally, they always pull away a bit more. So, I think we’ll be realistic. I’m always realistic when I say it. So I think our competition’s with the guys behind. And at the same time, I’ll do my best to push forward.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Suzuka here.

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