Nico, a very dramatic conclusion to that qualifying session, taking pole right at the flag! Were you surprised by how much the track improved – particularly in the final sector?
That was one crazy qualifying session! Conditions were changing all the time and that makes it very, very difficult. On the first lap with the soft tyres it started to rain quite a lot, just in the last three corners, so I lost a lot of time there. Then everywhere else was quite wet on the in-lap, so I told the guys already “that’s it”. We were sitting in the box and just thought we might as well go out and have a look at the track. If you don’t have a look, there’s no chance but if you have a look, there’s a tiny chance. It seemed like we should give it a go but even then I still didn’t believe that the track would be better. What made it was the last sector. Everywhere else on the track was just a little bit slower, because it was just damp here and there. I knew that I had lost four seconds on the previous lap, so even if I was slower than that lap, I still had the chance of going a lot quicker in those last three corners if it was halfway dry. That’s the way it turned out – I made the time in those last corners because it was a lot drier and it just worked out perfectly.
You almost didn’t make it round to start the lap! How close was it?
It was really tight. Across the line on the out lap, I had to be as fast as possible in order to be able to do that last run. I was right on Lewis’ gearbox but then he made a mistake in turn four and pulled over so as not to block me and I just kept on pushing. As I crossed the line it went red almost instantly, so it was a very, very close call.
The track was fluctuating by as much as eight seconds at times – what are the most important things to take care of on a day like today?
The way to go about it is to try to minimize the risk – especially with the car that we have. We have such a fast package so really we just need to try to make sure we don’t take any big risks – even if then it doesn’t turn out to be the perfect qualifying and the perfect day. We tried to eliminate all the big downfalls today – it wasn’t perfect but it worked out well for me and it’s great to be on pole.
Your team-mate and championship rival is down in sixth place – what are your thoughts on prospects for tomorrow?
With regards to the Championship, for me personally it’s good that Lewis is down in sixth – but I expect him to come through quite quickly. I think we’ll be racing each other again. We seem to very quick here. This track really suits the car, more so than Austria, so I think it’s going to be a good battle again. Of course, starting from pole is the best possible place and I’m feeling confident for the race.
Do you feel that you have gained a psychological edge?
I’ve never talked about trying to get a psychological edge – what I’ve been saying is that at the moment the momentum seems to be on my side and I just need to make the most of that, because it comes and goes. I have a period now when it’s going my way and I just need to make sure I get as many points as possible. It’s working out at the moment – but today was just qualifying. There are no points for qualifying and with the car that we have, even from sixth place, everything’s still possible for Lewis.