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Nico: “I’m happy to have pole, but it wasn’t a gloves off battle and that’s what we’re really here for”

Nico: “I’m happy to have pole, but it wasn’t a gloves off battle and that’s what we’re really here for”

Nico, a dramatic qualifying session with the rain, the off at the first corner and so on. What was it like from the cockpit?

Q3 was really a big challenge because the track was just changing all the time at the beginning – especially starting the lap with that first set of options. I was the first one to arrive at Turn One and it was difficult to judge in terms of how much risk I could take and how late I could brake. It was very, very slippery, so I did take it a bit easy and managed to avoid crashing. It was just massively difficult down there and so unpredictable. That can happen, though, and from then on it was easier. It just started drying again and, especially on my last lap, I really managed to nail it.

Yesterday you said you were surprised that the car was so competitive – is this still the case?

Yes, I’ve been surprised that we’ve been able to be so quick this weekend. Our engine is very, very strong in performance terms but here that doesn’t come into play so much, so I thought maybe the gap would be a little bit smaller. But in fact, it’s as big as it has been anywhere really and that’s been great to see. It just goes to show how good our car is also.

Your team-mate and main championship rival starts right at the back – what are your thoughts on that?

It’s a real shame for Lewis and the team. I know how much it hurts to have a technical failure where there is nothing you can do as a driver. We need to sort out the reliability issues but I know that tonight there will be great team effort to fix his car – just like in Hockenheim where the whole garage pitched in to help rebuild it. I would always prefer to be out there battling with Lewis. That would give me the maximum adrenaline rush. Of course, I’m very, very happy to have pole, but it wasn’t a gloves off battle with my team-mate. It takes away a little bit of the ecstatic happiness because that’s what we are here for.

Will the gap between you on the grid change your approach to tomorrow’s race?

Well, it makes it easier for me of course because he’s my number one competitor, so I will play it even more safe and just really try and avoid any unnecessary things happening. I need to make sure I get as many points as possible because it’s really a free opportunity. Tomorrow is still going to be a long and challenging race, though – especially with the weather changing – so it’s still all to play for and I’m sure that Lewis can get another good result.

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