Lewis, your fourth pole of the season and this time you had to save the best until last!
It’s been a tough day and Nico drove really well through P3 and also through qualifying so I didn’t know if I’d be able to get it. Right at the end I had to eke out absolutely everything and more from the car. Coming here this weekend we didn’t know where everyone was going to be, so to see the development that has gone on and the hard work that has gone into getting our car ready for this week really inspires me. A really big thank you to the team. To have the kind of performance we have is something I’ve never really known before. It’s very difficult out there too: the track conditions are pretty poor so I’m overwhelmed with the result.
You’ve never won here: why is that and how much would it mean to you to put that right tomorrow?
There are lots of different circumstances and situations I’ve been in but generally it’s just been a case of not being fast enough. Even going into today I had lost a bit of pace from Friday, so I’m even happier knowing that I dropped off a bit but was able to get back to the front. In the past I guess it’s just not been my time, so I’ll do everything I can to bring home some really good points for the team.
During Q1 we heard a radio message from you saying “I don’t know how but we’ve made this car worse.” What were you feeling at the time and how did that translate into what happened at the end when you managed to get pole?
Yesterday I had such a great day and was really happy with the car. Often when things are that good, you generally don’t want to change much but we tweaked a couple of things overnight in the hope of making it a little better. We’re talking very small changes: the smallest of tweaks. But today the grip levels of the circuit were lower and the car was a bit of a handful. There was quite a bit of oversteer and it felt quite inconsistent corner to corner. Once you’re in qualifying there’s not too much you can do. We made some changes going into the session but I was generally struggling. In Q1 I was struggling to put a lap together but at the end I just did it by the skin of my teeth.
So, you found the time in yourself?
We couldn’t change that much so I just had to tweak the diff settings slightly and drive a little bit differently to get the car around the lap as quickly as possible. Obviously we were very quick but it doesn’t matter how fast your car is, you take it to the limit. That’s what all of us drivers do: we take our package to the edge of its limits.
Who do you see as your main rival for victory tomorrow?
We always keep our eyes open for everyone. Of course, Nico’s the closest right now but Daniel’s been driving very well in the first part of the season so anything can happen tomorrow. We’ve just got to work hard to stay out in front. It’s a long race so we’ll have look after the tyres as they’re going to be a factor tomorrow depending on what strategy people choose and levels of degradation.
With limited changes to the car between now and the race, are you concerned that the struggles you experienced at times today will affect you tomorrow?
The right balance has been a little bit tricky to find but I’m not worried. My long run yesterday was good but the track kind of went away from us a little bit today. I think it was the same for everyone, though. Perhaps tomorrow will be different again but you just don’t know. This track can go up and down so we will just wait and see how it goes. You can adjust some things – your diff settings and your front wings, for example – so hopefully I’ll get that just right for the race.