Lewis – pole number 44 for number 44… quite a special one?
LH: It really is. I feel amazing today. It wasn’t the easiest of days. P3 was actually quite tough and I didn’t actually complete many laps – which was mostly my fault – so I was going into qualifying a bit blind, really, as to where the set-up would be. But, yeah… I won my first Grand Prix here in 2007 and that was incredibly special. So to be back here, get another pole and for it be the 44th… that’s very, very special for me. Once again, an amazing job by the team – regrouping, pulling together to help keep me and Nico up here and be on the front row. It’s a great job by everyone, so well done to them.
Obviously that first run in Q3 was decisive today…
LH: Yes, the first lap was pretty good – but it could have been better. Then, the next lap started off badly but then was good in the middle sector so… there was good time in the car and I was very, very happy with it. It was definitely tough out there with these tyres, which are pretty hard to switch on for everyone, but I enjoyed it.
Practice this weekend has been very interrupted by rain and red flag stoppages, so tomorrow is a bit of a voyage into the unknown in terms of tyre strategy. How do you feel about the race and particularly about the race pace that we saw yesterday in practice from Ferrari?
LH: Ferrari have picked up their pace this weekend. Fortunately, collectively as a team, we’ve managed to at least maintain the pace we had or try to improve in some areas, which is good again. I think they had good race pace but I think they had more deg than us maybe. I don’t really know. Tomorrow is a bit of an unknown and, once again, it’s not been the smoothest of weekends. But I think this we can build on the foundation that Nico and I have achieved today and tomorrow we can bring the fight to them.
At the end of Q3, a lot of people seemed to struggle to find more time. It looked like, at the end of the hour, there wasn’t perhaps the time coming out of the track. Can you put your finger on what the problem was?
LH: I think the track was the same, actually, as in the first run. I personally lost two-tenths in the first sector and I basically regained it through the lap and finished with around a similar time – maybe a little bit slower. But generally there was more time to come from the tyres. So, I was just grateful no-one else improved after that.
Was today a bit of a statement, considering the problems of the last couple of weeks?
LH: I don’t think it’s a statement at all. I think it’s definitely a positive to come back into this weekend on the right foot. While it hasn’t been a clean weekend, to come back with the good pace that I had in the last race after a difficult time is good. There’s no points for today – the big race is tomorrow and that’s going to be challenging for us all. But I feel in a good position to enter tomorrow.
Nico, over the radio at the end you said “that was a rubbish end to qualifying” – can you tell us more?
NR: That definitely was the best way to sum it up, yeah, because I was really on a roll and feeling good. But at the end it just didn’t come together at all. I was just struggling with grip, so it didn’t work out and we need to analyse now what it was. I had less rear grip, on the first set especially, because it was a good lap, but I just didn’t go much quicker than that. That’s disappointing – but fair play to Lewis. The race is tomorrow, so there are still some good chances. Here it’s possible to overtake, so it’s not all over yet.
What can you do from second on the grid – bearing in mind how little everybody knows about how the cars, the tyres etc. are going to perform, based on limited running in practice?
NR: I had a bad qualifying but I’m still second on the grid. That’s just thanks to the car that we have and the job that the team is doing. So that’s awesome. It still gives me hope for tomorrow. Here it’s possible to overtake. It’s a long race and a difficult race also, so still all to play for tomorrow.