Track Interviews – Conducted by Danica Patrick
Charles, great job, top three. But obviously the times are so close. Explain just how hard it is to execute here when you’re just threading the needle, with walls all around?
Charles Leclerc: It’s extremely difficult, as everywhere, but here probably even more so, with the tyre temps and the overheating throughout the lap. It’s always a balance between the first and the last sector. But yeah, everything was super close. Mercedes was really strong today, too. So it was an interesting qualifying. Unfortunately, I missed just a little bit to gain a few positions. But again, Carlos did a great job. One-three for the team tomorrow, and let’s see what we can do.
What’s the team morale? You guys have really come on. Obviously, it’s been a challenging year. Just talk about that.
CL: Yeah. The physical challenge tomorrow is going to be something for sure. It’s extremely warm, extremely humid. But until now, we’ve had a very good performance. Honestly, we did not expect to be so competitive on a track like this. So this is a good sign for the future. But yeah, let’s see what we can do tomorrow.
You guys have struggled on the race long runs. Do you think that that’s going to be the case again, tomorrow? And why do you think it might be different?
CL: I don’t know. I think we looked quite strong all weekend. So hopefully we won’t see that tomorrow.
George, it’s hot out there, huh?
George Russell: It’s hot out there for sure. I’ve got a bit of a sweat on.
You guys spent a lot of time sitting in the cars there. Just talk about the chaos of the session – red flag, all the traffic everywhere. It’s a bit of a challenge here in Singapore, just help us out and explain what that was like?
GR: Yeah, it was definitely a challenging session. When you’re sat in that car, it’s like you’re sat in the sauna, just sweating it out. But you’ve got to keep your composure, stay cool. And yeah, really, really happy with this weekend as a whole. I’ve felt really confident in the car. The team did a great job with the strategy: we’re on an offset strategy compared to everybody else, so we’ve got an extra set of Medium tyres tomorrow, which nobody around us has. So to get to Q3 and be on the front row with a strategic advantage tomorrow is an exciting place to be.
Well, traditionally, only one stop, so you obviously have to have the right tyres for the right situation and then you have to pass. There’s a new passing zone potentially. Do you feel like that’s going to help you guys tomorrow? Because starting on the pole eight out of 13 times has proved to be the winner.
GR: Yeah, I mean, the track is different this year. The tyre degredation on Friday looked pretty bad. So I think it’s going to be very close between a one- and a two-stop and with our Mediums we can put Ferrari in a difficult position and try and force them into an error and get the upper hand. So that’s what we’re looking for.
Carlos, well done. Sitting on the pole, you’re on a run. Just talk about how that feels. You guys have had a really trying year and here you are sitting on the pole again. Got to feel really good?
Carlos Sainz: Yeah, again, a bit like in Monza really, hitting the ground running from FP1 and feeling very confident all through the sessions and putting it together Q3. Just focusing on not doing any mistakes in that lap, keeping it clean around here in Singapore normally pays off. It was a bit of a messy session for everyone but we kept the focus, put a good lap in at the end and now pole position.
You’ve been happy with the balance, you said, since the first lap on track. Where is that coming from? What is it that you guys have done that has helped you be so happy from the start that’s allowed you to sit here on the pole again?
CS: Yeah, I think it’s the story a bit of our year, you know, We have a very good car in certain tracks and in certain conditions like one lap, on these sort of short apexes, quick changes of direction our car seems to be very good. This weekend again, a bit like in Monza, we know our weakness, it’s always a the race pace and it’s somewhere we always pay the price. But I think the team has been doing a great job over the last couple of weekends to understand the package understand the car. And I think we’re definitely making a bit of progress keeping in mind that this circuit has always suited Ferrari quite well.
How is the race pace?
CS: Race pace? Bit of a question mark. It’s not like on Friday you can learn much. But yeah, Mercedes is normally a bit quicker than us come race day. They have a bit of a different strategy with the tyres that we will have to keep an eye on. But if I focus on my own race, put together a good first stint and a good stint on Hards, then I think we can still target the win.
You have the opportunity here to dethrone Red Bull. They’ve been on the top of the podium for so long now. How would that feel?
CS: Yeah, that would feel amazing and that’s the target. I mean, try to get the win tomorrow. I’m going to give it everything like I gave it in Monaco and hopefully tomorrow it’s enough.
Carlos, very well done. First time you’ve taken back to back poles. How sweet does this moment feel for you?
CS: Yeah, it feels very good, I must say. I felt on it again since FP1, FP2, FP3, building it up. Again, another clean lap in Q3 with no mistakes. I knew I had the pace. I knew I could do it and just putting a clean lap together in Q3 gave me pole position again, which is an incredible feeling. And now more than ever it’s true that I want to get it done, no, not like in Monza, tomorrow we will try and get that win.
You say no mistakes in quali, but just talk us through that final lap of Q3. You look very strong in the final sector?
CS: Yeah, it’s been, I think one of my strongest points of the weekend, really, keeping the rear tyres alive for the last sector. Yeah, again in Q3, I made sure that I kept that advantage going into Q3 because it’s always easy in Singapore to over-push, to have a snap here and there and end up losing the lap. And yeah, even though I felt like I didn’t take too many risks during that lap, I kept it clean and it gave me a strong last sector and it was enough for pole position. So yeah, very happy with it.
Now, you weren’t that confident about Ferrari’s pace when we spoke on Thursday. So how surprised have you been by the car here?
CS: Pleasantly surprised, because our last high downforce tracks, we’ve really struggled. We’ve haven’t been on the pace. We’ve been third, fourth, fifth-fastest car and certainly since we arrived to Singapore, a high-downforce track we were clearly one of the fastest, if not the fastest. So it has been a very good progress. I think we’ve done a lot of work to try and understand our high-downforce package and the team has done a very good job to put it together for Singapore. But it’s true also that this always, historically, has been a very good track for Ferrari. It’s also been a strong track for me, I like driving around here and yeah, I think it’s a good job well done. But it’s also I think the track is suiting our car a bit more than Zandvoort, for example.
But Carlos, irrespective of what happens in the race tomorrow, quick at Monza, quick here, how much confidence does this give you for the remainder of 2023?
CS: A lot of confidence for sure. I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling very well with the car and I’m driving very good, probably the best since I’ve been a Ferrari driver and finally I’m extracting my full potential. And I’m happy to see that. I’m happy, too, with the work that I’m doing with my engineers to little by little keep extracting more and more potential and more performance out of the car. And it’s obviously going to give me a lot of confidence moving forward. But yeah, we need to keep working on the race pace. In Monza, you could see what happened and tomorrow is another good test to see how much progress we’ve done in that area.
Looking ahead to tomorrow, how much more confident are you this weekend compared to starting on pole at Monza?
CS: I’m more confident, mainly because of the track layout. I think it’s a bit easier to hold on to our track position. That obviously gives me more confidence than Monza in terms of pace, I really have no idea how we’re going to be. Looking at long run data from Friday. the Merc, the Aston and the Red Bull did look a bit quicker than us in tyre degradation and race pace, so it could be that tomorrow we have to run, yet again, a bit of a defensive race. But I don’t discount that even around this track we could hold on to a P1 because it’s a lot more difficult to pass than other tracks this season, but our race pace still looks like our weakest point.
George, coming to you now, your first front row start since Melbourne, 12 races ago. You’ve been hooked up all weekend. Just how good was that final lap of Q3?
GR: Yeah, the car has been feeling amazing, this whole weekend. Huge credit to the whole team, they’ve been working so hard, put in a lot of efforts to maximise the car we’ve got, understanding it, looking ahead to next year as well: everybody’s you know, given 100 per cent so really pleased to translate that into a really solid result today. And, as I said, it was really, really enjoyable. To be honest, since the break, I feel like I’ve been really hooked-up with the car. Set-up’s been in a great window, working really well with my engineers. Some say it’s the new hair. I don’t know. I think it’s just good work and just enjoying it. Having fun out there.
Were you expecting this performance from the car here?
GR: Yeah, to be honest, I think we were. We know that on the high-downforce circuits, we tend to go better. Ferrari always fast on the street circuits, C5 tyre. So we knew there’d be quick. Red Bull are obviously a big surprise, not too sure what’s gone on there. Their long run pace didn’t seem stellar, either. So yeah, this is a great opportunity, this weekend, to get a victory. We’ve got a different tyre strategy to every other car on the grid out there. We’ve got two Mediums. So, we’re the only team who’ve got the chance to do a one-stop or two stops, so that really gives us a great chance for tomorrow.
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