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Drivers 1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing) 2 – George RUSSELL (Mercedes) 3 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)

TRACK INTERVIEWS (Conducted by Naomi Schiff)

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Q: Max, felicitations are in order. Another pole position secured for you on this pivotal weekend. Does this signify a stride towards unveiling the potential of this weekend?

Max VERSTAPPEN: Indeed, it marks a promising commencement to this weekend’s proceedings. Negotiating the new tarmac proves a formidable challenge, as it still requires seasoning. The grip on this surface exhibits pronounced peaks, and venturing even slightly beyond the threshold ushers in unwelcome rear-end instability. Nevertheless, securing the pole position fills me with profound satisfaction. The day has unfolded favorably for us.

Q: Naturally, tomorrow ushers in a monumental day for you. The prospect of clinching your third World Championship beckons. If that milestone is reached, what significance will this Sunday’s race hold for you?

MV: Without a doubt, the primary objective is victory. We’ve staked our claim to pole position, and naturally, the desire is to translate that into a triumph. However, the immediate priority remains ensuring a strong performance tomorrow. The car exhibits commendable pace. That said, tomorrow’s conditions, be it morning or afternoon, bring their own set of challenges. Tire preparation, in particular, is poised to be a more intricate task, compounded by the influx of sand onto the track. Nevertheless, this weekend is off to an auspicious start, and the car is performing commendably.

Q: Wishing you the best for tomorrow, Max. Enjoy your time out there. Thank you.

George, congratulations on a hard-fought weekend. A single practice session on an unfamiliar track has indeed presented a formidable challenge. Can you elaborate on the intricacies you encountered today?

George RUSSELL: Undoubtedly, it has been a demanding day for all involved. The recently laid tarmac presents a notable lack of grip, exacerbated by the blustery winds which funnel sand onto the circuit. Our qualifying endeavors bore witness to lap times that surpassed those of the morning session by a substantial margin, injecting an element of exhilaration. Securing the third position is a pleasing outcome and even exceeds our initial expectations.

Q: Looking ahead to Sunday, what prospects do you envisage starting from your current position?

GR: The current momentum certainly favors the McLaren team, with Lando Norris and his compatriots displaying remarkable pace. Red Bull and Max Verstappen, as is customary, occupy a league of their own. However, our focus pivots toward our engagement with Ferrari, as we seek to secure the second place in the Constructors’ Championship. The key to this endeavor lies in our ability to maintain consistency throughout the weekend and accumulate valuable points.


Q: Max, heartfelt congratulations on your resounding pole position. The session appeared to present a formidable challenge for all drivers, owing to the recently resurfaced track. Could you share your thoughts on the car’s performance?

MV: Absolutely, the conditions were challenging for every participant due to the novel tarmac, which offered minimal grip. Attempting to extract additional speed from the car, even marginally, presented a precarious endeavor. The rear end of the car exhibited a proclivity for instability, necessitating a cautious approach to ascertain the evolving track dynamics. Nonetheless, my initial outing during Q3 yielded a satisfactory result. I was content with the car’s balance, given the demanding circumstances. All in all, it has been a commendable day, particularly considering the complexities associated with optimizing the car’s setup in the context of the new tarmac.

Q: Considering your advantageous pole position at Suzuka in the previous outing, did this imbue you with added confidence as you embarked on today’s session?

MV: I harbored a degree of optimism, having assessed our performance during FP1. Nevertheless, navigating the variables posed by the new track surface posed a degree of uncertainty.

Q: The prevailing wind conditions also made their presence felt today. Did this element add an additional layer of complexity to your task?

MV: Indeed, the wind conditions introduced an additional dimension to the challenge. Varying wind directions, combined with their impact on the car’s handling, necessitated adjustments in real-time. Negotiating these variables was part and parcel of the endeavor.

Q: Had you completed your second lap in Q3, do you believe there was room for improvement?

MV: Regrettably, my second lap in Q3 was truncated, as I only progressed to Turn 4. Nevertheless, my preceding lap was satisfactory. Undoubtedly, there was room for incremental improvement, as the track exhibited an inclination to evolve with each passing lap.

Q: It’s worth noting that you stand on the precipice of securing your third World Championship, needing only three points in the Sprint race tomorrow. Does this impending milestone influence your approach to the remainder of the weekend?

MV: My approach remains consistent. The prospect of securing a third World Championship is undeniably present in my mind, but it does not impart additional pressure or alter my fundamental approach. My primary goal is to savor the weekend and deliver my best performance.

Q: George, sincere congratulations on your impressive performance today, securing a front-row start for the second time in the last three races. The car exhibited notable pace. Were you taken by surprise by your team’s performance this weekend?

GR: The latter half of the season has indeed proven intriguing. Notably, our qualifying performance has demonstrated a marked improvement compared to the earlier stages of the year. My confidence in the car has grown substantially. While this weekend has brought about a somewhat unexpected outcome, with McLaren showcasing remarkable pace, our second and third positions on the grid are certainly a pleasant surprise. Lando Norris, while ahead of us, did not enjoy a significant advantage in terms of lap time.

Q: Looking forward to Sunday, what are your expectations in terms of performance and the prospects of securing a favorable result?

GR: Lando and the McLaren team have been exhibiting commendable pace recently. Red Bull, spearheaded by Max Verstappen, occupies a distinct echelon in terms of performance. Our current aspiration centers around our competition with Ferrari, as we vie for the second position in the Constructors’ Championship. Consistency and accumulating points will be the focal points of our efforts.

Q: Considering your strong showings in Q1 and Q2, do you believe you made a substantial improvement in Q3 relative to the earlier sessions?

GR: In Q1, I contend that a minor error on my part cost me three-tenths of a second. Had I not made that mistake, I believe I could have been positioned among the top three. In Q2, I opted for a lap on used tires, a decision that yielded a commendable fifth position. As such, my subsequent performance in Q3, wherein I contested for the top positions, did not come as a surprise.

Q: On Sunday, you will be starting alongside Max Verstappen, who stands on the brink of securing his third World Championship. What are your thoughts on your prospects of challenging him?

GR: Realistically, I anticipate bidding farewell to Max after the first corner on Sunday. Max has delivered an outstanding performance this season and is undoubtedly deserving of the championship. While competition is an integral aspect of Formula 1, we cannot diminish the remarkable achievement Max and Red Bull have accomplished. Our focus