Following Valtteri Bottas capturing pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix, the top three drivers first answered questions on the grid before heading up to the press conference. Those in attendance were Bottas, 2nd place Lewis Hamilton (enabling the 59th front row lock out for Mercedes) and Sebastian Vettel who will start from 3rd tomorrow.
Before heading into the Press Conference, after a breathtaking finish with the Mercedes duel, the top three had to first park their cars on the track in front of the main grandstand (sadly still not filled to capcity) for a few immediate thoughts from the moment they got out of their car.
Valtteri Bottas: It’s been a good weekend so far, I mean, starting from the pole. I felt already really comfortable this morning in the practice. In the qualifying, honestly, I struggled a bit in Q3 to get the perfect lap in, but it was good enough.
Lewis Hamilton had pushed Bottas close and kept trying to the end, as he himself would comment.
Lewis Hamilton: No, I didn’t give up. I kept pushing right to the end. Big congratulations to Valtteri, he’s been stellar all weekend. I’ve been struggling and fighting the car all weekend. We’ve been chipping away at it and I’m much, much happier. You know, it was eight tenths at once stage, the gap between us, so to be as close as we are at the end is fantastic. This is an incredible result for the team. There was a little bit more time left on the table there, but that’s cool, I’ll try and get it tomorrow.
So, what of Sebastian Vettel, this was supposed to be a close 5 way battle and Mercedes just had a little bit too much for the Ferrari team today?
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, unfortunately it seems to be like that. I think right from Q1 they just seemed to start off from a better place. I think we had a good session. Maybe there was a tiny bit more but I actually was quite happy that I managed the final attempt, because I was quite marginal with time, the team told me that we only had 10 seconds margin. So I then hurried up and made sure I crossed the line in time. I think there was maybe a little bit more, but overall not enough to beat these guys today.
Having left the grid and had a few moments to relax it was time to see what questions the media had in store. As has been the case for many years, Tom Clarkson began proceedings:
Clarkson: Valtteri, congratulations, you’ve been quick all weekend. How were those laps in Q3, both of them good enough for pole position?
Bottas: Yeah, the weekend so far has been very good. Obviously tomorrow is the big day but at least on single lap it’s been competitive and as a team we’ve been super strong.
Lewis was then asked to embellish his comments about ‘fighting the car’ this weekend.
Hamilton: The car hasn’t improved from...As I said I was struggling with the car throughout the weekend, all day yesterday and even today, even into Q2. But I made a couple of changes to the settings on the wheel and some changes to the line and I managed to bridge the gap. Honestly, I’m quite proud of the job we’ve done considering how far away I was earlier on in the sessions and Valtteri has been quick all weekend, so he deserved the pole.
Finally, Sebastian Vettel was all too aware that the gap between Mercedes was much larger than expected.
Vettel: Too big. We’d like it to be the other way around, obviously. I think we had a decent session. Obviously important if we can’t beat them to be right behind them, buying us some options tomorrow, hopefully.
Wherever you look there is a lot of hype about this historic event, but motorlat.com had sensed that the drivers were not really on board with the spectacle and so asked them their thoughts on record.
Q: (David Coath – Motorlat.com) A question for each of you. It is the 1000th grand prix and we know it’s another race for you. Can you enjoy the moment or is it something you’ll have to look back on more, further years down the line?
Hamilton: For me it’s not really much of a moment. It’s just another race. We’re here to win. It’s great for the sport.
Bottas: Yeah, here to focus on myself, our team’s job and try to do the best job we can. In the end it’s only numbers but obviously it’s a big one, so congrats to F1.
Vettel: Well, it’s not up to us, obviously. It’s a bit more colourful than other races but I think inside the car and for the result itself, it makes no difference.
Such a response was predicted but nevertheless a shame to hear. For the drivers, tomorrow is just another race. Lucky for us, they are the best racers in the world and we are in for a treat irrespective of how special the occasion may or may not be.