Post-qualifying press conference - China 25 Sep 2004
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), 1m 34.012s; 2nd Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), 1m 34.178s; 3rd Jenson Button (BAR), 1m 34.295s.
Q: Rubens, a very good lap and you were obviously very quick in sector two. Can you tell us a little bit about the challenge of this circuit and perhaps the different nature that this circuit provides?
Rubens BARRICHELLO: Well, its a phenomenal circuit, its really good. You can try so many different lines and you can make mistakes, big ones, like going from turn one to turn two, it is difficult to choose the line. I guess we had a pretty good run, I think it was a good lap. For pole, I dont know if Michael was going to be able to beat that but it was good enough and Im happy. The balance of the car was quite good, but I guess the competition is quite hard as well so its going to be a close fight tomorrow.
Q: Kimi, a great-looking lap. Talk us through the weekend for McLaren-Mercedes. It obviously started quietly yesterday as your team tends to but gradually got more competitive as the weekend develops.
Kimi RAIKKONEN: Yeah, I think so. Weve done quite a lot, because already yesterday the car felt pretty good. Today I was a bit unhappy with the car in the morning but then we improved it quite a lot for first qualifying and the second was quick also, but I got a little bit out of shape coming onto the straight on the last lap but I dont think I lost enough to get first place, so Im happy with second place. We have good tyres for the race and a good strategy.
Q: Jenson, BAR-Honda looking very strong yesterday, quickest in both sessions. This morning, you didnt look that happy with the car but it looked very good in qualifying again.
Jenson BUTTON: Yeah, I struggled with the set-up a little bit this morning. I was very happy with the car yesterday. We had a lot of work to do after the third session but we got there in the end. To be third on the grid for tomorrow, Im reasonably happy. Pre-qualifying was tough. I had very low grip but we sorted that out and third is good.
Q: Rubens, it looks to be very, very close between the first three and we have Michael at the back of the grid. Talk us how the race and how you think its going to go?
RB: Well, I think its new for everyone. The amount of grip that we are going to get from the track in the race is still unknown and I think the rubber will come up definitely throughout the race and I think it could change a lot. Weve seen different times throughout the weekend, sometimes we are faster and sometimes McLaren and BAR and even Williams were faster so its going to be a good race and its a track where you can overtake so I guess its going to be a good one.
Q: So, Rubens, your second pole in a row.
RB: As I said inside, maybe you hadnt heard it, the fact that I was up for pole and I had a problem in pre-qualifying but I think the car was good on new tyres so I was really up for it. But I was shocked when I saw Michael spinning because its not often that you see Michael doing such a mistake. So, when I saw it I stayed 20 seconds without words because I didnt know what to say really. You always expecting something really good, sometimes better sometimes not.
Q: Where do you think you really picked up the time during the lap?
RB: I think sector two is quite strong, as well as sector one. I had a little bit of graining through sector three, where I lost a little bit, but I think the tyre is good everywhere. It has been better throughout the weekend in sector two than the other sectors.
Q: What is the tyre wear going to be like tomorrow?
RB: People seem to think that we have a problem with the tyre because they have seen we have a little bit of graining at the front. We have a very powerful tyre, which is obviously giving us a little bit of understeer, but as the weekend is going the graining phase is getting less so hopefully tomorrow it wont be a problem.
Q: How do you feel the last two days have gone? Has it been fairly progressive?
RB: Yeah, the weekend has been good. Obviously, it is a good and new challenge to go out on a new circuit and find out how it is. I like it. The set-up of everything is quite good and progressively I have been improving my car. We had to change a little bit the set-up itself just to cope with a few things and it has been working.
Q: Kimi, is second on the grid a bit of a surprise or not?
KR: Not really. We have been pretty strong all weekend and in the end I made a small mistake in the last corner, I just got a bit too much oversteer and lost some time there, but I am happy with second place and I think we have a very good race strategy.
Q: You mentioned you were unhappy with the car. What was basically the problem with it?
KR: In the morning I was, not in qualifying. I think the car was pretty good in both qualifying sessions. In the morning it seemed to be quite different to yesterday so we changed set-ups and found a good solution.
Q: Are you quite happy with the tyre wear? A lot of people are complaining about understeer and, of course, these two long corners are particularly hard on the left front.
KR: No, I think the Michelins are working very well for us and I dont think we will have any problems in the race and I am very confident for the race.
Q: Jenson, yesterday Anthony Davidson was very quick and it was actually a time nobody has managed to crack I dont think.
JB: Its only testing, isnt it, I mean, its different when it gets to qualifying. But I think we are reasonably happy with third. Today has not been the easiest day. I havent found the right set-up until qualifying, really. We have been improving the car but it hasnt quite been there. Today in qualifying when I did that lap time I was very happy.
Q: It does seem to be a moving target, the track, as it rubs in.
JB: Yeah, definitely. Its like any circuit when it rubs in, but especially here because its a new surface. But, as I said, to be third I am very happy. As a team we are obviously disappointed that we cant have two cars up there as were challenging in the championship, but its good to be in front of both the Renaults.
Q: Especially if you have a look at where the Renaults are.
JB: Yeah, Jacques is quite a way back but Alonso can still do something from there, I think, especially with his starts.
Q: Is that something to look out for tomorrow?
JB: Yeah, definitely. I mean, its the first race for a while that we are on what should be the clean side. We have got to see what happens in the race but we are reasonably happy and positive for our strategy.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ian Stafford Mail on Sunday) Jenson, can you catch Rubens in the drivers championship?
JB: I think I would have to win two races and I havent won a race yet so that could be a little bit difficult and have a second place. I think I would be dreaming if I said I could.
Q: (Ian Stafford) Thats a no then?
Q: (Sami Sillanpaa Helsingin Sanomat) Kimi, the beginning of the season was very difficult for the whole team and now something seems to be working for you. What has made the difference?
KR: We have the 19B, the new car, so that is the biggest difference from the start of the year. And of course, the engine and everything has improved a lot and the whole package seems to work better together now and we seem to start getting the results now.
Q: (Ian Stafford) I know you dont need Michael at the back of the grid to win races, Rubens, you proved that in the last race. But nevertheless, is Michael out of the picture now from where he is in terms of challenging for the race tomorrow?
RB: I dont think so. Obviously he is going to have a tougher race. But we have seen his year, for example (Giancarlo) Fisichella or Felipe Massa, they have started from the back and had really good races where they finished in the top six. So, I guess the nature of the circuit will provide some overtaking and I think Michael can still be up there. If he can win the race or not, that is probably a little bit more difficult, but I wouldnt discount him, no.
Q: (Liang Yu Oriental Sports Daily) Kimi, what did you think of your team-mates performance today?
KR: You need to go and ask him. I better not say anything.