Post-race press conference - Malaysia 20 Mar 2005
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Fernando Alonso (Renault); 2nd Jarno Trulli (Toyota); 3rd Nick Heidfeld (Williams).
Q: Fernando, it looked today as if you had to win two races; one against your opposition, and another against the conditions out there
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, they were very tough conditions, as we knew before the start of the race. Unfortunately the drink bottle didnt work, so half the race I had problems and I finished on the limit.
Q: The car looked faultless over that distance, but what was it like in the cockpit?
FA: It was OK. I saved the tyres a little bit at the beginning, thinking that maybe the first stint was maybe the most risky time for the rear tyres and then after that I saw that Jarno was slowing down a little bit so I slowed down as well, to save my tyres more, and the last stint was just low revs and saving tyres again. I wasnt pushing really hard in any part of the race. But the car was very easy to drive and really easy.
Q: Those last closing laps in this heat must have seemed very long...
FA: Not only the last, the last 15 or 20 laps were very long and the same for everybody here in Sepang, or maybe more if you are in P1. You are very close to winning the race, its the second race for the engine and for the car and you are a little bit worried, obviously, but everything was perfect and the team again showed that we are the team to beat.
Q: Jarno, congratulations to you too: the first-ever podium finish for the Panasonic Toyota team. You tried to hold onto Fernando there in the opening laps. Tell us about that and then as the race progressed
Jarno Trulli: I had an extremely good start but again the Renaults seem to get away pretty well. Anyway, I drove my race, I was quite competitive, I was following Fernando, but at one stage I could see that there was no match and I started managing the race, taking care of the tyres as during the first race I had the tyre problem, and then I just managed to finish the race. It was really easy in second position, pulling away, controlling people. From the pit they kept telling me to slow down so its fantastic to bring the first podium finish to Toyota.
Q: In these conditions, even more so, using the engine for two Grands Prix, the tyres for the full distance, how near to the limit were you towards the end?
JT: Lets say that we were quite comfortable on reliability, even if, in these conditions, its always terrible (fantastic) what Marmorini has done and his crew has done a fantastic job over the wintertime, the reliability is there. But after half race I started pulling down the revs and trying to slow down and taking care of the tyres and also the heat was really hard on the drivers side, and for this I have to thank (Doctor) Ciccarelli because he treated me with an infusion as I was sick at the beginning of this week.
Q: Nick, youve been quick all weekend but tenth on the grid up to third place is fabulous and you dont actually look that sweaty or hot!
Nick Heidfeld: No, it was very hot, and as usual in hot races, as Fernando just said, my drink bottle also failed. It always happens at the places where you dont want it to happen, from the beginning onwards. Other than those two guys, I had to push very hard, as I was only tenth in qualifying, because I made a mistake in second qualifying and I thought that cost me the race. But I had a very good start and some good overtaking maneuvers.
Q: And an interesting race from your point of view: you were racing there with Ralf Schumacher and later on you were right behind Mark Webber and Giancarlo Fisichella.
NH: Yes, I was with two other cars at a lot of the stages of the race, so it was not like one on one. There were two people fighting in front of me and then the third car getting involved. It was very complex, but very interesting, and I got the upper hand.
Q: And the car, the tyres, the engine?
NH: Obviously everything was really good. In the end, as normal, we tried to save the engine a bit, pushed really hard in the middle stint. In the end, the last ten laps, I was just controlling the pace to Montoya.
Q: Fernando, we return to you as the first Spaniard ever to lead the FIA Formula One World Championship and Renault looking very dominant. Your thoughts about the upcoming races
FA: It will be more difficult for us, because we are starting in a very strong position but we saw this weekend that Toyota, Williams and always McLaren and Ferrari are very strong and the competition is tough now. Bahrain was not a perfect place for us last year, so I think we will suffer a little bit, and then when we arrive in Europe I think it will also be tough because it has always been good for the other teams. But this year everything seems different. Renault is always good on any type of circuit and Im totally confident that in Bahrain we will be the reference again.
Q: Fernando, obviously a very exhausting race, but you really enjoy this circuit, whats it like to win here?
FA: Yes, its one of the best places to win for me because from the drivers point of view, as I said, its the most technical circuit, the most difficult and the best of the championship for me with Spa and for me it makes me even more happy to win here than at maybe another circuit.
Q: Obviously physically exhausting, did it affect you during the race?
FA: No, because when you are in the car, you are concentrating, air is coming in and youre OK, but unfortunately, as I said before, the drink bottle didnt work in this hot race and it wasnt perfect at the end and also it happened on Friday: when you are in a standing position, when you get up quickly, the blood pressure falls and this is normal. This happens everywhere. Maybe here a little bit more.
Q: Were you slowed by the team, or did you just ease up yourself?
FA: Myself. The team asked me to reduce revs because Jarno was also controlling the tyres and the engine, and we slowed down a little bit more but Im really happy because this one was one of the toughest races for the car: second race for the engine, hot temperatures for the tyres, high wear for the tyres and even if people thought that at the beginning of the championship that I was too aggressive to manage the tyres, even in these extreme conditions I showed that I won the race.
Q: Jarno, you made a superb start, but it looked as if when you go to third gear, they pulled ahead
JT: We still have some work to do, but it is definitely nice to be here. It was a challenge when I chose Toyota, but I chose them for several reasons, for several people and I knew there was a lot of potential in this team. Now, we know we have to work on the engine, the chassis and the aerodynamics, but we have got tremendous, experienced people like Gascoyne, Marmorini and lots of highly experienced engineers who can do it for the future. So it is a good boost this first podium, it came at the right time for the team and at the right place because I believe this race is one of the toughest technically in the heat and is the second for the engine and it is fantastic for them and I would like to thank all the Panasonic Toyota team members.
Q: What about the tyres in this race?
JT: I wanted to manage them a little bit from the beginning, I tried to follow Fernando for the first 10 laps but then I was thinking I was pulling away from Giancarlo, but I couldnt keep Fernandos pace so I just wanted to slow down and take care of the tyres and then mid-race I had such a big gap that the team started to worry me about the front tyres and I had to slow down. At the end of the race, it is nice to be second and it doesnt matter to get the hassle. Its important to get the car to the finish line and to score this first podium
Q: Nick a very good start. Tell us about this opening lap?
NH: It was very important to have a good start. Unfortunately, I only qualified 10th and we were held up already in Melbourne by the two Red Bulls so I was very happy to get past them and then I was behind Kimi who was on quite a high fuel load and held me up a bit as well and in the end I was very happy with third position.
Q: What about when you got past Ralf Schumacher. Tell us about that bit?
NH: It was a fight between three cars and that made it even more difficult and more exciting. I just had to try and judge what was going to happen next and I just got the upper hand in the end and it was very interesting and it was good fun.
Q: Any other German driver has to live in the shadow of at least one of the Schumacher brothers, if not both of them, and today you beat them both so how does that feel?
NH: I dont drive in Formula One to be in the limelight, you know, I am quite happy to be in the shadow and finish on the podium.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ian de Cotta, Today) : Alonso, do you think this could be the year you will win the drivers title and be the youngest champion?
FA: Well, it is only the second race and we can not say anything we are in the best position I have been in my career to win the championship because in 2003 we were competitive in some places and some not and in 2004 we were competitive at the beginning and at the end we lost the championship and it seems that this year we are the best at the moment in these two races and the team is programmed to do quite good steps soon in the car and develop the car every two races more or less and if we keep like this for sure I can have some options.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti, Corriere della Sera): Fernando, you are now leading the world championship and you are the first Spanish driver in history to do so, what do you feel?
FA: Yes, it is a fantastic feeling not just to be the first Spanish, but just to be the first in the championship, I think to lead the world championship in Formula One is a dream for any young driver and I reached this at 23 years old and I now only need to finish in this position in the championship. I dont know where or when but I hope as soon as possible to fight for the championship.
Q: (Mike Doodson): Nick, you and your team-mate Mark Webber looked very closely matched during the race and you got very close at the incident that took out both Mark and Fisichella. Was there much difference between your cars and where did you have any advantage over him at certain times?
NH: It is quite difficult to say because in the beginning I was three places behind him and I was held up quite a bit by Kimi and when I was behind Mark I thought I was a bit quicker, but then he was fighting with Fisi so its hard to judge.
Q: (Mike Doodson): Did you have an opportunity to judge the incident?
NH: I think Mark did a really nice move on Fisi in the second-last corner, but therefore his exit to the back straight was not that good. It looked like Fisichella had a problem with his car and it didnt seem to handle very nice and he managed to go just to the inside of the last corner from Mark, but, from my view, it looked like he braked a bit too late and went straight on. It can happen.
Q: (Anthony Rowlinson, Autosport) A question for all three drivers, do you think you are in a position to stay ahead of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari this season?
JT: It is very clear they are struggling with the package and it is difficult to say what is wrong. I prefer to look at my side and improve my car, but they were not competitive here and they looked more competitive in Australia. We will see in the next races.
FA: I think Ferrari and Michael will be stronger opponents for everybody when they sort out the problems they have now. Maybe, we will have more problems and we will see races more like last year unfortunately. So, we need to take care of our car and our pace and performance and now in these days while Ferrari are not so strong, take the first position and the points.
NH: Of course, it is our goal to stay ahead of Ferrari and to beat all the other teams and the question is how good the new Ferrari car will be. At the moment, definitely, they are struggling and it is obvious they are not the quickest team anymore like the last couple of years when they were dominating and I think it is a very different situation for them, they are not used to it and it will be interesting to see how they handle it.