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Post-qualifying press conference - Monaco 21 May 2005

The first qualifying press conference (L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault; Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren; Mark Webber (AUS) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, First Qualifying Day, Monte Carlo, Monaco, 21 May 2005

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: 1st Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), 1m 13.644s; 2nd Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1m 14.125s; 3rd Mark Webber (Williams), 1m 14.584s.

Q: Kimi, were the track conditions changed at all by the oil that went down in Ralf Schumacher’s big accident?
Kimi Raikkonen:
Yes, I would say that it didn’t help. But at least it was on the outside of the circuit, so it wasn’t too bad I didn’t go around there. But I did take that corner a little bit more carefully, but it didn’t really make much difference.

Q: You were quickest in all three sectors; it looked from the outside as if that was as good as it gets, almost a perfect lap.
KR:
Yeah, I would say that apart from that one corner it was pretty good. The car felt good, better than in the morning. I was pretty happy. I felt it straight away when I went out, that the tyres and everything was working very well, so I was quite confident but I didn’t know what the times of the others in front of me were, so… It’s the best place for tomorrow and at least we have a little gap to the second guy, so maybe we can have quite a good race tomorrow.

Q: I’m sure you haven’t had a chance to study the data yet, but you were quickest in all three sectors, but Fernando was quickest through all the speed traps. What do you make of that?
KR:
It doesn’t make any difference here. You’re not going to get past anyone if the guy in front of you doesn’t want to let you.

Q: Fernando, a very good lap. A difficult situation for you, of course, going out when you did, just after Jarno and that Ralf accident. What was it like from your point of view?
Fernando Alonso:
Yes, same as Kimi. It didn’t help at all, especially in my case I didn’t know which line Jarno took in the lap, because I was on my ‘out’ lap already, so when I arrived there on my timed lap, my only information was that Jarno wasn’t too slow, he was quite quick, that’s what they informed me on my ‘out’ lap but as Kimi said, we didn’t take the normal racing line, so we were a little bit risky at the swimming pool chicane, the high speed corner. But anyway, second place is good for today, it’s good for qualifying tomorrow and hopefully it will be a good strategy for the race as well, because there’s a good gap to Mark but maybe too much of a gap to Kimi. Now we have to think what we’re going to do next.

Q: You obviously have momentum with you, you’ve been very quick throughout the weekend so far. What does Monaco mean for you, coming to this great race at this point of the season, with the momentum you have?
FA:
Yeah, it’s fantastic. I also like Monaco and I have always been very quick here with Renault, partially because I like the track, but also the car has always been very competitive here, and this year even more so. The R25 seems competitive everywhere, I think we have to say thanks again for the Michelin tyres we have here. I’m hopefully able to fight for pole and for victory tomorrow again, so these days are the best moment in my career, for sure.

Q: Mark, you didn’t appear that good on the screens in practice, but once again you’re right up there when it comes to qualifying. It was a great looking lap.
Mark Webber:
Yeah, thanks. I was pretty happy with it. At the start of the session, the guys looked like they were struggling for a bit of grip, so I thought that it might have been difficult for repeat our fourth practice session times but in the end the track was pretty good, and I think there should be a pat on the back for all the guys, especially at Grove. They’ve done a huge job to get everything to this race, especially the last few races trying to catch these two cars here. They’ve set a very high level and we’re pushing very hard at Williams to try and get it back so we’re all pushing very hard, and it’s thanks to them. Obviously we’re only halfway through qualifying, we have tomorrow to go and we shall see how we go.

Q: I don’t want to talk about patterns, but there is a little bit of one here: you qualify very well and so far we need to get the racing to back that up. Your thoughts as we go towards the race now?
MW:
Well, I really really enjoy the races. Qualifying hasn’t proved to be a huge huge drama for us. We can qualify reasonably well but it comes down to all the data, all the long runs, working hard with Michelin. Michelin have won every Grand Prix this year so they’re clearly doing a fantastic job and we might be using the tyres a fraction harder but that’s what we’ve got to try and sort out and you always want to try and push down… every electronics, with the engine, all sorts of stuff, we need to still improve.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Kimi, 0.48s ahead of everyone else; that’s quite a surprising margin, isn’t it?
KR:
Yeah, the car has actually been good all day, two days also but I didn’t really push, we were just driving around a little bit on the first day. Yeah, I was very happy with the car in qualifying, everything worked well, the tyres were working very well. I don’t know what happened to the others, but I was already quite confident in the morning that we had a good set-up and a good car. The lap wasn’t very good this morning so now I pushed a bit harder and it was good.

Q: Just tell us the importance of pole position?
KR:
I think it’s important to be on pole, or on the front row at every race, but here it’s pretty much impossible to overtake anyone so if you have pole position and you can get in the lead at the start it’s always going to help you a lot during the race. So you try to do everything to get there and so far it’s going well, but tomorrow there’s another run and we need to still try to get pole position. At least we have a margin over the others but it’s never sure, so we just need to work hard tomorrow also.

Q: Two very different circuits: Barcelona where you won, this one. It must give you great hope and encouragement to be quick on both circuits.
KR:
Yes, I was expecting it to be quite difficult here because the Renault is usually very good on these sorts of circuits, but looking at it today – I don’t know what happened, maybe they didn’t have the best run – but the car seems to be very good here also. As I said before the start of the weekend, I think this is the best car that I’ve driven here, so I was quite confident that I would have a good week and so far it has been very good. Hopefully we can keep it up.

Q: Fernando, is that margin of 0.48s between you and Kimi a bit of a surprise?
FA:
Yes and no. With the conditions we had after Ralf’s accident, anything was possible. I think it was too much from our point of view, so it’s a surprise, but at the same time, we have a good margin to third position, so both gaps are a little bit surprising for us but the good thing for us is that we are on the front row at the moment and that is, as Kimi said, very important here in Monaco.

Q: What were the track conditions like when you were out there, considering there had just been the delay?
FA:
It was very difficult in that particular corner. I think the rest of the track was good, better than for the first cars, obviously, but in that corner I didn’t know any information, because when Jarno was doing his lap, I was on my ‘out’ lap, so when I went there I just avoided the oil and the dirty part and I was in the middle of the track. It was a little bit different but I don’t think I lost too much time.

Q: What effect does a delay like that have on you? Do you go off the boil a little bit?
FA:
It’s not helping, for sure. You warm your body up a little bit before going into the car so you are ready for the start, but when you are sitting in the car for 15 minutes or so without any movement you are a little bit cold when you go out.

Q: Mark, is third a bit of a surprise?
MW:
Maybe a little bit, but the gap is quite big so that’s more concerning. The position is not bad but that gap to these guys is not very impressive so there’s a lot more work to do.

Q: Third place, there is a bit of a margin between yourself and Kimi, 0.9s, what can you do about that?
MW:
Nothing, overnight: brake later, press the pedal harder, nothing. The cars are in parc ferme now, we can change the fuel for tomorrow. It’s good that qualifying, hopefully from the next race, we don’t have to wait the next day. We know the grid that night so hopefully it is like that so you guys can report on the real qualifying tonight (Saturday).

Q: Yes, that’s a potential change in the qualifying regulations. Are you both in favour of the potential change in qualifying to one run? Fernando?
FA:
Same for everybody, but the only problem is the order for this qualifying. If you finish the previous race it is good, but if not maybe it doesn’t help at all. But it’s the same for everybody, and at least you know on Saturday night which position you are going to be.

Q: Kimi, your thoughts on that?
KR:
Yeah, I don’t know how it’s going to be, I haven’t heard anything and if they change it, they change it. For me it seems to be pretty okay, so let’s see what happens. They have been talking about changing something since the beginning of the season and nothing has happened so I will wait as long as something really happens and then we will see.

Q: To all three of you, there was an incident going up the hill. Is the visibility very difficult there?
KR:
Not really, you can very easily see the other cars but then if someone is going very slowly, suddenly, and there are many cars behind him then it starts to be a problem. I think it’s going to be a difficult lapping people in the race because some cars are quite a bit slower than the leading cars. So you might pass them many times but as long as the teams give good notice we should be okay, but it’s not the easiest place for sure.
FA: Same thing. I don’t think it’s that difficult, but in practice we all try to slow down to have a nice gap to do a clear lap and all these changes in speed are dangerous here in Monaco.
MW: Yeah, as the guys have said, it’s like that but going up the hill it was a bit strange. Someone was going slowly for some reason. There are different places you can go slowly and some places where you can’t so I don’t really know what happened, but it looked a bit strange.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: Kimi, in Barcelona you dominated the weekend. Do you think you are in the same shape here, better, do you feel more confident than you were in Barcelona?
KR:
It is difficult to say really. Today it was really good, but then tomorrow it might be really different. I would say that I am really happy with the car and the way things have gone here, better than in Barcelona on the Saturday, so looking back I would say we are in good shape, but I am not expecting to have such a nice easy race. In Monaco anything can happen in the race, so we just need to do the best we can and hopefully we can try to win the race.

Q: Kimi, was that your best ever qualifying lap?
KR:
It is always difficult to say, comparing old laps, I think. I have had good qualifying sessions here before also, but I guess it was one of the good ones. As long as it is good enough for pole that is all that really matters.

Q: Fernando, after finishing your lap you raised your finger to show you were happy with your lap. Did you think that would be enough for pole position?
FA:
No. I was happy because the lap was good from my point of view and I did the maximum of the car. As I said before it was a risky moment when we went through the part that was oily because we took a different line, one we have never taken in the whole weekend, and even with that you see with the maximum throttle, full, we have to close the eyes a little bit and risk at that moment a little bit and when you cross the line you are on the front row at the moment anyway you are really happy with yourself.

Q: Kimi, what were your first thoughts when you saw the gap of almost half a second?
KR:
I heard it from the radio of my team. Of course, it is better than it was in the last race so maybe we can play with the fuel a little bit tomorrow, but I don’t know. It is a good gap but a little bit surprising. I think the circuit was a bit funny because of the oil situation and you didn’t really know where to go and we tried different line, so I would say that this may be not a completely clear picture.

Q: Mark, do you find that from a PR point of view that this race is a total pain because you have to be dragged all over the place to please the sponsors?
MW:
Well, it is definitely busier than Magny-Cours, that’s for sure. No-one really wants to go and show off in the pitlane in Magny-Cours and everyone wants to come and show off in Monaco, because a lot of the legends are here and everyone that is supposedly rich and famous. But, anyway, you have to do what you have to do. We have a lot of important sponsors that are here and some special guests actually so we have to be flexible to understand that there are some big guns here and we have got to try and please them. They let us go racing as well, but let’s try to find a line where it doesn’t get inside your driving.

Q: Kimi, you have such a good advantage over Fernando for second qualifying. How much will it allow you to play with your strategy for the race?
KR:
I don’t know, we need to have a look. We don’t know what the others will do so we have to be careful, but it is better this way than if we would be one tenth ahead or so. I think it can help, but we still need a good lap tomorrow so we just need to be a bit careful.

Q: Fernando and Kimi, how do you explain the gap to your team-mates despite the fact there was the oil on the track?
KR:
I think they were a little bit earlier so the circuit was not as good, but you need to ask Juan that.
FA: The driving improves every lap, especially here in Monaco, and we were the last two, so maybe it was an advantage, in 18 corners.


Q: Kimi, you told us many times about the new engine but you seem to be struggling a lot less than at the beginning driving the car. Is it much easier to drive now than it was at the start of the year?
KR:
I would say it is not much easier. Okay, maybe the car is better now than it was in the first races, but if you have more horsepower and the car is quicker anyhow then you maybe don’t need to push over the limit as easily, so that helps you. I think the car was quick at the beginning of the year but we needed to push as hard as we could to get the timing close to the others, so then you make mistakes more easily and it is going to cost you. If you have a quicker car it is always going to be easier, so I think that’s the biggest difference.

Q: Are you always convinced that Ferrari can come back?
KR:
I think the biggest problem is tyres for them, Michelin is giving good tyres for us and I think Bridgestone right now is a bit lost so they don’t really have the best tyres and I don’t think it is as bad as it looks as a car and as a team because you cannot just lose time and the drivers cannot just be so much slower than last year.
FA: The same.

Q: Fernando and Kimi, supposing tomorrow we will have the same situation with you on the front row and knowing that Fernando is very fast at the start, are you afraid of a collision in the first corner?
FA:
No, no, I don’t think so. Historically our car has always been good in the starts but I think this year it is quite similar to the others, we saw in the last couple of races that Kimi and me started together, in Imola in the front row and in Barcelona first and third, and nothing happened there so it should be okay here as well.

Q: All three drivers, your team-mates are almost one second behind you. How do you comment on that?
MW:
I think the guys commented on their team-mates and everyone is in the race to make up the race, actually, and people have to fall into their positions where they are. I don’t think I am one second quicker than Nick, anyway, but Monaco is always a tight and twisty circuit and everyone is trying to get to the chequered flag as quickly as possible, so where our team-mates are is not really our problem, we concentrate on ourselves.