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Post-qualifying press conference - Europe 28 May 2005

The FIA Post Qualifying Press Conference (L to R): Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren, second; Nick Heidfeld (GER) Williams, pole position for the first time; Mark Webber (AUS) Williams, third.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Nurburgring, Germany, 28 May 2005

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: 1st Nick Heidfeld (Williams), 1m30.081s; 2nd Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), 1m30.197s; 3rd Mark Webber (Williams), 1m30.368s.

Q: Nick, second place at Monaco and now on pole for your home Grand Prix, a golden moment for you.
Nick Heidfeld:
Yes, it’s fantastic. I thought after Monaco that it would be a bit more difficult for us here but luckily I was wrong. It went quite well this weekend. I had a bit of a problem yesterday on my car, I had to stop early which didn’t make the tyre choice easy for us. I thought we could be on the front row but I was surprised to see us on pole position. It’s fantastic, my first pole position in Formula One and my first pole position, obviously for a number of years now.

Q: It looked a perfect lap from the outside; what was it like from your point of view?
NH:
Yeah, I was satisfied with it. This morning I lost quite a lot of time, on my quickest lap I think I lost grip towards the end of the lap, so I changed my ‘out’ lap today a bit. I probably lost a bit on the first sector but overall I think it was good.

Q: What does it mean to you now to be racing in front of your home crowd starting from the pole?
NH:
Yeah, if you could chose a race where you want to have your first pole position I think this one would be it. It’s my home Grand Prix and it’s fantastic. The race is tomorrow, but obviously it’s the best position to start.

Q: Do you feel pressure?
NH:
You always have a lot of pressure. I try not to let that get too close to me and I don’t think I will have any problems with it.

Q: Kimi, a new look qualifying session here for the Grand Prix of Europe, your thoughts on that and obviously qualifying second to Nick.
Kimi Raikkonen:
Everything is working reasonably well. The car has been very good all weekend and of course it’s slightly different now. Before everybody was on light fuel so we knew exactly if we were quick or not but now you don’t really know what the other teams are doing. We have a good race car and we should be in a strong position to start from second place. As long as we get a good start I don’t see any reason why we should not be able to fight for a win. I’m quite happy how things went. Of course I would rather have been on first place but today we couldn’t do it, so let’s see when the others are stopping in the race.

Q: Well coming off two wins in a row, a hat-trick facing you here now on another sort of circuit but again, the package looks very competitive.
KR:
Yeah, everything is working well. I think we had a good tyre working well for one lap and it’s also consistent, so I’m not too worried. OK, it’s hard to say what the other teams… there might be someone behind us who is much heavier or lighter. You never know, it’s a bit confusing again now, because nobody knows before when people are stopping in the race, but I’m pretty happy and I think we have a good car for the race.

Q: And we’ve had very hot weather too, 30 degree ambient, 50 degree track temperature today. Your thoughts on that?
KR:
Yeah, I think the circuit was not as quick as it was in the morning, but that is quite normal these days. Quite often it’s a bit different from the last practice to qualifying so it’s just guessing a bit and trying to get everything exactly right for qualifying, but I was happy enough with the car. We will see how it is tomorrow. They are expecting a little bit cooler weather tomorrow.

Q: Mark, it looked as if you didn’t quite get all your work done this morning, the chequered flag beat you to it but a good qualifying run nonetheless.
Mark Webber:
Yeah, we missed the last lap to do our qualifying check on the tyres. We only got the first sector in and then of course we had to come in. Very happy with qualifying, the lap was pretty good and like Kimi says, you don’t know what strategy people are on. Of course I know what strategy we are on as a team, but against the other guys, it’s always tricky now. BMW Williams have done a good job this weekend. We came back from Monaco, here we are on a different circuit again, doing quite a good job actually, so looking forward to the race.

Q: Quite a short run down into the first corner there, you’re behind Nick of course. What’s it going to be like off the line there in terms of grip either side of the track?
MW:
I don’t actually know, is pole on the left or on the right? Anyway, if it’s on the left then I hope I’m on the clean side, or the better side wasn’t too destroyed when Kimi got me, so he is on that side so I’m sure. Well, the McLaren is not too bad getting away, so if we can get away well and come out of the first corner in third place then we should be okay.

Q: And your thoughts too, on the conditions this weekend. It’s been incredibly hot so far.
MW:
Yeah, not as hot as it… cooler than like what I feel actually. The ambient is quite hot, but I don’t feel the heat that much. But it’s a lot hotter than normal for this part of the world when we come here and race. It has been hard for the tyre companies, I think, to bring a tyre here which has quite a big window which it has to work in. In terms of ambients, normally we can be faced with 15 or 20 degrees ambient here, now we have 30 as you say, so it’s been quite hard for the tyre companies to get that right this weekend and we will see in the Grand Prix tomorrow, it will be a bit cooler but it’s still going to be a tough race for the tyres.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Well, what does it feel like Nick?
NH:
It is fantastic. To have my first pole position in Formula One, finally, after so many years, and this is definitely the place I would have wanted to have pole position. It is my home Grand Prix here at Nürburgring, in front of all the spectators, and it has been a perfect day so far.

Q: Mönchen-Gladbach could be quite empty tomorrow, couldn’t it?
NH:
There is a good chance that now a lot more spectators will come. I know I already have a lot of supporters here. My family is here, a couple of friends are here.

Q: How was the lap, was it absolutely perfect as afar as you were concerned?
NH:
Yeah, it was a good lap. It was not perfect but I was definitely satisfied with it. I paced my ‘out’ lap a lot slower than this morning when I started to lose a lot of grip towards the end of the lap, therefore I probably lost a bit in the first sector but there was no mistake.

Q: I guess you’re quite a fan of the new qualifying system now.
NH:
No, not really. It is great to be on pole position but actually I find it not nice now not knowing who has how much fuel and all that. We always say after the race you can calculate it after the first stint but I have never seen anyone doing it, apart from the teams. The spectators will never understand.

Q: How important is this pole for BMW, here at home?
NH:
It is very important but it is more important to show that we are moving in the right direction, and I thought it would be tougher for us here after Monaco. I would have expected the BARs to be a bit stronger, at least that’s what they said over the last couple of weeks. I didn’t think we would be able to get pole. I thought that maybe we could get the second row so it is fantastic. It is great, especially as we know we have a few more parts and actually a new package coming later in the season.

Q: Is it a bit worrying that you may be lighter than everybody else?
NH:
Well, you don’t know anything, I won’t tell you anything, and we will see tomorrow. You cannot wish for anything more than pole position, so whatever strategy we are on we are happy.

Q: Kimi, this brings an end to your run of three poles so far, but you say you’re not too unhappy with second.
KR:
We would like to have first place, but unfortunately it didn’t happen today. It is difficult to know what other teams are on fuel wise. Now we need to wait until the race to see. I’m happy what we are doing. I think we have a good race car and as long as we get a good start, hopefully better than Williams, we will see. I think it’s good.

Q: I guess you’re just happy not to see a Renault up here.
KR:
It is better that there is Williams than it’s the Renault but it comes at the end to the same situation. Maybe they have more fuel, maybe not, I don’t know. We really need to wait and see in the race what happens but we are in a strong position anyway so we are not worried.

Q: Has it been difficult to make a tyre choice in these conditions? How has it affected the drivers?
KR:
I think there are two different choices around the paddock. We tried both of them and we took what we feel is better. We’ve been very happy with it, it has been working well, very consistent, so I think it is going to be a good race tyre.

Q: Mark, never lower than fifth so far this year, you are keeping it up, well done.
MW:
Qualifying is going pretty well. I was very happy with today’s lap, it went well, so we will see how the race goes tomorrow. But a good job for the team, BMW and Williams coming here pretty well prepared for the event but unfortunately I made a mistake yesterday on the long run and Nick had a small problem with his car so the tyre choice was a little bit tougher for us, we will find out tomorrow how our choice was, but it should be a good race tomorrow, I think the fans are in for a good race.

Q: You were just pipped by Kimi in the final sector, was there a small mistake there, or what happened with you?
MW:
I think it is so hard to compare. Totally different cars, totally different drivers, maybe I did a slightly better job in the first sector, he did the last sector, different fuel loads, I mean, yeah, I could have done the last corner maybe a fraction better but to be honest when I finished the lap I knew it was a very good lap so I was happy with it.

Q: Is this going to be the situation for these next few races because it is a very intense period now coming up.
MW:
It is. Obviously, the two fly-away races in North America are different downforce levels to what we have done the last few events on, so we go to a much different part of the aerodynamic part of the car. Williams have normally done well in Canada. It is a massive track for engines too, you need a very, very good engine there, so hopefully we can be strong in Canada and in Indy as well and then coming back to the European races I am sure we can go to another level.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Dusko Dragic- Ekipa) All three drivers, are you attending the drivers’ fan show at 6:30pm today and until what time do the series of technical briefings on a Saturday usually last?
MW:
Yeah, I think I will do a few taxi rides. The car’s in Parc Ferme now so we can’t do a huge amount, maybe a few briefings, but generally we are definitely done by six o’clock.
NH: Yeah, as on Thursday we are going to take part again with an M5, I think the people enjoyed it a lot. Actually Saturday is the day we stop the earliest because qualifying is done and we are not allowed to change anything on the car any more except for front wing settings and a few things on the electronic start.
KR: Yeah, I will be there. But it is the same, the meetings are very short today because you cannot really do anything.

Q: (Anthony Rowlinson - Autosport) To the two Williams drivers, do you think you have fixed the start problems you have had in recent races?
NH:
We will only find out tomorrow, but I think my start in Monaco was not too bad, it was still not good enough compared to some other cars, but we had another start day last week and hopefully we made some good progress.
MW: Yeah, that’s all. I hope we have made an improvement. Obviously there was an error on the start in Monaco, we are not sitting here saying we are going to smoke through the rows in front of us, is it clearly an area we are looking at and we will keep focussing hard on getting to the first corner.

Q: () Kimi, how important is it to lead in the first corner this race?
KR:
It would help always but I think at this circuit you have also chances to overtake if you are quick enough. Of course, it is always easier to drive if you are in first place but we will see what happens. Our starts have usually been pretty good, we are not on the clean side of the circuit but as long as we make a good start and we are in the top two or if we can keep our place it would be good.

Q: (Juha Paatalo – Financial Times Germany) To Nick, obviously you have been waiting for this moment for quite a long time and you have a few hard years behind you. Could you just describe your feelings now and do you think you have realised it yet?
NH:
No, to be honest I don’t think I realise yet because I didn’t expect to be on pole and on the other side I am already thinking about the race tomorrow. It is great to be on pole position but what really counts in the end is the race.

Q: (Marco del’Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Nick, have you realised that you are the first German driver at the moment here?
NH:
Yeah, obviously today I was the quickest here, but I think also in the points standings I am in front, yeah, definitely.

Q: (Marco del’Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Did you ever dream before to be quicker than Michael and also Ralf Schumacher?
NH:
I mean, I have been asked that question quite often and I always say it doesn’t really matter if I am quicker than Michael and Ralf. I just want to be in front of everyone, like today, and whether it is Michael or Ralf I don’t really care.