Post-race press conference - Europe 29 May 2005
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Fernando Alonso (Renault); 2nd Nick Heidfeld (Williams); 3rd Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari).
Q: Fernando, a great drive from sixth on the grid, a couple of laps to go, one second behind Raikkonen, take it from there.
Fernando Alonso: It was a very, very good race from our side. The car was perfect after lap 18 or lap 20, when David Coulthard stopped, and I felt the car was perfect and I was able to push every lap. It is true that I lost so much at the start. I nearly finished my race at the first corner, I dont know who pushed me in the back, and I thought that maybe something broke in the back of the car but it felt okay and obviously I lost so much I was happy with the second place. The car was so nice to drive, so quick, and we were pushing McLaren and Kimi so hard until the point that they had a failure in the tyres. We were very lucky today, but at the same point we were also very strong and able to push them like at the beginning of the season, not like the last two races.
Q: A very different sort of win for you, coming as it did with just two laps to go like that.
FA: Yeah, all the other victories I had this year I was leading the race from the beginning to the end, and for me to be leading only on the last lap is a much better feeling!
Q: You were really quick, just before your second stop you set fastest lap and then you ran wide at the hairpin. What happened there?
FA: I was pushing so hard, I knew that I had one possibility, very small, but one possibility to overtake Kimi in the three or four laps that I went longer in the second stop, and I was doing 1:30.7 at that time, the quickest lap of the race, and I arrived in turn seven, locked the front tyre and went wide. It was not a really big difference at that stage, I thought, but everything was fine and I was lucky at the end there as well.
Q: We know now that nobody started the race with more fuel than you. Looking back now do you think that was the right amount of fuel to have qualified with?
FA: I think it is similar. To be the longest is a help from the race point of view, you become second or third very quickly after your first stop, but you have to be careful of the distance and the gap you have with the car who is leading the race and maybe it was a little bit too far to Kimi this time, so maybe with a bit less fuel it was not a bad idea as well. But winning the race, I have to say the strategy was perfect.
Q: Nick, another second place, your second in a row, but off the line Kimi was quicker into the first corner.
Nick Heidfeld: Yeah, we knew from the beginning that Kimi would have a lot better start but it was quite close actually. I had a go into the first corner but he timed it perfectly and I held on to second position. Obviously, we did a three-stop race and a short first stint but we just did that because we hoped to get the best result, which we in the end got with the second place. I just pushed as hard as possible in the first stint and I tried to get a gap, which worked pretty well, and I think the car was really nice but as I had to push hard at the start I lost rear tyres a little towards the end.
Q: Quite a lot of pressure from Rubens in the Ferrari towards the end as well.
NH: Yeah, it is one thing for Rubens to be behind me but I think if he had been close it would have been another for him to try to overtake me. As I saw him getting closer I was able to push a bit harder but he closed the gap especially when I was stuck behind a Jordan, who I think didnt do a good job because I think he had blue flags for a few laps and that cost me quite a lot of time. After he was gone I had to put in quite a few good times and it was clear that I could hold onto third position at that time and then obviously we were lucky that Kimi didnt finish.
Q: A great result for the team after a difficult start and now circuits like Canada and Magny Cours, where Williams have always done quite well.
NH: After pole position, to be honest, I didnt expect to win, I thought if everything went perfect I would be third and I was in the end in second position. After the weekend started quite difficult, on Friday we didnt do many laps, it was very difficult for us to make the tyre choice. I think in the end we made the right one, and we also instead of focusing on this race with development parts we are focusing more on the next couple of races so I hope we make a step forward.
Q: Rubens, welcome back to the podium after Melbourne, a great drive from you. You also had a three-stop strategy, tell me about the first corner, what did you see of the melee there?
Rubens Barrichello: Well, the first corner is a great one for overtaking but on the first lap it can be a mess. I was alongside Fernando and all of a sudden I was turning and I saw two cars cross, I think it was a Williams and somebody else, just crossing in front and I actually had to turn left before I turned right. I lost a lot in that confusion and it was a pity, but in the same way I was able to push my race from the beginning. I lost a lot, maybe 15 seconds or even more, but then I was able to push and although I had difficulties overtaking I was able to overtake and use my strategy very nicely.
Q: It looked as though you were enjoying yourself out there today, there was a lot of racing going on and the car proved reliable and relatively quick.
RB: Yeah, the boys here and at the factory are doing a fantastic job to make up the time, really. It is very unfortunate that we have been out of the podium for a long time, the car is very reliable, the engine is good and the tyres are fantastic, it is just that we had a difficult time at some point into the season but we are coming back and I feel the Ferrari team will be very strong from now to the end of the year and we are going to be winning races hopefully soon.
Q: Fernando, a little bit of a surprise, I guess, what was your reaction in the cockpit when you heard that Kimi had gone off?
FA: Well, I was just one second behind him so first I was worried because there was a lot of debris on the track and I was avoiding the big pieces of the car and the tyre and after that I was obviously happy for myself.
Q: What sorts of noises were coming over your earphones from the pit wall?
FA: Ha, nothing really. You are P1, you are P1, you have 19 seconds to Nick so be really careful on this last lap, it is not necessary to push.
Q: During the early stages, when you were behind David Coulthard, were you quicker than him? Was he holding you up? He pulled away a little bit.
FA: I was a little bit quicker than him, so I was trying to protect the engine a bit and save a little bit of fuel to be even longer, and I realised that with all these saving manoeuvres he was pulling away so I went back to full power and everything and I was really at the same speed as him in the last three or four laps before his stop.
Q: You seemed to be on the same pace as Kimi on the middle stint.
FA: Yeah, I think we were similar but I had four or five laps more fuel so I think my car was quicker than the McLaren today. Maybe that was because on the tyre choice we were different and that maybe helped me a bit in the race and was not perfect for qualifying. After the Monaco problems with the rear tyres, we proved again that the R25 is one of the best cars on tyres. We proved this in Malaysia and Bahrain, very hot tracks with hot temperatures, and then here our tyres were fairly new at the end and we were able to push and put in the fastest lap of the race.
Q: It didnt look as though there was a lot of rubber on the front tyres at the end?
FA: I dont know, I didnt see it. The car was better and better every lap. The race was a little bit too short for me!
Q: Nick, your second place in eight days, you must be thinking a first would be quite nice quite soon.
NH: Yes of course, you always want to win but I am very happy with second position. We started from pole but I knew it would be hard for us to win this race. Obviously, we did a three stop, which quite honestly was the best strategy for us. So Im very happy with second. I would have thought that if everything worked out perfectly I could have finished third and then with Kimi having a problem we got second.
Q: When did you get a hint of Kimis strategy, what he was on?
NH: We were quite sure before the race that he had more fuel on board than I had then it was clear at his first stop.
Q: Your middle stint didnt look as though it was a very good one for you.
NH: No, I think everything worked out fine. The most important stint for me was the first one, to try and get a good gap to the people behind me. I think that worked out fine. And then probably I was a bit hard with the tyres but I think Michelin did a very good job with the tyres, we made the right choice despite not having a lot of laps on Friday, but still we made the right tyre choice.
Q: Rubens, your teammate was on a two-stop, presumably you were happy on three.
RB: Well, I am definitely happy. I checked the car on Saturday morning, it was doing very well on old tyres but not so well on new tyres. So I had to take the gamble on going a little shorter to try to minimise the problems and just go for it. My set-up was really good on race pace but not so good on qualifying, so you pick up strategies - when you are not able to get pole position you just gamble with them. I was really good with the team to push the car to its maximum, even though I lost a lot of time. I just saw on TV the fact that there was a car that hit Fernando I was alongside it - and for a millisecond I didnt turn and the car hit me as well, so I actually had to turn left. I had a fantastic first lap, obviously I was fighting with the Jordans and BARs but I was able to go past one Jordan and one BAR at the same time so I had a lively weekend.
Q: And then you also overtook Button and Liuzzi.
RB: Yeah, obviously I was lighter at that time and I was able to fight them, so it wasnt just a case of being good but I was in the right place at the right time and I was able to push. From there the car felt very good, I was able to get on with my race. Obviously towards the end, it felt a bit more difficult, a bit trickier, but by myself the car was doing fantastically. It was just getting close to someone the car started to slide a bit too much, so I lost two laps behind Villeneuve when he was receiving blue flags and maybe he didnt see them. I was losing time but I couldnt really get that close. I knew from that moment that if Nick had a problem with his tyres I would still be able to fight, otherwise I would have had to do something magic to overtake him. But having said that third place today is very good.
Q: What were the track conditions like, because quite a few people with good reputations slid off during the race?
RB: There was quite good grip from our car, the tyres were behaving quite well, but off line, it was quite dirty and if you got to that, you could most definitely fall off.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Conny Konzack - Bunte) Nick, what were your thoughts when you had to make a third stop?
NH: No, it was clear we planned to do three stops, if we had switched to the two stop it would have been slower. You cant think in the last stint Im second, no, I dont want to come in, you have to be realistic.
Q: (Miguel Angel Sanz - Marca) Fernando, is this the best victory in your career, the most fantastic and fighting victory?
FA: Well, I dont know. Imola and the fight with Michael was a little bit closer, more interesting for the people in the pits and the TV as well. I think this one was an attacking race, over the last 20 or 30 laps, the team kept telling me that we were quicker than Kimi, to push him, push McLaren, we had to push them to see if they had a problem, and in the end the team was right and there was a failure with the tyre or the suspension. I am extremely happy, more than the victory I am happy because after Monaco the team and I were not happy at all with the result there. We had a very good car in Monaco and we didnt take as many points as we believed were possible. To be probably the best car on the grid again, to manage the tyres in the race, is probably better news for the rest of the season - than to win the race.
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi Tutto Sport) Fernando, what does it mean this 10-0 victory for the championship?
FA: We are in the first half of the championship and I think the second half will be much more important for the fight for the title. Its true that every race we are scoring points, I have finished all the races, only in Monaco was I off the podium but was fourth so it was not too bad, and if we keep this consistency its normal that at the end we will have more and more points gap, and this will be good news for us if we want to fight for the title this year and it seems we can do it. I think Fisichella also did a good race after starting last so I think in the Constructors championship it is also good to beat McLaren because they were catching us very quickly in the last races.
Q: (Olaf Bachmann Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger) Fernando, did you realise which car hit you at the start?
FA: No, I saw it on TV. It was Ralf. Again!
Q: (Livio Orricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Alonso, did you have any problems with the car when it went straight on at the Dunlop Kurve?
FA: No, I was very lucky because I was pushing so hard because I had this little possibility to overtake Kimi on the second stop. First the tyre and then I went out of the racing line, and as Rubens said it was very slippery I went out and then the car came back on the track with no problems. I cleaned the tyres in the next two corners and everything went back to normal.