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FIA post-race press conference - Japan 08 Oct 2006

FIA Press Conference (L to R): Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari, Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault and Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, 8 October 2006

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

1st Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1h23m53.413s; 2nd Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1h24m09.564s; 3rd Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), 1h24m17.366s.

Q: Well done Fernando, let’s look back at the start of the race, how your car was performing yesterday relative to that first phase of the race, when you got past one of the Toyotas and looked to be in pretty good shape.
Fernando Alonso:
Yeah, at the beginning of the race, I knew that we were not in this shape but we were wrong, actually we were competitive, as good as Ferrari’s pace maybe and better than Toyota. Anyway, I took the risk in turn two, overtaking Jarno, because I thought that was the only opportunity and then when I saw Ralf with some problems in the car, especially traction, I tried to overtake him as well. It worked fine, and at that point I was quite happy with third place and it was difficult to imagine the performance of the car after the first pit stop, pretty constant, pretty well balanced and just after Michael’s problem, the race became quite good for us.

Q: You had a moment at the exit of Degner when you were behind Ralf, talk a little bit about that and also that second stint, when the gap was 5.8s/5.9s. What was your mindset at that point?
FA:
Yeah, the moment I had, going out of the track a little bit behind Ralf, I was too close to him, I tried to really be close for the long straights and I went off and I lost nearly two seconds, but then I recovered quite quickly. I realised that we were much quicker than Toyota, so we needed to overtake them.
In the second stint, the gap to Michael was more or less the same, 5.8s/5.9s/6.0s, depending on the traffic and I was thinking it was possible to win the race, why not? We were only halfway through the race and we were five seconds behind the Ferrari, which was a surprise for us, so from that point we only needed to try.

Q: And then a fist punch from inside the cockpit as you took the lead and Michael pulled off the track.
FA:
Yeah, for sure. You know I had so many problems in the last couple of races. I lost one tyre in Hungary, I lost one engine in Monza. Sometimes I need to recover (the deficit from) those unlucky moments and for sure, when I saw the problem of Michael, I was at that point leading the race and I just didn’t believe what I was seeing, because it’s not often that you see a mechanical problem from a Ferrari car, so it was a second surprise, the biggest surprise of the race for sure.

Q: Felipe, P2 for you. You did come in relatively early in terms of your first pit stop and then it seems you lost a lot of time behind Nick Heidfeld.
Felipe Massa:
Yeah, I just had a puncture in the tyre so I needed to anticipate the first stop. I was supposed to stop on lap 16 and I anticipate quite a bit. I don’t know which lap I stopped, maybe 13 (correct) or whatever. That was a problem because I just came out of the pits behind Heidfeld and he was pretty slow and I lost the opportunity to be in front of Fernando, for sure, so seeing what happened to Michael, I could have won the race but everything happened in the first stint because of this puncture. But anyway, that sometimes happen in the race. I feel sorry for the team with this engine problem, but we will try to do our best for Brazil.

Q: And regaining third place in the World Championship, of course, as we go to Brazil. What was your car like in your second stint when you were lying third behind Michael and Fernando?
FM:
It was not so bad. I was struggling a little bit with graining and also with the wind conditions, which were inconsistent and had some strange oversteer sometimes. It was not so easy to drive but I think everything happened in the first stint. Renault improved their pace a lot but I think we were supposed to be able to be in the front. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. But anyway, let‘s try hard in the next race.

Q: Giancarlo, congratulations to you too. It looks as though you lost a lot of time early on behind the Toyotas.
Giancarlo Fisichella:
I didn’t have a fantastic start, I lost a position to Button. Then after a few laps, I overtook him and I was catching the Toyota guys. After that, the car balance wasn’t too bad. I had a good race, I overtook them in the pit stops so the strategy was good, the tyre behaviour was good too so today is a fantastic result for Fernando, for myself, for the team. But mentally, psychologically, today was very difficult for me because on Thursday I lost my best friend ever. I am really sad and it’s not easy so the race was important, but now is the life… like a friend of him, I would like to dedicate that third place to him and ciao to him.

Q: Fernando, returning to you, describe what this victory meant to you at this point after everything that’s been happening in the last three or four months, and equally, your thoughts now going into Brazil.
FA:
Victory means a lot, not only for me and the team as well, getting back their confidence. We deserved this victory a long time ago, I think. Before Hungary we were ready to win and we never finished the job. It’s a complete surprise, so the taste of the victory is even better because in China we were the complete favourites and everything seemed easy for us and we lost the race. Same thing here for Ferrari. You never know. You have to finish the races and looking at the championship, these ten points, for sure, are very important, but as we all thought, the championship will be decided in Brazil. You never know what is going to happen there. The same thing can happen (to us) so we just need to be really safe and don’t take too many risks there. I think we have a good advantage, let’s try to win the championship.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Some interesting antics there in parc ferme, Fernando. What do they all mean?
FA:
Well, it was just something that I was thinking from Canada and we didn’t have the opportunity to show with my friends some funny things.

Q: Do you feel now that you’ve got one hand on the trophy, on the championship?
FA:
No, not at all. I think it’s a little bit too early to realise what happened today, a complete surprise for us, but for sure the same thing can happen in Brazil and you lose everything, so I think we thought the championship would be decided in Brazil. For sure, we now have a much better position than before, because when we were on equal points, we needed to beat Michael, we needed to beat Ferrari and this is not easy, to approach the weekend with that pressure. Now we only need a few points and this becomes a little bit easier, but you need to finish the race and this is sometimes unfortunately not the case, for mechanical problems, for bad luck, for an accident, for a spin and you put the tyres in the gravel. You never know what is going to happen in the race. We need to go there and maximum concentration, maximum professionalism and try to do it.

Q: But a little reversal of fortunes in comparison to Monza.
FA:
Yes, yes, but I think it was not only Monza where we lost points. I think we had very unlucky moments in Hungary as well and in some other places as well – China – so we lost a lot of points in bad luck moments and for sure these ten points are a little present that God gave to us.

Q: In the second part of the first corner, your overtaking move on Jarno – it was a real ‘karting’ move that one!
FA:
It was very risky and I thought at the beginning of the race that we were not able to follow the Bridgestone tyres, the Bridgestone cars, so I had one opportunity, in turn two, and I said (to myself) let’s go and try it -- if not then I will be fifth at the end of the race, you know. I thought I was not able to follow them so I risked a lot and after (that) I calmed down because I realised I was quicker than Ralf and sooner or later I would get the podium finish, but never the victory.

Q: So how do you approach Brazil now?
FA:
Well, the same as always - try to be concentrated and don’t make any mistakes in terms driving and, for sure, the team knows what to do, but if I can say something to them, it will be to be so conservative. It is no time to risk, in Brazil, and, for me, I hope everything goes well.

Q: Felipe, what happened to you in the early part of the race?
FM:
Well, actually, everything happened in the first part of the race because the first stint was going quite well and then suddenly we had a puncture on the tyres and I had to anticipate the first stop -- and that was the biggest problem of the race because I stopped around lap 13, or 12, and I was supposed to come in on lap 16 to the ‘box’ and that was the problem because I came out behind Heidfeld and he was really, really slow and I lost a huge amount of time behind him. Fernando passed me and for sure the second part of the race, after I passed Heidfeld, Fernando was in front of me, and I was suffering from graining with the tyres. In the second stint, I had scrubbed tyres, not new, and there was quite a bit of graining, but then the last set was good again on the new tyres, but not enough to catch Fernando.

Q: Was the debris from the Spyker on the circuit a concern for the drivers at all?
FM:
Honestly, we were not concerned a lot because, when you are driving, you don’t think a lot. You just try to avoid the debris, but it is always a bit of a concern because you can have a tyre problem, but this was not the case.

Q: And now your feelings, as you go to Brazil, your home race and it is very important for Ferrari and yourself too?
FM:
For sure, we will try to do our best and to win the race, a very important race for us, you never know what can happen in a race and of course Renault is quite comfortable in the championship now, but let’s try everything and anything can happen. Racing is racing. And, you don’t know what happens -- like today with Michael…

Q: Giancarlo, obviously a very emotional race for you – early on you seemed to have good pace?
GF:
The start wasn’t great. I lost a position against Jenson. The car balance wasn’t too bad, but following another car, especially in the snake, wasn’t easy, but I got the opportunity to overtake Jenson and once I passed him I was catching the Toyota drivers and it wasn’t too bad. For the first part of the race, I lost the connection to the radio and I was a bit in trouble for that and watching the pit board and it was not easy to follow all the answers from the box. Once I went to the pit stop, it was connected again and it was okay and in the second pit stop I overtook the Toyota drivers in the pit stop and I was just seven or eight seconds in front of Button. The car balance was good and I went down with the revs so it’s been a good race for us and a fantastic result for Fernando, and for myself, and for the team in the Constructors Championship.

Q: Felipe, you led the first two laps and then Michael overtook – what happened there? Did you let him go past?
FM:
Yes, I let him through. I was trying to help him, for the championship and let him by and I was following him and managing to increase the gap. Everything was going well for a time, but unfortunately he had a problem with the engine.

Q: You kept up the pressure didn’t you? You didn’t let him get too far ahead?
FM:
Yes, well the car was very good and I was pushing when I had to push and it was not bad.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Mathias Brunner – Motorsport Aktuell) Fernando, after all that has happened with the mass damper affair and at Monza, do you feel that today justice was done?
FA:
No, I don’t think that one result will change anything that happened this year.

Q: (Sal Zanca – AP) Fernando, what was your reaction when you saw Michael’s engine smoking and you passed him?
FA:
Well, at the beginning I thought it was a Spyker. From a long distance, I didn’t know it was red and I thought it was orange. So I immediately braked because I was into turn eight and I thought it was oil on the track and I didn’t want to go off because of the oil so I was so concentrated on the asphalt to see the oil that I didn’t realise until I was side by side that it was Michael and for sure when I saw it was Michael there I you know I did like this (clenched fist salute) and it was my opportunity… but there were still 20 laps to finish the race and you have to immediately drop the revs and be conservative from that point because any result with Michael out was good for me.

Q: (Mathias Brunner – Motorsport Aktuell) Felipe, the puncture was where on the car?
FM:
I think it was the right behind, rear right.

Q: (Cédric Voisard – Le Figaro) Fernando, would you say that Brazil is going to be a very long weekend, a very long race, maybe the longest of your career?
FA:
I don’t know. I had also last year in Brazil a very long race. Remember in 2005, and all the race, 70 laps, in Brazil, it feels very long. But you find motivations every lap. Sometimes you have to fight for a position. Sometimes, it’s approaching the pit stop, or after the pit stop, people you are lapping… In the race, there are no moments to be bored or to lose concentration or for the race to become too long. You are always motivated by something…

Q: (Yuuki Ishihara – Tokyo Sankei Sports) Fernando, you cannot use mass dampers on the bumpy circuit in Brazil – how confident are you feeling?
FA:
Very confident. I think the mass damper now is seven races in 06 that we don’t use it anymore and the car improved and we try to set up the front suspension in a way that we don’t miss it any more and we saw here in Suzuka very bumpy circuit using a lot the kerb in the last chicane in the first sector and the car just fly today and so we will have no problem in Brazil with the car.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, you had problem with the engine in the last race. During the weekend did you have any warnings and switch down the revs?
FM:
Actually, yes, it is true I had a problem in the previous race with the engine, but we thought it was maybe ok and always think maybe it can happen in the other car, but it is not supposed to happen and we didn’t have many problems with engines this year - only in Malaysia - apart from that they behaved very well. So, it was unexpected and we have to understand what happened exactly. I didn’t back off too much with my rpm because I didn’t run so much in China, because I changed the engine there, so the mileage was low on my engine and I wasn’t really too concerned.

Q: (Takehara Kusuda – Lapita) Fernando, what did you feel when you crossed the line?
FA:
Well, when you win it is a really happy moment and this victory is even better because it was a complete surprise because we never thought at any moment yesterday or this morning that we could fight for victory. So, to win this race it was something more! It means a lot for the team, the Michelin guys, and the people who supported me in the last four months, which were not so good in the last four months.

Q: (Mathias Brunner – Motorsport Aktuell) Fernando, what is your programme for Brazil?
FA:
I have no tests and I think we have no PR. I think we have one small thing in Brazil on Wednesday, so I will fly on Tuesday night or morning to arrive there Tuesday night.

Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto Motor und Sport) Fernando, did you expect the tyre picture to change completely today?
FA:
I was surprised, as I said. I think we were expecting a little bit closer the battle of the two tyres because yesterday it looked too much I think in Q2 when Michael did 28.9 and it was two seconds faster than anybody else and we knew more or less that in the race it would not be that picture. Two seconds every lap is not normal. We expected to close the gap, but not enough to fight with them. I think our tyres were the same Friday and Saturday and Sunday…So I think it was more of a drop of the Bridgestones, I believe.