Post-qualifying press conference - Australia 01 Apr 2006
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1. Jenson Button (Honda), 1m25.229s; 2. Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), 1m25.635s; 3. Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1m25.778s.
Q: Jenson, your third pole, tell us about that last 20 minutes?
Jenson Button: Manic. The whole days been pretty manic with the weather but we were a little bit off the pace when qualifying started. We were really struggling for grip so to finally get this pole position is fantastic and it shows how keeping relaxed the whole team and very very focused that we were able to get the pole position. So its fantastic and its great for the team. Honda have done a fantastic job over the last few weeks and its good to repay (them) with a pole position. I know its not the end result but its a good start.
Q: You cant do a lot to the car once the qualifying session begins, so how did you work on that problem?
JB: Well, it was working with the diff (differential), the TC (traction control), the tyre pressures, the front wing. There are so many little things that you can change that do help and it was really just playing around with that because we havent had any practice in the dry, really, over the last couple of days. So it worked and Ive got to thank the team for that. They did a great job.
Q: Giancarlo, keeping the momentum going after a great Malaysian Grand Prix. You set the lap time right at the end there, but you looked competitive throughout the one hour session?
Giancarlo Fisichella: Yeah. Unfortunately yesterday I had a problem with the engine and we lost good time to improve the set-up and overnight we made some changes. Yes, the car was better but it would have been good to run a little bit more yesterday. Anyway, at the end of the qualifying session the car balance was quite good. On the second lap we were quicker because there was better grip from the tyres but unfortunately I made a couple of mistakes in the first part of the circuit but apart from that Im really happy and Im looking forward to tomorrow. Weve got great pace for the race.
Q: Very close race between you and Jenson into the first corner in Malaysia, could be the same story tomorrow?
GF: Yeah, it could be the same story. Im second, he is the leader at the moment, but I think if we start as usual, we can do a great start and the target is to be first into the first corner. Its not easy but I will do my best.
Q: Fernando, you said yesterday how important it was to be on the first two rows of the grid here in Australia, and there you are on the second row?
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, its OK, maybe a little bit frustrating because I didnt manage to complete the lap. I think a Sauber, Heidfeld, was in front of me. Unfortunately he made a mistake in turn 13 and then I caught him very quickly for the last two corners and I lost half a second, I think, in the last sector. But even with that, I think the car performed very well. Im really happy with the balance so for the race we should be extremely competitive so lets wait and see.
Q: The guy on your right looks very fast; what are your thoughts on strategy tomorrow in terms of where you are and indeed where Honda may be on fuel load?
FA: I think we should be similar. We will see tomorrow but in the last couple of races we are not much different and without this traffic problem, we should have set quite similar lap times so I guess the strategies will not be too different.
Q: Jenson, turning back to you, youve always said how much you enjoy this new qualifying system in 2006 and this one had it all: rain, traffic, accidents?
JB: Yes, it did. It was a very hectic session and Im sure that the fans really enjoyed it. It was mad for us. Trying to get a lap time in was very difficult but we did it in the end and as I said, its a special feeling being on pole here.
Q: Jenson, your feelings after that and looking forward to the race tomorrow?
JB: Im still shaking with the excitement. It was a manic session: the first one with a red flag and the second one with a red flag, it was really difficult to stay calm. But to get the lap in at the end was a great feeling. The car felt very good, very good actually, on the new tyres. It was a little bit unexpected after the first two runs in qualifying one and qualifying two, but its good, and I am very happy with it. I still dont know about the race. I havent really done that much long race pace but Im sure it will be good.
Q: You had a brief off in Q1 as well.
JB: Yeah. Ive been going off a lot this weekend. I went off twice yesterday as well. Its bit unusual but the conditions have just been so tricky out there: its very very windy, its very very low grip so to make a mistake is very easy. Its bumpy as well so its tough.
Q: Your teammate had some sort of a problem, I dont know what it was. Did you have any idea what was happening with him and did you have any similar problem?
JB: I think his problem was just no tyre temperature - I think, but I will have to wait to get back and find out but I think that was the issue.
Q: And you had a bit of a problem with that in the first two parts?
JB: Yeah, I did a little bit but we were making sure that we were keeping the blankets on for a long time because its really tough to keep the heat in the tyres. I dont know if youve seen but a lot of the cars, on the straight, are weaving around to get tyre temperature. Its because its different conditions here than what we expected, I think.
Q: You had a problem with your start in Bahrain and youve got two of the fastest cars off the line around you, is that something youre concerned with?
JB: Its better to be in front now than it is to be behind, so were in the best position we possibly can be. Our start wasnt too bad in Malaysia; it wasnt as good as the Renaults but it wasnt too bad either. Weve just got to hope that we get a relatively good start. Were on the clean side and its the right line for turn one so its not so bad.
Q: Giancarlo, its been a fairly difficult weekend so far; have you felt short of time in terms of set-up and adjusting the car?
GF: Honestly, yes. I did just two runs with a problem on the engine yesterday and then I couldnt run any more because there was a big problem, but then they fixed it and overnight we made some changes on the car which was better this morning but it was better to have run a little more yesterday. So apart from that I am pretty happy: second on the grid today and looking forward to tomorrow. Ive got a great opportunity to do well again, weve got a good race pace and if we can start as usual, we can already do well in the first corner.
Q: Youre fairly confident of that, are you?
GF: Yes, I am.
Q: Generally, your feelings coming into this race after the win in Malaysia?
GF: I already have a good feeling myself, but the start of the season wasnt great because I had a problem not a problem, we made a mistake. That was a bad start but then I was really confident because the car package and the potential is good and straight away, when I put the car on the ground in Malaysia there was a great feeling and it was a great weekend. Even today, we are there so I am really happy about that.
Q: Fernando, third on the grid, you sounded a little bit frustrated when you were talking to Peter Windsor. Were you?
FA: Well, no, I am happy because in the last race I was seventh, so this is my best qualifying of the year. I won the first race and I was second in Malaysia, so now is my best qualifying. Hopefully, I can fight for the win, but it is true that I lost nearly half a second in the last sector because of traffic and, you know, I can wish (for something) a little bit better, but these things happen to everybody and so it is better to be third than further back.
Q: Jenson said he found qualifying was fairly manic, or crazy. What about you?
FA: Yes, I feel the same, but not only this one! I think that all three races were a little bit crazy especially with the red flags we had. There was just a complete panic in the garage so, you know, maybe outside it is nice and interesting to see, but inside the teams, for sure, it is quite complex.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (James Stanford - Herald Sun) Jenson I was wondering, as you said you did not have too many laps at race pace, is that a concern for you and do you think the Honda is as quick as the Renaults?
JB: It is very difficult to know, but personally I havent done a lot of laps over the last few days in the dry, but the thing is that we have the third car, which is great and Anthony is a very good driver and I believe in everything he says. He did his normal running on Friday and went quickest in both sessions and did some reasonably long runs as well. It is not too worrying. I just meant personally I have not done so many laps around here, but that doesnt seem to be a problem.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazetta dello Sport) Jenson, did you realise that you have made an important event in the history of Honda after 37 years since their only pole position at Monza?
JB: I didnt know that before today but its a very special feeling and I have already seen a few of the guys from Honda and they seem pretty ecstatic, but I am sure that more important for them is to have a win tomorrow. This is a great feeling to be on pole position, but we know how competitive the Renaults are and we know we have to have a faultless race tomorrow and I know we can do that. In the team, we are very confident and calm and we know exactly what we have to do. So, tomorrow is the important day for us.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazetta dello Sport) To Jenson again, in Malaysia you said we are the second team in the championship, but we have to work a lot because in the first lap Giancarlo was able to put a very good gap in just one lap Do you think that you have closed that gap?
JB: Well, I think that over one lap the car seems to be very quick and so it just depends whether we have (done that) in a race situation. We have worked on a few areas in Vallelunga or the team did that are an improvement. I think they are the sort of things that improve you in a race, but not qualification so much. So, they should help us, but still we have to wait until tomorrow to see how competitive we are. We know weve not won a race yet and it is our aim to do that, but it is never easy when you have such competition from Renault.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazetta dello Sport) Fernando, we saw that you put your hand out of the steering wheel when Giancarlo was in front of you. Was there a misunderstanding with him at the beginning of the third sector?
FA: No, I was talking with the team on the radio because I had the new tyres at the beginning, just to get the maximum from the new tyres, and I told them, but there was no answer for one lap. So