FIA post-qualifying press conference - China 30 Sep 2006
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1m44.360s; 2nd Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), 1m44.992s; 3rd Rubens Barrichello (Honda), 1m45.503s.
Q: Fernando, lots of variables out there, changing weather conditions, but you were always quick, always dominant.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, it looks OK from the beginning of qualifying: first in Q1, first in Q2, first in Q3, so nothing really to say about the car and the performance of the team which has been fantastic today in these weather conditions. It seems that we are really really comfortable and we took advantage of it.
Q: It was a little bit touch and go when you went out on intermediates at the beginning of Q2.
FA: Yeah, turn one was extremely difficult for everybody, I think. There was starting to be a dry line so you tended to use that line as much as you could, but as soon as you were a little bit off line and you touched the wet you were off. So thanks to the fuel we had in the car, to be fast we had more possibilities, more laps than normal, so you repeat the lap and it was OK.
Q: As dominant as you are in these conditions, what do you hope the weather will be tomorrow for the race?
FA: Well, to be honest, who knows? We did a little running yesterday affected by the few drops that dampened the track a little bit yesterday so we have no information in the dry but I think we are very competitive in the dry, so if tomorrow we have a normal race, dry conditions, we will be really really strong. If its a wet race like this, we are strong as well, but its always very dangerous, and difficult to finish the race sometimes.
Q: Giancarlo, fantastic performance, Renaults first front row since Canada, since Fernando was last on the pole indeed, but you hit some debris on your run, so a great run from you.
Giancarlo Fisichella: Yeah, sure. Even last year we were first and second so its good, good for us. Unfortunately on the first lap in the second session I spun in turn one and the qualifying session nearly finished there for me, but because I was able not to brake the car into the grass and the gravel and I went into the grass I was able to get out, but it didnt help me. I was a bit cautious after that in turn one especially. The car balance was good straight away and I felt comfortable, so I think we had a very good strategy, a good performance in wet and dry conditions, so Im looking forward (to the race).
Q: And in Q3, it looked like a McLaren mirror came off Kimis car and you hit that. Did that damage your car at all?
GF: No, I dont think so. Hopefully not. The car was still OK at the end, so no problem on the car, no damage.
Q: Rubens, welcome back, first time in the top three since Imola; you love these conditions, equalling your team mates lap time to a thousandth of a second.
Rubens Barrichello: Well, thats very impressive. When I saw that the time was exactly the same as my team mates, what can the team expect? We took the maximum out of the car and obviously its a little bit down to luck but after I had my spin in Q2 and I recovered from that, I think that pumped me up so much. As Fernando and Giancarlo were saying, turn one was so difficult, so difficult, that it was impossible to actually push at some points, and when I spun, I completely lost the car but the gravel stopped me at a point when I was on the grass and still with the engine running, so I went into Q3 it was all pluses from there on and the car was working fine, so hopefully we have a good strategy for tomorrow and it puts the Honda onto the podium.
Q: I guess theres no reason to ask you what conditions you are hoping for tomorrow.
RB: Well, it looks like were competitive in the wet. Following some of the other cars, I could see that we were faster than some of the guys, so it was quite good. But as Fernando said, its up and down if its wet. I love the wet, everybody knows that, it has worked my way so many times. Ive won races in the wet, I love that, but if its a dry race its probably safer and better for the public.
Q: Fernando, Rod Nelson came on the radio on your slow-down lap saying poor old Michael down in sixth place. That wont have escaped your notice and of course the championship is very much in the balance going into these last three races.
FA: Yes, we know the championship is tight and it will be difficult to decide up until the last race and its really extremely difficult but I think we are very confident, we are quick in the dry, we are quick in the wet and I love the circuits for the last three races. The team knows how to win on those circuits as well so I have no reason to be nervous at this time.
Q: What happened to the beard, Fernando?
FA: Its gone, gone for qualifying: less weight. I hope it makes me quicker. At the moment it has been good but its important to finish tomorrow and then lets see.
Q: It doesnt get any better does it: pole position with your team mate alongside and your championship rival further back?
FA: Yes and no. I think we have to be careful what happens tomorrow. The points are normally for Sunday afternoon. Saturday is good and we approach the race with a lot of confidence, in a strong position, dry or wet, so I think we are very happy with the result today, but of course we have to finish the job tomorrow.
Q: And of course last year you started on pole position and won the race.
FA: Yes, starting on pole position is always a big help. Its difficult in a normal race not to be on the podium at the end of the race, difficult to lose three or four positions, so its what we are looking forward to: to do a good race, not only here but also in Japan and in Brazil. The target and the main thing for us is to finish in front of Ferrari in all three races and try to beat them in both championships.
Q: And you have a pretty major margin over the rest of the field.
FA: Well, we will see how it goes tomorrow but for sure, today was quite a surprise, regarding the pace of the car and how comfortable we were: first and second in Q1, and I think first and second in Q2 and Q3, so for sure the Renault was really really competitive today, easy to drive for us, the drivers, and a big thanks to Michelin because they have given us a tyre that is unbeatable these days in the wet.
Q: Giancarlo, on the front row as well. And an early tyre stop in Q3; you came in after one lap.
GF: Yes, it was maybe a strange strategy, because we changed tyres again after that, and I was able to do just one lap at the end. It was good to do that because we used two different strategies with Fernando. There was the pace to do that, to still be first and second, so we didnt make a mistake, so were just happy with the performance There was a very good car balance and Michelin especially did a fantastic job. The tyres were fantastic today. Im confident, looking forward to tomorrow and its going to be important for us to score lots of points for both championships.
Q: How much did the conditions change throughout the session?
GF: Well, yeah, quite a lot. In Q1, the first couple of minutes was wet, but then it was raining quite heavily and after that it was a bit dangerous. Q2 was one of the worst moments. There was some aquaplaning, especially in the first couple of laps. Then the circuit was getting better and better and even in Q3, just at the end, the circuit was better.
Q: Is there a problem that you changed the car for the wet but you cant now change it back for the dry?
GF: Absolutely not. We mostly kept the same car in the same set-up as for the dry. Mechanically the car is good for the wet and for the dry.
Q: Rubens, what are your feelings about the session?
RB: It went very well obviously and I think since I joined the team it has been an improvement all the time. I know people seem to think there was a dip through the last two or three races, but it is quite different for me, it is not harder or easier. Every time I hit a new track with this car, it is catching up and improving all the time and for instance, since yesterday, I was a bit lost and the team did a great job to change the car around and the car performed a lot better this morning. So, there is a little bit of catching up all the time and you can see that I progressed quite well throughout the qualifying and it was difficult today. There were a lot of cars and sometimes you get out of the pits and you dont see a blue flag anywhere in front of somebody and the same happened to me so many times and there were people getting out and there was traffic all the time. The team was good and we were lucky to get the times at the right time and in quali three I was able to set a quick time straightaway and that put me into the first two rows.
Q: Obviously you are looking to win the race and, in spite of the margin, can you challenge the Renaults tomorrow?
RB: Well, they look very fast. They look too fast for us at this moment, but the thing we have improved a lot since the beginning of the year is that our car performs well at the race. So it is getting better all the time and I think we can see it in the rear tyres quite a lot so there is always a good chance to challenge everyone and I hope I can definitely get to the podium tomorrow. That is the most important thing for me.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Jie Zhou Oriental Sports Daily) Fernando, do you think that from a psychological point of view you are much stronger than Michael at this moment?
FA: I dont know. Who knows? What I am sure about is that I am very confident and I am not retiring this year and, so, I have a lot of times and a lot of championships to fight, hopefully, so I take these three races like any other three races and try to win and I take the same approach to beat the others, opponents, and maybe this is a help because there is no other very big pressure than that.
Q: (Beniamino Natale - ANSA) Fernando and Giancarlo, at the beginning of the season you seemed so strong and Ferrari came up and now you seem again to be on the top. Can you say how much today is due to the car and how much is due to the weather? Also, Fernando, can you say how surprised you were by the speed of the car?
FA: Well, I think we started the season really well because our car was 100 per cent ready for the season and we had to make some improvements to our car to be as competitive as we were at the beginning and then it is true that we lost points, but I would say it was also a bit of an unlucky situation as well. I think without the wheel going off in Hungary and the engine in Monza I was probably 16 or 18 points ahead of Michael and the championship was completely different at this point. So, I dont think the Renault dropped any performance during the season, but for sure there was some improvement coming from Ferrari and some of the bad luck we took in the last three races. And todays performance I think is due to the car and the tyres and sometimes in the past in last few years the Ferrari was so dominant in the wet conditions thanks to the tyres and now it is a little bit opposite and all the Michelin cars seem to be very competitive in the wet conditions so for sure it is a help for us in the last two races.
GF: I agree with Fernando. We had a very good performance a the beginning of the season and a very good car and we were able to score lots of points and then Ferrari came up and were sometimes a bit quicker than us and especially in the last part of the championship. We scored some points but not as they scored and I think we made a progress in the last couple of tests with the chassis and the engine, but I think the main difference today was the tyres performance.
Q: (Anthony Rowlinson Autosport) Fernando, can you explain your decision to become more involved with the GPDA, as announced yesterday?
FA: Well, it was not only my decision, I was a little bit pushed to do that I think and we didnt vote anything and it was just everyone agreed about the new three names and the drivers pushed me to go into this role now and I agree because it is a pleasure to be there.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speedsport News) Rubens, third on the grid here, points in last three races, things are going well, but I want to go back earlier in the year when after so many years with a different team, how long did it take you to become really in tune with a new team?
RB: Well, I am still learning in a way. Its not easy to change schools and get new friends all at once. There are some times when you have to back off in decisions and some times when you have to pressure -- so some people like and dislike, but you get on with life. And, sometimes, you think it was easier at Ferrari because I knew all of them and I am still learning and learning a lot, not talking about the car, but the people and the engineers and everything. I mean obviously, right now, Jock can look at me and know what I want from the car, but to get them believing in you it can take some time so Im still learning and they are still teaching me and most important is that it is a pleasure.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speedsport News) Fernando, how much pressure will it be for you, next year at McLaren, to learn a whole new family?
FA: Lets wait and see. For sure, it will be new team, new approach to the races, new car, new tyres for everybody I drove only with Michelin tyres all my career in Formula One, so a lot of new stuff coming and this is one of the big motivations for me to be in such a new approach to the races and will be completely different and I take this like a personal challenge.