Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1m 35.908s; 2nd Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), 1m 36.044s; 3rd Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1m 36.221s
Q: Lewis, difficult to know where to start. What about the emotions you have faced and the ups and downs just to get to this point?
Lewis Hamilton: This weekend? Its been a bit of a rollercoaster and quite an emotional period for me. I was turning up after the great weekend in Fuji and getting here nice and early and finding that they were going to investigate the way I behaved under the Safety Car in Japan. I thought immediately, I am going to get a penalty, but thankfully I didnt and with the team support we pulled through it. Yesterday was a tough day with the testing and that in the back of your mind. It is not easy to forget about, not knowing if you were going to have your points or your win taken away. But I think it was a good decision by the FIA. Then we came here this morning, still not really having the pace of these two here and Fernando. But I was just chipping away and Im thrilled to get pole position because going into qualifying I didnt think I had the pace of Fernando. I knew that if I just worked at it and didnt overdo it, I might just be able to do it and I did, so Im really happy.
Q: As you say, most predictions seemed to suggest that Ferrari would have the edge but you are on the pole. What about that and the strategy to use the harder of the two Bridgestone tyres on the first of your two runs?
LH: I was quite confident we would have the pace of the Ferrari, over one lap anyway even if generally they have been consistent and, I think, looking after the tyres a bit better than us. I really needed to see which tyre was the best, the option or the harder tyre, so I did the first run on the harder one and then I took the risk and went for it on the soft for the last run.
Q: You were the first to come in, therefore giving yourself a bit of cushion in terms of being able to warm up the soft tyre?
LH: Yeah, it gave me a bit of breathing space to relax and use the tyre a little bit better.
Q: Kimi, a strong performance. You had hydraulic problems at the end of P3. Did that have any impact and how was your qualifying session?
Kimi Raikkonen: Yeah, it was okay, no problem. We had good speed yesterday and also in practice this morning. And also in qualifying. Im very happy with the car and I think we will have a good car in the race and I think there could be different fuel loads in the cars. It has been a good weekend so far.
Q: Kimi, a great drive from you, like Lewis, in the Japanese GP. The weather forecast for tomorrow is for rain. Your thoughts on a wet Chinese GP?
KR: Last time when I was here it was wet. It wont be as bad as Fuji, I think the visibility should be better and so I dont think it will be too bad and I am not too concerned about the weather.
Q: Felipe, Kimi implied that there could be some strategy going on in terms of fuel load, so your perspective on qualifying?
Felipe Massa: It was okay. I did a very good lap on the first attempt and then just lost the car on the second one. I wasnt able to fight at the front because of that. The car was pretty good but I just came into Turn Eleven too quick, too aggressive, and just lost the rear end. So it was not a very good lap on the last set of tyres but its okay. Im starting in the top three and lets see what is going to happen. The forecast is for rain and so it could be a bit of a lottery.
Q: The detail of that incident you had - was it a different feel on that set of tyres or was it just you pushing a bit hard?
FM: No, it wasnt the tyres, its just that in qualifying there are four cars and nobody knows who is going to be first. You need to push and take some risks sometimes and sometimes it doesnt work. It was like that. There was nothing wrong with the set-up of the car.
Q: Lewis, you dont need to be told it could be a special day tomorrow. How are you going to prepare for it? Indeed, it could be a wet race as well?
LH: I am not particularly bothered if it is wet or dry. With the experience in Fuji, that has given me confidence in the wet. I havent been here before, so obviously it will be tricky either way but Im in the best position to start the race and I feel very optimistic. Ive got a good car, I know the team will do a good job and for me the way I approach tomorrow will be the same as every race. I want to win, do a good job for the team and if I do that it might be a good day for us, so fingers crossed.
Q: Lewis, you looked like you enjoyed that one?
LH: I always enjoy getting pole position. Even just qualifying generally, if you dont get pole its still quite intense and quite a rush. Its not an easy thing knowing that you only have one opportunity on the tyres and its the difference between pole position and fifth or something. But the team did a very good job. We changed our strategy a bit getting me out earlier, which gave us a bit more leverage time-wise and Im very pleased.
Q: What was the strategy behind using just the one set of soft tyres?
LH: I wasnt sure which was best. Normally the soft is best but I was struggling to manage the tyre and make it last for a single lap. So in Q1 I used the hard tyre and in Q2 the soft, and I was still unsure which one was better. So in Q3 we went into the first run with the hard tyre and then I said, lets just go for it, and I went for the soft tyre and risked it. Also the Ferraris have been on the softer tyre which seemed to work, so I just had to do it.
Q: We are expecting bad weather tomorrow. How much did that colour your strategy for qualifying and even the set-up?
LH: Well, theres a 70-80 per cent chance of rain tomorrow but the weather looked pretty good although the wind was picking up and you never know what is going to happen here. It rained here last year but we couldnt go into qualifying saying lets set the car up for the wet, we just had to do the best job we could. Everyone will be in the same boat tomorrow if it does rain so, strategy-wise, we stuck to what we were going to do anyway. Weve covered the ground and I think we are in a good position.
Q: And from a championship point of view? Obviously pole position couldnt be better.
LH: Absolutely. Its the place I needed to be and obviously this weekend I came here on Friday, I was quite happy with my first lap yesterday, being my first time here. I only walked the majority of the track in the dark. But I managed to do quite a good time at the beginning and to improve on that was not easy and I think the more experienced guys had a slight advantage. Its not an easy circuit, so Ive just been chipping away at it and chipping away and after P3 I still didnt have the exact pace I wanted and straight out in qualifying I managed to find the majority of it (interrupted by sound problem). Is there a DJ in the house?
Q: Because in fact up until now, youve been fourth most of the time in the sessions, so have there been set-up problems?
LH: Well, as you know, you go into qualifying with one set-up and you cant change it. The only thing you can do is opt for a little bit more or less front wing. Ive been really happy with my balance. The car was right, I just needed to adapt my driving in certain areas and theres so little time to do that. You attack one lap and you plan to do something and you might overshoot the corner or whatever, so bit-by-bit I was trying to improve my driving style and out there, there was a better time I was looking for and for that lap, I think the car was pretty sweet and it was a very smooth lap and the rhythm was really good.
Q: Kimi, youve been fastest in all sessions; a bit disappointed not to be on pole?
KR: For sure we would rather be on pole position but I think we have very good speed in the car. Its been good all weekend, so probably theres different fuel loads in the cars, but nevertheless, Im pretty happy. I think its good.
Q: The problem this morning, did that affect you at all?
KR: No, it was just the power steering. It was an unfortunate thing but it didnt hurt us really. We planned to do some more laps but it didnt really hurt us at all.
Q: The fact that youre on the front row with Lewis means you have direct possibility to fight for this race, for this championship.
KR: I think for this race. The championship isnt looking too good but you never know. I think we should have a good car for tomorrow, whatever the conditions are, so Im quite confident.
Q: Is it too much of a gamble to go for a wet set-up?
KR: I dont know. We havent done so. Its up to everybody to choose whatever they think is going to happen tomorrow but some cars probably need some different things for wet and then dry for others.
Q: Your wet and dry set-ups are relatively close, are they?
KR: We had exactly the dry set-up in the last race and it seemed to work pretty well, so Im not worrying about it if its raining.
Q: Felipe, obviously important for you to be ahead of Fernando to help Kimi but how much of a supporting role can you play?
FM: Well, it depends on Lewis. Theres not so much that can be done in a race like that. For sure, Im going to start tomorrow trying to win. Thats what Im going to do. If you see that maybe Lewis is not in the points, and Kimi still has a chance, then maybe we think about the team, but I think Lewis needs to be behind sixth or sixth for Kimi to still have a chance to fight in the last race. So Im going to start tomorrow for him.
Q: A good qualifying for you?
FM: Yeah, I just lost a little bit on the last attempt. At the first attempt I did a very good lap and on the last one I just lost the rear going into turn eleven and for sure, I lost very important time which, in qualifying like that, when you see four cars completely on the limit and very close to each other, you need to risk and try the best you can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt and this time it didnt work when I tried on the last set of tyres.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mathias Brunner - Motorsport Aktuell) Lewis, youve pointed out how much the wind has picked up since yesterday. How much did that affect driving?
LH: For me, not that much. Obviously we have a tail-wind going into turn one and so just a little bit more understeer than perhaps this morning or yesterday but everywhere else it seems to help through turn seven and turn eight, so it doesnt really hurt or make the lap any harder.
Q: And is there a cross-wind on the straight?
LH: Ive not noticed a cross-wind.
Q: (Jia Chen - King Sports) Question to Lewis. You have already won two chaotic races in Canada and Japan, so do you hope it will rain tomorrow?
LH: No, not really. I think it would be good to have a dry race. Weve experienced wet conditions in the last race and its tricky for everyone and its just - I wouldnt say easier - but its just different, so its a cool race when youre perhaps a little bit closer when its dry and you dont get all the spray and its not so difficult to follow each other and so Im not bothered. Either way weve got a good car in the dry and wet and as you can see from last weekend, the cars very good in the wet, so if it rains, I will be just as happy as if its dry.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Lewis, do you hope that the storm comes and the race will be cancelled?
LH: No. Do you know what? Im really surprised that youve asked me a question because all season youve not asked me one question. Whenever you get the microphone I know the questions going to Kimi. No, I think no, I just want to race. Im going into tomorrow not thinking hey, this is the championship. There are still two races left and thats the way youve got to look at it. I will try to do the best job I can tomorrow, finish in the points and then well see what happens afterwards but I want to race. I hate all this preparation and then the race is stopped or you finish on the first lap. I love to have a real battle and a challenge.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Question to all drivers. After everything thats happened in the last few days, is it clear now what the rules are, how to behave behind the safety car?
LH: I dont think its ever been that clear. I think its clearer but I think we understand a little bit better but I put my hand up after yesterday and perhaps I didnt do the best job under the safety car in the wet but it was my first experience in the wet conditions behind the safety car. It was tricky for everyone, visibility was the biggest problem but I think we have a better idea or at least, if I was leading again in those conditions under a safety car, I would do the best job I can to do a better job. I dont know about these guys
Q: (Jia Chen - King Sports) A question to Kimi. I wonder why you came back into the pits after only one lap in Q1.
KR: We just wanted to check the car after we had that power steering failure in the last practice session, just to make sure everything was fine.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, to win the race tomorrow would be the perfect way to win the championship. Are you going to try to win the race or are you going to play it more conservatively considering that you can also work on your advantage?
LH: Im going to try to win the race. When I play golf, and Im in the bushes, I dont play safe, I go for the trees and its a similar thing tomorrow. Im not going to go out and let people past. Im going to try to win the race but obviously be sensible and the important thing is to finish the race, to do the best job I can.
Q: Lewis, I want to know, do you think you can replace Alonso, the former champion and will create your own times?
LH: I dont know. I havent really thought about it but its been a phenomenal season and I really dont know what to say. I came into the season just hoping to do a good job and its just been a mind-blowing season for me and I think for my whole team and for everyone in the Formula One paddock with everything thats gone on. It will be great to win the world championship. If not, theres always another Im only 22, so Ive got a long long time here hopefully.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Was there any moment yesterday evening when you were talking to the stewards that you feared that you might get a penalty?
LH: Well Im the type of person that as soon as I heard that they wanted to see me, I always think the worst, thats just like my dad. He thinks of the worst things that can happen and thinks that that is going to happen to you and they were going to call me up and I just immediately accepted the fact that I would almost probably get a penalty here and for what, I dont know. Obviously when I went in I told them my views and they listened to the other drivers and they came out. For me, it was obviously the best decision. I think it was right and so I was quite happy and I was quite relieved last night. I was able to get rid of that heavy bag that was on my shoulders and theres already a huge weight on my shoulders from leading the world championship but this and all these extra bits, it wasnt really needed.