FIA post-race press conference - Australia 18 Mar 2007
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
1st Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), 1h 25m28.770s; 2nd Fernando Alonso (McLaren Mercedes), 1h 25m36.012s; 3rd Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes), 1h 25m47.365s.
Q: Kimi, it looked like a walk in Albert Park this afternoon; what a fantastic day for you!
Kimi Raikkonen: Yeah. The weekend has been very good, so thanks to the team. Today the race was not as easy as it might have looked. Just before the start my radio broke so I didnt have a radio the whole race so it was a bit complicated but at least before the race we had a plan what we wanted to do so I knew pretty much what I was meant to do, but in some places it wasnt an ideal situation. Anyhow, it was a good race for us. I didnt have to push too hard, just have to pace myself a bit and look what the others were doing: an excellent start.
Q: The two guys either side of you were racing each other at the start, giving you a bit of a break on the opening lap.
KR: Yeah, but I dont think it made much difference in the end. We were quite quick so I didnt have to push. Maybe it helped on the first laps that I didnt have to push as hard as I could have. But as I said, the car was perfect all day and in the end we were just bringing it home.
Q: Well, you set fastest lap but we also saw you have a bit of a moment at turn three towards the end of the race; talk us through that.
KR: I just locked a wheel. I was looking at something else, not putting in too much effort. It was my mistake completely I was following another car but fortunately it didnt cost me too much.
Q: It is your first win for over a year; what are your thoughts and emotions about that?
KR: Of course, its always nice to come to the first race and win straight away. Ive never done that before. Weve had good races here before, but weve never been able to win. With a new team, with everything basically new this year, its the ideal way to start the season. The car is very strong. I think the atmosphere in the team is perfect and the people are really making my life very good and easy. I really enjoy it. As I say, its a perfect way (to start the season) and I hope we can keep it up.
Q: Fernando, a great result for you too in your first race for the team.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, absolutely. I think its been a good weekend, and I think we have to be pleased with the final result as well. I think the Ferraris were a little bit too quick today for us. We have to take maximum points that we can from Australia and second place is a good place to start the season. For sure, we have to work a little bit more if we want to win races but as I said to the team, today we proved that we are here to win, not to race only and relax. We saw a good potential in the team today, and Im looking forward to the next race.
Q: And a lot of speed from your younger teammate. He overtook you at the start of the race and you spent much of the race following him.
FA: Yeah, it was a very strange start, not very good, and I saw Nick Heidfeld coming from the outside, so I was a little bit more concentrated on him than the corner itself. I realised a little bit later that I was fourth, unfortunately, and from there I didnt have the possibility to push during the race. Sometimes I was closer to Lewis, sometimes I left some space so as not to overheat the car and the people who we were lapping were a little bit inconsistent so we were up and down all through the race. I was lucky to overtake him in the second pit stop. Its true that it has been a good fight, as I always seem to have had with my teammates here in Australia. I remember Fisichella winning races here, its very interesting for the people.
Q: Lewis, the best debut performance for an Englishman since Mike Parkes at the French Grand Prix in 1966, and you led your first Grand Prix as well.
Lewis Hamitlon: It has been fantastic, and as you say, to lead my first Grand Prix was a fantastic feeling. It was extremely tough. I had Fernando behind me for a long time, and its pretty tough when you have the two-time World Champion behind you in your first race but I must say the team has done a fantastic job, pre-season, preparing the car, not only the team here but back at the factory they have been working day and night to get the car ready and it was great. A bit unfortunate at the second stop (to lose the position). I think the stop went fine but back-markers were pretty tough but it was all a new experience for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Q: Talk us through that first corner when you managed to pass Fernando.
LH: I got a pretty decent start. I think people probably got the exact same start but the BMWs seemed to be extremely quick off the grid and Robert Kubica got past me. But there was no way I could stay on the inside so I dived back to the left and managed to outbrake near enough everyone and managed to gain a couple of places. From there on it went pretty smoothly.
Q: So how did you feel there, leading Fernando and then taking the lead. How did it feel in your debut race doing that?
LH: Well, its pretty much like that every time youre in that position in a race, whether its your teammate youre leading the race or youre trying to catch the guy in front. Its extremely intense, youve got to make sure you make no mistakes and for sure, I did make a few mistakes in this one - but again, its another new experience. But as I said, Im ecstatic to be here, a podium for my first race, I couldnt be more happy.
Q: Kimi, it was an easy day for your today, but how do you see the next few races, how do you see the competition developing?
KR: I dont know really, its too early to say. We need to wait a couple of races before we can see where we are and whats the deal with the other teams. Were getting some new parts for the next race so for sure we can improve. And if it gets hot it can be useful for us. We will just do the best we can in the next race and see where we end up. Were in a good position now, we just need to work hard, keeping improving and try to win as many races as we can.
Q: Kimi, what was it like, standing on the rostrum there, with the Finnish anthem and then the Italian anthem?
KR: It was good, for sure. Its been a long time since I heard the Finnish one. The Italian Ive heard quite a number of times, but it was nice to be involved in the whole situation.
Q: It seemed to be quite hard to pull away in the opening stages, but then you seemed to pull away more easily.
KR: I didnt push so hard at the beginning because I kind of knew what was going to happen in the race, so we didnt really need to push as hard as we could have. So it was not so difficult, but of course we needed to be careful that if something did go wrong, we at least had some margin. The biggest problem was my radio. It stopped working just before the start, so I didnt have radio contact with the team the whole race, but at least we had a plan which we went through before the race, so that helped.
Q: Were you relying on a pit board, then?
KR: Yeah, basically, and what we planned before. Luckily we didnt have any major issues or anything so it wasnt too difficult, but not ideal.
Q: You mentioned a moment that you had towards the end there, but at about half distance you lost about three seconds
KR: Yeah, there was quite a lot of traffic and I followed a few cars for more than a lap, so it wasnt ideal and they didnt move over even though they had blue flags. That was quite poor in this race. Hopefully we can improve that because its not ideal if youre leading and you have to wait and wait for people to let you past.
Q: And the difference between the two tyres; was there a big difference?
KR: Yeah, there was a difference but I didnt need to push at the end so it was hard to say exactly what the difference was but for me, both tyres seemed to work pretty well so I was happy with them.
Q: Fernando, a good start to the championship for the team with second and third places.
FA: Yeah, absolutely. I think that for the team its a big plus, and everybody must be pretty proud of the job that theyve done over the winter in preparing this new car. Were here, first race, second and fourth in qualifying, now second and third. Obviously its always better to win, but today it was not possible. For sure we are not at that next step in the pace to be close to Ferrari and I think until we arrive at that point, second place, like today, is the best result possible.
Q: How hard were you pushing before the second stop?
FA: I knew that my only possibility to be second was to be close to Lewis before the second stop, so, after a little bit up and down, depending on the back-markers and your own laps, I was close to Lewis before the second stop and then the two extra laps of fuel that I had on board, one of them I followed a Toyota for a complete lap so I thought that at that time it was not possible to overtake but at the end it was, so Im quite happy with that, after a bad start. My race from the first corner was a little bit more complex than I thought.
Q: And the difference between the two tyres for you?
FA: I think less than we expected. As Kimi said, it was difficult to say because in the last part of the race no one was pushing any more because the positions were quite fixed, so we didnt push the last set of tyres hard to see how they were. I think both of them were quite similar at the end of the race with the track conditions we had today.
Q: Lewis, what were your feelings, standing out there on the rostrum?
LH: I was ecstatic. I still am. To be in my first Grand Prix, something Ive been working on for so many years, all the hard work has paid off. Im just extremely happy for myself and also for the team. I think its a great starting point, a great foundation for the rest of the season.
Q: Did you find it a tough race, a long race?
LH: Yeah, of course its a long race, but its what weve been preparing for, and I felt that I was fully prepared, coming in to this race. Weve done as much running as we could in pre-season testing and Ive done plenty of race distances, so I knew I was fit enough. It was just another learning curve for me. Racing a Formula One car is a lot different to testing it but Im really happy with the job that I did.
Q: Obviously a good start, how much practising have you done?
LH: Weve been preparing and making sure we focus on every area and obviously starts is definitely one of them. When you go out of the pits from testing, youre always practising the start so that was not a problem. The first corner was a bit of a surprise for me, that I managed to outbrake Robert and Fernando but it paid off and I was able to get up to third.
Q: You were just talking about losing second place at the second stop; you were behind one of the Super Aguris, I think, for how many corners?
LH: I dont know how many corners it was. Obviously Fernando was extremely quick so I had to push as hard as I could, but I was coming up against back-markers and they were being blue-flagged, but extremely extremely late, like when I was basically on their tail. And when they did, they didnt move over so I lost a lot of time behind back-markers throughout the race and Fernando was able to close the gap. The only chance I would have had of beating Fernando was if I got past the backmarker and pulled out the gap, which I kept doing but the last one came into the pits with me so I was stuck behind him and Fernando was right on my tail. He must have gained a good five seconds on me there so that was that. .
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Salvatore Zanca - Associated Press) Kimi is this just another win or is it special because it is your first win for Ferrari?
KR: Of course, it is a special moment - with a new team, everything new and we can win in the first race so, it is ideal. At least people will not ask when you are going to win. I am happy because it is a new season and to win straightaway so that is good also. I am really happy with the team, and how things are going with the people, how the car is so it could not be better than it is now.
Q: (Tobias Holtkamp - Bild) Kimi, who was on the phone that Jean Todt gave you?
KR: I think it was Michael (Schumacher), but the line was pretty bad so I couldnt hear him.
Q: (Phil Branagan - Motorsport News) Fernando, your first stop was a little longer than Lewiss Was that a change in strategy to give you two extra laps?
FA: I dont know. I think the first stop is quite fixed because you qualify with that fuel and the second stop is quite open. I think they didnt decide on lap 15 or 16 so I dont know There was nothing on plan. They decide that.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Kimi, is this the payback for your bad luck here in previous races?
KR: No, I wouldnt say that. It was just a perfect day for us -- or not perfect because we still had some problems, but at least they didnt cost us anything and so we can always improve, but at least we got the result we wanted from the first race of the season and it is a good place to start the season and hopefully we can keep it up.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, did you have any problems in the race?
KR: Like I said, the radio broke before the start. That was the main issue we had. And in the race, nothing major really.
Q: (Georg Nolte - Bild) Kimi, how did you and Michael (Schumacher) work together in the last month?
KR: I have seen him twice - when they launched the car and I think at one test. He came, but I left at the same time almost. So, we havent really been spending time together.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto Motor und Sport) Fernando, Ferrari seemed to have a bigger gap in the race. Is that a worry?
FA: Well, yes it is. We are here to win the world championship and we know that the race is the most important part of the weekend. Qualifying is good, but it is just only maybe 40 per cent of the race and it is true that in qualifying we seem to be quite competitive with no big problems and then in the race I think we are not as quick as the Ferrari in the long runs so I think it is the area in which we are trying to improve and where everyone is trying to improve compared to Ferrari. As I said, (in) qualifying I think two or three teams can fight with Ferrari, but in the race no-one.
Q: (Bobby Arifin - Bola) All three of you - Malaysia is a bigger track, hotter place. What do you think your chances are there?
KR: I will try to keep it up, like I said, but it is a completely different circuit, different weather that usually makes it much more difficult to get the car right because the tyres are not working as well in the hot conditions, probably. We will just see how we do in the testing next week and then we will work from there.
FA: Same thing, I think. Keep scoring points; keep finishing on the podium... Like I said, for the world championship I think you cannot have any mistakes in these days so in the first four or five races I think the most important thing is to finish all of them and if possible on the podium and then from then on, depending on how the car develops, you start fighting for victories or whatever. I think Malaysia can be interesting. I have been always very good there and I have great memories from Sepang. So, hopefully, it will be a good weekend for us.
LH: Ive not been to Malaysia before and I dont know the circuit either. But I have seen it on TV obviously, watching it the last few years and I am extremely excited to get on the circuit. It looks quite good and I have good things about it. But obviously we are going to be trying to close the gap between us and Ferrari - we are going to develop the car more and we have got three days testing so we going to make sure we push and maximise the test and make sure we are at the front again for the next race.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) A question for Alonso, was your pit-stop strategy decided by the team during the race or before the race?
FA: As I said before, I dont know. I think first stop is fixed by the qualifying fuel that you have and the second stop they do calculations and they believe what they believe. And I think anyway for the second stint I think I saved quite a lot fuel because I was running behind Lewis and I dont think it was planned to have two extra laps. It was planned only to be one lap so thanks to the fuel saving we had another lap and maybe it was enough to overtake.
Q: (Salvatore Zanca - Associated Press) Fernando what can you do to reduce the gap to Ferrari or is it only in the hands of the engineers?
FA: No, it is in the hands of everybody. For sure the engineers will come with new pieces in the car to improve the car and its performance especially on the long run as we said so I think I believe in their job and I believe very soon the car will come quicker and quicker and I am sure there are more in my hands in terms of driving and we keep learning about these new Bridgestone tyres and it is completely different so it is difficult the tyre in the race and in qualifying and myself I hope I will improve also day by day.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, are you surprised at how easy it was today?
KR: I think we were expecting this, but we were not 100 percent about what would happen and even today we did not have to push 100 percent so we are in a good position right now but in the next race it could be a completely different story so we need to push and improve the whole package and go from there.
Q: (Niki Takeda - Formula PA) Kimi was the car close to perfect today?
KR: No, of course, you can always improve, but it was very good today. The biggest problems were with the back-markers to get past and it took ages for them to know you were there. The car was working well all the time so no complaints.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) For Alonso, what is the difference for you in having a team-mate who really pushes you for the first time in your Formula One career?
FA: I am not agreed with you on that. I think I have had difficult moments with Trulli in 2004 at the beginning he won the Monaco race and he had more podiums than me. Fisichella normally started better than me the season and in 2005 he won the Australian Grand Prix and last year he won in Malaysia as well. So I have more or less similar to what I had today. Hopefully we can keep this level of competition inside the team all through the season.
Q: (Ed Gorman - The Times) Lewis we saw your joy at the finish. Can you talk us through the last few laps as you were heading towards that podium?
LH: I think for the last five laps I could see although I had a bit of a problem on my second set of tyres I was having some graining on the front left tyre that I didnt have the pace to keep up with Fernando and so I knew that enough space behind me. The key was to bring the car home. At the end of the day, I knew I had done enough for my first race. I was pushing as hard as I could, but I wasnt able to keep up, or close the gap between me and Fernando; and so that was that. But, again, going into the next race, we are extremely strong and being here, third place is a great feeling.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, when did you realise that this was your race?
KR: When I passed the finish line, of course, but you know anything can happen even in the last lap. We knew that if everything worked we should be okay after yesterday. It all depends if you get a good start and you have the speed. We had the speed and everything kept going right and we thought it could be our race and that is what happened.
Q: (Phil Branagan - Motorsport News) There are about a million kids in the world who dream of driving in their first Grand Prix, and I guess that until a few days ago, you were one of them How does the dream compare to the reality?
LH: I think this is probably beyond my dreams. To be in Formula One was obviously a dream, but to come into your first race and have such a smooth start is something you dont expect, but something we had been working towards... Im loving it...
Q: (Joe Saward - Grand Prix Special) Lewis can you talk us through the first corner? You must have gone ooh!
LH: Not really... It is only the first corner of the race so you cant get too excited about it. I lost a place to Robert and I needed to get it back and that is what I did. But I gained another place because I think Fernando was held up behind Heidfeld. So that was a positive for me and I took it with me.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi did you see the accident involving Wurz and Coulthard on the big screen?
KR: No. I saw just a little picture of it. I didnt have time to look too much. But luckily enough, with the problem with the radio that we had, if the safety car had come out... so, it was good that it didnt.
Q: (Kevin Garside - The Daily Telegraph) Lewis how much confidence does it give you that you were running second with the double world champion behind you for so long?
LH: Of course, it gives you confidence every time you finish a race. You gain a bit of confidence in the car. You know you can finish and what you can do with it. In terms of me as a driver, as a whole, I dont think it has made much of a difference. I am confident I know what I need to do and I know what to do so it is good to have that sort of that first race under your belt, over and done with. Now I can go and let my hair down and look forward to the next race.
Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Kimi, since you made a mistake because you were looking at something else, did you have a lot of boring moments during this race?
KR: No I didnt, but sometimes if you dont push 100 per cent you can have one of those things if you decided to do something that you shouldnt do but I was just a little too late on the brakes and locked a wheel, but I knew I had enough time so I didnt have to hurry up too much.