FIA post-race press conference - Malaysia 08 Apr 2007
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
1st Fernando Alonso (McLaren Mercedes), 1h32m14.930s; 2nd Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes), 1h32m32.487s; 3rd Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), 1h32m33.269s.
Q: Fernando: a dream day for you no doubt. You passed cars going into the first corner, looked in your mirrors and there was Lewis behind you.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, it was, absolutely. I think one of our chances to win the race was to be first after the first corner and thanks to a good start, thanks to the car, I was able to arrive side-by-side into the first corner. I was on the inside part so I managed to be first and to be sure, to have my team-mate second makes things easier, for sure, to open a gap.
Q: And thereafter, from the outside, it looked to be a relatively easy race for you.
FA: Well, its always difficult here because I think the car keeps changing balance all through the stint. Its not the same with high fuel loads and new tyres as low fuel loads and old tyres. Over the weekend, we never did more than eight or ten laps with the tyres so you are always a little bit concerned about how the tyres will behave after 15 or 16 laps, so its never easy. But for sure, to be never less than seven or eight seconds, for sure, you are much more relaxed.
Q: We saw Ron Dennis out on the pit wall signalling you in for your first stop. Was there any lack of communication going on there?
FA: Yes, yes, I didnt understand but from lap ten to the first stop I had no radio so the same as Kimi in Australia and it seems a lucky thing to have in the race, because before the first stop I was lucky that I saw the pit board, I saw the arrow, so I came into the pits with some doubts, if the guys were there or not. Ron was telling me that the radio was off, obviously I knew already, but I think they adjusted something in the pit stop and then it worked OK for the rest of the race.
Q: You were saying over the winter that it might take a while to start winning races for the new team but here you are, race two, middle of the podium.
FA: Yeah, its absolutely fantastic and its a wonderful surprise what we have achieved in such a short time. I remember the first test in December, only one day and then the new car in January, with the launch of the car in Valencia in the middle of January. A lot of work has been done inside the team, a lot of effort from everybody to be ready for the first race, but we never expected to be that competitive. Its something that is difficult to believe but we have to say big thanks to everybody.
Q: Lewis, what a fantastic drive. Lets talk about the first few laps, your defence with Felipe Massa behind you and indeed the first corner.
Lewis Hamilton: Yes, that was the most difficult race Ive ever had. To see two Ferraris behind you, two red blobs in the mirrors, knowing that theyre slightly lighter than you and slightly quicker than you, its very, very difficult to keep them behind. Felipe had a couple of moves, I think he tried into turn four a couple of times, but fortunately I was able to trick him into out-braking himself and get my car stopped and it was very fortunate that I was able to cut across and get back in front of him, to the point where he eventually went off, so I apologise for that but at the end of the day, we got the points, so it doesnt really matter. And then I had Kimi hunting me down for most of the race and phew, I just cant explain to you how tough it was. Its extremely hot in the cockpit, sweating a lot, I ran out of water halfway through the race, I didnt have enough water and so it was tricky, it was tricky, and I was getting hotter and hotter throughout the race. It would have been nice to have been a bit further ahead in the last stint but I had to keep pushing to the last lap and thats what I did. I didnt make any mistakes. I think the team did a fantastic job preparing the car this weekend. They work extremely long hours, I think longer than most other teams and also (a message) back to the factory: youve done a fantastic job so well done.
Q: You had a brilliant middle stint to the race too, set fastest race lap. How did the car at that phase compare to later on. What was it like in the cockpit?
LH: I had radio communication with the team. They told me that Kimi had pitted and I had passed so I couldnt see him in my mirrors and it was difficult to see the gap on the board. I was often looking at the gap towards Fernando and I noticed it was quite big, so I sort of made a mistake and thought that that was Kimi, but I later found that Kimi was only six seconds behind and they told me that he was catching by half a second a lap, so I just had to bite my tongue, dig as deep as I could while preserving the amount of energy I had, because it was so tough, and really just tried to stay in front and pull the car to the end and be as consistent as possible. Im just overwhelmed.
Q: Kimi, you must be very happy the way the weekend has gone for you, to be on the podium for the second successive race.
Kimi Raikkonen: Yeah, of course Im happy to get some points but a bit disappointed how the race ended up. The whole weekend was quite difficult but I think we needed to compromise too many things and we lost too much speed because of those things, but it was one of those weekends where we needed to do what was most important and try to get as many points as we could. We just didnt have enough speed today and couldnt do much more.
Q: Well, you had a terrific spectator position for that battle between Lewis and your team mate Felipe Massa. Talk us through that from your point of view; you nearly passed Felipe. Well, you did pass Felipe eventually.
KR: Yeah, in the end when he made a mistake but unfortunately I didnt have enough speed in a straight line to try to challenge either of them when I got behind Lewis. I got close to him but I didnt have as much speed as Felipe so he could always challenge him but I was not able to do that. I always tried to get close to them because I knew that they would have a fight and I thought that maybe I could get passed one of them, and in the end it worked out but unfortunately I didnt get past Lewis. But I think we did the best we could and at least we scored important points, so we need to make everything 100 percent right at the next race.
Q: It looked like your car was much more competitive in the closing stint than the middle stint.
KR: Yeah, it wasnt difficult to drive but it was just not fast enough. I think we know the reasons why we were not quick in this race, but unfortunately, as I said, we were in a position where we couldnt do anything else. Hopefully we can turn the tables in the next race and fight for a win again.
Q: Returning to you Fernando, the close battle is now upon us: Ferrari versus McLaren, it couldnt be closer and here, at race two, weve had the second winner in two races. How do you see the season now developing?
FA: Yeah, I think, to be honest, we still need to work a little bit, especially on the race pace. I think with Felipe having a good start, better than our start and keeping first position maybe was extremely difficult to follow their pace in the race, so I think we mustnt confuse ourselves with that. But we are much much closer than Australia. We have some developments on the car and some improvements coming very shortly, so we should be alright then, very very shortly and I think it will be a very close fight but I think our team has the potential to do it and I have 100 percent confidence we can do it.
Q: Fernando, give us an idea of how important it is to win first time for your new team, just as Kimi did in the last race?
FA: I think its very important, very important, keeps your motivation very very high. To win a Formula One Grand Prix with two different teams is already something special, I think. For me, it is the same. I have been winning Grands Prix over the last three years with Renault and now switching team, one second-place and first victory in the second race with them is just a dream come true for any driver and I feel proud of this result for all the team.
Q: You said just now that it was a surprise, whats made the difference?
FA: Yeah, I dont know. Australia has always been a very particular race, a very different race compared to the other circuits in the championship and we knew that Ferrari was very strong in the past, also in Australia so maybe this year they took the advantage. I think we learned a lot in the first race about the tyres, how they behaved over the race stints and I think we learned some lessons that for sure we will be using every race from Australia onwards. We also had some developments on the car so we put everything together and yeah, it may have been a little bit of a surprise but we are there.
Q: Physically you look pretty good; how tough was it?
FA: It was very tough. It was extremely hot in the cockpit and you keep drinking water every five or six laps but after ten laps its like tea. Its 60 degrees water, so its not fun to drink any more. You keep drinking because you have to do it but for sure its not a pressure but it becomes very tough during the last twenty or 25 laps but I was lucky that I didnt have a big battle with anyone so I could take it a little easier.
Q: Just a word about the middle stint, you seemed to be losing a little bit of time in the middle stint.
FA: Yeah, I was losing time. In the first stint I had a little bit of graining in the front tyres and I was not able to do 100 percent so I asked for a little more front wing in the first stop and even with that, I was taking care of the tyres in the first ten or 12 laps of that stint because I knew that it was important to keep them in condition, to push and I think I spent four laps behind Liuzzi, but I lost three or four seconds in these four laps, even if I wasnt close enough. In the high-speed corners I was losing a lot. It was a difficult middle stint for sure.
Q: Lewis, you said it was your hardest race, what would you do differently if you could do it again?
LH: Well, I am sitting next to probably the two best drivers in the world and to go into my second race and have a second place, I think it is fantastic for the team. I think Fernando did a fantastic job, especially at the start, and I think Kimi was extremely competitive and very quick and (I had) a great battle with both Ferrari drivers. I think it was amazing. For me, to come next year, we will push forward as a team, develop the car, increase the gap, or try to overtake Ferrari and pull out a bigger lead in the championship. And next time I come here I will be better-prepared and ready for the win!
Q: Should we have expected those battles at the start, given your GP2 form?
LH: I think defending is ten times harder than trying to overtake someone I would say. Or twice as hard; I think when you have two guys behind you who are lighter on fuel and perhaps slightly faster on the long stints. Dont forget this is Formula One. It is incredibly tough. And the conditions outside! It is just so hot in the car. I was fortunate that my trainer and me and the doctor, we worked extremely hard to make sure I was fit enough for this race. The last three weeks I have been drinking enough. I have drunk and drunk all day to make sure I didnt dehydrate because I sweat a lot, like all of us, but maybe me a little bit more But, it was great.
Q: You didnt seem to be so happy at the end on the harder tyres
LH: No, I wouldnt say that. I think perhaps the harder tyres are not so good and we lost a bit of grip with those, but it is the general balance of the car with those tyres. I had a bit of understeer in the first stint and in the second I asked for some wing, as Fernando did, and that seemed to help so the middle stint was better, but I was still struggling with a bit of understeer-to-oversteer and on the second stint, no, first, sorry, the car was sliding a little bit more so it was definitely harder. And I was coming up to the backmarkers and I was trying not to lose any time to them because I knew Kimi was pushing and I could see I was a good two seconds down when I was behind someone so just trying to get as much time and not lose any which I managed to do. And I always wondered, when I was finally challenged by someone, in the race, someone like Kimi or Fernando, if I was going to be able to defend and I was. So I was able to do that and I was really happy.
Q: Kimi, it looked good in the early stages you were really charging
KR: Yes, but not enough. We needed the speed, as much as Felipe, who seemed to be very strong in a straight line, but we had to do some compromise as a team and so it cost us a little bit, maybe a bit too much in this race, but at least we scored a podium and points and we finished the race. We learned a lesson and we will do things better in the next race.
Q: Can you give us an idea of those compromises?
KR: No, I cant, but we know what we have done and that is the main thing and hopefully we can do better at those things in the next race.
Q: What were the track conditions like, given there was a serious rain-storm last night?
KR: I think quite similar, quite slippery all the time and not very easy conditions, but it was the same for everybody. Especially, being behind people all the time is not the easiest one you dont really get an idea of the car, or how good it will be when you run alone. It was quite okay when I was on my own especially near the end, but it came too late really.
Q: And the middle stint, you seemed to lose time then?
KR: Yes, just the speed really
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Sal Zanca AP) Fernando, was the race essentially over after the first turn and what did Ron Dennis say to you after you finished?
FA: Well, when I was leading after the first corner and saw Lewis second, well that opened a little bit the dream to win the race. We knew our chance was to overtake the Ferraris at the start and we were lucky to do it and, for sure, to see Lewis second, even better to have your team-mate second. But I was not confident until the final stint, to be honest, even in lap 40 or something like that, the team kept telling me to push because we thought Kimi was going very long for the second stint, so I was not confident until Kimi pitted for the second time that we realised the victory was in our hands, and after the race the team was extremely happy and very excited. The guys work very hard here in these conditions. If you see the mechanics, all the engineers, you know, working 18 20 hours per day with these temperatures and when your cars finish first and second then the atmosphere in the team is just amazing.
Q: (Mathias Brunner Motorsport Aktuell) Fernando, Ferrari was very strong in winter testing in Bahrain so what do you expect next weekend?
FA: Yes, it is difficult to know. I think there will not be big changes in the cars between here and there because there are only four days between the races, so the cars will not be developed, so we should again be competitive, but as you said the Ferrari was a little bit quicker than everybody in the test so I still believe it will be very, very hard to beat them again so I think we will have again a difficult weekend, but here everything went right and we opened a gap in the constructors championship and we lead in the drivers so we just need to defend these positions.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, how disappointing is it not to win this race for Ferrari after having dominated free practice and the qualifying?
KR: It is a little bit disappointing, but it is the early part of the season, but we did the best we could in the situation we were in and so the team did very well, I think, a very good job. We knew when we came here we had some handicaps. So, I think we maximised our speed, but we wanted to win and be top of the table but we did the best we could here and we just need to work better in the next races and in the coming weeks and improve the car. I think we have some big improvements coming, but probably not next race, but for Barcelona it should be ready.
Q: (Niki Takeda Formula PA) Was there any concern about your engine during the race?
KR: Not any more than before the race. As I said we needed to compromise some things and it was not the ideal situation to start the weekend, but I think we got the most we could from it. We wanted a better position, but we couldnt, but it is a long season and we still have a good position. We know we have the speed when we everything right and it is going to be a close fight in the coming races, but thats Formula One.
Q: (Anne Giuntini LEquipe) Kimi, when you say that you knew you had a handicap was it on your car only or on two cars?
KR: I think we knew that the engine was not 100 per cent and we had to be a bit on the safe side, but there were some other things, which were not perfect so we could not take risks to do anything stupid with what we had, so hopefully next race we can have all the right things in the car and be 100 per cent again like in the first race.
Q: (Marco Evangelisti Corriere dello Sport) Kimi, was it the battle between Fernando and Felipe in the first corner that somehow cost you a position to Lewis?
KR: Of course, I didnt want to get into that. Our tyres were not really as good as theirs then so we lost a few metres in the first metres, but then also in the first corner with all the things going (on), but I think they did a better thing in the first corner than us.
Q: (Ed Gorman The Times) Lewis, youve done two races and been on the podium twice. Could you ever have imagined, before the season began, that these two races would have gone so well for you?
LH: I think it is difficult to go into a season and to predict what is going to happen or to know what to expect. For sure, testing is one thing and racing is another. And I know I am very strong at racing, so that was not a question for me. We did longer stints and race runs in testing, but it is a lot different to actually doing it in a race when you have someone pressuring and no room for error. But, no, I really didnt know what to expect. I didnt think I would be here twice on the podium already in the first two races and still in contention with these two guys. I have just got to say thank-you to the team. They really have done a fantastic job and to prepare me and also to prepare the car so we could win.
Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) Lewis, which was more difficult to control behind you: Fernando in the first race or the Ferraris in this race?
LH: Well thats a difficult question, isnt it? In the first race, we were in similar places, but on a different track so Fernando was not breathing on me as hard as Felipe and Kimi were towards the end. So, for sure, it was harder in this race plus it was extremely hot. But I am sure that if it was the other way around and it was Fernando behind me, it would have been just as hard, if not harder.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, dont you think that Felipe was too aggressive and that this cost Ferrari another race?
KR: You need to ask him that yourself. He wanted to get past and I would have wanted to get past also while he had the speed and he had an opportunity and he tried to take it. But it cost him and thats racing.
Q: (Michael Schmidt Auto Motor und Sport) Lewis, Felipe attacked you twice in turn four. Did you anticipate that he would overshoot the corner and did you position your car in a special way there?
LH: It was difficult to know where he was going to be. On the exit of turn two I knew he was extremely close and he seemed to be extremely quick down the straight. I knew he would be slip-streaming me to turn four. I did move over, but not too far to compromise my exit and then he dived and I anticipated that and tried to brake as late as possible, tried to out-brake him, but he braked even later than me and I was able to get the car into the corner and he was straight. He was gone. And I knew that each time, as soon as we braked, he was going to overshoot so I was able to control the car and keep ahead. It was definitely the hardest battle I have had.
Q: (Niki Takeda Formula PA) Lewis, third in Melbourne, second here, that leaves one option next. How do you see that prospect?
LH: You have to take it step by step. This is another stepping stone for me on the steep learning curve that I have and for sure the next one has to be a win, but we have to push together as a team. We are very competitive, as you can see, but we need to keep on pushing. I think that it is very important that the team know that we have to keep on pushing to pull away from them. But we are doing a fantastic job and I really hope that at some point I can get a win.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Kimi, your team-mate had a bad day today, does that mean anything to you?
KR: It is unfortunate for him, but thats racing like I said. Sometimes you push hard to gain places and it doesnt work out as you planned. It has happened to many other people and it will happen maybe one day again. It is not ideal for the team, but you really need to hear it from him. I am not the guy here answering questions about him. So, I dont know what happened - or if he had a problem or not. So, I am not the right guy to give you those answers.