FIA post-qualifying press conference - Monaco 26 May 2007
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Fernando Alonso (McLaren Mercedes), 1m15.726s; 2nd Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1m15.905s; 3rd Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1m15.967s.
Q: Fernando, it looked as though that qualifying session had everything: traffic, threat of rain, the combination of fuel load, new tyres etc. A brilliant pole for you.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, Im very very happy. It was a very important pole position and, as you said, we had a little bit of everything going on in qualifying. We were expecting rain, it came but very light and it stayed only one lap. The track was a little bit slower but then it picked up again to normal speed. We had traffic, as usual in Monaco. You cant expect to avoid the traffic and I think it was very stressful for everybody with these so-so weather conditions.
Q: It looked as if you caught Nico Rosberg right at the end of your lap. Do you feel you lost time because of that?
FA: Yes, absolutely. I think Nico was unlucky because when he left the pits, he did a very good out lap and he crossed the line with one second to go, but it was not enough not to hold me up a little in the last three or four corners. But I think Monaco is so special that its difficult to have a clear lap.
Q: You were fastest in Q2, set fastest lap of the qualifying session as well. Your thoughts about the race and the speed of the McLaren Mercedes around here? Its always been a great circuit for the McLaren team.
FA: Yeah, it is. I think the whole weekend has been quite good for us. Even this morning, in wet conditions, the car seemed to be competitive, and we are at the top always, and yeah, I think qualifying has been very good and to be on pole position here in Monaco, as last year as well, is very very important, as we know on this circuit. And to have the first pole position this year for McLaren Mercedes is also special, so Im really happy. I hope I will enjoy it all day today.
Q: Lewis, as we say, a clean sweep for the McLaren Mercedes team. It looked as if you were held up by Mark Webber going through the tunnel.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, I had a fantastic qualifying, I think. It was quite exciting, and then it started to rain in the middle part of the session. I think I was P1 at the time and I was hoping it would continue to rain, but unfortunately it didnt. It was a bit of a gamble, a bit of a lottery really. I called in and said lets come into the pits on this lap just in case it rains towards the end. The lap was fantastic, it was really on the limit. I think I touched one of the barriers on the exit of turn four and I was three tenths up on my previous best, and then I got held up by Webber. He was on an out lap. I dont know whether he saw me or what but he didnt let me past until turn eight, so I lost half a second behind him. I still managed to pull it back. I was only a tenth off my previous lap but still the tyres were gone and that was that.
Q: Lewis, youve won three times here before, twice in Formula Three, once in GP2. It just looks as if you love driving a Formula One car around here.
LH: I do, I do. Its an awesome track, its my favourite and just knowing that youre brushing the barriers all the time, that theres no room for error. Its extremely quick, you wouldnt believe how quick were going round here, 180 miles an hour between theres not really much room there. And to me, for my first Grand Prix, Im really happy to be second. Its good for the team and I think Fernando did a great job, but I think tomorrow is going to be interesting.
Q: Felipe, P3 for you and an interesting moment in Q2 when your team-mate Kimi Räikkönen seemed to stop in a familiar place for Ferrari, and you almost hit him, for the outside, anyway.
Felipe Massa: Yeah. I just saw the yellow flags but I didnt expect somebody to be stopped in the middle of the track, and so it was a little bit of a moment. I just managed to pass by without touching. Apart from that, the qualifying was not so bad, so looking at the pace of McLaren in practice, in the sessions, in Q1, Q2, I think in the end I managed to do a good lap. The race in Monaco is always special, there are always some surprises, so hopefully we can have a good race tomorrow, try to score as many points as possible and hopefully be on the podium.
Q: What were the conditions like from your point of view in terms of potential rain, any rain drops falling, and indeed, the traffic?
FM: Well, the conditions today were pretty difficult. Tomorrow we have the possibility of having some showers, maybe even in the race, so if we have that, it will really be a big lottery and it will be a little bit of a funny race but hopefully we stop in the pits to change tyres at the right moment, to do everything in the right way. The race is pretty long as well, so concentration will be very important. Hopefully we can put everything together tomorrow.
Q: Returning to Fernando, your final thoughts on tomorrow, particularly as McLaren is the most successful team ever around Monaco. I guess its going to be interesting from your point of view to see when Ferrari stop for fuel.
FA: I think its always very special to be on pole in Monaco, but also to be as long as you can in terms of fuel loads, so you need to find a compromise and we will see tomorrow how our competitors found the perfect strategy and hopefully our strategy will be better. But you never know. I think with very interesting weather conditions as well, its a very unexpected race probably.
Q: When you look back to last year, on pole then, and victory followed the day after; you must already be a little optimistic.
FA: I think we need to wait. I think this year is a little more special, regarding the weather conditions which are not 100 percent sure, either wet or dry, so I think it could be a very difficult race, and a little bit like a lottery for everybody. So I think even starting from pole position, we have to be calm in tomorrows race and wait and see, because the race will be very long. I also think that the cars are a little bit more difficult to drive this year with these tyres, especially under braking. We saw a lot of people going off on Thursday and the level of concentration will also be extremely high. The race is so long that even pole position will probably mean nothing.
Q: Are you expecting rain tomorrow?
FA: I dont know. The team said four different things in one hour, so I think everybody is so confused, the weather is changing so quickly, so I think until tomorrow at one oclock we will not have a perfect prediction.
Q: What was it like in the wet conditions this morning?
FA: It was very very difficult. I think all the white lines are very very slippery. There is no possibility to avoid them because they are all around the lap. Also the kerbs are very slippery as well, as normal, and here its quite tight, the circuit is very narrow, so if you cannot touch the white lines, and you cannot touch the kerbs, theres not much space to put the car. I think it was difficult for everybody.
Q: I hope pole position means something
FA: It means something but 78 laps tomorrow, we cannot forget the points are Sunday afternoon, not Saturday.
Q: Lewis, very interesting time on your very first lap when in theory youve got a race fuel load which was only 0.2s slower than your fastest time in the first session. Does that tell us about your fuel strategy?
LH: I dont think so. You can take what you want from it, but it definitely doesnt mean anything about my fuel load. I think we were just extremely quick and I felt great in the car. I thought it was almost exactly the same time as I did at the end, I thought I did 1m15.9s on heavy fuel. I think thats what I qualified second with. It was good, a good lap, but at the end it was a really exciting qualifying session. I think we did a very good job. I thought the team was quite accurate with the weather conditions; they said it was going to rain when it rained, and mid-part of the last run, it started to spit. I was on a good lap and I was fortunate to finish it but then we couldnt push for the rest of the laps. We came in, got the tyres on, and started the lap and it was good. I was three and a half tenths up by turn four and then I caught Mark Webber and I lost half a second behind him but still managed to do exactly the same time. Im really happy with it, its good for the team and I think it will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow.
Q: You seemed to have a drama at the hairpin - Portier; was that Webber-induced?
LH: Yeah, well I caught him through turn four and I dont know whether he didnt see me or what. In the drivers briefing, he was saying they need to be hard on us for holding people up and he came out and held me up. But I think it was the same for everyone. It doesnt really affect me, I still got second. Thats good.
Q: Felipe, disappointed or pleased with third?
FM: Pleased because I did a good lap, so I think it was a good position, looking at McLarens pace. I think it was a good lap, I tried the best I could, so I think starting third is not a bad result, looking that the race here in Monaco is always very special. I think Im definitely not disappointed. Im confident, looking forward to the race tomorrow, and trying to finish the race with as many points as I can, looking at the championship.
Q: Were you held up by traffic at all? You were having a word with Kubica at the end.
FM: I dont think it was me. I had traffic, but only on my first run, which was Lewis but then when I did my best lap, I didnt have any traffic, so it was a very clean lap, so it was pretty OK, no particular problem.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Sal Zanca Associated Press) Fernando, what kind of race would you like a dry, sunny and straightforward one or a tricky one with a chance to show how good you are?
FA: I would prefer a sunny race and a completely dry race. It is already special and a lottery at Monaco always, especially this year with the new Safety Car rule that can be a drama tomorrow for everybody, so I think starting from that problem even if you had a wet track, it would be a very difficult race and starting from pole a normal race is better for me and would mean more points for sure.
Q: (Rodrigo Franca Racing Magazine) You three said Monaco is special because of everything. Ayrton Senna was remembered just yesterday and I would like you all to say something about him
FA: I say always the same because for me in Spain it was not possible for me to watch Formula One because it was not on television when I was a kid, but some of the news that was coming to Spain after the Formula One races (made it possible that) I was able to see Senna winning races because it was 88 and 89 the good years of Senna and McLaren. I always remember that white and red car and the yellow helmet of him. He was my favourite driver even if I did not see him on TV because he was in the news.
LH: Ayrton was my favourite driver and when I first started watching Formula One it was the red and white car at the front and as a little boy I was always dreaming of driving that car and I am driving it now and, so, you know, when you come to Monaco I have lots of memories of watching him win here and when he lost a race when he crashed and I was definitely emotional when he passed away, but still it is great to be racing here and to be doing as well as he always did when he was racing.
FM: I was a big fan of his and all of us. He was particular here in this race he was a kind of king of Monaco and it would be nice to have him here just for five minutes to ask him what he was doing here just to help me a little bit!
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) Felipe, was there any way you could have got pole position, maybe with some strategies, or were McLaren just too fast?
FM: I dont know. The strategy we will know tomorrow. So after the race maybe I will tell you if it was possible to use a different strategy to take pole position. But in the end maybe the pole position is not everything and the race is the most important thing. We have a reasonable good strategy we will know that tomorrow and I think I did a good lap as well, but I think pole position today was a bit difficult.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) For Alonso and Lewis, you are first and second on the grid and in the championship. All the drivers this year who led through the first corner went on to win the race. Will you talk to each other about the start?
FA: The team will say to us something I think. We respect each other obviously and want the best for the other one, inside the team, and we want to beat our opponent that this year seems to be Ferrari and starting first and second at Monaco what we aim is to finish first and second because it is the most points and apart from that I dont think there are any problems between us and it should be just a normal race.
LH: I agree. The team will speak to us before, but we are professional. We respect each other and we are team-mates and we want to do a good job for the team, but we also want to win and we will go into that first corner probably not as aggressively as we would if we were going into it with a Ferrari. But we are going to be conservative and see what happens. We are on different fuel strategies, similar pace. So well have to see how it goes. It is going to be difficult tomorrow with the conditions and also you never know when the pace car is going to come out. Well see.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, did you feel extra pressure as the only Ferrari driver fighting for pole?
FM: No, usually, we drive alone. We dont drive with two drivers. We have our own cars and we drive alone. So it didnt mean anything to me.
Q: (Frédéric Ferret LEquipe) Lewis and Fernando, how is the pace of the McLaren in the long runs?
LH: I think we have seen in the past the Ferraris have been extremely very quick, but I think if you look at it we have been the quickest this weekend. I think we have a great car, the best car, and I think on Thursday we had a very good long run, very consistent, so I have no worries going into the race.
Q: (Stéphane Barbé LEquipe) Fernando, at the end of the day, are you able or not to know the fuel strategy of your opponent?
FA: Not really. We try to analyse the whole weekend all the times of everybody and estimate what fuel load they can run. But it is not so easy and not so precise. Especially here in Monaco you can go up and down two-tenths very easily with a kerb you touch in a bad way. So this weekend our estimation will not be very important. We just need to do our (own) race and hope it will be better than the others.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi had a bad day. Do you think this will have an affect in the championship?
FA: Well, there are 17 races and we saw, unfortunately, in the last two years, that after having a big gap in the middle of the season, it can disappear in the end. If you do a good last part of the championship, you can win, as Michael did last year he was 25 points behind me after Canada and then equal in Japan after six or seven races. So I think even if you lose points now, it is not over. You can do a good recovery in the last part. But it is so tight and close between Ferrari and McLaren this year that any mechanical problem that you have with your car is costing you a lot of points unfortunately.
LH: Sorry, I was in a daze there I didnt know if that question was for me! I think it was unfortunate but I dont really know what happened to him. I thought he spun and I got held up by Felipe. He had to stop and I had to stop on one lap, but I think it is difficult for him at the moment. Obviously, Felipe is doing a better job and whether he is being more fortunate or what I am not sure. But he is doing a good job. As Fernando said it is a long season and there is a long way to go so he has time to catch up if he needs to.
FM: I agree with what Fernando said. He said everything. The only thing is that he had a bad qualifying, but if it is raining maybe he can have a good race tomorrow even starting from the back. You never know. The races here can be very different. But it is also true that there are many races to go. It is important also to be consistent, every race, but there is nothing finished yet. You can recover. Maybe one of us can have a bad day tomorrow. I had already my bad day in qualifying at the first race.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Lewis, are you happy to curb your natural instincts at the start of the race tomorrow?
LH: Yes, I think you have to run on your natural instincts and see how the start goes. If I get a better start and it looks like I can pass, then I probably will, but I wont do anything silly to risk pushing both of us out of the race. It is a long, long race and I think I feel good about our strategies and I feel we can come away with a one-two. So, it is important we are sensible.
Q: (Malcolm Folley The Mail on Sunday) Lewis, have you had a chance to put into perspective what starting the Monaco Grand Prix from the front row of the grid will feel like?
LH: I think it is going to be, well Driving this track, every year, is just something special for me. To come here and to drive for a team I always wanted to drive for in my first Grand Prix here, its a very, very special moment for me. Tomorrow, we just want to finish the race in the points, continue the way we have been going this season. It will be amazing to be sitting at the front there.