FIA post-qualifying press conference - Hungary 04 Aug 2007
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Fernando Alonso (McLaren), 1m19.674s; 2nd Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1m19.781s; 3rd Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber), 1m20.259s.
Q: Fernando, a very different sort of qualifying session, first of all you were on the harder tyre compared with your team-mate and also those rather strange delays before you went out for both runs. Was that your decision? Or the team holding you back?
Fernando Alonso: The team held me back in this. We try to keep a little bit of space, the Ferrari is two spaces in front of us and the prime tyre was for us the best tyre, so we used the option for Q1 and Q2 and then for Q3 we had the prime tyres. It seems like the option is not working very well this weekend, so even for qualifying it is struggling a little bit to complete the lap, at least in my case, so you know, I choose the prime tyre for the afternoon.
Q: And also a bit of a delay given that the seconds count down with the front right tyre warmer at the beginning of your first run.
FA: Yes, I think the blanket of the tyre had a problem and it stayed inside the wheel, between the wheel and the car and you know, a little bit delayed there. The mechanics pushed very hard at the blanket and I dont know if it breaks or whatever, but the car was fine.
Q: The MP4-22 looks very good at the Hungaroring. Quick on the corners obviously but also good in terms of top speed.
FA: Yes, absolutely. I think we have been very competitive all weekend. From the first session to now in qualifying the car has performed really well here. The last couple of Grands Prix we didnt have the opportunity to beat the Ferraris in dry conditions, in normal conditions, and here I think we have a chance. So I think we can make it tomorrow if we have a good race, I think the performance is there.
Q: Lewis, a frustrating qualifying session I would suggest. You seemed to be very quick throughout the afternoon. Tell us about those seconds when you were stacked up behind Fernando there.
Lewis Hamilton: Not really much to say, you saw what happened. I think Ive been very quick today which is good. We have made improvements over the weekend, the team has done a fantastic job as always to get the car cooled down, so we were first out into Q3 and yeah, we had very good pace.
Q: And you preferred the softer of the two tyres?
LH: I did yes, just obviously from testing yesterday and this morning. We obviously went in Q1 with the harder tyre and on Q2 with the softer and that was the preferred choice. We believe that that was the best option for us.
Q: And were you aware of the reason, what was holding Fernando up there in front of you?
LH: Er, no. I think you should ask the team that.
Q: Lewis, obviously an all-McLaren front row, it is going to be an interesting race tomorrow, you have had a trouble-free qualifying, how do you see your first Hungarian Grand Prix?
LH: Well, it is just good to get through, good to get here and be back on top and to get through qualifying. The team have had a hard weekend at the last race and obviously they are extremely motivated for this week. The team back at the factory have worked really hard to improve the car and as you can see the results are showing, so going into tomorrows race I feel very optimistic and I think we have got a great strategy.
Q: And just to finish, you didnt get in a second quick lap. By how much time did you miss getting in a second quick lap?
LH: I would think by the same amount of time that I was held up in the pit stop.
Q: Nick, congratulations to you, your third position in qualifying of the season. Yet another underlining of the speed of the BMW Sauber team. It doesnt look to have been a particularly easy weekend for you so far though.
Nick Heidfeld: No, the weekend hasnt been easy, I think for similar reasons as for other teams. I didnt know what tyres to choose, in the end I decided to stay on the prime. Initially, it was planned to stay on the option and actually that was all because it was hard to make the tyres last for a lap.
Q: And how do you see the race tomorrow in terms of what is obviously quite an interesting tyre situation?
NH: Well, our plan at the beginning of the season was to get onto the podium, we managed that once this year and I think this weekend here is another good chance. Obviously, we are the third strongest team meaning that both the Ferrari cars are still behind. It is going to be difficult with Kimi behind but I guess that the Ferraris are not as strong as lately, so I hope that I can for sure stay ahead of Felipe.
Q: Fernando, returning to you finally. Obviously a big mixture in terms of tyre choice and tyre performance. How much of a factor is that going to be in race strategy and how the race turns out?
FA: It will be, I think, the same for everybody. There are no secrets this weekend, I think the option tyre is a little bit marginal, a little bit optimistic. I think everybody will try to use the right strategy depending on when you put this soft tyre in the race. It is the same for everybody. I think tomorrow will be very interesting to see what everybody is doing.
Q: Fernando, surprisingly it is only your second pole position this year.
FA: Yeah, many times on the front row but this time it is a little bit better. Qualifying is always difficult especially with the fuel loads, strategies and so on. So you never know until tomorrow, first stop probably. You need to see how good the qualifying lap was. Sometimes it was good sometimes, not so good.
Q: Personal best on the first sector, best overall on the second sector but not quite so good on the final sector on that fast lap.
FA: Yeah, I had a moment in turn 12. I braked a little bit too late and I missed the corner, so I lost a little bit of time in turn 12 and the first sector was a little bit slower than the previous lap.
Q: Can we just be absolutely certain about the instructions you were given by the team to wait. Because of course it cost Lewis another lap.
FA: Yes. First and second stop normally we have someone timing the gaps and we use the pit stops to time our gap onto the track and thats all. The first time they told me to go but I had the blanket in the tyres, so we lost a little bit there. The second time we didnt lose anything.
Q: Lewis, lets just say you must have been very frustrated.
LH: No, not really. I knew I had the pace, so Im fairly confident.
Q: Second on the grid, is that a great disadvantage here?
LH: I dont think so. There is a long haul down to the first corner and you see the starts are quite good for us at the moment, so we should be in a good position.
Q: How much of a difference was there between the two sets of tyres?
LH: There was Well, obviously yesterday we found that the softer compound was graining a lot and we didnt think that it would last a lap, so that is probably why Fernando went for the harder compound. But I thought I was able to keep the tyre working until the end of the lap, so I chose to use that one.
Q: How is that going to look for the race then?
LH: It is going to be tough. Out of all the tyres we have used for the circuits it is going to be graining a lot more here. You saw yesterday that a lot of our tyres were virtually bald after ten laps or fifteen laps. So it is going to be interesting, who can manage them best but as I said, I feel fine about it.
Q: Nick, obviously you were happy with the softer option, yes?
NH: No, we had to choose the harder tyres. I found it very difficult, I didnt know which one to choose I thought the softer one would be quicker. And then the first qualifying period I went on the prime. The car felt quite good, the balance wasnt too bad, so I changed plans and stayed on prime.
Q: Are you still suffering understeer basically with the softer ones as well?
NH: Not only with the softer ones. Even with the harder tyres you have to manage them quite well and yes, with the option, it is a big problem.
Q: So the potential is a very tough race tomorrow on either tyre.
NH: No, I think on the prime it is going to be fine, it is not going to be an issue. But I think you have to try and make the option work. That is going to be the big problem tomorrow.
Q: And the chances of a podium?
NH: I think we have a good chance definitely. I mean we are starting third, obviously the Ferraris are normally a bit quicker than us but here I think they are not as strong as they have been in the last couple of races. On top of that Felipe starts quite far back, so we will do everything to get our next podium.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber Agencia EFE) Fernando, winning here tomorrow would be a double victory for you, that would mean you are leading the championship. What are your impressions and what are your chances for tomorrow?
FA: It is a bit early to say. Tomorrow the race is very long and you never know what is going to happen. We have 70 laps in front of us with many possibilities of strategies, especially with this option tyre that is a little bit of a problem for everybody. When you use the tyre etc. will change the result of the race, so it is very early to say. I will do my best. For sure the championship is the main goal but not tomorrow afternoon. Brazil will be the important race to be leading there. Tomorrow I will do my best and try to finish with the maximum points possible. Consistency would be the best thing to do between here and the last race.
Q: (Anne Giuntini LEquipe) To Fernando, dont you feel that tomorrow there might be another blanket blocked when you pit stop?
FA: I hope not but we will see tomorrow.
Q: (Tony Dodgins - Autosport) Lewis, you say you werent frustrated there but notoriously here the even grid slots are slower away. Nicks car makes some pretty ballistic starts, so it is not unfair to say that could cost you a shot at the race.
LH: I think that is not a good way to look at it. Obviously on the inside is the dirty side of the grid. It is probably better to be first or third, so yes, they do have an advantage on that side but you know I will try to lay some rubber and clean that spot and just do the best job I can. As I said it is a long haul down to the first corner and well see what happens at the first corner, so
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Lewis, while you were waiting was there anything said to you on the team radio and if not was anything said to you since you came up here?
LH: Nothing was said to me on the radio. I was obviously told on the way in that Fernando was doing his stop and I should obviously back off, so I dont end up having to queue and so I did. So I probably saved quite a bit of time coming round the last corner and going into the pits and for some reason he was just held there.
Q: (Bob McKenzie The Daily Express) Actually that is what I was going to ask. Can you tell us Fernando why you did sit in the pits for so long? What was it?
LH: Your guess is as good as mine.
Q: Er, it was for Fernando.
LH: Oh, really sorry.
FA: Yeah, as I said before I think you can ask the team this question. You know I am always monitoring the pit stop by the radio and they do the calculations. They find the gaps and I just drive the car.
Q: (Bob McKenzie The Daily Express) Were you ready to go?
FA: I am always ready to go. As soon as they put on the tyres I go where I have to go.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber Agencia EFE) Fernando, yesterday you said you didnt care if it was raining or if its dry. Right now starting from pole would you rather have a dry race or dont you care?
FA: Same thing as yesterday I guess. Starting from pole is always better than starting at the back but if it rains it will be ok and if it is dry it will be ok as well. I think we are competitive in dry conditions at this circuit and we are competitive in wet conditions regarding the experience we had this year in wet conditions and regarding this race as well. I think we have a big chance to win this race in wet conditions, so it is not a big factor at the moment.
Q: (Ralf Bach R & B) Fernando, did Ron congratulate you on your pole position?
Q: (Anne Giuntini LEquipe) Fernando, we thought you had maybe a cramp because Ron went directly to your physio after qualifying. You didnt have a cramp or something?
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Lewis, after the Monaco Grand Prix you famously said you had a number two car and you were a number two driver. Do you feel that this is another instance of that?
LH: As I said, I really dont understand why I was held back, so I guess you should ask the team and I definitely will do when I go back and do the debrief. So I cant really comment on that. I think the team have been extremely fair since Monaco, so I cant really put that on them. They work extremely hard and Ive got so much belief in the team that I wouldnt believe they would do that.
Q: (Carlos Miquel Diario AS) We have a question for Fernando. With the blanket, the extra lap goes to Hamilton, no?
FA: No, I think there was no time to do an extra fuel burning lap for both drivers, so you know when I had my first pit stop I knew already that it was not possible. So we pitted one lap earlier to strip the first set of tyres. So at that point to have the blanket problem and lose another ten seconds or any more was not really an important thing for the extra lap, we cancelled it already.
Q: (Michael Schmidt Auto Motor und Sport) Fernando, at the first stop before the blanket problems started you seemed to wait very long and have a discussion with the pit wall. What happened there?
FA: No, we changed the front wing, because I had a little bit too much understeer in my car in the burning fuel lap. So we tried to adjust the car and as I said because we started at the front of the grid at the end of the pit lane. We were doing not the extra fuel burning lap, so I had the extra 45 seconds in the pit stop waiting.
Q: (Andrew Frankl - Forza) Two weeks ago at the Nurburgring it was amateur theatrics at the tyre change, today they couldnt get the tyre warmer off. Is all the political pressure getting to the team members do you think? Because it really looks like Formula Three or Formula Ford.
LH: No, I dont think you should really be so hard on the team. They do what they are told and I think that is an important thing. They do what they are told. I doubt very much that there was a problem with the tyre blanket because it is quite easy to pull off. The team, as I have said, always do a fantastic job, my group of guys do a great job and during the races they just put so much work in. I dont think people really give them the amount of respect and appreciation they deserve.
Q: (Simon Arron Motorsport News) Lewis, we have had four weeks of Stepney-Gate and we have now had half an hour of pitlane-gate. How do you blank out all the political machinations and focus on the main job?
LH: I guess that is a skill that I have developed over the years. Its what I said from day one, I enjoy it, I love the job. This is something that Ive always wanted to do and I still enjoy it. I get in the car and I always have a smile on my face. It is easy for me to overcome any problems I have in the team or outside of the car and get in and do my job the best way I can.
Q: (Peter Windsor Speed TV) Lewis, a few minutes ago you said I dont know why the team held me up, you need to ask them. But in fact Fernando said the team held him up. Was that a Freudian slip or do you think that the team actually held you up?
LH: No, as Fernando said, he was told to stop and wait. His wheels were on, his blankets were off and he was told to wait. I imagine that I probably lost half-a-minute I would say from my in-lap coming in to waiting behind Fernando. At least 30 seconds, so it definitely needs a good explanation.
Q: (Peter Windsor Speed TV) Fernando, has that ever happened before where the team has held you up to get a gap?
FA: Every qualifying. We stop and we wait, sometimes ten seconds, sometimes five, sometimes 45, as with the first stop today.
Q: (Ed Gorman The Times) Lewis, would you say you are more angry about this than you were about what happened in Monaco?
LH: As I said you can see Im not angry. Im curious to know what has gone on and I find it quite interesting and amusing. But the good thing is that we had the pace. We did a great job we have got a great car. I was very, very comfortable and I am very comfortable with my strategy for tomorrow, so I am not really mad to be honest.