FIA post-race press conference - Italy 09 Sep 2007
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
1st Fernando Alonso (McLaren), 1h18m37.806s; 2nd Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1h18m43.868s; 3rd Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), 1h19m05.131s.
Q: Fernando, not much luck at Monza in the past, but from pole, you set fastest lap and won the Italian Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso: Ah yes, absolutely, a perfect weekend for me. Sometimes everything seems to go in the right direction and you feel good and you need to keep up the momentum. All weekend has been good for me. Sometimes I have started well here in Monza but I always had some problems in the race, and I always missed the victory and the win here so to win here in Monza for the first time is a very very special win.
Q: And it looked like a dominating win for you; what was it like from inside the cockpit, any nasty moments?
FA: No, everything was OK. Maybe just the start was not fantastic, I felt, so I looked in the mirror immediately after the start and I saw Felipe behind me, so for a moment I thought that I would have to defend myself in the first corner so I really braked late, but then in the second corner I saw I think Lewis on the left part, and I was a little bit worried that maybe we could touch each other.
Q: And at the restart Lewis was pretty close to you going into turn one.
FA: Yeah, again that was a little bit difficult because here you take the slipstream very easy and I didnt know how to avoid that. Its normal here in Monza. That first safety car didnt help either because the group was together on lap six or seven and we knew that we had to open up a gap before Kimis stop and obviously with seven laps after the safety car the gap was not big enough,.
Q: What does it mean to you personally to win here on Ferrari territory on what is an emotional weekend for McLaren? We saw your team principal Ron Dennis looking quite emotional on the podium.
FA: Its very special, I think. All the wins are special but over the last two or three years, there are some circuits where I won more than one time or one time, and Monza is one of the circuits where I never won before, so I wanted to achieve that, try to make at least one win on all the circuits and to win in Monza, the first time, with all the people here maybe they are Ferrari fans, but on top of that they are Formula One fans and they are very emotional. They love Formula One in Italy, so its great to win here.
Q: Lewis, interesting first corner, going in there with Felipe Massa, round the outside and then a bit of a tap as you were just about to approach the apex.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, I obviously didnt the best getaway being on the dirty side of the grid, and saw Felipe shoot past. But I outbraked both of them, Fernando and Felipe, and I was very close to take Fernando as well but Felipe clipped me and sent me over the second part of the chicane, so I lost that opportunity. And then I had a second opportunity at the restart but Fernando did a great job to make sure he pulled a good enough gap on the exit of turn eleven the last corner and there was nothing I could do about it. I got to the middle stint and I had flat-spotted my tyres, my front tyres, and I had some vibration, so I opted to pit even earlier than my pit stop, basically because I wasnt sure that that vibration wasnt going to be something like (what happened in) Turkey, so I thought I would play it safe and just bag the points.
Q: And of course a great pass with Kimi, a great race with Kimi in the latter phase of the race as well.
LH: Yeah, well we came out and I knew that Kimi pitting a bit earlier, I knew that Kimi would pass me and the key was just to try and optimise my pit entry, my pit exit and my out and in laps and I came out and I thought, shoot, Kimi is too far ahead. I probably had two laps maximum out of the tyres before they would go off and he was on the harder tyre which was a little bit better but I managed to pull out a couple of really good laps, the tyres were great and the car felt good as well. I had an opportunity and I had to make sure I stuck it in there and got it, and also I just wanted to do it for the team. I know how hard theyve been working and this weekend weve got the one-two in qualifying and to get it in the race would have just put the icing on the cake, so a great job by the team back at home, mega-improvement and I hope we can continue with this form.
Q: Kimi, that looked like a hard race for you. How much of it was affected by your accident yesterday in terms of your slightly stiff neck, and how was the performance of the car?
Kimi Raikkonen: The car wasnt too bad actually. In the first stint it was pretty OK. OK, we were heavier than the McLarens, so we knew that they would pull away. We tried to keep close enough but actually we were not quick enough today, but probably the biggest problem for me was that I couldnt keep my head upright any more under braking, so my neck is not in such good shape after yesterday. That was the main issue. But we just didnt have the speed today. Thats how it goes.
Q: We could see from the replays that you appeared to be looking forward in the cockpit as Lewis was coming down inside you into the first chicane.
KR: Yeah, the problem wasnt under braking. It was a bit hard to keep the head up. It didnt help, for sure. After when he passed me, first of all I couldnt have a good exit on any lap out of the last corner, and I knew they were very quick in there and on the straight. I tried to do my best but then he got too close and got past me, so after that I just slowed down and drove to the finish of the race.
Q: Surprising for Ferrari after their one-two in Turkey for things to be changing so quickly here at Monza.
KR: Probably this is a bit more like Montreal. We knew that McLaren would be fast here, very strong, so we knew from last weeks test that we were not where we wanted to be. For sure they were strong here, stronger than us but I think once we go back to Spa it should level out a little bit. Then it will probably be closer again. But of course we wanted to win our home race but we couldnt do that, but we still got a podium, lost some points to McLaren but they were just better today.
Q: Fernando, not much time to enjoy this race; onto the Belgian Grand Prix next weekend, but the gap between you and Lewis is now down to three points. A big win for the McLaren team here; how do you see that continuing next weekend?
FA: We will see. I think we have to see how the car performs in Belgium. As you said, now there are a lot of changes between one race and the next, as we saw in Turkey. Ferrari were very dominant. In Monza, McLaren is very dominant. So in Belgium, first of all we have to see how the cars perform but for sure the main thing is the championship: try to win Drivers and Constructors championship and to do that, you need to win races. So approaching the next race, the goal is to win again.
Q: Fernando, that looked a perfect afternoon.
FA: Yes, it was. No worries with the car, everything was working perfectly, all through the race, in all the stints, all the tyres, so everything was very good today and this afternoon you just have fun driving the car because the rest is going very well.
Q: And now just three points behind Lewis in the championship.
FA: Yes but nothing changes really. Its only two points (difference) even if you win the race, so the distance is more or less the same, and the gap is more or less the same. Nothing was decided before the race, nothing is decided after the race and I think it will stay like that until the last race. But thats not the important thing. For me, personally, after Turkey, I know that I also closed the gap in the championship by two points but I was not totally happy with the weekend. I made a very bad start and then when I managed to overtake the BMW, I was not able to be quick enough to pressure the people on the podium. I really arrived here very focused and I want to make five finals, from here to the end, and I will go for it.
Q: You must be pleased with the outcome of your new approach to the weekend.
FA: Yes, but sometimes you make all the effort you can and things go wrong, for whatever reason: you have a puncture, you have a gearbox problem or whatever, either in qualifying or the race, and there is always a compromise after you have anything like that, so Im happy but I know that there will be some more difficult weekends. What cannot change is my level of concentration and my level of push for this championship.
Q: Lewis, tell us about the overtaking manoeuvre with Kimi?
LH: I thought it was fairly straightforward. I was fortunate to be out on new tyres, and Kimi was on the harder compound but obviously had done quite a lot of laps on heavy fuel, so I knew that I had probably a maximum of two laps to get past him. I closed the gap after the first lap and made sure I optimised my exit from the last corner. I was surprised that the slipstream wasnt as much as normally I would have thought I would have passed him before the first corner, but I had to actually do it on the brakes. But nevertheless, it was quite close. He closed the door, it was very fair. I didnt think I was going to make the corner but somehow I did and obviously it was a very very important point in the race. I needed those points, so Im very very happy with it.
Q: You spoke a moment ago about vibration on your first set of tyres. Once you came in, did the vibration go?
Q: In the last stint you seemed to drop back from behind Fernando, were you just taking it easy?
LH: I was ten seconds behind and I know that when I was a couple of seconds behind him, I couldnt catch him so I pushed for the first couple of laps, I didnt particularly know how many laps I had left but I was pushing and I when I saw Fernando ahead of me, he was very fortunate with traffic, he would always catch them just before turn eleven and get past. I would catch them in the wrong place and have to lose half a second. But thats the way it goes. I think at the end we just needed to make sure we brought it home. Id done the job, wed both done really well to get both cars at the front and it was important we brought it home.
Q: Was there much difference between the hard and softer tyre?
LH: Its always different. In the test, there was a lot more graining on the softer tyres. Here, there was a lot less graining on the softer tyres but more chunking or blisters. But the tyres felt great, especially the options but it was a very short stint and as Ive seen, there were already blisters on them, so probably not good to do a long stint on them.
Q: Well Kimi, you did a long stint on the softer tyres and seemed to do a very good job, particularly with a heavy fuel load.
KR: Yeah, the car was working pretty well, not ideal but it was not too bad actually. The first stint was probably better than the second stint. There was no problem with the tyres.
Q: Would you do a one stop again or do you think a two stop would have been better?
KR: I dont know. I dont think it would have made much difference for our final position. We were not quick enough in the end, so we couldnt really do better. That was the main problem.
Q: And when Lewis came out of the pits behind you, did you think second place or was it just a matter of time before he got you?
KR: I knew that they were going to be fast on new tyres. I had some other problems to deal with at that time and I tried but for sure I was expecting him to try to get past me. I did my best but it just wasnt good enough.
Q: When we spoke on the drivers parade, you said you had a stiff neck but you werent certain it was going to affect you in the race, or were you? Or did you fear it might?
KR: No, I already felt it yesterday in qualifying, so I pretty much expected it to be good fun in the race, but it turned out to be a bit worse than I expected.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) For Fernando and Lewis, given all that is going on around McLaren this season, and is still going on, what would it mean to you to win the world title?
FA: Any driver wants to be world champion and when we started in Australia 22 drivers wanted to achieve that and after two or three races you can see that maybe just two teams, or a maximum three teams, can make a driver champion because you need the car, the package, you need everything with you. We are extremely lucky to be in this position to have such a fast car and it means a lot to become world champion, but, at least for me, it is not special if around the team there are problems. For me, it doesnt matter that because in the end it is good to be the drivers world champion and the constructors (championship) or whatever, from a drivers point of view, it is not really a big factor.
LH: For me, I think, as you can imagine, it probably means quite a lot more than it would to any other driver because it is my rookie year and definitely I didnt expect to be challenging for the world championship, or leading it, and with all the things that have gone on, for sure, it would have been a much better year to have had no problems, but thats the way it is it would be great to win the constructors championship and the drivers championship, just to show that even still with all those problems and issues nothing can bring us down and we are unstoppable and that is a great point.
Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) Kimi, was this physically the most painful race for you?
KR: This year, probably yes. Not because of the circuit, but because of the problem yesterday.
Q: (Takeharu Kusuda Lapita) The circuit for the Japanese Grand Prix has changed from Suzuka to Fuji. Lewis and Fernando, do you have confidence for this new circuit in Japan?
FA: I think we are all in the same position. Nobody knows anything about Fuji. Probably some people made some laps there for exhibition or something like that. I did last year, for Renault, in a two-seater, with passengers, in Fuji. The circuit will be challenging in terms of set-up, as it is a very slow circuit and has a very long straight, so the level of down-force will be compromised for the sector in which you want to be quick. Its the same for everybody, so after Fridays session and the laps we do now under the new rules more than 50 or 60 laps on Friday will be enough to learn the circuit.
LH: I have never even seen the track and I was a bit disappointed because I finally got to Formula One, and Suzuka had always been my favourite circuit, watching F1, and I heard it was quite spectacular, even better than Spa, so I was looking forward to doing that, but they changed it and Ive never seen Fuji, so Ive no idea which way it goes or where the first corner is but everybody is in the same boat, so it should be quite exciting for all of us.
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) Kimi, four races to go and you are still 18 points behind Lewis and 15 behind Fernando do you still see a realistic chance?
KR: Yes of course, we still have a chance. It is not going to be easy because we lost some points again but you never know what is going to happen in the next races, so we keep pushing as long as we have a chance and then we see.
Q: (Matt Dickinson The Times) Lewis and Fernando, with everything that is going on, and is ahead this week, how confident can you be that the championship will be decided on the track?
FA: I have nothing to say. Next Thursday we all will know more about (this) ... in four days, I will wait to answer anything.
LH: Me, I am pretty confident. I am not worried about next week. I just have a lot of belief in the team and I have no worries whatsoever. Then we shall see the championship go down to the wire I am sure and perhaps in the last race you will see who comes out first.
Q: (Ed Gorman The Times) Lewis, we have heard from Fernando about how he is approaching the last few races. We have seen him eating into your lead with each of the last few Grands Prix. How are you coping with the pressure? Are you feeling the pressure of being hunted down?
LH: Not particularly. Aside from the point that he has done a fantastic job in the last two races, I have had a couple of unfortunate mishaps with my tyres and this weekend Fernando had the pace on me, but the last race I was quicker all weekend. So, each race is a little bit different. The last two races he has finished ahead of me. But I think if you look back to the beginning of the season, if I had said we were to be equal in out-qualifying each other and finishing ahead of one another, I would have said get out of here you know! But I am not worried about it. I have been in many situations like this before and there are still four races to go and the fight is still on.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Fernando, why doesnt winning the teams title mean as much to you as it does to Lewis? Surely the hundreds of people in the team want to hear you say that it means a lot?
FA: Of course, I have won two drivers titles and two constructors championships, so I know how the people enjoy winning the constructors championship, but I have said all my life you know that for me as a driver I put 10 points, from zero to 10, to win the drivers world championship and to win the constructors championship is eight points. It is not the same to me. I enjoy every point that we do on the track, for us, for the team, and we are leading quite comfortably the constructors championship and if everything goes on like this we will achieve that and I will be happy for the team, but I still prefer to win the drivers (championship).
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) For Alonso, all your victories in Formula One, after crossing the finish line, you took the car to the right side to the pit wall of the team. This time you didnt do that. Why?
FA: We were too fast here in Monza and if you go too close to them, then there is too much air coming to them. (Laughter). It is more dangerous here than in any (other) place.
Q: (Dieter Rencken The Citizen) For the two McLaren drivers, its been a long time since two front-running teams chose such totally different strategies. Did you people consider a one-stopper at all? And at what stage did you become aware that Kimi was on a one-stopper?
LH: We knew going into qualifying Well, we didnt expect to be half a second quicker than everyone, but the key was to put both cars on the front row, but ideally we could have put another 10 or 15 kilos in easily and still qualified on the front row and that would have enabled us to go on a possible one-stop. But with the graining and the blistering of the tyres that made us a little bit nervous because especially in the last race we had that problem and here in testing we had blistering and so if you are out in front and you can pull away from the pack then a two stop was a good choice, but then we already knew, we could tell that Kimi would probably be on a one stop, by his time, obviously, in qualifying, and by his pace during the weekend, they knew they didnt have the pace of us, and doing a one stop is six to eight seconds faster than doing a two-stop and they opted for that and had to do the best job we could.
FA: I knew (when) the team told me Kimi was on a one stop, when he made the stop, because they calculate the lap and the fuel was coming in. So they told me he was on a one-stop and we decided to do two, and avoid any risk with the tyres. That was the main concern. We knew we had the pace, we knew that with two stops the victory was in our hands with no problems, so there was no point in taking risks with a one-stop.
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi Tuttosport) Kimi, you have a better position in the championship than Felipe. Do you expect that both the team and Felipe will support you to try and win the last races?
KR: I dont know. You need to ask the team. The main thing is we try to win the championship, which is going to be very difficult, but you never know. After the next two races, we will know if we have any chance or none at all, but I dont know what is going to happen in the next races.
Q: (Stéphane Barbé LEquipe) Kimi, the next track in a very few days is very demanding. Do you think your neck will have recovered?
KR: It should be okay. If it had happened a few days earlier, the accident, probably wouldnt have any problem, but we have a week so it should be fine.
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) Kimi, Looking back, was there any way you could have kept Lewis behind you in that moment?
KR: I would have tried if there were any chance, but there wasnt any