FIA post-qualifying press conference - Turkey 10 May 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1m27.617s; 2nd Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren), 1m27.808s; 3rd Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1m27.923s.
Q: Felipe, another fantastic pole for you. Very quick as last year in sector three as well. It looked to be a very good qualifying session for you.
Felipe Massa: For sure, I think I put together a very good lap. I couldnt put together a good lap in Q2. I was a bit on the traffic and I was disturbed a little bit. But then in Q3 I managed to warm up the tyres in the right direction and also not be behind somebody. I even passed Fernando Alonso on the out lap just to be sure that I could have got a clean lap. I have to say I put two very good laps together. On the first lap it was a very good try and on the second lap I just improved a little bit, but it was enough to be on pole. I am just so happy coming the third time here and for the third time being on pole position. It would be fantastic to repeat that tomorrow.
Q: Your team-mate Kimi Räikkönen is starting fourth, but obviously you love this race track.
FM: It is a fantastic track for me. I have a lot of pleasure to drive on a track like that to be honest. You come to turn eight and it is very challenging with so many drivers correcting oversteer there, even these two guys beside me. So many times you are going into oversteer trying to get the maximum of the car and also on the corners which are quite technical and quite a lot of change of direction in the first sector, so I really enjoy coming here and they are always very welcoming here as well, so it is a big pleasure.
Q: You love winning from the pole, that is a great record that you have. Equally every Turkish Grand Prix has been won from the pole as well, so you must be looking forward to tomorrow I guess.
FM: I am looking forward to tomorrow definitely to try and have the best race possible. For sure it wont be easy as we know our competitors are quite strong and quite close and the race will be not so easy, so lets try to do everything right and also put all the tyres on at the right moment and use the car in the right direction as well.
Q: Heikki, what a week for you coming back here and having passed that medical after your big accident in the Spanish Grand Prix and now qualifying on the front row.
Heikki Kovalainen: It has been a roller-coaster the last couple of weeks. Obviously I had a big accident in Spain, but I was very lucky to survive without any injuries and my recovery has been fantastic. I have got to say many thanks to the medical people in Spain and then when I got back to Finland I did some medical check-ups there and I did some training as well. Coming here I knew that I would pass the medical because I felt 100 per cent. This week already yesterday I felt very happy with my car and I have been feeling confident all the time. The second lap in Q3 was nice and clean, so it is a pleasure to start from the front row and we should have a good race tomorrow.
Q: Just take us back to Friday, the first lap you drove after that accident, how did it feel from your point of view?
HK: It felt pretty normal. Like I said, I would not have come here if I did not feel I was in 100 per cent fitness. Already at the end of last week I was feeling back to normal and this week I have been able to do normal physical preparation, if anything a bit tougher, just to test the body and to make sure that there are no headaches or no effects from the impacts. It has been all going very well. Still I must say the first few corners on Friday I was feeling a little bit how everything is, but straight away I felt it was okay and after that I just tried to attack the maximum I could.
Q: It was interesting to see you and your team-mate choose different types of Bridgestone tyre going into Q3. Can you talk us through that a little bit.
HK: I think it is a tricky one this weekend. At some point of the weekend and sometime whenever I go out, however the tyre is, they feel good or not good, so it is very difficult to make your mind up. Hopefully at least it looks like I made the right decision in qualifying. But we will see tomorrow, hopefully the trend continues but like Felipe said it is going to be very tricky. It is very easy to make a mistake and if conditions, the temperature or the wind changes a little bit it can mislead you a little bit.
Q: Lewis, you chose the harder of the two Bridgestone tyres and a very nice moment was captured on television when the back-end jumped out going through Turn Eight. We called it nice, but you probably didnt.
Lewis Hamilton: No, not really. It was a tough qualifying session for me. Obviously at the beginning I had a fantastic lap in Q1. In Q2 I struggled a little bit on the option tyre and therefore I opted for the prime tyre as I thought perhaps it would be a more consistent tyre especially through the lap. I guess I made the wrong decision.
Q: You say you made the wrong decision but to be that near on the prime tyre it was a pretty impressive lap.
LH: It was not too bad. I struggled in my first Q3 lap, it was terrible. I think I was in the 1:29s. The second one for sure was an improvement but still it was not quick enough.
Q: How do you see the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes race pace relative to Ferrari?
LH: I think we have got a good package this weekend and as myself and Heikki have shown we are up there with the Ferraris and I think we should be able to push them hard in the race.
Q: Felipe, three poles, can you make it three wins?
FM: I dont know. I hope so. At least its the best I could have done today, so it helps a lot for the race tomorrow and for sure its quite nice and special for me to come here and have the third pole in a row on this track.
Q: You were saying how much you enjoy this circuit, apart from turn eight. Tell us about its attractions.
FM: Well, its a very nice circuit. Everybody knows that turn eight is very challenging for all the drivers. You need a good car there, for sure, but its very challenging. But also I like the layout. You have quite a bit of change of direction in the first sector, turn one which is quite tricky because you brake and you never know if you brake in the right place or maybe a little bit too much or too early, because its a bit downhill and a bit tricky there. And also you have the last sector which is pretty slow. You have everything in one track which is quite nice.
Q: When you set that time in Q1, a high 1m25s, fastest that weve seen all weekend, did you think then you could be on pole?
FM: No, for sure not, because I think Lewis did a fantastic lap time straight away which for us was already a little bit we were already thinking that we were not as strong as we looked in practice. But at the end, I think it was maybe coming from us that we didnt do the right lap and then I tried another set of tyres to be sure, and then I managed to do a very good lap but then in Q2 on soft tyres I was a little bit in traffic and was a little bit disturbed on my lap. I was a little bit behind but then in Q3 I had two very clean laps, very good, and I was able to get the best out of the car.
Q: And were there any problems warming up the tyres? Its been a problem for a lot of people this weekend.
FM: Yeah, I think it was a big problem yesterday. Today has been a little bit better and slightly better in qualifying but I think its very difficult because you cannot push so hard but you cannot go very slowly on the out lap, especially for us. It is not so easy to have the right grip straightaway at the beginning of the lap and while you can do a very very good lap on one tyre, sometimes you put on the same tyres but then you just lose a little bit, maybe its coming from the out lap, maybe its coming from grip or whatever.
Q: Heikki, you seem to have bounced back even stronger.
HK: Yeah, maybe it was good to get hit on the head in Barcelona but I very much doubt that, to be honest! Ive felt very happy all the way through the weekend here and the most important thing is that arriving here, I felt one hundred percent fit and I would have not turned up here if I didnt think I was in full health and fitness. Weve done a lot of tests and a lot of medical checks and very heavy exercising leading up to this Grand Prix, just to test the barrier after the incident, but I was able to survive that incident which is great news. This is one of the circuits that I really like. Ive always enjoyed here and driving around here, so I was very much looking forward to coming here. And then today, I think qualifying went quite well. Some of the laps were better than the others but we went through all the sessions and then coming to Q3, the first lap was a bit all over the place, was not very clean, but the second lap was much tidier and everything came together. Hopefully tomorrow we can do a good race from this position. Its my best starting position in Formula One, so its looking good at the moment.
Q: Yes, surely thats another milestone ticked off, the fact that youre on the front row for the first time.
HK: Yeah, but its not that big a milestone. It would be better to be on pole, then you would be happier. But its better to be second than behind.
Q: Lewis, the fact that you set your time on hard tyres surely looks good for the race itself, even if it maybe wasnt the right choice?
LH: Yeah, for sure. Im expecting to be quick tomorrow in the race.
Q: Was that something that was in your mind when you were on those harder tyres?
LH: No, not really. As I said, Q1 seemed to go a lot better than Q2 and I felt that perhaps the prime tyre was so close that it would probably give me a better performance throughout the lap and I think that was a mistake.
Q: Third on the grid, youre ahead of Kimi, still a good position?
LH: Could be better, for sure, and the lap wasnt very good either, so pretty disappointed in qualifying. Not frustrating, disappointing.
Q: How crucial was tyre warming?
LH: Didnt seem to be much of a problem for me on both sets of tyres. For sure you had to work them well enough but I managed to be able to get them up to temperature and it was OK.
Q: You were saying disappointed, but it is a circuit where you can overtake.
LH: It is, it is, so we should have an exciting race tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ian Stafford The Mail on Sunday) Heikki, youve played down the fact that youve had the crash, youre here, youre second, your best ever starting position, but can you just talk a little bit more about how delighted you must be not just to be second but on the back of what happened in Spain, and maybe how you felt really, for the first lap or two yesterday, and how relieved and how pleased what a story it is really that you bounced back from that to be where you are now.
HK: Well, of course I am very pleased to be here and the fact that I didnt get any physical injuries in the accident really shows what the FIA has done in the past, how they have improved the safety and all I have to do is thank those people who have been putting their effort into work on that. Having said that, there is still more to do and I think everybody should look into that more and more. Apart from that, you might try to get a big story out of it but honestly, all I can say is that three days after the accident I felt that my headache went away and by then, I had done all the scans in Spain, all the checks for my neck and head, and everything that was affected by the impact and we knew that I didnt have any physical injuries. There were no injuries to the head, just a headache which was normal. If someone hits you on the head with a baseball bat Im sure you would have a headache for three days at least. But after that, the recovery has been very good. I went back to Finland to a special sports institute, I worked with specialists who helped people recover from head injuries and they all did a great job. They knew exactly where we were going and I was increasing my physical training and fitness training all the time. And coming here, I had done the maximum effort training to make sure my body could take the stress and when I did the tests in Finland, I knew that I wouldnt have any problem passing the medical here and thats the reason why I turned up here. Then for the first laps yesterday perhaps I was a little bit more nervous than normal but only for the first half of the lap. After that I could feel that I didnt have any side effects, everything seemed to be functioning like normal. After that its just been business as usual. No one in our team has asked how do you feel? I told them after the installation lap everythings fine, lets get on with it, and since then its been normal set-up work and trying to make the most out of the car and get everything up to speed.
Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) Heikki, you Finnish guys are on the dirtier side of the track. Does it make a big difference here?
HK: Well, its difficult to say but traditionally it doesnt help you, but what can I do? I cant change the sides anymore, so I just have to try to make the most of it and then anyway we are near the front of the grid, so its nothing to worry about, theres no reason to worry about it too much. But the way you ask the question, Im sure it doesnt help.
Q: (Panos Diamantis Car and Driver Magazine) Felipe, if the temperature is the same for the race as it is today, is it OK for you and do you have any concerns for your stint on hard tyres during the race?
FM: Well, for sure the temperature is pretty low compared to what were used to having here in the past but its the same for everybody and you just need to make sure you warm up the tyres in the right way before going to the grid and also making the right choice of tyres, in order not to lose any grip but also to try to use the best tyres at the right time. The difference between the hard and the soft here is not so big, so its important to choose the right one.
Q: (Fulvio Solms Corriere dello Sport) Question for Felipe: at how many circuits in the championship do you have the same good feelings as you have here?
FM: I have good feelings in many circuits, for sure. It doesnt mean that because I won here, that I cannot win at other tracks. For sure, its a fantastic circuit and I always feel happy to come here, and its my third pole position in a row here with Ferrari, so for sure thats a big pleasure, but I think I can be competitive in many tracks.
Q: (Fulvio Solms Corriere dello Sport) Could you clarify which circuits where you have the best feelings?
FM: Many, many. Last year I set six pole positions, so it means that I can be competitive on many tracks and I started a lot on the front row, so even this year I can be competitive at every race, so I cannot say this yes and this not. Every race I can be competitive.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) A question for all drivers: sorry to come back to the question of the temperature of the tyres but are you worried in the case of the safety car on the first lap of the race when it restarts?
FM: For sure, we need to warm up our tyres even more under the safety car. In cool temperatures like these, when you back off, for sure you lose a lot of temperature in the tyres, so you need to be even stronger when youre warming up.
HK: Exactly the same as Felipe said: you just need to work them a bit more. Apart from that, I dont think its any concern in terms of safety but I think we are nowhere near the limit of being dangerous, so no problem.
LH: No problems.
Q: (Frédéric Ferret LEquipe) I have two problems for Lewis: first of all about qualifying. You seem quite unhappy with your lap, any mistake or was it because of the handling of the car or traffic or something else?
LH: I chose the wrong tyre. It didnt give me the performance and the car didnt feel great, no.
Q: (Frédéric Ferret LEquipe) The second question is about the race tomorrow: you said on Thursday that you miss winning, do you think you can win tomorrow?
LH: I think tomorrow we just have to wait and see. For sure we are not in the best position to do so.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Lewis, you have said you are very disappointed and your body language suggests you are not too happy if you dont mind me saying
LH: I just need the toilet, thats all! And Im really wondering whether Heikkis really Finnish because his answers are longer than Ive ever known!
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) is this a question of perhaps being a bit too hard on yourself?
LH: No, definitely not. Im always hard on myself and thats the way I do it, thats how I do my business, thats how I go about it. I dont feel that I made any mistakes, I did the best I could with the car, thats the quickest its ever gone. But we need to improve in terms of preparing and making decisions. I do it all on my own.
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) This is for Heikki and Lewis: until now, this weekend, McLaren has been quite close to Ferrari but how confident are you for the race, strategy-wise and looking at long-run performance?
HK: I think it looks like we are closer but having said that, we know the Ferraris are always going to be strong, whether its in qualifying or whether its in the race or whether its in free practice or whatever. And even the other teams are going to be strong, so I think the fact is that we cannot take anything for granted and we just have to push everything to the maximum. But hopefully the feeling this weekend is that we are closer.