FIA post-qualifying press conference - Monaco 24 May 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1m15.787s; 2nd Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), 1m15.815s; 3rd Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1m15.839s.
Q: Felipe, you have got a big smile on your face and I guess it is that before qualifying you said you dont really like this place.
Felipe Massa: I still cannot believe that I am on pole. It is unbelievable. I was pushing very hard to learn how to drive here because it was the place where I struggled every time I came here. On the first day I was still a little bit concerned on the second sector but then I managed to put everything together to learn some tricks in some corners and also having a great car. I still cant believe I am on pole.
Q: Talk us through those closing minutes and how late in Q3 that you got that lap in.
FM: I did the first try and it was not a bad lap. I saw I was missing some time in a couple of corners. I saw the lap time was not that so far away from Kimi and Lewis. I think I was a couple of tenths over. I knew I was able to improve a little bit but I was thinking they would improve a little bit as well but I improved a lot and I was able to do a perfect lap and in Monaco it is almost impossible to do a perfect lap. It is becoming good here as well.
Q: Was there one aspect of the lap in particular that you found the time?
FM: I think everywhere. I already braked quite late in turn one and turn one was never a good corner for me or for us compared to McLaren. I braked very late but then I saw that the car stopped and I managed to get a good exit as well, so then I said ok, Ive got to push all through the lap because it has to be like that at every corner otherwise you can maybe lose two-tenths very easily. I managed to do everything the same in every corner and I am pole.
Q: Kimi, congratulations on an all Ferrari front row. Talk us through Q3 from your point of view.
Kimi Raikkonen: It was okay the first run. The second run was also not too bad but I just took it a bit too easy in the first corner and lost some time compared to the first try. Then I managed to do a good lap apart from the first few corners but it was not enough and here it is not a good thing but tomorrow we will probably have really difficult conditions, so it is going to be good fun.
Q: What was the tyre situation like today?
KR: For me really the tyres have been working well. It is just a bit difficult to get the first lap out of them but apart from that they have worked really well.
Q: Ferrari have shown phenomenal pace and reliability over the last four races and you have always been very quick in slow corners. What was the feeling coming in to Monaco this year?
KR: For sure we didnt really know what to expect as last year was difficult for us here and some other races. But we improved the car where we needed. Before we came here we were not 100 per cent sure how we were going to do. It looks like we made a good step and we are able to challenge for wins, so that is a good thing.
Q: Lewis, I guess you must be disappointed but I guess you must be thinking about strategy and what fuel loads everybody is running?
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, absolutely. I think we did a solid job. For sure we anticipated we would be a little bit quicker. I guess we were surprised by the Ferraris pace. Both my laps were quite good. I was quite happy with the way the whole session went. There were no problems with traffic. We lost a little bit in the last sector but generally the car felt good and I felt I strung together two solid laps but the time just wasnt there. But still I am happy with the strategy we are on, so tomorrow we should see how we do.
Q: Can you pinpoint perhaps where you might have been losing time in sectors two and three?
LH: I think in sector two we lose out a lot on traction, probably going up the straight out of turn eight and up through the tunnel to the chicane and then in the last sector I think in the last couple of corners I am not able to brake as late as we would hope.
Q: What does that mean from a drivers point of view round Monte Carlo as obviously you are on the limit and you are almost scraping those walls but you are having to allow for that slight difference in performance between the two cars.
LH: I think in practice doing your lap is quite easy and I was able to push when I wanted, so we felt quite confident that we would have the pace. This was more having to be more on the limit in Q3 but the car wasnt happy but we will push really hard in the race and I am sure we will be able to compete.
Q: Felipe, the job is half-over. The last time a Ferrari driver won from pole was Jody Scheckter in 1979. There are other factors for tomorrow with possible changes in the weather conditions. Your thoughts going into the race?
FM: For sure tomorrow will be another day and it will be very tough because we have a lot of possible problems in front of us. The rain could come at any time and the race in Monaco is the most difficult one to keep on the track and with a good pace because you are very close to the wall all the time. Whatever comes into your mind maybe can be enough for retirement. I am looking forward to having a great day tomorrow and be clever in whatever condition we approach.
Q: What would it mean to win the Monaco Grand Prix?
FM: It would be a fantastic day. It is already a fantastic day to be on pole but tomorrow would be even more incredible.
Q: Felipe, how much do you put this down to the preparation you did in Paul Ricard last week?
FM: Zero. No preparation in Ricard. It was raining all day long, so we didnt do anything there.
Q: Not you necessarily but the team as a whole.
FM: Kimi did a good job in testing. He was pretty happy with the car. I trust him as he is a good driver, so we had a good car as well. The team did a great job on the preparation for Monaco and also finding the right set-up because we were always struggling a lot here.
Q: And the prospects of wet weather tomorrow? Did that enter into the thinking of the tactics for qualifying?
FM: I am sure it will be very difficult tomorrow. We could have the rain anytime. It is better to start at the front, definitely. But we need to be clever whatever circumstance we get tomorrow as here in Monaco even in good conditions it is already quite difficult to have 78 laps in a good pace and concentrated, so it will be hard day tomorrow. But I am very pleased with my day.
Q: And obviously you are on a roll at the moment having won two of the last three races.
FM: It is a great time for me. For sure it is two completely different tracks compared to Turkey but I am very happy that I could show that I can be competitive in Monaco.
Q: Kimi, you were very quick early on, in fact your Q3 time is only about a tenth slower than your Q1 time. How do you explain that?
KR: Usually we get the tyres working better when we put fuel in. Its nothing surprising for us, at least. It seems to help the tyres to get in the right condition when we put fuel in and the car seems to get better, but still, it wasnt exactly what we were hoping for. Anyhow, well see how it goes tomorrow.
Q: Youre a former winner here, what chances tomorrow?
KR: I think its going to depend a lot on what kind of weather conditions we get tomorrow. If its raining, then nobody knows whats going to happen, but in dry conditions, its very tricky to get past, so the race can get very boring. If its raining, theres a much bigger chance to have many changes but I think we have a good car for the race, so we must see what we can do.
Q: To what extent does the weather, tyre choice because some people did one stop last year, some did two fuel load, etc, how much does that affect qualifying?
KR: Of course it always depends on how much fuel everyone is running, especially if it rains, probably you can do different things but its not much more different here than any other race. Usually at the front, everybody more or less has the same fuel, so I dont think that were going to see any amazing differences.
Q: Lewis, a circuit you love, I believe, you still love it?
LH: Yeah, of course, still my favourite track. I think its because Ive always been fond of street circuits and its one of those tracks where you could probably make more of a difference than others.
Q: Ferrari described your tactics in Turkey as being quite aggressive, is that something were going to see more of in the races to come?
LH: Well, not really, considering there was a reason why we had to do that, wasnt there? We wont have the tyre problem, so it should be fine.
Q: The tyre choice here, with one stop, two stops, the weather, its a complicated situation, isnt it?
LH: It is, but the great thing is that we had a dry qualifying and we felt that we had a good car and to be honest, the lap was quite good, but as you can see, it was very close. We dont know what theyre doing with their strategy but we feel quite confident with ours and we just have to wait and see tomorrow but Im sure its going to be raining tomorrow, so it will be very very tricky for all of us.
Q: Does the strategy only get complicated when you know what the weathers going to do?
LH: I dont think it gets complicated at all. I think were all probably on very similar strategies, so its not going to make much difference.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) Felipe, you said in the unilaterals that you found certain tricks to get round the corners. How was your approach different this year to the previous years, so you were able to use those tricks?
FM: The approach was not so different. The approach in terms of how we prepared for the weekend, in terms of programme, that was pretty similar, but the approach in terms of set-up was pretty different, because over the last few years we were struggling a lot here and we know we have a good car, so we were working completely differently on the set-up for this track. I think that was a great move from the team. Straight away after last year, when we had a problem in this race, and also in Montreal, which is also a low grip surface, we already started working with the team on the ideas for the year after in terms of set-up. For sure that was a good move because it started on the first day and straight away I had a better car. And then it was just learning some things during the weekend, with the track improving and everything, so I think I was able to get the maximum out of the car and myself as well.
Q: (Malcolm Folley The Mail on Sunday) Lewis, forgive me for not knowing, but have you driven around here in the wet in other formulae and if not, is there any way that youve been able to simulate driving a street circuit in the wet?
LH: I dont know how wed simulate it in the wet but I think I drove here last year in the wet, and Ive only driven 2005 and 2006 and they were both dry, so as far as I can remember, no.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Lewis, given how vital it is to be on pole here, deep down, does this really come as a disappointment today, not being there?
LH: I wouldnt say it comes as a disappointment. I think, at the end of the day, Im here in Monaco, Im on the second row, Im P3 and I think that Im in a strong position still for tomorrow. Obviously being on pole would have been better but we only just missed it. We obviously need to go and understand why we struggled with the pace throughout qualifying, because after practice, the car was feeling quite easy to drive whereas in qualifying it was a bit different, so we have to analyse and understand exactly why that is, but I still feel, especially with the conditions changing tomorrow, that we should be in for an exciting race.
Q: (Andrew Frankl Forza) Felipe, Ayrton won here six times, Bruno yesterday, there are a lot of Brazilians in the pit lane, all over the place. Is there special inspiration for you coming from this fantastic support?
FM: For sure. I still remember like yesterday watching Ayrton on this track. I think he was the most impressive driver here, in terms of pole position all the time, winning many races in a row, maybe five, I guess, then sleeping in the next race and crashing when first, one minute in front of Prost. So I think he was definitely the most incredible driver on this track. Bruno won yesterday. I am very happy for him. Im sure the whole of Brazil and many Brazilian people were very happy because he looks very similar to Ayrton, and it was very nice to see him winning a great race, so hopefully he can be here with us in the future. I think its fantastic to have a lot of Brazilian people here, great support. Its still not one of my favourite tracks but Im starting to like the track more day-by-day.
Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) Felipe, you lead Kimi 5-1 in qualifying; where does this impressive record come from, have you improved as a qualifier?
FM: Last year I set a lot of pole positions as well. I was very strong in qualifying but this year Im very comfortable in the car and find the right lap at the right time, so lets hope we carry on like that.
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) Kimi, in Turkey, it was quite a big disadvantage to start on the dirty side of the track. How do you see it here?
KR: I think maybe its the same, maybe not. I dont think its such a big difference here, because the cars go a bit everywhere on the main straight, so probably it will be more or less the same.
Q: (Bob McKenzie The Daily Express) Lewis, I just wondered if, when you saw one Ferrari in front of you, it was a bit of a blow, but when you saw two in front, when Felipe went ahead, what was your thinking then, were you as disappointed as Kimi probably was?
LH: No, I finished my lap and as I said, I felt quite comfortable with it. I was just waiting for the guys to come back on the radio and tell me if it was good enough or not and they came across and said youre P3. I wasnt disappointed with it to be honest. I didnt know whether we were going to be able to get pole position and to be honest, I was happy to at least get third, because I thought perhaps we would maybe have been a little bit lower.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Lewis, are you slowly now starting to become increasingly worried about the pace of the Ferraris, particularly bearing in mind that this was a track where McLaren were expected to do well?
LH: I dont get worried and I dont think we particularly get worried. Obviously its a concern and its something that we understand and we need to try and push and work forward to improve. Were quick, as you can see, were very very close and I think we just have to keep on pushing, but theyre obviously a lot quicker here than they were last year. We have to see what strategy they are on. It appears this year that a lot of people are going very very aggressive on strategies nowadays, so we will wait and see what they are up to.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Felipe, bearing in mind your form over the last three races, and the fact that youve now just qualified on pole on a track that you really dont like, are you starting to believe now that perhaps you can become World Champion this year?
FM: I always believed that. Its not because Im starting in the front that I changed my mind. I always believe that. I was champion in every category that I drove, so lets try, lets keep trying. For sure its my dream and I will not give up, I will push hard to the limit, day-by-day, to try to become a World Champion, like all of these guys close to me. In the end, to be World Champion, it doesnt matter if you are just quick. You need to be quick, consistent and you need to be lucky and you need to finish most of the races with more points. I think we are on the right track. Lets keep working.
Q: (Sven Heidinger Sport Woche) Felipe, you were talking about the improvements to the car that you made in comparison to last year, that might be vital in Montreal as well as here, so in which areas are these improvements?
FM: I think you want to know too much! Its just normal working, day-by-day in the factory and trying to work on the car, having a better car over the kerbs, having better traction which pays off on these tracks.