FIA post-qualifying press conference - Hungary 02 Aug 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1m20.899s; 2nd Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren), 1m21.140s; 3rd Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1m21.191s.
Q: Lewis, pole position for the second time in a row. Another great weekend for you?
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, so far it has been a pretty decent weekend. The team have done a great job in improving the car again, even from the last race and so the pace of our car is great and I think it is a great day to have me and Heikki one two. I think it is about time we did that for the team. I think we have both done a great job. It is very satisfying, you know. We were quickest throughout testing yesterday and then also today. Q2 looked a bit close but I think it was just tyre dependent. We made the right choice at the end, so I am very, very happy.
Q: It looked like quite a difficult tyre choice from your point of view?
LH: In P3 we were quickest on the softer tyre, the super soft. We had planned to use the softer tyre for Q3 but I think the track temperature was up from 37 degrees to 41 or something, so it was having a big effect on the tyres, therefore it was the safer option to use the harder tyre. I think it is a stronger tyre to be able to use and it doesnt seem to grain as much as the softer tyre, so it worked out really well for me. I think there was a little bit of time lost in the second sector of my lap but I was still very, very happy with it.
Q: Talk us through that time lost in the second sector.
LH: Felipe doesnt believe it but thats good for me. I have got a little bit of time to get still. The car was great. Sector one was really good, very strong, and I just got to turn four, the quick left, which was fine but when I got back to turn five I locked up the right front wheel and it pushed me on a little bit, so I lost a little bit of time on the way in. It might be half-a-tenth, it might be tenth, but fortunately I was able to save it and finish the rest of the lap and the rest of the lap was very, very good. I think Heikki was quicker than me in the last sector, so he is pushing me hard, but thats good.
Q: Heikki, celebrating your new contract and a great performance to be on the front row.
Heikki Kovalainen: Yeah, absolutely. The car has been feeling strong the last few races and I think as Lewis said we have been improving since the last test and all the way through the weekend more and more the package, so it was just a matter of nailing it in qualifying. Like he mentioned it was difficult to choose the right tyre. Also myself I was planning to use the softer one with the heavier fuel load in the last part of qualifying but we changed our mind when everyone else went quick with the harder tyre and maybe with the conditions changing the harder tyre was the favourite. But apart from that it is a great effort from everybody and tomorrow should be an interesting race.
Q: How do you see the track evolving? What are the weather conditions going to be like? What is the tyre choice going to be like?
HK: I think the weather prediction is very difficult to say. All we can say is that it is going to be hot. There shouldnt be any rain, maybe a little bit overnight, but tomorrow should be dry. I think we are going to see a circuit evolving towards the end of the race. It is going to get grippier and grippier and the off-line is going to get dirtier, so we just cant put the wheel off the line. That is going to be crucial tomorrow.
Q: Felipe, Ferrari third and sixth. You were quickest in Q2 on the harder tyre but talk us through Q3 first of all.
Felipe Massa: Well, actually I was not 100 per cent happy with my laps in Q3. I went a little bit at the wrong time on the track and there were so many cars around. Most of the people were very, very slow on the out lap and that for sure, especially in my case as I like to go slightly quicker, but I cannot pass them, so thats really tricky for the preparations of the tyres and I couldnt prepare the tyres like I am supposed to and I couldnt do a great lap like I did in Q1 and Q2.
Q: That problem aside, where do you see your team relative to McLaren right now?
FM: I think we are pretty strong. We didnt seem to be pretty strong until this morning, but then looking at the lap times from Q1 and Q2 I think we are there. For sure we are not where we were especially in the race in Hockenheim and Silverstone was a big lottery but I think we are there and I think I can push these guys tomorrow.
Q: You have some very obvious aerodynamical modifications. Does the car feel better now than it was two weeks ago or in the testing building up to this race?
FM: Well, sometimes what you see is not really the reality. Sometimes you put a big piece in the car and it is very visible but maybe sometimes you put a small piece and it makes more downforce and it makes the car more efficient, so it doesnt mean because it is very visible that it is a big modification. It is a little bit better but it is not like if I put this on or off that I am going to improve by half-a-second. It doesnt work like that but for sure we are developing. We are pushing very hard and for sure we will push even harder from this race to the end of the season.
Q: Lewis, you are in a comfortable position but no doubt you are not thinking in terms of comfort at the moment?
LH: Yeah, you can never be too comfortable for sure. I feel safe from the position we are in. I think from then on we both have very good strategies to push on and challenge for a win and I couldnt be in a better position to do that. Today is one day but tomorrow is another day. I just hope that I do my preparations right tonight and tomorrow morning and hopefully we will have a strong race. It would be great, again as I said before, to have a one-two for the team. The team deserve it and me and Heikki have been pushing very, very hard, so we both deserve it.
Q: Lewis, your 10th pole position ever.
LH: I didnt know that, sorry.
Q: Winner here last year, winner of the last two grands prix. What are your thoughts going into tomorrows race?
LH: I certainly feel that we are in a good position. I think we have done a great job this weekend and over the last couple of weeks or month lets say, improving the car. I am very, very proud of the team for the developments that they have done. I feel great, I feel good in the car. There is a great atmosphere and a good harmony in the team and here we are, we have qualified one-two and I think it puts us in a great position to challenge for the win but I have no doubts that it will be a tough race tomorrow.
Q: Earlier on in the weekend it seemed you had problems with the third sector. How hard have you worked on that?
LH: Of course, that has really been the weakest point throughout the weekend but I think this morning I fixed it and it wasnt really a problem. I still wasnt the quickest through Q3, though I think in Q1 I set the quickest sector there and I was quicker up to that point. So I have definitely made improvements there which is good and I have still kept the first and second sector but I think in Q3 it was still tough to maintain that pace.
Q: What about the super soft tyre? How does that perform with heavier tanks?
LH: To be honest both tyres are pretty similar. It was just simply we decided to take the harder tyre as we felt perhaps with the hot conditions and with the heavier fuel load it would be better. To be honest there were very equal times on both of them through Q1 and Q2 but personally I just felt the harder tyre was a little but stronger throughout the lap, so I took the decision to keep it.
Q: Heikki, you were saying this morning an all McLaren Mercedes front row would be ideal but perhaps not this way round. But obviously youre happy with what you have got?
HK: Yeah, I think this is a great result for the team. As Lewis mentioned, theyve pushed really hard to improve our car and weve made significant steps forward in the last couple of months. Its good that I think we found a good direction where we need to go in terms of development. Of course, I would always prefer to be on pole but to be honest, Lewis has been strong all week here. For the last few races hes been strong, he did a better job today but I think Im still in a good position and as we mentioned, it should be an interesting race tomorrow and I think we should have a good opportunity to do a strong race as well.
Q: How much did you change your car after this morning or during this mornings sessions?
HK: Not much. We were just trying to compare the tyres and make our minds up. I think the plan was originally to use the softer tyre in the last part of qualifying, but there wasnt much between them, but then in the second part of qualifying we saw some of our competitors going significantly quicker with the harder one and perhaps conditions moving slightly towards the harder tyre, so we decided to go with that. To be honest, I think both tyres would have been a safe choice for us. When it is so close between the tyres, its a difficult choice but in the end its an easy choice because theres not too much between them.
Q: Last year, quite a few drivers went for a three stop strategy; is your strategy fairly simple now you start on the front row?
HK: Obviously I cant tell you the strategy, thats very confidential and youll find out tomorrow, but all I can say is that I think our pace has been so strong all weekend I dont see why we should be in any weaker position in terms of strategy. I think we are as strong as our competitors and I feel comfortable with our strategy, but tomorrow we will see how it pans out.
Q: Felipe, last year you started on the soft tyres and went to two lots of super soft tyres. Would you do that again?
FM: Well, last year is not important, to be honest. Lets think about today.
Q: You dont look at what strategy you used last year?
FM: Yeah, not from me, from the others. My race last year was a disaster. This year looks much better and I think we have a good car. We showed that we have a good car in Q2, but then in Q3, it was OK, we always have the strategy issue which we need to see tomorrow. The lap was not perfect because I had a lot of traffic on the out lap and I couldnt prepare my tyres as I was preparing them in Q1 and Q2 so that, unfortunately, makes quite a bit of difference in our car. But anyway, I think its not bad. I have the feeling that we have a good pace, a good car and Im confident that we can fight these guys tomorrow.
Q: What about that Q2 lap: it was fractionally quicker than Michael Schumachers lap record from 2004?
FM: Thats impressive. It was a great lap. I was just able to get the best out of the car and the car just had great balance. Unfortunately it doesnt count for much. It just counts for the next qualifying. Anyway, Im still confident. For sure Im going to do my best tomorrow to gain some positions.
Q: And a small comment from you on the new kerbs at the back chicane, how much of a difference do they make?
FM: No difference, also because I remember last year we were using quite a lot of kerb, but the first one; the second was not very important anyway, but not so much. If you use too much, you touch the bottom of your car, the underneath of the front and then it doesnt help the lap time, so I dont think it changes anything.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Deutschland) Heikki, you seemed to lose a little bit of time in your first sector on your last attempt. Can you describe what happened there and how happy were you with your lap in general?
HK: Well, I think I mentioned already on the radio to the team that I think I was a little bit cautious in turn two. It was tricky to find the right balance in terms of making the time at the entry and not losing anything at the exit. I think I probably lost a bit of both on my best lap but the middle of the corner was pretty good. You always lose and gain and everyone has these little moments. Overall I think I can be quite happy about the lap. I think there were no big mistakes, just these small adjustments. All the drivers, after every qualifying, they can always say you can do this and that but actually doing it is the tricky bit.
Q: (Fréderic Ferret LEquipe) Felipe, you had trouble with your tyres in qualifying, and you said that in Q3 you had trouble heating the tyres. Is it still a problem there?
FM: No, for sure not. Its completely different problems we had in Hockenheim, so its not related to this.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Lewis, well done, from where you were after the race in France, has it come as a surprise to you just how much things have turned around and how dominant youve been these past few weeks now?
LH: Not really. I dont understand why it should be a surprise. Like Ive always said, we had a couple of dodgy races but we still had great speed through Montreal, and then even in Magny-Cours we were still quick, so its no surprise. There are no miracles. We just work very hard and made some good steps forward.
Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) Heikki, any concern defending your position from the dirtier side of the grid?
HK: Yeah, its not ideal but its better to be ahead of the other people. To be honest, as we saw at Hockenheim, I was expecting it to make a bigger difference but it didnt. So I hope its the case here as well. Im not going to stress myself about it. Ill attack tomorrow as much as I can at the start and we will see how it works out but Im not going to lose sleep because of that.
Q: (Jérome Bourret LEquipe) Heikki, what will be your aim at the start tomorrow: passing Lewis or controlling Felipe and keeping him behind you?
HK: Ideally both, but we will fight with Lewis and I will try to pass him but he will try to defend. We respect each other and at the end of the day, we are employed by the team and we try to do the best job for the team that we can. But like you saw, at the start of Silverstone, we do race but we also know where the limit is. I think as it is with the guys at the top in Formula One, you can push people hard and you race hard but fair. Theres nothing wrong with that.
Q: (Jon McEvoy The Daily Mail) Lewis, I was wondering whether you have ever felt as strong and as at ease in a car in Formula One as you are at the moment?
LH: Its a good question. For sure, every time I get in the car I learn something new and I feel more and more comfortable in the car and feel more at home. I will definitely say that Im at my best so far. I think this is as comfortable as Ive ever been and again, knowing where the car is and everything like that, and things going on in my life, I feel pretty much on top of things, and I have no doubts that I have room to improve, so I plan on doing that.
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Deutschland) Felipe, both Ferraris went out twice in Q1, first with the hard, then with the soft tyres. Was it to evaluate both tyres?
FM: Were doing that at every race, its not the first time.
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Deutschland) How hard was it to tell on this track which is the better tyre for your car?
FM: Im pretty sure that the better tyre for my car in qualifying was the hard, because I was always quicker on the hard. The hard was always more consistent for me. I have been keen since yesterday to use the hard in qualifying.
Q: (Fréderic Ferret LEquipe) Felipe, are you worried by the domination by the McLarens today and the domination during the last two races?
FM: You always want to be in front. Its not a fantastic day when you are behind your competition, but I think we need to work very hard, because everybody is working day and night and for sure we need to push hard and Im sure the mentality of my team is to push hard day-by-day from now until the end of the season. We were already pushing up to now but for sure people are really motivated to push even more. I think we showed some good performance today. I think if you dont have a good car, you cannot do 19.0s in Q2, so thats already a good sign and you need to take that to be motivated for the race tomorrow.