FIA post-race press conference - Italy 14 Sep 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
1st Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso), 1h26m47.494s; 2nd Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren), 1h27m00.006s; 3rd Robert Kubic (BMW Sauber), 1h27m07.965s.
Q: Sebastian, what were your emotions winning your first grand prix?
Sebastian Vettel: Unbelievable. The whole race we had no problems, the car was working really fine. I had a fantastic race with a very good strategy but all that was gone when I got the chequered flag and crossed the finish line. The lap back to the pits and the whole podium ceremony was just unbelievable. I think for sure this is the best day of my life. These pictures, these emotions, I will never forget. It is unbelievable. It is so much greater than you might think it is. It is great. Again, I can just say a big, big thank you to all the guys working in the team. I think they did a fantastic job. Who might have thought about that at the beginning of the season. We had a poor start but then it got better and better and in these conditions we can make a bit of a gap by staying longer on full throttle. It is great, fantastic. I am speechless.
Q: Talk us through your race and being so much quicker in the speed trap.
SV: Well, for the speed trap I think there is an explanation. We didn't go for a more downforce configuration, thinking it might be dry today, so we stuck to the dry level and didn't touch it, so on the straight lines we were bloody fast compared to all the others. The safety car helped me and being first and having no visibility problems at all was the key and I could make quite a good solid gap of about six to seven seconds to Heikki straight away. Then I was pushing very hard and sometimes went a bit over the limit and nearly lost the car as it was so difficult at the start as there was a lot of water. I think it got trickier when we were in the middle of the race and there was no standing water anymore. I think all the people went left and right looking for some water to cool down the tyres. It was very, very slippery and then in the last stint I was in a very good position. I stayed a bit longer than Heikki and he put on the intermediate tyres, so I was on the radio with my team talking to my engineer and he said 'it is fine, let's go for inters.' I think it was the right choice. What a weekend. A perfect weekend. Pole position, race win, unbelievable. I don't know what to say really.
Q: What was going through your mind in the closing stages?
SV: Sometimes I was thinking there is still P1 on my board, how can it be. I am fuelled to finish, there is nothing, no pits stops, so just keep it together. Then I have to say I was extremely focussed every lap. I didn't lift and try to save the engine or the tyres or anything. Of course I was looking after my car but I was trying to keep attention because especially towards the end when there was kind of a dry line throughout some corners it was crucial to stay on that dry line. Just half a metre too wide and you can be off, so it was extremely difficult to keep up your concentration but in the end I was just trying to push and trying to increase the gap to the guys behind. Unbelievable.
Q: Heikki, was there a win out there for you today?
Heikki Kovalainen: Clearly not possible to win today. Sebastian and Toro Rosso have been strong all weekend. I had a little bit of a problem earlier on in the race, in the first couple of stints, especially with the extreme wet tyre and some problems also to warm up my brakes, so I was just struggling to find more time and trying to go faster. We kept pushing and towards the end it got a little bit better but I think it was the maximum we could do today. We picked up some good points and we can look forward to the next grand prix.
Q: Did the brake and tyre problem relate to the ambient temperature conditions or was it a mechanical issue?
HK: No, I think it is related to the ambient temperature and how to get them working and it was just a little bit difficult today but it wasn't easy for anyone out there and I am sure everybody had some problems. I felt that was where the performance was today and I couldn't find it earlier on in the race.
Q: Did this problem materialise at all during the wet practice or qualifying sessions?
HK: A little bit but to me it felt that it was a bit of a surprise to have that kind of problem in the race especially after a first few laps as normally in the first few laps it might be a bit of a problem but it should go away but it felt more difficult for longer, so that was a bit of a surprise.
Q: Did the safety car start make that situation worse or help it?
HK: No I think it helped it a little bit to get the temperatures up a little bit better for the first lap. But it is difficult to say whether it make a big difference or not. I think it was still going to be difficult whatever the start was going to be.
Q: Robert, this is the circuit on which you got your first podium finish and now toy are celebrating another podium finish at Monza.
Robert Kubica: I mean it was quite a good weekend after yesterday's qualifying which didn't go like we were we expecting. We were the first car out of Q3 so the only positive thing was that we could choose our strategy looking at how the weather would be in the race and the conditions on the track. I think we did the right choice and I stayed out as long as possible until my pit stop and then we were a bit lucky that the conditions allowed us to put on intermediate tyres so I made up quite good pace and closed the gap to Heikki but he was too far away. The last laps were just cruising, bringing the car home. The start of the race was very difficult. I overtook Nick without seeing him, suddenly I realised I was in front of him on the straight line but I didn't see him at all. It is not easy starting in the middle of the pack, especially in these conditions, but I kept the car on the track. We did face some problems with the tyre pressures. When the track was drying up, we were with Fernando struggling a lot and Lewis got by easily. He was much quicker but I think then we were a bit lucky that we stayed longer, so we were able to put inters on straight away.
Q: Talk about that helmet design and what it means to you and what it means to be on the podium again in a country where you have done so much racing in your career.
RK: There is no secret that I grew up as a driver and as a kid most of the time in Italy, from 13 to 18 years old. It is a special place for me, Monza after Hungarian Grand Prix where there are a lot of Polish fans who are coming to support me and I thank them. Here in Monza there are massive Polish fans but also Italians which are cheering for me, so I just want to thank them for their support and to thank all the people who have supported me in my career in Italy, all the teams and everybody who I met on my way to Formula One. That is why we divided the helmet into two pieces. One was Italian colours, one was Polish colours. That's all.
Q: Sebastian, this is a poignant moment in terms of Toro Rosso being Italian and of Minardi, the team that started in 1985. This is the first non-Ferrari Italian team to win a grand prix since 1957.
SV: I think that says it all. All the people might be used to hearing the Italian national anthem for Scuderia Ferrari. This is very special, very unique for all the team. I think they will never forget this day as well as I won't. Incredible. It has been so much fun working together with them. Obviously it was difficult last year. I did my debut for BMW Sauber and thanks to Franz Tost, Gerhard Berger and all the team and Red Bull. They gave me the trust and said we have a seat for you, take it. I have seen every possible angle of the grid now and it is difficult when you always start from the back and you have to fight your way. You might finish a race in P15 without anyone noticing, but you still might have done a very good job, so you still can be happy and you can walk out of the paddock and be proud of yourself and the team. Now we can be proud of ourselves, celebrating a victory. It is great. To put these words together it sounds unbelievable. From where we started last year the team, the mentality has changed so much. The atmosphere is fantastic. Everybody is extremely motivated. When I jumped in the car before the race everybody said 'ok, now destroy them or push like hell.' All the guys were joking and were happy and looking forward. In that sense you could say we had the balls to do it today. I had a trouble free race with perfect pit stops. Compared to BMW or McLaren Mercedes or Ferrari we haven't got that amount on manpower at home in the factory. Obviously we get a lot of help from Red Bull technology but still we have about 160 people working in Faenza and everyone today feels very special and can feel very special. I am one of them. We are a big team and I feel extremely happy.
Q: Sebastian, what a win. Tell us about your emotions in those closing stages?
SV: It was difficult to realise what happened. I tried to focus all the time. Obviously I had quite a comfortable lead towards the end, so I could control it in the last couple of laps but I forgot all about being in the lead. When I crossed the chequered flag, I realised I had just won the race. It was unbelievable to see all the people going crazy around the circuit. It was the best lap I ever did in Monza. Obviously it was not the fastest but for sure it was the best one. Then stopping the car in parc ferme and coming up on that podium. It might sound stupid but just the shape of the podium and to have the crowd underneath you, this picture I will never forget in my life. Unbelievable. To see the people. my team, my family down there and they were going completely mad. From the first corner there was a huge crowd coming, so it was getting more and more packed and then obviously to listen to my anthem, the German national anthem, was fantastic and I nearly started to cry. And then the Italian national anthem again for my team and for all the people that have worked so hard in the past. I am a member now for a bit more than one season and I think what we have achieved so far is great. To win the race. I think everybody tonight can go to sleep earlier or later and will fall asleep with the feeling that we are winners. That is great, fantastic. I don't know what else to say. It was unbelievable.
Q: Your feelings about your strategy, when you were looking at the race yesterday, your early pit stop as well. It seemed to work very well.
SV: Yeah, I think we made the right choice yesterday. As I said yesterday, when you're a bit smarter and looking at the speed traps, we didn't set the car up for rain conditions. I was thinking that today was going to be a dry race. Obviously it was not, especially at the beginning. We were on a usual dry set-up to be honest. We had a lot of speed in a straight line, obviously. Being in pole position and starting behind the safety car I think was the right decision, and it helped a lot for visibility, so I was able to make a very comfortable gap straight away, which after my first stop, compared to other cars, was probably a bit early but nevertheless it was enough to stay in front of the one-stoppers which was crucial, so I came out three or four seconds in front of Nico. I think he was the leader of the one stop pack at that time. From there onwards, it was clear that we could overshoot him and at least stay in front of that group, but at one time Lewis was coming and my engineer always gave me the reference lap time and he said 'he's lapping in 1m34.5s' and at that time I was struggling a bit to find the grip and I did around 36s. I was pushing then, but obviously he then went to the pits and I was trouble free again. Overall, I think we did a fantastic race. We controlled it from the start: great pit stops, no mistakes, that is not usual. We lack a bit of manpower compared to other teams and we have made some crucial mistakes in the past, but I think we've got much stronger, our pit stops, especially, have become much more solid, consistent, quicker, better and that is due to hard work from every single person. Special thanks to Giorgio Ascanelli, I think I have to mention him. What he has done with that crew is unbelievable: everybody is now extremely motivated and as I said, it's just great to give back - like yesterday - a result like that. Obviously a race win is the best you can give to your team, so I'm a bit proud and very happy.
Q: Heikki, what was the problem during those early stages; you didn't seem to be able to hang on to Sebastian's pace?
HK: I didn't have enough grip to go any faster, it was as simple as that. It was quite difficult, to be honest, all the way through the race. It was not possible to find any more.
Q: Were those pretty much the conditions that you were expecting, was the car set up for those conditions?
HK: I think no one knew what to expect. It was changing one hour before the race it looked like it might be dry when we went around the track on the drivers' parade. Then, just when we got into the car it started to rain heavier and it got wetter. It was always going to be difficult to predict the weather but I think at the end we made the right choice with the tyres but just didn't have enough pace.
Q: You seem disappointed with second.
HK: Yeah, I feel we should have won. But congratulations to Sebastian and Toro Rosso, they were very strong all the way through the weekend and by the way, people say I talk a lot but I think he talks a lot as well. Of course, he has a reason to talk, but I'm not the only chatty one.
Q: Robert, up to third from eleventh place. What was it like during those early stages, how much could you see?
RK: Well, nearly nothing. Approaching the first corner I overtook Nick without seeing him. I just realised, when I braked, that he was behind rather than in the front. It was really incredible, and I think we have to watch out. It's not a problem if you start in the first three or four positions but if you start in the middle or the back of the pack, you really have to watch out when we restart the race because it was extremely dangerous. Going through the Curva Grande to the second chicane I was on half throttle, just waiting for somebody to hit me. It was really extremely bad, at least for us. Then I made a big gap to those behind me and also in front of me. I had a Toyota and Fernando two or three seconds in front of me, so I was able to maintain my pace. Then we faced some problems with the tyres when the track was drying up; with the heavy car we started sliding quite a lot and we were always driving with Fernando at the same pace and once I made a mistake, once he made a mistake. We just fitted the intermediates at the right moment, as we planned to stop on this lap and it worked out.
Q: What was the car like being heavier in those early stages?
RK: There is no secret now. Everybody realises that some cars are performing better in the wet than some others. Toro Rosso and Red Bull have always been strong in the wet. If we look at last year or two years ago, even if they were far behind us in the dry, in the wet they were just right there, and now in the last few races Toro Rosso have even become the third team in the dry conditions, or fourth, whatever, but very close, even in front of us sometimes. As soon as it starts raining they become the fastest and I really feel happy for the guys at Toro Rosso. I know many of the people there and they really did a great job and they deserve it.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Matthias Brunner - Motorsport Aktuell) Sebastian, sooner or later, towards the end of the race, it must have dawned on you that 'I'm going to win this.' How difficult was it not to let the mind wander?
SV: Yeah, I sometimes had these thoughts. P1 was still on the board, P1, P1 and a plus and I was leading by quite a bit, and I thought f***k, you know, if you finish the race you will be winning - I apologise - but you know, it was unbelievable, but then I tried to focus again, the conditions were difficult. In the end it was not so difficult to keep up concentration. As I said, sometimes I had these thoughts but then I was trying again, sometimes I lifted my hand out of the cockpit to feel if it was drizzling and how big the raindrops were, but in the end it was difficult. So you automatically had to keep up your concentration, because in some places there was a dry line and if you were just pushing a bit too much under braking you overshot by a bit, similar to yesterday when we struggled with a lot of water. Today, when there was this dry line, after that it was wet again, very slippery and obviously when you got there, there was a high chance of losing the car. In the end, I always try to push and obviously towards the last couple of laps I was controlling it but I was still enjoying it. I had a lot of fun from lap one to the last lap, so it was just a nice race.
Q: (Juha Päätalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Sebastian, with your early pit stop, did you think the others would stay longer on the track and you might lose the lead in that phase of the race?
SV: I didn't know. First of all we didn't know when the others were going to stop. We calculated Heikki longer than us. In the end, it might have been early but it worked out. Obviously it was very difficult for the guys behind me in terms of reliability as Robert described. I have been there a couple of times, also last year, and I remember how it feels, going down the straight without seeing anything. You're looking left, you're looking right. Then all of a sudden the first board appears, hopefully 200 meters so you can prepare yourself for braking, anything else but comfortable. So I was in the best position and obviously was able to pull out quite a gap and it was quite important to come out in front of the one-stoppers, so at that time I think the leader was Nico, so that worked out very, very well. To be honest, the last couple of races, especially in Formula One, were extremely busy, stuck in traffic and so on. The last races were a bit better, so I got clean air here and there but this race was probably the most trouble free race I ever did. Obviously I was in the lead, so I only had to call for blue flags and therefore I could concentrate on my car, on my tyres, taking care of them and focus just to push as hard as I could.
Q: (Juha Päätalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Heikki, were the problems with the grip similar to Silverstone or anywhere else you have had big tyre wear, because at a certain phase Lewis was very much faster than you on the same tyres?
HK: I think the problems were a lot less than at Silverstone, just in certain phases of the race, especially with the extreme tyre, when the circuit was drying out I had a little bit of tyre wear but it was a problem a little bit related to the brakes as well. I was struggling to keep the temperatures in the brakes and trying to maximise the braking performance, that was where I think most of the time was lost this time, and it got better towards the end when the pace was getting better, the circuit drying out. The braking was better and then the brakes also picked up some temperature and for me that was quite crucial in this race. It was more of a struggle earlier on and for longer than I was expecting.
Q: (Linda Janson - Auto Euro) Sebastian, was the last lap at Monza the longest in your career and what did the team say to you during the last lap?
SV: As I said before, it was probably the longest lap I did around Monza, the slowest one, but for sure it was the nicest one. When I took the chequered flag I didn't know what to say. I was communicating with my engineer throughout the race, towards the end about reference times with Heikki and other cars and what's going on. There was debris in the last corner, so I was forced to keep up the tension and then I didn't know what I should say, so I waited for them to make the first call. Then I was very calm, congratulating everybody, I was extremely happy, but at some point I started shouting. I was extremely happy. It's difficult to describe that moment, to see people left and right, a lot of people cheering, the marshals coming down from their posts and clapping their hands. This is something that for sure I will never forget.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti - Corriere della Sera) Sebastian, are you sure you are going to quit the team at the end of the season after this victory? And secondly, how are you going to face the pressure that will perhaps include comparisons with Schumacher?
SV: First of all, about this comparison to Michael. I think first of all you have to realise what this guy achieved in the past. To compare anybody among us drivers - probably Fernando is the closest, he's a two time World Champion - but to compare anybody to Michael I think is a bit ridiculous. Obviously I'm very young and at a very early stage of my career and therefore I think there's no need to make a comparison. He's probably one of the best drivers we have ever seen. I'm proud, in a way, because I know him. He's a very nice guy and completely down-to-earth. For the future, no matter what happens, first of all next year I am going to race for Red Bull Racing, but I don't see that it's a step backwards. Obviously now we have probably been stronger in the last couple of races, we have been stronger than they were but there's no secret, I think the package is similar. We have been working very hard, I believe, because many people find the excuse in the engine. I believe that we have a strong engine in the back with the Ferrari package, but I don't think that's all. In the end, you still have to get the job done and for my future, regarding pressure and so on, I have been in similar situations in the past, obviously not in Formula One as we know, but I'm approaching the next race, and obviously a normal race is difficult for us to win and to repeat this kind of result: pole position and victory but we will fight. People have seen, now, and we have underlined in the last couple of races that we have a strong package, going towards the end of the season, so I hope that we can score some more points. Going into the top ten, last qualifying, I think is still a big success for us as well as scoring some points. I won't go to Singapore and feel like a hero and the superstar and expect another race win just like that. It's not going to be like that. Where I come from and how I grew up, I am down-to-earth enough to realise what happened today and to understand the approach for the next races.