FIA post-race press conference - Singapore 28 Sep 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
1st Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1h57m16.304s; 2nd Nico Rosberg (Williams), 1h57m19.261s; 3rd Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1h57m22.221s.
Q: Fernando, bad luck with mechanical trouble on Saturday but you made up for it today with a fantastic drive.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, fantastic. A first podium of the season and first victory as well and I am extremely happy. I cannot believe it right now, I think I need a couple of days to realise we won a race this year. It seems impossible all through the season to be close to the top guys and here suddenly we have been competitive from Friday. As you said yesterday we were unlucky in qualifying and today very lucky in the race. Obviously we started at the back and the first safety car helped me a lot and I was able to win the race.
Q: The first safety car was caused by your team-mate Nelson Piquet. You came in on lap 12, three laps before the safety car, which really gave you a strong position when everybody else had to pit.
FA: Yeah, as I said unlucky yesterday but very, very lucky today. We chose to do a very aggressive first stint as we knew starting 15 you cannot overtake anyone here. We thought about a one stop strategy but we had some concerns with the brakes, so we said one stop is not possible, so we tried something very different. We tried a very short first stint and tried to make up as many places as possible at the start and on the first lap and then see from there. The start was good but obviously not good enough and then as I said very lucky but the pace was there as afterwards all through the race we were able to pull some distance, some gap, to the guys behind us and this was thanks to the car which was super today.
Q: And the pace was there at the second restart on the Bridgestone primes when you pulled out two or three seconds a lap.
FA: I think I had a little bit of an advantage compared to Nico because of the tyres. I think the prime were a little bit better, so I was with the better tyre in the last stint of the race. I was running with low revs when I was alone and then at the restart I put maximum engine and thanks to the tyres as well I was able to pull away from Nico.
Q: Nico, your best ever finish in Formula One. It did not look good for you at the start but it seemed you were forced to come into the pits under the safety car conditions and incur a penalty.
Nico Rosberg: Yeah, I had a bit of a difficult start on the dirty side and didnt get away too well and dropped behind Jarno. He was pretty slow, I suppose he was heavy on fuel, so I absolutely had to get by him. The problem was my only chance was turn one where I wasnt ever quite close enough and turn seven where on the inside it is so bumpy it is simply impossible to outbrake someone. I mean it is very, very difficult. So it took some time and I was literally alongside and I could just brake on the inside but even then it was quite a hairy moment as I locked up everything. I came through and then I was doing one qualifying lap after another because I knew it was my only chance to break clear of that group and it worked out well.
Q: It also worked out well after you incurred the penalty as you had enough cushion to get a very strong position towards the end of the race.
NR: Yeah, when I saw the safety car coming out just on the lap where I had to pit, the crew had already told me come in this lap and then the safety car comes out and I was thinking this is not possible, it is every single time exactly the same thing. I was really annoyed and I thought that was it, that was the end of it. I then realised I was able to pull enough of a gap afterwards to be in a good position after my stop and go, so that was great.
Q: I guess that means the car felt pretty good underneath you.
NR: Yeah, it felt pretty good and we are definitely quite strong on this track which is really pleasing that we had a good chance this weekend. Everything went our way for once which is fantastic for me and for the whole team.
Q: Lewis, how did your pit stop go when you came in for the first time?
Lewis Hamilton: My pit stop went really well actually. To be honest I was held and had to wait a little bit because there were a few cars coming past, including Felipe and perhaps Nico or someone coming into his stop, so I lost a little bit of time there but fortunately it didnt cause me any troubles. We had great pace generally. It was unfortunate that I got stuck behind David Coulthard as he was a good second slower than me but also a good second slower than everyone in front of us. It was so difficult to get close to him and to overtake but he drove a fantastic race and so did these two guys. It is good to be up here though, we got good points.
Q: Talk us through the last stage of the race after the restart. What were your thoughts?
LH: Well, obviously to try and get as close to Nico as possible and see if there was an opportunity there but I had no need to take any risks as both Ferraris were out of the points. I mean I pushed as much as I could to close the gap but again when you get close to someone, especially the last couple of corners, it is just impossible to overtake. This is not a great circuit to overtake but I really enjoy driving the track. I anticipated it being probably the hardest circuit to drive on but it was nowhere near, so I was feeling pretty happy.
Q: Early on in the race Felipe was pulling away from you and then Kimi was starting to catch you. What state were you in at that point?
LH: I think in the first few laps being behind Felipe but being quite quick compared to him at the beginning I probably used up more of my tyres than I potentially needed to. That was the only opportunity for me to get past him. Unfortunately my rear tyres just dropped away a little bit as we always see. They are always great at looking after their tyres but nevertheless we came through. It was a tough weekend but we got some good points and I am very, very happy.
Q: Fernando, your thoughts on this amazing night in Singapore and how you enjoyed racing at night. Lots of new things at this circuit and you winning again.
FA: Yeah, it was a great weekend for all of us. A great weekend for everyone in Formula One, the first night race. We all had a new challenge in front of us and we will be part of history, the first night race in Formula One. There will be many more to come as I think the experience was great. We had no problems and I think the people will enjoy more this type of races. It will not all be night races but some of them can be at night as the spirit was good. For us, ING Renault, we have had a tough, tough 2008 championship but now we are fighting for fourth place in the Constructors. This victory is well deserved as the guys worked extremely hard all through the season. We start far behind, maybe one second behind BMW, now we are the same pace as them or even better and this is thanks to a great job. We will keep on pushing. Three more races to go and next year more.
Q: Fernando, what do you think this means to yourself and the team after such a tough season?
FA: Well, it means a lot obviously. We always prepare the races for victories but on Friday already we realise that we cannot fight for victory. This time was maybe a bit different. We were competitive straight away. We had no simulator, nothing to prepare the race and already from P1 we were quick. It means that the car here for whatever reason was competitive. We were hoping to take the benefit of this good car here but after qualifying maybe our hopes were gone already as we started 15 and 16 and you know that it is nearly over. Again, today shows that Formula One is unpredictable on a Sunday.
Q: As you said after the drivers parade, anything can happen.
FA: Anything can happen. I was hoping more for rain and maybe you can win if you make the right tyre choice and get an advantage and you can make a lot of places. In normal dry conditions with a normal race you finish more or less two or three places in front or behind you from where you started. There is not much more room to improve.
Q: The strategy was correct as when the safety car came you were right in there.
FA: I dont know. Without the safety car maybe I was finishing in the same position, 15 or 14. But we knew that one stop was a little bit better for us. Our simulations said one stop could maybe work a little bit better. But we had no brakes to do one stop as the brakes were running too hot all weekend as there are not long enough straights to cool the brakes. It is corner after corner and we did not have the brakes for a one-stop strategy.
Q: Did you have any problems with the car during the race?
FA: The drinks bottle didnt work. On lap two I tried and I said 58 laps with no water. If I tried on lap 20 it was better but on lap two it was a little bit hard.
Q: You and Nico were the only two to start the race on the super soft tyres.
FA: For me the super soft tyre was not working all weekend. Any time we put on the hard tyre the car had much more grip and the lap time was nearly seven tenths a second quicker with the hard tyre. We wanted to do a very short first stint with a good start and good first lap we said we will put on the super soft and then we will have the good tyre all through the long stints. As I said it worked for me and it worked for Nico but obviously we were lucky.
Q: Nico, what do you think of that statistic?
NR: The only reason I started with the soft was that it was the only new tyre I had left and I needed it for the start. It didnt really help me much as my start wasnt great on the dirty side and I was stuck behind Jarno and the team told me either you get by him or the race is over, so I had to risk it. I went for it a couple of times and it was pretty close a few times but in the end I locked up all the wheels and got past which was good even though I flat spotted my tyres quite a lot afterwards and it was quite tough as I had to do one qualifying lap after another after that to get a clear gap. Then the safety car came out just on the lap I was coming in and I couldnt believe it. I was like not again, its impossible.
Q: It must be extraordinary to hear your engineers say your race is finished as you were only on about lap two.
NR: Well, it is true. If you are in that situation it is better just to take a risk. Ok, maybe you put it into the wall but take a risk otherwise you are going to finish nowhere, so you might as well go for it and that is what I did and it worked out well.
Q: And what do you think of your second podium?
NR: Well, it is very nice to be up here. Also just for the whole team it is a nice thing to finish and in the last few races to have a podium like this. It gives us a big boost and also for the winter and for next year. I think it is a very good thing and I think we deserved it. Luck was on our side for once this time and I think that is good.
Q: And what about that second restart?
NR: Yeah, the thing was it was going to be difficult for me to pass Fernando anyway as he was a little bit quicker than me. I was concentrating more on behind me and I was trying to get a good exit out of that last corner rather than just being quick in general as I struggled a lot with tyre warm up. My tyres really cool down a lot in a safety car period and it is difficult afterwards. I was just concentrating behind me as from Lewis there was big pressure as I thought he was going to be pretty quick. That was my main focus. I wasnt looking forward, I was just trying to stay second.
Q: Lewis, obviously six useful points with third place. Did your tactics, your decisions change during the race, given that you knew the Ferraris were no longer really in it?
LH: No, we stayed on the same strategy that we planned to be on and we saw it through.
Q: I meant your personal race tactics in that you knew that Felipe wasnt going to be scoring points and therefore you didnt need to take any risks?
LH: I was pushing to keep up with Nico and I was up to a second quicker than him while I was catching him, before the safety car and after the safety car, it was just again like being behind DC, although Nico was
NR: Oy, you, dont make me out to be that slow because I heard DC was struggling today.
LH: But no, Nico was driving very well, wasnt making any mistakes and so unless I made a stupid manoeuvre which was just unnecessary, there was no point really, so I was just trying to keep with him and then with three laps to go, it was clear that I wasnt going to be able to overtake him, so I just brought it home.
Q: How was the car during the early stages?
LH: My cars been fantastic all weekend really and through the race I believe we were very, very competitive and unfortunately with the safety car, I came out, I think, in quite a good position, but then I got stuck behind DC and I must have lost a good 20 seconds to Fernando or something like that. At one point we were all together as a group and then the next thing you couldnt even see him at the end of the straight. I just lost a lot of ground there but weve come away with a lot of points.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mark Fogarty Auto Action) Fernando, was this weekend the turning point for Renault in its progress towards the front again on a consistent basis and does this result and the weekend change your thinking about next year?
FA: I dont know but we will find out very quickly in Fuji because we cannot forget that this is a very special track, a street circuit like Monaco, corner after corner, second gear, third gear, so very slow, slippery asphalt and I think on a normal circuit we can realise the potential of the car a little bit better than on a street circuit, where its more about the set-up than how lucky and risky the laps are. We keep improving the car, as I said before. We started the season quite far away from pole position and from the top teams and now we are much closer, so we are definitely one of the teams who have most improved their car but maybe it was not difficult because at the beginning of the season we were not at the right level.
Q: (Ed Gorman The Times) Lewis, it was obviously a race with lots of drama and a terrible evening for Ferrari but youve now extended your lead to seven points. You must be pretty delighted with that, even though the race maybe didnt pan out exactly how you wanted it.
LH: Yes, definitely. I honestly cant complain. We qualified second, put in quite a good lap to get me in that position. We were competitive throughout the first stint with the safety car, again, we were fortunate to come out, the team did a great job to get me out, again, no problems. As I said, it was just a bit unfortunate to be stuck behind stuck in traffic. Nevertheless, to have a podium finish in the first Singapore night race is a great result and good points, so I really cant complain. Im quite happy with seven points.
Q: (Ed Gorman The Times) We heard Fernando talking eloquently about the experience of driving here in the race. Could we just have your thoughts on this first night race on this historic evening for Formula One?
LH: To be honest, during the race it felt pretty much like all the races do. It felt like we were in the daylight. I didnt particularly notice it was night time, but the track and the facilities here have been phenomenal all weekend. They really have done an amazing job, so to be honest I am very, very proud of the job theyve done. Unfortunately its a little bit difficult to overtake on this circuit. However, it still makes a real challenge for all the drivers. As I said, a good result to come here for the first time and score points, finish on the podium and I hope that we can come again next year, I look forward to it, and hopefully we can try to win next year.
Q: (Marco Evangelisti Corriere dello Sport) Fernando, what were you thinking during the last lap when you seemed to pass two good meters away from the kerbs?
FA: I had my fingers crossed all the last lap because you never know what can happen. Yesterday we had a very strange problem in our fuel system which never happened (before) and we didnt know if it was because of the bumpy track, because maybe I hit a kerb. We are still not sure about what happened yesterday, so the last lap was obviously quite a worry for me, but it was all OK.
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Deutschland) Fernando, you had a short conversation with Lewis on the podium. Can you explain what you talked about?
FA: Its a secret. No, we were talking about how physical the race was, nothing more.
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Deutschland) Nico, when you had taken your penalty and you came back onto the track and you were fourth, what were your thoughts at that moment? Did you think it was going to be your day today?
NR: Well, no. At the time that the team said I had to have a ten second stop-and-go penalty, which I thought was going to come anyway, I thought it was all over again. Although I was P1, I was trying to go as hard as I could, I was enjoying it while I was out front, but I thought it was all over again, because I had to come in. Then I dropped to sixth and then they said to me that the guys in front still need to stop, so it was looking great again. It was me racing Fernando. I thought I might have a chance against him but he was just a bit too quick today but still, its been a great result for us. And I think the team has also done a fantastic job because we also struggled with brakes and also had some problems with the bumpiness on the track. We had some issues with some things and they fixed up a whole load of things overnight in preparation for qualifying and everything held on great, so a big compliment to them also.
Q: (Jon McEvoy The Daily Mail) Lewis, your lead is obviously extended now to seven points with three more rounds to go. It puts you in a strong position, stronger by six more points than earlier on today. Whats your frame of mind going into the last three races, bearing that in mind?
LH: Its all about scoring points. We came here with a one point lead, and I could see that the Ferraris were very competitive this weekend and Felipe was driving very well, so I knew it would be very tough to beat them. Especially after the start I was just behind him and it seemed like he would perhaps be going to the same lap as me, so it just showed that his qualifying lap was phenomenal. So it would have been tough to score more points than him in this race but fortunately the race had a couple of incidents in it which didnt benefit them but we did a solid job and came back with the points, so moving forward I think we approach it the same as we have this weekend and definitely dont get ahead of ourselves because, as you can see, lots of things can happen, so we just focus on doing a solid job, scoring more points hopefully.
Q: (Ian Gordon News of the World) Lewis, it looked on the TV that you were leaving the pits at the same time as Massa. Did you see Massas incident and what were your thoughts when it happened?
LH: His pit stop was further behind me, so I didnt see exactly what happened. I just saw him come past with the fuel nozzle connected to his car and he pulled off to the left before the end of the pit lane. But I wasnt particularly focused on him, I was looking out for the red light, making sure I didnt fall for that one this time.
Q: (Adam Hay-Nicholls Metro) Fernando, you said earlier that you and Renault have been pushing all year and will continue to push next year. Can we take from that that you are going to stay at Renault next year?
FA: No, I didnt say that. No, I just want to say thanks to the team because, as I said, they keep working with this car. We had a new front wing here, at this race, and if you think how the championship is, and that they are already working on next years car. They didnt forget the performance of this year. They brought a new front wing with four races to go. This victory is also thanks to the massive effort they are making with this years car and next years car but its not changing the decision for next year. As Ive always said, Renault will be my first priority because I feel Im at home in this team.
Q: (Ed Gorman The Times) Lewis, did you hear any concern from the McLaren pit wall about the amount of time it took for the stewards to announce first of all that they were investigating Nicos pit stop and then how long it took for the penalty to be announced?
LH: I have absolutely no clue what youre talking about. I was driving my race, I dont know what happened. I have absolutely no idea what happened to Nico, so I really cant comment on it.
Q: (Fréderic Ferret LEquipe) Fernando, when you pit early, did you think it was already over or were you still hoping for something to happen during the race?
FA: No, when I pit, obviously I was last behind the Force India cars, I was still looking in the sky for some drops of rain or something because I was last. Obviously I had pitted already, so I would overtake some people when they did their pit stop but our main target in the race was P12 or P11 and maybe a little bit better with some rain. The race changed completely after the safety cars and you then never know because it was the same thing when I was leading. I was leading comfortably because we had already one safety car at that point, maybe I would be P5 or P6 because there were people who had stopped already, fuelled to the end, like the Ferraris, so it was a worry, all through the race.
Q: (Fréderic Ferret LEquipe) Nico, what is it like to be leading a race in Formula One?
NR: Yeah, its a very, very nice view, to have P1 on the pit board. I was just pushing as hard as I could, I had nobody behind me. I was thinking this is looking great and just pushing as hard as I could because I knew that I had to stop, I was going to get a stop-and-go, so I had to try and get the gap as big as possible.
Q: (Mark Fogarty Auto Action) Lewis, whats your feeling now in these last few races in the championship? Can you take Felipe on head-to-head, is it going to be a straight fight or do you have some concerns about his speed if he doesnt strike trouble?
LH: No, as I said, were going to approach the next few races exactly the same as we have this one. I have no doubts we have a competitive package to compete with them but without a doubt it will be a very tough battle.