Japanese Grand Prix - selected team and driver quotes 04 Oct 2009
Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi on how they rounded off a miserable weekend for Toro Rosso with a double retirement; Ferraris Giancarlo Fisichella and McLarens Heikki Kovalainen on their pit-lane exit altercation; and Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel on his third win of the season. The drivers and senior team personnel report back on Sundays race action
Sebastian Vettel (1st):
What a race! We already had pole position and strategy-wise we were the favourites, but, you know - first of all you have to do the start! We were pretty confident that we could defend our position, as weve had good starts in the past, but it was closer than I thought it would be! Going into Turn One, I suddenly saw a silver arrow on my left-hand side, but I had the inside line so it was my advantage. After that I put my head down and tried to push with every single lap. The car was fantastic and I was able to create a gap quite quickly. We were two laps longer than Lewis and a lap longer than Jarno in the first stint, so it all worked out and I was pretty much in control of the race. After we fitted the soft tyres for the last stint, I wanted to have a little bit of fun. I did one very quick lap (I think a 32.5), but then my engineer came on the radio and said watch your tyres, there might be a safety car or something and two laps later there was the safety car! Its not what you want when youre in the lead, but I was still taking care of my tyres and had a good restart. I had a bit of a cushion with Grosjean behind me and then three or four laps to build a gap again that was enough to win the race. Finally, we made it! Fantastic. I was screaming with happiness on the radio at the end of the race. The last couple of races have been a bit up and down, sometimes we had pace and sometimes not, but finally we made it. Its good to be back in first position on Sunday. A huge thanks to all the team and everyone at Red Bull for this.
Mark Webber (17th):
I had to make two pit stops on the first two laps, so it was all over from there. On the first lap, the headrest came loose in the car, so I had to come in and get that fixed. I went back out, but the same thing happened so I had to come in again in order for the guys to tape it down. We tested some things today, and tried some other items for future races. Thats all we could really do from there.
Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal:
A brilliant job by Sebastian today. Hes been on it all weekend and he looked like he really enjoyed himself out there. The cars worked fantastically well and a big thank you to everyone in the Red Bull team, to Renault and to all of our partners that have supported us so well here. For Mark, this was the weekend from hell - with a chassis change overnight, then issues on the first lap with a headrest that had somehow come loose and then a puncture. After that the race was little more than a test, but its encouraging that right at the end he got the fastest lap time as a small consolation.
Fabrice Lom, Renault, principal engineer, Track Support:
A fantastic result for Sebastian today - pole position and a win. It was a perfect weekend for him on what is a very difficult track for engines. Unfortunately for Mark - his glass was more half empty than half full today. It was a difficult race for him after starting from the pit lane. He proved he was quick by setting the fastest lap of the race, but he couldnt do anything else, so Im sad for him. There are two more races to go and we wont give up until the end.
Jarno Trulli (2nd):
"Standing on the podium in the team's home Grand Prix is a fantastic feeling and this great result is down to the whole team; the engineers, mechanics and everyone, including Timo. We work really well together as part of a great team and it's a pity he wasn't able to race today. The car, with the new package, has been really competitive all weekend and I knew the start was likely to be the toughest point of the race. We made a strong start and I almost held my position, but Lewis got by and after that I spent the whole race fighting with him. I closed the gap and just focused on doing qualifying laps every time; it was fantastic fun and I really enjoyed it. It was not easy to push so hard but I kept fighting and after the first pit stops I was again chasing Lewis really closely. It was just a matter of putting as much pressure on as possible and, thanks to the team for the strategy and fast pit work, we got him at the last stop. From then on I pulled away and it was reasonably comfortable, even with the safety car at the end. I want to thank the team; we came here after Timo's great second place in Singapore and again the car was competitive immediately. I really hoped to win but this was the maximum we could achieve and I am extremely happy to be on the podium in Japan."
John Howett, Toyota team president:
"Jarno did a brilliant job today with the only Toyota in the race. It's great to get a result like this in our home Grand Prix; we really appreciate our partners and fans so I hope they enjoyed our performance. It's unfortunate Timo couldn't join him in the race because I am sure he would have also had a very strong result but I am very happy with Jarno's podium. The strategy worked perfectly so, thanks to the efforts of Jarno and the team, we got past Hamilton after the second pit stop. Two second places in a row is a credit to the team, who have fought so hard all through the season; they deserve this result. There are still two more races left so we will immediately begin preparations for those and I hope Timo and Jarno will again stand on the podium this season."
Lewis Hamilton (3rd):
I tried to get past both Jarno and Sebastian at the start. But I couldnt quite manage to get into the lead. It was a good scrap with Jarno - we were really battling, setting qualifying times as we tried to shave tenths off each others laps - but, over the race distance, my car couldnt quite match his. As I exited the pits after my second stop, I lost time with a gearbox problem, which meant I coasted about 100 metres down the pit lane - that cost me about a second. To be honest, it wasnt a surprise to be jumped by Jarno at the final stops - we needed every tenth to make the gap up to three seconds and we couldnt quite make it.When we were behind the Safety Car, I asked the team if they could get the KERS working again so that I could shoot past Jarno, but they couldnt do it and I wasnt close enough to get in his slipstream at the restart.
Heikki Kovalainen (11th):
Im a bit disappointed with my result. Im absolutely on the limit of my car and were still lacking grip in the high-speed corners, so its not possible for me to attack any harder. I pushed from the start to the finish - Adrian tried to make a move but only went halfway, so I was able to stay beside him. When he tried to turn in, I was already on the kerb and I had no more room to avoid him, so I had to lean on him and that was more a problem for him. My second pit stop wasn't fantastic as we had a problem with the right front wheel, so Giancarlo was able to get out right in front of me. I was able to release the pit lane speed-limiter earlier and immediately got on KERS. He gave me some room, so it was quite an easy move - nothing too dramatic.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal:
Suzuka is a terrifically exciting and challenging circuit, for drivers and engineers alike. So for us to have bagged a solid third place here isnt something we need be too disappointed with, particularly bearing in mind where we were performance-wise on fast circuits of this nature only a few weeks ago. Ultra-forceful competitor that he is and always will be, Lewis had hoped to be able to take the lead from Sebastian at the first corner. In truth it was never going to be easy, owing to the short run from the start-line to the first corner - and, once Sebastian had held on to his lead into Turn One, he remained just out of Lewiss reach all afternoon. Lewiss focus then turned to his delicately poised battle with Jarno. Emerging from the second pit stops in third place just behind the Italian, Lewis then suffered a KERS malfunction that we were unable to cure. Bearing in mind that he then had to improvise an all-new driving style to compensate for the lack of KERS and the compromised braking balance that the lack of KERS occasioned, he did a truly fantastic job to hold on to third place, and to keep Kimi at bay, through to the flag. After Heikkis problems in qualifying, compounded by a five-place grid penalty caused by our need to replace his gearbox yesterday afternoon, Heikki tried his hardest today to make up places from his P11 grid slot - but the reality is that Suzuka is a tricky strip of narrow asphalt on which its deceptively difficult to overtake. The fact that Heikki is disappointed with his P11 finish is an indication of his competitive spirit - but hes already talking optimistically about Interlagos. Talking of Interlagos, well approach the Brazilian Grand Prix with the same mindset with which weve been approaching every Grand Prix since the German: in other words, with a mindset aggressively focused on scoring as many points as possible in an effort to secure third place in the constructors world championship.
Norbert Haug, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
A great race from Lewis again and 16 points for him and the team after the last two weekends with his win in Singapore and third place here in Suzuka. After his second pitstop, a potential isolation problem with the KERS Hybrid occurred, the root cause of which we are still investigating. As a precaution, the system switched itself off, so after his second pitstop, Lewis had to run without KERS support - which obviously cost him laptime due to brake-balance issues and less power available. Despite this handicap, he did a marvellous job defending his third position from Kimi at the restart after the Safety Car period. In fact, he pulled a gap out between him and the Ferrari in the last laps. Heikki was handicapped starting from 11th place after receiving a five-place grid penalty due to changing his cars gearbox following his qualifying shunt.Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has scored 51 points in the six races since Lewiss win at the Hungarian Grand Prix at the end of July - a better score than any other team in that period of time. I would like to thank everybody in our team at Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart for the hard work that was done in order to recover from our bad first half of the season when we scored 14 points in nine races. In the last six, we got 51 - and that definitely feels much better. Finally, congratulations to Sebastian and Red Bull Racing for a superb win today - this result keeps the outcome of the world championship open.
Kimi Raikkonen (4th):
"Today the car wasn't bad, but it was not quick enough to fight for the podium. This fourth place is useful in terms of keeping the team in third place in the constructors' championship, but it will be hard to hang onto it over the final two races. I will definitely do everything I can though. I was unable to make up places at the start, especially as the first corner is not that far from the start line and so I was unable to make the most of the KERS. In the first stint, when I was on hard tyres, the situation was a bit difficult, but then, once on the softs, things improved considerably. I managed to close on Heidfeld and pass him at the pit stop, even though, coming away from my stop, I found myself in traffic behind Button. Then there was not much to fight for to the end of the race."
Giancarlo Fisichella (12th):
"I had a better feel for the car this weekend and I think the effect from that could be seen, although maybe not in terms of the results. Today, I could run at a good pace, especially in the middle part of the race. It's a shame I lost a place in my battle with Kovalainen. We managed to get ahead of him in the pit stop, but then he swerved across to the inside at the only point where I left the door slightly open and he leaned on me, managing to get by. Towards the end, I had to fight off Sutil who was very quick and was on the soft tyre, while I was on the hard: at this point the KERS came in handy. Now I am looking forward to Interlagos in a more confident mood: it will be important to get a slightly better start position to try and finally make it into the points."
Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal:
"All things considered, this is a positive result: I don't think we could have done any more than this fourth place. We got the most out of the F60 as it stands today and, thanks to yet another great drive from Kimi, we also managed to stay third in the constructors' classification. Giancarlo also drove a good race, driving competitively in terms of pace and performance, as can be seen from the fact he set the eighth best lap time. In the middle stint, on the soft tyre, both our drivers were very quick, their lap times matching those of the best. The team worked well and we must continue to do so for the final two races left to run in this strange season, fighting tooth and nail to reach the target we set ourselves from the mid-season onwards."
Chris Dyer, Ferrari chief engineer:
"After the disappointment of Singapore, it's nice to see Kimi again finish a race in a good position. With hindsight, there's some disappointment with a result that could have been even better: we opted to start on the hard tyres on Kimi's car, because we weren't entirely sure about how the soft ones would work over a distance. In fact, their performance stayed consistent, as we saw in the second part of the race, when both our drivers were very competitive. On top of that, we failed to make up places at the start, which is what we usually manage. We played about a bit with the stops to try and pass Heidfeld and we managed it. In the final stint, it seemed at one point that
Hamilton had a problem and then the Safety Car closed everyone up. Kimi tried to see if there was room to attack him at the re-start but there was not. Giancarlo drove a good race and it was important for him and for the team to see him fighting with Kovalainen and Alonso for a place just outside the points. It's a shame that, coming out of pit lane after his second stop, he lost a place in his battle with the McLaren driver."
Nico Rosberg, Williams (5th):
That was the best I could do today for sure. The car wasnt as quick as we wanted it to be but we got the best out of it. I had a really good strategy which helped deliver this result. It was a tough race so overall Im pleased.
Kazuki Nakajima, Williams (15th):
Obviously it was a difficult race for me. I was on a one stop strategy which was working up to a point but then there was just too much traffic and the safety car came out so it didnt work out the way we had hoped. Its a disappointing result at my home Grand Prix.
Sam Michael, Williams technical director:
We had an interesting race because our strategies were quite different to the cars around us due to the penalties imposed yesterday. Nico kept his head down and scored some points which was what was required today. He was competitive at the times he needed to be and this is a good result. Kazuki was on a one stop strategy, which was really dependent on something happening to help him up the order, but it didnt unfortunately.
Nick Heidfeld (6th):
Today was not our lucky day. Im very disappointed with this result. Fourth place was within reach but several things went wrong today, especially at the second pit stop when the rear right wheel nut got stuck. But certainly I dont want to complain. These things can happen and normally we have very good pit stops. That was when I lost a position to Kimi, and I rejoined the race just behind him. When the safety car came out I lost another position to Nico, who was lucky to refuel while the safety car was out.
Robert Kubica (9th):
The entire weekend was unlucky for me. Yesterday I wasnt able to show my good pace due to the red and yellow flags. Today I was stuck in traffic a couple of times. Furthermore I lost much time at the beginning of the race with a heavy and understeering car. Once the car was lighter and I got into my rhythm I was quite quick. I was then very unlucky with my first pit stop, as after the stop both Kimi and Nick were in front of me. That cost me time. Also after the safety car period I was in traffic. I was stuck behind Jenson. I was quicker than him in the corners, but was not able to overtake as we were missing some top speed on the straights.
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport director:
That was a strong performance from us with a disappointing end. Nick was quick and well on his way on fourth. Then he lost a position during his second pit stop due to a sticking wheel nut. He lost another position during the safety-car-period when Nico Rosberg passed him after his pit stop. Coming in ninth, Robert missed the points by just a small margin.
Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber head of engineering:
Today more should have been possible for us. Nick established himself in fourth for a long time. Until his second pit stop, which we did earlier because Kimi Raikkonen was right behind him, everything went according to plan. But during the pit stop a problem occurred which cost us valuable seconds. As a consequence Kimi was able to get by. During the safety-car-period Nick lost another position. Robert lost a position after the start which he gained back later during the race. But at the end it was just not enough to score a point."
Rubens Barrichello (7th):
"Qualifying proved crucial for my weekend as it put me ahead of Jenson for the race and I was able to make up a point on him. I struggled with the set-up today and wasn't able to get the best from the car which is a shame. I was able to follow Kimi (Raikkonen) when we were both running on primes in the first stint but once he switched to options, he gained a lot of time on me. We would have finished in sixth place without the safety car and that's the best that I could have hoped for today. It's frustrating but that's the way racing goes and the most important thing is that I gained a point on Jenson this weekend. I'm looking forward to my home race in Sao Paulo in two weeks. The Brazilian Grand Prix is always a very special occasion for me and I'll be giving it my all there to do as well as possible for the championship."
Jenson Button (8th):
"Today was about picking up points after our eventful qualifying session yesterday and that's exactly what I did. Starting from tenth on the grid was always going to make for a tough race but my pace was really good in the race and I was very happy with the performance of the car. I was pulling massive amounts of time out of the guys in front me but they were on heavier fuel loads which held me up as it's difficult to overtake here. I did the best that I could in the car that we had this weekend and we got the maximum performance out of it with a points-scoring finish. I only lost one point to Rubens today which is my main priority. Obviously we lost a few points to Sebastian but we were expecting them to be strong here. We go to two circuits now which should suit our car so I'm excited about the end of the season and already looking forward to the next race in Brazil."
Ross Brawn, Brawn team principal:
"We recovered well in the race today from a problematic qualifying session and both drivers brought home valuable points in the fight for the constructors' championship. Whilst we were aware that this track would favour our competitors, I am pleased with the performance of the team and drivers over the weekend to extract the maximum from the car and add to our championship points tally, leaving us with half a point required to take the constructors' title. The next two races at Interlagos and Abu Dhabi should suit the characteristics of our car much better so we can look forward to a very exciting conclusion to the season."
Fernando Alonso (10th):
"My race was really decided after qualifying because although the car was competitive and I pushed hard, it was not enough to score any points. We now have to concentrate on the two remaining races and make sure that we qualify well because if we do that I am sure we can score some strong points and have a good end to the season."
Romain Grosjean (16th):
"Overall it was a tough afternoon for me. The car was very heavy on fuel and was difficult to drive as I had a lot of understeer. The Suzuka circuit was also a new experience for me this weekend, but I did my best to complete the race without any problems. I'm now looking forward to the next race in Brazil."
Jean-Francois Caubet, Renault managing director:
"I would like to congratulate Red Bull Racing on yet another victory, which shows the competitiveness of the Renault engine. Unfortunately for the Renault F1 Team, a
weekend that looked promising for us after the Singapore podium, didn't meet our expectations. Both cars started so far down the grid that even with a good strategy and an excellent performance from Fernando, who made up six places, we didn't manage to get into the points. We will need to deliver those in the next two races."
Bob Bell, Renault technical director:
"It would be easy to say that it was a disappointing race, but in fact it was a disappointing qualifying session, which really determined what happened to us in the race. Fernando did a great job to gain six places, but I think the race would have been a different story had he not had his qualifying penalty and started in the top ten. Romain drove a solid race to bring the car home, which is as much as we expected from him considering his starting position. So it wasn't a great weekend, but there are positives: the team worked well together; we remain upbeat; and we look forward to Brazil with continued optimism."
Remi Taffin, Renault head of engine operations:
"Our return to Suzuka was not particularly successful. We had the speed but our grid positions compromised our chances of a good result. We used new engines for this race and they completed their mileage without any problems. For Brazil, we now have a choice as it's likely that we will use new engines, but that is still to be confirmed."
Adrian Sutil (13th):
It was a really disappointing race. The start was okay and I could keep my position but then I fell back to ninth and was caught behind Kovalainen. I got past him at the chicane but then he cut back across and I spun and lost a lot of time. That was really the end of the race for me. When that happens it's obviously very disappointing as I thought we could have done really well today and got some points. We've just got to look forward to Brazil now - it's a similar type of circuit to here where the car has been competitive.
Vitantonio Liuzzi (14th):
Overall I think it was not a bad race. Starting from that position it was always going to be difficult to score points but we showed a strong pace in the race and never gave up. I could have a really good fight with Fernando and the Williams, plus also the Toro Rosso so I think it was a good effort from the team.
Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India chairman and team principal:
We had expected a better result from this race, particularly given Adrian's excellent performance in qualifying fourth yesterday. The penalty cost us dear as Adrian was behind the heavier Rosberg and then dropped back behind Kovalainen early on. Adrian's race was then compromised when he tried to get past the McLaren but he nevertheless demonstrated that the car is performing very well in race conditions and we are able to race competitively with the top teams. Tonio too had a strong race to secure his second finish in three events. His confidence is now high and we should look forward to the next race in Brazil where we hope we can capitalise on the pace we have showed over the weekend. Hopefully next time we can get the results to prove it.
Jaime Alguersuari (DNF):
My accident came on the lap after my second pit stop, when I fitted the soft tyres. At Turn 15, which you take flat, I lost the rear end of the car and crashed into the wall, but I'm not sure why, as it was inexplicable and I would like to see the data, in case there might have been something wrong with the pressure of the rear tyres or a puncture. I am really, really sorry for what happened. I was pushing every lap and running consistently, in terms of my lap times being almost always within the same tenth. Hopefully, we can have a better race in Brazil.
Sebastien Buemi (DNF):
I had a problem with the clutch, right from the start of the parade lap, when I couldnt get off the grid. We tried to fix the problem by adjusting the clutch map, but again for the real start, it didnt work. Then, after a few laps the clutch failed and I had to retire in the pits. A real shame as the weekend had seemed promising right from Friday in the wet. In qualifying the car was quick enough to get me into Q3 before the accident, so maybe I could have scored points today. Now we have to prepare for Brazil where the top teams might not bring so many developments to their car. So I hope we can end the season with two good races.
Franz Tost, Toro Rosso team principal:
Having come to Japan for many years, I know this is a very expensive country and that was certainly the case for us this weekend! Unfortunately, Sebastien had a clutch problem which meant he could not get off the line at the start and later, caused his retirement. Jaime drove a good race up to the point of his accident. After the second stop, on new Options at the 130R, the fastest corner of the track, which meant it was a very big accident, the cause of which, we will now investigate. Fortunately, he is uninjured, which is the most important thing. The car is a different story, but in Brazil, I expect we will have a competitive package.
Shoshi Arakawa, Bridgestone Chairman of the board, President and CEO:
"Congratulations to Sebastian Vettel for his victory here at the Suzuka Circuit. The Japanese Grand Prix was held at Suzuka in beautiful weather today after a two year interval, and I believe the spectators thoroughly enjoyed the world's top class battles of Formula One. We are proud that our tyres have helped to provide an impressive and exciting race. Bridgestone, as the Official Tyre Supplier to the FIA Formula One World Championship, will continue to support all of the teams and drivers with our full efforts for the season's remaining two races."
Hiroshi Yasukawa, director of Bridgestone Motorsport:
"Well done to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing for keeping the drivers' championship alive with a thrilling win. Congratulations to Jarno Trulli for scoring Toyota's second podium finish in as many races and also to the reigning champion Lewis Hamilton for his third place for McLaren. We were privileged to have many Bridgestone guests, staff and board members here to enjoy fantastic racing."
Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development:
"From the beginning of the race the soft tyre worked well, however in the second two thirds of the race it really came alive and we saw very good race performance from this tyre. The high track temperature meant that the hard compound could be used at the start which would not be as advisable on a colder track due to longer warm-up requirements. This was a safe strategy for those concerned by any degradation from the soft, however those who did opt to use the soft at the start saw good performance."