FIA post-race press conference - Japan 04 Oct 2009
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
1st Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 1h28m20.443s; 2nd. Jarno Trulli (Toyota), 1h28m25.320s; 3rd Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1h28m26.915s.
Q: Sebastian, an utterly dominant weekend for you. Fastest in qualifying. You totally controlled the race. You must feel great.
Sebastian Vettel: I do. What a race. Obviously yesterday with pole position and I think strategy-wise we were the favourites but first of all you have to do the start. We were pretty confident and had good starts in the past. Not that that was always the case at the beginning of the season, but we were confident of defending the position. But it was closer than I thought it was going to be. Going into turn one all of a sudden I saw a silver arrow on the left hand side and obviously I had the inside and it was my advantage but it was closer than I thought it would be. After that it was head down and try to push every single lap. The car was fantastic. I was able to pull a gap quite quickly, a big one, enough. Obviously with the strategy we were two laps longer than Lewis and a lap longer than Jarno in the first stint, so it all worked out. Until the end I was pretty much in control. I fitted soft tyres for the last stint and second and wanted to have a little bit of fun. I did one very quick lap, I think 32.5, then my engineer came on the radio and said ok, be aware of your tyres. There might be a safety car or something. Two laps later there was the safety car. Obviously, it is not what you are hoping for when you are in the lead by roughly 10 seconds. But, nevertheless, I was still taking care of my tyres and at the restart I was able to use it. I had a bit of a cushion with Romain (Grosjean) behind me. A very good restart and then three to four phenomenal laps again to build a gap that was safe enough to win the race in the end, so fantastic. As you said, finally we made it. I was screaming on the radio. I think in the last couple of races it was a little bit up and down. Sometimes we had the pace, sometimes we didnt and yeah, finally we made it, so it is good to be back in first position also on Sunday.
Q: What a day for you. You lost a place at the start and then you fought the whole race to get it back again. You and Lewis were really at each other werent you?
Jarno Trulli: Well. I knew that the start would be the hot spot and the most difficult as I had this guy very strong at the start. Generally, we dont get very good starts and Lewis had KERS as well, so it was pretty easy to imagine what would happen at that first corner. This time the car pulled away pretty well, so I was able to nearly keep the position, but Lewis came by and I was obliged to follow him. From then on it was a fantastic race for me as I really enjoyed qualifying laps, lap by lap, with Lewis, closing the gap and then coming closer. I was pushing again and it was not easy at all. After the first pit stop I was chasing him again. It was really hard but I really enjoyed it as the car was really strong and everything was fine. It was just a matter of pushing as hard as possible and putting pressure on Lewis. Then eventually thanks to the team and the strategy we got him at the last pit stop. From then on I think it was easy for me. But with the safety car I thought again that it was going to be a difficult restart as I thought that Lewis was coming close to me with the KERS car, but I was pulling away again, so I am really happy and I have to thank everybody in the team and Japan. It is a fantastic result. I must admit I really wanted to win but it was impossible today as he was untouchable.
Q: Lewis, what is your response to that? Did you enjoy it as much as Jarno did?
Lewis Hamilton: I did. We had a great race. I tried to get both of them at the start but they both got a really good start which is not always the case. We had quite a good battle, especially for me and Jarno. Sebastian drove fantastic, so he pulled away into the distance. Jarno and I were battling. I knew I could not match these two in the first sector and that it is purely down to downforce but in the middle sector I was quite quick and in the last sector with KERS we were very quick. But I think it was just before or just after the last stop I lost KERS, so that automatically losing us a good few tenths per lap. When that happens the brake balance changes, all these different things, so it was very hard. I had to have a three second gap before the last stop. I think I had a 3.1 and then the last couple of laps I think I lost half a second or something like that. We came out very close but once he was in front of me it was impossible to keep up with him. Well done to these two, they did a fantastic job today. We will battle them into the next race.
Q: You took a very assertive line down in the middle at the start. Tell us about your tactic there to keep Lewis out.
SV: First of all the tactic was to get a good start, so I focussed on myself. The pull-away was good and after that basically looking left and right. On the right hand side Jarno, to see if he has a better start than I have and on the left hand side Lewis. Then quickly I noticed I have a decent start, it seems to be good, so I stayed in the middle, where I am. I was ready to go to the inside in case Lewis had a really good start and then try to get to the inside of turn one and two. It wasnt the case, so I stayed in the middle and all of a sudden he came on the left hand side alongside me nearly. But then I had the advantage going into turn one. Fortunately, apart from that, I didnt have wheel-to-wheel racing this race. I was hoping for a clean race. Obviously when the safety car came out it is not what you are hoping for but nevertheless the speed of the car was fantastic. The circuit is unbelievable. When I was crossing the line for the last lap I really enjoyed the first sector again. It was similar to those two, like qualifying, every single lap pushing to the limit of the car. In the esses, going uphill, it is fantastic, especially when the car works that well around here. It is great, so I really enjoyed myself today.
Q: Jarno, what does this result mean for Toyota?
JT: First of all, it is a double result as we are coming from a fantastic podium for Timo (Glock) with a fantastic drive in Singapore. From there we came here and again the car looked straight away competitive, so I think the team has just showed that it is in Formula One and is proving to everyone that they can do the job. Obviously, there are still some areas where we have to improve. But being on the podium in front of your home fans is fantastic. This is down to the entire team, from the engineers to the mechanics, and as well I have to say to my team-mate who is a great person. It is a shame that he could not race today. I wish him all the best. But I must admit we are having quite a lot of fun and we are having a very productive work inside this team. The atmosphere is very nice and it is great to be, for me now, on the podium here.
Q: Lewis, you lost a place to Jarno at the second stop. You had another chance to get it back at the restart. Tell us about that from your point of view.
LH: I was on the radio for the last couple of safety car laps to ask the team if they could get the KERS working again. I really needed that to have any chance to shoot past Jarno at the start. But that wasnt the case. They werent able to do that. I was generally just looking out to see if you could get as close as possible. I didnt particularly exit the last corner close enough to him either way. He did a great job again there and that is always the case. You have to be very close to them but I wasnt able to do so but, nevertheless, it was good points for our team.
Q: Sebastian, youve taken the championship on to the last two races. Sixteen points behind the leader but as Lewis knows to his cost from two years ago when Kimi Räikkönen closed that margin down, it can still be done. What are your thoughts on the last two races?
SV: You said it all. It can still be done. It is looking much better now. It would be nice to have a couple more races left, but two races to go. We are here to fight and the best thing we can do is win like we did today. I think we have a great car, still improving, the boys back in the factory are pushing very hard. We will see what we can do. We will focus on us, on ourselves, and simply try to win. Whatever Rubens and Jenson are doing it is in their hands, so I will keep on pushing.
Q: Sebastian. A fantastic win for you. The car seemed to be tremendous. The best car you have driven yet.
SV: It is the same I had all season. Obviously, as we expected, the corners here, especially the first sector, suit our car. It will produce a lot of downforce but it is still more than just quick corners. You have also got some medium and low speed, so overall our car seemed to work very well. Looking back to Singapore we had the pace. It is a totally different circuit. A street circuit, very, very low sped, so overall it is a very good car.
Q: All the drivers have said this weekend what a great circuit. What does it mean for you to win on a circuit that all drivers respect so much?
SV: To be honest I came into the last lap and I was regretting a bit that it was over. I was enjoying the first sector for the last time. Fantastic. Obviously I had clean air the whole race, so I was able to push at my own pace just be aware of the tyres all the time. I didnt want to run into something funny, so I was listening to the tyres, to the car, but simply fantastic. This circuit is amazing. If you get 53 laps in a row you appreciate it even more. It is made by Gods hands, I would say. It is fantastic, especially when you have a car that works so well especially in all the high speed corners, so fantastic. I am very, very happy. Good points today for the championship. I think it looks a bit better now, so a shame only two races to go. But thats life. We are here to fight, so lets see. Anything is still possible as you can see. It can change quickly.
Q: You were on pole position, but after qualifying when you saw the weights did you think I can do this.
SV: Yes. Obviously, the biggest threat was lap one, the start. We knew that we had good starts in the last couple of races, except Singapore where we were on the dirty side. At the beginning of the season it was a little bit of our weakness but again we made huge progress. We had a very, very good start today. I kind of stayed in the middle observing Jarno on the right and Lewis on the left and I was ready to react. Then when I saw that they are about the same I simply stayed in the middle on the run down to turn one. Lewis came surprisingly in the last bit into turn one. I saw a silver arrow on my left. I had the inside of the corner, so that was very import and after that clean air. The car was fantastic, so I was able to push lap by lap and increase the gap bit by bit. A bit special also was, I think, towards the end of the race. On the soft tyres I had a very good feeling. I was pushing for one lap really hard to make sure I have got the fastest lap and my engineer came on radio and said dont do anything stupid with the tyres. Dont destroy your tyres yet in case of a safety car or whatever. Two laps later the safety car was out. But it was still fine and I got a very good restart and was able to pull away again. From start to finish a very good race for us.
Q: Jarno, your best ever placing here in twelve races, especially as it follows up on Timos second place last weekend as well.
JT: I think that, first of all, its a good result for the team, because in two races weve got two podiums, two second positions and this just shows how well the team is doing. Its still pushing hard and still trying to improve the car before the end of the season, so Im really pleased for them: for the engineers, the mechanics, everyone. The car was purely quick from the beginning here, but obviously I couldnt feel that we were as quick as Vettel. He was untouchable during qualifying and also during the race. Actually I thought I did an extremely good job in qualifying to put the car on the front row and it was also good not to lose too many positions at the start, because this has always been our weakest point so far this season. I knew that I could keep up a good pace and actually I really enjoyed the fight with Lewis. It was basically a qualifying race, lap after lap, trying to close the gap, trying to stay close, trying to get him at the pit stop. I nearly made it at the first one, and then at the second stop the guys in the pits did a very good job and then I got him. Once I got him, I knew that I was quicker, so I could pull away. Im happy, even though, to be honest, second is fantastic but I still wanted to win for Toyota.
Q: Was it a surprise to come out ahead of Lewis after the pit stop? Did the engineers predict that?
JT: They kept me aware of the situation and I was closing the gap, trying to close the gap, trying to push harder and harder, and I think Lewis was doing the same, so the lap times were within a tenth of a second. We were both really trying hard but it wasnt easy. But nevertheless, that was my only chance to try to gain a position and eventually I did it. This was all I had to do. And at the last moment, after the safety car, I was very concerned, because I thought that Lewis could get me at the restart but I managed to get a bit of a gap at the restart, so it was enough to pull one lap and then I was fine.
Q: Was there much difference in the tyres?
JT: Fortunately, we made the right choice, starting with the hard, then continuing with the hard and then putting on soft tyres at the end because the soft tyres changed the balance completely and they were not as quick as the hard ones. I think this time we got it right, so were happy, but in general the car has been competitive on both compounds.
Q: Lewis, it didnt look as if Sebastian left you much room at the start
LH: I had enough room there. I think it was fair. It wasnt our best start, but to be honest this year we havent really had great starts except for when we get on the KERS button. We probably had our best start of the year at the last race. We tried to repeat it again this weekend but these two guys also got quite a good start. Theres not actually such a long straight to turn one, to actually drag past one of them was not easy. But I tried, but unfortunately the outside was not the place to be, he did a perfect job to get in the middle.
Q: A surprise to be jumped at the second pit stop?
LH: No, not really. Inevitably, we needed every tenth that we could get. I pulled the gap up to three seconds, I think, which was roughly what I needed, and then on the last couple of laps just before my pit stop we had a KERS problem and we were also just generally struggling with the car a little bit, I wasnt able to pull decent times out of the car with a lighter car on a lighter fuel load. As Jarno was saying, we pretty much had a qualifying battle, a tenth here, a tenth there, we kept shaving tenths off each other. At the exit of my second pit stop also, I had a problem with my gearbox and the thing went into neutral, so instead of switching off the pit speed limiter and pulling away, I was in neutral for a hundred metres or something like that, so I maybe lost a second or so there. Unfortunately the time just slipped away from us, but they both did a great job here. We had a great race. Congratulations to Sebastian and I look forward to the next race; I think we should have a good one.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret LEquipe) Jarno, as your future seems uncertain, does it give you extra motivation, especially for these three races?
JT: No, my future is not uncertain.
Q: (Takaharu Kusuda Book People Atlas) Sebastian, perfect victory, you had a safe gap but then the safety car came out. What were you thinking, what were you feeling when you were following the safety car, and when you passed the finish line, what was your feeling as you gained the victory?
SV: Obviously, before the safety car phase, when youre in the lead by roughly ten seconds, its the last thing you hope for, because with ten laps to go, anything can still happen but you kind of take it easy and bring the car home. Obviously, when the safety car came out the gap was gone, and during the safety car phase, it was all about especially when you pass the accident not to pick up any debris and destroy your car or damage your car, damage the tyres, make sure you dont get a puncture. Other than that, just try to cool the car, cool the engine, cool the brakes and make sure you warm it up before you start going again, so before the restart, and make sure your tyres are hot enough to start again, to be able to push right away. Obviously, thats crucial here. When youve got cold tyres, less tyre pressure, then the car is bottoming more which can make it quite tricky but I think we did a very good job, speaking to my engineer on the radio all the time. Then a couple of laps more and I crossed the line, obviously looked to the right to see the team and celebrate with them and looked to the left and saw the grandstand, all the people going crazy, and to be honest, maybe I was a little bit too slow for TV coverage on the way back to the pits, but I didnt care. There were people all around the circuit, its fantastic, you know. You come here in the morning and people are already queuing on the way to the paddock, just to say hi and to wave and wish you all the best. Its great. So I was enjoying the lap back to the pits and obviously screaming over the radio and all that stuff, so very, very happy. When you cross the line you start to realise what has happened and its fantastic, so very pleased.
Q: (Marco DegliInnocenti La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, at this stage of the championship, looking back at past races, which are the points that you are most missing now?
SV: Looking back I think we have had a great season. Obviously, we should have been more consistent in order to fight for the championship right now, it was a little bit too much up and down. Sometimes things didnt go our way. Thats part of racing, I guess, it happens. We made some mistakes, weve had some trouble during the season, it can happen, but obviously when you want to fight properly for the championship, then they shouldnt happen. But nevertheless, I think it was a very good season so far. The car is fantastic. We had three one-twos, theres not much more to say. Looking at the championship positions, we could have collected more points, as I said, been more consistent, less up and down. In more than three or four places we had the pace to win and we didnt, so Sometimes it goes in your favour, other times it doesnt.
Q: (Luis Fernando Ramos Racing Magazine) Sebastian, how do you believe the next two race tracks may suit your car compared to the Brawns?
SV: Well, to be honest I was a little surprised to see the Brawns struggling here. Generally, a good car is a good car, and as they have proven, especially at the beginning of the season, their car is very competitive. I think we were all a little bit surprised. Looking at us, looking at our car, I think we should be in good shape for the next two races. Brazil is a track we know, Abu Dhabi is unknown for everyone, so we dont know, but I think independent from the circuit type, we have always been competitive. Just looking at the last two races, weve been on totally different circuits: Singapore was rough, bumpy, a street circuit and very low speed and here, high speed. I think especially the parts we got for Singapore and a little bit here again, we made another step forward with our car, so it should be good. I can tell you afterwards.
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) Sebastian, ten points for you today, one for Jenson (Button); it was like a tailor-made result for you. You havent given up the fight even though it was really, really tough after the last race, so what kind of feeling does it give you? How much more confidence do you have regarding the championship now?
SV: First of all, Im very happy to be in Formula One. The cars are fantastic, but more so, Im here to challenge and in the end we want to find out who is the best, the best in one race and the best over the whole season. Thats why I am here, and ultimately thats my target. As Ive said many times already, I will fight until the end, until the last breath. It was obviously a good day for us, two more races like this and its looking better, but we will see. I think our task from now on is pretty straightforward: we have to push ourselves to the maximum and try to win, get as many points as we can and everything else is not in our hands. You can ask the man sitting next to me (Lewis Hamilton) thinking two years back. I think Kimi had quite a big gap (to Lewis) with two races to go. Everyone said to Lewis it will not be a problem, sitting in one of the most competitive cars, just get a couple of points, but you can see sometimes, as I said before, things just dont work your way. Anything is possible. The bottom line is that were here to fight.
Q: (Joris Fioriti AFP) Sebastian, what else can you do to win the championship? What is the next step you can take to win it?
SV: As I said before, its straightforward: win the next two races and then see what the others are doing. We just have to look at ourselves, trying to increase our own performance, get our maximum together, and if thats good enough to win, thats very good, if its good enough for second we have to finish second and not third, fourth, fifth or not at all. So we will see. The next circuit we know, we were good there last year, this year we go there with a stronger car, so it should be better and the last race in Abu Dhabi is a bit unknown. Ive driven it on the simulator a bit but its difficult to know what to expect.
Q: (Nobuo Nakajima Sankei Sports) Jarno, just after the race you were enjoying it but seemed a little bit reluctant. If so, what is the reason: the illness at the beginning of the week or because you couldnt win in front of the Japanese fans or you couldnt before Mr Toyoda?
JT: I think my aim, when it comes to the season, was to win a race and so far I didnt manage it. Im obviously happy to be on the podium, but Ive had many podiums but what Im really missing at the moment is a win, a win for my team and for Toyota. Its obviously great to give them a fantastic result in front of their home crowd, but Im the kind of person who wants more. I fixed my target and Im extremely determined to get my target and obviously Im a little bit I wouldnt say disappointed but I wish I could fight for a win, but honestly, talking today, Sebastian was untouchable. I realised that in qualifying but even though I didnt give up and I really tried to push for pole position at least but today there was nothing I could do. Anyway, I should be happy, Im not saying that (Im unhappy) but Im missing a win.