Post-qualifying press conference - Abu Dhabi 31 Oct 2009
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1m 40.948s; 2nd - Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 1m 41.615s; 3rd - Mark Webber (Red Bull), 1m 41.726s.
Q: Lewis, your fourth pole in seven races. You have been on fire here all weekend in Abu Dhabi. Was it as easy as it looked?
Lewis Hamilton: Like I always say it is never easy but it definitely was as fun as it looked. The car has been I think probably the best it has been all year. It seems to really feel quite comfortable on this circuit. What they have done here is incredible and I think it is just a real pleasure to drive here and when you have definitely got the car beneath you it is just a great drive. That lap for me, we could have thought about going a bit longer, but I dont think we were particularly too aggressive but it was quite a smooth lap. It just kept getting better and better. I am very happy with it.
Q: Sebastian, you said coming into the weekend that you wanted to finish the year on a high. Second on the grid is a great way to start.
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, it is. Just looking ahead both of us are a little bit surprised by the gap. Lewis has been strong all weekend and generally McLaren is very strong here and we could see already in Q1 and Q2 that it would be difficult to match them. But lets see later when we get the strategies. I think it was the maximum we could do, so very pleased so far. I think tomorrow we should have a good race. The car is working well here. It just seems that our KERS button which we have on the steering wheel is not working, so it is not an easy one but lets see tomorrow. I think we do have a good race pace. The car is getting better throughout the distance, so I am looking forward to tomorrow.
Q: Mark, two Red Bulls in the top three and the two Brawns just behind you. A great qualifying performance from you, but do you think you can hold the new champions behind you?
Mark Webber: We hope so. The grid tonight is the story of the second part of the championship. Lewis has been here and there at a lot of venues, clearly they are very strong here and we will see when we get the weights, but also Seb and I are pushing as hard as we can. I enjoyed qualifying tonight and Brawn are there as well, so it is very much a message of how the second part of the championship has gone. I was pretty happy, considering when I did my lap within the session, as obviously other people can run after, so I was pretty happy.
Q: Lewis, new circuit, new country. Your feelings on this Yas Marina track and the job that they have done here to create it?
LH: Coming here I had not really seen any pictures. I had seen perhaps a picture of the hotel or something, but the place is just stunning. They all said it would be a great event, but it is mind-blowing. What they have been able to create here is really fantastic and I expect more and more people will want to come here in the future. It is a great race to come to. I definitely will try to bring my family next time. It is a great country, its a great part of the world. We came to Bahrain. I have been in Bahrain. I was there earlier in the week, then we came through to Dubai and then here. The weather has always been great. The people have been so respectful and so welcoming and I am sure we are going to put on a great show for everyone, so fingers crossed it is a great day tomorrow.
Q: Lewis were you ever not going to be on pole? You have been dominant so much this weekend.
LH: Anything could have happened. Clearly we have been very competitive all weekend and the car has felt great and I didnt have any particular doubts in my mind whether we could have done it. But it is still finding the gap, getting your tyres up to temperature, all these different things and it is easy to make mistakes but fortunately I didnt and put a really nice lap together. Very, very happy with it.
Q: What is suiting the car here particularly? The lack of slow corners, KERS worth four-tenths-of-a-second Heikki (Kovalainen) said yesterday.
LH: Yep, it is the same at every race. You ask that question at every race. KERS, when you press that button, is worth four tenths pretty much everywhere. Three to four tenths. Here in qualifying it is around four-tenths, but obviously you have got to use it to optimise it and get the maximum from it but it works really well. The great thing is the car is working and feeling better than it has all year, so it is such a great feeling for me in the car and also for all the guys. What a great job they have done all year and what a great way to finish at least our practice session and our qualifying session and I want to go out and do the job tomorrow.
Q: Whats the circuit going to be like to race on? A lot of people were worried that off line it might be dirty.
LH: It is always dirty off line but it is not going to be somewhere like Montreal with all the bubbles off line. I dont think it will be a problem. I have been off line a couple of places and it wasnt too bad. The track surface, I mean we are always trying to improve other circuits saying the kerbs should be good here or we could improve the rumble strip here, but I can honestly say I think they have really done almost a perfect job at this track. They have really done a good job with the layout, with the track. It is very, very smooth. The kerbs are nice and in the right places and I think for the racing it looks very safe. I think there are quite a few opportunities to overtake, so it should be quite an exciting race, especially for the spectators here.
Q: How was the car on the option tyre?
LH: For me the option and the prime are pretty much the same. Normally we see quite a big difference between them with obviously the option being a lot quicker and a little bit grippier. Here I generally find it is very, very close. There is a different kind of warm-up, different way of using them, but I preferred the prime. For me they just seemed to be a little bit more consistent throughout the lap but no doubt the track will get grippier, so who knows what tyre we will use tomorrow.
Q: Sebastian, what was the tyre choice like for you? Is it fairly simple?
SV: Well, I think it was pretty much the same for everyone. It is difficult to point out how much there is between the tyres. I think you could see that we also favoured the prime. Overall, back to qualifying, I think it was the maximum we could do. Just a little bit surprised by the gap in the end. You know, seven tenths in qualifying is quite a big gap. Looking at the sectors, sector two I think, there are maybe a little bit too many straight lines for us, so we dont have the button. We do have it, but it doesnt work.
Q: Was there much difference as the natural light changed?
SV: Well, it is a little bit, but you get used to it quite quickly, so you have to deal a little bit with the visor and use a darker one maybe to start and then a lighter one for the end as when the sun goes down it is a little bit darker. But it is not a big problem. I think they have done a very good job here, similar to Singapore. Even though the lights are further away I think they seem to be strong enough to make us see all the track.
Q: Mark, what about this McLaren performance? Do you think you can take the race to them tomorrow?
MW: Easy. We are not stopping tomorrow. We dont do a pit stop. We just put the option on for the last lap and we jump them like that, so pretty straightforward.
Q: Sounds a great idea. Whats the truth?
MW: No, look, they did good job. No question about it. They are quick. I am a bit surprised by Lewiss time, both of us are, but we did our best. As I said before it is a reflection on the second part of the championship with Brawn sitting there as well behind us. These are the guys who have been there most of the season and here we are again, ready to go tomorrow. I enjoyed quali(fying) actually. As always you want a bit more out of it, but it was a good job by the team. We want to finish on a high and we have laid the foundations for a reasonable race tomorrow.
Q: Tell us your thoughts on the circuit, particularly for the race tomorrow?
MW: Its a pretty good track. I would say the first sector is nice. Its always difficult to make a track with lots and lots of quick corners because obviously you need a lot of run-off, so I can understand its easier in terms of space to have a lot more slower speed corners finishing the lap here. So the rhythm of the lap goes a little bit, especially in turns 11, 12, 13 - all that section up there is a little bit Mickey Mouse, but its unique in quite a lot of areas, I would say. Yeah, its a pretty good track. For overtaking, theres obviously a very long straight, thats clear, but I think everyones running pretty similar wing levels for their cars, so its not like Interlagos or some other tracks where you maybe have a different opinion on end-of-straight speed. Its not going to be Interlagos, dont worry about that, but it might be better than Barcelona.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Sana Bagersh - Abu Dhabi Tempo) What are each of you going to do between now and tomorrows race, to prepare mentally or physically? Any specially rituals, any relaxation techniques?
SV: Sleep. Its quite late already. I think everyone has his own way to get prepared. Obviously everyone is trying to get a good nights sleep, rest, then tomorrow. I dont know what the others do, if they have a dance or whatever. I think, for myself, dancing for rain would be pretty useless here, but yeah, just trying to go through. Obviously later we will know a little bit more about strategy and then just trying to prepare, to focus on the start and then seeing how the race goes.
LH: Yeah, same for me really. A little bit different to some of the other tracks. The climate change: its so much hotter here, so the race will be very tough tomorrow, so you could perhaps focus on the preparation a little bit more in terms of the amount of rest you get, the fluids through the night, drinking plenty. I will probably have to make a pit stop during the night, because youve just got to drink as much as you can for the race tomorrow. And then just good food, were staying in town and Im just going to enjoy myself, make sure I enjoy the weather, might sit on the beach, just relaxing things. Ive got the girlfriend with me, so just relax.
MW: Yup, pretty similar: yeah, good sleep, good food and I get to the track as late possible tomorrow. No point in getting in too early. But generally the GP2 cars have been my wake-up call at the hotel, so I will sleep until they start up. But its very easy for us, were staying close here, so relax, theres no hassle with traffic like some other venues we have like Brazil or in Shanghai. We have a lot of tracks like that where theres a bit of a palaver getting to the track but here its a lot more straightforward, so that helps our preparation.
Q: (Tomas Richter - TV Nova) It looks like the most difficult corners are those before the hotel and turn one. The race will be long and hot; first of all do you agree and secondly do you expect some difficulties during the race?
MW: Yeah, youre right, there are some difficult corners in the last sector, theres no question about it, its easy to get in there a little bit deep and not hit the apex cleanly. Turn one, youre right, is the same. Its easy to get a little bit out of the track there but all the guys are fit these days, there should be no problems tomorrow night. Its a pretty long race but weve had worse. There are a lot of straights you can relax on, so this track is not that physically demanding, its just a bit warm.
SV: As Mark said, there are some difficult corners, not only turn one and 15, 16, 17. Turn one is still outstanding; its quite quick and its blind, so its very easy to overshoot, to make a mistake at the entrance and you have a long straight following, obviously turn two, three, four which is flat, but whatever you lose there you pay the price for. 15, 16, 17 is easy to lose the car on the entrance and if you go wide its very easy to go off-line and then its quite dirty, like everywhere else, but you lose a lot of time easily. Lets see tomorrow. I think the start is the key, turn one, and then it will be interesting going down the long straight. Obviously I hope I will be ahead of Lewis or at least right on his back, and then have a good space. I hope that Mark and myself will have good space to whoever comes behind us.
LH: I dont particularly want to comment just on those corners. I think turn one is obviously very important for the beginning of the race but its fairly straightforward. The great part of this track is that even though we do have a couple of high speed corners, maybe it will be tough to follow through two, three, four but its not difficult to stay behind someone through five, six, seven, so that means you can be close to them and have a good chance of towing them down the back straight. Also braking into eight and nine, again its easy to be quite close and then relatively easy to have another shot going down the other back straight. Clearly, then, it gets a bit tighter and a little bit harder to follow, but I think it should provide some good racing, being able to be a little bit closer than normal. You normally have the long flowing corners and you lose a little bit and then you have this long straight and you never really catch up. I hope I feel its designed quite well.
Q: (Vajta Balazs - Autosport Es Formula) For all three drivers: the last two or three days weve basically heard only positive words about the track: how great it is, the facilities and everything else. I know its also very hard to name negative aspects about yourself, but can you name or point out some negative points about the track?
MW: Were paid lots of money to say good stuff, obviously. You know that we get backhanders to say that its a great track, so were not going to say anything negative. The deal is done before we all arrive, so 20 drivers, we get a backhander, easy from there! Its a great facility, its a good track.
LH: (to the journalist) You should try and get in on it!
SV: I think probably the worst thing is that you get a wake-up call from the GP2 cars, if youre sleeping at the track. Other than that: similar. Just to sum it up as well, and what we all agreed on in the drivers briefing: we come to many new circuits, more and more and there are always bits and pieces which can be improved, but here everything is pretty much spot on: kerbs, everything.
Q: (Vajta Balazs - Autosport Es Formula) But were you expecting a boring race because of the track layout?
SV: No, I dont think so. As they said, you have a very long straight here and the key is that you dont have high speed corners leading onto that straight like in Shanghai. You have a tight corner leading onto the back straight, but it opens up and then its difficult to follow other cars, whereas here you have the complex of five, six, seven which is quite low speed and then obviously the longer straight, leading into another low speed section, eight and nine, which gives you another chance if youve used the tow and then stay close to whoever is in front for turn eleven. As weve seen in the GP2 race and also the Porsche SuperCup race it should be a good race tomorrow. You are always smarter after a Grand Prix distance but it looks promising so far.