FIA post-qualifying press conference - Australia 28 Mar 2009
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1. Jenson Button (Brawn GP), 1m 26.202s; 2. Rubens Barrichello (Brawn GP), 1m 26.505s; 3. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing), 1m 26.830s.
Q: Jenson, on pole for the first time since Melbourne in 2006. Everyone was tipping you to be on pole or the front row, I guess it was easy.
Jenson Button: I wish. The last five or six months for both of us have been so tough because of going from not having a drive or any future in racing to putting it on pole here is just amazing, it really is and I have got to give all credit to the team and Ross (Brawn) and Nick (Fry) for making this happen. This is where we deserve to be after the tough times we have had.
Q: What were your thoughts when you came into qualifying as obviously you had been quick but other cars had been close?
JB: This morning the pace seemed to be pretty good on both tyres and I was reasonably happy. We didnt know what other peoples pace was and you dont until you get to qualifying. They seemed to be a little bit closer than I thought actually in Q1 and Q2, they were one or two tenths behind but I was struggling on low fuel for some reason. I just could not get the car working right, but when we put fuel in it, it felt a bit more normal and in a way that is a good thing as it should help us out in the race.
Q: And as a race driver with the year you have had, you come here with a car this competitive. Talk about that transformation and the lap you drove.
JB: It has been a long time since we had a car that has been competitive. It is 2006 since I put it on pole here. It has been very tough and there are a lot of people who stand by you which is fantastic, but there are obviously a few people that dont and they forget and they dont believe. The important thing is that the people within team believe and that is all we care about. We have proven it with this car and I think both of us have done a good job this weekend so far considering the amount of mileage we have had in the car so far. You can say it is a very good car but you still need to get the laps in and make it your own. This is a great moment, but obviously not the most important moment of the weekend but it is a good start.
Q: Rubens, fastest lap of qualifying in Q2. Talk us through Q3 and that battle with your team-mate?
Rubens Barrichello: First of all, I just want to emphasis what Jenson said that it has been a critical three or four months back home waiting for news. I am really happy to be here and I need to congratulate Ross and Nick for doing an outstanding job and everyone who has touched this car needs a credit because it is a really good car, so well done to the boys back in England as well. My car was fantastic on low fuel, it was really, really good and as you could see I put that fastest lap but then in Q3 for some reason I developed some understeer on the car and we tried to move the wings a little bit more to add a little bit more front wing but that car kept going to understeer, so I was very limited but it was difficult although I think the first row for both is a credit and we must be happy.
Q: Sebastian, a difficult day yesterday but a great recovery for you?
Sebastian Vettel: Difficult two days up until qualifying. Yesterday I only had the pleasure of one lap in first practice and then in the second one I did a mistake and then unfortunately we could not run through our programme and also this morning we had a failure which cost us some track time so anything but ideal but nevertheless I think we put everything together. We were looking very deeply in the data and trying to prepare qualifying. I think we succeeded, so thanks to everyone as it has been a tough winter. We had some more time than you guys on the track but still you see it is not easy, so I am surprised how close actually the feeling in the car is with all the regulation changes coming here and having last year in mind, so it is pretty impressive what all the people have done. It looks very, very tight not just in the front but also throughout the whole of the midfield and at some points we were fearing not to make it to Q2. Now we are in third, second row, so I am looking forward to tomorrow. This is for sure a good starting point but points we will only get tomorrow, so we have to work hard.
Q: Jenson, shadows and light are going to be an issue tomorrow. Describe that from a drivers point of view and being the first team to be on pole since 1970.
JB: It is difficult here with the shade and the low sun because it is not a normal circuit, it is in a park, so you have got a lot of trees here and the sun shining through the trees makes it very difficult as Sebastian will tell you from yesterday. Turn three was very difficult.
SV: You can put on some lights as you are fast enough.
JB: It is tough, but it is obviously easier form the front than it is from the back. Regards to what it is for the team to be here on the front row. It is fantastic and it is very difficult to know the words to use really. The team as a unit have been fantastic, they have really stuck together over the tough winter, better than I have, but they have proven that they have stuck together. They have produced a car that is good at the moment but I am sure we can make it a lot better. As we have both said, we will keep going on about, it is well deserved and all credit to the team. There will be a lot of happy faces but not just in the team, I think. A lot of people have travelled this journey with us, so it is good to be here.
Q: Jenson, did you ever imagine this could be possible and think after testing we are actually quite good?
JB: I mean testing was good and only having three days in the car and feeling that comfortable with it is quite unusual. But you dont want to get too excited, people always tell you maybe you shouldnt be thinking about going out for the pole or for the win, but why shouldnt you, it doesnt change anything. I think it is good to go into the weekend positive. You dont need to let anyone else know what you are thinking. I came into this weekend positive and I am sure Rubens was the same because we have got a good car and we have got a team that can help us put it on the front row. It has been a good weekend so far. Other teams have been more competitive than I thought they were, so it has been a little bit harder than I expected but you need the competition and it is great to be here on pole position. The last time was three years ago.
Q: This must be a favourite circuit for you?
JB: It isnt really. Qualifying has gone reasonably well for me before, I have just got to hope that it is better than back in 2006. I am expecting it will be. But it is great to be back here and going past the garage just after we weighed and seeing all the guys faces and the smiles on their faces. I didnt think it still existed because you know it has been two years since we have been in a position where we have come out of the race and thought wow that was fantastic. All credit to them and I need to thank them for all the hard work over the difficult months and roll on the season. I am so excited about this year. It is amazing what you can achieve when you have the package and a team you can believe in.
Q: What is going to be the big issue tomorrow - the tyres or the brakes even?
JB: I have been struggling a little bit with both. The brakes are a little bit of an issue here as it is quite bumpy. I have had a few issues with the pedal going long, but it will be fine, I can cope with it. The tyres are obviously pretty tough, especially in the cooler conditions and it is difficult to get the prime - I call them prime, the harder tyre working - and it is difficult to stop the softer tyre from graining. It is going to be very tough tomorrow and I think tyre management is going to be a big part of the race and that is something we have worked on with this car overnight to manage the tyres a bit better.
Q: Rubens, you just must be so delighted especially as we might call you the veteran of the field?
RB: Well, I feel younger than most of them. I think I have shown there is nothing that is veteran on myself. I speed up, I am always very excited and grateful to have a good car. It has been tough the last few seasons and so it is good to be back in a great car.
Q: And confidence for the race?
RB: Very. I was very confident I could get pole position. On the first two qualifiers it was very, very nice but for some reason I got this odd understeer that slowed me down in Q3. Beside that if anybody a month ago asked me would you give $1,000 to be second in Melbourne I would have given a little bit more. I have got to be happy for sure.
Q: And again your feelings about the difference in tyres?
RB: Same. We experienced the same feelings during the Friday practice and during this morning, so it is going to be a good first few laps tomorrow plus it is going to be hard to judge when to push hard on the softer tyres as the grain is going to come and everyone is experiencing that and that is a little bit because the track is still not gripping up as much and 5 oclock is not helping that much either as the temperature of the track is dropping, so everyone is sliding around that much, so there is a problem for everyone in that matter.
Q: The track temperature at 5.45 pm according to the monitors was 30 degrees. What is the ideal temperature for those softer tyres?
RB: Hotter. We needed some hotter temperatures. The tyres seemed to perform better in the 2 oclock practice this afternoon, better than the evening one. Plus I think it is difficult. The visibility is incredibly difficult at 5 oclock. It is such a change from the early testing from when you hit the track at 5 oclock. The first lap feels odd because the shades, the tress and the sun is right in your face, so I think it is going to be a difficult race on that side to.
Q: Sebastian, was that a factor yesterday when you went off?
SV: No, it was my mistake. Yes, it was tricky as Rubens explained. For instance you go down the main straight and the sun is very low and you cannot see the white line when you exit the pits, so you just keep right and hope you are far enough right and the same when you go through turn three with the trees. It is quite tricky as you have a lot of shadows there. You try to get as close to the outside and to get a good run into turn three. Obviously I was a little bit too optimistic and went on the grass spun and unfortunately the engine switched off, so I could not continue yesterday. Overall I am a bit surprised by now that we managed to do so well in qualifying. We have been struggling yesterday, so we had anything but a good day. In the P1 session the failure and in the second practice I went off and also this morning we were trying to get some mileage as obviously here it is important to set up the car but also for a driver you need to get the rhythm and you need to feel the track and therefore we didnt know what to expect. I was looking at more laps than the computer and looking at laps there than on the circuit. Obviously it seemed to help, so I think we can be very happy. It has been a tough winter but I think we have put a good car on the track and it seems to work.
Q: Were you surprised how close the times were, particularly in Q2?
SV: Yes, I was, but we expected it. Coming from the winter, we all came here and two days ago I sat here and we all said we dont know who is going to be in front. Probably Brawn will be there but other than that, its difficult to predict anything. Its obviously good that we are the power after Brawn right now but we have to keep our feet on the ground, its a long, long season and theres still a long way to go here. Of course, starting in P3 on the second row is good for us but we get the points tomorrow, so the most important day is tomorrow.
Q: Is reliability a worry?
SV: Shouldnt be. I think we came here and (thought) we had sorted everything out and then we were surprised by two or three minor things and we were a bit unlucky. In the first session we had to stop the car as a precaution and unfortunately I stopped some 200 metres too late otherwise they could have brought the car back but thats the problem when you have a lake in between the two sides of the circuit but I think we should be fine.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Paulo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Jenson, you said that you were surprised by how close the others were which means that you were pretty sure it was going to be between you and Rubens.
JB: You always hope that but just looking at testing, I expected the pace to be reasonably good and it was. I dont think I expected it to be bigger but always when theres a car which is only two tenths behind you think thats close. But no, I dont think I really expected us to be much quicker. Yeah, it seemed like there were a lot of cars which were setting the same sort of pace and thats what surprised me more than anything else. There were four or five cars sitting on the same lap time and that was only two tenths behind me.
Q: (James Allen - Financial Times) Rubens, last time we had a car as dominant as this was the 2004 Ferrari which you also drove. How would you compare this situation to that one in terms of how you think you will be able to keep your nose in front as the year goes on? And also, do you think that Malaysia will be an even better circuit for this car?
RB: Its a good question. I think that the dominant time that we had at Ferrari, we probably had 20,000 kilometres before coming into the first race. This is very, very different. I had three tests. I have been in the gym every day but even saying that, I dont think we are physically prepared to go flat out from the beginning of the race, just because (driving) the car gives you what you need, neck muscles and things and like that. So three days were very, very good and they prepared us very well, but Im just saying that compared to those times, its very, very different. This car is a wonderful car to drive, well balanced and looking after its tyres, so we have everything that we need to carry on. I was very glad to see Virgin signing with us this morning because it means that we have the attitude in the team to carry on, because that could have been a problem during the year and right now I hope that we have the good guys at home and we just need some more money to develop the car. I think this car will be very, very good for the first four races but we definitely need to have things coming through to keep on going.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) I have already asked Jenson this question in Thursdays press conference, so this is to Rubens and Sebastian. With all the rule changes this year, do you think we will see more overtaking, not only in tomorrows race but throughout the season?
RB: I think so, I think that there are some teams with KERS and some others without it, so youre going to see some overtaking because of that. You might see more overtaking on a proper track, you will see overtaking on this road circuit but its because of people making mistakes. You always do see overtaking here in Melbourne anyway, with the visibility being a problem and so on, I think the race is going to be quite a good one. Plus, the wings help. They dont fix the problem but the moveable wings help, so that could help overtaking too.
SV: I know Im small but I was also in Thursdays press conference, next to Jenson!
RB: That was the best answer so far!
SV: Youd better be quiet, youre even smaller!
RB: No, no, your answer was the best answer so far. - I gave him a compliment - f***g German!
SV: But to come to Australia, I think its a very difficult circuit to overtake on, so it will be interesting tomorrow, but I think it still remains difficult.
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) Jenson and Rubens, youre both veterans of Formula One, so on the evidence so far, how extraordinary is the performance of this car and the team, and in the circumstances, does it almost defy belief?
JB: I dont know about belief, but I think youd have to say that the positive for us was that when we drove the car out in Barcelona for the first time, we had a good idea of where we needed to be with the car mechanically, aero-wise, and we needed that because weve only had six or seven days in the car whatever it is. The good thing about this team is, when they have a car and they produce the car, the first day in the car you are almost finding the limits of the car and thats great and thats what you need when you go testing. Obviously weve had to work with cars that have not been so competitive in the past but I think weve proved with this car that its good out of the box. Also I think that having had two very difficult seasons you start to think about the little things and you need to work on every single area to make that difference to the cars in front, whereas I think that when youre at the front, you might forget about some of those little details and concentrate on the bigger picture. So for us, I think that coming here with a competitive car is hopefully the start of a good season but we also know that there are some areas in which we need to improve the car still, but the good thing is that we will put time and effort into improving the car in the areas that are maybe smaller than others.
RB: As far as Im concerned, Ive had the holidays of my life since 93. I never have had any holidays at all, it was a month at home and then back to work. It was horrible to just sit there and wait for the news, so basically to be here and to drive a wonderful car as it is, is fantastic, but having said that, as a human being you just want more. After I drove the car for the first time and I said its good, you just want more. Basically, you want to get qualifying done and you want to win races and so on, so I think we have a good package, especially for the first four races where we have the pace and people are talking about ourselves and they see that we are fast. Its just good to conquer, its really good to go there and score points and possible wins plus I think the last two seasons have taught us a lot, myself and Jenson. Its been horrible driving a bad car but its the horrible times that teach you to be better and I think we need to use this as the right time right now.
Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Germany) The best car running KERS is in P7 now. Are you surprised by that or do you have an explanation why it is like that here in Melbourne?
JB: The question is where would they be without KERS? We dont know the answer to that one. Who is seventh? I dont know. We havent got KERS for the obvious reasons. You can say that we cant afford it, that we cant afford to develop it at the moment, so we dont have the system which works well for us, but from what Ive heard, people who are running KERS think that there is an advantage of two to three tenths on the circuits that have long straights. This circuit doesnt have long straights and maybe when we get to a circuit like Malaysia we will see that they have a little bit more of an advantage than the cars not running KERS but we obviously have to wait and see for that.
RB: I dont know what to expect. I dont think its as simple as pushing a button and seeing three tenths everywhere with the same balance that we have. I think it has implications and that theres a good and a bad side.