FIA post-race press conference - China 19 Apr 2009
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
1st Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 1h57m43.485s; 2nd Mark Webber (Red Bull), 1h57m54.455s; 3rd Jenson Button (Brawn GP), 1h58m28.460s.
Q: Sebastian, a very incident packed race. Talk us through that pace car start and the conditions that faced you.
Sebastian Vettel: It was the right decision to start under the safety car. Basically it was okay at some points but at some corners on every lap you were having a lot of aquaplaning. Sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on the rain. It was very, very difficult throughout the whole race. I think we both knew, Mark and I, that we were on the short strategy, so we had to push at the beginning to get away from the pack which we succeeded. And yeah, it was a very difficult race. As I said, a lot of aquaplaning and sometimes you were just catching the car and just keeping it on the circuit. You tried to push and tried to get away from the car lap by lap. I think I had the best conditions because I had no car running in front of me more or less for the whole race, so that was quite comfortable but still it was really difficult with the aquaplaning especially in the last corner. It is going a bit uphill and the water goes down and there is some place where basically you have no control, so you just try not to touch the car there, dont downshift, dont brake too much and every lap you had to be cautious. But what should I say. I am extremely happy, second time now in the wet I have won a grand prix. Now we can have some more rain. The car was fantastic. It is definitely necessary to mention that the team did a really, really good job in preparing the car. Yesterday in qualifying we did a good job but nevertheless we were struggling a bit with the reliability but we were able to fix it overnight. We found the problem and that speaks for the quality of our team and everybody was just trying to fix it. We succeeded. Both cars just finished the race and even having a top two. A double win for Red Bull is incredible and I am extremely happy.
Q: Mark, you have been with this team for a long time. This must mean a lot to you to?
Mark Webber: A huge amount. Our team has been through a lot and a lot of results have slipped through our fingers. And today Sebastian and I could capitalize on a car that worked very well. We pushed each other quite hard in the race. It was very, very tough conditions for the whole grand prix. It got a little bit better in the middle of the race, then at the end again it got a little bit interesting. And also when you lose the edges off the wets they dont cut the water as well. It was a very tough race, extremely rewarding to get this result. Personally for myself it is obviously the best result of my career. I hope to go one step better in the future and this is a long way towards it. I think it is an incredible result for Red Bull. If you think what Dietrich (Mateschitz) has done over the last five or six years in Formula One to get his first one-two is an absolute credit to him, so it is good.
Q: Jenson, a great race for you with lots going on. Obviously some problem with the car as the conditions worsened?
Jenson Button: Well, I think everyone was struggling with the aquaplaning out there. It was pretty crazy conditions into the last corner. As Sebastian said it was a just a lake and you couldnt actually brake for the corner. A few other places were the same. I was just really struggling with the tyres. They were shuddering. They shudder because you cant get temperature into them, front and rears. It was a difficult race and every lap you thought you were going to throw the car off. You really did, so to finish the race is an achievement and to come home on the podium is also great. We couldnt challenge these two guys today, they were immensely quick. But it is great to get six points on the board and thats important to keep the consistency.
Q: Sebastian, it was also an incredibly strong car. Lets have a look at lap 19. Can you talk us through this incident on the back straight? I dont know if Jarno Trulli was going slower than you but you got a nasty punt from the rear from Sébastien Buemi.
SV: Yeah, I mean I was surprised. I thought this car was Rubens (Barrichello) as I knew he was in front of me. I was just going off throttle to check if everything was alright, I passed him and I really didnt see that Sébastien was coming. I am very sorry for what happened. To be honest I was just taking care. I didnt want to run into the car in front of me. Obviously it is impossible to see anything in the mirrors as there is a lot of spray, so I moved to the right, checked if everything was alright and then I realised it was a Toyota and not Rubens and then I continued. And unfortunately Sébastien hit me already. It is a shame for his race but on the other hand I am very lucky to have finished mine.
Q: And it didnt affect your car at all?
SV: No, it didnt. After that I was quite happy that nothing happened. I could continue in a normal way, still it was difficult enough with the conditions, a lot of aquaplaning and I am just extremely proud and happy to sit here now.
Q: Mark and Jenson. Some fun and games mid-race. Quite a lot going on between you. Maybe I should let both of you now describe the action. You can fight amongst yourselves about who wants to do the commentary on the clips we are going to see next?
JB: For me I was pretty much just always out of control. I was just waiting for Mark to appear, well not appear in my mirrors, but appear in the front. I locked up the fronts in that corner. I was struggling there with locking up the tyres.
MW: I hit the river there and had to catch and straighten the car and open the steering and get onto the astroturf. Also I was worried about that. I didnt have a clue where Jenson was as I had just come back on. I only looked at my pit board every few laps, so I knew he was somewhere there but I didnt know how close.
Q: What is going on here Jenson?
JB: I was just trying to get some heat in the tyres. I am not trying to weave and keep people behind. I was really struggling with that. I dont think they have shown Mark going past me around the outside at turn seven. I didnt have a clue where he was and he was alongside at turn eight and it was such a shock as you cant see anything when it is raining. Then he just cut across the front and made the move stick. For me it was impossible to do anything about it. As soon as these guys get near you or alongside you, you cannot challenge them and it would have been silly to have tried.
Q: It looks from that if you had more problems getting the tyres to work than the two Red Bull drivers?
JB: Well, I dont know if everyone else did. Rubens and myself struggled quite a bit. I dont know what the reason for that is. Obviously the car is working in a different way but I hope we will solve those problems in the future because we cannot let these guys be that far in front.
Q: Sebastian, lets have a look at you crossing the line to win your second grand prix. A nice moment?
SV: Yeah, unbelievable. Some 10 laps from the end I obviously tried to observe the gap to the car behind, which was Mark, and was trying to adapt more or less to his pace. Just trying to have everything in control but it is extremely difficult. At some point I tried to bring the car home but then I realised dont do that as you lose the focus, so I tried to be really focussed corner by corner and not looking too far ahead. Then at the end, in the last two laps, I backed off a little bit as I didnt want to risk going over the lakes in a stupid way anymore. So, just fantastic. Winning the second race having won one for Toro Rosso and now one for Red Bull is fantastic. I am extremely happy and hope we can continue working in this direction.
Q: Sebastian, what a fantastic drive. Just give us some indication of what sort of concentration and mental effort is required.
SV: A lot. It was a long race. I dont know how long it was. Basically we finished the 56 laps but in terms of time I dont know. It felt quite long. I think first of all it was the right decision to start behind the safety car. There was a lot of water already on the lap to the grid. I was surprised at how much standing water there was in places and throughout the whole race I think everyone was struggling with some aquaplaning. In some places more and in some places less. I knew we had a short middle stint and an aggressive strategy, so every lap earlier the safety car pulled in would give us more chance to open a gap to the guys at the back. At the point the safety car came in I just tried to push and basically tried to get as much gap to the guys behind as possible which I think was the key to success in the end. Also in the second stint I think we did the right thing. Fantastic strategy, extremely good effort by the team to get both cars reliable after the trouble we had yesterday. To be honest we were quite confident going into the race that nothing should happen but obviously you never know and especially the last couple of laps when I was in the lead and quite comfortable I was just hoping and nursing the car back to the finish line but on the other hand you also always have to keep the focus and not to do any silly mistake as with these conditions having a lot of aquaplaning in some places, especially the last corner, it was absolutely necessary to keep your head up and watch out what the conditions were like. When it started to rain a bit more there was also more aquaplaning and the tyres basically had a peak at the beginning and then it was difficult to keep the tyres alive and towards the end of the stint it was always getting more difficult to get rid of all of the standing water and obviously to come back with the result I am extremely happy to have won the race. I think it is an enormous job by the whole of Red Bull. Greetings to Austria and we are both very happy and very pleased.
Q: You had the advantage of a clear track having started on pole but were there disadvantages as well?
SV: Yeah, when I was not in the lead, basically, especially when I was trying to catch Jenson. It is extremely difficult to see the car in front of you which we all know and that makes it so difficult to get the race started in wet conditions. Sometimes I knew I was behind him as I could see the spray but I did not exactly know where he was, so it is extremely difficult first of all to get close and then stay close and even pass. I think Mark and Jenson had a bit more exciting race in terms of overtaking each other. For me I was quite happy that I always had clear vision to the front similar to last years race in Monza, so for sure I had the best chance to do well and at the end it was close sometimes to keep the car on the track especially entering turn one. Sometimes there was kind of a river running down the track and you just lost the car on snap oversteer. You just caught it and you were hoping for the car and the tyres to stick again. In 100 per cent of the cases it did, so it doesnt feel comfortable to have this kind of situation.
Q: You had the incident with Sébastien Buemi. Any other major moments we might have missed on television?
SV: There were a couple of moments I would say. But obviously that was extremely important that there was no damage to my car. Basically what happened I was going down the main straight, the safety car was already out, not yet in front of us, so you stay in your target time and try to catch up with the safety car. What happened is I saw a car slowing down all of a sudden on the left side and saw the spray and thought initially it was Rubens (Barrichello). I was not sure if he had a problem or was just slowing down because of the cars in front of him, maybe we had caught up and already there was a queue. You cannot see that far. I was slowing down and it turned out to be a Toyota, not Rubens, so I was just looking cautiously. He had a problem. He had no rear wing. Then I passed him and at the same moment I got a hit from behind by Sébastien. I am sorry to ruin his race but in these conditions you could basically run without mirrors because you cannot see a lot, you cannot see much because of all the spray. So sorry for him and extremely lucky to keep going in the race.
Q: Mark, as you said, your best ever result and you were in the spray!
MW: Yeah, it was challenging at times. Of course, Sebastian deserved a clear gap because he got pole. Once Fernando rolled away in terms of pitting under the safety car, I thought OK, we knew we were quite short, we need to make the most of getting away from potential two-stoppers or people who had more flexibility with their strategy. The first few laps it was impossible to stay close to Seb, I could hardly see anything. I was in and out of the throttle in some of the blind crests, and having so many moments while trying to stay close. And then it started to settle a little bit and then I thought OK, I can start to come a little bit closer. I hit a river in turn one, went a bit wide, lost some time and then unfortunately it put me back into the clutches - a little bit of the gap after the next safety car. I then had to come back through Jenson which was a good scrap and then again, when Jenson slightly locked a front right into the hairpin, I had an opportunity to go past. And when its your first (clear) lap, its my God, I can see everything, its beautiful. Then pushing like hell, again trying to put as much as I could into that part of the race. Another little mistake. Just playing with the rivers, you know, just playing with them, how aggressive you can be with the rivers and how much you can get away with. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost. It was a fantastic challenge. Then when Jenson got back past me again, I knew it was not do or die but I was still quite keen to try and win the race myself and I passed him around the outside of turn seven because I knew the car was quite good there and also he would not know I would be there as well, so he could not defend. It was one of the best moves of my career and that started to then build me for the next part of the race. And then it was basically a formality. I was just watching Jensons gap. Sebastian and I were just on the pace, bringing it to the end but it is an incredible day for the team. Youve got no idea what the guys went through last night. We were absolutely sh*tting ourselves that the cars wouldnt finish the race because every time we ran yesterday the cars stopped in three laps. Basically my driveshaft boot was destroyed as well after qualifying, so it was incredible to get the cars home. To get maximum points, for us, after the missed opportunities in Australia, and also with Sebastians and my missed opportunities in Malaysia, its a great day for the team, at Milton Keynes and also in Austria.
Q: Jenson, tell us about your battle with Mark.
JB: I knew that the Red Bulls obviously had very good pace, we saw that in the first stint and when the safety car came in, they seemed to be very strong from the word go. Our pace could get closer to them but when were on cold tyres, they could really get their car working which is very impressive. But after the first stop, I was back in front of Mark, due to the difference in stop laps and really it was all going OK. I felt like I was really slow, because I was trying to miss every river, but the problem with that is that it changes every lap, the conditions are changing every lap and the position of the rivers is changing every lap, so it makes it very, very difficult and when I saw that myself and Mark were pulling away from the people behind, I was reasonably happy with the pace then, I could just sort of settle into a pace. And then I got to the second to last corner and locked up the fronts, Mark went through, I tried to stay with him but there was no chance and then he made a mistake in the last corner where I jumped back past him again. The problem was, for everyone who was racing, you cant see the car in front, where he is and when youre in front you cant see the car behind. It makes it quite dangerous. You might say its more fun, but its not, its quite dangerous. Mark did a great move round turn seven, round the outside. It seemed that they could run on the really wet parts of the circuit and actually break through the water on the circuit, whereas we just seemed to float over the top. I dont know if that was because we were running the car too low or what but thats where he made the move, made it stick and from then on really it was just holding on and getting to the end of the race, because for all of us, however quick or slow you drive, its just as dangerous and it was so easy to throw the car off (the track) as we saw with Sutil, a pretty fast part of the circuit. It could have easily have happened to any of us. Im very thankful that we got to the end of the race with both cars and I was able to get on the podium. Its a great result for me but youve got to say well done to these guys because they drove well and obviously their car is working well as well.
Q: To all three of you, to what extent were you expecting these conditions today, all the way through the race?
JB: I didnt expect so much aquaplaning. If its wet, its wet. You can normally master the line and try and find an area on the circuit where its dry or where youre not aquaplaning, but here its very, very difficult. Youre aquaplaning as you come onto the main straight, as you go down the dip across the start and finish line and in that condition theres nothing you can do and its very, very scary in a way. So getting to the end of the race, in spite of being third and not being on the top step, its such a relief and such a great feeling that weve been able to come away with these points.
Q: Were you expecting these conditions though?
JB: We thought it would be raining today but its amazing the amount of water build-up considering it hasnt been raining that hard, compared to Sepang.
MW: When I got out of bed this morning, driving to the track, I was thinking maybe intermediates today and if were unlucky a little bit of work on the extremes but to do a whole Grand Prix on a set of extremes is not often the case. I think there are a few sections of drainage on the track which definitely need to be improved because some sections are not bad and on other sections you really are aquaplaning, so you are totally on top of the water. I dont know if Adrian (Sutil) was on inters but where he went off, through there we had several moments where you were just trying to keep the wheel straight and feather the throttle and wait for the movement because it was very, very treacherous. I must say, an incredibly challenging Grand Prix for the drivers and one that was right on the limit for safety. It was a massive challenge. We all want challenges as drivers, at this level we should be able to test ourselves to the maximum and thats what Formula One is about, but that one was right up there with Fuji, right on the edge and we cannot take much more than that. Visibility is one thing but also aquaplaning is another, its not down to Anyway, we got a great result, so thats good.
SV: Basically on Friday they said that it might rain on Sunday night. Saturday they said maybe Sunday afternoon and I really started to believe this morning when it started to drizzle that we were going to have a wet race or some rain during the race. I was surprised that it kept going continuously, so there was rain throughout the whole race. At some stage it stopped raining, the rain got less and the circuit improved and I thought OK, maybe now we have to pit too early, maybe in a couple of laps after the stop the track will be ready for inters but then it started raining again and also a couple of guys tried to make the inters work but obviously there was so much water, as Mark said, especially in the last corner, also turn six, basically thats just an easy right kink, but its a bit of a crest. For some reason theres a lot of water and you never know if you can stay flat or not and every lap the car was very light, going sideways and you were hoping, yeah, everything is OK, and the next lap it was the same again, so every lap you had the same kind of scenario. As Mark said, it was extremely challenging but also on the edge, so if it had just started to rain heavier at some point, then in some places it would have been impossible and the person who got there first possibly would have lost the car.
JB: The scary thing was that normally when you follow a car you see the two lines in the water and you know exactly where theyve been and you can follow that line because theres less water there but I never saw any lines on the circuit. That was the amazing thing. The water doesnt seem to clear and that was the worst thing about it, I think.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mike Doodson) Mark, you must have been very relieved to see the rain at the start from the driveshaft point of view. Were you able to modify the driveshafts to make them better or were you really worried that if it had been dry they might have only lasted for three laps at a time?
MW: Yes, we were able to modify the driveshafts, well, the small boot that contains the grease, to keep all the lubrication in there, so that was a spec change overnight, obviously within the regulations from parc ferme to be able to do that. There was some work done at the factory to understand the problem at this particular circuit. Of course, we might have been a bit more nervous in the dry with more loading and things like that but it turned out to be an inspired change from what the technical guys in that department had done. I must say that normally when Im in that position, to gain positions, I like to see the guy in front have a problem and blow up but today of course, I would like to win but to get one-two, for us two, for the team of course if it was Jenson, I would like to see him blow up but if it was Sebastian it was a bit different, so it was an incredible result for our team in the circumstances.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti Corriere della Sera) To Sebastian and Mark, I know that Adrian Newey is projecting a new car with the diffuser. Do you believe you really need it as the one you are using proved to be very competitive?
SV: Well, first of all I didnt know you are friends with Adrian. I think its the same for all the teams. We all have a diffuser, if you have this kind or this kind As Fernando said yesterday, this is what is extremely interesting about this championship. I think these cars are new, they look different and you are just at the beginning of their development, so basically the curve continues to go up and you are able to find newer and newer bits, other than the diffuser, and an update here or there, smaller or bigger can make a huge difference because the championship is very tight. Three or four tenths up or down can have a big impact in terms of position in qualifying. You can be on top or midfield or at the back. I think every team is pushing. We are pushing extremely hard to make the car faster. Im very happy that the car is fast already and able to compete with the best teams so far and yeah, hoping that it gets better and better throughout the season. Basically we will try and stay on top and make the final step to be the best team on the grid.
Q: (Michael Schmidt Auto Motor und Sport) Jenson, youve been around for a little while already. When we have wet races, they seem to be started behind the safety car and youve mentioned the problems with visibility; what is different from the past, are the cars too fast for wet races, are they producing too much spray?
JB: Thats a difficult one. I havent been around that long, maybe longer than these two! Theres always been a lot of spray in Formula One. I dont think that has changed. For some reason we seem to be having a lot of wet races over the last couple of years which I think stick in our memories more. The problem with getting temperature into the tyres is more of a new issue for me, anyway. You know we didnt have that so much in the past. The tyres dont seem to work as well as previously in the very wet conditions. We dont seem to be able to break through the water. Obviously these guys could get it to work, so it wasnt such a bad problem for them but its something thats very strange, that were struggling so much with aquaplaning and tyre shuddering which we didnt use to have four or five years ago. Its very difficult to remember that far back but I dont remember having such big issues. The wet is always difficult but this year and Fuji two years ago and a couple of wet races in between have for me been a lot more difficult and challenging for sure, because of the aquaplaning and just not getting heat in the tyres.
MW: If you look at the Spa race whatever it was, ten years ago or something, when one of the McLarens lost it on the exit of La Source, when youve got a car out of control OK, it can happen from a rolling start as well but I think weve seen the safety car work quite well on releasing the field in a much more controlled fashion. If you have different speeds off the start, the spray has always been high. I think that weve learned a lot in ten years in Formula One that theres no real need to today, to have a standing start is not really necessary. We can use the safety car and it works quite well. Once were under way, I think the conditions are the same as they were in 93 or 92 when the guys used to do it (conventionally). Its the same thing but now we just have different methods to maybe make the race a bit safer to start.
SV: It also depends a lot on if you have guys running at the front all the time they might say yes, we could have started the race in the normal way but I think especially for the guys at the back its much more comfortable because you have no idea where youre going Ive been there and you can see, like today, I was extremely lucky to continue, youre not braking, nothing, you just lift the throttle a little bit, I was cautious in case it was Rubens (Barrichello), in that case it was a Toyota. You know there were three cars involved and you can see that one hit the other and that shows how difficult it is and even starting in a normal way up to turn one there was no chance to see the car in front. We all have a flashing red light but you dont see anything when you follow each other.