FIA post-race press conference - Bahrain 26 Apr 2009
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
1st Jenson Button (Brawn GP), 1h31m48.182s; 2nd Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 1h31m55.369s; 3rd Jarno Trulli (Toyota), 1h31m57.352s.
Q: Jenson, the dream start to the year continues. And this was a dry race, this was a race all the way.
Jenson Button: It was indeed. This was a tough race for us. You might say I was leading for most of it but this race we had not the pace we had in the first three races. I dont know where it has gone. I guess these guys have just caught up and maybe passed us. But the first lap of the race I knew was very important because Sebastian was going longer, so I made it work and I came out of the first corner in third. From then on it was a tough race but very enjoyable.
Q: Sebastian, a great result for you too. A hard race and in a lot of traffic. A tyre defined race in many ways but in the end you are on the podium again.
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, a very good result for us. Good points, but as you said we will keep pushing. It was a difficult race. The start was quite okay but then I was surprised as all of a sudden there was Lewis (Hamilton) next to me. When I first looked in the mirrors he was not there but then I guess he pressed his special button and that gave him a bit of an advantage. At the first corner there were three, me in the middle and Jenson on the outside, so I had to give way and lost two positions in the first lap and then unfortunately I got stuck behind Lewis. I mean you might have a chance immediately to pass someone but then when you follow a car your tyres just go down. There is a lot of degradation. You start to slide and then you never really come back. It is quite difficult here as it is always hard braking, so you need the tyres, you need the stability, so therefore it is difficult to pass. I knew I had a longer first stint which put me just behind Jarno, so that was a bit of a shame as I was on soft tyres and I could have gone a bit quicker. Then I got stuck behind him again but then I was able to overshoot, staying out a little bit longer, which put me in front of him. But then it was the other way around and I had to defend from him. The whole last sting he was very close in my mirrors. I think he was pushing hard but I made no mistakes, so in the end we came second.
Q: Jarno, a relatively early pit stop and unlike most runners a switch to the hard tyre for the middle stint.
Jarno Trulli: Yeah, I am a little bit disappointed because I was waiting for the first win for Toyota. Unfortunately at the start I think I had oil spillage which cost me the first position. From then on it was a hard race as I was following my team-mate. I was going longer and then during the second stint we used a very long stint on the hard tyres, so I was trying to fight and it was really hard fighting with a lot of cars. I was not extremely quick but competitive being on the hard tyres and then eventually Sebastian took the position after my last stop. He was on the hard tyres and I was on the soft and I was pushing him. I was quicker but there was no way to overtake him, so that was how the race was. I want to thank the team as they have done a very good job, so lets wait to fight again for the next race.
Q: Jenson, as Sebastian said, he did get stuck behind Lewis Hamilton. But you had an interesting battle with Lewis and managed to get the better of him very early in the race and that proved to be decisive.
JB: It was. He is very difficult to overtake anyway but on the first lap he made a few mistakes and I dived down the inside of him at many different places. And on the straight I thought I could get alongside him and I did out of the last corner and then he pushed his button and pulled back in front and I had to tuck back in behind again and get the tow off him and I was able to get him into turn one. That move really made the race for us. I knew I had to make it stick and I did, so I am very happy. This race win for us is probably the best out of the lot as we dont have that competitive edge. And also it is the fourth flyaway. We have got a lot of bits that need to be changed and it is all getting a bit aged now, so to come away from this win it is great going back into Europe and we can look at improving the car.
Q: Sebastian, you were held up behind Lewis Hamilton for a lot of the race. Lets have a look now and talk us through what the conditions were like for you at that moment, what the tyres were like and the difference between the tyres and what it is like in traffic.
SV: The problem is when you follow a car for more than one, one-and-a-half or two laps then your tyres really start to go off, front and rear. You start to have a lot of sliding and that was the problem, so both stints on soft tyres I was not able to use them really. The best car I had was with the hard tyres at the end which is unusual as that option wasnt the better tyre. But it makes a huge difference if you are able to run in clean air or not. That was the problem today and apart from that we had a good car. I think it is very positive anyway as I think we did a very good job in qualifying and we are getting closer to these boys, so not long and we will be very, very close.
Q: Jarno, you started from pole but it did not translate into a lead at the first corner. Lets have a look at the start and perhaps you can tell us what was going on.
JT: It was a good start in a way but unfortunately as you can probably see from the front I had an oil spillage, so basically the engine stopped when I was accelerating out and this cost me the position. Then I was basically following my team-mate. I knew I was going longer but obviously being behind is not always easy. I was struggling a little bit with the rear end of the car and just trying to push as hard as possible. In the end the race wasnt too bad but we expected a little bit more.
Q: It seemed from the calculations before the race that you stopped a little bit earlier than you might have and then there was that decisive switch to the hard tyre. What was the thinking at that point?
JT: Well, to be honest it is difficult for me now to judge. I need to go through it with the engineers. In a way they calculated everything and in general they have done a very good job for me, so I have to praise them as we managed to put both cars on the front row and we managed also to get on the podium. I think all in all the strategy wasnt too bad but we needed a little bit more pace.
Q: Jenson, Ross Brawn was very concerned before the start of the race about the heat factor, particularly with your change at the last minute going into the season with the Mercedes engine and the data you had. As it turned out both cars were fabulously reliable and of course the heat was a factor for you too. Talk us through your emotions now after this third win of the season.
JB: For us it is very difficult because of the heat. But this is one of those circuits that isnt really that physical, so we could cope. The engine, we were a little bit worried about, as the temperatures have been very high in testing and in qualifying and I wasnt able to do the running I would have liked, so to come away with the win at this point of the season I am chuffed to bits. The whole team should be very proud of themselves. They have worked so hard. As you probably know we are much smaller than we used to be and they are having to work doubly hard to get the job done, so I am very proud of all of them and they should be also.
Q: Jenson, you are surprised to have won here. What made the difference?
JB: The first lap. To start with I got a poor start. I did a practice start coming into the pits and I was struggling with clutch slip and off the line I had exactly the same thing, so it was very lucky that I didnt lose more place. At the start the clutch slip wasnt too bad and then it was at turn one I had to make a move to get past Sebastian because they were obviously stopping later than us and it would have made the race very difficult. I was able to get around the outside and then the chance came up of getting past Lewis which was very difficult I must say because he was blocking very well but then at the last corner he made a slight mistake, so I pulled alongside him on the straight and I knew as soon as we got to the start-finish line he was going to push his KERS button and he did and he pulled away again, so I had to jump in behind and then did him into turn one. The first lap was what made the race really.
Q: Your fight back in the early laps was action packed for all of you.
JB: Good. The end of the race may not have been so exciting but the start of the race was very good for me and chasing down the two Toyotas. They seemed very quick on the option tyre and I was surprised a little bit by the pace and I wasnt sure how it was going to work out. I didnt even know that Jarno was behind Timo at that point in time. But it all worked out well and Sebastian got stuck behind Lewis which helped us but the biggest problem for me was backmarkers. I am sorry if my radio was played live as I might have said a few words that werent good for TV but the traffic was terrible out there. They were a long way in front but I just couldnt get any closer. Plus when I exited the pits and went down to turn four and (Robert) Kubica shot past me with his KERS and overtook me and unlapped himself which was a little bit frustrating. That was the most difficult thing for me, trying to stay on top of that.
Q: Was the tyre wear roughly the same with the two different sets of tyres? What about the brakes? Any problems with the brakes?
JB: Brakes werent too bad. We were worried going into the race a little bit about temperatures. On Friday and Saturday we were struggling a little bit and we thought we might have to run the race with reduced revs which would have been a disaster. But lucky enough we had clear air for most of it. We kept the engine reasonable cool and the brakes were fine, so we were in good shape. I think if Sebastian did not have the traffic it would have made the race very interesting as I think our pace was very similar but that was not to be and we obviously came away with the win which I am very happy about.
Q: And were you conserving things at the end basically?
JB: Yeah, the last sort of 15 laps we had to conserve it a little bit as this is a lot hotter than what we expected. It is not just the engine but everything on the car including the driver, so conserving it a little bit. And with the way the regulations are these engines have to do a lot more running than normal, so you have to look after them a little bit.
Q: Sebastian, obviously early on you had a battle with Lewis as well. You feared the KERS as well.
SV: Yeah, it was difficult to pass him. The problem is in both stints, in the first and second stints, we were on the soft tyres and the soft tyres here were the quicker tyres, as I think more or less for the rest of the field. Coming back to the first stint the start was not ideal, maybe I was not careful enough. I should have gone maybe more to the right and tried to defend on Lewis. When I looked in the mirrors immediately after the start he was way behind me but then I underestimated his little button he had on his steering wheel and all of a sudden I had him on the right. I couldnt run on the outside as Jenson was already there, so I was stuck in the middle. I had to give way to both of them. It was very close but basically then I was fifth. Very early in the race maybe I had a good chance to pass him. I was preparing for the last corner but I locked up the rear and all race it seemed very difficult to get a clean exit out of the last corner. It was very slippery there. Then I lost the momentum again. He pressed his button and that was it. Basically from then onwards, as I just described, when you have to follow a car, your tyres suffer a lot. You get a lot of degradation and that made it difficult then to pass and to use the pace we had behind Lewis in the first stint and behind Jarno in the second stint. The only stint I had in clean air was the last one but I had the hard tyres. Nevertheless for me the best stint was the last stint as the car was very consistent, getting quicker each lap. I was able to feel it more and more. Then I could play with the tyres. Obviously I had Jarno so I tried to save them in the beginning, so that at the end I had something to defend and it worked out well. But unfortunately the first two stints were behind traffic which spoiled our race a little bit. But nevertheless I think we are getting stronger. We are getting very close to these guys, so I hope not long, a couple of bits added to the car. Back in the UK, back in Milton Keynes, the people are pushing very hard and soon we will be able to fight them a bit more and give them a bit more of a hard time.
Q: Jarno, we talked about your start just now and you also had quite an interesting battle with Fernando Alonso banging wheels with him.
JT: Yeah, it was an interesting and tough race for me because I always found myself in a difficult situation. At the start, I was very unlucky because I think I had an oil spillage, so basically the engine didnt pull away and I lost position there. I lost a lot of ground and I was lucky enough to get out of the first corner second. Actually, I had to fight back against Lewis, firstly because he had KERS on the straight and secondly because the engine wasnt pulling at that time, so it was really hard. Going into turn four already wheel to wheel it was a nice battle, I didnt give up because I knew it was again important for me to stay ahead. Actually I started following my team-mate. The car wasnt too bad, the rear end was starting to go away, so I was struggling a little bit. Then, during the second stint, I had hard tyres and I was defending a lot of cars, as you say, a lot of battling there, obviously with cars that were lighter than mine. We were there to stop after a few laps. We were fighting with Sebastian until the end. I was on hard tyres and he was on soft, so actually he was biting my tail for most of the race and at the end, I was on soft and was quicker than him and he was on hard and I was trying to bite his tail and there was basically no way that he could get past. It was a nice race. It was a shame at the start but Im happy because I did fight very hard and it was a good podium for Toyota.
Q: You had problems with the brakes yesterday but they were changed for the race; how easy was it to have a brand new set of brakes?
JT: Its not the fact that I had a problem with brakes because they were worn, there was something wrong with the brakes during qualifying, there was a problem and actually we changed them. I didnt have any problem during the race as well as during the whole weekend. So it was just a safety issue because we saw during qualifying that there was something wrong with the brakes and we didnt want to blow them up. It was maybe something with that particular disc. During the race it was fine.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ed Gorman The Times) Anthony Davidson told the listeners of Radio Five Live that he considered this to be the finest race drive that youve produced in your career. Would you agree with him on that?
JB: Id certainly say it was the finest first lap of my career, for sure. I was very happy with the race. I didnt feel that I put a foot a wrong at all. Its nice to be in a car where I can show what I can do, even in a difficult situation because it wasnt a perfect situation. Its a very special feeling to have got this win. And thanks to the Ginger Racer, as I call him, for those nice comments.
Q: (Ed Gorman The Times) Can you just tell us a bit more about the overheating issues because we heard that youd had to cut away some part of the bodywork to help the cooling in the car.
JB: Theres nothing different this race to the last race. We didnt expect it to be as hot as it is here. All weekend weve been struggling a little bit and even in qualifying I couldnt do three laps hard. I had to do a quick lap, slow lap, quick lap. It made it very difficult in practice as well because you couldnt get the long run pace. Its been a tough weekend from that point of view and if we were sat behind a car for a stint like these two were, it would have been no way. We would have had to drop back two or three seconds to get some clear air. So thats a weakness but luckily enough I had the clear air and our reliability was very good. Im sure weve got to look at what damage its caused for the next races because you know these engines have to do a lot more mileage than normal, so we will see. But the win was more important, I felt, and we came away with a very special win this weekend, for sure. As for the heat, my feet were warm and Ive burned the top of my left buttock on a box theres an electrical box there. Its a little bit burned, so hopefully we can solve that issue. Ill get you stroking it later, Sebastian, dont worry!
Q: (Flavio Vanetti Corriere della Sera) To you all, your teams proved to be the most competitive ones so far but starting from Barcelona, your competitors will introduce some changes in the cars. Do you expect a different story for the championship?
JB: Well, at the moment you would say that these three teams sat here have been the most consistent, youre right, but I would say that the McLarens seem to be a lot more competitive this weekend. They made a step forward in China. Supposedly they havent had anything new on the car here but theyve moved forward a lot and Lewis ended up fourth. Theyve obviously done a good job, so you cant forget McLaren. When we start in Europe Im sure they are going to have some new parts and they are going to be very competitive. Its positive that weve got some points on them already.
SV: Theres a long, long way to go, weve done just four races. As Jenson said, I think his team has made the strongest impression so far. We are pushing very hard, we are getting closer, so especially on Saturdays we seem to get much stronger. Today, obviously, I was sometimes stuck in traffic but I think all the teams are pushing, the championship is very interesting. You may not forget the teams (that were dominant) the last couple of years, McLaren as well as Ferrari. They have a lot of resources and they have proven in the past that even if they have a bad start they can come back very quickly, so we have to keep pushing and for us, we want to be the best, and there is at least one team still in front of us, so we have to keep pushing hard.
JT: Well, its definitely going to be an interesting season because of the changes and it gives quite an open window for development from all teams. I have faith in my team, they know very well that four races is very little. Weve got a lot of races to go until the end of the championship, so we need to develop the car, get better and I can see already some signs of improvement from other teams. If you look at these races, there are some teams that made quite a bit step compared to the first two races, so I definitely expect a big fight during the season and I also expect quite a mix of leading cars and teams during all the races. This is nice, its nice for everyone. I was on pole, Sebastian won the last race and obviously the most consistent car and driver at the moment is Jenson with the Brawn but also Toyota and Williams are doing well, Red Bull but there are some teams which are really getting close, so we need to keep pushing.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Jenson, I think its pretty much accepted that every team is going to have major upgrades for Barcelona. Is it a case that the fight for the title will really start in Spain now?
JB: Weve had four races; theyve been pretty important to us, especially at the start of the season when people have got reliability issues or making mistakes, weve been able to pick up the points which is great. When we get to Europe we dont know where anyone is going to be. We know that these two teams alongside me here are going to be competitive but we dont know how and the same for McLaren. We have an upgrade coming in Barcelona, I just hope its enough. We have to wait and see. Nobody knows. And the thing is we cant go testing either, so we dont get that chance to get the feel for it. So its exciting going back to Europe and I think that for Formula One this is great. Theres so much change already in the sport and going back to Europe its going to be even more change. I think thats what this sport needed and I think weve got it.
Q: (Tom Cary The Daily Telegraph) Jenson, I know you expected it but when Lewis pulled up alongside you so quickly off the start did you fear the worst?
JB: Well, he didnt actually use his KERS to get me, I dont think, because he was past me before he actually got to 100kph. You dont really think about it at that point in time, you just get your head down and see what you can do at the first corner. Our braking is good here and I knew that I had looked after the tyres and got them in good shape for the first corner under the brakes, so I knew that I could brake very late and it showed in turn one, so yeah, I knew that I had to get past Sebastian, that was the main thing, and if I could get past Lewis that was a bonus.
Q: (James Allen Financial Times) Jenson, you looked very comfortable leading the race. Is there a feeling now with three wins that you feel that this is beginning to feel more and more my thing, I feel like I expect this, I belong here?
JB: Well, every race is exciting and if you can stand on the top step afterwards its exhilarating but if I dont win a race for example in Shanghai I was happy to finish on the podium but when youve won two races the win is exciting and thats the same for all of us. Were all racing drivers, we all want to win the race but its still not easy at the front. Our car is competitive but its still not easy to drive and thats something that we need to work on because I had a lot of moments during the race where I was wide, locked up rears or fronts. Maybe its not just the way that our car was balanced, maybe its just a new set-up on the car, the way it works but you see a lot of people getting out of shape now. Its tough for us but maybe good for you guys to watch.
Q: (James Allen Financial Times) Jarno, just before you made your stop we heard Lewiss engineer say to him on the radio that it was clear that the harder tyre was a second a lap slower today than the soft and then you came in and put hard tyres on. Could you just explain what the thinking was behind that? Was it because you were going to do a 25 lap stint and you didnt trust the soft tyres on that length of stint?
JT: Yeah, we were not sure about the soft tyres. Obviously the team had a better idea than me with all the data collected during the winter and this season we were not actually sure about the soft tyres, how many laps they could remain competitive. That was one of the reasons behind the choice. It didnt work out but in the end it is still a podium, still a good race but obviously the target was to win a race but I think we still have to improve our pace.