FIA post-qualifying press conference - Spain 09 May 2009
Drivers: 1. Jenson Button (Brawn GP), 1m 20.527s; 2. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 1m 20.660s; 3. Rubens Barrichello (Brawn GP), 1m 20.762s
Q: Jenson, out in the very last minute of Q3 and what a lap it was.
Jenson Button: It could have gone very, very wrong. We timed it quite well I think. But then I had (Robert) Kubica who I thought was on an out lap and I had to let him past when he caught me up. The guys said you have got four seconds in the last sector. Four seconds is slower than a proper lap time to get across the finish line, so I had to get a gap as I didnt know if he was going to continue and I only got across the line with a couple of seconds to spare. So yeah, more luck than judgement in getting out at the end and by far the best lap I have had this weekend. All weekend this guy has been tremendous and all the way through qualifying and I found it very difficult to sort of hang on to him on the low fuel. But I got the lap on the high fuel, so yeah, very happy. This was a bit of a surprise in a way, so when I heard I was on pole when I crossed the finish line it felt pretty good.
Q: Sebastian, back again. Every race in the top three. A fantastic record you are now sustaining and the Red Bull Renault again looking very competitive.
Sebastian Vettel: Yes, its true. We have a very strong car and also this weekend it seems to work pretty well, so I am very pleased for that. When I had the first run in Q2 I felt very comfortable in the car. On the second run I think the lap time was good, unfortunately not good enough to beat Jenson today. I would have wished to have the pole but at the last minute he took it away but yeah, second position is great, the front row. I think we had a very good recovery from yesterday where we were struggling a little bit with the balance of the car as in winter it was quite different from when we were here two months ago for testing to now. But we fixed it and again from this morning to qualifying we did another adjustment to the car which seemed to work, so I am very happy, I am very pleased for that. We only needed one run in Q1 on the hard tyre and one run in Q2 on the soft tyre which should have been a bit quicker but I made a mistake in the last sector. But nevertheless, a great job. And also compliments to the whole crew as some of the parts arrived at the last minute and they had to trim it to mould it to the car, so it was all a bit tight. Long nights, not a lot of sleep but they will have more today.
Q: Rubens, a great team performance. And that lap time in Q2, the fastest lap time of the weekend, was absolutely brilliant.
Rubens Barrichello: Once again I was very happy with the car in Q2 and to be honest it came to me as a surprise. I think it was a great effort from Jenson and he is doing a really good job and he deserves to be there. But it came as a surprise in Q3. I had a good lap to be honest but I may have been too early on the track and that is the only missed opportunity because the rest went quite well. The lap was good and I was within the limits, so I am very happy. I think we have a good car for the race and I am still fighting. I think that Jenson is really doing well at this minute and I just have to try harder and harder to try to get him.
Q: Jenson, we have seen some progress from some of the bigger named teams, if that is the right word, behind you but at the moment it looks as if you still have that amazing advantage.
JB: I am not sure its an amazing advantage being on pole by was it half-a-tenth or something.
Q: I refer to the teams performance.
JB: Yeah, I think as a team we have done a great job and this package is a step forward. I think we still need to work with it a bit more. I dont think we have got the maximum out of it yet. I hope we havent anyway. But everyone at Brackley has done a fantastic job and I am sure they are all watching this now, feeling very happy with themselves as they should do. Both of us in the top three and I think over the weekend we have been trying lots of different things and we have found the right direction. I am very happy with our performance but it is very, very close and I dont know what lap Sebastian is stopping on.
SV: Lap 27.
JB: Lap 27, we are okay then as we are 32. So it is all fine, bring on tomorrow. It is a nice feeling to be back here. I am on pole and the last two races I was not even near the press conference, so it is nice to be back here. Its a great position to start from tomorrow but obviously the Ferrari is very quick. Surprisingly quick in Q2 and they have got KERS, so it is going to be a tough race tomorrow but I am excited. I didnt think I would be sat in this position at the moment.
Q: Jenson, yesterday you were quoted as saying you werent particularly happy with the balance of the car, with the new parts, so what changed from yesterday to today?
JB: Well, some of it was because we were looking at how quick Rubens was, so obviously we looked at his set-up, took some parts from it which I think helped us quite a bit. In a way Im very happy that Rubens was quick all through the weekend, it helped me in a way. So this morning the car was already a bit better but coming into qualifying, I knew that we had made improvements but I didnt how much of an improvement. Qualifying was a bit of a strange one because in Q2 I couldnt get anywhere near Rubenss times. My laps werent bad. I had a bit of rear movement which is never my favourite but when we put the fuel on board, the car felt as it had done this morning, so I was much happier with the balance. So yeah, a little bit of a surprise to be on pole. I knew it was a good lap when I crossed the line but I didnt know what other people had done, so when I heard my engineer on the radio saying I was on pole, it was a pretty amazing feeling because it was also a shock to the system. Great to be here and hopefully weve got the pace tomorrow.
Q: Given all the modifications that are on all the cars here, it must be quite a relief that youre still right up there.
JB: Yeah, I dont know that anyones really gone that much quicker except for the Ferrari. Theyve been competitive today and in Q2 Felipe was within two tenths of Rubenss lap which was obviously pretty exceptional, so theyre quick. I think we have the legs on them at the moment but theyre closing very, very quickly and Im surprised, so theyre one to watch over the next few races, for sure. Our package is an improvement; personally I dont think weve got the maximum out of it over this weekend but its a definite step forward and everybody at the factory should be very happy with what theyve achieved but we cant stand still, we need to keep moving forward. I know theyre working very hard on improvements for the next few races.
Q: Sebastian, you must be equally pleased that the update has kept you ahead as well.
SV: Yeah, it was tight. Weve got some parts, nothing big, but you put the parts together and you have a big effect. They all seem to work. The boys didnt have an easy time because some of the parts arrived last minute but we were able to do it. Yesterday it was a bit difficult with the car. We were struggling a little bit for balance and this morning it was already much better but we were not yet strong enough with the soft tyres but going into qualifying, we changed the car again slightly and it seemed to work very, very well. In Q1 I only needed one run on the hard tyre and Q2 only one run on the soft tyre. The lap should have been below the 1m 20s bracket but I made a mistake in the last corner. I may have been able to match Rubenss lap time - it was a good lap for sure. Anyway, then, going to Q3, I think the car was working very well, I was very pleased, very happy. After the last lap my engineer came on the radio and said you are currently on pole but there are cars to come and then unfortunately he said you are P2. Yeah, I was waiting for a long time and hoping, OK, now no-one else is coming but then at the last minute I got the call I was in second place but nevertheless its front row, first row, so thats good for us. It will be difficult tomorrow for the start because we all have the KERS car behind us. It will be a threat; the way down to turn one is quite long but Im very pleased, very happy with the result. It should be a good race tomorrow. I think we have a very competitive car and we are getting stronger.
Q: Rubens, youve got your compatriot, Felipe Massa, with KERS right behind you. How much is that a threat and whats the feeling like that hes got an extra 80bhp after he reaches 100kph?
RB: Im thinking I might start on the second red light! Maybe I can get into the first corner ahead of him. Its not just the KERS, its that they have a good car here. As Jenson said, I think its the best if you had the classification of the improvements probably Ferrari would be at the top of the list because they have done a good job. Its not just the KERS at the start, its how well prepared they are. They seem to be good on long runs as well. We have to have that in mind for sure.
Q: Are you a little bit disappointed not to be on pole?
RB: Yes, I am. From what I achieved in Q2 I really thought that this time I was able to beat everyone in Q3. I probably went out on the track a little bit too early because I wanted two laps in case I also had traffic on one lap and that could have been a factor but nevertheless it was a good lap. Its very close. I just have to keep on fighting. I think I am quite happy on low fuel as I have shown. I just need to improve a little bit more on heavy fuel. Its something that if you think about, last year we were on low fuel all the time and thats how we compared, myself and Jenson, because we never got into Q3 and this year we have to set up the car differently in a way and Ive been suffering a little bit. So yes, Im a little bit disappointed; happy with the first and third places for the team but I was hoping for more.
Q: Jenson, you nearly didnt get that last lap; you just made it by two seconds. What was the team telling you?
JB: Well, they wanted me to go out as late as possible and I agreed with that because I needed everything to really get a good lap. Shov (Andrew Shovlin, race engineer) told me that Kubica was on an out lap, so when he was coming down the pit straight I guessed he was just starting his timed lap and then they said youve got to let him past, let him past. I did and then they came on the radio and said no, stay in front of him, hes on an in lap. So I was screwed then. I was stuck behind with four seconds to spare in the last sector but I had to get a gap, so I had to take the risk of dropping back, getting a gap, else it was pointless anyway. I crossed the line with two seconds to spare and obviously got the job done. Im very happy and this is by far the best pole Ive had because it was unexpected, it was very unexpected. As you probably know, my old boy, as we call him, Papa Smurf is always at the races but my mum has come to this one, so Im glad that shes here on Saturday when weve qualified on pole.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ian Parkes - PA) Jenson, well done, are you aware of just how crucial pole is here bearing in mind that the last eight winners and the last thirteen of the fourteen winners have started from pole?
JB: No, I didnt, didnt know the stat. We dont normally concentrate on whos on pole, we havent for the last couple of years anyway. I know its important because its difficult to overtake here. All of the cars around us have been very quick on long runs, so I wouldnt say we have an advantage on a long run. P1 for sure is an advantage. Ive just got to hope that I can stay there into turn one. As you know, weve both had some difficulties at the start this year but the starts that we have made properly have been very good, so Im hoping for one of those starts tomorrow.
Q: (James Allen - Financial Times) To all three of you: Im really interested in the mental side of the step from your first run in Q3 to your final run because Rubens and Sebastian both improved by seven tenths but Jenson found a second on that final run, which is what made the difference, so mentally what are you thinking to yourselves, where are you finding that extra time and how did you find a second within yourself?
JB: For me it was the weirdest qualifying because with Rubens, for example, I thought I had the edge in Q1 and then in Q2 he set a blistering pace and I dont really know where that came from. My laps werent exactly bad but I was surprised that he had so much more pace. In Q3 I changed the balance of the front wing a little bit because I was struggling with the rear end coming round in Q2 and that was costing me time on entry and as you all probably know, thats not my favourite thing. The rear calmed down in my first run in Q3, so I thought I could probably add the front wing back on for my new tyres and I could and it all came together. It was the right balance for that moment in time on the circuit. I knew I had to go hell for leather because Rubens was doing a very good job and it was very close at the front. I wasnt thinking about where I was going to qualify, I was just trying to get the best out of it and you could say it looked like a messy lap on TV but its a very strange circuit here in qualifying and theres very low grip and you do have to throw the car around a bit and I had to do that which is unusual for me.
SV: First of all, if I observe correctly, I think Jenson did his first run on used tyres and Rubens and I both did ours on new tyres.
JB: No, he was on used.
SV: But then I did a bad job because both times I had new tyres. Yeah, not much to add. As Jenson said, this is quite a tricky circuit to get one lap out of the car. In general Im very happy. We made quite a step forward with the car because we were struggling really to get the first lap out of the soft tyres but we managed well this afternoon. Other than that how do you approach it mentally? You know what to do, so you just try to get the best out of the car and obviously youve experienced runs before, what happens, how is the balance, as Jenson said, you might play with the front wing a little bit and then you just try again, try to get it right everywhere.
JB: I think a lot of it does come naturally, the feelings and everything, because if you think about it too much, it doesnt work for sure.
RB: Well, its the same as them really. Ive been told by Jocky (Jock Clear, race engineer) that I had old tyres and Sebastian had new tyres, so I was worried about him in a way, and I really thought that having new tyres I wouldnt have the edge, so having new tyres I was pretty sure I could edge Sebastian because I was in front of Jenson. You always have to consider everyone but at that time I just wanted to do a good lap and I think a factor for me, not mentally on your question, but it was just the fact that I probably went onto the track too soon. That was my limitation because the lap was good. So yeah, mentally I was quite strong because I had a new tyre on the back and so I knew I could have gone faster.
Q: (Laurentzi Garmendia - Berria) Jenson, the first eleven drivers in Q2 were faster than last years best time by Felipe Massa in Q2, on an aero circuit where cars are supposed to have less grip this year. What do you think about cars getting faster and faster? Is that what the FIA was looking for?
JB: For me, aerodynamically we have less downforce and we have more drag, thats the way that it was supposed to be and thats the way it is. But weve picked up a lot of time with the slick tyres. I would say that the slicks are probably two to two and a half seconds quicker than the grooved tyres, so weve picked up there but obviously weve lost a lot in downforce. Some of the reasons were because the cars were getting too fast through corners but also some of the reasons for the change was to help the racing. Some drivers might say that it doesnt help the racing but I think watching the races this year theres been a lot of overtaking manoeuvres and if you look at the cars this year they look a lot more difficult to drive. Weve had the quickest car for a few of the races this year and its not an easy car to drive. Its very, very twitchy and if you watch them on TV they are twitching around all the time which makes it easier to make a mistake and other drivers can capitalise on that. For me the regulation changes are positive for many reasons: first, the racing for me has been fantastic and thats not because Im leading the championship; watching the overtaking moves on TV
Q: (Paulo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) As you said, Ferrari looks to have made the biggest step forward. Do you think they might be a threat tomorrow for the podium? Or looking at the long runs and everything do you still feel confident that you still have some advantage?
JB: Well, Ive heard that KERS gives you ten meters from the start to the first corner, so thats quite a lot - just to let you know - so thats a problem, for sure, starting from pole. If he (Massa) gets a very good start as well it could be a problem for me. I think its just going to make it a bit crazy into turn one more than anything because when one car is coming into the first corner a lot quicker than the others in front of him, it could cause mayhem, especially with quite a high speed corner like this one. So its about keeping your nose clean at turn one and thats going to be difficult for all of us. But as you say, the Ferrari has been quick and they are going to be quick in the race also, I think. Theyve made a big improvement, as you would expect really.
Q: (Walter Koster - Saarbrücker Zeitung) The FIA has decided on a point system for next year. I can imagine that Jenson might prefer a medal system; can I have an answer from you three about the FIA decision?
JB: For me, yeah, I would love the medal system this year. I think any driver would who has won three races. For me, I would rather it was more 10-6 points for first and second, rather than medals. Points have been the way for many decades in Formula One and to change that is the wrong thing to do, personally, so I think the points system is a good thing but Ive never been in this position before where Ive won three races and Im (only) getting two points more than second place. I understand why people have found it frustrating in the past, since weve had this 10-8-6 system. For me it would be nice if it was 10-6 but next year it might be a very different situation, so I might not be sat here on pole position in Barcelona, so weve got to wait and see.
SV: I think the points system is good as it is and I think in general the points system is morechallenging and it rewards also the most consistent driver, so you may face some Grand Prix weekends where you are struggling with the balance of the car, you dont get it right but in the end it separates the good from the very good if you still manage to get the best out of it and score some points, so getting fourth, fifth, sixth position and collecting some points for the championship. On the other hand, if you won the first seven or eight races then theres no point in continuing really, so I think the points system is still the way to go.
RB: I think it all depends on where you are in the championship really. I could change my mind quite quickly, you see. If I was in Jensons position I would love to have the medals right now but I think its a fair point he made that the points system is the system that should remain because you have to fight for the points. I was racing when the points were 10-6 and it was different. But again, it depends where you are because sometimes youre winning, sometimes youre not, so you can change your mind quite quickly on that.