FIA post-qualifying press conference - Monaco 23 May 2009
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Jenson Button (Brawn GP), 1m14.902s; 2nd Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), 1m14.927s; 3rd Rubens Barrichello (Brawn GP), 1m15.077s.
Q: Jenson, this is the big one, this is Monaco. To some extent your home grand prix and one of the most demanding grand prix circuits on the calendar. What does this pole mean to you?
Jenson Button: Yeah, I mean they all mean a lot. I have got to stop saying that, but they do and today was a really tight fight as well. All through the weekend I have been fighting with Rubens or Rubens has definitely had the upper hand. The McLarens have been up there, the Ferraris have been up there, the Red Bulls, the Williams. It has been a fun weekend I think for everyone involved and hopefully the viewers. And qualifying was no different. It was manic as it always is in Monaco I suppose but great to come away with pole. I was right on the edge on that lap and to snatch pole I am chuffed to bits.
Q: It looks from the outside to be a well paced weekend as the track picked up grip on Thursday where you were a little bit in the background. But as the track got faster today in Q1 and Q2 and building up to that perfect lap in Q3. Was it perfect?
JB: Well, it might look like it from the outside but l was a long way off in P1 on Thursday and really didnt know where we were. I had very low grip but worked with the balance a lot and all the way through the weekend we just improved it little by little bit and that is the great thing with this car. If I was driving last years car and I started Thursday as we were then I would have massively struggled. But this car listens to changes. It is great to be on pole especially around a circuit like this. Obviously with the history that is involved with Monaco but also because this is a tough circuit. Mentally it is very tough, so it is nice to be on pole.
Q: Kimi, the first front row start of the season. It looked like you had the pace all qualifying and for a while there you were on pole and then right at the end it was Jenson that got it.
Kimi Raikkonen: I mean the car hasnt been too bad here. Since the first practice it has always been getting better once the circuit has been picking up the grip and in qualifying the car was good. In the first qualifying it was a bit difficult and I made some mistakes and I didnt get a very good lap. The second qualifying was good and then in the last one it was good. I had one more lap and I went off in the first corner, so I dont know if it would have made any difference but it was a good result for us especially in this kind of place. The car has been behaving pretty well, so it is nice to be back on the front and hopefully we can fight for victory tomorrow.
Q: Rubens, on your birthday. You have been very quick all weekend and no doubt you were eyeing the pole here.
Rubens Barrichello: Well, qualifying went very well. I had good pace all through. Every day, actually, the car has been good. Honestly I thought I had the upper hand on Jenson today. It was going very well and my lap on the end was very good. Thats why I congratulated him as he must have had a fantastic lap as my lap was really good and I am happy with it. There wasnt anything more I could have done. Yeah, you can push a little bit here and there but I have got to say I am really happy with all the work and I am sorry that on my birthday I didnt get pole position. I hope to get two better tomorrow.
Q: Jenson, try to describe for us the treadmill you are on right now. It looks unstoppable from the outside. Do you allow yourself to enjoy moments like this or do you just focus on the race tomorrow?
JB: Of course you enjoy the moment but it is strange as it is a lot more stressful than you think. It might sound silly but it is and you want to stay in this position obviously and anything less is a downfall I suppose. This part of the season it is really important for me to be at the front and to pick up the points and tomorrow is going to be a tough race and Rubens has been very strong this weekend and Kimi also, so it is not going to be easy. I know it is difficult to overtake here but for sure it is not going to be easy. But the way things are going this season it is a great feeling and hopefully it will continue. I have got to thank all the guys at Brackley who have done a fantastic job and Mercedes Benz, so yeah, thanks again and hopefully we can have a good day tomorrow.
Q: Jenson, how exciting was that lap? Tell us about it.
JB: Yeah, it was pretty much on the edge. I thought I was going to be in the harbour at one point. It was a good lap and I really did get everything out of the car. It is the best lap I have done this weekend. On Thursday I struggled a little bit to get to grips with the car and the circuit. But we have done a lot of work since then and the car came to me in qualifying. We had a few problems that we needed to sort out and we did through the session. The car was great in Q3 and it was definitely one of the best laps Ive ever done for sure.
Q: You say you have made a lot of changes since Thursday as you were not happy with the car. How much did you change it from this morning to this afternoon?
JB: We changed a few things. I was really struggling just having no front end on the car. High speed corners and a little bit low speed apexes, so we changed a few things and it has improved the car dramatically especially on the prime tyre. I couldnt get the prime tyre to work all weekend. I was a second off Rubens on the prime tyre, so we got it to work and the option was the same, so Im so happy to be on pole here. It is a fantastic feeling because it was really on the edge the whole lap, every single corner, so it was a fantastic, enjoyable lap for me for sure.
Q: It does seem to be one of the attributes of the car that it does react to changes?
JB: Yeah, that is one of the things about the cars for the last couple of years. If we started with a bad car here then we would race with a bad car. With this car you can change the set-up and it listens to the changes which is fantastic, obviously, good or bad. And they are always going to be good. But yeah, it is so important the racing car and I really feel at home in this car. Even when things are bad you know you can make them better, so I am very happy. Very happy for myself and for the whole team and Rubens has been so bloody quick all weekend which is good for me. Having a team-mate who is not pushing you but is in front of you for the whole weekend does spur you on.
Q: You talked in Spain about changing your driving style here. How much have you done that?
JB: I tried that in the first session and it didnt really work. I sort of scraped a few barriers with the rear of the car and it looked pretty cool but the lap time wasnt there. I found a reasonably good balance. We have just got to make sure that we look after the tyres in the race as I am damaging the rears a little bit. But hopefully it will be a different situation in the race and I think it will be. I am pretty happy with where we are.
Q: You have had two points scores here in eight races, so it hasnt been a lucky circuit for you.
JB: It hasnt but 2004 was pretty good. I finished second. In the melee of safety cars I think we probably lost that race. But I enjoy driving around here. With a bad car it is very tough but when you get a good car and you get the set up right it is such a buzz. It is such an adrenalin rush to get a lap out of a car around here as the whole time you are on the edge. There were a few corners when I thought I was going to be in the wall. I dont know if it was the same for these two but it was for me. But I got the lap done, so I am very happy.
Q: Kimi, your third time starting from second on the grid. You said on Thursday that things could be better. What sort of improvements have you made to the car?
KR: I mean the car is basically the same as the last race, so in that way we havent changed it. There are still a few issues that are hurting all the time but we cannot change it right now. It is mainly for me but that is how it is. I mean it has been pretty good. On Thursday it was okay but all the time when the circuit seems to pick up grip we seem to improve the handling, so that seems to be a benefit for us. I am happy we are second after the start of the season but here it is not very good, so I am pretty disappointed not to be at the front as that gives you a massive edge in the race and that is more or less the only way to win the race, so we will see what we can do tomorrow and try to go for a win.
Q: How much satisfaction does this give you after the season you have had so far?
KR: Not much. I would rather have been in the front. It is nice to be second but still we lost the first place for a small margin but thats what we are aiming for and once we get there I will be happy. But especially in this race. In any other race it maybe doesnt make much difference but here the difference is much bigger between first and second. But it is going to be a long race, so we will see what we can do.
Q: I think the team said that the car was better on the soft tyres rather than the super softs?
KR: No, I did my fastest lap on the softer ones. Both of them work very well but they seem to be best.
Q: Rubens, not quite the birthday present you were hoping for but you still cant be unhappy with it.
RB: No, quite honestly Ive had a great Saturday. Did everything I had to do in the morning, setting the car up and everything, so I was extremely happy. My fastest lap throughout the weekend is on a used set of tyres, which is quite amazing, to be honest with you, and we need to make an exercise to see why the new tyres are not working so much for me. As you could see, I did a 1m14.8s and with fuel in the car I did a 1m15.0s, so Ive got to be extremely happy with that. I honestly, in front of him (Jenson Button), I can say I thought I had the upper hand because I had a good lap. I had everything and he did a 15.7s when I did a 15.4s, so I wasnt expecting I was expecting someone to be around me and with the time that Kimi set, I was of course expecting something good, but I never thought Jenson could do a 14.9s. It is his fastest lap of the weekend, on the fuel, so its a pretty amazing lap. So as soon as I got out of the car I asked him how he did it because Ive done (those laps) the whole weekend but not when it mattered. I am extremely happy. I did all I could do for the whole weekend and hopeful for tomorrow. My car is running well on a used set and we have plenty of laps on used sets tomorrow.
Q: This is your best grid position in 17 qualifying sessions around here; what are your thoughts on the circuit?
RB: I tell you, I love this place in qualifying and today my thought was dont leave anything, dont leave even a hair (breadth) for you to think oh, I should have done better. I tell you, round the swimming pool I almost went flat through there. It was fantastic, Im really proud of what Ive achieved today. Unfortunately, its still a tenth away from pole but Ive got to be happy. Like I said, Ive left nothing out of my car.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Jenson, in Q2 you did 1m15.016s and in Q3 you did 1m14.902s. Can you explain this please?
JB: No, not really. I think I just went quicker, I suppose. Q3 is the one that matters. In Q2 I did struggle with a bit of understeer. I was behind another car on my lap which cost me some time. I was a little bit scared that I wasnt going to make it through Q2 but I did and Q3 is the important one. For sure, I pushed harder in Q3 than I did in Q2. The fuel effect wasnt anywhere near like I thought it was going to be. I was able to brake in similar places with higher fuel as I was with lower fuel, so I dont quite understand that. Yeah, I just pushed that little bit harder. If I was 95 percent in Q2, I was 100 percent in Q3. I couldnt have got anything else out of it. I have been nowhere near Rubens through the swimming pool but I drove as fast as I could through there and yeah, I thought I was going to end up in Flavios (Briatore) boat which he would not have been very happy with. It was a good lap, I was very happy with it.
Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) Kimi, is KERS your weapon against Jenson at the start?
KR: Here it can maybe help a little bit but its such a short straight to the first corner, its very tight, its very difficult, you need to really have a jump. Much better to be able to beat the first guy but we will try, we will try what we can and see what happens.
Q: (Tom Cary The Daily Telegraph) Jenson, you made a big deal about being aggressive over the past few races. You touched on it just before saying you found a balance in the car. Are you going to have to return to your smooth driving action, now that youve got pole? Do you just want to stay out ahead of everyone or are you going to have to be right on the edge the whole way through?
JB: Youve got to be on the edge but youve got to think in a different way than you do in qualifying because in a way youve to look after the tyres, you have to also be on the edge, so its a difficult one. But you cant be touching any barriers in the race because that would screw your race. You have to drive a little bit differently than in qualifying and I will drive as quickly as I can, obviously within the limits. Youve got to respect the barriers. I hit one on Thursday, I only just tapped it, but it bent something on the car, a track rod. Yeah, I will be staying away from them, for sure.
Q: (Malcolm Folley The Mail on Sunday) Jenson, we talk about this place being the most important race on the calendar to get the pole. Youve got it here today, and now with the race strategy the race is in your hands. Can you tell us how you go to bed tonight considering that you wait all your career to get pole at Monaco and going into the race tomorrow, people at home are going to be so excited about whats going to happen?
JB: Well, honestly, I didnt this might be a negative attitude but I honestly didnt think I was going to outqualify Rubens today but I have, so Im very, very happy and Ill go to bed happy but also already thinking about tomorrow. This circuit is very unusual, its different to any other circuit. People will say if youre quick round Monaco youre a master and what have you but I dont think thats the case. I think its just different to other circuits, it takes a little bit of a different driving style and thats it really. Some drivers might be very quick for the rest of the season and theyre not so quick around here. Its just the way it is. But Im very happy that Ive worked closely with the team and Rubens over this weekend and Ive been able to get the best out of the car and put it on pole. Im not thinking about tomorrow yet. That will be when I get back to the team. Its not over yet; starting on pole is obviously an advantage, thats why we get so happy about the best lap in qualifying but its a long race and anything can happen, as they always say. We dont know what fuel other people are on. I dont know what fuel Kimis on, well find out soon, but they might be much longer than us which would obviously make them more competitive than us. We have to wait and see and as you might have seen in practice, theres been a lot of graining on these tyres, especially the rears, so thats going to come into play. The Ferrari seems good on the harder of the two tyres, maybe quicker than what Ive been, so its going to be an exciting race. Some people say Monaco can be a procession but I dont think that will be the case. There will be a lot of marbles, I think there will be quite a few mistakes tomorrow with the tyres graining, so it will be an exciting race, I think we will put on a good show for the fans.
Q: (James Allen Financial Times) Jenson, in the last two races youve arrived and the car hasnt really been working for you and youve had to work quite hard to get yourself into a position to challenge, so I wonder if you could say a little bit about whether that gives you great satisfaction at the end of it to then be sitting here and looking good for tomorrow, and also just talk a little bit about the confidence that you need to drive you through that process.
JB: Turning up at the first races and qualifying on pole and winning that race was the same sort of feeling as Ive had this weekend, to a much bigger extent, obviously. But with it being so difficult over the last couple of years and winning the first race this year was a magnificent feeling and this weekend has been a little bit like that in a way because I struggled on Thursday, then got to grips with the car and everythings come together in qualifying. We need to look at why were turning up and Im not happy with the car to start with. Obviously Ill sit down with my engineers and well all go through it but theyve done a great job to put me in this position, weve all worked very hard on improving the car. I have quite a lot of confidence, obviously, so far this season, but you take every race as it comes and even though Ive won four races this year you still come here and think Ive got to win this race, Ive got to get on pole, and if you dont, you think of it as a little bit of a failure. You take every race as it comes. Even if I hadnt had the first five races, I would have confidence but you never know whats going to happen.
Q: Kimi, given your difficult start to the season will you really risk everything for a victory tomorrow or will you try to ensure some good points?
KR: Im only interested in winning, so I have nothing really to lose. OK, the team needs points but in the end they are happier with a win than just some points. Were not really in the championship. We know that the team has not had a very easy time this year but we have shown some signs that we are getting better. We still need to work. This is a special place, so if we have good speed here, I wouldnt say that we would be where we want to be on a good circuit, maybe not as good as Brawn, so thats what were really aiming to improve, so I will definitely try to do everything that I can.
Q: Jenson, Monaco is really difficult to overtake, sometimes it makes for a really boring race. Does it mean thats perfect for you?
JB: Its perfect for the guy that starts on pole always. You think that going into the race, but as I said, anything can happen. The first lap of the race is always exciting for us all. If there is a car that can overtake us it will for sure be a car with KERS. There are a couple of places on the circuit where there is always that possibility. The first few laps are important but the way the system is now with fuel, going into qualifying, Kimi might be running five laps longer than us on the first stint which might work better, might work in his favour, might not. We have to see, so its not as easy as just qualifying on pole and youve won the race. But it wont be a boring race, I dont think so.
Q: (Michael Schmidt Auto Motor und Sport) Jenson, Rubens mentioned that he has got at least one fresh set of soft tyres. How is it with you and is this a big advantage to have a new one left for the race or a disadvantage if you dont?
JB: Yeah, it matters when youre going to use it in the race, for sure. If youre going to use it at the start, your first pit stop, your second pit stops, your third pit stop, whatever. We have to wait and see. But yeah, I have one set of the super soft tyres left.
Q: (Ingo Rörsch Sport Bild) I have a question for Jenson: could you explain the difference between the preparations for Sundays race now youre on pole compared to the races last year? Is it more exciting or are you just more focused on the race or do you sleep as you do every day?
JB: I always sleep very well. Its a much nicer position, for sure, especially round Monaco, to be at the front because there can be mayhem around here. People know that its difficult to overtake, so everything happens on the first lap. Its much nicer being at the front, as it always is. Last year I had a lot of accidents, more than Ive had in my whole career and its because I know how important it was to fight my way through, on the first couple of laps. So yeah, its a nice position to be in and Im sure every driver will say the same, its pretty normal.