FIA post-qualifying press conference - Malaysia 09 Apr 2011
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1 - Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull); 2 - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren); 3 - Mark Webber (Red Bull)
Q: Sebastian, third pole in a row, but a little bit closer than it was in Australia this one.
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, I would say so definitely. It was quite a challenging weekend until qualifying. I was happy with the car but we never really got into a rhythm, so yesterday wasnt as smooth as we hoped for. Also this morning, but we knew that we had it in the car. The main thing was to keep believing in it and in qualifying it worked out straight away, so first qualifying, second and third, was very good and, as you said, so very close in the end with the McLaren guys. So, very happy. Big compliment to the guys in the team, especially the guys with the KERS system. We got lots of criticism after the last race for not having run it all the time. It is something we were not proud of but we came here and we solved most of our problems, and I think if we did not have it today then we would not be here, both of us, so it is a great achievement and compliments to those guys. We all work hand-in-hand and if this is the reward, then we keep working, I would say, so very pleased.
Q: For a minute we thought you were just trying to prove to people that you were right before the race and before qualifying and that McLaren had caught up a lot to Red Bull, but obviously not the case. Talk us through some of the problems that you have been having. Why was it such a struggle?
SV: Well it was not a particular problem with the car or anything wrong, nothing broke down. It was just not as smooth, so we didnt have all the laps that we wanted. A little bit of traffic and then I did mistakes. It just did not all come together as nicely and didnt allow me, and us, probably, to find that rhythm. The track around here can be very challenging in that regard. You have got a lot of corners with different lines, so it takes a little while to understand every year. In the end I am very happy that we have proven that we can do it. The gap is quite a lot smaller than it was in Australia. It just showed how quickly things can change. Next race, you never know. Now, we focus on tomorrow. A good job today, so I think we can be happy. I am happy also for the boys as it is quite a difficult race. It is very hot in the garage. The air is pretty humid and they are sweating a lot, so tonight they will get some sleep for the first time, so happy for them as well.
Q: Lewis, almost your first pole since Canada last year. Disappointment or a lot of happiness for you and McLaren that you got much closer?
Lewis Hamilton: I dont think we can be disappointed. As I said going into the last race, we have done a fantastic job to even be up there with the Red Bulls, so I feel very proud of the effort the guys put in, especially in getting some new parts for this weekend and just constantly moving forward. I think we can be happy with it. I would have loved to have put (the car) into P1 but these guys still have a slight edge. Clearly, we have closed the gap a little bit or so it seems here. The lap wasnt perfect, so I will have to improve on that.
Q: So there was more to come? But at what stage did you think pole might be yours today or did you suspect Red Bull had a little bit in hand?
LH: We always expected that they might have a little bit in hand especially going into their last run. You just never know. They usually tend to pull something out of the bag, which they did. They obviously picked up a bit of pace going into Q3 and going towards the end of Q3. I think, for my lap, we lost a little bit of time, just in the one corner, but I cant be too disappointed as you can never get it that perfect.
Q: Mark, four drivers were going for pole right in their final lap. Someone had to miss out and sadly you missed out on the front row. Were you aware how tight it was throughout the whole of the lap?
Mark Webber: Oh, absolutely. I knew everyone was on a similar pace after the first run on the options. It was pretty straightforward for us, just try to drive as quick as we can. We cant control how tight it is. We dont say someone is three-tenths or two-tenths or whatever, you still just try to do you best. Better performance from me today compared to Melbourne and so looking forward to tomorrow.
Q: Third might not be a bad place to start from. I seem to remember Sebastian won from third last year.
MW: Yeah, I think the grand prix tomorrow will be different to last years so it will be interesting.
Q: Sebastian, in that respect how much different will tomorrows race be? How much of a gap do you think you can pull out in the first stint on tyres that might not last as long as you want?
SV: Well, I think we learned quite a lot in Australia. We came here and we saw that the tyres dont last nearly as long or not even as close to how long they lasted in Australia. It is different here. It is a different track, different conditions. It is much hotter, so it is tougher for them. I think we had an idea yesterday. I think we were pretty happy with it, so we will see what we can do. Surely, as Mark said, it will be quite a different race. I expect more stops definitely than Australia, so we will see how many. I am just hoping that all the spectators dont lose the count, so we try to keep it up and hope people outside are as well.
Q: Sebastian, it wasnt just tight in terms of time. It was tight in terms of you getting across the line. You just made it by four seconds.
SV: Yeah, so I had three I hand. I knew it was tight. I knew it the moment I went out. I was aware I was the last car to get out and then I think I had a Renault or a Lotus and Jenson (Button) in front of me. I would have loved to have crossed the line a bit earlier, to have a bit more margin, but then I would have been in the back end of Jenson and then there is no need to do a lap, so I had to time my gap. I think I was fairly close for the qualifying lap, as you dont want to be closer. I didnt know there was only four seconds. I know it will be tight, so I thought it would be in the region of less than ten. The main thing is we made it and the lap following was quite important.
Q: Your best grid position here and your 17th pole in total.
SV: Yeah, Mark was on pole last year and I was third. I hope down to turn one he doesnt do the same thing to me as I did to him last year. I think the race will be very long and last year was quite different, but overall I am very happy. As I said earlier, I think all weekend I was happy with the car but never just got to a point where I could prove it to myself. I never found the real rhythm I would say. I was believing in it and I knew that it was somewhere in there, and (that) the car was fine. I didnt have big issues, but qualifying was the first time where I would say we had trouble-free runs, so very pleased with the result and also big compliments to those guys in the team and in the factory. Within this short period of time, only two weeks or really 10 days, also given the fact we are not racing at Silverstone, we are racing in Australia and Malaysia, it is a bit more far away, I am so very happy that they could work hard on the KERS and I think that made the difference today. Without that i think we would have been behind both McLaren drivers so very happy with that.
Q: The tenth-of-a-second margin between you and Lewis. Is that correct?
SV: I think, when you go to qualifying, you put your trousers down and you see what you have got. I am very pleased that we made it. It is very important here to be on the clean side, especially as they changed sides but we will see. On the other hand there are so many things still to come. It is a long race tomorrow and when we wake up tomorrow, today is history, and it is a new day, a new chance. Obviously, if you start from pole you cannot really improve, but first you have to get the job done. Surprised it has not rained yet but we know here that it is very likely to rain, so things can happen and you cant take anything for granted.
Q: Lewis, second on the grid. You mentioned new parts this weekend; did they arrive overnight? We saw seven boxes and a suitcase downstairs this morning, and I dont suppose they were new overalls for you.
LH: They might have been new overalls. Have you not seen the tiger effect here? Well, we had some newer components come earlier on in the weekend, so weve had them since Friday, so nothing new this morning. Small improvements to the car, nothing major, but it just so happens (that) we seem to be a lot closer to these guys this weekend. The update package that we thought we had here didnt give us as much as we had hoped, so thats a good sign, shows that theres still more to come. I cant really complain. Im on the front row. I will have to see if theyve cleaned up the oil; I heard there was a bit of an oil spill on P2 (grid position) earlier on today, so hopefully thats cleaned up.
Q: You said yesterday that you had problems with the balance in P1; has it been progressively improving since then?
LH: Yeah, I think theyve done a great job. Im really happy with the balance that Ive got. Bit by bit, through each session, weve made just small incremental changes to the balance and Ive been very comfortable with it. I was just saying, there was a little bit of time in my lap and afterwards I saw that there was just over a tenth (between myself and Sebastian) and thats pretty much exactly what I had in the lap, no more, so it would have been very, very close, if I had been able to extract it would have generally been the perfect lap if Id managed to get that out of the car so Im quite happy.
Q: This is obviously your best grid (position) here, do you think its just going to be between yourselves and Red Bull or is it going to be Ferrari as well?
LH: I think it will be very interesting to see. As Sebastian was saying, theres going to be a bit of a difference through strategy, probably more pit stops, tyres seem to be lasting as well in this climate, but you dont know what the weathers going to be like tomorrow. I think, generally, you will see the fight between ourselves and the Red Bulls. They seemed to have a little bit better long run pace yesterday, so we will see how it is tomorrow. I dont know who is behind us, is it the Ferraris? Of course, they are still in the fight and anything can happen.
Q: Mark, obviously you feel better than you did a couple of weeks ago.
MW: Yeah, it was a pretty exciting qualifying, wasnt it? For us in the car, we dont really know how exciting it is from what you guys get to see. Clearly, it was very tight for all of us going into that last run. Yeah, I was pretty happy today, to be honest. I couldnt have got much more out of it. It was tight between all of us. Theres always a tenth here and there, a couple either way if everyone gets it all together, but Im looking forward to the grand prix tomorrow and going from there, really.
Q: How much of a difference has KERS made during practice, that youve noticed?
MW: Its always hard. I think we know that a lot of people are on different strategies in practice. Clearly, weve got a quick car but you still come up on people and most people we can pass without KERS, within reason obviously. Most of the field are a bit off; obviously when we come against Ferraris and McLarens and those sort of guys its more even. KERS is something which you should always push to have and, as Ive touched on, the guys have done a monumental job in getting everything here. Its a long season, so we needed to try to introduce it as soon as possible, were learning with every lap. We believe its the right thing; thats why its on the car and well go into tomorrows race and learn even more again. Its a good step from the team this weekend. Ferocious conditions for the guys to work in. I dont know how well the curfew is working but I look in their eyes and it doesnt look so clever, the curfew, but anyway, theyve done a great job.
Q: Sebastian said it hasnt all been plain sailing for him; what about for yourself?
MW: Ive had a pretty good build-up into qualifying. All of my runs have been competitive apart from Q1, which felt like I was on a set of inters, they never did anything for me, so I was in trouble on those, but apart from that, Ive always been pretty solid every time Ive gone out. It was a good weekend so far, so we will see again tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Moto und Sport) Lewis, as you mentioned already, the car was more or less Melbourne specification. How do you explain that you have been much closer to the Red Bulls, taking into account that the Red Bulls here were using KERS, which they didnt obviously have in Melbourne?
LH: Thats a really good question that I dont really have a great answer for. Probably, at the last circuit, there were more medium and slower speed corners and obviously less straights, and the KERS was worth less there than it is here. I think their car, particularly, seemed to be quite good, a little bit better than ours maybe in the slower, medium and the fast. Im not sure, maybe we optimised it a little bit more through set-up and we were able to extract because the package that we had in the last race had just arrived and we had to make do with it through P1, P2 and P3 and we dont have a lot of time, so maybe we just optimised it a little bit more. As I said, we do have a couple of small things on the car that have given us more efficiency so overall its been all positive generally for us.
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