FIA post-race press conference - China 17 Apr 2011
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1 - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 2 - Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 3 - Mark Webber (Red Bull).
Q: Lewis, you made a gamble to keep back a fresh set of tyres. Was it the gamble that paid off for you today?
Lewis Hamilton: I think today the strategy we came up with going into qualifying definitely helped. I think my new option tyre seemed to last a little bit longer than the guys in front but I think it was quite a few things that came together really. The pitstops were fantastic. It was good for us. The guys are always pushing to improve and the car felt great. I was just trying to nurse my tyres whilst trying to pick up pace. It was one of the best races I have experienced where guys were out in front of me and I had to do quite a lot of overtaking. But thumbs up to the guys back at the factory and in the garage. They really put their hearts into developing the car and making the car the best it can be every weekend. It feels amazing to be able to bring home the victory for them.
Q: We saw your emotion at the end of the race. We didnt quite see your emotion at the start of the race. What was going on with your car as you only just made it to the grid and how worried were you that you might not be able to start?
LH: I dont think worried was coming into my thoughts to be honest. I was in the car nice and early to go out and then we had a problem as the car just would not start. I am still not sure exactly what went on but they had to take a lot of the bodywork off and I knew there was six minutes to go. Then there was two minutes to go but fortunately everything just came together very quickly. The guys did a great job but, of course, for me it is very important to stay as clam as possible as that reflects on all the guys in the garage. I tried to stay positive and they got the car out which was the most important.
Q: Sebastian, beaten off the line by both McLarens but you quickly got the lead back again. Did you feel at any stage that a two stop strategy might have been the wrong choice today?
Sebastian Vettel: Well I think the start was not the best we had this year On top of that it seems that for some reason the left hand side here is worse than the right hand side, plus the fact that you turn right doesnt help. But it was not a 100 per cent good start so I lost also the position to Lewis who started behind me. Then it was about being patient. I think we treated the tyres better in the first stint and could have stayed out but there is no point doing that as you try to pit earlier. I came to the box and afterwards came out first, which was good. But it was quite a surprise seeing Jenson in front of me when he went into my garage. I just hoped for him to carry on. We had something similar two years ago with the Toro Rosso. I dont know what attracts people to stop in our garage but fortunately it had no affect. The guys kept their heads cool, we kept going and, as I said, we came out into the lead. Then I think we probably tried too hard staying on two stops so the middle stint ideally should have been a bit longer but in the end you find yourself out there on the hard tyre. I saw Lewis coming closer and closer and there was no point really. I tried to defend as much as I could without losing too much time to the guys behind but he found his way past easily. It was a difficult race for us. We did a couple of mistakes, on top of that we had some problems, but still we finished second so I am very, very happy with that. First of all, congratulations to Lewis and to McLaren. They did a very good job and it shows one race, you try something a bit different and if you do mistakes it is natural and there is someone else to beat you. I think it was a good race for us as we can learn a lot today. I am the only one with two stops up here so there is surely something to look into tonight.
Q: Just how difficult was it given the lack of communication you had with the pit-wall in the latter stages?
SV: It didnt make it easier. Usually you exchange information, how the tyres are, what the other guys do, what tyres they are on and so on. I asked a lot of questions but did not get any answers. We had a problem with communication. On top of that we had some problems with the KERS during the race. It wasnt a trouble free race. Mark obviously had a good race, very good pace, so the pace was there. It was there all weekend but once we decided to go to two stop you have to be patient, look after your tyres and when it doesnt work it doesnt work. Thats why I think we missed that one step today.
Q: Mark, after qualifying 18th yesterday you said given your luck on the Saturday you might get hit by a truck. It seems you drove that truck straight the way through the field today. A storming performance from third.
Mark Webber: Yeah, it was an interesting grand prix. I think we decided to start on the prime, the hard tyre, in the first stint which we know was not the most desired tyre for everyone in the field as it doesnt really have the characteristics of a hard tyre in terms of sometimes duration and lots of things like that so got that out of the way. But that was quite tricky actually as even with the guys I was with it was not easy. Everyone was using the DRS at the same time, which we pretty much predicted, because of the type of cars ahead of me and how they qualified. It wasnt easy to come back through those guys and I had a mistake in turn two on my in-lap, the tyres basically did not have much left of them, but I got the car back. We really started from there. When you still see P17 on your board after 15 laps, or whatever it was, you think how is this going to come? But then all of a sudden I just felt comfortable with the car. I had a few sets of tyres left from after qualifying so that helped a bit. Maybe that is the best way to do it all the time, not even take part in qualifying and just go from there. But all jokes aside I think the guys did an incredible job. Back-to-back races for us and it is clear we have not had the smoothest run with my car, but they havent given up and that was a drive for them today and everyone back at the factory. Again congratulations to Lewis. It was good that someone finally, of course Seb is in the same team but he has been on a phenomenal run and we are all here together fighting for victories. Shame McLaren won in a way but also we cant let Seb get too far away, so it was good day for the racing and good day for us in terms of points for the team.
Q: Lewis, your first grand prix race win of the season and the first non-Red Bull race win of the season. Is this game on in the title now?
LH: I think we have still got a long road ahead of us but we are working very, very hard to close the gap. I think the race pace we are quite similar but in qualifying we still have got a lot of work to do. But I am absolutely overwhelmed. It feels like a long, long time since I was sitting here. Feel very proud and extremely grateful for all the hard work the guys put in and I will continue to push. These guys do a fantastic job and I am looking forward to many, many more great races like this.
Q: Lewis, we were just talking about trying to remain calm in the garage with everyone rushing around wiping up whatever it was on the floor. But you had no idea what it was?
LH: I really didnt know. The car just wouldnt start. I was very, very curious. We have had it not start initially several times in the past so I thought it was nothing. But when they kept trying it was becoming more and more of a concern for everyone. I could see everyone was doing their best to find out what the situation was and also fix it so I didnt want to be asking questions all the time, saying what is going on, whats going on so I just said how long have we got until the pit-lance closes? It was six minutes at the time so I could relax really. I think I could relax at the time as I just have real confidence in the guys that they would figure it out. I didnt think it was going to be too big a problem, but it was right on the limit. I dont know how long?
Q: Thirty seconds.
LH: Thirty seconds, yeah. As I was driving to the light I was nervous that just as I got to it, it would go red, but fortunately we got out and there was no problem. Then there was a bit of a rush on the grid with the guys but as always they did a professional job, kept their heads cool and thanks to that we are sitting here having won.
Q: Combined with the fact that it has been a car that you have made into a winner in three weeks really from Australia where there were brand new bits on it. In itself, that is phenomenal.
LH: It is and thats really a true showing of the strength of our team. We came out to Barcelona with the upgrade package we had there and it really wasnt working and the reliability was a disaster. We couldnt even get past 20 laps. Then they pushed very hard in the space of a week-and-a-half, two weeks, and it was just incredible what they were able to bring to Australia. Australia was our first race distance and the car has been great. It really has been great. Red Bull are doing a fantastic job. They are very, very fast. They have got a wonderful car and they are doing the job and we are having to push with absolutely everything we have to try and close the gap. I think today we were similar pace perhaps in the race, I think they were generally a little bit quicker, but I think it was just due to us just trying to be a little bit smarter on the strategy and making it work and fortunately it did today. Other times perhaps it wont work out but today it did so we are very happy.
Q: Was that the reason for the emotion at the end. The relief of getting on to the top of the podium?
LH: I think the emotion probably comes from the desire to win, the desire to be better and the desire to compete against the toughest drivers in the world. When you havent won for a while, I cant remember the last time I won but when you havent won for a while it feels like an eternity so you just keep pushing, trying to keep your mind fresh. I think with the whole thing that happened in the pit-lane, I was confident going into the race but perhaps I wasnt even going to be in the race. I thought I was going to be back with Mark and obviously just the way the race turned out. I came out behind someone and I think Sebastian came past me at one stage. I wanted to pit at one stage and Jenson was pitting so I couldnt pit as he was pitting. I had to try and keep things up and I was just able to pull through several cars. I couldnt believe I was catching Sebastian. He was doing a great job to stay ahead. He put up a very, very fair and strong fight and I am very happy I was able to get by.
Q: Was it an enjoyable race for you as it was for us?
LH: It was absolutely, every inch of the race, every second, was incredibly enjoyable. I love being able to fight with different drivers and have the battles and have them at their best. I really felt that today. Whilst the tyres were going off on some of the cars I felt they were really performing and driving very well to defend their position, so it made that even more exciting.
Q: Sebastian, there was only one retirement. Can I ask you about traffic. Was it really busy out there?
SV: As usual I would say. The track is fairly long so it spreads out, but it depends which cars you talk about. There are some cars you come across a bit more often than others so it wasnt too busy.
Q: After your run of wins is second a disappointment?
SV: To be honest I dont think so. I have not seen all that happened but from the bit that I saw I think there is a very important lesson to be learnt today. The strategy that I picked was not the one that was meant to be the best but these things happen. You never know until you cross the line. If the race is a little bit shorter, if the tyres are holding, we are talking two laps every stint holding together a little bit more, then it could be different. But in the end I was struggling a lot. You just wait to turn the car around, wait to get on power as you havent got much tyres left. It was quite a nice fight with Lewis, twice down the long straight I was able to just stay ahead and also for the next corner but I saw that there were seven laps to go so not much that I could do. To be honest I was quite surprised by his move into turn seven. I think he did a very good there and surprised me. Congratulations to them. I think we have given it our best and I dont see second today as a disappointment. Mark proved the car was very quick today. For us with a different strategy you cannot always show everything you have. First stint I was very happy. Even though we lost the start, being third, I had the feeling I could have gone a bit longer but for strategy reasons you pit earlier. But all in all we are happy with second. First was not meant to be so second is the best we could do today.
Q: Looking at the start, did you use KERS at the start?
SV: I did, but to be honest, my initial launch was not 100 per cent. I probably had problems to really start going; you feel that inside the car. Its hard to wait then and I was probably a bit too aggressive later on. You cant use KERS straight away, you have to wait until you reach 100kph, so I saw that I immediately lost a position to Jenson, which wasnt nice and then Lewis behind. I tried to defend hard into turn one, but at some point you have to give up and let the guy go. As I said, in general, the fight with him today was very fair. It was quite entertaining and good fun from that side.
Q: Mark, a phenomenal drive all the way up from 18th on the grid. Was it enjoyable for you?
MW: It was obviously a very interesting Grand Prix for me. We decided to get rid of the hard tyre in the first stint because we knew we were going to be in a bit of traffic. That worked out well, the guys made the best decision there to it was their call to start on the prime and that worked out well. Well, I went off the track in turn one, I was struggling with the tyre and I thought my God, this day is getting difficult so I just kept my head down and focused on the next corner to give it everything. The guys did a good job in the pit stops; the first one was not the best, but after that they did a very, very good job. I got a bit lucky today - we didnt have so much yesterday, but hey, look, Ill take as much as I can get. I still had to do a little bit of driving today so it wasnt too bad, so thanks to the guys.
Q: And a fair amount of racing; you could have done with a few more retirements rather than one, couldnt you?
MW: Absolutely. I was looking for more yellow flags, a few more retirements, a couple of Vodafone cars pulled over but nothing, no yellow flags, I had to pass everybody. Yeah, I really earned it today, I think. I think the DRS position was pretty good for the race, in terms of overtaking. Maybe we need to look at top gear for the sport, to get that right between low and high fuel, because sometimes its hard. We have DRS but were on the limiter. The DRS, basically, sometimes doesnt work because you have the wrong top gear, its the same for everyone. So anyway, we learned quite a bit today, a great result for the team, second and third. Congratulations to Lewis, they got the race.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Wang Wenfei - Titan Sports) Sebastian, you were leading and I wonder if you remember what the team told you on the radio on lap 29, and are you going to change the nickname of your car to get more luck in the race?
SV: Whether I remember on lap 29 what the team told me over the radio? And if Im still happy with the name of the car? No, I think we have to keep our feet on the ground. I do. Weve had three races, weve finished first, first and second. Theres not a lot of room for improvements. Obviously, today, we could have been one step better but Lewis and McLaren were too strong and not within reach for us, with the strategy that we used today. Im very happy. To be honest, with the radio, I have no clue what I was told because some bits I heard, other bits I didnt. As I said, I think they asked some questions, didnt get any answer and the other way around. Sometimes it worked. Fortunately, the pit board was always there, and looking for the pit stops, I got the call to box. But these days, with the racing that we have, its quite important to have the communications and if one step doesnt work its not really a pleasure. As I said, Im happy with the name of the car. She behaves well.
Q:(Michael Schmidt - Auto, Moto und Sport) Sebastian, if you had been first at the start, would you have done a three-stop strategy and secondly, what did you think when, at the first pit stop, Jenson Button tried to park in your spot?
SV: If we could have stayed ahead at the start I think the race could have been different, probably not the first two or three laps but after that I felt quite comfortable in the position that I was. On the other hand, you obviously need to remember that Jenson, who was leading at that stage, is not able to use the DRS. I was always fairly close to Lewis and it is around half a second that you gain just by doing that. But as I said earlier, I had the feeling that I could have gone longer but there was no point, for strategy reasons. So, if we would have stayed ahead, we would probably have been able to pull a gap and then react to the people behind, too, and then maybe it would have been a bit more clear to us - what to do, two stops or three stops. The first time I came in I was fairly close to Jenson, obviously he was the race leader. I just got past Lewis on the back straight and came in to pit and I thought whats going on, because I looked at my box, but I have to say, I stayed quite calm. He pulled over and into my slot, so I was just hoping for the front jack man to react and to indicate to him to keep going, youre wrong. I lost a little bit of time because I waited, I didnt want to stop then and then go again. Fortunately, Jenson realised and I could do my pit stop. Its not easy for the guys, as I said earlier, its very easy to lose the rhythm, wrong car and imagine if theyve changed the tyres. Then its a big mess and I have to go one spot further to McLaren and ask them: hello. If I would have come in at the same time with Lewis and if he was supposed to get his new set it would have been nice, but that way, no way.
LH: I would have got tyres.
SV: From my team or from
LH: Yeah, yeah, from your team.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Sebastian, how much does the KERS affect your result today?
SV: We had some trouble in the race and for the majority of the race, unfortunately, we had to do without KERS, so the first stint was fine but then we lost it fairly early after that. Yes, its a big hit, obviously. Here you have the long straight, the back straight, where it has a big effect, so it surely doesnt help if you try to pull away.
Q: (Edd Straw - Autosport) Sebastian and Mark, obviously the KERS problems have been there during the first three races: how important is it that the team gets these problems sorted out as soon as possible, especially with McLaren getting stronger by the race?
MW: Yeah, its a key component in Formula One these days, mate, so its completely obvious that we want to address it as soon as possible. McLaren have a huge amount of experience with Mercedes from 2009 and theyre doing a good job of it, and thats not an excuse, it means that we have to work harder, we have to work as cleverly as we can and as fast as we can. Fortunately, we now have a bit of a break, so it will be a clear focus for us in terms of durability and consistency and also understanding the system. Its not only a performance thing but its also incredibly disrupting in the garage for my car was rebuilt about four times this weekend. It makes it so much harder for them in terms of making mistakes, when you open a car up and put it back together all the time, its not easy. We have awesome guys on the case. As I say, with the limited experience we have, thats the way it is and were still going OK in the Constructors championship, I think, so lets regroup, get to Turkey and work hard on it.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) Mark, a mega race, tons of passes, a bunch of fastest laps, does this make your top 10 list?
MW: Its a different type of racing, Dan. There were some phenomenal races even when you drive for smaller teams, but today worked out for me. I had a good feeling from the middle part of the race to 60-70 per cent of the way through the race that things were starting to come to us, so its easy to sit here and say yeah, it was phenomenal, top-three drive, overdone, rah rah rah, but in the end, thats my job, mate, isnt it? Youve just got to (get your) head down, arse up and get into it - so thats what I did.
Q: (Stephane Barbe - LEquipe) Lewis, could you describe your move on Jenson?
LH: Ummm. I dont remember it. I cant remember it. Im in a daze right now. Where did I overtake him? First corner. Yeah, I remember now. Im not joking. Jenson seemed to I think it was on our last or second stint and basically I was able to catch him. I had my new tyres which, as I said in qualifying, I was able to save and they just seemed to hold on a little bit longer than Jensons, so I was able to close the gap and I knew that I had a pit stop coming up, so I was able to push quite hard in those last few laps and I was very, very good on the brakes into turn 14, very close on the way up to turn 16 and I was able to get a real good tow from him out of the last corner. Im not sure whether he expected me to go on the inside there into turn one but, fortunately, he left me enough space and I was able to capitalise on that and he put up a fair fight but there was nowhere really for him to go, because I was fully up alongside him. It was a great move and a great little battle. As I said, just with everyone generally, I had really good fights with everyone. None of them made it easy and thats the kind of racing I love, so I think thats why it feels even better than perhaps its felt in the past.
Q:(Michael Schmidt - Auto, Moto und Sport) Lewis, would you say that the tyres saved yesterday were the key to your race win today?
LH: I dont think that was the only thing. I think all my tyres were in good condition. I think its always a combination of things but that definitely did help. Without that, I wouldnt have overtaken Jenson. It would have been hard to get close enough. But, obviously, I had quite a lot of key moments through the stints in which I needed to really maximise and I think today in some races youre able to maximise and things just go the way you want it to go and then in some other races, some parts of it will go well and then one part youre a bit unfortunate. I had a close coming together with Pérez, I think, at turn one, I think it was. I was coming out of the pits and he cut across and touched my wing, I think, or my tyre. I thought I had a flat spot or a flat tyre but otherwise, just cool fighting.
Q: (Bo Zhao - Wenhuibao) Lewis, there is an interesting phenomenon in Shanghai in that there are seven champions here. Not one seems to have been able to repeat their victory here, but you have broken that deadlock. How do you value that? This time you see more and more fans coming to watch the race; do you want to say something to them?
LH: Absolutely, and I think thats a good point. Coming into this weekend and coming here, every year Ive come here since 2007, Ive come here and Ive had the fans, who are just incredible. While the grandstands arent as full as we would like, perhaps, but every time I arrive at the airport, Ive got fans standing there waiting. I think it started off with maybe one or two at the beginning and each year it gets a little bit more. Their support is just incredible and you go back to the hotel, they might be outside the restaurant, theyre back at the hotel when you come from the restaurant, theyre there before you leave in the morning and when you come back, its absolutely unbelievable. Ive never seen anything like it. Ive had great letters that are read each night from several of the fans that give me a letter outside, and also gifts. Every day, I spend a little bit of time with them, try to give as much time to them. But that gives energy to me. Theyve not been overbearing or anything, theyve been really supportive but thats also the same of my fans around the world, Im so appreciative of the support we get. It makes a big difference. I dont know how it is for everyone but definitely for me.
In my long answer, I was trying to say that this weekend some of the fans said can you make it two? and I said: I will do absolutely everything I can but obviously I was on P3, it was going to be a very tough race, but you can never ever imagine a race like today and what happened throughout the race and even before the race, so I feel very, very blessed to be sitting here, very, very happy.
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