FIA post race press conference - Spain 22 May 2011
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1 - Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 2 - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 3 - Jenson Button (McLaren).
Q: Sebastian, congratulations, a fourth win in five races and a thrilling, intense battle between yourself and Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages. Give us a taste of your emotions right now.
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, it was pretty tough. At the beginning of the race, I think I had a good start but I didnt understand where Fernando (Alonso) came from. He started behind me, some 16 metres behind, and half way down the straight he was already side-by-side. He went on the inside of Mark (Webber) and I went on the outside, so he was leading after the first lap. We couldnt get really close enough to get into the DRS, so we got (no) advantage and (couldn't) pass him but then we got him with a pit-stop. Fairly early, everyone was getting the options out of the way. Then it was basically half of the race left with the hard tyres. McLaren were very strong and Lewis was very strong in particular and they stayed out a little bit longer. A different strategy, which brought them up to second behind us. From then onwards I knew it would be very, very close. Going into the last 10 laps I was feeling a bit like China. I felt my tyres going away and I was praying the same thing would happen to Lewis, as he was catching up. He seemed to be so much quicker, especially in the last sector, so he was always getting into the DRS zone, so he could use his rear wing on the straights. He was sitting for some time on the limiter at the end of the straight but still, sometimes, if you open the straight, it is quite far away. The end of the straight, you look into the mirror and he is there or thereabouts. You dont know if you should defend or not. It was really close. Then, thankfully, in the last two laps I think I got quite a good run in the last sector and enough to make it stick. On top of that we had sometimes KERS on, sometimes KERS off. I was playing around with the buttons and the brake distribution so it wasnt an easy race and obviously McLaren and Lewis especially gave us a very, very hard time. It is quite a big relief when you cross the line or you open onto the main straight and you know there is the chequered flag, and we made it, so I am very, very happy. A great result and after yesterday I think another confirmation that we are very strong. Many people said today would not be a race, but only between Mark and myself. But we have seen, poof, turn one, the Ferraris are there, and then the McLarens gave us a very hard time, so that is why I am even more happy today that we made it as these guys were pushing very hard. I am just happy now.
Q: Lewis, does today McLaren coming home second and third show that when it comes to the racing your team is very much back in it or is there a tinge of disappointment that you couldnt get past Sebastian in the end, no matter how close you were to him?
Lewis Hamilton: I dont think you can be disappointed with today. The team did a fantastic job throughout with the pit stops and throughout the weekend to get us up there and put us in the fighting position. I didnt get the best start but was able to just keep up with the Red Bulls, with Mark in particular, as I think Fernando was holding the two Red Bulls up. I was able to keep with them just for a while and as the race went on we clearly had some serious pace but it was very, very tough to get past Sebastian in the end. They were massively, massively quick in the high speed turn three, turn nine and through the last corner. His downforce was incredibly clear for me to see. But, nonetheless, I gave it my all to move forward and score some good points and retain second place. It is great for Jenson as well and great for the team points.
Q: Jenson, it wasnt the best of starts. I dont know whether you were planning a three stopper or a four-stop strategy. But the three stop worked for you in the end.
Jenson Button: Yeah, my first lap was an absolute disaster. I got a poor start. It didnt feel too bad but then everyone just came by. I got stuck on the outside of turn one and then turn three. I dont know where I was but I think I was 11th or 12th after the start. Very, very tricky then, and the guy in front was making it very difficult to overtake. But I was able to pick them off and with a fantastic strategy, I would say this race, we were able to get a podium. It was great fun for me coming through and passing Fernando and Mark when they were on the prime tyres and I was on the option and we made the three-stop work. Two weeks ago it wasnt the right call, but this week it was and it is good to get some nice points and also to have fought my way through. I really felt like I raced today.
Q: Sebastian, its four out of five wins but the fact that once again your KERS was working intermittently, is that becoming something of an annoyance to you at the moment?
SV: Well not in a way. We are pushing very hard and we are giving the guys in the factory a very hard time, as you are sitting in the cockpit and you end up changing maps and changing buttons, which you have to do quite a lot on top of pressing the button. You can see the effect, especially around here onto the main straight it was extremely crucial. When they told me about 10 laps from the end not to use KERS it wasnt the best message I was hoping for. I knew that is what McLaren were waiting for. Some laps to the end I had KERS again which was quite useful. But I dont have to say it here, they know it has to work in the future. Absolutely necessary. I think after the loss of KERS yesterday in qualifying it was a big step that it was working today but we are not there yet where we want to be.
Q: Lewis, qualifying for you. How imperative is it now to get much closer to the Red Bulls and that you can challenge them on a Saturday, not just on a Sunday?
LH: Well, I think in the last race people were saying qualifying is not so important, but clearly it is very important and while strategy can still help quite a lot throughout the race, I think positioning for us, trying to pass the Red Bulls and Sebastian is very, very difficult with the step in downforce they have against us. We are just going to continue to push. Hopefully, we will have something good coming in Monaco next week. It is good to come from this race on a positive foot(ing) going into Monaco, where a driver can make even more of a difference, so hopefully the gap will be even closer from me and Jenson to the Red Bulls.
Q: Jenson, looking to you for Monaco and looking back slightly to this race and another battle with Webber and Alonso for so many laps. Can you envisage that being even tighter on the streets of Monaco?
JB: I dont think you are going to be having fights like we had out on the circuit in Monaco. There is going to be a lot of tyre degradation as we have got the super soft and the soft tyres there, so it is going to be very tricky for all of us but we are all in the same boat. It will make it fun for sure. But lastly, I need to say a big thank you to the team for the pit stops as well. We have been working on them and this race they were much improved as Lewis would probably say from the last race.
Q: Sebastian, how much pressure was Lewis putting on you. Three times he seemed to catch up to you?
SV: Yeah, he did catch up, so ask him how much pressure he tried to put. He tried everything he could. We were in the same boat, just the other way around. We tried to defend, he tried to attack. The start of the race we were very surprised by Fernando and his start in particular. I dont know where he came from. Then he was holding us off a little bit. He did a good job, so I dont think we could have gone massively quicker but it would have helped especially against the McLarens. In hindsight if you look at the race surely you know we were quite aggressive in order to get past. It didnt work the first time, then the second time it did. Lewis was on a new set of tyres for the second stint, which allowed him to catch up and he stayed out even longer. Thats how he found his way past Fernando. But if you see 48 laps still to go and you have already had two pit-stops then yeah, it will be a long final three stints. I knew that the time on the primes would be extremely important and McLaren seemed to be quicker, full stop. I dont think we were massively down but when the guy puts some pressure on and then especially gets close enough to get into the zone with the rear wing it helps as it gives you three-tenths per lap. Arguably he is close in the first sector and he cannot stay that close around the high speed corners but he was pushing a lot. I was hoping to always get enough into the last sector as that is where we seemed to struggle a bit to maintain the gap on the straight. We knew that we were quite slow on the straights plus with 10 laps to go you get the message not to use KERS is not really what you are hoping for. You are hoping for the opposite: we have found a second KERS in the car so use that button! But it wasnt the case. It didnt make it easier but I think even more it shows we kept out heads cool and got the best possible result today, no matter which style. We were hoping for a little bit different race so we need to see where our pace went. But I am very happy. It was a lot of fun. Ten laps to go I thought my tyres are going off, I am on the primes and Lewis is coming from behind very similar to China. This way it was the other way around so I am extremely happy.
Q: Lewis, how much pressure were you putting on Sebastian? How close did you get?
LH: Not close enough, clearly. I never had an opportunity to overtake. I was quite impressed with the job we were able to do today, myself and Jenson, considering that their car is quite a good step faster than ours, particularly in the higher speed (corners). Our race pace really has improved since the last race so that was a positive, but I just wasnt able to follow (Sebastian) through the high speed Turn Three. It was incredible how much downforce he had, a good step on us, and also through Turn Nine and through the last corner. So I was never ever able to get close enough to maintain the gap that I was then able to use the DRS to get by. Im thoroughly happy with the job (done), the pit stops were much, much better today, I think, for both me and Jenson, and to be able to apply the pressure to a Red Bull, considering the circumstances, is quite an achievement.
Q: You seem to be playing catch-up every stint, three times.
LH: I think our raw speed was we were faster. If I was able to get past I think I would have been able to pull away. I was really losing quite a lot through the high speed behind but nevertheless, as I said, they are quicker through certain corners and we were quicker through some others, so it was almost balanced.
Q: Jenson, maybe you were a little bit surprised to be on the podium after the first lap?
JB: No, the first lap was a disaster. I got a pretty poor start and three or four cars came past and then braking for Turn One I was on the outside of about three cars and I ran wide and the same in Turn Three. It was a frustrating first lap and then initially, I couldnt overtake the car in front. But once we got up to speed, the pace was good and I was able to make some pretty good overtaking moves. We went for a different strategy to most people which worked very well. I had a lot of fun overtaking Mark and Fernando. They had been fighting for about forty laps, I think, so to come up and overtake them within one lap and then pull away was a lot of fun. It was a fun race - after lap one - and great to get on the podium. I think it really proves how good a job weve done with the car but also as a team, through the pit stops and the strategy, so yeah, Im happy with the result but it would be interesting to see what would have happened if I didnt have those issues at the start.
Q: And was that three stop strategy planned before the race?
JB: I couldnt possibly say. But as soon as I knew we were on that strategy I was happy, looking at what other people were doing. All weekend weve been saying that the prime is a tough tyre and its a long way off the option tyre so for me to do a three stop was a no-brainer really, and it worked out pretty well in the end.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado do Sao Paulo) Jenson and Lewis, it looks like the result is under investigation because Hamilton and Jenson maybe didnt respect the yellow flags, didnt reduce speed as the marshals wanted. I received this information now.
JB: Thats not something thats to be talked about here then, is it? But yeah, in a race situation you see yellow flags and you obviously back off. Im guessing that Lewis did the same.
LH: Yeah, absolutely, you know, but the thing is that were always going to be getting quicker and quicker and I dont know when the yellow flags were out exactly but I think at the time we were maybe out on fresh tyres, I dont know what the situation was. But if wed gone quicker in the sector its only because that was the way the track was going. Of course when you see an incident you obey the rules and try to stay clear of it.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Motor und Sport) Lewis and Jenson, have you any explanation why your car was so much better in the race this time? In Turkey, the difference between qualifying and race performance was not as big as it was today.
JB: No, I think is the answer on my side. We obviously have upgrades on the car which have helped our performance compared to the cars behind but yeah, to see such a big difference in qualifying, a second to the Red Bull and then see our pace in the race, I was a little bit surprised. And the car felt better than what we experienced on Friday. I think the circuit came to us a little bit and maybe the temperatures helped. But the car was much better today than it has been. For me, its got better throughout the weekend which is great.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado do Sao Paulo) To all of you: were you surprised that all of you fought with Alonso and suddenly he was a lap behind?
JB: One lap?
SV: Yeah, I was surprised. At some stage, I saw into turn seven that there was a Ferrari that went off but it was Felipe and then I think ten or fifteen laps to the end - ten laps from the end - we caught up Fernando and we lapped him. Obviously we passed him, I passed him, I undercut him at the pit stop and Lewis stayed out longer and went past him that way but I dont know. Obviously I had Lewis in my mirrors for the rest of my race so I was quite busy so I dont know what happened to him, but then I saw his number going down on the tower on the straight, but I dont know why there was such a big gap all of a sudden.
JB: I dont think his pace was very good in the race and basically he stayed in front because people couldnt overtake.
Q: (Byron Young - The Daily Mirror) Seb, could you just explain what the crazy frog impression was for, over the team radio?
SV: Its a long story, to be honest. I think the first time we picked it up was in 2009 at Silverstone when we won the Grand Prix there, and then, I dont know. Its a bit of a joke between my race engineer and myself that he comes on the radio and gives this crazy impression and if I feel like it I do it back.
Q: (Mike Doodson - Honorary) Jenson, you mentioned the passing of Mark and Alonso; we dont often see great races here so that was a pretty exciting moment for us, but do you think you caught them by surprise, is that how you got past them? Could you tell us what was the advantage you had?
JB: Well, I was on the option tyre and they were on the prime. I knew, when I caught them, it was going to be very, very difficult to overtake, because Mark was obviously able to use DRS to overtake Fernando, so when youre behind a guy that can use DRS it makes it very difficult to overtake, because hes got the same advantage as you. But I think Mark dropped back a little bit from Fernando and I was able to get in the DRS zone and use DRS and get him into turn one which was a lot of fun, and then I think that with Fernando, I dont think that he expected me to be able to pull alongside out of Turn Ten. I also saved KERS - I was saving it for the end of the lap and it was the perfect opportunity to get on the power and use KERS and it gave me a little boost up the inside. It was fun to make the move, but I still - as most races this year - I still didnt know where I was going to end up. Id taken third place but we were on different strategies so I wasnt sure where I would end up - but in the end it was a good result.
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