FIA post-race press conference - Singapore 25 Sep 2011
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1 - Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull); 2 - Jenson Button (McLaren); 3 - Mark Webber (Red Bull)
Q: Sebastian, no World Championship celebrations here but another pole, another victory but not by the large margin that at one stage looked likely?
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, first of all I am very, very pleased with the result. The car was fantastic all the way through. I think when we had to push we could pull away quite easily and pull a gap, which helped us. The safety car came out. It didnt really fit to our plan as we had a big gap. I think about 30 seconds and 30 laps to go but, nevertheless, I had a very good restart. I was a bit lucky there were some backmarkers between me and Jenson and I was able to get back into the rhythm straight away, pull a huge gap and I was quite happy as towards the end with the traffic it is quite busy around here. There isnt much space and if you catch the traffic on the wrong place on the circuit you lose quite some time. In the last lap I faced five cars, quite a large group, but there was plenty of room. Not that big margin when I crossed the line but I was in control when Jenson was going into the last lap. All in all fantastic result. I really love the track. I love the challenge. It is one of the longest races, I think it is the longest so great. The car was fantastic. Engine-wise everything was great. Renault, again, did a very good job so we were in a comfortable position for most of the race which is pretty handy around here as it is quite a big challenge to put the sectors together, not only in qualifying but also the race so, as I said, the pace was good and I am very pleased. For the Championship, it looks like we have another chance at the next race.
Q: Jenson, for you a fourth podium in a row but tell us about the backmarkers, not just at the restart but also the two Williams drivers who stalled your progress as you were catching Sebastian towards the end.
Jenson Button: Yeah, I can understand it is difficult to move over here. Most people were fighting out there but a bit of respect to the cars that are lapping them. They are lapping them for a reason because they are quicker and they fighting for a higher position. There were some frustrating moments in the race. One was Kamui (Kobayashi). I sat behind him for a lap. Couldnt get past and he finally moved over and the two Williams were fighting between themselves. The thing is when it gets to the last lap and people see they are being lapped so they are pushing hard and they race each other but forget there are other cars trying to overtake. Forgetting that it was the best we could have done today. I feel that I got everything out of the car especially towards the end of the race when I was able to push on the tyres and really see what the car had. But we werent quick enough to win today. But a good finish all the same and something we can hopefully build on for the next race.
Q: Mark, before the race Jenson mentioned that he might have a chance off the line giving your record at the start recently and he did get past you going into the first turn. But from then on some great battles for yourself with Fernando Alonso.
Mark Webber: Yeah, unfortunately I find myself having to come back through too often this season. I cant make the starts I made last year at the moment. I need to work on those. We will look at them and definitely improve. I have just got to keep working hard as it makes it quite frustrating and it is more risky to come back through and try to regain the positions on the track particularly when the DRS isnt working. In the end probably lost a position today out of that but JB put a good last stint together so I would have been in a good battle with him if I did have track position. Seb fully deserved the victory but overall if you come here and say you have a podium, though of course you would love a win, and that is what we are all striving for. But this is a very, very challenging venue so it is nice to have the car in one piece and the guys have done a great job all weekend. For me in particular it has not been the easiest track. It is challenging for quite a few of us, but I dont seem to be super quick around here. In the end I want to thank all my guys. They have done a great job for me all weekend and the team, Renault, again 100 per cent reliability. Great job from them and well done to JB, a good second place for him.
Q: Seb, I think there might have been a few tears on the podium. Was that for your first win here, was that a sigh of relief that two hours had finally finished or was it the emotion of another victory that was as special as the first this season.
SV: I think it was a bit of all that and I had something in my eye. As I said I really like this track especially after last year where it was a tough fight to the end with Fernando. It was all the way from start to finish shadowing him last year. I felt I could have gone a little bit quicker. It was a nice battle and I finished second so this year it was great to come back and get the job done. We all agree that this is one of the toughest challenges we face all year. It is getting quite hot inside the car. The race is quite long. The humidity makes us sweat a lot and work hard which is good so it is nice when you cross the line knowing you have done your best and achieved your optimum. I think we can be very proud of ourselves again. A fantastic race from start to finish. Smooth pit-stops and in the heat we once again kept our heads cool. A perfect day at the office I would say.
Q: Sebastian, a phenomenal start and you already had two-and-a-half seconds at the end of the first lap. It was just extraordinary.
SV: Yeah, the car was amazing. The start was good. We were on the clean side and thats why Mark lost out. I saw immediately that Jenson got away a bit better than me but I knew it should be fine down to turn one. Then I was just trying to push as hard as I could in the beginning, trying to open a gap. Trying to use the momentum. Trying to find the rhythm as quickly as I can to use this advantage that I have with the clear track ahead. I was surprised myself that I was able to pull away that much. I think after a couple of laps I already had a 10-seconds gap. Then it puts us in a very comfortable position as we can control the stint from there, control the tyres. Same into the second stint and quite a big gap again. Safety car didnt make our lives easier especially at the end. All in all the car was great from start to finish and I was able to pull away. Had a little bit of help from the backmarkers. But had nice smooth race at the front. I didnt have to face any cars. I used DRS only if I had to pass the lapped cars. We were in a luxury position today. The speed was phenomenal. The car I had, every time I had to push and I wanted to push there was so much more lap time in it. I think we were going at stages more than a second quicker than the cars behind which makes it a lot of fun. You want to push harder and harder as once you really get sucked into this rhythm on this track, yeah. It is hard to pace yourself. You know that you have to look after the tyres et cetera so the stop in the end we didnt have to pit but decided to do so in case of another safety car where we would be more vulnerable on a used or scrubbed set in the end. We did the right calls. At the end with quite a lot of traffic, if you take some time and wait until there really opens a gap to avoid any misunderstanding you might sacrifice a couple of second easily. That allowed Jenson to come closer plus the fact that he felt quite comfortable at the end of the race but as I said not much we could have done better tonight so all in all it is great. It means a lot to me as I really like this track. It is one of the hardest challenges we face all year so to come out of that a winner is a great result for us.
Q: Jenson, for you a good start as well.
JB: Yes, it was a good start. I got a good launch and then I had a little bit of wheel spin and a dilemma also which direction to go as Seb was in front and I felt that I had better traction. I thought that maybe I could get Seb into Turn One but later on he had a very good start and I wasnt able to pull alongside. Pretty happy to be second. Initially I really couldnt find the grip with the car. Also I knew it was going to be a very long race and I would have to look after the tyres. I didnt know how long the stint was going to be as we get a lot of overheating here and I hadnt driven the car on full tanks all weekend. I needed to find a rhythm, find a pace that I was comfortable with and without damaging the tyres at all. I felt pretty good and after about 10 laps I could really start pushing and the pace was pretty good. But there was no catching Seb for most of the race. His pace was very, very good and it was impossible really to close for much of the race. After the safety car I thought I might have a go but sat behind Kobayashi for a lap. I think I lost about three or four seconds. Finally got past but again the pace wasnt quick enough. I was told to look after the tyres. I also was always a little bit careful with fuel around here so the last stint I was able to drive as fast as I could. It was putting 10-12 qualifying laps together. I could not have gone any quicker. That was it: that was all I could get out of the car. Took a lot of risks, enjoyed it. I said coming here that I wanted to win the race so we had to have a go. But had to settle for second. I think overall our pace has been good today but we cannot challenge Seb and the Red Bulls. Second is as good as we can be. I just want to thank the team for everything they have done this weekend coming back from where we were. This is something to build on. We know we are not as quick at the moment. We know we have got to work and we know we have got to improve of we want to fight for wins in the next five races.
Q: What were the track conditions right as we could see bits of car all over the place. There was masses of rubber, there were marbles everywhere?
JB: It was pretty messy. The problem is as soon as you have one lock up, you run wide, you either pick up loads of debris or rubber or you are in the wall. When you are pushing hard you are taking more risks than you would do on a normal track. But this circuit and road circuits in general are very tough because as soon as you push you are very close to the barriers, you are very close to the walls on exits. If you have a little step out of oversteer you tap barriers. It is a fun place to drive and the adrenalin is pumping through your veins the whole time. Ending on a high I suppose with good pace at the end.
Q: Mark, perhaps you can talk about your battles with Fernando.
MW: Yeah, they are enjoyable but I am not keen to sign up for them all the time as it means I am with him when I probably should not be. But, again, difficult start for me trying to get away. We need to continue to work on this. Clearly it makes my race more difficult. I think it ultimately cost me a place today but having said that Jenson put a very good last stint together. That would have been a good battle with us if Id have had track position with him if we had went away in grid position. But, ultimately, we all got pretty much what we deserved today. It was pretty clear that I had to clear Fernando at some stage in the race as Ferrari kept covering me at the stops. The DRS wasnt really working so we needed to do it around the stops. Fernando is not in his first grand prix so he knows where to put the car and it was a good battle, but by the time I got past Seb and Jenson were gone. I enjoyed the restart a bit or before on the harder tyre, the prime, and then we went for the softs. Then he had traffic. I think everyone had a little bit of that and the momentum went out of that last set. In the end a third here is not too bad to be honest. I am looking forward to getting on the middle step sooner rather than later but in the end it is still a very challenging venue. The team have done a great job and we got a very good result for the Constructors and still some positives to draw on. Thats what we can do.
Q: After that last stop I thought you might have actually gained on Jenson. Admittedly he was flying, but it didnt happen.
MW: No I think again we have seen at this end of the compound range for me I am not super quick on them at the back part of stints at the moment. We werent too bad on other compounds but still work to do. I can be quickish at time but in the end thats what we could get today so pretty happy.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Sebastian, that was the first time that you led from start to finish. Does that give you some kind of perfection when you lead every lap. Also, it didnt take long to beat Kimi (Raikkonen) in terms of victories; will you overtake Mika (Hakkinen) as quickly? Hes the next one.
SV: I dont know how many wins Kimi has and Mika?
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Eighteen for Kimi and 20 for Mika.
MW: Hopefully he has a few races to get him. Hes not retiring at the end of the year. Mikas in trouble.
SV: I didnt know that other races we had obviously it depends on when you pit, when the others pit but good to hear (thats its the first time that I had led from lights to flag.) At the end of the race, Im always a bit tempted to go for fastest lap. I get told off, dont even dare to think about it. Jenson said I had no chance, Im not sure, but yeah, I think the main thing is to win the race. It doesnt matter where you start or where you have been in between or on your journey. As you finish first, there are a lot of reasons to be happy. Most of the time, its confirmation that you did a better job than the rest so Im very pleased with that. For the Finns, its not really my objective but its incredible news in a way, because obviously everyone knows drivers like Kimi and Mika, especially in Finland I guess. Within the German drivers, the German record is far, far away. Still a long way to go but Im very happy at the moment. The team is doing a great job, Im feeling very comfortable with the team, with the car. Everything seems to work and we are on top of our game. I think there is no secret. Its just that everyone is able to rely on the other one and together we are pulling in the same direction, in one direction. I think its very enjoyable at the moment. The car is obviously fantastic and most of the time we have a good Sunday afternoon or Sunday evenings.
Q: (Joris Fioriti - Agency France Presse) Sebastian, do you feel capable of scoring one point in the next five races, because if you do so you will be champion?
SV: I feel capable but I still have to do it. Obviously with the races that weve had so far, it should not be a big problem but its over when its over and not before. Statistically the chances are on our side but generally in sports there have been a lot of stories written, and this one also has to wait to be closed first.
Q: (Federic Ferret - LEquipe) Sebastian, two hours of racing and you were leading from start to finish. Did you think of anything else during the race, maybe the championship?
SV: Not really. I did make it quite clear before the race that its not important to know where the other people were. Obviously I was given the gaps to Jenson who was in second and then the race order at the end, so crossing the line, I didnt know whether it might be enough or not. A little bit similar to Abu Dhabi. I didnt know in which position people had to finish. For the next one, Im obviously smart enough to work it out myself. We will see. To us, today, it didnt really matter. Our target was to win. We felt like we had it in ourselves, in the car so its good to achieve that and for the rest, we had enough time once we crossed the line.
Q: (Ian de Cotta - Today) Sebastian, do you think your season so far and your drive tonight has been a magical one?
SV: As I said earlier, I dont think there are any secrets so magic, I dont know, maybe for some people. It has been an incredible year for us, an incredible record for both of us, in terms of reliability. We had no problems with the car, the engine was perfect from start to finish so touch wood, nothing has gone wrong so far this year and as I said, it does need a lot of small things coming together to make sure that you have an incredible season like we have had so far. It has been very enjoyable and everyone has been extremely disciplined in a way, target-orientated and weve all enjoyed it. I think those three things sum it up pretty well and we hope to carry on like that, carry the momentum into the next races and into the next season probably as well.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti - Il Corriere della Sera) Jenson, no chance for you even with the time lost behind Kobayashi?
JB: I can say yes, but I really dont know what Seb was doing at the end of the race, whether they were pushing or not. It was such a big lead, you never really know what the guy in front is doing. All I know is that I couldnt get anything else out of our car. If you look at the time at the end of the race, I was 1.7s behind Sebastian. I lost more than that behind Kobayashi but Im sure Seb would have been driving at a different pace if he knew I was four seconds closer. That traffic that we had today is disappointing, I would say and its something that we need to concentrate on for the next race because I spent over a lap behind Kobayashi. There was no reason for him not to let me past, he had a clear circuit in front and I was lapping him, so very, very frustrating and something that we need to resolve for the future. I know this is a difficult place to overtake but none of us is stupid, we know if were being lapped or not.
Q: (Seong Sook Choi - Korean Broadcasting System) Sebastian, Asia is now attracted to F1 racing. As the winner of the Singapore Grand Prix, can you please tell the potential Asian fans out there the attraction and excitement of Grand Prix from your own perspective?
SV: I think its incredible. I think we all love coming here. Obviously we seem to race more and more in Asia over the last couple of years, but I think the excitement is great over here, the people really get hooked up to Formula One. I think this weekend, here, in particularly, is very special for people to come and visit, even people from Europe. As a fan, I think not only the cars on the track are spectacular, seeing them so closely, seeing them racing at night, seeing them right in front of you in the middle of the city, but also around the event, around the race itself there are obviously a lot of concerts. I think Shakira was there last night and Linkin Park is on tonight. Things like that make it all in all very spectacular for people to come and the attraction is huge. I think we all enjoy events like that and for us, I think the pleasure is huge. Once we are racing, we cant really see how many people there are and the engines are quite loud so you cant really hear, but before the race, on the drivers parade, to see the people cheering for all of us is great. On the lap after the chequered flag, to come back, seeing the people standing up, cheering for us - in a way, I think we are quite privileged to be part of that and see that, feel those emotions. It makes our job, if you want, very enjoyable.
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) Mark, looking ahead to Suzuka, what do you feel your prospects are there?
MW: Better than here. I enjoy Suzuka, its a great track. Korea was pretty good for me until it rained. There are some good venues coming up. All the drivers like driving at Suzuka, so looking forward to going there, mate, its a great track, as is India. Ive had a good look (at it) on the simulator as well. Weve got some challenging venues coming up and some that I hope I can get my teeth into and continue in this way, but slightly further down the road on Sunday afternoon, pulling everything together and having a slightly better finish to the year if possible. Were placed to do it, weve just got to execute it.
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) Jenson, looking ahead to the next few races, any one of those venues give you a hope of actually taking the fight to Seb?
JB: For the last couple of races we thought we were on a par and we could really race them well, especially this race. Weve been off the pace compared to the Red Bulls. I think this circuit really shows a good car, not just the Red Bull but also our car. The McLaren showed our pace compared to the rest of the field. We were lapping cars after seven laps or something, its unbelievable, the difference down the field in terms of pace. This is one of those quite unusual circuits, so Im hoping that at the next five we will be a lot closer in pace or even on the pace of the Red Bulls. Suzuka is always a tough one. Red Bulls always quick in high speed corners, but then again, we were pretty good in Spa so were going to hope that were going to have a good car. Our car in high speed corners is much better than it used to be. Weve really improved that. Braking is very good with this car. Our straightline speed is much better than it used to be, so were moving in the right direction and I think we can give these guys a challenge. I hope so.
Q: (Stephane Barbe - LEquipe) Sebastian, how close was it when the Lotus came out of the pits at the same time?
SV: It was close, I had to lift. We went into the pits together, I think it was Heikki. Obviously I did my pit stop and then depending on how quick the Lotus boys would be, he would be coming out ahead or behind so I watched the lights - they have a system with lights, I think, so I watched their lollipop and saw them going off when I was just approaching. I was aware of the situation. I think initially that Heikki didnt see me, its a difficult angle so I had to lift but I think it was more of a misunderstanding, obviously not Heikkis fault. The team has to be aware of that. Did he get a penalty for that? As I said, I was some time on the way down the pit lane, I was aware but obviously if I hadnt backed off, it would have been too tight for my front wing.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Motor und Sport) Sebastian, Jenson was catching up massively at the end. How much of it was voluntarily from your side? You had a 3.7s lead three laps from the end and you were heading into heavy traffic. Normally you would want to have a cushion rather than the other guy being close to you.
SV: I think it was under control, in a way. Obviously when we come up on traffic, I get it first. I have to slow down, have to take my time, it depends where you catch the traffic and how much time you lose. And then Jenson has to face the same problem once Im through the traffic. I found myself going into the last lap with five seconds, which was more or less the gap we had before so I think there was enough room. Obviously I took it easy with the traffic because you never know how these guys are going to react. They are fighting for position themselves, here and there a blue flag could have helped out there which wasnt there all the time, but I think you just need to be aware. Coming around the last corner on the last lap, I probably lifted off a bit too early so 1.7 seconds was obviously still enough, but I think we had it fairly under control and turned the engine down, the car down towards the end of the race, felt reasonably comfortable. Obviously its difficult to know if Jenson it looked like he was flat out but in his position he has nothing to lose so he might as well go for it, but with the laps we had, I think we were in control.
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