FIA post-race press conference - Malaysia 25 Mar 2012
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1 - Fernando Alonso (Ferrari); 2 - Sergio Perez (Sauber); 3 - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren).
Q: Fernando, Congratulations on a victory that you probably didnt expect at the start of the week but what about in the latter stages as the young Mexican was catching you?
Fernando Alonso: Yeah definitely, a big surprise today with the win. We were not competitive in Australia, we were not competitive here and our goal for this first race is to score as many points as possible. But today we did 25 so its an unbelievable result, so great job from the team and trackside I think we maximised the potential we have in our hands at the moment. Good qualifying yesterday going into Q3 and then today keeping calm in some extreme conditions I think, at the beginning with the Inters with a lot of water and then switching to the Inters and then switching to the dry tyres in the perfect moment with perfect pit stops. Congratulations to the team because I think they deserve this victory. Its a tough time for us at the moment but this Sunday we will remember.
Q: Im sure Sergio its a Sunday that youll remember for the rest of your life as well. A phenomenal effort from yourself and the team but do you think this was a win that could have been yours?
Sergio Perez: I think so, I definitely think so. I mean, I was catching Fernando toward the end of the race, I knew I had to get him soon because all the sectors with the high speed I was losing already my front tyres with a lot of degradation going behind Fernando, so it wasnt easy. Then I ran wide in the quick corner, I touched a kerb and I went to the dirty side. It was completely wet and that was the end of the win, probably. It was very difficult obviously to get Fernando but I think today the win was possible. I have to say the team has done an incredible job. They called me always on the right time, especially the first pit stop we did, it was really at the right moment. Unfortunately Fernando pitted one lap earlier than us, towards the end of the race when the track was already dry and he opened some gap there, and even then we managed to get him, the pace was fantastic, I was really quick. I have to say many thanks to the team, they have done a great job and Im very happy for them.
Q: Lewis, turning to you, a crazy race, so much going on but the upshot was from pole you finished third for the second week running. Can you be happy with that? Can you be satisfied today?
Lewis Hamilton: I think we can be satisfied, definitely. First of all congratulations to Fernando and also to Sergio who both drove fantastically well. It was very tough to catch them. Yeah, of course we would have liked to have more points this weekend but yeah, I guess I cant really complain. Im on the podium for second week in a row so Im pretty happy. I feel pretty fortunate that I was able to stay out of trouble with the conditions changing constantly. I think we did a great job.
Q: Fernando, what does this do to a Ferrari team? So many questions asked about the performance of the car in Australia, does this give fresh motivation and can we see it again in the near future?
FA: I think it changes nothing, to be honest. We are in a position that we dont want, to be fighting to go into Q3 and then fighting to score some points. We want to fight for pole positions, for victories, so definitely in the first two races of the Championship that we find ourselves off the pace. As I said before, the goal was not to lose many points with the leaders. I think we did a job in the trackside, as I said, and we didnt lose maybe any point to the leaders, so this is the positive news about these first two races but coming to China, Bahrain, Barcelona, there is a lot of stuff coming to improve the car and this is the real job we have to do. I know the team is putting in a lot of effort. We trust each other a lot in the team, we are very united at the moment and this win will make us very happy today and maybe the next two days in the factory but it doesnt change our determination to improve the car and to keep winning.
Q: Fernando youve got quite a history at this circuit. Its quite a good track for you. Youve won twice before and had all sorts of milestones here.
FA: Yeah, I heard on the radio now that its the third victory for me with three different cars and three different teams, so its good to keep winning at circuits you love to race. As I said on Thursday here, its a fantastic circuit, very technical and with a lot of type of corners and very difficult conditions as we had today. So to win third time here with three different cars is good news, but obviously the most important thing, as weve said many times, is championship points and to get some consistency over the 20 races, not making too many mistakes, not making too many DNFs. Today, was one of the races that easily you can make a DNF because the conditions were quite difficult. So we stay calm, we try to do the best job we can and I think the team did, again, a fantastic job, not only preparing the race but the weekend in general, on Friday testing some new parts, in qualifying doing our maximum and then in the race a perfect start, perfect pit stops, at the right time. So we cannot ask any more of todays race. Now back home we have some work to do ahead, because we need to recover a couple of tenths to be more competitive and also fight for victory on a dry, sunny day and not only these conditions.
Q: As you say, the pit stop timing was crucial today. That was what got you ahead of Lewis in the first pit stop after the stoppage.
FA: Yeah, I think it was perfect. We started with inters, which I think was the main choice for everyone. We switched to extreme tyres because the aquaplaning was very bad and we overtook Vettel in that pit stop because we anticipated (it by) one lap. Then as you said, we came with Lewis, to change for inters after the restart. I think I came in behind Lewis but I exited in front, so it was just the pit stop itself that was quicker. Maybe Lewis had some kind of problems. I was making positions little by little with perfect calls from the team, so this victory is definitely for them.
Q: Was the dry tyre choice at the end the correct one?
FA: Yeah. We were not sure about the Medium or the Hard tyre. We put the Medium on because it was the majority put the Medium on. We were leading the race, you dont need to invent anything, you just to copy what they are doing and with that maybe its enough. We put on the Medium. With the consistency we were comfortable but obviously not quick enough compared to Sergio, he was putting a lot of pressure. Once before the dry tyres so at the end of the stint with the Inters and then with the Inters. They were quicker than us, no doubt about that but we were lucky enough to maintain the position in the last laps.
Q: Sergio, so close, so close! Is that what youre thinking?
SP: Really! I think the win today was really possible. Obviously the team did very good work to call me in at the right times. We lost one lap just at the end to Fernando on the dry tyres, so we lost about two seconds, and then my pit stop didnt go so well with the clutch. And then I managed to catch him, lap by lap. Towards the end I had some understeer into a left-hand corner, the quick one, and I ran wide enough to go into the wet and then I just lost control of the car and went straight and lost the fight for the victory. But even though, I think its been a great effort for the team. They called me at the right times. The conditions were very difficult to keep the car on the track and they have been incredible. They were quite focused as well, so they always called me at the right time, which was crucial here and obviously we had a great pace. In my second stint, when we changed to intermediates, we changed a bit late and Fernando was already with warm tyres, so it took me some laps to warm up tyres and at that point it was very difficult to get Fernando, but towards the end of the stint I was very close to him. So again he pitted and he pulled away, he pitted on the right lap and it took me a few laps to catch him. When I caught him I knew it would have to be quick to overtake him because I was having a lot of degradation in my front tyres, especially going behind him. So I went looking for the way to get him and then I just ran a bit wide and touched the wet kerb - I was lucky not to go off. In the end, second its a great result for the team. Many points and Im looking forward to the rest of the season. Its only the second race of the season and hopefully we can keep improving our car to fight the big guys.
Q: You were on the hard tyres for the last stint. That was perfect for you?
SP: Yeah it was OK - quite OK.
Q: You mentioned the pit stop. Was there a problem there?
SP: Yeah I had a problem with two pit stops with the clutch. Something was wrong with the clutch and we lost some time there. But anyway, the team has done a fantastic job.
Q: Lewis, again, the pit timing was when you lost out to Fernando but were there other problems today?
LH: No. It was a pretty straightforward day. The guys next door (to me here) did a fantastic job. Fernando and Sergio did a fantastic job, so congratulations to them. We just werent very quick today. We were a little bit unfortunate with the calls. I think we didnt make the right calls at the right time and lost a bit of ground there. We lost quite a lot of time through a couple of the pit stops. I dont know what problems we had but I seemed to be sitting there for quite some time. Otherwise I was just trying to hunt them down but they were both massively quick.
Q: So, there are positives to be taken from today?
LH: Oh yeah. I feel very fortunate, with the weather conditions and the way the track was today that I managed to finish in third today. Its good points and good points for the team and yeah I just have to look forward to the next one.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, if they had told you after the first two races, with the car you have, that you would come home as the leader of the championship, what would you have thought. And also do you think, considering the car you have, that this is one of the best victories of your career?
FA: I dont know. I think after Barcelona if someone tell us you are becoming the leader of the championship after two races you dont have a clear answer. Maybe it's possible, maybe not. In Australia we were not competitive, here not competitive, especially in qualifying. Then in the race it seems we pick up the pace a little bit and there is no secrets. I think there is no secret. We are not having the easiest start to the championship with some problems in the car and some lack of pace but we are working on that, working day and night. I think Ferrari (has) proved over 60 years what they are able to do. In a way its not a surprise but as I said in the press conference, this win changes nothing in the approach in the next coming weeks. In the next coming races we need to have a very aggressive approach in terms of the development of the car. We need to bring updates to every race because we are a little bit too far behind or more than what we want or what we expect.
Yeah, we start with inters, then we fit extremes, red flag, inters again, dry tyres, nearly night now. I remember the victory in Korea in 2010, it was also some kind of extreme conditions, as we had today. Every time there is a red flag there is stressful moments on the grid. Its very difficult to keep the concentration, to keep focus. We had other problems in the car. We lost telemetry, so I had to read the fuel every lap when we crossed the start-finish line. So there were a lot of things to do inside the car to keep under control the KERS etc. I was the only one knowing the charge. Without telemetry its quite difficult for them. I think it was quite demanding but very happy obviously.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber - Agencia EFE) Fernando, yesterday you pointed that there were only four people happier than you and now theres none. How important is this victory in terms of the psychological aspect - for you, the team and the fans?
FA: Obviously yesterday, and the days before, as I said before, we are not in the position we wanted, we are not quick enough but it was not a dramatic situation as some voices outside he team said. We just clarified that in Australia we finished fifth and there were only four guys happier than us. Now that we are leading the championship we should be quite proud of the job but as I said we need to work. From a psychology point of view, the win will make more motivation to the guys in Maranello. They dont need motivation because they work for Ferrari and they need to do the maximum for this red car and they know that, but after one win they will go tomorrow at eight oclock to work with a smile and that maybe will give us some ideas.
Q: (Frederic Ferret - LEquipe) Sergio, what were you thinking of; each lap, you were doing fastest lap?
SP: Yes, I was thinking of Fernando, waiting for him, as soon as possible, getting closer and closer. I was keeping my head down, also I had to save some tyres, trying not to degrade them a lot, because it was so easy in those conditions, especially towards the end of the stint on inters. I knew it was crucial to have good tyres towards the end of the stint, so I was catching him with quite good tyres but then he pitted and he pitted on the right lap. Again, I had to catch him again and I was catching him big time and then I just ran a little bit wide, I was obviously on the limit, trying to catch him and I touched the wet side of the kerb and I went straight on.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Lewis, when the track became dry, the gap was not so big to first and second and we thought that in those conditions McLaren could be very very fast and maybe you could fight with them. Then suddenly you werent catching them. What exactly happened in race conditions?
LH: They were just very quick, equally as quick as me if not quicker. I was losing quite a lot of time in the mid sector. Im not really sure exactly where I was losing the time and why but I had the option tyre on, I was pushing as hard as I could in the conditions. I probably could have gone from extremes to inters and inters to slicks - on both the stops I probably could have come in a lap earlier. These two probably did a better job there. In one of the pit stops I lost a good four or five seconds, just sitting there with some problem with the front right. After that I was trying to catch them, but we had 15 laps or something like that so I had to alter the car for the tyres as best as I could. I was being chased by the guys behind, so a little bit of lack of pace today from me, but Im still fortunate to be here.
Q: (Kate Walker - GirlRacer) Sergio, that was absolutely wonderful to watch, really exciting. Shortly before you went off, we heard the team on the radio telling you not to throw away any points. Was that a distracting call?
SP: No, not at all. Obviously the team was worried. Obviously for us, second place means a lot so they were quite worried, I was going quite fast in difficult conditions. To keep the car on the track during the early stages of the race was quite a challenge, so we did quite well so it was a long race for the team, and I fully understand them. But no, it was not a distraction at all. I think they wanted the points as much as I did. I wanted the win because I saw it was possible. Unfortunately it didnt happen, but Im still very happy and very proud of this second place.
Q: (Naoise Holohan - ManipeF1) Checo, theres a lot of speculation at the moment that you might become Fernandos teammate later this year. Did you have a chat with Stefano about it when you were on the podium?
SP: No, no, I only congratulated him. As a team they did a great job. And for me, my full commitment is with my team, with Sauber F1 team. Its only the second race of the season and theres still a long way to go so we have to keep improving, especially because we are a small team, so for us, its getting closer to development, the others can improve more so its important we remain focused. Obviously its only rumours but no, I will stay with Sauber for the whole season.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sergio, you said before that you were struggling with the front tyres; at the end, was it the wrong decision to go for the hard and not the medium in the last stint?
SP: No, I think it was the right call. The degradation was not so bad, so I think it was the right call for us. Obviously I didnt have any new option tyres. The option wasnt working so well for us.
Q: (Manuel Franco - Diario AS) Fernando, is this your best victory?
FA: I dont know. I think every victory tastes different. I think the conditions were more difficult than in some other victories. As I said, only at Korea do I remember these type of conditions, especially at the beginning when we had inters, the visibility was zero behind Webber and there was a crash in turn four between Grosjean and Michael and I think I passed just one centimetre from Michaels front wing. There were many factors in the race, especially in the first ten laps, which could put you out of the race very easily. I had two or three big moments in turn three and under braking for turn one. You arrive at 280 or 290 kilometers per hour with aquaplaning for 20 meters on the inters and then the car recovers thanks to God, so there were big moments throughout the race, so when you get a victory, it tastes better, for sure, but its difficult. Im very happy.
Q: (Ian Parkes - Press Association) Lewis, last week you were seriously annoyed with third place. You bemoaned the fact that youd gone backwards, as you put it. Why is third different this weekend when youve declared yourself satisfied?
LH: I wouldnt say I was happy with third - I can never be happy with going backwards, but its really just due to the conditions. Those two guys in front did a better job and today was just really trying to keep the car on the track and bring home some points and I did. The goal is always to try and be on the podium and stay consistent and so far Im doing that, but of course I would like to be a little bit higher up so Im going to try and focus on my race pace for the next race and see if I can convert a good position to a better result.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, yesterday you said that your goal was to stay in front of Sauber, yesterday in qualifying. Would you have expected to be in front of him, to fight for victory? Is Sauber a big surprise to you?
FA: Obviously, yesterday ninth and tenth for me and for Sergio - neither of us probably ever thought we would fight for victory but we said yesterday here the weather conditions are quite changeable so with the rain coming, everything changed and now weve found good pace in the car and good pace in wet conditions and it was a good fight. I think Sauber is doing a fantastic job this year. We saw in winter testing they made very good progress, they showed good potential in Australia, they showed super potential here, today, with a very good drive from Sergio. I think its the tendency of this year. There is no big domination as we maybe had last year or the last two years and everything remains more open, so we need to take advantage of this.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Motor und Sport) Fernando, how difficult was the call to slick tyres, because at that time, some drivers in the midfield had some very fast laps on slick tyres, but on the other hand some teams were reporting that there might be more showers, so any decision could have been the wrong one?
FA: Yes, it was a very difficult decision because, as I said before, we just wanted to do the same as other people behind us. It was not the time for us to take risks because we were leading the race so it was difficult conditions because as you said, the track was ready for dry tyres, they were doing quick times but the forecast said rain in the next five minutes, so if you put on dry tyres and then it rains you lose everything. I think Button or someone close to us or Vettel put on dries so it was time to make the decision so we pitted and then once Lewis and Sergio pitted as well, we were happy because if the rain came at that moment we were all in the same condition again. We only had doubts for one lap.
Q: (Ian Parkes - Press Association) Fernando, Sergio has already talked about the possibility of driving for Ferrari and says hes committed to Sauber this season. But given that hes a member of the Ferrari Young Driver academy, do you see him talented enough to make the step up sometime soon?
FA: At the moment, as Sergio said, he is concentrated on Sauber, which is the obligation on the contract side. Ferraris Driver Academy is doing a great job with young talents and I think if Sergio is in the Academy its because Ferrari saw big talent in this guy. Today, the victory was not possible, but I think a win will come sooner rather than later for Sergio. At the moment, with Felipe, we are a very strong team, a very united team and I dont see any possibility not to race alongside Felipe, because I think we are a strong team. I think Felipe had some problems in the race in Australia but here, changing a couple of things in the car, he was competitive. Yesterday he was P12 and when it was red flagged he was already eighth, so I think with a normal race and hopefully when the car improves, Felipe and I need to be on the podium together. Thats the goal for the remainder of the season.
Q: (Adrian Huber - Agencia EFE) Sergio, you told me in an interview in Melbourne that you expected to be fighting for podiums, hopefully sooner rather than later, but did you expect it to be one week after that interview?
SP: Not really. I knew that the car had the potential to fight in these kind of conditions because we were not so far off, so in this type of condition, maybe the driver can make a little bit more difference and if you get the right conditions and you make the right calls then you can be up there fighting as we were today. The victory was quite close, but I think all in all, its a great day for me.
Q: Sergio, as we know in motor racing, catching somebody is one thing, getting past them is another. Did you have a plan?
SP: Yes, I was just starting to plan because I knew Fernando was struggling, especially with the rears and I was struggling with the fronts and I was getting quite close to him in the fast section, but then I had a lot of understeer and the fronts were already degrading. I was just thinking where I was going to save some KERS and then I just touched the kerb and ran wide and it was over.
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