Sebastian Vettel Q&A: Early stop was critical 23 May 2011
And the winner is
Sebastian Vettel. Again. The world champion seems to be all but unbeatable on almost any track, under any conditions, KERS or no KERS. In a word, he is on a run. With 118 points from a possible 125, he will head for Monaco with the clear aim of seizing yet another 25 - and the chance for another celebratory yabba dabba doo...
Q: Sebastian, what was that strange sound you made over the radio just after you took the chequered flag?
Sebastian Vettel: That (yabba dabba doo sound) was the cry of one of my favourite comic-book heroes, Fred Flintstone. I think its a really good and funny expression of joy.
Q: But obviously the race was not all joy, but also a bit of hard work. How hot was Hamiltons breath on your neck?
SV: Pretty hot. Lewis was on my tail for 30 laps and it became really close towards the end because I could see that the tyres were degrading massively in the last laps. I felt that especially in the last sector where tyres are crucial. You always want to accelerate there, but you have to wait for just the right moment because otherwise you rear tyres will bid farewell even sooner. If on top of that somebody is on your tail, it doesnt get any easier. When you then pass the chequered flag there is nothing more to say than yabba dabba doo! We werent the fastest on the straights so it was always me trying to get a bit of advantage in the corners. And if the guy behind you does not disappear from your rear-view mirror then you know you have to fight and attack until the very last lap - especially when you are told not to use KERS, a message that you dont really want when you are in the lead and so cant use your (DRS) rear wing. It didnt make my life easy, but all in all it was a perfect race, although we have to analyze why weve lost speed this weekend and hope we will find some answers before next weekend. Of course joy prevails, no doubt about that.
Q: So what was state of affairs with your KERS system throughout the race?
SV: It was working for probably half the race and then in the end I was told not to use it. But believe me, we are pushing our guys very hard to solve the issue. It seems KERS is our story at the moment - these KERS-yes, KERS-no situations - but I am sure that this is a situation thats not destined to last the whole season.
Q: At the start Fernando Alonso took full advantage as you and Mark battled into the first corner. Did you ever guess that you would go on to lap him?
SV: Absolutely not. But at the start I was hugely surprised when I saw him speeding off because I had the impression that Id had a good start - a slightly better one than Mark - and decided to move to the outside because I thought he would defend the inside. And then came Fernando! When Mark realized that he moved towards the centre and Fernando moved to the right. Thank God Mark was braking early - and that Fernando didnt disappear! We had to be aggressive in that phase and pitted early, not using the soft tyres entirely as we could have used them as the hard tyres were very difficult to drive. In the end it all worked superbly for us as we moved to the perfect strategy to pass and regain the lead. But by no means would we have imagined that in the end it would be so tight.
Q: Your first pit stop after only nine laps - was that planned or a reaction to the situation?
SV: It was reaction. Towards the end of a stint the tyres degrade very heavily so someone who pits for a new set of tyres is significantly faster right away. So it was clear that to get away we had to pit early - even though wed be behind Fernando again. The second stop delivered the anticipated result but it was building up from the first stop. It was an aggressive approach, but in the end it proved to be the right strategy.
Q: What would you say was the crucial moment that turned the race your way? Was it the timing of the first stop?
SV: Honestly, it was a difficult race and what we did was right, as in the end we came first. But we were very aggressive in the beginning to pass Fernando - and we had to be because otherwise we would have never been able to catch him on the straight. I think we made all the right calls, as I think that if McLaren had used that gap on the lap we came in, they would have got ahead and it probably would have been impossible for us to change course again.
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