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Sebastian Vettel Q&A: ‘Extremely joyful’ to drive at Suzuka

07 Oct 2016

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel comes into the 2016 Formula 1 Emirates Japanese Grand Prix carrying a three-place grid penalty for his lap-one collision in Malaysia, and in Friday practice he found himself out-paced by team mate Kimi Raikkonen by half a second. But for the four-time world champion, none of that can take the shine off the thrill of driving at his favourite circuit…

Q: Sebastian, how did the first day on the Suzuka track unfold for you?

Sebastian Vettel: It was a quite reasonable day. No real issues, so we’ve been able to run through all our programs. If I am satisfied speed-wise? I think we still can work on the car to improve.

Q: Are you satisfied with how the car felt?

SV: Not completely. On this track you have to feel comfortable in the car to get the most out of it - and there is definitely room for improvement.

Q: You have run through programs in race and qualifying trim. Which worked better?

SV: Ha, the qualifying trim always feels better - more exciting, as you go faster - with more grip. We will now sit down and analyse also what others have done to see where we really stand with both set-ups. Overall I think that it was a pretty good day.

Q: Your team mate Kimi Raikkonen said at one point that the car felt like driving without the front wing. But when looking at his times, he was third fastest - with a significantly smaller gap to the two Mercedes cars. Any idea what he meant?

SV: I have not spoken with him, so I don’t know to which of his runs he has made that comment. But yes, here and there you have some issues with the car so you try to optimize the set-up. We’ve been working on that from the morning session to the afternoon session - and will definitely continue to do so in FP3 on Saturday morning.

Q: You have been significantly behind Kimi. Why?

SV: I simply think he has got a better lap. And I have not been overly happy with the balance.

Q: Any idea how to make your car faster?

SV: That will pretty much be down to getting a better balance. To screw grip to the car unfortunately is not possible! (Laughs) But my guess is that by improving the balance that will already be a significant improvement - that the driver feels more comfortable and the grip is distributed better. Then experience shows that it goes faster.

Q: Faster by how much?

SV: Difficult to say. But on a track like this it could make a significant difference - if you get your lap right! Then in qualifying you eventually could find some tenths on the track.

Q: On the soft tyres you were the closest to the Mercedes. You have nine sets of soft tyres here for the weekend: does that mean you think with an aggressive strategy you can come closer in the race?

SV: Ha, today is only Friday and there is no strategy on our mind for the race. We are looking and learning. The rest will hopefully become clear over the course of the weekend. But regarding the tyre choice, I do believe that we made the right decision.

Q: With the three-place grid penalty from the Malaysian Grand Prix it will be pretty hard for you on Sunday, as overtaking is not an easy task here in Suzuka…

SV: Yep, it will be difficult. But it is not impossible. We know that from Monaco!

Q: Would you say that a podium is possible for you?

SV: It is always possible. Especially when you take the changing conditions that we might see over the weekend into account. I think should it rain, that could help us. Of course when it is raining it doesn’t help to start a bit further back. So let’s wait and see.

Q: You’ve always said that Suzuka is your favourite track - ‘the one and only’. What does that mean?

SV: As it says: ‘the one and only!’ The best track on the calendar! It is extremely joyful to drive here. I cannot imagine anything better than sector one. It is pretty much the only time of the year when you really do feel the car - the forces that come towards you when driving a Formula One car. You tend to forget that on most other tracks. And then there is, of course, that fantastic vibe from the fans. They are somewhat unique. They are already sitting in the grandstands on Thursday, even though they know that there is no track action that day. It is such a massive support that you really get deeply moved, so we will do our best to give them a good show on Sunday.