1. Jenson BUTTON (Brawn GP), 1m35.181s2. Jarno TRULLI (Toyota), 1m35.273s3. Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull), 1m35.518s
Q: Jenson, barely time to catch your breath from that great win in the Australian Grand Prix and here you are on the pole again. The momentum continues and fastest in Q2 here in Malaysia.Jenson BUTTON: This one is probably more special than in Melbourne because it is not easy to get one pole position but to have two on the trot I have never achieved that in my F1 career. This is a great feeling and it shows that the car works on different types of circuit. I expected the competition to be pretty tough here but qualifying was okay for us.
Q: Try to put into words what it feels like to be working on the same things - oversteer, understeer, the balance of the car - but knowing that you have now got a taste of the pole and a win rather than the midfield or dare I say it the back of the grid.JB: Well, with the car you still have the same sort of issues as when the car is slow but you are going quicker. You still have issues of understeer, oversteer and yesterday I was really struggling with the balance of the car. I had a lot of rear locking and instability and when I have that it is not my forte really. I find it difficult to drive round, so we changed the car overnight and it has improved it a lot and I feel very comfortable in the car, so it makes it exciting for tomorrow.
Q: Jarno, a perfectly timed Q3. Out right at the end there and the soft Bridgestone looks a good tyre here. You can all get a lot of laps on that tyre. And very, very close that fight between you and Jenson.Jarno TRULLI: Yeah, I hope to do a very good race and a good fight because it is what we are looking for. It could be a nice race hopefully. I did not expect to be here today as yesterday I was struggling, as Jenson was saying. It was probably the track but I really wasn’t comfortable. But we worked out some good set up, analysing the data, and making a good job with the whole team and engineers and today we got it right. In qualifying the car was spot on. It is a shame to lose a pole for a few hundredths but that’s the way it is at the moment. Let’s think about tomorrow.
Q: The race starting later and qualifying later today. Talk about the conditions here. You are sweating a bit now, what is it like in the car?JT: I tell you it is much more comfortable than it used to be. It is later in the afternoon, so some showers might occur tomorrow, so it won’t be nice on that side. But on the other hand it is cooler, so it is easier for us. In general it is a technical, hard circuit and physically demanding but statistically I have always done very well here, so I am waiting to see what is the outcome of the race tomorrow. But I am very confident and I would like to thank the Panasonic Toyota team because this year so far they are doing a great job and I just hope we can carry on doing this.
Q: Sebastian, the pace of the Red Bull continues. A fantastic qualifying performance. But going into this weekend you know you have that 10 place grid penalty given to you by the stewards after the Australian Grand Prix. How does that affect your mindset coming into this weekend?Sebastian VETTEL: I think the secret is I have the penalty, there is nothing I can do, so the secret is just to focus on what we are here for. We are here to race, so that is what we do. Of course it is a shame to see the car is performing at a good level throughout Q1, Q2 and Q3. We were more or less up there in the top five. It is good to see that but it is shame to have plus 10 tomorrow, so I think it will be a very tough day for me tomorrow but I’m looking forward. Nothing is impossible. I personally hope for some rain as it can mix it up quite a lot.
Q: Can I ask you about the conditions here in Malaysia. How you are faring? You look pretty good right now?SV: Yeah, thanks. I am still young. It is quite tough but the sun I have to say wasn’t a big problem as it was quite cloudy rather than in Melbourne where the sun was quite low. Here we simply could not see that much and as Jarno says it is at least a little bit colder than in the mid-day heat, so I am looking forward to tomorrow. Usually the rain here comes a bit later in the day, so anything can happen here.
Q: Jenson, it is going to be a long hot race here. We have seen you in your cool suit. Talk us a little bit about your preparation for the race tomorrow and also the feeling of being a second quicker than the fastest Ferrari and neither McLaren made it through Q2. What a change in Formula One this year.JB: It is and it is also a big change for what we expected. Looking at yesterday’s times the Ferrari to us seemed the quickest car. So it is a big turnaround today and I am obviously very happy with that. Tomorrow as it always is here is going to be hot race. It is not just the sun, it is the humidity here and you are just pouring with sweat. I have got a cool jacket which has been helping me but obviously I can’t wear it in the race as it is too heavy. But I feel pretty good actually in the car. I don’t feel like I am struggling too much in the heat.
Q: Jenson, yesterday Ross sat up there and told us ‘don’t let anyone say we’re dominant’; well, a win and two poles isn’t too bad is it? JB: Well, it looks that way, doesn’t it, and you’re not going to believe me if I say that I didn’t think we’d be here but yesterday we were surprised at the pace of some of the cars, one being the Red Bulls and one being the Ferraris. We didn’t think we could do those times. I actually told Sebastian but he doesn’t believe me. SV: Look where you are now!JB: Yeah. We just turned it around I suppose. So last night we had to work on the car a lot because I wasn’t happy with the balance. Obviously we had good pace but it wasn’t to my liking and we worked really well overnight, actually, and we came to the circuit this morning and had a good car, just tweaking it for qualifying and all the way through qualifying the car was working well.
Q: You qualified second in 2006 and twice finished third here; a good circuit for you, looking back? JB: Yeah, it’s a circuit I really enjoy and this was where I scored the first podium of my F1 career, here in Sepang, so I’ve got good memories of this place, and I’ve also had some very interesting races here in the past, in the closing stages. So yeah, I enjoy it, for sure I would rather it to be dry tomorrow but with the weather here you never know. We thought it was going to rain for qualifying, so we will wait and see. We’ve got to do a lot of thinking overnight to put a plan together if it is wet because we obviously haven’t run this car yet in the wet, so yeah, it’s going to be interesting.
Q: What about the tyre wear this time? We saw that the softer tyres lost a lot of pace in Melbourne; is it very different this time? JB: Yeah, the softer tyre seems to be the tyre that I think everybody prefers. In qualifying I was able to get the prime, the harder tyre to work which I don’t think many people did, so yeah, the option, softer tyre is the one I think that people will enjoy in the race more than the hard and especially if it’s cool. If the conditions are cooling down, you’re going to have a lot of shuddering on the harder tyre. It’s tyre management again and it’s not frustrating but it brings something very different to racing when you have to control your pace by what tyres you are running and at what stage of the race you use them.
Q: Jarno, it was something you mentioned yesterday, about the hard tyre being very hard. Are you still having trouble with that? JT: Yesterday was not an easy day for us. We had to analyse the data a lot because I didn’t feel comfortable and we didn’t look competitive at all, so I must praise the team and all the engineers because they have really been sitting down and analysing everything and today we changed quite a lot, especially this morning. We’ve done a very good job in order to make both compounds work and in qualifying the hard tyres weren’t too bad. Obviously the gap between hard and soft is still big but we managed to get them in.
Q: Disappointed not to be on pole?JT: When it’s by such little margin yes, especially because I believe I’ve done a very good job but he deserved it. He’s been quicker, even in Q2, but I’m happy anyway.
Q: But then again, last weekend you drove from pit lane to third place and this time you start on the front row.JT: Yeah, but last weekend is over and now I just hope to have a good race. Obviously tomorrow is going to be a strange race probably because we are all expecting bad weather and that can mix up the grid a lot and the results.
Q: Have you tested on the wet tyres? JT: Not really because the only time I went out was the first test we did in Portugal but it was way too cold, so the tyres were not working, so basically it was impossible to judge anything. At that stage, I remember that I thought that the tyres were not good enough with this new aero package and downforce because they were just not biting and gripping up. Here, normally when it rains it’s not normal rain, it just pours down.
Q: Sebastian, have you been out on the wet tyres, have you used the wets? SV: Yes, we did. We had a test in Jerez and actually it was raining the whole day, I think, so it was quite good. We even did a race simulation in wet conditions, so if it rains, hopefully that will help us tomorrow. I think the whole team did a good job again putting the car quite far towards the front but obviously with the penalty it’s a shame, so I have to start 13th tomorrow, I guess. So I’m hoping for some rain.
Q: How were the track conditions this evening looking forward to tomorrow evening? Is there much difference to daytime running? SV: It’s always hot here, even at night, so temperatures will be OK, but other than Melbourne, the light here was… driving the car in the twilight was no problem really because the sun isn’t that low and it was also quite cloudy today, so we couldn’t always see the sun, so I don’t expect problems there for tomorrow, but you never know. When it starts raining, as Jarno said, it’s not just a bit of rain, it’s quite heavy and it gets even darker than it is already at five o’ clock, so we will see how it is tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Do we have to get used to seeing a very different grid from what we’ve seen so far in Melbourne and here with Ferrari and McLaren struggling? Brawn, Toyota and Red Bull seem to be very good cars. JT: I think we are all here to win, everybody in the paddock, so things can mix up. They cannot always be the same teams every year. We are here working and investing and pushing a lot, so sometimes teams do a better job, sometimes, like now it seems that other teams are a bit on the up like us, Brawn and Red Bull, but things can change during the season because this is just the beginning, just the second race, so it’s still not representative in my opinion. JB: Yeah, I agree. A lot can change throughout the season, especially with the new regulations. It’s thrown everything up in the air and I’m sure a lot is going to change over the next few races, which is exciting for all of you but not so exciting for us sat here because we want to be at the front all season. But it’s going to be a tough season for whoever’s quick at the moment to stay there, because the Ferrari is not going to be slow for long, they are going to sort themselves out and they will be competitive. That is the team, I think, that will start challenging for the front after Toyota and Red Bull. SV: I think it’s different to what most people expected. The picture is looking different at the start of the season, but again, it’s a very long season, so everybody has to keep working very hard. In the past, especially teams like you were mentioning, Ferrari and McLaren, I think that they have proven more than once that even if they start the season struggling a little bit, they definitely have the ability to fight back. Maybe we are in a good situation now, but we have to keep working very, very, hard to stay there. It’s one thing to be in the front, but another thing to stay at the front.
Q: (Ed Gorman – The Times) Jenson, you mentioned a couple of times how important it was to get some wet running in the build-up on Friday or Saturday morning and obviously that hasn’t happened. How likely is it that the teams are going to get the settings just about dead on in the middle of the race if you suddenly are driving in the wet, or that your whole strategy could go haywire because the car just suddenly loses its competitiveness? JB: I think when we work with the balance of this car we can get it to be competitive in the wet as it is in the dry. I think that goes for any car on the grid. But when you don’t have any practice with the car it’s very difficult to know how it’s going to react to the wet conditions, the slower pace in the corners. The biggest difficulty is the aero balance, trying to get the aero balance right, because with last year’s car we had to take ten turns of the front wing out of it to balance it in the wet compared to the dry, so it’s going to be different and we don’t know how different. It’s going to be tough but we will make the best of it, I’m sure.
Q: Jenson, considering the difficulties that Lewis Hamilton is facing now, especially from a technical point of view, do you think you have already replaced him as the number one idol of the British fans? JB: Don’t you love that question? I’m here not just to be the best British driver. We are all here to be the best in F1, we are all here to win the World Championship. That is everyone’s aim. At the moment I’m in a good position. I’ve had two pole positions and a win, but we’re only one race down and two qualifiers down. That’s not my aim in life, my aim is to challenge all of these guys for the championship.
Q: (Azrul Ananda – Jawa Pos) Jarno, obviously tomorrow two Toyotas will be behind Jenson. Will you guys help each other, try to beat the Brawn and get the first win? JB: What he’s trying to say is ‘are you going to push me off at the…’JT: I think the most important thing is to get out of the first corner safe and clear and then we will race from there. I will see if there’s a way to help each other. I think the best way to help each other is to be clean and race ourselves.
Q: (Ingo Rörsch – Sport Bild) Could all of you say a few words comparing driving the new cars to last year’s? JB: I’m comparing two very different cars, personally. Wow! I think this car backwards would be almost as good as last year’s car forwards. This car is much nicer to drive, it’s still not easy, don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t go rounds on rails. You still have the same moments with the rear end with the oversteer and the understeer. It’s still never quite perfect, but the good thing is that it reacts to changes and that’s something we didn’t have with last year’s car. When you have a bad Friday you can adjust the car and come out on Saturday with a competitive car. That’s something we couldn’t do last year because it didn’t really react to what we did with it. JT: It’s impossible to compare last year’s car, but all I can say is that our competitiveness has definitely increased, so we have raised our game and now instead of challenging the top six or eight we are challenging the top five so far or top three. So we’re pretty happy about that. The Toyota engine is always improving, so we are happy about that. SV: Well, I think it’s a surprise, very different to what people expected – the cars being much slower – even though the cars look a bit weird, still, compared to last year’s. If you look at the lap times, obviously the slick tyres are stronger than they proved last year, but if you look at the lap times, I think it says it all. In Australia we were very quick, quicker than last year and here again. I think it’s a bit of a surprise. You would expect us to be much slower with these kind of cars but we’re not. It’s always a bit funny to see that even if you take away here, you take away here and you take away here, lap times still go down, so imagine where maybe you could be if you were allowed to do certain things. Let’s see how it develops throughout the season.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Jarno, you started last, you made it to the podium in Australia. Do you believe that you can make it this time, that it could be the day for Toyota’s first win? JT: I don’t know, we’re all here to win, as I say. I don’t think whether I can make it or not. Every time I go out on the track I try to do my best and obviously tomorrow can be a different race. It doesn’t mean that if starting from pit lane I finish third, tomorrow I can win the race easily. Every race, each race is a different story, so we just have to wait and see. We have a car to fight for podiums and then our aim will eventually be to win a race during the season, no matter if it’s me or Timo (Glock), who has got exactly the same chance as me but it’s important for the Toyota team.