DRIVERS - Jaime ALGUERSUARI (Toro Rosso), Fernando ALONSO (Ferrari), Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren), Pastor MALDONADO (Williams), Sergio PÉREZ (Sauber), Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull)
Q: Sergio, a good race last weekend, finishing eighth. Can we expect the same this weekend?
Sergio PEREZ: Well, it was a very special race for me. It was quite a good race, very good race, starting on P17. We had a hydraulic problem. We thought the race was lost and our pace was very strong in the race. We managed very good strategy and it was very good to score some good points and hopefully we will keep up the momentum in the last races.
Q: Presumably you have sent a birthday card to Peter Sauber if you want to keep your drive for next year, as it is his birthday today?
SP: Yes, of course. It was his birthday and we all congratulated him. It is a very good atmosphere in the team, everybody is very happy, and we are looking forward to the last four events.
Q: This is a new circuit for you and I believe you have driven it on the simulator. Now you’ve seen it for real what are your initial impressions?
SP: I went for a walk this morning and, of course, it looks very dirty. The track, the layout, looks very promising. I have driven the circuit on the simulator already and I am looking forward to doing a good job this weekend. It is a very challenging circuit.
Q: Jaime, you started 15th last year and drove up to 11th. Similar or better this year?
Jamie ALGUERSUARI: I hope better. We had a problem in the pitstop last year and I think a top-seven position was possible here. It was a chaotic race with the rain, a very difficult one for all of us. I expect a lot from this year and especially now we are not far away from Sauber. I think we can manage to score some points in the last four events and hopefully to finish the race in the top 10. That would be awesome.
Q: You are not doing FP1 at this race. How much does that potentially upset the weekend?
JA: At the moment, not much. Tomorrow it is raining at the moment. That’s the prediction that we have. We know that on Sunday possibly the race will be in the dry conditions and also the Saturday, so at the moment it is not a bad job. Also the fact I know the track so it is also fine and it is not bothering me so much.
Q: One other story is all about your music CD. How much does that take up your time. It sounds as though it is very successful.
JA: Yeah, at the moment the first release has been quite good. It was number one in the chart of iTunes in Spain and top five in the UK, so working a lot in the studio and hopefully with more releases for the winter and next year. Keep on working at that as well. It’s a part of my life, what I love. I obviously cannot do it when I’m here but I try to do it at home. I have my studio there in Barcelona so I spend a lot of time there having fun.
Q:So a good second career?
JA: Yeah, absolutely.
Q: Pastor, first time here. Have you driven it on the simulator? What are your first impressions of this circuit?
Pastor MALDONADO: No, I’ve never driven it on the simulator. It will be my first time tomorrow. The track looks really interesting; challenging. I think especially the second sector will be quite technical. I hope to improve our last results and be a little bit more competitive here. Even if it will be my first time here, I think after P1 I will be competitive.
Q: You have got a new technical leadership in the team. What are your thoughts about that?
PM: I think the team now is having many changes and important at the same time, but we are really happy, we are pushing, concentrated, focused on improving even this year’s car. I hope to do well, especially in this last part of the season and even working so hard with the team. I think the changes are really important. All the people feel comfortable in the team, so looking forward to this end of the season.
Q: And your thoughts about your first grand prix season?
PM: I think it was really difficult, especially at the beginning. We didn’t run a lot because of so many problems in the car. But now we are getting the pace, more confidence, more experience, so I think I am doing good. I feel good in the team, with the people. As I mentioned before the team is really compact. It is a big family and I hope to improve and score some more points in the last part of the season.
Q: Fernando, the championship is over but what are your goals for the last four races? And obviously you won here last year.
Fernando ALONSO: Try to win one race if possible. We know it will be difficult. Red Bull will remain favourites for the remaining races. McLaren is very strong at this part of the championship as well, so we know it is going to be difficult. But we will try every Sunday, we will try to enjoy racing, with obviously not the pressure of the championship position or whatever, as I think finishing, second, third or fifth in the Drivers’ Championship is not a big difference. Once you cannot be World Champion it is not any more a big interest on that. And then in the Constructors’ Championship, which is maybe more important, McLaren are still quite a long way ahead of us, so we need to do the maximum, but we know it is also going to be difficult to catch them. As I said try and enjoy racing like we did at Suzuka last weekend, when you can be aggressive on the starts, you can play a little bit with the strategy. We can enjoy Sundays, try do good races, maximise the potential of the car and if we do that then we know a podium is very possible and as I said if there is one opportunity to win one of the remaining grands prix we try to take it.
Q: Suzuka was a very good result. You were right there with the leaders, but Singapore say wasn’t such a good performance. How do you explain those ups and downs?
FA: I think this year there has been some up and downs for everybody which no-one can understand 100 per cent. We can have some ideas of what happened in Singapore to us and we are quite convinced that we know the problem. We are also quite convinced we know why we were a little bit better in Suzuka. Obviously, I will not tell you now. I think it is the same for everybody. I think everybody was expecting a strong Red Bull in Suzuka and they finished third so more and more difficult to understand Formula One for everybody in these days.
Q: Have you got more bits and pieces coming here? Is there a new wing, maybe a development for 2012?
FA: I know some things but I plan not to tell you what we have new in the car, [this would] give you an easy life.
Q: Sebastian, I expect you have had a fairly busy week. Tell us about it, well not even a week, five days.
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, we had a very busy Sunday to be honest. After the race there were a lot of things to do but once we got beyond that and once I found myself in the bar with the boys we enjoyed that night very much. We had a very good time. Did some karaoke, which I think is traditional in Japan. It was a very good night, very special, and after a couple of drinks everyone was quite happy so we definitely had a good time and it was quite special as some time in the night Michael [Schumacher] came as well and joined us and we had a couple of drinks together. I think after he came I felt much worse as I started mixing a little bit, which wasn’t the best strategy. No, all in all, it was a fun night. We continued going straight to Tokyo. I had an event there with Infiniti and saw a lot of fans there so it was good. We weren’t as fit as usual maybe, so still quite tired but it was quite a nice day as well. Tuesday, I had a bit of time for myself and allowed myself to let things sink in a little bit more. I had a good time in Tokyo and then got here yesterday.
Q: So the second World Championship, has it sunk in as the first one jumped up on you? This one has crept up on you more?
SV: Yeah, it is obviously a big difference. I think last year we did it the last minute and we always kept believing and got it done in the very end of the championship. We never led the championship. This year it has been a different story. We led it from start to finish so it is obviously a different year. Even though it was likely and the championship got closer and closer in the last coupe of races we always tried to focus on that particular race. In some ways when I crossed the line, of course we knew we could have done maybe a little bit better and always you have the freshest emotions in your head and we knew what we could have done better for that race on Sunday. We got beaten by Jenson (Button) and Fernando. We would have loved to win, but we are out again this weekend and try to get another win. Surely the championship in that regard is decided bit it doesn’t change anything to our approach really.
Q: Lewis, this weekend marks McLaren’s 700th World Championship event, which you may or may not know. How does it feel as a World Champion to play a part in that history and such an important part in that history?
Lewis HAMILTON: It feels great. My dream was always to race for this team so to have become a part of the history of the team and to be here now representing them on their 700th grand prix, I am very proud of that. I am very proud to be a part of it. I have got some incredible people behind me supporting me within the team and I think I am very blessed to have that.
Q: Jonathan Neale said that the team had given you a standing ovation. Not awfully certain where it was, but how does it feel to have that support when you are trying to refocus on your season in 2011.
LH: I don’t really know anything about that. I’ve not had a standing ovation for a while. I have been with the team since I was 13-year-old. I think I have quite a unique relationship with the team and regardless of how tough a year it has been or how many problems we have had I stay very close to their hearts and I think the same with me. They continue to support me and it is great to see that when they are having tough times us as drivers, me and Jenson, are able to lift them and vice versa.
Q: And you must have been very heartened by the fact that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes won the grand prix last weekend?
LH: Well, I wouldn’t say heartened is the word. I think I was very proud as we had worked very hard to beat the Red Bulls this year and to beat them on such an important weekend, when Sebastian won the World Championship, I think was quite significant for us. It is quite an achievement and as always we celebrated in the same manner as we always do and I think that continues to show strength in our team.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
(Giusto Ferronato – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, Stefano Domenicali said in the future you could accept Sebastian in Ferrari. is it true? And do you think that Ferrari has the ability to manage two World Champions in the same team?
FA: Well, I am extremely happy with any team-mate I have alongside me. I think now I am extremely happy with Felipe (Massa). I think we have a very strong team at the moment. We are different rivers with different styles that we can help each other with a way of driving and a way of approaching the weekend. I am constantly learning from Felipe in these two years and I am extremely happy. In the future, nobody knows. I have a long-term contract with Ferrari for the next five or six years so I don’t know, if we can keep going with Felipe or if there will be a change in the future. If someone else is coming we will try to work as close as we work now as we do with him and try to help Ferrari in as many races as possible so it will be good.
(Marco Degl’Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) May we know the opinion of Sebastian about that?
SV: Well, I think, I mean I have a contract as well. I am very happy where I am. I think we have just won the second title together, now we are focused on the Constructors’ championship and not really thinking what is happening in, I don’t know, five or six years. As I said I am very, very happy where I am and I think if you look in everyone’s face in our team we are having a good time, we are very competitive, we are very focused when it comes to racing. But the proof of last Sunday was we also know how to have a good time so I am very happy.
(Fulvio Solms – Corriere dello Sport)Fernando and Lewis, do you think Sebastian with his young team could be a serial winner in the future as well?
FA: I think Formula One is very difficult to predict. We have seen in the last two years, or two years-and-a-half, that Red Bull dominate the sport and they were the best prepared guys and they did a better job than anybody else so we need to congratulate them on these two championships and this very good performance. But next year we all start from zero again, we all try to improve and I think no-one here can say that next year who will be the fastest car or fastest guy. It will be pretty close I think and Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes will start again like the most powerful teams as they are maybe the best teams now. All of them will start like favourites and Sebastian will be one of them next year, I am sure.
LH: I agree with what Fernando said. You cannot really predict what is going to happen, but they have been very competitive the last two-and-a-half-years so we have to assume they are going to be competitive next year but we all start from scratch and have another chance to win again. I think one thing is for sure is that we are all determined to win the championship so whatever the case it won’t be easy for any of us.
Q: (Bianca Leppert – Auto, Motor und Sport) Sebastian, have you and the team already analysed what the problem was with your tyre wear, because it was much higher than at Ferrari and McLaren?
SV: Maybe Lewis had even a little bit more? It’s true that in other races we always had – in a way – the luxury to go maybe a lap or two longer but had to pit for strategy reasons, so we were never really limited by tyre wear, whereas in Suzuka we were the ones pulling into the pits first – well, Lewis was – we were quite early, earlier than we expected and earlier than we wanted and we suffered more degradation than we thought, especially after the strong performance we had on Friday. We have a couple of ideas. Obviously on Sunday everything turned out to be a little bit different. You know the race is long, so you have to look after the car and not only the tyres as well. I think, to some extent, we understand why tyre wear was more excessive than we thought, or we need to come here and confirm that I think we have another good chance in that regard, to understand more about tyres as the tyre approach for this weekend is very, very aggressive. So I’m not sure how many stops we will see but surely more than two, maybe even up to five. I don’t know – we don’t know yet. It all depends tomorrow – on the other hand, if it’s wet, it doesn’t really give us an idea, so we could be surprised on Sunday, we will see.
Q: Gary Meenaghan (The National) Sebastian, I’m just wondering if you could tell us what you sang at the karaoke on Sunday, and also, if you’ve had a chance to explore South Korea?
SV: You wanted to know which songs? We had Yellow Submarine, Hey Jude, My Way – no Japanese songs, our Japanese is not so fluent. I think the funny thing is that whereas I might usually be quite in control of not showing the German accent too much, I think after a couple of drinks it was quite obvious where I come from. It was a fun night and then, as I said, I spent a day in Tokyo on Tuesday and came here yesterday, so I didn’t see much of Korea. I think really to judge the country you have to go up to Seoul which I have heard a lot of good things about. It should be a nice city. It’s a shame that we are so far away. Obviously it’s a bit different down here, a bit more quiet but tomorrow we start the engines again and we will create our own action.
Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Question for Lewis: this was an interesting and demanding new track last year which you did really well on. Are you looking for a particular result this weekend, a particular experience here this weekend to help you get back in your groove?
LH: My approach every weekend is obviously to have a good weekend but for some time now it’s not been the case but I always come back, I always come back and give it another shot and hope for a better result. I’ve prepared myself in the best way I can, with the situation that stands, and I hope that… clearly Jenson showed that we’re competitive, so I think that if he can do it then I can do it, so I really need to get on with things this weekend. Hopefully we will have our timing a little bit better in qualifying and get our second run in and hopefully we will be able to compete with the two guys here. I’ve got two-time World Champions next to me and my goal in life is to emulate those, but really I think I have to catch up with them so I’m working on that.
Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Could you talk a little bit about the track for us?
LH: The track’s fantastic, it’s a nice track to drive. Last year there were obviously some difficult conditions but I believe this weekend is going to be dry. You’ve got a couple of very long straights which enable you to follow and to overtake. With the DRS zone I think it’s going to be quite a challenging circuit and I think staying ahead of people is going to be tough when they’re right behind you, of course. But I think our car will be quite quick here as well as the two guys next to me, so it’s going to be very close but fingers crossed, we show some positive performance as we did in the last race.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – Agence France Presse) You keep saying that you’re going to keep trying, for Fernando and Lewis to win some races and to keep on winning ; I was wondering how hard it is to still have motivation when everything is done. Racing for fun can’t be as good as winning when races count.
FA: I think we all want to win, in any race we participate in. Even when we do the Race of Champions in December, for fun, if we finish second it’s a very bad feeling, and a very bad night. Even here, in Formula One grand prix, in four different countries, racing for our teams, for our sponsors, for our fans, it’s impossible not to be motivated to win that grand prix.
SV: Yeah, I think we love racing and I think the moment you come to a race thinking that it doesn’t really matter where you finish it’s the moment when you should probably stay at home. Of course, the championship was the ultimate target. Reaching that, before the end of the season, is not usual, but nevertheless we come here with pressure, even if people don’t put pressure on us as usual or as much as usual, we put pressure on ourselves because we love racing, we will enjoy racing as usual, but we will make sure that we do the best we can and we will not be happy leaving this track knowing that we could have done better. That’s what I said: the approach will remain the same. This has been a tough venue for me last year, we have been in very good shape until ten laps to the end, so obviously there is still something to be done. Obviously I’ve never been on the podium and I’m looking forward to a good race but first of all we need to focus on Friday to prepare our car as much as we can, to be in good shape. I think that’s for the whole team, we’re not lacking motivation.
LH: I think no matter who you are, every challenge, every competition, every race or obstacle that you come across in life is important and every race that I come across… every race is important. To me, racing is the biggest part of my life apart from my family and it doesn’t matter if it’s a practice race or whatever, it still holds significant value to me. Whether or not the championship is still up for grabs, I think there are still some fantastic races ahead of us and there’s always another chance to revive yourself, so I’m excited for that.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, the last few races have not been very exciting for you. What’s your explanation for this, is it linked by the tyres, just bad luck or something else?
LH: I think the last… I think it’s been more than two races, it’s been since… at least since Hungary, so that’s quite a few races, but even before that we had some… yeah, so it’s been a good five bad races. I think it’s a combination of things. I put most of it down to myself and of course, there are times that you find yourself a little bit unfortunate but whether it could be a yellow flag or something like that or traffic, it’s not really any excuse, we all have to do it, we all have to do the job. Others are able to do it, so I think it’s just been a lack of some pace, a lack of some being in the right place at the right time so that’s what we’re working towards improving.
Q: (Carlos Miguel – La Gaceta) Fernando and Jaime, this is the first time that we see you in the same room after Singapore; how is your relationship, is everything OK after the problem during the race?
FA: First of all, we have no problem. I think we were in the same plane after Singapore, today we were in the gym in the morning, so we don’t need to tell everyone with whom we are at any moment. And in Singapore, as I said, maybe Jaime agreed, that there was no problem. We were lapping cars in front of us after the restart. They took very long to let us pass, 13 corners and whoever took the opportunity. This is normal, the restarts are always different and difficult, especially in Singapore on a street circuit, but we said it there, no problem, but after three weeks now, you keep talking about that, so the problem is not in us, it’s maybe in you.
JA: I agree with everything that he says.
Q: I have a question for Lewis; is it possible that you have again become a friend of Felipe Massa?
LH: I think so. Of course the situation has not been great for some time now. I’ve always had respect for Felipe and still do today, regardless of the negative comments that he’s constantly coming up with. It’s easy, in this sport, when you’re competitive and in the heat of the moment, to say things that perhaps you don’t mean, whether or not he does mean them. But regardless, I’ve tried to show respect, particularly in the last race, I’m very, very sorry for that. I really didn’t see him. I’ve just seen the replay today and he was quite far up the outside of me but out of my mirrors, I can’t see a thing, and I was looking to the right and I couldn’t see him, so by the time I realised he was on the left it was too late. I think I’ve been in the wrong place in the last few races. We’ve had the car to be quite a bit further ahead as Jenson showed and so perhaps if I was doing the right job I wouldn’t be in this situation with Felipe but again, just all due respect and I hope that in the future we can put our guards down and he can be cool with me again. I’m cool with him, so I have no problems with him.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Sebastian and Fernando: last year the track was nearly ready for the Grand Prix, have you seen any improvements to the track this year and are you happy with them, if there are any?
SV: I think generally there hasn’t been a lot going on since we left, but they obviously made some changes, for instance, at the last corner they moved the wall so it’s a little bit better to see, a bit easier for us. The pit entry becomes a bit more visible – things that were a little bit borderline last year are a bit better this year but other than that… The circuit was ready just in time last year. Obviously they’ve had a year break to finish everything if there were some things still to be finished. As I said, it looked unchanged in many ways. I don’t know how much racing has been going on so for sure we will see a lot of track improvement throughout the weekend.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Sergio, I think you played a bit of a practical joke on your team over the last few laps at Suzuka; I wonder if you could just explain what happened and how they reacted to it?
SP: They were very excited that we were getting into the points. We had a problem, we had some vibrations and in the last part of the track, the last corner, I told them that I was losing power and they were quite afraid about it and when I crossed the line, it was a just a few seconds after they realised that it was just a joke.
Q: ( A Young Shin - SBS/ESPN Korea) There’s been a lot of talk about races, but since you’re in Korea, I would like to ask a question that is specific to Korea. The Korean interest in motor sports is not that high, unfortunately, so a lot of the F1 driver hopefuls are struggling to become professional drivers. Sebastian, Fernando and Lewis, you all became World Champions despite difficult conditions so can you say a word of encouragement to F1 hopefuls in Korea, based on your experiences?
SV: As you described, I think it’s the same for all of us. We know pretty well what is going on in our own countries in terms of what possibilities there are because we’ve run through the system ourselves, therefore it’s hard to judge what’s going on over here. I think that generally we are very open for new races to come onto the calendar, so this one was spectacular in terms of the race we had last year. Unfortunately, as I said, I think there’s a lot more going on in the area around Seoul, there are a lot more people. Down here it seems to be a bit too quiet but we obviously hope that our appearance here helps the interest in motor sport in this country and therefore maybe the chance that one day we will have a Korean driver in Formula One. I came across a couple of kids – not many to be honest – from Korea, one or two, I remember, I forgot the names, a little bit hard to pronounce for us. There’s nothing that speaks against a Korean driver but I think it’s a bit difficult to judge, as we don’t know really, especially in karting, how much support there is and how much opportunity there is for people here.
FA: The first thing to improve motor sport in Korea is to host a Grand Prix, and that’s already done, and this will be a huge improvement for the future in Korean motor sport and for the young kids, watching the race here. For us, and I think for Korean kids or whatever, when we started we all moved to Italy to race in go-karts because Italy was and still is the best place to race in go-karts and to improve your talent and your driving. So we all made some sacrifices to get into Formula One and we all tried to dedicate our lives and our careers to motor sport. So if any young Korean guy wants to grow up, he needs to enjoy, to love this sport and then I’m sure that at one point he will have to sacrifice something in his life.
LH: I agree with both the drivers, and particularly Fernando’s comment there. I was going to say the same. I think it’s definitely possible to have a Korean driver in the future and I think it just appears that the formula for proving a young driver’s talent is to go to Europe to race. The majority of the drivers that you see here in the paddock would have gone to Italy to race as that’s generally where the… they have great weather, they have great circuits, generally most of the greats went racing there. That’s the place where you will be seen, that’s the place where you will really have your skills and your talent challenged and so it’s about making… it’s quite a big sacrifice to move countries all the way from Korea to Europe, but if you feel confident in yourself, believe in yourself enough then you should do that.