1 – Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull Racing)
2 – Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren)
3 – Fernando ALONSO (Ferrari)
Sebastian, we’ve seen pole decided all year being decided by mere hundredths of a second, but today it was almost a quarter of a second. What made the difference?
Sebastian VETTEL: Well, it’s difficult to say. I think we’ve had a fantastic weekend so far to be honest. Yesterday was very smooth, we didn’t have any problems with the car. I think we have learned a couple of lessons, especially in the last two races where arguably we were quick on Sunday in the race but we didn’t get [the best] out of the car on Saturday in qualifying. So, we learned quite a bit and, as I said, it was important to have a clean run, yesterday was a good day and this morning. We trusted the car that we had, we were able to go with the circuit and tried to read the conditions, so I was very happy in qualifying – throughout qualifying really, Q1, Q2 and Q3 – so yeah I was able to always get a little bit quicker. It looked very tight in the beginning to be honest. I knew it would be within a tenth, but in the end it seemed that we could make a bit more of a difference, which obviously is good. But still the advantage we have over Lewis is eight metres on the grid. Looking forward to the race, I think we have a great car. This time we got it right in qualifying and I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow. It should be an interesting one I guess.
Lewis, moving to you, so fast all day yesterday, how much has the change in climactic conditions affected car balance for you today?
Lewis HAMILTON: It was definitely a bit harder for us today. We definitely struggled with working with the tyres in FP3 and in qualifying, having to push extremely hard to try to get the temperature, to get the tyres to switch on, but very, very fortunately we had still a new set in Q3 and just managed to get through. I’m very, very happy with the performance. I’m very surprised to see us on the front row but nonetheless we’ll definitely take it and work as hard as we can tomorrow.
Fernando, some big upgrades this weekend, paying dividends almost immediately.
Fernando ALONSO: Yeah, the car felt quite good yesterday when we tested some new parts and we feel much more happy with the balance of the car and the grip of the car, Felipe and me, straight away. It’s a first step. Obviously, the world will never stop, for us or for the competitors, but at the moment we are extremely happy and thankful to the guys in the factory.
Sebastian, in recent weeks they’ve banned your floor, they banned your wheels this weekend and you guys are still on top, in pole position. How do you keep doing it?
SV: I think it’s not just a hole in the floor that makes all the difference. Obviously reading the papers you get that impression. It was a bit of a shame that it went one way and then the other, being declared illegal, then legal and then illegal, but in the end we never feared a big impact on the performance of the car. I think generally, the car works as a whole – not the hole in the floor but a combination of all the parts together! We were not afraid that it would have a big impact on performance. This track is very special. As Lewis said it’s very tricky to switch the tyres on, there arte not so many corners, as in there are no long duration tyres so it’s difficult to work the tyres properly. But as I said, I think for us it was crucial that we learned from the experience especially of the last two grands prix. It was good fun today and even without the hole I enjoyed qualifying a lot.
Sebastian after the win in Monaco for the team was there a certain amount of confidence coming here. Was this, if nor expected, did you feel you’d taken a step forward?
SV: Well, we changed the car. We had to close the hole or slot or whatever you call it. It seemed to work pretty well without the hole. No, I think there wasn’t a lot of time to react. It depends on what kind of schedule you follow. We’ve seen some teams bringing a big step here, Ferrari did. For us it was nothing big. We are always pushing very hard to improve the car but I think, as I mentioned in the [unilateral] press conference earlier, it was important that we really had a clean preparation, a clean Friday. We were focusing on ourselves, so that was important. Then in qualifying, we just tried to get the maximum out of every run, and we seemed to improve on every run and even we seemed to chip away a little bit from the guys behind, which was a bit of a surprise because I thought going into qualifying that it would be extremely tight. On this track it’s very difficult to make a difference, so I’m very happy.
The first nine on the grid are going to be on the supersoft tyres tomorrow. One guy, last year’s winner, will be on the soft tyres. How crucial is that going to be, on the supersoft?
SV: I think we’ve seen in Monaco that the tyre works pretty well. I think we’ve seen that yesterday. I don’t know where Jenson is… tenth, so it depends. It can work, but it depends also on how the race unfolds, where the other guys are, what other guys do with their strategy and when they pit etc. We started in a very good position here two years ago on the harder compound and it didn’t work. It can work both ways. In qualifying what you try to do is get on pole, which we did today, so I’m very happy with that. Looking forward to the race tomorrow, it’s going to be interesting. Making the tyres last around here is going to be tricky. We’ve seen it, not so much last year because it was, but especially the year before, so it should be a good race and I’m looking forward to it.
Is there a little bit of unfinished business about getting on pole tomorrow?
SV: Not really. Obviously you’re talking about last year’s race and last year’s last lap of the race. Obviously in that moment it hurt a little bit because the victory was so close, but in the end it was a tough race, easy to do mistakes. We didn’t except for me in the last half a lap, which cost us the victory. But it’s 2012 now and I think we had a quite decent 2011, so it’s not too bad. Of course, it would be nice. It’s a nice track, a nice atmosphere, always a lot of people here. It would be a great place to win for sure.
Lewis, you have an extraordinary record at this circuit and again on the front row. Interesting that there are two different tyre choices, two different strategies at McLaren. We saw you go out on the supersoft as well in Q1 which is rare as well. Is there a big question mark over the tyre wear for you tomorrow?
LH: No, we don’t have a different strategy, we were struggling throughout qualifying. Yesterday we had very good pace in the cooler conditions but as it got hotter today we really, really struggled. So, I for one didn’t expect to be so far up. For Jenson, he just didn’t have more tyres in Q3. I was fortunate enough just to make sure I got a good lap in Q2, which meant I still had one set [of supersofts] left. Otherwise, I probably would be a little bit further back as well.
So how do you approach tomorrow if you feel you have been struggling today?
LH: I don’t know. I’ve fortunately got myself into a reasonably decent position and I think yesterday when we did the long runs they seemed to be OK, but now that it has got hotter it’s going to change things and it’s going to be tough. But we just have to do the best job we can and try to maximise on everything we do. We can still have a really good race and get some really good points from where we are and I’m looking forward to it.
Obviously you’re one of the very few driver who hasn’t yet won but are you just happy to stack up the points?
LH: I am for now, yeah. Of course I want to win, but these guys are phenomenally quick at the moment and I’m not sure whether we have exact pace but we’ll wait and see tomorrow.
Fernando, your equal best qualifying position so far this year, with Spain, and a lot of new parts on the car. Looking so good but you didn’t improve on the final run, what happened on that final run?
FA: Nothing special. It’s not easy here to improve laps. There are only five or six corners on the circuits so you are gaining or losing milliseconds corner by corner. We repeat more or less the same timed lap, in the second I gained a little bit from the first sector and I lost a little bit in the last. But overall the limit was more or less there – the 14.1. So, happy with the performance of the car, it has been a very smooth weekend for us. All the new parts work as expected. Felipe and me felt straightaway a good grid and a step in performance in the car, so a very good weekend so far. As you said, best position so far. We repeat what we did in Barcelona. In Barcelona we got one important podium. In Monaco on a completely different circuit we had a competitive car again and a good podium once more. And here on completely different circuit, with long straights and chicanes, we are also competitive, so this is a very good sign for us. Very good teamwork, because all the improvements we have been making on the car are really paying off now.
So, potential winners tomorrow?
FA: You never know. Races this year are very difficult to predict. What we think on Saturday is normally not anywhere near what happens on Sunday. So we’ll see. A similar comment to Lewis: it would be nice to win here, it’s a good circuit for Ferrari historically, a lot of fans here. Also, it’s Gilles Villeneuve’s anniversary, 30 years. So, it would be nice to offer all the Ferrari tifosi here in Canada a good result. But we know there are, at the moment, two guys quicker than us, as they proved today, doing a very good job and tomorrow we need to do better if we want to win.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, you said that now you are understanding the car better, you are putting everything together and you are surprised by the advantage. Does that mean that now you’re feeling more confident, that you’re reaching the level that you were at last year or is it still unpredictable?
SV: It’s not as if we have major changes and it’s not as if we’ve had a completely different approach. I think we’re able to learn from the mistakes we made in the past, we did it in the last two races, where qualifying was arguably not fantastic for us and I think - just looking at the whole grid - I think this year is very different. It seems that a little bit of a mistake here or there, maybe not getting the tyres to work 100 percent, you are quite far away. That’s because 1), it makes a big difference to yourself, so you lose a lot of time and 2), there’s not one car that might fill the gap, there are ten, so then you end up… instead of third you are not fourth but 13th, and then the race weekend is completely different. I think that’s the reason for that.
Q: (Adrian Huber – Agencia EFE) Fernando, how happy are you with Felipe Massa’s sixth place? And secondly, you three guys are in the top three, does that mean that the championship is becoming a little bit more normal?
FA: For Felipe, of course, I’m very happy. I think he has all the support from the team, all the support from me, he’s had some difficult races at the beginning of the year, the car was not the easiest car to drive and he hasn’t been so lucky in some of the races at the beginning of the season, as I said, so now, from Barcelona, he’s done quite a good job. In Monaco he was very quick all weekend and here as well so I expect this is the normality and it will be like this from now until the rest of the championship. The first four races were a strange case, not normal races. We will see.
As we said on Thursday, the championship looks a little bit crazy, a little bit unpredictable, some different winners and some different car performances every Grand Prix, but when you look at the championship table, it’s Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus. One thing is one single race, and then overall for the six races that we’ve done, the order is more or less not very different compared with what we saw in the last two or three years.
Q: (Jeff Pappone – The Globe and Mail) Lewis mentioned earlier that as it’s getting warmer, he’s having a little bit more trouble and struggling. It’s going to be warmer tomorrow and obviously you’re learning a lot from Friday and today, but how much of that gets thrown out of the window for raceday and how much do you have to readjust your strategy and what you’re doing in the car in order to remain quick?
SV: As I said, it will be difficult for the tyres to survive a certain amount of laps, but I think from yesterday to today, for us it was a bit easier, a step forward. Tomorrow is going to be a little bit hotter… it seems so far this year, for us at least, the cooler it is, the more we were in trouble; the warmer it is, the better it is. I hope if it’s warmer tomorrow, we can keep continuing that trend. We have seen that on Sundays a lot of things can happen so we have to be aware of whatever comes up and that explains the strategy and so on. Of course, if you have a plan in your head… but as we’ve seen many times this year, it can change quickly, so you have to react on the fly.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Sebastian, you are starting on pole position, you said that the gap has surprised you a little and yesterday you did 18 laps as far as I remember on the supersoft tyres on ‘green’ asphalt. It seems to be a very good package to start on pole position, a fast car, and even knowing that you have a very good car for the supersoft tyres.
SV: We will see. Obviously it will be very important to have a good start. I think life is always a little bit easier when you are at the front so it will be crucial to defend that position and then we will see what happens. As I said, it’s a long race, the track will be more or less green when we start. It has always been difficult here at the beginning of the race. This place is a crazy place, it has delivered some crazy races in the past and safety cars are likely etc, so you have to be aware of all that and take it into account for your strategy. Sometimes it can help you, sometimes it may work against you. You don’t know these things. As I said, we have to look after ourselves and try to do the best we can, have clean pit stops and have the fastest race that we can.
Q: (Randy Phillips – Montreal Gazette) Lewis, I believe that when you won here in 2010 you were on a two stop strategy. Given the conditions and the tyres and all the other factors, do you see tomorrow’s race being a multiple stop – three or four stops – during the course of the race?
LH: I think it’s definitely possible we will have slightly more stops than we did in the last race so maybe a two or three stop, but we did see long runs yesterday that could lead into a one stop but here the likelihood of a safety car is usually quite high so with that in mind, people might prefer to do a one or two stopper, who knows? But it is dependent on the temperatures and how long the tyres will last. Yesterday they lasted quite long but today may be different and tomorrow may be different. I hope we don’t have any problems with it, but we will wait and see tomorrow.
Q: (Mineoki Yoneya – La Vie Creative) Question for all three: can I ask about your helmet? How did you decide on the colour scheme of your helmet and what does it mean to you?
SV: I’ve changed the design many times. It might take too long… there’s a football match starting in 15 minutes, German is playing, so if I answer that question now full length we will still be sitting here tonight. I’ve had so many helmets so far. I like to swap the design. The one I have currently I like, that’s why I wear it.
LH: I think that’s the best and shortest answer I’ve ever heard him give! I’m going to say the same. I’ve commented loads of times on my helmet and try to keep it the same. It’s who I am, that’s how I use it.
FA: As Seb, I think, wants to go, I will give you a very long answer now, starting from go-kart helmet… no, I’m… I change my helmet every year, little differences but always remaining with the blue from my region’s flag, Asturias, and then the Spanish flag always somewhere on the helmet and then all the rest of the details, because he’s on pole, we will save.
Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer) Sebastian, you have shown us, very effectively, that whatever the FIA might say about the technical regulations concerning your car, it doesn’t affect you performance-wise. But psychologically, does it motivate you to prove that you can do it whatever the FIA says, or do you find it frustrating?
SV: First of all, you have to understand that we have the hole because we were believing in a combination with all the other parts we have on the car and how the car looks it makes sense. Now it was declared illegal, then it was declared legal and now declared illegal again, so maybe next week it’s legal again. We have the parts in the garage! There’s no real extra motivation. I think we still have to make sure we get the best out of the car that we can. We see that this year is very tight so it’s up to us to make sure we use our package as well as we can and sometimes it might be good enough for the front row like here, sometimes maybe not good enough, but then we still have to make sure that we are very close.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, I would just like to know if some jokes have already start between you and the mechanics in the team about tomorrow’s match?
FA: No, not yet but if Spain wins, I think there may not be many people at the pit stop!