1 – Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull Racing)
2 – Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren)
3 – Pastor MALDONADO (Williams )
Congratulations Sebastian, a third pole in a row at this race and only one flying lap in Q3 to try to do it.
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, one shot there in the end, which turned out to turned out to be a very good lap. Q1 and Q2 were not to our liking. We were struggling to find the balance we did have early on this weekend, yesterday and this morning during practice. Yeah, good recovery throughout qualifying. Unfortunately, we had to put a second set of options in Q2. It was the right call because it was very tight. I think my time would not have been good enough, I set with the first set. So it was good to go again. But then in the last qualifying I knew that going at the end if the track comes in a little bit more and tying the lap together it should be good enough maybe to look at pole. In the end it was a surprising gap but all in all I felt very well this weekend. The boys have been working incredibly hard in the garage, all the people in the factory as well to make sure that we bring a couple of new parts to the car. They seem to work and I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow.
Lewis, a front row for you. Sebastian says it was a surprising gap at the end. Did you expect it to be much closer in Q3?
Lewis HAMILTON: To be honest, I expected to be a lot further back. We’ve struggled all weekend, just with set-up and you know going from P3 to qualifying we had to make some guesses as to what kind of set-up we wanted to change. It seemed to work OK and I’m really, really surprised. The guys obviously did a great job, as always, to get me a good gap and while the car still felt pretty good, I think the gap is still pretty big here and it will be a tough race tomorrow for sure, as always.
Is that just the way it is in 2012 then? You go from winning one race weekend and on the next one you struggle and you’re not quite sure where you are?
LH: I think so. At least it appeared so when we first started practicing here yesterday. But generally, I think, you look at the grid, because it’s so hot, the Lotus cars look massively competitive. I think they’re going to be the ones to watch out for tomorrow. I’m sure the Ferraris will be very quick on their long runs as well. Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, we just have to look after our tyres in these tricky conditions.
Yes, 2012 is unpredictable, but Pastor, one is for certain, you quite like Spain don’t you?
Pastor MALDONADO: I think we’ve been working so hard. The car has been quite quick from yesterday. We were struggling a bit with the option tyres. We were confused because I didn’t feel the same feeling with the prime tyres but then we’ve working so hard trying to understand what was happening with the car this morning, still struggling, especially with the option tyres. But for quali we understand a little bit the way, and here we are. I think we did a pretty good job. Williams is getting better and better every time. I’m pretty happy for the team, pretty happy for my country and it’s going to be a great opportunity to get on the podium and fight for a good result.
You did, though, use seven sets of tyres during the course of that qualifying hour. How much of a disadvantage does that put you at for tomorrow’s race?
PM: I think for the long run, for us, the prime tyres were a bit better. We had more range and they were even quicker after a couple of laps. We have tyres enough to race and get very competitive. I’m not worried about that. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We’ll see from the start what happens with the strategy, that will be very important, essential for tomorrow. These conditions are very hot and very difficult for everybody. So looking forward, let’s see.
Finally, back to you Sebastian. Lewis has outlined some of the potential battles for tomorrow’s race. Where do you see the big threat coming from, or have you, by saving a set of tyres, ensured that you’ll make it a hat-trick of victories as well?
SV: Well, it would be nice, no doubt. I think it’s going to be a difficult race. Difficult to predict. We have seen too much this year to be honest to sit here on Saturday afternoon and predict what’s going to happen. I think it’s probably easier to guess the result tonight in football than tomorrow. It’s less hard than predicting the ranking tomorrow. I think it's going to be tough, as Pastor touched on. It’s going to be hot tomorrow – a bit hotter than today even. So yeah, there will be obviously a lot of cars to look out for tomorrow. I think Ferrari has been very competitive. Williams have been quick yesterday on their long runs. Lotus, I think they’ve proven in Bahrain, the first time we had hot conditions, that they’re up there. So, I think this year obviously grid position is important but maybe not a
Sebastian, well done, your third consecutive pole, does that mean it’s going to be followed by your third consecutive win? Or does that not mean anything any longer in 2012?
SV: Well it does, so it would be nice, I think… I’m very happy to be here now because, to be honest, we had a very good weekend. Yesterday was very good, I felt comfortable in the car, this morning I felt very good, even though we didn’t get to finish the run on the soft tyre but this afternoon we started and I think we were a little bit off, compared to where we were the whole weekend. And we played a little bit of catch-up through Q1 and Q2: you don’t have that many runs. And we had to go out again in Q2. It was very tight. We saw I think Fernando was just not quick enough for Q3 and I think I was a little bit slower than that, so if we could have stayed in the garage then, yeah, we would not be here now – so it was a good call from the guys on the pitwall, and yeah, obviously we knew then we only had one set of options left, and tried to give it the best shot in the end. I knew that if I get the lap together, plus whatever we tried in qualifying with the car… I mean you can’t really do much, you can’t really change the setup but you can play a little bit with the settings you have inside the car: differential, front wing, and yeah, I think we caught up. And I had a good feeling in the last lap and managed to put everything together in the three sectors – which was good enough for pole. So, I’m very happy, especially after the effort that has gone in, as I touched on, from the guys here but also from the guys in the factory. We’ve got a couple of new bits here, they seem to be a step forward, which is very good.
I’m told it’s more than a couple of new bits. I’m told it’s quite a large number of bit…
SV: Well it depends. We’ve tried a lot, we’ve been pushing very hard, to be honest. I think it’s difficult this year. I think we see everyone is very close to each other and everyone is pushing. If you at McLaren, if you look at Ferrari, if you look at Mercedes. The big teams have more resources, probably, to bring new parts than other teams and they have been bringing more than a couple. A couple is two, so maybe we have also bought more than two – but nevertheless, other teams are up there. Force India was incredibly quick all weekend: yesterday I thought it was just a surprise but even on very low fuel it would have been a very competitive lap time and they confirmed it today. I think in the end they ran out of tyres but in terms of lap times, they weren’t far off in Q2. It’s tight, it’s difficult to make the right step and that’s why I’m quite happy to be honest.
I’m not sure what your team-mate’s problems were but presumably you had no similar problems.
SV: It’s a bit of a shame, because the potential is there. I think Mark would have had a solid qualifying, no doubt and we would have qualified in the same area with a normal qualifying for him. But he had a problem, with the brakes I think this morning and I’m not sure what happened this afternoon – so it’s really a shame because you always hope for the team as well to get the best possible result – but nevertheless, yeah, I think the race is long tomorrow, the pace was there on Friday for him as well, so confident he will come back.
But you’ve had no similar problems.
SV: No, as I said, the only problem he had was the brakes this morning and this afternoon I don’t know. But I didn’t have any problems fortunately.
Lewis, on pole here in 2009 and three second places over the years. Given the problems you had yesterday, you sound as though you’re pretty happy about today’s performance.
LH: Yeah. As I was saying, I’ve really struggled all weekend with setup. During the year I’ve not really struggled too much to get the right balance but particularly today, and yesterday was a real struggle. But you have those weekends sometimes. You can’t always get it perfect. Made some changes going into qualifying that I was just praying would work. And they seemed to have worked, so I was quite happy with the balance that I had. And I was able to… and to be able to get out the lap when you need it, just like Sebastian did. But obviously not as quick as his. But to be able to go out and do those single laps and make sure you maximise the potential of what you have – that really does satisfy me, so I’m happy with where we are.
It’s just been so close at this circuit. Even though it’s a long lap it’s been so close and literally thousandths of a second have made a big difference.
LH: Absolutely. It’s very, very surprising. Well, not surprising but it’s very interesting to see so many of the teams improving and continuing to bring updates and to see the pack close up. I think it’s great to see all the teams so competitive. It makes it even more challenging for us as individuals and also for the teams to up their game. And also for us drivers to make sure we’re on top of our game when we’re out there.
How much of a different is it going to be with one DRS zone here? I think there were two last year and this year one.
LH: To be honest I have no recollection of what happened last year. But, I don’t know, Overtaking here is always difficult. It’s always difficult to follow as it is in Monaco. Particularly going through Turn 10 maybe, is it? Going onto the back straight. It’s not that easy to follow through out there. But the DRS, I guess, will definitely come into play throughout the race. Hopefully I’ll have some chance. Who knows, we’ll see what.
We’ve seen a number of drivers going off at the end of the straight Pastor, and today we saw you go off as well. Is this going to be a major problem during the race, do you think?
PM: I don’t’ think so. I was just not ready for the lap. It was so difficult. As you saw, many drivers were struggling on braking, especially with the front. But I think today was a really good day for the team. We did pretty good, especially because this morning it was very difficult for us – but we understand a bit the way how to make quite well the tyres. And here we are.
Was it a little bit of guesswork, do you think? Lewis touched on guesswork. Normally it’s pure theory.
PM: Right now, everything is too tight. Everything is too tight and it’s very difficult to make the difference. I saw Q2, and just off one-tenth I was in P7. You can imagine everything counts now. It’s very difficult. Even for tomorrow, it’s going to be a difficult race. We need to be… we need to stay on the safe side, trying to stay competitive and to stay with the same pace we saw yesterday. We need to stay with the same pace we saw yesterday and then we’ll see.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Adrian Huber – Agencia EFE) Pastor, would you be happy to finish on the podium tomorrow, or are you hoping for more?
PM: For sure, the points are very important for the team. It will be good to be on the podium but for sure if we can go for more, I will try my best like always, then we will see. Tomorrow the strategy is going to be very important. The team is ready, so looking forward to that.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Lewis and Sebastian: you are the best of those going for pole. Is there any secret to the last lap that you do, and what are your thoughts before going out for that final lap?
LH to SV: What is your secret?
SV: Can’t tell you. I’m not sure whether there is a secret. Qualifying, we know, is all about one lap and to be honest, today it was very difficult, very tricky because the wind plays a huge role here, sometimes blowing more than at other times, with gusts and generally it seems to be very slippery. Obviously the grip is lower than last year because the cars have less downforce and it makes it quite tricky, as we touched on. A lot of drivers lock up easily under braking, especially in qualifying when you want to brake as late as you can, but knowing that if you lock up you miss the apex and then you lose time. It’s quite difficult but ideally you just try to go through the lap before it happens - at least I had a little bit of time in Q3 - and try to focus on the key points, go through what I have to do and what I have to look out for and then it seems that I did so in the last run. So happy that I got everything together, just on the limit, and got the best out of the car, so I was very happy with the last run.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado deSao Paulo) Sebastian, you have a lot of new parts on your car and the first time you’re going to use them in race conditions will be tomorrow, in these very hard conditions. Are you worried about the reliability of your car, considering there are so many new things?
SV: No. You’re right, obviously it’s the first time because the first time they were on the car was on Friday and since Friday there was no Grand Prix. It makes it difficult but there’s always a first time for everything. Obviously we try to build the parts so that they are reliable so as I said, I’m not worried. I think it will be tough, it will be hot but it’s not the worst race of the year for the car in terms of the ambient conditions, so I’m quite confident.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian and Lewis: do you realise that you have a big opportunity tomorrow to keep a huge advantage to the third guy who we suppose is a contender in the championship, Fernando Alonso. Are you working on a strategy to save points?
LH: No. I anticipate that they will come through very strongly throughout the race, so whilst qualifying for some cars is not important, you look at the Lotuses and you look at… even Mark will be very competitive tomorrow. They have great long run pace and they can look after the tyres better than others, due to low speed downforce. I also know that Ferrari had upgrades this week - at least so Fernando told me - so I anticipate that they are going to be very competitive. Again, as I said, I’m very surprised for us because we didn’t have any upgrades this weekend and so to be where we are is a big bonus for us.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) From what you have learned about the tyres here, can it be another race like Montreal where people in the race come out of nowhere with different strategies or different tyre management?
SV: I think Montreal was different; the tyre choice was different in Montreal. We had the supersoft and soft and I think we already saw on Friday in Montreal that the tyres last pretty well. On Sunday then, some people were able to prove that doing a one stop and obviously when it’s close between one and two stops then there can be a difference and people come out of nowhere. Lewis did the right thing, two weeks ago, by going with two stops. We did the wrong thing but I think it should be different here. The race is not so many laps and the tyres are a little bit different. It’s going to be hot again but I think it’s a different race, different track, different conditions.
Q: (Panayiotis Seitandis – Alpha TV) I would like to ask all three drivers: given the fact that this is a street circuit, next year we have New Jersey, we now have an effort in Greece to have a similar race in Athens. What do you think is the perfect mixture between street circuits and proper (permanent) circuits and of course what’s your opinion about coming to race in Formula One in Greece?
LH:I don’t know how many street circuits compared to other circuits we should have, but I love street circuits. They always provide entertaining races, perhaps not always the tracks that enable you to overtake as often as other places like Spa but still, as a driver, they are the most fun because on street circuits you have less room for error. I’ve only ever been to Greece once. I went years and year and years ago with Nico Rosberg. We went on holiday there, when I was about 13 and I’ve been dying to go back ever since. I was going to go earlier on this year but the weather wasn’t as good as I had hoped. I imagine at some stage in the future, once the world and Greece is past the stage they’re in now, I think we would welcome a race – at least I would.
SV: As Lewis touched on, I think street circuits are always good fun. It’s a different challenge because you haven’t got room for error, but one thing you can’t have on a street circuit is fast corners, really, because there’s no run-off and no space. I think the street circuits that we have are pretty quick but it’s maybe the exception. If you would build a new track again or look for a new layout you probably wouldn’t go that close to the limit, knowing what could happen, so therefore we need to make sure it’s not going to be all street circuits in the future but surely, it’s very good fun, a lot of bumps and that makes it very technical, very difficult, challenging for us and if we could have a race in Athens it would be great. It’s a beautiful country, I was there last year so yeah, obviously there’s a lot going on right now and it’s not looking too good but being German, we are doing our best to help – not yesterday, that’s sport! As I say, it would be great and a great opportunity for Formula One as well, but I don’t know if there are any plans so we’ll have to wait.
PM: I agree with Lewis and Seb. I think it’s not only fun for us as drivers, I think it’s fun for the fans and I think we need both conditions just to try to put Formula One in the top position. Spain, here, is a great one, especially because of the city and a lot of facilities but the future is like that. We follow the future and for sure we enjoy these kind of tracks.
Q: (Sylvia Renée Arias – Revista Parabrisas Argentina) Pastor, I would like to know if there is extra power for you to have all these people coming from Venezuela, more than 100 people? Do you feel it’s nearly like a home Grand Prix?
PM: It’s not a proper home race but here in Spain we have a big community of Venezuelans and as well, it’s quite easy (to get here) from Venezuela, we have many flights. It’s a really good feeling to see them, especially in the stands, full of flags. It’s good. I hope to give them back some good news tomorrow, so we will see.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) We had 0.291 from Grosjean first to Massa in Q2. Does this tiny difference make you drive accurately; does it change your approach with the team’s set-up? What does it change in your regular work?
SV: I think it makes it extremely difficult. I know exactly what happened to Fernando because I had the same in China. There were three tenths; Mark was first in Q2 and I was eleventh. It’s not nice, because you probably always know that if you’re looking for five hundredths which would be enough, a little bit here and there, but that’s the risk you have to take to set the time in the first place, but it’s tight and there’s very little room for error, especially like here where it’s very slippery, very easy to lose a little bit, lock up the wheel towards the apex, don’t get it perfectly right, maybe the exit is not 100 percent either, so it’s tricky but you have to attack otherwise you’re not there in the first place.
LH: No, it doesn’t really change the approach in qualifying, you’re always attacking and if anything it just means you need to be more precise.
PM: I think now, with these gaps, you just need to put everything together just to be there. It’s difficult for everybody, especially for the tyres, to get the maximum out of the tyres is not easy and when you get it, you are here.