Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso at the Bahrain GP post-race conference
Today we had the after-race conference, featuring Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton. Here is the full transcript:
Q: Fernando, a winning start for the new relationship with Ferrari. Obviously passing Felipe at the start was key, but just tell us your emotions at the moment.
Fernando Alonso: A very special day for me as coming back to the top of the podium is always special but I think it is even more special with Ferrari with all the history behind the team and all the expectations a driver has when he drives for Ferrari. There is no better way to start the relationship. I am in the best team in the world. We have been working very hard all winter, the guys did a very good job in winter testing, so we arrive quite well prepared for this first grand prix. But we did nothing so far, we only won the first race but definitely to be first and second is the result that all the guys at Maranello and all the guys here at the track deserve this result as they have been working day and night to give us this fantastic car, so this first victory is dedicated to all the people in Italy, all the mechanics here, to President Montezemolo, to everybody who did a huge effort to have this car at the first race and this result is something very positive and very optimistic for the rest of the season.
Q: Felipe, a podium on return from injury for you. But tell us about that turn one battle with Fernando from your point of view.
Felipe Massa: Well, first of all it is just fantastic to be here, so thanks God that everything is great, being here, competitive, with a good car and being right through the whole race with normal and very good pace. It is really thanks to God that I am fine. I am very happy and thanks to everybody who was supporting me in a difficult time at home, every country, I received incredible letters and nice message which gave me even more motivation. The race was really good and fantastic for us. It was a bit strange for me. I did not have a good start and I lost a position, an important position, to Fernando at the first corner. The race was just great for me, the car was perfect. I could manage to follow him for the whole time on the soft tyres and then we put the hard tyres on, I was so quick straight away and I caught him in a very good way. Then I started to have a problem, definitely the whole race in terms of temperature in the car. That made a lot of fuel consumption, so I started to save fuel maybe in the last 25 laps, even 30 laps to go. I was saving fuel and there was nothing to do anymore. I was also lucky with the problem with Sebastian Vettel to pass him and gain some more points and I was lucky that Lewis was not so quick at the end, so I could manage to save a lot of fuel and also hold the position. It was not an easy race but just a fantastic result for the team who did a great job, for Montezemolo who was pushing very hard since last year. I was speaking a lot to him, so it is very nice this position. I am very happy. It was also my best start of the season, finishing on the podium, second, in the first race. That is something I never did so it is just a fantastic start.
Q: Lewis, you lost ground at the start to Nico Rosberg but got him back in the pit stops, but how do you feel overall today about pace in the race?
Lewis Hamilton: First of all congratulations to Fernando and Felipe. It is great to see Felipe back but of course to also see Fernando up there. For us, I think we had quite a good race. Unfortunately I lost a bit of ground, broke a little bit late into turn four with a lock up and went a bit wide and then I was in a very bad position and Rosberg got past me and unfortunately I was held up behind Rosberg for the first half of the race. I was much faster but it is very difficult to follow here while trying to look after your tyres. Unfortunately, perhaps if I was ahead of him I could have carried on and followed the train these guys were creating. I am very happy getting past him and a strong result for myself and the team. It is more than we expected this weekend but a great job from them as always but we need to continue to push to keep up with these guys.
Q: Fernando, what were you thinking in the middle part of the race when Vettel was controlling the pace? Were you being patient or could you have caught up with him?
FA: I did not know exactly. I had some pace in the pocket at that time of the race but I was concentrating on managing the tyres. We knew that we had to do 35 or 36 laps with the tyres. I was waiting the time to attack Vettel, maybe waiting for the last 10 or 12 laps. But suddenly he had a car problem and he was dropping and we had the chance to overtake him a little bit earlier than expected. I think he was very quick, especially with soft tyres at the beginning as I could not follow him at all, but with the hard tyre maybe we had a little bit more pace but difficult to know.
Q: Felipe, towards the end there we saw your engineer Rob Smedley inspect the car. Was there a problem?
FM: Well, I said I had a problem. He was speaking to me the last 30 laps almost every corner to save fuel and to drop the speed. It was very similar to Barcelona when I had to save a lot of fuel last year but Barcelona was just a few laps and here it was maybe 25, 30 laps, so it was just this problem.
Q: Lewis, tell us what it was like this new style Formula One for you starting the car on heavy tanks and soft tyres. How does it feel from a driver’s point of view?
LH: It is a different challenge. It definitely didn’t make racing more exciting in terms of being able to overtake. I wasn’t able to follow. Through the first half of the circuit I was close to Nico but as soon as we go to the fast sectors it was impossible to stay behind. With the tyes there just wasn’t enough grip to be able to hold with him, but I think it is an interesting season ahead of us. Bit by bit everybody is learning how to use the tyres. I think that is probably the most interesting part, trying to understand the tyres, trying to conserve your fuel load and know when to attack and not to attack, I think this is a real challenge, so I hope the BBC are doing a good job to show the fans exactly what we are doing and how we are doing it.
Q: Fernando, how important was today to throw down a marker not just to your rivals but also to your team-mate?
FA: I think it is not very important and I always repeat the same thing. The first three or four races of the championship are not, in my opinion crucial for anything. You just need to take some solid points for the team, to get used to the new regulations, to understand a little bit better the tyres, the races itself, so at the end it depends on how competitive your car is to you get more or less points. But from a driver point of view it is not a crucial part. It is nice to be here, first position, but to be honest this is thanks to a fantastic car we had. We have been a little bit better than the others in the first race, so we managed to finish first and second. But I think the key to being World Champion will be the development during the season. We have a very good base but we need to keep working. This is only the start. Happy. Again dedicated to the team but now it is time to push.
Q: Fernando, what does it mean for a driver to win on his debut with a new team? How important is that?
FM: It means a lot. Obviously any victory means a lot. There is a lot of work for any victory coming from the team, coming from everybody also the drivers. We have been preparing ourselves physically, mentally for a lot of months, testing a lot in the winter. You arrive first grand prix on a Thursday, a lot of stress, media attention etc. and then come to Sunday and it is time to deliver, so winning means a lot and especially with Ferrari the first victory. It will be very special and difficult to forget today.
Q: Tell us about the strategy. Was it fairly simple to work out what to do?
Q: When you came to the different specifications of tyre was that fairly simple as well? Did you have any problems when you were on the soft tyre at the start of the race?
FA: No, we knew that we had to do qualifying with the soft as they were quicker. I did a lap so-so in Q3, so I started third and it was not a perfect position but anyway it was good enough to be in the fight. Then we have been really open in terms of our strategy. Now there is not a clear lap to stop. You have fuel enough to finish the race, so the engineers and the strategy tells you when to stop. Then after that we switched to the prime but also to unknown territory as well. We did not know how many laps the prime will do in good shape but the car was so good that it managed the tyre very well and we finished the race with the perfect conditions with the tyre.
Q: Tell us about the start as that was also important for you?
FM: The start was good. I think on the clean here there is a difference. There is a bit of sun close to the walls, so the start was more or less okay and the first corner was also good and I was lucky to overtake Felipe and then with the problem for Vettel, overtake Vettel as well and finish first. Obviously the qualifying and the starts are maybe the two key points this year. Unfortunately with no refuelling in terms of strategy or in terms of overtaking it will be very difficult to see any. After the first corner more or less the positions will be settled.
Q: Felipe, also your start. Where did you feel you lost out?
FM: Well, I just had a very bad start with no grip, so I couldn’t go forward and also in the first braking I just lost the opportunity to be there fighting. I did the first corner inside but then Fernando was in a good position outside and at the corner it was to his side, so there was nothing to do. But apart from this I was really happy with the balance of the car, so it was okay to follow in the good direction whatever tyres I used, so the car was just fantastic. Unfortunately I had to save fuel for about 30 laps which lost me completely the chance to do even a small fight.
Q: Do you know why you had to save that fuel as they were pointing at something on the car?
FM: No, I know it is regarding the temperature in the car. But we need to see, so I cannot say.
Q: You have been at Ferrari for quite some time. Just tell us about the fact that they put in two brand new engines and then you go out and finish first and second.
FM: Yes, so it is good. Okay. It is part of the direction that we need to follow that we saw a small issue yesterday and we took the decision to change the engine. It does not mean we cannot use that engine. We can use it for practice, for next races on the Friday or whatever but it was a good decision.
Q: Lewis, you were saying this result was more than you expected. Where do you feel you are missing out? Is it something you know?
LH: We had a good day. I think our race pace was a lot stronger obviously than our qualifying pace. As I said, I got held up behind Nico for quite a long time. I was quicker than him in the first and last sector but it was too tough to keep up with him in the middle sector. I think we’re lacking in a little bit of downforce compared to the Ferraris and especially the Red Bulls, but we’re not in a bad position. I think we just need to try to make a step closer to them which will enable us to compete for the win. Today, I think if I wasn’t behind Nico for that first half of the race, I think I perhaps would have been a lot closer to the guys and perhaps I would have a chance to compete with Felipe at the end. But things happened and I’m very happy with third.
Q: When Felipe was conserving fuel you weren’t that much closer, you were pretty much matching times.
LH: Yeah. I think there was a point where the gap was so big I thought I would look after the tyres and then I realised I was quite a bit faster than him. I think I was half a second faster then, so then I began pushing and I think it got to 0.8s some laps, 0.3s on some other laps, so I was generally quicker but there wasn’t enough laps to catch up, with that kind of gap. There were five laps with perhaps seven seconds to catch up and once I caught him, it would take a couple of laps to get past at least, so I thought I would just look after the car.
Q: You were talking about tyre management. Is that a lot plainer now, or is that something you’ve been working on all the way through anyway?
LH: I think it’s just something you learn throughout the weekend and in the race, again, when you start, it’s really dictated by the guys’ pace in front of you and then you try and control from there. The race is quite straightforward. You start on heavy fuel, you do one stop and then you… it’s pretty much a train the whole way. I thought it would be harder to manage the tyres but it wasn’t, it was quite easy.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Alberto Antonini – Autosprint) Fernando, you have always been known as someone who never gives up easily, but today, would you have settled for second place if it had not been for Vettel’s problem?
FA: No. I was thinking of winning the race at that time. I knew that it was a very difficult thing to do: overtaking Vettel. I think that it was a very difficult thing to do but I was waiting for the opportunity. I knew that our car maybe manages the tyres in very good way, we saw that in the winter, so I was getting some relaxed laps behind and then maybe waiting for the last ten laps to attack, but then we were lucky with Vettel’s problem to overtake a little bit earlier and winning the race. We’ve been lucky; in all the victories you need some luck and this one was lucky as well.
Q: (Jaime Rodriguez – El Mundo) Fernando, what were you thinking on the last lap, what did you shout, what did you say inside the car?
FA: Many things. The last lap was very long, not only for the two minute lap but also because you try to bring the car home safely and you want to avoid all the kerbs, all the strange noises, everything, so it was a very long lap but nothing; I was thinking about the great job that the team have done so far. I was thinking about the mechanics this morning, everybody running in the garage to change the engine at the last moment. So all that stress and all those difficulties that the team had this morning are paid off now and I was thinking just to celebrate with them. There was also some good chat on the radio in Italian.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Moto und Sport) Fernando, it seemed that the Red Bull was a bit better on the soft tyre on the long run pace, whereas once you had the harder tyre on you were catching up even before Vettel experienced his problem. How do you explain that?
FA: We need to see many things from the race, we need to analyse. It’s true that with the soft tyre it was difficult to follow Vettel. I was doing my maximum and it was impossible. And then it was a little bit easier to follow him with the prime. Yeah, we need to see the reasons for that. And maybe he already started to have some problems with the prime, so maybe it was not tyre-related, maybe it was something with his car that he already had a problem with from the beginning of the second stint.
Q: (Tomasz Richter – TV Nova) Felipe, do you expect that the next races could follow in a similar pattern, meaning an early first stop and that’s it?
FM: Well, I expect that the next race will be very difficult, competitive. We saw today that we maybe have some other very strong teams. We had really, really strong Red Bull with two cars, so we maybe have a good car to fight, we have McLaren which can be there and can improve the car, maybe Mercedes, so maybe some surprises. We know that it will be difficult. We also need to understand the strategy that we did in this race, and also in what direction the tyres will be and also try to understand the strategy, where you can gain, where it’s more difficult. I think it’s difficult to expect how the next track is going to be. It’s a very different circuit and layout to here, but we need to gain experience from this race and try to understand many things for the future.
Q: (Alvaro Faes – La Nueva Espana) Fernando, before the race, did you plan to try and overtake Felipe, or just sort it out in one moment?
FA: No, no plan. Obviously you want to overtake as many cars as possible at the start but you also need to defend yourself from the guys behind, so this is the decision that you take at the last moment, depending on how it goes in the first hundred meters at the start. You look in the mirror, you look where the other people are behind, where the people in front are and then you take the decision. I made a slight better start because I was on the clean side, so I was not… the first corner is always a new situation and you go there and you try to exit – especially the first race – you have to finish the race, you need to take some good points back home, so we try to be aggressive but controlling the situation at the same time.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Lewis, straight after the first stop, you were able to match the pace of the three guys in front of you. What’s going on at that point in the race? Is that a true reflection of the comparative pace of the three cars or are you all taking it a little bit easy at that point, because of the tyre wear?
LH: I think that was the true pace of our car at the time. Whether or not it would have been the same on the option tyre I don’t know, but as I say, I was right up on Nico’s tail for the whole of the stint and unfortunately I wasn’t able to pull out the time that I needed. These guys were just pulling away. I would come onto the back straight and they were already around the next corner, so the gap just increased, there was nothing I could do at that time, but as soon as I got in some clean air and there were some new tyres on, the car felt great and I think the pace that I had was quite good, so it’s good to know that were able to match or do similar times to the guys at the front. It shows that we’re not as far away as we thought we may have been.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Fernando, could you answer the same question; was that a true reflection of the comparative pace of the three cars or were you conserving tyres, for the 10 or 12 laps after the pit stop before Vettel had his problem?
FA: No, I think we were pushing, maybe not 100 percent but 99.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, in which area does this car have to improve, and for both drivers, was there some extra pressure in this first race to at least be in front of Michael?
FA: There are things to improve in the car, for sure. There’s not a perfect car in the world. I think we have a good enough car to start the season, a very competitive car in all conditions: low fuel, heavy fuel. We are working in two or three areas in which we know we need to improve
FM: I think we can improve everywhere. There’s always improvement in every part which improves the car.
And the second question is that we want to be in front of everybody: Michael, Sebastian, Lewis, everybody who is racing is racing for position, for the best, so you really don’t think that because it’s Michael, because it’s another driver. It doesn’t change, you want to be in front of everybody.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Was there any extra pressure, extra feeling?
FM: No, no.
Q: Heikki Kulta (Turun Sanomat) Fernando, how much pressure, if any, does it take off your shoulders, winning this first race with Ferrari?
FA: Not much, to be honest. There is always pressure at every race we go to, even every test we go to in Spain, there are 20,000 people who expect us to be P1 at the end of the day, so we live with pressure on our shoulders, so after this first win it’s good to enjoy time now with the mechanics, with the guys and then fly to Australia. But then I start from zero again in Australia. We can have a bad race at any time, if we make some little mistakes or we are not fully concentrated, so we need to take each Grand Prix like a new one, like the last one, so we need to do solid races now at the beginning of the championship and come back to Europe with some good points.
Q: (Carlos Miquel – Diario AS) Fernando, do you believe Felipe Massa is your biggest enemy for the championship, because the form of the Ferrari is so good?
FA: Well, first of all, he’s not an enemy, maybe a rival but not an enemy. Again, the eight drivers in the top four teams are contenders for the championship. Maybe this is only the first race, but we saw the potential of the Mercedes in free practice and Q1 as well. We saw the potential of the McLaren today, being on the podium. We saw the potential of Red Bull, that they were quicker than us in qualifying, and maybe a little bit quicker than us in the race as well. And of course, Felipe, with the same car – there will be races that one of us will win and some races that the other will win. The important thing is to score many more points for the team and hopefully both Ferrari drivers will be on the podium. But I think this will depend track to track well. Here in Bahrain, for whatever reason was a little bit better for us, maybe we go to Australia for the next race and Mercedes or McLaren or whoever are a little bit ahead of everybody, so we need to understand this and we need to prepare our car perfectly for each Grand Prix, in terms of set-up, in terms of developing a programme in the wind tunnel, engine-wise etc, so there is a package, that is a combination of many things that we need to get ready.