Category Archives: Interviews

2010 was a year of practice for Schumacher – Lauda

3-time champion Lauda still trusts Schumacher to leap back to the top

3-time champion Lauda still trusts Schumacher to leap back to the top

The major German news agency SID conducted a survey and surprisingly, more than 70 per cent of those surveyed do not believe Michael Schumacher will win an eighth world title in 2011.

The most successful driver in F1 history had a difficult return to the sport in 2010 after 3 years of retirement, finishing ninth in the championship and 70 points behind his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Triple world champion Niki Lauda is certainly one who understands Schumacher’s troubles. The Austrian had won 2 titles before he retired in 1979, then returned after a 3-year absence. However, although he initially struggled, he won another championship in 1984. He told Spain’s El Pais newspaper:

"In my second phase in F1, the testing was not limited so I had plenty of 
mileage to prepare.

Michael has had trouble adjusting. Furthermore, he has been against a lot 
of young guys eager to prove they can beat him, including Rosberg who is 
really fast.

2010 was a year of practice for Schumacher. At first I thought he would 
not take more than four races to be back, and winning races has never been 
easy, but now it is harder than ever before.

Anyway, if anyone can do what he has to do, it's him."

Over to you: Do you think Schumacher can bounce back from his 2010 struggles?

Maldonado confirmed at Williams for 2011

Maldonado has been confirmed at Williams for next year

Maldonado has been confirmed at Williams for next year

After Nico Hulkenberg made way a few weeks ago, Pastor Maldonado has been unveiled as the new Williams second driver, alongside Rubens Barrichello, today.

He is the 5th out of 6 GP2 champions to progress to F1 after winning the GP2 title. The last time a Venezuelan driver was in Formula 1 was Ernesto Viso, who drove in Friday Practice for Midland in Brazil in 2006. Before that, Johnny Cecotto raced back in 1984 for Theodore and Toleman.

Pastor previously tested an F1 car with Minardi in 2004, where Giancarlo Minardi complimented his driving, even though he was only 19 at the time.

Williams have also released a Q&A with Maldonado:

What started your career in motor sport?
PM: Having competed themselves, my father and my uncle are very passionate about motor sport, so I inherited it from them. In my city of Maracay, there is a go kart circuit about five minutes from my home. When I was about three or four years old I said I wanted to race but I was too young, then when I reached the age of seven my father gave me a kart and we started from there. From that moment until now we have never stopped.

After karting in Venezuela, I came to Europe in 1998 to compete in international kart races, which was great for me to get experience racing outside my country. After consistently being at the top, I decided to move to Italian Formula Renault. I won the championship in my second year. We made the jump to GP2 in 2007 but I only did half a season as I had an injury. We came back in 2008 and finished fifth in the championship, just six points adrift of the leader in a very close championship.

You were crowned GP2 champion this year. What does that feel like?
PM: It was an incredible season. We were competitive from the beginning and went on to win six races. The team worked well together to achieve victory and by the middle of the season I already had a good gap and took the title at Monza.

Do you think you are ready for F1?
PM: GP2 is a very good championship; it really prepares drivers well for F1. I have worked very hard to get to this position and yes, I definitely feel ready.

How does it feel knowing you will be driving for AT&T Williams next year?
PM: Williams do an amazing job. It is unbelievable to be here and to be part of the team. It is a dream.

What do you make of your new team mate Rubens Barrichello?
PM: For sure Rubens is a pleasure to have as a team mate as he is a very experienced driver. I can learn so much from him. It will be fun as he is South American too! I think it is going to be a very interesting team.

How will you prepare for your first F1 season over the winter?
PM: I will keep pushing in my training and working in the simulator. We don’t have a long time, just one or two months before the first test, and I am going to be fit and ready.

You had a day in the FW32 at the Abu Dhabi Young Driver test. How did that go?
PM: It was amazing. It was a big moment for me because only days before I had been driving a GP2 car and there are some big differences. I improved lap after lap and completed the programme so it was a very good experience for me.

What are the differences between a GP2 car and an F1 car?
PM: There are three big differences. The first is the difference in engine power; the F1 car has amazing power and a higher top speed. Secondly, the braking point; the brakes are a lot harder in F1. Finally there is much more downforce and general grip.

You will be only the fourth Venezuelan to have ever driven a Formula One car. What does that mean to you?
PM: It has been nearly 30 years since Venezuela has had a driver in Formula One so the country has been pushing young drivers in the hope of having someone represent them. I am happy to now be that driver.

To summarise, what will be your objectives for the 2011 season?
PM: I just want to do my best, to be as close to the top as I can and to get the maximum out of the car. The team are working very hard and I need to push to be at the top as soon as possible. I am a rookie but that isn’t going to be a problem. I need to keep focussed and to do my job.

Vettel unaware of championship victory until last lap

In the post-race press conference, 2010 world champion Sebastian Vettel has said that his team did not inform him he was about to win the title until the very last lap.

Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber were stuck down in 7th and 8th places repsectively, meaning that Vettel was 4 points clear of the Ferrari when the chequered flag fell. However, as Sebastian tells us, he didn’t know much about it:

 To be honest I didn’t know anything until I took the 
chequered flag. The last ten laps I was wondering because 
my race engineer Rocky was trying to give me advice in 
the last ten laps to bring the car home. And I was think
 “why is this guy so nervous? We must be in a bloody good 
position.”

And then crossing the line he came on the line very 
silently and said “it’s looking good, we have to wait 
until the cars finish” and I was thinking “what does he 
mean?” Because I hadn’t seen the screens, I just wanted 
to make sure not to get any distractions, just focus on 
myself.

And then he comes on the radio and screams at me that we’ve
 won the world championship.

I have to say thanks to a lot of people, I will surely 
forget a lot of those but to start with the team, all the 
guys here at the race track, all my mechanics – all the 
mechanics in the team, not only my mechanics – everyone.

The engineers – sorry I’ve made this a bit long – we have 
an extremely strong amount of people together working in 
harmony. Back in Milton Keynes the guys are pushing like 
hell and I think they’ll enjoy this moment as much as 
last year.

Back in Austria, all the people that have been supporting 
me from the beginning. It’s been an incredible season with 
Red Bull and after this season’s ups and downs, to come 
here and lead the world championship at the last race is 
unbelievable.

Thanks and also thanks to all the people back in karting, 
some of them are in Kerpen supporting me, but also back 
in my home town, Heppenheim, I just want to say thank 
you very much.

 

Piquet: Massa still blames me for lost championship

Nelson Piquet Jr has revealed that, because of his actions at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, Felipe Massa still blames him to this day for losing the 2008 Driver’s Championship. Felipe lost the title by a single point to Lewis Hamilton, and lost 10 points in the Singapore Grand Prix, after a mistake in the pit lane, which was caused by a safety car deployment, which in turn had been caused by Piquet Jr.

If it was a mistake by Piquet that had brought out the safety car, then nothing would have been said of it. But as we all know, Nelson deliberately crashed his Renault, specifically to bring out the safety car to help his team-mate Fernando Alonso win the race.

The problem with Massa’s pit stop had been caused by the Ferrari traffic lights operator releasing Massa too early, causing the fuel rig to be ripped out and was still attached to the car as Felipe left the pits. It has been well acknowledged that this mistake by the light operator was caused by the chaotic nature of the pit lane, which of course was triggered by the safety car.

In my mind, despite other losses of points in other races that year, Massa deserves to blame Piquet for what he did. Nelson, however, seems surprised, in an interview with Portugese magazine Istoe (translation has been verified):

“Massa was very upset with me because he thinks, to this day,
that he lost the 2008 championship because of me.

It is no use arguing that he had a DNF in Hungary, that he and
Ferrari made mistakes. Not to mention his lack of luck. For the
love of God, that last lap in Interlagos was pure luck for
(Lewis) Hamilton (who was the champion) and bad luck to him.

But he is still very upset. I have never talked to him again.
We stumble upon each other every now and then, but we don’t
keep on touch.”

He did not remain on the defense, however, as he soon went on the attack, as he criticised Massa for his actions at the German Grand Prix this year:

"Generally you’d want to make such arrangements in a subtle 
manner. At the end of the straight, a driver breaks a little 
early into a corner, let the team mate close the gap and 
overtake. Alright, with the fight for the first place it is 
harder to make it subtle, but it didn’t have to be so blatant. 
There is where Massa surprised me.

He wanted to expose Ferrari’s team game to cause a bit of a 
mess. Because the situation itself is normal. The most common 
code is the one Ferrari uses, that your team mate is faster 
than you. Massa understood, but wanted to make sure that, if 
it was for him, there would be no overtaking.

Ferrari will never miss the opportunity to let one of its 
drivers close the gap to the championship leaders. If Massa 
does not want that to happen, he needs to accept he is slower 
and race faster. He needs to work to get faster than Alonso. 
There’s no other way."

I’m particularly interested at the part where he says: “Generally you’d want to make such arrangements in a subtle manner.” Well he would certainly know about it wouldn’t he? I can understand his comments on the German Grand Prix debacle, but when it comes to the Crash-gate saga again, I don’t even want him to open his mouth.

For those of you who are interested, Piquet has been racing this year in the, erm, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (a world series held entirely in America, I should note). He has competed in 4 races out of 15, and finished in the top 10 3 times. Before you think that’s impressive, it’s only pickup trucks he’s been racing.

Massa and Alonso grilled in press conference

Both Ferrari drivers, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, have been hounded by the press following the team orders controversy surrounding the German Grand Prix. After Felipe was ordered to allow Fernando through, who went on to win the race, they were promptly summoned to the press conference, where they just about survived a grilling.

Normally, the first part of the press conference is an extremely boring affair, with lots of “for sures” and “the team did a great job” statements. However, the second part is much more interesting, when the newspaper journalists get to ask any question they want, and the drivers must respond. So without further ado, here are the stinging questions that Felipe and Fernando endured:

Q: (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Fernando and Felipe, via a coded message it appears that we’ve just witnessed a clear case of team orders being handed out. To Fernando, do you feel embarrassed about taking such a win, and to Felipe do you feel angry about having to give up such a win?
FM:
For sure, you always want to win. That’s always what we’re working for. For sure we don’t have team orders, so we just need to do the race that we can and if you see that you cannot do the race that you can, you need to think about the team. I think that’s the most important thing.
FA: Yeah, same. What’s important is the team result, so I’m happy.

Q: (Fredrik Af Petersens) Felipe, you said earlier that you lost out to Fernando on the hard tyres. How come that after you were passed, that you were doing more or less exactly the same lap times, a couple of times even faster?
FM:
I was pushing hard as well but maybe I think he slowed down, I don’t know. He was controlling the pace.

Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Felipe, after this afternoon, do you now think you’re the number two driver at Ferrari?
FM:
Well, I cannot say that I’m there fighting for first position in the championship. I’ve lost many points, important points, and the only thing I can say is that I know what I can do, I can win races, that’s what counts and everybody saw today that I can win races and I can be competitive. For sure, what happened today is something that has happened in many races this year: when I put on the hard tyres I struggle. This is exactly what happened in the race. On the soft tyres, I was very strong and then when we went onto the hard, I was struggling again, so there’s no news about that. So I know why sometimes I’m a little bit penalised, it’s just because of the very hard tyres that we have this year. I don’t think it’s a good thing, to be honest, because you don’t have strategies any more. Then also the grip level on hard tyres for me was always a little bit of an issue this year, and most of the races that we used these tyres I was struggling. And this is another one where I was very good on the soft tyres in the first part of the race, and then we put on the hard tyres and I was struggling again. It’s a similar issue that we have had in some races.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Alonso, in a normal race, do you think you could have overtaken Massa, and Massa, in a normal race do you think Alonso could overtake you?
FM:
Well, I think I was holding in a good way anyway, but the race is long and you always have many laps, so you never know what can happen in 20 laps. So maybe yes.
FA: Yeah, I think there was one moment also on (I don’t know) which lap it was but we were side-by-side into turn six, especially with the people we were lapping – always there is a better chance to overtake and even though we didn’t see too many overtakings here today we’ve seen a lot in the past on this circuit but this year maybe with the new cars etc we didn’t see too many.

Q: (Ian Gordon – News of the World) Fernando, you said after Valencia that the race had been manipulated in favour of Lewis. Those words seem a bit hollow now. Where will this victory rank in your career, is it up there with Singapore 2008?
FA:
I think you have a very strong result from Ferrari today, one and two, a very strong performance all weekend and if the final thought of the weekend is your question it’s because maybe you didn’t see the whole practice, qualifying and the race, so maybe it’s too early for you that Ferrari came back so strong.

Q: (Ian Gordon – News of the World) Team orders are banned in Formula One. They were banned in 2002, that was blatant team orders.
FA:
Sure.

Q: (Ian Gordon – News of the World) Eddie Jordan just said that you two should be kicked out of the race.
FA:
Again, if this is the final thought of the weekend for you, I think it is because you didn’t see the performance of the team and the performance from our car this weekend.

Q: (Juha Päätalo – Financial Times Germany) Fernando, I think we all know what happened on lap 48 and we don’t need any fairy tales about tyres or anything to be clear of that. I just want to ask you, because in 2006 in Monza you said that Formula One is not a sport any more for you but was that which we saw today a sport?
FA:
I think we tried to do our race, we tried to do as good as we can. We are professional drivers, we try to work in a team and we try to do the best we can every day, not only here on the track but also between the races, at the factory etc, preparing the races. Again, I think we’ve been doing a good job over the last couple of races and finally we got a strong Sunday with a strong result. I think we are happy with this, although there are things which are more for you if you want to write all these things.

Q: (Carlos Miquel – Diario AS) Fernando, do you feel that some people are worrying because you are back in the championship?
FA:
Maybe it seems like this, yes.

Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) Fernando, what have you got to say to the people who would call this a dirty win and if you win the championship, a dirty champion?
FA:
I have 19 races to… look at the overall races, there are a lot of points that we win sometimes and a lot of points that we lose sometimes. As I said, today was a good day, some other races were bad days for us, disappointing but as I said before, we need to remain focused, keep working, keep developing the car, not to be too excited when we win, not to be too down when we lose. In November, (we need to) try to be in the fight for the championship, not forgetting that Red Bull has so far been very dominant, not scoring many points on Sunday, or the points that they should have scored on Sunday, but remain very strong and McLaren as well, leading both championships, so there is still a long way to go for us.

Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) The reality is, though, that you couldn’t beat him on the track, so you had to get the team to do it for you.
FA:
If that’s your opinion.

Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) I’m asking you, is that not your opinion?
FA:
No.

Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) He had to give you this win, didn’t he, Fernando?
FA:
No.

Q: (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Fernando, you’ve said that you’re happy with this win but to be honest, I’ve never seen a driver look less happy in the middle of a podium there today, and in the middle of this press conference here. Why can’t you just be honest with us for once, and just admit that this win was handed to you on a plate today?
SV:
Can I go?

Q: (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Go Sebastian! Sebastian, give us your thoughts?
FA:
Hopefully the next question is for Sebastian. No, stay, stay. As I said, I think we were competitive on Friday, I was very competitive on Friday, first position. Finishing second in qualifying by 12 centimeters, I heard yesterday and today I think we scored the fastest lap of the race, so overall I don’t think I was very slow this weekend.

Q: (Miran Alisic – Korpmedia) I have a question for Sebastian. I think you had some not similar but close situations with Mark as well. Do you feel proud that what has happened at Ferrari today hasn’t happened in your team?
SV:
Don’t you have another question maybe? Yeah, maybe they should have crashed. I don’t know, I haven’t seen the incident. I was too far back. I always saw them going into the hairpin when I was coming out of turn five, so I don’t know what you’re all talking about. I can guess but I don’t know. For sure my advice would not be it’s better to crash because also then you get a lot of questions that you have to answer so… Yeah, for me I was focusing on my own race and trying to do my thing, trying to stay close enough, trying to get closer, trying to put them under pressure. It didn’t work, so I’m not pleased with that. No matter who you race, it’s always difficult in Formula One to pass people and sometimes you have to take a lot of risk. When you don’t have to race your team-mate, you’re racing for the team, both of you, both drivers and on the other hand everyone looks for his own advantage. We had a couple of situations this year in our team, so it’s quite a comedy that we are not in focus at this stage but life changes quickly, so… It’s never wise to say anything that you might regret. Maybe in a week’s time. I’m happy where we are now, as a team. Again, I can only repeat that from the outside there was more of a fuss made than there was inside. I can assure you that Mark and myself are always looking to do our best but on top of that, I think we understood many times this year that the team is the main priority and we are racing for the team, in the end. We don’t get our cheque from you guys, we get it from the team. I think that’s something we always have to respect.

Q: (Ralf Bach – R & B) Felipe, you said it was your decision to let Fernando past, so my first question is why did you take this decision, as a racing driver in Formula One, and my second question is do you have any idea why Rob Smedley said sorry to you? FM: No. (Regarding your first question) As I said, because I was not so strong on the hard, so we need to think about the team.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Felipe, Rubens damaged his image a lot in Brazil when he did what you did today. Until now you had the support of the country; aren’t you worried that now after you did what Rubens did you have deeply damaged your image in Brazil?
FM:
For sure not, for sure not. I’m very professional and I’ve showed in my career how professional I am. You are professional as well, you work for a company. I believe you are doing what you have to do, so I’m professional and today I showed how professional I am. That’s it.

Q: (Tony Dodgins – Tony Dodgins Associates) Fernando you’re getting quite a bit of flak but as you say, you’ve been the quicker Ferrari driver for most of the weekend. We see it so often that the guy who is second on the grid gets beaten away by the guy who is third. Is there ever a case for actually asking to reverse the positions on the grid?
FA:
I think there are some circuits where the clean side is an advantage. There are some circuits where it is not an advantage, for example in Hungary next weekend, it will be crucial to be on the clean side. There are other circuits like that. There’s nothing we can do. We have a fifty percent chance of being on the clean or dirty side of the grid, unless you are the quickest which secures the clean side. The only thing we can do is to fight for pole position which allows you to be on the clean side. If not, I don’t see any other possibility. Maybe there should be more distance. Instead of eight meters, maybe 12 or whatever.

Q: (Tony Dodgins – Tony Dodgins Associates) Take today, if you’d been able to opt to start third instead of second and actually swap places, would you have done it?
FA:
Maybe I would have done a bad start, you never know. I think it was a good start today, overtaking Sebastian and that was our target today. You never know.

Q: (Anne Giuntini – L’Equipe) To both Fernando and Felipe, we always talk about the show, the necessity of the show in Formula One. Can you conceive that race lovers and show lovers might be a bit frustrated today?
FA:
Well, I think we try to put on a good show always for people, for spectators but as Felipe or Sebastian said, we work for companies, we work for teams. Sometimes, as we saw this year, there are crashes between team-mates and the loss of 42 points for the team. Today Ferrari has 42 in their pocket, so I think it’s what we are here for.

Q: (Ted Kravitz – BBC Sport) Fernando, after the pit stop, when you were behind Felipe, we heard a radio message, it wasn’t very clear, but it sounded like you were telling the team guys ‘think of the victory.’ Did you say that?
FA:
No.

Chinese GP Friday press conference

Peter Sauber, Colin Kolles, Eric Boullier and Adam Parr at the Friday Chinese GP press conference

Peter Sauber, Colin Kolles, Eric Boullier and Adam Parr at the Friday Chinese GP press conference

Today we had team principals Colin Kolles, Adam Parr, Eric Boullier, and Peter Sauber. Here is the full transcript:

Q: Colin, tell us about your driver pairing, completely inexperienced when it comes to this race here in Shanghai?
Colin Kolles:
Well, we are a new team, new cars and rookie drivers, so it’s not easy, for sure, but I think they’ve done quite a good job in the first three races, not making too many mistakes. Today also went quite well, at a different level to the top teams, of course, but I think that we are improving steadily, so we are making step after step.

Q: How easy or difficult has it been to build up a team, especially one that was really starting on the back foot?
CK:
Not easy, it was a lot of work, I can tell you, in a very short period of time. I think people are underestimating what has been done or how difficult it is.

Q: In terms of getting your personnel, for instance, you’re not really based in the middle of Oxfordshire in England, in among existing racing teams.
CK:
Yes, for sure, Murcia is not really the centre but obviously I was able to put it together. I think I have quite a good network and it was possible with the help of people who were loyal to me over a long period of time.

Q: Can you just clarify the rumours of the relationship between the team and Dallara?
CK:
I can clarify this. Obviously I have spoken with the people involved and I think they have been misquoted and misunderstood, so actually there is nothing more to say about this.

Q: Peter, a very difficult start to the season for you. I’m sure you didn’t come back into Formula One for a start to the season like the one you’ve experienced. Tell us what has happened?
Peter Sauber:
It’s not so easy to explain, maybe you have to ask the technicians. We expected more, especially after the good winter tests.

Q: What were the basic problems, at the last race, for instance? Are those engines finished for the year or was the sensor the problem?
PS:
It was a pressure sensor and we can’t use the engines again.

Q: And then at the first race you had problems as well.
PS:
In Bahrain, there were two hydraulic problems. One was a mistake – I think both failures were not necessary.

Q: And again, your drivers, an interesting mix of the experienced and the newcomer. Tell us how you feel about those two?
PS:
It’s very difficult to talk a lot about the drivers because during the last three races we have had a lot of problems, and it has been impossible for Kamui (Kobayashi) and Pedro (de la Rosa) to show their talents.

Q: So you’re really waiting for the season to settle down.
PS:
Yes, it’s necessary.

Q: Have you had a good trouble-free weekend this weekend?
PS:
I hope so.

Q: Tell us also about the transition of Willy Rampf, who has been with the team for such a long time as such a faithful servant, to James Key, your new technical director?
PS:
I think Willy’s plan to leave the team was for more than one year.

Q: What have been his great strengths?
PS:
Oh, he has a lot, a lot of strengths. He started with us 14 years ago as a track engineer and then has grown up slowly and we had a lot of success with Willy, especially in the 2001 season with Nick (Heidfeld) and with Kimi (Raikkonen), when we finished fourth in the World Championship.

Q: How easy is it going to be for James to take over?
PS:
I think it’s too early to speak about that, especially in this difficult period. For sure it’s not easy for him to take over the team now and to make progress very soon.

Q: Will Willy keep coming to races? When does he actually clear his desk and leave?
PS:
The last race under Willy’s control was in Malaysia, in Sepang, and this one is the first race for James. Willy leaves at the end of the month.

Q: Eric, again, a question for you about your drivers: the experienced Robert Kubica and the newcomer Vitaly Petrov.
Eric Bouiller:
I think we have a good pair of drivers, one experienced one and one rookie but both very, very motivated.

Q: How do you see them working together over the last three races?
EB:
Both of them are very eager to do well and they are working well together. They have to learn about each other, but Robert is very keen to give any advice to Vitaly. They’re working very well.

Q: What about your own experience as a new team principal; is it a very steep learning curve?
EB:
Yes, very, very, very with a big slope. It’s very exciting and I’m very, very pleased to be here. It’s definitely a challenge, because F1 is huge, a lot of requests, a lot of people, but I’m starting to fit in well.

Q: Any big surprises?
EB:
Everything is a surprise, because it’s new. You have so many people, so many responsibilities, it’s just seven days work (a week). But I’m definitely ready for it.

Q: You have Peter Sauber behind you, Adam Parr alongside you, both their teams would like to be fifth in the championship this year. What are your aims, because I think you would also like to be fifth, if not fourth?
EB:
No, my aim is to be better than fifth. Obviously we would like to be as high as possible in the hierarchy. We have to be reasonable, so fifth would be the minimum.

Q: Do you see Williams and Sauber as being your major rivals?
EB:
Some of them are our main rivals.

Q: Adam, your feelings about fifth in the championship?
Adam Parr:
Well, I think we’ve got a bit of work to do to even claim that but we have ambitions, like Eric, beyond fifth as well.

Q: What about the Cosworth partnership; do they feel like a new engine supplier? How does it feel like to work with them?
AP:
They are a new engine supplier and the relationship feels very good, I think, in the sense that we have a very similar philosophy about life and what we’re trying to achieve. Unfortunately, it’s always the case that when you change engine (supplier), it’s a challenge. We’ve definitely got challenges on all aspects of the car that we need to overcome and that includes the engines, so we’re working with them very closely on that, and I’m very pleased to say that from Kevin Kalkhoven (Cosworth owner) down we’ve got the complete support of Cosworth and they are passionate about what they do and they are very good engineers, so we’re expecting to make good progress on that front.

Q: In terms of what they’ve supplied, you would say that they are not a new engine supplier at all. It seems to have been very reliable.
AP:
Well, it’s been reliable in some respects but we do have some underlying issues that we have to address. We’re not there yet. As Patrick (Head) likes to remind me on an hourly basis, anybody who thinks that they’ve got the engine or any other aspect of a Formula One car sorted out is just kidding themselves. We’re very early in this programme and there’s a lot of work to be done.

Q: Similarly you have an interesting mix of drivers, the most experienced driver in Formula One and Nico Hulkenberg as well. You’ve also been nurturing Nico for many years.
AP:
Yes, well, one of the great highlights of this season for us has been our two drivers. It’s a real pleasure to work with both of them for very different reasons. Rubens (Barrichello) is a fantastic driver; one hoped and expected that his technical input would be phenomenal but not only his understanding of what’s going on is amazing, but also his ability to identify potential solutions. So having him is wonderful. Also you can just see the way that he can dig deep and find that extra few tenths in qualifying. He’s leading the way, as one would have hoped. Nico is a very pleasant surprise, particularly in Malaysia where he showed what he could do and in the rain which is not always the case. Nico’s a very special guy, not only is he a great young racing driver, but as you may know, he volunteered to work in the factory, he’s worked in almost every area of our factory alongside the guys on the shop floor. He’s got their complete respect and that shows through in everything he does, so we’re very happy and very proud to have both of those drivers.

Q: And when did your relationship start with him?
AP:
With Nico? It’s been about three years now. Of course, the best thing about working with Nico Hulkenberg is that he brings with him (his manager) Willy Weber who is just fantastically amusing at all times.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Jie Wu – Autonews China) I have a question for Mr Sauber. The Sauber team became a private team again when you took it over. What’s the difference in atmosphere and Formula One environment between when BMW took over the team and now? What has changed?
PS:
I think the atmosphere was good as a works team as well as a private team. I think the atmosphere was also very good with BMW, there is no difference. For sure, the team is now much smaller, it’s about a third smaller than before with 260 employees. For sure it’s more a family than a big company.

Q: (Jie Wu – Autonews China)There have been lots of manufacturer teams in F1; what’s the difficulty for private teams to survive and fight for their dreams in F1?
PS:
Some of those factory teams have left Formula One. I think about three of the big ones and I think that today we have a good combination between big teams and private teams. It’s the same question (of survival) for Williams and Hispania. It was a big question for Williams over the last forty years. It’s very difficult. When we look back to the last 20 years, more than 25 teams have left Formula One. It’s difficult, yes.
CK: I think Adam knows that it’s an even bigger amount.
AP: Well, the number is over 50 teams since 1970, I think, have failed to survive in Formula One. There are two things: one is yes, it’s difficult, and it’s always difficult because you’re raising… the discretionary part of your income is from sponsorship, and sponsorship is something that people can chose to do or chose not to do, and I think that even though Formula One offers incredible value for sponsors, it’s always a big decision for a company to come into Formula One. Having said that, I think that things are better and I think they are going to get better because having only two manufacturers left in Formula One means that the majority of the teams are very realistic about having to raise a budget and they don’t want to burn money, and even the manufacturer teams who are left don’t want to burn money either. So I think that within this so-called resource restriction agreement, we have a structure to continue to reduce costs for everybody and I think there’s a real will to do that. Although it’s tough, I think it’s promising and it’s certainly better… when I started, you could argue that ten out of eleven teams were effectively factory-funded teams or shareholder-funded teams. So it’s a lot better now.

Q: (Joe Saward – Grand Prix Special) Regarding the tyre supply next year, it seems like there’s a choice between having a big brand or cheap tyres. Which would you like to have?
CK:
Tyres for free.
PS: Yeah, for sure, tyres for free, it’s possible but I think more importantly is that we have only one tyre supplier.
EB: First we need to have tyres, if possible for free and it doesn’t matter if it’s a big brand or not, there’s obviously a safety issue as well, to have proper tyres. Then, as part of the show, we need to decide if it’s only one tyre spec or not. But we need tyres.
AP: I think there are at least half a dozen companies in the world who could provide us with good quality tyres, that would give a good show and be perfectly safe. I think they are all good companies with good brand names and I think it’s absolutely essential that we do a good deal, which means free tyre supply for the teams. Secondly, it must be the same for everybody in all aspects because if it’s a standard tyre, it’s simply not on to have a two tier or a different approach for one team rather than another. So I think we’ve got a bit of work to do there. Fortunately, we have Bernie (Ecclestone) who has been asked by the F1 Commission to negotiate and find that supply and nobody’s better equipped to do it than him, so I’m sure we will get what we need.

Q: (Joe Saward – Grand Prix Special) Can I follow up with a question about engines? We’re talking about having two manufacturers. In fact we have two manufacturers who have just gone into a very large industrial alliance together, which, logically speaking, when it comes to creating new engines for 2013, are not going to both spend the same kind of money to compete against one another. Do you see a situation whereby we only have Ferrari and small, specialist manufacturers, the Cosworths of this world, in the future?
PS:
Yes, we will drive with Ferrari engines. It’s not a problem for us.
CK: And we drive Cosworth.
PS: But I think the manufacturers that we have now will stay in Formula One. Maybe we will have some new manufacturers like Volkswagen.
CK: Maybe we will have some new manufacturers, yes, that’s possible, but at the moment we are an independent with Cosworth, so we hope that Cosworth will still be on the market and for the moment we are happy with Cosworth and we look forward to having a good relationship. What will happen after 2013? I think it’s very important to maybe have the world engine, this is very important for certain manufacturers, to get them the entry, so from my point of view we will support the world engine, if we were asked, and I think that Mr Sauber would support this and I think that a few others would support the same. For sure, on the other hand, there are certain people who are against the world engine and they have their own ideas, but as it looks at the moment, the world engine might be a solution, to attract new manufacturers.
AP: I agree with both those comments. We’ve got four engines in Formula One at the moment and I don’t think that’s going to change before 2013 and I think it’s very likely that from 2013 there are going to be more suppliers rather than fewer and that’s because we’re going to have an engine in 2013 that’s going to have better energy consumption, a greener engine and I’m sure it will also be cheaper to manufacture and I think that will attract other companies into the sport. I think that’s another positive thing on the horizon, because we need to change the structure a little bit. We have too few suppliers and the engines cost too much, just too much to make. The technology is getting a bit out of date now as well.
EB: I agree with all the comments, obviously. I would add that engine technology needs to be back for an engine manufacturer like Renault as we are definitely interested in using Formula One as well as a technology platform to be used for road cars. I think cost needs to be controlled as there is a new technical package to be brought in after 2013. I don’t think we will see just one new engine maker. I think there will be, as Colin said, more engine manufacturers interested in maybe coming into Formula One, and that’s good.

Q: (Joe Saward – Grand Prix Special) And just to follow up on the point that Adam made, do you think that KERS and/or any other energy recovery system is essential for the future?
EB:
Formula One needs to be a little bit greener, and as Adam said, with a greener engine, KERS or any hybrid system needs to be back in, because it’s the future on our roads. So Formula One needs to stick to this philosophy as well. We have already developed something in the past which I think we’re all discussing to maybe put it back next year under certain conditions, but it definitely needs to be part of the package.
AP: Absolutely, we think a big KERS is going to be a very important part of the 2013 engine.
CK: Well, I don’t fully agree with this point. I was always against KERS and I am still against KERS. I agree that we have to be a greener Formula One, that’s fine but if you look at KERS – if it’s really green – and you look into the details, then KERS is not really green. So I think that we should look into reality and be realistic and not dreamers. This is my simple point of view. There are certain interests here, obviously from car manufacturers. I agree with this, I have no problem with this, but we, as a small team, are not going to afford to invest such amounts of money into technology, so we are definitely happy to find solutions and I fully agree that Formula One has to become greener to attract sponsorship, to make it more viable for everybody, basically, to make the business more viable, but I don’t think that KERS in the common sense is the best solution. I would agree with the Williams solution which is obviously a different solution than the battery solution. This is a more reasonable solution, but as we are discussing at the moment, to use a KERS based on batteries, people would be surprised which is more environmentally friendly or not if you look at the detail.
PS: Green or not green, I think Formula One has to follow this direction, especially the manufacturers. Maybe we can wait until the engine changes in 2013, together with maybe a world engine, I think it will be easier for everybody.

Chinese GP Thursday press conference

Sebastien Buemi, Adrian Sutil, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher at the Chinese GP press conference

Sebastien Buemi, Adrian Sutil, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher at the Chinese GP press conference

At today’s press conference, we had Adrian Sutil, Michael Schumacher, Sebastien Buemi, and Lewis Hamilton. Here is the full transcript:

Q: Adrian, what was it like having your friend Lewis breathing down your neck in the last race for 20 laps or so?
Adrian Sutil:
It was not an easy race. At the beginning it all went right and we had a good pace, so I was quite comfortable with my position and then in the last 20 laps Lewis made a lot of pressure. He arrived really, really fast and he was on the soft tyre. I just tried to do no mistakes and keep my line and concentrate to the end of the race. I knew it was going to be quite a long race and long laps for me with him pressing behind. But in the last couple of laps I had the feeling his tyres were going off a little bit, so I could breathe a little bit more and I had a little gap, so it was still under control, but I know him and he fights until the end.

Q: I guess it does confirm that the team has taken quite a step forward this year?
AS:
Yes, we are doing really well I think. I am very happy that we improved so much over the winter. I had a good feeling over the winter. We did everything very efficiently and the work is still going on. That is not only the first three races where we were doing great. Of course we have our goals this season and we want to do even better. It is all set up well and we can improve this position in the next races.

Q: What about the contribution of Paul di Resta? He comes in and drives on the Friday morning, is that a distraction for you or is that a good thing?
AS:
Well, I want to be in the car always of course even on Friday morning but we agreed to it during the winter. He is our test and reserve driver and he has his chance on the Friday morning swapping the car. Once in mine, once in Tonio’s (Liuzzi). I think in general it is a good thing for young drivers coming into Formula One to get a chance to test a little bit. Now with the testing ban they don’t have any driving experience. When there is a problem with the race driver they need to go in the car and they are not prepared, so this is a way to do it better to give them a chance to settle well into Formula One.

Q: Sebastien, Toro Rosso this year have had to design their own car. Tell us about the advantages and disadvantages of that?
Sebastien Buemi:
For sure it is not an easy thing to set up a team which was not building its own car last year. It has been big work during the winter and we are getting up to speed with the updates in the wind tunnel, so we will see the result in the middle of the season. But we have a good car to fight in the middle of the pack and score points if we do a good race, so it is not too bad.

Q: Difficult start to the season, but is it getting better now?
SB:
It was not the start of the season I was expecting but sometimes difficult things happen. It has been the case this year, so we will see what we can achieve here. We saw a good improvement in Malaysia and we seem to be quite a lot closer to Force India and Williams and I think it doesn’t look bad for finishing near the points or in the points. That will be our objective this weekend.

Q: How difficult is it for you that you have had a whole season’s experience but you don’t have a more experienced driver to help with sorting out the car? Is that a problem for you?
SB:
To be honest in Formula One I have never had a really experienced driver with me, so I don’t know how it is to work with someone with a lot of experience. I do my best to improve the car and the team and now it is getting a lot better with experience and knowing all the circuits and knowing how the race weekend goes. I think we can achieve a good set-up and a good car during the practice, so I will take it as it comes and try to do my best.

Q: So not really a problem?
SB:
I don’t think so.

Q: Lewis, I think you have been out and about in Shanghai today. You were at the Expo I believe?
Lewis Hamilton:
Yeah, this morning before we went to the track we stopped by the Expo and I got to see a little bit of it and I just have a small tour around the UK’s Expo. It was quite a cool and special building they have created there. But it was just a quick stop and I did a bit of a press conference and that was it.

Q: We are three races in to the so-called rivalry between you and Jenson Button. How is it going?
LH:
We are doing well. We are scoring lots of points for the team. He is a doing a fantastic job and we are getting on really well. He brings nothing but positiveness to the team and I think he is a very well balanced and well-rounded guy. We get on really well and it is working well for us.

Q: I guess the real worry if anything is Red Bull’s pace. How much of a worry is that? And the team was taking steps and making new technical decisions to counter that, but they have had to abandon that.
LH:
We have not had to abandon much. There are so many different things in the pipeline and one of those was to go in a similar direction as perhaps some other teams have done. But it is clear everyone cannot do that now. I don’t know how that affects others but it doesn’t really affect us. We still have updates that we are working on and should be coming in the course of the next few weeks or months. I am looking forward to seeing the updates come but I know the guys back at the factory are flat out. We try to make as many improvements as we can. Last weekend we seemed to be very competitive with them through practice but in the race the Red Bulls pace was a little bit… I don’t know if they were pushing that much, but we have just got to keep our eye on the ball and keep pushing.

Q: Michael, do you still feel Mercedes is a little bit behind? Where do you feel it is?
Michael Schumacher:
I guess you have Red Bull and Ferrari being a little bit up front and then probably it is right to say that McLaren is a little bit up front on us although the last race could not really show it. We are probably still in fourth position at the moment.

Q: How is the development coming along from your point of view?
MS:
As you expect in Formula One every kind of race you being new things and it goes step by step. I am quite happy with the general development trend. Naturally as probably most of the teams we will have a little bit bigger upgrade in Barcelona due to time availability and so on, so we are all look forward to that.

Q: You’ve now been back for three races. Have you found things very different since you left F1 three years ago?
MS:
Well, the number of questions and style of questions and all this sort of thing is pretty much the same. Driving the car, in a way, as well. It’s natural that there are some characteristic changes but at the end of the day, every year, you get a new car, and you just adapt and work the car around your needs. Yes, it has taken a little bit of time after being out for three years, it does need a little bit more time, especially with less winter testing available. But I’m feeling pretty good, I have to say. It’s worked out almost quicker than I expected it to do and I feel very comfortable in the car now and I look forward to when things get to the end to show a little bit better.

Q: Do you think a younger Michael Schumacher might have been more frustrated with the time it’s taken to get back right to the very top? You seem more relaxed…
MS:
It depends what age you’re talking about, because when I came into Formula One I would have obviously been very happy with the results we’ve had, because you haven’t had a ranking or a position. If you talk about after winning certain championships, then naturally you would have been a little bit less happy, but with having all this kind of experience, coming back after this break, I feel more than happy with what’s going on. One of the big and interesting things is working with the team to develop the car and being involved in this kind of process. That is so much of the fun. The driving is fun as well but you get used to that pretty quickly, but working on the details, that’s what makes it up for me.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, do you think that the F-duct is going to give you the big advantage that many of your rivals suspect or do you see Red Bull as the main team to beat you?
LH:
I still see Red Bull and Ferrari as the teams to beat here. You don’t know what Mercedes have brought either, so I think it’s the same as every race.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) To all drivers, with these low temperatures currently do you expect problems heating the tyres, especially the hard ones?
AS:
For sure, temperatures as low as six degrees which is what we have now is going to be a problem, especially on the hard tyre. We will have to see on Friday, tomorrow, how it looks but I know there will definitely be some warm-up problems. I’m not so concerned that they will never work but they will just take a long time to come in, probably around five or six laps until you get them to a certain speed. So we have to see, we have to adapt the set-up work a little bit to it, but we’re also expecting slightly better temperatures for Saturday and Sunday.
MS: It’s going to warm up over the weekend, so less of an issue.

Q: (Marco Degl’Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Michael, are you not a little disappointed because of this wave of criticism which has been rising up over the last few days, because a lot of people are impatient that you don’t win?
MS:
You see, I’ve been around long enough to know what I call the wave of emotion. During the winter everybody was every emotional and very supportive and positive and once you’re up on this edge of the wave, there’s a natural happening that you start to fall over the edge and whether you are the reason for it, or whether it’s just a natural happening, it’s not always important and because the results have not been as great as some people have expected and even myself, yes, I would have loved to have better results but then the competition is very high and in this respect it’s a natural happening to not have the same positive feedback in the media. But you know, I know exactly what I’ve been doing, I know what’s been going on and I’ve no reason from my side to be disappointed, quite honestly. I still feel very happy. Whether people like it or not is their own choice.

Q: (Ottavio Daviddi – Tuttosport) Michael, considering the situation that you explained very well, yesterday Fernando said that in his opinion you are still in the fight for the championship this year. Do you agree with him?
MS:
Indeed, yes, I do, because if you take the points system, and you have seen that Fernando had a retirement in Malaysia for whatever reason, it can happen to all of us. I had my retirement in Malaysia, so at one point in the season, most likely, that will hit the guys who are fighting for the championship. If we have a quick enough development pace, there’s no reason why we can’t fight for the championship, it’s far too early and there’s such a long season ahead. Development is so important, and we all know how fast the rate of development is. I’m pretty sure we have good potential to develop this car, so it’s far from feeling and thinking that this season is over, for Nico (Rosberg) and even for myself.

Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) A general question to Lewis and perhaps Michael as well. It’s quite tight at the top of the drivers’ standings after three races. Are you expecting it to remain such a tight battle between maybe six or eight drivers as we continue, or do you expect, when we get to Europe, when the development race kicks in in earnest, that we will see people leaping ahead? Sebastian (Vettel) could have won all three races so far.
LH:
Yeah, you’re right, Sebastian could be quite a bit ahead at the moment, but I think at the moment it is very close, and I’m hoping that it stays like that for some time but undoubtedly, at some stage during the season, whether or not Red Bull continue to have not such great reliability, as Michael was saying, anything can happen and it can happen to any of us. We just have to try and stay as consistent as possible. You cannot afford too many DNFs, so I think that is probably what every team is trying to maintain, try and stay as consistent as possible.
MS: I think I answered that before.

Q: Michael, I know this is the second time you have been in Shanghai over the last four years; do you have any special feelings about this city and also for your professions here?
MS:
Well, it’s been a while that I have not been here, but it’s quite impressive to see the development. I stayed in town for a couple of nights and I’ve been around a little bit. It’s impressive to see this. It’s always been one of the Grands Prix you enjoy coming to because the enthusiasm of the fans is pretty extreme, so the reception I got when I’ve arrived at the airport or when I arrived at the hotel has been interesting, so naturally we look forward to hopefully performing well for the fans that we have here.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Sebastian, you seemed to be well ahead of your team-mate most of last year and this season too, but the last race was somehow different. Do you feel threatened by Jaime Alguersuari now?
SB:
I think that the last race has been a bit difficult for me. I had a small contact on the first lap with (Kamui) Kobayashi and it broke my front wing, so I did most of the race with a broken front wing and when we changed it, I did the third fastest lap in the race, so it’s difficult to compare, but for sure he has done a good race, he finished in the points, so there’s nothing to say. If you look at the qualifying and everything, it still seems to look good for me, so I just hope for a good race weekend when I can show my speed up to the end, without any problems.

Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Michael, this was the scene of your last Formula One victory before you retired in 2006. Could you talk about the last time you experienced that winning feeling, feeling what that race was like for you, memories of that race and perhaps how you could carry that forward into a lovely result on Sunday?
MS:
I’m not a person who looks too much into the past, quite honestly, so forgive me if that’s not in myself. I would rather look forward and have slightly better races than I have in the past two races, which were a bit out of my control. But the track and car and situation should be good enough to have a good race.
The track is a little bit particular, because there are quite a few corners that, depending on whether you have a good balance in the car, are good fun. If your car struggles in terms of balance, you get really angry because in turn one or 13, it’s going to be a mess if you don’t have a good balance and it’s going to be great fun if things work out. It changes your emotion quite a lot.

Q: (Nick Mulvenny – Reuters) Lewis, you obviously had a great win in 2008, but in 2007 you remember what happened then, when you came off the track. Do you think that you’ve matured as a driver, that that sort of situation wouldn’t happen today? That you would insist that you should pit rather than stay out on bald tyres?
LH:
Well, I know where the gravel trap is now, so I don’t think I would be in that position again. Of course, having the experience and being a few years down the line, I think I’m able to understand and make calls for myself, but I don’t think that we as a team would put ourselves in that position again. I’m confident that we won’t be there again.

Malaysian Grand Prix press conference

Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg at the Malaysian Grand prix press conference

Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg at the Malaysian Grand prix press conference

Here is the (slightly late) transcript of the Malaysian Grand Prix post-race press conference:

Q: Sebastian, a victory today set up by an excellent start and one that looked fairly comfortable if you ever can be comfortable in the heat of Malaysia.
Sebastian Vettel:
Well, it wasn’t comfortable. I realised straight away that I had a good start and passed Nico, who was alongside, and then got the tow from Mark, so I was able to gain, gain, gain. It is a long sprint down to turn one and I clearly had an advantage over him and then I took the chance I had into turn one. It was quite late, so I just made it and then Mark had a bit of a better exit out of turn two, through turn three and it is very slippery and we both tried to push. We are here to fight ourselves but you should keep the respect and I think we both had the respect for each other. If Mark would have been in my position I am quite sure he would have done the same. After that it was just a question about getting away from our competitors. I could see Mark and I were more or less having the same pace, I think he was a little bit quicker in the beginning. I was trying to save my tyres. It did work, so before the stop I could pull away a little bit and the second stint was extremely long. It is extremely hot here and I didn’t stop sweating. Fortunately, I didn’t run out of drinks in the car. I was trying not to be too extreme in the beginning. But it is very hot and very physical and at some stage I was hoping for rain, just to get a bit of a cool down. What a day. Yesterday was extremely difficult with the conditions. Today it stayed dry all the time fortunately and we had a magnificent car. The key was to pace yourself, watch your tyres. Bridgestone did a good job bringing two compounds here that worked fairly well. A very good result for us, especially for myself after two races where we didn’t finish where we wanted to be. To come back, thanks to the team. It is very crucial in that moment not to panic and to stay relaxed. It is a long season but getting here on Sunday afternoon having won the race is the best result we can get. On top of that Mark in second place is a big, big plus for the team. A lot of points and I am very, very happy.

Q: Mark, we heard the call on the radio to look after the tyres on the seventh lap. At the pit stop you lost two-and-a-half seconds. Was that when you lost the chance of catching up with Sebastian today?
Mark Webber:
We know these days with the strategy and how the races unfold that the first part of the race is crucial and the first sector. As Seb explained I got a little bit of wheelspin and on the run to the first corner Seb had a big tow. I didn’t really know where Nico was either. I didn’t know to go fully to the inside or stay in the middle, so I just braked late and both of us were on the limit to make the apex at the first corner. I had a bit better exit coming out of two as Seb explained and then the fight continued to turn four. We had a chat to Christian Horner at the start of the race and Christian said ‘boys, behave yourselves’ and we did. The spirit and the chemistry in our team is awesome. We fight very hard, you saw that today. It was a good fight between Seb and I. The result could have gone either way. But in the end he did the job at a crucial stage and deserved the victory. A one-two for us as a team is sensational. The cars ran very well. It was a nice comeback for us after some tough races where we didn’t finish where we should. All in all coming to the weekend you never know, you would probably take this type of result, but as the weekend went on I would like to be one spot further but a great result for the team and we executed a beautiful weekend for everybody. Well done for Red Bull and Renault, of course, the engines were great.

Q: Nico, you watched the Red Bulls sail away into the distance. You sort of had a race all to yourself but the first podium for yourself with Mercedes.
Nico Rosberg:
It is a fantastic result for us. Quite pleased. The start did not go too well. I think this time it was quite a lot down to me. I just wanted a bit too much and got a bit too much wheelspin and lost out a little bit there. From then on, once I was third, I knew it was going to be difficult to follow the Red Bulls but I was struggling a bit in the first stint with the options. I don’t know why, we need to analyse that, and (Robert) Kubica stayed pretty close which wasn’t the plan. But once we did the pit stop and got on the prime I was very comfortable. A bit worried about (Lewis) Hamilton initially as I didn’t know how he was going to come up after his pit stop and I was expecting him to be very fast but apparently he didn’t get by the people behind me. It is a fantastic result for us here at one of our home grands prix also as we have backing from Petronas, so a lot of support here at this race and it is a great co-incidence that the first podium comes over here too. I really have to thank the whole team for all the hard work they have put in over the winter. They worked crazy hours, so a little reward now with the podium, so we need to push on as we are not there yet where we want to be but it is a good step in the right direction.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Sebastian, how much of a relief was that after the last couple of races?
SV:
A big relief. I am sorry. I feel a bit tipsy from the champagne. I think I took a bit too much. I am very pleased. A great day for us and Red Bull. As you said, the first two races we weren’t finishing where we want to be. But a great result. The start for myself was crucial. I had a good start, good initial momentum. I was a bit worried to start on the dirty side as the right side is the clean side but I was patient really trying to control the wheelspin and didn’t ask for too much throttle too early. That was the key to get past Nico and then run with big tow down to turn one. It is a long sprint. It is one of the longest sprints to turn one behind Mark and I was able to catch him and outbrake him into turn one. It was quite late. Big respect for Mark. I think he would have done the same thing. But he could have behaved differently down into turn one and turn two but that was good. The fight carried on down to turn four. It was extremely slippery for both of us and it was a question who is braking first and if the car stops. Obviously going out of qualifying it was wet, but usually you are having a completely different reference point. Now you start with the car fully filled and it is a bit of an adventure to find your braking point. From then onwards I could see we were one-two which was crucial, so we were able to pull a gap to Nico. But Mark didn’t stop pushing, so I had to push myself. I was trying to look after my tyres in the first stint especially with the soft compound. I was quite pleased that they held together. I was trying to save them a little bit for the end of the stint and then the hard tyres were quite solid and you could push all the way through. Mark again did not stop pushing. He came a bit closer and I could see he was doing faster lap times than I was, so I was just trying to control the gap. It was quite difficult with the lapped cars as they were coming quicker than you thought. Over the team radio I got the call that at some stage we were about 10 seconds quicker a lap compared to them which is funny as two laps before you had nobody there and then all of a sudden you catch them up. But in the end of the day very, very pleased with the result. I think we did a very good job yesterday as a team. Mark was the poker face yesterday and got the pole but today to finish one-two is fantastic especially for myself after the first two races, so I am very happy.

Q: Mark held onto you pretty much in the opening stages but in the second stint he came back at you. Was that all to do with the traffic?
SV:
When you are in the lead and you have got a couple of seconds on your side then you don’t try to do anything stupid in traffic. For the guys I think in the slower cars it is a pretty difficult job to do as three corners before they had no-one in their mirror and all of sudden they had someone behind, so sometimes you find yourself in a bit of an adventure trying to get past. But they did a very good job. Sometimes you lose a little bit more depending on where you have to pass them and how quickly they move over but it was all fairly in control. On the primes in the beginning Mark was a bit faster. I was just trying to react to his times and then the gaps are sometimes shrinking, sometimes I am gaining a bit again. I was trying to bring the car home at some stage. I was hoping for rain as it was quite hot. I think we all lost quite a bit of water, so that is why after two sips of champagne you might feel a bit dizzy. I am still young. I am not used to this.

Q: Mark, a little bit of frustration for you with the start and the wheel nut as well.
MW:
Seb has wrapped it up. The team has performed incredibly well today and the whole weekend. We were very quick all weekend and very important that we had a clean run yesterday in a very tricky session. It could easily have gone wrong for us but both of us did a good job in tough conditions which laid the foundations for a clear race today. We didn’t expect it to be dry for the whole grand prix but it was and knowing that the third, fourth row there wasn’t the normal people, so the race was going to explode massively and probably wasn’t the normal grand prix in that sense. The run to the first corner I had a little bit too much wheelspin at the start and as Seb said he was in a reasonable position to get the tow and then it was just fighting on the brakes for the first two big stops of the lap and Seb has the inside and we fought pretty close but in the end it was really tough fighting your team-mate as we have an amazing chemistry in our team and all the mechanics, Renault, everybody, we arrive at every track in such a good style. We want to get the best result we can. Every team is like that but this is by far the best team I have ever been with in terms of wanting to get the results. When you have got all those guys in your mind it is not the best thing to see Red Bull Racing wheels flying in the air, so we had a good fight but in the end today Seb got it. After that I was like, ‘my God, I have got the whole race now I am in second’ and that was how it was going to be unless Seb had a failure or he was going to make a mistake. But we know the quality of him. Both of us pushed each other to the end and that was that. I had Hamilton after the second stop but the wheel nut was putting up a fight and it seemed like an eternity when we are used to really quick stops. Then it was waiting, waiting, waiting, ok down it goes then I went. I had to sit behind Hamilton a little bit to start with and it was then a case of bringing the cars to the end of the race. You didn’t know how they were going to go. It is still a bit of a learning phase for all the teams as we go to different venues and we do a bit of work on Friday which I didn’t get to do myself but Seb did a bit of work and we still did a lot on Sunday afternoon. Sensational result for the team and we got what we deserved. Other races we didn’t as we weren’t prepared. Today we were prepared and we blew everyone away which was great.

Q: Nico, on the podium here; you said you liked the place, what does this mean to you, the team and your sponsors?
NR:
I’m really happy for the whole team. Also for Petronas who is our biggest sponsor. It’s a great result and it’s really nice to have our first podium here at Malaysia which is a coincidence. We’ve had a lot of support. Even on the podium it was really nice to see all the Petronas guests cheering, so that was really cool. I’m also pleased because the team put so much work into it and they deserved the good result that we got here. Of course, we still need to work hard, because as we saw again Red Bull is just quicker than us at the moment and we really need to push on to close the gap now, to come up with some good ideas and some good upgrades, but I’m confident that we can do it for sure.

Q: How threatening was Robert Kubica, because he got pretty close to you?
NR:
Yeah, I was not quite so happy with the first stint. It wasn’t going well because Robert could properly stay with me and I think he was just as fast as me, so I was a bit surprised by that, but it was the option tyres, I didn’t feel very comfortable on them and I was struggling especially with the rears on high fuel. And then after the pit stop, going on the prime, it felt much better and I could really push on and I was quite comfortable after that.

Q: He still got very close to you. On lap 34 he was…
NR:
Yeah, that was a bit of a problem with (Karun) Chandhok, I think, who… I’m not sure but I don’t think he did a very good job on that particular occasion. He should have moved out a bit earlier. I think he maybe didn’t see me or something and that really gave Kubica a chance which shouldn’t have been there, because he was miles away. So we need to review that in the drivers’ meeting. It’s obviously difficult with all the slightly slower teams, the new teams that are out there. There’s always going to be an occasion where it’s never going to be perfect but we need to try and get it as good as possible.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, it only took you one race to wipe out the gap to Massa and Alonso, who were quite far ahead. Were you expecting to do that so quickly?
MW:
The championship is over, isn’t it? I thought the championship was over!
SV: Yeah, that’s what people are saying. We are just here to race. Yes, as I said before, obviously there’s always a lot of talking and things happening. Yes, we didn’t have great races, the first and second one, we didn’t do the best job we could, but that’s life. You build racing cars to go as quickly as you can. They’re built on the limit and sometimes something breaks. Obviously it depends when. When it happens on Friday, no one cares but if it happens on Sunday, obviously everyone is highlighting the issue and blaming you for poor reliability. We are a team, we stick together in good and bad times. We win and lose together and it’s not like in football where you probably change the coach after you’ve lost two times. So we carry on and we’ve proven that we can come back. I don’t know the ranking in the championship now but I think today we scored 25 points. I saw that Fernando (Alonso) had an engine failure, I think, on the last lap. As far as I remember, our gap was about 25 points, so it’s not anymore. I think that’s a good thing. If anything, it shows how quickly it can turn around. It’s a long, long season. We still have 16 races to go which is a lot, so we are here to do our best and we want to fight for the championship, both of us, and for the team, so at the end of the day, finishing first and second was good points for the team and good points for ourselves, so I think we’re in a much better position now than probably on Friday or this morning.

Q: (Simon Arron – Motorsport News) Mark, can you talk us through turn one? You said in the unilateral that you weren’t sure where Nico was. Did you have any clue where Seb was and when exactly were you aware of his presence?
MW:
I initially had a look off the start where Seb was and he wasn’t mega close initially; in second or third gear, he wasn’t mega close. It looked reasonable. You know the track is so bloody wide you think where the hell is everyone? I’ve obviously only got the mirrors to check the immediate positions just behind me. To be honest, I didn’t know Seb went to the inside. I thought he was more on the outside. Obviously that’s why I probably went back and maybe I’ll opened the door completely for him but it’s very difficult to see where the guys are on the run to turn one on such a wide track, so I just thought, ‘get in there nice and deep,’ for sure he arrived late, he wasn’t beside me, I couldn’t hear him or he wasn’t beside me when we were on full throttle or when we started braking. It was a fair fight and obviously there’s lots of different options into turn one, so it’s hard to know whether to go inside or outside. I saw him when we were on the brakes.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Sebastian, last year you won the third race, and this year you’ve now won the third race. Are you on the same schedule like last year, to carry on fighting for the championship?
SV:
I need to remember where we finished the fourth race and the fifth race. Last year is last year, this year is this year. I think we are always looking ahead but you can live in history or you can live in the future, but I think the best thing is to live in the now and live the moment, so we have to focus on what is happening now. From here, first of all we go back and then kind of come back to Asia to go to China. The cars go more or less straight there, but there’s a bit of break between races. And hopefully we will have the same result in China as last year, that’s all I can say. Every race is a new challenge. Into the first race, I think we were pretty quick. Ferrari was very quick and in Melbourne all of a sudden we were kind of back. They weren’t really that far behind in Bahrain but it just shows that a slightly different kind of track, a different layout… you know, we’ve seen here Mercedes was very strong, so we probably do have a little bit of an advantage at the time, but we have to work hard and focus on what is happening now to maintain the good performance and then we go race by race. There may be times when we will struggle as well and we won’t be able to win. We might only get fourth or fifth but we have to make sure we finish fourth or fifth then, and not put the car in the wall or finish eighth or out of the points. I think that’s how it should work.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) To Vettel and Webber, if we’d had a normal qualifying yesterday with Ferrari and McLaren closer to your team, do you think the result of the race would have been the same?
MW:
No. It was a luxury today, for Seb and I, not to have to kill the engines, kill the tyres, kill everything because the gap to the other guys was more comfortable, no question about it. But Nico drove a good race, but I think there were some quicker guys, maybe particularly Lewis, who had a different day, starting at the back. Tactically the race could have been a little bit different if he was around, or Fernando or Felipe (Massa). I obviously didn’t see how their race went. Obviously Fernando didn’t finish at the end. As Jack Brabham used to say: ‘win at the slowest possible speed.’ One second or thirty seconds is the same result. We were very much in control of today’s race. It’s not always going to be like that but when it is, you have to make the most of it.
SV: Not much to add. Walter Röhrl once said that he’s not interested in winning a rally by one second having had a close fight. He wants to destroy the others and win by a minute, so two great drivers, one in rallying, one in Formula One, but I think that in the end, especially here, the result is obviously most important for us. We got good points. As Mark said, it probably wasn’t the easiest race for Ferrari and McLaren, but still, it was a long hot race and first you have to go out and do it.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Mark, you had a different strategy to Sebastian; do you think that without the problem you had in the pit stop you could have passed him, after the pit stop?
MW:
I don’t think the pit stop cost me the victory. The start cost me the victory and then when the first car is leading, he sort of has priority or the luxury when he can stop. It was clear. Obviously if I stopped first there was a big chance I could jump Sebastian but that would not have been fair for the guy who was leading. It was really down to the start and who had track position in the first stint. I knew, when Sebastian peeled off for his stop, I pushed. Obviously I found quite a bit more pace on the in-lap but it’s not enough to take on the fresh tyres of a competitor who in this case was Seb, because we know the cars are the same weight. In seasons gone by obviously the cars were different weights because of the fuel. Now they’re the same weight and fresh tyres, so it’s very difficult to fight and then, as you say, the pit stop was a little bit of salt in the wounds or a fly in the ointment. It doesn’t help things.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Nico, you said you were really satisfied after your third place, but it also underlines how far you are from the Red Bulls, so doesn’t that frustrate you?
NR:
Frustrating? No, I would not say it was frustrating. It’s really early days. The team has just come together in the way it is now with Petronas and Mercedes and the ex-Brawn team. I think we’ve started the season OK with two fifth places and now a third place. I think it’s a good start with some solid results and I’m happy with that and it’s very important now that we push on because we need to develop faster than the others, which is not going to be easy, but I’m confident that we can do the job and that’s going to be the most important thing, to really push on now. Looking at today, it didn’t seem to be such a huge gap to Red Bull at the beginning. I’m not sure, but anyway, it’s definitely some tenths that we need to catch up.

Malaysian Thursday press conference

Kamui Kobayashi, Karun Chandhok, Nico Rosberg and Rubens Barrichello

Kamui Kobayashi, Karun Chandhok, Nico Rosberg and Rubens Barrichello

Today before Friday Practice 1 tomorrow we had Rubens Barrichello, Karun Chandhok (in his first ever conference), Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Rosberg. Here is the full transcript:

Q: Karun, obviously a very steep learning curve for you this year. Tell us about it.
Karun Chandhok: It is not ideal. I don’t think anyone in F1 has gone straight into qualifying without testing or a single lap of free practice. Bahrain was far from ideal. It is going to be very tough. With the car we didn’t do any winter testing. We are two months behind the programme, but we will keep chipping away and see where we end up. Melbourne was a step forward. We got one car to the finish and that was a step in itself. The more miles we do, the more we learn about the car. These guys were lucky to be pounding around Valencia, Barcelona and Jerez in the winter time and we didn’t get that opportunity, so unfortunately we are testing in public in front of all you guys and all these cameras and it is not easy, but these are the cards we have been dealt with, so we will do the best job we can.

Q: What are the effects of the finish in Melbourne? What sort of things did you learn?
KC: First of all, morale-wise it was good for the boys. The mechanics on my car worked two nights straight in Bahrain, two nights straight in Melbourne. They just went back to shower and came straight back to the circuit. It was a fantastic effort from the guys in the garage. It is good for them to have put in all that work and see a car get to the finish. For them it is a morale boost. For us as a team we learnt a lot. We have never done the long runs with these tyres before. We learnt a lot about what the car is like on 160-170kgs, whatever it was. There is so much to learn. For me it was a bit strange as I have never been lapped before in my life in normal circumstances and it was quite difficult. It had drizzled or rained at the beginning of the race, so going off-line was quite tricky. I didn’t want to get in any of these guys’ way, so I tried to get out of the way but it was a very strange race.

Q: Where do you think the pace is going to come from? Is it from you, from just learning how to use the tyres, the engine, just the chassis, the set-up, the experience?
KC: All of the above. I think we are both rookies in the team, so we have got a lot to learn obviously. Qualifying in particular is quite critical in F1 and learning about how you have got to bring the tyres in for the one lap and get the tyres to the optimum temperature and pressure for your qualifying lap. In GP2 we did not have tyre warmers and so the way you went about was a bit different. In Melbourne, for example, that was my mistake. I was too slow on the out lap, just building the tyres up gently, and I dumped four tenths to myself just between lap one and lap two of the first sector because I did not know how to get the tyres in for lap one. Just small things like that. There is a lot to learn as drivers for the team. It is not rocket science. We need downforce. That is the big thing in F1 and we are a long way behind these guys in terms of downforce levels. Mechanically as well I think the first step was to get the car finished and now we are trying to develop it.

Q: Kamui, you had two-and-a-half tremendous races last year and then the two races so far this year. Tell us the difference between the two as they were fantastic races last year for Toyota, but so far this year it hasn’t been fantastic.
Kamui Kobayashi: I think the last two races for me were very really bad luck. In the first one I had a problem with the hydraulics which I was not really expecting from the winter test. In the last race I think the front wing failed, but also for me it was quite difficult. Last year the last two races for me were great. I had no testing, like only eight months and I expected it to be really hard but the car had good potential. I spent two years as a test driver, so it was very easy to communicate with everybody and really easy to get there. This year it’s a new team and we have to work hard. At the moment I am not showing the performance myself as I didn’t finish race, but the most important thing in the future is to finish the race.

Q: In testing the car looked very good. Do you think you are showing the true pace of it at the moment or is there more to come?
KK: Yeah, I think that’s our problem at the moment and we try to find a reason. The winter test was a great performance. We are not always looking for the top. A good place to be will be the second group on the top and this year is our best target. I think the winter test was a good shape and I think we are quite frustrated at the moment. In Bahrain the situation was a little bit difficult. We were struggling, especially on the bumps, and the car was really difficult to drive. But in Melbourne it was a good improvement for us. The position was difficult but pace-wise it was much closer with the guys in the second group, so I think it was a good step for us to improve. I think this week will be another step that we need to improve.

Q: Do you think this race will be better for you? It is a circuit you know, isn’t it?
KK: This is a circuit I know very well. I think I had two races at this circuit with GP2 Asia which was a good experience.

Q: Nico, in spite of two good finishes so far the team keeps saying it is not quite on the pace yet. Is it something that you know about or are not certain why?
Nico Rosberg: We know that we are not quite where we want to be yet, but I think that was to be expected in some ways. With Mercedes coming in and everything the team needs to grow. We have massive potential. A really strong group of people and strong support from Mercedes-Petronas, so I am very confident that very soon we will be able to close the gap.

Q: Tell us about the challenge of this circuit. What is important here?
NR: The track here in Malaysia is one of my nice favourite tracks. It is really nice to drive. There are lots of different combinations of corners and it is very challenging. It is going to be tough for the drivers because of the heat. It is one of the most challenging races for a driver’s fitness in the year but that’s why I did all my training in the winter, so I should be fine. Car-wise it is also quite demanding with the temperatures but I think we made some good progress on the set-up in Melbourne which should help us here also, so I am looking forward to a good weekend.

Q: What is it like being the team-mate of the most successful Formula One driver of all time?
NR: It has been a great experience for me as it is just interesting working with him. Until now the partnership with him has been very good. Everything has been open, very relaxed, so I am able to learn a few things and for me it has been a great opportunity.

Q: Rubens, you have done all 11 Malaysian Grands Prix. Tell us from your point of view the challenge of this circuit.
Rubens Barrichello: Much the same. It is one of my favourites. I think it has great types of corners. You go from very high speed to some low speed, quite technical corners. It is an aerodynamic driven track and you have to have a balance on the braking for you to get a fix on the corner ratio before you get back on the power, so it is quite nice. It is not easy to set up the car which makes it even more interesting. To get to a reasonable level is okay, but to get it really well set up for you to be really happy is not easy, so it is quite exciting.

Q: A new team for you this year. How are you finding Williams which is a very established team?
RB: A bunch of fighters, good people, good working method. We are working well together, a lot of fine tuning things to get to the bottom of it but working well together. I am delighted to be working with them. They are very open. There is a lot of freedom inside, so obviously they are getting to know Cosworth and Cosworth are getting to know them. It has been a good job. We are far away from where we think we can be but so far it is going in the right direction.

Q: Where do you feel you are in the hierarchy? Obviously, you feel as though you should be higher up.
RB: I think there is the top four doing better than us and then there is us Renault and Force India closely behind. It was fantastic to see Robert (Kubica) doing so well and going right up the front and keep up the pace as in qualifying we are pretty much the same. I think we can knock on the door of big points every time before we can put some new upgrades on the car and then really start to show what we are capable of.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Nico, where do you think your car can match the best cars on the grid?
NR: It’s going to be mainly aerodynamics, that’s where the main progress has to come from. One of the things is obviously the McLaren invention or whatever that is, which all the teams are looking at, at the moment, and then there’s also some mechanical things we believe that we can do better and those developments will be coming very soon. I was in the factory about two weeks ago and they presented the developments to me and it’s looking very promising, so for me it was really encouraging and I look forward to seeing how it goes.

Q: (Santhosh Kumar – Deccan Chronicle) Rubens, you are inching towards 300 Grand Prix appearances. As the most experienced driver on the grid, what is your impression of Karun Chandhok and do you have any advice for him?
RB: It’s like he said, I think he’s probably the very first driver to going straight into qualifying in Formula One history, so I think he’s done quite well. It must have been such an adventure of a rollercoaster, going into that qualifier not knowing the car and how quickly it would go. I think that so far there’s no bad stuff. You cannot see how fast either he or Bruno (Senna) are going because the car is not showing what they can do, because at the moment, you would like to see their car going throughout the one and a half hours (of practice). They would have time to sit down and talk about the set-up. Right now they are trying to fix the problems before getting the set-up, so it’s just ‘keep the feet on the ground and do the work.’ Honestly, I can say that I haven’t been in a situation like that. I’ve been young, like them, but I had cars that although they had reliability problems, I was able to run and get to know them. There was testing beforehand, so for them it must be a lot more difficult. For me, Formula One is a lot easier now. I can just concentrate on racing, that’s why I’m still thinking that I can do another 300 – not!

Q: (Ted Kravitz – BBC Sport) Rubens and Nico, you’ve effectively swapped seats. What would you say was the one difference from your previous teams to your current one, and if you could give each other one piece of advice about taking the other one’s seat, what would it be?
RB: I haven’t thought of that.
NR: It’s true. We even have the same engineers. We have, literally, swapped seats. Differences? It’s difficult, there’s not a big difference. Yes, you see some small differences in the way that the working environment is and the ways of going about things, but Williams is strong in some areas, we’re stronger in others, so it’s not a night and day difference. And advice is a bit more difficult, isn’t it?
RB: When I come to a new team, I come with the experience of the whole lot, I don’t come with the experience of Brawn last year, how they do this or that. Obviously you leave the team and you have some of the experience of what they were planning to have this year and you tend to speak out and tell the team what you know about it and how to attack. So my philosophy is to learn the team and then try to say, ‘look, this never worked in a team like Ferrari or Brawn and it never will’, so we tend to go from there. But the Williams team is very well based. They were winners from the past and it’s just a question of time before they win again. Again, on the Brawn side, I’ve had a happy time there, so there’s no bad advice as such. Maybe tell Jocky (Clear) not to punch the helmet before the race as he goes (thump) ‘good luck’. The sound isn’t great inside the helmet.
NR: He hasn’t done that to me yet, but I will tell him after this.

Q: (Chris Lines – Associated Press) Karun, you’ve started so far behind in terms of preparation and we look at all the new teams and there seems to be a mini-competition between them. Are you so far back that you can’t even hope to catch up to those guys or do you feel that you have a chance by getting back to Europe, developing the car?
KC: We’ll wait and see. At the moment, this weekend, I think it’s highly unlikely that we will be in a position to chase either Lotus or Virgin in terms of performance. As I said before, at the moment there’s no real performance upgrades on the car. There are bits coming out of Europe all the time but they’re just bits to try and get the car more reliable. It’s performance bits at the moment, they will only come once we go back to Europe. We’ve got a good team of people on board. Obviously Geoff Willis has come as technical director, we’ve got Toni Cuquerella who has come from BMW, the engineers as well, we’ve got a lot of people who have come from either BMW or Williams or Renault, so there’s people with recent F1 experience in the team. Rome wasn’t built in a day. We need to put the structure in place and get everyone working in the same direction. They’ve all got their ideas of how these respected teams did things. They now have to put it together and make sure it’s unified in a way that Hispania would do things. Like I said, there’s good enough people there to steer a development programme. I’m not here to drive around at the back of the grid for the rest of the season. I wouldn’t have signed with Colin (Kolles) and the team if I didn’t think there was potential to at least fight with the other new teams. The first half of the season is going to be tough but hopefully we can start to fight to be best of the new teams in the second half of the season. Relative to the existing teams, I think the gap is quite big at the moment. You look at qualifying in Melbourne, it was nearly two seconds between the top of the new teams and the last of the existing teams. That’s quite a big gap to bridge. Whether that gap will be closed during the season we shall wait and see. I doubt it but we can certainly try and close the gap and try, and I hope to be the best of the new teams in the second half of the season.

Q: (Chris Lines – Associated Press) Kamui, your front wing came off three times in Australia; has that been sorted out?
KK: I think the front wing has three times… there was no problem with the front wing but the first one was because of my mistake at the beginning (of free practice). I hit a pylon at the fast corner. I think we tried to repair it and maybe there was still a problem with it and maybe some mis-communication in the team and we didn’t change the complete kit of the front wing. I think that was the problem with the second wing. And the last wing was maybe because of some contact with someone. It was not really a big crash, or whatever, but maybe I touched the front wing just a little bit and suddenly after some corners, I think it was after the start with (Vitaly) Petrov and then turn three with Tonio (Liuzzi) and this was our only chance, and after turn five the wing was on but suddenly I lost the front wing on the straight. For me there was nothing to do. We just have to make a stronger front wing.

Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Rubens, Michael says that he needs some time to find the rhythm again to fight against you all. As a former team-mate and an experienced driver, do you have an explanation why he’s struggling to find the pace again?
RB: Well, give him the time, that’s all I can say. I don’t know. I haven’t stopped for three years and come back. I will sometime. I will give myself a chance!

Q: (Ralf Bach – R & B) Rubens, are you surprised that Nico is the quicker driver at the moment in the Mercedes team or are you surprised that they allowed him to be quicker?
RB: Why is the question for me? Why don’t you ask them? Well, honestly I am surprised, surprised in the way that you stop, you come back to a new Formula One that is all different and people improve and different cars and so on. But I am surprised. I think Nico is doing a super job.

Australian GP press conference

Jenson Button, with Felipe Massa and an extremely interested Robert Kubica

Jenson Button, with Felipe Massa and an extremely interested Robert Kubica

Today we saw Jenson Button take his first win for McLaren, and Robert Kubica take a well-deserved second place for Renault. Here is the transcript of the post-race press conference:

Q: Jenson, an incredible race. 50 laps plus on a set of soft tyres. You made the early gamble for the slick tyres and that was the game changer. Was that your call?
Jenson Button:
It was. I think it is a lot easier for the drivers to feel the conditions. The team can see it on TV with the clouds coming in, but we can feel out on the circuit what is happening. I didn’t have a balance on the inters, I was really struggling and I lost a couple of places, so I thought ‘let’s get in, stick the slicks on.’ There was a dry line. A few places were a little bit wet. When I went into the pit lane I thought I had made a catastrophic decision as it was soaking wet in the pit lane. But once I got it going and up to speed, I had a little off at turn three, but the pace was pretty good and I was able to put in some good laps and overtake three or four cars when they stopped and put their tyres on, so it was the right call and I am very happy that I made it.

Q: How do you feel to win on the second race with your new team?
JB:
I mean, it is very special. It has taken me a little while to get to grips inside the car. The team has been fantastic though. They have really welcomed me in, but it has taken me a little bit of time to adapt to inside the cockpit. I don’t know what to say really, it is very difficult to put it into words. But a very special feeling and we will take a lot from this. I feel I am just building in confidence and hopefully when we get to the next race we can do something similar as this feels too good.

Q: Robert, you went from ninth to fourth at the start, then decided not to take a second pit stop for a new set of tyres. How hard was that call for you?
Robert Kubica:
It was difficult because we struggled with the warm-up, so when we saw Jenson being very quick we just pitted in the same lap as Felipe did. Our guys, the mechanics, did a fantastic job and I overtook Felipe in the pit stop but Jenson was much quicker with one or two laps already on the tyres. He built the temperature up, so they are very quick on the straight lines and I was not confident about the conditions as it was my first lap going through the corners with the slick tyres, so it was very difficult to fight with Jenson. It was tough. First of all I thought we would pit again. Then when I had really big degradation I asked my team if we are going to pit again and they said if we can manage we will not do it, so I took a bit more care with the tyres. But on the other hand I had first of all Lewis attacking quite strongly. He came very quickly behind me and I then…, I don’t know, he decided to pit. Then Felipe again, so I was just taking care of the tyres but also keeping good speed and that we would keep second place to the end.

Q: Felipe, it looked like pretty hard work early on and then the race came towards you and two podiums in two races.
Felipe Massa:
It is just fantastic, especially coming to Australia. My best result here was sixth. Having a problem in the qualifying and starting last in 2007 and then getting here which I cannot say was the best race for me. In terms of pace I was struggling a lot yesterday, but I did a fantastic start. We lost some positions on the pit stop and also a little bit on the track because of some mistakes with the difficult track. But it is just fantastic to have one second and one third. We know how important this is for the championship, especially my past. At the beginning of the championship I never had a lot of points like I have now, so this is very nice. The team did a fantastic job, so very happy to finish third in a difficult race like this.

Q: Jenson, Lewis pitted for a second set of tyres and complained about it afterwards on the radio. How did that decision process play out with you and the team and him?
JB:
I don’t know what their idea of pitting was. I guess he was stuck behind Robert and couldn’t get past. I never thought of putting on a second set. I didn’t think that would be an option really. It was always to run the race on one set of tyres if we could after it stopped raining. My pace was not great once I settled into the car. I felt I was starting to damage the rear tyres, so I settled into a pace that was consistent to not destroy the rears. The good thing was Robert was not closing and about 20 laps to go I started pushing just to pull the gap a little more just in case people had pitted and were two to three seconds a lap faster and it was just enough to get me to the end comfortably. We could not have done a better strategy. I think my decision at the beginning was my call but from a lot of feedback from what the circuit was doing and the other cars. It is always a team effort and I need to thank the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team for all their hard work and it is good to see we are improving every step of the way.

Q: Robert, this is the first time you have finished in Melbourne. What does this result mean for you and the Renault team?
RK:
Unfortunately, Australia was never lucky for me. I have been very quick each year and could finish in the last two years easy on the podium but for two crashes I didn’t manage it. To be honest we were not expecting to finish on the podium, so I think for Renault and myself it is a very special result as we were trying to push really hard during the winter. This is the best result we could get from the beginning of the season and it is a big thanks to the guys for all their effort but we have to keep realistic. We are not up to the pace for fighting for the podium in a normal race, so we have to keep pushing, keep working and I am sure we will manage sooner or later to be with the pace of the top teams.

Q: Felipe, a sweet moment for you at the start and a reverse of what happened in Bahrain. You passed your team-mate Fernando Alonso. Tell us about it.
FM:
Actually, I had a fantastic start, so I was able to do the start without wheel spin and I saw many cars in front, especially Fernando and Webber doing some wheel spin and I was able to do a very smooth start and pass them in a good way. I was very happy for the start and also the whole race was very difficult. Lots of slippery, low grip everywhere and to finish the race was very difficult today.

Q: Jenson, the track was damp at the start but when it dried out why was it so much easier today to overtake? Why was there so much more overtaking than there was in the first grand prix in Bahrain? Can you explain that?
JB:
I think it comes down to degradation. You had a lot of cars out of place which is different to Bahrain. The top eight cars were in the top eight slots pretty much. I think a lot of it is the degradation of the tyres. There was a lot of rear graining, some people did two stops, some people did one stop. Some people were trying to look after tyres, other people were pushing hard. There were lots of different ideas out there and it is great to see as, as you said, Bahrain was not the most exciting grand prix. I love that place and it was disappointing not to have a good grand prix, but here I knew what was going on. I could see quite a bit on the TV screens and it did look like a very exciting race. Hopefully we are going to have more races like this and that is what we all love.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Jenson, second win here in Australia. You must be getting to like the place.
JB:
It is. It is. The start of the race wasn’t perfect for me. I touched with Fernando at turn one. I was half-way alongside him on the inside and I don’t know if he just couldn’t see me because of the mirrors. I don’t know what, but we touched. It obviously cost him a lot of time and it cost me a lot of time. It wasn’t the best start to the race and then on the inters I was really struggling. I just did not have a balance. A lot of oversteer in the car. There were very strange grip levels out there on the tyre and I was really, really struggling. I could see a dry line appearing in most places and at the rate my rear tyres were going away I knew there must have been enough grip for slicks. I made the call to pit early as I thought if I don’t pit early I am just going to keep going backwards. I thought it was a terrible call initially as the pit lane was so wet and after my first lap out of the pits I thought it was a pretty catastrophic mistake. But after that I could get into it. I found on the dry parts I could push pretty hard and then really it was about picking people off as they came out onto the circuit. It was a nice feeling as they are searching for the grip and I know where it is and I am able to overtake. It was a good feeling. I got up behind Sebastian and made a little mistake, ran wide, so I couldn’t really have a go at him. He obviously had his own problems. But from then on I just had to conserve the tyres. I had a big issue on about lap 15 where the rears just started going away from me and I had a lot of graining from the rear and I thought that’s it for me, they’re just going to swallow me up. I took a lot of front wing out, closed the diff and just hoped for the best really. Towards the end of the race I could start pushing and got the balance back and the car felt very good. I was in a very happy place the last 20 laps knowing I had a good gap and it would have been very difficult for anyone to catch me.

Q: What about the pace of Sebastian? Do you think you could have got on terms with him?
JB:
I was catching him initially and it was strange. He would start pulling away and I would start pulling him in. Then the team said you have got to look after these tyres. You are going to try and do the whole race on these tyres, 45, 50 laps, and I thought we will back off a little bit and see where we are. From previous experience, I don’t know if it is the case now, but the Red Bulls have been quite tough on their rear tyres. I just settled into a pace and we would see what would happen. I don’t know. If he had stayed in the race there are always ifs and buts and we don’t know how he would have ended up. The important thing is we came away with a win for whatever reason and I am very happy. The team should be very proud of themselves. We didn’t put a foot wrong.

Q: Robert, surprised to be second?
RK:
After yesterday, yes. Before the season, I think after two tests, I called my friend and I said ‘I think in Australia it will be possible to finish on the podium.’ It was around two months ago. Of course we were planning to finish on the podium with our pace. As we saw yesterday our pace was far off the podium but with this strange race we were able to make a lot of places and finish second.

Q: Do you think the higher temperature today was better for you whereas the low temperature yesterday wasn’t so good?
RK:
We know where we are struggling and I think yesterday was unfortunately a good example. We were very strong in P1 where there was a lot of sunshine and hot track conditions. Extremely competitive. Then unfortunately clouds came in for all weekend and the temperature dropped down and we were just struggling. We were not able to stress the tyre and increase the temperature, especially every lap of their usage. This was the case in qualifying. Okay, we are still not up to the pace of the top cars but today was a good example of not giving up and with a hard job, sometimes you get paid back.

Q: How much of a challenge did you have from the Ferrari?
RK:
I had more challenge from Hamilton and I was very surprised he pitted. First of all I thought it was a drive through as for me it was strange that he was pitting. He was much quicker than me. He was not far behind Jenson and at that point of the race if he had managed to overtake me, most probably he would go for it. He had quite a difficult time to catch me although there were a couple of places where he was very close to me and I think once he overshoot the braking. We were very close to touch, but then I had to take care of my tyres. Felipe came quite quickly behind me but I knew the cars behind they would struggle even more with the tyres, so I just settled to the consistent lap. As soon as I tried to push I did like three or four-tenths quicker a lap but then the lap again was four-tenths slower, so I just put up my pace which I thought would be reasonable without mistakes and try to bring the car home.

Q: Felipe, tell us a little bit about the first corner. What happened there?
FM:
The start?

Q: Yes.
FM:
I just did a great start, so I was able to spin the wheels much less than the cars in front. I was changing gears very quickly just to not get it to go into the wheel spin as the grip was very low. That gave me a lot of possibilities to just go through. I saw Fernando and Mark spinning the wheels and that was just great, especially to arrive at the first corner. It was very slippery to brake at the right place and not try to fight with everybody. It was a good point of the race.

Q: And you had quite big challenges from both Mark and Lewis during the race.
FM:
Yes, I made some mistakes. My tyres were suffering, trying to keep the tyres in the right condition, at the right temperature, especially at the beginning of the race. I was suffering from that yesterday as well. But then after 20 laps, let’s say, they started to improve a lot. Maybe I picked up the pace with a bit of degradation and I started to do my race twenty laps after I changed my tyres. For sure, we had some fights and I lost some positions in the race. But the team did a great job with the strategy, not to stop, and I think that was a great job for the top three.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Jenson, would you have ever thought that it would take you only two races to win your first race with McLaren?
JB:
No. I thought it would take longer than this, but a lot of it depends on what sort of car you come out of the box with. This race was obviously unusual. I don’t know where we would stand in general pace but it’s not what all racing is about. It’s about strategy, it’s about thinking and it’s about conserving and we did it correctly today and we came away with a good victory. This is very special. Whatever happens over the next few races, this means a lot to me, to be in this position right now. After being with one team for seven years and clinching the title and here, after two races, getting a victory is very special to me. A lot of that goes to the team for their efforts and making me feel welcome within the team, because that’s something I do need, to be competitive, and I have that. So now we’ve just got to look at improving the car because out and outright pace in qualifying is something that we’re lacking a little bit, so it’s an area we desperately need to work on. When you can get good points’ finishes like this it really does mean a lot to you when you don’t have a car that you think is quick enough to win races every weekend, so these are important points for us and we’ve just got to work hard and hope that we can bring some good packages to the next few races.

Q: Jenson, there’s been a lot of talk over the last couple of days over Bahrain; is this the race that might put the suggestions to rest for a while?
JB:
I don’t think there’s any getting away from the fact that we probably all thought that the last race was not the most exciting and what were we going to do about it now, but I’m glad that we haven’t really jumped to too many conclusions or ideas, because I think this race was a great race. I had a lot of fun; obviously when you win the race you have more fun than any other position but overtaking cars on the circuit and watching on the screen I could see that there was a lot of action going on. I hope it’s not just because of the weather conditions. I hope that we can have races like this because this is what we love and hopefully these sorts of races are here to stay. You are going to have races that aren’t the most exhilarating experience for us but that’s the way it is. Not every football match is fun to watch. It’s got to be a bit of a balance, I think. One thing that was pretty tricky in this race was the light. I had a clear visor and at the end of the race I was struggling to see on the last few laps. It seemed a lot darker than last year. I suppose it was because there was no sunlight, it was all behind clouds, so that might be something we need to look at a little bit.

Q: (Flavio Vanetti – Corriere della Sera) Felipe, did you have a real chance to catch Robert, and what about the duels you had during the race with Fernando, except of course the first one at the first turn?
FM:
Well, I caught Robert but we didn’t have very good top speed on the straight and when I got very close, I lost a lot of grip, so it was not possible to get close enough to try to pass. So the only time I was passed was because I made a mistake in the second last corner, and then Lewis passed me and then I also made a mistake in turn one and then Mark passed me, so that was the only way I lost a position. So when you get very close, it was quite difficult and also Fernando, when he was behind me, sometimes he was just locking wheels. Then you see a guy coming closer and then you just do two good laps and then he’s far away with no possibility to pass, but it was a good fight from everybody, not just from me and Fernando but from most of the cars on the track. Most of the cars on the track were fighting the whole race, I think.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) To all of you; Red Bull has the fastest car but they are off the podium for the second race running. What do you think of that?
RK:
Better for us.
JB: I think they have got a very quick car and for whatever reason they aren’t here. I think reliability was the issue for Sebastian at the first race and I don’t know what happened here, so I can’t really say much on that.

Q: (Sudhir Chandran – Chequered Flag) Robert, you mentioned about those laps with Lewis behind you. Was it as difficult to keep him behind you as it appeared to us?
RK:
It was quite difficult because we are quite quick on the straight but McLaren, with the device that they are using, they are extremely quick and it was very, very difficult. He was much quicker than me, his tyres were in better shape and he had a more competitive car. I knew that without a mistake it would be difficult for him to overtake me, but I think he once tried before corner eleven and I didn’t see him in the mirrors and I thought he was on the inside. I left a space and it just shows that they were really quick. Jenson was side-by-side with me in the middle of the straight going into turn 13. That’s how it is. I was surprised when he pitted. It was very good for me, because I could just concentrate on saving the tyres, driving my pace and not concentrating on looking in the mirror and just blocking him, so it was a much better, much easier race for me.

Q: (Chris Lines – Associated Press) Jenson, could you tell us about the decision-making within McLaren? You stayed out, Lewis was called in. How much of that was the driver’s call and how much of it was the team’s call? Also, your thoughts on the first corner: Fernando got caught between you and Michael (Schumacher).
JB:
It’s always a very tricky corner here. It’s very, very narrow. When one person gets a bad start it can be a bit of a nightmare. Fernando got a poor start, so that meant that I was on the inside, Michael was on the outside and it’s difficult for three cars to get through turn one as we saw. But when you’re in a racing environment it’s very difficult and it can also be very dangerous to back out of that situation, because if you hit the brakes during the straight, you can cause a big accident behind you. I think it was just one of those things and I’m sorry for Fernando that he was turned around. It cost me a lot of places as well. So that was turn one, really. It was very slippery as well, so it was tricky for us on heavy fuel.
As for the stops, I don’t know if it was Lewis’s decision or the team’s. For me, I didn’t think we would be pitting at all, because that was never the idea for us, and that’s why I was looking after the tyres. Maybe he was graining the rears or maybe he flat-spotted a front or something, I don’t know. But it’s very tricky to look after the tyres when you’re behind another car as we’ve seen many times before, so maybe his tyres were getting seriously damaged behind Robert.

Q: An open question: how difficult is it to pass, with the cars’ aerodynamics the way they are, because we saw Hamilton and Webber really struggling towards the end with obviously better tyres. Is it extremely difficult this year or is it just the same as other years?
JB:
I found it very difficult in Bahrain. You’ve got a much smaller front tyre, so mechanically you have less grip, so when you lose the downforce by following other cars, which inevitably happens, you have less mechanical grip, so you have less grip. I think it’s more difficult this year. If we have another race like this where we have mixed conditions and the tyres are graining and people do two stops and some people do one, I think we can have a great race and especially in somewhere like Malaysia where it’s wide, it’s open, you can overtake, I think we can have a really exciting race, but here you’re a little bit limited to overtaking, so I’m surprised there was so much.
RK: I don’t think it’s just the tyres. For me actually it’s easier to overtake this year than it was in the past, because I’m driving a car that has better top speed. There’s quite a lot of percentage if you have good top speed or not and you want to overtake. If you are the quickest car in a straight line it’s easier to overtake than if you are the slowest. I don’t think it’s just the tyres, it’s everything. It’s always been very difficult to overtake in F1.

Q: (Tom Cary – The Daily Telegraph) Jenson, you appear very calm at the moment; how does the first win for McLaren compare with you first win with Brawn 12 months ago?
JB:
You can’t really compare victories like that. They are both very special but they are very different and the emotions that were going through my head before and after the race were very different also than last year. This one is a special victory because I’ve only been with this team for a short period of time but this is one of the main reasons why I wanted to be here. I think that the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team is pretty much always fighting it out for victories and as a driver you want to be in that situation. But on the other hand, I think the conditions helped us in this race, definitely. We’re not in the position to go to the next two or three races and walk away with victories, so we’ve got to enjoy this moment and think that we’ve got some good points when we’re not the quickest and we’ve got to work on the areas where we think we’re weak. We’re doing that right now and I think that every race we go to from here we will be closer and closer to the front when it comes to qualifying and hopefully race pace is pretty much there now.

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