Chinese GP: Saturday Press Conference
Drivers: 1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 1m 36.184s; 2. Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1m 36.381s; 3. Mark Webber (Red Bull), 1m36.466s
Q: Sebastian, a fantastic lap. But very last minute runs both in Q1 and Q2. Tell us about your qualifying sessions.
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, it was always last minute. I only had one run in Q1 on the hard tire and one run at the end of Q2 on the soft tire and one run in Q3. Obviously, as you can see, you don’t need more but it was not easy. We had a problem with the car, so we tried to run as little as possible. The car was quick as you could see and Mark did two runs in Q1 and Q2 and was always up there, so very quick, so I basically had no concerns. But still if you only have one lap and if you have any mistake, you go wide or whatever, there is no second chance and it means it is the end. It was not so easy but I am very, very happy. Unbelievable we made it to pole position in the end. Yesterday was already quite good. We had some little problems. This morning was not ideal but it seems that similar to Australia the less I run in free practice the better it is in qualifying, so I am very, very pleased, very happy for the team and especially thanks to all the mechanics as they have been working really, really hard. As I said we had some difficulties with the car and they were working basically all night, so a great job by them. Thanks.
Q: Two brilliant laps under pressure. No mistakes on a day when many drivers were making mistakes. Talk us through that lap in Q3 and the pressure you were under.
SV: Well, I saw that everyone was observing the others for their first run and I saw the track improvement from Q2, so I was quite confident. Obviously you do not know what to expect and it is difficult when it is your first run on the higher fuel load. You cannot adapt, it has to be alright from the beginning and fortunately it was. It was a very good lap. I was extremely happy. Towards the end of the lap I felt the tires going off but I think it was just right, so up to the last corner it was basically very good and I had a lot of grip. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s race. It is a long, long race. Obviously we have the best position to start but we haven’t scored any points yet. Mark did in the last race, but I think we have the car to do so, so let’s hope tomorrow that the car keeps together and we have a good smooth race.
Q: Fernando, your first front row start since the Spanish Grand Prix last year and what a weekend for Renault. Flying out that new diffuser at the last minute and problems with the fitting of the new diffuser this morning and going out basically with a car you had never driven before.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, I think it has been a strange weekend for us with a completely new car this morning and as you said we only completed three laps this morning, so we arrived in qualifying with some doubts. It was just a blind qualifying for us and we didn’t know how the car would respond but we are extremely happy with the result for sure and this is a big motivation for the whole team because they have been working flat out for weeks. Yesterday as Sebastian said, I think it was the same for many teams. The guys only slept one or two hours and after this enormous job I think you have to deliver when you are in the car. There is no time to make a mistake or do anything wrong, so I am happy with the performance today and this is all thanks to a big effort from the team.
Q: I assume there is a lot more grip in the car now. Talk us through the moment when you felt the car for the first time and what you have been missing in the first two races and how good this car may feel to you now.
FA: Well, I think the first races were not a disaster. I think the car felt more or less okay but we were not quick enough. If you put in the car three or four tenths you move up like eight or nine places. This is what is interesting from this championship that any step forward, any new part you add to the car, it can really make a big difference in positions and we proved it today. The team improved the car and suddenly we are competitive. Obviously we need to see tomorrow with fuel loads, etc. But we went into Q3 more or less comfortable and this is something new which we did not have in the first two races.
Q: You had the KERS system on the engine for the first two races but not here. Talk a little about that change as well.
FA: Well, I think we did some more analysis to see how the device works in some circuits and we saw that it was time to do a real test and also we had some concerns. We had problems in Malaysia with maybe the rain, there was some water in the system, and we know that is not ideal in terms of safety. For safety reasons and just to do a test we don’t have KERS this race.
Q: Mark, Renault one-two-three. You were on the pole for a little while there but a great result for you and the team.
Mark Webber: Absolutely. I think the work that has gone in, as Sebastian has touched on, from our team over the last few weeks has been incredible. It would have been nice to have both of us on the front row but Fernando did a good lap as well. The session itself was not unbeatable but I was expecting it to be a little bit tighter but we will see how the fuel loads go tomorrow. But we have done a very good job. Q2 for us was strong and the car is behaving very well with a lot of grip, so I was pretty happy.
Q: It was not that long ago that you were on the ground with a broken leg. A fantastic achievement for you over the winter to be P3 in the Chinese Grand Prix.
MW: Yeah, that’s right. It has been a very testing winter for me. I wasn’t quick in winter testing either, the leg was not that straightforward to be honest and some of the other injuries I had but I had some good people around me. I have been incredibly determined to get in the best condition I can and the best shape possible to overcome the injuries that I have had to give this youngster a hard time and so far it is working and we are pushing each other hard, so it is working well.
Q: Sebastian, as we go into the race there is a tire issue tomorrow. There is the tire choice and strategy to make. That has proved to be quite difficult. Equally from your point of view some unreliability issues will no doubt be in your mind.
SV: Yeah, I mean first of all I am happy that Fernando does not have the KERS. We saw in the last race that he was defending quite well and obviously here you have a very long straight line, so you can make a difference. That is very good for both of us but we will see. It is a long race and we have to see how the car is after checking it in parc fermé, what shape it is for tomorrow. But I am confident that the boys will do a very good job. Then we will see tomorrow. It is a long race, 56 laps, and obviously as I said, we have the best position to start but no points yet, so no reason for podium feelings yet. It is a long, long way to go. Anything can happen. Who knows. We have to focus hard and see where we are tomorrow.
Q: Sebastian, tell us about what happened today and particularly last night. What has been fitted on the car, the problems today as I believe you both had broken drive shafts. Did that problem impact on your qualifying and does it impact on the race as well?
SV: Okay, to start with, first of all, as you said, we had a problem with the car, so unfortunately both of us couldn’t get enough laps. But thankfully the others were running, so we could see roughly how the tires behaved. Then in qualifying the mechanics did a very good job and they fixed the car. Also yesterday, overnight, they had very little sleep, so basically it is all down to them. They were working really, really hard, so thanks for that. Basically in qualifying, after the first run in Q1, we noticed we had the same problem again as this morning and we were really concerned that the car would not last for the rest of the qualifying, so we agreed on doing basically as little laps as necessary and see if we can manage to get through. Basically Mark always got two runs in Q1 and Q2, so we could see that the car was very quick, so that was a good sign for me sitting in the garage and watching the others driving. In Q1 it was quite tight, we were only 13th but at the end it was enough. In Q2 I had one run which is not easy as you know that if you have any kind of problem, miss the apex or brake too late, then you are out as you don’t have a second chance. Thankfully that was not necessary and we made it through. In Q3 again we were hoping the car would last but it is not an easy situation but in the end you sit in the car and try to forget everything what happens around you and focus on your job, so I focused on driving which I enjoy. Every time I got the lap together I was very happy and in the end it was even enough for pole. That is a very, very good sign. We have the best position to start tomorrow but no points yet. It is a long, long way to go, 56 laps, anything can happen, so we will have to keep digging and see tomorrow.
Q: How much has the car been modified overnight and how different has it felt?
SV: Well, we did some minor modifications, I would say, nothing big. We adjusted the set up, basically fine tuned it a little bit but we didn’t change it as much as probably Fernando overnight. But yesterday was already quite good but today it was even better in qualifying. Very, very quick, so very happy with that. The car feels good. It is a pleasure to drive. There is a lot of grip, so it is fun and let’s hope for the same amount of grip tomorrow and let’s hope that we manage to handle the tires well and do a good race.
Q: So you don’t need a diffuser or KERS then?
SV: Well, I mean first of all I am happy that Fernando does not have KERS as it is quite a way down to turn one. You could see the last race that he was defending very well against all the others. It is a good thing for us, for Mark and me, but obviously you are always wishing to have a better car, even better, even better. We are pushing hard at home in the factory. The guys are pushing hard to get new parts and to make the car even quicker. I think we surprised already quite a lot of people in the first two races and also today regarding the speed of our car. But again today was a good day for us, for the whole team, but tomorrow you get the points, so the most important day is tomorrow.
Q: Just to clarify, the problems you had today you can change for the race?
SV: Well, obviously, as I said, it was always a difficult situation sitting in the car and now knowing if it would last or not. You try to forget when you are on your hot lap but we will see for tomorrow. I hope the boys can fix it and I hope it will last tomorrow. In the end we both had the problem this morning. In qualifying only I had the problem, so Mark’s car was fine as far as I heard and I hope that both of our cars are without any trouble tomorrow.
Q: Fernando, a completely different car for you today to what you had yesterday. How different did it feel to you?
FA: Not much.
Q: And yet it produced the time.
FA: It’s quicker. More grip.
Q: How can you have extra confidence in it when you haven’t spent very much time with it?
FA: I think it will take time to maximize the potential of the car that we have at the moment. We keep changing the car constantly in the first two races and at this one, again, a big update in the car, so it will take time to get the maximum of the car and to really get confidence, but I think we are working in the right direction, that’s for sure and the results are getting better and better from Australia to here, so we cannot stop now. It’s time to deliver, it’s time to really work hard and we need to recover the gap that the top teams now have.
Q: Is it a surprise that you’re sitting on the front row?
FA: Yes, a lot. I’m very happy. Obviously our goal for this race is to score as many points as possible, to score some points. For today, for qualifying, I think Q3 was the biggest target, our biggest priority to be in Q3. We reached Q3 a little bit more comfortably than in the other two races, so that was a good sign and then when you are in Q3, it’s down to the fuel loads and different strategies for the race, so we will see tomorrow, but I think we achieved our targets at every race and here Q3 was the target and then Q3 was just a strategy thing more than a surprise.
Q: Is the strategy that complicated here?
FA: Well, I think the super soft tire doesn’t help the strategy because it’s a tire that we all know won’t do too many laps, so you need to compromise a little bit but the good thing is that it’s the same for everybody, so you just need to push, to take care of the tires in a way, especially during the first couple of laps. I am happy and I think we can do a good race tomorrow.
Q: Mark, the way your qualifying started, we could be surprised to see you here at all, after your visit to the gravel trap at the pit lane entrance.
MW: Why? Ah, right, that one. I was surprised, the pedal… I didn’t brake that late and yeah, I skipped across the gravel on the way in so that was a bit… There’s been a few legends in that gravel trap in the past, so I’ve joined them.
Q: Having seen the speed that you had in qualifying, are you a bit disappointed to be third? It’s fantastic, but…
MW: It’s still not bad, I’m still pretty happy. Obviously it’s a bit of a surprise with Fernando. Obviously without Fernando we would be on the front row together but he did a good job. Third is also not bad. I’m pretty happy with how today went to be honest, and it’s a great day for the team. We’ve been on the ropes a little bit, to be honest, with a few issues with the driveshafts which has been a bit frustrating for us, particularly Sebastian in qualifying, but we’ve come out the other side of it in a good, good position. There’s no question that this team’s taken a big step forward from last year in terms of performance. Now we need to realize it on Sunday afternoons and we can do that from there, there’s no question about that, so it’s a big credit to everyone in the team for what they’ve done from Brazil to now and we’re in good shape.
Q: What sort of assurances have the team given you about the reliability of the driveshafts for tomorrow?
MW: Well, I don’t think there’s anyone who can tell us they’re a hundred percent. The guys are going to do their best. We didn’t have any problems in Australia or Malaysia. Obviously the race in Malaysia was shortened but since we went to the race boxes here we’ve had a few little snags. We’ve got time tonight to have a look at it and get on top of it. It doesn’t sound as dramatic as it is but also it’s right on the edge. As we know, these cars are sensitive, so we might be alright, we might not.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Marco Degl’Innocenti - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, can you be more precise about the problem with your car?
SV: Well, I think the word driveshaft says it all. I don’t think there’s much more to add. Obviously we are both in the same situation, both cars. To explain, we never faced this problem before coming here, basically this morning, so it was a bad surprise. We could fix it for qualifying, then, in my case, it happened again. We can fix it again but we have to find the reasons. There’s always a reason for a problem, we have to find it, there’s not too much time to be honest. Let’s see tomorrow. My job is to drive the car, so I think it’s better if I’m not too worried and thinking about those things too much. The boys have a hard enough time anyway, so let’s see tomorrow.
Q: (Marco Degl’Innocenti - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, have you got a new diffuser in your car?
FA: I think you ask too much, always. You all want to know KERS/no KERS, diffuser/no diffuser. It’s like if a cyclist tells the press when he will attack in the mountains. This is a little bit confidential.
Q: (Marco Degl’Innocenti - La Gazzetta dello Sport) But I can ask, yeah?
FA: And I can answer.
Q: (Jia Chen - Soccer News) To all of you, after such a qualifying, do you think that the effect of the diffuser of those three teams who have it is weakening?
SV: Well, I think first of all we have to wait until we know more about the weights of the cars, the fuel loads for tomorrow, and then we will see. I think nevertheless the race is 56 laps long, anything can happen and obviously I don’t think we’ve seen much about qualifying yet, just the final positions. We haven’t seen much regarding lap times and gaps. I think if you speak about those teams at the top of the list, basically Brawn GP, as in the last races, I think they will be strong tomorrow as well, so you can’t say now we sit here, we are quicker, we have no trouble staying ahead of them. I think it will be a long and hard race, so we will see tomorrow.
Q: (Jerome Bourret - L’Equipe) To all of you, you all have Renault engines, this engine has been updated over the winter, do you feel any big difference or not?
SV: There’s less power because we have 1000 rpm less.
MW: I want to say something on the Renault side concerning my engine engineer from last year, Pierre-Emeric Benteyn, he’s gone missing on Aconcagua Mountain, it looks like he’s lost his life up there over the winter, but it’s a very good day for Renault and I want today… Pierre lived his life to the full and was a really extreme guy and did some amazing things and he was very much part of our team and part of the Viry operation from Renault on the racing side, and it’s a good day for Renault at Viry and I’m sure they are all thinking of Pierre.
FA: Thanks to everybody for sure you feel the difference. Obviously, as Sebastian said, we have 1000 revs less than last year, so it’s difficult to compare engines but they did a very good job. Over the winter we did a lot of tests, we really maximized the potential of the engine which last year was maybe not at the same level as the top ones. This result is a great result for Viry, for Renault and they deserve it.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Sport Auto) Fernando, there is a car in front with a conventional diffuser. You have got a new one today, one of these double diffusers. Obviously you’ve made a step. Is the whole discussion about these diffusers exaggerated or is it valid?
FA: I think it’s a little bit exaggerated because as we said many times, I think the diffuser is one part but the whole aerodynamics of the car are a package, a complete package which you need to create, it’s not a magic part on the car that transforms it. I think you need to really work in a new philosophy of designing the car. There are still many improvements to come, not just from us but from everybody: from Williams, Toyota, from Brawn. For sure in Barcelona they will have new packages. That’s the interesting thing about this championship, that we’ve only done two races, this is the third one, we will go to Bahrain next weekend and then to Barcelona and maybe you think that the championship is going in one direction but suddenly it changes and we have a different fight in the last part of the championship. This is what we cannot forget. Even if we are not competitive, or not competitive in the next two or three Grands Prix, we need to keep working because the championship is long and you need the points at the end, not now.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) Mark, how big or how noticeable has been the performance gain on the car between the last race and here?
MW: We haven’t done a huge amount to the car. It’s just circumspecific, the car seems to be working quite well here. Obviously it was pretty strong in Malaysia and Australia as well, so the car has not been very sensitive to the tracks it’s gone to in terms of its pace. It seems to be pretty strong at all venues and to be honest, it’s not a great deal different from the last track. Obviously what changes is your position. At the moment, we look a little bit more comfortable in relation to Toyota and Williams but we will see what happens in the race. We think we expect Brawn still to be strong in the race but you just never know. We will drive on the limit for the race and then see what’s left.
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