Valencia: European GP Saturday Press Conference
1. Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren Mercedes), 1m39.498s
2. Heikki KOVALAINEN (McLaren Mercedes), 1m39.532s
3. Rubens BARRICHELLO (Brawn GP), 1m39.563s
Q: Lewis, a tight fight with your team-mate. But following on from your win in Budapest I bet you are wishing the season started in July rather than in March?
Lewis HAMILTON: That would have been fantastic, but it didn't. Here we are - a fantastic achievement from the team at the last race and then to come here not really knowing whether we would have the same pace or whether other people would have made a step forward. But clearly we have very good pace this weekend, myself and Heikki. And Heikki especially did a fantastic job through qualifying. It was very close between me and him. It was great to see us both there because I think for both of us we have been wanting a one-two qualifying experience for a long time. It is great to be here.
Q: Heikki, you were on target for pole until that penultimate corner. Tell us about your pain.
Heikki KOVALAINEN: Well, I clearly went over the limit. In hindsight you can always argue and think you could have done it a bit better. But in qualifying you have to go for it. It was incredibly close. Had I not pushed to the absolute limit I could have dropped three or four places easily, so I went for it. It didn't work out this time but luckily I did not lose more than one place, so it is fine. It is absolutely a great place to start tomorrow. I think we have done a good improvement from Hungary on my side of the garage, so I think everybody can be very pleased in the garage and also back in Woking. We have been working very hard this week since the shut-down and fingers crossed it is paying off now.
Q: Rubens, after the struggles of the last few grands prix what does this result today say about Brawn GP?
Rubens BARRICHELLO: The same for us. Like the McLaren guys after the shut-down it has been a lot of work. The team had a fantastic approach to it. In order to go forwards we had to go backwards a little bit and calculate some of the stuff. Between myself and Jenson we have had a fantastic job on Friday to do back-to-backs on set-up and things and I think we learned something. It is hot as you can see. The track is good for us. It is good to be back competitive. I wish next year's rules were already in place as I was fastest in Q2, so you never know how much fuel these guys have. But I hope I have more than them.
Q: Lewis, there was a lot of confidence about the way you attacked qualifying and saving a run in Q2. Is it the same confidence you take into tomorrow's grand prix?
Hamilton: We haven't seen this for a long time. Last year and in 2007 there were times where we only had to do one run in qualifying. This year we have had to go in all guns blazing and use up every minute and every second of the qualifying session. But very fortunately I managed to do a couple of good laps, so I did not have to do too many. But it can always be improved, so for sure going into tomorrow we stand in the best position for myself and Heikki for a podium. But it all depends on strategy and how the start goes and how the rest of the race goes.
Q: Lewis, only the fifth time this year that you've been in the top ten, so is this a reflection of how McLaren have bounced back?
Hamilton: Absolutely, absolutely. I think that coming into the weekend we thought we'd be competitive but I don't think any of us really knew whether we'd be competing for the front row. It's a great result for us. The team has well deserved it. It's just great to know that we can continue with the momentum from the last race.
Q: And you lost the whole session yesterday afternoon; how important was that?
Hamilton: The time that you lose... every little bit of time that you get on the track makes a huge difference for everyone. You find out more about the car, you fine-tune the car even more. I missed the whole session, a good hour and fifteen/twenty minutes, so in terms of dialing in the car, I had a lot of pressure on me this morning, but fortunately we did quite a good job. It wasn't perfect but there are always still improvements that you can make. But I was quite comfortable with the car this morning, I think we'd had quite a productive P3 practice session and going into qualifying, it was nice to be able to do single laps and get those laps in.
Q: Even this morning was cut short as well, but yesterday you were talking about having a loose rear end. Presumably you've sorted that out?
Hamilton: Not fully, no. We still have a little bit of a loose rear end. Inevitably on my pole position lap it was OK, it was quite a good lap. The second lap was better but in a lot of places I lost chunks of time, so hopefully there should be a little bit more time in it and hopefully we will be able to extract that tomorrow.
Q: Heikki, you must be really pleased with this; only the fourth time in the top ten this year.
Kovalainen: Yeah, of course, it's a long time since I've been in this kind of position. I don't even remember the last time I was talking to you after qualifying. It's been a tough beginning to the season but I think we have just been focusing on working very hard, understanding all the problems, moving forwards and I think the team has done a fantastic job to improve our car to a point where we can now compete for pole position. Before coming here I knew that we could again be fighting for pole position, it's always very close but when you have that thing in your mind that if you just get everything right there is a chance to be on pole, it just gives you more drive. For me, of course, I would like to have been on pole but I pushed a bit too much in the last turn and I think I lost a little bit of time there but if you don't push, and if you lose pole because of that, I would be more disappointed, so I would rather go for it and eventually it will be right and I will be on pole, so no problems.
Q: We've heard quite a bit about spare parts from McLaren over the last couple of days, in fact the last couple of races. Have you got everything that Lewis has got now?
Kovalainen: In fact I would have everything if I wanted to take them, but because the parts arrived a bit late, the factory was just not able to push any more. Everybody has been stretched over the maximum in fact, to get all the pieces, so it was always a plan that Lewis would run them on Friday and I would get them perhaps for the Friday afternoon. But because everything was delayed and we had a very good balance yesterday, we decided not to run the new parts because you never know, you might lose confidence on Saturday morning which you really don't want to do. So in fact it was our decision not to run them but I think I would have had them and the team would have given equal opportunity for both of us, so no problems on that side.
Q: And your KERS wasn't working yesterday, presumably it was today. How important is it here?
Kovalainen: It's very important, I think it's one of the good circuits for KERS, or a very good circuit. It's always helping us but it's very good here. We can harvest quite a lot of energy and we can use it for the race, maximum power every lap which is very good. The reason it didn't work yesterday was because we had some experimental parts in the KERS and they didn't work, but it was no big deal. Today we went back to a normal race spec and we have such a level of confidence with the KERS at the moment that even if we have a day when it fails, we can go back to a normal race solution and it's working a hundred percent, and today it's been working, no problem.
Q: Rubens, once again you said yesterday that if we continue working in the right direction the car will be good, so how confident are you in the car?
Barrichello: Like I said before to the guys on TV, it was an excellent job by the team when the doors were open to the factory, we were able to evaluate a lot of stuff. Sometimes in life, you know, you really need to go back in order to go forward, so a good job from Jenson (Button) and me on Friday to evaluate things and again, to comment and just to take the best out of the set-up. We did a good job, and the tires are working again - in Hungary they were not - so here they are working quite well and the car is in good shape. As I said before, I wish next year's rules were already applied because I would have been on pole without the fuel...
Q: But you're always quick in Q2.
Barrichello: Well, but that's why I want to race next year because then I will get pole. It's the fact that you never know. My Q3 time was really good, was really, really good. The fact is that I chose differently to Jenson. Jenson went for two (sets of) new tires and I went for just one. I went for a couple of laps and he went for two (runs) of just one lap. I thought that was better, but in fact, with the heat outside, it might have overheated my tires because the second lap was just on the border line and I couldn't back off, I just had to keep on trying, but unfortunately I just lost the car in turn eight. So it might have been better to go for two new sets but we will never know. I'm still very happy being able to be competitive, I'm driving well and going for the wins. It was a nice break for a good comeback and a good second half to the season.
Q: Well, it's an interesting second half, particularly from where you're sitting on the grid, because you've obviously got a championship rival in Sebastian Vettel beside you, but ahead are the two McLarens. Is there a target? Is there a strategy, or just try and win?
Barrichello: Yeah, try to win, that's all that matters to me. Let's see what we have in a couple of hours when the fuel loads are put out and see. In one way, I'm not on the very good side of the grid because I think that this year they've turned (the grid around) and it's not very clean, so we need to see what that brings but I hope I have a really good start and I can be with the guys and if I have more fuel, to be able to win. But we never know, it's going to be a couple of hours before we can say anything.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Rodrigo Franca - VIP Magazine) Lewis, how is your relationship with the Spanish fans? You had some problems with them before because of your relationship with Fernando Alonso and so on. Do you think that's over now?
Hamilton: Yeah, I think... I hope it's water under the bridge. I seem to have quite a lot of support here in Spain. The fans have been fantastic for me. For sure there are some that don't like me, but that's their choice, but there is quite a lot actually - surprisingly, even surprised me when I went to Barcelona, when I go to the tests, when I come here - there's quite a lot of support.
Q: (Sudhir Chandran - Chequered Flag, India) Lewis, I'm curious to know if this long three-week break between races and more importantly your trip to India and playing cricket with the fans out there really helped you stay focused and continue your good form?
Hamilton: I had a fantastic trip to India. I was looked after very well. The Indian people are so enthusiastic about motor racing. I'm sure a lot of people here in Europe have absolutely no idea that the people over there love Formula One just as much as them. So I'm very much looking forward to having the Grand Prix there in the future, because I think it will be quite a good show. Playing cricket, I hit the ball quite well, so for sure there was a bit of confidence. But I think spending time with my family and friends was probably the best way of relaxing and preparing myself.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Heikki, last time McLaren were on the front row of the grid, you won the race. Do you think you can do it tomorrow?
Kovalainen: Absolutely. That has to be the target but it's a very good day for us in the whole McLaren team at the moment because we are finally both back on the front row but of course my target tomorrow is to do everything to beat everybody else, like always. But sure, everybody around me will try to do the same. We will try to manage the situation accordingly but I don't see any reason why I don't have a chance, either.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto Motor und Sport) Lewis, how odd is it to have a car with which you can win a race, but not being able to fight for the championship?
Hamilton: That's not a problem. Some you win, some you lose. For sure it would have been fantastic for us to have been competing for the World Championship and there's no doubt that us as a team, for me and Heikki, we are good enough to be able to do that, but it's just unfortunate circumstances that we missed the chance and all we have to do now is just continue to push our car and hope that next year's rules are similar to this year's, so that we can develop through this year and hopefully go into next year with a better car.
Q: (Naoise Holohan - Manipe F1) Rubens, are you still in the fight for the championship?
Barrichello: Yes, I hope so. It's very important in life that you don't just dream but you believe in yourself and you believe in your work. I think I've done a lot of this but there has not been a time in my life which I have loved more than racing and driving now and I think I'm doing a really good job. At 37 I think I have reached the peak of my driving, so I'm really with the driving. There have been ups and downs this year, sometimes very happy, sometimes a little bit unhappy, but I think so, yeah, it would be very, very, very nice to win the championship at 37.
Q: (Rodrigo Franca - VIP Magazine) Do you think the messages for Felipe Massa bring you luck, so you can maybe win tomorrow?
Barrichello: Well, there are two separate things, to be honest. It's the fact that I'm his friend and I've been with him last week. He truly deserves a sort of dedication like this and I hope the whole of Brazil is hoping for his best recovery and the fact that he won here so well last year. I watched the race two days ago, just to be up to speed and everything, you end up learning with him, so I'm giving him back something which he really taught us quite a lot. I just hope he's back soon, more than anything and I hope that these last seven races are good enough for me to get back all the points to get in front.
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