Abu Dhabi: Sunday Press Conference
1. Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull), 1h34m03.414s
Q. Sebastian, you took the fight to Lewis Hamilton in the early stages. You managed to get ahead of him. It was another powerful performance today.
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, it was. A fantastic race. First of all the start and we had a very good launch. Obviously not good enough to out-accelerate Lewis, but I was very close. I was surprised. Then going on the long back straight he pushed a button and that's it, he disappeared in the distance. But I was able to stay close enough. We knew that we were a little bit heavier, so the key was to catch up, especially the last sector where the car was a dream today. I was always catching him up quite a lot and I think that was the secret, to stay with him, then with the pit stops and a lot of pressure entering the pit lane, I nearly went a bit wide at the entrance.
Then that scary exit through the tunnel but on the limit and enough to get past him. Unfortunately, he then had to retire but up to that point it was a fantastic race. After that I had a little bit of a cushion to Mark and Jenson behind and I was able to pace myself a bit but until the end the car was fantastic and was working brilliantly on both tires, both compounds. I think the prime was the favored tire today but also on the option towards the end it was a pleasure this evening to sit in the car. To sum up the season, it is up and down. I think the second half we have been very strong with four one-two finishes for Red Bull Racing, so congratulations to the team. They have been pushing, working a lot back in the factory, and we can see that the car is getting quicker. It is a shame now that the season ends but it is a perfect day to finish the season on a high.
Q. Mark, fantastic fight with Jenson in the closing stages. Tell us all about it.
Mark WEBBER: Well, first of all from the start I made a pretty good launch and had a bit of a look on the outside of Seb but the main game was really trying to get back on the inside and getting a clean exit as I knew it was a long run down to turn five. I got hit quite hard in the left rear at the first corner and was worried about a puncture but the team kept telling me the tire had enough pressure, so I was quite relieved I didn't have a puncture. It looked like Lewis was struggling a little bit in the first few laps, so both of us were able to sit a little bit closer than we expected. Then it started to stabilize and I was pretty happy on the primes. Seb was just that little bit quicker today on both stints, all three stints, especially the last one. I had not much of a feeling on the option and it was the same for me on Friday. I was quite slow on that tire, so I preferred the stability of the prime.
I thought at the end we had a bit of a short fuel, so fortunately JB could do some good laps on the overlap and close the gap down on me. I thought 'yeah, this is going to be quite tight at the end.' I just had to make sure I was accurate with my braking points. We know he had a slight top speed advantage but not much and it is a credit to how he has driven all year. We had a good clean fight, on the limit, but I just want to congratulate the team for their patience with me at the start of the year coming back from what happened. It has been very enjoyable driving with Sebastian this year. Renault have given us a fantastic engine and overall Red Bull can be incredibly proud for what they achieved. We have had 16 podiums together, so it is good.
Q. Jenson, that battle from your perspective and also a battle again with Kamui Kobayashi.
Jenson BUTTON: It was a fun race. For me the prime tire was not my favorite tire in the race and I had a lot of understeer in the car. But when Kobayashi was on a one-stopper I came out and the first big stop is turn eight and when you have got that much fuel on board it is always very difficult to judge the braking point. I slightly outbraked myself and locked the rears and the fronts and ran a bit wide and he got past. In reality it didn't make a difference to my race as he was quicker than me at that point. Then I was struggling a little bit with the prime tire but I tried to make the best out of it. After the second stop I found I had very good grip with the option tire. I got back the front issues I had with the prime and had very good initial turn in which meant I could carry a lot of speed through. That's why I was able to close down Mark. The last couple of laps were a lot of fun.
I couldn't make the move stick. I was very excited by the battle and I thought I could pull it off but Mark is always a very difficult person to overtake. We were clean but on the edge, so it was perfect. Disappointed not to get that second place but I really enjoyed the fight today and today for me has been a bonus after winning the championship in Brazil. I have really enjoyed driving this weekend a car that has been very competitive, so I need to thank everyone at Brawn and Mercedes Benz for all their hard work. After Brazil it would have been easy to say ‘right, let's just enjoy ourselves and not concentrate on Abu Dhabi' but we did and we have come away with a podium which is a nice way to end the year and everyone should be very proud of themselves for what we have achieved. But lastly I would like to say congratulations to Seb. He did a sterling job today. They had the legs on us and we just couldn't challenge them which is a pity but all round I think the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a good one and I am looking forward to coming back.
Q. Sebastian, Red Bull has won the last three races of the season, so let's look forward a little bit. What does that say about where you are going to be going into next season.
SV: It would be very good to continue like that. Now we will face a long winter, especially for all of us drivers, a long break without any testing. Back in England, back in the factory, the guys are pushing very hard. The cars do not change that much next year. The biggest change is that you are not allowed to refuel. But we will see. It is a bit unknown. I think this season was very special. I remember a couple of years back these two were driving and I was watching and it was pretty much set after the first couple of races who was going to win each race. Fair enough there were only two teams. This year it was totally different, very exciting and a lot of overtaking. Different teams on top, so I think a special season all around and hopefully the next one will be as exciting as this one, even a bit more, we will see. Definitely looking forward. I think to sum it up we had a very good season, a lot of positive things, but also some things we probably did wrong. But it is not a shame. We just need to know and understand why that happened and we should come back stronger next year.
Q. Mark, Red Bull a top team. Are you here to stay?
MW: Yes, absolutely. We have got an incredible team back at the factory. We know that we have got under Adrian Newey someone that with him leading these type of regulation changes, particularly with what we had at the start of this year, it was clear as soon as we saw the car that it was going to be a bit of a weapon. Unfortunately in a way Brawn got the start with the double diffuser and things like that but in the end our team responded well with great character and next year there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for us not to be starting at the front again. I would much, much prefer to be in our position than quite a few other teams but we can never get too complacent. This is Formula One and things can change quickly but we are positive about next year, no question about it.
Q. Jenson, no win to round off the season but obviously an upbeat ending for you.
JB: For sure. It is always nice to end on a high but it is the same for everyone out there. It is a very competitive field. It is not just one team at the front. All season it has been up and down for us and for these guys and also for McLaren and the Ferraris. It is a very competitive and challenging season for us all, so for all three of us to be up on the podium at the last race is very enjoyable and it is a great way to round out the year. Now I am going to enjoy myself and celebrate what I have achieved this season.
SV: I hear you are getting married.
JB: Are you proposing?
SV: I heard you will get married.
JB: You know, they write great things in the press. Thank you for that one Seb, but I am going to enjoy this as we often look too far into the future and I want to just enjoy this moment and then I will look to the future after that.
Q. Sebastian, you are the first winner of the first day-night race in Abu Dhabi. Sum up the weekend for you.
SV: Unbelievable. We came here and we tried to prepare as much as possible, looking at the lay-out, doing some laps in the simulator. But driving the first couple of laps it was extremely slippery. It is a new track but it has rubbered in perfectly well. Really enjoyable all race. It is a challenging circuit. Every lap you need to focus and keep up the concentration. It is pretty easy to do a mistake and it can cost a lot of time. There are some corners that are quite tricky and they are made to lead you into mistakes, so you really need to be careful but all in all, starting at day, finishing at night is special. We have a dark tear-off and the moment you rip it off it is like someone has switched on the light, so it is quite unique. All in all a great place. Amazing what they have done here in that short period of time, so winning the race, one-two for Red Bull Racing, I think it cannot be much better.
Q. Sebastian, this gives you an excellent position with second in the championship. What are your feelings about that?
SV: I am very proud. First of all I think there was a misunderstanding in Brazil and didn't have the chance: so congratulations to Jenson, to Brawn. I think they truly deserve it. Over the season they did the better job. But after Brazil coming here we knew that we had a very, very strong package and the priority for myself was to secure second in the drivers' championship and we succeeded. To do it with the victory is the best possible result. I am very, very happy. It was a fantastic race. It was a good start but not enough to catch Lewis but good enough to stay close. When we went on the back straight he pushed the button and disappeared. It was quite shocking to see how much it is worth, but we were a little bit heavier but still able to go his pace, stay with him. It is not easy when you follow another car. Even though you are a couple of seconds behind you still feel it is not as if you are on your own in clean air.
But that was the key, pushing very hard and then obviously when I had the two overlaps on him it was quite exciting to leave the pits through the tunnel. It was very slippery and on new tires you have silicon on the surface and it takes a little while. You go through the tunnel and it is very easy to make a mistake. Knowing I am fighting for the lead I knew I had to push. It was enough to get him. Unfortunately he then had to retire. I heard he had a braking problem, but up to that point I enjoyed it very much. It was a nice fight even though it wasn't wheel-to-wheel but both of us were pushing very hard. After that I had a bit more of a cushion and was able to set my pace according to the pace of the guys behind, so all in all the car was fantastic, both compounds worked surprisingly well. I think the majority favored the prime, so did we, but even on the option the last stint was great and to win here I am very proud. Starting the race at day time and finishing at night is very special. Great circuit. A great job they did here. Now I think I have said enough.
Q. Mark, tremendous amount of pressure at the end; what was the circuit like to race on, especially as you were having to defend. We also saw you make a little mistake and go off the circuit; how difficult was it to race on?
MW: Well, it was pretty dusty off-line, not massively but a little bit dirty. I got a little bit hot into turn one on one of the laps. Once you get on the Astroturf you just have to open the steering and get behind the curb. And then at the end, fighting with Jenson, I knew that the two big stops were key to the lap - obviously he wasn't going to do much anywhere else but Jenson's form in overtaking this year has been pretty good, so I knew I had to be perfect with my braking points and do the best I could with the last few laps. I turned out to be OK.
My last stint clearly wasn't one of my best this year in terms of I didn't have a great feeling on the option and that made it a bit more difficult, a few more grey hairs for everyone, but the option was difficult for me on Friday as well, so in the end, second place was as good as I was ever going to get today. Congratulations to Sebastian on the win, he's had the measure of me in the last sector probably most of the weekend, so I presumed it to be the same again in the race. We did the best job as we could as a team, capitalized on other people's lack of preparation and we delivered a one-two which is exactly what we came here to achieve. As I said before, I think that's 16 podiums for the team and that's something that everyone can be extremely happy about. I'm certainly happy, obviously, off the back of my best season ever. Of course, I would have liked to have had some more points here and there but it could have been a hell of a lot worse for me, so I will take this season, let me tell you.
Q. Jenson, for you, interesting that you mentioned that the option was the better tire. Do you think that if you did two stints on the option you might have been closer to Red Bull?
JB: Yeah, for sure but we didn't expect that to be the case. All weekend we've been running through our practices thinking that the prime was the better tire. We've been using the prime like the option: for example, saving it for the end of practice two and practice three, so we could get a feel for it for qualifying. It was the best tire for qualifying but in the race I was really struggling for a balance on the harder tire. I had a lot of understeer in the car and the colder the circuit temperature got, the more difficult it was for me to get heat into the fronts. So I was suffering with that, especially in the second stint and I don't know if you could notice, but Rubens was quite close behind me at the start of the second stint, he was sitting right on my tail, but I was able to put a little bit of a gap on him before the second stop, and then when we put the soft tire on, the car was transformed, it felt great. The lap times were reasonably good and I was able to pull Mark in.
The big issue for me on the hard tires was understeer, so putting the option on... suddenly I had this great front end that I could just carry so much more speed into the corners. I don't know if you saw on TV, but it was a little bit loose on exit but that's the way you have to drive the car round here. It was a great race, I really enjoyed it and as I said in the unilateral, this race is a bonus to me, because I got the championship in Brazil, so I came here to enjoy myself and that's exactly what I did. Qualifying wasn't perfect but the race was pretty much as good as we could have expected, I think. I had a good tussle with Mark on the last lap, a fair fight but obviously very close and enjoyed it a lot. I didn't make that move stick but I had a lot of fun. So I'm a little bit disappointed not to be second but I'm on the podium at the last race of the year, a year that's been exceptional and I'm very happy with what's happened this season and the way the team has performed. Probably when it's been toughest, I respect the team for the effort that they've put in then, so they should all be very proud of themselves and that's Brawn GP and Mercedes-Benz for what they've achieved. At the moment, I'm just going to enjoy this, this is big and I'm not going to concentrate on next year, I'm going to relax and enjoy this moment.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q. (Frederic Ferret – L'Equipe) Sebastian, now that the season is over, do you have any regrets from the previous Grands Prix?
SV: No. We can't change yesterday, we can change tomorrow. The key now is obviously, looking back, five races where we didn't finish. Sometimes we should have brought some points back home and we didn't, so we need to understand why that was and as I say, change tomorrow, obviously learn, learn a lesson and try to come back stronger for next year. Overall, I think the circumstances sometimes weren't easy to accept. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it's just not supposed to be. Sometimes little mistakes happen from whoever's side. I'm not here to blame anyone in particular. Nevertheless, I think it was a very, very strong season. If anything, I think Mark and myself and the whole team got very, very strong towards the end, we have won the last three races as a team. I think we have learned already, but there is still a lot we can improve for the future, and hopefully we will do so and come back stronger next year.
Q. (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Mark, you struggled on the options at the end; was it because you had a busy out lap where you had overstressed the tire or what could have been the reason?
MW: Not really. I think the movement of the tire was the same on Friday for me. I didn't really feel the tire that well. It was just not as stable as the prime and I felt that immediately on Friday and I was hoping that it would be a lot better with a rubbered-in circuit but I couldn't commit. It was half a tenth every corner, one tenth every corner and it adds up to be a lot, compared to the prime. And then, when you're getting caught you obviously have to really make sure that you're not making any mistakes to give him even more of a chance to pounce, so I had to then go into a bit more of a conservative mode and make sure that I didn't give it too easily. He had to make sure he worked for it. That's what happened in the last 15 laps.
Q. (Anne Giuntini – L'Equipe) To all three of you: considering there is a long break before February, I suppose you won't be on holiday all the time. What is your working program?
SV: Jenson's getting married, we heard. So he's busy.
MW: And we're all invited as well.
SV: Yeah, everyone.
JB: Next question.
MW: But Japan's a long way.
SV: Obviously I have a pretty stressful week, following up, stress and fun at the same time. We are going to Beijing, so I am looking forward to that. I'm trying to kick his (Jenson's) arse. And after that, some things to do back in Germany, yeah, and at the end of the month we will have a big party back in Milton Keynes, with all the team, so I'm looking forward to that.
So November is a bit the time probably to be a bit lazy, but back in December and January obviously trying to focus on next year, on the new car. As I said, we will have time and meetings to discuss and obviously analyze what we can do better in the future and then we put our focus on next season. Obviously it's a long, long time without any testing, any driving for us, so I reckon I will do some karting, that's for sure, even though it's cold.
MW: Yeah, similar to Sebastian. Next week is very busy. I'm going to Austria tomorrow, doing some work over there for Red Bull and then also some stuff for Renault next Thursday, so the next few weeks I've got some PR work which we've put on the backburner during the season, so a few photo shoots here and there. Then I'm potentially going to drive the GP3 car, the new category car, do a bit in that, to see how that's going along. It's a very exciting championship next year which Christian (Horner) and I are involved in, so I might do a little bit of driving in that, but not much, just to get a little bit of press and a little bit of feeling for how it is.
And then I think the third week of November I'm going to open my leg up again and get a bit more metal out, and then that's the end of that problem, so it will be a few weeks relaxing after that and then I go to Australia for Christmas, a few barbecues on the beach and go to the cricket as well, which is 100,000 Australians at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) which is a big highlight at the Boxing Day test match, so I've got a few good things to look forward to and then in January, come back to a European winter which is always a test, but anyway, we will do that and get ready for February.
JB: Wow, that's a lot.
SV: Wait until you start…
JB: I have got nothing planned this winter. I'm going to the RoC (Race of Champions) tomorrow which takes place Tuesday, Wednesday. If you're interested, head down to the Bird's Nest in Beijing. The only thing is that I am going to go and enjoy myself with the team tonight, so we will see how I perform on Tuesday and Wednesday. But I'm looking forward to that, it's always good fun. And then I'm heading to Japan to spend some time there with my girlfriend and then I will have a few more days off and then sort myself out and start thinking about next year. It's amazing how early it starts, 2010 comes up on you in a flash. I've got to sort myself out and focus on that. I'm looking forward to the new challenge, for sure, but it can wait a couple of weeks. Oh, I've got my 30th birthday in January as well. Thirty! Imagine that, Sebastian.
SV: It's a long way to go.
JB: Trust me, it goes by very quickly.
Q. (Chris Lines – Associated Press) Guys, you sit up there as two representatives of the two most dominant teams this season. If we go back a year ago, it was Ferrari and McLaren and they were nowhere in the early part of this year. How confident are you guys that you will be able to carry this form into next season and not pay a price for going all the way through developing the car?
SV: Well, I think we are a team, we are professional. You might read here and there that other teams stopped developing for this year, looking ahead to next year, but as I said earlier on, I think the regulations aren't changing too much. Obviously the biggest change is no refuelling but other than that the cars will remain similar, similar shapes. I think the people know what they are doing back in Milton Keynes. Obviously this year was a great chance for us and as Mark said, we were able to build quite a weapon. So I'm very confident. I think we can only get stronger.
Obviously it was the first time that we were in that position for us, Mark, myself and the team that we were in that position and I think we handled it quite well. We made some mistakes here and there but that's what happens. We are not the only ones who made these mistakes and if you are fighting and trying to push and trying to get the last bit out of yourself, out of the team, out of the car, then sometimes you might step over the limit. I think it's totally natural to go through that progress, so we have definitely learned a lot and the important thing is, as I've said before, to do it much better next year.
JB: Ferrari and McLaren are going to be competitive next season. They have the resources, they have the expertise, they have competitive drivers. For sure they are going to be quick. They've had a different approach over the last few races. If you look at Ferrari, they've said that they've had no development which is unusual to hear that, as there's not much that changes for next season. But it seems that McLaren have thrown everything at the car and have been very competitive over the last couple of races. So going into next year, yeah, they're going to be quicker compared to the start of this season but I don't think they're suddenly going to be stronger than Red Bull and Brawn. I think there's going to be a big battle at the front which is going to be a new thing for all of us, because having four teams fighting it out at the front, that hasn't happened – could you just keep… ‘scuse me, I'm just trying to talk – you might want to listen to this.
MW: We're just talking about your wedding day, mate. We're just trying to clear our schedules.
JB: But with four teams at the front, eight drivers fighting out for wins, I think that's exciting, so, yeah.
Q. (Bob McKenzie – The Daily Express) What's the date for the wedding, Jenson?
JB: It's my birthday, did you say? By the way, I'm looking forward to my present, thank you very much, Bob. What did you call me before? BMcK: The World Champion?
JB: That's the one, thank you. I'm not getting married this year.
SV: Why not? You don't love her?
MW: Clear up January, clear it up.
JB: I think some things need to be kept private in your life and that's one of them. Thank you very much.
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