Bahrain GP: Saturday Press Conference
1. Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull), 1m54.101s
2. Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), 1m54.242s
3. Fernando ALONSO (Ferrari), 1m54.242s
Q: Sebastian, the testing did not tell us very much. You have picked up where you left off but how big a surprise is pole position to you?
Sebastian VETTEL: A big surprise. I mean in winter testing no-one really knew where we were. Of course it was clear that there were four teams pretty strong, but close to each other. To be honest yesterday it was a very tough day for us and we had not as much running as we were hoping for. Another long night especially for the mechanics, not a lot of sleep, some tired faces, but everyone was still keen this morning to push. I knew we had a great car but first of all you have to get it together. I have to say practice this morning and qualifying went pretty smoothly. Obviously I am very, very happy to be on pole, so thanks to the team. As I said the boys didn't get much sleep in the last month with a lot of testing in a short amount of time. To come here first time everyone really shows how strong they are and to be on top is definitely a very, very nice feeling.
Q: Felipe, what comeback for you from injury. Tell us about how you feel today about your journey back here and your performance today.
Felipe MASSA: Well, first of all congratulations to Sebastian he did a great job for the first race of the season. I think it is very nice to be back here racing competitively and in a good direction. I feel very happy to be back after such a difficult time. I was watching the races on television and was pretty excited but it is much better to be sat in the car. I prepared myself in a good direction, testing, driving go-karts, everything was great to be back in the car for racing and if you look at what happened last season with us I think it is a good start to the season for us. After a difficult season where we finished in the last race and where we are starting the season in the first race is always great for the team, great for the guys who did a very tough job inside the factory since a long time, so I feel really positive to start on the first race second. We are second and third and for the team that is really great and we will see how we doing in the race. Red Bull and also some other teams are really strong, so the race will be very difficult but I am very happy to be here fighting for the top.
Q: Fernando, the margins at the end of qualifying were quite a bit bigger than they were at the beginning. What do you put that down to and how do you feel about where you have ended up?
Fernando ALONSO: Well, I think the difference is difficult to read. With such a long lap like this one and with the conditions we were facing, with this very warm temperature, I think it is very difficult to complete that long lap with no mistakes and not any problems. I think the times are related to how the gap was as well and about the competitiveness of the car. I think in different parts of the weekend we saw times that were very tight and times that were split like they are now but I think it is okay. From our point of view we are obviously extremely happy with the result of this weekend so far. The race is tomorrow. We cannot forget this but so far everything has been great and we will keep going as we did all winter testing with a very strong car and I think competitive in all conditions, qualifying and race, and to be second and third as Felipe said is a great achievement for everybody in the factory at Maranello and the job they did from November last year until now was flat out every day and every night and the first result of the season is very, very positive, so this is a big boost for the team to carry on.
Q: Sebastian, you start the race on the same tires you qualified on. Just give us a bit of inkling into your thinking on that?
Vettel: I think we all don't know really what will happen tomorrow. It could be exciting. It could be very boring. That is what I hope for. That is what all of us like to be more or less where we start. I think it is a very difficult situation to be in. The first part of the race will be crucial but on the other hand it is not a big secret that you need to take care of your tires and the question mark is what you do with your strategy. A lot of things unknown I have to say, so all of us we don't know what to expect tomorrow.
Q: Felipe, how do you feel about the race performance of the Ferrari compared to what you can do over a single lap in qualifying? Are you stronger in the race, do you think?
Massa: I think we did a good job yesterday to prepare the long distance in both tires. We also swapped. I was on one tire and Fernando was on the different tires to do the long run. I think we are in the right direction, so let's see how the first race is going to be. It is the first race of the season and we need to understand so many things which will happen in the race, on the strategies, let's wait and see but I am really optimistic.
Q: Fernando, it's a long season but is this how you expect it to start?
Alonso: Well, you never know how a new championship will start with a big change in the regulations. For me, also changing teams, you never know, but obviously at the moment everything has been perfect and this is a very good start and I think now in equal conditions, let's say as quali with low fuel these days show the potential of the cars, so for both Ferraris to be in the top three means we have a nice car. But it is a very long championship, 10 months of developing the car, but it is very important to start scoring points from the first race. If not you are always behind and you need to close the gap and this is not ideal if you want to fight for the world championship and we are here to fight for the World Championship and this is the first step, so let's see what happens tomorrow.
Q: Sebastian, how exciting was that for you?
Vettel: Very exciting. Yesterday I have to admit we were not very happy, especially myself. We knew there was potential in the car but we were just not putting it together. On top of that we had some problems, so we did not do a lot of running. But this morning straight away it has been quite a lot better. In qualifying a very smooth session as per plan but it is never easy especially as I saw in the last lap where I saw myself going around one-and-a-half or two-tenths slower around the lap. I was already thinking I have to push push push and it was really close. At the end of qualifying the circuit got a bit more difficult with the conditions changing all the time. The heat here is different to what we had in testing, so you could see people having quite big jumps in lap time either up or down. But concerning ourselves I think it was a good result and a good position to start from, but tomorrow is going to be a long, long race. It is the first race out of 19. It is not going to be a sprint, it is going to be an endurance event, so you have to take care of your car, tires and so on. But for sure there is no better position to start from than pole position and finally, and I think I am speaking more or less on behalf of all the drivers, give some great respect to Felipe.
Massa: Oh, no.
Vettel: It is very, very difficult, well, I don't know, you can ask him, but from the outside big respect for what he has achieved. First race he is back and he is bang, bang bang. It is good to have him back.
Q: Did you do a lot of changes to the car overnight or did the track to some extent come to you?
Vettel: Well, I think the track was not very good to start with yesterday morning but then rubbered in quickly. There was a lot of rubber. I think it was more transforming your car and making it work in the conditions. We did change a lot overnight. Yesterday we could not show our full performance, we would have wished to do more runs, but I had a braking failure and Mark had a problem with the drive-shaft, so overall we did not do a lot of laps, but nevertheless we could feel the potential. We changed some things, I won't tell you what, but nothing special, small things, but they had a big effect in the end. We were trying to read the conditions and what will happen throughout qualifying and it seemed to work quite well. I think we were one of the most consistent.
Q: Felipe, it is a great comeback to be second. How satisfying is it for you and how emotional?
Massa: It is just fantastic to hear that definitely. First of all congratulations for the pole. I want to be in your place but I am glad for you. It is just fantastic to hear that. We are here to compete and race each other but there is relationship and respect which go over everything. All drivers have great respect and it is nice to hear that after such difficult times and such difficult accident. Now I am here 100 per cent ready to fight again and most of the people are happy, so that is fantastic to hear. We always want to do the best possible. I think it was very positive the first qualifying of the season and looking how difficult it was last year and how tough it was to improve the car race by race and to understand the regulations. I think we did a good job at home to prepare the car, to make the car in a good direction, and that is a very important point to start the season. Fernando and I are second and third and that is great for the team to have a good direction for this very long championship which won't be easy. It will be very difficult.
Q: What were you expecting for qualifying? Did you have any ideas as the Mercedes seemed to be very competitive but they are not on the first three.
Massa: I expected to be, looking at what happened yesterday and this morning, fighting with Mercedes and Red Bull. I think Sebastian made a little step forward if you look this morning and yesterday and did a great lap which you would expect him. I think he did a good job.
Q: Fernando, how satisfying is it for you to be in the top three in the first drive with a new team especially in such a competitive season?
Alonso: I am very happy. It is the first race and there are many things to answer after a long winter with so big differences in fuel loads in all the tests and yesterday in practice as you never know what the competitors are running. We were really excited about the first qualifying of the season to really know how competitive we were, so now to have both drivers in the top three means we have a very competitive car. We thought so but you never know, you need to confirm it. It has been great. A great day and I think some kind of nice feeling to realize that we are in the fight as you never know until qualifying.
Q: You talked about the rear tires degrading yesterday - probably everybody did - but how bad is that and is it a worry for the race itself?
Alonso: I think that is a worry for everybody, and not only here. I think it will be one of the characteristics of this year's racing. With heavy cars, I think the tires are stressed a lot more and you just need to take care and also different cars will treat their tires differently. So hopefully, fingers crossed, we can have a consistent race tomorrow and this thing will come to us.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Flavio Vanetti - Corriere della Sera) Felipe, was what you achieved today exactly what you had imagined for several months or much more?
Massa: For sure, when I did all the first tests, I expected a good car to drive. For sure for the car the most important thing to think about was how the championship was going to be, and I was quite comfortable driving the car in the first test and the second test and also in Barcelona, so for sure I expected to be competitive. I expected to come here and fight for a good position: first, second, fifth, whatever. I expected to be competitive and I think it's pretty much been in that direction.
Q: (Frederic Ferret - L'Equipe) To all of you: what will be the main difficulty in the race tomorrow: saving the tires, saving fuel in the engine?
Vettel: Well, in Formula One I think people like to talk about packages; I think it will be the package. As I said, in the past it was probably more a sprint event. You started the race on whatever fuel load - 50, 60, 70, 40 kilos. Of course you had to take care at the beginning and then you could push, more or less which I think everyone of us enjoyed a lot. This year, the challenge is not attacking every lap and pushing and trying to go as fast as you can. It has changed. The challenge is now obviously controlling the package, as I said, trying to listen to your car, listen to your tires, listen to your brakes, everything. Try to read and understand the race inside the car. There will be a lot of things to learn and also for the pit wall. No one really knows what to expect, I think that's exciting so far. Hopefully we will have a good race tomorrow. As Felipe and Fernando said already, it will be a long season, so the most important thing is to finish, for sure, but I think everyone is looking forward to tomorrow's race, so we will see. I think it is a good mix of everything; you have to keep in control to be the best.
Massa: I don't think there's much more to say, actually. Sebastian said everything. The race is very long, at the beginning we need to understand how the tires behave, like the package as he said. Then we need to also understand what will be the right moment to stop which no one knows 100 percent at the moment, so we wait and see.
Alonso: Yes, I think we are in a learning process with the new regulations. Today we learned some things about qualifying and qualifying performance etc but tomorrow can be completely different. Maybe one car which has qualified seventh or eighth or ninth has a very strong pace in the race and he's taking care of the tires or he makes a completely different strategy and can make up a lot of positions. We are in completely unknown territory, so we need to discover many things in the first three or four races of the championship.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Considering the degradation of the tires, especially the super soft which you are using, do you expect the first stint to be very short tomorrow and Alonso, did you have a problem in sector two on your last lap?
Alonso: I don't know what the strategy will be tomorrow. I think it will be very flexible. I think we will need to be clever enough to understand the race situation and to make the pit stops whenever is necessary. I don't think this will be determined or strictly planned before the race any more. I think it will be very flexible.
Second sector, yes, it was not perfect but it was the maximum I could do. I probably lost a couple of tenths but some others did better. This is Formula One.
Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Deutschland) For everybody: I think nine out of ten cars in Q3 had the soft tires on. Was it a clear solution to take them or was there any thinking that you should take the hard ones and have a longer first stint?
Vettel: Well, I think we saw yesterday - I can't speak on my behalf really, I did one longish run - but especially these two, they did quite a few laps yesterday and if we are speaking about tire degradation on the super soft it's not given that the medium tire or the harder compound around here has zero degradation. It's also dropping. I think reading the lap times yesterday and assuming what people ran in terms of fuel load we could see that and I think in the end what made the difference is the fact that - I think you saw that throughout qualifying that the soft tire was quite a bit stronger for initial performance which you need in qualifying. You need only one lap. Whatever happens after usually doesn't matter; in this case it does. We will see tomorrow. As Fernando said, there are so many things to learn.
It's quite funny, I think last year the top three drivers sat here on Saturday afternoon and they didn't want to say when they were going to stop. Now they can't tell you because we don't know, so nobody knows. You can work out an optimum for the race, but an optimum is when you're racing on your own which, as it looks now, is very unlikely to happen. Of course there's a chance that 23 cars will not reach the grid but I think this chance is quite small.
Massa: I think the difference between the super soft and the soft was that the super soft was quite a bit quicker over one lap, so I think nine out of ten cars chose to go for the best strategy in qualifying and I think tomorrow is new for everybody, so it's slightly difficult to say 'we definitely need to go on the hard.' I think in this first race everybody went for the best in qualifying and we're going to know what happens tomorrow.
Alonso: I didn't know that, who was on the hard? (Sutil) Which position is he in? (Tenth) OK.
Massa: Maybe it's a good choice; nobody can say that he's wrong.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, you mentioned the taste of champagne earlier. How are you now that you've finally come back after two difficult struggling seasons?
Alonso: Yeah, the taste of champagne or the taste of the podium is important to a racing driver. I had no possibilities for two years. I had a strong final part of 2008 and only one podium in 2009 in Singapore, so obviously I missed the podium and I missed the competition and the stress of fighting for a World Championship, so after a long winter, with some good signs of a very competitive car that we were in the fight, it was clear that we needed the confirmation in the first Grand Prix that we were quick enough to be in the fight. After winning or losing a World Championship it's about the small details but at least we are in a strong position it seems. I think it's a very positive sign, a very nice feeling to be back in the fight, at least at this first race and I will enjoy tomorrow's race as much as I can because you are fighting for important positions and not in the middle of the grid.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, everybody knows that the first challenge is the team-mate and so how important has it been to come back and beat the team-mate, even if it is just on Saturday?
Massa: As I said, it's just fantastic to be back in the race. I never had any doubt that I was different than before. Everything I was doing since the accident was really normal. I remember the first time I went to drive the go-karts I even had the doctor there and everybody was watching and waiting to see if I was OK, and on the first lap I was already sideways, pushing hard on the first lap. I don't really feel any difference to how I was before the accident. It's always positive when you come back and you are competitive. It's definitely what I expected. I think we have a good team, me and Fernando working very well with the team and we always want to beat everybody, it doesn't matter who the driver is, whether he's a team-mate or Sebastian or whatever. We all want to be first, that's what we're aiming for. I think this is just the first qualifying, I'm happy, but we need to prepare ourselves for the race and for the next races as well, which is always very tough. I really feel that we're going in a good direction.
Q: (Carlos Miquel - Diario AS) Fernando, are you thinking about the possibility to attack Felipe Massa in the first corner, because normally the strategy of the team could be the same in the race?
Massa: No, it's better not to.
Alonso: It's the first race, maybe not. We don't know, we need to see how we start. Maybe I do a very bad start and maybe I need to defend my position from the fourth and the fifth guy. You never know what's going to happen at the start.
Vettel: I think you should attack him.
Alonso: We both overtake Sebastian and we have a relaxed race after that, I hope. (To Sebastian) Third is OK.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Moto und Sport) In the past few years the picture was that on certain circuits a certain car was better than another and on other types of circuit it was the other way around. Do you think, from your experience in testing and now here in Bahrain, it will be the same this year, that it's track specific who is in front and who not?
Alonso: Yes, I really think so. I think it will be track to track performance. Obviously at this track we know that it was maybe one of the good ones for us. I think Red Bull at the moment maybe has some little steps ahead of us in some tracks. We expect Mercedes and McLaren to be very strong also in the coming races, so we need to keep pushing. This is only the start, we have repeated many times but this is a ten months championship. The development in one month of testing from the first of February to the end of February was huge, so imagine (what it can be) in ten months. We are sitting here now, we are very happy with this top three position but in three or four races you don't know because the teams are progressing so quickly and developing the car so quickly that you can find yourself seventh or eighth very quickly. We need to keep pushing, we need to keep working. I'm very relaxed, I'm in one of the best teams, so we should be competitive.
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