Thursday Korean GP Press Conference
As well as appearing in a photo call together the five F1 championship contenders faced the media in the pre-race press conference at the Korean International Circuit.
Q: Gentlemen, you have just been doing the recreation of the 1986 photograph of the World Championship contenders. There were four of them then. There are five of you now going into the third last round of the championship. What are your feelings about the championship going into this race, particularly on an unknown circuit?
Jenson Button: For me it has been a very interesting season. Arriving at a new team and working with a new team-mate and finding my feet pretty early on I felt. I have enjoyed the season. For all of us it has been quite up and down. We have all had some pretty poor events and some good events. It has made the championship very exciting. It is good to still be involved in the championship hunt with three races to go. Obviously it’s most difficult for me as I am 31 points behind. But there is always a possibility. We are still very hopeful and I am looking forward to the next three races. I am sure it is going to be pretty mixed up as we go through these next three races. If you look at the last two races the Ferraris and Red Bulls sort of had the legs on us a little bit but these next three hopefully we will be a bit closer. That will make an exciting fight for the end of the season.
Lewis Hamilton: I think Jenson answered it all really. It is good to be here. It is a new circuit which is quite exciting for all us drivers. Quite dusty out there, but as Jenson said this weekend hopefully we will have a little bit more of a fighting chance against the Red Bulls and Ferraris and hopefully we will be a little bit more fortunate as well.
Sebastian Vettel: I think it has been looking worse this year for me, so I think we are in a good position. The car is really good. The last couple of races were very strong. As the others said this race is a bit unknown yet. I think all of us could be very strong potentially here, so we need to see how it goes. Sector one doesn’t look like our home ground, but I think sector two and sector three should give us a possibility to catch up. We will see. Interesting venue this one, so looking forward.
Mark Webber: It was good to do the photo with all the guys. As you say going back all those years with some of our heroes obviously in those photos. It has been a very interesting season up to this point, lots of different winners, and we are all in a position now. It is not by accident we are in these positions. We have all had the season’s we have had up until this point. We have three races to go and they all offer the same points as the first three races of the year and the ones in the middle, so nothing has really changed too much. Just got to go out there and do your best. It is a clean slate here for everybody. It looks like a good little venue to have a race on, so I am looking forward to getting in the car tomorrow and getting on with it.
Fernando Alonso: Well, I think not much to add. Similar comments, up and down in the season. But for me personally a great 2010 championship, driving for a new team, great integration with Ferrari from day one. Felt very comfortable. It has probably been the best year of my career so far with great experience, very happy. Now the last three races try to do our best to arrive in a position to fight for the championship in Abu Dhabi. We came back. We made some good steps forward in the last five, six grands prix, so the last three races should be exciting with some better circuits, some worse circuits for all of us and hopefully making the most every weekend.
Q: A question to you all about Korea. I know Jenson and Lewis raced in Korea before in Formula Three. Jenson on the podium in 1999 and Lewis on pole position in 2003. Your feelings first of all about the circuit, maybe about the country?
JB: I enjoyed my experience here in Korea. In 1999 that was. I finished second in the race. It was partly a street circuit and it was a good experience. I think it was good to see so much interest in the event. I think it was one of their biggest motorsport events here. It was a great experience and they seemed very passionate about their motorsport and it is good to see a lot of interest. Hopefully it will be the same here. It is an interesting layout. I think they have done a good job with the layout of the circuit. I think in the first sector there are overtaking opportunities which is good to see and then you have some very fast flowing corners out the back. I think the layout is nice. It looks very slippery at the moment but that is inevitable considering it is quite a new asphalt.
LH: I don’t really remember too much about it. I remember I was taken out by a driver in the race. That was about it. Otherwise it was a good trip and a good experience and it is great coming back. This was my first time to Seoul and I had a good day there. I think they deserve a pat on their backs for getting this place ready and it looks like they can put on quite a good show, so looking forward to it.
SV: My first time here, so haven’t seen much yet. But walking the circuit this morning it looks very interesting and lots of grandstands, so hopefully we will have lots of people coming this weekend. The circuit itself, I think the main things have been covered. We will see how grippy it will be, but given the fact there was a lot of concern and we were even talking about not racing here, lately they did a very good job. I think most of the things are finished, so should be alright for us to go out.
MW: First time for me too to Korea. They have tried incredibly hard to get everything ready against a bit of a deadline. I think we are all ready to go. It looks like it will be ready, properly ready in a few years time if you know what I mean, in terms of around here and in terms of the city and some rural surroundings if you like. It’s a bit remote but that’s fine. I hope the people in the future can embrace the sport and have a good look at what Formula One is about as clearly at the moment it is new to them and a new experience but the enthusiasm looks good which is the most important thing.
FA: Me too, first time here. I think they did a very good job as well with getting everything ready. I think it is 99 per cent ready, so it will be a good show this weekend. It is always nice also from a driver’s point of view coming to a new circuit. It is a new challenge for us and always with a new country it is very welcome in the championship, so looking forward to the race here and hopefully a good show.
SV: The only thing that they could probably finish in the future is the hotel situation for a lot of team members and I think you journalists. I think for the drivers, we are fine, but I have heard some stories and maybe they can work on that.
Q: Again, to you all. What have you been doing since Japan? Did you stay out here or did you go back? Where have you been training?
JB: I headed back. We spent the day together Lewis and myself at a charity event, last Thursday, then I had a day in the simulator on Friday. We did some work for a partner of ours on Saturday and then headed out to Japan where I have been since in Hiroshima.
LH: I had a couple of days back home which was great. Did some training there and then, flew out here. Got here Wednesday morning and had appearances all day yesterday and drove up this morning.
SV: I stayed out after Japan, on the Asian side, to stay with the time rhythm and got a little bit of sun. Did some training and arrived here yesterday night.
MW: We left pretty quickly after the race in Suzuka which got me in trouble a bit apparently. Went to Australia as quick as possible and had a good time at home in Australia. It was all fine.
Q: Lots of appearances down there? Lots of media work?
MW: Absolutely zero.
Q: How did you manage that?
MW: They are not too bothered. No, they are okay. It was fine. They are excited but it was very well managed so it was all fine.
JB: Did you have any shrimps on the barbecue?
MW: Loads of shrimps on the barbie. I think there was a saint, the Italians will know, that we had Mary MacKillop made a saint. That is big news in Australia, but obviously not big news everywhere else, so that’s what the main news was. I had to watch that for seven days.
FA: I stayed in Asia, south of Japan, a little island. Did some training, playing golf, nothing exciting.
Questions from the floor
Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP): For Jenson and Lewis. Would you say that this is your very last opportunity for the title? If you miss this one, mathematically speaking it is still possible, but it will be harder.
JB: Every time we go to a race it seems this is the critical race. It is obviously a lot more difficult for us to win the World Championship this year but we have seen in past seasons that anything is possible. We have all had failures this year. We have all had issues, so it is definitely still possible even after this event if it is mathematically possible.
LH: The same.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe): The Red Bulls seem quickest in qualifying, so for the two Red Bull drivers can you explain why it is so fast and do you think you will have the pole on Saturday? For the three others, do you think you can beat them and do you have a special thing to beat them on Saturday?
MW: Well, obviously Seb has had a good run in qualifying. He has had a few pole positions and I have had some poles as well. As you say the car is pretty quick on Saturday afternoon. We have adjustable front ride height suspension which has been running since the start of the year and that works well and then we put the car back up for Sunday. Lots of things have been good for us and we try to do the same job on Saturday.
SV: As Mark said we have this big lever for the ride height. I think that is the secret for Saturday.
Q: (MC) The other three, do you feel you can beat the Red Bulls, either to pole position or the race itself?
LH: I think it’s possible, anything’s possible, and I think you can tell that us, as a team, and the Ferraris as well, are pushing very hard because I don’t think the gap is that big, so it’s not impossible. We’ve outqualified them… what was it, one race maybe? So they’ve had more than a few pole positions but no, I think we can close the gap, hopefully.
JB: Yeah, they have had the advantage this season in qualifying. If you look at the last few races we have got closer. That’s an area where we struggled a little bit at the start of the year but over the last few races we’ve been a lot closer, which is good. I know everyone’s bringing new packages to the circuit but I’ve got to say a big thanks to the guys for bringing the parts that we have here which should hopefully make a difference but we have to wait and see if that is correct.
FA: I prefer to beat them on Sunday.
Q: (MC) Can I continue a bit on that: Mark, it has been said that you are a bit worried about the first sector, even to the extent that if the two of you are on the front row, that the advantage of your rivals could mean that you’re not in the lead by the end of the first sector.
MW: Yeah, that could happen, but there’s another 300kms to go after that. Look, it was the same at Spa. We knew that we were going to be quite vulnerable up the hill there. Obviously we didn’t even get into the lead at the start, initially, there. So there are some tracks where the first sector is different than other circuits but you can only do what you can on the day so, yeah, if, if you’re not leading at the end of the first lap, for sure you can still make an interesting race from there. That’s what you always look to do: put your best foot forward. Yeah, we’re ready for most things, so we shall see how we go.
Q: (Jaime Rodriguez – El Mundo) Mark and Sebastian, the last team that tried to win the championship with two drivers was McLaren in 2007 and this story didn’t finish very well. What do you fear now?
MW: Well, for sure the Spanish probably want this. No one in this room knows what’s going to happen in the next three races, nobody. We can talk here for hours about what we’re going to do, what’s going to happen, this and that, upside down, inside out. No one knows, so we’re going to go out there, do our stuff, clearly Seb and I have had a good season. We’re both in with a chance of doing quite well in the championship and also the team is doing well in the Constructors’, because of both of us obviously are getting quite a few points. If there’s a point, in the future, where we have to race each other again then we will do what we always do and that’s obviously try to get the best result out of whatever situation we have. Irrespective if I’m racing Fernando or JB or Lewis or Seb is that I know that I need to finish races, all of us know that, so that’s always in the front of your mind, but you’re not going to give positions up either, so it’s always a balancing act. That’s what it comes down to: the racing. All the other stuff isn’t important.
SV: Yeah, not much to add. What happened in 2007 happened for a reason. Kimi (Räikkönen) had quite a bad chance of winning the championship with two races to go, at the time 17 points behind. Of course he showed it’s possible but he also did his maximum and he won those races but it also required the others not to finish in the points or not to finish high up, so I don’t think you can really compare… I think it will be different this year.
Q: (Marc Surer – Sky TV Germany) I have a question for Alonso: Fernando you have had some engine problems at the beginning of the season. Do you still have enough engines to finish the season?
FA: I think we are OK. Obviously the first problems with the engine in race two and race three gave us a more difficult situation, no doubts, but I think from there on we planned the year, the championship in a different way and so far the situation has been under control, so we should have no concerns for the remaining races and everything is OK for us.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Mark, you know that if you win one race and score podiums at the others you will have your destiny in your own hands. Do you sometimes calculate that or never take that into consideration?
MW: It’s ridiculous to start calculating things because a lot of things can happen. As you say: I win the next two races, it’s all over anyway in terms of doing well. But this is another event, another race here and (I must) keep doing what I’m doing. As I say, the gap has been edging away, the right way in the last few races. I need to try to do that. Then just keep doing our best, that’s the most important thing. I’m doing my best and then hopefully the result will take care of itself.
Q: (Bianca Leppert – Auto, Motor und Sport) For everybody, do you think that on Friday and Saturday morning it will be a race itself to find the right set-up or are all the three top teams on one level?
MW: It’s a new venue, clearly, so we obviously have good simulation tools to understand what we expect to a certain point, but the big unknown is obviously what sort of grip level the track will give to us in the cockpit and how the tires will work. We’ll have a look at that tomorrow and then use a lot of that, obviously, for Friday going into Saturday. Everybody’s in the same boat, I think we’re all imagining that the track won’t be incredible in terms of grip but it might be a surprise if we have some grip to play with, so let’s see how tomorrow goes. I think for everyone it’s the same boat, it’s not that difficult with what we face.
Q: (Jonathan Legard – BBC Sport) Question to all of you: how much have you achieved what you expected to this season? Fernando, you said it was your best season to date; does that also include winning the championships with Renault as well?
FA: Well, it’s not finished, so we will see how the year ends, but in terms of happiness, in terms of motivation, driving, the team itself etc., it’s the best one. Obviously it will be nice to become champion this year but even if we cannot do it, I will anyway have great, great memories of 2010.
MW: Well, I think all of us to sit at the first qualifying session at Bahrain and say that with three races to go you’re going to be leading the championship is virtually… that is obviously the highest position you can be in with three races to go, so it’s a high bar to set yourself expectation-wise and also for the team, because we know what level of competition we have. We totally respect our rivals and they’re great operations, so that’s why you need to keep your goals in check but on the same side be optimistic and positive and well-driven within yourself that you can achieve great things and clearly Fernando has achieved more things in the past but for me this year has been an incredible season, a real highlight with many special victories for me and a lot of races which I have really, really enjoyed. Also the team chemistry – obviously we’ve had a few little bobbles here and there – but with adversity people learn a lot about themselves as well. So there has been some good stuff from our team and also from myself in terms of learning about the sport and it’s been good. Clearly it’s been my best season to date, so I’m happy with it so far.
SV: Well, I think after last season the expectation was to fight for the championship and with three races to go I think all of us are in a position to do so, some better, some worse, but that’s racing in the end. Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re probably not. You spoke about Fernando’s engine problems earlier in the season. I think it’s normal to have ups and downs, sometimes you have more, sometimes less, but as I said, the expectation was probably to be in a position to fight for the championship and I think we are in a very strong and very good position. I think so
FA: We have fulfilled our expectations and there’s still a bit to go.
LH: I never have any expectations. I’m happy where I am, we’re still in the fight for the championship, so it’s not a bad position to be in.
JB: For me it’s been a fun year. Last season was obviously very special for me. I’d been in the same team for seven years, so to move teams was a challenge and it’s something I’ve really enjoyed this year, working with McLaren, working with Lewis. I’ve really enjoyed the situation I’ve found myself in. I still know there’s more to come. There are only three races left and with the partnership and the team, for me, I’m very happy. There is still more to come. I’m enjoying my life right now and I’ve enjoyed this season very much. I’ve had some really fun races, a couple of victories. I’d like to have won more races, but there are still three more to go, so we will give it a go.
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