Belgian GP: Sunday Press Conference
1 – Jenson BUTTON (McLaren)
2 – Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull Racing)
3 – Kimi RAIKKONEN (Lotus)
PODIUM INTERVIEW (conducted by Jacky Ickx)
Q: Jenson, the last few races were not really easy for you. Today you have done the perfect race. You did the fastest time in practice, you did all the race winning it, you are the only one, I think, this year who has won from the start to the end. It has been wonderful. Just let us know your feeling winning this wonderful Belgian Grand Prix.
Jenson BUTTON: Good afternoon everyone! Thank you very much. I still can’t get used to this: talking on the podium, it’s quite strange, isn’t it? What can I say? This circuit is such a special circuit to most drivers and, yeah, the way that it flows and the history here so to get a victory here from lights to flag is very special, especially as it’s not been the easiest year for me. So, yeah, a very special weekend. I’d like to thank everyone: the whole team and also all of you guys [the crowd] for being so supportive. And we’re going to enjoy this for a little while longer before we head to Monza and hopefully do the same.
Q: Well Sebastian, the weekend was probably not the one you would have loved to have; the fact you have missed your train yesterday is quite a handicap but you managed to finish second and you managed to come back in the Championship, reducing the score on Alonso. How do you feel?
Sebastian VETTEL: Well, thank you Jacky. Obviously it was a crazy race. From where I started the start was not so good, and after the first corner where a lot of cars went off I was pretty crazy and fortunately we came back with a fantastic strategy, I think it was the right decision to stay out – obviously I was keen to come in because when you’re stuck in traffic it’s difficult – but yeah, I think it was the right call and the car was quite good in the race so we were able to pick up quite some pace. Let’s say after our poor start to the weekend, especially for you guys [the crowd] on Friday when it was raining like mad and you were on the grandstands, thanks for the support. Yeah it was good to come back and obviously a fantastic race, I had a lot of fun, racing a lot of people, racing Michael, so yeah, in the end obviously great to come second, great to be here on the podium and looking forward already to coming back here next year. This circuit is unbelievable. Thank You.
Q: Well Kimi, first of all the crowd is really showing their pleasure to have you back in grand prix racing. You’re flirting with the victory, now you are quite often on the podium, you did an incredible battle for third place. We had feeling that maybe you had difficulty with your car, maybe sometimes, but the result is that you are finishing third. It’s a pure joy for us and we like to congratulate you for this great position.
Kimi RAIKKONEN: Thanks a lot and I mean it’s nice to be back here. Always lots of fans and good racing. So I think we have seen very nice racing today. Of course not the easiest day for me and for the team but the car was not exactly like we are liking but I was fighting and try to get the best out of it and we managed to get some good points for myself and for the team, so that’s the main thing but for sure not the easiest race, one of the most difficult but that’s how it goes and we try next week better.
Thanks to all of you, thanks for this great show.
Q: Jenson, we said the other day that Spa hasn’t necessarily been very kind to you – I guess that’s changed now?
Button: Yeah, a little bit. All weekend, to be fair, the car has felt reasonably good. And this is the first circuit we come to that is lower downforce, we pretty much run full downforce everywhere else we go, so it’s a nice change to try something different. I just love Spa, I think we all do. Through Eau Rouge, I know it’s easy flat, but it’s still an experience, the g that we pull through there. And yeah, to lead from start to finish, it’s a very special victory. But I think you’re going to say that about every victory. But it’s really nice to win on a circuit like this. I remember watching Formula One back in the day here – it was a little bit different then – and there’s so much history. It’s really good to be a part of that.
Q: How important was it to get that first set of medium tires to last all the way through to nearly half distance?
Button: Yeah, well, we weren’t really sure what to do with the strategy: whether it was going to be a one [stop] or a two, and we thought some people might even be doing a three and really we were just playing it by ear. And I think when Nico [Hülkenberg] got into second it did help us a little bit because I could just feel the car and not push it too hard and at that point I still didn’t think we were going to do a one-stop, I still thought it was going to be a two. And then on lap 12 the tires started working and the car felt very consistent, really good to drive and I could control the degradation of the tires. It’s always easier when you’re leading a race, to do that. But it was a great feeling to be able to go so much further than pretty much everyone except for Seb.
Q: Were you a bit worried that the tires might drop off at the end there?
Button: No. I had a bit more oversteer in the car, which isn’t ideal, but yeah, the balance was reasonable, and it feels that the first ten laps were not perfect and then the tires would come to you: you would lose a bit of front grip and you would get a balance – on both sets. So it was good. I knew that Sebastian stopped a couple of laps later than me, so he had a couple of laps’ fresher tires but he had to pull back 15 seconds, so we were in a pretty good position. But you think about everything: you think about all the things that could go wrong and, y’know, today they didn’t. The team did a fantastic job and we really didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend. So very happy and very proud of all the guys. And great to get this victory here in Spa.
Q: Sebastian, you must be happy also, with second place from tenth on the grid.
Vettel: Yeah, after the first corner I was probably the only one who was not improving because obviously a lot of cars crashed in front of us but my start was very poor and I lost quite a lot. I had a very poor initial launch and lost positions. Obviously I was starting around the Force Indias, and I think they were not far away from Jenson after the first corners – and I wasn’t – I was behind a Caterham even. So yeah, pretty poor start to the race but after that I think the pace was there. We were able to get through the field but it’s not that easy when everyone has DRS available: it’s like a big chain and you sit on the limiter like everyone else. It’s difficult to benefit from that but I think we made reasonable progress through the field. And then we were able to have a couple of good laps in clean air, which I think was the right way. And obviously allowed us to come back through the strategy and finish second, which I think after the first lap nobody expected. We didn’t expect the tires to last that well, I think there was some talk before the race, there were some concerns the tires wouldn’t last that long. As Jenson touched on, probably most people were thinking of two and three stops and one stop seemed out of reach. Same for us but after a couple of laps it was clear that the tires were lasting pretty well and the pace wasn’t bad – that was the most important thing for us. Saturday morning went quite well, qualifying was shit and today was well again. Yeah, happy with second.
Q: You were battling through the field. So you were probably asking more of the softer tires than Jenson was…
Vettel: Surely in the first stint but even with that I think the pace was there. We had the fastest times on the first set of tires even though I had a lot of battling going on with Felipe – well the Caterham first but Felipe and then Bruno, Mark, Michael – so yeah, it was fairly busy but as I said, the pace was there, which was the reason why we were able to gain so much and in the end come second.
Q: Kimi, two defining moments that we can remember from that race from you, particularly the start, tell us about that.
Raikkonen: I had an OK start, I gained one place on Sauber and I think a very similar start to Jenson and I just saw it in the mirrors that there’s some accidents going to happen so I was pretty lucky to get out of it. I think they just missed me on the rear. But the Williams tried to get me – but he had a jump start, I could see it already, before the lights went that somebody was moving a lot so for me it was no problem.
Q: And then the overtaking maneuver on Michael down into Eau Rouge…
Raikkonen: Yeah, my car wasn’t very nice to drive the whole race, even yesterday with new tires in qualifying it was OK but even third or fourth we were quite far away from the guys in front of us – so I wasn’t expecting a very easy ride and it turned out to be very difficult. Not grip, the first few laps with new tires were always good but then sliding: no front end, no rear end, just struggling with the grip and last we had to run a bit more downforce to get grip and we were really slow in a straight line, so with Michael I passed him once, he got me back and I knew my only chance was try to get the DRS and then to be ahead of him because even if I had the DRS I could not pass him on the straight with the limiter. So, I had to just take a chance to overtake him with the KERS into Eau Rouge And it kind of paid off – but he almost got me still back which shows us that we didn’t really have the speed today – but we had a third place so it’s OK. Not the easiest race but pretty OK.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Motor und Sport) Sebastian, you overtook most people into the chicane. Why was it easier to overtake there than at the end of the straight, and how do you see the situation with Michael, who all of a sudden turned into the pit lane?
Vettel: With Michael there was a bit of confusion, I think. He probably wasn't that keen to defend his position because he was going into the pits anyway. I thought he would block the inside and then he came on the outside, it was very very close under braking. I nearly ran into the back of his car, and then I tried to get into a better position for the start/finish straight but he kept turning right and went into the pits. I think I was, within three seconds, twice very lucky not to lose my front wing. I think there was a bit of confusion. It doesn't matter where you get Michael on the circuit, whether you're fighting for P1 or P15, he will fight like hell which is great to see - he hasn't lost it. It obviously makes it hard for you, but it's always a great challenge. It's very very close with him but always fair. I enjoyed that, but as I said, there was probably a bit of confusion.
Regarding the chicane, to be honest I think we were quite racy in terms of ratios. At some stage - especially if you had people in front of the car you were trying to overtake - you know there was a kind of stream up the Kemmel straight so it was difficult to use the benefit you probably had because you were close to the car in front. For some reason, it seemed better on the way back, it was better to attack into the chicane. You also have more of a braking zone which I think allows you to be a little bit more flexible and try something which I did for most of the people, round the outside. I think that's the reason.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Sebastian, you are now on 140 points while Alonso is still on 164, 24 points difference, less than one victory and we still have eight races to go. Can you comment on that situation regarding the championship?
Vettel: Better than before. I had a look at the championship before I went on holiday. Right now I don't really care in terms of scoring and points. Of course I care for the championship and it's good to hear that it looks better. I don't know what happened in the first corner but Fernando didn't finish the race. These things happen. We have to look after ourselves. I'm not bothered in terms of points and gaps at the moment. There are a lot of races ahead and... bloody hell, if you saw the first corner, you can see how quickly things can change. That's racing. Next week we go to Monza. It's nice if you qualify on pole, I did that last year so you're the first one to get into the chicane. If you're a little bit further back it can be quite tight, so you always have that risk. The races are very long and even if you're a little bit further back you can still come back so we will see what happens.
Q: (Oana Popoiu) Kimi, for the first time you failed to win a Belgian race that you have finished. How does that feel and do you think that double DRS would have helped you to gain a better position today?
Raikkonen: Well, we couldn't use it because Friday was such bad weather, but it's better third than not to finish, so OK, we didn't win but we didn't have the speed today so we didn't deserve to win either. In the last three races we had the speed in races where you cannot overtake and here we just didn't have the speed. I will take third place, I'm pretty happy to finish on the podium given how difficult the car was handling and how tricky it was throughout the whole race.
Q: (Sven Haidinger - Sport Woche) Sebastian, how did it feel to make almost all the overtaking moves into the chicane where you had the crash with Jenson some years ago? Was it good for your morale?
Vettel: It was clear that it was Jenson's fault a couple of years ago! I didn't crash today, no matter who I passed. It was fun.
Button: Don't care, I won anyway.
Vettel: I fucked up a couple of years ago when I pushed him out of the race which was not nice, so I learned my lesson. It was very tight but I knew I had to get past. I was somewhere, sitting in 12th, tenth position in the beginning of the race and obviously the target was to have a chat to you at the end of it, so I knew I had a bit on. I tried everything and most of the time it seemed to work so I was quite happy with that and it was good fun.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Jenson, next week we are in Monza. Do you think we're going to see McLaren in similarly good shape? You're coming back, you're still a long way behind but this was the win that you absolutely needed, with Fernando scoring no points.
Button: Yeah, as I said before the race, it's a massive long shot to win the title but today proves that you can claw back 25 points very very quickly. A great day for me, but still 63 points (behind). Anything is possible. Monza is a circuit like this in a way, so yeah, there's a good possibility that we will have good pace there. Whether we will be as competitive as we were here we still have to wait and see. The temperatures will be different - it is a little bit different in terms of downforce level so we will see. This is a great weekend for the team - for me anyway, our side of the garage so yeah, it's a good 25 points and if we can keep fighting for victories like this there's so many people in the championship that still have the possibility to win, there's still a small chance that I can really fight for that championship but going to Monza I don't think about the championship, I think - as we all will say - we go there to do the best job we can and to bring back home the most points that we can. It's a tough race for anyone that's not in a Ferrari but it's a great atmosphere there and it's one of the best races on the calendar.
Q: (Rodrigo Franca - VIP Magazine) Jenson, speaking of that, do you think that this victory shows that McLaren has improved a lot after the five week break, or is it just a different, unique Grand Prix because you had the accident in the first turn and no activity on Friday because of the rain?
Button: We've had a very up and down season. I'm not talking about me personally but as a team. We had such a strong start to the year and then a pretty weak part to the season. Then Hockenheim was a good race with second then with the win for Lewis in Hungary, and also the win in Canada. We've had some very very good races and it seems the last three have been very strong for us. It's great to see, because here is very different to the last two races. We were running a different... well, I'm running a different wing package in the last two races and it's good to see that they both work.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Kimi, the lack of power here, does it worry you just before going to Monza where you need even more power?
Raikkonen: I don't know if we were lacking any power. That's what people always say but we don't know what we have. We just didn't have the speed today and hopefully with a bit more warm weather and layout of the circuit might make a difference. I don't expect just to be suddenly in the front, be up there easily but we've been up there more or less at every circuit and giving ourselves a good chance and this was one of the most difficult races, for sure. Hopefully it will go back to what it's been in previous races for Monza. We'll just have to wait and see.
Q: (Mike Doodson - Honorary) Sebastian, you used some very diplomatic words about the fight with Michael. The word you used was confusing. After 300 Grands Prix and about 20 of them here, you would have thought that there would be no room for confusion. Would you like to use some of your stronger language about that behavior?
Vettel: I think the confusion comes from the way that... it's not anybody's fault, it's the way the track is designed with the pit entry... if you decide to pit then you have to go right, so you can't blame him if that was always his idea. As I said, I probably misunderstood, initially, as in I thought he would cover the inside under braking. I went on the outside and there was hardly any room, so he probably didn't expect me there or didn't see me. I don't know, I need to talk to him. As I touched on there, after turn 18, the first right hander, back to the left, I was probably in a better place to get good acceleration out of the last corner but he wanted to pit so what do you do?
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Regarding this moment, he's going to speak to the stewards and probably you as well. Do you expect that there might be a punishment for his behavior?
Vettel: You asked whether Michael deserves a penalty? I don't think so. I think I will talk to him. I don't think we need penalties all the time. It's probably easier for us to judge from the inside of the car than for the stewards. As I said, I think the problem, in a way, comes because the pit entry is on the right, the corner goes to the left... It's nobody's fault, it's not Spa or the circuit to blame. As I said, it's not Michael to blame. I will talk to him and that's it. I think that's the way we should handle this kind of situation and vice versa. We got away with it, nothing happened but even if we crashed, it would have meant the end for both our races. I think that's the approach I would have. When I crashed into Jenson, fortunately he had already left for the airport but I gave him a call and apologized. I think that's part of the sport. In the end, I think you should treat people the way you expect people to treat you.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) To all three of you, looking at the start with Grosjean who caused another accident, it's not the first time that that has happened this year. Are you going to talk to him also or are you expecting the stewards to be harsh on him for the next race?
Button: I will leave this one for Kimi. I didn't see it.
Raikkonen: I don't want to talk about it because I didn't see the whole thing. Somebody can say it's this one guy's fault and another guy may have a different opinion. Until I see the whole thing I have nothing to say. It's not our work or job to tell somebody what to do and what not to do. That's why we have stewards. We will see what happens.
Q: (Sven Haidinger - Sport Woche) Jenson, how do you explain that you were struggling big time in the first half of the season and now suddenly there seems some kind of dominance, or this weekend you're absolutely on top of your game? What happened?
Button: Yeah, very good holiday. Maybe we should have five weeks between every race? I'm not looking forward to Monza! Many things. The start of the season was good for me - this could be long! - the start of the season was good for me, I obviously won the first race. In the first three or four races the pace was very good and then I had a period of about four races that weren't so good but for different reasons. We did try something with the set-up to try and help the tire temperature issues that we were having in our team. I tried it on my side and it took us a couple of races to realize that data wasn't correct and we were probably damaging the tires more than helping them. At certain times I've been unlucky, especially at Silverstone which was disappointing because it's my home Grand Prix. In Valencia, again the pace was good but it didn't go my way and from then on, I think the pace has been reasonably good. I'm much happier with the car in the last few races. I feel that I can work with it. Before, it was so inconsistent corner to corner, not just lap to lap. Corner to corner the car felt so different. I wouldn't say it's just our car, it's probably everyone's car, with the way the tires are working but for me, that was more of a struggle than for Lewis and maybe some others. It's definitely a weakness of mine, but something I definitely worked on. This weekend proves that I can get the best out of the car when I like the balance.
Q: (Oana Popoiu) Sebastian, did you think you would be on the podium today after starting tenth?
Vettel: It's difficult to know before the race, but I was quite confident we have a strong pace. As I touched on, the car was very good on Friday and Saturday morning and not on Saturday afternoon, but I was reasonably confident and knew that everything is possible here, because you can overtake, probably better
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