Chinese GP: Thursday Press Conference
Participating: Fernando Alonso (McLaren Mercedes), Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso) Mark Webber (Red Bull).
Q. Mark, Sebastian and Fernando, would you just talk a little bit about the problems following behind the guy who is actually controlling the field when it's under the safety car?
Mark Webber: It's pretty easy when the safety car lights are on because a) you can see everything, if you're the next guy behind the silver Mercedes and you just have to try to keep a sensible rhythm behind it and obviously in the first safety car (period) and clearly in the second safety car (period) there was not a sensible rhythm.
I'm all up for not a great rhythm when the lights are off, because we're preparing for a re-start when the lights are off and there were a few times when I believe Jenson was being backed up by Nick. I think sometimes Jenson passed Nick nearly and I passed Jenson sometimes because the pace was yo-yoing around massively.
We know what pace the safety car can do and I accept a little bit that maybe you get a bit bored in that situation because we did a lot of laps and sometimes you get ready to go. It definitely contributed to Sebastian hitting me up the back that we were confused at what the other car was doing because he was doing what he wasn't doing what you are supposed to do (behind the safety car). Clearly.
Q. And is that something you will bring up say, in the drivers' meeting?
MW: Yeah. We'll talk about it, waste a bit of oxygen and move on.
Sebastian Vettel: I think, as Mark said, it's never easy when the rhythm is just not there. The safety car driver is pushing as hard as he can and for us, that is not the highest speed.
Obviously the very first part of the race was done behind the safety car; we had a couple of laps and it was always quite close sometimes, and I remember I sometimes had to pass Mark and Mark was beside Jenson and so on, so it always got quite tight and in the second safety car (period) I was in third position, I only had two cars to observe, so the job was a bit easier, you might say, and I can only repeat what I said after the race: just exiting turn 13, all of a sudden I saw... as a human being you react to movement, I would say, and all of a sudden I saw Lewis pulling far to the right and slowing down a lot.
I was wondering what happened to him, I already thought he's retiring, there's no more power. That's what it looked like for me because he was going so slowly, and yeah, by the time I looked back in front of me I was already in Mark's rear, so for sure, I apologize again. Obviously I did not plan to destroy both of our races in the end.
Fernando Alonso: Nothing to add. I think I agree with the two versions.
Q. But do you feel there wasn't a natural rhythm also, that it wasn't being done correctly?
FA: It's difficult to know what the car in front of you needs to do but for sure, I didn't see the race on TV but hearing the comments of them, they seem to overtake the car in front a couple of times and some unnecessary maneuvers, to overtake and to avoid cars in front of you. I also overtook Lewis two or three times, so it seems that we all agree.
Q. Sebastian, you obviously had a great race up until that moment, what really made the difference?
SV: I don't know. Saturday morning we didn't have any free practice because visibility was too bad for the helicopter and it was the first time, the very first time for me with the car in the rain, so I didn't really know what to expect and going into Q1, it was already going really really - pretty well.
We made it quite safely into Q2 and finally P10 brought us into Q3 and for the team it was the first time, so it was a good weekend. Then the race as well. After the restart I was able to get third position straight away and we had a good race pace and I think the most positive thing out of the weekend was that we were there in third position, not because we were lucky because all the others retired and so on.
The thing was that we had the speed, we were fast enough and so up to that point, behind the safety car, everything was OK and then yeah, of course it was a big disappointment to finish the race like that.
Q. Robert, you had an interesting fight with Felipe at the end of the Japanese Grand Prix.
Robert Kubica: Well, I had Felipe behind me for the last stint. Unfortunately Sato came in and he was, I think, lapped three times already. Two laps to go and he didn't see me and as I was behind him, I lost a lot of time there. Felipe came close. I had a lot of aquaplaning and he overtook me in corner six.
I overtook him on the exit of it and then in corner ten he went a bit wide, we touched two times there and then I was forced to cut the track on the grass. I came back, he cut the track on the grass. He overtook me and so on until the last corner.
It was pretty tough, it was on the limit of reasonable safety because I think three or four times we could end up (inaudible). I think Felipe was a bit upset after the race. I was also a bit upset by my race, so we just put all what we had into these five corners.
Q. This is your first full season, what are your feelings about your whole year?
RK: Pretty disappointed. We have good performance in our car but it looks like we struggled this season to extract 100 percent of it and on many occasions I think my performance was under the performance of the car and of the whole package.
Q. Mark, the team is hoping to overtake Williams in the Constructors' Championship; what chances do you reckon? You've had three finishes in the races that have been held here.
MW: Yeah, reasonable. I think five points is not easy for teams like us to get in dry conditions. We'll see. If Nico is back up there – obviously he had a penalty at the last race – but two races to go, five points. If we finish equal on points we still get them, so there's absolutely no question about it, we're trying to get them.
Q. Kimi, third and second places here over the last couple of years, what are your feelings about this track?
Kimi Raikkonen: It's quite OK usually. I quite enjoy it. We will see how it goes this year but it doesn't really change what has happened in previous years here.
Q. And the championship, your feelings about that?
KR: For sure it's not a good position where we are, but we still try to win races and see what happens. It's not really up to us any more, even if we win both races it's probably not going to happen for us but it's the only thing we can do, try to win and see where we end up.
Q. What are your feelings about the possibility of rain on Sunday – again?
KR: It's the same for all the teams and drivers, so I don't mind really. I think it was quite an exciting race last time in the rain, so for sure it makes it a bit livelier if it's raining.
Q. Fernando, interesting in the team's preview, you called your second place here frustrating but obviously you also had a win here as well, so what are your feelings about this circuit?
FA: It was not frustrating last year, first of all. My feelings are a little bit up and down because now, at the moment, in the championship it's good to come here. I like this circuit and I won once and I finished second last year, so I always have great memories from this track and good times.
But being 12 points behind in the championship with two races to go is not the perfect position, so as Kimi said, I think we still have a little chance in the championship but it's not up to us any more, we need some other combination of results, so we just need to concentrate on winning the race and in Brazil as well: try to do the best two races we can and have fun driving here.
Q. Is that what your checkered wristband is, so you see the checkered flag first?
FA: Maybe. Like this I finish first in my own world, my own race.
Q. Are you going to wear it for the weekend then?
FA: Not in the car.
Q. There has been a lot of talk since the Japanese Grand Prix about your future and that Flavio Briatore has made you an offer. It's a team with which you have had a lot of success in the past. Is it something you're considering?
FA: It's not the time, it's not the time to speak about next year. I try to win these two races, and when the championship finishes we will see.
Questions From The Floor
Q. (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Question to Kimi: how do you explain the many mistakes that Ferrari has been doing in the last race?
KR: I don't think that we made so many mistakes. We had a misunderstanding with the stewards or the FIA or whatever you call it and that's only what really hurt us. That's the only… I don't know why you say we made so many mistakes.
Q. (Ann Giuntini – L'Equipe) To Mark and Sebastian: without any desire to get into politics, would you say that Hamilton's maneuvers in the last race were not very far from being unfair or not under the agreement you generally have?
SV: In the end it was my fault for crashing into Mark's car, so I'm not here to blame anybody but I think it's clear that the rhythm was not there. In the end we are all sitting in the same boat. It's raining, there is a safety car for a long time and it's quite complicated to keep the temperatures in the brakes and avoid glazing them.
But at that point I was just distracted, you could say. I was looking to the right and I was sure he (Hamilton) was retiring, there was no power anymore and yeah, all I can say is that by the time I looked back I was already in Mark's rear end so… It's not to blame anybody but for sure the reason was the rhythm was not there.
MW: I think he did a shit job behind the safety car. He did a shit job and that's it. He spoke in the drivers' briefing about how good a job he was going to do and then he did the job the opposite way, so we know for next time, it's no problem.
Q. (Jaime Rodriguez – El Mundo) Fernando, after this hard season do you have any thoughts to continue at McLaren next year?
FA: As I said, it is not the right time to talk about next year. For sure I have some difficult moments and frustrating moments this season but it's a competitive sport and you always have good and not so good moments. This year I suffered more difficult moments than I expected but nothing bigger than what is normal in the sport.
Q. (Jaime Rodriguez – El Mundo) And do you believe in miracles?
FA: I believe in miracles, for sure. I think anything can happen, this is Formula One. If you think the racing is boring or the sport is boring because always the same cars are winning the races and there is nothing to expect from the weekend, F1 is unpredictable sometimes and we have seen it many times, especially in wet races.
If you said now that maybe it is raining again on Sunday, then anything can happen. Until mathematically you have no chance in the championship, you don't give up.
Q. (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Mark and Sebastian, you were massively disappointed on Sunday night but today you have to go back to work with your engineers. How do you put that behind you?
MW: As Fernando just touched on, it's the game we are in. It's not lawn bowls, it's F1. We have to pick ourselves up from tough weekends. It was one of the lowest points of my career last weekend, no question about it in terms of being in a position to challenge for a victory.
It was taken away not even in a racing incident but sitting behind a Safety Car, so it was very hard to swallow. But, yeah, it's under the bridge, gone. We'll never get that back and we've just got to focus on this one.
SV: I agree. Life goes on and we are all ambitious enough and don't suffer for motivation. For sure it was a big disappointment for Mark. It was never my intention to destroy my race or his race. It took one or two days maybe but already this weekend we have the next chance and maybe there is a chance of rain on Sunday, so anything can happen. I'm looking forward, I'm not old and so hopefully there is more to come.
Q. Kimi, I'm from China, so can you tell me what the important thing for an F1 racer is?
KR: To have good results, a good team. It's pretty normal for us to always try our best and I'm not sure what's most important but I think it's probably having a good team behind you and a good environment in which to race.
Q. (Luc Domenjoz – Le Matin) Fernando, in Japan Lewis was quicker than you in qualifying. Do you think you have been treated in a fair way by the team or could maybe the team favor Lewis by making subtle changes to your car, like tire pressures or wing settings?
FA: Difficult question... I will not answer.
Q. Heikki Kulta (Turun Sanomat) Fernando, would it have been easier for you if Kimi had stayed at McLaren?
FA: I never thought about that, but I think it would be similar. At the end of the day you need to do a good job and win races. This year I won four races and maybe four is not enough to become world champion. At the end of the day I don't think it matters what teammate you have.
Q. (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Fernando, Lewis says he had a chat with you this morning. Could you elaborate on what was discussed?
FA: Nothing out of the ordinary. I received a text message from him last night because in Japan my telephone didn't work and yesterday when I switched it on I received like 30 or 40 SMS messages, one from him. I approached him and said thanks for the SMS. He'd been in Shanghai all three days and I'd been in Tokyo, so I asked him what he'd bought, just normal conversation.
Q. (Victor Seara – Telecinco) For all drivers, 20 laps behind the Safety Car, what did you think about that as a spectacle for the TV viewers and the spectators?
FA: Behind the Safety Car it was not too much.
RK: For me the conditions were pretty difficult and the visibility was maybe okay for the first three cars but for the rest it was very difficult to see where the track was going. Behind the Safety Car I overtook Sebastian twice on the main straight without seeing him. He was pulling to the right and I couldn't see him. The conditions were very difficult and if it was up to me I would have kept the Safety Car for longer.
MW: It was difficult. Looking for a window it is hard for us to get an idea of how intense the rain is when we are in the car. All we know is that the visibility was very very poor. I was particularly worried that when we went back to racing if someone lost their car on the straight we would have a very big crash because, guys, you just can't see anything.
Once we got going I think that the conditions for the first few laps were raceable, it wasn't too bad, but having said that the field where I was, was quite spread out and it's always more difficult if you have cars close together. But I think the Safety Car was running out of fuel and had to come in anyway.
SV: I think it was the right choice because it is us drivers on the circuit and to be honest even under the Safety Car, going down the main straight, I didn't see anything and really shit my pants. It was just about guessing. We exited the last corner, I saw the other cars and suddenly there was just all this spray.
As Robert said, twice I saw him right next to me and I was like (gasp), what is he doing there! On the restart I was thinking before it was no problem to go flat out in a straight line but in the end you saw nothing. I was looking to the right and seeing the wall and the advertisements and then when that stopped I was looking at the left and waited for the boards – 200, 150, 100 – then somewhere started to brake and when the spray came down I saw the incident at the first corner with Jenson, Nick and Mark.
They were fighting and I think I had the best line, so I grabbed third position straight away. But it was definitely right to start behind the Safety Car. It's us in the car and I think you shouldn't mind the spectators in front of the television at home.
Q. (Mark Surer – Premiere Television) Robert, you got a Drive Through because you hit Hamilton by trying to overtake him. Was that okay in your view?
RK: In my view it was not okay because from the drivers' point of view I had not hit him on purpose and we had seen many contacts between two drivers and nothing happened. I get a Drive Through and we lost less than six seconds and I didn't gain any position. Unfortunately it destroyed my race. It was an FIA decision of the stewards and that's how it went.
We had no time to ask for the decision to be changed. Normally if the accident happens the decision is taken after the race, for example with Nick and Ralf in Nurburgring, but this time it was different. I think that the last time it happened that a driver got a Drive Through penalty for contact was many years ago.
Q. (Peter Windsor – F1 Racing) Fernando, why is it that you don't have a Vodafone 3G GSM phone that works in Japan?
FA: Well, I have a Vodafone but it was a Japanese number and nobody knew it, so nobody contacted me.
Q. (Peter Windsor – F1 Racing) And to Mark, I gather you were ill on Sunday morning and during the race. What did you eat on Saturday night and where did it come from?
MW: Fernando's phone chip! No, I think it was tuna, it was food poisoning and I was very ill Sunday morning and ill before the race, and ill during the race. It was a very difficult race for me but I was 100% on Monday morning which was frustrating. It was just a 24 hour bug that hit me quite hard. Q (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) To Mark and Vettel. If Sebastian has been penalized 10 positions at this race, should the FIA also have investigated Hamilton and perhaps taken some sanctions against him for his behavior?
SV: I don't know. You have so-called specialist stewards and in the end it's their decision. They called us up after the race because there was a safety car incident. It's normal to speak to the drivers and I got a penalty, 10 grid positions for this race, and from a driver's point of view it's not a question if you agree or not, you always disagree when you get penalized. There's nothing we can change about it, so get on and work and try to be better this time.
MW: In a normal boring dry Grand Prix they have things to look at but there was a lot going on and it's easy for them to be distracted by other things. I think that's what they can use, not as an excuse, but it was a very difficult race for them to manage and it was a difficult race on the track. In hindsight you've got to have a look back when things have all calmed down and say yes, that wasn't a very good job, but at the time it wasn't easy for them.
Q. (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) And the other question is for Kimi. The tire selection was starting the race on the intermediate in Japan. Do you take the responsibility or was it a common team decision?
KR: It doesn't matter whose it was, we took the decision as a team. We spoke with Bridgestone, we didn't expect any more rain and we took the intermediate and for sure we didn't take them because it was against the rules – at that point we didn't know that.
I guess before you ask me why we stopped so many times, why does it make any difference when we are last and second last behind the Safety Car. As long as we got more fuel in the car and didn't lose any places it was good, so it wasn't any mistake because we didn't lose any places.
Q. (Alberto Antonini – Autosprint) Mark, I think as a GPDA director, after the Melbourne crash with David Coulthard, you asked for the cockpit side protection to be raised. Is it a concern that in mist and rain the lateral visibility could be hampered?
MW: I think our peripheral vision, looking forward, the tests we have done so far with these raised cockpit sides seems to be very good for racing. That means wheel-to-wheel and that means driving in the rain.
Q. (Marco Evangelisti – Corriere dello Sport) For Kimi. You left McLaren and now they are going to win the championship. Any regrets?
Q. (Carlos Miquel – Diario AS) For Robert. Did you believe you would have had the same penalty if you had touched with another driver?
RK: This is a difficult question which I would prefer not to answer. I think this season we have had many contacts between the drivers and nothing happens. We have also had one contact between two drivers which are sitting next to me, and nothing happens, so this is my answer.
Q (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Fernando, you said this has been a very difficult season for you. How much are you looking forward to Monday after Brazil?
FA: A lot! I am looking forward, no doubts.