F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Saturday Post-qualifying press conference.
DRIVERS 1 – Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren) 2 – Mark WEBBER (Red Bull Racing) 3 – Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull Racing)
What are your feelings for tomorrow? Lewis HAMILTON: Very excited, very excited. It’s the first time for a long time to be ahead of the Red Bulls, and not to be seeing the tail of them at the start of the race but I know it’s going to be, as always, very, very tough in the race because they’ve got great race pace. But we are strong enough to fight them, the team’s done a fantastic job all weekend. The car’s felt beautiful all weekend. I don’t know why the car works so well here. We’ve not really made any improvements to the car since the last race, so I guess it just suits. The guys are still massively focused so I hope that tomorrow’s a good day for us.
How have the long runs been looking? LH: We did a couple of long runs and they seemed to be OK. On one of my long runs I had a lot of traffic, but Jenson had a fairly decent long run, which shows… a bit like last race, we should be quite competitive. But for me it’s trying to improve the start of the race because these guys are so quick over the first couple of laps.
Mark, well done, second fastest in qualifying. You’ve out-qualified your team-mate as well. But there have been some worrying moments, for example last week you had the loss of KERS and you had the problem yesterday. Are you slightly on the back foot? Mark WEBBER: Well, first of all credit to Lewis, he’s obviously got a quick car this weekend and he bumped us off the front row, that’s the first time in a while, maybe since six or eight weeks ago when we had a good run, so now they’ve done a good job today. Credit where it’s due and we did the best we could. I think it was a pretty smooth qualifying session for both Seb and I and we did what we could. I think it went well but as you say we’ve got a little bit of a fire going which we need to tidy up and the quality of the team is exceptional, we know what we need to improve on, to help our championships along. Obviously Seb’s still involved in the Drivers’ [title] and the Constructors’ is still important to us, so we’ll focus on tomorrow’s race. The car generally works pretty well on Sundays but Lewis and JB did some pretty strong long runs as well, so yeah, a little trouble this weekend but overall we're positive and looking for a good strong run.
Sebastian, obviously you had a problem with the brakes this morning and we’ve just seen you stop on circuit this afternoon, but you’re third on the grid, at least you salvaged that. What are your feelings about that? Sebastian VETTEL: I don’t why I was asked to stop. I think probably some problem. It shouldn’t be something major. Obviously this morning wasn’t ideal, not being able to run. So we didn’t get probably the answers that we were hoping for. Nevertheless, this afternoon we were settling in quite well and the pace was there, but I think as Mark touched on, McLaren, in particular Lewis, are pretty quick. So they were out of reach today. I’m not entirely happy with my qualifying, the last part of qualifying was quite tricky for me. I think I should have been a little bit quicker, whether it would have been enough to beat Mark… obviously he’s on a different sheet of paper, but all in all I think we can be quite happy. Race pace should be good tomorrow. As we know it’s a long race here and there’s a lot of things that can happen, so looking forward to tomorrow.
But there must be a certain relief in being three places ahead of your main championship rival? SV: Is he sixth or…?
Seventh. SV: Ah, so… yeah, I think we’ve seen so many races this year that have been up and down, so from where we start it’s obviously quite good, close to the front, so we go from there. As I said, it’s going to be a long race; a lot of things to look out for. I think strategy-wise it’s probably not 100 per cent clear yet, a similar position to last race in India, so yea, I think we have to look after ourselves, try to race this guy and then we should be in quite a good place tomorrow.
So Lewis, you can’t really explain why you’re so quick here this weekend? LH: No, I don’t know. The car’s been feeling fantastic all weekend, like I said we haven’t come with upgrade packages, we haven’t got any… y’know we’re always modifying small, little wings but it does very, very little – but the car’s felt great from the get-go this weekend and done some fine tuning and every now and then you’re fortunate enough to make the right change and it feels even better, which it did. So, I didn’t really have to change too much going into qualifying. Actually I didn’t change anything going into qualifying from P3. That lap felt fantastic. The next lap I was up a little bit, I think I was up a tenth or so, and then I lost it. I had no idea I’d done a good lap, so it was just about going completely over the line and seeing if you can get something – but it didn’t work.
We have seen a lot of drivers doing that this weekend and I guess it’s just exploring the limit. LH: Yeah. Well, I know what the limit is because I was on it when I did my first lap but I was trying to go way past the limit and see if it was possible. It worked for half the lap but then it didn’t work the rest of it.
Mark, the reliability thing, has that set you back a little bit in terms of race preparation, yesterday for example. MW: Yeah, you would like to do that work for sure but obviously we have a huge amount of historical data, this year and also at this venue and Seb did some work. I did one lap, so I’ve got a little bit to look at. But it should be OK, the Friday’s running is never a bible anyway, it’s just a good reference. So we’re in pretty good shape in terms of data going into the race. So obviously we’ll have a bit of a look through in the morning to see how we’re going to prepare. But yeah, we realised we’ve got to work on our reliability. We’ve had a few issues of late and that’s something the group is on. There’s nothing Sebastian and I can do about it. It’s not our job, it’s their job and they know they’ve got to improve.
And you’ll be starting ahead of Sebastian, so what chances in the first corner? MW: Well, good. You never know. Lewis’ starts lately haven’t been phenomenal so let’s see if he has a good one tomorrow. Generally it’s down to how the clutch is and things like that – it’s not really down to Lewis. We’ll see how they go off the line but I’m looking to go forward, for sure. Then we’ll get settled into the race and see where everyone is after that.
Sebastian, the brake problem today, is that something that has been cured and you’re confident you won’t see again? SV: Yes, I think so. Obviously it wasn’t expected, it wasn’t the plan because the plan is to run in free practice – but I think we fixed the problem, I had a fantastic brake in qualifying, so I think we got on top of the problem at the end. I had a little bit of a run, two laps in the practice this afternoon, so should be fine.
Overtaking has been difficult here in the past. Admittedly you haven’t had to do very much but it’s been difficult, there’s a double DRS, how vital is pole position and a good qualifying position? SV: Well, I think Lewis is pretty happy where he’s going to start tomorrow. Obviously we are not on pole but yeah, I think, y’know, third is not far off and it should be a good race. Obviously, as you touched on, it’s difficult to pass here, even though you’ve got long straights, we’ve got the double DRS so we’ll see if that helps. I’m sure it’s not impossible. It’s definitely possible to pass people, even though it’s not easy but, y’know, race pace should be good. Should be in a good position.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, yesterday you said after second practice that you didn't believe you could get pole, it would be extremely hard. What changed? Was it you and your car that did more or was it perhaps Red Bull which haven't performed as you expected? LH: They were slower than I expected but we were faster than I expected as well. Mark did a great lap as well - what's the margin, it is three tenths? I knew that they were very very quick but I would never have imagined being this far ahead of them. But I did do a really really good lap, very happy with the lap. I thought that we would be a match or slightly slower than them this weekend and it's a blessing in disguise to be ahead of them.
Q: (Dan Knutson - Honorary) Sebastian, on a different subject, Michael Schumacher has just three races left in his F1 career. How do you view his last three years in Formula One? SV: We have commented on this a couple of times. I think Mark summed it up pretty well a couple of races ago, that obviously those three years are very different to the years he had before that, but it doesn't make him a worse driver. I think the last three years he was hoping to have a better car than he probably had. When the car was there, I think he was able to use the potential so I think we've seen that he's still very quick, for example in Monaco, when the car was there. Obviously very different to the years with Ferrari when they were dominating a lot, but it also shows that you need to have the right car beneath you, and the right team in order to fight for wins and championships.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, in Q1 you touched the wall a little bit, did that have any effect on your mind during the rest of qualifying? SV: It was the first lap, I was a little bit greedy on the exit of turn 19 and I just brushed the wall a little bit so not really hard contact. There was no problem for the car.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto Motor und Sport) Sebastian, you were hardly able to run in the morning; had you been able to do that, would you have found out something which would have helped you in qualifying? SV: I think so. Obviously Saturday morning - or Saturday afternoon in this case - is the last chance before qualifying and also the first chance after practice on Friday to have a read on the car and I think we tried a couple of things. Obviously I would have loved to get a proper answer so I think that what we had in qualifying was still pretty good and very competitive but obviously some boxes will never be ticked so we won't get an answer on the things that we wanted to but I'm quite confident we found a good compromise, nevertheless.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, is it a kind of relief having Fernando seventh, given that it's not so easy to overtake here. Will that change something in your strategy going into the race, or are you going to race, attack and try to win? SV: I think we have to try to race. I don't think you can go round looking at one guy in particular, so, as I said, you don't have to be Einstein to make out that it's good if you're ahead and bad if you're behind but today there's no points, it's a long race tomorrow. I think some of the guys were very quick in qualifying, arguably they are slower in the race so we are going to find out tomorrow. I think if you are quicker, then it's also possible to overtake. Obviously it might be tricky, we've seen that in previous years but as I touched on earlier, it's not impossible and for us, also in terms of strategy, we go for the fastest race, that's what we have to focus on and at the moment, Lewis is ahead of us so we are trying to hunt him down.
Q: (Leonid Novozhilov - F1 Live) Lewis Hamilton, do you give a chance to the Red Bull drivers at the start tomorrow? LH: Do I give them a chance? Definitely not, de-finitely not. As Mark was saying, I've had some very very bad starts but that's down to clutch performance but I will be onto my guys tonight to make sure that that doesn't happen tomorrow.
Q: (Dan Knutson - Honorary) Mark, when we talked to Christian Horner on Thursday, he never used the word team orders. He did say you're a strong team player, an important part of the team, and you would know what to do. Are you comfortable with that for tomorrow? MW: Drive flat out.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, yesterday you were struggling more with the option tyres and this is why you were also explaining your difficult session. Do you think you have solved the problem? LH: Yeah, I just changed my technique a bit, in terms of warming them up and then from the previous race when we struggled in Q3 on the option tyres particularly in P3 in India, I think it was, we used the method that we improved there, which seemed to have helped this weekend, which I am sure other people are doing. It's nothing special, it's just with tyre temperatures and pressures and other things, but it worked, they worked really well.
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) You have pretty broad sporting interests, Mark. the Melbourne Cup is coming up on Tuesday, the (horse) race that stops the nation (Australia), they say. Are you interested? Will you watch it, do you have a tip? MW: I love sport but horse racing is not far off the bottom of my list. Gambling, in my house, my father didn't tolerate it. Actually, I'm not a big fan of how much it's rammed down your throat in Australia, in terms of how you can bet on who farts at what stage in a football match. It's incredible how obsessed we've become with gambling and betting but each to their own. If you love gambling it's a good buzz but it does nothing for me. I would rather ride my mountain bike.
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) That'll be No then. MW: That's a No. I got busted once. I was in the principal's office at school for playing up and the race was on, so she couldn't see me so she had to wait until the race was over. I did, when I was very very very young, my grandparents let us put a little sneaky fiver on sometimes, which wasn't always allowed and the horse was called Tawrrific and it actually won the race, so I told her that I was very happy and she wasn't very impressed, because her horse didn't win.
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) Did you watch the Aussie V8s today? MW: Not enough, the time schedule is not very helpful and they're parked down the other side of the track. I want to go and see some of the guys for sure. It was just great that they managed to drive on the same track as us, a slick operation as usual, it's a good category. No, I haven't got to see any of the action yet but I've seen the results, but I haven't seen a single lap.
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) You could take Lewis and Sebastian with you. You guys would go and see the V8s, wouldn't you? LH: Sure. When we have time.