F1 Korean Grand Prix conference 3 organised by the FIA.
DRIVERS 1 – Mark WEBBER (Red Bull Racing) 2 – Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull Racing) 3 – Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren)
Mark, congratulations, your first pole of the year. Mark WEBBER: Yeah, OK, well Monaco was by default but yeah, the first one of track I suppose, nip and tuck with Fernando in Silverstone so, as most qualifying sessions this year have been tight and, yeah, very, very happy to get the job done today, get the pole position. It was as reasonable lap and we did it when it counted obviously. So that’s what qualifying’s all about, it’s been a tricky last few events for me but really happy to start on pole. Tomorrow’s the main day and we’re in a good position to get a good result.
Red Bull have been looking so good last weekend but also this weekend all the way through – what’s been the secret? MW: Well, I think off the back of Suzuka we felt that we’d improved the car a bit but you never, ever get ahead of yourself these days. We had a good car in Valencia and then after that it was not that easy for us. We were a bit open to that after Suzuka, coming here knowing that it’s not going to be a given, but we have a pretty handy car around here for sure, and I think that the guys have been working very, very hard and there’s no question, the hard work’s paying off but we focus on ourselves and just keep pushing the lap times down as much as we can – and it’s lucky we do because obviously the gap is not that big to Lewis.
Sebastian, what happened on that last lap? You mentioned Massa. Sebastian VETTEL: Overall I think we can be very happy with the result obviously. We were quite quick in the first qualifying session, quite quick in the second one and then had a good start to Q3. But the last run, I don’t want to blame it on Felipe, I thought he was coming in but then on the last sector he was right in front of me so I had to back-off. Not ideal, just starting a timed lap, and just before that to back off but I think nevertheless the second lap wasn’t good enough. Lost a little bit today in the middle sector, which seemed to be OK all weekend but yeah, when the circuit ramped up I wasn’t able to go with it. Lost a little bit but I think second is a very good position to start from. Obviously around here you never know – you have a long straight, straight away after the start, so it could be interesting tomorrow.
And third on the grid Lewis, first time you’ve started third, what can you do about these two guys ahead of you? Lewis HAMILTON: I think it will be very tough to get ahead of them but we’ve put ourselves in as good a position as we could. It was very tough this weekend, these guys have clearly made quite a big step within the last two races and so we’ve just got to keep pushing. We’re not far off and the race pace for Jenson looked quite good yesterday. I’m just happy I got a clear lap and was able to put it as high up as possible.
Mark, well done, how did you feel about the lap? MW: Pretty good. We had a few plates spinning, to be honest, with some little background issues that we were managing as best we could on the lap but the lap was very good, apart from Turn 15, I made a mistake there so, yeah, probably got in OK but the exit wasn’t great but apart from that it worked well. I think I got 11 and 12 as good as I could get. So, yeah, take the rough with the smooth. I think it was a tight session, I think, for all of us: up and down; scrubbed tyres; new tyres. Fernando did a pretty solid laptime on the scrubbed at some point there. So, yeah, that’s just the way it is. With the old Pirellis, things can move around quite a bit.
After this morning’s problem, presumably you went pretty blind into qualifying? MW: Yeah, we didn’t get to run anywhere near as much as we would have liked to in P3, so our information on the option was limited. So there was a bit of catch-up going on for sure. After my first run on the option in Q2, I had not the best sector two and three for balance issues and also some other things that Ciaron was working on to get the car to finish the lap better – so that’s what we focussed on in Q3. And got the job done.
A little disappointment not to be on pole Sebastian? Although you’ll be pleased to hear that no-one’s every won from pole so far. SV: Yeah, obviously I have good memories from last year with Lewis, when he was on pole. I think we’ll see tomorrow that it’s a long race. Surely the lap was fine but I should have been a little bit quicker, so yeah, wasn’t able in the end to do the final step, especially in the second sector. I think sector one and sector three were fine but yeah, got a little bit mixed-up second sector, so I think if you look at the laptimes in the end it was fairly close, so y’know, I think we’re happy with second and a front row for Red Bull Racing. Obviously the car seems to work well, I think in the race we might be even in a little bit better place. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.
Not being on pole, that wasn’t part of the plan? SV: It’s difficult to have a plan going into qualifying because you never know what happened. If you catch the yellow flag in the wrong place, etc., we saw last week it can be quite tricky. We’ve seen this week in Q2 there was some yellow. These things can happen to you all the time so therefore it’s impossible to have a certain plan. But surely after the Q1 and Q2 we had where it looked very good, the target was to go on pole – and we missed that by a little bit. I think it was possible to get it but we didn’t get it in the end – and it’s as simple as that.
Lewis, the biggest worry, as far as I could see, was Q1. You nearly didn’t make it – was that a concern? LH: Definitely. It was quite a shocking session for me: didn’t get a lap, did quite a poor job, struggled to get… when the tyres weren’t so bad temperature-wise I just had a bit of traffic, locking up. It was very poor. But I’m very lucky that I got through.
We’ve seen various drivers going off at various parts of the circuit, particularly down at Turn One. Is that still a concern for you? You’ve been off there a couple of times as well. LH: I’ve been off there a lot this weekend yeah. It’s like these guys have ABS brakes – when we attack the corners it’s very easy to lock-up, so it’s quite tricky. We have to try to work around and sometimes you just have to drive with flat-spots. But fortunately my tyres from that lap, I didn’t have any lock-ups, so hopefully that will remain the same throughout the race.
And what sort of confidence for the race itself? LH: Well, I didn’t do a long run yesterday, again I had not a great session, particularly in P2 yesterday, but Jenson did a great job and quite a competitive long run, so I hope I’m able to do the same tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR.
Q: (Frederic Ferret - L'Equipe) To the Red Bull drivers: how much has the car changed for you since this summer and how happy are you with it? MW: Since the August break? Yes, we have been making small developments at each Grand Prix, that's the way it is. If you look at where the car is from Spa, obviously it's a different aero package for Spa and Monza, but to where it is now, the base of the car for sure is probably a decent step but it's always... every Grand Prix, we try to just put little bits on the car to help. At some Grands Prix we don't put anything on, we miss and at the next one we catch up a bit more, and also, you have to bear in mind that it's circuit-specific as well. You have to understand what each track needs and those type of things, so the last two venues have probably been pretty good for us in terms of layout, especially the last one. Yeah, happy drivers are drivers at the front so when you're towards the front it makes you satisfied but we can still improve the car, there are always areas to improve. That's what we've got to keep working on.
Q: (Kate Walker - Girl Racer) Sebastian, you're going to be starting on the dirty side of the grid tomorrow and at this track, it's particularly dirty due to the lack of use. What kind of concerns do you have going into the first corner? SV: Well, I don't think it's a big disadvantage. Surely I think I would rather be on pole but qualifying is over so we start from second and I don't think it's a big problem. Last year we made a good launch and I think here that you never know what happens. You might as well start third, fourth, fifth and you could end up first by turn four, so you don't know. There's a long straight after the second corner. Obviously I had a tight battle with Lewis last year so these things you have to take them as they come, so it's difficult to know now what's going to happen, but first of all I will focus on the start and then go from there.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, coming back to the development; yesterday you had different bodywork than your teammate, why did you change, why did you come back (to the original)? And the second question is that in Italy they are saying that there was a red car in front of you on your last run; is that correct? Did you have a problem with that? SV: I don't want to blame it on Felipe. I don't like all these discussions; we've had a lot of them lately. These things happen, it's not Felipe's fault at all. I should have known earlier. If anything it was my mistake. I might have lost a little bit but I'm not a fan of blaming anyone or anything for a certain result or not. I was happy with my qualifying, a little bit at the end. The first question was why... because it's faster, that's why I changed it.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, we saw a problem in the pit lane with your future teammate or Michael, I don't know which to be honest, we couldn't see. What happened exactly? LH: I didn't have any problems. I was let out of my garage before he was and then they tried to get him ahead of me but he was coming out slowly so I overtook him, because I was already on the speed limit which is 100 and he was doing maybe 20 or 30. But it gained position which is important, position is everything here. If you can get by safely throughout the lap that's very important.
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