Japanese GP post race press conference
9 October, 2011
Oct.9 (FIA) Japanese Grand Prix post race press conference at Suzuka featuring: winner Jenson Button (McLaren), second placed Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) and third placed Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull).
Q: Jenson, coming into this weekend you said all you wanted from the rest of the season was to take another Grand Prix victory. Job done. Congratulations.
Jenson Button: Thank you very much. I think this circuit is very special to all of us. We love this place, so to get a victory here in front of such an amazing Japanese crowd really does mean a lot. I need to say a big thanks to the team for the improvements we have had over the last few races and today they have been impeccable. Congratulations to them and congratulations to the fans. I think we put on a good show for them today.
Q: Fernando, a brilliant podium, a great strategic race and a fabulous battle with Sebastian. It looked like a lot of fun.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, first of all, congratulations to Sebastian. World Champion in this race. It was a fun race. From the start we didn’t overtake any car but then the strategy was quite important, with a lot of tyre degradation, so we picked the right moment to stop and we had the pace today to fight with McLaren and Red Bull and finally, a fantastic podium. I think it is a good thing for the team after difficult races where we were not so competitive that we came back to a good level here, and this podium means a lot for the team, a lot of motivation for the remaining races of this year and, for sure, a big boost for next year’s motivation.
Q: Sebastian, probably not the result you were hoping for today but you came into this weekend needing one point and with a podium you have done it.
Sebastian Vettel: Yes, it is difficult to know where to start. Such a long year. We had a fantastic year. The good thing is it is not over yet. Today’s race was not so easy. I think we weren’t that quick on the soft tyres as we hoped to be and then it was difficult. We lost two positions. In the end, I think we had a very good car. It was difficult to get past Fernando. I think I got my move of the year in Monza, so I don’t think he is letting me through this way twice. But phenomenal, strong result again today. To win the championship here is fantastic. There are so many things you want to say at this moment but it’s hard to remember all of them. I am just so thankful to everyone in the team. We have got so many people here at the track but also at Milton Keynes working day in day out. Not only Friday, Saturday, Sunday, but also Monday to Friday, every day, pushing hard to build those two cars and to fight for a lot of points and to fight for the championship. We found ourselves in a very, very strong position and it is great to achieve the goal we set ourselves going into this year already now. There are so many people it is hard to name them all to thank, but I think one person that really stands out this year is the person I spend most of my time with during the year. It’s my trainer Tommi Parmakoski. Also, regards to his family. I think back in Finland they have a great son with a great heart. He was the one not allowing me at any stage this year to lose the grip, start to fly, or think about things that are not in our control. Congratulations to Jenson, congratulations to Fernando. I think today we saw that it is extremely tight. Tighter than maybe sometimes it looked this year. In the end, the top four cars were within not even 10 seconds and it is great to know that it is so tight but that we can come so strong out of it. They also know how to drive as well and are doing a fantastic job, but I think this year we have always been just this one step ahead. It is down to people like Tommi and other individuals, every single one is pushing more than 100 per cent to do his job and keeps us on the right track. There is no secret. It is step-by-step. I think in a way the hardest thing is after winning last year… we won the championship it was so close and we were so excited. To go out and do it again, even though you know how to do it, it doesn’t allow you to forget all these little steps and as I said I could not have done this alone. I needed all the support I could get from the team, from Mark [Webber], from everyone outside the team working for me, so it is just as confusing as the first one I have to say. It is hard to find the right words.
Q: Jenson, everyone knows the affinity you have with Japan and its people. What’s it like to win here on this incredible circuit with these fabulous fans and how much motivation does that give you going into the last few races of the year?
JB: It gives us, as a team, a lot of motivation. It is good, as Sebastian said, to see three different cars within, I think, about three seconds. It shows how competitive Formula One is at the moment. There are a lot of fans here. They are so supportive of the sport that we are in and I think we have all tried to do a little bit to help them, to plant a good memory in their mind as this has been a tough year for Japan. This is a special race and a very special crowd. I think we need to thank them for supporting us. But, lastly, it should be Seb that we talk about, as this guy has done a great job this year. However hard we have tried we haven’t been able to touch him in a lot of races so congratulations.
Q: Jenson, a great race, and in the dry. Does that give you some satisfaction?
JB: I can’t believe you just said that! I have won other races in the dry! No, it was a great race. The start was very good, maybe too good, and I ended up on the grass, which lost me a bit of time. Very interesting race as tyre wear was massive. It was a very exciting race and it wasn’t just down to being quick over one lap. You really had to think through the race. I really enjoyed it out there. It is always a very special place to race, Suzuka, a fast, flowing circuit and it is unforgiving, so one little mistake and it is game over. This is one of the most perfect circuits in grand prix racing and also with one of the most special crowds as well. The Japanese people here have been so supportive of us and it is great to see so many fans here supporting this weekend and hopefully we have planted a small, good memory in their heads as it has been a very difficult year for them. To get the win here is one of my most special victories as I don’t think I have ever won a race on such a high-speed circuit, so it means a lot to me.
Q: Going down into the first corner, over the radio, you thought maybe Sebastian should have had a penalty for that.
JB: Yeah, I did at the time. I am not going to lie. From my point of view I felt that he kept coming when I wasn’t alongside him but I had half my car up the inside. I thought he was coming across more than I expected and didn’t give me any room and I was on the grass but I am sure when I watch it back on TV, or maybe when I watch it back on TV, I will have a different opinion. But at that moment in time, yes, I felt that it was a little bit more than was needed. But it was obviously fair, as the stewards said it was fair, so that’s it. Sometimes, when you get a good start and the guy in front doesn’t get such a good start these sort of things happen. If we all get off the line at the same speed it is not normally an issue. We will put that behind us. But a great weekend. I felt very strong in the car all weekend and this is promising for the next four races. I know Seb has wrapped it up today, which is pretty impressive with so many races to go, but there are still a few races left and there is a lot of fighting to be done and a lot of wins to fight for, which I am very excited about.
Q: We saw the pair of them catching you in the final moments, but then you popped in the fastest lap. Were you just conserving tyres? What was going on?
JB: Well, I have been watching Seb drive all year and I have decided that is the way to go racing. Just cruise it and stick in a fast lap. That’s what he seems to do at the end of the race, so I thought I would give it a go and it worked pretty well, so it was good.
Q: But were you conserving tyres or were you in trouble there?
JB: I was looking after tyres, also looking after a bit of fuel, so it wasn’t the easiest few laps. The last five laps weren’t the most enjoyable, I must admit, but we got it home. The car has been great around here. The Red Bulls are always so strong on these fast circuits, especially with the change of direction, so for us to win here really does mean a lot for us, as we have been fighting this for two years now. It is good to be up there with the Red Bulls. In a way, it is nice that the Ferrari is up there as well. A three-way battle at the end, four seconds between us or less, this is what racing is all about and hopefully it will be the same for the next few races.
Q: Fernando, among the euphoria of the winner and the new World Champion, that was a great race for Ferrari as well?
FA: Yeah, I think it is a good race, a good weekend in general for us. Trouble-free in practice and then a good qualifying performance, fourth and fifth, so in the top five and both Ferraris in front of Webber, so in general quite competitive here, the car. At the end, with a perfect race, good start, good strategy, good pit-stops, and a good pace throughout the race second feels much, much better than expected probably before the start at three o’clock. It is a good result and gives us some extra motivation for the remaining races knowing that it is going to be tough as the updates on the car will be minimal but in some races, some circuits, we are still competitive, so why not fight for victory in one of the remaining races.
Q: And what about those last few laps with Sebastian right behind you and Jenson just ahead?
FA: First, with Sebastian it was difficult to keep him behind as at that part of the race he was quicker than us. I tried to defend the position in braking for the last corners and into the first corner as well, where the DRS was active. After we had done this job we saw we were catching a little bit Jenson, so we tried in the last couple of laps but, as we saw later on, Jenson was taking care about tyres, about his car, so it was impossible to fight for victory this time. Also, we start fifth, so when you start fifth you have to recover always all through the race and you arrive two seconds behind the leader. If you start second or third that gap is already done maybe 10 laps before the end.
Q: Sebastian, was your approach any different today? This was one of your more difficult races; you saw two drivers come out ahead of you after pit stops which hasn’t happened.
SV: No, which I didn’t enjoy. I think we were a little bit too weak today on the option tyre, against those two guys at the end of the stints. I think in comparison to Lewis – I don’t know what was happening to the end of his race – but in the first stint we were able to pull away. Then obviously I got informed that Jenson passed him – Jenson was seven, eight tenths quicker at that stage, which clearly is not because he found a short cut all of a sudden but he took care of his tyres better than the rest and is able to push harder at the end of the stints, and any time on the soft tyre, we had to come in quite early. On the hard tyre, I felt much much better but as you said, I came out behind Fernando, lost a little bit of time to the Force India when I tried to get past, which didn’t work straight away and then I was sticking to Fernando quite well until the Virgin… I don’t know, maybe he should use both of his mirrors, it was a bit dangerous. Fernando was right behind him, he pulled to the right, let him by, before taking the corner before turn eight and I knew that I wouldn’t take any stupid risks but I didn’t expect him to go back on line but he did so I lost quite a lot. I lost the connection which is obviously important. You get some lap time for free if you’re always behind because you are in the DRS zone so it’s easy to catch up a little bit on the straight. Unfortunately I was never really close enough to pass Fernando. Their straightline speed was quite good, which we already knew on Friday.
It was a fun race though, and especially seeing as we were closing in on Jenson, I thought here you go, now you see how it feels when the guys are catching up at the end of the race. It’s not the most comfortable feeling. But obviously he had quite a bit in hand and he was able to react three laps to the end. I think this race has been a little bit the story of the year, even though sometimes the results look pretty clear. You see that in the races the cars are pretty close to each other. Ferrari played a major role today with Fernando, they looked much better than what people expected. It was a fun race. Obviously I would have loved to sit in the middle which, to answer your question, was the target going into the race. I wasn’t targeting one point. If we targeted one point, I think the race would have been a bit different, but we targeted to do our optimum, which in a way today was third place, and that’s what we got.
But to win the championship here is pretty special and a bit funny at the same time, because it’s as confusing as the first one. All of sudden, you’re supposed to… yep, that’s the moment, now enjoy. I think it will surely take a little bit of time but the season has been fantastic. I think with a less dominant car than last year we were able to do a very, very good job. We are very strong as a team. Every time it mattered, we made very few mistakes, especially at those times when it was critical, we were there, we were performing. I think everyone working for Red Bull Racing can be very proud today. Renault has done a fantastic job; very often they get forgotten. We have had no problems with the engine at all. They were sending a lot of support all the time, pushing very hard in Viry, back in France, close to Paris. Obviously this year I think it has been more about engines than in any other year, not maybe in a performance perspective as in raw power but playing around with engine modes. We had a lot of discussion midway through the season, exhaust blowing etc, and I think Renault has pushed very hard and a lot of our performance is down to them. It’s hard to name one individual. In the end, I think the secret, if there was one this year, is that we could trust, one hundred percent, the guy next to us and that’s for the whole team. I think what we have achieved so far in Red Bull Racing is just incredible and we obviously hope to enjoy the rest of the year. The target for the next race will be exactly the same as this race and the last race, but also make sure that we are fighting those guys in the future.
Questions from the floor
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Sebastian, could you describe your manoeuvre at the start of the race? Jenson said that it was not so fair.
SV: I just spoke to him. He expressed his feelings. Initially I wasn’t sure where he was, I didn’t really see him. I thought he was either on the right or he was far away on the left. I saw Lewis and I thought I had a good start and kept moving to the right, looking for him. By the time I saw him, I realised that maybe I was a little bit too far to the right and then he was backing off. Obviously no intention to put him in any danger but I think we can run with two wheels on the grass, can’t we Fernando?
JB: Did you think I was Fernando?
SV: No, no, I said we can race with two wheels on the grass, and then I said Fernando. Obviously, as I said, I didn’t want to put him in danger but I think we have to race each other hard and I thought it was a shame… at the end, I thought we were all getting together again and maybe have another fight. For a moment, I was thinking that maybe the victory was not out of my hands, which it looked like going into the last stint, but yeah, it was close. It would have been fun if it had continued for another five or ten laps.
JB: I probably would have struggled with another five laps.
SV: That’s why!
Q: (Joris Fioriti – Agence France Presse) Jenson, I may have been mistaken, but when I saw you on the podium you were not really overwhelmed with joy. I thought that you were at the same time happy to win, but very disappointed to lose the title. Did I imagine that or is that the way you feel?
JB: I was really surprised to lose the title today, yeah! I think I had given up on that quite a long time ago. I was very happy on the podium, maybe just the way I express my feelings isn’t as obvious as maybe I think.
SV: Maybe you were still exhausted, you had to run down from the pit lane.
JB: I had to run the whole pit lane. For some reason, I seem to do that quite a lot: parking in the wrong place and running down. I’ve never realised how uphill the pit lane is as well. Amazing. But no, I was very happy, ecstatic, this is a very special race to win, as Seb knows for the last couple of years, not just because of the layout but because of the history here and also, as I said before, the crowd here. So a very special victory; it’s obviously not as big as Seb winning the World Championship today but winning a race like this does take a little bit of time to sink in. I remember when I won the World Championship, immediately it was a strange feeling, it was like: what am I supposed to feel right now? And it takes a little bit of time. It normally comes when you’re on your own and you can really think about what you have achieved. I’m sure Seb’s going to look forward to that tonight or about five or six in the morning.
SV: Oh no. Afternoon.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Fernando, now Seb is the youngest two time World Champion; you’ve lost that title. What does it mean to you now?
FA: Really nothing special. I think now we will see who is the youngest three time World Champion.
JB: I’m feeling the odd one out here, I’m feeling uncomfortable.
SV: Did you notice that Michael is the youngest seven time World Champion – ever!
JB: Really? Wow. Is he? That surprises me. He’s also the oldest racing driver in F1.
SV: No. No. Not.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) One year later, Sebastian, what’s going through your head? Last year was perhaps a surprise at that last race; is it any different this year?
SV: Every year… I think every race is different. I wouldn’t say last year was a surprise. That’s what we were fighting for and even if the odds weren’t looking too good, we kept believing. Even the year before I remember very, very well the moment in Brazil, probably as well as Jenson does. It’s not a nice feeling, knowing that you lose the title, so but it’s always these important moments that you remember, the good and the bad and in particular the bad because I think you are able to learn so much from the times that you are being beaten in a way. But the funny thing this year is that next week there is the next race, so that’s a bit difficult to understand. I think all year we tried very, very hard to keep our feet on the ground and always tried to focus on the next step, on the next race which, I think, in the end, if there was any, was one of the secrets. Last year, after the chequered flag it was all over, there was a long period of time when you weren’t in the car again etc, so it’s a bit different this year, and it makes it even more special in a way. So I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the season. We have a great car, a great team, and obviously we use everything we have to make the next step and do well or perform well at the next race. It does take some time to understand and I think those quiet moments that I will have, at some point, either tonight, tomorrow or the next week or weeks, for myself, but also with people who are very close to me, to take time and let things sink in a little bit.
Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Seb, you’ve almost answered my question because I was going to say it’s been a long time since we’ve had the championship won with four races left to go. Do you think…
SV: It’s probably Michael, I think he won half of his championships…
JB: Bloody Germans!
SV: What exactly do you mean?
Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Do you think in some ways we should read that your championship this year was easier than it was last year, and for all three of you, how are going to race now that the championship has been won? Will it be free-er, how is your attitude different now?
SV: I think that it’s very likely for people to draw the wrong conclusion, to say that we had a very easy run this year. Things like this, they happen for a reason; I strongly believe that, not because things were easy for us. We had a very, very good car, no doubt, but we had an even stronger team, and as I said, a couple of times already, I think the car this year was less dominant than the car last year. Last year we had so many races where sometimes you may say we were unlucky but we made stupid mistakes as well. We did things which cost us a lot of time and cost us a lot of points in the end. A championship is not one race, it’s a lot of races pulled together and I think that’s where the difference came from this year. Obviously, after a very good start to the season, if you are on a good run, and you have this certain momentum and you’re able to keep that momentum, by not allowing yourself to start to fly or think too far ahead, really just stay present and just stay at that moment and focus race by race, and not thinking anything else. If you are able to keep that momentum that way, I think it makes you very strong and if you are on that sort of wave, then things might come a bit easier to you but it doesn’t mean that they are easy. So all in all, I think there was a lot to learn again this year, and hopefully that made us stronger for the remainder of the season, in which I think the approach will be very similar. Obviously a lot of the pressure has fallen away but nonetheless, there is a lot of pressure on us, because naturally we want to win, we want to beat those guys. We didn’t do so today so obviously we are over the moon to wrap up the championship today but we didn’t win today, so we’ve got another chance in the next races and we want to use those chances. It’s about using the opportunities you have, rather than seeing what could go wrong.
JB: Hopefully (we will race) exactly the same.
SV: So you’re always going to park just after the chequered flag?
JB: Yeah. I might not lift off next time you pull across at the start though.
SV: That means I’m on pole, so that’s good.
Q: (Carlos Miguel – La Gaceta) Fernando, during the race, in the car, did you really believe you could win, and is it really possible to finish second in the championship?
FA: In the race, I never thought about victory, if I’m completely honest with you. I only had a small possibility, maybe five or six laps from the end, when Jenson was dropping back a little bit and we closed the gap. Then I thought maybe if we were close enough maybe two laps or one lap from the end I could use the DRS and maybe have a chance, but I knew that it was difficult, but during the race, no, no time to think.
And second place in the championship. It’s nice to be second, better than fourth or fifth, but as I said on Thursday, I prefer a win and finish fifth in the championship than finish in second not winning one of the remaining races. Hopefully we can do one of those two things, either second or win a race but probably it will be difficult to win a race and will be difficult to be second so that’s the worst combination, but it’s very possible as well.