Indian Grand Prix qualifying press conference
29 October, 2011
Oct.29 (FIA) Full unedited post Indian Grand Prix qualifying FIA press conference at Buddh International Circuit, featuring: pole winner Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), second placed Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) and third placed Mark Webber (Red Bull).
Q: Sebastian, a new record, 16th pole of the year for your team and, you personally, seemed to have something in hand out there in qualifying?
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, it was a good session for us. New circuit, new venue, tricky for all of us first time round in qualifying. I think it was tricky. We have seen all weekend with the dust on the track so in the end we ended up with one racing line clear of dirt and just a little bit out it makes you lose a lot of time so it was quite tricky. But I think we managed pretty well. The car was fantastic, to be honest since yesterday, this morning as well and throughout qualifying. I think in the end there was a little bit left in the first sector. It is quite tricky, I think we saw some people going for two times laps, others only one. I think then it becomes a bit trickier to hit the first sector. There is a long straight as well after Turn Three so you want to make sure you don’t lose time so I am extremely happy. It is good to be here. I think it is a very interesting race, a challenging circuit, looking forward to tomorrow and first time in India so excited to race tomorrow.
Q: Lewis, it was close after the first run in Q3, then you aborted your final run and, of course, you are moving three places back on the grid as well so your thoughts really on qualifying today?
Lewis Hamilton: It was interesting that you smile about that. No, really it has been a good day for me. I am quite surprised that we were able to split the Red Bulls and it is great to be on the front row in terms of how we qualified. Of course, we had the penalty which was a bit of a silly mistake from myself and I have paid the price but from tomorrow we have good race pace and it is a long race with two DRS zones so overtaking should be a lot easier than perhaps other places. I am still optimistic regardless of where I start.
Q: Mark, Red Bull looks good around here. Your thoughts on the race tomorrow and what you can do on this new track?
Mark Webber: Yeah, as Seb said it has been a good challenge for all of us, new venue. Tricky to work out the right strategy for qualifying. The tyres weren’t easy for one timed laps so we had to work out how we were going to do the strategy. Lots of teams tried different styles to get the best lap time out of the car. First sector it was tricky to get right on one time. I could have done better in the first sector on my only run basically and then I got yellow flags with Felipe (Massa), so I couldn’t do my second lap. But overall good job from the team. Came to a new venue but prepared well and have laid a good foundation for a good race tomorrow.
Q: Sebastian, the race tomorrow, any plans for what you will do if you and Mark are running one and two towards the end of the race?
SV: No, we will see. First we have to get there and as Lewis said it is a long race. Lewis starts in fifth I think, Fernando (Alonso) behind and Jenson (Button) as well so they will surely put a lot of pressure on us. We will see. It is a long race. It is a new track, we don’t now really how the tyres will respond. It looked as if the tyres should last quite a while but we have seen a couple of surprises so we will find out tomorrow. It is not the time now to worry about those things. First we have to race, race hard, enjoy and then see where we are. I think Mark and myself we obviously target to win the race. Ideally, we want to finish in one-two so it is going to be an interesting race tomorrow.
Q: Sebastian, the pace today just seems remarkable?
SV: Yeah, I was petty happy. Happy with the balance yesterday which I think was the foundation and happy throughout qualifying. Q1 was managing the traffic et cetera but we made it through on the hard tyre which was essential. Q2 I think was pretty smooth, we only needed one lap. Then we decided for Q3 to go, again, one timed lap whilst others decided to go for two laps so different strategies to get the tyres up to speed. Not easy then to hit the lap straight away especially the first sector as there aren’t many corners in the first sector so you can’t really warm the tyres up there. Second and third sectors are a different story as then you have got a lot of fast corners. But all in all I am very happy. A great session for us and the car was fantastic. In the end the lap was fine but it wasn’t 100 per cent, a little bit here and there, but I think you always come out of the car thinking that maybe here and there you could have gained a bit of time. But overall very happy with the result. It is good to start the race from the front tomorrow and I think it is going to be an interesting race.
Q: You have mentioned that going off-line it is very dirty. How much of a hazard is that going to be tomorrow when you are lapping people?
SV: We all want to race so the people who are in the front of the field and the people who get lapped, we all want to stay on the racing line and drive our own race so could be tricky. Off-line it is quite dusty and depending on where you have to go off-line or where you are forced to go off-line to maybe lap another car to make a pass could be critical for the next couple of corners. It is not only you lose in that corner where you went off-line but also afterwards just to get the tyres back to the grip level you had before. In this regard it could be interesting, especially at the beginning of the race it will be quite slippery. We have seen that at the beginning of all the sessions. To be honest, once the dust had gone the asphalt is very, very grippy and the cars stick to the ground. All in all they did a great job. It is a new track and first time we have been other places there has always been a little bit here and a little bit there. I think it was not an easy project, but you don’t really see much of that apart from a bit of dust on the cars.
Q: Lewis, you aborted your second run that time. It looked as though you lost a little bit of time in the second sector. Was that the reason why?
LH: No, it just wasn’t a better lap. My first lap was very, very good. Probably as much as I could have got out of the car. I think I may have been able to get maybe half-a-tenth or a tenth maybe but it was very much on the limit on the second run. I was a tenth down going into turn 15 but I didn’t see much point in wasting the tyres for a potential half-a-tenth or something so I came in. But overall very, very happy with my position. I am starting from fifth but this is as good as I could really have hoped for and the track is actually really great as Sebastian just said. I think real congratulations to the people here in India who have put together this circuit as it is not breaking up and it is really fantastic to drive.
Q: You gave the impression yesterday that there was more to come. Was there much changes made overnight?
LH: I don’t think I did.
Q: OK, I got the wrong impression. Was there much changes made overnight?
Q: So you were pretty much straight on the set-up that you wanted?
Q: That hasn’t evolved with the track?
LH: No, not really. Through the session you put on more front wing but otherwise not really made any changes throughout the weekend. Simulator -track, the correlation seems to be quite good.
Q: Mark, you might have been starting third but you are starting second. I don’t know if there is a clean or a dirty side here yet?
MW: It doesn’t look like it, but we will find out tomorrow. It was an interesting session. Qualy around here was always going to be pretty interesting given what we saw in P3 and also yesterday with what we saw with the tyres and how they are behaving and how you prepare them and get them ready. We saw some different strategies, people looking to do a few laps, people electing to do one lap. First sector is very tricky when you do one timed so definitely left some change on the table there myself, but after that I was pretty happy with the lap. I haven’t seen Seb’s second lap as I didn’t get to do mine because of the yellow flag so pretty happy with the recovery from P2 when I was in a bit of strife really. Feel much, much happier with the car now and we have certainly done what we can to help it for the race so looking forward to it.
Q: How much did you change as yesterday you said it didn’t seem to be so good yesterday?
MW: Yeah, quite a lot. We are also at a point in the season when you can also try and test a few things so we started off very well in P1, both of us obviously, and Seb had a pretty smooth P2. Mine was less smooth just for different reasons because we always try to improve the car and also try to gain some experience for future references so in the end we basically went back to a lot of the stuff. Like Lewis said the simulators are pretty good these days but you just don’t quite know how the grip level is going to go on the track, but it is not too bad and it is probably the smoothest track in the world actually. It is very, very smooth and it is pretty quick and exciting. I think the debris off-line will get worse during the race and in the quick chicanes we are going to have a lot of much when people are making some errors here and there so that’s going to happen. But, generally, it should be fine.
Questions from the floor
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Sebastian, this is your 28th pole position, just like Fangio. What does it mean for you and is beating records the way you stay motivated for the end of the season?
SV: I didn’t know (about the Fangio statistic). Yeah, it’s definitely special. I think the difference… I think the time when Fangio achieved that was different compared to today. He didn’t do that many races, especially as they had less races per season. I obviously know a lot of the names in Formula One from the past, former drivers and roughly what they achieved. I’m not an expert but it’s definitely great, it’s special to be part of a sport that has so much history because it always allows you to compare yourself in many ways, which I think is great, and not just today, back 20 years ago it was the same and in another 20 year’s time it will probably still be the same. But I’m not really jumping into the car thinking “OK, one more and I will equal Fangio” in this case. I think you really have to focus on what you do, and that’s the way eventually you get to somewhere like that. But I’m still motivated, even without knowing too many numbers and statistics. But of course, it’s very special to hear that.
Q: (Ubald Parkar – F1 Pulse.com) Mark, it has been suggested that Red Bull might use team orders to give you a victory. Would you be satisfied if you were handed a win like that? And it has been suggested that Red Bull might change focus to ensure that you would win a race. What would be done differently from what has been done earlier this season?
MW: Nothing will be different. There’s been a lot of talk from the team but no talk from me. I don’t want any positions off Sebastian, for the remainder of the year. Nothing will change.
Q: (Kushan Mitra – Business Today) One thing became quite clear in qualifying as well as in practice: whenever somebody went off line, a lot of dust obscured the track and that put some drivers off. Is that going to be a hazard tomorrow? Is the dust obscuring the track going to be a hazard if somebody goes off line and onto the grass?
SV: Yeah, I think it will affect us. Obviously, if you’re right behind the car in front, depending on where the car goes off, it puts up some dust on the line and then you pick up that dust, you lose grip if it’s in a corner, and you might lose a little bit of grip for the next couple of corners, so yes, it affects us. On the other hand, we’ve been practising now for two days and we had people in front of us going off the circuit, joining it again and I think we know roughly what to expect. The real tricky bit is when the people go off so much and put a lot of dust up, so that you can’t actually see where you are going, but yeah, the marshals are aware. We’ve had some incidents over the weekend and nothing happened, nothing bad happened so far, so that’s good.
Q: (Sudhir Chandran – Chequered Flag, Bombay) Sebastian, you seem to be making this a habit of sorts. It’s almost like you could do it in your sleep now. Seriously, a new track, new country, new situation; is it as easy as it looks for us from here?
SV: I think it’s easier for you to sit in a chair and watch. We’re still busy out there. It has been quite tricky, as I said, we have to really make sure we stay on the line, and in qualifying you push as hard as you can, trying to squeeze every single bit out of the car, a little bit too much and then you’re off-line, you immediately lose quite a lot of time, so the circuit in that regard doesn’t forgive your mistakes, which I think is good, it’s the challenge we have to face. But surely it’s not easy. I enjoy what I do, I was very excited when I came here. I had a bit of time on Wednesday to go around and have a look at different things, off-track, so that was very interesting. It’s a very inspiring country in many ways, it’s very different to what we know in Europe. It’s great to see that and I think there’s a lot of lessons we can learn, we can take on board for the future.
Q: (Ian Parkes – Press Association) Mark, Christian was speaking on Thursday about the desire within the team to get you second in the drivers’ championship. Does that actually mean anything to you? He said he wanted to make it the perfect season for Red Bull.
MW: I think wins are more important for me.
Q: (Peter Windsor – The Flying Lap) Question for Lewis and one of the Red Bull drivers; I just wondered where you ended up generally speaking on downforce, whether this circuit compares with others, if you can categorise it roughly without giving away too many secrets?
LH: I think the downforce level has been pretty similar for the last couple of races. In Suzuka we were at our maximum, Korea we were at our maximum and here, a bit less than our maximum but very, very similar, same wings.
MW: Yeah, it’s pretty high on downforce around here. Obviously, it would be nice to be lower in the first sector but you’ve got a huge amount of quick corners and big combinations, sort of Suzuka-esque and a quick sort of Budapest if you like, so it’s a busy and demanding second and third sector for the car, so you need plenty of load on.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Felipe broke his suspension by going too deep into a chicane, I think it’s eight and nine. Either into a hole or kerb -I don’t know. Is that a concern?
MW: Haven’t seen the incident. If he’s hit the kerb… I think Kamui hit it the other day with the middle of the chassis and he went into the air, so maybe it’s better to misjudge it a lot more than just misjudge it by not much. We know there are some high apex kerbs here, which are trying to keep us from doing exactly that, obviously cutting and making the radius nicer for ourselves. I haven’t seen the incident yet, but it looks like he’s had a failure off the back of the contact with that. Yeah, try and stay away from them, I suppose. That’s the best thing but it’s not always easy.
LH: I think they’re the best kerbs we’ve had, the actual kerb itself, not necessarily the bollard at the bump at the back but again, the orange parts are a lot shallower -not as high or steep as at some of the other circuits. They’ve done a great job with them. You can ride the rest of the kerb and they’re quite wide. Normally, you can lose a bit of time on them but I think they’re great.
SV: I can’t think of any particularly danger area. It’s the first incident in that style -linked to a kerb -that we’ve seen this weekend. I haven’t seen it but I think it’s probably more down to the fact that in qualifying you try maybe a little bit harder, maybe a little bit extra and try to go on the limit, also in terms of how much kerb you take. I think eight/nine is quite quick and it’s very easy to maybe be close to half a metre misplaced by going in a little bit too early, which can obviously have an effect, not actually riding the kerb but the bit behind the kerb, too hard. I will definitely take a look, but I think the only thing we can do now in case there’s a problem is stay away from them.
Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Sebastian, you won the first ever Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, and almost did the same last year in Korea. How much would it mean to you to win the first ever Indian Grand Prix?
SV: A lot. As I’ve said and many drivers agree, it’s a great circuit, a great challenge, a new track, a new challenge as well. Many times before going into this weekend I was asked the question what is the motivation going into this race, why are you here? I even had to explain why I turn up. To be honest, we are racing, we are having the Grand Prix of India here for the first time and every one of us would be extremely happy and proud to be the one to win it, so that’s the target for tomorrow and not lacking any motivation, so yes, it would make me very proud.