Season opening Australian GP winner Jenson Button and co-podium finishers Seb Vettel and Lewis Hamilton attended Sunday’s FIA press conference.
Q: Jenson you took the lead at the start, controlled the race, sum up your emotions?
Jenson Button: I think, as we all know sat here, every win means a lot to you, and for us as a team it really shows how important the winter is. We’ve had a strong winter – yesterday’s qualifying really showed that – so it’s nice to come away with a victory today (at the) first race of the new season. The guys back at Woking have done an amazing job this winter. This will definitely help them to push harder into the extra hours in the morning when they’re making that extra little part. So, big thank you to everyone at Woking and the whole of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team for this victory here in Melbourne.
Q: Sebastian, sixth on the grid, unaccustomed for you, but second at the end, which is a bit more normal. The Safety Car did the trick for you to get past Lewis with 20 laps to go.
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, nevertheless I think we would have had a good shot at him because it was very close and I was quite quick and I decided to stay out and he went to the pits so I think we would have had a crack even without the Safety Car, it would have been very close but surely it did help a little bit. Nevertheless, I think it was a great race. Quite a lot of fun. A good start initially but then I was surprised by Nico. He had a very good start. I got a bit stuck at the inside, I didn’t really have an option on where to go and he got past and then I had two Mercedes ahead. I got past Nico very quickly – which was a great manoeuvre, on edge. And then I was behind Michael where I had a mistake, went off in the first corner and then he decided to do exactly the same the next time I got close to him. That was good. And then, obviously, catching up the McLarens. I think all in all, congratulations to McLaren and to Jenson, he drove a fantastic race and was unbeatable today but I’m very happy to come away with second, it’s a lot of points. I think a lot of people would not have expected that after the result of yesterday. I think we had a better car in the race and the car seems to have a lot of potential and it’s up to us to get to it. Then we should be very close to these guys but I think it was a great day and thanks to everyone for pushing so hard and making the race result today possible.
Q: Lewis, you look dejected. It wasn’t your day today, was it?
Lewis Hamilton: No. First of all, congratulation to Jenson he did a fantastic job and congratulations to the team for doing a great job over the winter. Yeah it as just a bit of a tough day but we have plenty of races ahead so I just have to keep my head down.
Q: Back to you Jenson: how did you feel when the Safety Car came out? You had built up a 10-second cushion. Did you think ‘uh-oh, I’m in trouble here’?
JB: Yeah, you always do, especially when it’s so cold. It’s late in the afternoon, the sun’s dropping, it’s difficult to keep heat in the tyres. That’s the last thing you want leading the pack round to the restart. I was a little bit on edge but I was able to keep heat in the tyres, save a lot of fuel, which I think was quite important for us, and get a good restart. The team said push as hard as you can for two laps after the restart to get a gap. I was able to do that which I was very happy about. And then it was about controlling the pace until the end of the race. Yeah, it was a pretty amazing day.
Q: Sebastian, from your side when the Safety Car came out? Your feelings and how quickly were you made to make that decision?
SV: We decided to stay out when Lewis came in, then the Safety Car came out. I’m not sure, maybe it helped us a little bit to get past Lewis. We had a great stop so I think that was the most important thing. And then when the Safety Car came, yeah, I thought I would be in a good place or a good position to have a go at Jenson… but I didn’t! He was just too quick. Two corners and he seemed to be gone and I was struggling to get up to speed. I think I held up Lewis, he was a couple of laps very close with the DRS enabled, so it wasn’t very easy to get away from him but Jenson was out of sight. So there was no way we could have stayed with him. He completely deserved to win today.
Q: Lewis, your feelings when you saw the back of that Red Bull in front of you having taken your second place? You had a go to try and get it back again in the final stages?
LH: Yeah, very similar to the position I was in last year. It was quite a tough race but it was still quite positive for the team to come here with good pace and so hopefully we can take that on to the next race.
Q: Jenson, we go next to Malaysia. You’ll be looking for another win there I’m sure. Stiff competition though, we in for a competitive season clearly. How are you feeling after this first race?
JB: We all think this year is a very special year in Formula One. Last year was also, having five world champions but having six world champions and so many competitive teams – it’s good to see Formula One is in a great place right now. It’s a great sport to be a part of right now. Very excited heading to Malaysia but I’m not thinking about that right now. I’m going to enjoy myself with the team this afternoon/evening, with my friends and family. Then tomorrow I’ll turn my attention to Malaysia.
Q: Jenson, your third win here, this place must be getting a bit special for you?
JB: Yeah. And I’ve actually stayed in the same bedroom those three years. We arrived this year and my missus said ‘we’re actually in the same bedroom when you won those two previous years’ – so maybe that’s the reason why.
SV: Next year you get a different one…
JB: yeah, whatever… but every race you win, as we all know here, is very special but I think starting the year strong for this team is really important and the last two years for us have been tricky coming into the first race, so to come away with Lewis’ pole yesterday and the victory today, I think puts us in a great position for the next few races and on the right foot. Big thank you to everyone within the team who’s worked so hard. I saw our mechanics this morning who said ‘this curfew’s great – it’s the first rest we’ve had since the start of the year’, so big thanks to all of them and everyone at Woking that’s worked those extra hours to get these extra parts out and… yeah. Fantastic day.
Q: You seemed to pull away progressively at the start of the race, then got a margin and then that margin seemed to stabilise. What was it like at the start of the race?
JB: The first few laps I knew I had to push hard. I knew that Lewis would be right on my tail and I obviously had to try to get away because of the DRS after lap two, so that was important. But I think we’re all going into a bit of the unknown in the race. The longest run I did was about eight laps on Friday – and obviously the conditions were very different. So, going into the race, trying to understand what wing angle to use, tyre pressure and everything was very tricky. I think we got it close but it wasn’t quite right but the second and third runs for me were much better. We had more of an understanding of what the car felt like in the first stint and the second and third ones were much stronger. All in all I’m happy with the car, there were a few areas where I think it could have been a little bit better – but I think we did a pretty damn good job this weekend.
Q: And the difference in tyres for you
JB: Yeah, there is a difference and it’s a difference in balance more than anything else. The biggest worry was the safety car. When you’ve pulled a ten second gap, or you’ve got a ten second gap it’s a great place to be. You can control it to some extent but as soon as the safety car comes out and it’s six o’clock in the evening, it’s difficult to keep temperature in those tyres and we found that last year and the year before, so that was a big worry for me. We all try to keep as much temperature in the tyres but when you actually push, it’s a very different feeling and it’s very easy to lock-up and grab a tyre. That didn’t happen, I was able to pull a good gap again in order to get out of the DRS zone and then try to control the pace – but Seb put in some pretty quick laps in the end and I had to just put a couple in just to keep the gap – but we did it in the end.
Q: Sebastian, for you, you had quite a few battles, not just with Lewis at the end but also with Michael. It was quite a lively race for you.
SV: Yeah, the start was surely pretty interesting, so I enjoyed that. I think I had a good start first off, getting off the line was important. Then it’s a bit tricky here because Turn One is quite difficult to find the right point to hit the brakes. But I was quite surprised when Nico all of a sudden arrived from the outside. I think I got a bit stuck. Surely you don’t, y’know, want to leave the door open at the inside, he used the opportunity and, yeah, great start for him. Nevertheless I think I was happy with how the first two corners went and from there I felt pretty quickly that yeah, McLarens are pulling away, bye-bye, and I had to make sure that we are not losing too much ground. I felt that we were quicker than the Mercedes. I got past Nico fairly early, which was important, and then with Michael I did a mistake going into the first corner. I was a bit surprised, obviously I was in the DRS and I arrived a fair bit quicker than the lap before which caught me out. Fortunately I kept the position against Nico, and then had another go at Michael and, yeah, he was very kind, he did exactly the same mistake I did a couple of laps earlier, so that was good. Then it was quite surprising to see how we were able to catch Lewis in a way. I think the second stints were fairly, yeah we had the same pace: Lewis was a bit quicker in the beginning; I seemed to be a bit quicker at the end just when we lined up for the last round of stops and I decided to stay out when he pitted which I think was the right decision. I think we would have had a little bit of a go anyway, but then the safety car came out. I’m not sure, I think it might have helped us a little bit, anyway we got him at the stop, so great job from the guys at the pit box, and after that, yeah, obviously I thought I’d have another go at Jenson but yeah, the first two or three corners after the restart he was already quite far away. I was struggling, at that time I was holding Lewis up a little bit and he [Jenson] was pulling away too much. I think once I got settled the lap times weren’t too bad, the speed wasn’t too bad but I think overall he was too quick today for the whole race. So, out-of-sight. Nevertheless, I think it was a very positive race for us, we knew it would be a difficult one, so to come away with second and a lot of points is very important and I think the car has a lot of potential. Obviously we would have loved to have been in a better position yesterday but as I said, we did a lot of laps and I think we understood more about the car and, yeah, now we need to address the problems and make sure that we give them a harder time next week.
Q: Were you happy with the gear ratios because at one time we thought you were hitting the rev limiter?
SV: Yeah, I don’t think it’s a secret – we were quite aggressive and I was happy with the ratios. Obviously overtaking around here is quite difficult, we know it’s difficult even if you have perfect gears for overtaking, so we decided on the best compromise. I think it worked out, to be honest. I think we had good pace in the race and we still got past people so that was good. The only manoeuvre which I think was a bit borderline was when Lewis was just getting past Perez in turn one and then I lined up for turn three and I’m not sure if he saw me.. It was very close to the outside there, so I need to have a word with him, but other than that it was fine.
Q: Lewis, what happened at the start, because it was almost as though when you changed into second or third gear the car seemed to hesitate or bog down?
LH: I’m not really sure what happened but I lost at least too many positions.
Q: And during that first round of pit stops you seemed to lose around five or six seconds? I didn’t see how you lost it.
LH: Me neither.
Q: How about the tyres?
LH: I had some degradation on my first set although probably similar to others.
Q: And how hard was Webber pushing at the end?
LH: Yeah, he was very quick. I damaged my tyres behind Sebastian, then I decided to drop back a little bit so I had some clear air but Mark was definitely putting pressure on.
Q: And with DRS and KERS you were unable to get past Sebastian.
LH: Yeah, they were very quick down the straight, so there was no chance of getting past.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mike Doodson – Honorary) Lewis, in the unilateral, Sebastian said if you hadn’t lost that place under the safety car he thought he would have been able to have a go at you. Do you agree with that, was your car running perfectly or were your problems going to slow you down at that stage?
LH: I didn’t generally have great pace, so he may or may not have got passed me, who knows? It doesn’t really matter. He did in the end.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Jenson, three victories in four years, you will probably apply for Australian citizenship, but how different were these victories compared to the two others that you had here in Melbourne?
JB: It’s very different to 2010 when there were obviously strange conditions, a wet start and then drying out. Yeah, very different to 2010. Compared to 2009, I was on pole that time but the race…
SV: … it was too easy for you in 2009
JB: ‘Too easy’, let’s not talk about that, eh? 2009 was good, yeah, but still in the last stint I was struggling in 2009, because the tyres were obviously working very differently but this time, all the way through the stints the car felt good. I think there was a good balance between pace at the start of the stint and pace at the end of the stint. I think I came away feeling that in terms of the balance we had over this weekend and for this race, and the way that we handled the tyres was probably better than any year I’ve raced here.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Sebastian, we rarely have the chance to see you fighting in the race. Tell us your experience, what did you learn, is it so different than being at the front from the start of the race?
SV: I think generally… to be honest, I don’t really understand the question. People already asked yesterday, ‘how do you deal with the disaster of sixth place on the grid?’ I don’t think it was a disaster. They said we were in the shit, then other people behind us, they were at the back of the shit. We didn’t have the best day yesterday, maybe that’s true, but nevertheless, I think I was quite confident going into the race. I felt I can do better, my eyes were on the front, not looking into the mirrors too much. I think the racing has already been like this last year when you had pit stops and to make the strategy work you had to pass a couple of guys quickly. It was a little bit the same today, obviously, all the time for position, at the beginning of the race, right after the lights went out, so in that regard, it was a bit different maybe to the majority of last year, but it’s not as if it’s a completely new situation. Most importantly last year, we didn’t allow ourselves to get used to it and therefore it was nothing out of the ordinary, today, to start from P6 and we know that, as I said, there’s a long race ahead of us and opportunities to fight. My target was to win the race and now I came second, I think the winner totally deserves to win that race, and therefore it was our maximum, and I’m very happy with that.
Q: (Simon Cass – Daily Mail) Jenson, I missed your victory salute; was it the W or was it a V for victory or what?
JB: I tried to think of something new but I just can’t beat Seb’s finger. We need to talk afterwards.
Q: (Simon Cass – Daily Mail) Do you think Seb might get as sick of seeing that as you were of the crooked finger last year?
JB: Hopefully he will.
SV: What did you do?
JB: I actually did the W with a water bottle in my hand, which didn’t really work very well. Yeah, I’m sure we will sometimes see the crooked finger but hopefully not very often this year and we’re going to fight as hard as we can to stop that from happening. Always love your questions.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Jenson, if I saw it correctly, you had soft, medium, medium whereas the Red Bull had soft, soft, medium. Does it mean that degradation on a McLaren would have been a little bit higher?
JB: To tell you the truth, I really don’t know. Most of the race I was concentrating on Lewis behind me. He was pretty close so I didn’t really know what was going on behind in terms of the Red Bulls. I really don’t know. That’s just the strategy we went for. I don’t think it was an issue of degradation, just the idea that we had and the strategy that we thought was best. But again, with very limited running, it’s very difficult to come up with the correct strategy. I think it just depends on which tyre you run on Friday, and I ran the soft tyre and thought that was the right way to go.
Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) Sebastian, does this make the McLarens the favourites for this year’s championship, or would you say that you guys are neck-and-neck with them?
SV: No, we are not. I think they were stronger this weekend so look at the result yesterday, look at the result today. As I said, Jenson deserved to win, he was out of reach for us. I’m very happy with second, especially after the difficult day we might have had yesterday but nevertheless, this was race one. I think it was good to finally get back to racing and stop all the talk, to see some results. We always said in winter testing that McLaren looks very strong. They had a very solid winter, no issues with the car. They did a lot of laps every day so we expected them to be strong. Yesterday they did surprise everyone a little bit with their pace in qualifying. Today in the race I think it was looking a bit better for us, but nevertheless, they are the ones to beat at the moment. Yeah, we will see what we get next weekend. If I remember last year, we were pretty dominant here and then qualifying was just a couple of hundredths between Lewis and myself, so we will see what happens next week.
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