1 – Fernando ALONSO (Ferrari)
2 – Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull Racing)
3 – Mark WEBBER (Red Bull Racing)
Congratulations Fernando, a second successive pole, but we heard on the team radio before the start of Q3 saying it was just too dangerous to go out there. It’s stopped raining now so do you want to go back and do it again?
Fernando ALONSO: Well, I think it’s still on the limit, the conditions. As far as it’s the same for everybody, I think sometimes it’s good to check the circuit conditions. But we did Q3, but I think going into turn six it was not easy for anybody – there was a lot of aquaplaning and we are at 280-290km/h. But you know, I think everything went well for us. We got caught a little bit in those aquaplaning moments but the rest of the lap was clean. I also think we made a good strategy call, doing a pit stop in Q3 and then having very fresh tyres in the last minute when the track was in a little bit better condition and I think that helped us a lot to improve the lap time.
Sebastian, second on the grid for you, and the first time you’ve beaten a team-mate in the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim. You and Mark were running quite close together. You could have gone a bit faster? Were you held up?
Sebastian VETTEL: Well, I lost a lap obviously running into him, but it’s difficult in these conditions. You can see nothing in the mirror. He probably didn’t see me and then with two laps to go the chequered flag, or the finish line, you can’t back off enough to let people go, and get your lap again. So, for sure that lost a little bit but the track was best at the end, so it was the last lap, which not entirely clean. In these conditions it’s extremely tricky. You lose the car a little bit over the rivers on the track and you’re in a different place than you target to be. So, tricky but nevertheless I think we had the pace today to put the car on pole in the end, I think the lap time was possible. We need to look at what Fernando did at the end, as he touched on, with the strategy. Maybe that was a better way to do it. But overall I think that in these conditions it’s always a bit of a lottery as well. You can lose the car without doing any mistake, in aquaplaning conditions. So, fortunately we didn’t lose it and yeah we are on the first row which is good, and I’m starting on the inside as well so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.
For you Mark, going into qualifying you knew there was a five-place penalty coming your way, so how much trickier did the conditions makes things: knowing that if you did run wide or crash that would totally ruin your race?
Mark WEBBER: Yeah. Tricky for all of us – dodgy conditions, especially when it got wet. Obviously, I did a better job than the other guys who have five-place penalty. It was very, very easy for all of us to not get it right today. So I’m very happy to be quite a long way up. We could have done a bit better here and there perhaps but we did our best out there at that point. We could have maybe done something when Fernando stopped but ifs, buts, ‘shoulda’, ‘coulda’, ‘woulda’: it doesn’t count. We’re third. Eighth now with the penalty for the gearbox but looking to come forward tomorrow.
Back to you Fernando. How confident are you for tomorrow that your Ferrari is the car for all conditions, whatever the German weather might throw at it this weekend?
FA: Yeah, it has been a strange weekend for conditions on the track. I think we have touched on all conditions through the weekend – we’ve run on inters, extreme and dry tyres both days, and tomorrow the same. If we have to repeat the same thing we will do it. But a dry race: the forecast should be a little bit better for tomorrow so let’s see. But I think that the car was performing well in all conditions so we are quite optimistic for tomorrow.
Sebastian, if I could turn to you briefly. We’ve seen Ferrari and Red Bull [battling for victory] at the last race in Silverstone. Is that a foretaste of the season to come? Is it Ferrari and Red Bull that will be having the closest battles at the sharp end?
SV: I don’t think so. I think there are also other teams you still need to be aware of, there’s still a long way to go. There’s no big difference in points so far. I don’t think you can rule out McLaren. They have been extremely quick in qualifying though in the last qualifying on the extremes I don’t know quite what went wrong but they were quite a bit far behind. They will be extremely quick tomorrow. Lotus have been extremely quick in the race in the last couple of races. So it’s still extremely close I would say. It looks like we are consistent and consistently strong, able to finish in the top three, which is the key. So we try to do our best tomorrow and see what the weather does. I think the forecast looks dry so we’ll see where we are.
For your Mark: you can at least do a little bit of overtaking during the race tomorrow. Is this the right track; are these the right conditions; are you in the right car to try to achieve that?
MW: Of course. We’ll aim to go forward, for sure. We’ve shown the car is strong in all conditions and we’re going to look to come through. But we have many, many quick cars out there. It’s never ideal to put ourselves on the back foot by shooting ourselves in the foot, with some penalties here and there but we’ll keep boxing and we’re looking forward to the grand prix tomorrow.
Well Fernando, give us some idea what it was like to be out there: fun? Difficult? Incredibly difficult?
FA: Not fun, that’s for sure. I think the problem is that you don’t know the conditions. It was similar in Silverstone. You wait five, seven minutes in the garage and then you have completely different grip and completely different standing water in places that you don’t expect. So in the out-laps you try to memorise a little bit where the water is and how much to push, to feel a little bit with the car the grip. Then you start opening the lap you go surprise after surprise with the car, having moments everywhere, especially with aquaplaning into Turn Six. So, it was not easy qualifying for anybody, and at the end it was a good result but, as you ask, it was not fun for sure.
But hugely satisfying, presumably, to be on pole?
FA: Yeah, very. I think when you have this type of conditions it’s very difficult to put a clean lap together and it’s very easy to finish in the gravel or to finish in the grass, the wall or whatever. So, those type of conditions are a little bit of a survival moment, that you need to finish the qualifying and see afterwards what position you get. You try to complete the lap, to avoid any problem, and then whatever the position is, you are happy, because you know you were at the maximum, or you felt that you were at the maximum. So when they tell you, you are on pole, it’s obviously a very happy moment. But the race is tomorrow, today was good but we need to concentrate for tomorrow and also look at the sky – because the weather has been so changeable at the moment – yesterday and today – and tomorrow we need to be ready for anything.
There was a bit of a worrying Ferrari moment in Q2 there.
FA: It was close. It started raining at the beginning of Q2 and we all wanted to set a time at the beginning of the session because we expected more rain to come. The first or second lap we knew was the best moment to set a time. So we were all in a group. Felipe had a moment in Turn Six and then in Turn Eight and we were very close but it was fine in the end.
Sebastian, does July look a little bit better now?
SV: I think it can’t be that bad, I was born in July, so… I said it on Thursday and nothing has changed. I think it was an interesting session, and as Fernando said, things can go completely the other way from what you expect. So, I was not entirely happy with the lap I had in the end when conditions were best. Potentially the strategy Fernando had in the end was a little bit quicker – but nevertheless I think I could have gone a little bit quicker. Whether it would have been quick enough, we’ll never know. I will see what we can get tomorrow.
We saw Mark getting frustrated with other cars – was that the case for all of you?
SV: What do you mean frustrated with other cars?
There was obviously somebody ahead of him…
SV: Well, I think the thing is, if you are too close to someone in these conditions you can’t see nothing. I was catching up Mark and in the mirrors obviously you can’t see nothing, so I guess he couldn’t see me. I don’t think he had intention to hold me up. Obviously I lost two laps because of that. But, as I said, the fastest was still the last one. And then if you keep catching someone up, even if he’s still three, four, five seconds down the road, you go on the straight, the spray comes up, you see nothing, you don’t see the rivers and all of a sudden you are sideways. The car is in seventh gear, 280kph and it’s a surprise. So yeah, it’s on the limit but obviously you have to do your best under these conditions, everyone else is pushing as well, so no choice.
How do you feel about the car in the dry, which we hope it will be tomorrow?
SV: I think it should be dry. Obviously I grew up more or less here in the area. I’m surprised it’s that bad actually, in July, because July is always a nice month weather-wise. Yeah, so, I hope for a good race tomorrow, looking forward. I think the car is not bad if we get in the right window – so we need to see what we’ve done this morning and qualifying. Obviously with the conditions changing so much you never find consistency and you can’t really test one thing against another. But I think the speed is there, we just need to find out how the car works best. Obviously now we can’t change anything but I think the changes we’ve made should be a step forward, especially in the dry.
Mark, your best qualifying position here, things look a little bit better for you. It hasn’t always been lucky, as we mentioned the other day.
MW: Yeah, as the other guys have touched on, it was an intense, tricky session for drivers, engineers, decisions. Yeah, it was a challenge for us. I think in Q3, definitely to arrive on the straight in seventh gear was sometimes not possible. To use the KERS wasn’t possible, there was extremely heavy aquaplaning, so when the cars are having wheelspin at 280ks it certainly gets your attention. So we had to juggle a few balls, and make sure we arrived at the end of each lap in reasonable shape. It was becoming obvious that the times were going to be done at the end but I think there was a few people out there with tyres not in the best shape at the end, so Fernando’s strategy looked pretty good. But in the end I was happy with my lap; happy to be up there again. Yeah, would have liked to have been on the front row. Obviously every position I gained was better against the penalty that I have for the gearbox – but eighth is still OK here, we can race from there.
What are you hoping for tomorrow, a podium at least?
MW: A win. No. Well, y’know. We’ve got to aim to come forward, I mean that’s what we’ve got to do. It’s not the best position to start the grand prix, that’s clear. To start eighth is not ideal but we have to aim to come forward and let’s see what happens at the front, let’s see how the race goes. We’ve had limited running in the dry, there’s been snapshots of information for the teams to get some information. I’m positive going into the race and will try to pick some people off over the course of the grand prix.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Adrian Huber – EFE) Fernando, you’ve had massive performance on dry tyres, on wet, extreme wet; are you happy also with the direction that the car is developing? And the next question is, would you be happy with a podium tomorrow or are you aiming for your 30th victory?
FA: Yeah, the car is performing well in all conditions this weekend, which didn’t always happen: we were quick on inters and not extreme and vice versa, sometimes good on wets and not so competitive on dries but it’s true that this weekend both Felipe and me were happy with the balance of the car and also quite competitive in all conditions, so overall, until now it’s been a very good weekend for us in terms of car performance, but we need to finish the job tomorrow. Tomorrow we will try to do our best; whatever the position will be at the end is difficult to know because we didn’t have enough dry running, I think, to know about degradation, tyre performance etc, because Friday we had some rain in FP1 and this morning in FP3 was not a big preparation for the race either, so tomorrow is a question mark for everybody. We will all start the race in the same condition with some things to learn during the race, very open in strategy, very flexible because, as I said, we don’t have enough information from the weekend so far.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Fernando, how crucial was it that you changed tyres in Q3; your main rivals didn’t do that?
FA: I think it was a very good decision in the end, because obviously I didn’t know what timed lap you could do if you kept running but as soon as I put on the second set of tyres, I found a little bit more grip in the car. Also the track was improving obviously, but I think we improved a little bit more thanks to the tyres, not only the track conditions, so I’m happy with the strategy today and I think it was the right call.
Q: (Marc Ellerich – Sport 1.de) Sebastian, can you describe what it is like to drive when you can’t see out there? How do you drive, do you hear, do you smell; how is it possible, I can’t imagine?
SV: Of course you can see a little bit. It’s not as if you could close your eyes and it’s the same. Don’t get me wrong, but you can’t see where the track is going. Obviously you know where it’s going, you don’t need a map to find out where you are but all you see is just the very first bit in front of your car. There are rivers everywhere and there’s probably only two lanes: one for the left hand side, one for the right hand side. If you are in that, you are more or less OK but as soon as you are a little bit left, a little bit to the right, a little bit to the left of that then you are in trouble. As soon as the car aquaplanes you are a passenger so there’s not much you can do. Obviously once you start to brake and the spray decreases, it gets much better, but the closer you are to another car the worse it is. Even if you are four/five seconds behind on the straights, it’s always worse. If you are the first car out and there’s no one ahead of you, it’s not a big big problem You still have to drive your way around the puddles and the rivers but at least you can see where you’re going. It’s not the nicest feeling but that’s how it is.
Q: (Carlos Miguel – La Gaceta) Fernando, you must be aggressive at the start of the race, because Sebastian makes very good starts this season and last year?
FA: Yes, we will see. Obviously it will depend on how the start is. Sometimes you feel a good start straightaway and you concentrate on the first corner line. If you feel too much wheelspin or too little, you try to cover it a little bit to protect your position, but obviously the race is long, 67 laps in front of us and everything isn’t finished at the first corner. So far, our starts have probably been the best this year so I’m not too worried at the moment.
Q: (Marc Ellerich – Sport 1.de) Sebastian, today it was very wet and it’s probably going to be dry tomorrow, so how is it to change conditions for your team and for yourself?
SV: Well, I think we had some laps in the dry this weekend but for sure at the start of the race it will be difficult for all of us. Not all of us have done runs on heavy fuel. I think the McLarens did but I don’t think Ferrari and us did this morning, so we will see, but it shouldn’t be a big problem. We know the circuit pretty well and hopefully we will find the braking point for – not necessarily the first corner but the second corner and then the hairpin and then yeah, you have time to get into the rhythm.
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