1 – Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull Racing)
2 – Mark WEBBER (Red Bull Racing)
3 – Jenson BUTTON (McLaren)
Sebastian, your fourth consecutive pole here, you must love this place.
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, it’s not bad. I’m very, very happy with today’s result, I think we had a very, very smooth qualifying session, nearly perfect, so we couldn’t really ask for more. The car felt fantastic from the start. We didn’t really have the best start to the weekend; yesterday morning I wasn’t very happy but then we seemed to get it better every time we go out, so very pleased with the result, very happy, the car feels fantastic around here and I was able to pick up a little bit overnight and it came together nicely and now obviously we hope for a very good race tomorrow.
It’s the 50th anniversary for Suzuka and it’s a circuit that everyone seems to adore driving around. What’s the best part of the circuit?
SV: I think you have to say the first sector, up the Esses, obviously we don’t have that kind of combination in Formula One elsewhere. I think it’s unique. I think this place in general is quite special with all the fans around the track. When I was walking into the garage you can obviously see Turn One, Two, Three and the grandstands mostly and you see a lot of people. It’s just, for us, nice to see the excitement people have for Formula One and the support we get. I think they are very crazy – in a positive way – so it’s nice coming here and wonderful to drive the circuit. The rest of the track is very enjoyable: The Degners and then Spoon is very special: you always lose the car a little bit, just when you come off. The lap I had in qualifying in the end was just right in those places, so I was very happy.
Mark, great result for the team, Red Bull Racing, you seem to have made real progress.
Mark WEBBER: Yeah, it’s been a good weekend for us so far. Seb and I had a clean run in Q3 when it mattered at the start there. And two pretty big laps from both of us. Obviously Seb got me a bit, so that was a good lap from him. But to be this much further up for us, obviously we’ve had a rough run with qualifying of late, particularly my side with penalties and bits and bobs. It just makes the race much more difficult: you have to start doing wacky strategies and stuff like that. So, I am happy to be on the front row and looking forward to a good result tomorrow. Like you say, for the team it’s just a great tonic for them, at this point in the championship to have the cars towards the front again.
Jenson, third in qualifying but obviously with a five-place grid penalty.
Jenson BUTTON: That hurts a little bit. Today was good. This morning in practice I wasn’t that happy but we made some good improvements for qualifying. For me both laps I did in Q3 were good. I was happy with the laps, really enjoyed driving around here, it’s always great with low fuel and new tyres – new soft tyres. It was a lot of fun but we’re just not quick enough. I wouldn’t know what to put my finger on, where that four-tenths is. A good qualifying for us, just a pity we’re starting back in eighth. This place is such a nice place to fight for a win; it’s going to be very difficult for me tomorrow but never say never. There’s always possibilities and I think we’ll have a good race car also.
So Sebastian, I guess one of the main factors tomorrow is going to be all about tyres, have you got enough sets left? New tyres, new softs?
SV: Yeah, obviously we didn’t finish the run in Q3, so saved a little bit there, saved a lap, didn’t push to the end. Before that we had a very smooth session in qualifying in general. We saved as many tyres as we can and I think we have a pretty good car, the balance felt very good in qualifying so I was very happy with the laps I had every time and yeah, all in all I think we should have a good race car as well tomorrow. I think we were able to improve the car from yesterday to today which also helps us on the long run and with tyre consumption. But you never know until you find out. I think we’ve seen a lot of races this year where probably we expected something, and people expected something, other teams had expectations but the last ten laps everything turned around. We have to stay focussed and see what we get from start to finish.
I guess you were OK in traffic, because particularly in Q1 a lot of people were complaining.
SV: I was very lucky, I saw a couple of incidents on the screen but I think we found a good gap, and I needed only one lap, which obviously helps. So that was good – it doesn’t always go that way. So, it was helping to save tyres, I’m not sure if we’re going to use that one again – but still it’s good to get through without any trouble.
Mark, on that last lap, did you have yellow flags at Spoon?
MW: Yeah, I had to back-off for the lights and the flags. There was no car there when I got there, so it was very, very close. Obviously JB was behind me and I saw he was still committed to his lap with the DRS etc., so obviously the lights were just cleared for him. Would have been nice to have a look at the last chicane, would have liked to have got that a little bit better. I was down a sniff into Spoon but… the hairpin was tricky for us today, trying to get the hairpin a little bit better would have been nice but in general the first sector was very strong, and for both of us to have a strong car here, when it really mattered, to put ourselves right towards the front of the grid, on the front row, is something we’re really, really happy with. We can really race from there and have a good grand prix tomorrow.
Jenson, is it a bit worrying, the progress they’ve made?
JB: I think we expected them to be quick. Their race pace especially has been quick over the last few races. Qualifying hasn’t gone their way and Seb looked really quick in Singapore but it wasn’t there, it didn’t seem, at the end. But their pace is very good here. The balance for me felt great, I felt really happy with the car but I just… that was it. Y’know, I felt I got everything out of it on both laps but still quite a long way off these two but a long way in front of everyone else. So, third place would have been nice to start the race because I think with this race you really don’t know what’s going to happen with tyre strategies and degradation and what-have-you. A lot of people are struggling with blistering. But I’m starting down in eighth; it’s not the easiest place to start from. But I still think we can really race well from there. There’s an unusual group of cars in front. So hopefully we can not just get good points – you never know, maybe we can still challenge these two.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to Seb and Mark: do you have any explanation why you succeed so well in Suzuka?
MW: In years gone by, I think we’ve had cars that have really enjoyed this type of venue, whether RB5 a little bit, RB6 especially was very strong. We had a very tough Grand Prix with Fernando that year – Seb and I, the three of us, a good race in 2010. JB was quick last year, there was a tight field last year but in general Silverstone, Suzuka, these type of circuits, you just have to look at Adrian’s (Newey’s) record on some of these tracks. You go back to the Williamses with Mansell, Hakkinen, McLarens blah blah blah. He’s always been strong on these type of tracks, so that’s good for us but it’s always challenging, and we’ve had to work like hell to get the car in the window where we would like it and now, this weekend, it seems pretty good so we would be very very disappointed if we weren’t competitive here because, as you say, it should be a track where we can charge for very good results. I think, basically, to answer your question it’s in the DNA of our car, it’s in the DNA of the philosophy of our car. That’s it.
SV: As Mark said, we worked very hard to get it to where it is now. I think we were struggling this year at the beginning of the year in places, in corners where usually, traditionally, we were competitive, so we didn’t really know what to expect here this weekend but sector one seemed very competitive for both of us all weekend so I think that’s an indication whether the car is happy around here or not. I’m happy we are back to our shape that we had over the last couple of years around here.
Q: (Dan Knutson – Honorary) Michael Schumacher has announced his retirement; could I have your thoughts please?
SV: I think it’s a loss for Formula One. It’s a shame, obviously, I think it was good fun to have him around, race against him and joke with him, so I think I will miss that but obviously you can understand his decision and, as I said, we will miss him, but obviously wish him all the best for his future, and hope we still have him around somehow in some function.
MW: I think it’s pretty obvious that there were two different careers: one phenomenal one and then in the next one the car, everything together didn’t get close to what he did in the past, and that’s how sensitive Formula One can be. He knows that, he took a new challenge on – which you have to take your hat off to – because he didn’t want to be back at home just doing the groceries, and he was also very hungry to challenge himself again. We saw some flash points of what he’s capable of, but he also knows himself, he’s seen some flash points which is the right time for him to stop, so move on.
JB: Yes, wonderfully put by both parties. I think the last three years, we’ve all been wondering and watching to see what happened to his second career and it wasn’t like the first one, but I think it just shows and proves how amazing the first one was because he hasn’t done badly. It is a loss for the sport, having a seven time World Champion and someone that’s achieved more than anyone else and will for a very long time leaving the sport. He feels that it’s the right time to leave, and good luck to him.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Sebastian, now there are only two people in front of you for the number of pole positions: Michael and Ayrton Senna. Do you think you can catch them?
SV: As Jenson just said, I think Michael has a lot of the records that will probably stay there forever. You don’t really jump into the car thinking about those sort of things. Obviously, when you end up here and end up with people telling you some things it’s nice for all of us but it’s not the number one motivation that makes you jump into the car. I enjoy what I do a lot and on tracks like this, as Jenson said, on soft tyres, low fuel, you really feel what the cars can achieve and I think our job becomes very very special and unique in the world. That’s what I enjoy most. Obviously if you’re successful then it feeds on itself. I think they are quite a long way ahead as well, so we will see. We have to work, obviously, focus step by step, and not think about those kind of things.