1 – Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull Racing)
2 – Mark WEBBER (Red Bull Racing)
3 – Fernando ALONSO (Ferrari)
(Conducted by Johnny Herbert)
Sebastian, you’ve got to be happy with the way it’s gone? Perfect start, perfect race, third straight win, you’ve got to be happy with the way things are going?
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, very pleased, fantastic, I’m very, very happy. I think it was a fantastic race. Obviously the foundation was to have a good start, which I wasn’t sure because I was starting on the dirty side but I have to say I had reasonable grip and a very good launch. I think Mark had a little bit of wheel-slip and I was able to get even side-by-side. Even then it wasn’t over because it’s a long way.
When I was up-shifting to seventh gear I could hear Mark coming, he was side-by-side and then I tried to use my KERS to defend and fortunately had a good exit after the third corner, so was able to stay ahead. And after that tried to push. It was quite close in the first stint, Mark was always on my toes but towards the end I felt I had a little bit more left in the tyres and could go a little bit longer. We had two brilliant pitstops. The only mistake I did was once I locked-up the front right quite badly into Turn Three, bit of a mistake from my side but fortunately by then we had quite a cushion to the cars behind and were able to control the gaps in the end. I think we were all a bit worried about the front tyres because we’ve seen a lot of people locking up wheels and overshooting the apexes.
So, really, really happy. I have to thank the boys on this one. The mechanics in the garage because they have been flat-out, arriving here obviously there’s not much break from Japan to here, flat-out every night and working very hard on the car. I think we have done another step and that is exactly what we need and hopefully we can carry that momentum through to the next races.
Mark, second place. Pole position was obviously a good start for you – unfortunately on that start you just didn’t get off the line – but what was the race like for you? What difficulties did you have, if any?
Mark WEBBER: The start wasn’t sensational. I’ll have to look into it but yeah, probably the initial getaway wasn’t too great but after that it was… everyone wants… it’s not the best corner to lead off so I thought, OK, we won’t risk too much in the first corner, and then we got a good slipstream off Sebastian but it was just neck-and-neck for us along the back straight. After that I just tried to hang in there as best I could. But then it was just about tyres, looking after the front right. And at the end of each stint it was difficult to keep the front right alive. Yeah, the first two stints were quite tricky for me and then the last stint I was much happier with the balance but it was all too late then. So, good drive for Seb, great day for the team, the guys did a great job. Of course I’m disappointed but I’m happy to get a good result in the other side as well. Thanks to all the fans for coming out today. Cheers.
And Fernando, well the championship battle is on now isn’t it? You’ve led for so long in this championship, you’re six points behind – I think you should be happy today because the car was quite competitive. Do you feel that? Do you feel there’s more to come from you and Ferrari?
Fernando ALONSO: Yes, definitely. I think we have to be happy with the performance today, we finished third and fourth, just behind Red Bull that at the moment are difficult to beat. So, it was a good day for the team, for Felipe, for me, and I think we also overtook McLaren in the Constructors’ Championship, which is something that maybe we didn’t expect two or three races ago, so definitely we are moving in the right direction. We just need a little last step to be as competitive as Red Bull and I think it will be a beautiful last four races to the end.
Seb, a last thing from you, obviously you’re leading the championship finally, how are these guys, especially Fernando, going to be able to beat you? What are you going to do?
SV: It’s tough but that’s what it is about. I’m looking forward to the next couple of races. We had a good last couple of races but y’know we’ve seen the championship is pretty much up and down, a lot of things can happen. What do we do? I think we have to focus on ourselves; we need to have our best possible results and then we go from there. I think at the end of the year if we have enough points there’s a lot of people telling us so we don’t have to do the mathematics ourselves.
Sebastian, well done. First of all, was it really all about the start, and then tyre management I guess?
SV: Well, we didn’t know! It’s difficult to say. Obviously now we can say that the start was very important. In my case obviously we started from the dirty side. I think the right side generally we saw last year, usually is a bit better but I had a very good launch and yeah, could see that Mark was struggling a little bit in the first bit of the start and I was able to get side-by-side and obviously then had the inside into Turn One, which was very good for us. But it wasn’t over at that stage because there’s still a long straight and quite a big headwind all race from Turn Two to Turn Three. I could hear him coming and obviously he was side-by-side but fortunately I had the inside and after that I focussed on having a very good exit out of Turn Three, which fortunately I had and then I was able to stay ahead. I think it was then that Mark was side-by-side with Fernando, going into Turn Four. It was a perfect start for myself and after that a perfect first stint. I think towards the end I was able to pull away a little bit and open a gap to Mark which helped to stay out a little bit longer and I think after that we had a very good stop, a very strong second stint opening the gap again. Only at the end of the second stint I had a mistake, braking for Three, locking up the right front. I think a lot of people suffered issues with the front today so the last stint I tried to control a little bit more and I had more juice in the tyre until the end. Obviously we had the gap and were controlling that towards the end, but I think once you reach the point where the front tyres are gone, it’s sudden death, so there’s no point of return. We were talking a lot over the radio, trying to stay on top of the problem and manage the front tyres quite well, which I think we did until the end. Very happy with the result and have to say thanks again to the mechanics, the team, they have been working more than what we should ask them for. Every night, flat out, the whole team and I hope now they get a bit of a break, some sleep finally. But obviously it’s a nice reward to finish first and second today for the guys in the garage. Really pleased with the result.
It’s the first 1-2 for a team this year, so that’s the reward. But obviously Ferrari’s going to come back as strong as they can, McLaren too. Have you still got bits in the pipeline, is the motivation still there?
SV: I think the motivation is still there for sure. The guys, I don’t know, I could not deal a single night with that lack of sleep and they do it three weeks in a row. So, really impressive and I think we are not lacking motivation. The spirit is perfect in the garage, the atmosphere is great and I think we all want to do our best and to really try and win the race on a Sunday. I think we’ve been pushing very hard all season; we have tried lots of stuff. Sometimes it was more successful than other times but the most important is today. Obviously whatever happened is history and we have to look forward. Very pleased with the result today. I think we can have a couple of drinks tonight before heading back. It’s difficult to predict the next couple of races. As you said, the first 1-2 this year, I think it shows how difficult the season has been for everyone. Ferrari was extremely competitive today, probably more competitive than everyone expected in the race. Both of them, Felipe I think was only a little bit off Fernando, so yeah, quick in the race, we know their car works in all circumstances, so we have to stay on top of our game, focus on ourselves and do what we can.
Mark, exactly what happened at the start there? We could see from Sebastian’s… it’s almost as if when you moved into second gear it…
MW: Yeah, I think we were chasing the clutch quite a bit after the first launch on the formation lap, and also coming to the back of the grid the boys were asking me to get the move clutch ring quite a bit so the initial launch wasn’t good. The first bite just kicked to wheelspin and from then on I knew I could have some issues. It was just a very… mediocre let’s say… run to the first corner. Seb got a good one. All wasn’t lost, obviously, second corner, getting the slipstream on the back straight I thought it was still possible to do something there. We were side-by-side, I had a tow but when once I pulled out I just hit a brick wall as well, both of us were just… vvrrrmmmmmm… and then everyone just coming up behind as well. So, yeah, and then after that we had to manage the tyres really, look after the… go as quick as you could, looking after the tyres but also trying to keep some pressure on Sebastian. It’s the way it is these days: you’ve got to look after the black things on the corners and yeah, so that’s part of it. Mixed emotions for me, it’s still a very solid result, I was very, very happy with the lap I did yesterday, could have easily been not on pole but I was through a solid lap and today is a good result but yeah, it’s mixed emotions. Second is a big difference to first. I have good points and champagne but it’s not what I was after. But for the guys, it’s a great result for the team and they’ve done a very good job in the last two weeks and I’ve got to congratulate Sebastian on the win.
Fernando, your fourth third place but I’m sure you’re looking forward to getting back on top. What sort of effort can you imagine Ferrari making before the next couple of races?
FA: Well see, I think it’s a question mark. We didn’t bring to the last six or seven races nothing new so we are doing what we can at the moment and we are trying to save points which I think we are doing perfectly every Sunday. Again it was a perfect Sunday for us: good start, good strategy at the right time and in the right moment. Then finishing again on the podium. So, I think it was a very strong Sunday but we hopefully make a little bit of a step in terms of performance and then we can fight for bigger things. But anyway, very, very happy with today’s race, very happy with the performance. We saw Sunday again move us a little bit closer to the top guys, and also with the position in the championship. Obviously we lost the lead by six points but if we think how it went for us the last four or five races, with two retirements, nothing to do with the team, no mistakes from the team, not mechanical problems or anything like that, just some people flying over us and things like that. With all these problems, being six points behind leaves open a lot of possibilities for us in the last four races.
You got to within 1.4s of Mark at one point, 1.3s, but similarly, Felipe got to within about the same of you as well. Was that all down to tyre performance?
FA: It depends how much you use your tyres or what the conditions of the tyres in that part of the race. We seem to be a little bit more competitive or less competitive. Or closer or a little bit further than the opponents in terms of distance. Obviously it was nice to try to be within one second here because you can use the DRS on the straight – but we could not have that possibility so we lost a little bit there.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, as you said, Ferrari is not bringing any new parts. You’re still there fighting and staying close to them. How frustrating is it?
FA: Nothing new, nothing new. The last five years of my career has been like this. I’m good, I’m confident, used to this situation. We have normally one set of tyres in Q3, there is not time for mistakes, no time to lock up a tyre or go over a kerb or anything like that on Saturday or on Sunday. We are always on the limit, but we feel comfortable, let’s say, like this. We seem to extract the maximum from the car when we are under pressure and as I said, four beautiful races to come with good possibilities for us to fight for the championship, but in the end, I’m sure there will be some circuits where we are a little bit more competitive, and some circuits where we are maybe not competitive enough, but overall, in the last four races, as we said, now we need to score seven points more than Sebastian, that will be extremely tough but we believe we can do it.
Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer) Fernando, earlier on this season, before this round of fly-aways, you said that Ferrari’s best circuits were going to be Singapore, Japan and Korea. We’ve obviously finished those. What kind of expectations do you have for competitiveness at the other circuits, apart from Austin?
FA: We will see. It will depend obviously on the updates in the car. I think we will see in India if there are any new parts. If there are, we will need to test them. For sure, the other teams will also bring new parts, maybe more than us, so we need to see which of them are working, which of them are not working and for who they work. I think the performance of the car will depend on that. I think in Singapore and Suzuka and Korea we felt competitive. In Singapore maybe not so much but we were able to be on the podium. In Suzuka we saw Felipe finish in second and here both of us were third and fourth, so overall they have been more or less good races for us apart from the puncture in Suzuka, so in terms of performance I think we are there. Obviously Red Bull have made a step forward and they won three races. They were one and two in qualifying in Suzuka, one and two in qualifying here, one and two in the race here so it’s something that is not in our hands.
Q: (Carlos Miguel – La Gaceta) Fernando, do you believe that the yellow flag was a key factor in the beginning of the race, nine laps with the yellow flag in the first sector?
FA: I don’t think so, I don’t think so because I was not within one second of Mark so it was not really a possibility to use the DRS – obviously with the DRS you cannot do it. I think it was maybe a little penalty – or a little bit worse for the guys behind me. I think Lewis, Felipe and Kimi didn’t have the possibility to open the DRS because of the yellow flag and I think for Felipe’s race it was a little bit easier if he could overtake Hamilton straight away at the beginning, but not for me.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, in the last few laps, on the radio we were always hearing the team telling you to be cautious, go slow, there was a problem with the tyres and then you set your fastest lap on the last lap, so what is the truth: was it a big risk?
SV: Obviously you start your stint in the beginning with a little bit more than 20 laps to go, after the last stop. I think you can work that out yourself, you have a lot of kilos in the car. Towards the end it’s nearly empty so you go quicker without even trying harder. I think it’s the same for everyone, given that you still have the tyres. Obviously we try to look after them during the whole of the last stint, because we’ve seen in the stint before how sudden the front tyre can lock up and you can lose control of the front tyres, so obviously we didn’t want to run into that sort of problem again, especially with pressure from behind so even if you have quite a big gap, when you start to struggle a lot with these tyres, then there is a lot of time lost within a couple of laps – I’m speaking of a couple of seconds per lap, so we didn’t know that. As I said, we controlled that very well so we still had some shoes left, tyres were not new but they were not completely worn until the end so I was going a little bit quicker in the last sector so that’s why the lap time was pretty similar to what I started with in the beginning of the stint, but calculate the difference of fuel and it’s a big difference.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti – Corriere della Serra) Sebastian, do you also now have a psychological advantage over Fernando, from a technical point of view, as Red Bull seems to be ahead. And secondly, how did the double DRS help you, as you didn’t use it in Suzuka?
SV: Well, I didn’t use it again today in the race. It was obviously not an option. It’s not just one feature on the car that makes you go quicker. I think we tried to work a lot around the car and sometimes you bring some new parts but sometimes you just work on the set-up: you do something smart, you listen to your stomach, you listen to what you see on the data and you act on what you see on the data and everyone is pushing hard. You sometimes might find more with the set-up than you might find with new parts so, as I said, we are pushing very hard but I think if you look at this season, it has been pretty much up and down and it was very good for us in the last couple of races but we also know how little it takes to maybe end up in a different position in the Grand Prix. I think we can take nothing for granted, we have to look after ourselves. Whether we have a mental advantage or not, psychological advantage or not I don’t really care. I’m not into those kind of things. As I said, we look after ourselves. There’s a lot of things we have to focus on to do a perfect job and that is the target every weekend.
Q: (Cristobal Rosaleny – Car and Driver, Spain) Fernando, you used to say that the weakest point at Ferrari was in qualifying, but Red Bull looked clearly faster than you in the race. Were you expecting that and are you a bit concerned for the next races?
FA: Of course I was expecting that. I think we were not the fastest car in the race in our championship so I didn’t come to Korea expecting to be the fastest car on Sunday. We always said that we improve on Sunday compared to Saturday. I think between the two cars, in 15 or 16 races, the other Ferrari was in Q3 six times, ten times not in Q3 so definitely there is not the performance in qualifying which we then see on Sunday, when we normally improve. Yesterday we were P4 and P6 and today we were in P3 and P4, so definitely on Sunday there is always a step forward for us but we never believe or we never thought we were the fastest in the race and today was more or less as expected or better than expected, because we were fighting with Webber all the race which was something we were not able to do in Singapore or in Suzuka.
Q: (Marco dell’Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Mark, if you look at these two guys beside you, do you think that with the 18 points from today, you still have the chance to fight with them for the championship?
MW: Yeah, well it’s getting tricky now. I obviously need some bizarre circumstances. It’s clearly possible for me to win Grand Prix. You just need to get everything perfect and today I didn’t, I paid the price. I can win some races before the year’s out but the gap is massive to these two guys. That’s the way it is. We have quite a few races and all the points add up at the end of the year. Of course we’re all on our game, we all drive pretty well. I only smelt a little bit of tyre smoke off Seb today so I knew that that was unusual for him, but apart from that it was a clean Grand Prix for all of us and that’s how it generally goes for us three, when we don’t get smashed out by other people. It’s difficult but you never never never know.
Images © Ferrari/Red Bull