1 – Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull)
2 – Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren)
3 – Mark WEBBER (Red Bull)
Sebastian, four races into the 2012 season and your first pole position of the season? I take it it’s good to be back?
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, it obviously feels great and I think this one I completely owe it to the team, to the guys. It wasn’t the easiest start to the season for us. Surely, a lot of expectations, but I think more than anything it’s what we expect from ourselves, and we didn’t match our expectations and we’ve been extremely busy working on the car, trimming here and there, finding the perfect solution and the right way to go, the way forward. And the boys – I don’t think they had much sleep to be honest in the first four races. We had a tough weekend last weekend in China and now, here, they seriously had a lack of sleep, and it’s very good to put the car on pole. I think both of us, we owe the result today to the team – it’s good. The car felt much better all weekend. I was quite happy. I didn’t have the smoothest qualifying. I was nearly out in Q1 and nearly out in Q2 but then I knew that when I get the lap in – I nail it – then we should be in a better place. It’s great, obviously, to see that we’ve just beaten Lewis for pole, so I’m very happy.
Lewis, too, I’m sure a few anxious moments for you in qualifying one and compared to this morning with the pace of your car so much better in qualifying session. So even though you’re second, is that satisfying overall?
Lewis HAMILTON: Definitely. I’m very happy with the job we’ve done. Just been trying to improve the set-up all weekend and in FP3 it wasn’t the most spectacular. But yeah, a little bit close in Q1 but thank goodness we got through. Generally, probably one of my best qualifying sessions, even though obviously in the past we did it on the first lap, getting pole position, but the first lap wasn’t great and the second lap was great. I’m quite happy with that and we just need to keep on pushing.
Mark, you were on provisional pole but was this just a track that was evolving constantly right up until the last car went over the line? Was that what separated you from your team-mate today?
Mark WEBBER: I think it’s always beneficial if you can go a bit later, especially today, but you know we take it in turns at each race and this track looked particularly sensitive to that all weekend. In the end Seb did a good lap, it was a good pole. In the end we’re satisfied with being towards the front. There have been some big gaps to the opposition, on Saturday in particular. I think we’re pretty surprised to be as competitive as we are on a track that is demanding of probably not some of our strengths. All in all it’s for the guys. We’re at the front and we can definitely race from there.
You made a slight mistake, Mark. Did that cost you any time whatsoever?
On your final run, just a little lock-up.
MW: No. That was not too bad. I didn’t leave enough of a gap to Paul [Di Resta] actually. I was surprised by how much I closed on him and got him a little bit in 13, so lost a little bit there. That was the only thing I would have liked to have done better, given him a better gap. But, yeah, we’re here.
Throughout this weekend we’ve seen that it’s been very difficult to string together the perfect lap. Sebastian, you’ve got to do 57 of them in Sunday’s race. Just how tough will that be, even from pole position?
SV: I think it’s always tough. The race here is long and anything can happen. I think we are pretty aggressive and we should be better off in the race. The race pace has proven to be pretty consistent over the last couple of races. This one, I’m definitely happier with how the car feels and we should be able to hopefully get the same kind of feeling and result tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the start of the race and then I think it will be pretty tight to be honest. Of course, you’re obviously dealing here with the top three but I think there are also other people tomorrow who will have a very good chance. I think Nico has been very, very strong all weekend, and the Lotus guys they can surprise. So, in terms of race pace, I think everyone will be much closer together and I just hope we can keep it up and have a good result tomorrow.
Your 31st pole position Sebastian, and your second pole position here
SV: 31? Shit! Yeah, pretty happy, obviously, as I mentioned. I felt much happier with the car all weekend, I went out and I think we’ve always had the ability to go reasonably quick. Surely it depends a little bit when and where you are, which tyres etc., but I had a good feeling all throughout the weekend and I’m very happy. I knew in qualifying we should be able to put the car higher up this time in qualifying. Q1 and Q2 wasn’t perfect, the laps I got in were not 100 per cent without mistakes and I knew in the third qualifying that getting everything together we should be in a better place. First run I obviously ran the set I scrubbed in Q2, wasn’t ideal, so I knew that with a new tyre there was a little bit again to gain and it did happen, so I’m very happy, very pleased and extremely happy for the team because the guys have done incredible lately. Four races so far but the last two weekends in particular, here and China, I don’t know how they managed, how they do it. They get hardly any sleep, probably an hour or two or three on average every night and still they’re full of energy and willing to work even harder – and I think we owe the result to those guys it the garage today.
You mentioned you found some answers in China and a step forward here, can you give us some indication of that?
SV: Well, I think given the balance we had – or I had in particular – the first two races where I wasn’t happy, we decided in China to go back and see where we are. Equally, Mark carried on, which I think was good to get a straight comparison. And we found that the new car, or new package, has its advantages and the old package has its advantages and I think it was good to get an answer on that. So, we ended up with two cars, either one probably strong in a certain area so I think it helped us also going into this weekend trying to set up the car, working with the tyres, which seem to be tricky this year. We felt a little bit happier all around, also given the high temperatures here, which is not making life easier.
What’s it like driving on the soft tyres? Everyone’s saying that’s what it’s going to be about during the race itself.
SV: I think they worked pretty well. Yesterday in second practice I improved by one-tenth, I don’t know why, so today yeah, I was able to squeeze the same amount of lap time out of the tyres that everyone else compared to the hard – or the medium – tyre. So, yeah, I think we should be in a good position tomorrow. I think the car is good in the race, we’ve proven in the last races that race pace is good enough to get some big points. Now we are starting for the first time a little bit further up and yeah, hopefully that makes our life a little bit easier. I’m looking forward to the start, the first corner, first lap and yeah, if we’re not P15 after the first lap then it will be a different race. So, fingers crossed, but surely tomorrow with the temperatures being so hot it will be crucial to take care of those tyres.
Lewis, the one thing that’s been constant throughout the season is you on the front row, or at least first and second in qualifying – even if obviously in China you got the penalty – but you must be pleased with the way qualifying has been going this year?
LH: Absolutely. Very happy with the performance of the car and the performance of the team and improvements that we’ve been making – and also really happy with the laps that I’ve been doing. I’ve been really eking out everything that I can from the car. Today we just weren’t quick enough to get a pole but still to be on the front row is a great feeling and compared to the last race, obviously we were on the front row but we weren’t able to start there with the penalty. This weekend we’re in a much better position, so I’m really excited for a good race but as Sebastian said, it’s going to be tough to look after the tyres tomorrow.
And also the rivals are different. All of a sudden it’s dark blue whereas at the last race it was grey with Mercedes.
LH: Yeah, absolutely, they’ve clearly made a good step this weekend. I anticipated they’d be very quick this weekend and in their long run pace they’re very strong, probably the strongest – and Mark’s been the fastest in all the races so far I think – so it’ll be interesting tomorrow but we’ll do everything we can to give them a run for their money.
And is it all about tyres and temperatures and wind at this circuit at this moment?
LH: It is. The wind, I don’t remember any other circuit – maybe Barcelona – but otherwise this is one of the trickiest circuits in terms of the wind direction and how it helps and the positives and negatives on certain corners. It’s quite interesting. It’s not easy to get it right: some of us do, some of us don’t.
Mark, you said yesterday the challenge was to get it all together. Presumably you got it all together?
MW: Yeah, it was a pretty good session. Quali wasn’t easy for us in the first part. And I think the guys have done a great job. Pretty happy with Q3 to be honest, we’re up there towards the front.
Is it all about the rear tyres, about traction?
MW: Yeah, it’s pretty tough on the tyres here, bit of a surprise for all of us yesterday. We did our homework and we’ll how that obviously unfolds in the GP.
And this is your best grid here.
MW: Yeah, it’s normally not a great track for me but I’ve been quick all weekend and I feel confident for the race.
And the Australian Junior Team starts sixth on the grid – as in Daniel [Ricciardo]
MW: Oh, I didn’t know that. Good effort!
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer) Question to all of you; coming into the weekend, one of the things that we heard was a possible concern was the engine due to dust and sand. We’ve seen a very very dusty day today. Have you got concerns about your engines in the race tomorrow?
SV: No, because we’ve run here previously and it’s more or less the same: sometimes more sand, sometimes less. They do a good job here around the track, cleaning the circuit. I was surprised this year that there seemed to be less dust on the track than in previous years, so I think that if they keep doing that we should be OK tomorrow concerning the engine.
LH: The same really. The engineers do a fantastic job to design the engine, it’s hardly affected, the filters are very very good, so it doesn’t cause us any trouble.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, how much of a relief is it for you to get this pole position after the difficult start to the season? Were you worried that this could be a more difficult season; now you have the car that you were used to?
SV: Pretty much the same way as people around, really. Not us inside the team, not myself. I started to… it looked like panic, it’s the same now. We’ve got a very good result today and I’m very happy. Of course I’m happy to be on pole for tomorrow’s race. For sure it feels good but zero points scored so far as the race is tomorrow. I think we are only a couple of races into the season, as I’ve mentioned many times now because I’ve had the same questions. We didn’t have the start that maybe we expected and people probably expected of us, but since day one, where we realised that maybe we weren’t as strong as we wanted to be, we’ve worked very very hard and this is step one towards the right direction so we keep fighting and keep working hard to make sure that the results similar to today come more often again.
Q; (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Sebastian and Mark, we saw that in the last race Nico Rosberg did very well, but today he’s further back as you were in the last race. Is this a new phase for the team or is it a characteristic of the season in Formula One, all these changes?
SV: I think that we’ve seen so far that things can change very quickly. We’ve seen that Nico had a phenomenal lap in China, he out-qualified everyone by half a second, no one had a chance on that Saturday and to be fair, also on Sunday he was in a league of his own. This weekend I think they’re very strong again. I think Michael went out in Q1 because they didn’t run again and then I don’t know what happened to Nico. I heard that he’s fifth so I don’t consider that is qualifying at the back, and I think they will be very strong tomorrow. This circuit is known for being a bit of an engine circuit; they have a very strong package, they are very quick on the straights so surely, given the pace he had all weekend, we expected him maybe to be a bit stronger in qualifying, but given the margins and given the gaps between the cars, first, second, third, fifth, I haven’t seen the complete result yet but I don’t think there’s much between them, so a little mistake here or there is enough to maybe not get the best result you can or you could on that day. Equally, I went out last weekend in Q2, or I didn’t make it to Q3 and there wasn’t much missing, so I think it’s fairly close this year and I think that the racing we have seen as well and probably will see again tomorrow.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, two days ago you said that you were lacking something to have a winning car. Now did you change your mind? And the second question is about Nico: it seems that Nico saved a set of new soft tyres. Is that crucial or doesn’t it matter?
SV: Surely it’s an advantage for him if he has more sets of new tyres. How much of an advantage you will see tomorrow. Sometimes it turns out to be a massive advantage, sometimes none. People run different strategies and we start to do that already on Saturday. All in all, I’m very pleased with the result today. As I said, I was much happier with the car all weekend and felt that we can qualify in a much better position. Going into qualifying, I knew that with a little bit here and there we could potentially go on pole. Going into Q3, seeing everyone’s first shot – Lewis very competitive – I know that we should be able to match him, maybe go a bit quicker so in the end, I’m very happy that we did, but I still think that for tomorrow, other people are probably the favourites. We start from the front row, P1, but it’s a long race and a lot of things can happen. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the race, so we will see.
Q: (Khoda Rawi – F1Arab.com) Lewis, I believe you are the first driver in F1 history that finished the first three races of the season in third position, and you’ve never won here before. Do you think you can do it tomorrow, since the car seems competitive on all tracks?
LH: It’s going to be massively hard tomorrow, for sure. We seem to have had some good races here. I think in my first year I was second here – we struggled a little bit that year and yet we still got good results and I think we have a better car this year to fight the Red Bulls in the race. I think their race pace has generally been a little bit quicker in the last couple of races, within a tenth (of a second) of race pace, but we’ve made some improvements so I hope that tomorrow our set-up works really well for us and we can challenge for a win.
Q: (Khoda Rawi – F1Arab.com) Lewis, you have a huge fan base in the Middle East; what would you like to say to your fans?
LH: To my fans here… Growing up I never ever thought that I would ever have fans so to learn that I have more and more fans coming from different places and particularly the Middle East is a fantastic feeling, so I’m very much appreciative of all the support that they give me and I hope that many of them come this weekend. And a big thank you to all of them for some of the messages that I get, because I do notice that I have certain messages on Twitter or Facebook from out here in the Middle East, so just a big thank you to them, and fingers crossed for the season.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Sebastian, as it was mentioned already, Rosberg had one run in each of the qualifying sessions. I think you had two attempts each. Was that planned or were there some problems?
SV: No, surely it was not planned. Ideally you go through with one run only, the minimum amount of effort so in the first qualifying I think both Mark and myself weren’t happy with the first run and then we were able to re-balance the car and we were maybe then fine in the second run. But it just shows how competitive it is, how close it can be. I saw that Lewis was P16 or 17 and just made it by four hundredths so half a tenth. With the track improving and the other people having very competitive cars, it’s very close. The same in Q2: I wasn’t entirely happy with my lap. I made a little bit of a mistake going into turn eight and I know that I should have been in a better place in Q2. I wasn’t keen to go out and then we went out but I didn’t make it across the line in time in order to have another go, so fortunately it was good enough, but again, in Q2, I think Kimi got caught out and didn’t make it to Q3 so… If you can make it with one run, that’s preferred because you save tyres.
Q: (Stephane Barbé – L’Equipe) Sebastian, being a two time World Champion already, how much did it help not to panic after the first races?
SV: It’s the same as I said before, I think we had no reason to panic and equally, now it’s not as if we are living in a different world, so we still know that we have a lot to do, a lot of work ahead of us. Surely the result is very good for all of us, because it gives you a lot of energy knowing that if you work hard, you also get the rewards. As I mentioned, especially for the guys in the garage, working day and night, as much as they can, I think it’s good to be back on top, but we have a race tomorrow and that’s when we can score points and not before. As I said, I don’t think we had a reason to panic and equally, now the world is still turning and we keep fighting and keep doing what we were doing, working hard and trying to come back to where we have been last year.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) With regards to the death of a young man last night in the protests that have marred this Grand Prix, I just wondered if any of you drivers would care to comment on that at all?
SV: It’s the first time that I’ve heard about it. I don’t know what happened so it’s difficult to comment. I think it’s always… either you know the person or you don’t, but I think it’s always dreadful if someone dies, but I don’t know what happened, so…
MW: I don’t know the situation so… it’s never good, of course.