1 – Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull)
2 – Kimi RAIKKONEN (Lotus)
3 – Romain GROSJEAN (Lotus)
Congratulations Sebastian. As defending champion it’s always nice to get your first win of the season, even if it is at the fourth time of asking.
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, I think it was an incredible race. Extremely tough. Sometimes we had a decent gap but still even from the start we had a very good start, which was crucial. I was able to pull away immediately and pull away from the pack. That turned out to be a big advantage because we always had to go on a used set of tyres as we used nearly all of them yesterday in qualifying. We could see, Kimi was getting through, he was very quick and so was Romain. A difficult race but with the strategy everything seemed to work so I can only say a big thanks to the boys in the garage. I said it yesterday: incredible job they’ve done over the first four races. The amount of work they had and that we gave them in particular because we weren’t happy with the car and we asked for little tweaks here and there and they came back with new parts, old parts, back with the new parts, back with the old parts, back and forth, so extremely tough and they spent a lot of hours in the garage trying to get the car to our liking and I think we got it this weekend together for the first time and I was very happy in qualifying and throughout the whole race to be fair. So given the fact that Kimi found a dealership somewhere where he got some new tyres from, which allowed him to start every new stint on new tyres, it was extremely tough to keep them behind us. Once he was very close and I thought he would get more than just one shot but it turned out to be enough and in the end I was even pulling away a little bit and I could control the last stint. All in all, very happy and very proud of the team.
But I have to ask though, had this race been one lap longer, what would have happened? You stopped fairly suddenly after the chequered flag.
SV: Yeah, a couple of cars did. I had some company down there! I think Nico stopped as well. We were probably surprised by the pace we went in the race. Obviously these guys [Lotus] were pushing us so we couldn’t afford to lift but it was enough. We knew how many laps there were from the start so it was fine I guess.
Kimi, welcome back to the podium in Formula One. You had the tyres but was the race win there for you instead?
Kimi RAIKKONEN: I think we gave ourselves a chance at least. It’s a bit disappointing that I didn’t manage to do it. But I made a small mistake at the beginning and lost one place to Ferrari. I had to re-overtake him and it took a little time. I got past the people quite easily but if you look in the end I think we still took too long and we couldn’t win the race. But at least we got the podium with both cars. After the last race we tried hard and failed and probably people thought we were a bit stupid. Even after yesterday what we did. But it turned out to be the right decision and I think the team deserves what we have achieved now. We have been working hard. We’ve not been 100 per cent happy with how the weekends have run so far but finally we’ve got some proper results for the team, so it’s an important step.
Had you been able to get past your team-mate Romain Grosjean in the middle part of the race, a little sooner, would that have made the victory a little easier for you? You certainly had the pace in that middle stint?
KR: Yeah but there are no team orders and we know the rules. I try to get past as quickly as I can but it’s not easy with two similar cars. It’s always easy to say afterwards ‘if we had done that’ but in the end we were not fast enough to win and we have to take the second. I got one chance on Sebastian but I chose the wrong side under braking, so that was it really. In the end I didn’t have any other chances to try. It’s disappointing to finish second but after the last race we have to take it and be pretty happy.
Turning to you, Romain, I’m sure no disappointment whatsoever at finishing third, your first podium in Formula One.
Romain GROSJEAN: For sure it’s great. It’s a strange feeling so far. I think I will be delighted tonight. But I’m very proud of the team, all we did in the race. We knew we had a good car but I think we were surprised at the beginning by how quick we were. And we chose a different strategy to Kimi. It turned out to be not too bad at the end. Our car is very competitive in what so far has been a very tight season. Every small detail makes a huge difference, so the team is working very hard bringing new pieces as well and then putting back the old and trying to see which one is the best – not always easy when you have so little running. But I think we can be very happy with what we did and personally I’m very, very happy to be on my first podium. It’s quite a good feeling I have to say! I was saying first points, then top five, then podium but I jumped one step. The next step will be victory but well, that will take time and now I think we can be happy and now we can have a week off to enjoy the time and to work a little bit at the factory and to find the six or seven second gap there was to Sebastian.
Returning to you Sebastian. Four races, four different winners. What does that say about Formula One in 2012?
SV: I think as Romain touched on, it’s a very tight season, cars are very close to each other and small things can make a huge difference on a Sunday. I think we started the season saying that the McLaren is the best car by far, by quite a bit, but we’ve seen that Sunday it can be a different picture. I think they still have one of the strongest packages but as I said you need to get everything right. You need to have the right tyres, you need to treat them right, you need to find the right set-up over the course of the weekend so a lot of things to look out for. I’m very happy we made it here. We were not quite sure how competitive we would be. China was a very good lesson for us to understand the weakness of the car a little but more, driving with two different packages. For here we focused on the new package, pushing that forward on a circuit where you need a lot of power as well. I think Renault did a fantastic job – one, two, three all powered by Renault, so congratulations to them as well. I’m just happy for now, I don’t really care what happens in the next race, at least not today. I think we will have a good time now and then push harder so that we are there again next race.
Sebastian, well done, a little bit of relief to be back on the top step of the podium?
SV: Of course I’m happy, I mean, y’know, I think we had to work extremely hard in the first couple of races, we were not where we wanted to be so therefore I’m extremely happy that we had a much better weekend here. Friday morning, the first time I went out, I felt much happier with the car balance, so I think we found a reasonable package that seemed to work on this circuit pretty well so all in all, I’m very pleased. As I said yesterday, I think I owe this one to the team, to the boys. As I touched on, they’ve been working so hard, giving them an extremely hard time here at the circuit, back in the factory, we all try to find the best configuration. I don’t want you to look in the back of our garage, it’s pretty busy and pretty messy: a lot of work, a lot of parts. So we try to get the best package together. As I said, very good yesterday in qualifying and today in the race obviously crucial to get a good start. Then I was able to pull away by three or four seconds immediately which turned out to be crucial. By the time Romain got past Lewis I think he had more or less had the same pace. At the end of the stints I think we were a little bit superior and then yeah, second stint pretty much the same. Kimi always had new tyres so we knew he would be a danger until the last lap. Again, obviously in the beginning trying not to lose too much. I think especially that second-last stint where we were on option tyres, Kimi was on a new prime tyre, so it was difficult. I thought he would make his way past pretty easily. I tried to defend, one time it was really close and after that it seemed that he was running into the same kind of problems with the tyres and we were able to… not pull away but we could open a bit of a gap. So yeah, a very, very tight and difficult race. Obviously not too busy in terms of overtaking and wheel to wheel racing for me, but I knew that every single corner would be crucial with no mistakes allowed. I kept the car on the track at all the time which was a help and yeah, great result and very, very happy.
You had a faster pitstop at the last pitstop but then you seemed to be held up by a Caterham in front of you.
SV: Yeah, a little bit, but it’s the same story for all of us. You know, you get there first and depending on where you run into traffic you might get held up – but the guys did a very good job all race long, all the guys we lapped. You’re never going to get past without losing a little bit but it’s the same when Kimi or Romain faces the traffic. They run into the same problems. I have to say given the amount of marbles and dirt and sand and pickup off-line, they were very fair.
You didn’t explain why you had to pull off at the end.
SV: Well, I think I wasn’t the only one…
But that was another thing altogether…
SV: I don’t know.
You were just told to pull off?
SV: Yeah, I think it’s not the first time you saw that. It was a very quick race, the pace was extremely high, we had no time at any stage to rest, so a lot of pressure always from behind. So pushing hard and yeah, I was too exhausted to do the in-lap!
Except you had to run the whole pitlane…
SV: By then I’d found some extra KERS
Kimi, again a team that changed the car quite a lot during this weekend, especially after last weekend as well – but obviously it was a good car.
KR: My car was the same the whole weekend. We tried two cars with different floors but I mean in the end I don’t think there’s much difference between them but for sure it looks like we did the right thing. The car cannot be too bad because we finished second and third, we’re still not happy in certain areas but that’s a pretty normal thing. You’re never really 100 per cent happy with things. You always try to find something new and improved. But, I mean, great thing for the team to finish second and third, so I’m happy for them but a bit disappointed to not have more, to not be able to challenge more for the win. I’m not winning but that’s life.
Was it difficult even with the DRS to get really, really close, close enough?
KR: I think like you saw on TV I got close enough once to have a chance to try but I chose the wrong side, so that’s about it. After that my tyres dropped off a bit and I couldn’t get close enough. Yep, next time we try, hopefully we can put ourselves in a similar position later on this season in the next coming races. It’s not going to be easy but we will try. And that would be nice.
Romain, congratulations to you on your first podium, tell us about the start. It must have been pretty good?
RG: Yeah, it was! I think we are doing some pretty good starts since the beginning, except Melbourne. Malaysia, China and here we have some very good starts. I think it was important for me to be straight up to the front. Then I have to say that I really enjoyed the first stint, the car was fantastic on the option and I could overtake Mark Webber and then Lewis Hamilton. I thought I would come back a little bit on Sebastian and then we choose to go for the prime on the second stint, and it appears that there were a little bit less grip, it was more difficult and Kimi was behind me. He passed me and then the tyres went away. I think the last two stints were pretty good, our car was feeling good, the team can be proud of what they did because with this season so tight between cars it’s very difficult to be at the front and we have two cars on the podium which is extremely good. We’re working very hard as well, trying some new pieces – the old and new and seeing what is the best – but it’s always difficult. Tyres, as you know, are going away quite quickly and it doesn’t give you much free practice time but our podium feels pretty good and I think it will feel even better when I’m on the plane home and take one or two days to relax before going to the factory and working and trying to get a better car for the next race.
Was the car better on primes from then on, after using the options from the start?
RG: Unfortunately not. It was pretty good on the two last stints with the new prime but I had a choice between scrubbed primes and scrubbed options for stint two because I did a mistake in Q2 run one where I went wide and used one extra set of options. If I had one new set of options I think I would have put it on and maybe got closer to Seb – but I have to be happy with third place, it’s a first podium, we have two cars here and that’s fantastic.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, was it the right decision to come in for the last pit stop at the same time as Sebastian? Could you have waited one more lap?
KR: That was the plan. Even if we came in a lap later it would be more or less the same. That was our plan and we followed it. They came in at the same time.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Sebastian, Lotus already had about 11 kph more in top speed in practice and then on top of that Kimi had DRS and he was behind you. Did it surprise you that you could keep him behind?
SV: I thought exactly the same thing to be honest, when I saw that he was closing in, because we’ve seen that they are very quick on the straight all weekend. I was particularly aware that as soon as he got into the DRS zone then it would be difficult to keep him behind. So yeah, I think we could see that one time he was fairly close, he got the DRS and he had more speed at the end of the straight than I had. Sure, I think that you pick your optimum for speed, downforce, top speed and you pick whatever you believe is best. I think that all in all it was the right decision to do what we did. I used DRS once in the race, so I didn’t use it too often, but after that, I was happy that Kimi ran into the same problems with the tyres and I could get a little bit of a gap out of the last corner which was enough to survive the straight. I think we also had a bit of head wind down the straight, and that’s also an advantage for the car behind. I would say it was just enough.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) The question is for the three drivers: a comment from you about four races, four different winners from different teams, and what do you expect from the rest of the season?
SV: As we’ve said, I think it’s obviously very good to watch. I think those four races have been extremely tight. We had one race where it was pretty chaotic, in Malaysia, with rain etc so up and down. Small things can make a big difference over the weekend – how much tyres you might have left, lap one, gear ratios you might pick, whether DRS is effective or not and you can come back. I think it was a different race here compared to the last race where we had people running in a chain and not being able to pass or not being able to pass too easily. All these things make a big difference and temperature-wise, all four races were very different. Track layouts were different so I’m not surprised that we have a different result every weekend.
RG: Who knows? Who is able to tell who will be World Champion? I think it’s like it’s never been before. Q2 in China was incredible: ten cars in three tenths or eleven cars. It’s just amazing and it just depends who is bringing new updates, but I think the season will be how it is so far and you will have to get the last hundredths and the last tenths to get on the podium.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) You’re now going to have three days of testing in Mugello ; do you think that some teams are going to bring big updates, like Ferrari who are struggling a lot? What are your plans for your cars, are you also having big updates? Do you more or less know the direction?
KR: I don’t what the others are doing, you will have to ask them. I’m not aware of our plans regarding the test and we will see what happens there. I haven’t talked about it. We first have to finish this race and then put the effort into the test and then go racing after that. I can’t say what the other teams are going to do. We try to find more understanding of the car and improve it.
SV: First of all, I think it will be difficult to create a miracle. I think the regulations this year make it very difficult so sure I think every team has something on the list. We’ve seen that sometimes people bring parts and they don’t work so it’s not always given that a new parts push you in the right direction so of course it’s very useful to have a test in Mugello, to have some more time than just in free practice on Friday, to evaluate first of all whether the package you are running is the best and whatever new parts you might have for the week after in Barcelona is the right way to go.
Q: (Khoda Rawi – F1Arab.com) Kimi, a good result today, but do you think Lotus can keep up the momentum for the next races?
KR: We will try. It’s the same story; I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next races but the team’s been pushing hard to try to improve the car, bringing new parts, but of course they haven’t been working as well as we hoped, but anyhow, they are bringing new updates every time when they can. We try to keep pushing and stay up there, but I cannot answer because they are not. That’s our aim and that’s what we’re working for and hopefully it will happen, but who knows how well we can improve or what the others will do. The team is doing good work and we deserve to be here and hopefully we can stay up here in other races also.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Are you surprised, Kimi, that it took you only four races to return to the podium?
KR: It could have been in the first three races also, not putting ourselves in a bad position and some problems, being a bit smarter than certain teams but we know from the winter that we have a very good car, good baseline package and just have to make the right decisions and put ourselves where the car can be. This weekend it worked, last weekend it didn’t. We know that the speed is there, we just need to try to get everything exactly right.