1 – Jenson BUTTON (McLaren), 2 – Kamui KOBAYASHI (Sauber), 3 – Pastor MALDONADO (Williams)
Jenson, your 50th race for your team and what a way to mark it, with your first pole position for them?
Jenson BUTTON: It’s been quite a long time since I got my last pole position – that was back in 2009, Monaco I think. It was pretty emotional. Sunday’s have been good for the past few years, but Saturdays have not gone perfectly you could say. So, a great qualifying session and it’s so important to come back after the break, such a long break, with a good result on Saturday. I know the race is tomorrow but this is close to winning a race for me because it’s been so long.
Kamui, your first front row in Formula One and also the first front row for a Japanese driver in Formula One, so yoku dekimashita to you.
Kamui KOBAYASHI: Really? Thank you. It’s quite far from yesterday’s practice where we struggled quite a bit and we really had no idea what we were going to do. But this morning in that hour we changed the settings and we improved better, definitely. Quali? Of course we don’t know what is really a fact, how much there is an improvement of track condition. But we have good confidence at Spa and after the summer holiday everybody wants to have a really good potential in the car. In these three months there are going to be like nine races, it’s quite busy but very important for us so I’m very happy to have a great result here.
Pastor, your holiday included a return trip back to Venezuela. The rest might have done you a bit of good as well, with another top three qualifying. Not the most straightforward qualifying for you but in the end it all came good.
Pastor MALDONADO: Yeah, I think we’ve been quite consistent in qualifying all season, especially since Barcelona and now it seems to be a bit more strong, the car. We’ve been working so hard, even in the break, trying to analyse and understand all the problems we had in the past, to sort it out for the second part of the season and that means we are quite competitive. Especially this morning we were struggling a little it with the set-up but we understand and we knew where to work on the car. I’m very happy because the team reacted. The spirit is high in the team. We are working so compact now. I’m looking forward to the second part of the season. The races were up and down in the first part and looking forward to the second part to recover what we lost at the beginning of the season.
Jenson, you mentioned an emotional day for you but there were three laps that were more than good enough for pole. What was the secret? Why was today such a good Saturday, when others have been such a struggle?
JB: If I knew, it would make everything great! We just got the balance right this morning. The car’s been working really well all day. It’s limited running we’ve all had but every run we’ve done the balance has been reasonably good and we just tickled it, especially through qualifying. Yeah, the balance is to my liking. I obviously have a style where it’s quite difficult to find a car that works for me in qualifying but when it does we can get pole position. So, big thank you to the whole team, especially Dave and Tom, my two engineers, who on Saturdays, some of the time, have found it pretty tough. But today is a good day and it makes it a lot easier for us tomorrow being in this position but it’s still going to be hard day I think.
Kamui, we saw the Saubers very impressive in the final practice session, the only dry session before qualifying. Was this a result you expected today or did it still come as a massive shock?
KK: Of course we expect like really high for this weekend because Spa is one of our favourite circuits. I think our car should be good here as well. Of course I didn’t expect second in qualifying. We’re basically quite strong in the race, but not strong in quali with other tracks. I think we have a really great opportunity for tomorrow as well. I think this is a really good start for the rest of the season. We need to be really strong in quali. Definitely, I think in this summer break, the guys had a lot of work and they did a really great job. We had really a lot of chats with them and we’re happy to be here and confident and we showed that in quali. It’s really great and thanks to the guys.
Pastor, Williams third on the grid. Did you expect that coming to Spa or is this just the team making good fortune out of others’ misfortune in the qualifying session?
PM: We were optimistic for this race. Maybe this morning I was a little bit more worried because the car doesn’t look quite good. But during the qualifying I was adapting myself to the car and adapting myself to the different conditions and the track was changing and improving at the same time. After Q1 I saw the potential we had, a bit less in Q2, we were nearly out, P10. I was a bit worried about that because the lap wasn’t that good. In Q3 I pushed very much, at the maximum. I got a clean lap. We are not that fast, like Jenson, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow. In the past we’ve had very good pace in the races so looking forward.
Jenson, it hasn’t been a particularly kind circuit to you – does this make up for it?
JB: Over the years in qualifying it hasn’t been particularly that kind to me but twelve years ago for my first race here I qualified third on the grid, back in 2000, so I have some good memories from qualifying here. And this definitely adds to that. It’s a very special circuit for all of us and to get a pole position here does mean a lot, especially because it’s been quite a long time for me.
I think this was touched on [in the TV unilateral] have you basically found the secret to qualifying, your qualifying, or have you just hit the sweet spot?
JB: I really don’t know. Maybe a five-week break between every race is what I need – getting old now so maybe that’s the case! But no, all day the car’s been reasonably good. We’ve been tweaking it all through P3 and in qualifying even. On both tyres the car’s felt good. It’s difficult to get a lap together this year with these tyres I think. And even a pole lap, it still doesn’t feel like the perfect lap. After the qualifying the adrenaline is running high and you look back on it and think it’s a great lap – but when you analyse it, it’s very, very difficult to do a perfect lap with these cars, and that’s something I’ve struggled with, with the way that I drive.
How much satisfaction has it given you that you’ve beaten everybody else?
JB: Yeah, definitely. Today we didn’t put a foot wrong all through qualifying. And I say ‘we’ meaning the team and myself. The engineers have really been on it today. It’s difficult when it’s just one hour of practice – and basically you get about twenty minutes on the circuit in a one-hour practice session – and yeah, they’ve really been on it. So, congratulations to them. Obviously this isn’t a win – the points are tomorrow – but this is very important to us.
Kamui, Sauber and yourself seem to have been on top of it all weekend so far, is that the case?
KK: Well from yesterday it was totally different conditions. But today, even in the morning we had quite good confidence with the car. I think Spa is one of our favourite tracks with our car, so we had quite [a lot of] confidence coming here but we didn’t expect to be in second. Front row is a really good finish in the quali and we usually struggle in the quali and in the race I think we are not really worried. But this is where we want to improve and in Spa of course this is a favourite circuit but we didn’t expect second. And I’m very happy of course. I think the team had a really great time during this holiday and they do really quite well and that’s why we are here. But I think very important for tomorrow to score much more points for us.
And this is your best qualifying position by two places as well…
KK: Well, my best quali I think but I’m always focussing on Sunday and not on quali – so this is a good point but I want to focus on tomorrow. Second in quali we still cannot get any points, so just y’know, we see tomorrow, and if we can be on the podium that’s really something we need to do.
Someone yesterday mentioned what a good overtaker you are – but you’ve only got one person to overtake…
KK: Well yes, of course – but always in the top three or top five it’s always more difficult to battle. If we’re P15 or something it’s easy to do something. So, I think definitely tomorrow is a different story and of course we need to fight and we need to watch tyre management. But tyres are a little bit strange because we have different tyres from previous event, so we need a little bit to take care and we need to finish the race.
Pastor, how important was this third place after the results recently.
PM: It was important especially because we are here in Spa, which is a special track, I think, for all the drivers. We are expecting this race for all the year and yes, it’s something special to be in the top three here in Spa.
And you and the engineers seem to have found the right setup straight away.
PM: Yeah, I think this morning we were struggling a little bit with the setup, especially with the option tyres, and then we were analysing and trying to push very hard to see what was the problem – and we solved the problem. The qualifying looked quite consistent and strong. The only problem was Q2. We were at the limit, P10, but yeah, the lap wasn’t that clean. But in Q3 I push, I see where I’m mistaking in Q2, where to improve the car, and we did pretty good I think. That means that the team is working so good, especially after the break, so we stay competitive. The spirit is so high at the moment, so looking forward for tomorrow and even for the rest of the season.
We did see on the screen that you and Nico Hülkenberg have an incident being investigated by the stewards. Is that a concern as far as you’re concerned.
PM: To be honest I don’t remember that.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Adrian Huber – EFE) Pastor, would you be happy repeating this position tomorrow and being on the podium or are you aiming for a win?
PM: I think we need to go for the best we can do. For sure it’s going to be important to be on the podium, it’s going to be important to score some points tomorrow but if we can go for more, we will do so.
Q: (Simon Cass – Daily Mail) Jenson, presumably it’s going to be quite difficult for you to be the sporting role for Lewis tomorrow, given your positions on the grid. How irritating has that talk been for you and just how easy has it been for you to focus on the rest of the season, just in terms of forgetting all the talk about where you are in the championship and making sure you’re in a position to win races?
JB: Obviously not that difficult. It’s halfway point and maybe we haven’t had enough to talk about over the five week break so you get asked unusual questions and very unusual for this point in the season. It’s part of Formula One and I’ve experienced it before. The important thing is that within the team we’ve got a very good relationship and we’re working together to build the best car we possibly can and on the weekends trying to extract everything from it. Today is a very good day for us, and I’m sure Lewis is disappointed to be where he is but for me, a great day and hopefully this makes our life a little bit easier tomorrow but still, as I said, we really don’t know what’s going to happen in the race here. We missed Friday because of the weather and it’s going to be difficult to know what the consistency is of everyone here. A little bit unknown, but we’ll run through everything tonight, every scenario I’m sure and make sure we’re ready for tomorrow.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) How crucial is it for you to win this race tomorrow, trying to come back and catch up some of the guys who are ahead of you?
JB: It’s very important. A lot of people have asked me if I can still fight for the championship. It is a long shot; I’m 80 points behind Fernando. I need to be on the podium and finishing in front of Fernando at every race for the rest of the season, which is not easy, given his consistency but this is a good start. Yeah, a win is very important tomorrow, to fight for the championship.
Q: (Leonid Novozhilov – F1 Live) Jenson, how do you motivate yourself today before qualification?
JB: Same as always. You know, I’m doing the best job in the world. I get to drive Formula One cars every other weekend. It’s something that we all dream about as kids, I think. It’s easy to motivate yourself, especially when you’re working with a team like McLaren, a team with such history and a team that really is behind its drivers and supporting them all the way. And also when you have your friends and family that come here to support you it makes a big difference. It was pretty easy to motivate myself and also it was such a long break for us to get back in the car is a really really good feeling. Nothing leaves you; you don’t forget how to drive but there’s a little bit more of a buzz there when you jump back in. We were unable to really use that yesterday because of the weather but today it was great to actually push a Formula One car to the limits. I enjoyed today very much.
Q: (Oana Popoiu – F1Zone.net) Pastor, you were talking about ups and downs this season. What is the reason for your bad races? Do you think it was pushing or not pushing too hard?
PM: I think we still need to push hard. Yes, I’ve been involved in many accidents and a lot of bad luck at the beginning of the season, but the most important thing is to be competitive, to be consistent from now to the end. I think we have everything to do that and concentrate on this second part of the season. The team is pushing hard as well so everything looks quite good for us so I’m looking forward to the end of the season.
Q: (Pierre van Vliet – F1i.com) Kamui and Pastor: do you think that the fact that you are not title contenders compared to your direct rivals tomorrow… can you take advantage of that, maybe taking more risks than others?
KK: I’m not going to take any risks, of course. Races are something different. Starting second I think is not a risk, it’s quite important, it will be important to manage the race. I definitely have to say it’s not a risk race, we need to manage it well tomorrow.
PM: I think it’s difficult for me to predict the races but starting from a very good position off the grid, for sure the points will be important for the team, it will be important for me as well, so I will always try to do my best against top teams and even Sauber and whichever team is fighting with us. But for sure, again I repeat it will be very important to be in the points tomorrow.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Jenson, you already mentioned there was restricted practice time. What do you think is the biggest question mark for tomorrow: the tyre degradation, the choice of tyres later on in the race or whether the choice of set-up with less or more downforce is the right one?
JB: All of that. We’re not sure whether we’ve got the right downforce for tomorrow. Our straightline speeds seem pretty good which is important for the race, especially when you’ve got a lot of fuel on board but then the negative is,you spend a lot of time in the middle sector. Possibly you can damage the tyres more with less downforce but maybe that’s not the case. Maybe with more downforce you generate more heat so I don’t know, we have to wait and see. It’s all very unknown at the moment. I think the important thing is that I thought we expected the guys with higher downforce to maybe be quicker compared to us in qualifying. It’s a nice feeling being on pole by three tenths and these guys are obviously still pretty quick in a straight line compared to others but it’s nice to have that advantage.
Q: (Vladimir Rogovets – Znamya Ynosty) Jenson, for the last three years, your friend Sebastian Vettel was very often in the press conference on this day. Today he is missing. Do you like this situation and what would you like to say to comfort him today?
JB: Nothing! I’m not the person to be comforting Sebastian Vettel. I think he’s eleventh on the grid, is that correct? I’ve started worse than that and finished on the podium so it doesn’t mean his weekend is over, it does mean that it’s a lot more difficult than maybe it was for him last year, starting on pole. He’ll still be quick. There are many places to overtake here. I think we’ll still see Sebastian fighting for some very good points.
Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer) Jenson, earlier on in Q1, we heard you complaining about understeer and then seconds later, top of the time sheets, you were really fast on it and stayed that way. What happens? Is this the tyres coming in or psychologically you just think sod it and you get on with it and do the business?
JB: I wish it was that easy. Especially with these temperatures and limited running it’s been difficult to get the tyres in the working range. This morning it was the other way around, they were working very well and then later on in the run they weren’t working so well. In Q1 it was the other way around: lap one, I just had no front grip at all as you probably heard me say, and then it was better on lap three. It’s really difficult to understand how hard to push on an out lap and also if you’re doing a three lap run, on the second lap how hard to push, whether you should put more heat into the tyres, the bulk or the surface. It’s not just drive round as fast as you can any more. It was good to get the balance today and get it right.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kamui, you are one of the drivers that people love the most because you are always attacking everything. Lately there are a lot of rumours – even from the fans – that would like to have you in Ferrari next year. Is it something you are thinking of, considering?
KK: It’s the first time I hear that. Nobody has told me, so I’m really surprised to hear that. At the moment, after the holiday, our results compared to our speed of the car, I’m not very happy with how many points we’ve scored, so I am focusing on the last nine races to score more and still, of course, nobody’s discussed about next year so it’s not a bit too late and of course there’s a good option to stay with Sauber as well, but we never know what’s a surprise. Definitely my target is focusing on my races for the last nine races.