DRIVERS:1 – Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren), 2 – Jenson BUTTON (McLaren), 3 – Felipe MASSA (Ferrari)
Lewis, Ferrari were fastest with Fernando in Q1 and Q2 but you managed to save the best for last.
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, it’s been a tough weekend but we’ve managed to work on the setup and the package the guys bought from the factory – and they’ve done a fantastic job. So, congratulations to the team and great for the lads. Yeah, managed to get a half-decent lap at the end of Q3, or at the beginning of Q3, and it’s great obviously for the team to have me and Jenson at the front.
Jenson, it’s been very close all weekend. How do you see the race from where you’re starting?
Jenson BUTTON: First of all I’ll just echo what Lewis said. For us both to be on the front row, it’s fantastic for the team. I think the last few races have really shown our strength and qualifying both of us on the front row is great – I don’t know if any other team has been able to do that this year. Tomorrow we’ll start thinking about in a little while but – I don’t know, even being on the front row is not going to be an easy race here but it’s the best place to be.
Felipe, we saw you working with Fernando this morning in practice, and again in qualifying, doing slipstreams, helping each other out. It worked for you, but where’s Fernando?
Felipe MASSA: I think he had a problem, to be honest. I mean he’s supposed to be in a good direction for the qualifying as well, so I don’t know which problem he had but he had a problem in Q3 and was not able to complete his lap. But anyway, I’m happy with the lap I did, so I was able to do a good lap. I was always caring about the tow, to find a good tow, but then on the last run when I did my best lap I was completely outside of the tow, so it was better for me, and I was able to do the best lap from the weekend in the last try in Q3, so happy to be here. It’s always a very important race for us, so looking forward for it.
Back to you Lewis, you mentioned it’s a tough weekend, obviously a lot of distractions going on off the circuit. How easy has it been for you to put all of that out of your mind and focus on the race tomorrow?
LH: I haven’t had any distractions this weekend so it’s been quite positive. The support from my family and friends, as always, has been incredible, so just been enjoying the weekend. It’s been pretty smooth so far.
Lewis, well done, it seems to have been a perfect weekend for you so far but just now you called that a half-decent lap – it’s good enough for pole…
LH: I think practice was a lot better for me. I had much, much better laps in practice but I can’t complain. Generally I didn’t think that lap was anywhere near good enough and I was up, I think, a couple of tenths in my second lap but I was in a train of cars: Kimi and two Ferraris in front. So, I wasn’t really able to better my lap but none the less I’m happy and I’m really happy for the team because they’ve been doing a fantastic job. Obviously had great success in the last race with Jenson and to have us both up here is where they deserve.
The stats say a lot of winner from pole position over the last ten years, something like nine out of ten have won from pole position. So that must be encouraging as well?
LH: Not particularly – I think that one that wasn’t a winner was me! In 2009 maybe? When I was on pole.
You seem to have hit the ground running from the start of the weekend, and just yesterday you said it was just fine-tuning. Is that what’s been going on?
LH: Yeah, yeah, just getting used to the setup to try to find us a time everywhere. It’s a beautiful track, just such an incredible circuit, and I think, probably the more and more you drive it, the more you appreciate it. Of course you have to respect this circuit. It’s such high speed. And also the fans here are absolutely incredible. Such passionate people who love motor racing, pure motor racing, so it’s great to see.
Of course it’s great to have an all-McLaren front row but is it better to have your team-mate alongside you or would you prefer somebody else?
LH: It’s not bad or good. It’s good because it’s good for the team and we can score maximum points for the team tomorrow. And so that’s, for me, the way I think.
Jenson, a winner last weekend as well, and here you are on the front. You’ve qualified second here before. Your feelings about being second on the grid?
JB: Relatively happy. I started the weekend pretty happy with the car. We tried a couple of things on Friday, which I don’t really think worked out for us, so we were struggling a little bit on Friday afternoon. Today the car has been much better. In qualifying because of the heat – it was much hotter than this morning – the car is moving around a lot more. This place, it really reminds me of karting, because it’s all about keeping the minimum speed up, especially through Ascari and Parabolica. So you’re always listening to the engine revs through the apex and you know if you’re quick or not. It’s a really interesting place to drive. In Q3 I realised how much a tow makes. In practice we were getting tows but it was difficult to work out if it was actually quicker or not. But in Q3 it was and I was able to get a reasonable off Vettel, which surprisingly made a good difference.
Ferrari seem to have practiced the tow this morning and put it into effect, certainly for Felipe, this afternoon. Is that something McLaren considered?
JB: No. That’s something that we… well, personally, I feel it’s very difficult to plan something like that. It’s difficult to get it right. You concentrate too much on it, you can do, and you can get your breaking point wrong or something. It’s a tricky one. The way that we did was much better, just finding traffic on the circuit, so it worked reasonably well.
Felipe, how much of a difference do you think it did make, having that tow?
FM: For me it was no different because I made my best lap without the tow. We were trying a lot to have a good direction for the two. It’s never very easy to make that in qualifying but I think we were able to do a little bit in Q1 and Q2. Fernando helped me on the first try on Q3 but he was supposed to do his lap on the second time, I was supposed to help him on the second lap. And then we came in at the same. And then I was behind Vettel, he braked completely, he almost stopped his car in the second chicane. I passed him so I said I’d try, just to see, as I never did one lap without the tow. I think it was nice to try even knowing that I had already my first timed lap in Q3. I tried and I improved, so I was pretty happy to do that. The car worked quite well in the corners, so maybe you lose a bit on the straight but we were able to gain more in braking and cornering. I think it was good; it was a nice qualifying. Unfortunately, Fernando is not here because he had a problem with his car but he was very quick as well. Let’s concentrate on the race tomorrow where I’m in this place, and I’m very happy to be here.
Yes, it’s your best grid position of the year and here you are in front of the Italian fans, so very satisfied?
FM: Yeah, very satisfied it’s in this place. But I’m happy and really looking forward to it. It’s a very important race for us, a very important race for me. And I’m looking forward to a good race in front of these fantastic people, as Lewis just said.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, did the pit wall tell you that Fernando had a problem and when you found that out, was it a big relief? It seems that qualifying was likely to be a fight between you and Fernando today.
LH: I didn’t hear of any problem. I saw on the TVs, as I was doing my first lap, I saw that Fernando pulled in out of his first lap and then in the second I just assumed that he was up ahead, so I was just pushing and focusing on my laps.
Q: (Vladimir Rogovets – Znamya Ynosty) Felipe, Monza is usually a very good race for you. Can we tell our readers that Massa has re-found his talent?
FM: Yeah. I’m happy with the car. We were able to do a good lap so we are heading in a good direction, very happy with the performance and concentrated for the race. Unfortunately I never won here at Monza in Formula One but I’ve always done good races. Before Formula One I always won all the races I did at this track so I think it’s a very nice track which I enjoy a lot. I used to live close by when I was doing Formula Renault so I really enjoy this place and I hope we can have a fantastic race tomorrow.
Q: (Vincent Marre – Sport Zeitung) Lewis, how have you prepared yourself mentally since you arrived in the paddock this morning? Has something changed compared to the other races, due to the particular context? What are your rituals?
LH: It’s been pretty much the same. I’ve qualified on the front row for quite a few races now so I just continue to do the same thing. I think it’s nine times or something that I’ve been on the front row this year, so it’s been pretty good qualifying for us.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Felipe, considering how you’ve gone on Friday and this morning, is it realistic to believe you can beat McLaren in the 53 laps of the race?
FM: That’s always the direction we need to take. We go to the grid thinking about victory, thinking about doing the maximum you can to win the race and that’s what I’m going to do tomorrow. They are very strong, they are quick but we have 53 laps in the race, we know how different the race can be compared to qualifying so for sure I want to try everything I can.
Q: (Vladimir Rogovets – Znamya Ynosty) Jenson, you will probably not be in the same team as Lewis next year. Tomorrow, does it give you more motivation to fight?
JB: Where am I going? Sorry. That’s the first I’ve heard of it.
Q: (Vladimir Rogovets – Znamya Ynosty) Does it give you extra motivation to fight Lewis?
JB: Yes. I think we all love a good fight and we all love a challenge. Having a competitive teammate, sometimes you think ‘damn, sometimes I wish I didn’t have such a competitive teammate’ but a lot of the time it’s good because it pushes you and you can see where you are in terms of your performance in a race weekend. There are positives and negatives, but I think there are more positives than negatives.
FM: Which are the negatives?
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) If I’m not mistaken, none of you three have won here in Formula One. Could you explain to us your feelings today that you have the best chance to win tomorrow? Felipe, I think that it’s also important to finish on the podium. I think you missed the podium since Germany 2010, I suppose or Korea?
FM: Yeah. It’s important to everybody. None of us won here before so it’s very important for everybody, very important for me. I know how important it is for me. As I said before, I will try everything to win and to do a good race.
Q: (Sylvia Arias – Parabrisas Argentina) Felipe, is this extra pressure for you? We all know how important it is for you and we expect the best of you, but do you feel this is extra pressure?
FM: I think I know very well the pressure I have so it doesn’t change anything. We just need to do the best on the track. You always have a lot of pressure. We just need to concentrate on the race. It’s a very important race tomorrow for me but also for the team so let’s concentrate on that. When you race for Ferrari you always have a lot of pressure.
Q: (Bob McKenzie – Daily Express) Jenson, Lewis, Martin (Whitmarsh) said on TV that it will be an interesting first corner. How much thought do you give to that between you? Do you discuss it or just race it?
LH: Just race it.
JB: It doesn’t matter who is next to you, it’s always an interesting first corner as you put it, especially here. It’s a reasonably long drag down to turn one. You can’t plan turn one.