DRIVERS: 1 – Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren); 2 – Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull); 3 – Jenson BUTTON (McLaren)
Q: Lewis, congratulations, your first pole position in over a year. I would have thought that you’d have had a smile as wide as the sea between here and Japan. But you don’t seem to be too happy? Is everything okay?
Lewis HAMILTON: No, I am happy. I am very happy. Happy to be here and very proud of what the team have been available to achieve over the course of the last few races and for Jenson to have won the last race and for us to be on the front two rows again and the only ones competing with Red Bull I am very, very happy about it. But tomorrow is the day that really counts.
Q: Sebastian, it seems a strange position to see you the right of Lewis and not sat in the middle here. No pole position for yourself. Did you expect this renewed challenge from McLaren today?
Sebastian VETTEL: Well to be honest I think McLaren looked very, very competitive yesterday. I know the conditions were completely different but you could see that they were a fair chunk ahead of everyone else, including us, as well as this morning in the dry so they looked extremely quick. But I think, once again, we pushed them very, very hard in qualifying and got very, very close. I think closer probably than they expected and closer than we expected in some regards so I think we did a very good job in qualifying. Also we saved all our prime tyres, which I think will be crucial for tomorrow. We had only a rough idea this morning with a little bit more fuel in the car. I think we are in a good position. It is not a long way down to the first corner and then Turn Three is a little bit exposed so we will see. It is a long race, a lot of things can happen. I think tyre wear will be crucial. Jenson did a very, very good job last race in particular so I think that, again, will be very important tomorrow.
Q: Jenson, third place for you. If tyre wear is so vital and the teams haven’t got as much data as they would normally expect at this stage of a weekend, how handily placed are you for another race victory?
Jenson BUTTON: Well it is not perfect, we all want to be on pole position and congratulations to Lewis for getting the pole. He has been pretty quick all weekend and tough to hold onto. I am reasonably happy where we are. It is not perfect, but we can race very well from here. As Seb said there is a lot to play for still and we really haven’t got a clue what is going to happen tomorrow in the race in terms of tyre deg on high fuel, what the car is really going to feel like on high fuel, so really a bit of an unknown. But looking forward to the challenge tomorrow.
Q: Lewis, after all your disappointments in recent races and whatever does happen tomorrow, how much does it mean to you to be hitting the track running and being on pole position and being the fastest man out in the car this weekend?
LH: Well it is probably one of the first positives I have had for a while and to be back on pole is a great feeling. But, as I said, tomorrow is the most important day. I have had some difficult races in the past so hopefully will try to redeem myself tomorrow. As long as we can get some really strong points for the team as they have put an incredible amount of effort into getting us to where we are today so a big thank you to them and I hope that tomorrow me and Jenson can repay them.
Q: Lewis, first pole for you and McLaren this year. How much satisfaction do you get from this?
LH: Well it is very early days and it is not the most important day but it is a great start. As I was just saying the team have worked incredibly hard all year to catch up the deficit that we had to the Red Bulls. Particularly the last few races, at least the last five races Jenson has been massively quick and we have been able to compete with them and constantly be on podium but not really finish ahead of them on the podium too often. Fortunately after the last race and here today we are as competitive as them and hopefully tomorrow we can continue with that performance.
Q: Just describe what sort of work you did this morning as you are virtually starting from scratch?
LH: No, we pretty much drove the same car as we had on Friday. Made a couple of changes as the track improved but I think we have made a big change to the set-up compared to the last race and that made a big difference.
Q: In terms of tyre wear what sort of programme was there this morning?
LH: I think everyone anticipated it would be quite poor the degradation of the tyres and looking at the Red Bull’s long runs it doesn’t look so bad. The performance over one lap is longer than what the specialists anticipated so I think tomorrow is going to be very, very similar to what we had in last race.
Q: After the problems that you have had the last few races you just seemed to nail Q1, Q2, Q3. Every single one you were fastest so that must have been a satisfaction as well.
LH: Yeah, I think we have had several Q1’s and Q2‘s at the top of the leaderboard but never really been able to pull through in Q3 and particularly the last couple of races I have not had my last run so it was quite important that we got that today. It made a significant difference otherwise I don’t really know if Seb improved, I am sure he did, so it was important that we got that lap.
Q: Sebastian, obviously you would have loved to have been on pole position but again it has been a pretty tough day today. I don’t suppose you learnt that much yesterday and really all the work was done this morning?
SV: Well I mean yesterday was a different day. Different conditions. But we saw already that McLaren is very competitive this weekend. In the end it doesn’t really matter the conditions. I think if your car is quick, if you feel the balance is there, then you are quick no matter what conditions and we were a little bit behind or quite a bit behind, including this morning. But again we pulled ourselves together and when it mattered most for today we were there, Q3, we were very, very close in the first run. I thought we would have a crack at pole. My second lap was very good again. There wasn’t much left but, obviously, Lewis had a very good lap and deserves pole. It was close. Closer than many people thought or we thought as well as they were looking so, so strong this morning and the pace came so easy for them. At least by the looks of it. It is good that we made a fair step in the right direction and caught up so tomorrow should be an interesting day. A long race. We saved all our prime tyres so there is a little difference there. Whether we can use that to our advantage or not remains to be seen, but I think we are in good shape. It is a long race here. Tyres are reasonable soft, both compounds, so we will see.
Q: You predicted multi pit-stops yesterday, does that still stand?
SV: I think so. It did look a little bit better this morning than some people thought so I think five stops is too many. Two is impossible so somewhere in between. You know three or four stops is not a big secret. We know that if there is a lot of tyre wear we have seen races where we end up three stopping and races where we end up four stopping. All in all we should be in good shape and looking to tomorrow. Also considering that the last week wasn’t the easiest, and preparation wasn’t easy, but very quickly we refocused and as I said we were there when it counted. Not enough this time, but tomorrow is another day.
Q: Jenson said just now ‘we don’t know where we are’. What do you think of that quote?
JB: When did I say that?
Q: In the unilateral.
JB: Did I? Well, I will have to watch that back. I think if I did say that, in terms of the race, [I meant] running high fuel. We haven’t done that yet, so we don’t know how competitive we’re going to be yet, but looking at the pace today, I would say that we would be reasonably competitive.
Q: Is that something you’ve done, Sebastian? Did you do high fuel runs today?
SV: Yeah, we did a little bit. You can’t turn the world upside down. Yesterday, we had no preparation in dry conditions because it was wet. This morning we still had only one hour. I think we had a lot of work to do and we got most of it done, so we were very happy with this morning, gave us direction with the car, with the conditions, with the fuel. The runs we did didn’t look too bad. We will see.
Q: Jenson, what are going to be the principal factors in the race?
JB: Being quick, and that’s something we’ve been pretty good at for the last couple of races, in terms of consistency throughout the whole race. It’s very difficult to know what to do in terms of strategy tomorrow because again, we haven’t really run the tyres. We know that they’ve got a short life but how short and if you can make any difference by trying to look after them? It’s very difficult to know, so a little bit unknown tomorrow so we will see. I should think everyone’s looking forward to the race tomorrow especially us three at the front. It should be a lot of fun out there. Finding our feet is going to be the first thing on high fuel, to see how the car feels and acts with that much fuel on board. Today was a reasonably good day for me. I thought we would be able to fight for first but Lewis was just too quick today. All in all, a pretty good day and it looks good for tomorrow.
Q: Does the chassis change make any difference at all?
JB: No. I didn’t think about it at all. It’s got a number one on it now, so that’s quite nice but no, it doesn’t make any difference at all. At this high level, the tubs themselves are identical, so that’s not an issue.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, what tyres were you using on the last run, super soft but used or new, because you used one set in Q1?
SV: We used new tyres in both runs of Q3.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Jenson, why did you change the chassis this morning?
JB: There was a problem at the back of the chassis where the engine bolts on, so they couldn’t fix the problem here and it wasn’t worth risking trying to fix the problem here so that’s the reason why they changed the chassis yesterday. The guys did a great job of turning it around, I think they left pretty early last night considering they had a complete chassis change, so thank you very much to them on both sides of the garage, so cheers.
Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) To any of you, lots of pit stops tomorrow, how much of a concern is the pit exit?
JB: If you look at how many times we’ve exited the pits over the last two days and also last year, there’s been one incident and that was in wet conditions. It’s very different in the dry; it’s more unusual to lock up into turn one. It obviously does make it a little bit tricky if someone’s exiting and you’re racing that person exiting the pits, knowing where to really place the car through the apex but I’m sure everything will be fine tomorrow with the pit exit. I don’t think we will see any issues.
Q: (Livio Orrichio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Lewis, please understand this question; for a driver who broke a series of 15 poles of a competitor you look very sad, you haven’t smiled. Is there any reason for that in your behaviour to the criticism you have received in the last few races?
LH: No, no. I am happy, I am happy. As I said, it’s been a tough second half of the season and it’s great to get pole. It doesn’t really mean a huge amount because tomorrow’s really what counts. As I said, I’m happy, I’m proud of… I am proud of my team, the support that I’ve had from them has been just incredible, so to be up here is kind of… it’s a great feeling for that but tomorrow is the most important day so I look forward to that.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Lewis, you were getting close to Mark Webber in the last sector, did it affect your lap time?
LH: No, I saw that he was backing off and my last sector seemed to be OK, to be honest. Through the last corner was a little bit slippery but I can’t really say that was because of him. I think it was the tyres really falling off. I don’t know how many seconds ahead he was but I think the gap should have been enough.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – Agence France Presse) Jenson, you were the fastest guy in Japan apart from in qualifying, where you missed pole by a very tiny margin. Your car, the McLaren, seems to be the fastest car here too. Should we see that as an indicator for the end of the season, McLaren becoming faster than the Red Bulls?
JB: If you looked at practice in Suzuka, yes, we were very quick and the same here. I think some of it is due to maybe us running less fuel than other people, especially compared to the Red Bull because they seem to be a lot more competitive in qualifying. But as a team, in terms of the car, yeah, I think we’re in a great place right now. As I said, I really don’t know how the race is going to go tomorrow but you’d think that it would be between us and the Red Bulls. So we will have to wait and see, but I don’t think Ferrari are that far behind in terms of consistency. Over one lap they maybe don’t have the pace but in terms of consistency we saw them very strong in Suzuka so they might also be there tomorrow. It’s a great way to end the season. As a team, were obviously disappointed that we couldn’t get this performance earlier in the year but I think we’ve done a great job through the latter part of the season and it can only be good for next year. Obviously there are rule changes but having a good base at the end of this year, going into 2012, it’s something that we really need, I think.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – Agence France Presse) Sebastian, was there a sense of disappointment in the team not to score all the pole positions until the end of the season?
SV: It was never really the target, to be honest, because it’s so far away, there are so many races, but the run we’ve had so far is quite impressive and even today we are still on the front row and we’re not so far off. I’m very happy with that, but as I said, now you mention it, it would have been nice, but it has never really been our target. Tomorrow is more important for us.
Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer) Lewis, you said that you had problems with your tyres losing grip on the last sector in your qualifying lap; are you concerned that this might disadvantage you coming off the line tomorrow?
LH: No, no. Generally, when you’re driving these cars, particularly in qualifying, you do quite a slow enough lap that you don’t take too much out of the tyres on the first lap and when you do your lap, naturally you’ve extracted everything. If you’ve extracted everything from the tyres, they should start going off in the last sector. That’s natural, but once they cool down again, as they will be for tomorrow, the grip will be back to exactly where everyone else has it.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Sebastian, you’re second and Mark is fourth and the two McLarens are on the right side of the track. Does that bother you for the start tomorrow?
SV: Not really. I think our side is maybe not the cleanest side, but we’ve seen a couple of times this year that in the end there’s not a big difference. I think the tyres are different to last year so… we are seeing different starts to the races. Jenson had a very good start at the last race from second, didn’t you?
JB: Can’t remember.
SV: So we will see. It’s a bit tricky here because it’s not a long way to the first corner or the first two, then there’s a long straight after that, and another straight after that so it could be interesting.