Fernando Alonso, Chinese GP 2004

Fernando Alonso, Chinese GP 2004 

 © The Cahier Archive


1. Rubens BARRICHELLO (FERRARI), 1h29m12.420
2. Jenson BUTTON (BAR), 1h29m13.455 (+ 1.035s)
3. Kimi RAIKKONEN (McLAREN), 1h29m13.889 (+ 1.469s)


Q: Rubens, a great drive, a great day, under pressure the whole way.

Rubens BARRICHELLO: Yeah, but it's been good. I mean, we knew at the beginning there was a bit of graining on the fronts but the tyres did a superb job. They were holding on fantastically well and so I was able to keep under pressure but closer to the pit stop to push, push, push and I was able to open a decent gap and just maintain the first place.

Q: There was a lot of pressure from Kimi in the early stages of the race, too.

Barrichello: No, it was very hard. I had a very good start and I was amazed by the grip on the first lap. I actually underestimated it a little bit, I could have pushed a little bit harder because the grip was there so I was feeling good the whole way through and it was really, really nice. Towards the end, because I had an eight second gap, I didn't push too much and actually the graining on the front stayed there for a longer time so I was having a tougher time actually towards the end of the race.

Q: And quite difficult to pace it right to the end and get it perfect to the chequered flag.

Barrichello: Especially because I had two cars to lap. I mean, the first time I went to lap Villeneuve he didn't see me so I lost like a second. After that I thought maybe he was concentrating on the car in front so I might have a problem but then he was okay and he let me by.

Q: Jenson, we now know you had more fuel than anybody else in qualifying, so it was a great qualifying lap and a fantastic race. That middle stint, with so much fuel on board for you?

Jenson BUTTON: It was a very tough race. When you know the other guys out there are doing a three-stop and you are doing two it does make it fairly difficult mentally because you have got so much weight on board and it was pretty tough. Especially the last stint when Rubens was putting in some good laps, being able to push was almost impossible because with that much weight you get a lot of understeer and it was pretty tough.

Q: In the closing stages of the race you were catching him very impressively. Were you thinking there in the end, 'yeah, we can do it here'?

Button: I didn't really know if he was just backing off or if he was just slow at that time. I was just concentrating on the queue behind. Trying to close the gap was very difficult because suddenly he would put in some very quick laps then towards the end I was able to pick up the pace a little bit. But it was a good race for us and I was very happy to get second. But, you know, the starts have been a bit of a problem lately for us and to lose two places off the start, almost three places, was disastrous for us really and it is something we need to work. But if we have that we will be a lot closer to challenging for our first win.

Q: Was that a function in any way of carrying more fuel at the start?

Button: I don't really think so. I don't think it makes a huge difference in a way but it is something we have to work on and we know that. Hopefully we can sort that problem out by Japan and we will be rocketing off the line and be up with these guys.

Q: Kimi, a very close race in the opening stages there and a very short middle stint you had there in your fuel strategy.

Raikkonen: Yeah, the car was pretty good all the way though the race but we did a little risk because I was always stuck behind Rubens and tried in the middle to drive past him but it didn't pay off and actually we lost the second place from that. But we are here to try to win the races and not to finish second so I am not too disappointed really right now. I was quite happy with the car all the way through but with the last set of tyres at the beginning I was struggling but in the end they came good again.

Q: What was it like following Rubens in that first stage of the race on this circuit? What is your impression of this circuit? Could you have tried to overtake him or would it have been very risky?

Raikkonen: I did all I could but I wasn't able to get close enough. It's pretty okay to follow other people but the problem is if you don't get close enough you cannot even try and I was just a little bit too far away. I didn't have the speed on the back straight, so I was not able even to try to overtake.

Q: Well, Rubens, fantastic scenes here in China at their first ever Grand Prix. Talk a little bit about that and your feelings on the podium and, of course, the upcoming Brazilian Grand Prix from your point of view.

Barrichello: Well, it's been a season where I have been playing catch up, really, to Michael. He started on a higher level and for some reason I wasn't able to catch him. Right now I am just going through a good phase and here in China since the beginning of the week I have been setting good times and the set-up was quite good. I have to thank the whole team. And in the race it was dealing with a little bit of the small problems that I had with the front tyres and then pushing when the car was good and the car was good for 80 percent of the time so that is pretty impressive.


Q: Rubens, this winning could become a habit, although after the soaking you gave the Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo I would be a little bit worried.

Barrichello: I actually thought that I was probably the only man in his life that got him wet. I feel pretty happy about that too! (Laughs)

Q: What about the fact you have made history winning this inaugural race?

Barrichello: Well, that's probably something I am going to see tomorrow or some days later because it was just the fact of winning the race, a new race, a new venue, a new track and everyone starting from zero. I had a tremendous time from the beginning, the guys have been teaching me on the roads how to drive and I was able to put in some good laps today.

Q: What about Kimi, how hard was he pushing in the two stints?

Barrichello: I think they were pushing very hard since the beginning and probably Kimi could have gone faster if he was in front of me at some stage because I had three or four laps that I had to hold him up at the beginning and after that I was able to put a pace which was similar to him and quicker to him towards the end. So, that was the pattern and the team played the pit stops very well and I was able to push very well towards the end so it made my day.

Q: Were you worried about Jenson's strategy?

Barrichello: You know, at one time I was worried because the team were saying that Kimi was not a problem any more but the problem was Jenson and I had to push. But then I was asking for some gaps and they didn't know because he had not pitted yet for his second pit stop, so it was difficult to calculate. After he pitted we had 21 seconds and then the second lap I had 21.7 again so I said 'oh, I'm in trouble and I have to push' but all of a sudden I saw 25 and they said 'ok, you must be clear' so at that stage things became a little bit calmer.

Q: And at the end of the race he was closing on you, how was your car then?

Barrichello: Well, at the beginning when I had the graining I was pushing and the graining was going in three laps. But because I saw eight seconds and I started to be a bit more conservative the graining stayed longer. So, whenever I saw that he was closing and I had to start going faster again it took a couple of laps to actually clean it. If he could have closed the gap on me I am pretty sure I could have put the 32s back again there but it was just frustrating to see the eight-second gap coming down and I had to push again but obviously towards the end and the last two laps it was okay.

Q: Jenson, what was the thinking behind the two stop strategy; did you think everybody else was going to do three?

Button: The thinking behind it was that we thought it was quicker, that was the reason why we did it. We weren't sure what these two guys were going to do pit-stop wise and at one point I saw them pit on lap 12 and come out extremely quickly after a short fill, so I realised that they were probably on three stops, so I was pretty happy. It does put you under a little bit more pressure I think, with a heavy fuel load which is tough because the car is a lot heavier. But for me it was a good race. Towards the end Rubens seem to be very very quick and was able to pull that gap out on me when I had made both my stops and he still had to pit and when I saw I was 27s behind Rubens, I knew it was going to be very difficult when he finally stopped.

Q: Yet, you were catching him towards the end, although you were being caught as well.

Button: Obviously your main aim is to win the race so my main aim was to catch Rubens but I also had my mirrors full of Kimi at the end. He was putting in some very quick laps at the end and it was very difficult, very difficult, because I knew if I caught Rubens it would be very difficult to overtake and I would also lose downforce in the high speed corners and Kimi would be a lot closer so it was tough but coming home second is good for the team and we have scored some good points.

Q: In fact you overtook Alonso, was that fairly easy?

Button: Yeah, it was a fantastic feeling. The car's been good and I think this circuit is, for me. I found it reasonably easy to overtake. The car and myself were quick coming onto the back straight round that long righthander so it made it easy to overtake at the end of the straight.

Q: Kimi, third place, are you happy with that?

Raikkonen: Yeah, it was the best that they could do. I think we were taking a little bit of a risk in the middle of the race to try to pass Rubens. We did quite a short fill on the second stop but it didn't pay off but we tried to win the race and not come second so I am not too disappointed to lose second place.

Q: It was almost as though you were able to pressure Rubens but towards the end of the stint you would drop away again.

Raikkonen: Yeah, he seems to go a little bit quicker always at the end, but I was able to keep the pace fairly similar so I could not pressure him any more when I was able to stay with him. That was enough, but unfortunately we were not quick enough to pass him.

Q: Car, engine and tyres OK?

Raikkonen: Yeah, the car was very good. Since the start of the race we were quicker and the tyres were very consistent so I think the whole package was good and at the end of the race it got quicker and quicker all the time so I was able to catch up with the others but it was a bit too late.


Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) For the last 90 minutes you have been the fastest three drivers in all of China, but at other times this weekend, and tonight when you go back to the hotel or the airport, you have to be driven because you're not allowed to drive in this country. What has it been like to be a passenger for the last few days? (Laughter)

Barrichello: It has been crazy, I tell you. (More laughter) In all honesty, I think the reception we have had here has just been fantastic, great people cheering on Formula One so it was really a great place to come. I hope next year I stay in a hotel close by or I will rent a bed just to stay here because it was?They must be good drivers because - it's amazing - they overtake everywhere. Amazing.

Button: Their driving is very interesting. It's very different to what we get in Europe. Every inch they use which is quite impressive. I don't know if they would be good racing drivers or the opposite really. Our driver is quite good, we have this big Honda wagon and we can lie down in the back so I'm quite chilled. I just close my eyes and I'm fine, no problem with the long journey in.

Raikkonen: I was OK. Actually our traffic was not too bad any day. Our driver was taking it easy, in the back on the Mercedes it is pretty nice.

Q: (Liang Yu - Oriental Sports Daily) Question for Rubens and Jenson: how do you judge the performances of your team-mates, Michael and Sato respectively?

Barrichello: To be very honest with you, I don't know how to judge it because I didn't see the race. I just saw that he didn't score any points. He must have had a frustrating race, but I couldn't judge.

Button: Looking at the positions, I think Takuma did a good job finishing sixth. That was the team's aim, I think, to get him into sixth position, so he must have had a reasonable race.

Q: He was behind you at one point.

Button: Right behind me, I was scared.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazetta dello Sport) Rubens, did the team warn you about Michael's puncture and ask you to slow down the pace a little bit?

Barrichello: I didn't know that Michael had a problem, no. Towards the end I had an eight second lead like I said, and the team told me to conserve a little bit, but there was one stage they said 'he's catching you a little bit too fast' so we had to speed up again.

Q: (Clifford Coonan - Irish Times) What do you think sets this track apart from others?

Barrichello: For me, the fact that you can overtake, that's all we need. It has been difficult to follow cars lately with Formula One as it is so the fact that the track is quite challenging and you have a couple of corners or maybe more when you can have different lines - that will offer you the chance to overtake.

Button: A lot of the new circuits have been an improvement for overtaking which is fantastic for Formula One. This circuit is one of them and for me, the toughest part of the circuit is the quick left, the quick right and then you've got the two double lefts, the slow ones, because in those corners I don't breathe so I'm finding it quite difficult. You can't take a breath so it's pretty physical in that respect and I think we put on a good show today, so it's obviously a very good race circuit.

Raikkonen: It is always nice to come to new circuits and new places. I think this is a very nice circuit to drive. The first two corners are a bit tricky but the rest of the circuit is pretty normal. It's a very similar design to some other circuits. It's nice, there's nothing wrong with it.

Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) Rubens, can you compare this race with the race in Monza? Today the race seemed tougher.

Barrichello: In Monza there was a period of the race when it was wet so it was different. Physically, I would say this race was a lot tougher than Monza, that's for sure. But any time when you're winning it's different. I thought at Monza we had a car that was much quicker than our competitors. Here we didn't have a car that was a lot faster. I think the car was faster but not a lot. It made it a little bit more difficult, but having said that I think that any time when you are in first place you're never relieved, you're always focused to keep on going.

Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Rubens, at what moment were you sure you could make your last pit stop and come out in front of Jenson Button?

Barrichello: Only when I pitted and after everything when I was engaging first gear Ross told me you should be OK; that was the only time that I knew it would have probably been OK because he has the vision for seeing the TVs and the monitors and everything. So I when I returned to the race track I went flat out because you never know. I looked in the mirror after turn three and I couldn't see anyone so it was a good feeling. But it was only then that I was sure.

Q: (Azrul Ananda - Jawa Pos) Jenson, you nearly won again, how many times have you finished second this year? How do you see your chances in the last two races? Maybe you can have a win before you move on.

Button: I have had four second places. It's always nice getting on the podium but I wouldn't say I am getting fed up with finishing second or third but I'm pushing very very hard for that win, as every driver is. And yeah, we've been close on a few occasions, but I think it's shown in this race that we are not quite there yet. I think the Ferrari does have the legs on us, so yeah, we've got a bit of work to do. It has been a good year all round and there's a possibility in the last two races that we can win a race but as always, it is going to be very tough against Ferrari and also McLaren.

Q: (Alain Pernod - L'Auto-Journal ) Jenson, considering the next two races, how confident are you for the team to keep second position in the championship?

Button: Reasonably confident. Our car seems to work well on most circuits. I am confident we can do a good job in the next two, be consistent. I think we picked up some pretty good points here, eleven points. I don't know how many Renault got, but I know we pulled out a good gap so I am pretty happy about that and I think the team is. We've just got to stay consistent, focused and also relaxed and not get too excited.

Q: (Yanyan Pang - China Radio International) To all three drivers, is there anything you were not satisfied with in the first Chinese Grand Prix?

Barrichello: No, I like it, I like it very much. Everything was really good. I just wish the hotel was a bit closer, that's all. But that's all, the rest was pretty nice.

Button: It's the same for me. It is a long way in. I heard there might be a train next year - is that correct? (2007) - from the centre to here which would be fantastic.

Raikkonen: Good answers, so I will leave it there.

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