AUSTRALIAN GP - SATURDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
SATURDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - POST QUALIFYING - 1 APRIL 2006
1. Jenson BUTTON (Honda), 1m25.229s
2. Giancarlo FISICHELLA (Renault), 1m25.635s
3. Fernando ALONSO (Renault), 1m25.778s
Q: Jenson, your third pole, tell us about that last 20 minutes?
Jenson BUTTON: Manic. The whole day's been pretty manic with the weather but we were a little bit off the pace when qualifying started. We were really struggling for grip so to finally get this pole position is fantastic and it shows how keeping relaxed - the whole team - and very very focused that we were able to get the pole position. So it's fantastic and it's great for the team. Honda have done a fantastic job over the last few weeks and it's good to repay (them) with a pole position. I know it's not the end result but it's a good start.
Q: You can't do a lot to the car once the qualifying session begins, so how did you work on that problem?
Button: Well, it was working with the diff (differential), the TC (traction control), the tyre pressures, the front wing. There are so many little things that you can change that do help and it was really just playing around with that because we haven't had any practice in the dry, really, over the last couple of days. So it worked and I've got to thank the team for that. They did a great job.
Q: Giancarlo, keeping the momentum going after a great Malaysian Grand Prix. You set the lap time right at the end there, but you looked competitive throughout the one hour session?
Giancarlo FISICHELLA: Yeah. Unfortunately yesterday I had a problem with the engine and we lost good time to improve the set-up and overnight we made some changes. Yes, the car was better but it would have been good to run a little bit more yesterday. Anyway, at the end of the qualifying session the car balance was quite good. On the second lap we were quicker because there was better grip from the tyres but unfortunately I made a couple of mistakes in the first part of the circuit but apart from that I'm really happy and I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We've got great pace for the race.
Q: Very close race between you and Jenson into the first corner in Malaysia, could be the same story tomorrow?
Fisichella: Yeah, it could be the same story. I'm second, he is the leader at the moment, but I think if we start as usual, we can do a great start and the target is to be first into the first corner. It's not easy but I will do my best.
Q: Fernando, you said yesterday how important it was to be on the first two rows of the grid here in Australia, and there you are on the second row?
Fernando ALONSO: Yeah, it's OK, maybe a little bit frustrating because I didn't manage to complete the lap. I think a Sauber, Heidfeld, was in front of me. Unfortunately he made a mistake in turn 13 and then I caught him very quickly for the last two corners and I lost half a second, I think, in the last sector. But even with that, I think the car performed very well. I'm really happy with the balance so for the race we should be extremely competitive so let's wait and see.
Q: The guy on your right looks very fast; what are your thoughts on strategy tomorrow in terms of where you are and indeed where Honda may be on fuel load?
Alonso: I think we should be similar. We will see tomorrow but in the last couple of races we are not much different and without this traffic problem, we should have set quite similar lap times so I guess the strategies will not be too different.
Q: Jenson, turning back to you, you've always said how much you enjoy this new qualifying system in 2006 and this one had it all: rain, traffic, accidents?
Button: Yes, it did. It was a very hectic session and I'm sure that the fans really enjoyed it. It was mad for us. Trying to get a lap time in was very difficult but we did it in the end and as I said, it's a special feeling being on pole here.
Q: Jenson, your feelings after that and looking forward to the race tomorrow?
Button: I'm still shaking with the excitement. It was a manic session: the first one with a red flag and the second one with a red flag, it was really difficult to stay calm. But to get the lap in at the end was a great feeling. The car felt very good, very good actually, on the new tyres. It was a little bit unexpected after the first two runs in qualifying one and qualifying two, but it's good, and I am very happy with it. I still don't know about the race. I haven't really done that much long race pace but I'm sure it will be good.
Q: You had a brief off in Q1 as well.
Button: Yeah. I've been going off a lot this weekend. I went off twice yesterday as well. It's bit unusual but the conditions have just been so tricky out there: it's very very windy, it's very very low grip so to make a mistake is very easy. It's bumpy as well so it's tough.
Q: Your teammate had some sort of a problem, I don't know what it was. Did you have any idea what was happening with him and did you have any similar problem?
Button: I think his problem was just no tyre temperature - I think, but I will have to wait to get back and find out but I think that was the issue.
Q: And you had a bit of a problem with that in the first two parts?
Button: Yeah, I did a little bit but we were making sure that we were keeping the blankets on for a long time because it's really tough to keep the heat in the tyres. I don't know if you've seen but a lot of the cars, on the straight, are weaving around to get tyre temperature. It's because it's different conditions here than what we expected, I think.
Q: You had a problem with your start in Bahrain and you've got two of the fastest cars off the line around you, is that something you're concerned with?
Button: It's better to be in front now than it is to be behind, so we're in the best position we possibly can be. Our start wasn't too bad in Malaysia; it wasn't as good as the Renaults' but it wasn't too bad either. We've just got to hope that we get a relatively good start. We're on the clean side and it's the right line for turn one so it's not so bad.
Q: Giancarlo, it's been a fairly difficult weekend so far; have you felt short of time in terms of set-up and adjusting the car?
Fisichella: Honestly, yes. I did just two runs with a problem on the engine yesterday and then I couldn't run any more because there was a big problem, but then they fixed it and overnight we made some changes on the car which was better this morning but it was better to have run a little more yesterday. So apart from that I am pretty happy: second on the grid today and looking forward to tomorrow. I've got a great opportunity to do well again, we've got a good race pace and if we can start as usual, we can already do well in the first corner.
Q: You're fairly confident of that, are you?
Fisichella: Yes, I am.
Q: Generally, your feelings coming into this race after the win in Malaysia?
Fisichella: I already have a good feeling myself, but the start of the season wasn't great because I had a problem... not a problem, we made a mistake. That was a bad start but then I was really confident because the car package and the potential is good and straight away, when I put the car on the ground in Malaysia there was a great feeling and it was a great weekend. Even today, we are there so I am really happy about that.
Q: Fernando, third on the grid, you sounded a little bit frustrated when you were talking to Peter Windsor. Were you?
Alonso: Well, no, I am happy because in the last race I was seventh, so this is my best qualifying of the year. I won the first race and I was second in Malaysia, so now is my best qualifying. Hopefully, I can fight for the win, but it is true that I lost nearly half a second in the last sector because of traffic and, you know, I can wish (for something) a little bit better, but these things happen to everybody and so it is better to be third than further back.
Q: Jenson said he found qualifying was fairly manic, or crazy. What about you?
Alonso: Yes, I feel the same, but not only this one! I think that all three races were a little bit crazy especially with the red flags we had. There was just a complete panic in the garage so, you know, maybe outside it is nice and interesting to see, but inside the teams, for sure, it is quite complex.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (James Stanford - Herald Sun) Jenson I was wondering, as you said you did not have too many laps at race pace, is that a concern for you - and do you think the Honda is as quick as the Renaults?
Button: It is very difficult to know, but personally I haven't done a lot of laps over the last few days in the dry, but the thing is that we have the third car, which is great and Anthony is a very good driver and I believe in everything he says. He did his normal running on Friday and went quickest in both sessions and did some reasonably long runs as well. It is not too worrying. I just meant personally I have not done so many laps around here, but that doesn't seem to be a problem.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazetta dello Sport) Jenson, did you realise that you have made an important event in the history of Honda after 37 years since their only pole position at Monza?
Button: I didn't know that before today but it's a very special feeling and I have already seen a few of the guys from Honda and they seem pretty ecstatic, but I am sure that more important for them is to have a win tomorrow. This is a great feeling to be on pole position, but we know how competitive the Renaults are and we know we have to have a faultless race tomorrow and I know we can do that. In the team, we are very confident and calm and we know exactly what we have to do. So, tomorrow is the important day for us.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazetta dello Sport) To Jenson again, in Malaysia you said 'we are the second team in the championship, but we have to work a lot' because in the first lap Giancarlo was able to put a very good gap in just one lap... Do you think that you have closed that gap?
Button: Well, I think that over one lap the car seems to be very quick and so it just depends whether we have (done that) in a race situation. We have worked on a few areas in Vallelunga - or the team did - that are an improvement. I think they are the sort of things that improve you in a race, but not qualification so much. So, they should help us, but still we have to wait until tomorrow to see how competitive we are. We know we've not won a race yet and it is our aim to do that, but it is never easy when you have such competition from Renault.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazetta dello Sport) Fernando, we saw that you put your hand out of the steering wheel when Giancarlo was in front of you. Was there a misunderstanding with him at the beginning of the third sector?
Alonso: No, I was talking with the team on the radio because I had the new tyres at the beginning, just to get the maximum from the new tyres, and I told them, but there was no answer for one lap. So...