Australian GP - Saturday - Press Conference
17 March 2007
1. Kimi RAIKKONEN (Ferrari), 1m26.072s
2. Fernando ALONSO (McLaren Mercedes), 1m26.493s
3. Nick HEIDFELD (BMW Sauber), 1m26.556s
Q: Kimi, what a fantastic opening weekend for you with Ferrari!
Kimi RAIKKONEN: Yeah, it has been good. OK, yesterday wasn't perfect but I think the weather was the issue yesterday and today has been pretty good. We found a good set-up for the car. Unfortunately we didn't have as good a result as we wanted as a team - Felipe had some problems - but hopefully we can sort out those problems and have a good race.
Q: It looked to be a well-paced qualifying session; not brilliantly quick in Q2 but fast when you needed to be in Q3.
Raikkonen: Yeah, I think in second qualifying the main thing is to get through and not really do anything silly. It was good in the last qualifying. I'm not really exactly happy with the car but it was quick enough and we need to do some work for tomorrow.
Q: How does it feel to be a Ferrari driver?
Raikkonen: It feels good. We have a very good team, everything works well, it's a good atmosphere and I enjoy it a lot, so I couldn't ask for anything more.
Q: Congratulations to Fernando Alonso, starting your first race with Vodafone Mercedes on the front row. Tell us about qualifying and your feelings about your new team?
Fernando ALONSO: I think it's been a difficult day for everybody. In the morning, we had some drops of rain again which was a little worrying. Qualifying is always difficult and the first qualifying of the year is always a little bit more stressful because you need to get used to the system again and for me, especially with a new team, getting used to the approach they have for this qualifying. I felt really really confident with the car all weekend. It's true that we were a little bit up and down in the time schedule and I think at the end when we need to be there we are there. I think starting tomorrow is fantastic news. I think the team has done a fantastic job over the winter to make the car work and competitive. I don't think we can forget that they weren't so competitive last year so they've made a huge step forward. I think we drivers need to say thanks to the people.
Q: You were saying yesterday that you need to adapt a bit more to the tyre-car package. We had higher ambient temperatures today, how did you feel about that qualifying lap of yours in Q3?
Alonso: I felt OK but it's true that you need to adapt yourself a little bit to the new tyres. For me it was a little bit of a double job because I need to get used to the new car and also the new tyres, so sometimes I can be a little bit confused but I did most of the job during the winter, so I just need to tune my style a little bit. It will come soon, I hope.
Q: It looks like it's going to be a very close race between you and Ferrari tomorrow?
Alonso: I really hope so. For sure, I think it can be very interesting. I think we have been very competitive all weekend, even if yesterday we were conservative. I think we put everything together in qualifying and we are there, so why not tomorrow? I think we will be very good.
Q: Nick Heidfeld, a great resurgence in the second half of last year for Sauber BMW and that momentum continuing into the Australian Grand Prix; a fantastic result for you.
Nick HEIDFELD: Yes, very clearly. We had a good winter season, but you never know until you get to the first race, but now it looks like the winter results are the same here. It's fantastic to be in P3 at the moment.
Q: How do you view your performance at the moment, the best of the rest or are you really in position to challenge for the race win?
Heidfeld: In my view, Ferrari is still ahead. Before we came here we thought that as well and hoped that we might be in the pack behind them. Honestly I'm a bit surprised that Renault wasn't quicker today. I expected them to be there as well. We will only see tomorrow in the race how things are going. It's always the same, you never know how much fuel the others guys have, but we can be pleased.
Q: Many drivers are talking about the difference between last year's car to this year's with the new tyre package, the Bridgestone tyres. What's it like from your point of view?
Heidfeld: Obviously it's difficult for everybody, but I don't think I have big problems getting used to these tyres. I have found it more difficult to get used to the tyres in terms of set-up and how you treat them rather than changing my driving style.
Q: Kimi, back to you; how do you see the race itself and the challenge from your old team?
Raikkonen: I think we have a good race package. I think we are more confident for the race than we were for qualifying. As long as everything works well and we don't have any problems, I think we should be OK but you never know. So many things can happen. Usually the race here is quite a funny one, but we will do the best that we can and hopefully we can win. For sure the others will try and beat us which is a pretty normal situation. It is going to be close but we will do the best that we can.
Q: Kimi, it couldn't be a better start to the season could it?
Raikkonen: Not for me, but for the team it could have been, but hopefully we can find out what is the problem and then we don't have the same problem anymore.
Q: Did you have anything similar?
Q: Absolutely, no problems at all?
Q: You suggested that there is a little fine-tuning (needed) to make the car better. What can you do?
Raikkonen: I think so, for one lap, it is still not ideal. Not for me at least, but this is quick enough. I think that for the race we are much more comfortable. I think it is going to be more easy in the race, but you never know. Anything can happen so we need to work hard and do the best we can, but I am sure the qualifying will be more difficult (in the future).
Q: Is it an advantage knowing the team that starts beside you on the grid?
Raikkonen: No, I don't think it is going to make any difference really. I don't know what they are doing this year. Last year was last year. We are just going to do our own thing and hopefully it is good enough.
Q: Fernando, we got the feeling that your performance was not absolutely perfect for you in qualifying?
Alonso: To be honest, I thought it was very good! I think I had some problems this morning to try and find the right set-up and I think the team did a great job in putting everything in place for qualifying and I felt Q1 much, much better and in Q2 getting more confidence and in Q3 second so I think it is a great result to start the season and I think confidence for tomorrow's race.
Q: So how do you approach tomorrow's race - wait and see?
Alonso: No, we should try to win the race for sure. We are second so we are in the second-best position to win it and I think we can do it. We have made huge progress and improvement since the last test in terms of car performance in the long runs that was maybe our weakest point and I think tomorrow we will see the result. But we should be quite happy with our qualifying and optimistic for tomorrow.
Q: Nick, is this how you saw it panning out before the season?
Heidfeld: No, definitely not. I mean it is the way we hoped it would pan out after winter testing, but I didn't expect to be here now today in third position. I was quite sure we could make it into the top ten but probably around P5 or 6 or something like that.
Q: How confident do you feel about reliability?
Heidfeld: I am happy now after speaking to some people in the team who showed me that we have done quite a few things to make it work and on top of that with similar parts we did the race simulation and it worked fine, but it is still a concern. We lost a lot of kilometres in testing, which is not ideal, but it is tomorrow that counts.
Q: Was the car perfect in qualifying?
Heidfeld: No, clearly not. In Q2 I was quite happy, but in Q3 there was some issue on board and it was not that easy.
Q: Can you do anything about that?
Heidfeld: No, we are not allowed to change the set-up with these rules unfortunately, but it is not too bad and I am quite happy.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret - L'Equipe) What is the difference between the two compounds for the race?
Heidfeld: One is hard and the other one is soft.
Raikkonen: I don't know it is not easy to say really. Yesterday it could have been a bigger difference than today. I think in a long run it could make quite a big difference, but who knows what will happen tomorrow.
Alonso: Same thing. I think yesterday we saw a big difference, today less and tomorrow maybe even less again or the same. So, who knows...
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) Fernando, how impressive is Lewis (Hamilton)'s performance?
Alonso: I think he has been doing a fantastic job so far this weekend. He has been competitive all sessions and in qualifying as well so tomorrow will be a good opponent and he can score many points for the team if things keep going in this direction.
Q: Does he push you harder than Giancarlo did?
Alonso: Well, I don't know. Giancarlo had two years, very tough in some moments and I was behind him not often, but many more times than we remember and at the end of the day the final points after Brazil in October are the ones that count. Then we will see how I have done.
Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Kimi, did you expect a tougher battle for pole and could you have gone faster?
Raikkonen: I did not mean it was easy. They are never easy. We expect to have a stronger car for the race than for qualifying, compared to the others so we did the best we could do today and it was enough so that's the main thing and everything worked very well so we see what happens tomorrow.
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) Kimi do you think you will sleep well tonight or you will be nervous ahead of your first race?
Raikkonen: No. I am ok. It is not my first race - only my first race this year. So it is not going to change anything.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi it looked like Massa had a gearbox problem in the morning and in the afternoon - so are you worried about reliability?
Raikkonen: I don't know what happened exactly, but hopefully it was just a one-off problem and we don't have it tomorrow, but you never know so we have to try and do the best we can whatever happens. Of course it is a concern, but hopefully we will be good enough.
Q: (Phil Branagan - Motorsport News) Fernando, with your team-mate behind you and Kimi's team-mate well back on the grid, does it mean you take a different approach to tomorrow's race - two against one?
Alonso: no I don't think so. We will do our best in the race and push 100 per cent from the beginning to the end and it is the only way we are going to score points for the team and for ourselves so I think for sure it is a little better and easier for us if Felipe is not at the front because he has been very competitive until now and is also very strong opponent for the race itself. So it is good to have him at the back for us, but I think the approach will be more or less the same, to do our best.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, you said you have made a good step since the last test so is Ferrari more beatable now for you?
Alonso: it is difficult to say because they have been very strong here in the long runs on Friday and this morning so to be honest I have to say they should be quicker tomorrow and we should be having a little bit of a hard time if we want to beat them, but as we saw today, Felipe stops with a gearbox problem so the race is 58 laps tomorrow and we have to be there if we want to win so we have to push them and fingers crossed we should be in the points tomorrow.