Italian GP - Saturday - Press Conference
8 SEPTEMBER 2007
1. Fernando ALONSO (McLaren Mercedes), 1m21.997s
2. Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren Mercedes), 1m22.034s
3. Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), 1m22.549s
Q: Fernando, seventh this time this year you've been fastest in qualifying, but finally, for the first time since Monaco, you've been rewarded with the pole.
Fernando ALONSO: Yes, I think I've been doing some good qualifying, but always in Q3, the very important laps at the end when you put on new tyres, I always had some problems. I didn't go quick enough to be on pole and I had many second places this year and finally I've got pole position, which, I think, given that we've been very quick all weekend, also last week in the test, so for whatever reason - and thanks to the good job from the team - the car is extremely quick here at Monza this weekend, on this track. We took our opportunity today, in qualifying, showing our pace. Hopefully tomorrow we can do the real job and also finish the race ahead of everybody.
Q: As you say, quick in the test, and carrying that through to the race weekend. What's it been like in the team, the atmosphere on Ferrari's home soil, coming off that Ferrari win in the Turkish Grand Prix, and of course the other outside influences in Formula One at the moment?
Alonso: I think the team has been quite focused in this race especially, because Turkey has been a little bit of a disappointing weekend and race for us because even if we finished on the podium, we were not quick enough to force the Ferraris all through the weekend. We did a step forward with the car, we put all our effort into this race, to get back on the pace and we did it, so hopefully, slowly, step by step, between here and the end of the championship, the car will continue to improve and be in front of the opponents.
Q: Lewis, it was very close: 22.0s on your second run there, not quite enough to get the pole from Fernando, as a result of which he was able to back off on his second quick run.
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, it was quite a good battle we had going on there. It was a good run. The first timed lap wasn't great but I think in that last one I edged a little bit more out of the car but I wasn't one hundred per cent happy with the balance of the car, but nevertheless, we're one-two. It's great for the team. It just shows how hard we've all been working, especially the guys back at the factory. They've done a fantastic job to prepare the aero package that we have here and also Mercedes have done a great job with the engines. We've all put our heads together and again, as you said, it's the fifth time we've had the front row locked out so I hope we can maintain that tomorrow.
Q: We've seen a number of drivers have issues here, particularly under braking. Kimi went off this morning in practice, a couple of drivers spun today. You say the balance isn't right. What's it like to drive Monza now, very high speeds, very heavy braking from high speed?
Hamilton: When you come from a track like Turkey where it's a reasonably high downforce level to here where you have very very little, when you're accelerating, the speed is quite a bit different to what you're used to, and going through these corners with hardly any downforce is quite tough, so you're more relying on the little downforce you have but also the mechanical grip you have, so it's very very challenging, even though it looks quite simple. It's very very technical. I wouldn't say it's the most physically demanding circuit but mentally, you need to make sure you get good exits everywhere, so it is very very challenging.
Q: Felipe, I guess all the Ferrari fans around the world are hoping you are on a very different strategy to the two McLaren-Mercedes drivers.
Felipe MASSA: Well, that's difficult to say, we will see tomorrow. For sure McLaren is pretty quick here. It was very difficult to follow them in the sessions, especially in qualifying. They did a fantastic lap. I tried to do my lap. I think it was reasonable but it was missing a little bit in order to be with them. But anyway, it was good to be top three, it's good to start at the front and hopefully tomorrow we can have some surprise, something different, whatever. So I'm really looking forward. The race is long and it's important to start in the front, but for sure today McLaren is pretty strong.
Q: You're coming off that great win in Turkey; obviously a very different circuit here in terms of downforce, set-up, the requirements from the car, but nonetheless amazing how quickly things can change in the balance of power between Ferrari and McLaren.
Massa: Yeah, for sure the track is very important, the layout of the track. Sometimes we saw this year that on some tracks we were extremely competitive, extremely fast. On some tracks McLaren was just better, so until now McLaren looks pretty strong. We need to have a big hope tomorrow that our car can be competitive in the race, but you see that many things can change from one track to another.
Q: We hear from Kimi that he caught a bump under braking; what is the car like under braking in terms of high speed into slow corners?
Massa: It's not so easy, for sure, when you come from a high downforce track and you just take a lot of downforce out of the car; it's not so easy to have great balance, it's not so easy to have good grip, especially under braking. So these things can happen. For sure, I think Kimi was also a bit unlucky. Maybe he locked the wheels right on the bump; this is not the first time we see this in Formula One. So these things can happen. On this track it's even easier because you have less downforce on the car.
Q: Fernando, returning to you finally, can you talk a little bit about your focus, getting through the weekend now in terms of this being a big Ferrari race, their home track, and also the other influences around the team at the moment and the politics of Formula One at the moment?
Alonso: Well, it was not difficult to get focused in the race. After Turkey, the championship fight - I was a little bit lucky there and I was able to be a little bit closer to Lewis, to the leader of the championship, so I really had two weeks' time to think and to get focused. There are five races to go, like five finals and all of them are like the last race of the championship. I took this one from the beginning to tomorrow afternoon like we were in Brazil and I need a victory and I will take the remaining races like this. I want five wins, if I can, and thanks to that motivation, to be so close in the championship, it was not too difficult to get focused in the race, which is the important part from the driver's point of view.
Q: Fernando, it doesn't sound as if you have been particularly surprised to be as quick as you have been this weekend?
Alonso: Yes, I am surprised. I am always. When you are quick, you are happy, but surprised as well because it is a very close fight with the Ferraris. After Turkey, they were extremely quick and a little bit ahead of us and to come here to Monza and be quick in the test... you never know if there is something strange with the fuel load or the tyres or with whatever; so you need confirmation in the race. Yesterday, we were quickest, this morning as well and then Q1, Q2 and Q3 and I think the team has to be very happy for the performance and the work they have done for this specific track in terms of the aero-package, that we know is very different compared to other tracks. Everything is working very well, but the race and the points are for tomorrow so for now everything is perfect, but if we don't do the job tomorrow then this is not very important.
Q: But you must be pleased with your consistency all the way through qualifying?
Alonso: Yes, I have had some good qualifying this year, but not always... Q3 today, I was 100 per cent happy with the laps and with everything and I have had a lot of second places this year and so to be on pole again it is much better.
Q: Lewis, is the strategy fairly straightforward here do you think?
Q: So we have not got any mysteries then...?
Hamilton: Same as always...do a good job.
Q: You were talking about the balance just now not being 100 per cent. How do you feel that is going to affect the race?
Hamilton: I think for the long runs it will be fine. I am not too bothered by that. I think it will be good through the race. I just think that one qualifying lap wasn't as I wanted it to be. And you know, we are both on the front row, which is the most important thing.
Q: Isn't it getting to that stage of the season when it is almost more important to have a Ferrari on the front row rather than your team-mate?
Hamilton: Well, depends on how you look at it. I think it is a good thing that we are both battling for the championship and a one-two for McLaren would be great tomorrow, so you have to be sensible and obviously race, but try to bring home as many points as possible for the team as for ourselves.
Q: Felipe, I think you, the team, were expecting to be better this weekend than you have been?
Massa: Yes, we were thinking (that) but we stopped thinking that way. McLaren are in front, very quick, for sure, and we saw that they are very competitive here, it looks good to start in the top three and the race is tomorrow and many things can happen. It will be very important to make a good start. We can have a very competitive car in the race but how competitive we have to wait and see, because McLaren were very competitive today.
Q: That half a second margin between yourself and McLaren is quite substantial...
Massa: Yes, we need first of all to have a look at the strategy, but if you look at the Q1 and the Q2 then you can see they were quicker and you need to have a 100 per cent clear idea so we have to wait and see tomorrow how things go. We are optimistic. It is an important race for us and we need to score as many points as possible.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Fabritsio Lazakis - Four Wheels) Felipe, it has been said that Ferrari has problems over the kerb here. Is that the problem or is there anything else?
Massa: Well, I think for sure, if you look at the McLarens over the kerbs they look pretty strong, so we try to have a good car over the kerbs, but sometimes it is not so easy to have the right line over the kerbs and so the car is jumping a bit. It is something we saw also in Canada. So it is not the first time we have seen it. We are working to improve the car day by day.
Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) For Fernando and Lewis, given what may happen in Paris on Thursday, how concerned are you both that things may be decided off the track rather than on it over the next five races?
Hamilton: For me, I put it out of my mind and just focus on my job here. But, obviously, we are all concerned and, you know, we are a team that likes to battle our fights out on the track and, unfortunately, whatever happens next week could (not only) affect the team, but also me and Fernando. But anyway, it is not really for me talk about...
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) For both McLaren drivers, do you expect any direction from the team about the start tomorrow?
Alonso: I don't think so.... Just to be sensible and as Lewis said before to try to finish this good weekend for us with a one-two tomorrow. I think the start will be important. I think our starts are very good even if Turkey we had a different problem and we lost some positions, at the start, otherwise they have been good all season and tomorrow will be good so maybe the advice is just to finish the race first and second. That is probably what the team will tell us.
Hamilton: The same.
Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) Lewis, Kimi mentioned after the race in Turkey that qualifying these days pretty much pre-ordains the way drivers finish... But do you think that there is an opportunity for you to pass your team-mate on this circuit?
Hamilton: I think here there are not that many corners, so there is not a lot of room for error and as you know Fernando and all of the top drivers rarely make mistakes, so it would be extremely difficult I think and as we are running with such low down-force, to then lose your down-force completely behind someone, it is going to be tough.. but I don't know... its one of those tracks where it is possible, but we shall have to wait and see tomorrow and see how we go into the first corner.