Singapore GP - Saturday - Press Conference
26 SEPTEMBER 2009
1. Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren Mercedes), 1m47.891s
2. Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull), 1m48.204s
3. Nico ROSBERG (Williams), 1m48.348s
Q: Lewis, as the slogan here says 'Uniquely Singapore'. Q3 ended with Rubens Barrichello bringing out the red flags, but your first run there was good enough to be on the pole.
Lewis HAMILTON: Yes, absolutely fantastic. Very, very happy. Very pleased for the team. Obviously, we came with updates, but so did everyone else, and we really didn't know where we would be. Friday practice wasn't spectacular for me, so coming to today I came with a great positive approach and I have to say big thanks to the guys. They worked until 10am this morning rebuilding the car. We had some problems and we changed the chassis. But, nevertheless, they stayed up. They were out in the garage today in this humidity and they did a great job and I am just very pleased to have done this for them.
Q: What a lap it is here. It is bumpy, the drivers are complaining about how difficult the chicanes are. It is dusty on the last corner. Talk us through that lap.
Hamilton: The lap was really very relaxed. Clearly I did not get to start my second lap but the car over the weekend has just got better and better as the evolution of the circuit has got a little bit grippier. Just slow improvements and feeling more comfortable in the car. The lap was really very relaxed and I think I was able to go faster. I was quite happy. Hopefully we will see what happens with the strategies but, obviously, I am in the best position to start from the front row.
Q: It looked like your out-lap was going to be quite a rush. What do you think your second run might have been?
Hamilton: The out-lap was not that bad, actually. I had a 10 second window where I didn't have to push that much, so I had a little bit of time in me. I was just about to start the lap but I think I had a couple of tenths, for sure. Who knows? Maybe it wouldn't have made the lap, but fortunately it did.
Q: Sebastian, first time in the top three since Hungary. You were purple in sector one when the red light came out, so your take on perhaps what might have been.
Sebastian VETTEL: I don't know. No-one of us can answer this question. For sure the first run was very important. Unfortunately, then the red flags came out. It was my second run on new tyres, before I was on used tyres, so it wasn't easy. My lap was maybe not as relaxed as Lewis's lap, but in the end of the day I think it is great to be back in qualifying. Especially on a street circuit where it is very important. It is so good to be back in the front. We will see with the weights now, but all weekend I think the car was very good. I was feeling very comfortable yesterday and this morning so it is a shame that the red flags came out, but, nevertheless, we kept pushing. We have brought some new stuff for here. It seems to work, so let's see tomorrow. It is a very long race, 61 laps. It is quite warm in the car, so it will be tough but I think we have all that it takes, so I am looking forward to tomorrow.
Q: From the outside you really seemed to be enjoying yourself around here. I don't know if you would agree with that. But there is one wall particularly where you seemed to be getting the award for being the nearest lap after lap. It looks fantastic from the outside.
Vettel: Yeah, I mean after the practice yesterday and even this morning the guys came to me and said 'that was close on the wall'. I said 'where'. There was not one moment. I think there were a couple of moments I had. I like this circuit. It is really great fun to drive here. The speeds are not very high, but it is a great challenge for all the drivers. I really enjoy it. It is bumpy. You have to really push hard and use every bit of the circuit, so it is fantastic and I am looking forward to tomorrow.
Q: Nico, first time in the top three in qualifying since early 2006. And quickest in Q2. The fastest lap of the weekend probably. Even this morning someone was talking to you and saying where are you going to be and you said you'd be lucky to be top five, or hoping for top five, but not top three. But here you are third quickest.
Nico ROSBERG: Yes, it has been a really good day. We started the weekend and it was a bit difficult and we really - just all the engineers and the whole team together - we really worked well and made some big changes on the set-up and it improved the car a lot. That has really allowed us to be just quicker and quicker all the time. Even going into qualifying we were not so sure that we would even make it into Q3 as we were having some problems with the tyres and getting the soft tyres to work properly and things like that but then eventually, in Q2, it worked out really fantastically and I got a super lap in. Then Q3 with the heavier fuels it was a bit more difficult but still it was going very well and I think P3 was fantastic for us.
Q: It is extraordinary in this Formula One season how the fortunes change and one team is competitive one weekend and then another team comes along. Thinking back to how you were in Spa and here you are a completely different race car from your point of view.
Rosberg: Yes, that's the way it is. For Spa and Monza we all take completely different race cars in terms of aerodynamic package. It is just a completely different race car and now we have gone back to the car we used prior to those two races. We were finishing fifth and fourth with this car in every grand prix before that. The team has been pushing well on that and we have put a whole chunk of time into the package, so the car is even faster. Comparing to other people I think we have developed again very rapidly. It is really enjoyable at the moment and I am really pleased for the whole team that we have made another small step towards podium finishes and who knows maybe we can even fight for a win very soon.
Q: Lewis, give us your thoughts of Singapore in general. What is a night race going to be like for you - the heat, the demands of this circuit, the bumps?
Hamilton: Singapore is a fantastic place. It is a beautiful city. The people here have been so welcoming and are treating people so well. The reception I have had here has been phenomenal, so I am very appreciative of all the fans. I think they have put on an even better show here this weekend. A lot more people here. I think they have tried to improve the track. They have tried to make it a little bit less bumpy. It is not as bad as last year, but it is still bumpy. But I don't see that as such a problem. That gives it a bit of character. I think if it was too smooth, then it wouldn't be any fun. I thoroughly enjoy driving it and I am very happy for today. Hopefully this can go in to tomorrow and we will get a good result.
Q: I have just got to finish by saying what a difference two weeks make. One minute you are in the wall at Monza and now you are on the pole in Singapore.
Hamilton: I said I would be back to try and redeem myself, so hopefully this is the first step.
Q: Lewis, three poles in four races. But yesterday you weren't so happy and yet overnight all sorts of changes. Presumably not just to the handling of the car but the whole car as well?
Hamilton: Yeah, I wasn't actually feeling particularly great yesterday. In the car I wasn't particularly happy with the balance of the car. I was struggling a little bit. It was quite bumpy and the car wasn't riding so well and I wasn't so comfortable in the car. But as always I tried to remain optimistic and we did some work overnight. The guys also had a lot of work to do overnight. They did a great job and we made the right steps with the set-up for this morning and through P3 and also just bit by bit improving the driving. It slowly all came together and each time I was out on the track we seemed to improve a little bit more. It is the same for everyone. I think throughout the weekend probably our last few laps are potentially the most comfortable, so I am very happy.
Q: It must be remarkable having changed so much and made the car better but also changed the chassis as well. As you say the guys were working until 10 o'clock this morning but to then get into the car and be fastest that session.
Hamilton: Yeah, there is never a doubt in my mind that I can get in the car and drive and be the quickest. You really have to try and balance the car as well as possible and you can easily go down the wrong route and be stuck driving a car which you are not comfortable with and don't have the confidence to push in corners. It is very easy to get into that position but with great help and work from the team and myself we managed to put it together. We definitely didn't expect to be on pole position today but the pace we showed was good through P3 and Q1 and Q2. In Q2, I think, the pace of Nico was quite impressive, so we will have to wait and see what strategy everyone is on but I feel quite comfortable with what we have.
Q: Obviously you finished here last year but what are 61 laps around here like with the heat and everything else?
Hamilton: It is a nice Sunday night drive. It is obviously quite hot here, so it is intense still. You do sweat as much as you probably do anywhere else but the track is lovely. But, obviously, being a street circuit it is very easy to put a foot wrong, so concentration is vital here.
Q: Sebastian, were you expecting to do as well as you have done with the front row of the grid? Were you expecting that before you came here?
Vettel: Maybe not before I came here, but I think after yesterday's practice it looked very good. We had quite a good car initially, a good start, and we were able to improve it bit by bit. It is good to be back. Qualifying is obviously very important. It is a shame in Q3 that we did not get the last run on new tyres but it shows how important every single lap can be. Tomorrow is a long race and we will see. The car behaves well and the team back in England is pushing very hard. I arrived on Thursday but on Tuesday this week I was in England to see all of them there. They are all wishing me good luck and obviously we put on a couple of new parts which all work. Put it together and we are back in the front, so it is good. It is very nice.
Q: You are still the only driver to have got all the way through to Q3 in every single race.
Vettel: That is not the most important. It would be much nicer to be in Jenson's (Button) position right now in terms of the championship ranking, not today. We will see tomorrow. It is a long race and as I say qualifying is very important, so it is good to be consistent and good to be always in the top 10 but you don't score any points on Saturday. You have to finish the race.
Q: You must be optimistic looking at the positions of your championship rivals on the grid.
Vettel: As I said on Thursday, there's obviously quite a big gap. For sure, we're not giving up, we're here to attack and this is what we do, so let's see. Anything is still possible. You can see how quickly it goes up and down, just looking at which team is sometimes at the front and how quickly you can be at the back again. Force India was very quick in the last two races; now they're struggling a little bit again. Williams wasn't very competitive in the last two races; now they are back again. It's quite a mess in a way, compared to the years before, compared to what I was used to when I grew up and watched Formula One when it was pretty boring most of the time. We will see. There's still a long way to go - four races - so we will do all we can.
Q: Nico, second last year here on this circuit and now third on the grid, this must be becoming a favourite track.
Rosberg: It is a pretty cool track. It's very difficult. There are a lot of corners, very different corners, it's a very difficult track but I enjoy it. I enjoy coming here to Singapore also. It's a really great city, really cool. I had a great time last year and I think I'm looking forward to an even stronger race this year.
Q: Is it a relief to be back at the sharp end again?
Rosberg: Relief? Yeah, a little bit. I knew that we would be coming back with this aerodynamic package which is back to the one we had in Valencia, Hungary when we were always in the top four or five in the five races before that. So I was very confident that we could be up there - not this far up. I didn't expect to be quickest in the second part of qualifying, but the team has worked really well on the package in the meantime. Whilst we were struggling in Monza and Spa, I think they have been putting a lot of effort into this one and I think, again, in terms of development we just develop quicker than other teams which is very impressive and it's really nice to see.
Q: You called your Q2 lap 'a super lap'; what constitutes 'a super lap' around here?
Rosberg: I guess it's getting all the corners together because it's such a long track and it's difficult to get all the corners right and I did them the way I wanted them to. The car also felt good. It was difficult with the tyres around here. The tyres would sometimes go away by the time you got to the last sector or they wouldn't quite be there at the start of the lap, so it wasn't quite so clear with the soft tyres but on that lap they worked very well, so I just got it all together.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Paulo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, you said before that you were starting to redeem yourself after the crash at Monza. What did you mean by that?
Hamilton: I didn't mean too much by it, just that I was very hard on myself after the last race which was well-deserved. Rather than turn up here and say it was just a mistake, I felt that I would like to lift myself back up, lift the team back up and in a way show an apology to the team by getting a good result and so that's why I'm quite happy with today. It's not always possible but obviously we got pole position and when you do get that you can say thanks to the team, that was for you.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto Motor und Sport) Nico, in Q2 you did a 41.1s in the second sector which was 0.3s faster than anybody else and also much faster than on any other lap you did. What was so special about this lap and this sector?
Hamilton: He cut the chicane!
Rosberg: No, I just really got it together. Before that there was always a little mistake here and there and I just didn't get the best out of it, and on that lap I just completely nailed every corner out there and it was just fantastic and I guess that's how it came together. I was not quite so happy with the last sector, because Sebastian was again 0.3s quicker in that part although at the end of the session when the track was better... I was struggling a little bit more in the last sector but I don't know, it just all came together really well.
Q: (Sudhir Chandran - Chequered Flag) Lewis, how important is this pole in Singapore? You seem particularly pleased with yourself after this result.
Hamilton: I'm always happy with a pole position. We've had a very, very tough year and even though we've got updates on the car, we're still not clearly the fastest and always right at the front easily. We're still pushing and pushing as hard as we can, so when you finally get another pole position it's a great feeling. It's the perfect position to start from for the race weekend. We really didn't expect it, so it's always a surprise, it's always a real pleasure and it's great. Like I said, it's a good boost for all the team. And what a great place here; I would love to win in Singapore. It is a great place. The second night race here, so I would love to win, but we will have to wait and see tomorrow. We're going to have to push very, very hard. It's going to be a tough race, for sure, with these guys.
Q: (Ralf Bach - R&B) Lewis, if I look at the time difference between you and your team-mate, it seems that you have two totally different strategies. Is that the case?
Hamilton: I don't know what Heikki is on if I'm honest. Sometimes we know exactly what we're on. Rather than say what we're doing in Q3 and just knowing that we're going to be in Q3, I would rather just get through Q1 and Q2 first and then when I got to Q3 I found out what lap I was going to... I didn't ask what Heikki was going to do. Usually we're quite close. I spoke to him afterwards. I don't know if he got the lap out but I don't think there is going to be a huge difference.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Nico, would a safety car situation like last year help you onto the podium or would it be a disadvantage in tomorrow's race?
Rosberg: I think it would be a disadvantage, for sure, because I can definitely get a podium without a safety car and you never know what's going to happen with a safety car. So I would say it's a disadvantage, for sure.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, you're the reigning World Champion. How do you see the Button situation because it looks like the car is there, and everybody was expecting him to be fighting for the pole position but he's pretty far behind. Do you think he's suffering some pressure, he's afraid of winning and he's finding the situation particularly tough?
Hamilton: Firstly, I wish I was up there, being able to compete with these guys for the World Championship. It's great to be up here but what I would give to be able to take this car back to earlier on this season, to at least have a fair battle with these guys but that's all in the past, we look forward. But what I can say about Jenson? You can't forget that he won six races. He has dominated for quite a lot of the season and Brawn have dominated for quite a lot of the season. It is intense. Everyone is pushing, everyone is making steps forward, so the gap that they used to have is clearly much greater a while ago, but everyone's closing the gap. The times between all us drivers, us teams, are getting closer and closer. I don't know the answer as to what's going on. I didn't see what happened to them today, but I know that they are pushing as hard as they can and without a doubt, they clearly won the last race, so it's not like that they don't have the pace and they are losing it. It's just one of those racing experiences.