Italian GP 2008
SEPTEMBER 13, 2008
Saturday Press Conference
13 SEPTEMBER 2008
1. Sebastian VETTEL (Toro Rosso), 1m37.555s
2. Heikki KOVALAINEN (McLaren Mercedes), 1m37.631s
3. Mark WEBBER (Red Bull), 1m38.117s
Q: Sebastian, the youngest man in Formula One history to be on pole position at 21 years, 73 days. You were quick in all three qualifying sessions. What conditions out there and what a fabulous pole for you.
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, I mean unbelievable, incredible. I was joking with my engineers. We were saying if it is wet, then we have to go for pole position and unbelievable. The conditions were so difficult today, a lot of water. You never knew how much water to expect. The most difficult parts were the Ascari chicane, there was so much water. Sometimes you were lucky not to lose the car because of the aquaplaning. What can I say? I never dreamt of being on pole. Unbelievable. This is our home Grand Prix. There are two Italian teams, the bigger one is Scuderia Ferrari but I think now the people know the small one, Scuderia Toro Rosso, so it is unbelievable.
Q: You looked as if you were having a lot of fun despite the conditions.
Vettel: Yeah, we had some wet practice on Friday and I didn't feel very comfortable. Overnight we did some changes. Obviously we didn't know what to expect, how wet or how much rain there would be. I think we found just the right thing. This morning after free practice I felt very comfortable. I was very happy with the car in the wet. Very good balance and very happy. When you feel confident in these conditions, it is a huge advantage. I think that is the key because if you don't know how your car is reacting, then obviously you are not trying. As I said, it was so difficult today, obviously with the traffic, especially in the first qualifying sequence where there were a lot of cars on the circuit. It was nearly impossible to see anything, so I think great respect for all drivers. They were behaving really well. I think they made all of our lives out there easier today, so incredible.
Q: Some big names like Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton did not make it through to Q3. Tell us about making the call when to go out and what tyres to use?
Vettel: Well, I think there was no real secret. We did more or less the best we could in running and simply getting used to the conditions out there. Obviously it was always depending on how much rain there was. In Q2 it was very difficult. I set the time quite early. I was lucky to get a clean lap and I put it all together in this lap and then towards the end of the session there was more and more rain, so the people waiting more and more to go out had a bit of bad luck. As I say, we never knew how the weather was going to be. The weather forecast changes every five to 10 minutes, so it is quite difficult. In the end, I think, it was smarter to go out and have some running and not focus maybe to get one lap on the lightest fuel level possible and take some more time and do a couple more laps.
Q: Heikki, quickest in Q1 and competitive throughout qualifying but not quite there for the pole.
Heikki KOVALAINEN: Yeah, tell me about it. It was very close with Sebastian and I just missed the beginning of the session. My first lap wasn't quite as good and then it started to rain a little bit towards the end of the session. In the last lap I tried to have another go but the grip level was fading away. Anyway I think we are in a good position for the race tomorrow and the car has felt good in any conditions this weekend to be honest, even yesterday in the dry it felt pretty strong and the test here was strong, so I think we can look forward to a good competitive race tomorrow.
Q: Your team mate looked like he went out on intermediates at the start of Q2 and that is effectively what cost him.
Kovalainen: Well, I honestly don't know exactly what was going on with Lewis and his engineer. But with my crew we decided to stay on the same set of tyres that we had at the first part of qualifying. It looked like it might start to rain later on, so it was important to do a lap at the beginning and obviously Lewis thought it would be dry enough for the intermediate tyres and then it just started to rain as we went out. Obviously that's unlucky for him but I am sure he will do a strong race tomorrow.
Q: Mark, a great result for Adrian Newey and the design team at Red Bull.
Mark WEBBER: Yeah, the main Red Bull team if you like, but obviously it is still a Red Bull team in Toro Rosso, so obviously congratulations to those guys. It is all the same family if you like, so congratulations to Sebastian on his first pole. As the guys said it was tricky. It was difficult to get the lap. At the start of Q3 I had a little bit too much spray to pick my braking points in the first two chicanes. I stuffed the second one up and the guys said it is going to rain heavier, so I thought I haven't done a great job here in Q3. But I managed, my last lap actually was my best which was a bit tricky to get the lap time out of the car. But I am pretty happy with how it went and we will see what happens with the weather tomorrow.
Q: Sebastien Bourdais was closing but you did deliver. Talk us through that last lap.
Webber: Well, I obviously wanted to get both chicanes as best I could. Ascari was the trickiest part in the last session as there were just some small railway lines to make sure you got the right line. It was amazing how the water was moving around a little bit for the last bit and we saw a lot of guys make mistakes there and I did as well on my previous lap. I was really focussing to get it right as I knew if I drilled that, then the lap time would be better for me and that's how it turned out.
Q: Sebastian, is it beginning to sink in, being the youngest ever driver in the history of Formula One to be on pole?
Vettel: Well, as I said, what shall I say? It will take some time for sure. It was my dream one day to drive a Formula One car. My target is to fight for pole positions and race wins but obviously today I didn't expect it. It feels fantastic. It is incredible you know, being part of Formula One already, and then fighting among these drivers next to me is just fantastic.
Q: Sebastian, do you regard yourself as a bit of a specialist on a wet track?
Vettel: No, I mean obviously I do not mind driving in the wet. It was very difficult today. To come back on that wet thing, in karting I always liked to do some wet practice and wet races and so on. Before the Grand Prix in Spa I went to Kerpen to do some karting and I haven't been driving for quite some time, I think last year was the last time. We were building the car up and I said 'let's stay with slick tyres for the wet conditions' as I had to run in the engine and they said 'no, you are mad' and I said 'I need some practice if it rains in Spa.' Obviously just one week later there is more rain in Monza against all expectations. But fantastic today. As I said, the conditions were very tricky and it was difficult to see anything. In the end great respect for everybody. It was not easy out there and everybody was behaving quite well. I was joking with my engineers, saying if it rains today we will have to go for pole position but I never expected it, so it's really a dream come true, already being one of the Formula One drivers, that is something I was always dreaming of. Obviously now being on pole position is fantastic.
Q: One more dream to go?
Vettel: Yeah, I think there are a couple more dreams to go. Obviously a great day today for us, for the team. You cannot forget that a couple of years ago it was the Minardi team but I think they have made huge progress really. Obviously with the package that we have from Red Bull technology it makes our life easier and I think we are doing a very good job. There are no secrets to our success, it is only hard work. I have now been part of the team for a bit more than one full season and if you see the guys in the beginning and the guys today... The atmosphere is great, everybody is extremely motivated. When we walk in the paddock it seems that everybody knows that he has a task. He is here to do his job. He is not just taking part and it is great to see everybody enjoying his job, his work. You can see the passion in his eyes which is great. With a result like this to give something back is just fantastic.
Q: There are so many things to consider before a session like this. How difficult was all that?
Vettel: It was quite difficult. Yesterday after the practice I didn't feel well in wet conditions. I was not happy with the car and I didn't feel confident. In these conditions when you don't feel confident you lose a lot of time. We made some adjustments and I think it was the right call. You can't say we were focussing on wet conditions, looking at the speeds here and there it is more or less the opposite. But still we managed to do a very good job today. This morning I felt very good in the car, very confident. Obviously in today's qualifying throughout all the sessions the key first of all was to keep the car on the circuit and then to get the lap time done quite quickly because towards the end of the second qualifying session and especially the third qualifying session it was starting to rain heavier. It was more difficult. One thing that was affecting the driving quite a lot was the spray from the car in front of you. Obviously in the first qualifying when all the cars were running it was very difficult. Still later on it was difficult and the last three laps I had in Q3 they were everything else but perfect. I had a lot of spray, cars slowing down, I had to pass two cars in the last two laps, so it was not ideal and I couldn't improve my lap time. It was good that I brought the lap to the finish line in the beginning. Towards the end I think the conditions were more difficult. I still had good confidence and I feel well in the car and we are prepared for tomorrow. We cannot expect to win the race. We are in the best position for tomorrow but I think it is a very long race and anything can happen. For the weather no-one really knows what it is going to be, so we will see.
Q: Heikki, what were the thoughts in McLaren with your race engineer? Are you thinking of a wet race tomorrow?
Kovalainen: I think no-one really knows. It is very unstable weather at the moment. It is the same as today. At some point it looked like it was going to be a bit drier and then the shower arrives and then it is a really wet track. We don't really know. I feel that we are in a strong position for any kind of conditions. We are in a good position to start the race tomorrow, so regardless of the conditions we will just have a good opportunity to make a strong race tomorrow.
Q: How did the conditions change?
Kovalainen: Yes, now looking back, I think the beginning of each session was crucial, especially the last two sessions. It was almost on the first two laps that you had to do the lap time otherwise the circuit was too wet as the water level was increasing and the lap times were getting slower. For myself the last part of qualifying I didn't quite get the best out of it and then it started to rain and there was a bit of traffic. There was quite a lot of water on the track and this was the maximum this time. It is interesting, I enjoy driving in the wet. It is a little bit more tricky than in the dry, especially when there are some rivers and you are aquaplaning a bit. It is a big challenge but everybody did a good job and my car felt good and strong throughout the day.
Q: Do you think inters were ever possible?
Kovalainen: I don't think so. I think perhaps at the start of the second session if it had not rained anymore. But when we went out I thought I had definitely made the right choice by taking the extreme wets.
Q: Mark, here you have to use the kerbs, and yet kerbs always seem to be very slippery in the wet. What does a driver do in this case?
Webber: Well, you should ask the quick guy that one. Yeah, you've got to use the kerbs as best you can, but it's also very unsettling coming off the kerbs. Obviously the track doesn't give a huge amount of grip today, so it's part of our skills to get the balance right, of making sure we can cut the corner as best we can without upsetting the car too much. It is a little bit of a surprise how much we can run the kerbs in some places to be honest, but that's what happens.
Q: So you had some traffic but also you ended up doing your quickest lap at the end when it really was pretty wet.
Webber: Yeah, I could have done a slightly better job at the start of Q3. I'm not sitting here making excuses that there was traffic, it's everyone's job to get the gap and everyone can make a shopping list of excuses why it didn't happen for them. We're happy with third, it's a great day for Red Bull. I want to congratulate Sebastian on his first pole. People have to realise that Red Bull have done an amazing amount for this sport in Formula One, so it's a fantastic day for them and Red Bull should really be proud of what they've achieved and people should recognise that. We're looking forward to the race tomorrow. Obviously I was looking for the front row, so I have a clear view but I've the third best view, depending on how the start goes. If it's dry, it's a totally different race obviously, but we're still in reasonable shape. To be honest, I didn't really expect to be where we are, but it turned out OK.
Q: But do you want a wet race tomorrow, would you prefer that?
Webber: I don't think any of the guys want to race in those conditions. To race in that stuff is tricky. If you had a 53 lap time trial on your own it's a bit easier but if anyone has any aquaplaning on the straight... There are some safety concerns at this place obviously because of the high speed and it's so hard to know where the (other) guy is, you just can't see anything, so we can't really race when the visibility is that bad because if you can't see where you're going, then it's extremely difficult.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Seb, I remember that two or three years ago, you set fastest lap with the BMW here. Was that the first time that you saw Monza and what do you remember about that?
Vettel: It was two years ago, 2006, when I was a Friday driver for BMW Sauber. I had the test here the week before the race. That was my first Monza experience and straightaway I liked the circuit. It was the first time that I was driving here. I like to drive here with low downforce configuration. You feel the car much more, the car is lighter, you can play much more. Obviously the kerb riding is very special and I think it's part of Monza, the first and second chicanes, but then the other corners are just great. As I said, with low downforce you are playing with the car. A couple of years ago, Juan Pablo Montoya set pole position here and looking at that lap... nowadays you have the chance on the internet to look it up quite quickly, it's just great and you see how he's playing with the car and how light the car is, how light the rear of the car is and still he puts the hammer down and hammers the throttle and it's just great. To feel that, lap for lap, it's great. I like this circuit very much. Obviously, as Mark said, it's always limited for safety with these high speeds and so on. I know we are also limited for space here because there are a couple of trees, but I think this circuit is part of the racing calendar. Even though it's so small, so tiny and so narrow in some places, after one lap you still feel that the circuit has got a lot of soul and character and that's what makes it more enjoyable.
Q: (Matthias Brunner - Motorsport Aktuell) Sebastian, apparently you're the youngest pole man in Formula One ever. Does that mean anything special for you? Do records mean a lot to you?
Vettel: To be honest, not really. I think there was a youngest before, and at some point there will be a younger after me. I don't really care about statistics. It's more important to be on pole position and start the race from there tomorrow. It's a great result for us, great success. I'm very, very happy as you can imagine.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto Motor und Sport) If it is dry tomorrow, do the guys in the good cars like Massa, Raikkonen and Hamilton really have a chance to come through the field, knowing how difficult it is to overtake here in the dry?
Webber: I think they will have a chance to come through, but as usual, the further up you get, the harder it will become for them. The top ten that I saw before the start of the session was a little bit mixed in terms of it not being quite a normal top group, if you like, because some of those guys that you just mentioned weren't in there. There's going to be some differently paced cars in dry conditions lapping in the race for sure. But as you say, getting inside someone here in a few places is not easy. But turn one is the obvious place to get the passing done. If you get a good run out of Parabolica, those guys can do the damage in the first chicane.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Heikki, how good a chance do you have tomorrow to improve your position in the championship?
Kovalainen: To be honest, I don't know where the guys who are close (in the championship) like Nick and Robert are (on the grid) yet. I suppose they are behind me, so there is a chance but that's all I can say really. I will try to close the gap on anyone. That's the target and really, to try to do the maximum result for the team and I think we have a good opportunity tomorrow to do a strong race.
Q: (Tomas Richtr - TV Nova) Sebastian, I think you are pretty realistic about tomorrow's chances, but you have a Ferrari engine, probably the strongest engine. Is the podium realistic?
Vettel: First of all, as I said, we don't know how the weather is going to be, and if it's wet, how wet is it going to be, how much water? Obviously the guys at the front will have an advantage because they have a better view, mainly the guy who is first after the first chicane. I hope that's me. But you never know. I can't predict the future, like anyone else in this room, I think. So we will see. We will face it tomorrow. Obviously our target is to do the best job possible. If that means scoring some points, it's fantastic. If it means going on the podium, it would be incredible, unreal, so I think we have to keep our feet on the ground. Obviously the conditions today mixed up the top group a bit, as Mark said. I think it will be a very, very tough race, a long race here, so we will see, how the field is spread out after a couple of laps: who is leading, who is in front, who is struggling to pass another car or not, so I think it will be quite an interesting race tomorrow.
Q: (Panos Seitanidis - Drive Magazine) Sebastian, Mark said he doesn't want a wet race for tomorrow. What is your opinion? How would you feel? Would you feel anxious because there's nobody in front of you at the beginning?
Vettel: Obviously the guy who is first, after the first lap or the first chicane or going into turn one has the best view in the case of a wet race. I have done some other wet races and in formula racing it's pretty limited when it comes to your view. I would say the first two guys can maybe play around a bit but already from P5 onwards... I don't even want to imagine how it will be. If you are around P15, you actually can't see anything, so you are trying to look left and right and as Mark said, when you do a 53 lap time trial it's OK, you challenge yourself and the car. But obviously it's a race and that means someone has to follow another car and there will be a big group that will be a mess in terms of view, so that doesn't make it safe. I think race control has done a very good job in the past, for instance last year in Fuji, and will do a good job tomorrow, I have no doubt about it. First of all, we have to see how the conditions are going to be. There is some rain forecast but you don't know when and you don't know how much, what intensity.
Q: (Gerhard Kuntschik - Salzburger Nachrichten) This is for all three of you: do you remember when you won your last wet race and where it was?
Vettel: OK, I start first of all. I apologise to Mark because maybe his last wet race he would have won last year in Japan if I had kept my eyes open!
Webber: It's OK mate, don't worry.
Vettel: I think it was in Formula Three in 2006, in Barcelona, there was a lot of rain, a lot of water, a lot of aquaplaning and I was first, obviously had the best view, and had a huge gap to the guys behind and my engineer came on the radio and said 'slow down, slow down' and I said to him 'I'm already slowing down.' It was quite an incredible race, a lot of water. It is not really funny anymore when you start to go slower even though you are in fifth or sixth gear and full throttle in a straight line. That's a strange feeling.
Kovalainen: I can't remember to be honest. Were there any wet races in GP2 when I raced? Ah yes, Istanbul in 2006. We started in wet conditions and I retired the day before. I can't remember exactly where I started but I think not very close to the front. It wasn't actually going that well in the rain and then a dry line started to appear, so I thought 'let's put slicks on and see what happens.' I think Pantano was the first one to actually put slicks on. I put them on a lap later and then three laps after that the others realised and by then I had a 20 second gap. That was pretty good. If we can do that tomorrow it would be cool.
Webber: Formula 3000 at Silverstone. Yeah, it was very wet and slippery as usual.
Q: (Matthias Brunner - Motorsport Aktuell) To all three of you, if conditions tomorrow afternoon are the same, which is very possible, do you think the start behind the safety car is mandatory?
Kovalainen: No, it depends on the water level but I think it should be OK to start, as long as there isn't a lot of standing water. Now, there was a little bit of standing water but not the whole track. If that's the case tomorrow I think it's OK to start on the grid.
Vettel: As Heikki said, it depends on the level of water. I think race control will make the right decision. Obviously during qualifying today, sometimes there was quite a lot of water. We were struggling, all of us, with aquaplaning. Some cars spun off or some drivers made a mistake. It's very tricky. It would make my life easier going into the first corner but you never know what happens. In the end, we are preparing for a normal race start. We cannot calculate a start behind the safety car.
Webber: Normally our starts aren't great, so I will take a rolling start, yeah.