1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:34.558; 2. Mark Webber (Red Bull), 1:34.806; 3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 1:34.913
Q: Sebastian, three poles this season for you and four out of four for Red Bull. You are making a nice habit of winning the qualifying battle.
Sebastian Vettel: It was tough today. I was not so happy yesterday and this morning especially Mark was quite a bit quicker than me. We did some changes, so we went a little bit in Mark’s direction. It was extremely difficult and I was struggling in the first sector especially but now going out of qualifying I was purple in sector one, so I think we did a good step forward. I found a better line in the end, remembering last year a little bit. I think I lost the way a little bit in free practice. But I had two very good runs in Q3. In the last corner in the first run I was a little bit too wide, otherwise it would have been a very good time, but the second one was just a bit better everywhere and it was a fantastic lap. As you said, fourth consecutive pole position for Red Bull. We have proved that we have a very fast car and it seems independent of the circuit type we are always able to be up there, so I am very, very pleased with the day. Especially thanks to the mechanics as they had zero lunch as we required a lot of changes. They had to work from the end of free practice to qualifying, so thanks for that. Let’s see tomorrow. It might be wet, so let’s see.
Q: Mark, Sebastian is thanking the team but maybe he should be thanking you for steering him in the right direction after practice this morning.
Mark Webber: Yeah, in P3 this morning like Seb said he came a little bit my way on some of my settings and it was a good battle again between both of us. He has done a good job in Q3 again. It was definitely a very good lap from Seb. I am pretty happy with my lap, so it was again big credit to the team. We have locked out the front row again. We did that in Melbourne as well and we would have had a good chance in Malaysia if it wasn’t for the mixed session, so in the end very, very positive for the team and also the mechanics. There was stuff coming out on the plane last night which wasn’t easy because of a volcano exploding, so to get some stuff to my car today was impressive for all the guys. Another great team effort today and we have got an interesting grand prix, so I am looking forward to it. I wish we could go back out now, but bit of a sleep and we come back tomorrow.
Q: Fernando, completely different session here for you than it was in Malaysia. This is the third time you will start third on the grid. Is there anymore to come in qualifying for Ferrari or is that the maximum you gave it today?
We did it in Bahrain, Australia and here with three times third on the grid. In Malaysia we made a mistake in Q1 but in a normal situation I think this is the maximum we can do at the moment.
Q: Sebastian, the race tomorrow. We might see rain. It could be a very interesting race. Will you be looking into your mirrors for your team-mate going into the first turn?
SV: Well, I think it will be raining tomorrow, it is just a question when really. Similar to the last two races. Bahrain was pretty straightforward, but we are not afraid of any rain. But for Sunday it looks quite bad if you look at the weather. It will rain, the question is will it be wet the whole race throughout or after the start at some point, so we will see but we have good memories to the wet conditions last year, both of us. If the rain comes it is best to start at the front, which we do, as you are the ones who see the best, so that is quite important. So no matter what, dry or wet, we should be well armed for tomorrow.
Q: Sebastian, looking at last year, looking at form this year, you must be very, very confident for tomorrow, particularly it was wet last year and it is likely to be wet tomorrow.
SV: Well, I mean you are asking a lot of questions. We will have to see. It is a long race. The most important thing today was to do a good job which I think we did to bring the cars to the front row. For myself, I am extremely happy as especially this morning I wasn’t happy with the car and I was struggling myself in a couple of corners and lost quite a lot compared to Mark. But into quali(fying) the mechanics worked flat out from the end of P3 to the start of the qualifying session and we just got the car ready and it turned out to work. I am very pleased with the result. As I said, I was struggling a bit to find the right balance in the beginning of the qualifying as the car was different and I had to adapt, but I think in Q3 I had two very good runs. The first run in the last corner I went a bit too wide and lost quite a bit but the second run I was able to reproduce the lap, even a bit quicker everywhere, so I am very happy with the lap I did. A very good result. As you said, tomorrow it will rain. You will probably have to ask some of the local people, they know a bit more, but the good thing is that it doesn’t get colder tomorrow. I think Wednesday and Thursday was pretty cold, so it shouldn’t get colder but still it will rain, the questions like the last three races is when. It could be a wet race, a wet start or a dry start and then rain at some point. We will see. It is a good result today but the race is the important and where you score points, so most important is yet to come.
Q: Give us some idea of the changes you have made over the last couple of days as it sounds like it has been quite a lot?
SV: Well, the last couple of days, we only ran yesterday and today. Yesterday I was more or less happy. We did some overnight changes and initially this morning we thought that they worked. You are always fighting the car but Mark was quite a bit quicker and partly we went a little bit towards his direction with the car settings but also I had to find lap time myself as I wasn’t up to speed especially in the first sector. In quali at some point you know, you can see if you compare the data and so on, what probably the other guy is doing, but it is not easy to do just the same. In the end you are not a copy of someone else. We are both individuals and everyone does it a bit differently. I am sure if we would look into Fernando’s data then we would see he is doing it his way and still it turns out we are a couple of hundredths. I remembered a bit of last year, obviously it worked well last year here and finally at the right time in Q3 it seemed to work.
Q: In the middle sector you seemed to be a little bit down but ended with a margin of a quarter-of-a-second ahead of Mark. What happened in the middle sector?
SV: I don’t think I was a lot down. I think it was only a couple of thousandths.
Q: Was it? Okay.
SV: I mean it was basically the same but in the end I managed to put everything together. It is extremely difficult. A bit too much here and there, especially in those type of corners, turn one, two three, then the exit three/four, and the corner on the back straight. It is very easy to go just a bit too much and then you run a little bit wide, then you lose so much time. I am quite happy it worked in the end.
Q: Mark, what is your reaction to that quarter-of-a-second margin?
MW: Well, it was a good lap from Seb. We pushed each other again throughout quali and he did a big lap at the end. I gave everything and it wasn’t enough. You’d like to be a bit further up but in the end we are in the position we deserve to be in. Seb stopped the sand hour glass quicker than I did. The stop watch doesn’t lie and that’s how it went today. But front row is still a good position to start tomorrow. It has been a pretty solid week for the guys getting everything ready for this race. Getting gear out here has been a challenge with some of the flights, problems in Europe, so a real credit to Milton Keynes. Renault are also still pushing like hell, all of us together, two drivers pushing each other. At the moment the team is operating very, very well and we have got to keep doing that. Tomorrow is a long race and looking forward to it. It is going to be a mixture. I will have more grey hair than you Bob at the end of the race, so it is going to be an interesting grand prix.
Q: You mention the tyre difference yesterday and it may make no difference at all tomorrow. Is that still the case?
MW: The tyres, I think from previous grands prix, have performed a little bit differently here. Not what we expected, but it was just another venue, we had to learn a little bit how they would operate. That was particularly the case yesterday in the first sessions and part of the second session. It turned out in the end it wasn’t a huge deal with the tyres. Tomorrow there is a chance that parts of the race might be dry, but we will see and in the end the tyres are performing pretty similar to other venues.
Q: A surprise not see the McLarens closer?
OK, they’re not a million miles away but there’s a bit of a surprise that we beat Fernando and the two McLarens, but they had a bit of a tough qualifying by the looks of it, for whatever reason.
Q: Fernando, would you prefer it to be wet tomorrow? Do you think you would have a better chance in the wet tomorrow?
FA: No, I would prefer dry but if it rains, it’s the same for everybody and this is in a race situation. Always a wet qualifying makes it more difficult because it depends on which moment on the track you get because you can improve three or four seconds, but in a race situation you are always on the same lap as everybody, so it’s the same for all of us. If it rains tomorrow it will be fine, it will be interesting to see how the race develops but as I said, with the potential of our car and how good it normally performs at race pace, I think a dry situation would be more normal for us.
Q: Do you think with more time yesterday and perhaps with some more development from the aerodynamics you were trying yesterday you could have been on the front row today?
FA: Definitely not for the time that I lost yesterday because the first practice session is just a real check of how the car is working and setting the tyre pressures, the ride height and very simple things, so I definitely didn’t lose any performance time. In terms of car developments, I think we are happy with what we have. In fact we have some new pieces here for this Grand Prix and maybe thanks to those I am third now. With two tenths slower, you could be seventh or eighth, so a huge effort from the team introducing new parts every race. As I said, thanks to those parts I think I am here in this press conference today.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, on race pace Ferrari looks very strong; looking at the data yesterday you looked even stronger than them, but we don’t know how much fuel everybody was running. Do you feel confident for tomorrow, can you win?
FA: Well, as we have all said, I think tomorrow’s race will be determined by the weather: when it will rain, if it’s wet all race, only the first part, only the middle or only the end? We don’t know. Anyone can win those types of races because there is so much difference in terms of lap time if you make the right choice at the pit stop or whatever. If you make a wrong tyre choice, you put on intermediates when you should have put on extreme or vice versa, you can lose ten seconds a lap. That’s the problem of wet races for us, for the teams, for the championship contenders. It’s very nice to watch a wet race on TV but it’s very risky for us.
Q: (Carlos Miquel – Diario AS) Fernando, you tested in Jerez when it was very wet; what is the level of your car in rain conditions, because Red Bull is the best car in those conditions I think.
FA: It’s true that we had a winter with a lot of wet (testing) sessions. To be honest, we don’t really know how competitive we can be in the wet, because no one runs in the test at the same time with the same age of tyres and the same fuel, so nobody knows. I think we will be OK tomorrow. We did some laps in Australia and unfortunately at the wrong time some laps in Malaysia as well but those Q1 laps seemed competitive as well, compared to the other guys at the same time, so we will see. Wet conditions are always tricky.
Q: (Carlos Miquel – Diario AS) I have a question for all the drivers about the volcano; are you worried about getting back to Europe?
FA: No worries, I hope to get back to Europe normally.
SV: I will rent a car and drive back.
MW: Yeah, I’m in the same car as Seb, we’re going back together. Or I go to Australia, I keep going this way.
FA: You swim.
MW: I keep going this way.
SV: One stop.
MW: I can keep going that way.
FA: You can swim.
Q: (Chinese media) Two questions for Sebastian: first question is that it seems that you have become the new superstar of Formula One, especially in Germany, as people think Michael Schumacher is out of date. What do you think of that?
SV: Fantastic question! I don’t consider myself as a superstar. It’s more the famous politicians and pop stars. I see myself as a racing driver, something that I have been dreaming of since I was young. It’s nice to be here, part of Formula One, and obviously it’s even much nicer when you sit here, so I really enjoy what I’m doing and I’m proud to be next to guys like Fernando, Mark, whosoever. For sure, in Germany, the greatness of Michael is untouched. I know that I’m German, I know that I come from Germany but it would be quite ridiculous to compare myself – at the stage that I am now – with someone like Michael. He’s a legend, he’s one of the best the sport has ever seen. There’s obviously a long way to go. I think, as everyone else, I try to do the best for myself and we are all individuals, so that’s the only thing I can say really.
Q: (Chinese media) OK, you haven’t been in Formula One long; what have you learned from your success or failure and do you think you have grown up?
SV: Well, if you compare me to Michael as you did before, I’m a greenhorn, you know? I’ve only been here for three or three and a half years, it’s not a long time.
MW: It’s taken him three years to grow this (fingers Sebastian’s fluffy chin).
SV: I have to keep my visor closed, otherwise it’s gone! I’m obviously not the oldest on the grid. At the moment, as I said, I’m enjoying what I’m doing a lot. I don’t know where we will be in five, ten years. At the moment, I would say hopefully in Formula One if teams sign me. You never know. Formula One changes quickly as does life, so things can change quickly.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, as you said, you’re still struggling a little bit in qualifying and this is the maximum that you can achieve. What do you have to do to improve, which areas of the car?
FA: I don’t know, I think it’s the performance of the car which you need to improve, obviously. I think every car has different characteristics, every team has a different philosophy as well. We saw in the past, as well… I remember during my time at McLaren, for whatever reason, we were always quick in qualifying and Ferrari was quick in the race, so it’s just… The car itself is very consistent, it takes care of its tyres very, very well, so this is a good thing for the race and maybe in qualifying we lack a bit of grip but I think with that philosophy Ferrari won so many championships and races, so the points are on Sunday, so hopefully we can keep it that way.
Q: (Marco Degl’Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, just continuing the question before: you are very modest but are you conscious that you are already the man of the year, the man of this world championship?
SV: Definitely not. We’ve had four races, I think all of us up here have to stay on the ground, you know. Everything can still happen. Just before we came here, I read that some people don’t think that it’s still a fight within four teams, but I think it is. We’ve had three races, if you look at the points it could be zero as well, at least at the top, there’s not much difference. You see how quickly things change. I’ve had two failures this year; once I was lucky still to finish. Fernando, just before the end of the race in Malaysia had to retire, so things can happen, as I said, and they can change quickly, so you have to be there consistently until the last race in Abu Dhabi and then you see who has got the most points. When there are only a couple of races left, you can see who is probably fighting for the championship and who is not mathematically, but right now everyone can still win, so there’s a long, long way. Not only us but also the teams have to push to make sure that you stay at the top. If you don’t move forwards in Formula One it’s like going backwards. I think it’s still very early.
[Images via AUTOSPORT]