Attendees (L-R): Sebastian Vettel (Mercedes GP, 2nd), Mark Webber (Red Bull, 1st), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren, 3rd)
Q. Mark, it is not your team-mate for once. Your first pole of the season and your first since Belgium 2010. How did you do that?
Mark WEBBER: Well it was a good session. I think it was pretty clear going into qualifying we might have had a bit of margin so it was going to be probably down to Seb and I, maybe, for the front row. Without being arrogant, but it just looked like that. You can never underestimate these guys but we thought we were probably going to battle for pole between ourselves. We got through on the first set of hards so that was nice to do that. Some other people did as well. Then coming to the crucial part of qualifying it was just getting the lap right for Q3 so that lap was pretty good. I was just praying my number went above number one when I crossed the gantry over the start-finish line and it did. It was a nice lap. It was a good battle with Seb and today was my day.
Q. Was it important for you to be second out on the track to Sebastian so you knew what you push for, what you had to achieve?
MW: I don’t have a clue what time Sebastian does. You don’t know if he makes a mistake or if he does a phenomenal lap or whatever. You have just got to take control of yourself and get the job done.
Q. Sebastian, I suppose the consolation is that this is your 10th consecutive front row start. But how disappointing is it that your run of pole positions has come to an end?
Sebastian VETTEL: Well I don’t think we can speak of big disappointments. At the end of the day I think we made a good step forward. Barcelona is usually the place where everyone brings a lot of parts and you are here to find out if all of them work. I think we did a step so did the others, but it looks like we like this track and our car feels very comfortable. In quali itself, Q1 I did not really get into the rhythm immediately so it was not the smoothest run but I made it on the primes. Then Q2 I felt much happier on the soft compound and unfortunately then the last qualifying I lost a little bit too much. I wasn’t entirely happy with my lap. We had some problems. Mark did a good job so it was between us and he did a better job today. We see tomorrow. It is a long race. We saved a set of tyres, so did I think the top three and Jenson (Button) as well so we will see what we can do tomorrow.
Q. Talking of problems. Was it KERS? You didn’t use it on your final run. How much did you lose from it and how big a problem could that be in the race?
SV: Well I am not afraid. In the race I think we will be on top of it again. It seems to be a bit of an endless story. The guys are pushing very hard and I think we did an exceptional job today. We proved that our car has become quicker. We had a quick base but we made it even better so big compliments to the aero department in the factory and to all the guys. Yes, we are working very hard on the KERS. No, I didn’t use it for Q2 and Q3 but I am sure we will have it tomorrow. It is difficult to say. It is not right to say I did not have KERS that is why Mark is on pole. I think he deserved pole. He did a better job today but surely it was not ideal.
Q. Lewis, third place in the current climate I am sure was exactly what you were hoping for. But you were pushing very hard and made a slight error into turn 10 that may have flat-spotted one of your tyres. Can that be a concern for the race?
Lewis HAMILTON: No, I don’t think it will. I do have a slight flat spot but fortunately I can start on those tyres and we can rebalance the wheel so it shouldn’t be a problem for the race. But, no, very happy with today’s result. Obviously you can see the gap between ourselves and the Red Bulls has increased. However, we have improved this weekend so the guys have been working extremely hard. Fortunate just to stay ahead of the Ferrari. That was very close.
Q. Looking ahead to tomorrow’s race. We have seen more overtaking in 2011 and this track could be the acid test for the new regulations. Do you think your race pace is good enough to keep with Sebastian and Mark?
LH: No. No. They have got a second in qualifying, probably a second and a bit. But we will push as hard as we can. Obviously we have got to push to the amount where you also save your tyres through the run. We have been closer in the previous races so I anticipate we will be much closer than one second but whether or not it’s within a tenth or so we will wait and see.
Q. Mark, pole last year and winner here last year. I am sure you would love a repeat?
MW: Absolutely, yes. I can go and relax tonight, have a good sleep, and come back and do the best job I can tomorrow. I am looking forward to it. It should be a good race. As you say, a lot of changes from previous years with the tyres and the rear wing around here but in the end I have got a lot of experience already from the first few races and looking forward to trying to get the victory tomorrow.
Q. Mark, from what you were saying a couple of days ago we must assume all has gone perfectly so far?
MW: Yeah, it was a pretty good Friday. Nice build up this morning and got a reasonable lap in the end there. It was nice to get a clean lap and get a reasonable lap time down. You never know if it was quite enough but today it was. Obviously Seb did not have the smoothest of days so that can happen. I have had plenty of those. That’s the way it goes sometimes. We are both on the front row so great for the team. We didn’t bring any developments here but we just brought the new spark plugs but it seems like everything is working in the right direction. The guys have done a great job at the factory. Again it is a credit to all the team. We can get very, very blasé with these type of performances but it is down to a lot of hard work from everyone at Milton Keynes and also Renault, endless effort from them as well at Viry. Seb and I are working reasonably hard as well so in the end good result for the team and we’re in reasonable shape for tomorrow’s race.
Q. Your seventh pole position and last year you were again on pole here and you became the 10th winner from pole in 10 years.
MW: I hope we make it 11. I think it is a different Barcelona grand prix tomorrow, like we have not seen before. For sure there will be a few lead changes, here and there maybe. I hope not too many, but if I am in this position coming round the last corner then, of course, I will be happy.
Q. Talking of the last corner. Another journalist asked, did you use the wing in the last corner. Was it open?
Q. It is thought that perhaps you were the only team to do that.
MW: Yeah, it is not easy. I don’t know if I opened the lap with it but I think I might have closed the lap with it, but you have got to concentrate. The car is good, no question about it. We have a good car aerodynamically, there is no secret about it, and we know how to get the car to perform well in most conditions. This is what we decided to do today and we won’t leave much change on the table in terms of performance wherever we can. We try to give the maximum. If the corner is a corner which you can take in that style then we will try.
Q. Sebastian, how much were you were hurt by this morning. You didn’t do one lap.
SV: Yeah, not much. Nothing big. We had to fix the car a bit and I didn’t get too much of an impression of the car. We planned some things to test but couldn’t do that, but nothing big. After we fixed the car, the boys did a good job, and at least I had one lap so nothing to worry about for today or tomorrow.
Q. An amazing lap as well.
SV: Probably better than the one in quali in Q3. It was important to get the lap. This afternoon was a bit more difficult. Initially in Q1 I didn’t feel too happy. Lost a bit too much. Q2 on the soft compound I felt much more comfortable and then in the last run maybe didn’t do the best lap of the weekend. Lost a bit too much time.
Q. The race itself, how do you see that?
SV: It is long. Is it 66 laps? It is a long time I guess and as we have seen so far there are a lot of things that can happen in the race so it is over when it’s over, not before. Usually around Barcelona it is quite tricky. I had some races where I followed one or the same car for 60 out of 66 laps and it was not very entertaining but I think tomorrow could be quite different.
Q. Lewis, Fernando Alonso was very close at the end there. Was that a surprise for you?
LH: Not really. We knew they were going to be quick. When we looked in Q2 they didn’t look to be that close then all of a sudden in Q3 they were a lot closer. But it doesn’t matter now. It is the pace we have in the race and it is going to be interesting how close we are and if we are able to stay ahead of them.
Q. You have been quite a critic of the harder tyres. What are they going to be like to race on?
LH: I think on that side of things I really was just joking. It was a bit of a disaster to drive yesterday with the balance of the car that I had and I think everyone was struggling to switch on the tyres. If you look at the season so far Pirelli have done an incredible job really. I think we have all underestimated how good a job they would have done and when we got to the first race the tyres were fantastic. These tyres, the super hard, isn’t as good as the hard tyre that we had previously but hopefully tomorrow they will go longer, which will still allow exciting racing. I did say it was a disaster, but I was really referring to the balance of my car and I think they are pretty good.
Q. Was there more time in the car this afternoon?
LH: No, that was as fast as it was going to go. We made some changes going into qualifying with the set-up, which was the wrong change basically, and the car was quite a bit worse in qualifying than it was in P3. But you are stuck with it and you have to go through qualifying and the race with it but it would only be maybe a tenth or two if you were to improve the set-up. But I did the best I could with it and the team, as always, did a great job getting us out in good gaps so I am looking forward, hopefully, to a good battle, at least for the first 100metres with the Red Bulls. After that with whoever is behind.
Q. (Matthias Brunner – Speedweek) After what Lewis said, lots of people complained yesterday about the harder tyre. From what you learned today, do you expect a better performance during the race or rather similar?
MW: I think it will be similar. We’ve been testing those tyres for a few events now and it was pretty clear, in Sepang, that they behaved a bit differently because the track temperature in Sepang is different to here, even though the track here is nice and warm. It’s a bit of a dangerous game with that tyre because, particularly if McLarens and Red Bulls want to put an option on in Q1, then we send maybe two or three teams home so that’s maybe not ideal for some people. So we need to keep an eye on that. And also, we need to be careful in Formula One with our long run pace that we don’t get too close to the other categories in terms of lap times. We still need to be (the) pinnacle, we need to be able to push the cars to the limit throughout a grand prix and have very strong lap times in grands prix, man against the machine, and push the car to the limit. So as long as we can keep doing that then that’s good, but I (don’t) think the long runs on Friday were particularly impressive for a Formula One car round here. If you look at a GP3 lap time, I think they did a 1m 38s and some of my laps at the end of my long run were 1m 30s, so eight seconds, and I think the budget’s a little bit different. We need to keep an eye on that. Pirelli are working hard but we need to make sure the degradation and pace is still of a sensible magnitude and the cars can be put on the limit and not get too far to the showbiz side of things.
LH: Too slow at the moment, isn’t it? Well, maybe not for you guys but for us.
Q. (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Mark, we saw you waiting in your car after your lap. Were you thinking of having another run or were you waiting in case Seb was going to go out?
MW: They were thinking of another run with Seb, so we waited to see and then they said no cars will go again because it was pretty clear that… I mean, Lewis is a phenomenal driver, but I think it was going to be pretty difficult for him to get us from there, so we were pretty confident that we would still have the front row, so we decided not to go again. That’s why we waited in the car for a minute or so, it wasn’t too long, didn’t get straight back out.
Q. (Oleg Karpov – Klaxon) Lewis, was it actually possible for you to go through the last corner with the wing open?
LH: No. Mark was just explaining that even though he’s got the wing engaged, it’s not that it’s too easy, but for us, we’re flat out without the wing engaged and it’s quite difficult. A slight difference in downforce but that’s actually good because it gives an indication of how much downforce they have, considering you generally lose 30 points or something when you engage the wing, something of that magnitude.
Q. (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Lewis, it looked as if on your last outing you flat-spotted the left front tyre. Is it as bad as in Malaysia, or can you count on that tyre tomorrow?
LH: No, nowhere near as bad as Malaysia. Malaysia wasn’t really too bad, but we were overly cautious – or the engineers were overly cautious going into the race. But no, there’s no way that they could put me on another set of tyres for tomorrow. They think the tyres will be fine, we just need to re-balance them a little bit. That’s one of the limitations of our car. Since I’ve been in the team we’ve always had lock-ups – it almost as if other teams look as if they have ABS brakes, because they never lock up like we do. But it’s something that we’re trying to improve and it is much, much better this year. But yeah, when you’re trying to eke every little bit out of the car, you sometimes happen to lock the front wheel. I did, but hopefully it won’t impede my race tomorrow.
Q. (Don Kennedy – Hawkes BayToday) Sebastian, you were seen in Parc Fermé having a good look at Alonso’s Ferrari. Was there anything that you saw there that interested you, because I would have thought that given the time differences there wasn’t much for you to worry about?
SV: It looked interesting. I think everyone brought some new stuff. It’s nice to see our exhaust more than twice in the pit lane! It’s the usual game. Obviously, I’m not working in the aerodynamic department but it’s nice to have a closer look, because usually, for us, it’s very difficult to get close and in Parc Fermé there are no mechanics around, pushing us away so it’s easier.
Q. (Bob McKenzie – Daily Express) Lewis, if these guys get away cleanly tomorrow and don’t have a problem in the race, do you see any way that you can get ahead of them?
LH: Ah, I’ve just been thinking about it. The old circuit is still there, the last two corners so I could maybe use the last two corners and then I will be able to match their pace maybe, if I don’t take the chicane. But otherwise, no. Q. (Bob McKenzie – Daily Express) And if Sebastian’s KERS isn’t working, for some reason, at the start, do you think you can get him there and get one place?
LH: It’s always possible. Our KERS seems to work quite well. It’s always possible to overtake if he doesn’t have it, but then without a doubt he will be on my tail for quite some time and eventually find his way past, I’m sure. Q. (Bob McKenzie – Daily Express) Is it despondent, is there despondency when you see two guys as fast as they are, that you will be in a separate race, won’t you?
LH: No. You know, Formula One, as Mark was saying, is the pinnacle of motor sport and nothing comes easy. At the moment, they’ve just done a better job and every single team is trying their hardest to catch up and we’re second quickest at the moment, so we can’t complain too much. I just hope that at some stage we can find a significant improvement in the car in terms of downforce, that we can have a proper race with these guys.
Q. (Livio Oricchio – O Estado do São Paulo) Mark, what happened that you came back, fighting for pole position? Do you understand how to use the tyres better over one lap or is it a question of adaptation to the circuit?
MW: Probably a little bit of both, actually. I’m getting a better understanding of the tyres more and more. Obviously, they’re new for everybody and it’s up to everybody to get on top of them. Also, I wasn’t particularly slow in Sepang and also in China, but we didn’t have the smoothest of weekends in terms of the car, technically, so, whether it was not the best qualifying strategy in terms of tyres or blah, blah, blah, then you’re at the back of the grid, or you don’t have KERS at the start – all those little things add up. Seb’s also done a good job. Turkey was a fair weekend and I wasn’t as close as this. Obviously, Seb didn’t have the smoothest day today but also there’s still an improvement from my side. I don’t mind the track here so I hope that I can start being a bit more competitive now. A few things together have added up, it’s small margins as we know. It doesn’t take much and before you know it you’re back in the ball game.
Q. (Matthias Brunner – Speedweek) Lewis, what is the best remark today about your new overalls?
LH: I’ve got a word in my head but I can’t use it! Umm… colourful!
Q. (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Sebastian, how big was the temptation at the end to give it another try for pole position, and is that one set of fresh tyres you saved so important or more important than to give up a potential pole position?
SV: Well, we will find out tomorrow. In the end we decided that staying in the garage is more important than probably swapping from right to left on the grid. Why did we do it? Because there was quite a big margin to the people behind, plus they saved their set of tyres. I’m generally a bit against the temptation that, for tomorrow, it’s all clear, it’s either one or the other car, but surely a Red Bull. A grand prix is a long, long way, it’s a long distance, it will be tough tomorrow and the McLaren is very competitive in the race. So is Ferrari. I only want to remind you of the pace they had in qualifying two weeks ago in Turkey and then on Sunday. You cannot take anything for granted tomorrow, but surely the temptation was big, because I wasn’t happy with my lap. It’s a different story when you get everything 100 per cent right and you feel that you have reached your maximum, and then you’re still a tenth or two behind. I think you are much more relaxed when you jump out, but in that case I was actually keen to go again, just to prove it to myself but I didn’t get the chance today. Maybe (I’ll) get it tomorrow.
Q. (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Mark and Seb, do you agree with Lewis that victory is for a Red Bull tomorrow?
MW: I hope so. Obviously, we need the cars to run well. Eventually, we can see that with these regulations, the fast cars can still get through, whatever sometimes happens in the first part of the race. It’s not like the old day when if you lost 10 seconds somewhere in the race, then you could maybe get stuck behind someone. If all goes well and smoothly, then of course we should be able to go for the victory, but you never, never know. We had Turkey last year: there were a few races last year when Lewis was maybe not as strong in qualifying and in the race I couldn’t get rid of him. But I hope it’s not like that tomorrow.