Mar.24 (FIA) Full transcript from the Malaysian Grand Prix post-qualifying FIA press conference at Sepang, featuring the top three qualifiers: 1 – Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 2 – Jenson Button (McLaren), 3 – Michael Schumacher (Mercedes)
Q: Lewis, a first pole for you and McLaren here in Malaysia but a continuation of the team’s fine start to the season today. Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, it’s been a good weekend so far. I think it’s been a tough day to be honest with the changeable weather conditions and the temperatures climbing. Made some set up changes to the car, nonetheless we still managed to do some good times but obviously got these guys pushing very hard behind but the guys in the factory are doing a fantastic job.
Q: How aware are you that everyone is pushing so hard behind you and how much pressure does that put on you going into a qualifying session? LH: I think everyone’s under the same amount of pressure. We all put a huge amount of pressure on ourselves and obviously a lot of partners and sponsors are relying on us as well, so it’s very intense and probably the most exciting part of the weekend but it’s something, at least speaking for myself, that I really enjoy.
Q: Jenson, for you the wait for a first McLaren pole continues but less than a tenth of a second between you and Lewis just shows how competitive it is at the top. Jenson Button: Yeah, I think it was a little bit more than that but qualifying has been pretty good to me the last two races so I can’t complain too much. I think it’s good for us as a team to be on the front row again. It’s always nice when your engineer keys-up and you can here all the mechanics in the background cheering because of a one-two. You obviously want it the other way around though but Lewis did a great lap at the start of Q3 and we edged closer but couldn’t quite get there.
Q: And you didn’t do too badly from second last week. There’s a long run down to Turn One, it could be quite an explosive start. JB: I think it’ll be an exciting start and not just for us two on the front row but the Mercedes is renowned, especially Michael, for getting good starts so it’s going to be a fun Turn One I think.
Q: Let’s turn to you Michael. It’s been a long time since we saw you in the top three for qualifying. Is this a welcome return or could this have been pole and even better today? Michael Schumacher: No, I mean this was the maximum that was available. We managed to work the car very well over the whole weekend, we obviously showed potential in Australia, not so much in the race, so focus was obviously to try to find the best compromise and I guess we have achieved this. We’re third here, a very tight business if you look who is behind us, and how close everything is going, we can be more than happy about what we have achieved and look forward now for tomorrow.
Q: Is there a concern about the race given what happened in Australia last week? MS: I guess all of us have concerns because those temperatures are pretty new to us. We have had some preparation yesterday but I guess we have done a decent job. We have learned quite a lesson in Australia, we have reacted, the boys in the factory, and all the team have done a really superb job. I’m more than happy about the progress and how we understand the car and I look forward for tomorrow.
Q: Finally to you Lewis, you’re in the best place possible to start tomorrow’s race. But there’ll be different strategies, it’s going to be hot, it’s going to be a race of attrition out there – how do you view what’s going to happen? LH: I don’t know if it’s definitely the best place to start here, it’s a long haul down to Turn One, but no, I think there are going to be interesting strategies tomorrow and the key is looking after your tyres. So hopefully we’ll have a car in a much better position for the race tomorrow, so excited for that.
Q: Lewis, a phenomenal first lap in Q3. Tell us about it, as I think there was a lock-up at the first corner. It was phenomenal, substantially quicker. LH: Yeah, I think the first lap was quite good. I think I lost a bit of time in the last corner but the first corner was fine. I think I had a small oversteer moment but it didn’t cost me any time. Then the rest of the lap seemed to come together quite well. I pushed probably a little too much in the last corner and went a bit wide, but fortunately I was able to minimise the amount I lost.
Q: And is it all about tyre management tomorrow in he race itself? LH: It is. It’s positioning and it’s definitely tyre management. This is a very tricky circuit because of the track temperatures and obviously the humidity outside. It’s going to be tough tomorrow but we juts have to make sure we prepare ourselves in the best way we can.
Q: This is your first time on pole position here. You’ve actually finished all your Malaysian Grand Prix, which has go to be a good omen for you. Your thoughts on tackling it tomorrow, as it is one of the toughest Grand Prix of the year? LH: It is, definitely. It’s a very long haul down to turn one. Just in the conditions, you never know what’s going to happen, the changeable conditions. I hope it stays dry. But these tyres are having a seriously hard time around here, especially under 150 kilos of fuel. It’s going to be interesting. I don’t know how it’s going to go but I’ll do everything I can to make sure we’re as competitive as possible.
Q: Jenson, quite a last gasp to get on the front row there. JB: Well, actually, it’s quite normal in the end of Q3 to put in your fastest lap, so I think it was the way for most of us, though obviously not for Lewis. I was pretty happy with the lap. I think with the heat it is very difficult to get a good lap out of the car as the car is moving around a lot but I was pretty happy but obviously not as happy as the guy sitting alongside me.
Q: But this is a circuit you really enjoy. Do you still enjoy it, in spite of the heat? JB: I think we all do. This is a fast, flowing circuit and a circuit that is tough in many ways: for the car, for the tyres and for us as well sitting in the cockpit as well. It’s a long, hot afternoon tomorrow. But I’m looking forward to it. I think we have a good race car. Difficult to know how good but I think our long-run pace yesterday showed some reasonable consistency. So, we have to hope for that tomorrow
Q: You were a winner here in 2009. Has your lady come up with any good omens for tomorrow? JB: No, but I think as a team we have a lot of confidence at the moment in what we’re doing. I don’t think we’ve too overconfident. I think we have to be very good with everything. The pace has to be there, the consistency, the pit stops need to be key, because these guys are very quick – Mercedes – and also the Renaults and Red Bulls. Their pace seems to be better in race trim than in qualifying, so it’s going to be a busy afternoon for the strategy guys and the engineers and obviously for us out on circuit.
Q: Q: Michael, a three time winner here in the past, and so close to the front row today. What would that have meant to you? MS: Naturally, you would rather be further forward than I am, but quite honestly, from where we have come, I think it’s quite an achievement to be third, so I have no regrets, just feeling good about it, particularly knowing that we have chosen a car that should work much better in the race. I would rather be compromised for qualifying; that’s a situation which I hope will pay back tomorrow.
Q: Q: And of course a home race for Petronas as well. MS: Absolutely, we would like to do well for a very important partner and supporter of ours, because we definitely take a performance advantage from Petronas delivering as our partner and we are very keen to pay them back for that.
Q: Q: In third place, you’re obviously knocking on the door of the front row, knocking on the door of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. Is that going to come soon? MS: We’ll take it as it comes, honestly. I think it’s quite an achievement if you appreciate who is behind us; who would have thought that last year? That’s the way I want to see it, not that we still have maybe to cover up a little bit in front. We are reasonably close, we are not miles away as we have been last year basically, so it’s up to us now to have a good development programme, work methodically and focused and then let’s see what the season brings us.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) To all of you, are you surprised that Red Bull is longer any good in qualifying? LH: It’s quite clear that last year they had a huge advantage with the blown diffuser and they don’t have that now. Everyone’s a lot more equal. JB: Well, they’re not bad, they’re fourth and fifth on the grid so it’s not terrible. We definitely had an advantage today, it was a lot smaller than in Melbourne and we did a very good job today. If they’ve got everything out of the car, yes, we’re two tenths quicker than him. It’s small, it’s not the advantage that we’ve seen over the last couple of years. And the race is a very different thing, I think they proved that in the last race. Obviously Sebastian got a bit lucky with the safety car but still, their pace was good in the race so we expect that again. MS: It’s a tight business and Red Bull, as Jenson mentioned, looks a bit stronger in race conditions rather than in qualifying conditions, because it’s all very close together, it’s not so surprising. It’s surprising that there are quite a few other teams close around, like us. I wouldn’t have expected to be that close, glad I am here as well as in Australia because those are two completely different tracks and that is obviously a good indication for the rest of the season.
Q: (Marco Degl’Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Michael, you said you were surprised because some other teams are closer but one team is a little less close now. Are you surprised at Ferrari? MS: I think we all expected – or we still can expect – Ferrari to be back up there on top. It’s obvious that they’re not at the moment. I guess they understand their reasons but whenever you have a reason, it will take time to fix and it’s just a matter of giving them this time, but I have no doubt that sooner or later they will be back up there.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Lewis and Jenson, Sebastian Vettel qualified on a hard tyre today, can that be an advantage? JB: I don’t think so. I think the tyres are pretty close in terms of lap time. They obviously see a positive in it, otherwise they wouldn’t have done it, so somebody obviously thinks there is a reason for doing it, and thinks that it’s an advantage. But you’ve still got to run the option tyre and who is to say that it’s slower or the degradation’s worse? It’s difficult to know, really.