Sebastian Vettel showed scary pace during the days leading up to the Australian Grand Prix, and he converted that into top spot on the grid in the rain delayed qualifying on Sunday – but there are no points for pole position. But a few hours later, when it mattered, the Red Bull RB9 was no match for Lotus and Ferrari and thus the world champion had to settle for third. Vettel spoke at the post race press conference about the season opener in Melbourne.
Only third but the crowd are obviously very appreciative of what you did. But what happened to the Red Bull pace we were expecting?
Sebastian Vettel: Well, I think first of all we can be happy with today. Obviously we wanted more. Clearly when you start from pole you want to win. I think we could see after a very good start, and a good first two or three laps, that the tyres were falling apart and we couldn’t go as long as other people. So congratulations to Lotus and especially to Kimi, I think they did the best job today. A little bit of a surprise when I saw on the pitwall that I was lacking one position to count because I knew Fernando passed us at the stop but I didn’t know where the other car was coming from but I think they had incredible pace. Same goes for Ferrari. I think we were third-quickest today and very happy to get third
Do you think it was just the conditions, the track temperatures or are you seriously worried about the pace of Lotus and Ferrari?
Sebastian: No, I’m not worried. I have to admit sometimes that other people are faster. I think we can be very happy today. We had a great qualifying session this morning and this afternoon unfortunately didn’t quite work the way we would have liked but it’s a long season, a long way ahead of us, so good points to start. Surely we wanted a little bit more but there’s no reason to be disappointed.
You didn’t win the first race of 2010 or 2012 but you went on to win those championships, so I guess it’s not the end of the world?
Sebastian: Yeah, I think there are always statistics that can work for you or work against you but at this stage… it was very good fun today, tricky to manage the tyres, but I’m very happy to be on the podium here, it’s always a nice grand prix so looking forward to next week.
Adrian Sutil’s name has been mentioned a couple of times. How big a thorn in your side was the sight of that Force India out in front?
Sebastian: Well I think in the end you have enough laps in the race to even things out. Surely it didn’t help at that stage but, y’know, it’s pretty simple: if we had the pace we should have passed him. We didn’t. I was quite a bit quicker when I arrived at the back of him but then couldn’t pass him. I think running in traffic it has quite a negative effect on tyres. The same for the people behind me so I wasn’t that afraid there was a lot of pressure from behind because I knew that they will be in the same problem that I was with the car in front and, yeah, at some stage even he pulled a little bit away. So, as I said, I don’t think, considering all the laps in the race, it made a massively difference. We jumped him after the stop. Yeah,
it was quite a good overtaking into turn three, I think. And it was important, I think, to get past. Obviously Fernando, I think, stopped a lap earlier and was on the fresh tyres so he could use the momentum to get past the group, which worked well for him. After that though, we could see that he was a little bit too quick for us today and in the last two stints he was pulling away. I have to admit I was quite surprised when I was still missing one position in my calculations because all the cars that I saw made sense but I never saw Kimi in the race but he ended up way ahead of us and then I saw him on TV, and then saw that Fernando was then second and Kimi was leading. Overall, as I said before, very happy with third place. I think surely when you start from pole, you want to win but I think we can be happy with the pace all weekend. The car left a very good impression. The whole team seemed to operate very calmly and considering it was the first race of the season we seemed to just continue where we stopped last year. So yeah, I think it was a good day for us. Obviously there’s a bit of homework to do, regarding the tyres. I think two-stop was out of our range today, so we’ll see where we are next week.
But did it surprise you that starting from pole the pace wasn’t there to go on and win the race?
Sebastian: Well I think the pace was there. The naked pace. Qualifying was pretty good for us. I think we had quite a good run, and then also the first two laps of the race were pretty good and also the first two laps on each set of tyres felt pretty good – but yeah, obviously after that we couldn’t keep it up and surely the times set in the front, from Fernando but Kimi especially, were quite impressive considering the amount of laps on the tyres. So, we couldn’t do that and that’s why, I think we lost out a little bit today. But, as I said, it’s a very tough, very long grand prix and very nice to be on the podium at the end. We have quite a good record here so I’m happy that we had another podium finish today.
On the first lap you were able to establish quite a margin at the start; do you think that strategies like Adrian’s will actually affect your own strategies mid-race or do you really have to concentrate on your own, what you’ve already planned out before the race?
Sebastian: Well, you mentioned two things. On the first stint I was very happy initially to get a good start, defend the lead, then I think I was able to pull away but after two laps, I felt that I could be in trouble. The tyres started to go away from me and as we could see, Ferrari, Felipe and Fernando were catching up and then in the stint after that, we were running into the back of Adrian, but as I said before, surely it didn’t help, especially losing the position to Fernando, but then I think you should look at the whole race. They left a strong impression but I think it should have been very difficult to keep him behind all the race. For sure, in that moment, it was that one particular lap where he decided to pit a lap earlier and jumped the group. So you can argue that for sure, at that time, the traffic didn’t help, especially because as I mentioned earlier, in traffic, you start to slide around even more and then lose more of the tyres, so we struggled with that today but again, I’m not blaming anything or anyone because there’s plenty of laps in the race where you can make it up again. P3 I think was the best we could get today.
Did you have any indication during the winter tests, or even Friday here, that you could face this kind of problem with your tyres during the race?
Sebastian: Well, I think in winter testing everybody had trouble to make the tyres last. It seemed to be very inconsistent in Barcelona, very dependent on the day you were running, depending on the conditions. I think we ended up today with similar conditions but it’s a completely different track. I think the amount of laps covered today were not even out of sight, they were out of thought I think in Barcelona for everyone. I think there has been a certain trend; if you look at Lotus last year, looking after the tyres, if you remember, a couple of key races such as Montreal, where they seemed to be the only team to make a one stop possible, whereas I think Fernando and myself struggled and had to pit again. It was quite a messy race at the end but I think you always learn along the way. We had a plan today before the race which I think was different to Kimi’s and probably very similar to Fernando’s or Ferrari’s. Adding up with our tyre wear, I think that’s where we finished today.
Over the last few years your car has been known for its downforce, it’s been a really good advantage for you. Do you think that might actually be an Achilles heel this year, that you’re wearing out your tyres more quickly than the competition?
Sebastian: Well, it depends, I think. At the end of the day, surely there were times when we had plenty of downforce compared to other people, but I think these times are over, not just this year but way before that. I think we sometimes have the ability to compare a little bit to other people and the magic days when we were covering a lot more speed in high speed corners, I don’t think they are happening any more. I think we are still very competitive but I think there’s a lot more to it than just the raw downforce level. You could argue that with more downforce you go faster, you’re asking more of the tyres, all of those things, but I think overall there’s a certain trend where some cars seem to work pretty well in some conditions. As Kimi touched on today, he was struggling with front tyres; I think for us it was more evened out. We had both axles running away from us. I’m not sure about the Ferraris but looking at their tyres during running, it looked pretty similar to us, so especially at the end of the stints. Then again, every day can be a bit different. I think you need to be very careful to find a real trend but I think there have been a lot of races where we have been looking after the tyres pretty well and they will come again. For sure, today we were a little bit behind but next week is another race and completely different conditions, as Kimi said, so we will see what happens there.
A question about tyres. The weather forecast for Malaysia next weekend but it’s rain Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Given the tyre wear of your car in the dry this weekend. Are you thinking of a conservative game plan for this weekend or is it business as usual?
Sebastian: Let me answer with a question back. Have you ever been to Malaysia? It rains every day! It doesn’t really make sense to look at the forecast. It’s one of those places where there’s always rain at some point in the day. Yeah, I think it’s a completely different place. I think last year we cannot take as a reference because we had different issues with the car. I think starting with the season this year the car seems much more balance and I’m much happier, in a much happier place. So, looking forward to next week. It will a lot hotter, naturally there is a risk of rain, thunderstorms. We’ve got rain tyres and intermediates, so we should be fine but in terms of approach there’s not too much difference. I don’t think you can take this race as a reference because the circuit is too different and as I said, the conditions will be different plus the tyres we use are different again.