Questions from the floor

Q:
(Livio Oricchio - O Estado do Sao Paulo) To all drivers, Formula One is a little difficult to understand. In qualifying, some teams are one second slower than in race conditions where everyone is together. Can you comment on that?

Sebastian Vettel:
Racing has changed. I think the big secret is to be on top of your tyres all the time. If you told everyone that on lap 11 or lap nine for instance, please go as fast as you can, it would probably look a little bit different. On the other hand, you try naturally to go as fast as you can but also at the same time try to look after your tyres, trying to predict what is going to happen. Obviously, you know strategy-wise what is your sort of plan, how many laps you need to achieve etc etc. There are a lot of tactics going on. Sometimes you're holding back, other times you're pushing flat out, so, therefore, I think the gaps between the cars, how quick people go, who's quickest on whatever lap might change quicker than what we are used to seeing. I think that's one of the biggest reasons, from my point of view.

Jenson Button:
Yes, I totally agree. We're all trying to find a pace that we think is right for consistency but also speed, and it's very tricky to find that balance. I was a little bit surprised, personally, in the first stint, how quick the Lotus Renaults were, and, also, I was surprised by the Ferraris. But I got a bit more of a handle on it in the second and third stints and I think we had pretty good pace.

Nick Heidfeld:
Adding to what was said, probably some cars are better on long runs than others. That's what will be more crucial this year with the Pirelli tyres, because there's more degradation. It seems we already had a better pace in the race in Melbourne than we had in qualifying. On top of that, I think this weekend was not easy for us because we lost a lot of time on Friday and we definitely didn't have the perfect set-up and there's probably a bit more to gain there in the future.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport).
Jenson, you and Lewis had different strategies with the tyres, he went onto the hard tyres earlier than you. Was there any reason for that?

JB:
I think it was the preference of the tyres after qualifying. I think he flat-spotted a tyre in qualifying and that meant that he would run on the prime tyre. I don't know what we feel now, but before the race we felt that the tyres were very, very similar in terms of pace, but also in terms of the degradation, which was very surprising. For me, strangely, I had a much better balance with the prime and I was quicker on the prime compared to everyone. So it worked for me, but maybe that was just the balance I had on the car.

Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Moto und Sport).
Sebastian, halfway through the race, your engineer asked you not to use KERS any more. First of all, what was the problem and secondly it seemed from that moment on you were half a second quicker per lap?

SV:
That didn't work, then! Yes, correct, at some stage he told me not to use KERS, then we activated it again. I don't know what was the problem. Obviously, something was wrong, otherwise, as I have said many times, it's lap time. Obviously, as I tried to explain before, I think it's very difficult to read the true pace. At some stage, in the third stint, I think, so my last stint on options, I was lapping a second a lap quicker than Lewis for two or three laps, I think. At that stage, I don't think I used KERS, I think that's the time you are talking about. But surely, I can assure you that not running KERS, for us, is a disadvantage. As I tried to explain, we worked very hard and we got it working, but in the race something happened, I don't quite yet know what it was but we used it for the majority (of the race) and I don't think pace has anything to do with it... especially turning it off and then going quicker, has anything to do with that.

Q: (Joris Fioriti - AFP).
To all of you: do you think high degradation tyres have really brought more show to F1, because it looked very confusing and somehow messy for the spectators. And secondly, especially to Jenson and Nick, do you think that Sebastian Vettel will be the man to beat this year, to become World Champion?

JB:
At this moment in time, yes, is the answer, I concur with you regarding Sebastian being the person to beat. He's got a 24-point lead and that's a lot after two races, but there are still another 17 to go, maybe 18.

SV:
You have already calculated that in the car?

JB:
I know everything. You should be careful, right! Of course, the Red Bulls' pace is very good. He's won two races out of two and nobody else has been consistent, first off. I think in terms of pace we, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team are the second best but I think we need to find some improvements. That's in the pipeline. It's exciting for us that we've made some good improvements already and hopefully in China we can make a really good race of it. From what I heard, the race was pretty good. There were people all over the place which is good, isn't it? Was it better or not? I was in the car, I don't know. It is complicated, and I think at this point of the season it's going to be because there's a lot that we're trying to learn ourselves on the circuit. If we had one tyre for the whole race and didn't have pit stops, would it be exciting? I don't know. I think that it's the correct thing to do, to make the tyres that they have and I think Pirelli have done a great job of actually getting tyres that have degradation in the time that they've had to build these tyres. I think that in the time they've had to build these tyres they've done a very good job. I think it made the racing exciting today. For me, I didn't know who was going to finish behind Seb. I did in the end, which is great. I think it's working well and I think that as the season goes on we will realise and understand the tyres a little bit more every race. The races will calm down, but hopefully not too much. Hopefully, they will still be exciting.

SV:
Well, regarding the up and down, Jenson described how he struggled on the first stint, he was very happy in the last stint. Within one race, with a different set of tyres, there were some things that you can fine tune in the car. Potentially, that can make a big difference. The fact that if you feel comfortable in one stint compared to the other, it can make a difference in pace. Regarding the show, it's hard for all of us to judge because we are very busy with our own race and looking after our own tyres but I think there are more battles going on, and that's obviously something people want to see. For all us, I think there's a lot to pick up and a lot to learn, because there are so many things going on: more than one stop. So the racing has changed. Obviously, if you look at the race speed, the lap times compared to last year, we are much slower. In qualifying, the difference is not that big, but in the race there's quite a difference. There are some things you lose, there are other things you gain, so it's always give and take.

NH:
I think both things are true. It's probably more complicated to understand from the outside, but at the same time the show's better, because for sure there was more overtaking going on. I think it's quite easy to answer that. Regarding Vettel and Red Bull being the team to beat, I think that's also obvious. They've been the quickest for the first two races. I think McLaren have done a very good job, having finished where they have in the first two races, compared to winter testing, but I also like the fact that I'm asked, being a Lotus Renault driver, if it's the team to beat. Unfortunately, at the moment, I think we are a bit too far behind. On the other hand, we made some good progress, we finished two races on the podium, so we hope to keep the momentum going.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport).
Sebastian, last year in the first two races you had a technical problem in Bahrain and you gave away a win. In Australia you had a problem with the front brakes. Now you have won two races out of two; how different is your approach to these two races?

SV:
No difference. Obviously, what happened in Australia, what happened here today was good but that's two out of 19. I can't calculate as quick as Jenson, but I will take it a bit easier. He was obviously good at maths. Shame he became a racing driver then! Obviously, there's a long, long way to go. I don't have to tell you, from the experience that I have: ask Jenson, two years ago, how important it is to have a good start to the season. Ask Michael. I think he had a couple of good starts to the season. Every point you can take on board is important and how important, we've seen the last couple of years where the championship has been decided by not much, only a few points, so every point you can take, the better it is. For what we did in Australia, and what we did here, we can be very proud. We have worked very hard and we have a very strong package, but that's it. Tomorrow, we focus on the next race. I'm sure the boys are very happy but they are already packing up and getting ready for the next one so step by step: there's a long long way to go, a lot of things can change. We've seen within 10 days how the pace can vary. It was much tighter here than in Australia. Some people were already talking of brutal dominance or whatever. I tried not to read anything and we came here and it was completely different. That's just two races in. I don't think I need to explain how many things can change. Look at last year. I think Fernando is a very good example. People wrote him out of the championship, he came back, then they wrote him off again, he came back and he was the favourite going into the last race. It will be very similar this year, I guess. It's all about being consistent and getting your stuff together and making sure you use everything you have.

Q: (Sarah Holt - BBC Sport).
Jenson, Sebastian has spoken about the season ahead. How important was it for you to kick start your championship push here and be the man chasing Sebastian?

JB:
Yes, it was very important. The first race didn't really go my way. It was a frustrating race and I made a mistake and got a drive-through for it and had to find my way back through. So, it was just one of those races really. But the pace of the car was very good, I was happy with the performance and in the race also. So, I came here looking for a good result and until the last lap I was still trying to fight for the victory. I know it was a long shot but you've got to give it a go. I'm happy to take away 18 points. It gives me confidence not just to come away with second place, but the feeling of the car is good. We need to improve, but the feeling of the car is good and that's important to me. We've only got a few days before the next race, but we're doing everything we can to make the small improvements and the details that we can and hopefully have a better race in China.

 

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