French Grand Prix: Post Qualifying Press Conference

1. Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), 1m15.034s
2. Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren Mercedes), 1m15.104s
3. Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN (Ferrari), 1m15.257s


Q: Felipe, a great resurgence and recovery from Ferrari.
Felipe MASSA: Yeah, for sure it s definitely a good weekend for us. We proved already in Silverstone that what happened in the last three races was maybe a little bit the opposite of what we were facing in the last test at Silverstone. We came here, we found a similar car to last week so I think that s really encouraging and it looks like we re back fighting again. For sure it s very close all the time. If you look at the difference on the lap times, it was very close between us three, but it s good to be back fighting, it s good to be here and I m really happy that we can have a good car tomorrow as well.

Q: It was very very close. Talk us through those two very quick lap times of yours right at the end.
FM: On my first try, I just managed to do quite a good lap, but then I expected to improve a little bit on the second try but then on these tyres, especially on the soft tyres, you drive so much on the limit that if you are just over-driving a little bit, you just lose one tenth, a couple of tenths that you cannot recover again, so the last try is always the one, if you can make everything perfect, you improve a lot of lap time, but if you just try to over-drive a little bit you just make some mistakes.

Q: Lewis, looks to be a slightly uneven weekend for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes so far; you lost a bit of time yesterday morning, as has Fernando. From your point of view, however, I guess it s good to be on the front row.
Lewis HAMILTON: Absolutely. I think you can t be perfect all the time, but the team has done a fantastic job. The car was pretty sweet for the qualifying session. I had the car for pole and I lost a bit of time on turn 15. I was about a tenth and a half up, so I had it there but it would have been a mega lap. I lost a bit of time but that s the way the game goes but I m very very happy. We re on the front row and I believe that we have a good strategy for tomorrow, so we will be very strong.

Q: So what actually happened going into turn 15, talk us through that incident.
LH: I braked a little bit late, wanted a little bit more, and if you just try and take a little bit more you run a little bit wide, but still I managed to do a good time. I think I did better my previous time by half a tenth or something like that, so nevertheless it was a good lap but we just have to make sure we improve for next time. But as I said, it s been, I think, a steady weekend for us. We came into today s qualifying with good pace. I do believe we still have the pace of the Ferraris, at least, so we will see what happens tomorrow.

Q: Kimi, good to have you back, first top three since the Spanish Grand Prix, part of this strong Ferrari recovery.
Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: Yes, it has been a bit of a hard time but that s how it is sometimes and we just try to improve the car all the time. As Felipe said, I think we had a good test, the car feels much better now, it seems to be more competitive. So far it has been a good weekend. Of course, we would rather be in first place but I think it s pretty close and we will see what happens in the race tomorrow.

Q: How were the qualifying laps? Did you feel you got the best from the car?
KR: I think so. They are never perfect. I lost on one corner in the last try but that s just my fault and there s nothing else to complain about. I think the car is pretty good for the race so third is OK, and as I said, we would rather start in the front this year but anything can happen, it s a long race so we will see what happens tomorrow.

Q: Felipe, you seem to have made a habit this year of basically finishing from where you started, so I guess for tomorrow you must be feeling reasonably optimistic.
FM: Hopefully it stays like in the beginning of the year: the guy who starts in the front finishes in the front. That would be great. Hopefully we can have a good race tomorrow. We already heard that maybe the rain will join us, so hopefully we can have a great car for whatever conditions.


Q: You ve all been fastest at some stage during the weekend, but Felipe, you made it count in the session that matters.
FM: Yeah, it was definitely great for us to be back and fighting. If you look at what s happened in the last races and if you look at the car we had in Silverstone and as I was also saying after the test, and also the car we found here today, I would not say we are completely in front of our competitors but at least we are back and fighting so that s really encouraging and I m very happy to start again on pole position. I had a good lap, especially on the first try. On the second try, I just tried to over-drive a little bit and then I lost some small time. Sometimes when you try to be too aggressive, it doesn t work but on the first try, it was the pole lap so it was a good lap.

Q: Can you feel the difference in the car?
FM: Yeah, for sure, a lot. We just have more grip, more consistency and the car is just behaving better due to the modifications we are doing, so it just looks like we have a little bit more downforce and that s the way it is.

Q: And troublefree, all the way through the sessions?
FM: Yeah, in some sessions I was pretty happy with the balance, but I just couldn t put the lap together, let s say this morning and also in Q1. It was just finding some mistakes here and some mistakes there. I couldn t put the lap together but the balance was there, so I was sure that I had the possibilities to be on pole, because this time, even during the qualifying, I was sure that the balance was there. I just needed to put the lap together so fortunately I could manage to put in the right time.

Q: Lewis, I heard that you were told to push, push harder for the last lap because of Fernando s problem. Is that correct?
LH: Yeah.

Q: Is that what made you go a little bit wide?
LH: No, we didn t end up going a lap more.

Q: Your feelings about your championship rival starting tenth at best?
LH: Well, I don t really know what happened, to be honest. I was behind him and I just saw a little bit of smoke at one of the corners, and then he came in. So it s unfortunate for him and for the team, but it s good at least one of us is up there and can fight for some points for the team.

Q: Do reliability problems like that, to your team-mate, worry you?
LH: No, not really, no. I don t focus on anyone else but myself, but for sure, as a team, we always need to push very hard to improve reliability, so this will be a sign for us to push even more.

Q: I know that the team had a big test at Silverstone; do you find a difference in the car this weekend?
LH: Yeah, I feel a slight difference, but obviously I didn t test at Silverstone and so I wasn t there to feel what improvements had been made but every weekend I get in the car it feels slightly better and just a little bit more consistent. But I think we had the pace today. It was cool, I like battling it out and fair play to Felipe, he did a good job. I was only – what was it? – seven hundredths down and so I know I had it there. I made a slight mistake in turn 15 and lost a little bit of time, but that happens. But we will have a good race tomorrow.

Q: Kimi, did you feel you could have been on pole, could have been quickest?
KR: I think so. We had the car but it wasn t a perfect lap. I think the race will be different tomorrow. You never know when the others are stopping so I think we had a good car.

Q: Is there a big difference with the track surface this year?
KR: It feels very similar, but the grip seemed to be very good straight out yesterday, so probably there is more grip than last year at the beginning. The surface was always good here, but otherwise it hasn t really changed.

Q: And are you worried about it possibly being wet?
KR: It will make it much more complicated for everybody, for sure, more interesting, probably. I don t know. We wait and see what happens tomorrow.


Q: (Dieter Rencken The Citizen) Kimi, what was the rationale behind you coming in about five minutes behind the rest of the field at the end of Q3?
KR: Yeah, because I didn t finish qualifying.

Q: (Dieter Rencken The Citizen) So do you get an extra lap for that?
KR: Yes, yes I did. It s the same for everybody.

Q: (Ian Stafford The Mail on Sunday) Lewis, this time last year, to be on the front row of the grid, second in qualifying, would have been fantastic… Do I detect after seven races a slight tinge of disappointment about today?
LH: I don t think so. As I said I think it was a good battle and I was very happy with it. I know I did the best job I could, made a slight mistake, but that doesn t mean I am disappointed in it. I know that tomorrow we have a good strategy and will go into the race just as strong as these guys and we will be pushing to get in front. I couldn t even have imagined even being at the front or on the podium in my first race so every time I do get up in the top three, it is a great feeling.

Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Lewis, you and Fernando have had it relatively easy these past three Grands Prix…
LH: In what respect?

Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Well, finishing one, one, one, Fernando winning in Monaco and you winning the last two, you know what I mean… Does the resurgence of Ferrari this weekend prove it is just not your team-mate you have to consider for the world drivers title?
LH: We knew that already and there was no doubt in our minds that we weren t just competing with each other. We knew that we were competing against the Ferraris and the BMWs and that is why we have been pushing so hard to pull away and everyone makes improvements and steps forward and obviously Ferrari have made a good step forward. I still believe we have the best car and we just have to prove that tomorrow.

Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) To Felipe and Kimi, in the last weekends, you have been struggling with the grip on the qualifying lap. How different was the car in that sense this time?
FM: As I said, it was better. There was more grip, more consistent with the scrubbed tyres and we could manage to find the grip with the first lap which was our biggest problem in the last races which was our biggest problem, so I think we had a little bit more downforce, a better set-up and maybe our car works better on this kind of track, so that s it.

Q: (Mike Doodson Auto Action) Lewis, we have seen all year this very happy relationship clearly between you and Felipe…
FM: No, it is not true…

Q: (Mike Doodson Auto Action) Two questions: one, do you spend time together off the track? And two, does it make it more difficult to race against somebody you like and respect than against somebody with whom you are less friendly?
FM: (to LH) Do you want me to say what you are doing when you go out?
LH: No, no! We get on very well and a lot of the drivers here get on very well and we have a lot of respect for each other off the track. But then when you get on the track you are there to do a job and you are there to compete and beat each other and once you know the boundaries and, you know, we ve obviously had some close races this year, we know where we are on the circuit, so we have trust. It doesn t make it hard to race each other. In the race, you are enemies, well not enemies, but fierce competitors, and off the track you are good friends.

Q: (Ian Stafford The Mail on Sunday) Lewis, you are leading the world championship by ten points and they always say in sport that it is easier to chase than to be chased, in general. Do you feel more pressure now being hunted? And do you think the rookie tag is well and truly gone now and you are there to be well and truly shot at?
LH: To the first one, I don t feel any more pressure, I just feel that I approach every weekend the same. It is great to be in the lead, but obviously there are ten races left and it is way too early to consider winning the championship. We have to keep on pushing to improve the car and to be as consistent as possible and to work on reliability. And secondly, as a rookie, I still believe it is the same. I am still in my first season. A lot of the other drivers obviously understand that I am still a rookie, but as you go through the season they see that you are doing a good job or you have a close battle with them and they can see you are fair or something like that and they build the respect that they have for you, it grows. But I still think they obviously know I am a rookie, they expect me to make a mistake at some point, but I am here to prove them wrong.

Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Following on from that, Felipe, do you still see him as a rookie?
FM: No, definitely not, you cannot see him as a rookie. No. You never see a guy in the first year leading the championship, so for sure not.

Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) And what about the mistake? Do you hope it is coming?
FM: Yes, especially tomorrow. I will be very happy.

Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) Kimi, this is a hard track to overtake on and that is hard enough anyway this season. What does it mean to start from the third position here?
KR: Like I said, it is not ideal. You would rather be at the front, but I still think you have chances to overtake and this weekend it has been surprisingly easier to follow people than many other races, so let s see what happens tomorrow. It also depends a lot when people are stopping and what they are doing, so we ll see…

Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) Kimi, did you feel more confident with the car than in the previous qualifying sessions?
KR: Yes, the car was better and today I felt we could have had the pole with a perfect lap. Before it has not really been there. But we are gradually getting where we want to be, so it is a good feeling with the car.

Q: (Michael Schmidt Auto Motor und Sport) How much experience do you have with this car in the wet apart from the Saturday morning session in Monte Carlo?
LH: Not a lot, if I am honest. I had plenty of time and I was testing a lot in the dry through pre-season testing and I probably out of the 8,000 or 9,000 kilometres that I did maybe I got a thousand in the rain, or 500, I am not sure exactly how much. But I definitely got some time in the car, so I have no worries about it.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, this morning you did just eight laps. Was that to save the engine or something else?
LH: No, no. Our engine s pretty sweet and… it was just that there was no need to go out and push too many laps and we went out half way through the session just to find out which tyre we wanted to use for the race, the option or the prime. Yesterday, we didn t really get a good read, because we got stuck in traffic and didn t have many clear laps. Today it was important that we got out and had a really good understanding.

Q: (Ian Stafford The Mail on Sunday) Felipe, being a Brazilian, and a football fan, no doubt, does the season start now? As if the business part of the season begins now? Everybody knows where they are at, there is a long way to go, it is fairly close is it now that you make your move? Is it like Brazil doing just enough in the qualifying and then they go on and win the semis and the final at the World Cup?
FM: Well, in a way you do need to think like that, just to try to be stronger all the time, but what happens in the past is that it hurts you a little bit especially when you have a very long championship with so many races, it can be very important the points that you make in this race and if you can t do that and make so many points in this race then maybe you can have a problem to be at the front. But we saw in the past that some people have been able to recover their lost points, so I hope we can recover and have a good car all the time to be in the front or at least fighting, so that s our main goal.

Q: (Niki Takeda Formula PA) Question for Lewis, how important is it to gain another win here, personally?
LH: It is always important to get a win. And not just to continue with the success that we have had this year, but also obviously to score as many points as you can, whether that is ten, eight or six, or whatever, it is extremely important that we continue to score points, not only for the drivers championship, but also the teams and so that is what we and Fernando will be doing, pushing as much as we can. We have to see how the race goes. Me, Felipe and also Kimi, we all know where we are on the circuit and we will push as hard as we can to get up front. We will just have to see how it goes.