2009 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX
SATURDAY POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE September 12, 2009
1. Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren Mercedes), 1m24.066s
2. Adrian SUTIL (Force India), 1m24.261s
3. Kimi RÃ„IKKÃ–NEN (Ferrari), 1m24.523s
Q: Lewis, the man who you had to beat was your former Formula Three team-mate Adrian Sutil and it was very close.
Lewis HAMILTON: It was, it was. It was a very close qualifying session and I am very happy to see Adrian up here. Since Formula Three it has been a long time since we were in a press conference together and they are incredibly fast and very competitive. The team did a great job this weekend and the car was very good. I was able to put the lap together which is such a great feeling when you can put one single lap together. I think the public and everyone can just try to imagine what it is like. You have got one single shot at it at the end and it is the most exciting, exhilarating thing, so to finally pull it off and get it on pole it is almost like the first time. I am very happy.
Q: What a great recovery for the team. From the outside looking in, Spa and Monza are both very fast circuits but here a different car from your point of view.
LH: I guess we have to wait and see what the strategies are for everyone tomorrow. But we feel quite comfortable in the position which we needed to be in. I don t think we anticipated being as quick as we are this weekend, so it is a bonus for everyone in the team. They keep pushing and have done a great job with it.
Q: Adrian, on the front row. Must be a great feeling. All I can ask you to do is describe your emotions right now with Vitantonio Liuzzi qualifying seventh as well.
Adrian SUTIL: It is a great moment, a great day for me. The whole weekend was a big success already and we did really good work. The car is amazing. It is quick, unbelievable, so it is just so good for the team after a big success in Spa we continue it here. Just being competitive. It is just such a different feeling in the car now as you know you have a chance. The good feeling of being a race driver is back and it is just such a great feeling. I enjoyed every single moment and I am happy to be here next to Lewis and next to Kimi on the first row.
Q: It looked like you had a big moment at the Lesmos in Q1 and recovered beautifully from that. As a result here you are on the front row.
AS: The first session was quite difficult for us as I was missing the grip in the rear. The car was really oversteering. But in Q2 it was getting better once the circuit was rubbered in and the car felt really good and finally also in Q3 it was really good. I am quite happy in the end but it was not an easy qualifying. At the beginning it was quite difficult.
Q: And your former team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella driving for Ferrari and where you are now and where he was two weeks ago. It is an amazing change of fortune.
AS: He was saying already that maybe he has not that strong a car compared to us. He knew he could have won the last race. It was a very strong race from him but we have to understand an Italian driver s dream is to drive in Formula One with Ferrari. That was there. I think everybody would have done this move. I think he did quite well now. He had a difficult weekend so far but 14th position is not so bad. We replaced the seat quite well with Tonio who did also a really good qualifying and I think he is really happy qualifying for the first time in Q3. I think it was all the right decisions.
Q: Kimi, it looked to be a reasonable trouble-free qualifying for you. At Parabolica the car seemed to be a bit loose at the front end but you got the lap done in the end.
Kimi RÃ„IKKÃ–NEN: It is not perfect for sure but it shows us again that once we put the race fuel in the car it seems to be to always be stronger against the others. It is more difficult especially in the second qualifying than the first and last one to make sure that we get through. The car has been good all weekend. We had some issues with it but unfortunately we cannot fix them as well as we want. But, overall, on the race pace and with the race fuel the car is running nicely and I am pretty happy with it. I think it was one of our best qualifying and it was a good time in our home race to do it and hopefully tomorrow it is going to help us get into a stronger position for the race and try to fight for the first three places. But we will see. It is not going to be easy tomorrow but we will give it our best.
Q: Can you compare how you felt before the race at Spa to how you feel now in terms of how you think it will go on race day?
KR: In both races we knew that car was going to be stronger in the race than in qualifying. Of course if you start from sixth than third place it is a slightly different story. I think it gives us a better chance to have a strong finish. But it is going to be a long, hard race for the car. We give the best and hopefully we can give a good result for all the Italian fans and for ourselves. That s our biggest aim.
Q: Lewis, an amazing start here with a very wide track and very high speed braking into the first chicane. A packed field of cars. It is always an interesting first corner at Monza.
LH: It is. I have been quite fortunate in the two times I have started here in Formula One. It has gone quite well. I am in the best position to get round the first corner in a good spot, in a good condition, and we have just got to make sure we get a good start. We have got KERS which should help us, so as Adrian was just saying we just want to get round the first corner and then enjoy the race. I hope we are able to enjoy it as much as everyone else.
Q: Lewis, you dominated yesterday morning. Not so quick yesterday afternoon because I think of a heavier fuel load. What sort of changes did you make overnight?
LH: I did not make any changes overnight. I was very happy and comfortable with the car that I had yesterday. In P2 we were obviously testing our long runs and we didn t drop our fuel load down at all at the end of P2. Therefore P11 we were quite happy with that and I was comfortable there. It is not qualifying, so I guess it is important that we tested the car and made sure we were 100 per cent happy with the tyres and the fuel load.
Q: So are you feeling pretty confident for tomorrow?
LH: As confident as you can ever be. I think we are on pole position. We feel comfortable with the performance of the car but clearly we understand that other cars around us are very quick. Adrian and Kimi, even Heikki (Kovalainen) back there. It seems to be very close. I don t know what to expect tomorrow. We don t know what the weather is going to do. All I can hope for is a good clean start and hopefully deal with it from then on. But hopefully we are in a strong position.
Q: What sort of effect has KERS had during qualifying and what do you expect during the race, particularly at the start, of course?
LH: It is pretty much the same from qualifying to the race. A little bit more of a gain in qualifying, but I think it makes up for the loss of downforce and perhaps drag that we have compared to others. Adrian is quicker than us down the main straight even though we have KERS boosting us all the way down, so we kind of make up for some of the bits that aren t so great on the car and we are still working to improve the rest of those.
Q: I think you have mentioned about a four-tenths gain. Would that still be about right?
LH: That is what they say but I am sure if we took it off we are probably gaining in other areas and could perhaps do the same time. It is obviously more beneficial for the race when you are competing with people. You are then able to get the tow, even though it is such a long straight, I was able to slipstream quite a number of drivers not last year but the year before. But KERS should help us big time, but hopefully I will not need to do that. We will see.
Q: Can you remember the last time the two of you were on the front row?
LH: Me and Adrian? Formula One at Zandvoort. Probably. I think that is when we finished our title charge together. That was a great era for us. We had great fun then in the same team and congratulations to Adrian. He has done a great job and truly deserves to be up there with us and finally able to show what he is capable of doing.
Q: Adrian, well done. Just one run in Q3. What was that like?
AS: It was nice to be in the car in the whole session. At the NÃ¼rburgring it was the first time for me in Q3 and I knew how it felt. It is a very difficult one because the first session is always tricky. The grip level is low, so you have a little bit more oversteering in the car and it is more difficult to drive and then it just gets better and better during the next session. That is what happened here as well. I had a difficult first session really but made it through and then the second session was much better and then finally the last one was the best one. As soon as the grip level was there again on the circuit the car felt really good.
Q: What are your feelings about having the KERS cars behind you at the start?
AS: Yes, it is not the best feeling really as I know they have a big advantage, especially at the start. We saw it last weekend with what happened to my team-mate. He lost the race just because of the KERS button. It is tricky but that is the situation. Maybe we are a little bit better in the corners because we have no KERS and they have more power. In the end it is equal but it is really hard to get the positions back, so it is going to be a hard fight for my position at the start, that s for sure.
Q: Tell us about your satisfaction getting this front row of the grid?
AS: Yes, huge satisfaction. I was waiting for this chance for quite a long time. I would never have thought that we would be able to be on the front row this year, and especially as three or four races ago we were fighting to reach the second qualifying. So suddenly the step has been so big with our last update package and it s working really well, so we are heading in the right direction, I think. I m ready for it and now it feels really, really good.
Q: Kimi, tenth and eighth yesterday; you said there was room to improve. What changes did you make overnight?
KR: We made some changes to try to improve the issues that we had but even when yesterday I wasn t a hundred percent happy, it was still pretty fast. I think it s been a positive surprise how good the car has been all weekend. Today it was even better with high fuel.
Q: In comparison to Spa when you won but started further back, are you confident for tomorrow?
KR: Yeah, but OK, we are three places ahead of where we started in Spa, but now there is a McLaren with KERS in front of us. At the start, you cannot expect to jump them. We can jump the Force India but probably not the McLaren. So that s a different story and then we see how the race goes. It s definitely easier to overtake here than in Spa, so if they have the speed on the straight line, as it looks it will be difficult to keep people behind, it will be difficult to pass them. We will see what we can do.
Q: We ve seen a lot of drivers weaving on the back straight; how much of an issue have tyre temperatures been here during qualifying and the race itself?
KR: For us it hasn t been a big issue. It s more or less the same as at any other circuit but maybe the first lap isn t always the easiest one, not the fastest one. It takes a few laps but I think it s the same for everybody. Some teams can use them on the first lap, straight away, very easily and some not. But they may pay the price later on in the race, the tyres would maybe not last, so it s a bit of a difficult situation.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Lewis, gathering that both Brawns are on one-stop strategies tomorrow, presuming you guys are going to be running two, it looks like it could be close with those two cars as well if that s going to be the case.
LH: I m not actually aware of what position they re in fifth and sixth? but obviously they are very competitive, they ve been quick especially in P3 they were very quick in Q1 and Q2, so undoubtedly they will be very competitive throughout the race, and we have to obviously optimise I have to optimise my strategy and hopefully hold them off but it s going to be a close race tomorrow. It should probably be one of the most exciting we ve had here for some time.
KR: It is what it is. We will see in a few hours how much fuel everybody has, then we can make our plans, but until then there s not much point in thinking about it too much.
Q: (Will Buxton Australasian Motor Sport News) Kimi, we re moving into the last few races of the season, who do you think has got the best shot of winning the championship?
KR: I don t know, there are a few people that can win. We still actually have a chance but it s not veryâ€¦ I don t think it s going to happen for us, so after that it doesn t really matter who wins. I think Brawn has picked up speed a little bit this weekend, so they are in the strongest position for sure.
Q: (Frederic Ferret L Equipe) Lewis and Kimi, how much time did it take you to get used to KERS at the beginning of the season? Was it easy?
LH: It was just like Playstation, so it was very easy.
KR: I had it the whole winter when we started to test, so it s not difficult for the drivers to use, I think it s more of a challenge for the engineers to get it working well.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, you talked about the new kerbs, how the last version was lower than these ones, but do you think that today it helped to get your position? And secondly, no Finn was ever able to win here. Are you superstitious?
KR: No. I will try tomorrow and we hope to have a good result. The kerbs are the same for all the teams and drivers, so it makes no difference. It was more fun with the old kerbs but this is probably a bit more similar for everybody. Nobody can really run over them anymore. It seems to be working OK for us, so no complaints really.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Adrian, you said your driver s feelings are back; can you say more about that please?
AS: Well, when you re at the back, it s sometimes quite hard to motivate yourself and after two years, consistently being at the back, you forget about how it feels to be when you re fighting for pole position, fighting for a race win, so it s very different driving. You really get the passion back, I would say. It s a really difficult situation when you run at the back and always give your best. It s what you do but it s just something completely different. You drive much easier with a smile on your face when you re at the front. That s normal.
Q: (Paulo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) The fact that Spa and here are two low downforce circuits is something that is helping you, but do you think that, considering the changes that you have made to the aerodynamics and everything, are we going to see Force India as competitive in the next few races and what is your goal for tomorrow?
AS: Yeah, I think these two circuits are really good for us. Our car has really good straight-line speed but also enough downforce for the mid-sector, for the corners. I think the package is really efficient for this circuit and although I think we shouldn t lose too much for the next races, the car is performing and there s no reason why we shouldn t be there for the next races. Straight-line speed is always important, there are a few long straights in the next races, so I do think our team made the step forward and we re going to be strong to the end of the season. There s always a question if you re fighting for pole position, fighting for a victory, this is still a big goal. I think this is a very special circuit for us.
Tomorrow? Well, let s see how the race goes on. It s hard to say what s going to happen. I m in a good position, on the front row. There are a lot of KERS cars around me. I think this is the most difficult thing to judge, to keep them behind, really. So the first few meters to the first corner is already going to be quite a big decider for the race.
Q: (Marco Evangelisti Corriere dello Sport) Lewis, you have never had the possibility this year to really defend your world title. How frustrating was it for you and for the team to realise that, at the end of the day, the car could be quick?
LH: It was tough for us, of course. It was extremely tough for us, especially after two very competitive seasons where we were competing for both World Championships, so knowing that we had given it our all and arrived in Melbourne and not been competitive and at some point we anticipated we would catch up a lot earlier; I think we were talking about Barcelona and it didn t happen until NÃ¼rburgring. So it was definitely very, very hard for the team, all the people that are part of our team, all the sponsors and myself and the family. It was tough for us all because we love winning and that s what we go out there to do, that s what we wake up to do to make sure that we are competing for World Championships but it s one of those years. So much changed that we can t necessarily say it was a mistake by us, it was just one of those things and we will learn from it and we re pushing to make sure that we can compete for many more championships in the future.
Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) Lewis, are you as confident as you were in Hungary before the race, and who do you think is your main contender for the win tomorrow?
LH: Well, I genuinely don t build confidence up and say I m more confident for this race than I was for another. I try to prepare myself the same for all the races, even if we re not on pole position. I feel happy with the car that I have beneath me, so I feel that we do have the possibility of winning, but I still have to do the job, as always. We have to do the job as team, but any of the guys behind me, especially the KERS guys – Kimi, Heikki they are going to be very competitive in terms of the start but this guy (Sutil) has some serious end-of-straight speed and I m sure he will do a fantastic job tomorrow and could be a strong force as well. So we have to make sure that we are on top of our game tomorrow, that s for sure.