After a storming drive to take victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen answered questions from the World’s media at a post race press conference at the Sepang circuit. The following is a transcript from the aforementioned press conference, which also included BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica and McLaren Mercedes’s Heikki Kovalainen, who finished second and third respectively.
Q: Kimi, that was a fantastic win and from the start it looked like a very close race between you and your team-mate Felipe Massa.
Kimi RÃ„IKKÃ–NEN: Yeah, I think so. We were pretty similar speed-wise. Once he went into the pits my car got much better because when you are one or two seconds behind it is a massive difference. I was able to go much quicker on my in-lap and I could pass him. After that when you are in free air the car was handling perfectly and I was able to pull away. After a few laps I don t know what happened to him but it was a pretty easy race after that first pit stop.
Q: You were obviously outqualified by him by a small margin. In retrospect did that reflect the fuel load or was the car a lot better on race day than it had been on Saturday?
KR: I think sometimes that we still have some difficulties to get the qualifying right. It was good in Q2 but then in qualifying two we could not find the grip with the tyres. But we knew we were running one lap longer, so I was not really panicking. The car usually has been much stronger in the race for us than in the qualifying, so as long as we kept close I thought we would have a good chance to pass him and it worked out in the first pit stop already. The car was very good all weekend but sometimes with new tyres it is difficult to get the best out of it. The team did a great job this weekend.
Q: You seemed to make a pretty good start. Talk us through the first corner as it was pretty close there and for a moment it looked as if perhaps you might have a go.
KR: Yeah, I got alongside Felipe. I got a bit better start but in the situation I knew that we would run one lap longer, so we didn t want to risk it between the team-mates in the first corner. Maybe if I had pushed harder I could have made it past, but I decided to stay behind and try my move at the pit stop. I think that was better for everybody and it worked out perfectly.
Q: The Malaysian Grand Prix, traditionally, is a very tough race particularly in terms of the heat. But you jumped out of the car and looked pretty fresh when you got out.
KR: It wasn t too bad really. Of course it is hotter than any other race. Australia was hot but in here it is so humid but for me it was okay. There was a small issue on the podium.
Q: There was champagne under the eye-lid there.
KR: Yeah, we should put it in the mouth not in the eye. Things go wrong sometimes. Anyway it has been a perfect weekend.
Q: Robert, congratulations to you. Your team-mate Nick Heidfeld finished sixth and set fastest race lap. A great day for the BMW Sauber team.
Robert KUBICA: I think it is a fantastic result for the team second time we have second place in a grand prix in a row. After an unlucky Australian Grand Prix finally a podium after Monza 2006, so I am very happy for myself and for the team.
Q: Simple words, but of course a very tough race and you did drive beautifully. Talk us through the race in terms of your tyre choice and perhaps the effect of the heat and strategy and what it was like in the closing stages?
RK: I didn t have a good start. There was some wheel-spin at the start which compromised my acceleration, so it was quite close with (Jarno) Trulli and Nick. I nearly lost the car on the braking into the first corner as I was inside on the dirty side but I think they touched, so I managed to overtake them. I was trying to keep a consistent pace. We know we cannot keep behind Ferrari but I was trying to make up time as I thought McLaren would be a bit stronger. I saw after the second pit stop that Heikki was around 17 seconds behind me and didn t close the gap. We did the last pit stop and then just pulled down the revs to keep the engine a bit fresh for the next grand prix which is very important. For the heat it was a tough race and I didn t feel well all weekend. I was a bit sick and especially our new car is very hot inside. The last 10 laps were pretty tough to keep concentration as 20 seconds in front was Kimi and 20 seconds behind was Heikki, so I was just cruising to the end.
Q: The drink in the car. How was that towards the end of the ace?
RK: Our drink is already hot at the beginning of the race extremely hot as in the cockpit we have massive temperatures, so I didn t drink a lot as the drink was too hot. Next time I try to use hot tea inside the bottle.
Q: You were behind the Ferraris early on. Where were they quicker and where are you going to be working on improving the car in the upcoming weeks?
RK: First of all I think we have to be happy with our pace already now because at the start of the season it did not look so well. It is very difficult to say where they are quicker. For sure on the top speed we are lacking a bit and it makes for tough racing because you have to push really hard in the corners knowing that in the straight you will be losing a bit of a gap. Especially on the long distance race it is not easy with tyre degradation and with the new tarmac and the new asphalt here in Sepang we were lacking traction compared to last year, so we will have to work on this.
Q: Heikki, congratulations to you. P3 in qualifying but in fact starting eighth on the grid. But finishing third on the podium what a fantastic day for you.
Heikki KOVALAINEN: We have to be pleased with the result. Obviously after yesterday s penalty it was going to be hard day for us. My strategy worked out very well and I was able to be in the clean air almost all the time. There was a little trouble in the first stint with a bit of graining but after that the car worked pretty well and then on the last stint I also had a gap to the front and to the back, so we turned the engines down and we just brought it home. For me a pretty good day, although we still would have liked to have been a couple of positions higher but today this was the maximum we could do.
Q: A great strategy stopping as late as lap 20 and in that extended first stint being able to pass for example Jarno Trulli and then consolidating that position with pressure from the Toyota for a while.
HK: It was always going to be the laps at the end of the stint that we felt we would be stronger compared to the others. Like I said, earlier on in the stints there was a bit of graining compromising our pace a little bit. That s why the team decided to keep me on the track a bit longer. It was absolutely the right thing to do and I was able to jump Jarno. It was in the second stint that I was able to accelerate and bring it home.
Q: A great drive and again difficult conditions in many ways. Perhaps your drive was the hardest of the three here. How was it for you in the cockpit?
HK: It is always tough but I feel fairly good after the race, no big problems. We worked very hard with the team and with my trainer, with my doctor, to make sure that I am in a good shape and in a better shape compared to last year. I think the work has paid off but we will carry on like this and eventually we will arrive in the other position.
Q: Kimi, what a fantastic bounce back for the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team after that weekend in Australia?
KR: For sure we had quite a difficult weekend in Australia. We didn t really expect to have such difficulties and we were 100 per cent sure that it was going to be different here. Speed-wise we knew that we were going to be fine once we were in the right place. Even in Australia the speed should have been okay in the race. Everything worked perfectly here and we took it quite easy in the race to make sure nothing went wrong. We still have a second race with the same engine, so we saved the engine quite well here. It was a perfect job by the team after a difficult first race to come back like this. Overall we would have been happier if Felipe had been on the second place but things go wrong sometimes. This is a good start now for the season for us and we are in a pretty good position.
Q: Kimi, congratulations. It has really looked good all weekend, hasn t it?
KR: Yeah, I think so. The car has been good all weekend. Of course we had a small problem in first practice on Friday. The car was not exactly what we wanted in qualifying but we knew that we should have a good race pace and it worked out perfectly.
Q: Who have you felt most threatened by during the weekend?
KR: For sure Felipe has been fast but like I said from last year already that the qualifying has not really been the strongest point. Again we had a good Q2, then the tyres didn t work as well in the final qualifying. That was a bit disappointing but I mean we knew that the car would be strong in the race and we would stop one lap later. We put a lot of effort on that and it worked out good.
Q: Do you think your pace was comparable to Felipe?
KR: We were very close in the first stint. Once he went into the pit my car was much faster. When you do not have anybody in front of you it improves a lot. After the pit stop we were quite easy to pull away from him in the clear air. It is always difficult to follow people close and you need to be very close to be able to pass them at the pit stops so it makes it more difficult.
Q: And after that quite a lonely race, really.
KR: Yeah. For sure we could have gone much faster if we had pushed but we had already turned the engines down before the first pit stop, after the first laps, so it was quite easy for us.
Q: In fact, talking of lonely races, Robert, you had no one anywhere near you: twenty seconds in each direction.
RK: Yeah, that s true. Only at the beginning of the race I had a close fight with Jarno and Nick, into the first corner. I didn t manage a good start but afterwards I was trying to increase the gap to the drivers behind. I was expecting McLaren to come on strong. It didn t happen, luckily for us, and we had quite good pace for the whole race.
Q: It was the best result of your career and also your major sponsor s home race, so what does this result mean to you?
RK: After a disappointing race in Australia where I qualified second with a small mistake which cost me pole position, the race pace in Australia was not really fantastic, especially in the first stint. Here we worked mainly on the race pace. I knew with some solutions which we chose in qualifying, we would suffer a bit, but then in the race it paid off, so I m very happy for myself, for the team and for Petronas.
Q: How do you see your pace in comparison to Ferrari?
RK: I think Ferrari was something special because they were not where we were expecting them to be, and here they are exactly where we think that they are. We are lacking a few tenths per lap and this brings the final twenty seconds in the race of sixty laps.
Q: You had a bit of a battle with Jarno, Heikki. Were you basically looking to overtake during the pit stops?
HK: Yeah, that was always going to be the case. In my race today I suffered a little bit at the beginning of the first and second stints, with a little bit of graining with my front tyres, so the only time for me really to attack was at the end of the stint. The car was getting better towards the end of the stint and I was able to push more. So I wasn t too worried when Jarno was behind me, because I knew that I was going very long in the second stint, and I was fairly sure that he wouldn t be going that long, so I just kept it nice and easy with my tyres, trying to make sure they were in good shape whenever he pitted and I was able to do a few good laps at that point and for the last stint it was relatively easy.
Q: Was there much difference between the tyre performance?
HK: The first stint didn t feel quite as good with the softer tyre. The second stint felt better with the harder one but then the last stint on the softer tyre felt good again. I think there was a bit of track evolution. So it wasn t too bad.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) Kimi and Heikki, this was the greatest ever Grand Prix result for Finnish drivers. How does it feel to be a Finn and when will we see a one-two result?
KR: It hasn t changed anything, even the results, for me at least. For sure it was a good day for Finns but it s still early season. Hopefully at some point we will be one and two, but I will be looking for first place all the time and a best possible overall result. It was a good day for us.
HK: Yeah, pretty much the same for me. It s good to have Finns here on the podium and in Finland they are talking about the Formula One Finnish championship but let s see if it carries on like this. There are many other good drivers and it s not always going to be like this, but I wouldn t complain if it happened a few more times.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, were you surprised at the start when Felipe was closing on you a little bit?
KR: Not really. I think I had enough space. He was pushing me a little bit on the right side but that s racing. It was OK.
Q: (Mark Danby Auto Magazine China) Kimi, did your tyres behave to your expectations at the end of each stint?
KR: No. The first stint was the most difficult because I was quite close to Felipe so, like I said, once he came into the pits, the car suddenly felt much better. It s always when you re one or two seconds behind somebody that there s still a massive effect on the aerodynamics. Apart from that, it was very good, the tyres felt perfect. I think the soft tyre could have been the faster one in the end, but of course we didn t push any more in the last two stints.
Q: (Juha PÃ¤Ã¤talo Financial Times Germany) Kimi, after the quite disastrous race in Australia, how much more confidence do you take from this race that the rest of the season will be OK?
KR: We never lost confidence in our team. Of course we had quite a difficult race in Australia, but the whole winter the car has been working well, it s been quick. Unfortunately we had some problems which we didn t really expect at the first race and hopefully we can get rid of them like here where we didn t have any issues but you never know, we re still not one hundred percent happy with things. We still try to improve them but for sure, we have confidence in the team, in the car, in the people, so we will definitely do the best that we can, and hopefully we can be fast again in the next race.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, were you surprised McLaren were so far behind you?
KR: No, I think it s been the same all weekend. I already said in Australia that our speed should be fine. When you start behind someone, as in Australia, you can never use your own speed. Australia is not exactly a normal circuit, so sometimes you get slightly wrong results there. Last year we were much faster than everybody there, and coming here we were not so happy anymore, so it s a bit the opposite now. I think the next race can be different again, so we need to wait and see and after a few races we will get a clearer picture where we are exactly.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Kimi, in the lap that you came in for the first pit stop, you did the best T1 and T2 times of the race at that stage. Could you do that with Massa in front of you or did you expect him to go into the pits to do that?
KR: Like I said already, when he went in my car got much better because I was quite close. It always affects the car. I think it needs to be around six seconds in front of you before you don t feel anything anymore. I was only less than two seconds, so once he pulled in my car just got much quicker and I was able to go more than half a second faster on the in lap. It was enough, we knew that it was going to be close and it worked out perfectly. Once I was in front of him the car was much better in the second stint and I was able to pull away.
Q: (Juha PÃ¤Ã¤talo Financial Times Germany) Heikki, even in the middle stint, when you couldn t quite go at the pace of the BMWs, although you said that the tyres were working quite well, do you think you had no chance to beat them today, and how do you see your team in comparison to Ferrari?
HK: I think there was no way we could match Ferrari. BMW also seemed to be very strong on race day, but then again, when you start further down on the grid, it s always going to be a compromise. You initially lose quite a lot of time, the first few laps you can lose a couple of seconds a lap if you get stuck in traffic and you re fighting for position, so by the time I sort of got going in the race, the gap to Robert was seventeen seconds. It s impossible to say what would have happened had we started where we qualified, but in any case, I think we did the maximum today that was possible and third place for me was more than enough today.