Post Race Press Conference, Attended By:
1. Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), 1h31m36.230s
2. Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren Mercedes), 1h31m43.020s
3. Fernando ALONSO (McLaren Mercedes), 1h31m53.686s
Q: Felipe, you said yesterday that it would very much come down to the first corner and the start, and that defined the race for you.
Felipe MASSA: Well, it was a little bit tight for both of us but I was just inside and I went for it so it was quite a risk for both of us, but looking at the competition and everything, the first corner is important. I just didn t want to lose out like I lost out in Malaysia. I was inside, so I just tried to stay there.
Q: I have to ask if there was any contact between you and Fernando in that first corner?
FM: Yeah, we touched. We were both very close going into the first corner. Fernando was trying to push me inside and we just touched each other. It was a very small contact but I was also a bit afraid for my car afterwards but fortunately nothing happened.
Q: And it was a relatively straightforward race but we did see a small fuel fire in your first pit stop.
FM: Ah. I didn t know that. It s not important any more. We finished with no problems, so if we had a little problem, I m sure the problem was solved.
Q: Let s talk about the later stages of the race: you made a relatively early second pit stop but a troublefree afternoon for you after that?
FM: Yeah, for sure I think the most difficult part of the race was the start. It was pretty tough but afterwards I saw that nothing had happened to my car, that the car was responding quite well and I was managing to build a gap, quite a good gap, straightaway, so after that, I had the race in my hands. I was just concerned about the car, it was the second race for the engine but looking at the gap I was building, I think I had the race in my hands there.
Q: And perhaps some concern with your team-mate Kimi, having what is suspected to be an electronic problem?
FM: I really don t know what happened with Kimi. I just heard my engineer tell me that Kimi was in trouble. It s a shame for the Constructors championship because we could have finished in a good position, even first and second, so let s try to do that next time.
Q: Lewis, you take over the mantle of youngest driver to lead the World Championship from Bruce McLaren, the man who founded the team for which you drive. A great first corner, I guess, from your point of view.
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, absolutely. Going into the race, we knew we had a very good strategy. At this track you can t really overtake, so the key is to try and get the best position in the first corner and so the aim was to get as many places at the first corner and fortunately I got past Kimi but Fernando and Felipe touched and I was able to get past Fernando. It was very close, I think when he came back on, he nearly hit me but nevertheless, we managed to pull it off. We didn t particularly have the pace of Felipe but I think we took another step closer and, as I said to him just now, we ll get him soon.
Q: It turns out you had a little bit more fuel on board than Felipe at that point. Was that a critical issue at that point of the race?
LH: I think so. He did already pull out quite a good gap. So when he pitted in front of me, a few laps before me, I knew I would be quick, but I would only get him back maybe four seconds, so I just had to keep pushing and try to do the best job I could, but the middle stint again wasn t great. But at the end, I think we had a very good pace and very similar times to Felipe.
Q: Different tyre choice to your teammate Fernando. You were on the harder tyre at the end of the race.
LH: Yes, we were trying to decide whether to run two primes or an option or a prime in the second and third stints and we weren t really quite sure and five laps before the pit stop we made the decision and stuck with it and I think it went quite well. But as I said, we struggled in the middle stint with a bit of oversteer but still the team has done a fantastic job over the last four weeks, really really pushed hard, so thank you to all the guys back home. You ve really done a great job and I m just pleased for the team. We re leading the Constructors titles and now leading the (Drivers ) championship.
Q: Well, your thoughts on leading the World Championship?
LH: I keep saying that I m living my dream, and it s really true, you know. I ve been working so hard for this and to come to only my fourth Grand Prix to come out of it leading the World Championship when I m driving with the top drivers in the world is just incredible.
Q: Fernando, a fantastic start on the outside of Felipe going into turn one, and you nearly made it.
Fernando ALONSO: Yes. Unfortunately, it was not enough and I lost three places after that touch and from there onâ€¦ I think that if you are fourth in the first corner with a little bit less fuel than your opponents I think the race becomes very very complicated.
Q: Describe that first corner incident from your point of view?
FA: Well, it was very tight. I think the start was very similar between the two cars but then obviously I put myself behind Felipe and thanks to the slipstream I was a little bit quicker. I went on the outside, I braked later and I think I was much in front of him in the first corner, but unfortunately he didn t think so and we touched each other. We were lucky to both finish the race because in 99 percent of these type of incidents, both cars will finish (their race) at the first corner. Sometimes I think this type of thing is very dangerous.
Q: And your car was damaged too, a bargeboard was flapping around towards the end of the race.
FA: Yeah, of course, I think the car was damaged all through the race and unfortunately it was a little bit more difficult to drive. We also took the gamble when we took the prime tyre in the first stop, just to see if there was some advantage there because we needed a miracle after being third, a little bit too far behind the first two people on lap 15 or lap 16, so we took the gamble and it was not fantastic. So we went back to the option tyre at the end, and the car became a little bit quicker. After the first corner, you need to risk too many things and it s difficult that everything goes well after that.
Q: And in your home Grand Prix today, obviously a feeling of disappointment for you.
FA: Yeah, of course, no doubt there is disappointment with the race itself. After the first corner, you can try as hard as you can, you can put on different sets of tyres compared to your rivals, you can put on whatever you want. But being fourth, as I said, thanks to Kim s retirement – otherwise I probably wouldn t be on the podium – after starting second, that was not the aim of the race.
Q: Felipe, during those early stages, were you surprised at the gap you were managing to pull out?
FM: A little bit, yes, especially in the beginning when in three or four laps, I managed to pull away three seconds or something. Then I was getting half a second quicker per lap, so that was a little bit of a surprise. I knew that Lewis was a little bit heavier, looking at the times he did in qualifying but it was a little bit of a surprise. But anyway, I just took the advantage of that to pull away and make the biggest gap I could to be a little bit more relaxed in the second part of the race.
Q: And even in the second stint, it went from something like 8.9s out to nearly 19sâ€¦
FM: Yeah, which was even better. I just heard now, from them, that they took the decision to go on the hard tyres in the second stint, which for me was even better, because I had good grip, good stability on the soft tyres, so it was even better for me to pull away even more. And then in the last stint, I went to the hard tyres and the car was a little bit more difficult but I was also more relaxed as well.
Q: Monaco next, always a bit of a lottery thereâ€¦
FM: Yeah, it s a lottery and hopefully we can have a bit of luck in this lottery.
Q: Lewis, well done but to see Felipe disappearing like that must be a little bit of a worry.
LH: I m not particularly worried. They obviously had very good pace. We were slightly heavier in the first stint and also in the second stint but we just struggled at the beginning to warm the tyres up, a bit of oversteer, and that enabled him to pull away. Then the car s balance came quite good and I was able to produce the same sort of times as him, but by then he had already got quite a big gap but I kept pushing. It got to the second stint and again, we just struggled a bit in traffic. I was a bit unfortunate coming down the pit straight and one of the Spyker cars came out and I literally came across it in the corner and got stuck behind it, but that s racing. I m really happy with it still. We re leading the championship and I couldn t be happier.
Q: That must be an amazing feeling for you.
LH: It is. It is. I was just saying in the press conference (unilateral) that I ve been working so many years for this, me and my family, and to finally be in this position is really a dream and it really is now just getting bigger, it s quite amazing to be leading after only my fourth Grand Prix but it s good and I m enjoying it and I need to keep on enjoying it and really just keep on building on the points that I have.
Q: How do you prepare for Monaco. We were saying it s a bit of a lotteryâ€¦
LH: I don t see it as a lottery. Monaco has always been a very strong race for me and I was saying to Felipe that one day we will get you and you never know whether it s that one orâ€¦
FM: You re right in my front.
LH: But I think we ll be very strong in Monaco, so I m looking forward to it. Again, that s one where we re going to be pushing hard to get as many points as we can but for sure, I m going to be going in for a win.
Q: Fernando, you seemed to find grip off the line on the dirty side of the track, where, in GP2, both of the people who started on that side didn t make very good starts.
FA: I don t think the start itself was very good. It was very similar to Felipe, even a little bit worse but then the straight is very long here up to the first corner and I was able to take a tow from him in the slipstream and to catch him a little bit into the braking point.
Q: What has it been like here with 140,000 people, most of them cheering for you?
FA: Yeah, it s been fantastic but obviously I think I enjoyed the parade lap more on the truck because you can hear the people and you can see all the little messages they put there. When you are in the car, it s very difficult to hear anything with engine noise.
Q: But a little bit of a disappointment at the end.
FA: No doubt. I think I started in second, three hundredths of a second from pole position. I was leading the race in the first corner and I was off the track in the second corner, soâ€¦ Being fourth in the second corner with two or three laps less fuel than the people in front of you, I think your race is a little bit over and I think I also had a little damage to the car, so it s difficult, after 500 meters of the race, when to reach your goal is a little bit over.
Q: Does that change your approach in future races?
FA: No, no, it will be exactly the same. I think my approach will always be to try to win the race, try to beat the others and for sure, try to catch Ferrari that seems a little bit quicker than us: qualifying and in the race especially. I think Felipe was 30 seconds in front of me in the middle of the race, and I think that s a little bit too much.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ed Gorman The Times) Fernando, you seemed to imply that Felipe drove dangerously. Is that what you want us to believe?
FA: I don t want to say anything that you should believe, or should not believe. I think what I mean is that in this type of incident 99 per cent of the time both cars will finish in the first corner as we saw in GP2. I think when you are fighting for the championship it is very risky to be as aggressive as this in the first corner, sometimes, and I only mean that. We were lucky today that both cars finished, one first and one third, and thanks to that the incident will become a little less important.
Q: (StÃ©phane BarbÃ© L Equipe) Felipe, you said you were not aware you had a flash fire at the first pit stopâ€¦
FM: I did not know this. I did not see anything. It was not a dangerous thing and I think they solved the problem. Everything was normal.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, do you think that Felipe was not too correct in that first corner?
FA: No, I don t mean that. You will keep asking me until I say something wrong and I will not say. I think what I mean is that it was a very risky point in the race and I nearly finished my race in the first corner, unfortunately, when I felt that I went into the corner a little in front of the other car.
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi – Tuttosport) Felipe, we have Fernando s opinion about the first corner. The question is: do you think too great a risk? Or not?
FM: Both of usâ€¦ But usually I was inside, so I had the car inside, so I don t understand his point. It was just a normal race accident and as long as I am inside, close to the car going to the first corner, I will keep there. I will not move. So, if somebody was aggressive, it was Fernando, it was not me.
Q: (Juha PÃ¤Ã¤talo Financial Times Germany) Felipe, you are now the Ferrari driver with most points, what does that mean for the rest of the season for you?
FM: Try to make more pointsâ€¦ Just to try and work hard and make points. To keep working and doing the job, that s it. So, I think the job this weekend was fantastic. Unfortunately, Kimi had a problem. I am sure we had a very good car and it was possible even to finish first and second so just that s it. Keep working. I think the job done in the factory and at the track was very good. So we just need to keep that job going.
Q: (Luis Fernando Ramos Racing Magazine) Felipe, Ferrari have three wins and four poles this year, but McLaren is leading the championship. Will reliability be the key to the championship and are you concerned at Ferrari s reliability?
FM: For sure, if you saw that we finished with just one car, it is a concern. We need to improve and make everything right, so that we finish the race with both cars so the consistency of both cars is very important in the championship. We need to keep improving. And if McLaren finish every race with both cars, then that is very important.
Q: (Michael Schmidt Auto Motor und Sport) Fernando, you decided to use the harder tyre in the middle stint. Why? Was it a good idea?
FA: Well, as I said before, being fourth in the second corner and with one or two laps less fuel than our main opponents, I think your race is a little bit over. It is difficult to overtake anyone on the track and I think that strategically it is difficult to stop one or two laps earlier. So at that time we thought that the prime tyre was maybe a surprise in terms of grip and performance we were unsure before the race so we took the gamble. We took the prime tyre in the first stint and kept our fingers crossed and waited to see the result. Looking back at the race, it was not a very good idea because when I put the soft tyres on after the second stop, for the last stint, the car became much quicker and easier so maybe the softer tyre was quicker and better for the middle stint. But I think the final result would have been exactly the same if I had put the same tyres as Lewis and Felipe I would have been behind them all through the race.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Lewis, now you have the outright lead in the championship, do you feel greater belief that you can win the title?
LH: I wouldn t say thatâ€¦ It does certainly feel positive. Even from the last race, we knew that there was a possibility of winning the championship, but we have to be realistic. It is only my first season and there are going to be ups and downs. I have done a good job up to now and the team have done a fantastic job and as long as we keep the reliability good on the car and I don t make any mistakes then I am sure we can continue with the performance that we have. If we can keep on scoring points, and keep on getting podiums, then the results will be good I thinkâ€¦
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, is Lewis now a different opponent for you than he was a few races ago?
FA: No. I think it is still the same. He is still my team-mate. After one or two races, we saw him become a championship contender and we still see him as one now. In a way, I look at him the same way I look at Kimi or Felipe, opponents for the championship. I have to beat them all if I want to become champion, but he is the one who worries me least because he is my team-mate and we are here to help each other. I worry more about the Ferrari pace than if Lewis is two points ahead of me.
Q: (Carlos Miguel Diario AS) Fernando, which driver stayed on the correct side for the second corner? And do you think the stewards should investigate the incident?
FA: I don t know. I think the stewards are a little bit up and down. They investigated me last year in Monza when I was half a kilometre in front of the other car and maybe this year they don t investigate too much these things. I think the incident is one for which everyone can have his own opinion. If you look at my car, at my side-pod and the rear side of the car, it is completely touched. I think that shows everybody who arrived first into the corner. I was more than half a car in front. The other question, I don t know.
Q: (Carlos Miguel Diario AS) And Lewis, what was your opinion of the incident?
LH: I got on with my race and I didn t see it. I was focusing on my job.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Will this incident change the relationship between you two, Alonso and Massa?
FM: For me, for sure, notâ€¦ If I am wrong, which in my career I have always been the first one to say when I am wrong, or made a mistake, but this time don t tell me I made a mistake. Come on, this is racing. This is Formula One and this is the first corner. When I make a mistake I will be the first one to say.
FA: Yes, same thing. It will not change anything. We were racing and these things happen. As I said before, these things normally have both cars DNF. So we were lucky to finish. Nothing changed.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti Corriere della Sera) Felipe, did you talk to Michael (Schumacher) at the end of the race? Did he congratulate you?
FM: Yes, I said thanks to him for last year because it was a good school and I learned quite a lot.
Q: (Juha PÃ¤Ã¤talo Financial Times Germany) Lewis, did you ever think this was possible for you to lead the championship after four races when the season began?
LH: No, not at all. I came in with an open mind just to do the best job I could. I knew from testing that we had a similar pace to Fernando, but the races are a different thingâ€¦ I just wanted to do a good job and that is what I am doing. With that in mind, I ve got the points. But, no, I definitely did not expect to do as well as I am doing.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) When did you realise you were leading the championship?
LH: I knew it straightaway after my third pit-stop that if I was second and I had Fernando behind me that I would be leading, I knew that in my own mindâ€¦I wanted to win, so I kept pushing.