Istanbul mistro Felipe Massa answers questions from the assembled media in the post race press conference.
The following is a transcript from press conference, which also included McLaren s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari s Kimi Raikkonen, who finished second and third respectively.
Q: Felipe, you like winning from pole. The Turkish Grand Prix always results in a winner from pole and everything delivered for you today.
Felipe MASSA: It is just fantastic. Today was a very difficult race actually and Lewis was pushing me hard a lot for the whole race. Then when I did my pit-stop he was there straight away, so I thought maybe he had put less fuel in or something. I then realised and my team told me straight away he was on three stops. For sure, that was a little bit of help as he was very strong and I couldn’t hold him on the track and he passed me. But then I knew I still had a good chance to win the race as three stops were a little bit optimistic. But anyway I created a reasonable gap to be at the front after the pit stops. It was difficult, but we made it three times in Turkey which is just fantastic. I think I can get a passport here already.
Q: Ferrari were very good on both types of Bridgestone tyre unlike most of the other cars in the field and starting on the option, or softer type of tyre, was unusual as far as rest of the grid was concerned.
Massa: Yeah, I was just talking with Kimi. Today was a very difficult day to choose the tyres as the difference was not so big from the soft to the hard, even on the first lap and during the run. The hard was much better on Friday but my softs survived quite well on Friday, so we were really keen to use the softs today. But then I saw Lewis going very quickly with the hards and we thought maybe it was a little bit of a mistake. In the last run I think the car was so easy to run on the hard that maybe it was the right choice to choose the hard.
Q: Lewis, I guess from where you were yesterday, when you weren’t too happy, to split the two Ferraris today is a great result for you.
Lewis HAMILTON: Absolutely. I am thrilled to have come second from third, but with the strategy we were on as you could tell yesterday I was a little bit disappointed with it. Heikki did a fantastic job and was able to out-qualify me with more fuel. But after looking at the data I realised I was happy with the tyre choice. I lost a little bit of time in my middle sector. Today we started on the harder tyre and knew it was going to be very tough to challenge the Ferraris and to be honest, we were just hoping to get some points. To finish in the top five would have been good. But the balance of the car was great and on the hard tyres I was able to keep up with Felipe and even overtake him. After that I was gone and I was able to keep pushing and pushing. At the end it was quite tough, the softer tyre was definitely the worse tyre but I am much happier.
Q: Do you think your second place is a result of switching to that three stop strategy?
Hamilton: Perhaps. The reason we went with a three stopper was due to Bridgestone being concerned as they thought the tyre was going to fail like it did last year. Therefore, they made us do a three stop as it was the safest route to go. Unfortunately for us, that put us in not such a strong position to win the race. However, I am given a problem and I deal with it and so do the team and that’s why I still believe that we are the best. I really have to say a big thank you to the team who did a great job in all the pit stops.
Q: When you were really quick with relatively light fuel it was sector three you were losing ground to the Ferraris, or not gaining ground. Is that a worry going into Monte Carlo?
Hamilton: I don’t see it as a worry. In Barcelona, the last sector which was all the tight corners, they were a little bit quicker than us there. It was the same here with the last three corners on the straight where they seemed to take quite a lot out of us. We are going to go back and try to understand exactly why and keep pushing to improve. I have no doubts that we can do that.
Q: Kimi, a good points’ scoring day for you. Tell us about that first corner incident with Heikki Kovalainen which resulted in a puncture for your compatriot.
Kimi RAIKKONEN: I didn’t have a very good start. I got to the side of him on the braking. Then I got a little bit squeezed on the inside and I tried to slow down and get behind him, but he just turned in a little bit. The unfortunate thing for both of us is that I broke the front wing and he had a puncture. It didn’t help for either of us. We chose to use the front wing for the whole race because it takes too long to change it and it wasn’t too bad. The weekend was a little bit difficult but at least we got some good points and we need to get a better weekend at the next race.
Q: What was the handling like with the broken front wing as you did set the fastest race lap?
Raikkonen: It wasn’t too bad, but it never helps as the end of the wing was damaged. It is difficult to say how much better or different it would have been with the proper wing but for sure it doesn’t help you.
Q: Part of that was starting on the slow, the dirty side of the grid, which was the result of a relatively poor qualifying for you. Can you talk us through your problems up to
Raikkonen: It wasn’t the best qualifying for me, but it has been my weakest points. We had a bit more fuel than the others which is one reason but also the lap wasn’t as good as I wanted. But anyhow I think it all started on Friday when we had a problem. But like I said we had a difficult weekend but I am still happy being in third place and we didn’t lose too many points. It is early season and we still have good points, so we will see what we can do in the next few races. The next two races last year were very difficult for us so we need to see how strong we can be and hopefully we can challenge for wins and go from there.
Q: Felipe, the Monte Carlo Grand Prix – the marquee race for Formula One – looks very good for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro.
Massa: Yeah, for sure last year was okay. I finished third in Monte Carlo but McLaren were very strong there. We have been working a lot – even from last year – on the set-up for Monte Carlo for this year, so hopefully we will have a good car and a good chance to win there as well. Having a good weekend would be definitely a good result, even being on the podium as you always want to score as many points as possible. We know Monte Carlo is a track which can be very tricky especially without traction control. But I am looking forward to being very strong there as well.
POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE
Q: Felipe, three time winner here, fantastic. Your feelings about this circuit?
Massa: It is just great. It is just fantastic to drive here. As I said yesterday it gives you a lot of pleasure as a driver to drive here. It gives you so many different corners and also having a great car like I had today it is definitely fantastic to fight for the victory and win. It was a very difficult race. We saw that Lewis was pushing very hard. In a way fortunately he had three stops, but it was difficult to hold him on the track as he was very quick. At that moment knowing he was on three stops it was maybe not so good to fight and risk the care knowing that it was pretty possible to get in front again which is what I did. It is just great to come back here at a track where I won for the first time. That is always special. To win for the third time in a row is difficult to explain my feelings.
Q: That overtaking manoeuvre. How did that come about from your point of view?
Massa: I was trying to go a little bit on the inside but then I saw him going almost on the gravel, so I didn’t risk going more to the left as it would not have been fair and maybe we were going to crash. I tried to brake a bit late but he was inside, knowing where I was braking, so it was much easier to try. Then when he tried I saw him on my inside and I said ‘okay go’ and we will see at the next stop how it is going to be. It was just fine and I was talking with my engineer and he told me the gap should definitely have been okay.
Q: So no problems during the race?
Massa: Maybe we made a small mistake, a very small mistake, because it is difficult to choose the right tyres here at the track. Our car was working very well on the soft for me on Friday, but not for Kimi. But on the hard it was very good. Then I said after three days the track will be much better, so I think the right directions will be the softs like most of the tracks are like that and the softs always work on the Sundays. But maybe the hard was a bit better knowing how quick Lewis was.
Q: Lewis, from your point of move where did that overtaking manoeuvre start? How did it happen for you?
Hamilton: Probably at the beginning of the lap. I knew that I was catching him and I knew that if I could keep close to him at the beginning of the lap I’d be able to tow him down the back straight. The good thing here is you are able to follow at some of the high speed corners, it is not too bad. I knew that also he was having a bit of traffic, so it was a perfect opportunity for me to get up behind him. So I just had to make sure I capitalised on that. I got a late braking into turn nine and managed to get on the power really early. The car was very nicely balanced but right at the end of the straight they are very quick, so even then once I pulled out of the slipstream he began to pull away again. But nevertheless I was able to outbrake him and pass and pull away. Perhaps if that had happened earlier we could have won the race or if I had done a better job in qualifying we probably would have won the race.
Q: How close was Kimi coming to challenge you at the end?
Hamilton: At the end of the race we turned the engine down and just looking after the car really. We knew that we had second place. If I needed to go a little bit quicker I could have, but there was no real need as he was never close enough to do anything. I just tried to keep him at bay. I was quite happy with the car on the hard tyres, but on the soft tyres it was a little bit trickier to maintain a decent gap. There was a lot of traffic at the end and I think they did quite a poor job in getting out of the way. I was behind someone for quite a while and although it looks like they were quite far away it does affect the handling of the car. They are not in my race as such, we are not racing us at the front and it made it quite difficult. But nevertheless I got on with it and came home with second.
Q: You have said you were almost pushed into a three stop strategy. Is that likely to happen elsewhere or is it something you can change on the car?
Hamilton: It won’t happen anywhere else. Last year I had the tyre blow-out here, so they were already quite worried. Coming into this weekend they thought they had fixed the problem and somehow we seemed to have the problem again. But then again in the race the tyres were fine. We were sort of put on the back foot going into qualifying knowing that we were not really in the shoot for the win even if we did get pole position. I struggled on my Q3 lap to get a good time, so even with a lighter car I was not able to put it on the front row. However, going into the race I remained optimistic and so did the team and we pushed through. I think the result is the result of hard work from all the guys. They did fantastic pit stops and I think for me I probably drove the best race I have ever done.
Q: Kimi, you were saying you weren’t too badly affected by the front wing damage, could you see what it was, could you feel it at all?
Raikkonen: I knew pretty much what had happened. I hit the rear wheel of Heikki and the bottom of the end plate came off. I didn’t look at the end how much it was damaged but for sure it doesn’t help, but it’s difficult to say how much the difference was.
Q: Are you in agreement with Felipe that perhaps the harder tyre was easier to use?
Raikkonen: Yeah, if I’d chosen now I would go onto the harder tyres at the first pit stop but it’s too late. I think the first set of soft worked pretty well for me, but the second set, when it was new, was quite difficult and it was at a point when we needed to be faster, so that’s one of the reasons that we lost second place, but anyhow, it’s been a difficult weekend, so third place is the best we could do.
Q: Did you pretty much settle for third, one hoped you would have a go at Lewis at the end?
Raikkonen: For sure we tried to be in second place but we couldn’t, so I would rather take third than anything else.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Lewis, you mentioned the tyre problems that you suffered this weekend. Just how much of a fear was it for you driving round today knowing that the tyre could have gone at any stage as it did in last year’s race?
Hamilton: For sure it was on my mind at some stages. I was having some vibrations and I wasn’t sure whether that was the tyre or whether that was a flat spot that I possibly picked up earlier on. So for sure it was in the back of my mind. I was checking the tyre nearly every lap on the exit of turn eight to see if… last time it was on the exit of turn eight it delaminated and the tyre exploded, so I was just making sure I kept an eye on that, so I could report to the team as quickly as possible and possibly come in. Fortunately the tyres were fine but no, it was all down to safety really, that was why we were forced into that because they didn’t want to have another incident, a bit like the last race or like last year. There’s nothing worse than having a tyre blow out at 200mph, so they tried to avoid that. Unfortunately, it put us on the back foot, as I said. Without a three stop perhaps we would have had a better chance of winning the race, but nevertheless, I’m very happy with second.
Q: (Bob McKenzie – The Daily Express) Lewis, did you say that you thought that that was the best race you’ve run and if so, what makes it that?
Hamilton: It doesn’t particularly matter whether you win or not, it’s whether you drive at one hundred percent, it’s whether you extract the most out of the car. It’s one of those times when you end the race and you ask yourself and you ask the team, could we have done a better job? And I strongly feel we couldn’t have done a better job. The pit stops were almost perfect, if not perfect, and I think my in laps, my out laps, they were stronger than ever and I just feel my race pace is getting stronger and stronger over the year, at each race. We had a strong showing in Barcelona and even stronger here. And we overtook a Ferrari.
Hamilton: Can I just go back to why I think it was my best race. Just another thing: my predicted race finish was fifth. It could have been a lot worst. If I had got a worse start and didn’t get away in second, then I probably would have come sixth or even worse, so with a three stop strategy that no one else had, I think, I just feel we did a fantastic job to bring it back up.
Q: (Will Buxton – Australasian Motorsport News) A question for all three of you: you’ve pretty much all admitted that the hard tyre is the one you would have preferred to have been on all weekend for the race. With that in mind and looking at the final stage of the race – the only time you were on the same fuel weights – how much do you feel the teams are now more on an even playing field, given that your sector times were pretty much identical to each other for the last ten/fifteen laps?
Hamilton: Coming into this weekend we knew that we had closed the gap, that we were going to be competitive and possibly be able to win the race. They still have a strong car but so do we, as you can see. The first two sectors were very strong. We need to figure out exactly how we can improve our last sectors because that’s where we are losing. If we didn’t have the problem in the last sector then we would be winning, so that’s something that we need to fix.
Massa: Well, I think we were very strong here during the first day, we were very strong yesterday during qualifying, seeing that we had more fuel than Lewis and similar fuel as
Heikki. But I think in the race, it’s difficult to measure. For sure, McLaren was very very strong here on the race pace, but we had a completely different choice of tyres, so maybe we need to wait and see when we have exactly similar conditions, run-by-run, plus they had a different strategy as well, so we need to wait and see, but for sure, they were very very competitive here.
Raikkonen: It’s the same answer really. It’s very difficult to say. Everybody did slightly different things, so you cannot really be a hundred per sure, but I still think that once we get everything running, we can win all the races, so every race we at least have a chance. For sure it’s closer now than it was a few races ago but I still think we have a good car and a good package.
Q: (Juha Paatalo – Financial Times Germany) Kimi, this was certainly a weekend where the nine point lead that you had coming here helped you. What are your thoughts about the championship, still having a seven point lead after such a problematic weekend?
Raikkonen: Like I said before, this race is early in the season and it’s good to have a little gap to the others but we already saw today – or this weekend – that if you cannot get everything out of the car then you are going to lose some points. We’ve lost a few points now but it doesn’t change too much. I don’t worry about it too much. We go race by race and try to win and try to gain the points on the others, but sometimes you need to be happy with what you get and today was one of those days, so this weekend I was never really where I wanted to be but six points is still good.
Q: (Juha Paatalo – Financial Times Germany) This one is for Felipe: this win has suddenly brought you back into the title race; what are your thoughts about the title right now?
Massa: Well, I’m right in there in the fight. If you look at the past races, Kimi won one, I won the next one, Kimi won again, and I won this race. For sure it’s always very tight, the competition is very high, but after some races I feel that I can be competitive everywhere and I’m just happy to reduce the gap a little bit, being similar to Lewis and just concentrate on the next races. We know that sometimes you can win, sometimes you cannot win, but you need to score points like Kimi did today. It’s important to be competitive and then in the last three races you’re going to see who is going to have the greater chance to win but it’s important to be consistent and trying to get a lot of points race-by-race, even if it’s first or third or fifth, whatever.
Q: (Bob McKenzie – The Daily Express) Lewis, you said earlier that you could have won the race if you’d done a better job in qualifying, but isn’t that being a bit hard on yourself, given the limitations and restrictions that Bridgestone put on you?
Hamilton: Yeah, I’m always hard on myself. I sat down last night and I was ticked off yesterday, I wasn’t particularly happy with the job I did and at the end of the day the team give me a car and I’ve got to go out and drive one hundred percent and I didn’t extract one hundred percent from the car. That’s why I’m always hard on myself because we’re top drivers, we should be able to do it. But it appears to be a lot harder for me or in our car to do a solid lap. It looks a lot easier for them, so that’s something we need to keep pushing. Perhaps we’ve sacrificed a bit of qualifying pace for race pace, perhaps we need to work on bringing them both up.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto Moto und Sport) Kimi, you lost two positions going into the first corner, was it not such a good start due to the line you had to start on or was there a technical problem?
Raikkonen: The inside line is never going to be as good as the clean side but also, when I was side-by-side with Heikki and then he was turning in and I needed to slow down because otherwise we would have hit hard, so both of us were pretty slow in the corner, so I think people came round the outside. I think Kubica or somebody else came and passed us. I lost some places there but it all started to go wrong at that point.
Q: (Will Buxton – Australasian Motorsport News) Lewis, going back to the question of tyres, obviously we’ve got two compounds running each weekend. Was the fear of delamination equal with both compounds of tyre and what does the team think it is that’s been causing that fear of delamination over the Turkish weekend?
Hamilton: It was with both sets of tyres but we’re not sure of the reason. Basically we need to look into it more, but they’ve taken the tyres away and analysed them and saw there was some problem with the tyre, it was failing, or looking like it was going to be failing. Fortunately they made the right choice, it was the right choice at the beginning, and we made the best job that we could with them.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado do Sao Paulo) Kimi, after seeing Hamilton in front of you after the last pit stop, did you believe it was possible for you to overtake him?
Raikkonen: It’s always difficult to overtake but we tried, we tried to push him but unfortunately we couldn’t get close enough because we knew that we have good straight-line speed on the back straight but if you don’t get close enough… I was always catching him but I was too far away, so there was nothing that we could do.