With less than 24 hours before the cars hit the track in preparation for Sunday’s potentially title deciding Brazilian Grand Prix, championship leader Jenson Button and his main contenders, teammate Rubens Barrichello and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, spoke to the assembled media about their individual challenges this weekend.
Button and Barrichello did their best to brush off any inkling of pressure;
They revealed that the Brawn team had brought a few new updates to improve laptime in the high speed corners;
Vettel confirmed he is going all out for the win;
All three discussed the challenge posed by a wet race this weekend;
Barrichello talked about racing in front of his home crowd, his ill-luck at Sau Paulo, and the possibility of racing for Williams next year;
Button said he needed to strike a balance between caution and aggression this weekend.
Q: Gentlemen, first of all questions to you all. Are there any particular preparations you have made for this race? Who would like to start? Sebastian. You have prayed for rain obviously.
Sebastian VETTEL: Yes, successfully today. No, we will see. Nothing special really. I have been here a couple of times and I like the circuit. It is up and down but preparation-wise nothing special.
Jenson BUTTON: Not really. I’ve been spending a few days in the sun which is quite nice before coming here. I arrived here on Tuesday to get used to the time zone but it is really strange with the weather. Tuesday it was cold, yesterday it was really hot and today it is raining. It is very up and down with the conditions and it is going to be the same for the weekend. There is a very good chance of rain but also there is the possibility of it being dry, so it’s a tough one. It’s the same for all of us and I am sure we will make the best out of every situation.
Q: Rubens? A few laps with the children?
Rubens BARRICHELLO: I have been spending my time booking churrascarias for friends of mine. I got into Brazil on Tuesday morning after Japan, so just my normal life. Exercising, picking up the kids from school and just being at home exercising nicely. It was a day off last Monday, so we had time to stay away from Sao Paulo a little bit more which was good.
Q: Any particular efforts your team has been making or any modifications coming here?
SV: We had a very good package for Singapore. If you look at the last two races we have been very competitive even though the circuits are very different to each other. For here we have got another couple of things in the bag. As you have probably seen from Japan, Mark (Webber) tested another kind of front wing, so it should be another step forward, so it should be good.
JB: We have got a few changes which should help us here. It should help us around a circuit like this quite a bit. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but in Suzuka we were very quick in sectors two and three. In qualifying I was actually purple but the first sector we struggled massively. Mid-speed changes of direction we really struggled and that’s where we lost all of our time in Suzuka. But the changes that we have got for this race should help out a little bit but also the areas that are crucial on this type of circuit should be a good step forward.
RB: It is good. We know where the problem was the last few races, so we kind of addressed the problems and the track should suit us very well. The weather is the only thing that we should pay attention to but I am quite optimistic for the home grand prix.
Q: All of you have got races that you look back at and think ‘if only such and such hadn’t happened’. Do you do that as the championship gets tighter and tighter?
SV: It doesn’t help. I mean, it’s done. Looking back I had five races where I didn’t finish, so of course it doesn’t help. But we cannot change it now, so nothing to regret. I think it is still a good season for us, the best one we have ever had, so very positive and we can still do it. Of course it is a couple of points in between us and the leader but anything is possible and we are here to win.
JB: I think it is the same for all of us. That’s the way it is over a 17 race season. There are races which you are very happy with and other races which you are not. As Sebastian said it is all in the past and it is about making the most out of the next two races. There are the most important two races for all three of us this season and I am coming into this race looking forward to it. This is a circuit I enjoy. After here we have Abu Dhabi which is new for all of us, so it is going to be a challenge. But there is no point looking back. Mentally I don’t think it is good looking back. I think it is better to look forward and that is exactly what I am doing.
RB: Since I have changed my brake material for Silverstone I have been very happy. In terms of performance it has been quite good and I am just driving a car that I think has been very fast and consistent. The season showed ups and downs for everyone. I think Brawn is the one that when it has been down it has still been okay. I have been very happy. The second part of my season has been quite good and I just hope I can keep it on.
Q: Sebastian, it is a big mountain to climb. Two wins. Surely the pressure is great or would you say the pressure is not great at all?
SV: I mean the only thing I can do is win. The pressure is on the two people in front of me. For me it is pretty straightforward. You don’t have to be a genius to work out that from now on we simply have to win the two races and hope that those two mess it up.
Q: And after Japan are you riding on the crest of a wave?
SV: I think so. Both the last two races, Singapore and Japan, were very good for us. Obviously, Singapore should have been a bit better but it is in the past now and I am just hoping those three points are not missing in the end. But we will see. Japan, obviously, was fantastic for us. The car was great all weekend, so looking forward to the next two races.
Q: Jenson, has it been car confidence? Has it been this change mid-corner or has it been starting behind Rubens? What has been the problem over the last few races?
JB: The last race was obviously difficult because of the starting position and the mistake on Saturday with the yellow flags and in Singapore the qualifying was difficult. We were trying to find the maximum from the car but we went a little bit too far and the car was running a bit low and I hit the brakes and locked up. But the race pace has been very good. I think I have got the most out of the car, what there has been to take in the races and the pace has been good especially in Singapore. But it is always very difficult when you are starting far back. It is very difficult to overtake these days in F1 and every opportunity there is to make a move I have made this season. But starting where I did made it very difficult for me to pick up good points. But the couple of races before that I was happy with the car, I was happy with the balance and the results were reasonably good, so coming into the last two I am reasonably positive. I have a good feeling with the car and our upgrades should help us quite a bit. We will see what happens. Sebastian is saying the pressure is on us. I don’t think that is quite the case. It is the same for all of us. We are all excited about the next two races. It means a lot to us for sure. We are all fighting for the championship. It is the first time I have been fighting for a championship in F1, same for Sebastian and maybe the same for Rubens, so it is an exciting situation to be in but I am the one that has got the lead.
Q: You are team-mates but at the same time rivals with Rubens. Here you are in his backyard with tens of thousands of his closest friends. Aren’t you going to be the villain as it were here?
JB: No, I don’t think so. If we were people that didn’t get on and we hated each other’s guts I think it would be a very different situation. We have worked well over the last four years we have been working together and this year is no exception. Rubens beat me in Silverstone, in my home country, and I would like to do the same to him here. It is a nice feeling when you get beaten by your team-mate in your own country.
JB: But I think they understand the situation and we are all fighting for something that is far greater than we have achieved in the past. I think they will respect that.
Q: Rubens, is people power an advantage or a pressure? They are all expecting so much of you and they have been thinking that for years.
RB: It has been a long road coming to Brazil and at the beginning, feeling the pressure but learning, more than anything, how to deal with it and changing to get that positive energy and just using that to your advantage. I feel so great to be here. It is really nice and like I said, for me it is a winning year already. I put my hands into the sky to thank for the car I have and for the wins that I have and for the chance I have to win in Brazil. Something that I have been dreaming of for a long, long time, so hopefully the car will be back into the performance that we wish. The second part of the season has been a little tough in terms of getting the performance, especially because the Red Bulls and some other cars are going quite fast but hopefully here I can just put everything out and go for the win as I need it and because I want it so badly.
Q: So is wet weather a good thing for you?
RB: The wet weather has always been good for me. Looking at the forecast it looks like Friday and Saturday could be quite wet and Sunday a little bit better. That’s the first impression that we have. I think the Red Bulls are quite fast on the wet and we could be a little bit better in the dry but having said that it is all the same for everyone and we have got to be prepared for the situations.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Juha PÃ¤Ã¤talo – Financial Times Germany) Jenson, it has been kind of a strange season. You have won six races but the last one goes back to Turkey. Since then you have more or less kept the distance to the other. How is it going towards the end and having not won for a long time but still having that lead?
JB: As I said this is not a one race series. It is 17 races and as you’ve said I’ve kept the lead over the last few races. If you look after Monaco I had a 14 or 16 points lead, I cannot remember what it was, and I still have a 14 point lead now. If I knew I would have the same lead after Monaco I would have been very happy at that point of time. I am not in such a bad situation. That’s it.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – APF) Would you say that you have been controlling the whole season?
JB: I have not purposely gone out to finish in the points but not win the race, for sure. I go out to get the best out of the car at every race that I compete in. I have led the championship all the way through the season, so it is a different situation to the people chasing. It has to be. They need to be more aggressive than I am. I don’t want to just finish in the points. That has never been my objective but there are situations that you don’t want to put yourself into and you can have an accident. You have got to be a bit cautious in some areas but also in other areas you need to be aggressive, otherwise you are not picking up points at all. I think I have had a reasonably good balance of that.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Sebastian, firstly how do you rate Sao Paulo for your car and, secondly, do you think Mark could be helpful for you in the battle for the championship with the trial he made in Suzuka and the fact he is no longer in the race?
SV: This circuit should suit us. You still have a lot of corners where you need the downforce and it seems that is our strength, so we are looking forward to it. On the other hand you don’t really know what to expect as this year has been very much up and down. You have seen different teams at the top. I think this weekend the teams with KERS will be also very strong as you have got places when you a have a steep uphill and you need the acceleration. It will be exciting to see that. For your second question, I think first of all it is a good thing not to have the situation they (Brawn) are facing, they have to race each other. It is a shame for Mark that he is not any more in the race for the title, but we are a very strong team. We are working together hand in hand and I think if the situation should come up, then I think he is the last one to deny any help.
Q: (Ian Parks – The Press Association) Rubens, you announced earlier in the week that you were in discussions with Williams and you’re also speaking with Brawn. Is it a distraction having to discuss your future while you’re trying to fight for the title and is it also a disappointment that you’re having to look for another team potentially, despite your best season in Formula One with Brawn?
RB: It was a distraction last year when I got here and I had no jobs; that was a distraction because it was tough going in not knowing if I could come back, wishing that I was there all the time. So to be able to talk to teams and just to see myself in a competitive car next year is all I wish. My focus has been a long, long time into this season. In a way I’m so proud that after the race in Silverstone I have kind of turned things around a little bit and I was able to really get a lot of speed out of the car, with the car working for me as well. So no, I’m fine, it’s no distraction, it was really a distraction last year to see if I had to consider it as my last race or not. I didn’t want it to be, but things were tougher than they seemed to be.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, you have used all your eight engines; which kind of engine are you going to use here? Have you already chosen at the previous race? It could be a handicap.
SV: I don’t know exactly which one; one of the ones that we have left. I think the last couple of races were good for us, because it was often wet on the Friday, for instance Spa or Suzuka, and in the wet you have less running, so everyone does less mileage and so did we. So we saved mileage without paying too much of a price. So it shouldn’t be a problem here. Interlagos has always been a circuit that in dry conditions is improving quite a lot. On top of that, we don’t know if it will be wet or dry, so we will see how much and how many cars are running tomorrow. But it shouldn’t be a problem.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Jenson, do you think you would have been able to control the season this way five years ago – in other words is it thanks to your maturity or your experience that now you have been able to be in such a good position?
JB: It’s always a difficult question to answer because I wasn’t in this situation five years ago. In 2004, we had a pretty good season with BAR. We were the best of the rest after the Ferraris. In that situation, we had nothing to lose for sure, but the consistency was very good then. I think I got ten or eleven podiums back in ’04, actually more than I’ve got this year so far. But for sure it was a very different situation, because, as I said, I had nothing to lose. I could really go all out because I knew there was no real chance of taking the championship, we could be very aggressive in every race. It’s difficult to know if I would have been the same five years ago. Nobody really knows. I think that people are at their peak at different points in their career. Lewis won the World Championship in his second year in Formula One which you wouldn’t think most drivers could do, so it’s your experience through other formulae and the situation that every single person is in is different. For me, this feels like the right time, for sure, but I’m going to say that…
Q: (MC) You talked about aggression and caution just there; how much has that balance changed this year from the start to now, given the situation?
JB: I think it’s when you’ve got a reasonable lead, you think that you need to be a little bit cautious in certain situations. I think you need to have a balance. For sure you can’t just drive round waving people past, hoping that you’re not going to crash. There has to be a balance there and I think that normally with racing there is anyway, none of us want to crash at turn one, we all want to get through and have a good result, but it’s just making sure that you’re not doing anything stupid and maybe a little bit out of character. It’s nothing extreme, it’s just different than maybe I would have thought five or six years ago.
Q: (MC) But have you been aware of that balance changing throughout this season, as it’s progressed?
JB: Probably a little bit more, I think, when you get a bigger lead, I think it changes a little bit. It’s not suddenly night and day, it’s the smallest of margins, but as I’ve shown in a few races of late that I’m not just going to sit back and hope for the best result. For example Monza with Heikki (Kovalainen), with (Robert) Kubica at the last race. You need to make the moves when you can and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
Q: (Thierry Wilmotte – Le Soir) Rubens, you’ve experienced a lot of bad luck in your races at Interlagos. Firstly, are you thinking about this bad luck this year before the race, and secondly, what are your best and worst memories of this Grand Prix?
RB: Well, first of all I don’t believe in bad luck. I just think that this is… there was a famous phrase from a driver saying that ‘the more I work, the more luck I have.’ It depends on your work and all the problems that I’ve had here in Brazil have sort of been human failures. I’ve actually gone off a few times, so for me it’s not bad luck that I finish a race without fuel in the car. I don’t believe that is bad luck, so I’m fine. I think in life we have what we plan or what we dream, so I have all the possibilities to have the best race of my career here and now and that’s what I’m prepared to do. Obviously, I don’t live in the past and like I said, I don’t care about the results in the past. I care about what I can change and maybe next year you come here and you see that it’s very positive and then you won the race and this and that, so for me it’s more on those terms.
I have plenty of good memories here, because, if you remember, I qualified in the top three with the Stewart and I remember all the people coming down the tribunes. I finished on the podium with the Ferrari. I have plenty; sure, I wish I had won here already but I have really good memories, and I feel that I drive well on this circuit, so it’s just a matter of time for someone who works.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Rubens, you’ve known Felipe Massa for a very long time. It’s seems that since he’s been on the sidelines looking at Formula One from a distance he’s become a lot more outspoken, he’s been talking about his new team-mate recently, saying that he suspects he knew more than he’s been letting on about Singapore. He’s been saying that he was robbed of the championship, he’s been saying that Jenson might bottle the championship. I wonder if you think that he’s changed at all since his absence?
RB: No, I don’t think he has. I think he’s been the same person and all my wishes, when I was at the hospital, were that he was the same guy. And after I saw him with my own eyes and I saw that he was the same, I wished that he could drive the same way, and he went to Fiorano and did that. From all the people that I’ve spoken to and to himself, it looked like he got into the car and on the third lap he was on the pace. But there is one fact that in Formula One if you’re not travelling with everyone all the time and not hearing what the same people are talking about, you just get different ideas and maybe you’re flying on your own ideas. He’s been out for a month and then he comes back in and talks about something and it becomes a lot more important, so it’s not like what we hear every fifteen days or sometimes every week, we talk about the same things and we’re prepared to talk about the same things that you guys are talking about for the whole week. So maybe that’s what causes us to be so much more… for us to give it so much more importance to what he says, but for me it’s just the fact that he’s been out and not living the world that we’re living in.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Jenson, do you feel anything different in yourself when you wake up and know that this weekend you can be World Champion, and, if it’s easier to control your emotions when you are inside the cockpit?
JB: Well, I woke up very happy this morning. I had some pretty good dreams. So I woke up with a smile on my face, sweating, yes. No, I woke up happy and looking forward to the weekend. I don’t think it adds to pressure, knowing that you could win the World Championship that weekend. I think it adds to the excitement, for sure. It’s not a negative, it’s a positive. I’m excited about the weekend, as I’m sure these two are. Inside the car? I don’t know. I haven’t got in it yet. On the way in, I didn’t have any unusual excitement, but we’ll see tomorrow. The exciting thing about this weekend is the weather: it could be wet, it could be dry, so it’s going to be important to make the right decisions over the weekend and not make it too complicated.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) If I could just ask Rubens and Jenson: leaving aside your own personal battle, it looks almost inevitable that you’re going to win the Constructors’ Championship this weekend. I wonder if you could just say a few words on just how extraordinary that is for a team in its first season, given what happened in January and February.
JB: It’s an amazing story and it is a Hollywood movie, for sure. If it happens. It’s not a hundred percent yet. I would like to say that it is but it’s not. Taking us out of it, not talking about ourselves, I think the team has been through a lot this winter and it’s not just whether they could compete in Formula One, it’s whether they had a job that could pay for their kids’ school and what have you. It was a very difficult situation for them over the winter and I think a lot of them found it very tough but they had good leadership and that’s what counted and it gave them hope and it gave them a positive outlook for the future. In the end, we got the deal done and we were able to come racing. I think when everyone saw the car drive for the first time in Barcelona they were very surprised by the pace of the car. They had obviously worked very, very hard over the winter but nothing went wrong. Everything that could have gone wrong didn’t. It was perfect, a perfect test. The bodywork – everything fitted together just so nicely, there was no burning bodywork after the first running in practice, the reliability of everything, it was just a perfect first test and you don’t get those tests unless the season is going to be good. So if we come away with the Constructors’ Championship this season in the first year of Brawn GP, I know it’s not a completely new team and there are a lot of very experienced people in the team, but it will be a very emotional moment for everyone, as it was in Australia when we finished one-two. It’s the first time I’ve seen Ross (Brawn) speechless and if it is going to happen here or in Abu Dhabi I think it will the same situation. Ross has achieved so much in this sport, but to win a championship with his own team is far greater than what he’s achieved in the past, I think. And that goes for everyone within the team. They’ve worked so hard with this team, whatever its name was in the past, they’ve worked very, very hard and they deserve whatever we achieve this season.
Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Similar question to Alan’s: you were talking about the team effort from Brawn, and in that sense, Jenson, would you be able to comment if the title went to Rubens, and Rubens, if it went to Jenson would you able to comment on why it would be deserving, because you guys have both been battling for a long time and I guess both of you would like to win the title?
JB: Wow, that’s an interesting question. If Rubens won the championship I would absolutely hate him! We come here for one thing only and that’s to win the World Championship. That’s our aim in life since we were an eight year old kid or even younger. Your aim is to be the best and to win a championship in Formula One over a season. That’s what we’re all here to do. We are working well together and I think we’re good friends, aren’t we?
RB: Yeah, just here.
JB: Just a little bit. But you come here to win with very competitive people, and if Rubens won I would be very disappointed, for sure. But I would also respect the fact that he did a better job over the 17 races and I would also respect the fact that he’s worked as hard as I have or maybe harder in that case and he’s the better driver over those 17 races.
RB: I think it makes the situation a bit more comfortable because, like Jenson said, we haven’t won the Constructors’ just yet but I believe that it’s very, very close and it should be done, and hopefully this weekend. And by doing that, we have this feeling that we’ve both worked for that, and it’s what we’re giving to the team and the team gave us. So in the other championship, we just have to work for ourselves to win, like Jenson said, we don’t want to lose the chance. I feel that particularly it’s my very first chance, that I really have the chance to… it was put this way, somebody gave me the chance to go for the title and win myself. So for me it feels comfortable that we are working hard to beat each other, but it’s comfortable for the fact that we both work very well together for the Constructors, so the team should be very happy and proud with that.