Malaysian Grand Prix – Post Qualifying Press Conference

This is the full transcript of the Post Qualifying Press Conference ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix. The press conference was attended by the top three drivers from the session (before penalties) and included Felipe Massa (1m35.748s) and Kimi Raikkonen (1m36.230s) of Ferrari, and Heikki Kovalainen (1m36.613s) of McLaren Mercedes:

Q: Felipe, a beautiful lap to watch. You were a half second quicker than your team-mate in Q3 but a little bit slower in Q2. Talk us through that.
Felipe MASSA: I managed to make a fantastic lap in Q3 which is the most important one. I did a great lap the first try and the second try without a mistake. In Q2 I didn t make very good laps and I was struggling a little bit on the grip from the tyres on the lap. Also I didn t do a very good last sector as well just braking a little bit too early at turn 14. It was just stupid mistakes. Not really mistakes but just a stupid lap. Then I managed to put everything together in Q3 and did a great lap.

Q: Apart from the disappointments of Melbourne you obviously felt confident coming here with a different track surface and with Ferrari having such a great record here.
FM: Definitely. Our championship is starting now. What happened in the last race was incredible and we didn t expect that. We did a very good job during the winter but coming to the first race and having a lot of problems like we had was not expected. But hopefully now we can manage to put everything together to have a very consistent, quick and good championship.

Q: There was a lot of talk before qualifying about the potential for rain here on Saturday and perhaps even tomorrow. How did that affect the preparation for qualifying and the way you ran qualifying?
FM: To be honest, it did not affect it too much. You just needed to be starting the session by going out straight away, so if it was raining at least you could put one lap on paper. Everybody did that. You saw at the beginning of the qualifying everybody going out, just a little bit afraid that if the rain comes at least you had a lap, so I think it was not a big difference compared to a normal qualifying.

Q: And what were the conditions like right at the end there?
FM: It was okay. We had a couple of drops but it did not affect the performance on the track, so it was no problem at all.

Q: Kimi, it was a very quick lap in Q2, a 1min34.1secs, the fastest lap of qualifying. Talk us through your Q3 and how you feel in terms of the race tomorrow?
Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: I was not sure what happened with Q3. The car is good, but I just couldn t get the grip. I didn t get the best out of it, but anyhow I am in second place. It is a good place to start and we should have a strong race car. It is going to be a long hot race tomorrow and we don t know about the weather. But I think we can look forward quite happily to it.

Q: Once the race began in Melbourne, even from where you started on the grid, you were very quick. How does the car compare here in terms of its feel and grip level with Melbourne?
KR: I think this is a more normal circuit, so the car has been quick all weekend. I think we are seeing two completely different circuits but our car should be fast anywhere but when you start from behind it is very difficult to show your speed. Tomorrow should be a bit clearer about who is where and what kind of speed everyone is doing.

Q: Felipe obviously has the clean side of the road off the line. Without traction control now how do you anticipate it is going to be on the dirty side of the grid?
KR: I don t know. It is very difficult to say. Hopefully we will get a good start and it is up to us much more now than it was before. In the last race we had a very good start, so hopefully we can manage to do that also tomorrow.

Q: Congratulations to you Heikki. Your second successive P3 in qualifying and just ahead of your team-mate Lewis Hamilton. First of all from a personal point of view your feelings about qualifying third behind the two Ferraris and being the fastest McLaren driver.
Heikki KOVALAINEN: Of course we were hoping to do a couple of places better but obviously, Ferrari, they have both been very fast here all weekend and we had nothing more to give today. I think third place was the maximum we could achieve today. I am happy about that. It was a clean lap without any big mistakes. It was pretty much the same story as I had in Melbourne, just trying to go step by step and increase the pace as I get used to the team and the car. I think we are on a very good track and still in a good position to start with tomorrow and we will see how the strategy goes. But we will still aim to do the maximum job tomorrow and see what happens.

Q: Does the McLaren feel more difficult to drive here? Does the grip level feel lower than in Melbourne if you could compare the two?
HK: No, not really. It feels pretty similar. I think our balance is very similar to what it was in Melbourne and I think the fact is we didn t see the true pace of Ferrari in Melbourne. They both had some problems in qualifying or in the race, so I think this is more representative between the pace of the teams. But anyway, like I said, the race is tomorrow and we are still in a good position. By no means the game s over. Tomorrow we can attack and we will see what we can do.

Q: Felipe, every race win you have had, has been from pole, so this is a good start to the weekend. This is always a difficult race physically for the drivers. Perhaps you could reflect on both those points and how you anticipate the race is going to be from a physical point of view tomorrow?
FM: The race will be very physical here. It is not so physical, but it is also very hot. The humidity we have here is so high and you lose a lot of water from the body. For sure when you get from the middle to the end of the race you start to feel it a little bit just because you are sweating so much. But I am really looking forward to having a strong race and strong physical preparation as well.


Q: Felipe, congratulations. Your best position here is fifth once from pole last year and once from 21st a couple of years ago. What are your feelings about tomorrow particularly the start if you remember from last year?
FM: My thought is to change the best result I have, hopefully we can repeat what we did today which was a very good job and a very good lap. It was very clean with no mistakes and taking away the maximum from the car. I was pretty happy with our day. In Q2 I couldn t manage to do a good lap. I was just struggling to find the right grip. Also I was too conservative. But I learned everything I did wrong in Q2 and managed to do a great lap in Q3.

Q: Presumably total confidence in the engine. No problems and no further feelings from last weekend?
FH: For sure, I am looking forward to having a very reliable car. It was a very bad result we had in the last race, not just the engine but also the race itself was a problem and the qualifying with Kimi. It was definitely a weekend to forget. We think we know what we are doing now. We think we know how it is going to be during the race in terms of reliability with all the preparations the engineers are doing, so hopefully we can have two very reliable races now with the same engine.

Q: What are your weather predictions? How much were you slightly worried about rain in qualifying?
FM: I think everybody was a little bit worried but I just managed to be one of the first cars to go out just to try to at least make a lap in case something really different happens and the rain comes. At least you have a lap and you can jump to the next qualifying. But at the end of the day the rain didn t come, although at the end of Q3 we had a couple of drops but it didn t affect the track, so it was no problem at all.

Q: What are your weather predictions and how much were you worried about rain in qualifying?
FM: I think everybody was a bit worried but we just managed to be one of the first cars to go out, just to try to at least make a lap if something really different happened, if the rain came, so at least you would have a lap and maybe you can jump to the next qualifying. At the end of the day, the rain didn t come. At the end of Q3 we had a couple of drops but it didn t affect the track, so it was no problem at all.

Q: Also on the front row, Kimi Räikkönen, winner in 2003 here. At least it must be very encouraging to be on the front row after the Australian problems.
KR: Yeah, for sure, I think so for the whole team. We ve been working hard and we ve got one and two, so it couldn t have gone better. For sure, I would rather have been in first place but I couldn t get the tyres working as well as in the second qualifying. I think we still have a strong position for the race, so we will see what we can do.

Q: Who do you prefer to race, your team-mate or someone from another team?
KR: It doesn t really matter. We know, between us, when we are going to stop, so in that way it s an easier thing, but in the end you need to beat everybody to win the race, that s our aim, and hopefully we can have a strong race as a team.

Q: Are we going to see a different type of race to Australia, was that a bit of a one-off, all that incident?
KR: I don t know. We will see tomorrow. If it s raining, it can be very tricky here, so anything can happen in a race. If it s normal conditions, probably not as many mistakes and people going off. I m expecting a few more people to finish the race.

Q: Heikki, a bit of a surprise to out-qualify your team-mate?
HK: Yeah, of course Lewis is a strong driver and it s always difficult to beat him, but honestly, all weekend I ve been fairly happy with my car since the first practice sessions on Friday. Yesterday I was feeling comfortable and we ve been going in the right direction little by little all the time. The qualifying session was fairly straightforward for me, nothing special, but they were all clean laps and I managed to… probably the best lap was the last Q3 lap with more fuel in the car, so I think we re in a good position. Of course Ferrari seems to be very strong but we are right behind them and the race is long, so we can look forward to a good race tomorrow.

Q: Interesting to see you trying both types of tyre in Q3. What was the thinking behind that?
HK: We were not entirely sure which one was going to be the better one, so that s the reason behind it really.
Q: Does that mean you re not entirely sure for the race either?
HK: Now I am sure, yeah.
Q: Last year most people were on the softer tyre.
HK: Yeah, I think it was more the one lap pace that we were not sure of, seeing how the tyres were lasting throughout the lap, but to be honest, in the longer run, we have a clearer picture, so it s no concern at all.

Q: What are your feelings about the weather tomorrow?
HK: Honestly, everybody has a different prediction and obviously today we were a little bit concerned, just by looking at the sky because in Q3, we thought it might start to rain, so we went early and I think tomorrow the best we can do is look up to the sky, fifteen minutes before the start and see what happens.


Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) Kimi, was that a perfect lap you did in Q2 and for Heikki, how much did it mean to you to beat Lewis already in the second qualifying?
KR: I think you can always improve if you try again, but it was a good lap, the car felt good. Unfortunately we couldn t get as good a lap in the last qualifying but that s life.
HK: Well, for me, I must stress that my primary target is not to beat Lewis. I would rather be in the first position than the third position but of course to beat Lewis… he s a great driver, he did a great year last year. He s a very fast driver, to be ahead of him is always good but of course as a team we want to do better, we want to be higher than third and for me, I m not making a big number out of it. I need to just keep the focus on the race tomorrow and that s the best we can do.

Q: (Flavio Vanetti Corriere della Sera) Felipe, last year you had Alonso beside you, now you have your team-mate beside you, even if you have to expect that Kimi will push. Do you feel more comfortable now?
FM: No, it doesn t matter. You always try to do the best start you can, you always try to stay in front at the first corner. Last year it was not possible. I will just try to do better this year. I should have a good start, so let s hope and see if we can keep the same position tomorrow.

Q: (Mark Danby Auto Magazine China) A question to Kimi: were you happy with your start last week and do you hold any concerns for tomorrow on the dirty side of the track?
KR: No, we were happy. I gained many places on the first lap, so it was good but of course this is a different circuit, definitely, different conditions. I don t know if it s going to make a difference not being on the clean side but we will see tomorrow. Hopefully we can have a good start. It s up to us really, so we will try the best.

Q: (Marco Evangelisti Corriere dello Sport) Felipe, you were one of the first to say that it would be tricky to drive in the wet without traction control. Now many drivers agree with you. Do you think it was a mistake to take traction control off the cars?
FM: I don t think it was a mistake. I think if I need to give my opinion I think we should have a safe setting for everybody for the wet, because if we have a situation like in Japan last year, maybe we re not going to have any cars finishing the race. I think there s always room to improve. In the dry it s quite nice to drive the cars without traction control, it s not a big problem but in the wet it will be different. There s always room to improve. We just need to see how it s going to be the first time in the rain. But you know, just from having the feeling of driving in the wet in winter testing was not so easy.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Heikki, before you said that here the situation is more realistic than it was in Melbourne. Does that mean that Ferrari is pretty much in front of you and that it could be hard for the next races?
HK: I m hope I m wrong or the prediction I made in Melbourne is not correct. Certainly today and to be honest all weekend the Ferraris have looked strong but we will see tomorrow how the strategies are panning out and how the race is panning out. We are still in a good position to fight and I think all I can say is that we know they are going to be strong all the way through the year, but we can improve our package as well, so there s no concern.

Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) Kimi, given the fact that it might rain tomorrow, how much of a relief is it that you can start from the front row?
KR: I don t think it makes much difference if it rains. If it s dry you would rather be in the front (row) anyway, it s much easier there, less chance to have accidents and less people to follow, so it should be a bit easier. We will see how the weather is tomorrow. It can be very tricky, it can change very quickly here.

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