The press conference was attended by top three drivers from Qualifying, ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, which included Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen (1m21.813s), Fernando Alonso of Renault (1m21.904s) and Felipe Massa of Ferrari (1m22.058s).
Q: What are your feelings being on pole again?
Kimi RÃ„IKKÃ–NEN: It is a nice feeling. I have been trying to get it. It should give us a better chance for tomorrow. It is only qualifying but it is a good place to be.
Q: You are on the clean side of the track. But it has been a difficult weekend for you and the other drivers with the wind. Can you talk about that?
KR: Actually I have been happier with the car than I have in previous races. We changed a bit with the starting point and it seems to be working quite well. Of course in places it is a little bit trickier here, but it is a nice circuit and they have changed the outside of the circuit, so if you run wide it makes it more difficult. But apart from that it has been a good weekend so far.
Q: What do you mean when you say you have changed the starting point? Does the car feel different to what it did in Bahrain?
KR: No. We just changed the set-up quite a bit. It seems to work. We wanted to try something in a test. We had a rainy day and we tried something on the car. It gave me a good feeling, so we decided to keep it. It seems to be working so far.
Q: Fernando, congratulations what a performance from you and the team. You cannot be dissatisfied with being second.
Fernando ALONSO: I was really excited when I crossed the line because I knew the time was good. I knew that only Kimi was running behind. When I crossed the line I knew that it was the first row in the worst case. That is something for sure we didn t expect at all for this race maybe even the whole season. I cannot be happier than I am now.
Q: Can you describe how the car feels compared to the first three races?
FA: The car feels better. I am happier with the car. We have made a step forward no doubt. We have seen a big improvement in the car. I think the whole weekend has been difficult for everybody with the track conditions. We have tried to find a good balance around these conditions. We have a better car than what we had yesterday. The second place of today is more than what we expected for the whole weekend, so the job is nearly done.
Q: Can you just tell us how it feels to have worked so hard and got back to this and this result in front of your home crowd?
FA: It is unbelievable. It s difficult to describe or say anything as the team did a huge effort to improve the car. We keep doing work. We started the season with a little bit of disappointment because maybe in the winter we expected to be a bit stronger than we were in the first few races. Now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to work even harder after the disappointments. The team made a step here and they have very aggressive plans to come in the coming races, so step-by-step we need to raise our level. That makes me very happy and hopeful of things for the future.
Q: Felipe, third today but the look on your face suggests you are perhaps a little bit disappointed?
Felipe MASSA: No, I just couldn t put a lap together on the last try. On the first try I put a lap together but it s not there to be honest. In competition like today, in all the sessions we saw that if you lose a tenth you can lose one or two positions. I put a lap together at the wrong moment but we have a good car.
Q: What actually happened on the third sector?
FM: I just lost a little bit which maybe cost me the fight for pole.
Q: It looked like a little bit of wheel spin on television?
FM: I had a little bit of wheel spin in turn seven and also in the slow corners. That s the way it is. When you have big competition like that you can lose or gain positions very easily.
Q: And the track conditions here in Barcelona?
FM: It is okay. It is quite hot and we also had a lot of rubber down. I think it is okay.
Q: Kimi, the last seven pole winners have won the Spanish Grand Prix. I don t want to tempt fate but none the less you are in good shape. It appears the McLaren Mercedes challenge here has not been quite the same as in other races.
KR: I don t even know where they ended up. The qualifying is one part but tomorrow is when we get the points. Last year we couldn t finish the race, but for sure we should have good speed in the race as long as we get a clean start. We are confident in ourselves and the team. We need a good clean first few corners and then try to maximise our position and do the best job we can. But this is the best place for sure to try and win the race.
Q: Kimi, it s quite strange to say that despite the fact that you re leading the World Championship this is your first pole of the year.
KR: For sure even last year qualifying wasn t our strongest part, so it is nice to be at the front. It always makes your life a bit easier. It s the best place to try and win, so I am very happy. The car seems to be working well.
Q: Interesting tactics out there. You were actually slower from Q1 to Q2.
KR: For sure we always try to go faster, but sometimes you do not find the perfect place and if you are too close (to another car) you always lose time. In the end the main thing is to be in the top ten in the second one. That was enough, so there was nothing to worry about.
Q: You have not done much testing because of the weather, so did you find a different car?
KR: Maybe it was a good thing because when the test was here there was a lot of rubber on the circuit and it was very fast. Maybe it was more like it is here now. Everybody has been here a lot, so we know the circuit and we know the set-up. It is not a big advantage.
Q: But did the car feel very different?
KR: From the test?
Q: From the previous version.
KR: It is always difficult to say because we are at a different circuit. It feels good for sure because at the last race I never got it right. In that way it is a huge difference. But it is not so much in the car but the set-up. For sure the new parts have improved the car.
Q: Fernando, the question has to be asked: where did that result come from?
FA: I think the car is better than in the first two races, no doubt. I think we managed to get both cars in Q3, so that means that the team performance has been greater than in the first three races, and maybe even better than we expected because we knew that we had made a step forward but being in the top ten in all three qualifying sessions is nice and well done to everybody in the team because this is a great achievement by everybody.
Q: And 115,000 people were cheering for youâ€¦
FA: Yes, that s worth a couple of tenths, for sure.
Q: Do you feel that the modifications have made a difference?
FA: Yes, absolutely. We felt (them) more in the tests, because it was better conditions to test and we were able to compare the new pieces to the old ones and we saw a very clear result that the car is better and easier to drive and quicker with more performance. This weekend, we had some difficulties to set up the car because the track seems slower for everybody but balance-wise we were not extremely happy yesterday, so today we made some changes. We are still not totally happy but I m sure the others have had even more problems than us, it seems.
Q: We ve seen quite a wind out there today. Does the new engine cover make a difference in those conditions?
FA: We can go to the America s Cup with this engine cover! Today it was windy, so maybe it also helped.
Q: Felipe, the third sector seems to have been the problem since yesterday.
FM: I don t think so. I think in a qualifying like that you can see the difference in the lap times. If you don t put exactly every sector together you can lose two positions in a very easy way. If you look I did my best lap at my first attempt when I did a perfect lap, but then on the second try, I couldn t put the lap together, so then I stayed with my lap time from the first attempt, but I was heavier on fuel, for sure. The tendency is to improve the lap time, so I couldn t do a perfect lap at the second attempt and I lost two positions. In a way I was even lucky, because I was very very close to the guys behind, so I could easily have been fifth. So you can see, if you don t put the lap together you can lose positions, but that doesn t mean I m happy with the car. I m quite happy and I think we can have a good race tomorrow.
Q: And much quicker from Q1 to Q2 as well.
FM: Yeah. Q2 is when you have soft tyres, we have hard tyres in Q1. You just go out after a big break, so it s normal to be quicker in Q2.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Rodrigo Franca VIP Magazine) Fernando, yesterday you said on Spanish TV that the best you can do here is seventh place if nobody has a problem among Ferrari, McLaren and BMW. Now, you seem surprised with your performance. What can you promise for your fans here in Barcelona?
FA: Same thing. I think seventh is the aim for tomorrow. I think the result is good but we need to keep calm and to know that we cannot make bigger steps every race. We are extremely happy with how the weekend went so far but we cannot say to the fans or to anyone that we will be on the podium because we know that would maybe be a little optimistic because seeing Q1 and Q2, we were fourth in Q2 with two attempts, two new sets of tyres, so with the first one we were something like eighth or ninth, so I think we are still there. I think Q3 has been extremely good, because there are many reasons why we got into Q3 and we will see tomorrow.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, before you said that looking at the strategies you might not have such an advantage. Does that mean you are starting with low fuel and that s why you are so far in front?
FA: No, we will see tomorrow. I think you never know. I think we went for our optimum strategy and the result maybe has been better than what we thought when we planned the strategy, so now let s take advantage of the great result today. You never know what fuel the others have but the car is better, we re happy and we are more confident. Even Q1 and Q2â€¦ as I said, being fourth in Q2 was totally impossible in the first two races when we were tenth with some milli-seconds to be in Q3. Today we ve been fourth, it was much better.
Q: (Juha PÃ¤Ã¤talo Financial Times Germany) Kimi, two questions: how optimum was your last lap, and secondly was it difficult today to get a performance lap, because at your first attempt, it would have given you a place around 16th in first qualifying?
KR: I don t know how you compare the last qualifying and the first qualifying. It s always difficult to get it right but the car has been pretty good this weekend. It gives you more and more confidence and that gives you better results. I would say that the tyres went away a bit in the first one but then we changed the way a little bit on the second try and also the traffic was quite difficult, so it makes a big difference if you cannot use your out lap as you want or you are too close to the cars in front, so we managed to get a good gap and a good lap. The lap was good, as I said, but for sure, if you get ten sets of tyres you are always going to go quicker on one of them. Probably you would never get a perfect lap.
Q: (Laurentzi Garmendia – Berria) To both Ferrari drivers: do you see Fernando Alonso as a threat for victory for tomorrow?
KR: It s very difficult to say. I think we will see tomorrow after the start, at the first pit stop and how much fuel everybody has, but it s too early to say. There are many things that can happen to us. He s on the front row, so they have a good chance to win it, and to challenge us, and for sure they are in a strong position.
FM: I think Fernando knows better than us how much his car improves, so if he has a good car in his hands he can fight for victory. He knows better than us.
Q: (Laurentzi Garmendia – Berria) Fernando, do you see this great result as a one-off or maybe as a milestone for the coming races?
FA: Hopefully it s the direction that will go from now on. Maybe the first row is, again, a bit optimistic, to think that we will go to Turkey and be between the two Ferraris. That s a little bit difficult, we know that, but the first step is to be in Q3 with a little bit more of a gap and more relaxed and today we managed it with both cars and not being so close to eleventh, so we made the first step. The next one is to be in the top five and the next one on the podium; this is the programme for the whole season. It seems that we managed to make the first step. The other two steps will be even harder but the team is making a great effort to achieve that and I have full confidence in them.
Q: (Marco Evangelisti Corriere dello Sport) Fernando, does this unexpected step forward make you more optimistic even for next year if you stay with Renault?
FA: Yeah, more optimistic now for sure. When I finished the Bahrain race I was not very happy with tenth place and fighting with a difficult car and not being competitive all weekend, not only in the race. What I want is the result tomorrow. We saw another performance from the Renault cars this weekend, so I will arrive at the next Grand Prix with much more confidence. Being in the first row for Renault isâ€¦ it s a year and a half or nearly two years that they were not on the front row, so hopefully we are coming back.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Question to Alonso and Massa: Felipe is on the clean side of the track, Alonso is on the dirty side. What happens if you have a similar start to last year?
FA: We will see. It s only Saturday afternoon, we will see tomorrow. It all depends on how the first fifty or a hundred meters are. You feel straight away if you have had a good start or you had a bad start. It depends on your position after these two hundred meters. You have different targets for the first corner. I ll be on the wrong side, as you said, so maybe I arrive in the first corner and I m fighting for fifth. It s difficult to know today how it will be at the start tomorrow.
Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) Kimi, is pole position here as important as it is in Monaco?
KR: I think so. Even if you re not on pole position it doesn t change much. If you stay there at the start, any target if you re on the front row is hard. It should give you a better chance at least, so you cannot get better than first place in qualifying, so I m very happy with that.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, you said before that seventh place is your target, but looking how well you did in Q2 and your position, can we say that a podium is something that is completely unrealistic or do you still think there could be a chance?
FA: No, we will see. When you say what is your target for the race, for us it has always been in the points. We didn t manage it in the last race. We just managed eighth in Sepang, so we are going to change our approach. Certainly we ve got this one result and we will think about over-optimistic results. We need to be on target which is being in the points, knowing that we cannot be confused, knowing that there are three teams ahead of us at the moment. Maybe we have reduced the gap but they are still there, so we will see. I m extremely happy about today, for sure one of the happiest days of 2008 so far, but we cannot think that we have the same pace as Ferrari. Being second, between them, is a little bit unrealistic.