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FIA post-qualifying press conference - Europe GP

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Drivers: 1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 1m 37.587s, 2. Mark Webber (Red Bull), 1m 37.662s and 3. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1m 37.969s
Q: Sebastian, congratulations. Fastest man in final practice, quickest man in Q1, Q2 and when it counts, in Q3. And as the team said on the radio ‘Welcome Back’.
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, it is good. The last couple of races we didn’t have a very smooth run. Saturdays usually we were quite okay but then Sundays sometimes was a bit rough but it is good...

Those types of circuits, Canada the last time and then here again Valencia in Spain, usually shouldn’t be our strongest but it is good that we are able to put the car on pole and I think our pace is looking good. It was a tight qualifying session in the end. Not much between us all. I had two runs. In the first run I had a huge moment in the first sector and I knew I had to put everything in the second run and it worked and yeah, I am on pole and very happy for today. I think it was a very tough one here especially as we re-introduced the F-duct and a lot of other things to the car and I think some of the mechanics had maybe one hour or two hours this night to sleep, so it is good to say thank you that way and put the cars on one and two.

Q: On the subject of the F-duct, just how much difference did it make? Was that the difference between third or fourth and pole?
SV: I think it isn’t that big probably but we feel the difference. We can see how much you can gain with these guys. I think they are using it pretty much to the optimum but we are just learning every single lap, every run, and yesterday we were not quite happy but I think we did another step overnight, so everyone here at the track and people at the factory were basically all the time in front of the monitors trying to see how we can fine tune it and make it better and I think today it worked better, so also due to that we are in a very good position to start tomorrow’s race.

Q: Mark, I think it is the fourth time this season that Red Bull have had a one-two and locked out the front row. So little in it between you and Sebastian. Are you happy to be alongside him or not?
Mark Webber: Well, I would like it to be the other way around, but you can’t do it all the time, so very happy to be on the front row with Seb. It is a credit to the team. Everyone came here and said Red Bull are this, Red Bull are that, but today we have had a good day. It is not one of our strongest circuits. If you think where you would have a race against your opposition we probably wouldn’t choose this one but let’s see how tomorrow goes. I am very optimistic that we are going to have a good race. Could have gone one place better but I wasn’t quick enough today. I am not going to roll-out a shopping list of excuses. I just wasn’t good enough, so second is all I could do.

Q: Does it take some of the pressure off when you come to a race maybe not as the favourites but people saying McLaren and Ferrari are going to be stronger? Do you feel less pressure when you go out?
MW: No, but there is actually more pressure on those guys as they expect to be winning World Championships. For us guys it is new territory but it is normal for those teams, Ferrari and McLaren, to be pushing very hard and saying they are going to do this and do that which is what they have done. McLaren have been sensational the last two races. Two dominant one-twos, so the fight is healthy. There is no more pressure on our team than anyone else, so just focussing on getting the job done.

Q: Lewis, third on the grid. Talk us through that final lap. You were in contention but not for all of it.
Lewis Hamilton: I tell you that I am really happy to be here. I feel so fortunate. This weekend we knew that everyone else, a few people, were going to be bringing updates and we saw from practice that we were quite a way behind, so a little bit cautious going into...., obviously pushing on the limit, but we didn’t realise we were so far up. My first lap was good. The second lap I was doing at the end I was up about a tenth-and-a-half I think through the first sector and then I lost it all into turn 12, locked up the rears and locked up the rears again later in the lap. Initially I thought ‘jees, for sure I am going to drop back quite far here’ but I was really surprised when I came out and I was third, so really, really happy.

Q: With the race pace which tends to be quite good for McLaren is a top two possible? Can you go on and win from here?
LH: I think definitely it is going to be an interesting race tomorrow. It is going to be interesting how we manage the tyres and how they behave. I think they will behave a little bit better than the last race. But I think anything is possible from there. We are all in hopefully a good position to start. I cannot complain where we are starting from. Pit stops will be crucial. Hopefully we will get some good pit stops and the first corner and the first few laps will be crucial for position. Anything is possible tomorrow and we will be pushing as hard as we can to win it.

Q: Sebastian, a lot of people will be watching the start with interest. Not just turn one but the tight right hander at turn two. Your team-mate could be right alongside you. It could be absolutely imperative to get through that unscathed.
SV: Yeah, there is a good escape road at turn two but obviously you are not very keen on using that. Pole is the best place to start from. It is also on the clean side, so I think that was quite important but still I think all of the cars have been recently quite consistent with good starts, so it is probably easier to get it wrong rather than get it right. But so far our starts have been very good. I am looking forward and hopefully defend the first position, the first corner, the first lap, and many more, so we will see.

Q: Sebastian, I get the feeling from all three of you that you were really expecting to be here. It wasn’t really meant to be your circuit. It was damage limitation to some extend for McLaren. Was that the case? Were you expecting others to perhaps be more competitive here?
SV: Well, I think the most important is that we are here. People were talking a lot about the last race that this would probably be a difficult venue for us. I think we proved them wrong in Canada and here. I think our pace looks very good. Canada on Sunday was quite an entertaining race from the inside and outside, so it is good to be here. As I said I think we have proven yesterday and all day today that the car has got the pace. We were really a bit surprised that the McLarens were struggling yesterday but as we have seen things can change last minute and in the end they are not too far away and it will be a tough battle tomorrow. But I think we can win the race and score a lot of points for the team.

Q: Although you have been in the top three for every single race was it a little frustrating that you weren’t on pole position since China?
SV: No, I wouldn’t say frustrating. I would say it is more if you know you have got it in you and you know that you have got it in the car, then if you don’t get it right maybe last minute, maybe for this or that reason, then there is nothing you can do or I can do, but I think that’s life. It goes up and down as this championship. I think from the outside it is very entertaining. We have got a lot of cars on more or less the same points. Obviously it looks a bit more spread with the new points’ system but it is looking very interesting and very tight between the cars and the teams, so there is not a lot of room for errors, so you always need to be there. In the end also a fourth or fifth position can be very valuable on a Sunday. We have to keep pushing as we do and as I said, this is probably not the best circuit for us but nevertheless we are here in the front, so in the end we are, so it could not be much better.

Q: Is there a clean and a dirty side here? What’s the condition of the grid?
SV: Not really. There is a clean and a dirty side. Usually the pole on the right hand side is on the clean side but on the other some cars go wider before turn one and some enter a tighter line. I think it is not really a big difference. Also the way down to turn one is not that long, so we will see. But surely if you have got a McLaren behind you they are very quick on the straight as we know. Ferrari as well, so we need a good start and a good couple of corners where we ideally can pull away.

Q: Mark, you haven’t qualified lower than second since Bahrain. You’re always there, so especially on this circuit, as you say, perhaps you were not expecting to be there.
MW: Yeah, it’s not one of my best circuits. I’ve had a shit run here in the past, so in the end, I’m happy to be second, to be honest. Seb was strong in the previous years here and also so far this weekend but I was surprised that I could be on a similar pace, so it was good for me, happy to be here and it’s very good for me to be starting from here tomorrow, sensational day for the team, really good for those guys. People might say we keep going on about it but if you look at their eyes, and how hard they have worked, it’s a credit to them. Yes, they’re not the only team to be working hard, I realise that, but both Seb and I wouldn’t be here without their toil and their hard work. We are the guys who do a little bit of driving but they’re the guys who obviously put the cars together for us, so we’re very thankful for them. It was a pretty good uneventful qualifying session. Obviously the first lap went OK, second one not too bad, so here we are.

Q: How important is qualifying here?
MW: I think we’ve had some races here in the past when people have struggled to stay awake, so I think we will see how it is tomorrow. I think we’re going to have… not like Canada in terms of a Grand Prix like we saw there, but let’s see how it goes. I think the first few guys are pretty quick on pace and it’s going to be a good fight but we have some very good ammunition in the Grand Prix tomorrow where we’re quicker.

Q: Both Red Bull drivers using the F-duct?
MW: Yup.

Q: Track conditions: they varied yesterday, did they change today?
MW: Yes, the track has improved to a point where I don’t think there’s a huge amount left in it. Obviously there’s a bigger ramping effect on Friday and maybe a little bit early Saturday but there’s obviously been no rain and the track is a street circuit and so it improves a lot up to this point. We also saw that the difference between the tyres is not as big as previous events, so that’s also an interesting one for all the teams. We had to get a feel for that and then the track was pretty consistent.

Q: Lewis, you seem to be very happy to be there, but it does seem to have been a bit of a damage limitation weekend?
LH: Well, that was what we thought but I guess it’s not really, considering we’re third. That’s definitely not a damage limitation weekend. I think for us, just going into practice yesterday, we were quite quick in the first session and then in the second and third the car felt good, we just weren’t fast enough, simple as that, but the others were so far ahead, we knew that they had had some upgrades, so initially going into qualifying the thought was OK, we have to get absolutely every ounce out of the car, every little bit we can possibly get and a little bit more if possible, just to gain that one more spot even if it means going from seventh to sixth. I really didn’t feel we would be this high up, but through the session the car was feeling great, we made some good set-up changes in P3. Into qualifying the car was very, very strong, we got good gaps, put together good laps. The last lap I did I locked up the rears, obviously pushing as hard as we could. We definitely didn’t have half a second in our pocket. I think we may have had a tenth but then unfortunately I lost it. Initially I thought everyone would go faster but they didn’t and I was really very, very surprised and shocked when I came in and found I was third. I was very happy.

Q: And of course you have been second here in the two races we’ve had so far.
LH: Yeah, this track has generally been good to me in the past. I’m hoping that it will continue that way. Like I said, we really feel that we haven’t made a step forward since the last race for a good couple of races; we’re still waiting on our update and we know that Ferrari have brought their update package this weekend. All of a sudden they’re blistering quick as were the Red Bulls. They still have an advantage as I’ve always told you, straight up, that they still have a bit of an advantage on us but we’re still there and we’re still pushing and optimising the package that we have.


Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Sebastian and Mark, I don’t want to go into politics but you are maybe going to fight for victory into the first corner after the start. What’s your comment on it, considering what happened at the last races?
SV: Well, I think fighting for position is what racing drivers do. If you look at the job description that’s what we are. Obviously we’ve been through this many times but I’m not afraid that something similar will happen. You can never say never, but surely I think we’ve learned our bit and we’re looking forward. Yeah, not a lot of interest in the history.
MW: Obviously if there’s a chance to overtake we will go for it. If not, then I don’t. Nothing’s really changed in the last… my whole career. Obviously if something’s there we go, if not, we wait a bit longer.

Q: (Asen Stoyanov - Monitor Daily) Sebastian, can you tell us exactly how much you gain from the F-duct system per lap?
SV: It’s difficult to say. As I said earlier, we were not 100 percent happy yesterday. I think we made a step forward today but I don’t want to go into too much detail. We have it on the car, so we believe it gives us an advantage. Obviously we see from other teams how much it can be worth, probably around 0.4s - 0.5s per lap if you really manage to work well with it and you get the wing settings right and so on. For us, at this stage, I think it is less than this, but it’s an advantage.

Q: (Oleg Karpov - Klaxon) For all of you, are you surprised by Mercedes’s qualifying performance, 12th and 15th?
SV: Bit surprised, as you said, 12th and 15th. In first qualifying, it was Michael, I think, who right at the end managed to get into Q2. They looked very competitive yesterday. I don’t know what went wrong or what happened but they definitely looked stronger yesterday and this morning than they were this afternoon, so it looked a bit odd but obviously it’s the same for all of us, you’ve got a lot of things to do in qualifying and focus on your own, so apart from the result you don’t know much more.

Q: (Ivan Martin - La Gaceta) To Mark and Sebastian, with the introduction of the F-duct, have you found your car less competitive in the corners, have you lost some of the downforce because of the F-duct?
MW: Good question. It’s a very complicated system. McLaren, we know, have had quite a long period of time with it and teams are trying to close the gap to a point where it’s sensible but we are realistic; we’re never going to have the system probably as nicely integrated into the car and everything as McLaren have, because they designed the car with it. So we’ve had to adapt something a little bit different and try to make the system work. We are not losing in the corners with the F-duct. We’re confident the car is behaving well. We’re confident it’s a bit quicker, so that’s why we elected to race it. In Turkey that was not the case and we had some small problems with it there, which, to be honest - we had our eyes wide open - we expected to probably have some problems because it’s not easy. We’re learning. Even this morning in P3 we were trying different specs between the cars to try and get it even better. Let’s hope for Silverstone and future events we can get it even better.
SV: As Mark said, it’s not a very easy system. If you get it right, then you can really get an advantage, but it’s not that easy to set it up and it very easily gets distracted. I think we’ve found a very good compromise for here. I think we still have to improve it for the future.

Q: (Ivan Martin - La Gaceta) Lewis, these guys are always ahead of the rest or normally, but you are still ahead of Ferrari, without any special innovations. You’re waiting for the next step at Silverstone, so what do you expect from the next race, to be closer to the Red Bulls? Are you confident about the gap to Ferrari?
LH: I think it’s really, really hard to say because, for example, as I said, in P3 myself and Jenson were ninth and tenth and they were good laps, but everyone else - the fast guys - were eight tenths ahead of us. So taking from that, we thought, OK, our update needs to be very special, but I think we’re still working on it. I don’t think it’s going to be a huge step. Hopefully it’s going to be something we can work on and develop over the next few races but definitely the more downforce you get, the better it goes, so I’m hoping that we’ll close the gap to the Red Bulls and we’ll have more of a fighting chance to qualify ahead of them because generally we qualify behind them, normally, and that always makes the race a lot harder. So we’ll see.


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2012 Race Drivers

Sebastian Vettel
Mark Webber
Lewis Hamilton
Jenson Button
Fernando Alonso
Felipe Massa
Michael Schumacher
Nico Rosberg
Kimi Räikkönen
Romain Grosjean
Paul di Resta
Nico Hulkenberg
Kamui Kobayashi
Sergio Perez
Daniel Ricciardo
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Bruno Senna
Heikki Kovalainen
Vitaly Petrov
Pedro de la Rosa
Narain Karthikeyan
Timo Glock
Charles Pic

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