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FIA post-qualifying press conference - Italian GP

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Drivers: 1. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 1m 21.962s; 2. Jenson Button (McLaren), 1m 22.084s; 3. Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1m 22.293s
Q: Fernando, your first Italian Grand Prix as a Ferrari driver. Pole position. Describe the emotion.
Fernando Alonso: Well, it was a nice surprise. When I stopped in parc ferme and by radio they told me that we were keeping the first position but still cars on their laps and Jenson was pink in the second sector, so I thought now at the end as sometimes already happened this year someone will arrive at the last lap and we will be second or third by hundredths of seconds. In the end, today was different...

We remain on pole position until the last minute, the chequered flag, so that was a little surprise and for sure a much better feeling and fantastic taste this pole position here in Italy for Ferrari.

Q: You did all the work in the first run. But just take us through it. Tell us about the braking points and how they affected you.
FA: Well, you know we had two new set of tyres for Q3. We divided Q3 into two runs. The first run was just to put a god lap on the table and then in the second attempt to try to risk a little bit more. Sometimes here in Monza this is what happened. When you try to do a normal lap sometimes is better than when you try to risk too much. In these tricky chicanes and these fast corners with this low downforce it is very easy to over-drive a little bit, so the first lap at the end was the best one as maybe you do it in a calmer way.

Q: Jenson, it has been very close all weekend between you and Ferrari. What made the difference this afternoon?
Jenson Button: Well, first of all I want to say a big thank you to the team. We came here not quite sure which approach to take in terms of downforce and efficiency but I think our side definitely made the right decision to run the high downforce level with, as everyone calls it, the F-duct. I want to say a big thank you to them. It was a great decision. Qualifying was pretty good for me. I was close to the front in every session. In Q3 you know you have just got to push that little bit more but it is very, very tricky as Fernando said around here. You push a little bit and sometimes you go slower. You go over the astroturf on the exit or hit a kerb too hard, so it is very, very tricky and out of Ascari I got a little bit of oversteer and ran wide off the circuit. But still I am very happy to be second. This is the first time I have been on the front row of the grid this season, so it is a step forward. I have been very happy with the car’s performance and the approach we have had this weekend, so a good start and hopefully a competitive race tomorrow.

Q: As you say, you are running a different set-up on the rear wing from Lewis Hamilton, your team-mate. Can you just explain how that feels different in the cockpit?
JB: You have got more downforce, so you can brake later. You can carry more speed through corners. You have to push very hard. It is different to running low downforce. You have got to make the time up in the corners whereas with low downforce most of the time comes in the straight and you obviously have to tip-toe through the corners. But when you have high downforce you have got to be aggressive and you have really got to push the car. I feel it worked in qualifying. We were not 100 per cent sure it was going to, but for the race I think we are looking good.

Q: Felipe, you were fastest in Q1. Do you feel you peaked a little early?
Felipe Massa: I tried a different strategy on Q3 as I was not so sure about the tyres. When I put the soft tyres on in Q2 I could not do the best lap on the first lap straight away. It was getting better and better all the laps. I did three timed laps and the best was the last, so I said let’s risk it, let’s try to do three laps and we see maybe it is getting better and maybe the best lap will be the last one. But then in Q3 it was a little bit the opposite, so I tried that and it didn’t work as well as I expected with the grip on the tyres. I was able to go again, to do a one timed lap on the tyres, but it was not enough to fight for pole. But I think we have a good car. I am happy with the car for the race. Yesterday we did a very good job finding a good direction for the race and I think we improved the car massively like we expected and I think we should be very strong tomorrow and looking forward.

Q: How do you see the race unfolding? What is going to be the key for you?
FM: Tomorrow? I mean the race is always the race. You never know what is going to happen. The start is always important. Looking at the first corner here nobody knows what is going to happen as it is very tight but then the race pace, the strategy, is always the key to gain position or maybe even to lose. The race is always the race, so let’s try to do the best to be in front.

Q: Fernando, you are behind in the championship at the moment. How badly do you need a victory here at Monza?
FA: I think tomorrow we need a podium minimum to remain in the fight. There is not a big pressure, a big stress about winning the race or winning the next races but at the same time we know we cannot afford another DNF or another bad result. We must try to be consistent and try to be on the podium minimum. Then if we can win the race it would be great. But what we need is consistency, something that we didn’t have so far in the championship and for that reason we are not fighting now for the first position, so tomorrow we have a great chance to get a strong result and we will see where our opponents finish at the end.

Q: Fernando, you spoke a little yesterday about what it is like to be a Ferrari driver here at Monza. Now you are a Ferrari driver on pole at Monza. Tell us about the last couple of days and how it has affected you with the fans.
FA: Well, it has been a little surprise, to be honest. I have had a fantastic welcome here by the fans and great support for the team, for myself and it was a very nice feeling from Wednesday when I arrived here. It is a perfect place. This is a perfect place to be on pole position, here in Monza. To give them a good Saturday and hopefully a good Sunday afternoon as well.

Q: Tell us about the technical direction over the last couple of days. Has it been fairly simple and straightforward?
FA: No, I think it was not easy, especially after Spa, there has been a lot of work in the factory. A lot of analysis and trying to understand why we didn’t perform as expected in Spa. We think we went through the problem and everything should be clear now for us in terms of the direction to go. Then here on the track, especially yesterday, we arrived like a test day, nothing really. A weekend race. Just many new parts to try on the car, so at night we evaluated everything and we put on the car what we think was the best and today was the real first day of our maximum performance with it. The car responded well. Easy to drive. No big problems. No big set-up changes on the car as we were happy straight away, so it was very good news from today’s practice and qualifying.

Q: And race performance, similarly encouraging?
FA: Yeah, I think so. I think normally in the season one of our strongest points has been the race pace, not so much the qualifying, so I don’t have too many worries about the pace tomorrow. We just need to do a good start, a consistent pace in the first sting and also when we fit the prime tyres try to be also on a good pace. We know Monza how demanding it is on the mechanical side of the car. We saw some problems on the car yesterday for many teams. We saw another problem this morning for two or three teams, so it is not an easy race to finish in terms of the mechanical side, so let’s try to have everything under control if we can and try to finish the race with the maximum points possible.

Q: Jenson, you have been competitive all weekend. It is your best grid position of the year. What has changed? Is it a little bit the car? Is it a little bit yourself or both?
JB: I was very happy with the car in Spa. I just did not get quite the right lap in qualifying but the pace during the weekend was very good. But arriving here, running with the high downforce setting that we had, I felt very happy with the car. I did hundreds of miles in the simulator with it and driving here in reality the car felt very good. I am confident in the rear of the car and over one lap the pace is good but for me the real benefit of our car at the moment is the long run pace, so it is good to be on the front row. It is going to be an interesting race with cars running such different downforce levels but it adds something to the spectacle I suppose and it is a very special race for everyone. The fans here are very passionate and it is nice to be at the front fighting it out with the Ferraris but I need to say a big thank you to the whole team. The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team have done a great job this weekend of giving us some great packages. The car is moving forward all the time and it is great to see. It is very exciting for tomorrow. Our main aim is to win the race tomorrow but it is very difficult at the front at the moment. It is very competitive but that has to be the aim. A podium would be great but we have to go for the victory.

Q: A good result might bring you back up into the championship contention again. How important is that?
JB: It is very important. I have got the trophy at home and I want it to stay there. Tomorrow’s race is very important, but it is just like any other race of the season. It turned around very quickly in Spa for Fernando and myself and Sebastian (Vettel). We were title contenders in a lot of journalists’ eyes and then after one race we are suddenly not. I think it can all turn around very quickly. There are five or six guys fighting for this world championship and I don’t think it is slipping away from anyone at the moment. That’s great for Formula One. I think it is a very exciting year and I think we are going to put on a great show here as well.

Q: Yesterday, you talked about how things didn’t go so well towards the end of the day, so how much did you change overnight?
JB: Not a lot actually. It’s one of those days where you end up looking for things to change, and then having to take a step back and think ‘well, do we actually need to change the car that much?’ We did make small tweaks and that was the benefit, I think. Our biggest issue was running the soft tyre, wondering if we could get it to work in qualifying. But we made some tweaks to the car and it’s improved the car a lot. The guys did a great job of really streamlining our efforts this weekend and it’s great to be on the front row. It was a fun lap for me. You’ve got to push so hard in the corners, obviously when you’re running more downforce and it was a little bit ragged towards the end of the lap but it was a fun lap and nice to be up here on the front row.

Q: Felipe, you said yesterday you were constantly improving the car; did that continue this morning?
FM: Yeah, definitely. Yesterday, I think, as Fernando said, we had a very testing day, to try the parts and to see which one was actually the best for this track, but then we had exactly the same feeling, both drivers. We tried different things, different wings and then we chose the same because it was the one which made the car stronger. Since we changed that, we were much more competitive. I think today we were competitive this morning, during the qualifying as well, so I think we should be very strong in the race and looking forward to having a strong race and also looking for a great position in front of the Italian tifosi.

Q: It was quite a rush for you to get out at the end, you only just made it, but are you happy with third place on the grid?
FM: No, no, because I think the possibility of pole position was there. I had a little bit of trouble to make the tyres work straight away on the first lap which was the case for Fernando and then when I tried the soft tyres in Q2, the last lap was the best. I tried to take a little risk in Q3 by putting on a set and doing three laps on these tyres, but then it didn’t work as I expected. I came in, I changed the tyres, everything was rushed, so the lap wasn’t great, so there was a little bit of a strategy change from Q2 to Q3 but it was still a good qualifying.

Q: (Carlos Miquel - Grand Prix Actual) Fernando, what’s your main worry in the race and myou must now be very happy after the bad day in Belgium?
FA: The main worry for tomorrow… not only one, I think. As I said before, this is a difficult race to finish. We know Monza is not the easiest place for engine, gearbox, brakes etc, so we need to be very careful about that and have everything under control. There is the first corner… obviously in turns one and two we see some small action there. Obviously we’re in the best position possible to avoid any risk at the start which is pole position but you never know. We will then see the race pace. Yesterday I think the maximum number of laps everybody did was around eight or nine, so after nine laps nobody knows how the tyres will behave or how the case will be for anyone, so we just need to remain calm and do our race and we will see what happens in the end. Yeah, I’m happy, obviously after Spa which was a disappointment. We were not too quick there, so a part of the disappointment of the bad result in Spa were some concerns about our pace, about our level of competitiveness, so now I think we are much more focused and much more confident of our latest developments in the car.

Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto Motor und Sport) Jenson, you have chosen a completely different package to Lewis; what was the idea behind that? Did you ever consider trying the other one yesterday?
JB: In P1 we both ran with the higher downforce package, because it’s a package that we thought would be quicker. You’ve obviously got the worry of the straightline speed. I think we were both reasonably happy with the package in P1 but Lewis decided he wanted to try the lower downforce and that’s the package he preferred. We ended up running today with very different cars which is quite surprising to have such a difference but that’s just the way we like the car, I suppose. For me, this was the best option. I don’t know what Lewis thinks about the lower downforce now but before qualifying he was happy with it.

Q: (Flavio Vanetti - Corriere della Sera) Fernando, you told us about the little surprise but how much beyond expectation was this pole?
FA: More than a surprise, it was the worry of losing pole position as has happened this year at least three times. We were leading the times and in the last thirty seconds someone arrived and they were two milli-seconds, five tenths, one tenth, half a tenth and they were quicker than us and we always finished second or third in the last ten seconds of qualifying. So there was always that worry in my mind in the last thirty seconds of qualifying but this time it was different, so it was a great result for the team. Expectations? Every qualifying we go, every race we go, we try to be on pole position and we focus all weekend and our approach is to be on pole position and to win the race, but sometimes… or most of the times this season we never achieved that, so this was a great achievement by the team. We proved that we were quick. Felipe was doing a fantastic lap also in qualifying, being third and very quick in Q1 straight away, so the car is there. In the end, we chose different strategies in Q3: one car did a long run with one set of tyres, the other car did two runs with two new sets of tyres and that was the only difference. The car is there and that is the best news.

Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Jenson, how surprised are you that Lewis is not here with you in the top three because this was supposed to be McLaren’s track?
JB: Yeah, I think it is, it’s a good circuit for us. I personally didn’t expect the Ferraris to be as quick as they are. They’ve obviously come with a very good package and these two have done a good job. Lewis and myself have both been quick all weekend. We’ve been running very different cars but still the lap times have been very similar and strangely enough, even though there is a difference in downforce levels and a difference in the set-up of the car, our sectors have been very similar: first, second and third. So I suppose I’m a little bit surprised that his lap time was that far behind because he’s been very competitive all weekend.

Q: (Jaime Rodriguez - El Mundo) Felipe and Fernando, this morning, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo has been with you in the motor home; did you tell him something special, something different?
FA: Well, president Montezemolo is always supporting us. We talk with him on the phone every day when we have finished practice or qualifying etc. Today he is here, trying to support the team as well, because we need some good results now, some strong results and Monza we know is a special race for the team, a very special atmosphere in the garage and in the grandstands due to Ferrari passion, so it’s good to have him here and to give him this possibility of seeing two Ferraris in the top three.
FM: I think this is a place where we need everybody from the team. It’s the Italian Grand Prix and we know how important it is for the whole team, for the people outside who really live Ferrari every day. He’s also a great image in this company and it’s always very nice to have him with us, pushing us and talking to us, to be there and try to do our best, and I think it was a good qualifying, so it was very nice to have everybody together, pushing the cars forward.

Q: (Paulo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Jenson, of all the teams who have the F-duct, Lewis is the only one who is not using it here. Do you think that’s a mistake?
JB: I don’t think it’s just a case of using the F-duct or not using the F-duct. It’s aerodynamic level or downforce level that differs from the others. These guys have got very good straight-line speed just like Lewis has. He didn’t find the effect of an F-duct big enough with low downforce wing to actually warrant running with it this weekend, so for us, having the weight lower, not having the F-duct system on the car was the better option and I think for the low downforce package that we have, it was correct. Obviously I’m running a different setting, as you can tell from the rear wing, and the F-duct has a lot more effect with a heavier drag wing.

Q: (Marco Evangelisti - Corriere dello Sport) Fernando, while driving for Ferrari, Michael Schumacher at least twice reversed a world championship that seemed to be lost. Do you think you can do the same tomorrow?
FA: Well, I think trying to do what Michael did for Ferrari would be a mistake, so I try to do my best in this championship and hopefully here is a good point of changing the way the championship goes, changing luck as well, and hopefully this pole position is a new championship for us. But we know this is a very unique layout and Red Bull is fourth and sixth and we don’t expect to see Red Bull fourth and sixth in Singapore for example. Let’s try to take our opportunities this weekend and I’m sure that the championship will be very close and we will fight until the end.

Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Motor und Sport) Fernando, you just said the performance of the car so far has been very often dictated by the nature of the circuit. Do you think that what you have learned from Spa is transferable also to other circuits now?
FA: Yeah, I think so. I think we have one car, one package that should suit more or less all types of circuits. I think our main rivals have very specific characteristics in their cars and we are somewhere in the middle. I see quite a good package for the last part of the season, but as I said,we understand and we respect and we know that there will be some circuits where it will be very difficult to fight for pole positions or for wins. We need to have the best result possible every weekend and maybe here in Monza, the result is to win the podium or to win the race, so we have to take this opportunity, so hopefully tomorrow we don’t miss this one.


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2012 Race Drivers

Sebastian Vettel
Mark Webber
Lewis Hamilton
Jenson Button
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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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Vitaly Petrov
Pedro de la Rosa
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Timo Glock
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