First sector is pretty straight, so there is not much you can do, just hit your braking points. Then the second and third sector here is quite entertaining with nice flowing corners but easy to do a mistake. I think in the last run I gave a little bit too much margin and lost in the middle sector. Obviously we have the possibility inside the car to check how fast we are actually going, so I saw that maybe it is not enough and I speeded up in the last sector again and fortunately, again as I said with very little margin, but enough for pole. I think it is a very good achievement from all of us, especially as yesterday wasn’t smooth running at all. We tried something and it didn’t work plus we had the puncture in the free practice on a new track which basically no-one knew before here. I had very little laps. This morning we tried to save the car a little and I only a few runnings, so I had to take whatever I could in qualifying out of these couple of laps but I was able to get into the rhythm more and more and was able to go with the track improvement and improve the lap times as well.
Q: We have got different cars that are faster in different parts of the circuit with you, the Ferraris and McLarens. What made the difference for you today, do you think?
SV: Well, I think the difference in the end as I said with so little running yesterday and this morning was basically just to get into the rhythm. Some corners here are quite tricky to understand how they work, especially turn nine, ten then 11, the long left-hander which is nicely cambered but then leads into an off-camber right hander, turn 12. There are a lot of things you have to understand, how much kerb, a little bit too much and you go into the dust which then affects the next corner, so it wasn’t easy but I think, as usual, when it comes to corners we know that our car is very good. On the straight line we are doing our best. Out F-duct is improving and getting better, so that helps, but there is not much we can do, so we have to fight back even harder in the corners.
Q: Mark, you took a different tactic. A two lap run at the end. What did you lose and what did you gain?
Mark Webber: I wasn’t that happy on the first timed laps. It was more comfortable and more stable I suppose for me to do two timed and it worked out okay. It was very, very close with Seb and I got second on the grid which is a lot better off than many other positions on the grid but it would have been nice to get pole. But in the end it is still a good position to start the race. We can still do very well from there and get a good result. Qualifying went to plan today, I would say. Pretty close, but not quite.
Q: You are starting from the dirty side of the grid and here it is likely to be very dirty as it is a brand new track which you have been cleaning up for the last few days. How big a concern is that with the attack that is possibly coming from Fernando at the start?
MW: Fernando will probably be pretty solid off the line but it is not make-or-break for the World Championship. We will just get through what we can and press on from there. I am certainly still in a good position.
Q: Fernando, you were fastest after the first runs in Q3. Where did it get away from you today?
Fernando Alonso: I think it was a nice qualifying, nice smooth qualifying. Q1 we were a little bit quicker than we thought, so we found the pace straight away with the prime tyres. We put the soft on for Q2 and the car was again very, very quick, so in Q3 we knew that we had a little possibility, not too much as we know that when we arrive at the crucial moments in Q3 Red Bull is normally pushing a little bit more and being a little bit quicker than everybody. With not too high expectations we went into Q3. We have to give our maximum again once more, one race again. I think P3 again once more was our maximum potential today which in a way is very good news as normally qualifying is not our strongest point of the weekend and here it seems that we are quite close to the Red Bulls, so looking good for tomorrow.
Q: What is the plan for attacking the Red Bulls during the race?
FA: First of all we need to see the forecast. Still some doubts about the rain possibility, especially in the morning, so we need to be very calm, we need to finish the race. That is the first priority. We are five contenders at the moment and maybe tomorrow not all five finish the race, so we cannot be one of those that doesn’t finish as we need to keep scoring points every race and I am sure if we do that we will be very happy tomorrow afternoon.
Q: Sebastian, pole and the win in Japan. Pole today. Is this your sprint finish to claim the championship?
SV: I wouldn’t mind. You have to take every race as it comes. Japan was obviously nice but now we are in Korea. All the focus is on tomorrow’s race but today I am very happy given the difficulties we had throughout practice on a new track, not able to get into the rhythm, I think it was a very good achievement from all of us. The car was quick no doubt but still you need to get it done. The most important was never to lose the focus, remain calm, which I think we all did and we knew that we had enough, so we went into qualifying confident. Our job is done today, so we will see tomorrow.
Q: Sebastian, that looked an absolutely amazing qualifying session. I don’t know how it was from your point of view?
SV: Well, with so little running yesterday and this morning I think it was a pretty good achievement by all of us. Yesterday with the puncture we were unfortunate, so we had to start early on the option on a greener track than the others. It obviously wears the tyres more and we tried something that probably did not work as expected. Nevertheless, it is important to remain calm which we did all the time and even this morning with little laps trying to save the car. Coming into qualifying and straight away on a new track, which as I said I didn’t do too many laps, it is important to get into the rhythm, to be there straight away, which was good. The car was very good throughout qualifying. We didn’t really change much or play around, only little tweaks.
Q: What was the point about not doing laps this morning; what were you trying to save? Engine mileage?
SV: Just not putting too many laps on the engine if it wasn’t necessary. Obviously it was difficult. Yesterday we didn’t get the laps in, so we knew before coming here that on Saturday morning we would go a little bit shorter than the rest, but unfortunately it turned out we had less (running) on Friday as well, so that didn’t go as planned, but we always knew it would be tighter on Saturday but I think we got through it pretty well and here we are. To finish off what I started just now: qualifying was obviously very entertaining. I was getting more and more comfortable with the track, the way some corners worked, and the car was picking up speed with the track rubbering in towards the end, so very pleased.
Q: So how confident were you going into qualifying?
SV: In the end, obviously, it always helps if you get a proper run in P3 or yesterday, which we didn’t have at all this morning. Even for the two laps that I had I was stuck in traffic and it didn’t come together. The sectors looked alright. For sure, you have no lap time that you can talk about or look at but still you look into yourself and you know that if everything works according to plan you should be alright. As I said earlier, we were always calm and there was no reason to panic. We were confident and then in the end you run in P3 or if you put some lap times in – you’re either at the top of the table or you’re not.
Q: Mark, disappointed not to be on pole?
MW: Very happy to be second, what do you think?
Q: I mean the performance you have had so far this weekend had been really good.
MW: Yeah, look, we knew it was going to be a tight fight. It always is. Front row is still not too bad. We are ready to go for tomorrow. It was a good battle and just missed out by a sniff but ready to go for tomorrow.
Q: At one point it could be said that you didn’t have to fight for wins and you could play the game. But surely the time has come that maybe you have got to fight for wins after all.
MW: I think the media make their own ideas of what I need to do. I have always said that I need to continue to win. I got through some rough events, Singapore, Monza, Suzuka maybe was not one of the best tracks for me, but anyway I did well at those tracks and here we are. He got pole but it is far from the end of the world but ready to go tomorrow.
Q: Are McLaren still a major fear, particularly that first sector?
MW: Of course, yes. They will be very quick on the straight, we know that but that was quite predictable probably in July that coming here it was going to be like that.
Q: Was the new engine planned for this race?
MW: I think so. It’s no big deal. People make a big deal of it but it’s just another engine that’s in the car ready to go. I wasn’t exactly flying in that first sector today, so… It doesn’t make a huge difference , it’s just another fresh unit and Renault have done a good job for us.
Q: Fernando, you said you were optimistic after yesterday but you seem to be philosophical to be in third today.
FA: I think we’re in a very good position. First of all, I think Red Bull are normally very strong on Saturday; they’ve scored something like 95 percent of the year’s pole positions, so no surprise to see them very quick on Saturday. For us, it’s been a good day, very quick in Q1, straight away, very happy with the car balance. Then into Q2 with good confidence with the soft tyres which are working very well for us here, so I think now being third, just two tenths away from Red Bull, I think is a great achievement from our team on this track. I think we have a strong race in front of us now with what is normally our better part of the weekend which is the race pace.
Q: Yesterday people were saying that there are possibilities to overtake; do you think that’s going to be the situation in the race?
FA: We have to see. Normally there are some circuits that on paper you see some good overtaking opportunities; then you get to the race and you see races with very difficult manoeuvres or no overtaking at all. And then, instead there are some circuits where on paper you see no real possibilities, like Suzuka in 2005, ’06, those years or even the last race where Kobayashi overtook six or seven cars. We need to wait and see regarding tomorrow’s race. On paper, as I said, it seems you have two or three opportunities for overtaking here but better to check tomorrow.
Q: And the track conditions today?
FA: They keep improving. I think every lap when you go out of the garage you already feel more grip. We were running 42s/43s yesterday in P1, then 39s or 38s in free practice two, 37s in free practice three and now 35s or something like that. I expect quite tricky conditions to start the race tomorrow but improving throughout the race and in the last couple of laps we will have very high grip.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret - L’Equipe) Mark, in Suzuka you said that you had to pass Seb at the first corner; afterwards, it was to try and overtake him. Is it the same here?
MW: Probably, yeah. But it’s best not to arrive at corner three in first, so we will see what happens.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Sebastian, which is your main rival tomorrow? Possible rain, Mark or Fernando?
SV: Myself. I think I have to focus on me only, like I had to this afternoon. I think Mark showed yesterday and this morning what the car was capable of, that we were competitive. As I said, I remained calm, I was never worried that I couldn’t match that, so we will see. It’s a long race. Fernando starts right behind me. First of all, we need to focus on the start, prepare that, and then off we go and then we’ve got some corners where I think a lot of things can happen but I’m confident. If you look at sector one, in the end we were not so disastrous – probably better than expected and in terms of straight-line speed we know that we probably cannot match the Renault with this magnificent F-duct system they have and the McLarens but I think we are similar to Ferrari, so we will see. As you said, rain is possible, so we don’t know what type of track we will start on. I have to focus on myself, I guess.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Motor und Sport) Mark, on your second outing you did two flying laps. Why did you go in that direction, because it meant you obviously carried some extra fuel in the first one?
MW: Yeah, I wasn’t overly happy on the first lap on the options. I thought it was better for me to do two timed and it turned out to work not too badly. My second lap was my best, so it was close and still a very fast lap time but obviously just not quite enough to be the fastest.
Q: (RTI TV) Fernando, do you consider a two stop strategy possible because of the graining?
FA: We will see. We are really open to any strategy, normally, before the race, not only at this track but it was also a possibility at some other circuits. We will see tomorrow. I think if the track evolution is high enough that the grip comes to the tyre and you don’t grain so much, then maybe it’s one stop as usual. If the track is still not very grippy and you destroy the tyres, then there is that possibility (of two stops) but I think it will be very much a call at the last moment.
Q: (Matthias Brunner - Speedweek) For all three of you, how happy or unhappy are you about the overnight track changes?
SV: Well, I think the real change… OK, turn 18, obviously the last corner where they have put a lump on the inside in order to prevent us from cutting too much – I don’t think that’s changed anything. I was not looking forward to the change in turn 16, to be honest, yesterday. I didn’t think that would be the right decision but I was proved wrong. I think we did the right thing. It makes it a bit trickier to hit the apex but in the end it’s our job to still get the best out of it, and I think it’s safer for the cars. You hit the bump less in turn 16, so I’m happy with it. I think it’s better now than it was.
Q: Fernando, do have a car good enough to attack in the first corner or do you think it’s better to keep your position and wait until the battle at turn three?
FA: I think we need to see two things: first of all, the condition of the track tomorrow. There’s supposed to be some rain coming in the morning, so we need to see with which tyres and in what conditions we start. And then secondly, if it’s dry at the start of the race, we need to see how the starts are. We’ve been a little bit inconsistent in some races with some good starts and some bad start, so tomorrow, for sure, is a day to have one of the good ones. Try to pass at least one of the Red Bulls, try to protect (my position) from the guys behind: Rosberg, Hamilton. So there are still a lot of things to do before turn five or six. I’m sure that there will be some attacking manoeuvres at turn one, turn three but on the other hand, some defending manoeuvres because the race is long and we need to finish the race. We cannot afford to be out of the race in the one of the first corners.
Q: (Frederic Ferret - L’Equipe) Sebastian and Fernando, if there is no rain, do you think you will have more grip than on the other side of the grid as there are no support races?
FA: There will be similar grip on both sides.