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FIA post-qualifying press conference - Abu Dhabi GP, Yas Marina

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Drivers: 1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 1m 39.394s; 2. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1m3 9.425s; 3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 1m 39.792s
Q: Sebastian, a crucial pole at a crucial time. You have a great chance now of becoming the youngest ever World Champion.
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, we start from pole, couldn’t be better. I think it was a tough qualifying session...

We knew that the conditions would be tricky. At night the temperatures drop a little bit. Yesterday in the afternoon, or the late evening, in the practice we didn’t look too good and we were not 100 per cent happy but I think we made a big step today which allowed us to fight for the pole. I think it was very close with Lewis especially. In the end I think if we would have done two runs it would probably have been the better choice. I was surprised how much the circuit ramped up for us in the end but nonetheless we went out last and we did it. A very good job today by everyone, the whole team. It was a tight session, so now looking forward to tomorrow and see what happens.

Q: That is 10 poles for you this season. It has been an amazing year.
SV: Yeah, definitely. I had some kind of statistic the other day in front of me, how many poles per season some drivers have done. Guys like Senna, Prost, Michael (Schumacher). They are all up there and with 10 poles I am not at the top, so maybe we can work on that next year. But still it has been a phenomenal qualifying, no problems and always the car was very competitive. Very pleased. And 10 poles in qualifying in one season is a great effort and shows how good our car is.

Q: Lewis, you had a few tricky moments in Q2, particularly with Felipe Massa. Then in Q3 you came close but not quite close enough?
Lewis Hamilton: Today was a much better weekend, or start of a weekend for us. The team have done some great things improving certain parts of the car and it’s enabled us to be a lot more competitive this weekend. A good feeling again for us. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We are quite chilled and we are quite happy. Great job also by Jenson (Button). A good step to hopefully score more points than the Ferraris tomorrow. I cannot really complain where I am.

Q: In a situation like today how much does having the pressure off help you?
LH: Massively. In 2007 and 2008 being at the last races with an incredible amount of pressure on, but this weekend is a huge difference for me. I am just here enjoying myself and enjoying driving the car and looking forward to tomorrow.

Q: Fernando, you had the pressure on as you were outside the top three until the very last seconds. Tell us about the pressure you had to soak up there?
Fernando Alonso: Well, obviously tough qualifying for everyone. Changing position constantly in Q2 and then Q3 as well. You never know how competitive you are until the Q3 finish. I think the first attempt was not great. I had some traffic in the first sector, so I knew that in the second set of tyres there is some potential to come, so I pushed to the limit and third place is great. I think yesterday we did a good job on the set-up, race pace and qualifying pace. Today I think it was a good qualifying for us. We just need only one more day and perfection.

Q: From a championship point of view how strong a position are you feeling in right now?
FA: I think we are more or less in the same situation as we were two days ago before first practice. We know the situation. We know four contenders. I think everything is down to tomorrow’s race. Anything can happen in the race. We saw in the last two or three events some changes. In Korea, the Red Bulls were very strong and then they lost the race with some mechanical issues. In Brazil we saw some problems with some pit stops for Mercedes, for Felipe (Massa) as well, so in a race situation anything can happen. We need to complete the 55 laps without any problem. I think it will be a tough, long race for everyone but we are in a position at the moment that is very strong.

Q: Sebastian, it is the title decider tomorrow. What are your thoughts going into this huge day?
SV: Well, looking forward to the race. I like this track. Last year I had a very good experience here and the car was fantastic and I think in the race the car is even stronger, so we will see. As Fernando and Lewis said it is a long race and anything can happen, so we have to go step by step. Today we did the best job we can. We are in front of everyone else. If we make sure we stay there tomorrow I think we do our maximum and then see what happens.


Q: Sebastian, given the championship position and given the situation you are on pole position, there are another three guys who would love that pole, how does it feel?
SV: Good.

Q: How good?
SV: Very good. I think it was a tough qualifying session today. Last year it was tricky here already with the conditions changing so much between the, you call it the morning but it is the afternoon and evening. We knew it would be tricky and no-one really knew what to expect, which tyre would work best. It was tricky. Usually you see short runs, people going out one lap, one lap and it is different here. The circuit ramped up a lot. In the end in Q3 I did only one run. We waited for three and a half minutes and then we went out. Three laps. It was tight but it was enough. In hindsight I think probably it would have been a little bit quicker if we had done two runs but if there is anybody to blame it is myself as I thought it might be too risky on the options if the first lap is not ready and the tyres are not there yet. I decided for one run and it worked, so in the end I think we did a very good job and got the maximum. Just mentioning before, 10 pole positions in one season is not too bad, so whatever comes now I think it is a bonus anyway. That is what we keep telling the last couple of races. My season has been up and down and we should be in a different position and we are not. Still we are in a strong position. We put the car on pole here which is crucial for tomorrow’s race. It is long race, a lot of things can happen. We will see. The car seems quick, so looking forward. I don’t know, is there a car you can win this year? That would be a nice surprise like last year, so looking forward.

Q: Does this relieve a bit of the pressure that is on you or are you not feeling any pressure?
SV: It is always tight when you know you have the car to put the car on the front row, ideally on pole. I think here it was very close, especially with Lewis at the end. I think only three or four hundredths between us. It was tight and when I was slowing down and they were still on their hot laps, as they decided to do two runs, I was trying to get feed-back as much as I could. At the end you just have to wait. You can’t change it. It was enough and that’s good. Pressure wise as I said before we know in which position we are. We are not leading this championship, so probably there is more pressure on Fernando and Mark (Webber). We do our maximum. We are in a similar position to Lewis and enjoying the drive here and trying to win tomorrow and the rest we will see.

Q: You got a good amount out of the car today as you said you changed it quite a lot from yesterday?
SV: Yeah, we did. I mean it wasn’t horrible. We were only two-tenths behind Lewis and McLaren. You don’t know the fuel loads and so on, but I think pace was okay. We were not happy probably on the qualifying pace but much happier on the race pace. Today we did a step forward. Nothing tremendous we have changed, nothing big. I think small steps that just allowed us to go a certain bit quicker. It is tricky here. Tricky track with the conditions. You need to stay awake all the time and I think we did yesterday, working hard and long into the night and it paid off, so we will see what happens tomorrow.

Q: Lewis, you mentioned that you felt the car was going really well yesterday and that the rear wing was working particularly well and obviously this is the reward today.
LH: Yeah, the guys have done a great job to finally, not 100 per cent fix the rear wing, but get it working to a point where we can use it, so it has been a bit of a benefit this weekend. Generally we have got good end of straight speed and the rest of the car with some small improvements it is feeling really good, so very happy to be up there. This is the highest I have qualified for some time now, so it is a good feeling.

Q: What about at the start of that last run as there seemed to be so much traffic around. Same thing for Fernando as well. Did that completely ruin the last run?
LH: No, not for me. I was in quite a good position. Sometimes you want to be one of the last people out but fortunately I was just ahead of both Ferraris and I think Nico (Rosberg). Rubens (Barrichello) was still on the lap, so the fortunate thing he was pulling away, not backing up into me and I was able to bridge a gap between myself and him and have a clear run. I had a really good lap. I was quite happy.

Q: Then earlier on you had a bit of a moment with Felipe going into that first chicane?
LH: Yeah, these things happen. Fortunately I was able to complete the lap after that, so it was good.

Q: Was there damage to the car from that?
LH: Yeah.

Q: Just the front wing or more than that?
LH: I think just the front wing. Fortunately those bollards are not too damaging.

Q: Fernando, as I say traffic at the start of that last run. Did that ruin it for you?
FA: No, it was okay. There is a tight margin to cross the line before the time finish, so we were informed by the engineers that we had something like 10 seconds margin which is not great but it was enough.

Q: It wasn’t great for your team-mate? I imagine it was about half a tenth when he made it.
FA: Well, yeah, it was not easy for anyone but at least for me it was fine.

Q: Is it better to be third than second, do you feel? Is there a clean and dirty side of the grid here?
FA: I don’t think there’s a huge difference but if there’s no difference as I feel there isn’t here, then you are eight metres in front of the fourth guy, so better third than fourth.

Q: And the most important thing to be ahead of Mark?
FA: Well, I think we will see in the race tomorrow. Obviously it’s better to be third and having Mark fifth than third and having Mark first, there’s no doubt, but as I said yesterday in the press meeting, I think the race is tomorrow. Saturday is important, we know, but at the end of the day as we saw in the last couple of events, interesting races, some mechanical failures, some problems, some mistakes, so we need to avoid all those tomorrow. The position in qualifying is OK, but the real race and the points are tomorrow, so I’m happy for the position today but we did nothing.


Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, could you explain to us your last lap, because in the first sector you were not very fast and at the end you made a miracle?
FA: Well, I think at the first attempt in Q3 we had some traffic in the last sector, so when we put on the second set of tyres, I was convinced that the last sector was our best possibility to improve the lap we did before, so first and second sector we saved the tyres a little bit. Obviously we were running with the super soft tyres but they get very hot towards the end of the lap, so taking the lap very calm, even though it was Q3 and the last attempt, you need to remain very calm because the last sector is 40 seconds of the lap, so a lot of time to gain.

Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Fernando, I think one of the crucial points for you was to have somebody between Sebastian and Mark, and now there are three guys between those two and Mark is two positions behind you. Do you think this was a good step towards the World Championship?
FA: As we said, on Thursday as well, this weekend our main target is to do the best job we can: to give a hundred percent of the potential of the car, the team working all together in the same direction. We know that sometimes we can be on pole or winning the race, sometimes third or fourth or whatever, so we didn’t have a clear target for the race, we just tried to do our best. If it was enough or not we will see tomorrow. Obviously all the speculation about Red Bull or whatever was not our job.

Q: (Ian Gordon - News of the World) Lewis, you said on the radio that Felipe came across you. Was it an accident or do you think he was trying to spoil your lap?
LH: I wasn’t on a lap. I was just exiting the pits. He was doing the same behind me, but I was informed that someone was on a lap - they’re in your blind spot, so what I didn’t want to do was get in the way, so as I came out onto turn three, I went onto the very dirty outside area to leave whoever was coming through some clear space and as I came back onto the track, I was going into the corner and I found Felipe round the outside. I don’t know what really happened; I’d have to look at it afterwards.

Q: (Marco Evangelisti - Corriere dello Sport) Fernando what’s your plan for the start tomorrow: trying to attack Lewis or keep your mind calm and control the situation?
FA: First of all we need to see how the start goes. Normally after the first ten or twenty meters you understand if you had a good or bad start. If you are that good, you can think of attacking. If you feel that something is going wrong, you try to defend your position, so it will be a reaction or action that we need to take tomorrow after the first ten or twenty meters, but in general I think we will not win the championship in corner one. The only thing we can do is to lose it, so we will see.

Q: (Toni Lopez - La Vanguardia) Fernando, tomorrow you can win your third championship crown; what does your heart say to you?
FA: I’m confident. I’ve been confident for the last five months of the championship. Now there’s one day to go. We knew this weekend would be difficult, arriving with Red Bull very dominant in the last three or four grands prix. Now we’ve past Friday, we did some set-up work and some interesting runs with the tyres etc. We’ve past Saturday with a good qualifying in terms of championship positions. Now there is only one more cross to put: Sunday.

Q: (Carlos Miquel - El Diario) Fernando, are you worried about the soft tyres tomorrow? Could they be a problem?
FA: I think it’s the same for everybody, even better for us, because we did only one timed lap on the tyres. The Red Bulls did three or four. In a way I’m not too worried, but we know that Lewis faced some degradation yesterday with the super soft tyres, when we put the fuel on board, so tomorrow it’s something that we need to pay attention to as well, but we are in a similar position to all our opponents, so nothing will really change.

Q: (Niki Takeda - Formula PA) Fernando, you have been in this position before. How different is it to the other two Saturdays when you won the title?
FA: Every year is different, I think. For sure it depends on the competitiveness of your car, how quick you have been in the last three or four grands prix, how strong you feel in the car and how confident you feel in the car. I think this year is different in a way, because I feel that maybe we are not the fastest normally, especially on Saturday when we struggle a little bit more on one lap pace but we have a very good tyre degradation and a very good race pace normally, so for tomorrow I feel confident. This year I also feel the team supporting me a lot, a very good atmosphere in the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro all year. I feel very happy in the car, despite what happens tomorrow. As I’ve said, 2010 is a great, great year for me.

Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Motor und Sport) Sebastian, why did you have so many concerns about tyre warm-up? Is it due to the nature of the circuit here, is it the set-up?
SV: It comes from the circuit. We saw last year that everyone did one run in Q1, one run in Q2, one run in Q3. This year the tyres are a little bit different, probably helping that a little bit and in the evening the temperatures drop, the ambient drops a lot, the circuit temperature is also dropping, not dramatically but obviously there’s no sun, no daylight anymore, so it changes a little bit. As I said, I think yesterday we were not as competitive as today and it was much better this evening, tonight, and yeah, I think in the end I could feel it probably as much as all the other cars. The circuit ramped up quite a lot. It was a tough call, but in the end all you need is one lap in qualifying, so we did one run and we committed to that and we still did it, so I think in hindsight we could do it again with the knowledge that we have now, we would decide to go for two runs in Q3, just because it gives you a bit more security, you have one set of tyres each time and you are able to push with a new set for only one lap and not trying to think about the next lap and maybe not pushing a bit too hard in the beginning and so on. I think usually it’s easier when it’s straightforward – one lap, one lap – but as I said, because of the conditions here and so on, it’s probably not as straightforward as other places.

Q: (Marco Degli’Innocenti - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, obviously the discussions of the last days and weeks at this stage seem to have become a little vain or useless. What will you feel if tomorrow you win the race and Red Bull won the Drivers’ Championship?
SV: Well, it depends. If I win it, I will be very happy, if I don’t, then we will see who else wins it. As I told you, I think there are a lot of things between practice sessions. We were not as happy as today and obviously for me, I’m very happy today with the result. Obviously Mark struggled a lot in Q3. I don’t know yet what happened to him, because I think he was fairly close in Q1 and Q2. Again, we see how quickly things can change but I think the most important thing, as I said over the last couple of days, is to keep our head down and focus on us. We try to do what we can and the rest we will see or not.

Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Deutschland)Sebastian, you are in a position where you rely on the results of others when it comes to the championship. I think you are probably quite relieved, being in the front, but how much will you look at the situation on the track during the race tomorrow?
SV: Well, the main target is to finish the race tomorrow. That would be a good start, and obviously as high up as possible. As you say, it’s not dependent on me, so all I can do is maximise our performance. We have to focus on us and then it’s up to the others that have to deliver, so we take it step-by-step. It is what it is. We knew that before going to Brazil, before coming here, before starting the race here, the event. As usual, we focus on a good start. I think starts were good and then we see what happens. I told you on Thursday that it looks tight here, tighter than other places probably with Ferrari strong, McLaren very strong. It will be a long race and then after the race there are screens around the track I think there is time enough to see where the others have finished and if there is something to celebrate or not.

Q: (Mat Coch - The circuit’s quite dirty offline, how difficult is that going make racing and overtaking tomorrow?
LH: I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. It’s not that dirty offline to be honest. It’s a very smooth circuit. There is some rubber on our side but it’s nothing compared to places like Montreal. So I think going offline and braking on the inside at the end of the straight into turn eight shouldn’t be a problem for us.

Q: (Ian Gordon - News of the World) Fernando, returning to a theme, Max Mosley said today that if you win the title by less than seven points you will not deserve it. If you finish third tomorrow and Sebastian’s first, you will win it by six points. Will you deserve the title?
FA: Yes.

Q: (Ian Gordon - News of the World) Can you say why?
FA: I think that is enough talk about this. All that matters, at this moment, Saturday after qualifying in the final race is that we concentrate now.


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