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FIA post-qualifying press conference - Australian GP, Melbourne Albert Park Circuit

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Drivers: P1 - Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull); P2 - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren); P3 - Mark Webber (Red Bull)
Q: Sebastian, a totally dominant performance. Half-a-second faster than last year’s pole position and you didn’t even use the KERS button. You must feel on top of the world?

Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, I mean it was a bit of a funny winter. A lot of things changed. The cars changed a lot. Winter testing has been busy and we all try and work our way around the tyres, the new Pirelli tyres, but coming here we were all surprised how well they were working on one lap and also what we have seen on Friday with a bit more fuel in the car was quite promising for Sunday, so we will see how we get on. Surely we have done the first step and starting the season that way is like you want to and it is just a good sign for all of us in the team. We have been working very hard to get that new car, the RB7, where it is now, so I think it is mostly down to the people back in the factory plus the people Down Under now preparing the car and making it ready. I think it was a pleasure today, quite fast, and I am very happy with the result. But if you look at the points we have zero points just like everybody else so we will have to see tomorrow.

Q: Lewis, eight-tenths off Sebastian is a lot but after the very poor winter testing you had I bet you couldn’t even dream you’d be sitting on the front row for the first grand prix.
Lewis Hamilton: Absolutely. I’m absolutely thrilled to be up here today. The guys back at the factory have done an unbelievable job. Really a massive step this weekend. The car is feeling fantastic. Of course, we still have a lot of work to do but I think we have really got ourselves on the right track and a great foundation for us to build upon. I know the guys back at the factory will keep going but a big thank you to everyone at home. Keep pushing.

Q: Mark, it was seven-one-hundredths-of-a-second between you and Sebastian here last year. It is a lot more than that this year. What went wrong?
Mark Webber: Yeah. Couldn’t do the times today. I was disappointed, obviously, with my performance. Seb put in a very good lap. Obviously, disappointed to get bumped off the front row as well. Tried my best. Mystified to the gap to Seb, to be honest. I will have to go through it and have a look at where I can improve and go from there. So bit frustrating, of course, but credit to the team. The guys have done an incredible job. It is not the best day for me. The bar is high but I would like to have done better today but we still have to reflect on the performance of the team today and what they have done over the winter is a great effort.

Q: Sebastian, in the race tomorrow looking after the tyres is going to be crucial. It is a step into the unknown really for all of you on these new tyres. What are you looking for and what are the key indicators going to be for tomorrow’s race.
SV: Well, I think the key is always to finish the race, to see the chequered flag. Last year, half-way through, we had to retire. But I am quite confident. We had a very, very good preparation in the winter. We hardly suffered any reliability issues. The car was reliable from the first minute and obviously not too slow, so things are looking good. But it is a hard race with the new tyres. It is a bit racing into the unknown. We kind of can guess how the tyres will behave, but in the end we have to see how it is and also racing all the others, having probably more than one stop, it will be quite entertaining for us as well. A lot of things that we need to keep an eye on and focus on, so looking forward, but today was the base and couldn’t have been any better.


Q: Sebastian, that margin over the rest of the field. Does it come as a surprise to you?
SV: Yes. I just said it was a long winter and we all tried to find our way with these new tyres, which always wasn’t easy. Coming here, since Friday onwards, we were surprised how good the tyres worked. It should be fine tomorrow. We were a bit afraid after what we have seen, the degradation we have seen in Barcelona, so that’s positive and, car wise as well, we came here with a good feeling but never kind of knew where we would be. Even though the gap now might appear to be very big, it is a long season, a lot of things can happen and today no-one has scored any points. It is a good position to be in, it is the best position, pole position, so I am very happy with that. I think for all the guys who have been working very hard on that car, some were a bit, how can I say, surprised that not a lot of things changed in the car compared to last year but we have proven that things changed and we have done a good step. As I said we need to keep our feet on the ground and see how we get on tomorrow.

Q: James Allen just said you didn’t use KERS? Is that correct and, if so, why not?
SV: We didn’t use it in qualifying, that’s correct.

Q: Reason?
SV: Not fully charged.

Q: You were particularly good in the third sector. Is that something you have concentrated on?
SV: Well, third sector I think, end of sector two, is just before the high-speed section, 11/12, so after that there is not that many straights anymore. We know that we are probably not the fastest guys on the straights for couple of reasons but in the corners we tend to do not too bad. If you look sector one, sector two there are some straights or more straights and maybe that is the reason. I don‘t think today, even though the result looks for some people quite clear, you know, I think we don’t get over-excited what happened now. We have to keep on working and we want to improve the car. We have things coming up, good things coming up, so let’s see what we can do.

Q: Lewis, a phenomenal effort by the guys to transform what was a difficult car into a front row car?
LH: Absolutely fantastic and superb effort from the guys back at the factory. It was a very brave and tough decision for us to kind of pull back from what we had been developing over the winter test and after the last test to decide ‘okay, we are going to come back in another direction’. I think since I have been here we have never ever done that before but the results from the wind tunnel looked good and the guys worked harder than they have ever pushed before to get the components here and the car feels a huge improvement for us and a great stepping stone for us. A great foundation for us to really push on. I know we have got some good things in the pipeline from this base where we are but, of course, the gap. If he didn’t use KERS, that is another half-a-second so that is 1.3 seconds, which is not normal.

Q: You talked about that margin. Are we going to see that margin eroded and how soon do you think you can do that as, obviously, the pace of development is massive?
LH: It is, yeah. We, as a team, have good development rate. I think over the years you have seen us come from quite far back and be able to develop a little bit faster than some others. At least we are in the fight and from there we can score good points, continue to work on our reliability and, of course, closing the gap is going to be very tough. It is a big gap still, but the car feels fantastic so I can’t even imagine what he (Vettel) feels like round the corners.

Q: You were shaking your head when we were talking about KERS. Is that because you didn’t use it or were thinking ‘wow, without it’?
LH: No, I used it for half my lap and I ran out towards the end of the lap. I didn’t have any more. No, I had probably, like, 40 per cent still left. That is a little bit of time but nothing which would get me close enough to them. That is a staggering lap time they did, so well done to Sebastian but like I said I’ll catch you up.

Q: Mark, third, not where you hoped to be, but some people are saying that qualifying isn’t quite as important as it used to be, due to the factors introduced to liven up the race. Do you agree?
MW: Well, today didn’t go to plan for me, obviously. I’m not overly rapt to be third on the grid. Seb did a very very good lap time, so I need to… It’s our first qualifying of the year. We’ve had some reasonable exposure with this car in performance runs, but today’s obviously absolutely serious and everything counted, so we put everything forward. I wasn’t in the fight for pole, clearly, so we need to address that and take it into tomorrow’s race. You have a point, obviously. It’s not like last year in terms of qualifying, how powerful it was, but nevertheless it’s still important, you know. I would rather to be here than eighth or ninth. I think the most important thing out of today is that we can see the potential of the car. It’s the first time that everyone’s got into things. The team have done a phenomenal job, so I’m looking forward to a good race tomorrow, get some good points and we will come away from here having learned a lot, as we already have done today.

Q: How unknown is the race tomorrow? How much are you going into the unknown?
MW: We got a snapshot on Friday, what we might expect on Sunday; there’s still some questions, for sure but not as many as… We’ve had a reasonable build-up in testing. Seb and I had a smooth run on Friday so the team’s got some good data to lean on, to go into the grand prix tomorrow, and obviously we’ll put everything forward to get the best result for us.

Q: Can you beat Sebastian tomorrow?
MW: Well, it’s never impossible, but unfortunately I’ve let Lewis onto the front row as well. Obviously I’m not happy with that for the team. It’s a long season, so today you can be disappointed, of course, but we’ll go into tomorrow’s race hoping to get the best result possible and as the boys have already said, it’s a long grand prix, a lot of things can happen.


Q: (Ralf Bach - R&B) Seb, do you think Melbourne is the best track for your car?
SV: I don’t know. There are a lot of tracks to come, that’s for sure. Last year we were competitive here, the year before as well. We seem to like the place. I like coming here as well, the track is a challenging one, it’s quite rough in some places. It’s a demanding track for the driver and the rhythm is right, so after one lap you feel happy, I would say, not that you don’t feel happy at other tracks but I think here the satisfaction you get is quite good. You feel and you sense the speed around here, so that’s something I enjoy a lot and obviously our car likes it as well. All in all, I think that’s a good match. So far it has been quite good.

Q: (Ralf Bach - R&B) What I mean is that the aerodynamics are not that important here.
SV: I don’t think so. I think aerodynamics are very, very important everywhere.
LH: That’s the only place where’s he’s getting a gap to us, the aerodynamics, otherwise it would be even better.
SV: I think the bottom line is that we have a good package and we’re happy to be where we are. We didn’t really know, after the long winter, so that’s a good and a positive surprise which we take on board. As I said, there are no points yet and there will be a lot of races and there will be races where it will be difficult for us to beat some other teams. We’re not looking to those, but we go step by step.

Q: (Paul Gover - Herald Sun) Mark, were you using the KERS in your car today?
MW: No.

Q: (Paul Gover - Herald Sun) Would it have made a difference to getting you on the front row if you had been?
MW: Maybe. We didn’t run it today for reasons we will keep in the team.

Q: (Joris Fioriti - AFP) Lewis, one week ago you were saying that you had a car that was far from being a winning car and a week later you come up with a very fast car which could be a winning car, so what happened? I don’t understand.
LH: Well, I was never saying that the car was bad, it already felt better than last year’s car. It was just lacking downforce. What downforce enables you to do is brake later, to attack the corners faster, to get on the power earlier so in improving your downforce you improve your minimum speed, so you can improve your kilometres per hour through each corner by ten kilometres. That’s a lot of time, because you carry that all the way down the straights. So we’ve improved the rear end of the car which means that I’m able to attack corners a lot more, massively faster in the higher speed corners and so we’ve basically just fixed an area of the car which was lacking and it clearly shows, this weekend, that by fixing that one part, the rest of the car is working quite well around it. But we still have a lot of work to do, but it’s really due to a fantastic job by the guys back at the factory.

Q: (Livio Orricchio - O Estado do Sao Paulo) To all of you: are you surprised by Ferrari’s performance?
SV: Yeah. I think they had a very good run in the winter. Yesterday it was a bit difficult to judge. I thought they’re reasonably competitive and more or less there. I was surprised in qualifying. Q1 I saw that they put on some option tyres already. It was quite tight for Felipe to get through - not tight, but he had one last shot. And then it’s difficult to judge from the inside of the car what was going on, so that’s really all I saw, more or less. After that, you focus more on yourself. In Q1 you have a bit more time to watch TV, I would say. Yeah, I was surprised.
MW: Well, yeah, a little bit but I think today it’s pretty clear that people are still getting used to the tyres and maybe it’s not the right window for some people, so this is moving the lap times around a lot. I think we saw Nick Heidfeld go out very early. Some people are still finding their way. Maybe Ferrari are in that boat.
LH: Yeah, I think they’ve got a great car. I find these tyres very easy to use, and obviously these guys have found them quite easy to use, but I guess some people down the field have not really been able to switch them on how they would like but this is very early, we’re all learning as we go along. At the end of the testing, it was obvious that they (Red Bull) were the fastest, they were the championship winners the previous year, they were the fastest and won the last race, so clearly, rolling into next year, they were going to be the most competitive, so it was no surprise that they were the quickest this weekend. I would have thought that Ferrari would have been a bit closer to us but I think, again, it’s just the tyres. Maybe if they got the tyres working they would be able to close the gap.

Q: (Matthew Cochinos - Mark, how hungry are you going into your home grand prix tomorrow?
SV: You’ll have lunch before, no?
MW: Yeah, Seb said I would have lunch before the race! I think you want to do well at every grand prix, clearly. I think there’s a little bit extra emotion, obviously, as both these guys can relate to: Germany for Seb and UK for Lewis. That’s normal. Any sportsman competing in a big event at home, there’s a fraction more emotion attached to it. It shouldn’t really make you perform better, you’ve got to perform everywhere you go, but also keep in mind that it’s a long season this year. You need to get off to a good start in the championship. I didn’t put myself into the best position today but I’ve had tough Saturdays before and Sunday… it’s a long, long day, so I hope I will see you guys again tomorrow.


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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
Jean-Eric Vergne
Pastor Maldonado
Bruno Senna
Heikki Kovalainen
Vitaly Petrov
Pedro de la Rosa
Narain Karthikeyan
Timo Glock
Charles Pic

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