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FIA Thursday press conference - Malaysian GP

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Drivers - Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso), Jenson Button (McLaren), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Jarno Trulli (Lotus).
Q: Let’s start with a little question to Jenson and Felipe. Just talk about the battle that kept us so entertained in Australia. Jenson, your version perhaps.

Jenson Button: Looking back on it now, I would say it was a pretty fun battle to be involved with. Frustrating for me as I couldn’t find a way past. I think Felipe did a very good job of blocking and I couldn’t find a way past. So, it was frustrating but when you look at it now, it looks like a good race, I would say. But even with the DRS it is still very tricky to overtake at a place like Melbourne with such short straights. If you cover the inside line it is very difficult to overtake. 

Q: Felipe, your thoughts?
Felipe Massa: What Jenson said is what I think as well. I was able to fight very hard, to keep him behind but it was not easy. I think in some places where he was very quick on the straights I was able to use very well the KERS, not to allow him to pass me completely on the straight and to keep on the inside line. Not just the main straight, but also in other corners. Then he passed me on the wrong side, so he was penalised. I expect him, to be honest, to give back the position. Two corners after Fernando (Alonso) passed me and it was a little bit more difficult for him to give back the position. I think it was a nice fight.

Q: Jenson, you are a former pole winner here and also a winner. You have spoken about this circuit and how it has improved with age. Perhaps you would like to expand on that.
JB: I always enjoy coming here. This is one of those circuits that really makes me smile when I land into Malaysia, as it is a very flowing circuit. I have had some pretty good races here in the past, not just the one that I won but also other races where I haven’t been on the podium but have had great races with people around here. It is one of those circuits where you can really have a good tussle as corners flow into each other. I think with the DRS system it is going to make overtaking a lot easier than it was in Melbourne. Maybe it will be a little too easy, as I think being within a second before the last corner, even without DRS, you can have a good chance of overtaking. I don’t know, we’ll see. But it is a fun place to race and the weather can really play a big part here, especially with the four o’clock start, it is pretty much on the dot when it starts raining, so it makes it tricky for every team in the pit-lane and every driver to really understand the conditions and to make the right call.

Q: You have said this is the toughest race physically. How do you prepare for that?
JB: It is very hot here. However much training you do, or what have you, you still can’t get away from the humidity here. It is tough. Looking at a few of the guys this morning, the journalists, they seem to be feeling it as well. I have done a bit of training over the last weekend. I was in Hawaii for the week which was nice, getting used to the humidity and pushing myself in the hot conditions which was good.

Q: Nico, it is also your favourite circuit this one? What makes it a favourite for you?
Nico Rosberg: It is definitely a track I really enjoy. Just the characteristics really. There is a bit of everything here and also I have some great memories. I led my first race here, finished third last year in a Mercedes so it is always nice to come back here.

Q: Really, for Mercedes, the season starts here after the disaster of Australia?
NR: Yeah, for sure, Australia was not a good start for us. But there were a few issues in Australia, especially reliability, which we didn’t get right throughout the weekend so that really hurt us. Also set-up wise, and that is mechanical, aerodynamic, everything, we just did not seem to find the right path on that, so a lot of effort has gone into making things better. We are a really strong team so we will get there.

Q: There is huge interest for Petronas and they usually make you do a few things. One or two local events. What have you been up to?
NR: Yeah, we did two days for Petronas during the week. One was an oil refinery visit which was a look into a completely different world. Quite interesting. Had some time with some school kids, too, and did some different games which was quite fun. Other than that, just an event in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Obviously, because of Petronas it is also a very important race for the team and we want to do very well.

Q: Sebastien, you have been up to some fairly interesting things as well. Tell us about being in a supermarket yesterday?
Sebastien Buemi: It was an event organised by an orphanage charity and Red Bull together so it was quite funny. We did a race. We had to fill up the trolley with some kids and it was pretty funny so I enjoyed it.

Q: Sorry, you filled the trolleys with some kids?
SB: No, we were together with some kids and we had to fill the trolleys with all we wanted, especially what the kids wanted and they could keep it.

Q: And you won, you beat your team-mate?
SB: I went straight to the place that the kids love. We just took as much as we could and the trolley was really full.

Q: Looking back at Australia. First Q3 since 2009 and points in your first race. What are your feelings after that?
SB: I am really happy. I think we did the maximum in the qualifying. I don’t think we could have done better. Then in the race, three points, with the disqualification of the Saubers we got another three points which is always welcome. I think it was a perfect start for us. Now we need to continue to push. As we see the midfield is pretty tight, so we will see what we can achieve here but the objective will be to be back in the points, definitely.

Q: The other thing is that you are losing tomorrow morning as Daniel Ricardo is doing the Friday morning session. How do you feel about that? Is that a big loss not doing that session?
SB: To be honest I don’t think it is a big loss. If you look at the first practice on every circuit it is pretty green and it takes a long time to get up to speed. You lose maybe 10-12 laps, so I don’t expect any big loss. I think I will be right back up to speed in the second session.

Q: Jarno, great local interest in the team and you have been training by cycling in the hills somewhere. Tell us about that?
JT: Yeah, I did enjoy a little bit the Malaysia countryside. It was interesting. It was the first time I had a chance to discover Malaysia by cycling with a local professional cycling team. It was very nice. We went to the Fraser Hills first and then somewhere else, I can’t remember, up to 1,600 metres so it was really, really nice. There were rubber plantations around so It was a good view and good training so good preparation for this weekend which is very important for us as it is our home grand prix.

Q: Was this on road or off road?
JT: Normal road. Actually pretty nice, even though we were in the countryside. It was really good. I enjoyed the cycling but I also enjoyed the surrounding.

Q: What are the realistic hopes for Team Lotus this weekend?
JT: I think we need to get the best out of the car, which we didn’t in Australia, and be part of the midfield, as I believe the wintertime testing showed our good pace but actually we struggled quite a lot in Australia. We had several troubles with radiator, power steering, so we didn’t get the best out of the car, which we want to do here. We have got some fixes, several updates on the car, so we hope to get right into the tight midfield battle and let’s see then. It is very important first of all that we fix the problems and we show that we are really close to the others.

Q: In your 'cockpit' column in La Republica, you expressed your disappointment with Pirelli tyres. Could you explain exactly where that came from.
JT: I think that came from a completely wrong translation. I actually said that Pirelli did a very good job for Australia. We didn’t expect to have problem with the tyre warming up, but actually we didn’t have degradation. I think one driver did a one-stop strategy, which, during the winter testing, was completely out of mind. For the Australian Grand Prix the tyres behaved completely different and extremely well for the experience we had during the winter testing. The only thing that I pointed out is that some people struggled for tyre warm-up, which was the case for several drivers. This showed that we still have a lot to learn, from a drivers and teams point of view, of the Pirelli tyres but as well Pirelli is trying to adjust themselves and trying to give us the best possible option for condition, weather, circuit...becomes inaudible.

Q: Felipe, two pole positions here but actually your best results have usually come from when you’ve started at the back of the grid.
FM: Yeah. It’s a track I enjoy so I’ve twice started on pole here and it’s true that in the race the results have not been great compared to qualifying. Last year was the opposite. I was almost last in qualifying, on the grid, because it was raining. We went out at the wrong time so we qualified in Q1, but I drove a very good race and finished seventh, so I hope this time qualifying and race together will be a little bit better. We concentrate on doing a good job.

Q: You’ve expressed some worries about the effects of DRS here. How do you think that and KERS is going to affect the race here?
FM: No, it was also that people said maybe the FIA was thinking of using (allowing DRS on) both straights, and my opinion is that both straights are very close together, so it wasn’t very fair, that you can use the DRS in two places which are very close. In my opinion, in this direction it would have been very easy to overtake, and what happened in Australia, which was a good fight, as well, when we were even able to fight using the KERS in different places - I don’t see the same picture if we use it on these two straights, so that was my only opinion, but I think we’re just going to use it on the main straight, so it’s different to what people were saying.

Q: That decision has been made has it?
FM: Yes.


Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) Felipe, did you understand, you, your team and engineer, your main problem in Australia?
FM: Well, we understand many things. For sure, we didn’t have the pace we expected in Australia and last week and this week we’ve been analysing the direction which we should start here. My hope is that we’re going to have a different car, a more competitive car, in qualifying, where we saw a big difference compared to Red Bull and in the race as well. It’s also true that I was a little bit too aggressive on the set-up and my degradation was a little bit higher than I expected, so that is also another point to think about for this track where we see very high temperatures as well, so we need to change the direction on set-up a little bit, just for the tyres as well.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, coming back to what you said about the DRS and the KERS, considering the long straights here, are you going to use the KERS in a different way than if there was no DRS?
FM: For sure, in qualifying you always try to use the KERS in the places where you gain the most time. In the race, it’s a little bit different, because if you are fighting with somebody else you try to use the KERS in places where it’s easier to lose position. So you are always changing the places where you use the KERS, even looking how close another car is to you, and if you are behind, you try to use KERS in places where you have more chances to overtake, so for sure in the race you change many times.

Q: (Sarah Holt - BBC Sport) Hallo. Jenson, what are your expectations this weekend in terms of where McLaren might fall in the pecking order? Is it likely to be a bit different to what we saw in Australia? What are you thinking?
JB: It’s very difficult to say. We don’t know what other people have been doing over the last two weeks; what they are bringing to this race. But already in Australia, I think we should be happy with the performance that we had, compared to what we had in testing - we’re going to keep saying it! And it was the first step really with the package that we had. We have some upgrades here to sort of fine tune the package that we have, which will give us more lap time and hopefully better consistency - but whether it’s enough to challenge the Red Bulls, I don’t know. There’s a lot more that will come into play here, I think, in terms of the tyres. I think it will be a very different race to what we saw in Melbourne.

Q: (Julien Febreau -L’Equipe) For all of you: what is your opinion about the Red Bull front wing and are you working on a system which can comply with the FIA controls and which can work close to the ground at high speed?
JB: Wow. I don’t know the full details of the issues. I know a few people that I have spoken to say it flexes more than what they expect is correct but I haven’t really spent much time looking at it so I don’t know.
NR: I have nothing interesting to say, unfortunately.
SB: Not much to say. I think we need to leave it down to the technical guys. Obviously, if it makes it faster everybody is going to try to reproduce it.
JT: No, nothing to say.
FM: No

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, during the winter testing you were very confident with the Pirelli tyres. After the first Grand Prix, do you have the same level of confidence?
FM: Yes, sure, confident that we can have a better weekend. The first race was not great for us, we didn’t have the result we expected but I don’t think it was just due to the tyres. I think we expected better speed but anyway, I’m confident that we can get everything together here.

Q: (Fulvio Solms - Corriere dello Sport) Question for Felipe firstly, then Jenson and Nico: Red Bull is going to user KERS for the first time really here. Are you terrified, are you simply afraid of it, are they going to kill the championship?
FM: I think that’s a little bit early to kill the championship, no? Anyway, it’s always difficult to speak about a different car. For sure, in our car, if you don’t use KERS, you lose a little bit of lap time, so maybe it’s the same for Red Bull, so maybe they will improve even more, but it’s very difficult really to express how much they will improve or not because you don’t have a clear picture of the Red Bull car. But anyway, in my opinion, if you use KERS, it can be better.
JB: We lose more than a little bit of time if we don’t use the KERS. I think we have a very good system - well, both of us have a very good system (looking at NR) - and I don’t know what Red Bull’s system is like. Everybody has a different system in Formula One, a different KERS hybrid system so maybe it gives them a lot of time, maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know. I don’t know what the benefits are for them. And then there’s always reliability, isn’t there, with a new system? I’m sure that’s one of the reasons why they didn’t use it in Melbourne and if they use it here, it’s obviously a very new system so there’s always reliability issues, so I’m sure they’re weighing up whether it’s worth it or not.
NR: Well, for us, we don’t even really know at the moment where we are compared to other teams, so we’re going to concentrate on getting the best out of what we have and then we can start to think about where other teams are and what they’re doing.

Q: (Alex Popov - RTR) Felipe, there’s a lot of talk about hot and humid conditions. I know Jenson and Nico do a lot of triathlons to train, Jarno does a lot of biking, but you’re a Paulista, no, from Sao Paulo? It helps?
FM: Yeah. For sure Sao Paulo is not really, really very, very hot compared to other places in Brazil. For sure, it’s more humid in the north of Brazil, like Manaós, for example, is like here, but in Sao Paulo, even during the race weekend, sometimes it’s even cold. But anyway, it’s a hot country so I prefer the hot conditions compared to cold conditions because I prefer hot places. But anyway, I need to train, you need to train very hard for this race because it’s very humid, so you lose a lot of liquid during the race and you need to train, so I was training.

Q: (Sarah Holt - BBC Sport) Jenson, I want you to clarify again why you think it’s going to be a different race to what it was in Melbourne? Do you feel it’s because we’re entering so many more ‘knowns’ here in terms of now we’re at a proper race track and the tyres?
JB: How dare you say that about Melbourne!? It’s a lot hotter. It’s a very tough circuit for the cars, for the drivers but especially for the four things that are touching the road, the tyres. I think we are going to see a very different race, mostly because of the tyres in the hot temperatures. I think there will possibly be more degradation. I think we’re all surprised at how consistent the tyres were at the first race. I don’t think that was the initial idea with the Pirelli tyres, to be so consistent. We saw a one stop from [Sergio] Pérez, which was obviously the highlight of the race for a lot of people and how he was able to be so consistent, but I don’t think it’s going to be the same here. I think it will be very different, it’s a lot more demanding and a lot tougher on the tyres. It brings another element into it which is good, I think.


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