A big challenge. It is very difficult. So many corners. Such a long lap to get everything together, but I think we learned especially from the mistakes we did last year in qualifying and kept our heads cool and did it today. It is great. We have both cars on the front row. Let’s see tomorrow. It is a very, very long race.
Q: Mark, almost a grandstand finish from yourself. You were within touching distance of Seb for two-thirds of your final qualifying lap so is this smiles for a front-row start or a frown for a pole that got away.
Mark Webber: No, I think I am pretty happy to be honest. It has been a pretty testing venue for me in the past, particularly on Saturdays. In the races I normally go a bit better around here. Seb obviously laid it down pretty hard and fast for all of us. He is very quick around here and did a great job for the pole. I think it is pretty rare that he makes a mistake. I think maybe he saw my data and there were a few corners I was a little bit quicker and maybe in the chicane he was trying to put it altogether and get it altogether. But he was very quick for the whole lap. To put it altogether for the whole lap is very challenging for all of us here. It is very easy to grab a bit more and then lose a bit on the next straight so overall satisfied given the curve balls the teams can face around here. Both cars up there is a great result for us.
Q: Jenson, you hooked it up enough by five one-thousands-of-a-second to leapfrog Lewis Hamilton. He sat in the garage while you were out doing a final qualifying run. He saved a set of tyres. You start ahead of him. What’s more important?
Jenson Button: I don’t know really. I haven’t really thought about it. All I know is that for me the lap was good. Both my laps. If I had put both of them together it would have been good but it is very difficult around here as you struggle to get all three sectors together because either the tyres aren’t warm enough at the start of the lap or they are overheating at the end. Or maybe that is just our problem. It is very, very tricky and something I have been fighting all day. Obviously I didn’t get much running yesterday after facing a barrier at the end of the session yesterday, so I am pleased to be in the top three. It is a good position for the race tomorrow but it is also something I have no experience of, as I didn’t do any high-fuel running, so it is going to be a challenge.
Q: Sebastian, that is 11 pole positions this season so far. Nigel Mansell has the record with 14 in a season. Are you thinking about beating that record yet?
SV: No, I think it was pretty exceptional. I think it was 1992 Nigel had that incredible year. We are not doing too bad this year, but I think it is wrong to start thinking about those things. We have got a long race ahead of us tomorrow. That’s where we usually score points, not in qualifying, so the focus is on the race tomorrow. But I think it shows that really every single race is another step for us and we try to focus on the moment. I think it is the most important. To get all out every single time sounds easy. We have to keep on doing what we are doing, but it is not so easy to do it every weekend. As I said tomorrow is the race and that’s where the focus is. I still believe that Nigel’s record is exceptional.
Q: Sebastian, tell us about the lap and the satisfaction of being on pole here. I can imagine this is almost more satisfaction than any other circuit.
SV: Yeah, it is in a way. I think it is an exceptional track for us. Either you like it or you hate it. I think the secret is maybe a bit of both. It is a very long track. A lot of corners. Just 23 corners as a number is already incredible compared to some tracks. The last race we had 11, so it is double the amount of corners and it’s a long lap. The speed is fairly low which is what you expect on a street circuit. Stop and go really but it is so difficult, so challenging to put it altogether as every single corner you try to get the best out of the car, out of the tyres and then it is give and take. You try to take a little bit more out of the car and then and then you have to sacrifice for the next corner for maybe the next straight and so on so a lot of thinking going on and difficult if you really operate the car on the limit to get it close to 100 per cent every corner. It really matches with the next corner and the next corner. That’s why I think the satisfaction generally you get when you cross the line here is big, when you know it has been a good lap and the other way around if it wasn’t and you give yourself quite some grief. You know that you could have done so much better as it is so easy to lose time and not just a couple of hundredths. It is immediately within a couple of tenths that you lose so it’s a nice challenge.
Q: And then you have got to do 61 laps of it tomorrow?
SV: Yes, it is going to be long. The race is always around two hours here. It is the longest we have, so on top of it they switch off the lights, as the sun is down. Switch on the lights of course. It is a night race, very humid and I think we all lose quite a lot of water. A lot of sweating and it will be a difficult one.
Q: You said yesterday that you needed a good step overnight. So how much was done and how much did you have to change?
SV: Well, the target is always to improve the car overnight. I was fairly happy with the car yesterday and we didn’t do that much. I think the steps we did were a step forward. Not massive but probably what we needed to keep that cushion, so all in all I was very happy on the prime tyre and the soft tyre as well. This morning was a bit scrappy as I had a lot of traffic and didn’t get the lap together but this afternoon the first run on option was a confirmation that also on the super soft tyres we can do it so reasonably confident for tomorrow. As I said it is going to be a long race and it is not just about speed, it is also about control, managing the tyres. At this stage I think it is a bit unclear what is the fastest way but we will find out tomorrow.
Q: Mark, your best grid position here and similarly you said you needed more pace.
MW: Yes, overnight we made a pretty good step. But most of it was from me to be honest. It is a very, very challenging venue. Not one I would pick to come to every week, but it’s my job to deliver on all the tracks we go to. It is one of my best sessions on a Saturday here to be honest, not only in terms of position but also getting a pretty good run out of the car. I am a few tenths off Seb, three-and-a-half or whatever it is. In the end Seb did a great job for pole and my lap wasn’t too bad at all, so it has put us in a good position for the race. I certainly was happy with a front-row start going into qualifying. It is so easy to screw the lap up here and, as Seb said, you have got such a long way to chat to yourself when you make a mistake. So to pull it altogether and as you can see all of us are improving every single time so we are learning more and more knowledge every single time we put the car on the limit so it is a challenging afternoon for all of us and very rewarding. At this level, all of us pushing each other very hard is good stuff.
Q: And for the race tomorrow how difficult is the strategy?
MW: There are a few balls in the air for sure. We aren’t overly sure how constant the tyres are going to be. For sure they are going to drop off but we don’t now when. It is like most races to be honest. In these sort of conditions we saw in Valencia, in Budapest, a few races - obviously Budapest was wet at the start. With the exception of I suppose Monza and some of the other races where the tyres, like in Spa, you see they are going to be pretty stable. Here we have had a decent build up on Friday. Long runs. Most teams had a good look at it, but let’s see. There are two compounds that are definitely going to be used tomorrow to their extreme.
Q: And you are going to be starting on the soft compounds. That is going to be a challenge as well?
MW: Yeah, everyone I think around me is as well. That’s what we’ve got. We can’t make a pit stop overnight. Same for everyone.
Q: Jenson, given the weekend, given your comments about tyres, a bit of a surprise to be listening there?
JB: I think last night I didn’t expect to be here. I didn’t run the super soft tyre yesterday as obviously I was facing the wall half-way through P2 or even earlier than that. We made a lot of changes overnight and quite a lot of improvements. The pace has been good all day. I found it a little bit difficult in qualifying to really get the tyres working for a whole lap. If I had them working in the first sector they were going off by the third sector. I don’t know if these guys had the same problem but we had to do a reasonably slow out lap and I think the last lap I got a bit excited and pushed maybe a little bit too hard on the first sector. The last sector, the rears had gone off quite a bit. But still got third, so I am happy to be in the top three and it is the clean side of the circuit. Good position but the worry for tomorrow is that I haven’t driven on high-fuel so I don’t know how that’s going to feel but I’m sure we’ll make the best of it.
Q: And you actually said yesterday ‘not a great set-up’ but also complaining of the tyres overheating. Have you solved that?
JB: From the comments that I’ve just made, not over one lap but hopefully on a long run. I haven’t run with high fuel yet. Obviously the race is pretty tough on the tyres here, there’s a lot of sliding, so you do get a lot of surface temperature on the tyres, so you’ve got to be careful of that. But we know it’s not going to be easy and I think you can see the performance of cars really shows up here, and the gaps between teams is massive, if you head back to the cars that are starting outside the top ten. I think it’s easier the more downforce you’ve got because the less sliding you have, and the less tyre temp you’ve got, so it’s pretty simple really. And we’re a little bit behind these guys.
Q: How much of a shock is it going to be when you run on full fuel for the first time?
JB: I’ve done it before. I’ll get used to it pretty quickly. I’m old now, I’ve been here for ages. I’ll be fine.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mathias Brunner - Speedweek) Mark, the changes on the kerbs, were those satisfactory solutions for the drivers?
MW: Yep. Yeah, absolutely. I think they did the best job they could. Obviously it was a new situation from previous years. The kerbs started to lift up, unfortunately we learnt that at a bad time before P1 yesterday so I think they’ve stuck them down as hard as they can, the ones they’ve decided to keep down there, really super-glued them to the track as much as possible. Charlie (Whiting) says it may be difficult for them to get them back up but in terms of line, the track is fine.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Sebastian, you had pole in Monaco, Valencia and now here; does that mean you are also a street circuit specialist?
SV: I don’t know. The race is tomorrow so today was a little step. As I said, it’s going to be a long race, obviously it’s good to be on the front row, on the clean side, for the first time in the last three years, so I’m looking forward to that and yeah, the way down to the first corner is not that long but I still need a good start and then we go from there. It’s a long race but I’ve always liked street circuits and I think it gives the driver a little bit more opportunity to maybe explore the limits here and there a bit more but especially around here it’s different to Monaco and especially to Valencia. They are all pretty different to each other but all good fun.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Motor und Sport) Jenson, the Red Bulls murdered everyone else in the last sector in all the sessions, and when you look at the sector it’s six or seven 90-degree corners, which is not that much different to the other sectors and just one fast corner. Is it just the one fast corner where you lose out?
JB: I don’t know. Our middle sector - or my middle sector - was very good, so to try and understand is very difficult. I think some of it is because our tyres are not staying in as well as these guys’ - the rears - and some of it is also the high-speed corner. Red Bulls are always very strong at high speed and these guys are very quick, obviously in high speed as well. They have the advantage there but I think it is also because they have more rear grip in the last sector, their tyres are staying strong all the way through the lap. We struggle with that a little bit more. We’ve definitely improved the consistency today, hopefully that will show up tomorrow in the race.
Q: (Kate Walker - Girl Racer) Given that ‘the show’ has been a bit of a buzzword in F1 over the last few years, people are complaining about the lack of running that we’ve seen from some teams - obviously not any of you - in Q3. How do you feel about proposals that the FIA implement automatic grid-drop penalties for those who chose not to run in any qualifying session?
SV: I don’t know. I think the last three cars didn’t run, as far as I saw. Obviously for those guys the main challenge is getting to Q3 and by the time they find themselves in Q3 they haven’t got much tyres left so I think that’s the real problem. I think that generally if we had more tyres across the weekend, we would run more. It’s the same on Friday, in a way. Time is limited as well. I don’t know. I think we’ve had these rules for quite a while now. Obviously we might have the occasional race like here where people decide not to run because they want to save their tyres for the race, but I don’t think it’s the case every Saturday.
MW: Yeah, the show, which you spoke about, is generally for the teams on Sunday, so they want to save their tyres. Basically, if we were all flush with tyres, the guys would be out there and getting the experience, getting the laps in, having exposure for their own partners as well. It’s not just that they just don’t want to be in the garage because they haven’t got any fuel; it’s because they are doing it for a reason, for Sunday. I think the question is completely fair but I think the penalty is not… it’s not fair to penalise people who are looking to try to have a good performance on Sunday.
JB: Yup. Totally agree. You can’t penalise people for not running unless there’s a regulation change. Until there’s a regulation change it’s always going to be like this, especially on a street circuit, and I think you will never see the quick cars doing it. The top six cars are always going to fight it out for P1 but it’s the cars, as Mark said, that have just got into Q3. It probably pays to save tyres for the race, as we’ve seen on many occasions this year. A few guys have come from halfway down the field or even further back with all fresh sets of tyres. Mark did it in China, I’ve done it before and Michael’s done it before. It’s the way the regulations are and we’re going to try everything we can to do the best we can on a Sunday afternoon - or evening.
Q: (Stephane Barbe - L’Equipe) Jenson, perhaps I am wrong, but it seems like third position this year is not such a bad position on the grid for the start. It seems like pole position is not so important as it was in the past.
JB: I think throughout the season… yes, I agree. If you get a good start and you’re within touching distance of first place, I think you can have a good race, so yes, my qualifying has not been as good as I would have hoped for this season, but I’ve still got some very good results. Even when I do qualify well, we seem to have a few little issues but being P3 here is a great place to start. As I said before, it’s on the clean side but it is also a short distance to turn one. But on average, our starts have been very good so I hope to have a good one tomorrow.
Q: (Joris Fioriti - Agence France Presse) Mark and Jenson, the fact that you’re second and third gives us some hope that Sebastian is not going to take the title tomorrow. Is it of your concern to try to push him as far as possible in the championship, to Japan and Korea, or are you just trying to have the best performance possible, knowing that he’s going to win the title anyway?
JB: I think that even if he doesn’t start the next six races it’s still going to be pretty difficult for us to beat him. When the lights go out, you don’t think about the championship, when you’re 100-plus points back. You go for a win, and that’s exactly what I’m going to try and do tomorrow.
MW: Yup. The same, mate. The championship is… for all the great work Seb did at the start of the year, this is the situation we’re in. We know the championship’s been pretty boring for that reason but the racing has been awesome, the racing this year has been great and I think we’re going to have some great races before the year’s out. Tomorrow will hopefully be another good one and I’m planning to go forward if I can at some stage in the race, which is one more position, so got to keep him honest as long as we can.