I enjoyed the time in the lead very much. I had a little bit of a fight with Jenson. It was always around four seconds and strangely he kept closing in around the pit-stops. I don’t know, I was pushing very hard into the box and out of the box but we seemed to lose a little bit there so we need to understand. But on the circuit it was crucial to manage the tyres, make sure that you have enough of them left in the end, so all in all it was a very smooth race. The car was very well balanced. I felt even a little bit more confident on the hard tyres at the end, but overall a fantastic performance. Thanks to the whole team. Thanks to Renault. I think exceptional job so far, the whole season without any problems but to be honest with you it is a little bit mixed emotions. On the one hand I am very, very happy. It is the first grand prix in India and I am very proud to be the first winner and I think we can be as a team but on the other hand looking back to last weekend we lost two of our mates. I didn’t know Dan Wheldon but he was a big name in motorsport. I got to know this year Marco Simoncelli and out thoughts are with them. Yes, we are ready to take certain risks when we jump into the car but we obviously pray that every time nothing happens but sometimes you get reminded and it is the last thing that we want to see. So, as I said, it is a bit mixed emotions and our thoughts are with them at this moment.
Q: Jenson, your engineer said at one point ‘we can race Vettel’ but I guess it just proved a little bit too difficult today?
Jenson Button: Yeah, it was. The last race I really struggled on the first lap and lost a lot of places so I wanted to redeem myself here. Got a good start and was able to get up to second by Turn Four and then it was basically trying to hang on to Sebastian. His pace was very good, he didn’t seem to make any mistakes and every time through the pit stops we gained a little bit. I don’t know if it was the stop itself or if it was after the stop, but on tyres when I came out of the box I felt very good. I felt very competitive and that was when I could really close the gap down. But as soon as Seb got into a rhythm I couldn’t do anything about it really - but all in all for the team I think we have done a perfect job today. We couldn’t have done anything else. Yesterday was a disaster for me in qualifying but I think we have put it right here so a good race but, as Seb said, it is a tough weekend for everyone in motorsport. The last two weekends have been very, very difficult. We have had two fatalities so it is very difficult especially with Dan. I knew Dan from a very early age, he was the guy we always had to beat in the early formulas so very sad also so I think we should dedicate this first Indian race to Dan and obviously Marco, another super talented youngster. He was the most amazing guy to watch on a bike so I think we should dedicate this to them.
Q: Fernando, your battle was with Mark Webber and you got him at the second round of pit-stops. Tell us about your race.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, we didn’t make the perfect start today. To be on a very new circuit and starting on the clean side I think we didn’t have the grip that we were expecting and the other side of the grid they started a little better than us and we lost a couple of positions there. Then we race with Mark until the second pit-stop where, a little bit surprisingly, he decided to stop and we did two extra laps so we were able to overtake him so extremely happy to win the podium in this first race here in India. To have this feeling and to taste the champagne is always nice in a first race in a new country. As Sebastian and Jenson said, mixed feelings this weekend with sad weeks for motorsport with the two accidents. I think we all raced for them today and try to go ahead but always remember these two fantastic people.
Q: Sebastian, you have set a new record today for the most laps led in a Formula One season, taking over from Nigel Mansell. I bet you just don’t want this year to end?
SV: No, I don’t mind. I think we can continue. The car is fantastic. The team is enjoying and we are on a run basically since the beginning of the season and it is great. We enjoy every race. The great thing is you walk into the garage every morning and you see the guys and they are flat out. They are pushing very hard and there is no sign of getting lazy and not paying attention to detail. It is really enjoyable to see that knowing that we have already achieved a lot this year, but we are still hungry so we are not lacking motivation at any stage. All the people come back with their questions but we seem to give them the right answers. I love what I do. I think we all do so it is great and in a way we don’t want this to end.
Q: Jenson, tell us about your start briefly. You got past Fernando and Mark. Exciting times?
JB: It was. The start off the line didn’t feel that good but I think there is such low grip off the start line. Then I was able to get Fernando into Turn One. I think he went a little bit deep and I knew I had to get a good exit out of Turn Three. It is such a long straight. Got a good exit, was in Mark’s tow and when you are in that situation where there is a car behind you can’t do anything about it. He covered the inside, did the right thing, but I had enough speed to go around the outside and carry the speed. It was an exciting part of the race. Then I had Mark behind me for about eight laps, pushing me really very hard. He tried to get down the outside of me into turn four, we both braked very, very late and both ran wide almost off the circuit but kept the position and then I was able to pull away. I think he damaged his tyres quite a bit. But it was a fun race. A little bit frustrating that I couldn’t catch up with Seb, but we did a good job this weekend and that’s the important thing. Pace isn’t quite there, but hopefully in the last two races we can make that little step.
Q: Fernando, what is your side of the story of the battle at the start?
FA: Yeah, the start was not perfect so the first two or three seconds we lost too much ground there. Then I tried to recover in Turn One, braking a little bit late, but there was not the grip to brake that late and I lost a little bit more. It didn’t compromise the race as I don’t think we were able to fight with Sebastian at any point. Being second or third in the first lap it didn’t change too much the full picture of the race. We are not that super competitive at this part of the year but we keep on having podiums thanks to the fantastic job here by people at the track. Today again we had a little problem with the front wing on the grid and the mechanics did a fantastic job in the last two or three minutes before we start on the green light so again thanks to the whole team for the fantastic effort with the things that we have in our hands. As everybody knows, next year is our main target and the same for everybody.
Q: Sebastian, just sum up the thoughts about this first ever Indian Grand Prix.
SV: It is great, I think, what the people did here in a short amount of time. We heard about it a couple of years ago but to put up this arena is incredible. Surely there are little bits here and there that are not 100 percent finished but now the people know so they will fix that for next year I am quite sure. I think all in all it was fantastic. I am very proud, as I said, to be the first winner here in India. I think it is a very impressive country, very different to what we probably know from Europe, but very inspiring. If you keep you eyes and ears open I think you are able to learn a lot, the way the people handle things here. It is a big country, a lot of people, but sometimes it looks very different but they get along with it and they are very happy here. They enjoy life and in the end that’s what it is all about. If your life comes to an end it is more the thoughts, the emotions, the friends, the friendships you take with you rather than whatever you have in your bank account. Even the people have so little here I think in a way they are much richer than a lot of people back in Europe so there is a lot we can learn and it is a great race, great event. The circuit is fantastic so all in all it is fantastic so thanks a lot to India and all the people here.
Q: Sebastian, quite a few people were questioning your motivation earlier on this weekend. That should put an end to all that talk?
SV: Yes, I think so. I said everything yesterday, on Friday and Thursday regarding these comments. As I touched on the whole team is still very hungry and the best thing is we still have two races to go so we enjoy it a lot today so motivation is not an issue.
Q: You just seemed to set nothing but purple laps. You let Jenson have one or two, but not very many. You were just so quick.
SV: Yeah, it was a long race to be honest. A lot of laps. The circuit is quite challenging. It is one of the difficult ones throughout the season and very easy to do a mistake, very easy to go a little bit beyond the limit, a little bit over the limit, get a little bit off line and you end up in the dust and dirt and you have to fight your way back. Not only in that particular corner but also for a couple of corners afterwards. Not so easy with traffic. Quite a big chance to lose a lot of time and as I was racing Jenson in the distance always around three-and-a-half, four-and-a-half seconds. You want to get through and ideally maybe get a little bit of DRS here and there for the straights to get a little bit of extra free lap time. But the car was great. Start obviously was important. I was focussing a lot on Turn Three, the first lap, to make sure I had a bit of a cushion going on that long, long, long back straight. In the first lap you are vulnerable so it was crucial to have a clean exit which I had as we saw with Mark who lost position to Jenson at that stage. Afterwards I was able to pull away in the first couple of laps, maintain the gap, and in the end I was feeling very happy. End of the first stint I was able to pull away. Jenson pitted so we had to react but second stint then wasn’t that straightforward as the first one with traffic et cetera. Bit more tricky to manage the tyres and Jenson was at some stages very strong. In the end I found the rhythm again and got quicker but, again, Jenson pitted in front of us and we reacted the lap after. Warm up on the hards wasn’t too bad and actually I felt quite comfortable on the hard tyre so I was able to push throughout and also at the end with the strong laps. Got some calls from my engineer reminding me what is the target, there is not trophy for fastest lap. Fortunately we were able to get both. The car was great. All in all it was a fantastic event. The race was fantastic. We were in a comfortable position controlling the race from the front, but always to have Jenson in the mirrors and not willing to disappear doesn’t make your life easy so we had to push throughout the whole race and it was enough. At the end we were a bit more comfortable but fantastic. I am very happy, but as I touched on in the press conference earlier obviously mixed emotions with two tragic past weekends. For everyone who is a fan of motorsport It was a hard time we had to go through. On the one hand I am very happy and very proud to be the first winner of this grand prix. There were a lot of people, a big event, great atmosphere, all the grandstands nearly sold out so great to be part of that. But on the other hand we have to pay a certain respect to those two guys who lost their lives. Our thoughts are with them, especially with their families. We should never forget those two young, very committed race drivers.
Q: Jenson, you said yesterday you lacked grip in qualifying. What was it like in the race itself?
JB: Well it wasn’t too bad, I finished second. Yesterday I struggled in qualifying basically just getting a rhythm. Whatever could go wrong in qualy it seemed to and sometimes you have sessions like that. Sometimes everything goes in your way. The race was very different. I had a good start, got past Fernando into Turn One and then it was about judging where to put the car into Turn Three as I had Mark in front that I wanted to overtake but I also had Fernando behind me trying to overtake me. You have to be very careful where you put the car in the entry into Turn Three but judged it well, got a good run on Mark and was able to get him into Turn Four. Then Mark proceeded to push me for the next eight laps around the circuit, pushed me really hard actually. Had a go into Turn Four, we both braked very late, both ran wide, but kept the position and then I was able to kick in and pull a gap. Then it was about trying to set off after Sebastian. But it was very, very tricky. At the pit stops I think the guys did a tremendous job and we seemed to be good on new tyres or after we had put a new set on and the pace was good. But as soon as Sebastian got into a rhythm we couldn’t touch them. But as far as races go I don’t think we put a foot wrong and as a team we did a perfect job this weekend but we just didn’t have the pace of the Red Bulls and Sebastian. I think we need to say a big congratulations to the Indian people for their efforts on building this circuit because the circuit itself is, I think in years to come, we are going to think of it as one of the greats. It is a very special circuit and I really, really enjoy driving around here. I hope we put on a good show and it is also great to see the excitement in the crowd. The people that are here, as there are quite a few people here, they are really getting into the mood and really getting into the action and it is good to see, really good to see, so a very special weekend and thank you to them.
Q: Fernando, interesting battle with Mark Webber but it seems Mark just doesn’t have the straight-line speed or DRS or whatever?
FA: Well I think if they have also the straight-line speed it would maybe be too much.
Q: At least you jumped him at the pit-stop?
FA: Yeah, we know that with the hard tyres the first two laps maybe they are not as good as the soft and we were a little bit debating on the radio what to do in the second stop. Stop one lap before Mark or wait? The team did the right call, be a little bit calm, wait for Mark to stop and then try to take advantage of the extra lap or the extra two laps expecting some warm up issues with the hard tyre for them. It did happen. After Mark stopped the team told me that we were gaining time so to do an extra lap so we did two laps more than him and we jump Mark at the stop. Then in the last stint it was a question mark as last couple of races we put the hard tyre on and we struggle a lot and we have been overtaken by them quite easy so even if we were third at that point of the race we were not sure and we had to push for 20 laps maximum. Try to defend the position so at the end it was very close. I think Mark crossed the line 1.5 or one second behind me so with more laps I think the podium was getting more and more difficult so the finish arrived in the right moment.
Q: We heard a lot about how good the circuit was in practice et cetera. What was it like to race on for 60 laps?
FA: It was fantastic. I agree completely with Jenson and Sebastian. The circuit is very nice to drive. Okay, it was a very narrow line of normal grip and outside that line there was a lot of dust and low grip but this is normal for new circuits and I think with the years that will improve. The circuit has a little bit of everything. Long straights and very wide entries for the hairpins, which allowed us to try some overtaking manoeuvres and put on a good show on Sunday. Two DRS zones that, I think, worked okay today with more overtaking possibilities and then the second and third sector which is a combination of corners in fifth, sixth gear which we normally love to drive and overall it was a fantastic weekend. A lot of people came, very passionate about our sport, to be here the first time and the circuit was completely finished and in a very good condition in a very short period of time. I am sure that things will improve, but already the level is very high, so congratulations.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Sridhar Potdar - Sakaal Media House) Vettel, we have to say V for victory and V for Vettel. Speaking about India, you say that here people don’t have money but they’re happy, compared to Europe. Is this a very fond memory of the most memorable race of your life so far?
SV: Well, as I said, I think some things are very difficult to imagine for us. If you look where we come from, I think it’s hard to imagine things if you haven’t seen them. The really surprising bit for us… where sometimes you measure happiness in our lives, in our world, with what you have achieved, what you have etc. For the people here, it doesn’t really matter, they’re happy with what they have, even if you compare they have so little, but they are happy and friendly, helpful, respectful. Obviously I haven’t spent a lot of time here, so I can’t judge as well as people from India, but it was very inspiring when I had a bit of time to spend in the country. I went to see the Taj Mahal which is obviously a touristy thing to do but driving there by car, and not falling asleep because the roads were pretty… it was a good adventure, let’s say. Keeping your eyes open, there are a lot of things which make you appreciate a lot of things much more than you probably do. Yeah, it opens your eyes, as long as you allow yourself to look at certain things, so I think it was an inspiration and something that you should never forget. All in all, it was great to be here, a great circuit, which obviously - speaking about our job, about racing, that’s what we judge most, the circuit is fantastic to drive. I was surprised that the race went by pretty quickly. Obviously I was always trying to keep the gap to him (Button), trying to push but my engineer came on the radio and said ‘twelve laps to go’ and I was surprised because I thought, bloody hell, that went by quickly. It’s a good sign, because you enjoy the circuit and there are some great corners as Fernando said, high speed corners which we usually enjoy a lot, because it allows us to put us on the limit, the cars on the limit so great to be here. Having had debuts in different places the last couple of years, this will be one of the races that settles in very quickly and we will all be happy to come back. Even though there has only been one race so far, I’m already looking forward to next year.
Q: (Sudhir Chandran - Chequered Flag,) When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, he said those famous words ‘one small step by a human being and one giant leap for mankind.’ Any famous first words?
JB: I think it should just be the winner who has these special words.
SV: Dhanyawaad… aapki aankhei bahut khoobsurat hai (thank you, your eyes are beautiful). Obviously that’s for the ladies of India. You know the girls, to all the girls in India, you have beautiful women in this country. They have beautiful eyes.
JB: Beautiful smiles.
SV: Thank you very much. As I said we all enjoyed it, everyone is happy to be here and happy to come back which is a good sign.
Q: (Sudhir Chandran - Chequered Flag,) India has an advertising tag-line which says Incredible India. Would you guys like to endorse it or add to it after the weekend you’ve spent here?
SV: I think I answered that question before already. I agree, yes.
JB: Yeah, I agree with Sebastian.
FA: I agree with both.
Q: (Amanpreet Singh - PTI) Vettel, we appreciate you have said good things about India but twice you have mentioned that India is different from what you know in Europe. Would you like to elaborate what impression you had about this country before landing here and what differences you found eventually?
SV: Well, it’s difficult to say. Expectations, you obviously only know from what people tell you. To be honest I didn’t expect anything really. I heard a lot of good things, I heard a lot of bad things. I prefer to come here myself and take a look, so I took a little bit of time to have a look outside the circuit, as I said. Basically what I saw is very inspiring, it’s very different. I think you will find the same if you go there. Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine for us, which is why I think you really have to come here but it’s a country that I think is very interesting to travel around, because I think there are a lot of things you can learn. Some things you have to get used to because they are so different, but it’s not a drama, it’s a different culture, the people are different but as I said, they are very helpful, very friendly and happy, so that’s a good thing.
Q: (S.S. ShreeKumar - New Indian Express, Bangalore) Alonso, you said things will improve in future. What areas do you think need improvement?
FA: I think when you host the first race even in a new country, there are things that for sure you learn and you improve. I think the paddock, even if it’s finished and it’s working fine, I think next year it will be even better, in terms of how the teams will settle, how the electricity will work, after we had some problems on Thursday, which is very normal for a first time that we use an environment like this one. I think the circuit itself will improve as well. There was too much sand on the circuit on the first day and now the circuit is in a very good condition, on Sunday, after the race. I think the starting point next year will be a lot better than the starting point this year. We saw a couple of issues with kerbs with Felipe, yesterday breaking his suspension, today again another suspension, so I’m sure that they will find a better solution for this type of kerb, obviously stopping us cutting the corner but in a different way, to avoid any risk or any accident that it can cause at the moment. As I said, the starting point is already very high, from zero to ten maybe it’s nine so it’s very good but the ten will be reached very soon.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti - Il Corriere della Sera) Fernando, two races left and 13 points behind Jenson, do you still believe it’s possible for you to cover the gap and get second place in the championship?
FA: Yes, perfectly possible, that’s for sure, because there are 50 points available but as we said a couple of races ago, OK, finishing second is maybe better than finishing fifth. We are four drivers all together: Hamilton, Jenson, Mark and me but it’s not a big priority for us. If I finish second it’s OK, if I finish fourth it’s OK. I will not remember the 2011 season if I finish second or third. I will probably remember the win in Silverstone and a couple of nice starts and a couple of nice races, but the position of the championship, once you are no longer in the hunt for the World Championship win, the other positions are less relevant. I think we will try to do two last good races, try to be on the podium if we can, which is always a good feeling, taste the champagne and take the trophy after a hard weekend, as it was this one. I think I have to congratulate the team, they did a fantastic job to maximise the potential we have in our hands now, we know that the car is not as competitive as it was a couple of months ago but we are still fighting for podiums. Today we had a problem on the front wing on the lap to the grid, twenty minutes before the start, and they worked until the last minute just to put it all together and they did it perfectly right and the car was very well balanced all through the races. Everyone is doing 100 percent of his job to maximise the potential and the podiums are very welcome. In the last two races, I think we will continue in this direction.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Motor und Sport) Jenson, when you look at the lap times, sector one and sector two were pretty evenly matched, but you consistently lost to Sebastian in the last sector, three to four tenths. It’s the shortest sector with just four corners; where are you losing?
JB: I haven’t got a clue! That’s the first I know about it. I don’t know. I’m guessing turn 13, 14, 15 and 16 probably! I don’t know why that’s different to the other sectors. I’m surprised that I didn’t lose more in the middle sector because that’s been a little bit of a weakness throughout the weekend but we’ve obviously sorted that out, but yeah, there are two high speed corners in that sector and two low speed corners so it’s strange why there’s such a difference.
Q: (Sarah Holt - BBC Sport) Jenson, Sebastian’s not going to be untouchable in the last couple of races is he? I know, when you get the chance, you can push him hard during the race, and just for Fernando, what is your priority then in the next two races? Have you got one?
JB: I don’t have an answer for you really. Is he going to be untouchable? I don’t know. I hope not, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that he doesn’t win the next two races but he’s obviously been very strong all year. It’s very, very difficult to challenge Red Bull and Sebastian, but we’re doing everything we can and I think today we did everything right but we just weren’t quick enough, so for the next two weeks, we’ve got to hope that we can make some improvements for Abu Dhabi, a circuit where they’re generally very quick but then again, they were generally very quick in Japan, Suzuka, so… Hopefully we will work well there and we will get everything right and we can challenge Sebastian.
FA: Our priority will be 2012, car, team, me. I cannot tell you where I need to improve!
Q: (L. P Sahi - The Telegraph) Sebastian, I was just curious to know: new circuit, new track. In terms of strategy and tactics, how was this much more demanding for you and your team to get onto the circuit and to emerge the winner straight away?
SV: I think it’s always… if you have a debut on a new track, the first time you’re here there are a lot of questions to be answered. Obviously the tyre choice, with hindsight, was conservative compared to some of the other races, so we knew that the soft tyre will be the quicker compound, will be faster, just how long is it going to survive? We weren’t sure if we would have to pit twice or three times. In the end we only came in twice. As I said, it’s difficult to know what to expect. Obviously these days we get a little bit of an idea on the simulator about the track, about the kerbs, about the layout, about the speed of the corners, but it’s different when we come here. The circuit was very dusty on Friday, improved pretty quickly on the racing line, once it was clear of dust it was very grippy, the grip level was very high and we could go very quickly and I think the lap times were very quick as well. Obviously for next year we have a lot of things we can take out of this year to improve, to learn, to understand about the car, the set-up. Yes, the cars will change but the circuit is not unknown, so it’s always more difficult if you talk about something that you don’t know for everything, strategy, set-up. Obviously throughout the weekend it was dry, the conditions were consistent, so we were able to get the information on the Friday which helped us a lot yesterday and today so that made our lives a bit easier but, as I said, if you race somewhere for the first time, there are always a lot of boxes to be ticked.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) There is an important meeting on Thursday in Geneva with the F1 Commission. One of the subjects to be discussed is the possibility of one team to supply another team with a car. What’s your opinion about that, is that good or bad for Formula One?
JB: About the car, I think it’s something we need to think about. It’s not something we should jump straight into and give a comment. I think it’s difficult for the teams that do build their own car. They put all the effort into designing a car and working on that car over a winter to suddenly be racing against a Red Bull re-badged or something or a McLaren re-badged or a Ferrari re-badged. It’s a little bit unfair on teams that are in the middle of the pack and they build their own car, but I don’t know the full extent of the conversations that are going to take place and when this is going to be for.
SV: It’s the first time I heard about it as well. I think I agree a little bit with Jenson. Obviously you put a lot of effort in your car, the whole team is pushing. I know there are a lot of people behind us here on the track, it’s not only the guys you see here changing the wheels during the race and working on the cars at the race track, there’s a lot of people at the factory. They push hard to build these two cars and yeah, obviously if you have a good car… I don’t know if the idea is to sell that to someone else. I don’t know if it’s the idea of Formula One. It’s the first time I heard about it, so I don’t know.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Jenson, McLaren sealed second place in the Constructors’ championship today. How would rate second place in the Drivers’ championship if you get it as well?
JB: First of all, yeah, congratulations to the team for second. It’s sad always to say congratulations for second but it does make a big difference to the team, moving into the new season. Second in the drivers’ doesn’t mean as much as second in the constructors’. I think when you’ve won a World Championship, nothing else will do really except for first place. The important thing is that we’re strong; for the next couple of races and every race I’m going into I’m fighting for a win. I’m not going to give up on that until it’s the end of the season. I’m very excited about the challenge of Abu Dhabi and especially Brazil - I saw you (Sebastian) look over then! Yeah, that’s exciting, very exciting. Second in the championship? You’ve beaten everyone except one person and it’s that one person that you really want to beat.