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FIA post-race press conference - Spanish GP, Catalunya

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Drivers: 1 - Pastor Maldonado (Williams), 2 - Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 3 - Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)
Q: Pastor, your first victory, brilliantly judged - describe your emotions?
Pastor Maldonado: I think it’s a wonderful day, not just for me but for all the team. We have been pushing so hard since last year to try to improve race by race and here we are.
Yesterday we were here after a great qualifying and today we did it again. It was a tough race because the strategy as well, it was tough especially because of the rear tyres - after a couple of laps we were struggling with [them]. I need to say I’m pretty happy because the car was so competitive since the first lap. Fernando did a better start than me but I was just following the pace and it was so great. It’s my first podium and my first victory and you can imagine what I feel.

Q: Fernando, second today and obviously a lot of progress for you and the team. And once again a blinding start.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, it was a fantastic start again. The team prepared quite nice again the clutch and everything - the procedure to do a good start. It was close on the straight until Turn One with Pastor, and then we had the better side, the inside. We took the momentum there and we led the race for the first part but then William’s anticipated the stop and get in front and at the end it was close. We had a newer tyre than Pastor and we tried a couple of times but it was not possible out of the last corner. Then in the very last laps I felt the car was strange, we lost a lot of grip. Maybe we lost some aerodynamic part or something because we were very slow… (inaudible) …we were lucky at the end. Second place at home feels fantastic and thanks to the people that came here and the people at home and hopefully a step forward in terms of championship possibilities.

Q: Kimi, third today. You were a lot of people’s favourite going into this grand prix. Do you think you and the team made all the right choices this afternoon?
Kimi Raikkonen: We have to look. I’m a bit disappointed. I expected us to be a bit stronger in the race, especially at the beginning. At the end we were very good, but it was too late. We were not fast enough and quick enough to race and that’s why we couldn’t fight for a win. But we showed in the end that we have to speed but we just have to look at what we did. Maybe we took the wrong choice in the first pit stop. In the end, like I said we were not fast enough in the beginning and that cost us the race, so I was not so disappointed during the race because I saw that I couldn’t follow them at the beginning. But at the end when you catch them up almost 20 seconds then you get a bit of a disappointed feeling afterwards, when you just needed a few laps to be even able to fight for the first place. That’s racing and at least I scored some good points and we’re going in the right direction.

Q: Back to you Pastor and this is the first Williams win since 2004. They managed to get you to jump Fernando at the second round of pit stops but he gave you some real pressure at the end didn’t he?
PM: Yeah, it was so close. We were looking to manage the tyre degradation so I wasn’t pushing that hard, just to keep the tyres alive for the end of the race and Fernando got too close. There were some moments that he was so close, especially at the end of the straight. But I was managing the gap and controlling everything. I think our pace today was pretty strong and the car looks fantastic. Even the team. We did a small mistake at the last pit stop but it doesn’t affect our performance.

Q: Fernando, describe your feelings at the second stop when Pastor jumped you because you were caught up behind a backmarker in that critical lap weren’t you?
FA: Yeah, we were a little bit unlucky maybe. We had a Marussia but I think he got a penalty at the end. Obviously, it’s not a solution now but hopefully people start to understand that they need to respect the rules and today again they didn’t and they paid the penalty. It’s more of a penalty the penalty we paid - maybe the race win - but yeah a little bit disappointed. But they [Williams] did a great job and they had the pace, because in the last stint, if we were faster than the Williams we had the opportunity to overtake but they were quicker than us so thy deserve the victory.

Q: Kimi, it’s the second podium for you in a row. Do you feel a win is around the corner?
KR: Yeah, twice already. Unfortunately you’re not always going to get there. If you get the chance, you should take it because it’s not every race that you will be able to fight for that position or even try it. Hopefully we can keep doing what we’re doing now and at a certain point I’m sure that things will go exactly right and we can. But so far it’s been a good step and the car has been strong everywhere. The next race is a bit different - Monaco - it’s hard to say how it goes there. The team has done a good job and we have still work to do, things to improve. But so far it’s going in a good way and I’m happy with it. OK, we’re not 100% happy with it because we are not winning but that’s a very normal thing and I’m happy for the team.

Q: As Kimi says, we go to Monaco next Pastor. That’s one of your favourite tracks. What chance a back-to-back victory for you?
PM: I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for us to be strong again. For sure I will be doing my best on the driving. The team is looking after the car so we need to continue like that. Keep pushing with the car, to develop it as soon as possible and consistency will be the important thing in this championship.


Q: When did you think you could win, because obviously there have been changing emotions, obviously you were second on the grid and then first on the grid and then obviously the start etc., When did you think this was possible?
PM: After the qualifying. Y’know, it was so great to start from the head, from the front and for sure the team did a great job to give me a car and I did my job on the qualifying. And then starting from the pole it’s much easier, everything.

Q: And then obviously overtaken at the start…
PM: Yes, our start wasn’t that great, Fernando had one better than us but after the first lap the pace was very competitive, the car looks very good and we were looking at the strategy, that’s it.

Q: And what about the tyres at the end? Because obviously Fernando closed on you and then dropped back.
PM: When Fernando got close I was looking after the tyres, I didn’t push that much, just because the big tyre degradation. We did an extremely good strategy today, everything under control, even some moments when Fernando got too close but we had a little bit better traction than him, using KERS and everything. So it was managing the race, looking for the gaps and the pace.

Q: You must have thought that with KERS, him within a second, at any moment it was going to happen - but it never did.
PM: For sure it was difficult from this morning because the gaps are so close between the top teams at the moment. When I saw that I was second in the first corner, ‘OK’, I said, ‘the race is going to be long. We need to keep pushing, we need to prepare to change our strategy just to attack Ferrari and we did it. Everything was perfect, except the last pitstop. We had a big moment there but it doesn’t affect our final result.

Q: Fernando, you got so close, right up there, and then it just went away I guess, and then by the end it looked as though you really were struggling on the tyres.
FA: Yeah, it was close with ten laps to go, ten laps to the end. We were attacking Pastor when we were closing to within one second but then the last seven or eight laps we lost the grip, around Turn Seven I felt. I informed the team some corners after, in Turn Nine, to check if everything is OK because maybe we lost some aerodynamic part of the front wing or under the floor or something because we had no more grip at all. So, from that point the last seven laps, it was monitoring the distance and the gap with Kimi. We knew it was a very long last seven laps. At the end it was close. I think one lap more and Kimi overtake us. So we were lucky at the end and happy - happy with the weekend in general, not only with the race, because we had a very strong weekend, on Fridays with good practice, the car felt more or less competitive yesterday. I think we extract everything from the car again, maximise the potential of what we have in our hands and today the start was great, the race pace was good, at one point we were lapping one Red Bull in front of us with the blue flags, so… it’s very strange. We were 57 seconds behind Vettel in Bahrain, and we were lapping Webber here. No one understands probably. Not us either.

Q: It really was that sudden when you lost the grip? It was almost like a switch.
FA: Yeah, yeah, it was in turn seven, over the kerb maybe, something fall out of the car or something, we need to check. But it was difficult. As Pastor said, in the last corner, turn 16, it’s difficult to follow anyone after the chicane, so we knew that when you lose the position at the pitstop, you have to have a big pace advantage if you want to overtake someone. With the difference and with the pace that Williams had today, we knew it was difficult.

Q: I suppose everybody in Italy wants to know, has Ferrari turned the corner? Are you now back in front again?
FA: We’ll see. I think when we are first and second in one qualifying and first and second in one race, we have to say that we have the best car. Until that moment we are fighting. I think this year is very difficult to have a pace advantage or to be happy with the car you have in your hands, because everything is so close. Consistency and continuous development will be important in this championship because two-tenths can be six or seven positions in one qualifying this year. But what we can say is we have probably the most difficult start of the championship in these three years in Ferrari, with a car that was not competitive at all, and we finish the first quarter of the championship, so this is the fifth race out of 20, and we are leading the championship, or the same points as Vettel, so we have to be very, very proud and very happy with the points we achieved and with the position. Maybe we have not to be so proud about how competitive we are but we are working on that.

Q: Kimi, tell us about the start, because that pretty much established your race.
KR: Yeah, I had a pretty good start, nothing to complain about. I thought I would get the chance to overtake outside both of the first two but I didn’t have enough speed in a straight line - I actually hit the limiter I think in fifth gear which kind of stopped my acceleration a bit but after that I didn’t have the speed to hang on and hound them. I was pulling away from the guys behind me but I couldn’t stay. The first stint was pretty OK but the second, I chose the soft tyre and I didn’t have the speed to keep up with them. I’m a bit disappointed but I just tried to fight and then we changed the tyres and it seemed to turn out to be pretty good but we were just too far away. We need, like, ten more laps and then I think we could have been fighting for the win.

Q: Absolute charge at the end, your tyres were OK?
KR: Yes, it was OK. I had two new sets of Prime but unfortunately I didn’t have more sets of Prime anyhow to put in the first pitstop. The car was very good but just a bit too late for me. We fall off too much in the last stint to be able to fight for the win. But one more lap we could probably could have got Fernando - but it’s easy to say after.

Q: And what did you tell the Finnish viewers just now?
KR: It’s Mothers’ Day in Finland.

Q: So Happy Mothers’ Day?
KR: Yeah. I had nothing else to say to Finnish viewers.


Q: (Leonid Novozhilov - F1 Life) Kimi, second place in Bahrain, third place in Spain; is this the maximum for you or can you win?
KR: The fact is the reason why I’m disappointed is because in the end if we have done everything right, we could have put ourselves into first place. The car has been fast enough but we’ve been doing small things not correctly and I’ve done some mistakes on my side but if everything was 100 percent OK we could have won. There’s no issue with the speed of the car, but it’s so close between all the teams and drivers that if you have a small problem or a small issue during the weekend then it’s going to cost you a lot. If you’re three tenths behind then you’re suddenly not in the last qualifying. As you give yourself the chance to be fighting at the front, I think our car can do it but everything has to fall in the right place to be able to win.

Q: (Leonid Novozhilov - F1 Life) Pastor, you are now a national hero. Are you ready?
PM: For sure everyone is so happy in my country. I’m very lucky to have a country behind me, pushing so hard, to see me here in Formula One and especially to be here, between these guys. I’m pretty happy for Venezuela, I’m happy for Williams as well. They did a wonderful job to give me a great car for this race. We are getting better and better, race after race.

Q: (Adrian Huber - Agencia EFE) Fernando, after the first five races, and all the problems you’re supposed to have in your team, no one has scored more points than you have now. How much more confident are you today than you were on Thursday, or on the inside were you expecting this?
FA: No, I am a definitely surprised by the quantity of points that we have; I’m a bit surprised by today’s result, or the weekend’s results. We were confident of improving the car, we were hoping for some signs of improvement here in Barcelona. As I said, in Bahrain, we were nearly out of Q3 and then in the race, P9, one minute behind the leaders, so we arrived in Barcelona with some hope, some optimism about the upgrades but I think the result, the overall weekend pace has been a little bit better than expected, because we were quick in qualifying and quick in the race but this, in my opinion or how I feel after the weekend, I still don’t know where we are. I think we need to wait for more races, for the championship to stabilise a little bit because I think we maybe over-performed a little bit compared with the potential we have and maybe some other teams under-performed or they had some problems to get their tyres working or something, because, as I said, some of the results that we saw this weekend feel very strange.

Q: (Carlos Miguel - La Gaceta) Fernando, if we take a look at the race, maybe it was a bad decision to stop so late after Pastor after you’d had the problem with the Marussia because it’s so important in Formula One to stay in front from the aerodynamic point of view.
FA: Yeah, obviously you never know. After the race it’s always easier to review the strategy. The choice was always to stop on the same lap or one lap later than Pastor, always try to cover the position. When Williams decided to stop in the second pit stop, we had one Marussia in front of us for a lap and a half. When we saw that in the second sector, we were already exiting behind Pastor so at that point, we decided to keep going for a few more laps and try to get the opportunity at the end of the race, with a shorter stint. I think we didn’t lose the win because of the Marussia because if you had the pace in the last stint, you had to overtake Pastor and we didn’t because they were faster than us, but for sure, we went out of the plan because of the backmarker.

Q: (Jaime Rodriguez - El Mundo) Pastor, could you explain the start of the race, because you had a good fight with Fernando, and I want to know if you’ve received congratulations from your president in Venezuela?
PM: You know it wasn’t the best start ever from us. I think the clutch slipped quite a lot. Fernando had a better jump than us. It was so close, I tried to defend the position but he was already on the better part of the track, so I decided to back off and follow him. At that moment, I thought that the race was long and we changed our strategy, to attack Ferrari. I think from the second stop we did pretty good and I think we surprised them because we did it so early. And the call? No, not yet because I was on the podium before, so no time to even see my family, my people. Maybe he will call. I don’t know.

Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Fernando and Kimi, did you believe that Pastor could be your main rival today, and if not, how big a surprise is it?
FA: Yeah, I think so. We saw in general that during the weekend that Williams was good. Lewis was maybe the favourite for this race after the pace we saw from Ferrari on Friday and the pole position by half a second yesterday. With Lewis’s penalty, Pastor was the strongest at the front so no surprises.
KR: Williams have been quite fast for two races in certain points and I think, as we’ve said before, it’s very difficult to say who is really the quickest overall because at one race one team is there and then suddenly they are tenth in the next race, so it’s bit of an odd situation where we are this year, but it gives a lot of chances for all the teams who have the speed and when the tyres are working for them they are much better than the others. The tyres seem to be the key thing. If you get them working well you seem to be fast. Sometimes you just drop out of the window a little bit and you have a hard time.

Q: (Marco degli Innocenti - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Pastor you are the fifth winner in five races, so the top of the field seems to be very close. Do you put Williams and yourself among the possible winners of the championship?
PM: For sure we are a little bit backwards compared with the leaders, with Fernando and Vettel, but we need to keep working. We are not the best team at the moment. The car looked pretty good today, but I think we need to keep pushing some particulars at Williams, especially in the car, but everything is possible. The gaps are so close at the moment, I’m driving well, I have a good feeling with the team, with the car, so everything is possible. For sure we are looking to do our best, looking forward to winning some races, to getting a couple more podiums and I’m really happy because the team hasn’t won many races for many years so this is a great moment for us. I hope to continue like that.

Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Pastor, you were in the same team last season. When you finished the season you were in front of only three teams: Marussia, Hispania and Caterham, and now you are in front of all of them; what has happened to explain such a change in performance from one season to another?
PM: We made big changes in the factory, we have new staff in some of the departments and completely changed the approach to building the car. I need to say that this year’s car has great performance, great potential to become even stronger than it is and for sure, this is great for motivation, to motivate the team, the factory, to keep pushing like that. I think this is the way. We are motivated and we need to keep pushing.

Q: (Adrian Huber - Agencia EFE) Pastor, it looks like this could be a very long Sunday in Venezuela. Do you have any information as to what’s going on now or can you imagine what might happen there?
PM: I can imagine that there will be a party everywhere but I don’t know at the moment. I need to see some of the fans, my family there. I think everybody who saw the race and for sure all the people are happy at the moment and this is great for Venezuela after nearly thirty years without any driver in Formula One, so I think it’s a great moment for our country.

Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Motor und Sport) Fernando, you have already said that at the moment everything is possible and not many things are explainable which is very strange for Formula One. I don’t think we ever had this situation before. Do you, as a driver, enjoy this uncertainty or would you like to have some more answers on open questions?
FA: I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer. We probably like the unknown situation that we have now, so you arrive in Monaco next Wednesday and you don’t know if you will be a winner or if you will be out of the points. That’s what we feel at the moment, not only for us. But in a way, after eleven years in Formula One and seeing Ferrari dominate most of them, now that I’m at Ferrari, I would like to have more stability and a dominant car.


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New Williams to debut at Jerez test

Williams will unveil their 2012 car, the FW34, at the first pre-season test. The four-day session will get underway at Spain's Jerez circuit on February 7. The British team endured their worst-ever campaign in 2011, scoring just five points and finishing ninth in the standings.

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Sebastian Vettel
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