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FIA post-qualifying press conference - France

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Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), 1m16.449s, 2. Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1m16.490s, 3. Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren), 1m16.693s

Q: Kimi, (inaudible), tell us all about your qualifying.
Kimi Raikkonen: Yeah, it is nothing new for me not being so quick in Q1 and Q2. The car is so much different when you have low fuel than when you have more fuel, so we have been working the whole weekend with the normal fuel load, so it is not always exactly how you want it when you take the fuel out. The main thing is to be the fastest at the end and that worked out very well for us.

Q: It was a good lap from what we saw. Talk us through it from what you saw. Was there anyway it could be improved? Was it perfect?
KR: I mean I could have done quite a bit faster lap, the lap I came in, as the team told me to box because in the end I was fastest anyhow, so there was no point to waste one lap of fuel. That lap was actually at least two tenths faster but just on the last moment I pulled in when I was supposed to turn into the last chicane, but they told me to box. We have had good speed all weekend and the car has been working well and this has been a great weekend so far but tomorrow is the one we need to finish and hopefully we can win as we need some points.

Q: It is quite a technical circuit here, demanding of the car and the driver. There is a lot of indecision it appears about the Bridgestone tyres here, though, whether to go with the hard or the softer tyre?
KR: I dont think there is much in it on one lap on the softer or harder tyre. Over the race I think the harder is definitely the way to go. For us both tyres have been working well, so in that way also we are in a good position.

Q: Felipe, congratulations, the third Ferrari lock out of the grid we have seen this season. Very quick in Q1 and Q2 and very close there with Kimi in Q3.
Felipe Massa: Yeah, I was overdriving a bit too much in Q3 trying to get the best out of the car and I lost a little bit of time on the track at a couple of corners just trying to push too hard. But we also had a lot more fuel in the car compared to Q1 and Q2, so I just lost a little bit of time. But anyway I think the front row is good and I am looking forward to the race tomorrow.

Q: How would you quantify Ferraris pace here? How does the car feel relative to other tracks you have been to with this sort of downforce level?
FM: It feels very good. We have had many good races this year starting in Malaysia and even though I didnt finish the race the car was very strong. Then when we went to Bahrain it was even stronger. Then we had a strong car in Barcelona as well, so on this kind of track the car works very well and I think we got the best out of the car today and the team did a great job as well.

Q: You had a sore neck yesterday. How are you feeling today?
FM: It was a stupid thing. I was just on the elevator and had a moment and felt my neck. I was not even driving. It was a little bit strange and I had a little bit of pain yesterday. The same this morning a little bit but it is getting better and better, so I am sure tomorrow I will be okay.

Q: Lewis, a bitter sweet moment for you. You are in the top three but we know that you have that 10 place penalty on the grid, starting 13th. But I guess you will be interested to know that in 2005 Kimi R?ikk?nen had a similar situation. He qualified third, had a 10 place penalty but finished second on the Sunday.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, obviously he has shown that you can do it. It was quite a disappointing qualifying for us, well for me. I have to apologise to the team as I did not do a great job at all. On my first and second lap I had the same mistake on both of them at the exit of turn seven, went wide and for sure lost at least three tenths or something there. But thats life. I was pushing and I was trying to get the best out of the car. I believe I did in most areas except that one, so we just missed out but nevertheless we will push very hard tomorrow.

Q: How much has the penalty hanging over you affected the way you have approached the race weekend with the strategy and indeed your driving?
LH: It doesnt help obviously. It doesnt hang over you but you know entering the weekend that you are coming here to win and you feel comfortable and you feel confident. You know the team has done absolutely everything they can to get you there and make sure the car is the best and then you arrive there and you automatically have a 10 place penalty. Rules are rules, I guess, so we will just do the best job we can. We will take it on the chin, learn from it and make sure it doesnt happen again.

Q: Putting all that to one side, how do you feel the McLaren Mercedes compared here to the Ferrari?
LH: I think it is quite good actually. It is obviously not the same as it was in Montreal which is a slightly different circuit. We generally have very similar pace to them but I think in the last sector they seem to be pulling a little bit more than us in the middle of the last sector. But I generally feel we have got quite good pace and we are definitely right up there with them but somewhere in the last sector they have a little bit more time than us.

Q: Kimi, there was a little bit of a discussion in the drivers briefing about the exit of the last corner and how much road can be used on the exit there. Can you just talk a little bit about that and how that affected qualifying and your thoughts on the race tomorrow with the tyres and possible weather changes?
KR: I guess in here there is always talk about the white lines and who cuts too much and runs too wide and if you get an advantage or not. If you make a mistake, especially in the last corner, it doesnt help too much and if you get it right you are fast and still on the circuit. If you hit the kerbs you jump wide sometimes. I dont think its the place where you should complain too much as the next lap you will be very slow because you dont get any traction, but its the same for everybody. Like I said for the race the car this weekend has been working very well. I dont know how the weather will be. Some people say it is going to be hot, some say there might be some chance of showers. For us, it has been very good. We have the best starting position, so hopefully we can have a strong race for the team.


Q: Kimi, as you were saying just now, this is a fairly crucial race for points, and surely this is the best start you could have had.
KR: Yeah, definitely. Its the best possible chance to win the race from first on the grid. The car has been good all weekend, so hopefully we will get some good points here.

Q: Youve finished every one of your seven races at this circuit.
KR: Thats good! Hopefully we dont do anything differently tomorrow but its going to be a long race. Im pretty sure weve got a good race car, but as weve seen before, anything can happen, so hopefully we get good points and we can gain on the others.

Q: You were talking just now about the kerbs, particularly those down here at Lycee. Whats it like hitting those kerbs from a driving point of view, seventy times as it will be tomorrow, and whats it like from the car point of view? Do you ever worry what it must be doing to it?
KR: Not too much really. The cars are pretty strong enough. Of course, if you really hit them hard every lap you might break something but its not too bad when you hit it right, but when you get it wrong its quite a hard hit and for sure its not healthy for the car. You more or less always try to get it right and most of the time its not too bad.

Q: Felipe, disappointed not to be on pole?
FM: I dont think so. It was a good qualifying anyway. We were quite strong in Q1 and Q2 and then I just tried to over-drive a little bit in Q3, I lost a little bit of time but I think we have a good car, the race is going to be long, so I think its good to start on the front row anyway.

Q: You missed pole by 47 thousandths of a second. Do you think you might have been on pole?
FM: Thats not important. The position is important. Even if it was a thousandth of a second it wouldnt count. We are there, we have a strong car, the team did a great job this weekend and I think we can be very competitive tomorrow.

Q: What about the tyre choice during qualifying and the race?
FM: It was not easy, definitely, because if you see Q1 and Q2, I did exactly the same times on both tyres. The hard (tyre) is working very well, especially in circumstances like that, in the qualifying, so it will also not be easy to find the right choice for the race.

Q: Lewis, did you find a similar situation with the tyres?
LH: It was very close. I felt more comfortable on the prime, on the harder tyres, so I opted for them, but they were very close. Whether or not we made the right choice… for me, I felt we did.

Q: You were talking just now about the mistake that you made in Q3, both times, we saw you briefly go off, is that where you had the problem both times?
LH: Yeah, I made a mistake and went wide on the exit of turn seven, where you have to have a big lift, twenty or thirty meters before you have to normally brake, so I was off on the astro-turf and had to try and work my way back to the track.

Q: Was that a major problem?
LH: Im sure I lost a good chunk of time.

Q: To what extent is the car set up for overtaking, knowing that your grid position was going to be down in double figures?
LH: Well, weve set the car up, so we can obviously qualify as high as possible and they know that Im able to overtake. Overtaking is going to be tough in the race, I think, but I think were quick enough to be able to do that, so Im quite confident for tomorrow.

Q: And preparations so far have been perfect?
LH: Preparations have been very good, yeah, apart from yesterday when we had the problem in P2 with a small off. I think its been quite a smooth weekend, and I still feel very good. Unfortunately I didnt get the best out of my lap but it was still not such a bad lap and qualifying third is not such a bad thing, but obviously we start thirteenth or so, so its going to be hard work back there, but I look forward to it.


Q: (Frederic Ferret - LEquipe) Lewis, how difficult is it to build your race strategy when you have known since the beginning of the weekend that you have a ten place penalty on the grid?
LH: Its tough, for sure. But were here to race, were here to compete for wins and when you know that you dont particularly have a chance of doing that, then it puts you on the back foot but the great thing is Ive got a very enthusiastic team with a lot of confidence in me and my abilities and vice versa, and so whatever problems we have, we try to come up with the best solution and move forward and this weekend is going to be tough, but if we can pull out some points from this weekend it will be a major bonus.

Q: (Juha Patalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Kimi, nice pole and as a bonus you could save some fuel at the end, so would you be disappointed if you didnt win the race tomorrow?
KR: You are always disappointed if youve been quick all weekend, if youre on the first place and cannot win but the most important thing is to get to the finish, get some good points and go from there, but we should definitely have a good chance to win.

Q: (Tomas Richtr - TV Nova) What is the biggest difference in car handling from a drivers point of view, between Q2 and Q3 in regard to a racing amount of fuel because we saw quite a few mistakes in Q3?
KR: Theres more fuel, so it makes the car sliding much more, not so quick in changing direction and just heavier, so its easier to make mistakes, the tyres are getting a harder time, so thats probably why people are sliding more and going off more.

Q: (Alberto Antonini - Autosprint) Lewis, let me get this clear. You entered Q3 but you will still be back below the top ten because of the penalty. Are you allowed to vary the amount of fuel that you have on board to start Q3?
LH: No, youre not allowed to. Its parc ferme.

Q: (Luis Fernando Ramos - Racing Magazine) Kimi, this is Ferraris 200th pole in Formula One, does it mean anything special to you?
KR: Its very nice for the whole team, for Ferrari, but Im just a small part of it. Im happy to achieve it, the 200th one, its good for the team, for this race and a nice thing, but nothing else really changes.

Q: (Tomas Richtr - TV Nova) Fernando Alonso was strong all weekend and hes right behind you two Ferrari drivers. Do you consider him a threat for tomorrows race?
KR: Theyve been quite good all weekend but it all depends on how much fuel everybody is running, how fast theyre going to be in the race. We need to be careful with everybody but I think we have a very good race car, very good speed in the race, so as long as we get in front of him at the start it shouldnt be a problem.
FM: Well, I remember Renault have always been very quick on this track, even in the past, so they probably will be very strong here. They seem to be better here than on other tracks. For sure, as Kimi said, it depends on the fuel but he can be stronger than at other races.


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