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FIA post-qualifying press conference - Japanese Grand Prix (Fuji Speedway)

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Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1m18.404s; 2nd Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), 1m18.644s; 3rd Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren), 1m18.821s.

Q: Lewis, that looked pretty close. You were just behind Felipe in Q2 but a great run in Q3 for you.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, we had quite a good qualifying session, quite a bit different to Singapore and to Monza but we didnt have any problems through Q2, so it was pretty straightforward. We were very quick in Q1 and we were also very quick in Q2 but Felipe obviously was 0.2 quicker but at least that got us through and usually when you put the heavier fuel in, it gets tougher. The first lap didnt seem to be very good. I think Kimi was just ahead of me. I think I was third. The last lap I managed to put all the sectors together and pick up my last sector and bring it home, so I was very, very happy. The team have done a phenomenal job. As you know the reliability of our car has been phenomenal for the last two years, so without them we obviously wouldnt have this. It is all down to them.

Q: What is it about you and Fuji as you seem to love this place.
LH: I do like Fuji. I love it here in Japan. It is my third time in Japan. The whole atmosphere here is quite unique. I think the people here are probably the nicest people I have ever met and the food is great. We are out in the mountains next to Mount Fuji which is a spectacular view. The track is really cool. The whole feeling around here feels good and it is great to be here again.

Q: What was the mood like between Q2 and Q3 as Felipe has been slightly quicker in Q2?
LH: Going into qualifying we had already decided what our strategy would be and we believed it would be competitive and put us in a good position for the race. But as you know always in qualifying it is down to you not making mistakes and putting the sectors together and really pulling out the lap and so it can be very tough but again we had very good pace here. We have been able to outpace the Ferraris which is great for us and I think a really strong showing from me and from Heikki, so hopefully tomorrow we can push forward with the strategy we have and really challenge for the front.

Q: Kimi, back on the front row for the first time since Magny-Cours.
Kimi Raikkonen: Yes, it is nice to be back. But I mean it is still not where I want to be. Still second but still not very happy with how things are going. I am still not happy with the car and it is quite frustrating. Usually the qualifying has been the worst place for us but we should be strong in the race. But we will see what we can do tomorrow and hopefully we will get a good race. Like I said, it has not been easy lately in the races but we have done a lot of work and finally we have got a little result out of it, so it is good to be here and it is a good place to start with tomorrow.

Q: Kimi, you were quickest for a while in Q3. But can you be a bit more specific about how it went?
KR: I mean the issue what we have has been there always, so it has not really changed much. It is something that of course when you go into qualifying you cannot change much anymore and you need to live with it and try to get the best out of it. Both laps were pretty okay but there is for sure improvements if we get the things as we want. But like I said, we are in a good place for the race.

Q: What is your mindset going into the race as mathematically you are still in with a chance of the championship?
KR: Like I say, I dont have much to lose. For sure we want to try to win both championships but it is not going to be easy against McLaren. But I will do the best job I can tomorrow and hopefully we can fight for the win and if we can get it, that would be nice. But I dont look to the championship that much now. I just try and go and win some races and finish with a nice three last races of the season. That would be good.

Q: Heikki, a great qualifying run from you too.
Heikki Kovalainen: Yeah, it was a pretty good session all the way though. I took a little bit of time to get up to speed in Q1 but then by Q2 everything felt pretty good. The car felt well balanced. Then on the last part of qualifying I felt I put two pretty good laps together. As always small mistakes, small moments but I think third was the maximum we could get today but hopefully tomorrow things will work out fine for us and of course we have both championships on the table, so for myself it is also important to try to score as many points as possible. The target is to do the maximum points tomorrow.

Q: Do you agree with Lewis in terms of how good the McLaren feels around here?
HK: Yeah, it is not only in Fuji to be honest. It has felt pretty good all the way through the season. Perhaps there were a couple of races earlier in the season when we thought the gap to Ferrari seemed to be quite big but the team reacted very, very well and we made huge improvements before half-way through the season and since then I think we have been on the right track and the whole team has put a huge effort in and it has been a continuous improvement up to today and it will carry on to Brazil. It is just a fantastic effort from everybody and the car feels good everywhere but it still means it is a pretty close fight and if you fall off a little bit then you lose three or four places in qualifying straight away, so you really have got to nail everything but I am really, really happy in this team.

Q: Lewis, how are you thinking at this moment? Are you thinking about the championship? Are you feeling the pressure?
LH: I just try to take every race as it comes and I am definitely, compared to last year, looking at the championship and what I need to do to win it. It is obviously within my grasp but we as a team have to put a really strong effort in to continue with the momentum we have. For me, I am approaching every race exactly as I have throughout the season. I dont think I need to change anything, just keep the car on the road and try and bring it home and score some good points.


Q: Lewis, that looked like a pretty perfect qualifying session. Were there any problems for you?
LH: I wouldnt say it was a perfect qualifying session. I think it was a step forward from my previous qualifying session in Singapore. I think Q1 went really well. I think Q2 also went very well, I didnt seem to be as quick as Felipe there but going into Q3 the first lap wasnt great, my first lap didnt seem to be spectacular but I managed to pull it together on the last lap though I did lose a bit of time I think in one corner. I think in the last corner I lost maybe a tenth. But generally it was quite a good lap, so I am quite happy.

Q: What about for the race itself?
LH: For the race, I think were obviously in a perfect position to make a step forward and try to score as many points as we can collectively, me and Heikki. Its going to be a tough race with Kimi there, and also you could see Fernando was very strong. So its going to be a tough race. We dont know what the weathers going to be like but we just have to focus on our job and try to score as many points as we can.

Q: What about the atmosphere in the team? Ron Dennis mentioned it yesterday; do you feel theres a real buzz within the team, a really positive atmosphere?
LH: I think there always has been, to be honest. Its a fantastic team. Theyve just kept their heads high and just kept pushing forward and working and working. Im sure many of you have absolutely no clue exactly how hard these guys work but when you go back there and you see it firsthand, its very impressive. As a result of all their hard work, we have fantastic reliability and a very competitive car. We work so well as a team, all together, and me and Heikki really work well together, so Im very, very happy. He just said hes very happy in the team, so it works very well.

Q: Kimi, Ferrari very quick in Q2 on low tanks but you didnt seem quite as happy on heavier tanks.
KR: I think I was happier with more fuel in the car. Im still not where I want to be but its been fighting, fighting all the time with the car but little by little we will get to where we want to be in the end. Two second places is still good but the car is still not where I want it to be.

Q: Nothing you can do to the car between now and the race, so will it better on the full tanks?
KR: Usually in the race it turns out to be not too bad but qualifying has been the most difficult thing for us, not just this year but also last year. We are still looking and trying to find exactly where I want to be. When you end up in qualifying after this morning, we were not one hundred per cent sure where we wanted to be and of course you cannot change the car much, so it wasnt easy but were pretty happy that weve got second place after all the work that we have done and try to improve different things for me and it seemed to work a little bit.

Q: What are your own tactics going to be during these last three races; mathematically you still have a chance for the championship?
KR: I think its as small as it was last year but it seemed to happen last year, so I try to win races and thats all really. We want to win both championships as a team, so we will see what we can do. I think that we should have a strong car tomorrow and we see if we can win, it would be nice, but if not, we try to take the maximum points from the races but we definitely just want to go for wins in the last three races and see where we end up.

Q: Heikki, it seems that youve felt confident with the car right from the early stages of the weekend.
HK: Yeah, Ive felt confident all the way through the weekend, and to be honest, Ive felt confident on a few other weekends previously but the results just havent always been the maximum but nevertheless weve kept working really hard and just moved on. Today or this weekend has been straightforward, the cars felt that it had very good balance all the way through the weekend, a bit of work overnight from yesterday improved it again today. In qualifying, the first session took a little bit of time to get up to speed, to feel the grip and to find the rhythm but after that it was pretty straightforward and third is pretty good. Of course, I would rather be on pole but I think third is not too bad.

Q: Where do you see your role in the championship battle?
HK: I dont think my role is very big because I cant win it any more. I think the best I can do for the team is try to score the maximum points in these remaining races and try to help the team to try to win the Constructors championship. Obviously Lewis has a chance to win the Drivers championship but we have no instructions. In Formula One you cant have any instructions anymore, so I can decide whatever I want to do. Surely we would like to win both championships but Lewis takes care of his job, I do my job. If I have a chance, I will try to win a race, no doubt about that, but we work as a team, and especially at the end of the season, I look to do the best for the team. If theres a chance I can help the team to win the Constructors championship I will do it.


Q: (Bob McKenzie - The Daily Express) Lewis, you get pole but then you get out of the car and youve got the bonus of seeing that two people have nipped in ahead and Felipe is back in fifth. Do you think then ‘thats great, I thought he was going to be right behind? Whats the feeling?
LH: To be honest I was just happy to see Heikki pull up alongside. I think its great for the team and thats all I was really thinking of. At the end of my lap I was hoping that Heikki was either beside me or at least behind me, so we could both score as many points for the team.

Q: (Ingo Roersch - Sport Bild) Lewis, were you not surprised that Felipe was only fifth?
LH: You can say you were surprised because he looked very quick through Q1 and Q2, so my thoughts were probably the same as yours but I dont know the reason for it – maybe he made a mistake, I dont know, but theres still no doubt he will have a strong race.

Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Kimi, when you say that the car feels better with a full load than without fuel, can you just describe the difference between those two situations? How much easier is it with the fuel load?
KR: The set-up or the handling is better with the fuel than without quite often for me, so thats the difference.

Q: (Takeharu Kusuda - Lapita) Lewis, could you give us your impressions of the Fuji circuit under blue skies? And I heard that you like Japanese food, did you eat teppanyaki yesterday?
LH: Are you suggesting that thats my secret? No, I didnt have teppanyaki yesterday. I ate with my team here. I really like this circuit. Its particularly grown on me even more, I think, since Ive been here. I think yesterday, when we had blue sky and you could see Mount Fuji, I thought it was just quite incredible, when you drove round turn ten you could see it, the mountain there. I think its really cool. And the track isnt that long but it is still a real pleasure to drive in the wet and the dry. I think other circuits arent so much fun in the wet but this track has a different surface, so its great fun in the wet. Also the facilities, the place is just very calm and we always have good spectators.

Q: (Ingo Roersch - Sport Bild) Lewis, Robert Kubica recently complained a little bit about your driving style. Sometimes he said you are going a little bit too rude. What do you say about your critics in this way?
LH: I do my talking on the track, so I havent really got much to say to it. I think everyone has their own opinion and I can respect that.

Q: (Ed Gorman - The Times) Lewis, are you aware that theres an investigation about an incident between you and Nelson Piquet which we understand is being investigated by the stewards?
LH: Are you serious? From qualifying? I dont think Ive been overtaken throughout qualifying, so… I dont think so. At one stage he pulled out of the way of me during the qualifying session but I came in that lap.


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2012 Race Drivers

Sebastian Vettel
Mark Webber
Lewis Hamilton
Jenson Button
Fernando Alonso
Felipe Massa
Michael Schumacher
Nico Rosberg
Kimi Räikkönen
Romain Grosjean
Paul di Resta
Nico Hulkenberg
Kamui Kobayashi
Sergio Perez
Daniel Ricciardo
Jean-Eric Vergne
Pastor Maldonado
Bruno Senna
Heikki Kovalainen
Vitaly Petrov
Pedro de la Rosa
Narain Karthikeyan
Timo Glock
Charles Pic

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