1st Jenson Button (Brawn GP), 55m30.622s; 2nd Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber), 55m53.344s; 3rd Timo Glock (Toyota), 55m54.135s
Q: Jenson, it is never easy. Very difficult at the start and what calls you had to make with changing weather conditions as your pit stop approached.
Jenson Button: What a crazy race. It really was. My start was pretty bad. I had a lot of oversteer in the car. I dont think I got heat into the rear tyres and went back to fourth, got up to third and eventually got back to the front and I was pretty happy with that. Our pace was good and then the rain started but choosing the tyres was very difficult. Normally here when it rains it pours but it didnt to start with. We went for the full wet tyre and it just destroyed itself and we saw Timo flying up behind us on the inter, so we put the inter on. Then just as he came by I saw his tyres were bald and it was raining out the back and he was struggling quite a bit on it and had to pit. I got one lap in on the inter with reasonable pace and I was able to get in and put the wet tyre on and come out in front. A very interesting race and I still havent seen the chequered flag without a safety car in front.
Q: Nick, in 2005 from 10th to third and now from 10th to second. Great use of the conditions with a long fuel strategy. You came in on lap 22, a little bit earlier than you needed to, and it worked out perfectly for you.
Nick Heidfeld: Yeah, I think it was a very difficult race obviously in these conditions. I took the right tyre choice, well, not the perfect tyre choice as I went straight to extremes. As Jenson said there is normally heavy rainfall here. Then the team told me there is heavy rain expected and I told them inters would be a lot quicker now. Then just when they told me to pit it started to rain heavier and actually it was just 200 metres from the pit entry and I said ‘no, no I stay out as it starts to rain more heavy. I tried to preserve my tyres at the beginning and some other guys were quicker than me on the extreme wets and I knew if the rain starts then hopefully I can stay out. But still my rear tyres were destroyed completely and were slicks basically. When it started to rain I just tried to stay on the circuit.
Q: Timo, a great call to go onto the intermediates as Jenson just said. Talk us through that.
Timo Glock: Yes, it was a tricky race I have to say but in the end I have to say one of the best races I could ever do. We struggled a bit at the start. I dont know why we lost so many places. I couldnt believe Fernando and Kimi were in front of me at the first corner. I didnt know where they came from and I struggled and I was only, I think, P8 after the first lap and the traffic was really tricky and after five or six laps I saw already the clouds were coming and I was asking ‘when is the rain coming, when is the rain coming and they said you know it should come in the next couple of minutes and then I thought it takes so long as you saw the big clouds coming definitely. It took just so long and we were so close to the first pit stop, so I said ‘okay I will take the risk and we will go for it and go to inters and then we will see. I saw already Felipe Massa was on heavy wets quite early and I knew that will destroy the tyres as well, so I said ‘come on, we go for it and take the risk and in the end it paid off. But the last two laps behind the safety car it was so confusing. My engineer told me when I did the pit stop ‘you are leading the race, so I said ‘okay, I dont push because I want to save the tyres. Then I saw Jenson coming out just ahead of me, so I was P2. Then I jumped out of the car and now I am here I am P3. So hopefully when I come back down I will still be in P3. Thats what I am hoping for.
Q: Jenson, in those closing laps just before the safety car came out you were racing with Timo in dreadful conditions.
JB: It was really bad conditions and you could not actually see the circuit. I mean it was that bad. We were behind the safety car and my team, who did a fantastic job, said all you have got to do is drive around and that was difficult enough. A few moments I was almost off the circuit. We are going around at running pace, that slow. The safety car was pulling away from us. All I had to do was drive around and stay on the circuit. But how slow it looks. It is embarrassing but that was as quick as we needed to go and if Id gone any quicker Id think I would have ended up in the gravel.
Q: Nick, talk us through the atmosphere on the grid when you were just sitting there?
NH: Well, actually I thought I was second if the race was stopped now as I knew that the race is counted not at this lap but one or two laps before that. But there was a lot of confusion and we were told to be in first position if the race resumes because apparently (Mark) Webber would have been at the front. There was a lot of mess and it took a lot of time standing there but in this maybe half an hour there was a lot of conversation and a lot of confusion going on.
Q: What was your feeling and the feeling amongst the drivers in terms of the conditions and a possible restart?
NH: Well, it was very clearly impossible to drive if the rain would have kept as strong as it was when the race was quite rightly stopped. As Jenson and Timo just said it felt like walking speed we were driving and still spinning off, so it was the right decision. And I think now outside its dark already, so no chance to carry on.
Q: Timo, how was your start? Talk us through that.
TG: I mean you can see already I had massive wheel spin and I just could not pull away and then suddenly on the left side there is Fernando and Kimi coming and it was unbelievable. I couldnt believe it that Fernando was on the inside. We struggled quite a lot at the start as it was just really, really tricky, so at the end I was happy to keep my front wing in one piece. But that destroyed a little bit the race as we could not go the speed we should have done as Fernando was holding us up and Mark a little bit. Every time I was close enough I couldnt just attempt. One time I tried and damaged a bit the front wing. But the biggest problem was just traction. I could not get close enough to overtake.
Q: Jenson, you had a bit of a moment on the outside of turn one?
JB: I mean all weekend the circuit has been quite similar but there was such little grip I was really, really surprised and I went a little bit deep into turn one and got a big snap of oversteer and that carried throughout the first lap. I was really, really struggling with the rear end as (Fernando) Alonso was in front of me. I have never seen a car so sideways before. But I eventually got past Alonso coming into the second to last corner and then I had to chase down Jarno (Trulli) and Nico (Rosberg). An exciting race. I would rather have a boring race but we had an exciting one today and I came out on top, so I am happy.
One final thing. Can I just say a massive thank you to my engineer who was on the podium with me today. We have been through a lot of tough times but he has been wicked and today as we saw we came out on top and a lot of it was down to him, so ‘thank you very much.
Q: Jenson, this could become a habit.
JB: Finishing behind the safety car you mean. Wow, what a race. We had everything in that race. It was very enjoyable. It was not the easiest start for me and I had a big snap of oversteer, pretty much at every corner on the first lap from the grid. I really struggled with the rear end. But then I closed up to Jarno and Nico and knew I was going longer and when they pitted I could put in a couple of quick laps. It got me in front and it was looking like it was going to be fine until I looked up and saw the clouds come over and it started raining. Unusual for Sepang it just started spitting and we went for the full wets thinking it is going to chuck it down. But it didnt to start with. A few other people made the correct choice but we had a 16-18 second lead at that point. So I carried on and it started chewing itself up, so I pitted for inters as this guy (Timo) was flying. I came out just behind him but my inter was obviously new and his was very old and I was able to get past him on the wetter part of the circuit just before he pitted. I got one good lap on the inter but then it started chucking it down, so I came in for the full went but then it was the safety car. It was a tough race and it was tough keeping it on the circuit. We were driving around it as if it was walking pace and you are still scared that you are going to chuck it off because you could not see the circuit to start with. It was not like it was rivers, it was a lake.
Q: You were worried about going off the grid anyway because you were on the dirty side of the grid?
JB: Yeah, it was true. Timo also suffered from the grid. I didnt get a bad start. The start was reasonable but the right hand side just shot past and the KERS cars came up, so I lost time there and turn one was messy really. I got a massive snap of oversteer at the exit and I couldnt get back from there.
Q: And you have never driven on the wets before?
JB: No, and the balance was definitely not right on the full wet. The circuit was reasonably dry, so it was difficult to get a balance. But I had massive oversteer on the first couple of laps and then the front started graining. There is a lot of work we need to do to sort our pace and balance out on the wet tyres but as I said it is just nice to get to the end of the race and we ended up on the top because, I think, of a good strategy and also looking at what other people were doing on the different types of tyres and we ended up on top. Congratulations to all the guys who work on the car but also the engineers and the strategy guys who got us here really.
Q: As I was saying just now Nick, youre eighth second place, but Im sure youre happy with it today.
NH: Yes, exactly, Im more than happy with that position. I started tenth and I couldnt have wished for more, basically.
Q: Amazing that you had one pit stop whereas these guys had three or four.
NH: It started to rain and as Jenson said, it was clear that it would rain heavily, so we went on the extra wets and as it was pretty dry still, I tried to preserve my tyres, especially the rear tyres and therefore at the beginning there were a couple of cars quicker than me. I was even overtaken by one guy, some people were driving away from me, but I knew that they would kill their tyres and if it would start drizzling or raining a bit more, I would then have the tyre and I would be able to stay out. After that, the team told me all the time ‘OK, heavy rain expected in the next two minutes but it just didnt happen, didnt happen, didnt happen. Just when they called me in, it started to rain heavily and just 300 metres before the pit entry I said ‘no, no, I will stay out, now it starts raining. That was the right call, a bit lucky, obviously, but stopping once they told me to.
Q: And you got away with a spin right at the end as well, a very slow spin…
NH: Yes, it was. The safety car was out already, I had contact with the pits, they told me that I should observe the safety cars speed which we have on the dash and not go quicker than that. And I was laughing, telling them that I would be happy if I could go that quick. There was already a car which had spun there, so I thought ‘OK, I will go as slow as possible but it was aquaplaning not only on the tyres but also on the plank. I spun and I was happy that I didnt go into the gravel. I dont think it would have mattered in the end anyway, because the result was taken from a lap earlier but that shows that it was the right thing to stop the race because it was just undriveable.
Q: Timo, that was an extraordinary race. You were basically part of the group bottled up behind Alonso before your first stop.
TG: Yeah, it was a bit disappointing at the start, I have to say. I went from third to eighth after the start, I think. I couldnt believe that Kimi passed me on the outside in turn one and Fernando on the inside, so I thought again that the KERS cars were in front of me. I struggled behind Mark Webber especially to get close enough to really go for it. One time I tried it and damaged the front wing a bit and that was it really, so I had to stay behind. In the middle of the race I saw the rain was coming, the rain was coming but it took so long that I thought OK, when it takes so long then I go for intermediates because everybody else was already on heavy wets and I saw they struggled really and destroyed them, so I said ‘we go for inters and take the risk. I was driving around, driving around, overtaking cars, overtaking cars, and found that my tyres were going off as well, but my engineer told me ‘youre still the quickest on the track, youre still the quickest. I think it was worse in turns seven and eight and that was the direction that the rain was coming from. It came to the point where I had to pit because my tyres were going off completely and I said ‘OK, I have to come in. It was just at that moment that Jenson overtook me again. Then we stayed on heavy wets and tried to follow the safety car and that was difficult, I was swimming around. I couldnt believe it because Jenson was sometimes going quite quickly and I was just swimming around. This morning we were joking around that hopefully everybody knows how to swim in those weather conditions, and I have to say that in the end it was like this, it was just unbelievable and impossible for me to drive at the end. I think it was the right call to stop the race.
Q: Sorry about the second place…
TG: Yeah, it was a bit tricky. My engineer told me ‘youre P2, P2. Then I came up here and now Im P3.
JB: Youre behind me.
NH: Im fine with second.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Paulo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Do you think the decision to stop the race came a little bit too late? Do you think that a five o clock start is still a good idea?
JB: We thought it was a fantastic idea before. The reason for it in Melbourne was because of the light and the poor light and the reflection you get on the visor, I found it very difficult to see the corner exits. But here, it obviously gets dark very quickly and as we all know, theres normally rain storms here at five or six o clock in the evening and that proved to be correct. The race was way too wet and I think that the call was correct. It rained so hard so quickly that I think they did the right thing. It was very difficult for them to judge how wet the circuit is and in Fuji, for me, two years ago it was too wet but this year I think they made the right call to stop it at the right time.
NH: I think it was roughly at the right time. It was also not easy for me to judge because my tyres were worn down completely, so for me it was obviously difficult to drive. Maybe other drivers on fresh tyres would say we could have driven half a lap more but I think it was a good call. The safety car was just out for 20 seconds, thats when I saw the board, and then they put out the red flag, so I thought it was very well done.
JB: When the safety car is pulling away at 20 seconds a lap, you know that its too wet for an F1 car.
Q: (Paulo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Two wins in a row, is it more than you expected?
JB: For me I think its more amazing that weve done it in these conditions, because Australia wasnt easy with the safety cars and here with the changing weather conditions it made it a lot more difficult. These two here were not the guys that were fighting me at the start of the race, so the great thing is that we could see what was going on behind us and we could react to it and react to it quickly and thats why were sat here at the moment. Im very happy and it would be nice going to Shanghai leading by a few points, I think five points, and hopefully we can have a straightforward race and we can see where we stand.
Q: Nick, how was the KERS during the race, did you use it in the wet?
NH: You can use it, just a bit later than in the dry and I have to say that I was happy that it did work because it was the very first time that we had it on the car in the wet conditions, because it has to pass some tests first obviously in the wet and we were not ready in testing, so it was the very first time on the car and it worked OK.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) To all of you, when you stopped the cars on the straight after the red flag, did they listen to you regarding the possibility of continuing the race? JB: Yes, that was always a possibility and as far as I knew we were always planning for a restart, thats why all the cars were moved around, but the problem was that so many cars span off on the last lap that I think it was very difficult understanding who was in what position. So that was why we were all moving around a lot on the grid, but we were all planning to start the race again. I am happy it didnt start again because we would have spent ten laps behind a safety car and every lap, every corner you got to you would be scared that you were going to throw it off the road, its out of your control, it matters what position the river is in on the apex, you cant see it. So I think it was the right thing to do for sure. But we were planning for a restart.
Q: (Paulo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) If it was up to you, would you want to start again?
JB: No, I would obviously love to have the ten points, but this is the best we could have done, I think, and realistically it was the right thing to do. Im sure some people will say ‘we didnt see the whole race and its disappointing but you have to think about the safety sometimes. I am here to race, as we all are but there are limits to what we can do with the cars that we have.
NH: I used the time to change my visor because it was getting dark and I put on a lighter visor because I thought I would not see anything otherwise. And I was on the radio telling our team manager and Charlie (Whiting) and the guys who normally listen anyway that I think it was undriveable in these conditions and Im sure they listened to all the conversations that were going on.
TG: For me it was the same. I said to the engineers there was no way to drive anymore and then I was ready to jump out of the car but they said we had to prepare (for a restart) again and we would go behind the safety car, so I just put my helmet on and got ready and then they said ‘no, thats it, its over. At the end, you have to understand what Jenson said, it gets dark quite quickly and I think running around behind the safety car is not the best show and we have to stop at the right moment, I think.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti – Corriere della Sera) Jenson, if Im not wrong, I think its the first time you drove the Brawn in wet conditions. How was the behaviour of the car and can we say that the Brawn is suitable for every situation?
JB: Yeah, Im sure it is but the conditions that we were running in today was a very unusual situation to have: full wets, or the extremes as they were, in slightly greasy conditions. We had to go for that option because we thought it was going to rain. There was no use taking a gamble being in the lead, so we took that tyre and obviously it felt pretty terrible. At high speed, you were slowing the car down to third gear because you just couldnt carry any speed because the rear was always trying to break away. So the balance felt pretty awful but I think thats more down to the conditions we ran the tyres in, it was not the correct conditions. When we put the intermediates on for one lap, the car felt reasonably good. I had a good balance, because that was the correct conditions for that tyre until it started raining hard and then obviously no tyre was useable.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto Motor und Sport) Timo, you said it was a risk to go onto the inters. Was it a long conversation with the race engineer, did you have to convince them that you wanted to take them or did they want to convince you that it was better to go onto wets?
TG: No, no, they just said ‘Timo, its up to you, just take a look at the conditions and I said ‘lets take the risk, well go for inters, so at the end it was my call and it was the right one, I have to say, because like I said, it took a long time before the rain came down really hard. It was just the right call. Sometimes you have to have some luck and this time it was the right decision at the right moment. Unfortunately at the end, we had the late pit stop, we lost a little bit of position but in the end we have to be happy about this.