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FIA post-race press conference - Bahrain Grand Prix

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FIA post-race press conference - Bahrain Grand Prix1st Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 1h39m20.396s; 2nd Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1h39m36.495s; 3rd Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1h39m43.578s.
Q: Fernando, a winning start for the new relationship with Ferrari. Obviously passing Felipe at the start was key, but just tell us your emotions at the moment.
Fernando Alonso: A very special day for me as coming back to the top of the podium is always special but I think it is even more special with Ferrari with all the history behind the team and all the expectations a driver has when he drives for Ferrari...

There is no better way to start the relationship. I am in the best team in the world. We have been working very hard all winter, the guys did a very good job in winter testing, so we arrive quite well prepared for this first grand prix. But we did nothing so far, we only won the first race but definitely to be first and second is the result that all the guys at Maranello and all the guys here at the track deserve this result as they have been working day and night to give us this fantastic car, so this first victory is dedicated to all the people in Italy, all the mechanics here, to President Montezemolo, to everybody who did a huge effort to have this car at the first race and this result is something very positive and very optimistic for the rest of the season.

Q: Felipe, a podium on return from injury for you. But tell us about that turn one battle with Fernando from your point of view.
Felipe Massa: Well, first of all it is just fantastic to be here, so thanks God that everything is great, being here, competitive, with a good car and being right through the whole race with normal and very good pace. It is really thanks to God that I am fine. I am very happy and thanks to everybody who was supporting me in a difficult time at home, every country, I received incredible letters and nice message which gave me even more motivation. The race was really good and fantastic for us. It was a bit strange for me. I did not have a good start and I lost a position, an important position, to Fernando at the first corner. The race was just great for me, the car was perfect. I could manage to follow him for the whole time on the soft tyres and then we put the hard tyres on, I was so quick straight away and I caught him in a very good way. Then I started to have a problem, definitely the whole race in terms of temperature in the car. That made a lot of fuel consumption, so I started to save fuel maybe in the last 25 laps, even 30 laps to go. I was saving fuel and there was nothing to do anymore. I was also lucky with the problem with Sebastian Vettel to pass him and gain some more points and I was lucky that Lewis was not so quick at the end, so I could manage to save a lot of fuel and also hold the position. It was not an easy race but just a fantastic result for the team who did a great job, for Montezemolo who was pushing very hard since last year. I was speaking a lot to him, so it is very nice this position. I am very happy. It was also my best start of the season, finishing on the podium, second, in the first race. That is something I never did so it is just a fantastic start.

Q: Lewis, you lost ground at the start to Nico Rosberg but got him back in the pit stops, but how do you feel overall today about pace in the race?
Lewis Hamilton: First of all congratulations to Fernando and Felipe. It is great to see Felipe back but of course to also see Fernando up there. For us, I think we had quite a good race. Unfortunately I lost a bit of ground, broke a little bit late into turn four with a lock up and went a bit wide and then I was in a very bad position and Rosberg got past me and unfortunately I was held up behind Rosberg for the first half of the race. I was much faster but it is very difficult to follow here while trying to look after your tyres. Unfortunately, perhaps if I was ahead of him I could have carried on and followed the train these guys were creating. I am very happy getting past him and a strong result for myself and the team. It is more than we expected this weekend but a great job from them as always but we need to continue to push to keep up with these guys.

Q: Fernando, what were you thinking in the middle part of the race when Vettel was controlling the pace? Were you being patient or could you have caught up with him?
FA: I did not know exactly. I had some pace in the pocket at that time of the race but I was concentrating on managing the tyres. We knew that we had to do 35 or 36 laps with the tyres. I was waiting the time to attack Vettel, maybe waiting for the last 10 or 12 laps. But suddenly he had a car problem and he was dropping and we had the chance to overtake him a little bit earlier than expected. I think he was very quick, especially with soft tyres at the beginning as I could not follow him at all, but with the hard tyre maybe we had a little bit more pace but difficult to know.

Q: Felipe, towards the end there we saw your engineer Rob Smedley inspect the car. Was there a problem?
FM: Well, I said I had a problem. He was speaking to me the last 30 laps almost every corner to save fuel and to drop the speed. It was very similar to Barcelona when I had to save a lot of fuel last year but Barcelona was just a few laps and here it was maybe 25, 30 laps, so it was just this problem.

Q: Lewis, tell us what it was like this new style Formula One for you starting the car on heavy tanks and soft tyres. How does it feel from a driver's point of view?
LH: It is a different challenge. It definitely didn't make racing more exciting in terms of being able to overtake. I wasn't able to follow. Through the first half of the circuit I was close to Nico but as soon as we go to the fast sectors it was impossible to stay behind. With the tyes there just wasn't enough grip to be able to hold with him, but I think it is an interesting season ahead of us. Bit by bit everybody is learning how to use the tyres. I think that is probably the most interesting part, trying to understand the tyres, trying to conserve your fuel load and know when to attack and not to attack, I think this is a real challenge, so I hope the BBC are doing a good job to show the fans exactly what we are doing and how we are doing it.

Q: Fernando, how important was today to throw down a marker not just to your rivals but also to your team-mate?
FA: I think it is not very important and I always repeat the same thing. The first three or four races of the championship are not, in my opinion crucial for anything. You just need to take some solid points for the team, to get used to the new regulations, to understand a little bit better the tyres, the races itself, so at the end it depends on how competitive your car is to you get more or less points. But from a driver point of view it is not a crucial part. It is nice to be here, first position, but to be honest this is thanks to a fantastic car we had. We have been a little bit better than the others in the first race, so we managed to finish first and second. But I think the key to being World Champion will be the development during the season. We have a very good base but we need to keep working. This is only the start. Happy. Again dedicated to the team but now it is time to push.


Q: Fernando, what does it mean for a driver to win on his debut with a new team? How important is that?
FM: It means a lot. Obviously any victory means a lot. There is a lot of work for any victory coming from the team, coming from everybody also the drivers. We have been preparing ourselves physically, mentally for a lot of months, testing a lot in the winter. You arrive first grand prix on a Thursday, a lot of stress, media attention etc. and then come to Sunday and it is time to deliver, so winning means a lot and especially with Ferrari the first victory. It will be very special and difficult to forget today.

Q: Tell us about the strategy. Was it fairly simple to work out what to do?
FA: Yes.

Q: When you came to the different specifications of tyre was that fairly simple as well? Did you have any problems when you were on the soft tyre at the start of the race?
FA: No, we knew that we had to do qualifying with the soft as they were quicker. I did a lap so-so in Q3, so I started third and it was not a perfect position but anyway it was good enough to be in the fight. Then we have been really open in terms of our strategy. Now there is not a clear lap to stop. You have fuel enough to finish the race, so the engineers and the strategy tells you when to stop. Then after that we switched to the prime but also to unknown territory as well. We did not know how many laps the prime will do in good shape but the car was so good that it managed the tyre very well and we finished the race with the perfect conditions with the tyre.

Q: Tell us about the start as that was also important for you?
FM: The start was good. I think on the clean here there is a difference. There is a bit of sun close to the walls, so the start was more or less okay and the first corner was also good and I was lucky to overtake Felipe and then with the problem for Vettel, overtake Vettel as well and finish first. Obviously the qualifying and the starts are maybe the two key points this year. Unfortunately with no refuelling in terms of strategy or in terms of overtaking it will be very difficult to see any. After the first corner more or less the positions will be settled.

Q: Felipe, also your start. Where did you feel you lost out?
FM: Well, I just had a very bad start with no grip, so I couldn't go forward and also in the first braking I just lost the opportunity to be there fighting. I did the first corner inside but then Fernando was in a good position outside and at the corner it was to his side, so there was nothing to do. But apart from this I was really happy with the balance of the car, so it was okay to follow in the good direction whatever tyres I used, so the car was just fantastic. Unfortunately I had to save fuel for about 30 laps which lost me completely the chance to do even a small fight.

Q: Do you know why you had to save that fuel as they were pointing at something on the car?
FM: No, I know it is regarding the temperature in the car. But we need to see, so I cannot say.

Q: You have been at Ferrari for quite some time. Just tell us about the fact that they put in two brand new engines and then you go out and finish first and second.
FM: Yes, so it is good. Okay. It is part of the direction that we need to follow that we saw a small issue yesterday and we took the decision to change the engine. It does not mean we cannot use that engine. We can use it for practice, for next races on the Friday or whatever but it was a good decision.

Q: Lewis, you were saying this result was more than you expected. Where do you feel you are missing out? Is it something you know?
LH: We had a good day. I think our race pace was a lot stronger obviously than our qualifying pace. As I said, I got held up behind Nico for quite a long time. I was quicker than him in the first and last sector but it was too tough to keep up with him in the middle sector. I think we're lacking in a little bit of downforce compared to the Ferraris and especially the Red Bulls, but we're not in a bad position. I think we just need to try to make a step closer to them which will enable us to compete for the win. Today, I think if I wasn't behind Nico for that first half of the race, I think I perhaps would have been a lot closer to the guys and perhaps I would have a chance to compete with Felipe at the end. But things happened and I'm very happy with third.

Q: When Felipe was conserving fuel you weren't that much closer, you were pretty much matching times.
LH: Yeah. I think there was a point where the gap was so big I thought I would look after the tyres and then I realised I was quite a bit faster than him. I think I was half a second faster then, so then I began pushing and I think it got to 0.8s some laps, 0.3s on some other laps, so I was generally quicker but there wasn't enough laps to catch up, with that kind of gap. There were five laps with perhaps seven seconds to catch up and once I caught him, it would take a couple of laps to get past at least, so I thought I would just look after the car.

Q: You were talking about tyre management. Is that a lot plainer now, or is that something you've been working on all the way through anyway?
LH: I think it's just something you learn throughout the weekend and in the race, again, when you start, it's really dictated by the guys' pace in front of you and then you try and control from there. The race is quite straightforward. You start on heavy fuel, you do one stop and then you


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Qualifying postponed until Sunday at Suzuka

Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix will now take place on Sunday morning after persistent heavy rain forced the session to be abandoned on Saturday afternoon. Read more... Link  

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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