Formula 1 McLaren Red Bull Racing

2011 Chinese Grand Prix – Post-qualifying press conference

2011 Chinese GP

Sebastian Vettel can do no wrong, it would seem, as he claimed a third pole position for the year with alarming ease. His Red Bull Racing teammate, Mark Webber, can do nothing right. Meanwhile, McLaren pair Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton are left to fight over Vettel’s scraps.

The 2010 world champion saved his best for Q3 in China yesterday and posted a time of 1:33.706. Jenson Button, in second, was over seven tenths further back with a best lap of 1:34.421. That was just enough to keep him ahead of Hamilton, who could only manage 1:34.463, despite running one extra quick lap in the final session.

Webber, still plagued by failing KERS issues, did not make it past Q1 and will start the race from 18th on the grid. Webber and Red Bull chose to run the first quali session using only the hard tyres. The team felt they had enough pace to get through and conserve the softs, which are around one second per lap quicker around the Shanghai circuit.

A full list of qualifying results can be seen HERE. The full post-qualifying press conference transcript is available after the break.

[Pic: Red Bull Racing/Getty Images]

UPDATE: Autosport has a good article with Mark Webber discussing his woes so far this weekend.

Chinese Grand Prix – Conference 3



1. Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull)
2. Jenson BUTTON (McLaren)
3. Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren)


Q: What a surprise to see you here Sebastian! Another race, another pole. That is four in a row now.
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah I mean obviously we did it again but I tried to keep reminding myself and the team as well that every single time it’s tough. I don’t think today was as straightforward as we probably planned, especially in Q2, I didn’t feel 100 per cent comfortable. I had a bit of a mistake in the run I had in Q2. But I was confident and in Q3 we were able to improve by quite a lot. But, as I say, step-by-step. It all starts from zero again. Today we did a good job, one more time, but all that is eight metres tomorrow so we are looking to score some points tomorrow. It will be a long race. I think we can be as happy as we can be with the car, with everything around us. We had very good long runs on Friday so I think we have reason to feel good. But it is also a threat to feel too good. I pay attention so that does not happen and tomorrow is a new day and whatever happened today is not really of much of an importance except that we got a very good spot on the grid.

Q: Jenson, congratulations on your front row start. At any stage did you think it could be pole today or realistically were you and McLaren just chasing the Red Bulls.
Jenson BUTTON: I mean in the heat of the moment you always hope that it is possible, but the pace in Q3 was phenomenal of Sebastian and the Red Bull. In Q2 it looked like it was possible and that’s why I chose to run with two tyres in Q3 to give it a go and see if we can, but then I saw Seb’s time and thought ‘ok, we are maybe going to have to fight for second place’. But it’s nice for me. This is my best grid slot of the year. From where we were on Friday I don’t think either of us were happy with the balance and I think we have improved the car a lot and we should be happy with what we have achieved today. I think the team did a great job of really turning the car around over the last two days so big thanks to them. Also I had a little surprise when my girlfriend rocked up before qualifying so maybe that was a little helping hand.

Q: Maybe your girlfriend will turn up tomorrow Lewis to give you a helping hand. Third on the grid, but you only went out for one run in Q3. Was that, looking back to Malaysia, a result of what happened there where you flat-spotted one of your tyres or what was the reason behind it?
Lewis HAMILTON: The reason behind it was clearly the last race showed how important it is to have fresh tyres during the race. Obviously we would have a used option if we are doing a three stop. In the last race I only had two options I could use and then I had a new prime and an old prime. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of fresh tyres so we are in quite a strong position. I have got the options I just qualified on, a new set of options and a new set of primes and a very decent set of options again. Just tried to increase the chances for the race as that is where it actually counts.

Q: Sebastian, you sat in the car for two minutes when you finally came into parce ferme before you were given the thumbs up to get out. What was the reason behind that?
SV: Well it was pretty easy. With the new regulations and the fixed weight distribution the FIA has the chance whenever they want to check that and unless I get a thumbs up and it is okay from an official that I can jump out of the car I have to remain seated. Otherwise, if I do it the other way around I might get into trouble. Maybe I didn’t see him or didn’t see the steward the first time so I ended up waiting and waiting until we clarified and someone said okay it is good to go out.

Q: KERS will be very important off the start tomorrow. Will you be running it as your team-mate has had a few problems in that sort of situation.
SV: Yeah it’s true Mark (Webber) did not have a good day. Already this morning he had some problems and in qualifying it was quite a shame as I think the car is quick enough. He has had a tough weekend so far so it is a shame that we are not both up there. But I think he improved the last race pretty well from where he was after the first lap so I hope he has a good race. Looking at us our KERS was running and we were using it and we will be using it as well tomorrow from the start. It is important I guess against those two red or silver or whatever guys.


Q: Sebastian, it seems to have been an absolutely perfect weekend for you so far?
SV: I mean yesterday was very good. I think we had a strong day, no problems with the car and a lot of laps. We are very happy also with the pace we thought we had. Today, this morning, was smooth so compared to last weekend it was better preparation for qualy. In qualy I was reasonably happy, as happy as I can be, with Q1 and Q2. Then going into Q3 we were able to get even more out of the car again and I was very happy with the lap I did. Still it is difficult to judge. Second time this year we were in a good or strong situation with a big gap before the final run, but you never know. You know to a certain extent how much you pushed harder and probably where you gained the lap time to yourself compared to before but you don’ t know how much the others have left. Lewis decided to do only one run so we went back out but as soon as we saw there is no threat we abort the run and came in so we were able to save the tyres a bit. Overall very happy. It is not easy obviously. It all starts again from zero but people tend to forget that. I am very happy with the team at this stage, the way we all remain focussed. I think we did a very good job today. We are happy but tomorrow is a new day so looking forward to that.

Q: We have heard a lot about tyre management overall. Not just looking after the tyres but having enough for the race itself. What’s your situation as we heard from Lewis what his situation is?
SV: Yeah, I didn’t count. I don’t know how many sets he has left. Obviously he saved a set of options which can be important but the main thing is that you know your tyres are in good shape and I think we did a very good job. We did what was necessary. In hindsight with the qualifying system we have had now for quite a while it is very easy to save a set of tyres and then not making it and then you miss out more than probably starting the race with a set less or a scrubbed set rather than a new set. It is quite a shame for Mark as he was quick. He didn’t really have a smooth weekend. He had some problems. I think in the end it was tight with the timing and he went out on a set of hards, of primes, and as you said tyre management, the way you bring the tyres in, can be important and the hard tyre is probably not as easy as the option. Not much he was missing, but it is shame that we could not have both cars up there but looking at myself obviously very happy.

Q: Jenson, lucky overalls the red and white for China and the dragon on them as well. What do you reckon?
JB: I quite like these. I think they are pretty flash. It has been a reasonably good day for us. Yesterday I don’t think we had the perfect balance. The car didn’t feel bad but I don’t think we were extracting the best out of it whereas today we made some good chances, especially overnight, and the car was a lot more consistent to drive. I think we pretty much extracted what we could out of it today so a big thank you to the guys for working hard and happy to be P2. It is the best qualifying of the year for me and a much better place to start the race from.

Q: You and Sebastian were the only two who actually did a second run. What sort of tyre situation are you in and is the strategy fairly simple tomorrow. I remember in Malaysia you said the car came alive on the harder tyre at the end of the race.
JB: Well I think when you have got a quick car like we have it is a lot easier to have new sets of tyres. Obviously Lewis is in the best position in terms of tyres but Sebastian and myself have done only two laps on our other set of options, the one that would have been new, so for me it was important to get position on the grid for the race. After Q2 I thought it was possible to get pole position. Obviously that was way out of reach but I thought there was an opportunity and I felt that it was better to use both tyres in Q3 and get the best out of the car. Unfortunately the end of Q3 I couldn’t actually go any quicker. I actually lost time on my last set so we aborted it. But we are in a good pace for the race and I look forward to it around here. It is always a fun place to race.

Q: Lewis, not so happy with the car yesterday, what about today?
LH: Yeah, pretty much the same as Jenson. We made some changes and it seemed to go quite well today, so much happier with the car throughout qualifying.

Q: There have been new parts on the car, I understand it’s a combination of what you’ve already been running and the new parts as well.
LH: We haven’t made much of a step this weekend but a step is a step so it’s a positive at least, and we’re quite happy with where we are. Obviously we need to make some more steps forward but I think there are some good things in the pipeline.

Q: Is the tyre strategy fairly simple for you now, looking at last weekend and three weeks ago as well, or is it still very much a mystery?
LH: The strategy is quite simple but obviously the race is never simple: you have the start, you have all the stops that you need to do, you have to look after the tyres and so it’s going to be very tricky again tomorrow but I really wanted to put myself in a decent spot, and I feel I am in a decent spot, and in a position to really have a good opportunity in the race because I didn’t really have the best opportunity in the last race and that’s what caused the result.


Q: (Wenfei Wang – Titan Sports) Sebastian, today this is the third successive pole position in the new season; are you satisfied with all the components of the RB7, including the KERS and the DRS? Do you think there is any more room for the car to be improved?
SV: Obviously I’m very happy to be on pole position. I think we can be as happy as we can be for tomorrow. As I said, we had a very good run on Friday so yesterday, free practice, I think we were happy with the car we had and with the long runs, also managing the tyres. As I said, we’re as happy as we can be going into the race tomorrow, with all the components on the car including KERS, so I was working without any problems today and yeah, I’m confident we will tomorrow. I think between Malaysia and here we have done another little step forward given that there is only very little time, so I’m looking forward to the race here. As Jenson said, it’s usually quite exciting and a lot of things can happen, so it won’t be an easy race and regarding the improvements on the car, the team is pushing as hard as they can. We brought a few things here. Overseas it’s pretty difficult to react; I think once we go to Europe – I think it’s the same for everyone – then it’s a bit easier to bring the parts, customs are less strict. It makes our life or the team’s life much easier. I think that to stay where we are now we have to keep pushing hard because I can assure you, people like McLaren, Mercedes or Ferrari, for sure they are not resting at this stage, so we have to keep pushing at least as hard as they do.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado do Sao Paulo) Jenson and Lewis, as Sebastian said some minutes ago, he will use the KERS at the start. If he doesn’t use it in the race, is it realistic for both of you to fight for victory with him?
JB: We don’t really know what his pace in the race is going to be like. If he’s a second quicker, it’s definitely not possible to race with him, whereas if he’s four tenths quicker normally and then we have KERS, it’s possible. I don’t know. We’ve got to see where we stand tomorrow. If you’re talking about the start, there’s a very short period before turn one, it’s going to be very difficult to get past, even with KERS, if Sebastian doesn’t run it, which I’m sure they will. But during the race, I think they’re quick anyway. If you look at Malaysia, a lot of the race he didn’t use KERS and his pace was still very good.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – Agence France Presse) Jenson and Lewis, how motivated can you be knowing that doing your best you can only finish seven tenths behind Sebastian Vettel? He seems to be unreachable; he’s been like this for the first two races and it might keep on being like this for a long time.
LH: We’re doing our best to catch up, you know? It’s encouraging for us to have been on the first and second row for the first three races, considering where we were in winter testing. I think we’re happier than we could have ever have hoped at this point of the year. It’s clear, since God knows when, since 2009, that they’ve had a ridiculously fast car, a great job done by the team and Sebastian and so we are pushing as hard as we can to close the gap. It is possible but I’m sure it will take several races, probably, before we get to where they are now, but I’m sure they will also make many, many steps forward, so we will continue in the chase, and hope that our development rate can be as fast as theirs, if not better.
JB: Yeah, there are 24 of us on the grid and there’s only one person that’s ever going to be completely fulfilled with their race result and that’s the way Formula One is, it’s all about winning. We are in a better position than anyone else on the grid to challenge the Red Bulls. We should be happy with that and what we’ve achieved so far this year. This is a team that will never give up. They’ve fought for so many World Championships and they have the resources, they have the manpower and they have the passion to really fight for this and they will do everything they can to make sure that we catch Red Bull sooner rather than later.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – Agence France Presse) But personally, isn’t it depressing for you that whatever you do it doesn’t seem to get you closer?
JB: Yeah, but I’ve been racing in F1 for twelve years and more often than not there’s a guy up the front – he was normally wearing red. It’s the way Formula One is, it’s a very competitive sport and if you look at the last five years there’s been a different World Champion every year and we’ve got to try and make sure that this one in the middle here (Sebastian Vettel) doesn’t walk away with it this year. But it’s not depressing because you work as a team, you win as team, you lose as a team and we are just going to fight as hard as we can, to get everything out of this car and more and really take the fight to Red Bull which is tough at the moment but it’s three races in, there’s another 16 races to go – well, there’s actually 17 races to go.

Q: (Yiying Shi – F1 Express) Sebastian, are you expecting it to be more difficult back in Europe as other teams will have big improvements?
SV: As I said earlier, we have to go step-by-step. As I said, teams like McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes, obviously they are not as happy as they want to be and they are pushing very hard, so to stay where we are, we have to push harder than them to stay there, so we are all aware of that. Since halfway through 2009 we have had a very, very competitive car and we enjoy running at the front but we still haven’t forgotten how it feels to run at the back, not only finishing fourth, fifth, sixth, even further down. That’s Formula One, just as Jenson says, it’s competitive. Sometimes you might be in a comfortable situation, other times it will be very tight and other times you will be behind but then again, there are so many races left and so many things can happen. I can’t predict the future. As I say, I’m happy as I can be at this stage but I can’t predict the future, but I’m confident that we will have good races in the future as well, but first of all, there’s a race tomorrow.

Q: (Stephane Barbe – L’Equipe) Jenson and Lewis, do you think the DRS zone is as interesting as it was in Malaysia?
JB: The line has changed. When I woke up this morning and got in, I noticed that the DRS position has changed on the circuit. It was 900-odd meters, now it’s 750 before the last corner. 752 meters. It matters where you brake. Well, it doesn’t really, does it? It’s still pretty difficult to overtake round here, even with the DRS. A lot of it depends on the wind as well in terms of gear ratios. You’ve got to get a very good exit out of turn 13 to really tow up to the car in front and you’ve also got to be close enough to the car in front.