Japanese Grand Prix 2009: Post-Qualifying Press Conference

16 Mins read

Q: Sebastian, a crazy session, it was stopped three times for accidents. Great performance by you, but can you explain to people at home why it was so difficult today and how all the stoppages affected your preparations?
Sebastian VETTEL:
The key is not to get distracted but it was a strange session, obviously. First of all, the most important thing is that all the drivers are OK. It's usual that in qualifying you try to figure out where the limit is. Obviously, it's about setting one fast lap time, but I think mainly in turn nine where people went off it's quite difficult when you get a little bit too wide on that kerb, you're basically just a passenger and by the time you come back, you're not able to get rid of the speed and then the corner goes to the right but you struggle and there's not much run-off, so the wall is pretty close and that's why I think people hit the wall. For Timo, he obviously had the worst crash out of the four. It looked like he had a problem with the steering as usually it is easy flat and you just continue to go on the straight, but it looked like he could not control the car anymore. Fortunately he is okay, that is what we know. You are sitting in the garage basically waiting and depending on when you plan to go out. Sometimes you are lucky as you get the red flag when you are about to warm up your tyres, sometimes you started your flying lap already. Especially in Q3 it has an effect on the fuel load. I think we were quite lucky the time we went out, so in the end we had only one run and the car worked fantastic. Quickest Q1, Q2 and Q3. Probably the most difficult was Q3, back with fuel, and only having one run. It is not easy especially through the esses. You have only one lap and the tyres don't last much longer. You have a second one but you can feel already the tyres starting to go off, so overall I have to say very, very happy. Since Singapore I think we are back in old strength you can say, struggling a little bit before that, and finally able to put the car on pole. Again red flag in Q3 but this time it didn't matter to us, so I am very, very happy. Good day, so let us see tomorrow.

Q: Jarno, a strong end to what has clearly been a difficult day for the Toyota team and for you personally to have to rebound after your team-mate's accident.
Well, obviously the first thing I did was to ask about Timo's (Glock) condition. They told me he was okay. They were obviously upset about the crash. I don't know what happened. We will find out later. It was a crazy session but the car has been performing pretty well from the beginning and for this I have to thank the team and my mechanics. They are always doing a very good job with my car and they give me chance to fight for the top again. I knew it would be really hard as I saw straight away that they were very quick. It was all about keeping concentration and getting it right at the right time. That was the best I could pull out of the car and for tomorrow my only concern is tyre degradation as we have seen this morning that tyre degradation is very, very high. As well the start as, unfortunately, we are not known as a good starter. I just hope we can have a good start in my race.

Q: Lewis, your first visit to Suzuka. You were not expecting with the car you have got to be in the top three. How did you get here?
Firstly for Suzuka I have dreamt of coming here for many years, so very happy to be here. We have been received very well. The Japanese people have treated us like kings. The track is very special and for any youngster out there who has played it on a computer game or anything it is just as special as you can possibly imagine. We did not expect to be as competitive as we were today. Yesterday was not a good day as it was wet but this morning the car was terrible to drive. We had to make some serious changes but we only had one practice session, so we went into qualifying with all these changes hoping that they were the right step forward and they were. As Sebastian and Jarno commented on, the accidents that happened today, I was happy to see the drivers walk away. It just shows how good a job the FIA and the sport have done on safety. Obviously the medical team here have done a great job, so overall a good day.

Q: Sebastian, the Brawns are down in fifth and seventh on the grid. Is there a chance for you tomorrow to do something in the championship?
Three races to go and quite a big gap, so every race has to be a chance if we still want to keep our chances alive. All we can do is race. We came here to race and we want to win, so I think we are in the best position for tomorrow's race. The best starting position, so we will see. It is a long race and tough as Jarno mentioned on the tyres. Also I think really tough for the drivers. You have to keep the concentration up especially in the esses. It is pretty amazing how quick…. I think there are physics and some rules but still how quick you can go with the car and how much grip you can produce it is just fantastic. In qualifying when the car is empty it is great. You wish to carry on another lap but to come back we will see tomorrow. It is a long race, but I think we have a very good chance but also looking for the championship.


Q: Sebastian, how was the whole session for you? Was it difficult to concentrate?
I think all of us spent quite a lot of time in the garage sitting there and waiting. What I said also in the press conference (unilateral) was that the first thing, the most important message, is that all the drivers are okay. Three of the drivers went off at turn nine. It is pretty tricky when you get a little bit too wide. Your car is sitting on the kerb and then you cannot really control anymore. By the time you can, it is too late and there is not a lot of run-off. For Timo it looked like he had a problem with the steering and couldn't steer the car anymore more to the right. It looked pretty scary, so fortunately he is okay. That is all we know. Other than that, sitting quite a long time in the garage waiting to get out again. Obviously with the red flag in Q3 it is quite confusing. It can help you or hurt you, similar to last week regarding the fuel loads. This time I think we were on the good side. Overall obviously happy.

Q: How expected was this pole? Did you expect to be competitive here?
Yes, we expected to be competitive but no, we did not know how competitive. Looking at Q1 it is so tight. This year is up and down and we have seen different cars at the top and then back in the midfield again and the other way around, so therefore we could not really expect to be on pole. We expected to be strong and luckily we were right. Being fastest in Q1, Q2 and Q3, only one run each, was pretty straightforward, pretty good. Shame for Mark. He didn't really crash hard in the morning, same place at turn nine but had a problem with the car, so they couldn't fix it and missed the session. Otherwise I think he would have been on top as well as the car seemed to work very well. I was very happy, especially the first sector. It was functioning very well and it was a pleasure every time, especially on low fuel, going up the esses. It is fantastic. It is only my second time here after 2006, so it is a lot of fun. I like this track.

Q: How important was it to come here in 2006? Has that given you a little extra edge after yesterday being wet?
Well, I know at least where to go. To be honest back in 2006 it was wet and when I started I was quite lucky or quite happy to have traction control as I was a little bit lost in the beginning. I didn't know where to go next. It took a couple of laps. This wasn't a problem this year. Yesterday it started with the wet conditions. Today, therefore, it was the first time really in the dry. But, of course, knowing a little bit where to go is important. I did a little bit also before the race, before the flyaways, in the simulator back in Milton Keynes, so if any it is only helping.

Q: Jarno, you seem to have been quick all weekend. How important has it been for Toyota to be right up at the front here?
Well, obviously it our home grand prix, so we have got all the supporters. The Japanese support for myself and for Toyota. We were here confident after a strong performance from Time in Singapore that we could achieve a good result. So we are on the path. Qualifying did not look too bad even though it was really hard to keep up with these guys and I really had to pull everything out of myself and the car to be in the top three. It wasn't easy but I love this track and have always been very strong and competitive. I am happy. Tomorrow's race is different. My only concern is the start as we have never had a good start here and the tyre condition as we have seen this morning that the tyres suffer quite a lot of degradation.

Q: It is actually your best qualifying position here. I think your previous best was fourth.
Yeah, I wasn't very lucky in the past. I remember once I was fighting for pole and it started raining when it was my time to go out.

Q: You are the most experienced of the three drivers up here at Suzuka. Tell us about the track conditions and the fact that half of the circuit has been resurfaced and half hasn't. And the fact that there was rain all last night, so you come in today with the circuit basically green.
JT: To be honest we found quite a good grip straight away, especially on the new tarmac. The old tarmac is looking pretty good and in general it is a very challenging circuit with medium and high speed corners. It is one of the most challenging circuits we can find around the world and it is always a pleasure for most of the drivers to come here and enjoy it. Obviously, it is such a big challenge and so tight we have seen today in qualifying you cannot make a mistake as the run-off area here is quite small compared to new circuits.

Q: Lewis, you said the car was bad this morning. Why was it so bad? What was it doing that you didn't like?
Everything. No, it was just that clearly we did not have much time to prepare. Everyone was in the same boat but I think we missed the mark in terms of the balance of the car by quite a long way. In the wet it was not bad at all, but in P3 attacking the esses it was impossible really for me to extract the most from the car, so the difference between me and the fastest cars was almost a second in the first sector. I just wasn't able to commit. But we made some good changes to the car and going into qualifying we really had to make some serious changes. It was kind of 'hopefully this will work' and it did, so we are very happy to be third on the grid. Considering there is a long, long run down to turn one and our KERS is working better than ever, so fingers crossed it will put us in a good position.

Q: How much was your concentration affected by the accidents and red flags?
It wasn't a problem. Clearly when you watch the TV, watch the monitors and see your fellow colleagues coming off and having accidents you worry for them but fortunately they're all safe, they all walked away. Even Heikki (Kovalainen) had an off. When I came in, straight away I wanted to know if he was OK and fortunately he reported back to the team that he was fine. Clearly the safety in these cars is improving and we've done a great job, but I also think the medical team here did a great job, it looked like they're operating really well, so that's comforting.

Q: And are those really the two black spots, turn nine and coming out of the chicane? I wouldn't have thought the latter was. Are those the two difficult spots?
No, coming out of the last corner is not a… it looks like (Glock suffered) a fault, to be honest, at least to my eyes, from the car (on-board camera). Going through turn eight and turn nine, mainly turn eight, it's such a high speed corner, and it's a little bit bumpy on the way in. This is a very, very special track, it's got a really great combination of corners, and I wouldn't say there's one particular spot that's worse than others. The first sector is all a seriously high speed roller coaster and the moment you just push a little bit over the edge or you turn in a meter or a foot later or something you can have the oversteer moment, and there's not a lot of room to correct it at that high speed. But regardless, it's still the best track, I think. I don't know how you guys think. (They all nod).


Q: (Marco Evangelisti – Corriere dello Sport) Sebastian, given the position that you achieved today, how much do you regret the penalty that you got in Singapore, even taking into account that (Jenson) Button and (Rubens) Barrichello can be penalised today because they achieved their time in Q2 under yellow flags?
I think in Singapore we were quick. It already started a little bit on Saturday, obviously, when Rubens went off there was a red flag and you couldn't continue from there onwards, otherwise maybe we would have put the car on pole, you never know. You never know how good my time might have been in comparison to what other people would have done on their second runs, so it's all unknown. We obviously had a very good chance to at least finish second; in the end, we didn't, so I hope that I'm not lacking three points at the end. That's all.

Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto Motor und Sport) How difficult was it to save a fresh set of tyres, because there were so many red flags and presumably you were on a fresh set and had to abort a run?
You obviously make your run plan, you have a rough idea of when to go out, when you want to go out and how many laps you want to do: one timed, two timed, three timed or whatever. Therefore you are either lucky or unlucky. I think in Q2 and Q3 I was lucky because I could come in and abort what was basically the out lap, so I wasn't yet on a flying lap. But it's obviously no longer a new set but it's not that badly worn, especially as the first sector is very demanding for the tyres. You don't know if there will be another yellow or red flag, it's out of your hands, so I think it's pure luck.
JT: It was a bit unlucky for me, as it was for probably many other drivers because in Q2 I had to abort the first attempt. Then I used the same set and I qualified with that lap because eventually I put on a new set at the end and in the middle of my flying lap I had to abort it again because of yellow flags. In the end, we didn't save much.
LH: As they said, it's tough and it affects your run plan but at the end of the day you've got to get out and do the job and so if anything it makes it more exciting.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Do you change your approach to the curves, knowing that there are no run-off areas and if you leave the track you will hit at an unnecessarily high speed?
You mean do you drive slightly carefully? No. You never know where the barriers are. You look at the track and only when you go off and you're going to hit the barriers and then you realise that they are close or not but until then, no, you don't really think about it. If you start thinking about that it's probably better to stop.
SV: They say that you are going where your eyes are looking, so, as Jarno says, if you start looking at the barriers I think you will soon have an appointment (with them). Obviously here, in the first sector, we know that there's no run-off but still you have to attack, especially in qualifying. It's about one lap, so you have to find the maximum. I think it's a little bit different still if you have to take some corners and you are on a new track and you know that there is gravel (run-off), maybe you start to come off the limit a little bit more carefully whereas when there is tarmac and a huge run-off you have a rough idea of how quickly you can go, how quickly you can go with the car, with the tyres, with the fuel etc. and then you just do it. So with gravel traps or when the barriers are closer you have a little bit more respect to start with but in the end you should keep your eyes on the circuit.

Q: (Takeharu Kusuda – Book People Atlas) Well done, Sebastian, even with three red flags, you did five laps in Q1, five laps in Q2, four laps in Q3; only 14 laps and you got pole. Tell us about your key to success to get pole at Suzuka Circuit, and tell us your impressions about the new Suzuka circuit?
We didn't do a lot of runs, so we had one run in Q1, one run in Q2 and one in Q3. Obviously it depended a little bit on when the red flag came out, so, as I said before, we were a little bit lucky with that. Yeah, apart from that, the car was functioning really well. First qualifying on low fuel we made it pretty comfortably with the prime tyres, so I was very happy and second qualifying as well, obviously with quite a big gap to the cars behind. I was pretty happy about that. I was able to put everything into the one or two laps that I had. And in Q3 it was a little bit more difficult because you're back on fuel and to be honest, the Q3 run was probably the worst out of the three but still it was enough. It's difficult, you go back on fuel and the car is a little bit more lazy, especially in the esses, you can't be that aggressive. Yeah, I think we've already mentioned this fantastic circuit, especially the first sector with the esses, uphill – it's beautiful. If someone tries to make a beautiful circuit or tries to build one, it would never be like that. It's totally natural and I think it's made for Formula One cars, because as I said in the unilateral, it's amazing to see how much speed you can go there, it's all fourth, fifth gear, it's really high speed. You maybe have one of these corners on another circuit or two if you're lucky. Here you have five, six, seven in a row to start with and then a couple more: Spoon Curve is also very tricky with off-camber, falling away, and the exit is very tricky. It's a great place and I think we have a bit more space this year compared to three years ago. The paddock used to be quite small – but it was still working, everyone got the job done but it's more Formula One and more comfortable if you have a bit more room, especially for the guys in the garage, the mechanics, if they have room to put all their stuff. I think it's a very, very good circuit and as I said, it's made for Formula One. On top of that, I think the Japanese fans are special. On Thursday, I think we had more spectators here than at some other occasions, so it's fantastic, the people are very enthusiastic, passionate about race and I think it's fantastic.

Q: (Silvia Arias – Fox Sports) Concerning the run-off areas, do you three expect any changes next year?
Well, I think first of all the FIA is trying to do their best and I think with the layout of the circuit, sometimes you have a forest or hill in your way which is not that easy to move. It's not all flat, it's up and down and therefore it's limited for the future. Maybe in the places that we've seen (accidents happen) today, if there is a possibility it would be good to do something, especially after turn eight which, as Lewis said, is quite a high speed corner, then you go down to turn nine, there is not a lot of run-off. On the other hand, I was there on Thursday when I did the track walk and it's going down at nearly ninety degrees because there's the karting track on the other side, so it would be quite an effort to increase the run-off there. I think people are trying their best, we can always improve, that's for sure.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Lewis, you said that the curve where most accidents took place wasn't really special but four drivers went off at that exact point, so could you three describe to us how this curve is and what is special about it?
I said it's special. No, I said it is special, it is a very high speed corner. It's very exciting and it's one of the high speed corners on the circuit. There isn't a huge amount of run-off. Like everywhere there's not a lot of room for error and if you run just a little bit wide you're in trouble, as you saw today with a couple of drivers. They ran just a little bit wide and you get on the astro-turf and you can't stop the car, you're pretty much in trouble. So finding the limit there and getting to the maximum and stepping over the limit is such a fine line. In some corners there's probably more margin for error while in others there is even less margin for error. I think that just there, there's probably one of the least smallest margins.

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Founder and Editor-In-Chief of The Checkered Flag who grew up visiting race circuits around the UK also a freelance motorsport PR officer. Outside of motorsport a lover of music, photography, NBA and NFL.
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