Monaco GP - Race press conference
With Vettel, Alonso & Button
Q: Sebastian, great race. Three different strategies in the top three positions, but the upshot is you are a Monaco Grand Prix winner. Describe your feelings?
Sebastian VETTEL: It is unbelievable and I think the race today was pretty entertaining from the inside of the car at least. I had a good first stint, a good start to the race, I could pull a gap to Jenson, so reasonably happy. I was targeted to go longer on the options, Jenson came in and we had a problem with the pit-stop, we reacted, so we lost the position. Went on the hard, he went on the soft and he was pulling away like crazy, pulling a gap. But then we were staying out a bit longer on the primes. With the safety car it was good to have a little break, Jenson behind, and he was much quicker on the soft tyres, but it is very difficult to pass here. I knew that. He came in for his final stop. He had to as he was three times on the softs so he had to go on the hards. Fernando was a bit on a similar strategy. Probably they were a bit more clever on the safety car to bring him in and he got a new set of hard tyres. But then the lap Jenson pitted, we initially wanted to react, to pit as well, but I said ‘let’s try to one-stop’. There were like 33 laps to go. I had quite a good feeling on the tyres I had. I had nowhere close to fresh tyres anymore. I saw the only chance to win this race was to try to stay out. It was really close. I think it was 20 laps under pressure with Fernando and Jenson behind. I know it is difficult to pass here but it was getting closer and closer and I think it would have been a difficult six laps. But then we caught the group. In fact they crashed in front of us, so another safety car and then a suspended race, which allowed us to change tyres. I got rid of these stones, of these old tyres, and the final, final attempt with everyone on a fresher set, it was easier to pull away a little bit and get a gap out of those corners that it really mattered. Extremely happy. At some stage I was P2 with 15 seconds behind Jenson and the victory seemed far away. But I have said it is a crazy place. The roulette spun a lot last night and it kept on spinning during this race. Crazy. I am really, really happy. Fantastic result and extreme honour to put my name down on the list of previous winners here, so a perfect day I guess.
Q: Fernando, you pitted under the safety car as Sebastian said. It was all set up really before that red flag. Did you think you were going to beat him in the closing stages before the red flag?
Fernando ALONSO: Well, you never know what is going to happen in the final result. But 100 per cent I was ready to try. He was having some more problems with the tyres in the last 10 laps of the race. We were managing the tyres when I pitted, as I knew that at the end of the race it was our time to attack but that last 10 laps didn’t come as we had the red flag and the safety car. I was ready to attack. It is difficult here, there is not much space. There is the risk of 50 per cent you overtake 50 per cent maybe you crash, but this is Monaco and he is leading the championship so he has much more to lose than me, so I was ready to attack.
Q: Jenson, a three-stop strategy for you. How did you think it would play out in the end and how much fun was it for you?
Jenson BUTTON: Well, it was fun for quite a few laps until the first safety car came out. It was looking really good. But we went for the three-stop as I was struggling a little bit in the first stint with the rears and we thought we could probably jump Seb on the first stop, which we did. Then we had very good pace on the super-soft tyre. But then, later in the race, when the safety car came out, it hurt us a little bit as we had just pitted. Seb stayed out and as we have already said it is very difficult to overtake here. I suppose, Monaco Grand Prix, you always have to expect safety cars but you always hope they don’t happen when you are on a three-stop strategy. Disappointed for the team and for myself as I thought we had a real chance of victory but congratulations to these guys. I think we put on a great show for the viewers and all the people here in Monaco and also good news at the end to hear that Vitaly (Petrov) is okay.
Q: Sebastian, five wins now from the first six races for you and it seems like it is all going your way at the moment?
SV: Yeah, I think it is a long way still. We saw last year and learned a lot that things can change quickly. We had a good start and we are on a run. We try to take every race on its own and we are ready to attack and go for it. Today, there was a chance to win the race and we went for it. I think we fully deserved to win. We took the risk and we got the reward but it is still a long way for the championship. You have to be aggressive, you have to look for these risks, you have to take it. If it doesn’t make sense you might hold back. I think if my tyres had given up I would not have tried to make the one-stop work. I knew there was a very big gap behind Jenson who was in third so if any I would fall back to third so we tried our best and we achieved our optimum. In hindsight it was a long race and a lot of strategy calls. Not necessarily one that could win you the race so a long way and extremely happy..
Q: Sebastian, we have spoken about how much you have wanted to win here. Now you’ve done it, what’s it like?
SV: Fantastic, still feels a bit like a rush. It was a very, very long race and a long way to get to the chequered flag and some stages, to be honest, the victory seemed to be quite far away. We had a very good start, we were able to pull up a gap and I was holding it around four seconds. Targeting to go a bit longer. Surprised when Jenson pulled in, but he probably struggled a bit with his tyres. We had to react and then I didn’t have the cleanest pit stop. I think it was the first one this year that probably was not perfect.
Q: Can you just tell us what happened during that first pit-stop?
SV: I don’t know. I came in. Everything seemed to be okay and I was ready to go out again. Looked at the front right and the wheel wasn’t there. Then all the mechanics were rushing to bring the front-right wheel. Yeah, so I lost probably two or three seconds. At that moment you don’t count but surely that cost us the lead at that stage. Jenson had a very good out-lap on a new set of super softs and after that he was pulling away like crazy. I had Fernando behind me and I was able to pull away once I was not in traffic, so we were fighting our way through the cars and Jenson was just 10 seconds, 13 seconds, 15 seconds away and I knew that once he is around 19-20 seconds ahead, it would be quite difficult as that’s the time you need for one pit-stop. Then he came in for another set of softs, which, to be honest, at that stage was a surprise. Safety car came out and we were back in the lead but it was quite difficult to stay ahead. It is difficult to pass here but they had so much more grip out of the exit of the corners. Then he pitted again. Initially, I got the call to box, but I said ‘I want to stay out’. The only chance to win the race is to do one stop and I had a good feeling with those tyres. I wasn’t rushing. I knew I had the guys behind me but I knew that if I did a clean job in certain places there was no way they would get past me. Managing the tyres. I think 30 laps to the end Fernando caught up on a fresh set of primes after the safety car. It was getting close, closer and closer and six laps to go before we had the suspended race I was struggling with my tryes, but I think we could have made it to the end as it is difficult to pass around here. Then I saw the red flag. It was good to hear that Vitaly is fine. We were able to change tyres which was good as I got rid of the old tyres. Then had another short sprint race to the chequered flag so pretty busy. All three on a different strategy. As expected it was not a straightforward Monaco Grand Prix. It happens very rarely here without safety cars and surely at some stage they were helping us today but we did have the pace and we took the risk. We wanted to win and at the end we got the reward. I am very happy. It is an extreme honour to join these guys and also other drivers who have won here. It is one of the best grands prix all year surely a nice won to win so I am looking forward to tonight.
Q: Do you feel you were a bit lucky yesterday with what happened as the session was also stopped yesterday and also given that you had a bad pit-stop today. Maybe you go to the casino tonight and get lucky again?
SV: Yeah, I think in the end of the day if there would have been no safety car it would have been difficult to beat Jenson, as he was so far ahead, but there was a safety car. Same yesterday. We had our plan. We wanted to go out twice in final qualifying. I think we set a very competitive lap time which brought us pole position. Then we started the race today. Either way it can help you a little bit or penalise you around here. Today, fortunately, it did not penalise us but I think the race we had was not an easy one, doing around 60 laps on one set of primes. I think it is something not many people did. I haven’t seen the whole race but not many people did. We have been looking after our tyres well, managing the gaps and even under pressure kept our heads cool. I had a race here two years ago where my rear tyres were gone and stayed ahead of Felipe Massa for a long time but eventually they found theirway past and I lost a lot of positions. We learned from that and we arrived here three times lucky. Last year the car was good but this year the car was good again and good enough to win so I am very happy.
Q: Fernando, your feelings about second place?
FA: Fantastic. We start fourth and it is the best result of the year for us. We were third in Turkey and now second here, so definitely a good weekend for us. We were quick on Thursday and quick in qualifying and now in the race. It was okay for us. I think as Seb said, safety car always plays a big part. In the first safety car we were very lucky as if not Jenson maybe was on his way to victory so for us only third place was possible. We gained one position with the first safety car and maybe we lose the victory in the second and the red flag. I really think in the last nine laps the tyres from the Red Bull was struggling a lot, especially in the last part of the circuit and the middle part, so I had two places already in mind for the last lap.
Q: So you were really going to have a go at him, were you?
FA: Of course, yes. There is nothing to lose for me. I am not leading the championship so I will try to win the race and if we crash we crash.
Q: On the opening laps you were pushing Jenson hard as well?
FA: Well yes Jenson was particularly slow in the first two laps and I thought maybe he had a problem or contact with Sebastian in the first corner. I was ready to attack Jenson but then suddenly he picked up the pace and he was more or less maintaining the gap with Sebastian. He surprised us when he stopped very early in lap 14 or 15 and fitted the super soft and took the lead of the race and from that point he was very quick and ready to go for victory but Monte Carlo is Monte Carlo. At the end extremely happy as the team needed this result, this podium, after some weeks with some difficulties. Seven days ago in Barcelona we were one minute, 30 seconds behind the leader. We were lapped. I think this was much more a normal weekend for us and good motivation for the guys.
Q: Jenson, are you feeling just a little bit unlucky then?
JB: I don’t know if you can call it unlucky. We went for the strategy we did and on lap 16 of the race we thought it was the right strategy and for many laps after. We were pulling such a lead, even through traffic. To be able to pull away from these guys was great and the car felt good and I thought it was going to continue that way. But with the safety car it mixed things up a little bit and in hindsight you would say maybe we should have put the hard tyre on, the prime tyre, when the safety car came out. But at that moment in time the safety car hadn’t come out when I made my stop and it happened the next lap. It just did not go our way today. It is disappointing as we did not put a foot wrong, it was just the way it went as it does in Monaco. It was fun. I still enjoyed the race, especially trying to pull the gap on these guys and then chasing Fernando and Sebastian down at the end. It was good fun watching as when you are the third car it is very difficult to overtake as the car in second has DRS as well. Watching these guys tussle was great fun. I was waiting for the move. It was either going to come off or they were both going into the barriers and I was waiting for it. But it didn’t come. But more importantly I think it is great to see that Vitaly is okay. It is, obviously, two incidents we have had this weekend, but they both walked away, pretty much, so it is good to see. That mayhem happened just in front of us as well. We were racing through Tabac and the swimming pool so it was a tough situation as the way we were going we were nose to tail. It was very difficult to see corner apexes as you were so close let alone bits of rubbish and carbon all over the circuit. I hit that quite a bit as these guys probably did but not a bad result, but we hoped for a lot more.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) As Jenson mentioned already, you three came as a pack into a lot of traffic at the swimming pool. How difficult was it to get through without any problems; could you really see the gaps or was it just luck not to be hit by pieces of other cars?
SV: Obviously I arrived there first. I had two cars behind, pushing to overtake and I saw this big group of cars. Fortunately Nico (Rosberg) pulled over so one less, but then there were four or five cars left, the chicane, and then towards the back, boom, one ended in the wall and I overtook a rim on the right hand side which was still turning. It is extremely difficult because I always try to keep my position, obviously. It’s a big chance for the people behind to overtake or to make a move. Then came the swimming pool, first chicane, two cars in the wall and then the Toro Rosso braking and pulling to the right and then it was very close, I was very close to losing my front wing and then out of 15/16, there was a Force India in the barriers. Yeah, pretty big mess to be honest. It’s obviously something you expect when you catch four cars fighting for position, but then you don’t expect them to go in the wall, one after the other. Yeah, it’s crazy but obviously I didn’t really see what happened to Vitaly but it’s good to hear that he’s fine. Obviously, trying to maintain my position, and so many cars going in different directions, it’s also a bit of luck, not to hit any debris.
FA: I followed where Sebastian was going, because with a full crash and the accident, you don’t know, as Sebastian said, when they hit the wall, you don’t know if the car will bounce back to the other wall or whatever. So I was following Sebastian because he has a better view than me.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) For the three of you, before the red flag, how did you rate your chances to finish first in the race?
JB: Me, personally, pretty high, not through overtaking but through watching these two fight it out. It looked like they were going to end up in the barriers. This is a big race to win, and as Fernando said, we’ve got less to lose than this guy who’s leading the championship by quite a few points. But it was an interesting battle to watch, just waiting for the moment to try and have ago. Fernando, I’m sure, was filling Sebastian’s mirrors and he got very close a couple of times into turn one, and into the last corner, so you don’t know. Anything could have happened over those ten laps that we would have had if we hadn’t had the Safety Car.
SV: Well, to be honest, I was pretty confident. Yes, I didn’t have the freshest set of tyres left I know, but I thought I would have another six laps in them at least. So it’s difficult to know what would have happened but it’s the same thing, if you ask for Jenson’s race, he was in the lead. For him the Safety Car came out at the wrong time. It would have been close because yes, they were coming closer and my rear tyres were not getting better, but ideally I think their tyres were not getting better so I think I had quite a good chance to stay where I was – depending on how much risk Fernando was ready to take.
FA: 33.3 per cent chance of winning the lottery.
Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Jenson, you were in exactly the same position in the championship two years ago that Sebastian is in today; five wins out of six. How certain were you of winning the championship after winning Monaco?
JB: I wasn’t really thinking about the title. I was thinking of going to have a few drinks with my friends. I wish I could remember it, but I think I had one too many! I don’t know. I think we all take it one race at a time. I know we say that and I totally think it’s true. He’s got a massive lead at the moment, and everybody that’s behind him looks at the points difference and thinks it’s massive but when you’re leading, you just take every race at the time. You celebrate every race win like Sebastian has been doing and then you can look at it a little bit later in the season when you have to start thinking about the championship. At the moment, he’s very quick and he’s driving a quick car so he’s getting the job done and he doesn’t need to be thinking about the championship right now. I wish he would because he might make mistakes and things, but I don’t think that’s the case.
Q: (Rodrigo Franca – VIP Magazine) Fernando, do you think these 13 points for you and Ferrari will allow you to go back to fight for victories or is it just the characteristics of Monaco and the circuit that helped you today?
FA: I guess we need to wait for the couple of normal circuits that are coming now. Even Canada is not a very normal one, with long straights and big stops for the slow corners. So Canada and Valencia will tell us something more but I don’t think that here is a good reference in terms of performance from the cars, because our car is identical to Barcelona and we were two minutes behind there and we were two seconds behind here, so it’s just Monaco, a unique circuit.
Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) Jenson, at one stage of the race, I think the team got on the radio to you and said that if you’re going to win this race you’ve got to win it on the track and get past Seb, and yet you pitted two laps later. Could you tell me what the sequence of events were that led up to that decision?
JB: To be fair, I can’t actually really remember what was going on. I remember closing in – this was when I was on the supersofts in the second stint and Sebastian was on the harder tyre, the soft – and the team said you’re going to have to overtake him and initially I thought it was a very strange thing to say, because I thought he was going to have to stop anyway, so why don’t we just stop one lap before him? Which was a great plan, but obviously they didn’t stop. For us, we put ourselves in a little bit of a tricky situation because we ran three sets of supersoft and then the safety car came out, so we had to pit again to run the harder tyre, the prime, so it was a tricky race to read, and I didn’t expect Sebastian or Red Bull to run the harder tyre for so long. Yeah, so I think we need to go back and really look at the data and see what happened, because I really can’t remember most of the race. But I have to say that the cars worked really well around here. The team have really been thinking on their toes, but it just didn’t work out for us today.
Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) Seb, is this the toughest win of your career?
SV: Well, I think it’s difficult to say. Obviously I had a bit of a practice last weekend to be fair, with people behind and obviously pushing me very hard for the last fifteen laps, being very close. Not really what I was hoping for going into this race but even more laps and more cars pushing (here). Obviously I love winning and I think you have to see every race on its own. Sure, there are straightforward races where you just have the perfect car, the perfect day, races we had this year like Australia or Turkey. And then other races where arguably other people are quicker, but you still manage to stay ahead and to win the race. Here, obviously, there are many circumstances and they can go in your favour or not. Obviously if my pit stop would have been fine then I think we would probably have just come out ahead, I don’t know how much or how long we lost. It didn’t happen and then the safety car brought us back and we were very brave going for the one stop strategy. You have to make a lot of decisions – after the race it’s always easy to say that this was good, this was bad but in that time you have to react and once you commit, you have to go for it, but surely when you race against these guys and they are pushing very hard, and then still you stay ahead, it’s even sweeter when you cross the line and it feels even better, so very proud.
Q: (Simon Cass – Daily Mail) Jenson, would you have won the race if there hadn’t been a Safety Car?
JB: I really don’t know. There was still a long way to go, but on the supersoft tyre I felt very good. In the second stint, I was able to pull out a pretty good gap but we didn’t know what these guys were doing in terms of strategy. Originally I thought Sebastian was running on a two stop and we were going to try something a little bit different but… I don’t know, there’s no point in even saying yes or no to it, because we didn’t win today and Sebastian did and that’s it. But I have to say that I think we did a great job today and it just didn’t go our way. It’s the way Monaco is, with safety cars and what have you. It’s safer to go for less stops but we had to take a few more risks because it’s Monaco and you can’t overtake, so we had to try something different.
Q: (Vincent Marre – Sportzeitung) Fernando, how do you rate Vettel today?
FA: Fantastic. Not only today, winning five races in six grand prix; there’s only one occasion that happened a couple of years ago with Jenson in the same situation and we know Jenson’s result: winning the championship. I think we saw in the last couple of years that if you win five or six Grand Prix you’ve nearly won the championship, on average, so if you win five of the first six, you are in a very good position. I think he’s driving fantastically. There’s no doubt that Red Bull is also doing a very good job with the car, with the pit stops, with the start, so they have a very good package and the driver is delivering on the track. Now, at the moment, it’s difficult for us to beat the whole package and we will try to continue but at the moment, ten points.
Q: (Alex d’Agosta – Il Sole 24 Ore) Fernando, did your tyres work well today and what about the safety of the Monaco Grand Prix?
FA: Yes, the tyres were very good for us this weekend. We didn’t have any problems. The super soft was working well and the soft as well. As we saw in the race, we were able to do a good pace and around 46 laps in the last stint, so in general quite happy with the tyres. Safety of Monaco? We know it’s Monaco, I don’t think there’s room to make a mistake. There are barriers everywhere and it’s very easy to kiss the wall, normally because the speed is not too high, the accidents are more or less OK, in terms of injuries etc, but it’s true that we had a difficult weekend, so both Sergio and Vitaly had big accidents. I think it’s nothing to do with this year’s rules or anything like that. It’s just an extremely unlucky situation. Hopefully we don’t see this situation again in the coming year or the next Monaco Grand Prix because we don’t like to race and then with seven laps to go an ambulance on the track. It’s not a good situation.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Fernando, you said that you had a plan to overtake Sebastian at two spots. Where were they, and Sebastian, did you use the KERS only at the beginning of the pit straight to defend yourself, or elsewhere as well, to keep Fernando behind?
FA: Well, for me I think the two long straights were a possibility or the only possibility in fact: after the tunnel and Turn One.
SV: It was my job to make use of the KERS, and I knew that those two places would be the ones where Fernando has the biggest chance to get close or try something under braking so I was trying to spend most of the KERS in those areas.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Jenson, do you think the Red Bull in 2011 has a bigger advantage over the other cars than the Brawn GP in 2009?
JB: In the race, I don’t know, but I would say in qualifying, yes. Sebastian’s doing a fantastic job in qualifying, but if you look at the difference in speed in qualifying I don’t think we’ve seen that for a long time in the sport. We’re doing the best job we can with what we have and in Barcelona we saw a second difference from the Red Bull to the next car, so yeah, it’s a big gap but obviously qualifying isn’t everything, especially this year. I think we’re pretty close on race pace. You saw today there were three different cars fighting for victory, three different strategies and we all ended up pretty much nose to tail or so. The great thing is that we can race and we can fight for victories. We’re starting on the back foot really and that’s an area we need to improve.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Fernando, can you close a 74 point gap after six races?
FA: Well, we need to win three races and he mustn’t score. I think that’s more or less the calculation which I can do now. Well, I think at the moment it’s not possible, because to close the gap with plenty of races to go, but if you are one second behind in every qualifying and you have to do some strange strategies, so some starts or something always out of the normal race, it’s difficult, so at the moment, we will try to improve the car, race by race, in order to take the maximum every weekend. Victory for us is maybe optimistic so we need to be realistic and start fighting for podiums in Canada and Valencia and then we will see how the championship develops, because, as you said, the distance now is too much.