|© AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye
DRIVERS: 1 – Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull Racing), 2 – Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), 3 – Kamui KOBAYASHI (Sauber)
PODIUM INTERVIEWS (Conducted by Jean Alesi)
Q: Sebastian, yesterday pole position, today winner but you pushed very hard until the last laps. Did you know Fernando (Alonso) was not racing again?
Sebastian VETTEL: I saw the safety car at the beginning. I think first of all we had a very good start which was very important because I think right behind me there was a little bit of a crash and I saw a Ferrari was out. I wasn’t sure, halfway through the race when I was looking at the tower to see where the others are, I saw the car that was still racing was Felipe, so I was assuming Fernando was not racing any more. First of all I would like to thank everyone. The atmosphere here every weekend is unbelievable, we leave the hotel, we get so much support from all of you, the grandstands are full when we go down the main straight, nearly every single corner is full of people and it really makes our job very, very special. Thanks for all of that, domo arigato, and… unfortunately that’s all of my Japanese. I’ll try to pick up some words for next year. Thank you very, very much. Thanks to the team, thanks to Renault, all the guys have pushed so hard the last couple of months and I said on the radio, when you’re dreaming at night, you dream about being able to race a car like that. The balance was fantastic, and I was enjoying every lap. That’s why, I think we were has such a big gap to the guys behind – so I’m very, very happy.
Q: Felipe, we cannot say the race or the podium of your life… but almost. Two years without a podium, now you’re back. How do you feel about that?
Felipe MASSA: I think it’s fantastic. To come here in Japan, starting tenth, which I was very happy with the car since the practice and then qualifying was not so good. I’m sure I was able to start in the top five so I was tenth. I was able to do a very good start, very clever on the first corner with the accident and everything that happened, and then the pace was very good from the car. Since the beginning of the race the pace was really good. I was behind Jenson and I was quicker than him, when he stopped to do the pit stop I was straight away half a second quicker per lap, so then I was able to push hard and overtake Jenson (Button) but also Kamui which was very quick in the front as well. So, for sure the race was much better than I expected. We did a good job, unfortunately Fernando is not here, fighting for the championship as well, but I am very happy with my race and let’s keep pushing hard to be on the podium now, more than two years but every race now.
Q: Kamui, you can also speak in Japanese as well today, congratulations, the first podium of your life on your home racing track. Tell us about that.
Kamui KOBAYASHI: English or Japanese? I think first of all, thank you very much for everyone. Everybody know this is my first podium, in Japan this is fantastic and unbelievable you know?
Q: Sebastian, that looked like a near-perfect race – a near perfect weekend in fact.
SV: Yeah, as I just said, it’s unbelievable. Since yesterday in qualifying, nothing I think could be better. You come across these kinds of races or weekends very, very rarely. Unbelievable. We had a very good start, obviously it was important as Mark (Weber) was running into trouble at Turn 1 and 2, I didn’t see what happened behind him. I saw I had a better start than him and Kamui was probably already past Mark before the first corner, I was focusing on my car and to get through the first couple of corners. But, yeah, obviously very quickly saw the safety car boards. Wasn’t sure what happened. When we came around the first time, surprisingly there was nothing there, so I think the marshals probably did a very good job cleaning up the track. I don’t know how many cars were involved but obviously, yeah, it was crucial to not be in that kind of pack. And after that I had a very, very good race car. It was behaving very well, so yeah, it’s very difficult to describe why. We didn’t have major upgrades for this race. I think it was just the fact of the car suiting to the track, finding the right setup on Friday and then toward Saturday it was just coming together. The balance was there and it was just working. I think we had a fantastic race and I said to the guys, when you have a dream about how your race car should be, that’s exactly what you’re wishing for, so I’m very, very happy and very proud of the team. They stayed very calm all the race. The pitstops obviously we had a big gap so we had a bit of luxury to the guys behind to drop some time – but they seemed very focused. Also, inside the car I tried not to drop too much time, because obviously with the sun coming down, the sun was quite low in the end and there’s a couple of tricky corners, especially Turn 8, entrance of 13 where we’ve seen cars spinning over the weekend. And it’s very easy to get carried away and think about the corner after the present corner; you start to think ahead and lose the focus and do a little mistake. I tried to stay in the moment and until the end it was fantastic because I had a car where I could control the race and I could push as hard as I wanted to and take care of the tyres, so – not to make this too long – all in all it was… fantastic.
Q: It seems extraordinary that it’s only your third win and yet it brings you right into championship contention.
SV: I’m very careful on this obviously, in terms of championships this race was a big step and it helped us but we see how quickly things can change. Look at the last… I don’t know how many races there were since the summer break but four or five; we had a DNF in Monza, if you look last year we had only one race where we didn’t finish, so obviously this year is entirely different for everyone. It seems that we are more on the limit, trying to find a step in the right direction, and that’s true for everyone, so it’s much closer; every weekend can be different and instead of then having a bad weekend and still finishing fourth or fifth, you might then be only tenth, because of guys like Sauber and Kamui, Sergio (Perez) and other guys – the Lotus is very strong this year – so they all keep scoring consistently but obviously one of us at some point has to park and watch the race from the outside, which is not nice and something you don’t hope for. That is why I say I want to be very careful because it’s still a long way ahead and there’s a lot of things that can happen. I think it was important for us, obviously we did have some pace this weekend and important for us to make use of that.
Q: Felipe, obviously the start was very important for you, you picked up a lot of places there. Tell us what you saw at the start and how you picked up those places?
FM: First of all I think my start was very good, I was able to overtake Lewis (Hamilton) and then I get to corner one, I saw that Fernando and Kimi (Raikkonen) went a little bit outside… not outside of the track but very wide after corner one and then I pull inside both, so I was able to overtake both, and then after I saw Mark spinning around, I think a car push him, which I don’t remember very well but I think a car touch him and it push him and he’s spinning in front of me. Then I saw a space and I was able to go on the throttle and take this space and even take the KERS as it was another two cars going out of the corner a little bit slower. I was able to overtake these two cars by using the KERS and going before on the throttle. I think the start was a little bit complicated in corner one but I think we did a perfect job with all these things happening. After that, I was behind Jenson and Kamui, and Jenson was not so quick, so anyway, it was very important. It’s very difficult to overtake in this track, so as soon as they stop I prefer to stay out just to see. And then I improve half a second straight away and a little bit more in the next lap and I think they were a little bit in traffic, so I managed to pass both and then the pace was very good on the hard as well. So, very consistent, very good. Actually, the pace was very good since the whole weekend – unfortunately I couldn’t do a very good qualifying yesterday but y’know I think I was very happy with the car all weekend and very nice to be on the podium again after a little bit of time. Hopefully this is just the beginning of many podiums now in front.
Q: How much of a relief is it to be on the podium?
FM: Ah, it’s nice! It’s like a relief, y’know? It was great, and a great race anyway, able to push hard from the beginning to the end and show that we are here to fight for victory and for pole and not just to fight for a few points.
Q: Kamui, how much did you enjoy being on that podium at home?
KK: Well, it was a fantastic race. We really working hard to get the podium, and you know my teammate has a couple of podiums already but myself, I had a couple of chance in qualifying, I mean I had good position to start, but always I never had luck. I mean we struggle at the start. But this time, maybe it’s good to start third, it’s no front row but the feeling was good because we had a long run on Friday and that was, I think pretty good pace and we had good confidence for the rest of the week. So, I think, when I gained position to second after the start, I was pretty sure to be on the podium. But then some point I think we really struggle a lot to hold Jenson. Especially the last stint was really tough because I change quite early for hard compound tyres but I think Jenson change, I think, a couple of laps later and I think that’s what’s really challenging for us. But if we want to hold Jenson we have to do it. And finally we need to manage tyres, I mean in the last couple of laps. It was within one second and really challenging for us – but I think finally we finish in the points, on the podium and that’s fantastic. Especially in front of my home Grand Prix, my first podium, that’s… y’know… amazing. Before the race I was joking: a couple of times I have a chance to get podium but I have bad luck and I couldn’t get it. But maybe I get this race in podium, maybe it’s something in destiny, y’know? So I’m very happy for the fans. There’s so many people supporting us. When we look there is so much crowd around the circuit and that’s amazing. Really, thanks to all the fans. I think we need to keep going for the future.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Flavio Vanetti – Corriere della Sera) Felipe, you had a great day and Fernando was unlucky but the question is, do you believe that the pace of the Ferrari is enough to match Red Bull now?
FM: Well, let's say not on this track. I think that on this track Sebastian has incredible pace compared to all the other cars. We saw that in qualifying and in the race it was the same. Anyway, I think it changes from track to track. Maybe this was a track where they were stronger during the whole championship. I think we need to wait and see track to track. We need to keep pushing very hard, we need to work very hard in the factory too to bring the right pieces for the car as well and try. Nothing is finished for Fernando. He did many many good races until now. What happened today was not nice for him but these things happen in the championship. It's important that we push hard and concentrate on the next race. He's still leading the championship and that's important.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, this was also a pretty important race for you and your future, also for you Kamui. Do think that this podium, for both of you, will help you to secure your seats at Ferrari and Sauber respectively for next season? Yesterday you said that this could be your last Suzuka. Is that true?
FM: I think so.
KK: Yeah, I think so too.
FM: So, we think so.
KK: We think so together, you know? We will have a good meeting tonight, to speak with our managers.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Soon?
FM: Yeah. I think so!
KK: I think so.
Q: (Frederic Ferret - L'Equipe) Sebastian, your first title was won by you chasing; the second was you being chased. What is your view on what might be the third one?
SV: I don't know. I can answer your question when I'm fortunate enough to win for the third time. Whether that's this year or not I don't know. Like I said, I'm very careful. I think we had a long journey so far, and it's been a tough year. Still there are many races to go so today I don't want to talk about the championship. I know I finished in front of everyone today, I won the race, so I know that I scored more points than anybody else today but you don't know what happens next weekend. I think we have a very tough remainder of the season with a very new calendar for all of us, with a lot of back-to-back races. Basically next week Korea, then two races, one in India and Abu Dhabi, and then obviously America and Sao Paulo. I think there's still a long way to go and as I said, we have to focus on every single race and try to do our best and then we will see whether it's good enough. The target is to do our maximum in those five races, then we calculate our points. If it's enough, I think it's fantastic. If it's not then it's not the fault of these five or six races that we will do at the end.
Q: (Nobuaki Tadaki - Tokyo Sankei Shimbun) Kamui-san, in the closing laps, Jenson was catching you and the podium was getting closer too and your many fans were cheering you. Would you please explain how you were feeling in that situation?
KK: Well, it was a difficult moment. I think my tyre situation was quite tough. We spent more than 20 laps on them, especially in the last three laps my rear tyres were really getting bad. Of course, I needed to push, I could not slow down to save the tyres. Whatever I had, like oversteer, I had to really push. In the end, into the last lap, I was pretty sure I could hold Jenson because normally, I think, after the main straight, there is no chance to overtake on this track. Apart from that, I think getting on the podium but I was focusing on every lap because if I missed one corner, we could easily have lost my position so I think it was a good challenge for myself. And I think Jenson was pretty fast in the last stint. Finally, we survived and let's say it was a great job from the team, because they gave us great advice while I was driving, and I was pretty sure to hold him and I was very happy. Every fan was shaking their hands at me, especially on the last lap so it was fantastic.
Q: (Kate Walker - Girl Racer) Sebastian, since you first started in F1 you've been breaking record after record. Today you equalled (Juan-Manuel) Fangio on wins, you now have 25 percent victories from your race starts. Do you find these constant statistics - the reminders of these statistics from the press a pressure at all or do you just forget about them and get on with the racing?
SV: No, I think they're very special. Obviously I'm not aware of those kind of numbers but I think that's a special thing about Formula 1. We had great drivers in the past, great champions and great characters, and I think for all of us... when I said earlier the last time I was with Kamui on the podium it was probably in Formula 3 and both of us had a dream for Formula 1 but at the same time, you know you are a young guy, you are racing in Formula 3, you know it's only one or two steps away but then it's so far away still. There's only a handful of us, 24 drivers in Formula 1. I think first of all you feel extremely fortunate and proud to be one of them and to race a Formula 1 car, stand on the grid, winning a race, driving for championships. At the time we were racing in Formula 3 this was so far away. Obviously I knew these kind of guys, when you talk about records. When I was young I was following Formula 1 and Michael (Schumacher) most of the time. But you never dreamed... imagined yourself being one of those guys and breaking any kind of record, even if it's just having the best start or something silly which would already make you extremely proud. I think it's an honour and as I said yesterday already, a circuit like this, where you really get to feel what the cars can do... unfortunately it's impossible to explain to you how it feels, so it's only something we share amongst ourselves and I think it's something we should not forget at any stage, and it's something very very special. I think it's one of the best jobs you can have in the world in my - in our - point of view, but then to be successful it obviously starts to feed on itself and makes it very very enjoyable.
Q: (Ted Kravitz - Sky Sport) Sebastian, how important has qualifying been for you? You look at earlier on in the European season you've sometimes struggled to get even close to the front row. Now you've really been doing the job in qualifying. How key is that in the championship run-in, and also do you feel that this is finished business after this time last year when you were made to be conservative and not win for the championship?
SV: I think it's very important... at the beginning of the season I think there was a little bit of a trend of saying that qualifying was not that important this year because the races were very upside down. Some of the races changed completely in the last ten laps, but I think it still shows how important it is, to be well positioned after Saturday's qualifying for Sunday's race. If you then take an average of 15 races or whatever we've had so far and you see how important qualifying is still, I think it was important for us to make a step forward on Saturday. Still, I think it's very easy this year to not have the perfect Saturday afternoon - I experienced it last time two weeks ago in Singapore, how quickly it can change. I had a very good car, I was happy and everything seemed to work as per plan in Q1 and Q2. Then you arrive in Q3 and you don't understand why you can't go quicker. This morning I read an article about Felipe, or Felipe did an interview and I think he experienced the same thing yesterday. We do so many new sets of tyres, so many qualifyings and it's then difficult to say OK, I didn't get the grip on that run and it just didn't come together and that's why I was lacking the speed... because you always want an explanation, you want to find the reason why you weren't quick enough. It seems this year that cars are obviously much closer together and the window seems much narrower this year, to make the tyres work. You especially feel that in qualifying so that's why things can change quickly. You might get a messy qualifying even after a brilliant start and then it might compromise your whole weekend, so that's how quickly it can change.
Q: (Marco Dell'Innocenti - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, at the end of the race, they said to you to be careful and in spite of it you set the fastest lap. Are you sure that nothing could happen, and secondly did you race with the double DRS today?
SV: Well, today in the race I wasn't really using DRS, so it didn't really matter. Fortunately I didn't have to use it. I think we've made improvements over the last couple of races. As I said earlier, qualifying was a bit our weakness and has seemed a little bit better in the last races. At the end, I obviously wasn't trying to take any unnecessary risks. I was trying to control the gap to Felipe. I think last year I was sometimes in a similar situation with a gap of five or six seconds and trying to control the race too much and it got very close towards the end of the race, so I didn't want to lift at any stage. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't want to lose the focus and concentration and in the end, obviously I thought to myself maybe it's not the smartest thing but as I said, I wasn't trying to do something stupid but you don't get to race a car like that too often in your life, where you feel in control and the car is balanced and you're just very happy with what the car does, and how it behaves, so I was able to put some reasonably quick lap times in at the end.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, was this the hardest one of the last six races for Ferrari on paper and what do you really have to do, where do have to concentrate the most to try to come back?
FM: Are you talking hard for Ferrari or hard for me? Well, I would say our car was competitive here, not compared with the Red Bulls, but I think we had very good pace in the race. We had very good pace in practice as well. When I did a long run on Friday I was one of the quickest guys on the track, so I think the car was good here. I'm sure Fernando would have done a good job today. But anyway, we need to improve, we need to bring more new pieces, we need to push in that direction, to improve the car. Just going back to the qualifying, I didn't have a good qualifying. Actually, I had a very good qualifying until the second set in Q2. Before that, I was always in the top five, top seven and I couldn't use the tyres. As Sebastian said, sometimes you have that opportunity and you cannot use it, and I didn't have any grip on the front tyres, and I think that was the biggest problem for my qualifying. I'm sure that starting in the top five would have been as the race was today, because I was fourth after corner three. Starting at the front is very important. The race is easier, you can control your tyres better and use the pace in a better direction. For sure, qualifying is very important.
Q: (Tetsuya Otani - Car Graphic) Kamui, at the restart after the safety car, you had a pretty big gap in front of you, between Sebastian and you. What was the situation for you?
KK: Actually I was stuck in gear. It was holding in first gear, it was already on the rev limiter and I couldn't shift up to second and I need to brake, so I was really surprised. Anyway, I couldn't fight with Sebastian. I didn't mind, I couldn't hold my position. He started pretty early, before, quite far away to the safety car line, so I had enough to recover. But it was a bit of a surprise.