1. Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren Mercedes), 1m35.908s
2. Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN (Ferrari), 1m36.044s
3. Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), 1m36.221s
Q: Lewis, difficult to know where to start. What about the emotions you have faced and the ups and downs just to get to this point?
Lewis HAMILTON: This weekend? It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster and quite an emotional period for me. I was turning up after the great weekend in Fuji and getting here nice and early and finding that they were going to investigate the way I behaved under the Safety Car in Japan. I thought immediately, I am going to get a penalty, but thankfully I didn’t and with the team support we pulled through it. Yesterday was a tough day with the testing and that in the back of your mind. It is not easy to forget about, not knowing if you were going to have your points or your win taken away. But I think it was a good decision by the FIA. Then we came here this morning, still not really having the pace of these two here and Fernando. But I was just chipping away and I’m thrilled to get pole position because going into qualifying I didn’t think I had the pace of Fernando. I knew that if I just worked at it and didn’t overdo it, I might just be able to do it and I did, so I’m really happy.
Q: As you say, most predictions seemed to suggest that Ferrari would have the edge but you are on the pole. What about that and the strategy to use the harder of the two Bridgestone tyres on the first of your two runs?
LH: I was quite confident we would have the pace of the Ferrari, over one lap anyway even if generally they have been consistent and, I think, looking after the tyres a bit better than us. I really needed to see which tyre was the best, the option or the harder tyre, so I did the first run on the harder one and then I took the risk and went for it on the soft for the last run.
Q: You were the first to come in, therefore giving yourself a bit of cushion in terms of being able to warm up the soft tyre?
LH: Yeah, it gave me a bit of breathing space to relax and use the tyre a little bit better.
Q: Kimi, a strong performance. You had hydraulic problems at the end of P3. Did that have any impact and how was your qualifying session?
Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: Yeah, it was okay, no problem. We had good speed yesterday and also in practice this morning. And also in qualifying. I’m very happy with the car and I think we will have a good car in the race and I think there could be different fuel loads in the cars. It has been a good weekend so far.
Q: Kimi, a great drive from you, like Lewis, in the Japanese GP. The weather forecast for tomorrow is for rain. Your thoughts on a wet Chinese GP?
KR: Last time when I was here it was wet. It won’t be as bad as Fuji, I think the visibility should be better and so I don’t think it will be too bad and I am not too concerned about the weather.
Q: Felipe, Kimi implied that there could be some strategy going on in terms of fuel load, so your perspective on qualifying?
Felipe MASSA: It was okay. I did a very good lap on the first attempt and then just lost the car on the second one. I wasn’t able to fight at the front because of that. The car was pretty good but I just came into Turn Eleven too quick, too aggressive, and just lost the rear end. So it was not a very good lap on the last set of tyres but it’s okay. I’m starting in the top three and let’s see what is going to happen. The forecast is for rain and so it could be a bit of a lottery.
Q: The detail of that incident you had – was it a different feel on that set of tyres or was it just you pushing a bit hard?
FM: No, it wasn’t the tyres, it’s just that in qualifying there are four cars and nobody knows who is going to be first. You need to push and take some risks sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t work. It was like that. There was nothing wrong with the set-up of the car.
Q: Lewis, you don’t need to be told it could be a special day tomorrow. How are you going to prepare for it? Indeed, it could be a wet race as well?
LH: I am not particularly bothered if it is wet or dry. With the experience in Fuji, that has given me confidence in the wet. I haven’t been here before, so obviously it will be tricky either way but I’m in the best position to start the race and I feel very optimistic. I’ve got a good car, I know the team will do a good job and for me the way I approach tomorrow will be the same as every race. I want to win, do a good job for the team and if I do that it might be a good day for us, so fingers crossed.
Q: Lewis, you looked like you enjoyed that one?
LH: I always enjoy getting pole position. Even just qualifying generally, if you don’t get pole it’s still quite intense and quite a rush. It’s not an easy thing knowing that you only have one opportunity on the tyres and it’s the difference between pole position and fifth or something. But the team did a very good job. We changed our strategy a bit getting me out earlier, which gave us a bit more leverage time-wise and I’m very pleased.
Q: What was the strategy behind using just the one set of soft tyres?
LH: I wasn’t sure which was best. Normally the soft is best but I was struggling to manage the tyre and make it last for a single lap. So in Q1 I used the hard tyre and in Q2 the soft, and I was still unsure which one was better. So in Q3 we went into the first run with the hard tyre and then I said, let’s just go for it, and I went for the soft tyre and risked it. Also the Ferraris have been on the softer tyre which seemed to work, so I just had to do it.
Q: We are expecting bad weather tomorrow. How much did that colour your strategy for qualifying and even the set-up?
LH: Well, there’s a 70-80% chance of rain tomorrow but the weather looked pretty good although the wind was picking up and you never know what is going to happen here. It rained here last year but we couldn’t go into qualifying saying let’s set the car up for the wet, we just had to do the best job we could. Everyone will be in the same boat tomorrow if it does rain so, strategy-wise, we stuck to what we were going to do anyway. We’ve covered the ground and I think we are in a good position.
Q: And from a championship point of view? Obviously pole position couldn’t be better.
LH: Absolutely. It’s the place I needed to be and obviously this weekend I came here on Friday, I was quite happy with my first lap yesterday, being my first time here. I only walked the majority of the track in the dark. But I managed to do quite a good time at the beginning and to improve on that was not easy and I think the more experienced guys had a slight advantage. It’s not an easy circuit, so I’ve just been chipping away at it and chipping away and after P3 I still didn’t have the exact pace I wanted and straight out in qualifying I managed to find the majority of it (interrupted by sound problem). Is there a DJ in the house?
Q: Because in fact up until now, you’ve been fourth most of the time in the sessions, so have there been set-up problems?
LH: Well, as you know, you go into qualifying with one set-up and you can’t change it. The only thing you can do is opt for a little bit more or less front wing. I’ve been really happy with my balance. The car was right, I just needed to adapt my driving in certain areas and there’s so little time to do that. You attack one lap and you plan to do something and you might overshoot the corner or whatever, so bit-by-bit I was trying to improve my driving style and out there, there was a better time I was looking for and for that lap, I think the car was pretty sweet and it was a very smooth lap and the rhythm was really good.
Q: Kimi, you’ve been fastest in all sessions; a bit disappointed not to be on pole?
KR: For sure we would rather be on pole position but I think we have very good speed in the car. It’s been good all weekend, so probably there’s different fuel loads in the cars, but nevertheless, I’m pretty happy. I think it’s good.
Q: The problem this morning, did that affect you at all?
KR: No, it was just the power steering. It was an unfortunate thing but it didn’t hurt us really. We planned to do some more laps but it didn’t really hurt us at all.
Q: The fact that you’re on the front row with Lewis means you have direct possibility to fight for this race, for this championship.
KR: I think for this race. The championship isn’t looking too good but you never know. I think we should have a good car for tomorrow, whatever the conditions are, so I’m quite confident.
Q: Is it too much of a gamble to go for a wet set-up?
KR: I don’t know. We haven’t done so. It’s up to everybody to choose whatever they think is going to happen tomorrow but some cars probably need some different things for wet and then dry for others.
Q: Your wet and dry set-ups are relatively close, are they?
KR: We had exactly the dry set-up in the last race and it seemed to work pretty well, so I’m not worrying about it if it’s raining.
Q: Felipe, obviously important for you to be ahead of Fernando to help Kimi but how much of a supporting role can you play?
FM: Well, it depends on Lewis. There’s not so much that can be done in a race like that. For sure, I’m going to start tomorrow trying to win. That’s what I’m going to do. If you see that maybe Lewis is not in the points, and Kimi still has a chance, then maybe we think about the team, but I think Lewis needs to be behind sixth or sixth for Kimi to still have a chance to fight in the last race. So I’m going to start tomorrow for him.
Q: A good qualifying for you?
FM: Yeah, I just lost a little bit on the last attempt. At the first attempt I did a very good lap and on the last one I just lost the rear going into turn eleven and for sure, I lost very important time which, in qualifying like that, when you see four cars completely on the limit and very close to each other, you need to risk and try the best you can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and this time it didn’t work when I tried on the last set of tyres.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mathias Brunner – Motorsport Aktuell) Lewis, you’ve pointed out how much the wind has picked up since yesterday. How much did that affect driving?
LH: For me, not that much. Obviously we have a tail-wind going into turn one and so just a little bit more understeer than perhaps this morning or yesterday but everywhere else it seems to help through turn seven and turn eight, so it doesn’t really hurt or make the lap any harder.
Q: And is there a cross-wind on the straight?
LH: I’ve not noticed a cross-wind.
Q: (Jia Chen – King Sports) Question to Lewis. You have already won two chaotic races in Canada and Japan, so do you hope it will rain tomorrow?
LH: No, not really. I think it would be good to have a dry race. We’ve experienced wet conditions in the last race and it’s tricky for everyone and it’s just – I wouldn’t say easier – but it’s just different, so it’s a cool race when you’re… perhaps a little bit closer when it’s dry and you don’t get all the spray and it’s not so difficult to follow each other and so I’m not bothered. Either way we’ve got a good car in the dry and wet and as you can see from last weekend, the car’s very good in the wet, so if it rains, I will be just as happy as if it’s dry.
Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Lewis, do you hope that the storm comes and the race will be cancelled?
LH: No. Do you know what? I’m really surprised that you’ve asked me a question because all season you’ve not asked me one question. Whenever you get the microphone I know the question’s going to Kimi. No, I think no, I just want to race. I’m going into tomorrow not thinking hey, this is the championship. There are still two races left and that’s the way you’ve got to look at it. I will try to do the best job I can tomorrow, finish in the points and then we’ll see what happens afterwards but I want to race. I hate all this preparation and then the race is stopped or you finish on the first lap. I love to have a real battle and a challenge.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Question to all drivers. After everything that’s happened in the last few days, is it clear now what the rules are, how to behave behind the safety car?
LH: I don’t think it’s ever been that clear. I think it’s clearer but I think we understand a little bit better but I put my hand up after yesterday and perhaps I didn’t do the best job under the safety car in the wet but it was my first experience in the wet conditions behind the safety car. It was tricky for everyone, visibility was the biggest problem but I think we have a better idea or at least, if I was leading again in those conditions under a safety car, I would do the best job I can to do a better job. I don’t know about these guys…
Q: (Jia Chen – King Sports) A question to Kimi. I wonder why you came back into the pits after only one lap in Q1.
KR: We just wanted to check the car after we had that power steering failure in the last practice session, just to make sure everything was fine.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, to win the race tomorrow would be the perfect way to win the championship. Are you going to try to win the race or are you going to play it more conservatively considering that you can also work on your advantage?
LH: I’m going to try to win the race. When I play golf, and I’m in the bushes, I don’t play safe, I go for the trees and it’s a similar thing tomorrow. I’m not going to go out and let people past. I’m going to try to win the race but obviously be sensible and the important thing is to finish the race, to do the best job I can.
Q: Lewis, I want to know, do you think you can replace Alonso, the former champion and will create your own times?
LH: I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it but it’s been a phenomenal season and I really don’t know what to say. I came into the season just hoping to do a good job and it’s just been a mind-blowing season for me and I think for my whole team and for everyone in the Formula One paddock with everything that’s gone on. It will be great to win the World Championship. If not, there’s always another… I’m only 22, so I’ve got a long long time here hopefully.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Was there any moment yesterday evening when you were talking to the stewards that you feared that you might get a penalty?
LH: Well I’m the type of person that as soon as I heard that they wanted to see me, I always think the worst, that’s just like my dad. He thinks of the worst things that can happen and thinks that that is going to happen to you and they were going to call me up and I just immediately accepted the fact that I would almost probably get a penalty here and for what, I don’t know. Obviously when I went in I told them my views and they listened to the other drivers and they came out. For me, it was obviously the best decision. I think it was right and so I was quite happy and I was quite relieved last night. I was able to get rid of that heavy bag that was on my shoulders and there’s already a huge weight on my shoulders from leading the World Championship but this and all these extra bits, it wasn’t really needed.