After the podium celebrations at Albert Park, World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who won the Australian Grand Prix today, Lewis Hamilton and Vitaly Petrov answered the questions from the gathered press.
Sebastian, pole position and victory. It looked under control, was it? Sebastian VETTEL: "Yeah, obviously, it was a good race. In the end, things calmed down a bit. Lewis didn't push as hard anymore, so we tried to control the last part of the race. But I don't think it was an easy race. The start was crucial and being on the clean side I had a very good getaway but I did not know it was enough until I saw that Lewis and Mark (Webber) were battling for position, so I was clear with that, and then the first stint more or less tried to hold the gap. But we saw how quickly you reach at some point the cliff and the tyres start to see some more degradation. Lewis caught up, we came in, I think it was the right timing, just. I could not really have done more laps. After my stop, it was crucial to get past Jenson (Button), which I could do immediately, so that was very, very important. After that, the second part of the race, I did not know what was going on behind Lewis, if he was under pressure or not. With him dropping off, in terms of the amount of pressure he put on, I could control the situation a bit better. All in all, a very good race. A lot of things to learn today and we need to definitely have another look at the race and move forwards from here."
It was the first race on Pirelli tyres, the first with the DRS wings. What do you make of the new rules for 2011. SV: "I think very positive. We have to make some compliments to Pirelli. After the tests we were all a bit scared but coming here in the end we didn't see as many stops as expected. All in all, I think it was a smooth race. The rear wing is still very fresh. This is a special circuit. Turn one I don't think is the best place for overtaking in the whole year, so we need to see. But surely it helps to come closer. I was getting closer to Jenson, which helped me then (and) two corners later to pass him. So far, it worked as expected. Obviously, you can only judge what happened with me. I don't know what happened behind."
Lewis, similar strategy to Sebastian. Second today. How do you assess this result given where you and the team were in testing about a month ago? Lewis HAMILTON: "I think we can definitely take this and be very proud of ourselves. The guys did a great job coming into this weekend. Just a week or two ago we were not expecting to be anywhere near the top five, so to come sway with second... the car was reliable, it is the longest the car has ever lasted or we have been able to take it, so I think it is a great achievement from us guys. Clearly we were catching Sebastian earlier on in the race. Strategy is one that we can work on but generally we have got good pace and I am looking forward to the next race."
Two talking points for you. The start with Mark (Webber) and then your floor-stay looked like it broke. Is there any concern that the plank might be damaged. You are not worried about scrutineering after the race. LH: "The plank and part of the floor is massively damaged. I don't know when it happened. It might have happened when I went off but I think it maybe happened before that. I was losing quite a lot of downforce so in the end I was just trying to nurse the car home and bring in those points as we need them for the rest of the year."
And the start with Mark? LH: "The start was not particularly great. I really got a lot of wheel spin and lost quite a bit of ground to Sebastian. There was nothing I could do, just try to keep my position and fortunately with the KERS I was able to hold second and from then on it was quite a smooth race."
Vitaly, congratulations: your first Formula One podium in your 20th grand prix start. Tell us how you are feeling right now? Vitaly PETROV: "To be honest, I am very happy to be here, sitting with these guys. All weekend was pretty good for us but after the test we did not know where we were. But when we came here we had some new parts, and from free practice our car looked very strong and also qualifying was not too bad. Then we just focused on our race and today the team did everything perfectly and we must be proud about our place today."
You had a fantastic start, going from sixth up to fourth. But describe your feelings at the end when Fernando Alonso was catching you at a great rate of knots. VP: "Well, he was still quite far. I could still control my drive and try to save the tyres, as in the final few laps my tyres started to go off. The start was not bad. I tried to attack Fernando but then I saw Jenson was in front so I must brake early, so I just release the brake and try to pass both of them. I think it was great."
Sebastian, perfect start to the year. We now know a little bit more about the pace of all the different teams. Where do you see your threat coming from this season? SV: "Well, yesterday was a very good day for us and the gap was big to Lewis and McLaren, but, nevertheless, it is a long, long season. I try to keep saying to the team that we have to keep our feet on the floor. It was a very good race today. A lot of points, very important and I think we enjoyed ourselves, which is even more important. But it is a long year, a lot of things can happen. This is a special track, so we have to stay focused for the next one and then the next one. After this comes race two, then race three, so step-by-step really, trying to keep on doing what we are doing now. Enjoying plus working hard and then I think we have a good chance. Giving you some names on some teams now is obvious. Those guys who are sitting next to me plus Ferrari is always very strong. Obviously, Mercedes did not have a great start but I think they will come back and will be stronger this year than last year, so I think it will be very close, sooner or later. So it was important to finish, which we did not really succeed last year, so big, big compliments again to all the people back in the factory. The car was quick from the first moment on, which we know now, but also very reliable. That is the key. It is the first time I have finished the Australian Grand Prix as well, so I am really, really happy."
Sebastian, can we call that a dominant performance. It seemed to be? SV: "I don't really like the word dominant at this stage to be honest. It is a long, long way to go. First of all, I am very happy because I think all of us, the whole team and myself, we had a lot of fun today and we won the Australian Grand Prix. It is really always very nice to come here. The atmosphere is something special. You do the drivers' parade and see the people going crazy. Obviously, Mark is the local hero and I was slipstreaming him on the drivers' parade. It is nice to see so many people coming and cheering for our sport. That is something we don't get everywhere. We really enjoy that and we have to keep coming here. The sun came out today. I was missing it all week and it was really great. The car was perfect. The first stint we have seen there is a lot of things that we need to learn and understand with the tyres. Lewis was a bit better in control of his tyres in the first stint, so he was catching up, right up to the point that we pitted. Then it was crucial for myself to get past Jenson, which worked. He was on used tyres, so it was quite a big difference at that stage plus, because of the wing, I could get really close after turn one and then into turn three/four pass him around the outside. It was crucial to stay ahead of Lewis. After that the car was getting a bit better. We made some small tweaks at the pit-stop, which seemed to help a lot, also for tyre life, tyre wear and from then onwards, I think, second part of the race, I didn't know what was going on behind Lewis. If he was under pressure or not but he took it a bit easier, wasn't pushing that hard anymore, So, I could do the same and just control the gap to him. The last part of the race was a bit more quiet. At some stage it was quite entertaining when I had Sergio Perez behind me. We can see how big a difference it can make being on different tyres even though you are on the same fuel load. I think he behaved well. I was hoping not to do something silly at that stage so all in all very happy. We worked a lot of hours, it is not an easy car to work on, so compliments to the mechanics. I was joking with them yesterday. They have been working all week long now to prepare for this weekend and now they can have pizza and beer tonight so it was a nice reward."
We didn't seem to see the massive drop off in times that perhaps we had seen in testing? SV: "Well, naturally that is our job to avoid that. Job from the teams and job from us inside the car to make our own judgements, so before it really starts to happen make sure you find a gap and you can change tyres. We had a lot of laps at the test, a lot of experience. Barcelona was very different in terms of tyre wear compared to here. Coming here, first of all big compliments to Pirelli. They did a great job. Not that easy to prepare a tyre that quickly. Including myself, we were giving them a hard time over the winter as it looked quite frightening to be honest with a lot of stops but I think we saw way less stops today and even a one-stop strategy, so, all in all, I think they did the right job. Regarding the wing: I can only judge it for myself. It helped me to get close to Jenson and ultimately to pass him. It is pretty straightforward if you are on really different tyres, different wear life, So, as far as I can judge, it all worked very good. WE won the race so I am very happy."
And KERS? SV: "Yeah. I mean, what do you want to know?"
Did you use it? SV: "I don't know which source you have, so it could be quite a challenge for you to find out. I don't know, so maybe I keep it for myself."
Okay, that is your privilege. SV: "I was pressing some buttons, yes."
Lewis, tell us about that floor, as we could see the damage and you weren't certain if it was cause or effect of your off. How does it affect the handling of the car? LH: "Well, when the floor... I went underneath and you can lift it up and it is flapping, so when that touches the ground it just stalls the underneath of the car and disturbs a lot of the flow. I was having some oversteer moments every now and then, some stalling through high speed corners, and under braking, particularly, the car was a little bit unstable. Maybe that was the reason, when I was braking into turn one it was on the floor, and I just locked up my left and right and went straight on. I had to bring the braking back quite a bit after that, so I am not really sure, maybe I had a bit of debris or something on the circuit, I don't know. We will try and find out."
You managed to maintain pretty much the pace for several laps then it began to drop off a bit. LH: "Yeah, I think today our pace was very, very good. Everyone always says that I have a very aggressive driving style but today I proved that is not the case. I looked after my tyres even better than the guy next to me (Vettel) and I think I was able to attack. I could have gone for many more laps in the first stint. The only reason I had to pit is really because you have to try... you know, nowadays, stopping before them is always the best but if they have stopped before you, you need to stop immediately afterwards to defend and keep your position. The tyres were handling fantastic today and the tyres were great. The guys did a great job in the pit-stops. This is a great position, a great platform, for us to push on into the next races. We have upgrades coming and we have a better understanding of the car and a better understanding of the tyres and strategy."
Was there a big difference between the tyres? LH: "Not really. For me it was very much the same. You do find slight difference in the front tyres which has always been generally the same but I think coming here it feels almost like they have changed the tyres completely because they just behaved fantastically well. Very very similar, if not better to what I have experienced in the past. Very, very consistent and the graining was nowhere near as heavy as it was in Barcelona. But I guess we have a lot more downforce now so that contributes to that. You don't see as many marbles on the outside of the circuit. There are some but nowhere near as bad as we saw in Barcelona."
Vitaly, what do you think about being on a podium in Formula One. VP: "I am quite happy to be with these guys. Sitting here and also on the podium."
Well a fantastic performance, but a fairly lonely race in many ways for you? Not too many people to battle with? VP: "It is not true, as I watching Mark Webber in front. I tried to push as hard as I could, then he pit. I just tried to push to the maximum what I had on the tyres. Then also the same, we tried to pull away from Fernando, but then during the middle of the race I didn't understand where I am and what I should do. My radio wasn't working very well, but I just tried to save the tyres and push as hard as I can. I think everything was good."
How much pressure from Fernando at the end? VP: "It was not so much, just last lap maybe and he was still quite a way from me. Even if he wanted to attack me, he needed some time, but my tyres were still in quite good shape, so I could do a good pull-away from the last corner."
At one time there was the possibility that you wouldn't have your drive with Renault this year, and here you are on the podium. VP: "Yeah, I'm really proud of this team and we're on the podium now."
Questions from the floor
(Ian Parkes - The Press Association) Lewis, I'm going to have to disappoint Sebastian but our source is a good one, because his team principal, Christian Horner said that they didn't use KERS all weekend. On that basis, how impressive does that make Sebastian's performance in that car without KERS? LH: "I think it makes it very clear that they have a fantastic car as they have had for the last year and a half. They've had the fastest car since towards the end of 2009, and they continue to have the fastest car, but to turn it over to what we've done, coming from a car which was probably going to arrive here probably two seconds off the pace to being maybe a second off in qualifying, if they had KERS, and race pace being very, very similar, I think that's probably the most impressive part for me. I think it's very rare that you see such a big leap in performance in Formula One. I feel really privileged to be up here because we thought it was going to be quite a bad weekend and I'm back up here, back in the fight, only a few points behind the guy in front who has a much, much faster car. But we'll close that gap, I have no doubts about that, and clearly showing from today, after our first stint, we can compete with them in the race, so get ourselves up at the front and we can give them some pressure."
(Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Vitaly, your team boss, Eric Boullier said that you'd worked hard over the winter to make sure that you could finish races to your true potential. Can you explain what you did over the winter, and also, does this show that you can now lead the team in place of Robert? VP: "Winter testing was quite long. You know we have a new exhaust and we didn't know how it would work. We spent quite a long time trying to understand the aerodynamics and a lot of things, and really when we came here we didn't know where we are, we didn't know how quick our car was, but it looks like we were quite strong, but not like these guys. We still need to continue to push the same way, work hard. In Malaysia we will have some new parts so we will see."
(Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Do you think you can lead the team in place of Robert? VP: "I don't think I need to answer anything. I think you can see and also.... Yes!"
(Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Sebastian, as Christian told the BBC that you haven't been running with KERS after trying it on Friday and deciding that it was perhaps a bit unreliable, does it seem as if you don't need to use KERS for the rest of the season, then you're super confident that your car is so quick in other areas that you don't need to use it at all? SV: "You could have told me that before the race, because I was wondering. I pushed the button all the time and nothing happened, so I should have had a word with you! No, I think it's pretty obvious. If you ask Lewis how much KERS is worth, there is performance in there. Obviously we work very, very hard on that. It's something we're not proud of, but we need to keep working hard and improve for two weeks' time. We have solutions, more or less, which should help us and make it possible to answer your question. But surely, you can't rely on just having a good car or everything running smoothly. You want every single bit that you can get to make your car go quicker so KERS is one of the basic things this year and it's worth something between three to five tenths a lap. I don't need to tell you how much that is over a race distance. So, yes, we are working on that."
(Livio Orricchio - O Estado do Sao Paulo) Vettel, Hamilton said just now that the most important thing to him was that the gap in race conditions was reduced in comparison to yesterday. In your point of view, did you expect a better gap in comparison to your competitors in race conditions. SV: "First of all, in Abu Dhabi we said that I also have a first name, so you are allowed to call me Sebastian. It's always a long way before you start racing. We have been working very hard on that, to make the car quick in both scenarios, qualifying and racing. I was very happy today. Obviously, as I said, at the stop we made a bit of a change. There's not much you can do. You can't stop and change the set-up but it seemed to work quite a lot better and if anything, at the second stint, I was out on the tyres two laps longer than Lewis who pitted on the same lap. I think the pace was fine so we controlled the gaps well. The last stint was obviously hard to read, but all in all I'm happy with our pace yesterday and today, so it's not as if there's reason to panic."
(Phil Brannagan – Australian Motorsport News) Sebastian, if you started the race knowing you didn't have KERS, were you worried about the first lap, given that the cars near you did? Were you particularly determined to pull out that 2.4s gap? We don't often see a gap that big after one lap. SV: "Well, I think I had a good start. Obviously starting from the clean side here is a bigger advantage than other years. As Lewis said, he struggled with some wheelspin. We have seen throughout the winter that the tyre behaviour is different to what we were used to with the Bridgestones, so starting on Pirellis is different to starting on Bridgestones, in terms of the actual race start. I was happy with my start. I don't think it was 100 percent perfect but obviously better than the cars behind me, at least the ones I could see. Obviously I can't see Lewis in the mirror straightway but then I saw that I was pulling away… I felt I was pulling away well. Then I saw him in the mirror fighting with Mark which was a bit of a relief, just as all the other races you start and if the guy next to you has a worse start or you catch the guy in front of you it gives you a good feeling. So after that, obviously I used the first lap - not stupid - but obviously tried to pull out a gap as much as I could."
(Michael Schmidt – Auto Moto und Sport) Lewis, was it just a dirty line that was the problem at the start, because it seemed that it ate up the whole advantage of KERS in comparison to Sebastian? LH: "I don't know. I would have to sit down and analyse it. I don't know if it was too much. I'm sure the dirty side had an effect on that, but the guys behind me had a better start, at least, I saw Jenson had a slightly better start than me. I don't know if it was the input that I had into it or… What I know is that when I dumped the clutch, I just got masses of wheelspin. I did make a change to the clutch settings on the way around as I was asked to, and maybe it was too aggressive, and after that I was just really trying to recover from it, so I was just wheel spinning. Fortunately I had KERS to save me, but if I hadn't had that I would have lost position to Mark and potentially to Jenson."
(Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) Lewis, we saw a lot of marbles in testing. When you were lapping people or going around backmarkers, were there less marbles in the race? LH: "There definitely seemed to be slightly less marbles, yes, but by the end of the race there was still quite a lot of pick-up, maybe definitely more than what we used to have. I didn't really do too much overtaking, to be honest, but the guys generally went off-line. It was quite dirty off-line but I don't think there was too much pick-up."
(Frederic Ferret – L'Equipe) Sebastian, is there a kangaroo on your trophy? SV: "No. I'm not disappointed. In my mind there is a kangaroo on the trophy."
(Frederic Ferret – L'Equipe) Vitaly, the first time you saw your car and the aggressive design of the exhausts, were you thinking that you could get a podium so quickly? VP: "No. It's difficult to say. It's racing. Qualifying is one story, racing is another story, so it can be everything. What happened today we will take and we can be quite happy but in qualifying it's difficult to fight with these guys in front, but sixth position was quite a good result yesterday. I always believe because anything can happen in a race, as it happened today."
(Livio Orricchio - O Estado do Sao Paulo) To all of you: one of the stars of this race was the movable wing. Does it really help to overtake? SV: "Well, I think the massive advantage that you all have is that you actually saw the race. We didn't. As far as I know, I had the opportunity to use it a couple of times, as I said, getting close to Jenson, sometimes when I was close to a lapped car, for instance. I cannot really answer your question because I don't know what happened behind me."
LH: "I only used it once and it didn't really make too much difference because I wasn't close enough to the car in front, so I can't really comment too much on it."
VP: "I used it a few times. I was lapping some cars and Alonso was behind and it helped me pull away from him a little bit. So as soon as I saw my blue light come on, I used it, so I think I used it two or three times."Source Formula1.com