Singapore Grand Prix drivers press conference
22 September, 2011
Sep.22 (FIA) Full transcript of drivers press conference at Marina Bay Circuit ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, round 14 of the 2011 Formula 1 world championship featuring:
Sébastien Buemi (Toro Rosso), Timo Glock (Virgin Racing), Sergio Perez (Sauber), Daniel Ricciardo (HRT), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull).
Q: Timo, this is probably a circuit that you quite like giving that you finished second here in 2009.
Timo Glock: Yeah, definitely. It is one of the best races in the calendar. For me the best or the top three. It is just a really good track. Here if you do one mistake you end up in the wall and it is quite different to all the other tracks and in 2009 it was one of my best races here, finished on the podium, second. Looking forward to be back again.
Q: What are your thoughts about this year given that it could be wet. So far, we have escaped the rain but would that be a great leveller? Is it something you would like?
TG: For us it would be good. It opens up a bit of chance for us. I think in wet conditions it is more difficult here. We will have to see. I think we had one little – I would say –wet practice last year and I felt quite happy with it. It is good fun here so we have to see what we can do if it’s wet.
Q: Is that what would make the difference for you do you feel? Or is the car still developing?
TG: We have a little update here again. I think Monza was quite positive for us. It went in the right direction and the numbers were quite okay. It should be slightly better here but it doesn’t change our position. As I said, if it rains, in wet conditions, the races are different and others maybe make mistakes and that’s where we have to be on top and finish the race.
Q: Sergio, your first time here. Your first impressions?
Sergio Perez: Well yesterday I went to walk the track even though it wasn’t completely finished. I think it is a very difficult circuit to learn. I am looking forward to driving at night. It will be my first experience doing a night race and it’s a street circuit and I always enjoy to drive on the streets.
Q: Both cars retired with gearbox problems in Monza. Was it the same gearbox problem and presumably now it’s been sorted whatever it was?
SP: Yeah, of course. We try to find the problem and we found it. Now we are looking forward. We lost some good points in Monza due to this. But the team is very confident and looking forward to try and catch the competition, which is Force India. We try to get back the position and hopefully we can score some good points here.
Q: The last two circuits you’ve thought of as not being good circuits for you. Is this a better one or is a street circuit a street circuit and it’s the same for everyone?
SP: Well I think in a street circuit a driver can make a little bit more difference so let’s see how it goes. This is the first time in Singapore for me. I hope we can go well. The last races we have been quite good in terms of pace. Very unlucky not to get a result, but it is looking good and hopefully we can do a good job here.
Q: Daniel, first time here. Again, your first impressions?
Daniel Ricciardo: Bit the same as Sergio. I am looking forward to another street circuit. It is my preferred type of circuit. I really enjoy Monaco and Macau and these ones. It is always nice to come to a new one. Lots of corners. It is going to be quite difficult to remember where it all goes, but I spent some time on the simulator so it should help me out. I think it is going to be quite physical as well. Drivers I have spoken to say it is one of the harder ones over the season. The humidity and the length of the race, it always seems to be pushing around two hours, so good challenge.
Q: What about in the wet?
DR: Another good challenge. Should be fun.
Q: There are so many different things here. The lack of grip, the heat, but what’s the main impression from the simulator?
DR: I think it’s going to be quite hard on traction. Lot of stop, stop, start. Some other corners where you are turning and braking as well so quite easy quite easy to lock an outside front tyre. I guess until I drive I won’t know really where the time is going to be made or where it is going to be lost. But definitely challenging and I expect it to be quite bumpy as well. A typical street circuit. Never easy but always a good challenge and always something the drivers enjoy.
Q: Probably the closest race to home so far. Are many people coming up from Western Australia?
DR: Yeah, it is only a five-hour flight or so from home. Sounds long for European based people but very close for an Australian. My family and a few friends out to enjoy it. Whether they will be watching the race or up in one of the hotels gambling or drinking a few beers, I don’t know but it should be good to have some support.
Q: Sébastien, what is the main thing to take into account for drivers here as there are so many different things: anti-clockwise; it’s a street circuit; temperatures get cooler during the evening; humidity, all that sort of stuff.
Sébastien Buemi: I think it is going to be a very tough race. Like you said all those points are making it a little bit harder for the drivers and the teams. We will have the super soft tyres and the soft as well so we will have to look after the tyres especially in the first few sessions. The weather is a bit unpredictable. We don’t know if it is going to be rain or not. It takes a long time to dry up as well so you have got to take this into consideration. Then I think the circuit is quite bumpy so you have got to have in a way a soft car, you need to have a lot of downforce but you need to find a good compromise which is never easy with so little running. But still I think it is going to be a very good weekend and we will definitely enjoy it.
Q: For you this is a bit of a milestone. The 50th grand prix. Does that make you feel as though you are just beginning or are you feeling fairly experienced?
SB: I think you always learn whether it is 50 or 100. I don’t know. At the end of the day you learn, you have got more experience, you know better what to do. It’s the third time for me in Singapore and I think it is going to help definitely. Like we said it is a difficult race and you have got to have a bit of experience if you want to come around it pretty well.
Q: As we said before the car seems to be improving. Have you got further modifications here?
SB: We have got a few things, but the main difference is the fact that we will have a lot of downforce here compared to Monza. We closed the gap quite a bit on Force India and Sauber so I would say the fight with them is pretty open for us. Hopefully we will have a good race, but the qualifying we need to see it improve quite a bit but then normally the race pace is quite good so we will see.
Q: Sebastian, you have been second here on the grid, second in the race itself. Is this a good race or a bad race or an average one? Most of them seem to be good for Red Bull Racing?
Sebastian Vettel: I think it is a very good race. One of the best we have in the season. It’s a night race so very much looking forward to it. The circuit, as we touched on already, is one of the toughest for the drivers. To keep the focus it is extremely important so it should be a good race.
Q: Obviously you will be looking at the same two teams as usual, McLaren and Ferrari, but Fernando Alonso seems to be particularly keen here. He has won here twice.
SV: Yeah, I mean we will have to see. I think it will be a long weekend. A very long race. Nearly two hours. It is longer than all the other races that we have during the season. Ferrari were very competitive here last year. I think we were equally matched. I couldn’t get past on the track, so hopefully this year it is the other way around. I think it will be a long weekend. On this circuit it is hard to predict who is really going to be very competitive. Obviously I think we will be fighting McLaren and Ferrari but also I think Mercedes could have a good chance here so we will see. It is a circuit where the car is important, but I think the driver can make a big difference as well.
Q: Is there still a flow of development parts coming?
SV: I wouldn’t call it a flow. But we have some bits.
Q: A trickle then?
SV: Yeah, we have some bits. You always try to improve the car. It is not another step on Monza package as it is a completely different circuit but it is a step on the car we had on similar tyres of tracks, street circuit, so we will see.
Q: You could actually win the championship here. What are your thoughts on that?
SV: As you said would, could, should. So far we haven’t won anything. We are in a good position but still some way to go. We have to race and do our normal job and try to achieve our best. It is one of the most difficult tracks for the car, for the drivers. It is a long, long way to the chequered flag. A lot of people talk about it but certain things have to happen. It reminds me a little bit of the situation we faced in Abu Dhabi where people came up every two or three minutes giving another option that is possible. Out of I don’t know 1,467 options this could be one. It’s not the objective for this weekend. The target is to optimise our performance and then either we get surprised or not?
Q: So we could say you are not in a hurry?
SV: Generally our target going into the season was to defend our title. We are in a very good position. There is no reason that the target should change. It doesn’t really matter when, it matters to us that it happens and that is what we are working on.
Q: Nico, this is a circuit I think you really enjoy. You have qualified third here and finished second as well.
Nico Rosberg: Yeah, in general I have had very good experiences here in the past few years. Often been right at the front. I had my best ever position here in 2008 second place so it’s a track I enjoy and I hope I can do similarly well again this year.
Q: What is it about the circuit that’s so enjoyable?
NR: It’s just a street circuit. I go well on street circuits. It’s just a big challenge and a lot of fun and quite tough.
Q: When it comes to the circuit and the car is it a good one for the car do you feel?
NR: Not sure. For sure the last couple of races have been good for the car like Spa and Monza where we have seen some progress but here probably a bit less so. But we need to see. We have a few new bits coming here to Singapore and that will improve the car so it remains to be seen. It’s a possibility.
Q: In many ways you are quite a traveller. Do these final six grands prix excite you? The very thought that we are away from Europe now and it becomes a massive World Championship in itself.
NR: Of course I find it very exciting to go to see new places, especially. For example, India is going to be a very nice experience. Never been there. Look forward to that and even coming here is great. Singapore is a fantastic place and Japan. It’s great venues that we have on the calendar.
Questions from the floor
Q: (Ian De Cotta – Today) Sebastian, I know you said ‘it happens when it happens’ but is there any pressure on you to realise the championship in Singapore?
SV: I think there’s always pressure on me and on us because we want to achieve our best every single weekend and achieve our maximum so if there’s a possibility or chance to win, then we want to go for it. I don’t feel any extra pressure trying to win the championship here or trying to win it in one particular place. As I said earlier, we have to just remind ourselves what was the target going into the season and the target was not to win the championship by Singapore or any other race; the target was to win the championship itself. That’s why I think this race is as important as all the other ones, to be able to win the championship.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Sebastian, last year you were stuck behind Fernando; do you think that DRS could help you to overtake him this year and overtake everyone?
SV: I think we have to wait and see. Sure you might have a better chance with the DRS, simply because of the fact that if you’re close enough, the car behind is allowed to use it and the car in front is not, like at all the other places. But we’ve seen this year, firstly depending on distance – so how big the DRS zone is, and secondly, where the DRS zone is, meaning which circuit, which straights and so on. It can make a big difference, so we will have to wait until we find out here.
Q: (Marco Degl’Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) I would like to know from you all – except Sebastian – what is your personal opinion about the next possible World Champion, Sebastian Vettel? How do you judge him as a driver and fellow?
SB: I’ve known Sebastian for quite a long time now. He’s been winning everything that he has raced in so I think he’s doing a really good job, especially last year when he clinched the title in the last race. This year’s he’s had the perfect season, nothing to say. It’s been a wonderful season, winning nearly all the races. He’s just getting the maximum out of the car and the team. He’s done the best job of everyone.
NR: Good driver and deserves to win.
TG: There’s not much to add on that. I think Sebastian won the title last year, had a lot of ups and downs. This year, I think he’s just managed to have a near perfect season up until now. I have my money on him to win the championship this weekend so he has to push for it.
NR: How much did you put on him?
TG: I’m not telling you!
NR: I heard 20,000, is that true?
TG: Not really, no.
SP: I think he’s really a complete driver, and I think he deserves to win the championship this year.
DR: Seb sets a good target for us younger drivers, definitely. I think if we can repeat or maybe even one day try and do better, I think it’s the ultimate. He’s definitely set the benchmark, particular for us Red Bull Juniors. We’ll try and follow.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de São Paulo) Sebastian, this weekend will you take the same risks that you take in other races or will you be more conscious of this race?
SV: Well, it depends. It depends on the race that you’re in. I think one thing is clear. It always depends – given the risks you take – it always depends on the chances you see. If you see that there’s a gap and a chance to pass a car in front, then you go for it. If you think at that moment whether you decide to go for it or not that the risk is too high you don’t do it. It would be wrong to drive around with the handbrake on, just say ‘OK, I need to finish, I need to finish.’ On the other hand, it would be wrong to go into the race and say ‘now I need to risk something.’ So I think you should just race. In the end, we have a long season, a lot of races. Surely sometimes you will make mistakes, it’s natural. But I think the more races you do the more experience you get, ideally the fewer mistakes you make. As I said, we try to get the best out of this race and if we find ourselves in a good position, able to win, and there’s a chance and a gap, we have to go for it. If not, there’s no need to try something stupid.
Q: (Bob McKenzie – The Daily Express) Jenson is quoted today as saying that despite being fit, that because the race is at night, because of the humidity, the concentration levels, the race is actually a bit long and drivers would like to see it shortened. I wonder what the view is with everybody up there?
NR: Jenson can always stop if he gets a bit tired!
SV: I think it’s fine as it is. It’s the usual distance. Sure the speed is slow here because the average cornering speed is quite slow, so we need a lot of time to manage the 61 laps in the race, but it’s one of the biggest challenges we have, so the focus has to be extremely high throughout the race. It’s very hot, the humidity is very high. It’s very tough for the drivers, the whole thing happens at night, it’s more difficult for your eyes. I think it deserves to be a tough challenge. It’s long but it’s OK.
TG: It’s definitely one of the hardest races but I’m used to [how it was in] 2005 when I did ChampCar. Every race was nearly up to two hours. If you do Milwaukee oval race and you have 225 laps to do, that’s a long one. But I have to say, last year here was one of the toughest races for me because I was eleventh at some point in the race and I could hold up a lot of guys behind me and these 15 laps were some of the hardest I think I have ever had to drive. It’s all about staying focused and quite similar to Monaco. As I said, if you make a mistake, it’s over.
Q: (James Allen – Financial Times) Sebastian, going back to the DRS question earlier on, if you had had DRS last year, knowing what you know about it from this season, do you think you would have been able to get past Fernando, and secondly, there was quite a bit of banter between you and Fernando after the race in Monza about putting you on the grass. Was that always good humoured? You mentioned it a few times, did you feel it was a little bit marginal in the end?
SV: First part: it’s hard to know. The cars were different last year but I think with DRS I would maybe have had a better chance. On the other hand, Fernando would not have waved me past so I would still have had to make the pass. I don’t know. The race is done, we can’t change the result. Overall I’m happy with last year’s outcome, it’s OK.
For Monza, I think he didn’t expect me to go on the left, so trying to go on the inside for the second chicane so initially he didn’t see me, but as soon as he saw me, he didn’t back off but he at least pulled to the right and gave me enough room. It was borderline but I know that if I want to get past, I have to try something. Actually, the lap before was more critical, when I was on the right, on the outside for the second chicane and he moved a little bit under braking to the right side and there wasn’t much room for me. We talked about it after the race and I think it’s fine. Generally, if you race people like Fernando and people with a lot of experience and people you respect a lot, you can really push the limits and really go wheel to wheel without thinking about it, because you know that the guy will see you and will know that you are there and will give you just enough room – not a lot but just enough.
Q: (Andy Benson – BBC Sport) Sebastian, on that subject, I understand you went to see the stewards about Fernando’s driving after Monza… that’s not true?
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) As you mentioned already, this is a street circuit like Monte Carlo. For those of you who know this circuit, what are the differences from Monte Carlo in terms of driving challenge and driving technique? Is it more or less difficult here?
TG: I would say Singapore is quite a bit longer than Monaco, but in general it’s not that different –maybe it’s slightly more bumpy here. And that’s it really. It’s at night yeah, but that’s the difference.
SV: In a way it’s tougher than Monaco. Obviously I haven’t been around that long – maybe you should ask Michael – but I think over the last couple of years we have resurfaced (Monaco) again and again, and tried to make it smoother and better, safer. We’ve just been here a couple of times – this is the fourth time – but it’s much rougher than Monaco in a way. It’s very bumpy. At some places there’s not a lot of room for mistakes – generally there’s little or no run-off on street circuits but I think that given the lap is so long and there are so many corners, it’s quite hot, it’s humid, I think it makes it a tougher challenge in a way than Monaco. It’s a different track, but I think it’s tougher around here.
Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Nico, which is more difficult: to catch Massa in the championship or keep Michael behind?
NR: My target is to catch Massa, for sure, but that’s going to be a challenge. It’s also difficult to keep Michael behind, and I just need to keep on scoring points consistently and don’t get taken out in the first corner.
Q: (Gary Meenaghan – The National) Do you think that night racing is an unnecessary expense or is it something more circuits should look to try and consider?
SV: I think it makes it very cool around here, it’s something very special, something we all look forward to. Here and obviously Abu Dhabi, we start just when the sun goes down. It’s exciting for us and I think it’s also more exciting to watch, in a way. It doesn’t meant that all the races have to be night races now, because then it wouldn’t be something special, so I think the rhythm we have is very fine and with one or two – maybe three – races in the future per year. I don’t know where. It could be very nice.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen) I would assume that you’ve watched either all or part of the re-run of the Italian Grand Prix. What are your comments about Michael Schumacher’s driving? Was it within the bounds of sporting good behaviour; what are your feelings?
SB: I think that he was really quick on the straight, first of all, and that Lewis had a completely different rear wing setting so that he was on the limiter a lot, which is maybe a better compromise for them in qualifying, but worse in the race. I don’t think it was unfair, I think that what he did was quite fair. It was on the edge, at the limit, but I still think that the biggest problem was that McLaren were really short on seventh gear.
SV: I think it was fun to watch, that’s one thing. Whether it was too hard or not… in a way it’s very easy for us to understand Lewis’s frustration: if you are behind, know that you can go quicker and you’re stuck because you’re short on ratios and the other car is very quick on the straights, and you can’t really get past. I saw the race and one move was arguably a little bit too much. I don’t know if Michael saw him or not, but out of the first chicane, when Lewis tried, with the speed he had, to go on the inside, it looked like Michael didn’t see him so he had to go on the grass.
Q: (Mat Coch – pitpass.com) To Sergio and Daniel: having come from the junior categories, what’s the style of racing like in Formula One compared to the feeder series?
DR: I think it’s definitely different. In a lot of junior categories you go 110 percent from the green light to the finish and you don’t have to worry about other factors coming into play. Fuel effect isn’t really anything and your tyres last the race. I think, for me, the more difficult thing, or the different thing to get used to, is maybe at times driving more conservatively. You’re always tempted to push 100 percent/110 percent but you have to think about what’s best for the tyres and for strategy and situations, so that’s probably a brief summary of the differences that I’m experiencing.
SP: Yes, I think you have a lot more things in Formula One, like different tyre compounds and you have to drive in a different style on each of them, to try to make them last as long as possible. It’s a bit similar to GP2 in that way, in that you have to save the tyres a bit, but you also have to be on the limit and try to save the tyres as much as possible. You are always changing your style during the race. This is something very important and important to learn, and you’ve got to learn during the races, because to make them last and be fast, you have to be changing your style every single lap, every single corner.
Q: Is the track behaviour, is the driving behaviour very different?
SP: Well, I think it’s a combination, it’s a combination of both. I would say it’s quite different.