Vettel: Still a long way ahead and a lot of things that can happen
7 October, 2012
Oct.7 (FIA) It was a great weekend for Sebastian Vettel at Suzuka, where he dominated the Japanese Grand Prix, scoring his 34th Formula One pole position, his 24th grand prix win and edged to within four points of the 2012 world championship points lead. The Red Bull driver is peaking at the right time while his rivals stumble. After the race he spoke about his winning afternoon in Japan.
Pole position, race winner but you pushed very hard until the last laps. Did you know Fernando 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 there was such a big gap to the guys behind – so I’m very, very happy.
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 was running into trouble at Turn One and Two, 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 [we] 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 Eight, 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.
It seems extraordinary that it’s only your third win of the season 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 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.
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.
Since you first started in F1 you’ve been breaking record after record. Today you equalled 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 One. 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 Three and both of us had a dream for Formula One but at the same time, you know you are a young guy, you are racing in Formula Three, 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 One. I think first of all you feel extremely fortunate and proud to be one of them and to race a Formula One car, stand on the grid, winning a race, driving for championships. At the time we were racing in Formula Three 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 One and Michael 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.
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.
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.
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