Vettel: It was obviously a chance to f*ck it up and we didn’t do that
4 November, 2012
Nov.4 (FIA) Sebastian Vettel drove to a remarkable third place in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after starting from the Yas Marina Circuit pitlane, and proceeded to deliver one of his best performances yet, by carving his way through the field and surviving the midfield ‘war zone’ to limit the damage to his championship lead to three points. The German heads out of Abu Dhabi ten points up on fellow contender Fernando Alonso.
Did you honestly believe you could be standing here today, starting from the end of the pitlane?
Sebastian Vettel: Yes, I did, to be honest with you. After the first couple of laps obviously that target was drifting a little bit away. I had a messy start to the race, which is quite difficult at the back, to get through the cars as quickly as I could, damaged my front wing. And then to the Safety Car, yeah I had a little bit of a big mistake with Daniel [Ricciardo] I think, who was stopping his car on the straights and I was very surprised. Turned to the right and… if it would have been 50m earlier, 50m later I wouldn’t have done damage to my front wing further but after that, I said to myself ‘yeah, either we go full attack or nothing’. So that’s what we did and I had a fantastic race. I enjoyed it a lot. Obviously the Safety Cars here and there was helping, the second one, and after that, at the end it was a nice fight with Jenson. He was difficult to pass. I expected to have a little bit easier time because obviously I was passing the slower cars before and with him I was a bit struggling. Then I just squeezed my way past into Turn 11 which was nice, it was very fair but for sure, it was a thrilling grand prix, up and down all the time. Yeah. Obviously it’s very nice to stand here now, pick up a trophy and drink some champagne. It’s not actually champagne, I don’t know what it is but it tastes good.
Your name is up there as a double world champion. Do you now feel that you’ve got your hands on one side of the cup for a third world title?
SV: I think it’s still two races to go so obviously we see how quickly things can change. Yesterday was a surprise for us, I think [if] we [had] started from third it would have been a different race. But yeah, it was obviously a chance to f*ck it up and we didn’t do that. So I think we can be very proud today: we got the maximum. We lost only a very little bit, I think we have the momentum still, the car is bloody quick, so looking forward to the next two races. We are definitely believing in it and that’s the target.
A pretty lively race for you one way or another. It’s quite lively back there isn’t it – there’s a lot going on?
SV: Yeah, usually it’s hard enough to fight your way once through the field but we did it twice today so…yeah, obviously not the first couple of laps we were hoping for. We damaged the front wing early, which didn’t seem to be a big problem but it was probably the worst possible time with the Safety Car. I think we were already quite high up, close to the top 10, around 13, 14, 15 or something like that. And then I had a moment with the Toro Rosso. I don’t know what he did. He was braking his car down and I was surprised, caught out. Maybe I should have paid more attention, but yeah, I went to the right and I wasn’t very lucky, there was the DRS board, which I took head on and then I thought ‘well, now the front is f*cked at least, so we’ve got to change it,’…(sorry). We did it in the worst possible moment, during the Safety Car, when all the cars were already queued up and yeah we lost everything. We were dead last. At least we had a fresh wing and from then went through the field. It was a lot of fun. Quite difficult with some guys, a little bit easier with other guys, but the most important thing was that the pace was there and we were in a very strong position – already halfway through the race, 20 laps to the end and also on the soft tyres in the last stint. Obviously the Safety Car helped a little bit. Nevertheless, I think it was a fantastic race: a great fight with Jenson in the end, who was the most difficult to pass, obviously he was the quickest I passed in the whole race. We know that…I think it’s quite difficult for us to get past a Mercedes-engined car. It was very, very close with him. I enjoyed the fight a lot, tried a couple of times and finally made it. He was very, very fair. You can’t do that kind of move with all the drivers on the grid. And after that not enough laps left to catch up with Kimi and Fernando but the pace was there. Obviously we had an interesting race, up and down all the time and a great result in the end. It was a big chance to lose out a lot today, but we didn’t lose anything, so I’m very happy. The guys are pushing 100 per cent. I feel very happy they’re all behind me and I try to do my best for them. I think we have two more races ahead of us, we’re in the best possible position so I think we’re looking forward to the next race – a new grand prix, a new challenge. It’s difficult to know who is going to be quick but I think it was another race today where we see that it’s over as soon as we see the chequered flag and not before.
Was it a bit of racing into the unknown at the beginning; you changed the gearbox, the ratios? Were you pretty sure you could do this kind of race or were there some obscure points that you had to sort out during the first laps, to find out what you could do?
SV: No, I don’t think it was racing into the unknown. Obviously what we didn’t know was how quickly we would get through the field. We knew that we were quite a lot quicker than the first couple of cars that we were approaching; obviously we have a different pace to Marussia, HRT, Caterham, so it was important to get through those. We took the chance to take ratios which helped down the straights, made life a little bit easier but obviously when you’re not in the pack, you pay the price as well, so I think it did help us for overtaking but when we were in clean air, it was surely not optimum but it’s always a trade. I think from Friday to Saturday we changed the car, not necessarily made a step forwards. We were changing quite a few things and getting closer to what we had on Friday which I think was a faster car so it was as simple as that.
Michael Schumacher has had 56 races without a win after his comeback; are you surprised that Kimi won his 18th after his comeback?
SV: No, I think it doesn’t matter how many races it takes you. The most important thing is that you get the results you can achieve. I think Kimi drove a fantastic race today. For the first time the car was probably able to win and he did it. I don’t know how their race was at the front, I was busy myself but I think we’ve seen this year that generally if you compare this year, the Mercedes was not as competitive as the Lotus, so it’s as simple as that, not in every race but in the majority of races. I think Michael showed his talent more than once in the last three years, even though he probably wasn’t as successful as he was before, I don’t think it makes him any worse.
Who is going to win the world championship?
SV: I think we were not always fast enough this year but for the last couple of races we were, so looking forward to the next two races.
This has been a pretty troubled weekend for the team. On Friday Mark had the issue with the KERS, you yesterday in the morning, then the problem with the fuel. How much of a relief is it for you to come out of such a weekend and be on the podium losing only three points to Fernando?
SV: Honestly, I would have loved to have got past Jenson quicker and past Fernando as well. I think the speed was there but it turned out to be quite tricky to pass Jenson, and took a lot of time. But yeah, I think we can be very happy with today. I think it’s one of those races where it’s difficult to predict the outcome. We have simulation tools etc telling you one thing but I was convinced that you have plenty of chances and I said yesterday, obviously it was a big hit for us because if you can chose between starting third and last you don’t need to be a genius to make that one out. It was a big hit but I said yesterday that every chance is an opportunity and there were lots of chances today for us. I think we had a very good race, I enjoyed it a lot and I’m very happy with today’s result.
You said before that yesterday was a mistake. How angry are you that this mistake happened? You don’t have to be Einstein to calculate how much fuel has to go in for three laps, especially after it had already happened to Hamilton in Barcelona. Do you think the team should have been more careful?
SV: There are so many things that could have worked differently. I made a mistake on the last run, I aborted the lap, nobody ever finds out, nobody realises there was a problem. As I said earlier, it was a mistake, there was no intention to go stupidly close to the limit for a gain of nearly nothing. I think it’s different to what happened to Lewis in Barcelona at the beginning of the season, obviously they deliberately put less fuel in the car and stopped on the in lap, but for us, we had enough fuel but somehow we had enough fuel on paper but not in the car. Obviously we stopped the car for emergency reasons, not to damage anything and then obviously it was quite a long procedure yesterday and unfortunately we couldn’t drain the fuel that we wanted and it was not enough to provide the sample so it was as simple as that. Rules are clear. I think the penalty was very harsh but we had to take it. If it happens to you in race three and you are in a similar position at the end of the year, nobody is asking and it’s not a big fuss but if it happens to you three races from the end, obviously there’s more attention etc. We had to live with that.
In the end, after all the difficulties, do you guys consider your result a surprise or not?
SV: I don’t think you can talk of a surprise. I think we knew we were quick. I think if you look at the race, there were a lot of things that happened that you couldn’t foresee. I don’t know what happened to the HRT which caused the first safety car and I don’t know what happened to Romain who caused the second safety car, but obviously these things are difficult to predict. I think we knew that we had a chance to get into the top five, even with a normal race. Given [that] the pace was there, as I said earlier, what we did from Friday to Saturday, obviously we tried to improve the car, not necessarily achieved … but we are hungry, we want to try things to make the car faster. I don’t blame anyone for that. I was one of the biggest drivers to make the changes, behind that on Friday, and they didn’t work, but yeah, obviously we’re not talking seconds per lap but small things and today we lost a position on the grid but we got the chance to change the car which we did and we knew that it will be a very competitive car. The speed was there, as I said, and obviously here and there we were a little bit lucky, but I think we created our own luck in that regard.
What kind of focus, commitment and mental strength does it really take to start from where you did, and eventually end up where you have, from a purely individual perspective?
SV: The race is long. I said to the guys before the race that I trust them 100 percent and they can trust me. I will try everything. There’s no reason to give up. Of course, if you look where we started, it was the worst possible spot but we gave everything we had and I think when you do that, you cannot fail so it was a perfect example of that today. Everyone was focused on the moment and enjoying it as well. Don’t forget that, I think we are here, obviously, to fight for wins and stuff like that but we are also here to have a good time, enjoy and have fun and I think all the guys in the team at the moment, they don’t want to be anywhere else. Obviously it’s tough on Sundays. The tension is there, obviously you’re nervous, excited, any race such as this one, especially with the difficulty of starting last but it’s also the challenge that you like, to race every single lap. Obviously it’s nice to sit here and look back. Some days it will be difficult again, when we sit – not here – and look back and look at the mistakes that we’ve made, but hopefully we will learn from those as we did in the past to maximise the times that we sit here.
In two weeks we’re going to Austin, you have the first chance to win the third title and it’s going to be your 100th Grand Prix.
SV: Yeah, it sounds a lot. Obviously time goes by quickly. I’m sure when you ask Fernando and Kimi they remember their first couple of races and probably don’t feel that it’s so long ago. I think that more than anything, if you do something that you love, that you enjoy – the time goes by quickly. Now, when I’m talking about 2006, 2007, when I started to drive a Formula One car for the first time, I still know most of the guys and can recall the places I’ve been. If you then tell me it’s six years ago, it sounds like a big number. I’m sure, when someone tells you the first time that you came into an F1 paddock, it’s however many years ago, it might be shocking as well. Time goes by and obviously with age, you get a little bit smarter – hopefully. You learn certain things and you get a little more relaxed probably but also it’s important to stay childish, stay hungry and [make] mistakes, otherwise how can you go forward. All in all, looking forward to going home, get some rest, charge some energy to be full charged in America to attack and obviously try to win.
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