Driver reaction - Japanese GP
The drivers have their say on a thrilling Japanese Grand Prix where Sebastian Vettel took a dominant win as Fernando Alonso crashed out.
By William Esler
Last Updated: 07/10/12 1:42pm
The drivers have their say on a thrilling Japanese Grand Prix where Sebastian Vettel took a dominant win.
Sebastian Vettel: "It's been a fantastic weekend. Yesterday's qualifying was perfect and today again, the balance of the car was amazing. We didn't change too much at the stops; it just seemed to work fantastically well. I'm very happy, the guys have been pushing very hard and even though we didn't have major upgrades here, it still seemed to come together and the balance was there - and that's what made the difference today.
"It's a shame for Alonso, it's not something you hope for and it could happen to us at the next race. We've seen this year there are a lot of up and downs and things change quickly - we have to keep our heads down and take it step by step."
Mark Webber: "I haven't seen what happened at the start, but it's been confirmed that it was Grosjean who hit me. We're trying to fight for results each weekend and it doesn't help so, yeah, it's frustrating as a few of the big guys suffered out there today. We went onto a one stop strategy from then on, but I kept pushing, I didn't give up and got something from it.
"To finish eight seconds off fifth, after the fact I was in reverse at one point - and also the safety car came in before I caught the back of the field - was something. I'll come back in Korea."
Jenson Button: "Fourth definitely isn't a bad result - particularly considering I started from eighth. I ran as high as third during the first stint, but in hindsight it was probably an error to make our first pitstop so early. Both Kamui [Kobayashi] and I were compromised behind a Toro Rosso, and that cost both of us a bit of time to Felipe [Massa]. He'd started on a brand-new set of tyres, and that makes a big difference: you can go longer and keep the speed up, so he was able to jump both of us after the first stops.
"Towards the end, I was able to push and start catching Kamui. But he controlled his final set of tyres very well - I could get close to him, but the only way I was going to get into the DRS zone was by braking extra-late into the chicane, and, every time I tried, I locked up and ran wide.
"Still, this result isn't too bad - we got some more points - we just didn't have the pace to go for the win today."
Lewis Hamilton: "Congratulations to Jenson - he drove well all weekend, and, between us, we got some decent points for the team today.
"I was very fortunate to stay out of trouble at the start; there were lots of cars going off the track, so I just concentrated on bringing the car through undamaged.
"I pushed as hard as I could throughout the whole race. It was a bit of a struggle in the first stint - I had a lot of understeer - but after a while the car started turning again. From that moment on, it felt really good, and I was able to push; but it was too late to have much of an effect on the result.
"This just wasn't the weekend for me. With better qualifying, we can get better results - and that'll be our aim in South Korea next week.
"I'm already looking forward to it."
Fernando Alonso: "Today, we were very unlucky: to finish a race like this, at the very first corner is really a shame. Contact from Raikkonen caused a puncture to the left rear tyre and my race ended there. Unfortunately, when you start in the middle of the pack, these things can happen, because apart from the performance of the car - and ours is usually better on Sunday - circumstance can count for a lot. That could be seen from Felipe's race, who started tenth, but produced a perfect race, fighting with the fastest cars.
"Clearly, this result has practically wiped out the advantage I had before, but if I'd been told at the start of the season that we would have been in this situation five races from the end, I'd have happily signed for it! Clearly, we must work a lot on the development of the car: I'm not worried, but we must react to the step forward that the other competitors have made.
"Now we start a sort of mini-championship, run over five Grands Prix. The aim will be to score at least one point more than all the others. What happened to us today could happen to the others next time: the wheel turns and that is what races are all about."
Felipe Massa: "It was a fantastic race! Being back on the podium after almost two years away is just great and I feel really uplifted. They have been two tough years for me and, sometimes, a million things go through your mind, some of them bad, but finally I can be happy! It's an important result psychologically and also in terms of my future, at least I think so!
"It's even better getting back on the podium here, at a track I like so much and that I have known since the start of my career. Sometimes, in the hardest moments the best things come: the first people I want to thank right now are my family, my wife and my son. This race motivates me even more for the rest of the season. I feel very sorry for Fernando, because I'm convinced that today we could have both been on the podium.
"After what happened yesterday in Q2, I was definitely not starting from a good position. I got a good start and managed to get through the chaos at the first corner unscathed and then I immediately felt I had a good pace and that I could keep close to Button and Kobayashi. I got past them at the pit stop thanks to a great strategy and immediately I realised that, even on the Hard, my pace was competitive.
"The team did a great job and provided me with a competitive car: the only difficult moment of the weekend, for which we still don't have a reason, was the damned second run in Q2... Now we must focus immediately on the race in Korea, because with five races left to go, anything is still possible."
Michael Schumacher: "I have mixed feelings after the race here in Japan, because it's obviously unfortunate to come so close to scoring points and not manage it, after a race which went better than we expected. In the final laps, I had a nice and interesting battle with Ricciardo, but in the end I couldn't get past him because the Toro Rosso was so quick on the straights. That's why we have to say we couldn't have got much more out of it today. Now let's see how things go in Korea."
Nico Rosberg: "I had a good start to the race but unfortunately it ended fairly quickly today. In the first corner Grosjean spun into Webber and that also led to my accident. I began to brake but Senna crashed into me from behind which destroyed my rear tyre and meant that I had to retire. It's a shame as I felt very comfortable with my car on the installation lap, and I was confident that we could score some decent points. I'll now hope for a better weekend in Korea."
Kimi Raikkonen: "Sixth wasn't the result we were hoping for but unfortunately we didn't have the speed to do better today. The start was very tight ; I was alongside Fernando [Alonso] straight away and he kept moving further across until there was nowhere left go. We lost some time there and our second pit stop wasn't the best, so overall it was quite a difficult race. The good thing is we still managed to score points to stay in touch in the championship."
Romain Grosjean: "Ever since I came back in Singapore my priority has been to be very cautious at the start, and I was watching Sergio [Perez] on my left to make sure there was no contact with him. There was quite a big speed difference between me and Mark [Webber] as I came into the first corner which caught me by surprise and we collided.
"It was a stupid mistake. Mark [Webber] came to see me after the race and was obviously not happy, but I apologised and we have to move on. We'll sit down and look at things again before the next race to see what we can do to improve these situations. In the last few laps of the race the tyres were at the end of their life and we were out of the points, so it made sense to retire. Not a good day, but we have to look ahead to Korea and a chance to make amends."
Nico Hulkenberg: "If you had told me before the race that we would finish seventh, I would have taken it straight away - so I'm very happy with today's result. I made a great start, moving ahead of several cars and was able to keep out of the trouble in turn one. By the end of lap one I was already in eighth and as it turned out we had good pace.
"The car felt strong throughout the race: there was a nice balance and I was able to chase Lewis and Kimi hard and put pressure on them. They edged away towards the end and for the closing laps I just had to make sure I kept ahead of Maldonado. So another seventh place - a well-deserved result for the team after a tough weekend for the mechanics and six important points for the championship."
Paul Di Resta: "Quite a testing race for me. Things started to go wrong on the parade lap when I had a clutch issue, so it was not a big surprise when I made a poor getaway off the line. Going into turn one I was almost at the back of the field so I was able to stay out of trouble and avoid the accidents ahead of me.
"But when you lose so much ground at the start it's difficult to recover. I was always in traffic and without running in clean air I couldn't really show the potential of the car. We were not too far away with the set-up, but I never really found the sweet spot during the race. Hopefully I can go to Korea and get back in the points."
Kamui Kobayashi: "It hasn't sunk in yet, it is hard to believe - I achieved my first podium in Suzuka! It was a fantastic race and we have been working really hard to get to this point since we were lacking pace on Friday. But the Sauber F1 Team did a great job to recover from there. Starting from third obviously helped a lot and also the long run I did on Friday made me very confident for the race.
"The team has built a great car this year. You can tell this from the podium finishes my team-mate has had. At times I was close to that as well but I never had the luck. It means so much to me that it finally worked out. Maybe from now on things will be easier. I had a very long last stint today and Jenson (Button) changed for fresh tyres later. My rear tyres where really bad in the end and I had a lot of oversteer.
"But regardless of this I had to push to defend my podium place. Only during the final lap did I allow myself to really think I can keep him behind me, because then the best overtaking opportunity at the end of the straight was over, and then I saw all the fans and the raised hands. It meant a lot to me and I want to thank the Japanese fans."
Sergio Perez: "I feel very sorry for the team. It worked well when I got passed Lewis Hamilton for the first time on lap six, but then it didn't when I tried it again. Lewis went quite late to the inside and I had only room on the outside. But it certainly was my mistake. The race didn't start too well for me either when Romain Grosjean caused a mess and I lost positions."
Daniel Ricciardo: "It was an eventful race. Immediately at the start, I got bogged down a little bit, but then going up through the gears I found more drive, but I'd lost a position to Hulkenberg. Then, with the incident that later brought out the Safety Car, I managed to make up some places. I saw Alonso spin off in front of me and it was a close call, as quite a few of us were close to getting caught up in the accident.
"I managed to get around it and got past Grosjean going into Turn 3. From then on, I had a pretty good race, staying with Maldonado at first, but could not pass him. The last two stints were good, at first having a battle with Webber who was on a different strategy. Then right at the end, I was holding off Michael and I was really pleased to have won that battle. It's always tougher when you are the slower car in a duel, but with good advice from the pit wall on how to use the KERS to defend in the DRS zone, I managed it.
"Our work rate as a team has improved and I'm very pleased with the way I drove under pressure. It's not every day you have a seven times world champion on your tail and given he only has a few more races, it was nice to have a battle with him to put in my scrapbook!"
Jean-Eric Vergne: "I made a good start, but in general, it could have been a better race for me, as I lost a lot of time behind Kovalainen in the first stint, as he was on the Option and had better traction out of the corners than I did. Also, at the second corner, I came across Rosberg going backwards in front of me and I had to brake, which meant everyone went past me.
"After that, I just pushed as hard as I could, showing what the car could do, running a strong pace. Losing three places on the grid with a penalty did not help, but yet again we showed we can be strong on Sunday, as we were faster than the Force Indias and Senna. Now I only have to wait a few days to try again in Korea, where I first drove on Friday morning for Toro Rosso last year. In general, this has been an enjoyable weekend and I'm already looking forward to racing here again next year."
Pastor Maldonado: "It was a good race for me. The car had great pace and was very consistent, but it proved difficult to overtake, especially towards the end. We felt we were quicker than the cars in front, but the nature of the track makes it difficult to close the gap. We're back in the points so I'm happy with that as it gives us great confidence going into the next race."
Bruno Senna: "We had a good start managing to overtake two cars but unfortunately I ran into an incident with Rosberg on the second corner after taking the inside line. The race was slightly compromised from then on but we still had good pace. The car felt very competitive which allowed us to overtake quite a few cars and the tyres were responding well. We now go to Korea and will try to score some points there."
Heikki Kovalainen: "I had a fantastic start, avoided all the problems in turn one and passed Glock as soon as the safety car came out. I was running really well in 11th until the first set of stops and in that first stint the car felt great. I was keeping the pack behind me and tyre wear on the softs was good.
"We went onto the hard tyres for the second stint and, again, wear rates were excellent. We were even thinking about doing a one stop race but towards the end of the stint they started to go off so we came in with ten laps left and from there it was all about making sure we got to the flag without any problems."
Vitaly Petrov: "At the start I had to avoid the problems in front but got through that ok and pretty quickly settled into a good rhythm. My first stop was fine but after that we lost KERS and that obviously cost me time. I also had a problem with the radio and couldn't hear the blue flag calls and that ended up with the drive-through penalty.
"From where I started on the grid and with the KERS issue I think I probably got as much as I could out of the car today. It's been a bit of tough weekend but it's good to see the team working so hard to keep pushing us forwards and next week in Korea we have another chance to keep fighting."
Pedro de la Rosa: "Today's race was quite good and we could say we've taken a step forward, although we still have plenty to do. The first stint was good but we had a problem in the first pitstop which made me lose quite a lot of time. My times with the hard tyres towards the end were very good and we were right in there. The car was handling well and we got close to Pic and Petrov, which for us, at a track like this, is fantastic."
Narain Karthikeyan: "I had a good start and passed Pic on the first lap. The car was working well, it had good pace, and after the first pitstop I was ahead of Pedro and completing a good race. However, we suffered a problem with the car later and, coming in for a second tyre change, the team decided that, as a precautionary measure, it was best to stop. Now it's time to think about Korea and work to take another step forward."
Timo Glock: "I'm very happy to say it was a good race for us today. The start was quite a shock when I saw all the cars flying across the track. Heikki came through it quite well but I was right behind him and I was able to overtake him in the Esses. I was up to P11 but I knew that would be short-lived because we were struggling a bit with traction out of the last corner and obviously they have KERS and we don't. Heikki got past and I continued to lose quite a lot of time in that corner afterwards - three or four tenths each lap into turn 1 and the Esses - which allowed the other guys - who also have KERS - to pass me.
"In general though we had good pace and were quite consistent. The behaviour of the tyre to the car was very good and we were able to stay out quite long. The first pitstop was very strong - the fourth quickest team of the race - so a great job by the crew as they work so hard on that every day. I had good pace on the prime tyre and was going well, but at last pit stop I was a little long in the box having misjudged the grip, so my mistake and sorry for that. I was then able to close the gap to Heikki so our strategy was spot-on. We were as close as four seconds at one stage but the blue flags opened the gap again.
"Still, eight seconds away at the end was pretty good! We have to be happy I think. We fought well, the car was a lot of fun to drive and it's great to have a consistent car again. We continue to have better pace in the race, so we will keep working hard on our overall performance and enjoying this very positive final phase of the season."
Charles Pic: "Obviously it is disappointing for me to have to retire as we were coming back strong at that point in the race. It is also the first retirement for a while. The start was difficult as we had to avoid the trouble at the first corner, then on the first stint I was struggling for grip with the Hard tyre. This improved when I switched to the Soft tyre for the second stint.
"My race was going well and I was behind Timo and ahead of Vitaly and Pedro. Unfortunately I misjudged the pit box on my second stop, going quite long, and lost a lot of time. Shortly afterwards I had to stop due to a problem with the engine. Overall it has been a good weekend and I have enjoyed my first experience of this amazing technical circuit. I look forward to another new circuit for me next weekend and a better result."