Australian Grand Prix FIA race winners' press conference with 1. Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), 1h24m17.336s 2. Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), 1h24m22.889s 3. Fernando Alonso (Renault) 1h24m24.048s Q: Giancarlo, when you last won a race, you...
Australian Grand Prix FIA race winners' press conference with
1. Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), 1h24m17.336s
2. Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), 1h24m22.889s
3. Fernando Alonso (Renault) 1h24m24.048s
Q: Giancarlo, when you last won a race, you were not able to celebrate the moment. This one, for you, must be very different?
Giancarlo Fisichella: Yes it is a great day for me. It has been a fantastic race, honestly. I was quite conservative. I never pushed to the limit, only at the end when Rubens was catching me and I drove a little bit faster and I drove a quick lap time. The car was great, very good balance, the tyres stayed consistent from the beginning to the end. We are in really good shape and it is the best start of my career. To win the first race of the season is great and I am really, really happy. I like to say thank you to the mechanics and all of the Renault team.
Q: You mentioned tyres and, obviously, there are new regulations this season. What, for you, were the last 25 laps like today?
Giancarlo Fisichella: Honestly, because for the first part of the race I was a bit conservative on the tyres. At the end the car was really, really good. In fact, in the last five or four laps I did my quickest laps of the race. It was good. Easy from the beginning to the end and I am happy because Fernando finished third, which is a great result for the team.
Q: Absolutely. We heard you on the radio just before the first stop and you said something about the steering, but it was not clear. What was that?
Giancarlo Fisichella: There was a little bit of understeering but it is better to have a bit of understeer than oversteer during the race so I told my engineer don't touch anything I am happy to carry on like that.
Q: Rubens, a fantastic drive from you from midfield right up there with long fuel stops like Fernando, and a lot of pressure at the end, but a great drive to second place...
Rubens Barrichello: I enjoyed every second and it shows that Ferrari have no crisis. We are here and we are going to fight. We know the teams have made a step up but I want to say congratulations to the team that put a good car together. It is our old car and the new car is going to come and give us even more pleasure. I am happy for the team. It has been a fantastic race and the tyres held up very well. I am proud of Bridgestone as well.
Q: And a very busy race for you, too, in terms of traffic?
Rubens Barrichello: Yes, absolutely. There are new guys out there and sometimes you have give time for them to learn the habits of Formula One. And sometimes they were in the middle and you cannot say much. It is really just the first race and apart from that it was okay.
Q: Fernando, 13th on the grid, held up for 17 laps really by Villeneuve. We saw some bodywork come off your car at one moment, you set fastest lap and you got up to third place and you nearly caught Rubens on the line... a sensational day that underlined the supremacy of Renault...
Fernando Alonso: Yes it has been a good weekend. I have always been in the top three, even in the wet conditions on Saturday and for sure my 13th place on the grid was not my real position for the potential of the car this weekend. So I knew I should go through the slow people very quickly and then I followed Jacques for 17 laps with a very good fight, but I lost nearly 25 seconds to the podium finish. But anyway I was confident to recover this time and thanks to the team and the balance of the car and for the pit-stops that were fantastic again, from the guys, and also thanks to Michelin who did a good job and developed this type of tyre with this consistency throughout the race. It's something that is really fun for the drivers and you can push at any lap of the race and set the fastest lap at the end.
Q: And was the car affected in any way by going off the road when you did?
Fernando Alonso: Ah no! Well, I was two or three times in the grass because I knew it was an important part of the race, those laps behind Jacques. I was really pushing very hard with maximum fuel load. It was difficult to drive but the car was quicker on each lap and I enjoyed the whole race.
Q: Giancarlo, these are obviously very early days, but this was a dominant victory. How do you feel about 2005 and your prospects?
Giancarlo Fisichella: I am really confident for the rest of the season. I know we are just at the first race, but already we have fantastic potential and I felt that from the first time I drove the car in January. It was quick from the first few laps and it was easy to drive. So now we only need to work on it and to carry on with the development and try to win again.
Q: Giancarlo, well done. You have finally got on the top step of the rostrum after a race and I am sure you enjoyed it?
Giancarlo Fisichella: Yes, and it was about time I did. It was nice to have the possibility to celebrate my victory from the right position on the podium! It was great. It has been a fantastic race. It was not easier than I expected. I was quite conservative until the last five or six laps when Rubens was catching me and I drove faster and I did a reasonably good lap time and the car was really good, really consistent, from the beginning to the end. It was great and I am now looking forward to the rest of the season. I know it is just the first race and it is early to say we are there, but we have a very good potential.
Q: How threatened did you feel by Rubens at the end there?
Giancarlo Fisichella: My engineer told me to push a little bit more and I pushed and we had a problem and the car was there! It was quite easy. I did a 25.9, which is not bad. So, last few laps I was a bit worried because there was a Jordan or Minardi that I was catching up and I was a bit nervous but as soon as I overtook him I went to the end and I won the race.
Q: How much were you affected by traffic during the race?
Giancarlo Fisichella: Quite a lot. I lost two laps behind Villeneuve. I don't know why he stopped me. I lost four or five seconds. This is really bad and I was a little bit disappointed by that. The rest of the drivers were quite okay, but when you are 50 metres behind another car, you lose downforce and it is quite difficult to catch him.
Q: Rubens, 11th to second; you picked up three places at the start as well. Tell us about the opening lap?
Rubens Barrichello: Well, the opening lap was great fun. I was able to have a good start. I think I overtook Button at the word go and then I was able to have a fantastic first and second corner and I saw a Jordan beside me which I thought was doing very well at the start. But you know you have to push but you have to conserve the tyres as well. I was able to overtake Villeneuve, because otherwise I would have lost my whole race behind him. So my race was really good. The only problem I had was after 15 laps I started to lock the rear brakes very badly and I reported it to the team and unfortunately I lost my brake balance. My brakes went all to the rear so I was able to change a few things on the car but the car was like a go-kart: lucky I won the race in go-karts in December, so I was able to keep on going. With the adjustment, the car became quite OK although I was still locking the rear brakes a bit.
Q: In terms of strategy, what would you change? Do you think you could have perhaps got ahead of Giancarlo in any way?
Rubens Barrichello: The only thing I would change was probably the Friday (he means Saturday). I would ask for a little bit less water when I go out (for qualifying). It's all I would change. The strategy was really good. I don't think we could have changed that. This morning the track was really really slippery. I could have done more. Actually with the gaps that we had I was lucky that I even picked up a position. The strategy and the tyres were fantastic. I think the tyres could have done another race, so very good. But please don't do that to us! It was fun but not that fun!
Q: You pushed Giancarlo very hard right at the end there. Was there even a little bit more?
Rubens Barrichello: I had in mind that you have to push. We're all here to win. If we'd got very close to him right on the last lap it wouldn't have meant anything because getting close and overtaking is another matter. Fernando was coming very rapidly as well, even though I dropped the revs. You know you have to think forward to the next couple of weeks: 35 degrees in Malaysia so you have to pace everything. But I was pushing. If I had a chance to catch him, I would do, but obviously he saved a lot of tyres right at the beginning so he was in better shape than we were.
Q: Fernando, you came out of the pits there after the second pit stop and Rubens just went past ahead of you. What could you have changed?
Fernando Alonso: Friday as well. (Saturday?) I think everything was OK for me today. I knew that starting in 13th was going to be a difficult race and in fact after the first two corners I was eleventh. I think I didn't make up too much at the start and then 17 laps behind Jacques nearly finished my race because I was 25 seconds behind the guys at the front -- on the podium -- but I was able to push but not save tyres like my teammate, and push every lap and at the end I had this third position which is like a victory for me.
Q: You were pushing much more all the way, rather than being conservative like Giancarlo.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, yeah. The opposite. I think every lap I pushed like more than qualifying, because this morning I didn't push too much. With high fuel, the car was difficult to drive. I had four overtaking manoeuvres which is something unusual, also here in Melbourne but I was able (to overtake) because my car was much faster than other people's.
Q: Yes, you got past Jacques at one moment, and then he got back past you again.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, don't remind me. I thought that was done and then I had to start again.
Q: Fisichella, realistically what's the importance of the rain in this victory?
Giancarlo Fisichella: Realistically, quite a lot. I was really lucky on Friday (Saturday) and we were able to manage the big gap between me and the other competitors, especially this morning in the second qualifying session. But anyway, even despite that, I was the second quickest this morning and considering the fuel load, it was good. But the potential is there. We are quick and even without the Friday (Saturday) where I have been a bit lucky I think there was the possibility to fight, to win the race anyway.
Q: Giancarlo, Rubens. We have two of the smoothest drivers with Formula One tyres first and second. Could this be the key to the championship?
Rubens Barrichello: I hope so! (Laughter)
Giancarlo Fisichella: Me too!
Rubens Barrichello: I guess it's really difficult to answer that in full because we didn't have a proper qualifying with all the effects, really, so this morning everyone was pretty much cruising, so I guess we're going to have a bit more of an opinion of what it's going to be like in Malaysia. Obviously, if you can go fast and save the tyres, that's will be a big plus.
Giancarlo Fisichella: I think, maybe, yes, a little bit. I think today the tyre wear wasn't too bad for all the drivers. The temperature was good for the tyres. Maybe when we go in a circuit where it's really hot and where the tarmac is really abrasive I think there it will maybe be a problem. But in my case it's OK. I'm very smooth and I'm not worried about that.
Q: Giancarlo, you've waited a long time to have a car this good. Do you feel excited to have the potential to show your talent this season?
Giancarlo Fisichella: For sure, yeah. It's the first time in my life that I drive a car with a lot of potential, a good car which has been quick and consistent from the beginning to the end. This is great for me, after ten years in Formula One. I never showed my talent because I never drove the right car. Yes, I won in Brazil in wet conditions a couple of years ago but the rest of the season was very frustrating, so this year I've a great car and I don't want to lose the opportunity to show my talent and to win races.
Q: This is a question for Fernando; you mentioned the four overtakings. Could you take us through those and tell us where you were strong and where the opposition was weak?
Fernando Alonso: I think I overtook Jarno Trulli two times, Jacques once and I don't remember the fourth one. It was probably a Toyota another time after the pit stops. I don't know. The straightline speed was so good for us this weekend and after the quick chicane, 10, 11 and 12, we were able to run quite close to the other cars because we were quicker in that part of the circuit and on the straight we were massively quicker and so it was no problem to overtake.
Q: How different does this win feel, finally getting to spray the champagne on the right day?
Giancarlo Fisichella: It's completely different, yeah, because honestly it's my first time to celebrate victory on the podium. It's been fantastic. It's a great experience. I want to do it again.
Q: And one for Rubens: how much more is going through your head at the back end of a race now, thinking 'do I shred the tyres, do I save the engine?' The tyre rule is meant to encourage racing towards the end of the race, yet the engine rule has the potential to stop you going for it.
Rubens Barrichello: That's right, but at the end of the day, if you start to put plus and minuses or doubts in your mind that's when you start to go backwards and you definitely have to save the engine by turning the revs down but you're still pushing the right foot as much as possible. After the last pit stop, there was another 15 laps to go, but you don't have to save the tyres as much. If you have a small flat spot that might be no problem. I saw Montoya really having a big one right on the first lap so I knew he would have a good ride to the end. That was a much bigger problem than the one that I had so I was pushing and thanks to Bridgestone I was able to push right to the end. We have a car that is still very competitive. We have a small disadvantage because we think our new car is faster and having said that, we have to score as many points (as possible) and if we have the chance to win, we will do.
Q: Giancarlo, on Friday you said 'I can win this race' and today you won it. My question is, can you fight, can Renault fight for the championship too?
Giancarlo Fisichella: I think so. I guess so, yeah. We already showed our pace in testing in the winter. We showed today how quick we are. We still have had good potential to go forward and I think we are the team with McLaren and Ferrari who will fight for the championship.
Q: I would like to ask everybody if, with the new rules, it is impossible to come up from the back of the grid, because we saw Michael today in a struggling position and even Kimi Raikkonen. And what's your opinion about the McLaren because I think we received a bad feeling about McLaren. They came here as favorites for the race with you and disappeared during the weekend.
Giancarlo Fisichella: I don't know, ask him (Fernando), because he was at the back.
Fernando Alonso: It was the same as last year. But this race was a little bit strange, no problems for anyone, no retirements, no accidents, no people going off, no safety cars, so everything was very normal. And when things are like this, it's difficult to overtake and difficult to gain positions. And regarding the second question, the McLarens. We don't know. We only work for our team and we don't know in what conditions the others are. I think they are strong, they can fight for big things, but we cannot be crazy about this race. On Friday (Saturday) maybe we had heavy rain, maybe Giancarlo and me on our laps we were among the last ones and maybe we couldn't even finish in the points, like Michael and Kimi today. Anyway, our car was the fastest car this weekend so we have to check in 15 days time again.
Rubens Barrichello: It's just a plus that I think the cars are no easier to drive behind another car. It's as simple as that. The cars are sliding a little bit more and to follow somebody is just as difficult as last year.
Q: Giancarlo, with people back home (in Italy), if you continue to score these results, what are they going to make of the Italian who beat Ferrari?
Giancarlo Fisichella: First of all, we are only at the first race so it's too early to say if we keep winning. Obviously Ferrari is a great team and they have the most fans everywhere in the world, especially in Italy. But I am Italian, so even the Italian fans have to be happy if I win the race.
Q: To both the Renault drivers: the car is obviously a pretty special machine. Could you just tell us where you are gaining so much performance?
Fernando Alonso: We don't know. We only cross the line and we have a quick lap time. It's still difficult to drive, we have to push a lot but it's consistent and quick.
Giancarlo Fisichella: I think the whole package is really good: engine, chassis and tyres and the good thing for us, for the drivers, is to have a very consistent car from the beginning to the end. The balance was really really good and that was even in testing. That's the main reason why we were quick.