Monaco Grand Prix FIA winners' press conference transcript with 1. Fernando Alonso (McLaren Mercedes), 1h40m29.329s 2. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes), 1h40m33.424s 3. Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1h41m38.443s Q: Fernando, many variables as you...
Monaco Grand Prix FIA winners' press conference transcript with
Q: Fernando, many variables as you said after qualifying, but today you started from pole, set fastest lap and set your second successive win here in the Principality.
Fernando Alonso: Yes, it has been a fantastic weekend, no doubt, and to score this hattrick -- pole, fastest lap and race win -- is something very special and even more so here in Monaco. I enjoyed today's race so much with a perfect car all through the race, and it felt so good to drive such a nice car for 78 laps and win at the end.
Q: Of course, there was pressure from your team-mate Lewis at various stages of the race. You consolidated your lead towards the end of the second stint and then again in the third stint, but he was close to you at the beginning of that third stint.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, he was. I had maybe a little bit less graining than the other cars in the first stint and I was able to open up a gap and just approaching my stop lap at the first stop, I caught Trulli and I was three laps behind, going two seconds a lap slower. It was unbelievable. I was nine seconds ahead and suddenly I was three seconds ahead. In a way, I think a little of the pressure was coming from the people that sometimes you have an advantage over, sometimes a disadvantage and I had problems in the key moments of the race, unfortunately.
Q: What was the supersoft tyre like, the one with a potential graining problem?
Fernando Alonso: It was OK. I think the most difficult tyre in the end was the first one we put on; in the first stint, everybody had a little bit of graining. The track was probably not in good condition and I think that was the most difficult set of tyres. I think at the end, obviously, we slowed down the pace as well because there was no time to risk any more, so I think the supersoft were able to stay very constant all through the stint as well.
Q: Lewis, keeping up your brilliant record of podium finish in every race so far but very very close to Fernando going into that third stint, and it looked as if you might have touched the guardrail going into Mirabeau.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, I hit the barrier plenty of times in the race and I was fortunate that we've got a solid car. The team has done a good job as usual, and it's strong enough to take the hit. But yeah, we were quick, it's extremely difficult round here trying to follow someone. All weekend both of us have had great pace and it was tough. I tried to get as close as possible and tried to get ahead but... next time, I guess.
Q: Fernando mentioned that he was behind Trulli for a while. You had a very aggressive slice inside Jarno coming out of the swimming pool section.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, today I think traffic was quite poor. It's always poor in Monaco just because it's so tight, but Fernando would get past someone and then I'd have to wait quite a while until... or have to shout on the radio to get them to put the blue flag out. So it was always tricky. I would gain and then I would lose, more or less, and so that made it extremely difficult but I had to try and be as aggressive as possible but safe at the same time. I needed to come out of this race with as many points as possible.
Q: Going into that third stint you were very close to Fernando. What was your thinking at that point, just to push as hard as you could, perhaps force Fernando into an error?
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, absolutely. I knew that we were both extremely quick, and when you're behind someone you can't follow them that closely, so I knew there would be no way to get so close to him and overtake him. So the only way was to apply pressure and he's a two-time World Champion, he doesn't really make mistakes, so it's extremely difficult. He did a great job as well as the team, as always. We've made a fantastic step forward and as you can see, we were a good step ahead of everyone else today, and that's all due to the hard work the team has done.
Q: Felipe, the only driver not to be lapped by the two McLaren Mercedes today. A big win for your opposition, however, over a minute behind them today.
Felipe Massa: Yeah, McLaren definitely showed incredible pace today. I think that even if I pushed 150 percent on the limit, it would have been the same in the end. They were pretty quick today. There was nothing I could do with them. I could only expect some mistakes or something like that, or maybe a retirement. I was just thinking of finishing third, trying to score as many points as possible. OK, now the gap is a little bit bigger, but five points is nothing in a championship like this, so let's work hard for the next race. The package for this race made it impossible to catch them, so let's try to be in front in the next races.
Q: You had the same fuel as Fernando; where were they quicker than you in that early phase of the race?
Felipe Massa: Well, in the beginning, I don't think Lewis was very quick. I also think he was a little bit heavier and I was just following him, and Fernando was much quicker than us, so that was really the key to the race for Fernando because he managed to create a gap which was a little bit easier to keep after the pit stop. And for me, I was just running behind Lewis for the first 15 laps without problems, and then I just hit traffic, so it was also very difficult for me. I also stayed a lot behind Trulli, a lot behind Davidson. I think Davidson was even penalised because of that. He was maybe ten laps in front of me. He really destroyed my race against them because they were just pulling away and I was behind the traffic. But anyway, I think the result in the end is quite good for me, for the team and we will keep fighting.
Q: And you had a very different tyre strategy with supersoft in the last two stints. Was that a gamble taken at the time, or was that the plan?
Felipe Massa: When you see that you have nothing more to put into the car to fight, we just needed to fit another set of tyres and see if we could have a better and quicker car, but in the end, it was similar so it was just the lack of pace we had today.
Q: Fernando, we would never have imagined that huge margin of victory coming into this weekend.
Fernando Alonso: No, never. Absolutely. I think it has been a very nice surprise to see how the team was performing this weekend. I've had 16 or 17 wins in my career and I never won with more than a minute to the third guy. For sure, this is the easiest and probably the nicest victory so far.
Q: Fernando, tell us what this victory means today, your second successive here in Monaco?
Fernando Alonso: It means like all the victories, it means a lot, psychologically and also for the championship battle. To win a race and not to be able to score more points than your rivals - and I think enjoying driving here - is not easy and I did today, thanks to a fantastic car which was so nice to drive all through the race. I enjoyed today, and that's probably the best thing about today, even more than the victory.
Q: What about the start; obviously very crucial?
Fernando Alonso: Well, the start was not particularly special. I think the reaction time was not great and maybe I lost a little bit at the beginning of the start but I knew that there is a very short distance between the pits and the first corner, so I knew that it was nearly impossible to lose first position there, so I just covered myself into the first corner and from then on I tried to push a little bit and open up a gap.
Q: You mentioned losing a lot of time behind the backmarkers; was it better after that?
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, yeah, I think so. It was the most difficult part, especially in the key moments of the race because if this happened in the middle of the stint, you are able to open a gap after that problem, and approach the pit stop time, with a nice gap. But yeah, I had a nine or ten second lead on lap 17 and on lap 18 I had three seconds, so that was a little bit difficult, because I was so happy with the nine seconds, and a little bit worried with three.
Q: And then at the start of the last stint, you saw your lead disappear; how worried were you about that?
Fernando Alonso: No, nothing, no, nothing at all. I think after we stopped, we just cruised to the end, just bringing the cars safely home and there was nothing more to do. After pitting, Lewis and I kept the first two positions and I just slowed down. I tried to take care of the tyres, maybe we were just a little bit worried about the supersoft having some graining, so I took it very easy in the first four or five laps of that stint, just to take care of the tyres and I knew that even if a car behind you is 0.5s quicker, it will probably never overtake you here in Monaco.
Q: Can we suggest there wasn't really a fight for the lead, then, for the last 20 laps or so?
Fernando Alonso: Well, it's always a fight, because you are not able to make any mistakes, you cannot go wide in a corner, you cannot miss one of the chicanes, braking too late. It's always more the pushing from the guy behind if he's that close, but in a way, to have that battle in Monaco is a little bit easier for the first guy, because it's a little bit easier to maintain position.
Q: Lewis, you certainly caught him, but then did you just easy off, did you just decide that there was no point fighting for this?
Lewis Hamilton: I caught him up and... it's extremely difficult to overtake here in Monaco and he was obviously close to me, and I was told to take it easy. There was no point in pressuring him into a mistake, and then when he did make a mistake, crash into him so it was best to finish one-two but to be honest, I pushed as I could to the end. I never give up, no matter what, and so I didn't really take too much notice and I kept going.
Q: How did you feel about your start?
Lewis Hamilton: I thought my start was quite good. The key was to slot in behind Fernando -- obviously he starts on the better side of the grid which sort of sets him up for turn one. I wasn't going to do anything crazy. We're both leading the World Championship and we want to keep it like that but I think I had quite good pace for the first couple of laps and you just can't follow. It's been proved that, even up to four seconds behind someone you still lose downforce so considering I was that close to him for quite some time, it was good. But then I had quite a bit of graining with the front tyres and I couldn't get the car round the corners.
Q: And I guess you hoped that three lap difference between your first pits stops for you...
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, I was actually quite surprised because I was fuelled to do five laps, maybe six laps longer than Fernando and they stopped me with three laps, so there wasn't much time to pull out a gap or improve my time, I wasn't really given much time for it. I came in two or three laps after. That was unfortunate but that's the way it goes.
Felipe Massa: I don't know. I think it is difficult to say exactly what the difference was. The only thing you need to say is that they were much better today. So I think looking at the pace, third place was a great result -- starting third and finishing third -- and just having an intelligent race and thinking of the championship. It is very long and five points is still everything open so let us go to the next races and I am sure our car will be more competitive and let's make a fantastic race there, but I think today it was amazing to see what these guys were doing and after a while when I saw the difference, the gap, I just started to think about my car, the engine and everything for the next race.
Q: And no worries at all, apart from a moment at the swimming pool?
Felipe Massa: No, I think the biggest problem today was the traffic. I was stuck many times behind other people and I think that Anthony Davidson took a drive-through (penalty) because of that. I was eight, or nine, laps behind him and I couldn't get close to pass him and he never let me by and also Trulli was very difficult today. Many of the seconds I lost to the McLaren guys today was because of that, but our car was slow today and so I am just happy to finish on the podium.
Q: But you are expecting to be as competitive in Barcelona again?
Felipe Massa: Yes, sure. Last year, Renault and McLaren were very quick here and also in Canada and in Indy we were very strong, especially Indy, and also this time we are confident in our package for Canada and Indy so hopefully we can have a great car there and try the best to be in the front.
Q: For all three of you, in the 1980's, it was famous that Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were four guys who were friends and who were then chasing the title and they stopped being friends... The four of you, including Raikkonen, seem to be friends. Will it be the same when you are chasing the title?
Felipe Massa: I think first of all, we have a good relationship, but it doesn't mean we are friends. The other very important thing is that we all have a best friend and it is not always a guy from Formula One, but from other things; maybe a guy who grew up with you or something like that. But I think the relationship is good and everybody respects one another and that is how it has to be. I mean, for sure, a couple of times we are going to have some issues, but that is normal in this sport. But the day after everything is fine, so....
Fernando Alonso: (only does a 'thumbs-up', does not speak; laughter)
Lewis Hamilton: Same... Next question.
Q: Lewis, at the first stops you stopped about three laps later and a second a half longer, when we expected you to run maybe five laps longer... Was there a problem at the first stop or were you called in early at the second?
Lewis Hamilton: No, I really ... I'm looking forward to speaking to my engineers... I am pretty sure the reason they called me in earlier than I had fuel for is because of the Safety Car. If the Safety Car had come out they could really have changed the result so it was better to get the pit-stop done. Felipe had made his pit-stop so he was no trouble to me and I could have kept my position so they brought me in after three laps and I thought we were going to go shorter on the middle stint, but we didn't.
Q: Does that suggest you were gambling on a Safety Car period?
Lewis Hamilton: To be honest, I have no clue. I just did my race. And the team took care of it all.
Q: Lewis, it was noticeable that after the podium ceremony you handed your trophy to your brother Nick. Is there any significance in that? Did you dedicate it to him in any way?
Lewis Hamilton: No, not really. My brother supports me in every race and it is good to have him there and he loves to be a part of it and I am proud to have him with me and it is great when he comes up and I can give him the trophy and make him feel important and just show him that he is.
Q: Lewis, did you touch the rail two or three times in your last stint?
Lewis Hamilton: Yes.
Q: Where? Mirabeau?
Lewis Hamilton: I hit a couple of barriers. I am not really sure which ones. I just tapped them.
Q: Lewis, for the first time this season you looked disappointed with second place today. It seems the pattern developing is that you are always heavier in the third qualifying session which gives the world champion, Fernando, the best shot at pole. Is this hampering you? Do you feel frustrated?
Lewis Hamilton: At the end of the day, I am a rookie. I am in my first season in Formula One and I have finished second in only my first Monaco Grand Prix so I really can't complain, but to see that I am of a similar pace to Fernando is a positive for me. But it is something I have to live with. I've got number two on my car. I am the number two driver.
Q: Felipe, during this weekend when did you realise that the McLarens were untouchable?
Felipe Massa: Honestly, in the qualifying we were a little bit worried with their pace and in the practice we were not 100 per cent sure. We had already seen that this year sometimes they are quick in the test but in the race it is something else, especially in Barcelona, if you see were more competitive in the race and we were much quicker. So, and then, in the qualifying we saw the lap times and we were not 100 per cent sure and the only thing we thought was that maybe they didn't have a perfect lap in qualifying. In the race, it was clear for everybody...
Q: Fernando, did you hit any of the back-markers?
Fernando Alonso: No.
Q: Two questions, firstly for Felipe -- in Barcelona you were more than 30 seconds in front of these guys and here 69 seconds behind them. You must have some idea why?
Felipe Massa: No, actually I don't have. We will see next race. Hopefully, it is something related just to this track which we don't know. For sure, we are quite happy with our car, it is competitive, but for this track it is not. So hopefully, it is just related to the layout of this track or something not related to the car. Even if you look at Renault, we were not so much quicker this time. Usually on other tracks they are much slower than us. So maybe it is related to our car at this track. But, we don't know. We need to go to another track and try to understand the problem exactly so it doesn't happen on a slow track, or something like that. Even in the last sector at Barcelona, we were slow and yet we were the quickest. At the end of the day, it is difficult to explain.
Q: What was the team's explanation for you pitting early?
Lewis Hamilton: I just said I haven't spoken to my engineers, so I don't really know. I can only assume as we were all on a two stop strategy that if the Safety Car came out it really could have had a big effect and we wouldn't have ended up with the points we ended up with. It was important to get us in because anything could have happened and so it was the safe route.
Q: Fernando after your second victory for Mercedes, can you tell us how familiar are you with the new tyres and car? Can you say 70 or 80 per cent?
Fernando Alonso: I think related to the previous question I can clarify maybe the situation. I was two laps later than I should be in the first stint because I saved fuel in the first part of the race, in the formation laps and like that, they were telling me on the radio so maybe I was only three laps shorter than him..... And (compared to Renault) I am very happy and I am very confident with the car now. I think I am 90 per cent. For sure, I need to learn more about the car and the tyres, but this race was very important for me because I learned some good things about the tyres, how they behave all through the stint, and how to drive them all through the stint as well and every time I am in the car I am improving as well. I am quite happy but there is still more to come I hope.
Q: Fernando, did you have any worries during the race?
Fernando Alonso: It was quite a nice race and I had no worries all through the race, only approaching the second stop when around lap 50 or whatever it was, for sure, a Safety Car in that moment can be a drama because everybody can catch you and you have to stop once more and people there for one stop will overtake you. So from having 40 seconds lead from the third guy around lap 50 or 51 I was so happy to come in for the last set of tyres and to stay out and ... the Safety Car was not any more a problem at that time.
Q: Lewis, you mentioned that there were team orders towards the end of the race, that you are the number two driver... Is this something that you find difficult to come to terms with?
Lewis Hamilton: There weren't necessarily any team orders. They don't say that I had to stay behind Fernando... But the goal of the team is to score as many points as possible and we want to pull away from the Ferraris and the only way we can do that is to finish in first and second or ahead of them. It was easy for me to maybe push a bit harder and to touch the barrier and maybe to crash or push Fernando into a mistake, but that would have been a negative on the team. Coming into the season, I expect to be the number two driver. I am a rookie, it is my first season, but I am just pleased to be here and it is really is a great feeling for me to be sitting next to these drivers and still living my dream and to be on the podium in all five of my first Grands Prix ... I hope to continue like that.
Q: Lewis, what did you learn from GP2 series and who do you see from your old GP2 rivals who could do a good job in Formula One?
Lewis Hamilton: GP2 was a great category obviously and it helped boost my opportunity to get into Formula One and is a great stepping-stone for anyone's career. I haven't really had the opportunity to watch it as I am so busy during the weekends, but there are lots of drivers there -- without giving any names -- who did a great job and they all have the potential...
Felipe Massa: Let's hear about Nelson Piquet... (laughter)