Q: Sebastian, all those thousands and thousands of hours of work from the whole team over winter testing, you guys have shown the form early in the season, massive victory, how do you feel?
Sebastian Vettel: Unbelievable. Thank you everyone, it was a fantastic grand prix. It was quite, in a positive way, when I was coming back to the pits and there were people running on track going wild with Ferrari flags. It was unbelievable. Thanks for the support. Like you said, it was what we needed. The whole team has been working really, really hard. The guys didn’t get much sleep here and back in the factory. The car is really behaving well, incredible to drive, a beautiful day. Thank you.
Well done mate, we’ll finish with Sebastian Vettel. Your 43rd victory. The last time I saw this kind of atmosphere was with both our hero, Michael Schumacher. So emotionally for you it must be massive for you to have all these Italian fans down here in Melbourne, in Italy and around the world, winning the first race of the season and taking the championship fight to this man.
SV: Yeah, it’s a long, long way ahead. For now I think we’re just over the moon. I think it’s been a hard winter and an incredible race today. At the start I wasn’t entirely happy. I think I was a little bit too nervous.
I was surprised. I thought you were going to do it.
SV: I had a bit of wheel slip off the line. Lewis was a tiny bit better and then I had to take care of Valtteri in Turn One, but then I had a decent exit. But after that I was really trying to keep the pressure on to make sure that they get that message that we are here and we’re here to fight. Obviously got a bit lucky when Lewis came out in traffic but still we were hanging in there, the tyres were still good, the car was working, so excellent job. And as I said, the support around the track: I had a look with 20 laps to go left and right and especially last sector they were always on fire with the flags, so it was really great. Yeah, thank you.
Q: And a quick word on the beast: what are the cars like now compared to last year?
SV: Ah, you could push much harder. Usually the first couple of laps you were pushing last year and then the tyres were dropping off. Now the tyres are still dropping off a bit but you can keep pushing. You can keep braking at the same point. The car is screaming “more, more, more!” Also, at the end with the harder tyres there is hardly any degradation so it’s really good fun, especially in the fast corners. You could keep going forever, it was a great race, and I enjoyed it a lot.
Q: Congratulations Sebastian, your second win here in Australia and the 43rd of your Formula One career. Great start to your year. Talk us through the conversation on the radio after Lewis made that early pit stop. What were deliberations in terms of the strategy? And when you came in and went out on the soft tyres, to try to warm that thing up, you had quite a bit of action behind you, tell us about how tense that got?
SV: I think we realised early on that we had decent pace. I was able to follow Lewis and then I think after 10 or 12 laps he was really pushing, trying to open a gap, and he succeeded a bit. I was struggling to keep up, but still hanging in there. And I knew if there was anything to happen around the first stop then I need to be right behind him to either put them under pressure or have a chance to jump into the pits earlier to pass him through the stop. Once it was clear that he went in, there was no point to follow. We stayed out, the tyres were still holding on and the pace looked alright. I wasn’t aware of the traffic situation at that point and I just tried to calm down a bit because I was quite hot on the previous laps, but still keep the pace up and hope for an ‘overcut’ so to say. Then I was told he was facing some traffic, which I didn’t know who and how fast the traffic was and whether he would clear but I just tried to hang in there. And then obviously we saw the gap, went into the pits and it worked. It was very tight. I lost a lot of time on the in-lap because I had a lapped car, I think it was a Williams. I lost about a second so I was a bit angry but that’s how it goes sometimes and still it was just enough and I had Max right behind me and Lewis as well, so that was quite tight. Turn One was a bit slippery, but I managed to get a decent exit and a decent run down to Turn Three. I just held the inside. I knew that Max would probably try something but I just kept in front. That was obviously crucial for our race. I tried to push for as hard as I could for the one or two [laps] Max was still out because he was slower on the older tyres, to open a bit of a gap and control the race. The car was really good, working well and I could control the gap and the pace, going through traffic and just bringing it home. It was very pleasant. A different race to last year, where you had to manage a lot. Now I think it was a bit more raw, especially the beginning. Even if it wasn’t a wheel-to-wheel fight I could see Lewis was pushing really hard. There were some corners where he was on top of me and other corners where I was catching up. It was nice that we could just push and race to let’s say the first stop. Then obviously we got a bit lucky with him facing some traffic. But equally we pushed him to the pits and did well. Otherwise, if he had a big lead after 15 laps then he could stay out, control the race and pit into free air. We did a very good race. I’m very happy with the calls today. It worked brilliantly and as I said, big thanks to the team. We say this all the time but I think if you’re not part of the team I think it’s difficult to realise but what this team has done in the last six months has been really tough, rough as well, not easy to manage the whole team but I think the new car, in general… obviously today is fantastic, a big reward a big relief for everyone. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. The foundation has been laid a long time ago and really proud to see it coming together. This is just one race. I’m sure we’ll have a great night, we’ll create… we did already, but we will create some great memories tonight and we’ll take it from there. I think we enjoy what we do, the spirit is great in the team and that’s for us to keep it up.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Flavio Vanetti – Corriere della Sera) To Sebastian. Can you tell us please which was the road map that the team had to follow to achieve this victory and how much is it a surprise to be on the top now?
SV: I think for all of us it is a positive surprise. I think the road we followed is pretty simple: we didn’t look left; we didn’t look right; we didn’t look forward; we didn’t look back. I think we focussed on what we had to do at the time. Obviously there has been a lot of up and down, left and right the last 12 months but I think, especially the last couple of months, things calmed down and we just tried to do our job. Obviously there has been a big reshuffle but, as I said, people are happy, happy to work, working with each other. That’s the key. At the end there’s no shortcut, you need to get the job done and invest a lot of hours thinking. Passion, I think, is a great driver back in the factory, also here. I think up and down the pitlane the amount of hours the guys are covering is mad. You need to love what you’re doing but especially… I said it years ago joining Ferrari, there seems to be an extra passion just working for the Prancing Horse and, I think, just focussing on ourselves really has been the big difference. I think a key to deliver a great car, which we obviously have. The speeds look alright, both on the straights and in the corners we are competitive. As I said, I was able to stay with Lewis. They had a little bit the upper hand yesterday but I knew, y’know, we had much better balance yesterday than on Friday so I knew in the race anything can happen. It’s the first race of the season, I’m surprised we didn’t have a Safety Car but anything can happen. I wanted to stay in there and make it clear we had the pace. It was nice to see that we have and, as I say, to get the job done.
Q: (Leon Alepidis – F1fan) Question to all of you, now that you have completed a decent sum of laps with 2017 cars around the Circuit de Catalunya and Albert Park, for which track and individual turn are you most looking forward to?
SV: I don’t know if I can get all the races together! Probably Silverstone. I think with that amount of grip and downforce. Probably Suzuka as well later on in the year. Also I guess the cars will be even faster from what they are now. So, yeah, I think that would be quite nice. I’m looking forward to that.
Q: (Lennart Bernke – Bild) Seb, you are always talking about a different spirit inside the team and how you have changed from the last year. Can you tell us how exactly you have managed that or what happened inside the team that made the spirit different this year?
SV: I didn’t manage anything, I’m not the team manager so you need to ask other people. In the end it was clear that when we started off two years ago, three years ago that there’s a lot to do, a lot to reshuffle. I think the team was at a low. The spirit was very good in the first year, in 2015. I think last year was a very good year. Obviously not for the results but in terms of growing the team. It’s good also to hit some lows and go through difficult periods – even though it pretty much sucks – but if you look race-by-race it’s not great but seeing what happens in the background is important. I think people always kept the belief and, as I said, the last six months have been very calm. We have done our work and it starts to slowly pay off. Now it peaks and we are at the top of this grand prix but that’s a small achievement. If you look at who we are up against, I think Mercedes has been phenomenal the last couple of years: incredible team effort, incredibly by both drivers. I think Valtteri just fitted in and kept doing a fantastic job for the team. No weak link from the outside, not that we can see. They will be the ones to beat but for sure today I’m just happy and we take it as a team. You saw the guys: they were smiling, singing, so I’m sure we’ll see more of that tonight.
Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action / Speed Sport) For all three. The first time with the new clutch rules at the start. None of you lost a position but how did your start go?
Lewis you’ve already dealt with that. Sebastian?
SV: I had a bit of wheel slip. It’s tough, obviously, it’s a very fine line. You try to guess where to go. If you get it right it feels fantastic; if not it’s… yeah, you’re not getting the maximum out of it. Hopefully a better start in China.
Q: (Chris Medland – Racer) Lewis, just saw you stretching out your left shoulder there a bit. Any discomfort after that race? And also, was it as physical as you guys expected? More? Less? With these new cars over a race distance.
LH: No, I’m just stretching. It was more physical but it was no problem for me and doesn’t look like it was for these guys either.
SV: It’s not the most physical circuit in the year. I think later on it will be very interesting. Here is very technical. So, first couple of laps, at least for me, were very intense. Obviously it’s easy to have an error, get something wrong under braking, go a bit wide etcetera. Later on I had a bit of a gap and I could control it, and therefore it was a bit easier.
Q: (Luigi Perna – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Seb, Ferrari won the first race of the season last time seven years ago. Is this the biggest chance for the team and are you going to refresh your song compilation for victory?
SV: Was that in Bahrain? Yeah. What was the second part of your question? I was thinking about which race it was.
Q: (Luigi Perna – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Are you going to refresh your victory song compilation?
SV: Ah, no, no, no, no. I’m not a good singer otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I’m pretty sure I will think of something if we’re lucky enough to repeat what we did today but no plans. I think it came very spontaneously now two years ago. We’ll see. I think that’s a very nice problem to have, to worry about which song to sing but for now I think we’re very happy with how the race went today.
Q: (Paul Gover – News Ltd) Sebastian, the last time Ferrari won here in Australia was Kimi and he went on to be World Champion. Do you have any feeling at all yet about how the championship might go for you this year?
SV: No, not interested at this point to be honest. Obviously I was very fortunate so far in my racing career. I’ve had some good races and good years but definitely the first race is not the time to look at the table. As I’ve said before, you really have to go step by step. It’s good to know that we have a great car but it’s just the beginning: new regulations, new generations of cars so there will be a lot of progress. These guys have proved to be the ones to beat for the last couple of years, more and more so. We know that they have a great engine but also they had a great car the last couple of years and they made good steps forward so we are the ones who need to catch up but as I said, for today I am just very happy and for sure whatever happens this year, the race today doesn’t hurt.
Q: (Chris Medland – Racer) Lewis and Seb, the two of you have been the dominant drivers of the past decade in terms of World Championships but you’ve rarely had a year when you have been able to fight each other in fairly equal machinery. Sat here now, knowing that you’ve both got cars that are closely matched, is there a bit of anticipation between the two of you to go head to head?
SV: Great respect for Lewis. I think he had an amazing debut here ten years ago. I still remember his move around the outside, when he made other people look a bit silly. I think since then, since day one, he’s proved that he’s very very quick, very talented but also working hard. I think it was a matter of time before he won the World Championship which I tried to stop him doing in Brazil, as hard as I could, in my Toro Rosso. Great memories – but I don’t remember the last ten years. Roughly we’ve been racing each other but if I have the same outcome as you had on that day…
LH: I’m going to get you back.
SV: Yeah, to cut it short, I have great respect. He’s proven to be one of the quickest drivers on the grid and for sure I would love to have a close battle. Obviously right now it looks like we have equal machinery. I hope it stays that way and then we will see how it turns out but it’s obviously a lot of fun to race for victories and a lot of fun to race against the best.
LH: Yeah, I second that. Incredible amount of respect for Sebastian and what he’s achieved in his career. It’s been a privilege to be racing in an era with him and now finally at a period of time when we can actually have a real race. I wish we could race a lot closer in the cars that we have today but still I think the fact that we are similar pacewise, it’s going to be a very very hard slog this season I think. It’s going to be physically and mentally demanding but as Sebastian said, racing the best is what Formula One is all about and ultimately makes you work that much harder, having to raise the bar and I’m looking forward to that.