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Japan GP: Post Qualifying press conference

NEWS STORY
29/09/2007

Lewis, a perfectly-timed Q3 out there by the looks of it out on that second set of tyres right at the end, but at the end of the lap, you had to pass a car on the straightaway just before the start-finish line?
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, that was a good session for us. The whole weekend has started off a little bit better than others, and we had a good car today. It was quite tricky conditions out there – we don't know the track in the wet, and we didn't get any practice this morning, and we're very fortunate that the team did a fantastic job getting the set-up right. When you're out there, you don't really know where you are – you really only have your pit board, you don't know how much time is left. They timed it to perfection, and I made best use of it.

Yes, and using the two sets of tyres which was unusual in the wet conditions. What was that pole lap like, and talk about the business of coming onto the pit straight and seeing that car right by you?
LH: It was alright, it was alright. It was quite a good lap, I was happy with it. Obviously, when I crossed the line I realised that this was the last chance I was probably going to have, and I just improved on a couple of corners where I'd made mistakes previously. I lost a little bit of time on the exit of the last corner, and I didn't know what the Ferrari – it was Kimi or Felipe, I'm not sure – I think they decided to do another lap, but they didn't really get in my way – I managed to come across the line ahead. I could see it on the TV when I came across the line, so before my team even told me I knew. So, as you can imagine, I was punching the air.

We lost the session this morning because of the fog – your feelings about the performance of the car in the dry conditions on the assumption that the race might be dry?
LH: I hope it's wet but I'm not really bothered either way. Obviously, we've seen in the second practice that we were very comfortable with the balance of the car, and the team has been working as hard as always to improve. We've come here with another step forward and we're here to challenge the Ferraris. Obviously starting where we are – it could be changeable conditions tomorrow – I think it could be exciting.

Fernando, you were quickest for a while there in Q3 and very competitive throughout the three sessions – what was it like from your point of view? You did come in relatively late for that first set of tyres.
Fernando Alonso: It was OK for me in the wet conditions. I enjoyed today driving here in Fuji for the first time in these conditions. Everything was going well, and at the end – OK, we are not on pole but we are on the first row, which is very important for the race. I'm very happy with the performance today of the car.

You predicted in Spa that the McLaren here would be very competitive against the Ferrari – can you talk about how that was affected by the wet and the dry and how that competitive edge goes?
FA: We saw very tight timed laps yesterday, very close between the two teams, and today in qualifying we are only two-tenths (apart), all four drivers, so in the end nothing between dry and wet conditions changed too much in the battle between the two teams. As we saw today, I think it's extremely close and we had the advantage in the qualifying – maybe in the race we will struggle a little bit more, so we will see tomorrow.

Kimi, we saw you have a couple of moments in the wet – what was the Ferrari like in those conditions?
Kimi Raikkonen: It was OK actually, not too bad. We touched the kerbs a few times but it didn't really affect the lap times. I had traffic on the last lap and needed to back off. Anyhow, we had a small problem with the gearbox, so for sure we can fix it for tomorrow. I think we can be in good shape – we don't know what kind of weather we're going to have tomorrow, but it's the same for everybody, so we should have a good car for any kind of weather conditions.

Ferrari was less competitive on Friday afternoon than they appeared to be in the morning perhaps with set-up changes – you weren't able to verify that with the loss of the session on Saturday morning, so how does that place you for the race?
KR: I think we are pretty close to Friday morning, so it should be OK. The circuit is going to be different after the rain for the race tomorrow, so we'll wait and see. I'm confident that we'll have a good car in the race and it's going to be a tight race with all four cars.

Returning to you Lewis for some final thoughts. You're a rookie – we need to keep reminding ourselves of that – but the pressure must be intense where you are at the moment?
LH: I'm quite relaxed to be honest. With the way this weekend has gone, hopefully I'll be more relaxed. I'm in the perfect position – obviously I have these two breathing down my neck – but I'm not really too bothered. Again I just feel that the car's underneath me this weekend. Tomorrow's going to be a tough battle – we're all so close in time. The key is going to be to get down to the first corner, and leaving them.

Press Conference

Lewis, congratulations. How important is this pole position to you?
LH: As important as every pole position, but obviously to come to Japan, to Fuji, for the first Grand Prix here in a long time, and with everyone in the same boat – none of us know the track in the wet or the dry, and with limited testing as well – so to get pole position is critical. It helps. I'm really happy with the job I did.

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