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Japan GP: Post Qualifying press conference

NEWS STORY
11/10/2008

Lewis, that looked pretty close. You were just behind Felipe in Q2 but a great run in Q3 for you.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, we had quite a good qualifying session, quite a bit different to Singapore and to Monza but we didn't have any problems through Q2, so it was pretty straightforward. We were very quick in Q1 and we were also very quick in Q2 but Felipe obviously was 0.2 quicker but at least that got us through and usually when you put the heavier fuel in, it gets tougher. The first lap didn't seem to be very good. I think Kimi was just ahead of me. I think I was third. The last lap I managed to put all the sectors together and pick up my last sector and bring it home, so I was very, very happy. The team have done a phenomenal job. As you know the reliability of our car has been phenomenal for the last two years, so without them we obviously wouldn't have this. It is all down to them.

What is it about you and Fuji as you seem to love this place.
LH: I do like Fuji. I love it here in Japan. It is my third time in Japan. The whole atmosphere here is quite unique. I think the people here are probably the nicest people I have ever met and the food is great. We are out in the mountains next to Mount Fuji which is a spectacular view. The track is really cool. The whole feeling around here feels good and it is great to be here again.

What was the mood like between Q2 and Q3 as Felipe has been slightly quicker in Q2?
LH: Going into qualifying we had already decided what our strategy would be and we believed it would be competitive and put us in a good position for the race. But as you know always in qualifying it is down to you not making mistakes and putting the sectors together and really pulling out the lap and so it can be very tough but again we had very good pace here. We have been able to outpace the Ferraris which is great for us and I think a really strong showing from me and from Heikki, so hopefully tomorrow we can push forward with the strategy we have and really challenge for the front.

Kimi, back on the front row for the first time since Magny-Cours.
Kimi Raikkonen: Yes, it is nice to be back. But I mean it is still not where I want to be. Still second but still not very happy with how things are going. I am still not happy with the car and it is quite frustrating. Usually the qualifying has been the worst place for us but we should be strong in the race. But we will see what we can do tomorrow and hopefully we will get a good race. Like I said, it has not been easy lately in the races but we have done a lot of work and finally we have got a little result out of it, so it is good to be here and it is a good place to start with tomorrow.

Kimi, you were quickest for a while in Q3. But can you be a bit more specific about how it went?
KR: I mean the issue what we have has been there always, so it has not really changed much. It is something that of course when you go into qualifying you cannot change much anymore and you need to live with it and try to get the best out of it. Both laps were pretty okay but there is for sure improvements if we get the things as we want. But like I said, we are in a good place for the race.

What is your mindset going into the race as mathematically you are still in with a chance of the championship?
KR: Like I say, I don't have much to lose. For sure we want to try to win both championships but it is not going to be easy against McLaren. But I will do the best job I can tomorrow and hopefully we can fight for the win and if we can get it, that would be nice. But I don't look to the championship that much now. I just try and go and win some races and finish with a nice three last races of the season. That would be good.

Heikki, a great qualifying run from you too.
Heikki Kovalainen: Yeah, it was a pretty good session all the way though. I took a little bit of time to get up to speed in Q1 but then by Q2 everything felt pretty good. The car felt well balanced. Then on the last part of qualifying I felt I put two pretty good laps together. As always small mistakes, small moments but I think third was the maximum we could get today but hopefully tomorrow things will work out fine for us and of course we have both championships on the table, so for myself it is also important to try to score as many points as possible. The target is to do the maximum points tomorrow.

Do you agree with Lewis in terms of how good the McLaren feels around here?
HK: Yeah, it is not only in Fuji to be honest. It has felt pretty good all the way through the season. Perhaps there were a couple of races earlier in the season when we thought the gap to Ferrari seemed to be quite big but the team reacted very, very well and we made huge improvements before half-way through the season and since then I think we have been on the right track and the whole team has put a huge effort in and it has been a continuous improvement up to today and it will carry on to Brazil. It is just a fantastic effort from everybody and the car feels good everywhere but it still means it is a pretty close fight and if you fall off a little bit then you lose three or four places in qualifying straight away, so you really have got to nail everything but I am really, really happy in this team.

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