Despite teams’ varying programmes, just a second covered the top ten cars in Friday practice in Barcelona, proof indeed of just how tight things will be this weekend. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel is riding high on the back of his Bahrain win and a positive Mugello test which has almost certainly boosted the RB8’s performance. Now he wants to plant it on pole on Saturday…
Q: Sebastian, after four flyaway races, Formula One is starting its European leg this weekend. What do you make up of the season so far?
Sebastian Vettel: Well, we had four races and four different winners – that in itself is already an unusual situation, as no team has come out a clear favourite – and we had the first in-season test in years. I expect all the teams to have significant updates on their cars here, including us, but how good these updates are is something that we will see on Saturday afternoon.
Q: What is your gut feeling?
SV: I think we should be okay. We have quite a number of new parts on the car this weekend and the question will be if they all deliver what they are supposed to – how much of a step forward we were able to take compared to the others.
Q: Do you think that this test in Mugello has any positive impact?
SV: Well, as a driver you are probably always happy to get more mileage. Every additional day in the car – away from the stress of a race weekend – is very welcome as it gives you the chance to try things that you probably would not do when completely focusing on setting up the car for a race. And my guess is that the test helped us. We have not been entirely satisfied, so we concentrated on the areas that needed improvement – and hopefully it will deliver. True, Mugello is a completely different track – nothing that we find on the race calendar – so it is difficult to compare. I would say the real benefit was to try things without stress. For me personally I have to say that I loved the Mugello track – it was fun to drive there as this track definitely has no low-speed corners.
Q: Tyres were a big topic at each of the four races. You are considered a ‘tyre whisperer’. What is that? What qualifications come with this attribute?
SV: It is really true – tyres get more headlines this year than in any other season I can remember. What we obviously all have realized so far is that tyres do degrade more than in other years – and that this degradation is dependent on, among other things, driving style. Overall it can be said that the longer you can stay out the better, but that is a bit tricky as you must not miss out on the right moment to pit, as from one lap to the other they can go belly up! (laughs) Maybe one of the secrets is it to avoid such a situation.
Q: Last year you won three of the first four races – this year it is only one. Are you satisfied with it has gone so far?
SV: Overall, yes. A lot was written after the first three races, so the Bahrain win was indeed becoming of us as it was proof that we are not too far off the top. I think it was the start of a season that fans dream about. Maybe we would have dreamt about another situation – to be a bit stronger – but in the end we can be satisfied as we were systematically able to bag the points that we were there for us.
Q: When you say that it is a ‘fan’ season, what do you see as the prime reason for that?
SV: I think it has a number of causes. Maybe also there have been some changes in the regulations that clipped wings here and there to let the grid come closer together – to a degree we haven’t seen in years. Big revolutionary ideas are a thing from the past – the new regulations simply would not permit it. The big differences are a thing of the past – now the small differences are what matter and small differences translate into smaller gaps. That is what we have right now. One tenth nowadays can mean P10 and not P3. It’s the ‘small cause-big effect’ season.
Q: Coming back to the race on Sunday, this track is known to be hard on the tyres, but on the other hand overtaking is not that easy. So what will be more important for a good result: to save the tyres or get the maximum grip?
SV: Both – even if that sounds impossible. That is our job, to balance that the best way we can. I think that probably pole position here is more important than at the previous races – so a good qualifying lap and you are half way there. It will be a gamble how many stops you need – last year we did four – so I think we are in a similar situation to last year. We will see a lot of stops and some variations in strategy. That will keep us busy and hopefully entertain the fans. (laughs)
Q: So how likely is pole position tomorrow?
SV: The funny thing is we all did a lot of mileage today, but still it is impossible to say who’s got the edge. It will be key to analyze the date very carefully ahead of tomorrow. I would say it looks quite promising for us, but as I said before this track is pretty tough on the tyres so everything will depend on the ability to manage them well.
Q: Pirelli are running a wider gap between compounds here. How big is the gap that you have between the softs and the hards?
SV: It’s quite significant, so if you want to grab pole position you definitely will choose the softs. So my guess is that for qualifying you will see everybody on soft tyres.
(Courtesy of http://www.formula1.com)