BY CHERYL TAY
The 2012 Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix officially got to a start with the first two practice sessions held on Friday night. Sebastian Vettel dominated both sessions with the fastest times, while his team-mate Mark Webber only managed fourth and sixth. Pole position is extremely crucial for tight circuits like Singapore's, with limited overtaking opportunities, and Webber will try his best to get pole, or at least on the right side of the grid where, according to him, it is not as slippery.
Sitting down with Webber, we get his thoughts on the Singapore Grand Prix and the entire season.
Q: The contract renewal for the Singapore Grand Prix has not been done yet. What do you think of it?
A: It's a very prestigious race and unique in the sense that it is a night race. Abu Dhabi is more of a twilight race, whereas Singapore is a real race through the streets at night. For us, it's sensationally organised very well and it's a clean city. All of us love coming to race in Singapore. It is an international destination and most people just travel through with aeroplanes, but the Grand Prix will get people to make a pit stop here. It's obviously very good for you guys here in terms of tourism, to get people to come visit the country and see how beautiful it is.
Q: There seems to be more tension within other teams, does that take pressure off you?
A: No, there are always expectations within our own group to achieve good results irrespective of what other teams are doing. We need to perform in a winning mentality. We have the results to do that, we have the funding to do that, we have everything in place, we have the people and so that's what our goal is. For us to accept anything lower is not really what we want to do. Even though at the moment we are not dominant, we have work to do and it will be rewarding to get ourselves back into winning ways.
Q: What do you think is the main reason for the team's dip in performance compared to the previous season?
A: That's a very good question and it's probably a better question for Christian (Horner). I'm driving the car and I know how the team is operating, but not as much as Christian as he obviously operates the team day to day and working at really where he sees we can keep the level where we used to have it. If you get the chance I will ask him the question and see what he thinks. It is also a question for me as well.
Q: Any insights from yourself?
A: There is no one silver bullet, not one switch that says we are on and off. We have a lot, a lot of areas and technical departments — everyone has to come together to understand the regulations, tyres, strategies. There are just so many things and it's incredibly complex to win at this level. We have done quite a lot of it in the past and at the moment it is a little bit dry for us. Why is this happening? It is just a small drop in performance that puts you in an area where you're not in a winning position. The level is always high and you have team's expectations that are so high.
We are leading the constructors' championship, but everyone is saying we are not performing well. Many teams would love to have the points we have now. I would say probably 90 per cent of the grid will love to have the points we have now but they don't. We have a lot of points but we still have to keep doing better and getting back to the ways we used to.
Q: How critical is Singapore for the championship?
A: We need a strong weekend in Singapore, we need good points. The next three to four races are important to have good ones. You need to stay in the hunt — that's the important thing, staying in the hunt just like lottery tickets. You have some lottery tickets, you have the chance. We have a very good chance to keep getting good points. There are seven races to go and yeah I'm excited by that. Fernando (Alonso) has the lead in the drivers' championship and we have to keep improving our performance to keep the team championship as well.
Q: Singapore is known for its unforgiving track and as part of the chasing pack, what is your focus for the race?
A: Of course, the balance of aggressiveness and pace and also knowing that I need to see the chequered flag. It's a long race and it can rain in the race. Many things can happen in the race — cars can have problems, drivers can have problems and mistakes can be made. I have had a good record on street circuits so I'm looking forward to improve my record here.
Q: Do you have any superstitions or routine that you usually follow?
A: I always get in the car from the left hand side. No particular reason but I've always been doing this from my go kart days because the engine is on the right hand side and you burn yourself if you touch the engine.
Q: Both Sebastian (Vettel) and you are close in the fight, will you be getting a fair share?
A: Yes it's the only way to get the most out of the team. If we are dropping off from one guy, then it's not just dropping off from myself but also from my mechanics, dropping off from everybody, so we have to have both cars prepared to the maximum. That is fair for the team and both drivers to fight for the championship.
Q: What's the strategy for the weekend?
A: The last three races in Singapore were won from pole, so evidently, it's important to get pole. Also, left hand side of the track here is very slippery, so second position is not the best to start from. Pole position and third position are good.
Q: There are so many drivers in with the chance of winning the championship, are you enjoying it?
A: I prefer to just be one or two. I don't enjoy it but it's good for fans I know. Let's see how the next three to four races go. It's a very interesting season for sure.
Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at www.cheryl-tay.com.