GP2 Series: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press conference for today's feature race here in Hockenheim: joining us we have race winner Johnny Cecotto from Addax, in second place we have Fabio Leimer from Racing Engineering, and in third place is Stéphane Richelmi from Trident. Johnny congratulations on another strong win: you told me earlier today you wanted mixed conditions, and you certainly got that, and you made a huge gamble by starting on slicks to set up the win. How does it feel?
Johnny Cecotto: It feels incredible, incredible! Starting from P17 to win the race is just incredible! We were at the pitwall before I got in the car, I saw the conditions and was speaking to the engineers and said "call me in as soon as possible", because I know that the track here dries up quickly, and I'm always quick in these mixed conditions.
I knew that we had to try the slicks as soon as possible, and I did the installation lap and saw that there were a few spots already that were drying up, and I told the team we should do the slick tyres after the formation lap: when everyone forms up on the grid I come into the pits and we change to slicks, so no one else copies us [laughs] The team said we should do it now, and we did it, and after the first lap I saw that I could keep the pace of the others more or less, just slightly slower, and I knew I just had to wait for 2 or 3 laps and we would start to fly.
GP2 Series: That wasn't the whole job of course: you had to stretch out a lead to give you time to stop. How was that period for you?
Johnny: That was really difficult, because when the track started to dry and everyone went on slicks, about lap 11 or 12, the team started to say "good pace, but you need to go five tenths quicker", so I started to push, and then it was "good pace, but we need two more tenths" [laughs] and I was pushing like crazy! I did 13 or 14 laps as if I was driving for pole! Off the track with 2 wheels, over the kerbs even though they were wet, and the team was saying "quite good, but two more tenths", and I had nothing more! [laughs] We were on the radio more than we were not on the radio!
It was really difficult, and then I said okay, I'm struggling with the tyres now, and they called me in: it was a little bit tricky because I'm always scared of the pitstop [laughs], and it was not amazing but it was okay. I came out in front of Fabio, and for a few laps I saw his pace and tried to go for the quickest lap, made a little mistake in the last corner, then there were yellow flags , and then just took it home, no problems.
GP2 Series: So, nice and easy day, then? [laughs]
Johnny: Yeah, the last ten laps were nice and easy, but all the rest was pretty tough! [laughs]
GP2 Series: How does this rate against your other wins so far?
Johnny: Amazing! Starting from P17 is just incredible, and in these difficult conditions even more. This one is really special, starting from so far behind and with such difficult conditions at the start. And there was such a lot of work from the team: the car was really good, I could just manage it in the last laps, and it was just great!
GP2 Series: Fabio, congratulations on P2, although I've got to ask: did you run over a black cat, or is there some other reason why the win just keeps slipping away?
Fabio Leimer: Well, I think the first thing is we have to be happy today: sure, on one side I'm a bit disappointed because we saw that we were really quick and in the end lost the race because we went out with the wet tyres, but when you start at the front you have to be conservative. I think we did the right decision: it dried up a little too quick, and we had to come in quite early to the pits, I think it was my earliest pitstop ever and I thought oh man, I have to drive the whole race on the same set of tyres, and I was really scared! [laughs] I was pushing at the beginning to get away from the other guys, but I was saving the tyres after that to keep them to the end, and when I saw Cecotto come out in front of me I knew I had no chance, and I just focused on the guys behind me, to be consistent and to save the tyres until the end.
GP2 Series: Did you consider starting on slicks at all?
Fabio: It was difficult to say, because when we went out it was still quite wet but Hockenheim usually dries up quite quickly, but I thought maybe it would be a bit longer wet. It dried really quickly, and when I came out I thought I was P1 until I saw the numbers on the big sign on the corner and saw I was P3, and I knew there were 2 guys who started with slicks. I already knew there it would be really difficult to win the race, and I just focused on saving the tyres.
GP2 Series: To look at the positives, you did what you had to do: you got by the guys ahead of you to take the lead and you were setting the pace. The win has to come soon, surely?
Fabio: Yeah, I hope so! [laughs] This season I've shown many times I can be quick, in the wet and in the dry, and until now I've been a little bit unlucky because I've had many chances but always something happens, which is frustrating! But we have to look forward: we are really quick, that the positive thing, and we just have to work hard and look for a win next time, and just keep bringing back the points.
GP2 Series: Stephane, congratulations on P3 today and a great drive in conditions much the same as Johnny's: how was it for you in the car today?
Stéphane Richelmi: As Johnny said, it was the gamble to take: starting so far away on the grid we had nothing to lose. As soon as I exited the pits I said I want to try the slicks, and on the grid I saw everyone with wet tyres and I said maybe it's early but we are starting at the back, and then I saw Johnny and I had someone in front I could follow and see his pace [laughs] For me the first goal was to stay on the track, because in the wet with dry corners it's easy to make a mistake, and I was fighting with my teammate and others on wet tyres: I wasn't pushing too much, and I was a bit scared to be honest, but to enjoy this gamble I had to do it.
When everybody went into the pits I had the soft tyres, I knew I could be faster than Johnny, I pushed the most I could and closed the gap a bit, and tried to push until we could just change the 2 tyres to keep on the softs. The stop went well, and I have to say thank you to the team, and after this I was fighting with van der Garde and Melker so I lost a bit of time, but I knew I had fresher tyres than them so I could overtake. After this the question mark was will the soft tyres last to the end, so I tried to manage the best I could without pushing too much, because the the soft tyres are fast but they normally take just 5 or 6 laps, so I managed the throttle and I saw Leimer was struggling with the tyres, but he was just too far away.
GP2 Series: I was going to ask about that, because you two are the only ones with a normal strategy: how were the tyres today?
Stéphane: For sure we started with a set up between wet and dry, and we decided to start with soft tyres because in damp conditions they have more grip: when it was all dry I knew I would have to manage them, but the car was great because at the end I still had tyres, and we were quick enough. I only made 2 laps in the dry [in free practice], so I had to take some braking points and everything, but also I didn't want to push too much and make a stupid mistake, just stay on track.
GP2 Series: It's a huge result for you and the team after a difficult season: what does this mean for them?
Stéphane: It's really good for the confidence, for me and for the team, because we know we can do something great in the dry, and for sure I would prefer the qualy in the dry because the rain put me in P22, but without this I would have started on wets like everybody. So it's a bit of chance today, and now I think we'll enjoy the next race, and hopefully in the dry! [laughs]