Thursday Press Conference - Part One 18 Mar 2004
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
With Renaults Fernando Alonso and Ferraris Rubens Barrichello.
Q: Its interesting that you and Ferrari see Fernando and Renault as the greatest threat to your current supremacy after Melbourne. Is that the case? Why?
Rubens BARRICHELLO: It goes back a little bit. In testing, if you analyse it, you see that they have been doing very good times, maybe not as much on new tyres, but they have been very competitive throughout long runs, simulations, and things like that. So the race two weeks ago was just proof of that and I think they have the most competitive car behind us, and so it seems that because they have been competitive here last year, its only natural to think that they could be competitive again.
Q: You were on the podium here last year, and on pole position, its obviously a favourite for you?
Fernando ALONSO: Yeah, obviously it was a fantastic race for me last year and I hope to repeat a good weekend. Every race, every year is different and more and more difficult, but were happy with the car. It seems that we dont have any reliability problems, its quite strong and we hope to finish the race and to score more points because it would be a good result, we think.
Q: You talk about this being a challenging circuit, what is it that makes it so challenging?
FA: You have all types of corners here in Sepang. You have very slow corners, high speed corners, downhill, uphill, long straights. So its difficult to set up the car for all parts of the circuit. For the driver, it makes it a very tough race, for the temperature, there are a lot of laps and it will be an interesting weekend, I think.
Q: Now youve been preparing in Maldives, what have you been doing there?
FA: Nothing! We relaxed a little bit, we did a lot of preparation for this race. You know the temperature there was quite similar to here so we brought the two trainers with us and we worked very hard, but at the same time we relaxed a little bit. We did different things: snorkelling, beach volley, the kind of things that you cant do in Europe at the moment and it was quite fun.
Q: And there was poor old Rubens going round and round Valencia, working hard while everyone else was on holiday! Is that true?
RB: Huh, huh. So I deserve to win, thank you!
Q: Its interesting, you were the only top race driver from the top four or five teams who was actually testing.
RB: I was probably the only one, if you think about it. There were several other teams, and although they had the test drivers there, of the ones who were racing, I was probably the only one. Tough business. I wish I could have been in the Maldives!
Q: But after this one, youre going back to Brazil.
RB: Yeah, yeah. So they can go back and test for me.
Q: But I think its an interesting point that you were the only race driver to go back and test and maybe some of the other teams were thinking hey, why arent our guys going back to test?
RB: I tell you, it wasnt my choice. To be very honest with you, the first day I was useless. It was no good at all. Even though I had a good nights sleep, I was no good. I felt like my helmet was up here (draws line just below his eyes) and things were acting like I couldnt react to everything. I was lucky it was raining, so I didnt do many laps. The next day was OK, so I was able to test, but I actually told the team that I think Badoer was probably more useful than I was because to go back and forward was a bit too much. If you talk about Malaysia, its one flight of twelve hours, but from Australia was like two flights of 12 hours so I wasnt in good shape on the first day of the test; the second, I was OK.
Q: I dont know how warm it was there for you, but its obviously going to be very warm here. A lot of people say that it was an advantage for you in Melbourne, that it was cooler, but how much are you prepared and how much is your tyre company prepared for the kind of conditions we are going to see here? And how much of it is guesswork?
RB: At the end of the day, its a guess for the two companies, Michelin and Bridgestone. Theres nowhere in Europe you can get a track with that sort of temperature so Valencia, I guess, was the closest one. We had something like 25 degrees on the asphalt whereas here you can have more than 40. But the tyre that I tried to pick for here wasnt the fastest one, just because it was fastest in Valencia didnt meant it was faster here or good here, so you had to go for a feeling, you had to go for experience on the race track, just guessing, just really transporting every data that you had to Malaysia and see what comes. Even so, its very difficult for everyone because if its a bit hotter than in other years or a little cooler in other years, then youve made a bad choice. So it was a bit of guessing and a bit of safety on the two tyres that weve brought.
Q: Fernando, did you feel disadvantaged to Ferrari, for instance, because of the tyres during the race in Melbourne?
FA: Well, I felt the whole package was disadvantaged. I think it was impossible to follow the Ferraris in the first part of the race and I dont know if it was because of the tyres or the car is better than ours, we will find out in the next Grands Prix.
Q: One thing that Rubens said after qualifying at Melbourne was that because the two qualifying sessions were so close to one another, he wasnt at 100 per cent in the first session but he was in the second. What about your situation?
FA: Yeah, I was more or less the same. Now both qualifying sessions are very close, you cant make any mistakes in the first one because you would probably miss the second one or you would have to take the T-car and you lose ten places, so theres no reason to push too much in the first session. But anyway, you have to get a good position to start. But I think we will see some strange Qualy Ones (first part of the qualifying session) this season.
Q: But Rubens, you are saying that the first qualifying session isnt necessarily that important?
RB: Especially in Melbourne it was not important. Ive learned over the last four or five years that if somebody doesnt run for an hour, and there are no cars on the track, and you come back, the track is at least a second slower, the first time out. The second car has a bit better (track conditions), the third and so on. After five cars have run, the track gets to a minimum of the problem. So knowing I was the first car out, there was really no point, there was no point at all. I guess Malaysia is going to be a bit different, because the track is ready all the time, and with the heat Sometimes being the first car its actually cooler, so you can actually get an advantage from that. But having said that, I just thought there was no point in pushing in the first qualifying session and its going to be that for the whole year, even because youre sitting at the press conference, and you tell us have you noticed that Juan Pablo was first in the first qualifying? You always havent noticed, because it has gone by to the second qualifying so quickly. So theres no value for whoever finished first, second or third in the first qualifying.
Q: Would there be more value if it was on a Friday, do you think?
RB: I think so because then its a different day, you have time to get it in the press, you have everything. At least it gives you a chance to push. I won my first Grand Prix last year when on the Friday I spun, if you remember, so I was dead last on Friday, and then I came on Saturday and I was on pole. So at least you have different situations. If it was last year like this year, I would have ruined my chances of being on pole.
Q: What are your feelings, Fernando?
FA: Yeah, more or less the same. Probably Friday qualifying gives you a little bit of safe time, if you have any problems with the car, to repair the car and be ready on the Saturday. As I said before, if you have spun or damaged the car in the first qualifying, you have to take the T-car, you lose ten places. Its difficult to push at the maximum in the first qualifying I think.
Q: Is it team policy that you dont push hard, or is it just your own personal feelings?
FA: For me its personal feeling, but Im sure that the team would not be happy if I damaged the car in Qualy One.
RB: Me too, but they could keep the same philosophy. But if you go out on Friday and youre trying to go for a time and you damage (your car) and you have to take the T-car and lose ten positions, I think thats something which would at least maybe make it more interesting for the public. But make it separate again.
Q: One other question, before I throw everything open: I believe theres been a fire at Maranello over the last few days. Has it affected the racing team at all? What do you know about it?
RB: Nothing. Has there been a fire there? I left my car in Monaco, so its OK.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Marco Evangelisti Corriere dello Sport): Fernando, sorry about this question, but how did you react when you learned what had happened in Madrid last week? And are you going to wear some sign of condolence, a black armband or something, during the race?
FA: Yeah, I will wear two things: the Spanish flag on the helmet and something on my arm. I was in the Maldives and it was difficult to have any news because we didnt have any internet, phones, etc, etc. But I spoke with my home one day and they told me and I felt so shocked, sad because it had happened to normal people, like you, like me, workers, kids going to school. It was a sad and difficult moment. We are living at a difficult time around the world, everywhere, not only in Spain. And I want to express here my condolences to all the families. Its difficult for Spain and for the whole world, I think.
Q: (Fredrik Huldt Auto Motor & Sport): Theres been a lot of talk about tyre testing up until now. Most of it, I guess, has been running on dry tyres. Theres a possibility of rain, at least, on Sunday. Can you comment on that?
RB: Were very much prepared. Weve been doing some work on wet tyres too. If it rains, maybe it will be a bit cooler, so maybe nicer? But apart from that, theres no comment really. Were quite okay, prepared.
FA: We hope no rain, at least dry conditions for the Michelin runners would be a little bit better. But you never know. Wet races are always a little bit different, a little bit crazy, and maybe we can have an advantage with a wet race. In Sao Paulo last year we saw a wet race and the Michelin runners were not too bad in that race. If it rains, its the same for everybody.
Q: (Kevin Garside, The Daily Telegraph): Fernando, given the tragic events of last week, Im sure it would be marvellous to dedicate a victory to all those who lost their lives, and it would be a great morale booster to the people of Spain. Do you think you are in a position to deliver something like that this weekend?
FA: It will be difficult. Victories are always very hard in Formula One, but its one of the best moments of the year to have one first place.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport):Fernando, do you feel that, of the Michelin runners, Renault has a bit of an advantage over Williams-BMW and (McLaren-Mercedes from what youve seen in Melbourne and from winter testing?
FA: Well, its a little bit too early to say after only one race but Im sure that in Melbourne we were a little bit quicker than McLaren, they seemed to have a few more problems than us, especially reliability. I think Williams is very strong, I think they have very competitive cars. The race in Melbourne was a little bit difficult for them. I think they got a lot of traffic after the first corner and I think they will again be very strong here. I dont think we have any advantage compared to them. They will be very hard to beat.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri): Many people commented on the very good start that you and Jarno had in Melbourne. Is it just a better system this year or you and Jarno have trained a lot on this and came out pretty well?
FA: The reaction was very good. No, obviously the team did a very good job this winter. We tested the starts a lot. We worked very close with the technocentre as well, with the normal cars at Renault, and I think the good starts also came from the natural traction that the cars have, probably more than the others. But, as before, its a little bit too early to say. We have had only one race and we hope to repeat it here as well.
Q: (Marco Evangelisti): You were talking about the technocentre at Renault; how do they get involved?
FA: They work very close to the team, in terms of traction control, in terms of engine, fuel saving, also in safety. They do a lot of crash tests for us, with the Formula One as well and they have been working very closely for the last two years.
Q: Does that happen at Ferrari as well, particularly with the Fiat Group?
RB: For us its probably a little bit easier because theres just one company working on the whole package. It happens much more often that things that we experiment with on the racing car go to the road car. But it could happen with some ideas from other people as well.
Q: (Paolo Ianrieri): Looking forward to the next race in Bahrain, what sort of information do you have at this stage, a completely unknown circuit in terms of racing?
RB: At the press conference today, a guy said it was more humid and hotter than here, so I told him we were going to die inside the car. Thats the only information I have because before I had heard it was hotter but not humid at all. So thats pretty much like Brazil. But Ive only seen the racing track on paper. Ive no idea which is Shanghai and which one is Bahrain. Ill probably get there very early just to get a feel for it.
FA: Same thing. I know the track from the paper but Ive heard that its very hot and dry, not humid, and now we will find out.
Q: Fernando, we know there is a good relationship between you and Jarno Trulli. What about the rumours saying that next year Ralf Schumacher could be your teammate?
FA: I know nothing. I know nothing. I dont think so. Im very happy to work with Jarno and I hope that next year we stay at Renault again.
Q: Did you speak with Jarno about what happened at the first turn, because Jarno was a little bit disappointed in Melbourne?
FA: No, no. We didnt speak, but everything was OK. We spent all week playing football in the Maldives and nothing, nothing obviously to speak about. You, the press, you take a little more. We say one thing and you write more things than we said.
Q: Were you just playing football, or are you still playing tennis?
FA: Continuing. We play football tennis this time.
Q: Who wins?
FA: The physios won. We are very disappointing. In doubles its Jarno and me against them and we lost - every day!