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Press Conference - Alonso & Montoya 27 May 2004

(L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault and Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, European Grand Prix, Nurburgring, Germany, 27 May 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

With drivers Fernando Alonso (Renault) and Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams).

Q: Fernando, you had improvements to the car in Monaco and obviously the team won. Do you think we are going to see that even greater here, those improvements?
Fernando ALONSO:
It will be difficult. In Monaco we had a fantastic weekend, we finished first and third in the qualifying and probably first and second in the race with no problems and it was a very strong weekend for Renault. But Monaco is a very special track and here is different, maybe things will come back to normal. But, anyway, I think we have improved the car a lot. In Monaco we saw a little bit of that and here in Nuerburgring I hope we can confirm that Renault is closing the gap with Ferrari and we can fight with them on some occasions.

Q: What do you think will be the effect of the win on the team?
FA:
Well, the team has much more confidence now, after the last two races. In Barcelona we finished third and fourth; in Monte Carlo we were there, we won the race, and I think from a reliability point of view we are very strong, we have finished all the races with no problems in the car and we are looking quite competitive so I think we are up and rolling with good confidence and ready to get a good result and finish the race again.

Q: What about your own race in Monaco. Just for the sake of everyone here, can you just repeat what you saw happening there?
FA:
Again. Well, as I explained already, after more than half a lap with blue flags I had no space to pass Ralf and then when we arrived in the tunnel, the corner before, I think it is Mirabeau, he put on the inside and I planned to pass him after the tunnel into the chicane. But because in that corner he moved to the inside part, you know, and he slowed down, I tried to overtake him and we were side-by-side and he went on the throttle up to fifth gear and we arrived in the corner in the tunnel together, side-by-side, and I went off. He managed to put me into the wall.

Q: But we now know he had a gearbox problem.
FA:
Yeah, if you have a gearbox problem it is a time to slow down even more when you have a blue flag to let the person pass, I think. And he did have a big, big problem with the gearbox – he retired, nearly. In Monaco, at 300km/h, it is not very professional to do this.

Q: But it was pretty dirty off-line as well, wasn’t it?
FA:
Yeah, but I was not off-line. We were side-by-side in the corner, even if it is difficult with a blue-flag car to have to fight with him in the tunnel, we managed to arrive side-by-side in the corner.

Q: Juan Pablo, BMW-Williams won this race here last year. What chances of doing the same again?
Juan Pablo MONTOYA:
Well, I think it is a bit different to last year. We are in a bit of a harder position. Last year, at this point, we had a really strong car. I think we were a bit lucky to win here last year because I remember Kimi was the guy leading the race. But, you know, sometimes you need to be lucky, sometimes you need to be the quickest guy out there to win and, you know, we are going to try as hard as we can every weekend at least to make sure we try to be the quickest Michelin runner.

Q: Now, since Monaco, I believe you have been in Bulgaria. That is quite a lot of hard work.
JPM:
Yeah, I just went to Bulgaria on Tuesday for an Allianz day, they were launching a road safety campaign.

Q: But you feel quite rested for this race?
JPM:
Yeah, okay.

Q: There is also the rumour you are going to stay at Williams or you are not going to McLaren. Can you just clarify that?
JPM:
Nnyaah, somebody asked me and said: ‘Ah! You are going to BAR!’ And I am, like, ‘really!?’ No. I am 100 percent committed to going to McLaren and I am actually really looking forward to it.

Q: So, their current form doesn’t worry you at all?
JPM:
I am not driving the car so I am not too concerned! That’s the truth. You know, I know they are coming out pretty soon with the new car, hopefully it is more competitive and I am sure they will be ready when I get there. Even if they are not then we need to work together to be able to win. I am here at Williams at the moment and we are not very competitive either, are we?

Q: So, just coming back to Monaco again, can you give us your version of your incident with Michael?
JPM:
We were warming up the tyres, he went up the gears, I went up the gears, he braked hard to try to warm up the brakes, I braked as hard as I could to try to avoid him, I moved to the right to avoid him and I think he was following the safety car, trying not to pick up any debris from Alonso’s incident with Ralf, and I was beside him. I was against the wall and I think he wasn’t expecting that I would be there trying to avoid him. His back wheel went over my front wheel and that was it.

Q: How eager were you to end the lap? Did you know the safety car was coming in at that stage?
JPM:
Yeah, everybody knew before that because, you know, they tell the teams that the safety car is coming in on this lap and the lights on the safety car go off.

Q: So you were pretty keen to be right up behind him…
JPM:
(Interrupts) Why do I want to be keen to be behind him in the tunnel? I would be keen in the last corner…

Q: That’s what I said, yes.
JPM:
I was actually, you know, you look at a shot from the inside of the tunnel and you see him braking with the front tyres locking and you see me coming straight up the back of him and I actually managed to avoid him. I said at the last race, you know, that it was not the first time it had happened, with Michael, you know, warming up the brakes and things like that, and it is the first time that he was the unlucky one in the incident. I wasn’t really interested in going from fifth to fourth by taking Michael off, really.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Adrian Huber – Agencia Efe) Juan Pablo, what it your personal opinion of the incident involving Ralf and Fernando?
JPM:
To be honest with you, I haven’t seen it. Honestly, honestly, honestly, I haven’t seen it on TV. I had plenty of problems when I finished the race and I didn’t have time to watch it.

Q: (Jonathan Legard – BBC Radio 5 Live) Juan Pablo, what is your opinion of Sam Michael’s promotion because your team-mate thinks that in three to four races then Williams are up there. By the sounds of it, you don’t?
JPM:
No, I don’t know, you know. It is very hard to know how it is going to change, is it going to be Patrick completely out? I know he is going to be senior, you know, chief of the team, but I don’t think he can do too much in the short-term. I don’t know, are we going to have a new car? As far as I know we are not. He is probably going to try to push the team harder to come up more goods. Hopefully it can improve because I am still driving the car and I would like to have a quicker car. It is a matter of time, so we have to wait and see what happens. I cannot go and say, you know, Sam is in a higher position, so now we are going to win.

Q: (Jonathan Legard) It sounds as though the rest of the season is going to be just as much of a struggle as the first few races, then.
JPM:
Well, hopefully not. You know, hopefully like Ralf said, Sam can bring the things around. But I would be very surprised because Patrick was doing a very competitive job anyway. It’s not like Patrick was fingers crossed and waiting to see a miracle happen. Patrick was working really hard behind the car as well.

Q: (Jonathan Legard) But you can understand why Williams have made the changes, something needed to be done?
JPM:
Well, I don’t know even if the changes needed to be done that extremely but I am not involved in that. That is Williams’ decision, not mine. I drive the car.

Q: (Mike Doodson – Mike Doodson Associates) Juan Pablo, you said you didn’t see the incident with Ralf on the video but I guess you did see the one between yourself and Michael because I am assuming that when you went to the stewards’ inquiry they showed the video. After the race, normally when these things happen you are pretty aggressive but on this occasion you were very careful. Were you careful because, on this occasion, you thought the evidence was entirely in your favour?
JPM:
No, I think I was careful because I think it was really sad. I actually felt bad to see Michael out of the race like that. If we were fighting for position and we hit each other and we were both off the track or one off the track, you can be pissed off about it. I was a lap behind and that was as far forward as I was going to go because the third car was Rubens and he was probably 30 or 40 metres behind me, so, in 30 laps I wasn’t going to get the lap back, was I? So I wasn’t really bothered, I was going to push like always and that was it. I feel really bad because I wasn’t interested in getting involved in an accident, especially behind the safety car.

Q: (Adrian Huber) Fernando, after what happened last Sunday how difficult is it for you to focus 100 percent on this Grand Prix?
FA:
No, it is very, very easy. I think all the drivers, we manage to be 100 percent focussed on the next Grand Prix no matter what result you have in the previous race. I am sure that Jarno won the race in Monaco and will be 100 percent here, I didn’t finish in Monaco and I will be 100 percent here, it hasn’t changed.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) There are rumours that Jacques Villeneuve will return next year, maybe replacing you or maybe at another team. What would be your feelings at having Jacques back?
JPM:
I don’t know. I don’t know what to say. Great! You know. Good for him, that’s the only thing I can think of. The last few years he probably had some really tough years at BAR and I think, for him, it has to be really sad to see the car become competitive as soon as he left and he worked so many years with the team to try to get that, so I think it was pretty tough.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) To both of you, do you think this is going to be a weekend where Ferrari comes back strong again?
FA:
At the moment, before the free practice starts, in the picture we see the Ferraris in the front because after we saw in the first five races with four pole positions and five victories I think they have to prove they are still quick in all the circuits. Maybe in Monte Carlo was some exception, so I think Ferrari will be the team to beat, for sure.
JPM: I don’t think they have been off the pace at all, really. You know, in Monaco, as Fernando said, it is a different race than the normal races. The crucial thing is the tyres and how they behave and everything and I think here it is going to be probably the same old story. But, you know, we will try our best to stop it.

Q: (Adrian Huber) Fernando, what do you like best and what do you like least about this Grand Prix?
FA:
I like all the circuit, all the parts, probably the new sector, with the new corners, is not very interesting because it is very slow but it is a nice track here and we can see a good race here if the weather is okay.

Q: Both of you, but first to Juan Pablo, there is a rumour going around that Mika Hakkinen is coming back and going to Williams-BMW…
JPM:
So, Jacques and Mika next year at Williams?! (Laughter)

Q: If Mika does come back, do you think he could be competitive?
JPM:
Probably could, if he does plenty of testing he will probably be competitive, yeah. I think something you learn like driving you are not going to forget. You probably need more time to get the experience back but it would probably be okay, same as Jacques.
FA: Same. I think he would have to do a lot of tests to come back but he would still be quick, for sure.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri) Juan, were you surprised when it was announced that Sam Michael was going to replace Patrick Head?
JPM:
No, I knew about it. I already knew about it when it was announced, so no. It really doesn’t change anything. Probably the biggest effect on the team is going to be a long-term effect, rather than a short-term, and in the long-term I am not there so…