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FIA Thursday press conference - Japan 06 Oct 2005

(L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault with Flavio Briatore (ITA) Renault Team Principal and Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, 6 October 2005

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), Fernando Alonso (Renault). Team principal: Flavio Briatore (Renault).

Q: How has life been since Sao Paulo, Fernando?
Fernando Alonso:
It seems strange. It is a dream come true and I have enjoyed this week so much. I have not done anything special but just remembered the great moments of this 2005 season and my career.

Q: Have you been at home in Spain or Oxford?
FA:
In Oxford. I was there all week and my family came there and then at the weekend some friends as well, so it was quite easy.

Q: So how will life change from now?
FA:
Nothing’s really changed. We did a good job this season, we won the championship but Formula One is different every year. Next year will be a new motivation, a new challenge with the new rules so hopefully we can maintain this level and we can fight for the title again, or maybe not, who knows? What we have done is fantastic for Renault and for me and life keeps going.

Q: You mentioned in Sao Paulo that you would be less conservative in the next two races, so what will we see different?
FA:
In terms of performance I think that it will be similar because when you have the helmet on, you close the visor and you go for it. Also in Sao Paulo I tried to win the race, but obviously in some parts of the race, at the start, maybe when Juan Pablo overtook me on the second lap, maybe you are a little bit conservative because that isn’t the time to take risks and maybe it will be more difficult to overtake me.

Q: What has been the most important or significant point about this season?
FA:
I think the whole season was important. Probably the first races were the most important because I took this 20-point advantage to all the opponents and then in the second part I maintained the gap. Australia was probably the best race this year because I finished third but I fought a lot with some bad luck as well in qualifying with the rain conditions etc, but those six points, I knew, were very important.

Q: What have you learned this year?
FA:
I learned when you have a good car you can win, that is the only thing, because I fought with the R23 which was a good car but I only won the Hungarian Grand Prix. The car was so-so and I finished sixth in the championship. Last year the car was very difficult to drive and we had a lot of problems but I still finished fourth in the championship. But I was missing something, I was missing something to win the championship with and now I have the answer: you need a good car and a good team, but if you have everything together you can win.

Q: And your hopes for 2006?
FA:
I hope to fight again for the title. This championship was so exciting for me, every race with very high motivation and enjoying all the races. I think the only difference compared to the previous season was that I was leading the championship or was close to leading the championship and for next year, all the team and me, we hope to try to fight again to the last races with options in the championship but if we can win, even better.

Q: Michael Schumacher is in his 14th or so World Championship season, can you see yourself still racing in ten years’ time?
FA:
I don’t know. I think you need to have a good car to keep the motivation like Michael has had throughout his career. I think that with Ferrari he found good motivation and when they put everything together and they started to win races and championships, it is impossible to stop because you enjoy it so much and if this happened to us, it would be not difficult to keep going for so many years but if you have six or seven years with not the best car and you cannot win I think you retire a little bit earlier than him.

Q: Flavio, what have been the effects for Renault of winning the Drivers’ Championship?
Flavio Briatore:
The best possible thing is to win. We are very happy. You know we started the Renault Formula One programme in 2001 and after four years we won the championship. Fernando has done an incredible job, especially last year and this year, and we don’t forget that he is only 24. He’s been very mature. If you look at the races from Australia to Brazil he was really fantastic. His professionalism has been fantastic, he’s been cool. We have had a lot of pressure, especially in the last three or four races, really because you never know. McLaren have been very, very quick. Our cars performed very well during the first part of the season and after Barcelona McLaren was really so quick. But Fernando managed to maintain the difference between himself and Kimi. I believe it was fantastic for Formula One to have Fernando and Kimi fighting up to Brazil for the championship. And for Renault, it is the first time that a major motor manufacturer has won the championship with a young driver – it’s fantastic. I believe all of us in the team, everybody in the Renault team has enjoyed this. It was really amazing.

Q: Obviously you want to win the Constructors’ Championship as well, does anything change for these final two races?
FB:
I hope so. As Fernando said, we know that the McLaren are very very quick and at this moment we need to try our best to win the Constructors’ Championship. It is important as well. But we try; we are making the best effort between Fernando and Giancarlo. But on the other hand, we are very very happy with the Drivers’ Championship because, in the end, it is the Formula One Drivers’ Championship at the moment and we’ve done it. Now, if we don’t win the Constructors’ Championship, then congratulations to McLaren.

Q: The Constructors’ Championship is obviously about both drivers, what are your feelings about Giancarlo’s season this year?
FB:
Everybody’s seen Giancarlo’s season. He had a very good start, after that, between the team and Giancarlo’s luck, we had some failures with the car and engine, and Giancarlo made a few mistakes. It is the first year for Giancarlo to be in a top team like Renault and always when you change teams, you need to get used to the team. The relationship between us and Giancarlo is fantastic; the relationship between the two drivers is fantastic. This is what is most important. Both drivers are working for the team and I’m sure for next season Giancarlo is there. The championship is not finished yet, the Constructors’ Championship. His aim is to help Fernando win the Constructors’ Championship as well. Plus driving next to Fernando is not so easy, especially this year when Fernando has made no mistakes – possibly in Canada – but only one. The car has finished every race, Fernando’s car has finished every race. I believe it is about finishing every race in the points. It is very difficult for another driver to cope with this kind of performance. You know overall I’m very happy with the team, very happy for everybody. When you’re winning, you need to be happy, not complaining.

Q: Kimi, to what extent is the season now finished for you personally?
Kimi Raikkonen:
For the Drivers’ Championship, but there are still two races to try to win the Constructors’ Championship but we will do the best that we can for the last two remaining races.

Q: Does anything change for you in these last two races?
KR:
Of course, in one way because we’re fighting hard for the Drivers’ Championship and for me personally it is more important than for the others but of course I want to do the best for the team also but it’s not so exciting any more.

Q: So, what has been the most significant point for you this season?
KR:
I think once we got back to Europe, the package started to go better, we got the best out of the car and the package, so I think that was the important part of the season and then we started winning. Of course it was nice to win races and we aimed to win the championship also but anyhow we did the best we could and we will try next year again.

Q: So what have you learned this year?
KR:
I don’t know what I’ve learned really. Of course, you always learn from mistakes, from your driving in races, but nothing really significant.

Q: Your hopes for 2006?
KR:
We will try to fight for the championship and try to win it but with all the new rules we don’t know what’s going to happen next year. But I think we will have a good package anyhow and hopefully it will be good enough for winning races and fighting for the championship.

Q: And in ten years time, can you see yourself still racing?
KR:
I don’t know. I think that is too far away. It all really depends on the coming years. If you enjoy it then maybe you will keep going, but ten years is quite a long time, so I don’t know.

Q: Finally, there is continuous speculation about you and Ferrari. Can you make a comment?
KR:
They’re not new rumours, they are already three years old. But of course, now, everyone knows that my contract is only to next year with McLaren, so maybe it becomes more exciting to write about those rumours but the fact is that I have a contract next year and I’m happy with the team and for sure the car will also be good next year and I don’t see any reason to go anywhere else. OK, after next year, we will see again, but I’m happy to stay.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Sal Zanca – AP) Fernando and Flavio, at what point did you feel this would be the year? Was it back in winter testing, first race of the season; when was the time that you felt that this was special?
FA:
I don’t know. I think, as I said before, the car was competitive from the winter but you never know. In the races the McLaren was competitive in the winter, and we all expected Ferrari to have a dominant position again, like in the previous years, But after maybe four or five races the team won all of them and I was quite confident that the 2005 season was the opportunity for me. But you never know until the last moment because, as we saw, the McLaren started to be quick, the Ferrari will come back before soon, and we were a little bit concerned about this, but from the beginning of the season we were confident.
FB: Well, the same. In the winter tests, McLaren and Renault were the fastest two. We didn’t know about Ferrari because Ferrari never tested with us, but as Fernando said, in the first part of the season our reliability was very, very good. The team had done a very good job regarding engine and chassis, and up until Barcelona we were really, really good. After that, it was important as well for Fernando to keep the difference between Kimi and himself at 22 to 24 points from the beginning. McLaren have come back very strongly but the gap was already 23 or 24 points. We already took some assurance from that. It’s like in football, if you win the first part of the game 3:0 you don’t need to win 4:0.

Q: (Ken Kawakita - Sportiva) This year, the tyre plays a very important role. How important is the tyre performance and also how much did you enjoy the relationship with Michelin this season?
KR:
I think the relationship has been very good with Michelin, the tyres have been very good every race, apart from occasionally, and it doesn’t matter if the weather has been dry or wet. It is important to have a good package because the biggest difference you can have with the tyres is around a second or so, if you compare with the chassis and the engine, and so we have been very happy with them.
FA: I have been very happy, thanks to Michelin. We have an advantage this year compared to Bridgestone, and what we didn’t have in the previous seasons we had in 2005, so thanks to them we also beat Ferrari this year.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Kimi, you have lost the championship twice in three years, which one is the more bitter experience?
KR:
I think the first one; it was closer, so it was more painful. We saw quite a long time ago that it would be very difficult to catch them. We saw that they are very reliable and even though we kept winning they kept finishing behind us, so unfortunately it wasn’t such a big thing. But of course we would rather win it than lose it.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) For all of you, about Michael, he is quite old, older than both of you, so can I have your opinion on him, and for Kimi, Montoya has dominated the last three races, what is your opinion about the situation in the team, that he looks stronger and more confident than before?
KR:
I think I have won one of those races, so it is not too bad, some days he is quicker than me, other days I am quicker than him, I think not much has changed in the season. Now there are two races to go, we will see which one is going to be quicker, but it is not going to change much anyhow. About Michael, I don’t think he has lost anything of his speed. I think they have had a difficult season this year, their package has not been as good as before, so people are just thinking that he is a bit slower than last year but I don’t think that happens so quickly.
FA: The same, I think Michael is still Michael and he didn’t change anything compared to previous seasons. The Ferrari was not as strong any more and he didn’t get the opportunity to win many races but for sure next year will be the favourite one again to start the championship.

Q: (Niki Takeda – Formula PA) Flavio, three mystifying things happened in the Brazilian race: firstly you didn’t go to welcome Fernando after the race, secondly you were not in any of the big team pictures, and thirdly you did not go to the celebration party. Why is that? Did you have personal problems?
FB:
I was not photogenic on this day! No, it is very simple, when you are always fighting with a race, myself and Fernando we are together etc, I was really, really tired and I sat in my office. Fernando is a bit younger than me as well, and Fernando and the mechanics they had fun, and afterwards you see Fernando, but really, I don’t know what happened to me. I left the pit lane as well; I have never done that in 15 years of Formula One. I don’t know what happened, the emotion. Like Fernando said before, he was thinking about what happened in 2005. I was thinking about what happened in my 15 years of Formula One. I think I needed some privacy. If you want to go in front of the mechanics, and Fernando had a picture. And the party…it is not only the racing team but it is everyone in the factory and I said okay you have a party tonight. I have had so many parties in my life, one more makes no difference, but it will make a lot of difference when the people in France and the people in England have a private thank you for what we have achieved this year. I arrived in London, I flew to Paris and the people were waiting for me in the factory and everyone was very emotional, and crying, and for me this was my priority, for the people in England and in France, because if we won the championship it was because the reliability of our car was fantastic and I wanted to thank these people, simple as that. The next day Fernando joined me in Enstone as well and we spent the day together and, I mean, sometimes it actually looks like I am emotional as well. Think about the first day I met Fernando, his first race, when he won his first race.
Everyone, all the media, said I made a big mistake when I said Fernando is replacing Jenson and everyone said it was a disaster for me. Only time would tell whether I was right or wrong. When you see all these pictures, it was like that. There was nothing wrong with the team, nothing wrong with Fernando, nothing wrong with myself. I feel good, it’s as simple as that.

Q: (Anthony Rowlinson - Autosport) Flavio, how long will you be staying with the Renault team now?
FB:
I don’t know. I don’t want to be talking about what we do in the future, for the moment I enjoy very much this team. We have built the team up from 2001 and Fernando is a big actor in this new movie that we made together and we have fun in the team. If you ask me, the drivers and the team, we really enjoy it. The atmosphere in our team is fantastic and this kind of job you do, you have to feel you are doing the best for the team and the moment you feel you don’t have the motivation any more, you give up because it takes a lot of time, a lot of energy, but I enjoy it. I enjoy the people, Renault is a brand, it is the people that make the team, it is not the brand, and I enjoy the team very, very much. It is a very special team.

Q: (Matthew Clayton – News Custom) Fernando, you kept the lid on all year as far as your demeanour. When you finally won have you allowed yourself any indulgences or rewards or gifts to yourself, or does that come later for you?
FA:
No, it will come later. Nothing.

Q: (Ken Kawakita - Sportiva) Flavio, two days ago we got a surprise and mystery as Honda mentioned they are prepared to supply an engine for a second team, which could be an 11th team. Is that a surprise for you too, or do you team bosses know something already?
FB:
Not really, and I don’t know, it is very difficult to put together a team in five or six months. I don’t know, honestly, I don’t have any comment about that. We don’t know.

Q: (Hiroyuki Ueba – The Yomiuri Shimbun) A question for the drivers. I think for the drivers the Drivers’ Championship is the most important thing but it is over now. Are you motivated enough to race and do you see any differences in the next two races from other former races?
FA:
Yeah, I think, as I said for the drivers the only important thing or the only thing that motivates you is the Drivers’ Championship. The Constructors’ Championship is good because you feel part of the team but at the end of the day it is not so important for you. It is true there is not the same motivation for the last two races but now in my case I will enjoy these two races because I have no pressure or anything to do especially. I will do my best, I will go as quickly as I can and this is what I like. I will feel happy in the car, it doesn’t matter, in qualifying or if it is rainy or dry, or you have the wrong tyre on the car or the right tyre, it doesn’t matter, you only enjoy.
KR: Yeah, for me it is the same. I am happy there are only two races to go and I will try to do the best for the team in those races.

Q: (Anthony Rowlinson - Autosport) Flavio, will you give Fernando a pay rise now he has won the Drivers’ World Championship?
FB:
This is a problem, and I don’t want to discuss with the media what I do with Fernando! It is not the thing to discuss with you guys.

Q: That’s a no then, is it?
FB:
Nyeah, ha, ha.