FIA Thursday press conference - Spain 05 May 2005
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: Christijan Albers (Minardi), Fernando Alonso (Renault), Felipe Massa (Sauber), Tiago Monteiro (Jordan), Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren).
Q: Christijan, you were testing at Mugello last week, how did that go with the new car?
Christijan Albers: It was quite important to have a test because we had the new car for the first time and we still had some problems, so it was really important for the Minardi team to go to Mugello to have a good test. The first day was not so impressive. I had a little shunt with our test driver, but the second day I was really happy, we found a lot of time in the car and we have to see what we are going to do this weekend. But if you look at the first time we went out with this car in Mugello (pre-Imola) and when we ended the test last week Im quite happy. But we still have a long way to go and I think the most important thing is to keep on pushing and thats not only for the drivers, but also for the mechanics. But I think were going in the right direction. Everybody is really motivated, especially also the mechanics to work on a new car is something special again. Were looking forward to this weekend. It wont be easy but I think after a few races we will be a little bit closer to the field.
Q: What about your own situation? Youve raced very successfully in DTM for the past couple of years. How easy has it been to change from those cars to the single-seaters of Formula One?
CA: First of all, its quite difficult to go from the front to the back again, but that was a decision made by me, because I wanted to come into Formula One. Yeah, the cars are completely different. You cant really compare them to each other. I have to say the DTM cars are quite good cars to drive, but Formula One is the highest level and the most exciting car to drive. Theres much more down-force, much more power. But from the competition side, I think DTM was quite a good class because it was easier to fight with one another and to drive closer to each other than in Formula One.
Q: Felipe, your team-mate, Jacques Villeneuve has been saying that its much easier now for him to set up the car because theyre giving you a lot more freedom to do so. Does that apply to you as well? Did you feel slightly constrained before, because you had to use their set-up?
Felipe Massa: No. I think things are going better now because the car is better. The car was definitely slower than we expected at the beginning of the (season), the first three races. At Imola, the car was very competitive, so when you have a very competitive car, I think, its much easier to work with the team and find a better set-up as well. We were quite competitive at Imola, but I think the relationship was similar, Imola and at the other races as well, especially for me.
Q: What was the incident with David Coulthard at Imola, how did you see that?
FM: Well, for me it was a race incident. When I overtook him, I was a bit disappointed, not because of the move he made there, but I was a bit disappointed because many times, or maybe a couple of times I tried to overtake him going down to Rivazza on the right hand side. We were both at 300kph and he just pushed me into the kerb and we almost crashed at 300 kph. That was why I was disappointed and that was why I was angry when I overtook him. For sure the finger was not a good thing to do, but we are all in the competition, we are all with some emotion and sometimes things can happen. For sure, I have to apologise to him for these things but I think thats my point of view.
Q: Have you spoken to him since Imola?
FM: Yeah, Ive spoken to him but I was surprised when I saw him saying that he almost hit me. I think he was just kind of joking, because both of us were smiling, so I was a bit surprised. One thing I have to say is that Im really open, I dont have a problem with any drivers, I think DC is a very nice guy. Everything that happens on the track stays on the track. That day I was a bit angry and the day after everything was fine for me. I dont have any problem with him. For me, hes a very nice guy.
Q: Tiago, I guess this is almost as close as it comes to being a home race, maybe Brazil as well. How do you feel about it?
Tiago Monteiro: Yes, its true, were very close to Portugal obviously and a lot of Portuguese people are coming over, some sponsors as well, so it is very important, it is considered my home race. It doesnt add any pressure, but youre busier than ever. You have to give more attention to other people, who are not usually here, but every weekend you want to perform well anyway and you push hard and you try and do your best, so I take it as another race at the moment.
Q: How do you feel the season has gone so far?
TM: Im excited and Im positive about the whole thing. It hasnt been easy, of course, but four finishes in four races is what we were aiming for at the beginning of the season and weve managed it. Its a huge amount of information for me, for the car, for the team, so its very important. So I think we have had a positive start to the season. Were working on trying to get more performance, of course, like everyone and learn, try to make as few mistakes as we can, more track time and improve every weekend.
Q: Obviously youve got the Toyota engine, and weve seen how well a Toyota engine goes in a Toyota chassis; where do you think the deficiencies are in the Jordan chassis?
TM: There are a few little things, I guess. The main one is that basically we are using last years chassis, of course, with some adaptations for this year, which is never the best (solution). So thats the main main problem. Outside that, aerodynamic parts are really where were struggling at the moment. The engine is not really adapted to this car either, so temperature-wise we are losing some down-force sometimes because of that. But thats the package we have and we have to improve on that. Were hoping for a new car in July, so were really excited about that and that will be at least a 2005 package, which is going to be different for sure. So there are a lot of little bits that need to be worked on at the moment.
Q: Juan Pablo, welcome back. Are you fully fit?
Juan Pablo Montoya: Yeah, Im feeling great, to be honest. You know its been kind of weird to sit down at home and watch the last two races on TV. In a way Im very pleased. Both of the third drivers did a fantastic job for the team so its nice to see the team still scoring points and everything, but its great to be back.
Q: What sort of fitness checks have you had to go through since youve been here?
JPM: Um, here, not yet. I was in England yesterday no, the day before and we checked the crack and everything, that it could stand (up to) everything and it looks very good. McLaren has got a simulator and we went on it and the full steering movement, everything it was cool.
Q: So you dont have to go and see anyone here?
JPM: Yeah, tomorrow morning, they just want to double-check everything but Im pretty happy, Im full performance, Im happy.
Q: Im sure youve been amused
JPM: ...oh yeah
Q: at the speculation regarding the origins of your injury. Can you tell us a bit more?
JPM: Ive heard all kinds of stories. I think this story came up, to be honest because a lot of people think that in most of the drivers contracts youre not allowed to do anything, so everybody thought we have a great story, hes out of the races and hes broken his contract. But sadly enough for all of them, it is the way it is.
Q: So it was tennis?
JPM: It was tennis. I would rather say it was anything apart from tennis because it sounds kind of dumb but thats the way it went.
Q: Fernando, a big week for you?
Fernando Alonso: Yes, certainly, starting tomorrow. Today has been quite a quiet day for me as well and I was in England until yesterday morning and I have had a cool week so far. But tomorrow the action starts with the practice and people coming and it will be a little more busy. But at the end of the day, the only important thing is the car and the set up so you spend all day with the engineers and inside the car on the circuit and it is one race more.
Q: So you approach it in that way?
FA: I think it is the only way possible to approach it There are too many people who come with motivation and quite excited about this race and for me the only way to give them some satisfaction is to give them a good result and so I work hard for this.
Q: Just going back to the San Marino Grand Prix, the tactics of slowing down in the corners and keeping Michael behind you -- was that something that came naturally to you or is it something you have done for years in racing? How did it come about?
FA: I think I do it naturally, not only me, but all of us. We are professional enough and we know how to keep positions and how to control when you have a very slow car compared with your competitor and maybe I am the only one to say this literally to the press.
Q: One of my colleagues said you have had very strong words about Ferrari and said they were testing more than all the other teams. Can you clarify what you actually said about Ferrari?
FA: Yes I think we all said Ferrari has done more testing than everyone else and we all know that. It is very surprising that yesterday I said that and there has been a revolution in the press. But you know it is no problem. I think we all know, all the teams, we agreed to limit the testing days and they are the only one that does many more. They are all allowed because anyone can do what they want but I think it is against the spirit of the sport and against the future for all of us.
Q: The journalist who mentioned this to me used the word cheating. Did you use the word cheating?
FA: In Spanish, it is trampar, which is cheating and not fair, not fair play. And it is the same word. In this instance, I meant not fair play. As I said, I meant against the spirit of Formula One sport.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News): Tiago, you guys do so little testing, do you and Narain purposely work to make your set-ups on the car the same so that in the brief time you do have at the track you can work on the same programme?
TM: We usually try, depending on the weekends. Some weekends we are very different. But most weekends we start mostly very similar. We work through Friday at least and maybe Saturday morning on different ways. Its good to have information you know and it is good to have a third driver go another different way on Friday as well. We need to understand because we did so little winter testing thats its testing every day for us in the weekends. So three cars is good and we learn different things.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado do Sao Paulo): To Alonso, even if you dont think about it, how do you feel yourself when you are getting in the car and you know there are 100,000 people supporting you in the grandstands. You are 23 years old and I can imagine how I would feel in your place
FA: Well, the feeling is obviously great. For me it is a very special weekend and I would like to race in Spain every 15 days. The atmosphere is fantastic and you see the blue colour in the grandstands and it motivates you in every corner and at the same time it is just another race like the others and I have to prepare the race properly with the engineers tomorrow choose the tyres, the main thing, Saturday prepare the quail and on Sunday the race so you are always inside the race too much to feel all around you.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News): Fernando, you have had three good races and your team-mate has had a lot of bad luck. A drive always wants to beat his team-mate, but certainly you dont want to beat him this way. What do you think about having Fisi up there racing with you instead?
FA: I prefer to have Fisi of course and from the team point of view to have the three retirements that we had is not good for all of us and hopefully here his luck will change and we will both finish the race and score points and then the battle is between us. But F1 is like this and last year I didnt finish seven or eight races and had a lot of criticisms.
Q: (Bob McKenzie - Daily Express): BAR have been banned for two races, they lose their points... Do you have any thoughts on that?
JPM: It is a bit surprising they were cheating to be honest, but the only thing I found that was quite funny was a text I had from Alex Wurz saying can I collect the trophy? I was shocked actually that they put them out of the races, but I think that is the way rules go I guess.
FA: Yes the same I think we all agree there are rules for all the teams and if you are not inside them all you risk a penalty and the amount of the penalty is not up to us. I am totally happy.
TM: Obviously if there is something wrong with the car, you need to be punished and we dont have all the proper information anyway to make a proper comment.
Q: (Bob McKenzie Daily Express): As drivers do you feel sorry for Jenson and Takuma?
FA: Yes of course I think Jenson did a fantastic race in Imola and he was on the podium and he was there for the way he drove. You know on the qualifying laps you are risking a lot and in the whole race, in the strategies and in the quail laps and then when it is not your fault and you are out then it is maybe more disappointing. I am sure they will be back.
FM: I think the driver is also part of the team. If there is something wrong with the team, the driver is a part of it and, for sure, the driver has less influence, but he is also a part of the team. So . He is not responsible, but the circumstances are the same for everybody.
Q: (Mike Doodson): Fernando, I understand things are quite difficult for you back here in Spain. You said you would like every Grand Prix in Spain, but I suspect you would like to continue living somewhere else, and it is Oxford at the moment, but can you give us some examples of the hysteria that takes over people when they have a successful Grand Prix driver in their country for the first time?
FA: Well, tomorrow we shall see a better picture for this Grand Prix in terms of the people and the support they give me. When I am in the car I want to see the grandstand in a blue colour and it is motivating me, not in red. For this, I think to race in Spain every race is more motivation and it is better, but at the same time it is more difficult to walk on the street, to go to the hotel, to be in the traffic, stopped, because the buses stop and they go out and they ask for autographs and so on and so it is more difficult to move around here, but I am in England normally and as I did this week I relax and prepare there for the race and then arrive here at the last moment just to sit in the car.
Q: (Mike Doodson): Do you find the press writes a lot of outrageous things about you? There have been some stories in the local press about your private life
FA: Yes sometimes there are too many news in the private life and not enough in the sporting life and this is Spain and probably we have a bad quality of press.
Q: (Gonzalo Espariz DPA): Juan Pablo, in what way do you think you will be affected by not sitting in your car for so long?
JPM: Driving-wise, I think not much. We do that every winter, take a month off and we did some laps round here in the simulator and I am pretty comfortable and I dont know how many laps Ive done here, more than 1000 round this place I guess It would be much harder to come back to a track where we dont test so much, to Imola or Bahrain, it would be harder than coming here. I dont know, just get in the car and drive it. I think the hardest thing is going to be being the first car out in qualifying on Saturday and thats it.