FIA Thursday press conference - Canada 09 Jun 2005
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), Christian Klien (Red Bull Racing), Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), Jacques Villeneuve (Sauber).
Q: Christian, tell us about not racing.
Christian Klien: It is not so interesting than racing a car. It was a bit of a difficult time for me, a bit frustrating to step back and to be third driver, but I knew in the beginning of the year that me and Vitantonio (Liuzzi) would share the car and that was the case for the last four races. I am really looking forward to it, I am happy to be in the car again and try to do a good job now.
Q: But the team seems to have Scott Speed, Vitantonio, David Coulthard, and it is almost as if there is two teams there really.
CK: Yeah, we have too many drivers! Scott is driving this weekend, it will be his first time in a Formula One car during a race weekend and I think he will have a lot of fun and it will be a great weekend for him. But yes, for me it is the most important thing to actually be back in the car and I focus on that.
Q: Does a driver look over his shoulder and think, ooh, there is a lot of people queuing up behind me.
CK: You could think about it all the time but I focus on what I do, I try to do the best job I can do, try to be quick in the car, try to impress the people around me and the people in the paddock and see that I am quick and I cannot do more than that.
Q: Has it been a surprise how competitive the team has been this year?
CK: Absolutely. I think we were also surprised at the beginning of the season how strong we are. For sure, it will get more difficult during the season because the bigger teams can develop the car more than us, but we saw at the Nurburgring that we are still competitive and with a bit of luck we can both drive in the points and I hope we can get some points this weekend.
Q: These two races you think you can be as competitive?
CK: I think so, yes. I mean, I was still in the car, I did third driver in the Friday tests, so I saw how quick I am relative to the other drivers, I was quite quick in testing, so I am pretty confident that I can go back in the car and be quick again and, for sure, try to beat my team-mate and be in front of him.
Q: Jacques, here we are, back at home with you. One thing I noticed at a press conference yesterday is that it was mentioned you have a contract for next year, so you still have a year and a halfs worth of contract. Can you just clarify that?
Jacques Villeneuve: It has always been the case. It is not a surprise. Thats what was said last year, thats what was said in winter, and thats what was said for the last few months, yes.
Q: So the rumours about you perhaps being replaced, they have got to overcome that first?
JV: Well, rumours are part of everyday racing. There have always been a lot of rumours. I have no idea where it comes from, but I guess it is easy to make rumours because there have been rumours about people getting more involved in the team and, who knows, with money people think they can start buying anything out, so I guess that is where the rumours started.
Q: What is needed for you to get back into the top ten?
JV: We just need to go faster to get into the top ten. There is nothing else we can do. We had a good step in Imola and it looks like we got it right and most other people got it wrong and that suited us. The other track where we were competitive was Monaco and that was it. At the beginning of the season we hadnt been very competitive and the car is not difficult to drive, it is quite neutral, but it is just not fast enough on the lap time.
Q: You had a big test at Monza last week, has that provided some encouragement?
JV: Not really, no. The car was working fine, but once again not fast enough.
Q: So, what are your thoughts about these two races?
JV: I have no idea what to expect. There is new asphalt here, which will be a surprise for everyone, and it is just a matter of getting it right. When there is new asphalt like that you need to luck-in a little bit and that could work out for us. Also, if the tyres are on the limit, like Monaco, that suits us because we are quite easy on our tyres so that is what I am hoping for.
Q: Thats the only thing you can hope for is it?
JV: Yeah, when you are not fast what can help you is rain, because that balances everything.
Q: Do you feel there is anything missing in yourself?
JV: No, not at all.
Q: That part of it is perfect?
JV: You always improve. There is always room for improvement and to learn and that happens with work. But right now there is not much we can do with the car. We are where we are and thats about it.
Q: Rubens, a good result at the Nurburgring. Was that an encouragement for you?
Rubens Barrichello: Yeah, I think so. We knew the car was going to go quite well in the race, there was a weak point in qualifying as we saw for both cars, then as the race developed I had quite a good chance, because I almost always had the track open for me, so I was able to push and use the three stops, so that was quite nice.
Q: What about testing since then? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to tyre performance?
RB: Well, we made improvements. It is not night and day, you make small steps, but also you want to see how much you want to go faster in qualifying. If you go faster in qualifying and still have a reliable tyre like we have now, probably the best tyre in the race at the end of the race, how much do you want to lose? If you have the qualifying and you still have the tyre for the race that is fine, but if you dont then that is not so good. So we need to take a balance between them. Silverstone last week was a bit too cold to get an opinion on things, we were not testing things for Canada specifically. It was probably our last test in Silverstone and we were testing other things apart from tyres. So you just have to balance yourself. We had two cars, we had another one in Monza, which was more to do with here. Things are better and we most definitely think our car is a fast car, it is the tyres, so we just have to take a balance and see where we are.
Q: But it is a compromise, you cant have both?
RB: You know, at the start of the season Renault seemed to have both. They were qualifying ahead and racing ahead and that was good enough. Now the competition has upped the game a little bit, not just with us but I think McLaren, sometimes Williams, everyone really, just challenging for the win, and I dont think you can have both right now. You have to have a combination that allows you to be at the front but be ahead in the race, which is the most important.
Q: Looking back at the Nurburgring and the predicament that Kimi was in there with a flat-spotted front tyre, do you think that is too much of a predicament to be put in as a driver?
RB: I dont want to go too much into his problem, but it is just separating things and I think if it was me driving that car I would most certainly have stopped, not because it was dangerous and I am afraid to have a crash or die or something like this, but just because it was not going to work. It could have worked at the end, but you have to have a proof to change your tyre, you cannot do it when you are pitting for fuel, so you have to do it another time. Sometimes in life you have to go backwards to go ahead, so I think it was better to get eight points.
Q: Kimi, obviously you were placed in a difficult position at the last race. Would you have changed anything when you look back?
Kimi Raikkonen: No, I dont think so.
Q: Obviously, you had the support of the team. It was interesting to hear Rubens say he would have come in. Was there much of a discussion?
KR: Not too much, because in the end we need to try to gain more points than Alonso and he was behind me, so I didnt see any reason to come in and change the tyre and lose points to him because we were in a position to score maybe two points more. Maybe we were a little bit unlucky that the car didnt last one more lap, but we took the gamble and it didnt pay off. But I would still do the same thing.
Q: How difficult is it for a driver, when you were having to make the overtaking move on Jacques, that you might flat-spot your tyres and it could compromise the whole race. It must be difficult to bear that in mind.
KR: Yeah, but I dont complain to anyone else, that is my mistake and it cost me quite a bit. It is always easier to say afterwards that maybe if I braked a bit earlier it wouldnt have happened, but then it was a bit bumpy and I just locked the rear and couldnt turn in again so we went in a bad shape, but you always try to lap people as quickly as you can because you dont want to lose so much time. I lost a lot of time on the Jordans before so I wanted to get past people quickly and not lose any more time, then I made a mistake and it cost me a lot.
Q: What about your thoughts for these two races?
KR: We had a very good test, the car is quick, I think it is better than it was in the last race, so I am pretty hopeful that it will be good here. For sure the car is good in the USA, because so far every car has been pretty strong there. This one is a bit of a question mark but I still think it will be good here because every circuit since we have changed the car a little bit has been good, so I dont see a reason why we wont be strong here.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Rob Martier - CJAD 800) Jacques, after the races the press releases and the comments that we read from your team and Peter Sauber are by and large negative. Does he ever take you aside and give you any positive and constructive criticism?
JV: I have never thought about it. I have been racing long enough that you take criticism for what it is. If it is fair then you accept it, if it is not fair then it goes in one ear and out the other.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) Rubens, after so many years of winning and now the last seven months, can you describe the feeling in the team?
RB: To be very honest, the mood is quite good. When I first came to Ferrari the team was kind of lets try to do this and that, and obviously after three or four races things changed and there was a smile there, we were winning, we won the constructors since 2000 and everything was really simple and the smile was there. Right now you see we went back a little bit to the trying mode, because we havent won a race yet, but we know the potential is there. We know that if Alonso, for example, finishes all the races in the points then it will be very difficult to win the championship, but there is a lot to happen yet and it might change, you never know. On the constructors side we just need to improve a little bit more and points will be there, so the mood is good. You get the first meeting on a Thursday is quite an encouraging one, looking at the testing we have done and the improvements we have brought to the racing track. The Sunday afternoon one, up to now, has been a little different, just because we didnt have the first trophy there, but it is still on the up, they definitely didnt give up.
Q: (Mike Doodson) Jacques, you suggested that there is nothing wrong on your side of the equation between yourself and Sauber. Peter Sauber seems to be saying something different, quite regularly. When you joined Sauber everything looked good, Ferrari engine, great wind tunnel, you seemed happy with the team. Do you now regret having joined Sauber this year?
JV: Well, it is too easy to have regrets. We are all disappointed with how uncompetitive we are because as soon as we bolted the Michelin tyres on the car at the end of last year the car was extremely fast and the new car was never fast and nobody seems to know why. The car is balanced to drive, it is not difficult to drive, it is just slow. There is very little we can do, we dont have the budget to just try different suspensions and re-design stuff, so we are stuck with what we have and that is how it will be until the end of the season. As long as there is an active work being done on next year then that will be alright.
Q: (Mike Doodson) So, no regrets?
JV: No, not at all. I am much happier to be racing than to be at home watching it on television.
Q: (Pierre Durocher Le Journal de Montreal) Kimi, how do you see the situation with Alonso, hes 32 points ahead of you with 12 races to go. How do you see the whole picture?
KR: Of course, I think we are pretty much in the position where we were after Imola. We have some points back but it is not easy to gain too many points because as long as they keep finishing races and in the points we cannot gain so much. It really depends; there are many races to go and so many things can happen. As long as we can keep finishing the races and hopefully in front of them, I think we have a good chance of catching him, but it is never going to be easy. We just need to do our best and hopefully its enough.
Q: (Randy Philipps - The Gazette) Kimi, how much did you know about the damage to your front wheel and suspension, how much could you feel or were you aware of at the time? What was your immediate response when it happened? What was your reaction?
KR: Of course, I saw the tyre in the pit stop, although luckily when I stopped it was just on the top of the tyre, the part where I had the flat spot so I could see the inside of the tyre, it was in a bad shape, but when it happened it wasnt too bad, but when you have to use the same tyre it just gets worse and worse all the time. The last three or four laps it was pretty bad because I couldnt see anything any more. I didnt have much choice so I kept going as fast as I could and everyone knows what happened in the end. OK, I was angry but what could I have done? It was just a bit unlucky because I was thinking it would just last the last lap because it had lasted so long, but it didnt.
Q: (Jean-Francois Begin La Presse) Kimi, would you have made the same decision, here and/or in Indy, where you have a lot less run-off areas than you have at the Nurburgring safety-wise?
KR: Yeah, I was not thinking about the run-off areas because I was thinking of getting to the end so it doesnt matter on which circuit you are.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber Agencia Efe) Kimi, which are Alonsos strengths for you and most importantly for you, does he have any weak points where you can catch him?
KR: The car is a very reliable package, and thats what has been very good for them. OK, they were very strong at the start of the year. I think we have as good a car at least as they have, and we can definitely fight against them, but I dont really know what are his weak points or what are his strong points. We just try to beat them and hopefully we are stronger at every point than they are.
Q: (Wolfgang Rother Premiere TV) To all of you, after your crash, Kimi, Team McLaren has been accused of risking your life by keeping you out on the track so long with the damaged tyre. Do you guys think the tyre rules are leading you into a risky position?
KR: I think in one race it is a bit difficult to know how bad a tyre needs to be before you are allowed to change it without being penalised. Nobody really knows. Now they say afterwards that it was bad enough but how could we know that before? But then racing is always dangerous. I wouldnt say that they put me in a position. It was my decision, I could have come in if I had wanted so Im not complaining to anyone else.
RB: It is definitely not the teams call. Its your call, you are driving the car, you know how dangerous it is or not and thats pretty much it. The new rules allowed some overtaking, even though the overtaking we see is that somebody has a problem with a tyre and then they are going two or three seconds slower and then you are not overtaking. I think the year has gone with a little bit more it seems that the public like it a little bit more in terms of as soon as we got away from the two qualifying sessions, it has been better in terms of a show but in terms of driving, Ive been saying that since the beginning of the year, I used to drive on old tyres because I didnt have enough money to buy new ones when I was driving go-karts. Thats pretty much it.
JV: In the past there were races with one stop, where in Kimis position you would have tried to reach the end of the race, so the rule doesnt have any effect on that. You would have done at least as many laps.
CK: Yeah, I think there is definitely a little bit more risk. Its quite easy to flat spot a tyre in a race, but in the end you have to make sure that you dont flat spot the tyres, and to drive to the end.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber Agencia Efe) Rubens, how far or how close are you from the first and second you gained here last year?
RB: This year, you mean? It is very difficult to know. As Jacques said, the track has been resurfaced. Theres going to be a difference. Its a little bit of a challenge for the tyre manufacturer just to get the right tyre because of that. I have heard so many stories about the weather, maybe a bit of rain during the weekend, so its difficult really to know. I dont think we are that far lets put it this way, I dont think we still have the quickest car out there but we are not that far from being first and second.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) Christian, you have worked as the test driver and as a race driver; what advice would you give Scott Speed and what will you be asking him to contribute to you and David working for the rest of the weekend?
CK: I think it is not easy for him. He has not had many tests so far, so for him we need him to make the tyre choice, to do long runs on both sets of tyres, but it will be quite difficult for him to drive the car on the limit without having enough tests, without knowing the car exactly. But still, Im pretty sure we will get some information out of him, and it is a good opportunity for him to make the step to Formula One and to be at the race weekend, to see how a Formula One weekend goes.
Q: (Mike Doodson) Back to the tyres, in the past Michelins rain tyres have not been as wonderful as the Bridgestone rain tyres but I understand, Kimi, that youve done some wet weather testing on the latest wet Michelins. What can you tell us about those, do they appear to be competitive?
KR: I think the intermediates are pretty good. At the beginning of this year we had some opportunities to use them and they seem to be pretty much as quick as the Bridgestones. The full wets are still not on the same level, but they are definitely improving all the time. It depends how much water there is on the circuit and the situation. But I think they are pretty good already. We dont know what Ferrari was doing at the last Silverstone test when it was wet on intermediates but then I think we seemed to be quite quick but I dont think we should have any major problems even if its raining.
Q: (Jean-Sebastian Gagnon La Presse) Rubens, how is the relationship between you and Michael now? It was a little bit tense after Monaco. Now, a race later, how is it?
RB: It is not a problem. I got out of the car, told him what I thought I should have said. After that the team really calmed me down and there was not a problem. On Thursday at the Nurburgring the press was trying to hush things up and saying things that I didnt say and he didnt say, so it was a bit of a mess with the press at Nurburgring but it is not a problem. I am still entitled to have my opinion and that is pretty much it. But we dont have problems anyway.
Q: (Dominic Fugere Le Journal de Montreal) For all of you, do you find it harder than you thought to nurse the tyres during an entire race distance?
KR: Not really, I think our car is very good and the tyres had already won this last race, but that was my fault, otherwise the tyres were in a good shape. For me, it has not been a problem. I have been very happy with the whole package because the tyres are working well with the car, so there is no problem.
Q: (Dominic Fugere Le Journal de Montreal) What Im saying is that aside from regular wear there is always a thought of a flat spot or something similar happening?
KR: Yeah, but even if you have brand new tyres and you lock the brakes in the first corner the same thing happens, so it is nothing to do with whether its old or new tyres, its just how you use them, it is just a mistake if you do that.
RB: I think the moment you go into racing and you have to look after the tyres too much you brought the wrong tyre. Even if you have one tyre for the whole race you always try to be flat-out. I was flat out in the Nurburgring the whole way through. It was a good race. Of course you can make mistakes and with Formula One cars the way they are, and with some bumpy areas you can lock up and you can have some bad situations as happened to Kimi and as happened to Alonso in Nurburgring, when he went off trying to avoid the flat spot. But those situations actually bring some good shows to Formula One and gives a chance to somebody else.
JV: I have always enjoyed when you actually have to save your tyres because you can work on your set-up and the way you drive, and this year any time when the tyres are too soft it seems to suit us because we are very light on our tyres, so theres something we can get out of that.
CK: I thought it would be even more difficult but like in the first two races, where I pushed flat out through the race, and fortunately our car is quite good on tyre wear and I didnt have any problem. I thought maybe at the beginning of the year you have to take care of the tyres during the race, slow down a bit in the first part to have good tyres in the end but it is not like this.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber Agencia Efe) Jacques, you were team-mate with Fernando for three races last year. What is your opinion of him as a person and as a driver? Do you think hes going to make it this year and if he does, will you be happy about that?
JV: He is very strong, he is a very strong racer. He is actually better in the race than in qualifying so thats good to work on the championship. He is a very reserved person as well, so you need to spend time with him to actually get to know him a little bit and he was very nice, he was very positive and helpful last year which was good. Right now he is on a cloud, the whole team is behind him: Flavio is behind him and nothing can go wrong. As long as they keep it like that then it will be very difficult for Kimi to fight, but Im sure that if he gets under pressure we might see some cracks. That happens to everyone and that would make F1 interesting during the season.
Q: (Pino Allievi La Gazzetta dello Sport) For everyone, the TV audience has gone deeply down everywhere in Europe since two years and even here the press is not so full as in the past. Who is at fault?
CK: Maybe it is me, because it is my second year. (Laughter) I have been in Formula One two years! To be honest, no, I think this year is quite interesting and I see no reason why it should go down.
JV: No idea, it just depends how you promote it, what you put out and a lot of that is what the journalists write. I am not blaming anyone. Everybody works on this together and I guess people want to see good races, they also want to see heroes, but somehow, I dont know whether its the team owners or the media or something, there was a while when heroes were not wanted, they just wanted robots to drive the cars and anyone who opened his mouth and said one word, then suddenly it was hushed up and that person was bad. In the long run people lose interest because OK, they want to see nice cars but they can go to a museum to see nice cars.
RB: There is not much to add really. To be honest, I didnt know that for two years we have less Right here, for me, it seems to be more people than last year to be very very honest. There were more people at Barcelona as well. Alonso is attracting a lot of people and it seems we can see more flags everywhere. Brazil, as far as I understand, is sold out already and the audience there is not bad at all.
KR: I dont know much about the whole situation. I have heard there are plenty of people watching television, at least in Finland it is more than normal, so I dont know.
Q: (Gerhard Kuntschik Salzburger Nachrichten) Kimi, can you give me a judgement of all your team-mates performances so far this year?
KR: They are all different. I think at the beginning when I came to Formula One it was more difficult, of course, because everybody has more experience than me, but in the end I have done quite well against all of them. For sure, the first year was always more difficult than any other year
This years? Oh, sorry. They are all good guys, nice guys. Everyone works in a slightly different way. I only raced against two of them. Alex has only done Fridays. I think they are good drivers and I dont really want to get involved in talks like this because you always try to get some little fight between team-mates. In the end, I only try to do my own thing and I am not too interested in my team-mates or other people, in racing or whatever they do. They are good, but you can say how good they are, who is best and who is not.