FIA Thursday press conference - USA 16 Jun 2005
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: Fernando Alonso (Renault), Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren Mercedes), Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), Scott Speed (Red Bull).
Q: Juan Pablo, memories of Indianapolis, a nice place for you to come?
Juan Pablo Montoya: Yeah, its a nice race track to come to, its a bit different to any other track, theres the big compromise between the infield and turn one. Its pretty interesting. The car should be really quick around here as well, so Im looking forward to that.
Q: The performance in Montreal must have been very encouraging.
JPM: Yeah, but the Renault was quite strong as well so we thought the race with them was going to be quite tight but I think it was going to be a good race to the end.
Q: Give us your take on the timescale of what happened in Canada, when the safety car came out etc etc?
JPM: The safety car came out my side of the thing was that we were discussing what pace to do, because we had around a 30-odd second lead and they said were backing off both cars, to look after the cars because the Renaults were out. At the same time that they were talking the safety car came out and when they noticed it, it was too late (to come into the pits). Then they decided to pit me on the next lap and they said normal thing, came out of the pits, I saw the red light and as I approached it the blue light came on and I radioed through and said do I stop or not? and I dont think they heard me. At one point, when the blue light came on, I thought maybe the red was a mistake because it shouldnt have come on, and I decided to go through it. It was my mistake, in a way, but I thought they would give me a drive-through penalty or something, I thought initially they might just ask me to go to the back of the line or something, but then after that, for some reason, they decided to get me out of the race. I think it was very harsh to be honest, and unfair. But thats what it is.
Q: So youve got over it now?
JPM: Im over it. Its been a tough season for me, Ive been very unlucky. And this thing with the FIA hasnt helped.
Q: Scott, youve had a pretty tough schedule over the last eight days or so, prior to coming here; tell us about it?
Scott Speed: Yeah, well, unfortunately, in the GP2, the championship Im running in and concentrating on this year, weve had very limited test days and the last two official days were in between Montreal and here so I had to fly back and drive on Tuesday which was not so productive because it rained. I got back last night. Doing the travel.
Q: Fairly fresh? Feeling OK?
SS: Yeah, yeah. Its the training that you do in the off-season which prepares you for this kind of schedule because its to be expected.
Q: How did you find driving a Formula One car, how did you find your first Grand Prix participation?
SS: Ok, I think all the media around is one of the biggest differences. The day goes by a lot quicker. The car itself is quite nice to drive, its obviously got a lot more aerodynamic performance. Yeah, its quite pleasurable.
Q: Do you find it difficult to drive, a big difference from GP2?
SS: Yeah, its quite a big difference from anything. Its just that aerodynamic performance, the driving style is a bit different. But once you get used to it, its not so bad.
Q: You mentioned the media a moment ago; youre very important for Formula One, youre very important for the United States as well. Is that a lot of pressure?
SS: Yeah, I dont think there is so much pressure at this moment. When youre driving on Fridays youre not really competing with anything and youre not compared with anybody so I think the pressure would be a lot more when you get into qualifying and the race.
Q: Michael, I know youve just had a great press conference outside, a great reception as well, but there was one question you didnt answer: chicken or beef? Did you not hear that?
Michael Schumacher: I dont know the meaning of it.
Q: I suppose it's whether you prefer chicken or beef.
MS: Think so?
Q: Yeah. (Laughter)
MS: I like beef if that's it.
Q: You've also had a great record here, three pole positions, three wins. That must be encouraging for you, especially with the performance last week.
MS: You have to be pretty honest about what happened last week. I would have been fifth in normal circumstances and not second as I finished. So at the end of the day, it didn't show off very much last week but we have had some very good performances through the year like at Imola, like in Monte Carlo in the race. So it depends on where we are at this circuit whether we're sort of more Imola like or whether we're more whatever, Barcelona or other races.
Q: Now, your brother has been quoted in Bild as saying that you will retire, you are not having as much fun as you did last year and for that reason you will retire soon. What's your reply to that?
MS: I don't know how he comes up with that. I speak with him as much as I do with you, and tell him how much I enjoy it actually. Even though I'm not winning, you can enjoy it. You don't need always to win to be happy. The race last week, the race in Monaco, there were plenty of races, Imola, that were great fun. So I'm not lacking fun, neither I do motivation. There are phases like this that are not so successful but we have been so successful that I think it's pretty normal. And for me, I knew it would come to go through as long - and we are, in my view - as long as you're competitive and not completely somewhere gone and you have no chance, I'm pretty happy to go through this as I'm pretty sure we make our way up to the front again and we'll be there. And honestly, I think he has a couple of other things to think about and speak about. (Laughs)
Q: Fernando, your feelings after the Canadian Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso: The first moment you are little bit sad because it's the first retirement of the year. But these things happen in motor racing. After that, I think it was nice to have only one - three days off and come back to the next race because you forget very quickly and we can prepare this Indianapolis race a little bit more strongly.
Q: But was the performance of McLaren and to some extent Ferrari a bit worrying as well there?
FA: The McLaren, yes. I think after the first pit stop of the Ferrari, we knew that we were in good shape with them and the McLaren were the big opponents there. And yeah, obviously we pushed very hard in the race, especially when Giancarlo retired. The team told me that I should go quicker, to have a nice gap to Juan Pablo because probably in the second stop they were longer than us. So this pressure was maybe too much.
Q: What about the fact that you've never actually finished at this circuit before, does that worry you?
FA: Yeah, a lot. Always in Indianapolis I never finish the race. So I hope this year to break this thing and we have fantastic car this season and we were able to fight for the podium in all the races, in fact. And to finish here on the podium or to finish the race for me will be a big, big pressure.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Steve Cooper F1 Racing) Juan Pablo, before you joined McLaren, Ron Dennis said he felt he had a certain way of dealing with South American drivers, he knew how to make them work, to press their buttons. Can you explain to me how your relationship with Ron is, and how he motivates you and how he makes things go, particularly with the troubles you've had in the last few races?
JPM: I think the team has been very supportive. The last few races have been a bit unlucky. The first two races when I came back, I think the first race was really hard for me and I hardly could drive the car with the pain. Monaco was a bit of the same. Next race, Nürburgring, was good, there was hope there and I got run by another car, nothing my fault, nothing I could do about it. And the last race was this. So it's been frustrating. Ron has been, I think, not only Ron but the whole team has been 100 percent behind me and that makes my life a lot easier. They know I can do the job and I proved at the last race that I can do it. So I'm not too concerned and they're not too concerned, it's just a matter of getting the things together. The way he presses buttons, I don't see it. He's nice and hes very straightforward with everything and I am the same way with the things that I don't like to him. So when you have a very straightforward relationship, things work.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speedsport News) To Scott Speed, how much is David Coulthard with all his experience and even Christian Klien been able to help you and just give you advice on circuits and driving the car?
SS: I think all the drivers at Red Bull have been quite open and helpful in every way they can. So it's quite a good relationship that we have with the whole team. Everyone there is kind of like a big family.
Q: (Derek Daly Speed Channel) Michael, with the amount of investment with the top teams, particularly Ferrari, the massive amount of information that you have, it's hard for people to understand that Ferrari struggle this year. Is it because McLaren and Renault in particular have taken a quantum leap or do you believe your car is as good as it was last year?
MS: The point is that the development rate of Formula One can be and is extremely quick. We have had quite an advantage last year. There's been rule changes which sort of re-zeroed things, and quite frankly, we as a whole package probably didn't do as good a job as we have been doing last year. That's in a way the situation. And the other teams have done a very good job on the other side, which leveled out the situation.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber - EFE) Question for Fernando. Would you be happy here with a podium or could you expect a fifth victory of the year here?
FA: At the moment before we start in the process, I think to think of a podium is a more realistic target for us, especially because we go out third, I think, in qualifying. So this would not help us, our grid position. I think to finish on the podium is a great result for us here. But at the same time we always approach weekends with victory in sight and we have to do the maximum we can. I think we have a good car, we can have some luck, also, and a good start, you never know. We'll see how the weekend is running, but at the moment the podium, I think, is a good target for us.
Q: (Derek Daly Speed Channel) Juan, with the experience you had with America and yellow flags, did you know pretty quickly that you were screwed when they didn't call you in immediately?
JPM: Yeah, hundred percent.
Q: (Derek Daly Speed Channel) So is the decision only from the team or can you override
JPM: No, it's not about overriding, you've got to be a part of the team. When the safety car came out, the team is on the radio going safety car. They had about two or three hundred meters to call me in. The problem is, both of my guys that run the race, they were talking to each other at that exact moment when it went to safety car. They were trying to decide what pace, how quick we should go because we had enough pace to win the race where we were. And even if the safety car wouldn't come out, we were beating completely over a second a lap and they were trying to have both cars doing the same thing. So they were discussing that at that point when the safety car came out. When they radioed them, they were on the radio, so they couldn't hear it. It's not lack of anything, they made a mistake like I had made a mistake before. We've got to get the things together. It's unlucky but that's what it is. I think a lot of people thought - I heard this comment that they were trying to favour Kimi to win the race. It sounds pretty stupid when I would have been only nine points behind Kimi. One of the goals is to win the Constructors Championship. Myself scoring zero points and Kimi ten doesn't help, does it?
Q: (Derek Daly Speed Channel) When that happens, you were so close to the win?
JPM: It's not the first time.
Q:( (Derek Daly Speed Channel) Do you scream in your helmet, shout in the radio?
JPM: When I was here in America, Ganassi did it twice to me in Detroit two years in a row and I was winning the race both times. He was doing something else when it went yellow. It doesn't matter, you know. That's what it is. For me, actually I don't care really that I didn't win the race, I don't really care that - it doesn't matter, it doesn't change anything now. You're out of the race and whatever. But after all, for me the most important thing is I was struggling to drive the car quickly. You know, I could have my run - race pace was good but I haven't been able to do much qualifying pace, I couldn't get the most out of the car or anything, and I did. We did a lot of work, went a different way from Kimi the whole weekend and it paid off.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speedsport News) Scott, we often hear Americans say why is an F1 car so cool to drive? You've driven it three times. When you first got in that car, what really impressed you about the Formula One car?
SS: I think the same thing the first time when everyone gets in it, the aerodynamic performances are on a completely different level than everything else. The amount of G-forces and power you have is incomparable.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber - EFE) Fernando, are your worries limited to the McLaren Mercedes team or are other rivals going to be big here?
FA: I think a lot of teams are very competitive in this race. I think McLaren obviously are one of the strongest and Renault, Ferrari is coming back, BAR-Honda, sometimes they are quick as well like they did the pole position in Canada. You know, every race is very open. When you arrive on Friday, it's difficult to predict a result for qualifying, for the race. I think our main competition now is with the McLaren, one, because Kimi is second in the Drivers Championship from me. Also because the McLaren is second in the Constructors after us. So we have to race with them probably in this race these days.
Q: (Philippe Joubin LEquipe) Michael, this weekend Sebastien Loeb will participate in the Le Mans 24-Hours race. What do you think about this position and would you be interested in to race at Le Mans after your Formula One career is finished?
MS: It is a question of if Le Mans still exists then! It is quite interesting to see that he jumped into this side of racing. I competed against him in the Race of Champions and that was nice to meet him actually. So, it will be interesting to see what he can do in this category, I am pretty sure he has the ability to drive those cars fast. I dont feel attracted very much to it, mainly due to the level of safety that is on that circuit.
Q: (Curt Cavin Indianapolis Star) Scott you said things would be different when you got to Indianapolis and maybe all this would hit you. It is still early in the weekend but you are already sitting with Michael, Fernando and Juan Pablo in a press conference at Indianapolis. This has all happened so quickly.
SS: Sure, everything has happened quite quickly. For one it is great to be back in America driving a Formula One car here, so yeah, its quite a good week, my dad is here and he will watch me drive a Formula One car, which is quite nice as well, and yeah, I am really lucky the situation I am in, I have had a great opportunity with Red Bull and we are making the most of it.
Q: (Derek Daly Speed Channel) Scott, you leave your family, your home country, you go to a different culture, different race tracks, I mean, thats a tall order for most people. Was it difficult for you or is it just what you have to do to chase the dream? And how difficult was it leaving everything behind?
SS: Leaving home at 19 to move to Europe was a bit difficult, on top of everything I developed a disease called ulcerative collitis, which is a disease of the intestines, which after two years was quite debilitating at times. Fortunately it has been in remission and we have found a way to control it and now the living situation I have in Fuschl am See in Austria is quite nice and I have a quite good situation there, of course missing the family and friends from home is the biggest thing.
Q: (Heinz Prüller ORF Vienna) Michael, you followed Fernando very closely and you followed Kimi very closely at the last race in Canada. What differences did you notice in motivation, concentration, technique, style?
MS: First of all, I wasnt that close to Kimi as I was to Fernando at Imola. Second, there is not much to say. Those guys are great drivers and they know how to drive their cars. You cannot really judge unless you know the car because you dont know if it is the driver doing something or the car is doing and he is controlling that, so there is no point really in getting into that. Except I wish Fernando had done something similar to what Kimi did five laps to the end in Imola.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber EFE) Juan Pablo, would you ever accept any indecent suggestions from your own team?
JPM: What do you mean indecent suggestions? You just ask straight, I dont care.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speedsport News) To tell you to back down?
JPM: You know, if I am mathematically out of the points then yeah, it would be case of working with the team. Then again we still have quite a few races and I think I have got the pace to close the points on Fernando and Kimi. I am not too bothered about that to be honest. In the press I read somewhere that they thought they were going to let Kimi by and I was only 11 points behind Kimi, I think it was quite stupid actually, but you can write whatever you want. I dont care.
Q: (Tony Dogins ) Michael, in the Bridgestone press conference you talked about riding a motorcycle earlier this week. When you retire would you like to do something like ride a motorcycle from say New York to California, across country? And the second part is how was it as a driver to hear questions from the fans who asked about your dogs and things we dont usually talk about with you?
MS: Yeah, there were some quite interesting questions today, a great audience. It is sort of interesting when you think that America every time we talk about it doesnt know Formula One but when you see the audience then at least those guys here are very well informed. Riding New York to California, I dont know about that, at the moment I have more important things to think about.
Q: (Tony Dodgins Autosport) Juan, the situation you were in at the last race, you said you knew from the minute you didnt go in the pits that your race was ruined and you had a bit of time, obviously, the team had time to get you in. The obvious thing was to bring you both in and stack one behind the other.
JPM: That was what they were going to do, that was the plan.
Q: Did you ever consider just arriving in the pit lane or is that a huge no-no?
JPM: Well, I dont think, if the team is not prepared for you I think you've got to work with the team. You cannot, the same way, you know, they, they were going to call me in and they were late, what happens if I would have done the other thing? What happens if I go into the pits and they say what are you doing here? You know, you've got to be a part of the team and if you don't trust the team, you know, you shouldn't be racing for them or shouldn't even be doing it, to be honest you shouldnt be racing. People forget this is a team sport, not only a driver sport. We're the ones people see on TV but there are over a hundred people working here for us to make sure we get the good results, and back in the factory over 500 people doing the same thing. So if you're not that part of the team, then you shouldn't be involved in it.
Q: (Steve Ballard Indianapolis Star) Michael, your brother obviously doesnt have fond memories of the race here last year. Has he expressed any concerns about coming back here this year?
MS: No. Obviously when this happens it can happen at any other circuit at any other time, that is how we would see it. It is not circuit related. When I had the accident in 1999 at Silverstone, the next time you come to it you dont want to think about it but then you just continue as normal.
Q: (Livio Orricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) To all drivers, we have seen a communication from the FIA with suggestions for the regulations for 2008 and we can see that the clutch cannot be used with the hand, and slick tyres, as far as I understand. What do you think about it?
All: No comments made.
Q: (Dave Kallman Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) Fernando, Michael had to answer some questions about his dogs and so on at the Bridgestone press conference, what should American fans know about you, what would we find interesting about you?
FA: I dont know! Every person is different and I think that because I am quite young I think the young people like me because I like to do the normal things, nothing really special, be with friends, do sport, I will play tennis this afternoon with friends here and I also have family living here in Oklahoma, so I like America and I think the American people like me.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber EFE) Michael and Fernando, what are your thoughts about the talk that maybe Danica Patrick could enter as a woman in Formula One? And do you think that could be definitely push for Formula One being more known in the States because of that? Would that be sad or does it matter to you?
FA: For sure, it is a help for Formula One to be in America. I think for Danica it is a good opportunity to drive here on Friday, I guess, with Honda and for us it is also a pleasure to be a part of a big group in Formula One and also to have some women. I think it is good for the sport, for Formula One, and not only for America.
Q: We understand that Danica is not actually going to drive.
MS: Oh, she's not going to drive? That's a shame.
Q: So your feelings on that?
MS: Yeah, pretty similar. Not much to add.
Q: (Derek Daly Speed Channel) If I can follow up on that. Scott, your opportunity obviously is part of this Red Bull American Driver Development Program. Have you been told that if you're quick enough or develop enough, that the seat is yours? Is it sort of one day at a time, one race at a time, one championship at a time?
SS: Right now my focus is clearly on winning GP2 races and the Friday testing is something we're able to do in between the GP2 schedule and it's mostly just to gain valuable Formula One experience.
Q: Which means you didn't answer my question (Laughter). So with Red Bull, they haven't intimated to you that you are going to be in the seat, this is the plan, this is the development, this is the course we're going to take?
SS: Yeah, okay. Of course, the plan the whole time has been to try to get into Formula One. There's no set date or anything at this moment. We're kind of taking it as it comes.
Q: Obviously, the demands on your time are going to be huge as your Formula One involvement increases. Does it bother you when the media focuses on the driver so much that the time requirements at the interviews, all the stuff you have to try and fit in, is that a distraction? Does it bother you?
SS: No, it's not such a big distraction. You have your time to focus on the car before you get into it and to do your job. I think it's quite all right. It makes the day go by a bit quicker.
Q: (Jacques Schulz Premiere TV) Juan, one question to you. Can you clarify once more what happens if Ron comes over the radio and goes Let Kimi pass for the
JPM: I don't think he would do that because we're not allowed to do that, are we? I think the rules say that there are no team orders. I think if that would happen, it would be my decision, not Ron's decision to help the team. You know, I think I'm pretty clear on what we have to do. I'm clear. I still believe I have a chance for the championship. But being realistic, having a chance for the championship, you've got to be realistic to know when it stops. Honestly, I'm pretty straightforward. If this year I need to help Kimi, it doesn't mean the end of the year because I had my injury, the bad luck I've been having, it doesn't mean I'm going to be out of the championship next year. So I think you've got to be a team player in every aspect. If this year means helping Kimi, then that's what it's going to be. But it wouldn't come as a team order.
Q: But you decided right here right now no team orders?
JPM: I think as there's no team orders, it would have to be my decision or the team's.
Q: (Steve Cooper F1 Racing) Juan Pablo, you said, you explained it was a miscommunication in Canada last weekend. Yet a similar thing happened at Magny-Cours in 2003 with Williams .
JPM: No, it's different. Dont compare it. There's no point of comparison. There is really no point for comparison because, you know, what happened in Magny-Cours, there's no similarity with this. There's not a thing that they plan to finish one/two or anything like that. I think from my point of view its a completely different thing. And, you know, Ron, I believe if, for example, Frank or Patrick thought they made a mistake, I think they wouldn't have done what Ron did. He came to me through the race, when I got out of the race and he actually came to my hotel room that night to apologize for what happened. I don't think I would have seen that at Williams. So I'm pretty confident the team is a hundred percent behind me.
Q: (Frank Schneider - Abendzeitung) Juan Pablo, I heard that you were quite quick outside the track and you got a speeding fine. What happened there?
JPM: My last speeding ticket was over a year ago.
Q: I thought it was somewhere year end.
JPM: No, bad rumour.