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FIA Saturday press conference - France 02 Jul 2005

(L to R): Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota, Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault and Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren in the post qualifying press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, French Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Magny-Cours, France, 2 July 2005

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers:

1st Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1m14.412s

2nd Jarno Trulli (Toyota), 1m14.521s

3rd Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), 1m14.559s

Q: Fernando, what a great place for you to be on the pole yet again.
Fernando Alonso:
Yes. Last year I had the pole here, the only one of the 2004 season. I came here with optimism and very confident about this year’s car and the characteristics of the Magny-Cours circuit. The whole weekend has been good for us and the qualifying lap as well, with no mistakes, a very very good balance in the car, so everything went well today.

Q: A very nice looking lap but a lot of pressure of course, half a second covering the top seven drivers.
FA:
Yes, we knew that the times are always very very tight here in Magny-Cours and we knew that every tenth of a second is important for the qualifying lap, so I pushed from the beginning. Straight away I felt the car had good balance in turn three and turn five, so that gave me even extra confidence for the rest of the lap, especially the last sector, so I was extremely happy with the lap.

Q: And perhaps even more support than last year following your success so far this season, lots of blue out there in the stands.
FA:
Yeah, a lot. I think along with the Grand Prix at Barcelona, these are the only two tracks where we see more blue than red and obviously for them it is also a good day, and for tomorrow, the grid positions that we are on – because Giancarlo is also one of the top guys – I think we can have a very very strong race in our team.

Q: Jarno, congratulations, your fifth appearance here as a top three driver in qualifying in 2005. It’s getting to be a real pattern for you.
Jarno Trulli:
Yes, I couldn’t believe at the start of the season that we were performing so well. I keep doing a very good job together with the team and all the engineers and mechanics, so we are extremely happy about our season. We’ve had some bad luck in the last few races as we couldn’t get on the podium but nevertheless we are still here fighting, another good lap today in qualifying, another first row.

Q: And your thoughts on the competitive nature of qualifying and the strategies we’re going to see in the race tomorrow – usually a lot of pit stops here.
JT:
Yeah, you’re right. Normally we do two or three pit stops and we will get a better idea on what fuel everybody has run today. We will definitely see different strategies. Normally the race here is like a game and you play it on the strategy and pit stops.

Q: Kimi, obviously a bitter-sweet moment for you: Third quickest but unfortunately that engine problem yesterday, changing engines and having to start effectively 13th on the grid tomorrow.
Kimi Raikkonen:
Yeah. I don’t think it was the best way to start the weekend yesterday, to blow up the engine, but what can you do? It’s going to cost us a lot this weekend. But at least the car is very good and I think we will have a good strong race but unfortunately not where we should start, so we just need to wait and see where the others are stopping and then we can really go.

Q: Well of course, that is the next point: how has that affected your thinking on strategy?
KR:
We will see tomorrow if we made the right decision or not but I think I’m pretty confident, the car felt very good in qualifying so we just need to wait and see really, that’s the only thing. I still think that we can hopefully get close to the podium at least if not on the podium.

Q: Fernando, this effectively lets your friend Michael Schumacher start third in the Ferrari, and I need to remind you that it’s been 22 years since Renault last won the French Grand Prix as a complete team, so a big day for you tomorrow and a big day for the team.
FA:
Yeah, of course every race is important but for the team, we know that here in France it is even more important. I think 6000 people are here, invited by the team, from Renault dealers and a lot of big names from the Renault group will come here tomorrow and try to beat Ferrari and McLaren and Toyota tomorrow, I think, is our target and we can do it this weekend, I think, because it has been performing very strongly all weekend.

Q: Well done, Fernando. What does it mean to you to be on pole position here at the French Grand Prix?
FA:
It’s always a very good feeling to have a pole position, but it really doesn’t change too much to me to be here or at another circuit but I know that for the team it’s important and that makes me even more happy.

Q: You were quick in all the sectors as well, whereas some of the other drivers were in some sectors and another others. It must be well set-up even on the straight.
FA:
I didn’t see the sector times but all weekend it has been performing well all weekend and now in qualifying we basically didn’t touch the set-up since Friday morning. It has been good, the balance has been good, the tyres have been performing really really well and very constant through the long runs, so for tomorrow I think we are all very very confident.

Q: What was the thinking about going out in the damp this morning, you and Giancarlo did more laps than anyone when it was damp?
FA:
Well, I think because we had some miles left from the Indianapolis race we used the engine and the car a little bit more and we had some important tests to do with the electronics and the engine this morning so we used that damp track on which to do it and everything was fine.

Q: Jarno, pole position last time around and on the front row again this time – you must be very happy?
JT:
Yes, I am really happy and this first front row here comes very unexpected because yesterday we were struggling quite a lot and I wasn’t confident at all but we managed to turn things around, especially on car set-up, and we are surprised how well we have gone. This morning, straightaway, the car felt very good and the balance and handling was ok and, like Fernando, I didn’t touch it too much during the day and got on in qualifying and good lap and first row. I am really surprised. It would be nice if it was always like that.

Q: So you really hit on the set-up in the second session this morning?
JT:
Yes, basically I worked compared to yesterday on the set-up of the car, changing a few things around and found a good direction and here I am now. I was really surprised, but the way it is. The car is working now and seems to be working pretty well.

Q: You were fifth fastest in the first sector which maybe is a little bit of a worry and Michael was quicker there as well…
JT:
I think we couldn’t go any quicker not even with changing the car set-up.

Q: So is that a bit of a worry for the race then?
JT:
No, not at all. Not if I can get away…

Q: Kimi, this morning you looked really aggressive as if you just wanted to put yesterday out of your mind?
KR:
It was normal day today. Yesterday I think the weekend started the worst way what it can. The engine failed so from that point on we knew it was not going to be easy anymore because we were going to get the ten places penalty but we did the best we could and the car was very good and everything was working well, so I think we are in a strong position even if we start from the back. For sure, we can score some good points.

Q: Is third better than you expected?
KR:
Not really. I think we went quicker than this morning and it really depends how much fuel there is in the cars, but I am confident we are there. I think we had a pretty good car in qualifying so we see what happens tomorrow.

Q: Have you been assured that your engine problem wont happen again?
KR:
Yes, basically, it was just an unlucky situation we have an older spec engine now and the engine that failed was a new spec engine for this race for me but it didn’t last too long and anyhow we use this one and it is almost as good and I think it is going to be ok.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Stéphane Barbé, L’Equipe) Kimi, please could you tell us if it is more tricky and more risky to start at this track from the middle of the grid?
KR:
Yes, for sure it is more risky than the second row but what can we do? Nothing. We just try to do the best we can and avoid the accidents. I think the worst place is the hairpin at the end of the back straight but it is quite a wide corner so hopefully everyone will have some space and go safely through.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) The question is to all the drivers – were you worried about the tyre question?
All:
No.

Q: (Juha Paatalo – Financial Times Germany) Kimi, obviously you need to close the gap to Fernando in the world championship now and starting so far back up the grid how do you feel. Are you frustrated?
KR:
Yes, it is not easy. It will be difficult to gain any points from there, but hopefully we can get some points and there are many races to go and so many things can happen. But I think so they – the Renault – is in a very strong position right now and we shall see what happens tomorrow.

Q: Fernando, what kind of race are you expecting tomorrow?
FA:
I don’t know really. For us there is not anything planned for this race as there are so many different race paces in these two days with the Ferrari, sometimes they are quick and sometimes they are slow. So we shall see tomorrow if we are competitive or not in the race. For us, I think at the beginning we have to be careful especially with Jarno and with the Toyota because they are in the first row and they are quicker than the Ferrari and we know how the Michelin tyres are performing this weekend, extremely competitive in the long runs, so we shall have to wait and see what happens tomorrow.

Q: Jarno do you think you have a chance to fight for the podium now?
JT:
Yes, I really think so. This morning we were very competitive over a long run and I was surprised because we had changed the car overnight and the car felt much better and performed much better so now I am feeling very confident for tomorrow.

Q: (Ray Matts – The Daily Mail) To all the drivers, given your disappointment at not racing in America, how much are you looking forward to this race tomorrow and do you feel you have a responsibility to the public to put on a good race to make amends?
FA:
Yes, obviously, we all want to race and what happened in America we knew, and we have discussed many times this weekend and we were all very sad and feeling bad after the time after the formation lap. So for all of us and for any racing driver out there tomorrow to be waiting for the red light and preparing for the start, the engines etc, it will be what we want and for sure we will do a good show for the people and we try to enjoy our ourselves as we didn’t enjoy in America.
JT: I have the same feeling. Basically, we were all in the USA to race and it was a very sad situation first for the fans I am sure but also really bad for Formula One in general and for the teams. We all wanted to race and we tried everything but unfortunately we didn’t succeed and it is really a shame but we are back no on the job and I am sure we will prove again that Formula One is a huge show that will make people happy and spend a good Sunday watching our show. And I hope we can go back to the USA next year and prove that it was a very unfortunate situation this year.
KR: I don’t have anything to say.

Q: (Juha Paatalo – Financial Times Germany) Question to Fernando – Does it take the pressure off you that Kimi, your closest challenger in the championship, is starting from position 13?
FA:
Not really. No, especially this weekend because we are so competitive and we knew that because we arrived with good confidence after the improvements we made at Jerez last week and the new pieces we have in the car – I think to beat McLaren and Kimi, the only way to do it is to do a perfect weekend performing well and doing the maximum and so far that is what we did. We didn’t change our approach at all after Kimi had his problem yesterday and today we are on pole. We did the fastest laps and it doesn’t matter what the others are doing.

Q: (Marco Evangelisti – Corriere dello Sport) Jarno, after last year, are you going to race with any particular feelings or intentions this year?
JT:
No, not at all. I just consider last year as an experience as all drivers can do. Drivers can make different experiences and can learn from it. It was a big lesson last year and that’s it. Nothing more.

Q: Kimi, did I understand it right that you had only one new engine and now you are using the engine you used in the previous races?
KR:
No, it is a new engine, but older spec, the spec we have used in the last few races. Not much different but not the latest one.

Q: (Adam Hay-Nicholls) Jarno, throughout this year you have been consistently faster than your team-mate. Can you put your finger on precisely why this is? Is it down to set-up or is it simply down to talent?
JT:
I think Ralf has been unfortunate. Like here, he started first and we all know that if you are the first driver to hit the track you have at least a second of gap so it is difficult to compare and there have been several situations like this. But at if we look at the points, he is not so far away from me. And on top of this, probably, I get on well with the team and he joined the team slightly later than me so probably the first few races were like a learning curve for him, but now definitely performing better. He had bad luck today and in Indy. And these things are not easy to recover from.