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FIA Thursday press conference - Europe 04 May 2006

The FIA Press Conference (From back row (L to R)): Christian Klien (AUT) Red Bull Racing; Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1; clap; Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari; Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Nurburgring, Germany, 4 May 2006

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: Christijan Albers (Midland), Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber), Christian Klien (Red Bull Racing), Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) and Ralf Schumacher (Toyota).

Q: Christian, you missed this race last year; is it one that’s difficult to learn or one you know quite well?
Christian Klien:
Actually, I know it quite well. I think I did the most races here in all the lower categories and in all the lower categories that I raced here, I won the race, so I quite like the circuit and I hope that that helps me this weekend.

Q: What are your feelings about Red Bull at the moment; do you think they are where they should be?
CK:
Yeah, for sure we should be further up. We had so many troubles in the last couple of months. We’re still running about a month behind schedule because we had these cooling problems at the beginning of the season and we had a lot of reliability problems in the races. I think the car has the pace and if everything works well – like in Bahrain and Malaysia, we had the pace, we were there, but we just couldn’t finish the races. We had some good tests in Barcelona and also last week in Silverstone, so we hope that we can get back on the road and get good results again.

Q: Your team mate says that good testing doesn’t necessarily mean good races.
CK:
Yeah, but it’s important to have good tests as well. We’ve sorted out a few reliability problems and for sure that will help us in the races as well.

Q: So you feel this one should be better.
CK:
I feel it should be better. We’ve had a lot of bad luck in the last couple of races, so all the bad luck is gone now and we should get some (good) luck back.

Q: Nick, you had problems with your back at Silverstone; is that all cleared up?
Nick Heidfeld:
Yes, all cleared up.

Q: What did it feel like? How bad was it?
NH:
I had muscle cramp while driving so I went home, saw a doctor, he found that I had a mobility problem with my hip, it was blocked so I had a bit of treatment and now it’s fine.

Q: Tell us about the Nurburgring: do you regard it as your local circuit? You were on pole last year, raced to second but you’ve also been disqualified twice, in Formula One and F3000. You’ve had your ups and downs.
NH:
Yeah, for me it’s more the ups, really. If I look at the results I achieved here and the mistakes I made here, it was quite good. Of course, being disqualified here in F3000 was bad but at the same time I was on pole position, so I’ve always gone quite well here.

Q: So what are the chances this time? BMW looked very good in the first two or three races but it seems to have dropped off since.
NH:
Imola was quite difficult for us. I struggled quite badly there, not getting the grip I thought I would get with new tyres. But I think the last couple of races have also shown how close together the field is. If you are just a few tenths quicker, you’re up there. If you miss a few tenths you’re out of the points so you have to get everything together perfectly and then you should fight for points.

Q: Christijan, any side effects from landing on your head a couple of weeks ago?
Christijan Albers:
No, I’m still crazy. I’m still the same. No, I had no problems. Everything went quite well. We have a new chassis so we’re going for it again this weekend, maximum attack. I feel good, no problems.

Q: Do you regard this as your home race?
CA:
Yeah, for sure. Spa-Francorchamps fell away but it was quite good for the Dutch fans because it’s quite close to Holland, of course. And Nurburgring is the second closest so I think I’m expecting a lot of Dutch fans which will be nice.

Q: Now there was a suggestion that there was a Dutch consortium, possibly of your sponsors, bidding to take over Midland. Can you tell us anything about that?
CA:
I have no clue. I’m just a racing driver.

Q: Ralf, I believe you’ve been testing a new car at the Circuit Paul Ricard: how eager are you to get hold of that car as soon as possible?
Ralf Schumacher:
I’m not. It’s another little step but we knew that it would be a few tests before we launch it for its first race. That’s the plan. Certainly as a race driver you always tend to want to have the newest machinery as quickly as possible but it’s not possible and I must say that there are some steps, some improvements have been made with the new car but still, for this circuit, I don’t see any problem at all. We will continue with the package we achieved a few good positions on and so I think we’re on for another good one.

Q: You won here in 2003, but haven’t finished the last couple of races. What are your feelings about this circuit?
RS:
They did a lot of changes to the good, it’s very safe, it’s a nice circuit, especially for us. I’ve known it since my first steps in motor sport, so it’s also great to be here.

Q: One or two changes in the team; how have they affected you?
RS:
Not really. The structure has been very good, it has been developed with Mike as well anyway. It’s a very strong team and there are good people in there, so it hasn’t affected the team in any way.

Q: I believe you’re on the 150th Grand Prix mark…
RS:
Don’t remind me!

Q: Is there a certain amount of frustration there?
RS:
Well, certainly, it’s pretty clear that I’ve not achieved what I was targeting when I started in Formula One. Still, it’s amazing how quickly time goes by. At the same time, I hope I still have a few to go to put it right.

Q: Michael, four wins here at the Nurburgring in Formula One: what are the chances of repeating the Imola success?
Michael Schumacher:
I believe that we are in position to fight for it. As we’ve seen, and mentioned several times, the competition is very close between at least three, if not more teams who certainly can win the race and it’s only up to who can get the maximum out of the package. If we can do so, we have a chance; if we don’t we don’t.

Q: Michelin have suggested that this is a Michelin circuit. What do you have to say about that?
MS:
We’ll see.

Q: There were concerns about tyre temperatures going to Imola, more after Imola because it was perhaps warmer than expected. Similarly, it looks as if this weekend could be warmer than expected. Is the working range of the tyres, now it’s so competitive that it has to be narrow, is that a concern of yours?
MS:
We have had concerns. We have learned how to handle the tyres because it’s certainly different this year to what we experienced in the past, but we believe we’re on top of the situation and how to handle it.

Q: There is yet more speculation about your future; what’s the situation?
MS:
No change.

Q: A question for you all: Yuji Ide has been replaced by Franck Montagny following recommendations from the FIA that Ide should get more mileage in testing. What are your feelings about a new driver entering Formula One and then being stood down?
CA:
I have to say it’s quite difficult. One thing, for sure, is that’s always easy to say that a new driver needs more mileage, but how does he get that mileage? That’s also quite a big problem. We have quite a lot of top teams and it’s quite difficult for young drivers to get to the top. Some of them stay quite long. I think everybody needs to have a chance. He needs to get some experience so he needs to go racing to get that experience and before that, you need to get some mileage. With all respect, last year I didn’t do much mileage with Minardi. I did a lot of racing. It’s up to the FIA to decide. I think sometimes we give it too much attention. All young drivers want to have a chance in a top team and it’s not easy to get all the way up there.
NH: Without judging Ide’s driving, I don’t think it will change a lot if does more testing.
CK: Yes, a couple of times I was behind him. I didn’t judge it. But it’s interesting sometimes to see his lines. Sometimes he had really different lines to us. It’s a problem if you’re in a team with a lower budget. Obviously they don’t do as much testing as the bigger teams and then you don’t get the mileage in the car. That was difficult for him as well.
MS: No comment.
RS: No comment.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) Question for all five of you: you’re race drivers who like to go fast. This year the cornering speeds are higher than ever. Are the cars more fun to drive than last year, and the second part of the question is, are we getting to the point now where the cornering speeds in some corners with limited run-off areas might be too high?
MS:
In a way, you could argue that, that the run-off areas… One of the reasons to go to V8 engines was to reduce lap times and speeds and to make things safer, because Max’s argument was to reduce speeds because the run-offs were made only for a certain speed. But with the development of Formula One, ten engineers make the rules and then there are hundreds of them working against them, so the nature is pretty clear. You always lose the game although the achievement is big. Imagine if we had V10s, how quick we would go. In this respect, I think a lot has been achieved. You’re right in mid-cornering speed but then you have to think about the arrival speed because now, instead of doing 320, we’re maybe doing 300, so there is significantly less speed down the straight, but then maybe higher cornering speed. All in all, I think the direction of Formula One is clear. From the future on, I think that’s what is really needed to be able to make a big step. They’re still fun to drive, they’re just different.
RS: In general he’s right. There might be a certain stage where a certain speed is not safe due to run-off areas or whatever. The FIA has gone in the right direction and there’s more to come but this year, you can feel that in some places we are quicker and the cars, due to the new tyres, different tyres compared to last year, they are more fun to drive.
NH: Well, from a drivers’ point of view I enjoy going quicker in the corners, definitely, but as Michael said, you have to look at safety at the same time, and probably we are a bit quicker in some apexes but there’s not a huge difference, it’s not like we are 15/20kph quicker, so you don’t feel a huge difference. I have enjoyed driving both types of car, probably the V10 was a bit nicer out of slow speed corners, simply feeling more power, but on the other hand, unfortunately, we still have traction control, so you can’t do so much as a driver, so hopefully we can abandon traction control.
CK: We were testing last week at Silverstone and the speed in the corners was quite a bit higher, and for sure, that’s fun but then you have to think about the run-off areas as well. For example, Liuzzi had a big shunt in a high speed corner last week. It’s nice for drivers to be quick there through the high speed corners, but then safety has to be a higher priority.
CA: I have to say that I think we’re going in the right direction. The V10 was nicer for the drivers to drive but you have to get some speed out of the car somewhere.