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FIA Thursday press conference - Spain 11 May 2006

The FIA Press Conference (L to R): Franck Montagny (FRA) Super Aguri F1 Team; Pedro de la Rosa (ESP) McLaren Third Driver; Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams; Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari; Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Spanish Grand Prix, Preparations, Barcelona, Spain, 11 May 2006

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: Fernando Alonso (Renault), Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Franck Montagny (Super Aguri) and Nico Rosberg (Williams).

Q: Franck, life must have changed for you quite a lot…
Franck Montagny:
Yeah, just a little bit: from my living room to a race track. Yeah, quite a lot.

Q: Tell us how it all came about?
FMo:
Quite quickly and I am quite happy to be here, for sure. Thanks to Super Aguri for giving me this opportunity first. They called me a week before the race at Nurburgring and they asked me to come to be third driver, to do the testing on the Friday, because they could do it with a third car, and when I arrived, they asked me to do the race, because they had a problem with the second driver. I was just glad to do it.

Q: How can you see yourself improving the team, with your experience from Renault?
FMo:
Well, I don’t think we can improve this car, for sure, but the more we work on this car and all the things we can see from this car, we can maybe make a better car in the future. We all know that SA06 is coming soon so we can still work on new stuff, what I have learned in the past, what Takuma has learned in the past and maybe it’s going to be better.

Q: And this race is a bit of a home race for you, isn’t it?
FMo:
Yeah, kind of, yeah. I used to live for four years here in Spain, in Barcelona, particularly. I really love this city. It’s a very beautiful city, nice people, open minds. I have a lot of good things to say about here.

Q: And you still have a business here? Your hairdressing business?
FMo:
Yeah, but I don’t cut hair, don’t get me wrong! I haven’t been there this week; no time!

Q: Nico, tremendous race at the Nurburgring. The first time you went out on the track it was as though you had huge confidence, because you instantly set fastest time. Does knowing the circuit give you that much confidence?
Nico Rosberg:
Yeah, the Nurburgring is one of the tracks that I know best throughout the year, coming into F1, because I’ve done a lot of races there, and I’ve had some great success there too. So I did feel confident going onto the track. Obviously it’s always quite different when you tackle the track with a Formula One car, because the way you take the corners and everything is quite different. But I found that in especially in the beginning there, it was actually quite similar to all the other cars (I’ve driven) so it worked out quite well initially and, yeah, the whole weekend worked out quite well. It was quite a good result in the end, I think.

Q: Will you have similar confidence at all the circuits you know?
NR:
Yes, of course. It’s always a help when you come to a circuit and you know where you’re going to be going, also for your confidence and everything. It is a slight help, yeah, every time.

Q: What’s the pace of development like at Williams?
NR:
I think it’s probably very similar to all the other teams. They’re pushing like hell in the factory, that I know, and I think development has been going very well. We’ve had some steps nearly every weekend so I think we will be keeping up, for sure, and maybe coming a bit closer too, sometimes.

Q: Have you been pretty pleased with your own performance, basically?
NR:
Yeah, I’ve been pleased. It has been a bit up and down all the way to here, from my side and from the team’s side, but I think that could have been expected. As a whole, I have to say that I think it’s gone quite well, but I hope to progress and do even better in the future.

Q: Felipe, your first podium at the Nurburgring. What does that do for a driver, for his morale?
Felipe Massa:
I think it gives you happiness, first of all, and a lot more motivation to keep doing the same job. It was very very important for me, it was a great result, it’s fantastic to be on the podium.

Q: How much of a difference did your new engineer make?
FMa:
For sure. If you have an engineer at Ferrari, he should be a good engineer. My ex-engineer was definitely a very very good engineer. The biggest problem was a little bit on the organisation and on the radio, so I was quite confident in my new engineer, who did a great job, talking about everything, not just the set-up, but everything that’s going on and what’s happening in the race weekend.

Q: From a Ferrari point of view, is the team going to be at a little bit at a disadvantage here in comparison to Renault who have perhaps done more testing than Ferrari have?
FMa:
I don’t think so. We also tested at this track and we understood many important things, many good things. We improved the car a lot, especially in the last two races, so I think we can probably be very very competitive, as we were at the Nurburgring and also at Imola.

Q: Pedro, what’s your role this weekend with McLaren Mercedes?
Pedro de la Rosa:
Well, my role is the same as in the past, for the past races. Firstly, it is to act as a reserve driver; if anything happens, I have to be ready. And then just keep in touch with the engineers, the team, the drivers, Michelin, you know, just being involved, as much as I can, if I can help, with the tyre selection, everything. We’ve done all the tyre testing here, prior to this Grand Prix so I’m quite aware of which tyres are here and why and help, help if I can. Nothing else.

Q: What are the particular characteristics of this circuit, what do you have to look out for?
PDR:
I think that the biggest problems everyone will face here is front tyre graining and blistering. Those are the two major factors that are always the limiting factor. Choosing a soft compound here you have to be careful about graining. The front left tyre has a very hard time on this track because all the corners are very long, you’re putting load on that tyre for a long time, and you stay on the throttle for a long time as well. And then you have the blistering factor which happened last year to Fernando and other Michelin runners. That’s always a risk here.

Q: Fernando, your home circuit, is it something to be looked forward to or does it make it a little bit more complicated for you?
Fernando Alonso:
No, it’s the same. It’s a normal race for me but obviously with much more support from the grandstands, so for me it is extra motivation for sure, to race here at home, and hopefully to get a good result here on Sunday.

Q: We heard from Pedro about tyre choice, and there was some doubt about the tyre choice at Nurburgring. How difficult is it to make that tyre choice?
FA:
It’s very difficult. As Pedro said, we normally test here at Barcelona before the Grand Prix in order to chose the tyres. Sometimes we test in Paul Ricard or another circuit, to chose the tyres for a completely different circuit, and you have to guess, a little bit, to believe what the Michelin… things which will be working on that type of asphalt, temperature, conditions etc, and I think particularly here in Barcelona, because we test all winter with five or six degrees temperature. We came here in May with 25. Normally, it’s a little bit different. But normally we have been really good, in the last two years, here with the tyres so I have full confidence in the right choice for this weekend.

Q: Should you be scared or worried about Ferrari’s form at the moment? How worried are you?
FA:
Not much, same worry as I have from McLaren and Honda. I think we’re still the four teams which should fight for victory in all Grands Prix. In the first five races, everything worked perfectly for Renault and Ferrari and we won all five races but I think McLaren and Honda have the pace as well and they normally qualify really well, especially Honda. McLaren normally do something more in the race, always close to the podium and I’m sure that if one weekend goes right for them, it will also be a close fight and I think what we have to do is work on our car, on our programme, our strategy, do as good a weekend as we can, as we did in the first five races and the result will be good in the end.

Q: Presumably for every team it’s a matter of getting a whole number of factors absolutely right.
FA:
Many factors: tyre choice, how the tyres work on the car – last weekend was not perfect for the Michelin runners, I think – strategy, fuel load in qualifying, the single lap qualifying: when you put on the new set of tyres at the end of Q3 (third qualifying) has to be your best lap of the weekend if you want to be at the front. There are many things that have to be perfect all weekend, and that’s what we’re looking for this weekend.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Salvatore Zanca – Associated Press) Fernando, what’s the biggest difference here compared to last year. The media, the fans?
FA:
There are not many to be honest. Last year the attention was quite high already from the people and from the media. I came here last year leading the championship with 20 points higher than Kimi (Raikkonen) and (Jarno) Trulli, so already the pressure was quite big and the people were interested. Now I arrive leading the championship again. I won last year but already this is in the past. I think people are concentrating on this year’s championship –it’s getting very interesting in the last two races and obviously people are looking on Sunday for me to do a good show.

Q: (Tom Clarkson – Tom Clarkson & Associates) Fernando, do you get more excitement out of beating Michael Schumacher than with other drivers?
FA:
Yes, normally yes. Many times I think that to beat the big names and big drivers and big cars normally gives you more motivation and more excitement. I think that Michael – as a seven-times world champion – it is always nice to fight with him and there is more pressure than to beat any other one. Always winning races and overtaking people is always exciting even if it is anyone.

Q: (Juha Paatalo – Financial Times Deutschland) Fernando, if you compare the development work of Renault and Ferrari in the last two races, how do you see it?
FA:
We saw that in the last two races Ferrari was coming very strong and won the last two races but I think it is difficult to see how the development is compared with them because we have Michelin tyres. I think compared to McLaren we’ve gone up and then, as well as improving the car race by race, we are beating them normally in the races. And with Ferrari, we don’t know because the tyres look to be more important than anything else. The Bridgestone tyres were working very well in the last two races and hopefully here we will come back fighting and McLaren also.

Q: (Kevin Garside – The Daily Telegraph) – Fernando, Bernie Ecclestone said that drivers do not in general do enough to promote Formula One and in you, we have a champion who doesn’t do much. What are your thoughts?
FA:
I don’t know what Bernie means with that. I have a team that pay me to do my job. I go testing, I go to promotional events and I have my sponsors, I go to my obligations, I race and this is my job in Formula One. I don’t know what more I have to do. I do everything that is in my contract that I have to.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Felipe when you race in Brazil, what are the good things and the bad things about racing in front of your home crowd?
FMa:
When I race in Brazil, what are the good things and bad things? It’s great to be in front of your home people with the flags and really enjoying motor racing. That’s really fantastic for me. You can feel a really great feeling to see that from your people. I think the best thing a driver can have in Formula One is to race in front of your home people.

Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Fernando, we asked about the possibility of Michael Schumacher going to Renault next year and you laughed at that. Now it seems you and Kimi (Raikkonen) could swap places. What’s your view on that?
FA:
I don’t know anything. I have decided after I fight for the championship this year, my future for next year and it doesn’t matter what the others are doing, It’s always interesting to see what the other drivers are doing, but that is just for fun rather than anything else. Whether the guy who replaces me is a name we all know or a new driver in the championship is not important.

Q: (Dominic Fugere – Le Journal de Montreal) Fernando, when I got here I was greeted by a cardboard cut-out of you at a petrol station. How do you feel about things like that?
FA:
Strange, for sure, because in the last two years everything grown up in Formula One. Three years ago we had half a million people watching F1 and now there are 10 million people watching the race. It has been a big change because now Formula One is a sport about which everybody is talking in the streets and for sure my image or my face is in some more places now, but for me it’s very strange.

Q: (Thierry Wilmotte - Le Soir) Fernando, is it realistic to think that who wins the championship is dependent on the tyre manufacturers?
FA:
No, I think for sure it will be a very important factor. If Michelin or Bridgestone is in a very dominant position from now on then yes. Maybe Ferrari or the first Michelin team will win the championship more easily. The way were now we are quite close, we are fighting every race and there’s McLaren and Honda who are also in the fight but they have not had a successful weekend so far. Now it think it is close enough and we are racing still with four teams and anything can happen so It is more reliant on small factors and the guy who finishes on the podium the most and is the most reliable and makes no mistakes will win.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Nico, there’s been a lot of potential with the car this season but a lot of frustration with reliability problems. What’s the atmosphere like in the team now?
NR:
Williams is known for their determination of course. Because of the recent problems we’ve had, we could have done a lot better then we have up until now. The main thing again is that Williams are always pushing ahead and trying to get solutions to the problems and so the main thing I think in the team is flat-out determination.

Q: (Tom Clarkson – F1 Racing) Fernando, how much contact have you had with McLaren recently with a view towards 2007? Have you been to the factory?
FA:
Nothing. Nothing at all

Q: (Carlos Miquel – Diario As) Fernando, would you like to have Pedro as a team-mate or test driver at McLaren next year?
FA:
For sure, Pedro knows the team very well and has lots of experience working with the team. For sure, it’s great to have another Spanish driver in the team and he can help me a lot for sure, and I hope Pedro stays next year.

Q: (Mike Doodson) Fernando, I saw a TV advert with you making some nifty dance steps. Was it really you with the dance steps?
FA:
Of course. Two months preparation for this. No it was not me. A joke.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Franck, I believe you have a two race deal with the team. Is that correct? What are your prospects for staying with the team beyond that?
FMo:
I will do the best as I can for sure. Certainly when we get to Monaco it will be tough. To be honest, I don’t really know the car so we cannot expect to be mid-grid, so I’ll fight as much as I can to do a good job and try to do my best.

Q: Is there a chance of you continuing with the team for the rest of the season?
FM:
I am not the right person to ask.
Q: Would they prefer an all Japanese team? Is that the case?
FM:
If you look on the sidepod of the car, there is badge that says ‘born in Japan’ so for sure it would be more interesting to have another Japanese driver in the car. While I’m in the car, I will try to do a very good job.
Q: (Heinz Pruller - ORF) Gentlemen, with the World Cup coming up, who do you think will be world champions, and who is your favourite player?
FA:
Brazil I think. My favourite player is Zidane.
FMa: We are quite strong for the world cup and definitely Ronaldinho
NR: I think Brazil is probably the favourite and Ronaldinho
FMo: Same as my friend over there: Brazil and Ronaldinho
PDR: Spain obviously, and Casillas. We have to give a little bit to ourselves.