FIA Thursday press conference - USA 29 Jun 2006
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: Fernando Alonso (Renault), Tiago Monteiro (Midland), Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren), Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) and Scott Speed (Toro Rosso).
Q: Tiago, you must have special memories here getting on the podium last year.
Tiago Monteiro: Yeah, well, obviously very special moment for us. We all know the circumstances. But we were there, we took it, we took this opportunity. We enjoyed it as much as we could, and we took advantage of it. It was great, definitely. I had a lot of fun. My team had a lot of fun. I can't thank Bridgestone, Toyota and the team for all that, can't thank them enough.
Q: Tiago, 26 finishes out of 28 races? Thats a remarkable finishing record.
TM: Yeah, its good. Its very good reliability. We would like to have a little bit more pace as well but its getting a lot better. We definitely improved since at Barcelona, the car made a real step forward and were getting closer and closer. Were averaging 1.8s behind pole position at the moment, so its definitely quicker and if we can keep this reliability and getting quicker and quicker, thats what were looking for, you know? To be fighting with some guys up there, we really need between three and five tenths and we should be there soon.
Q: Any animosity last weekend when the two of you came together, you and your team mate?
TM: No, no. I went there and I apologised. I made a mistake, I locked my rear wheels. I went straight to him and apologised, no problems. We talked and everything was clear.
Q: And then you got your football team to knock out his football team!
TM: Well, hes not happy about that, thats for sure. I think he took that part worse than the crash on track. Hes a big football fan. Now weve got the English soon, so Im looking forward to that as well. I will have the whole team on top of me!
Q: Scott, obviously the first half of the Grand Prix season is over and here you are at your home race. Just give us an assessment of your season so far.
Scott Speed: For its been fantastic. When you first get into Formula One, theres always a question: do I belong here? Am I good enough to stay? Ive got a lot of confidence now with that and my team has been really supportive of me, and it just feels great to be back here at home, Ive got to tell you.
Q: The good parts? The bad parts?
SS: Ah, well, those come in the same weekend. The good part was briefly having a point in Australia. The bad part was having it taken away.
Q: What have been the major surprises for you?
SS: I think after the first race there hasnt been so many surprises but you always have to do your first Grand Prix some time and its an experience that you have to go through and theres a steep learning curve at the beginning. Now, were just all trying to improve as much as we can. Its a bit difficult for us, because of our engine situation, to keep up, but having a tenth place last weekend was a great result for us this late in the game, and the team is doing some big steps forward.
Q: You have got the V10 Cosworth engine as opposed to everybody elses V8s; is that an advantage or a disadvantage?
SS: Oh, I think certainly at a track like Canada and here its going to hurt us because we dont have the top horsepower but surprisingly we were still pretty competitive in Canada, so Im still optimistic for this weekend.
Q: Michael, youve always managed to be fairly anonymous in the USA; is that still the situation over the last few days?
Michael Schumacher: Yeah, even after racing in the States, its still the same, basically. It depends where you go, honestly. There are some places which are a bit different, but generally thats the case.
Q: So youve managed to enjoy yourself over the last couple of days then?
Q: Can we ask what youve been up to?
MS: Ive had a nice ride with some bikes.
Q: Weve recently heard great optimism, from the team, that we can at some stage beat Renault and yet it hasnt happened; you havent actually led a lap since Spain. Is that optimism well-founded or not, do you feel?
MS: Yup, it is. There is clearly progress happening. If you go back to the races before England, we looked pretty strong and if you see the development we have done it looked optimistic for us, but then obviously the other guys dont stand still either.
Q: And are you expecting more development in France? Is that going to happen?
MS: We keep on developing. Theres nothing else for us to do. We keep on fighting and see what happens.
Q: You said at the start of the season that its all about the rate of development. Have you been surprised at the rate of Renaults development?
MS: In a way, yes. You should think that we should have more resources available, but then there are two areas of development. You have the tyre development and you have the car development and it depends on what area you compare and you look at.
Q: It was interesting last weekend in that two Bridgestone runners obviously made a mistake in their tyre choice, including your brother. There seemed to be a huge difference in performance just from making that wrong tyre choice.
MS: Well, Im not involved in what they did and so on. We look at our own situation and we clearly werent strong enough, thats what came out of that.
Q: But here, no ones got a better record than you or the team: four wins, Ferrari have won five out of the six races, you personally have led every one of those six races, youve never finished lower than second. Does that mean anything?
MS: I still have a great record in Canada as well but it doesnt really mean anything. At the end of the day, you have to look at the now situation and we have to find out whether our package suits the circuit.
Q: Whereas Fernando, youve never finished here, youve nine laps since 2003, I think. Again, does that mean anything?
Fernando Alonso: Its been quite bad for me, this Grand Prix, always. Quite unlucky. I never finished this race, Ive never crossed the line, so hopefully this time is the good one, and if I can be on the podium, even better.
Q: Youve been doing some promotional work for Michelin, whats the mood amongst the fans here?
FA: I think the fans are really enthusiastic about this years race. After what happened last year, I think everyone is expecting a good show on Sunday. We will put on a good show for them and I think that after what happened last year, we all want to go on the track tomorrow and to enjoy the weekend.
Q: Talking about Michael being fairly anonymous here; what about yourself, now youre a World Champion? Do people come up and recognise you?
FA: No, no, not at all. Only the Spanish people.
Q: Theres a few of them, though.
FA: Too many!
Q: And of course, Juan Pablo, Im sure they recognise you more than your two neighbours there.
Juan Pablo Montoya: Yeah, I raced here before. Here at Indianapolis I get recognised quite a lot. Its OK. I spend a lot of time in Miami and theres a lot of Latins there. Its OK.
Q: Of course, you won Indianapolis 2000 but since then, youve just had incidents and all sorts of things have happened to you.
JPM: Oh yes, weve done pretty good. I crashed with Ralf here, weve had all kinds of things. But its exciting, its a bit of a tricky track, its quite slow and it has a very long straight, so its an interesting balance between how much downforce you want on the car for the corners and sacrifice on the straight. I think most of the time simulations show very similar lap times whatever you do.
Q: But how are you going to stay out trouble?
JPM: I dont know. You know in the last race it was a bit of a shame. We had a quick car and I collided with Rosberg and it was one of those racing things that happens. I had a quick car and I needed to make sure that before Fernando went into the distance that I moved forward and I was trying to do that.
Q: What about your future? Where do you see your future? People have talked about Williams, they even talk about you coming back here to the States.
JPM: I dont know yet. Im looking at it and when I make a decision you will find out. I think the difference between myself and a lot of guys is that I dont make my decisions public. I don't talk through the press. I talk through the teams, and that's it. You guys don't hear anything, but I know what's happening.
Q: Are you happy with what's happening?
JPM: Yeah, yeah, very. I'm very comfortable, and we'll see.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speedsport News ) Juan Pablo, in Canada you went out early but in that first half, Kimi was very close to Alonso. How competitive do you think McLaren will be here?
JPM: We should be very competitive. My car in race trim was very good in Canada. And it was a bit annoying not to be able to show the pace. I think Kimi had a better qualifying car. and I thought I could have had a better race car so it was a bit frustrating from that point of view but, you know, that's the way racing goes. And I think here it should be a strong race for us. Kimi was quick last year, but we were quick everywhere last year, so we'll see. I think the trend is that we're getting better and better and better. It's a matter of trying to get a good qualifying lap.
Q: (Bob Constanduros) Kimi said that the car seemed to be slower in the second stint, the speed seemed to go away. Why should that be? Tyres or what?
JPM: No, I think his balance was quite oversteery from qualifying. He worked the tyres harder trying to keep up the pace in the second stint which probably just killed him. I don't know.
Q: (Derek Daly Speed Channel) Scott, is Formula One as difficult or a lot more difficult than you anticipated?
SS: I'd say it's, for sure, more difficult because the Formula One races are very long and there's a lot of different things that happen, with the fuel loads and the tyres. To always be at 100 percent of what the car can do is very difficult, for sure.
Q: (Derek Daly Speed Channel) When you talk about being 100 percent, I would single out Michael here, many people do it, but the ability to run almost every lap, every race, like a qualifying lap, do you think you do that?
SS: I certainly try. I can say it's very difficult because, like I said, there's a lot of different things that go on with cold tyres, safety car periods. To always have the car on the limit, in the tricky circumstances, like cold tyres, high fuel, really worn tyres, it's a bit more difficult. But in normal race trim, yes, I think I do.
Q: (Michael Brudenell Detroit Free Press) Scott, what do you need to become a winner in F1? Obviously, you had tremendous success in some of the junior formulas but how do you step up and become a winner in this series?
SS: You know, I think that compared to the American forms of motorsports, Formula One is very much more of a team sport. You have to think that these teams make their own cars, their own engines, their own electronic systems that control the cars. I think that Red Bull and Toro Rosso is on the right way. But it's certainly not something that's going to happen this year - maybe next year, if things go very well and we develop at very good rate, maybe a podium could be possible. But this is also being a bit optimistic. I think it's more of a three year programme.
Q: (Adam Hay-Nicholls - Two Paws Agency) Tiago and Juan Pablo, you both raced in Champ Cars. Do you think F1 pays enough attention to drivers racing in the US?
TM: Who in F1? The teams? Don't know if they pay enough attention, but they definitely should. I think there's talent over here, like anywhere else in the world. There's some great drivers in Champ Car, there's some great drivers in IRL. They should have a look, but then again there's also a lot of talent in Europe. So I think the level of the top guys at the front is for sure very similar, still as good. They should have a look. But, again, we race a lot more in Europe so I think they're a bit more concentrated in drivers around there.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speedsport News) Scott, you sort of had a non-stop couple days here of radio interviews, TV interviews, newspaper interviews. How hectic has it been? How have you found the reception from the media here in Indianapolis?
SS: It's been fantastic. Now when I go back and everyone asks me how Formula One is starting to shape up in America, I can tell them it's going really great. It's the first time I sort of have been able to experience the media in America. It's been a very, very warm homecoming for me, for sure.
Q: (Todd Golden Ontario Tribune Star) Michael, American racing fans take their four-time winners at Indianapolis pretty seriously: Al Unser, A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears among them. Do you consider yourself, even though you're in a different racing discipline, part of that Indianapolis fraternity of four-time winners? Do you consider yourself part of that Indianapolis greatness?
MS: I'm not exactly sure of the history of Indianapolis, when it started, how long it is. But Formula One is there just for the years we are here, and I'm not sure if you should really put yourself into that history that much. I'm not considering it too much, no.
Q: (Livio Orricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Alonso, considering what happened last year here, are you worried about the fact that Michelin could be so worried with safety and it could interfere in the performance of the tyre?
FA: No, no. No problems. Hundred percent sure we will not have the same problem. We cannot be conservative in this part of the championship. The teams will not allow Michelin to be conservative. We all want to win. Michelin brought here a winning tyre, for sure.
Q: (Jim Peltz Los Angeles Times) Michael, the number of times that you're finishing second being so uncommon given your career, does that frustrate you or give you even more drive to get back to where you were?
MS: No, neither/nor, honestly. It's just part of the game. It's natural that you simply can't win every race, although you wish. No, but last year was occasionally frustrating. But to be second, like the race in Canada actually in the final stages to get second position is some excitement.
Q: (Derek Daly Speed Channel) Michael, of the panel, you would be the most experienced. With the success that you've had, have you peaked or are you still potentially getting better or are you still learning or do you think you've peaked as a driver?
MS: You never stop learning, absolutely. There is a point where you stop, obviously, gaining speed, natural speed. But that starts very early. After that, it's just experience you take on. it'll never stop, honestly, because Formula One just develops all the time, and you just have to keep track of the development and just be on top of it, and that makes you develop at the same time.
Q: (Derek Daly - Speed Channel) So would a driver with a technical feel, would he potentially have an advantage in Formula One as it is today or is it the instinct-reflex driver? Do you know what I mean by that?
MS: I don't think the reflexes - I mean, I haven't measured it. There is obviously a trade-over when maybe your reflexes slow down and experience comes in. But I only can compare myself against my team mates and I haven't looked to that so far, so...
Q: (Tim May Columbus Dispatch) Scott, what is the secret for an American to get to Formula One, for a lot of these guys that want to end up over there?
SS: To have the opportunity to go to Europe where you have to go through the proper ladder series. For me, I think that the European racing is much more competitive and if you stand a chance in Formula One and you don't want to step in and look silly, you have to go over there and compete and do well against the Europeans.
Q: (Felipe Motta Radio Panamericana) Michael, tomorrow Germany will play against Argentina. What do you expect of this match? You think it will be possible to watch the match here in the USA during the practice? I don't know if it's before or after.
MS: I don't know what time it is but if I have time, I will certainly watch it, absolutely. I think if we go through that one, then we have done already 50 percent or maybe more than 50 percent because Argentina is one of the top teams. Being able to beat them, we're looking good.
Q: (Carlo Gomez Diario AS) Fernando, is this your worst circuit of the year? The second question is about the match of Spain in the world soccer.
FA: Indianapolis, for sure, will be the most difficult race in all the championship for us. The car was never competitive here. We don't know why. But we hope that this year change that. The (RS) 26 has been competitive everywhere so we expect a good performance here but we have some doubts, for sure. I hope to have a good car.
Now, the soccer: nothing to say. We are always the same, we are a good team in the group and then come the important matches, and we go home. It's OK. Like this we don't have any more worries. We don't fight with the team, with the French mechanics or the English. We are not any more there, so we are happy, we concentrate only Formula One.