FIA Thursday press conference - Hungary 03 Aug 2006
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: Fernando Alonso (Renault), Jenson Button (Honda), Christian Klien (Red Bull), Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber), Mark Webber (Williams).
Q: Christian, a point last weekend, was that a relief?
Christian Klien: Absolutely, it was really good for me to get this point. The last time we scored a point was in Bahrain and in between there were a lot of unlucky races where we could have scored a lot more points and so it was a bit of a relief for me and the whole team.
Q: So, do you feel more confident of staying with the team?
CK: Of course! Yes. It is looking quite good and now there are a lot of discussions about next year because we didnt get the results this year because of reliability issues on the car and being a bit unlucky at the start of some races. So, we didnt happen to get the good results together or we could have scored a lot more points and then everything would look different. But this was a bit of a release, this point in Hockenheim, and the whole race weekend actually was good. And now we try to do the same in Hungary and in Turkey and I think it is looking quite good that I continue with Red Bull next year.
Q: Robert, the eve of your Grand Prix debut Excitement or a little trepidation?
Robert Kubica: I mean, I knew just one hour before they announced so it was quite unexpected for me to join the team on Sunday for the race. It is a good opportunity for me, a good chance not only to run on Friday, but to see how Saturday and Sunday work, to discover a weekend of Formula One and I hope for a good weekend.
Q: Do you think your programme is going to be more cautious than it normally is?
RK: For sure, I will run much less than normally on Friday because we have to save tyres and engine and it will be something strange for me because I am used to running a lot on Friday and this weekend I will do only a few laps.
Q: Is it a circuit that you know?
RK: I have been here since 2001. I have raced here in Formula Renault two litres, but that was the fourth race of my career so I can't remember everything about it.
Q: Mark, disappointment and frustration after the German Grand Prix? Its happened so many times
Mark Webber: Obviously it was very frustrating because everything was going pretty well. The race was coming to us in terms of strategy and also in terms of tyres performing very well and we knew the opposition were struggling at either end of their cars, depending on which team it was, but it was a great chance to get a few points, but we had a little reliability problem which stopped the car. Unfortunately.
Q: Now, Williams have announced their drivers for next year and you are not one of them. What is your current situation? Are you happy or unhappy with it?
MW: Everything is under control. Obviously Flavio is looking after things at the moment and we have got a few plates spinning out there and we will see how they come down.
Q: Have you got offers on the table, as they say in Australia?
MW: Well, it would be silly to walk away from Williams and not have anything, wouldnt it? I thought they were going to announce Alex at Hockenheim to be honest. That is what I expected because we couldnt come to an agreement with Williams and that is the way it was.
Q: It is suggested that your future team begins with RE is that possible?
MW: (laughter) Clever but thats still two teams isnt it?
Q: Could it be one of those two?
MW: Well see. As we all know in this game, things can change pretty quickly and I think things will continue to change over the next few days, to be honest. I am very relaxed and looking forward to driving here this weekend.
Q: And next year?
MW: Driving here next year? Yeah, I will.
Q: Fernando, obviously last weekend was not one of the best. Are you fearful of the same thing here this weekend?
Fernando Alonso: No, I really hope not, but you really never know in Formula One. Every race is different and we saw in Canada we won the race and one week later in Indianapolis we were one second off so things change very quickly in Formula One. So I hope that things change that quickly again compared to last. Well see what happens. We have full confidence in the car again and it should be much better and hopefully we are back in the fight.
Q: Is that a mass damper effect or just a better choice of tyres? What is making the difference?
FA: The mass damper did not affect anything at Hockenheim in the race. We saw very clearly that we had a lot of rear problems with tyres that we didnt expect. We had some big blisters and, you know, you can put as many mass dampers as you want but the rear blisters will be there anyway. So we did probably a bad compromise with rear end of the car and we had that mistake and it was unexpected. So we know what we can do for that and for here it will be much better.
Q: Jenson, perhaps you could talk a little more about the tyres vis-à-vis Hockenheim and here? The conditions are much cooler at the moment. How much difference does that make?
Jenson Button: Well I think both tyre manufacturers have their working ranges for certain tyres. At Hockenheim, that wasnt an issue for us. The first two stints, for me, were not so bad, albeit a second off the Ferraris. But the last stint we had a problem with the front wing. We had quite a bit of damage to the front wing from debris I think and that was the reason I had so much graining in the last stint, I think, so thats the reason for fourth place and not able to fight for third. Here, we dont know what is going to happen with the weather. Tomorrow there is a chance of rain and Saturday and Sunday we have to wait and see and hope we have chosen the right tyres. I think we have. Obviously we have been deep in discussion with Michelin as every Michelin team has been to make sure we have the right tyre for here because the Ferrari over the last few races has been very strong on Bridgestones and Williams has too.
Q: Christian, do you see this as your home race?
CK: Almost, yes. It is very close to Austria, but from my part where I live it is pretty far, about 900 kms and for the rest it is very close and there are always a lot of fans here and I like to race here. I like to see some Austrian flags, it is good motivation and I hope we can do a good job here and I think the track should fit our car reasonably well and hopefully we can fight again for some points.
Q: Robert, how has the news been received in Poland? Can we expect an invasion of fans from Poland this weekend?
RK: Well, I mean, for the first time in the history of Formula One there will be a Polish driver so of course there is some interest and I think a lot of people are here already for the European Swimming Championships so they are watching that and maybe they will come and join Formula One during the weekend. I knew some people for sure who are coming they were planning already to come, not only to see Friday, but also to see Saturday and Sunday, but for sure more people will come because I am racing.
Q: Mark, are you going to do your Challenge Tasmania in the three-week gap coming up?
MW: Actually the Challenge will take place in November, but there is a lot of preparation going on in these few weeks, back in Australia, meticulously organised and everything, but I am not involved in that -- which is good. Im letting everyone else do that. Its coming on well and weve got a lot of teams involved. Weve not bitten off more than we can chew, but weve got quite a big operation going on down there. James Cracknell is going to do it. Hes coming down for a bit of a play and weve got some good people coming, but Ill be doing a bit of training for the Challenge in the break.
Q: In Europe, or in Australia?
MW: Ill stay in Europe. Ive got a stag do on the first weekend so that will slow me down and then we go indoor go-karting I think, and then watch Liverpool-Chelsea at the Millennium, and then the wedding itself, which I am the best man at, so Ive got to practice my speech as well its more pressure than a Grand Prix weekend I think especially with the brides mother hanging around as well. Ive seen them all. Ive just got to do a good job in a couple of weeks.
Q: Fernando, I think this is the circuit where you had your first Grand Prix win?
FA: Yes, it was a long way ago. It was in 2003 and 2004 I got a podium and last year my worst race was here, 11th, unfortunately, so I really dont know how the car will be at this track. It should be good for the characteristics of the car and the corners here, but in another way also last year we thought we would be super-competitive here and we arrived and we were not on the pace so we need to wait but I only consider the victory at the end of the weekend and it is all we have to do and we are all optimistic and confident in ourselves so I think we can do it this time.
Q: Jenson, a little bit of relief because of the Hockenheim result?
JB: I dont know about relief, but it was a nice feeling to get some points. I hadnt scored any points for five races and as a team we hadnt been performing as we would have liked to have been for the last few races. There were many things that we changed on the car, some to do with the engine, aerodynamics and front suspension. I think all those things put together made the difference. We obviously arent forgetting that we are always quick at Hockenheim, the last two years anyway, and we have just got to hope that we have the performance here, but I think we have to wait and see for that one.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) For all of you, it seems like the rest of the season is going to be a very tight title battle between Fernando and Michael. What is your opinion? What is your bet? Who do you think will win and why?
MW: Well, I think Fernando touched on it before obviously things can change very quickly, so, I would like to see Renault and Fernando win the championship.
JB: That doesnt give you a clue at all, does it?
MW: But whether they will, it is too hard to say. There are a lot of tracks... Michael struggles at Shanghai. He doesnt like that place. Suzuka and Brazil Ferrari havent been that strong there in the past, so I think it will go down to the wire and then down to the tyres as well. So, youve got two very, very good drivers obviously fighting it out with two great teams. Thats what it should be like
JB: It goes without saying that its great to see people fighting for the championship. Im sure Fernando doesnt feel the same way and Im sure he would have liked to have walked away with the championship this year but from the outside, which is where we are, its nice to see some competition for the title this season.
CK: I think its very interesting to watch. At the moment, Ferrari is a bit stronger but it can change very quickly and then Renault is back. Fernando is still a couple of points in front and it will be interesting, I think.
It can change quickly. At the moment Ferrari is strong and there are still six races to go. I think, at the end, Renault will be in front.
RK: Its difficult to add anything. Christian has said everything. Everything can change quickly, but personally I think Fernando will win.
CK: All the pressure on you now, Fernando.
FA: I dont know. I think we will fight, it will be close but I think the next three races especially will be difficult for us. We will have no time to react, from Hockenheim, this race we will be struggling here as well, also in Turkey because there is no testing. But after that, I think maybe Monza will be a good circuit for Ferrari, its high speed, but Im really confident for the last three races. We have time to react, we have the capacity so I put my money on me as well. (Laughter).
Q: (Luc Domenjoz Le Matin) A question for Robert: Mario Theissen said that he has not decided who will be the driver for the rest of the season, between you and Villeneuve. Villeneuve has a lot of experience but not you. What, according to you, would be the reasons to take you rather than Jacques?
RK: Maybe the pace! (Laughter). I dont know. You have to ask Mario and not me. This is a good chance for me, but I dont think its easy to judge someone after one race. It will be difficult to stay with Nick, such an experienced driver and I have to discover everything that happens during a Grand Prix weekend: new qualifying format etc. The last race I did was Macau last year so its a long time ago and qualifying will be very important but we have to see what I can do. I have to jump into the car and drive as fast as I can and then we will see.
Q: (Peter Farkas - Auto Motor) Mark, would you please clarify if it was your decision to leave Williams or the option was on their side and they simply failed to take it up?
MW: Williams had a choice to take an option up which was for a further two years and they werent in a position to do that so we agreed that we would try to make it work, even if they couldnt have come to an agreement with the original terms in place, we would try and stay there and work a new deal from there. But still we couldnt and in the end we decided to Flavio said OK, lets go on the market and go from there.
Q: Fernando, are you afraid that Michael could take the championship away from you in the last few races or do you think the gap is big enough?
FA: I dont think Im afraid. We are doing the maximum: Renault, Ferrari, Michael and me and we will see at the end. If Michael wins the remaining races he will probably be the champion but its not sure. This is quite logical. If he wins twelve or thirteen races in the season, its normal that he is the champion and he deserves it so we will see. Hes coming closer and Ferrari is really strong now. Massa is also always doing the same as him in each race. Its true that we have to be stronger and to beat them. The gap is not enough to be champion so we could beat them on the track and I think we can do it, but if at the end, he wins the championship, its because he deserves it and he won more races than anybody else, so its normal.
Q: (Mike Doodson Honorary pass holder) Its a question for Robert; coming from Poland it must have been very difficult to get into this level of motor racing. Can you tell us, first of all, what were the most important moments in your progression from racing karts at home to Formula One, and secondly, who are the people who have given you the most help?
RK: For sure, the most important moment was when my parents, especially my father, decided to move me to Italy, to race in the Italian karting championship in 98, because in Poland there is no motor sport. We have very little karting and no single-seaters, one endurance race, one endurance series which comprises three hour races in Poland, but otherwise going to Italy was very good.
Which people helped me? A lot of people helped me, otherwise I wouldnt be here. I have had very little support from Polish people, especially it wasnt easy when I got into single-seaters and I had to find the budget, not me but people who represented me and the people in Poland werent interested. Most of the people were laughing that I wanted to get into Formula One, but it happened so Im very proud and if Im here without Polish support, I can manage to stay here longer without them.
Q: (Mike Doodson Honorary pass holder) Can you tell us about some of the people who you made reference to? I think some of them are people we know in Formula One already, arent they?
RK: Starting from karting, its CRG, the Italian manufacturer of chassis and engines in karting. Then Daniele Morelli who is my manager since 2001. Last season I raced with Joan Villadelprat with his team, so he helped me a lot because he let me race on a really low budget. They tested me and they signed me, so it was really good for me and I think last year was a really good moment for me, because I won the championship and the prize for that was a test with Renault last December and the lap that I did was pretty OK. And I think thats why Im here. Of course, there are some investors in Poland and Italy who helped me as well.
Q: (Carlos Miquel Diario AS) Fernando, do you think Renault has the capacity to improve the car at Ferraris level, or do you depend, for the rest of the championship, only on the tyres?
FA: I think mainly only on the tyres. I think Ferrari and Renault are at the maximum of the capacity of the car. I think car development has been constant all year and its difficult to get something more from them. It can be a tenth or something like that but no more than that. I think the tyres are making a big difference every weekend and I think we are probably in Michelins hands.
Q: (Marco DeglInnocenti La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando are you confident you can put this mass damper in the car or not? Would it be better for you?
FA: The Renault engineers are working on it and still talking and it will be their decision and it wont change anything.
Q: (MC) When youre driving, do you notice when you have got it and when you havent?
FA: Sometimes yes, sometimes no, depending on the circuit.
Q: (Bob McKenzie The Daily Express) Mark, obviously you wanted to stay with Williams, is it a disappointment that you couldnt reach an agreement?
MW: Yeah, in a way, but Im pretty relaxed at the moment. People might think its a bit of a risk for us to leave the team but Flavio has rarely been wrong. Hes very good and we all had a discussion before Hockenheim what we should do and he thinks we can get something better, otherwise I would have stayed there, wouldnt I?
Q: One question to Mark, what do you think about Alexander getting your seat?
MW: Yeah, hes a good guy, he has good experience, and its good for the team.
Q: (Peter Farkas Auto Motor) Fernando, could you make it clear that theres no decision yet about the use of mass dampers in Hungary, because weve seen the technical delegates report that they found mass dampers in the Toro Rosso cars but they didnt say anything about Renault.
FA: I dont know. I just arrived now, I came here to the press conference, so I need to see the engineers and I dont know if its in the car or not.