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FIA Friday press conference - Malaysia 06 Apr 2007

Jean Todt (FRA) Ferrari Sporting Director in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 6 April 2007 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 6 April 2007 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 6 April 2007 Flavio Briatore (ITA) Renault F1 Managing Director in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 6 April 2007

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari). Team Principals: Flavio Briatore (Renault), Jean Todt (Ferrari).

Q: Questions to both team principals: there’s obviously a great deal of interest in the possibility of a second Grand Prix out here in Singapore. Could I have your feelings about that, and the possibility of it being a night race?
Flavio Briatore:
I know there’s a lot of gossip regarding night Grands Prix. Really, I don’t care. If the drivers are happy and technically a way is found to make sure it’s safe for the drivers, for the spectators, I’m always happy to do more races and less tests, this is sure. And especially if the race at this time – in the night-time – is perfect for Europe and is good publicity, it is very good communication for Formula One and for me, if everything else is taken care of in the safety area, I’m very happy to do it. And it won’t be as warm as today.
Jean Todt: We must first make sure that safety is the number one item, so there are a lot things that have to be checked because even talking with people in charge of TV programmes they have some doubts about that, but I will say that if Bernie and the promoters find proper evidence that it’s better, as long as it goes in the right direction, why not? I would be careful because some organisers have been investing a lot of money by making beautiful circuits. Some will do in the future, so we must be cautious for those who do invest in new motor racing stadia that things are equal. We know that circuits like Monte Carlo are part of the history of motor racing, but everybody says we must go to Monte Carlo but we are not so happy to think about other street circuits so we need to make sure that it’s going in the direction that it can really make a good race. If it makes a good race, why not?

Q: Another question for you both: both your teams came here for three days’ testing last week. Was that as beneficial, if not more beneficial perhaps than three days testing in Europe?
JT:
Economically it was a good thing because we know that this year an agreement has been taken amongst all the teams. It seems that it was the right direction, but in the past it was very difficult to be in the proper situation with hot race conditions. Being able to come for three or four days with one car in Malaysia was very helpful but the drivers could answer even more precisely to this question.
FB: I feel the same as Jean. At the moment we are here, we are testing. The fares are paid, the transport is there and I’m sure we have a much better way than we had in Europe. I’m sure this is the right way to go but I think it might be confusing on Friday we come back at square one, we’re testing more than we were the previous year. I believe we need to be careful to make sure the mileage we are doing between racing and testing, and the agreement we have is not exploding again with more testing. I think this is the question. Plus, as Jean said, testing like this is good because the people are here, the mechanics are here, it was impossible to transfer everything to Europe, so overall it’s good.

Q: Final question to you both: you’ve both lost World Champions from your teams this year, for whatever reason, how much are you missing the input of those World Champions?
FB:
If you’re missing somebody important in the team it’s lost, you know? Like in any company, any time you are missing a good player in the company you are missing something, this is sure, but we need to understand as well that the team is strong, the people are the same and they are working with Giancarlo and Heikki to be doing our best. Last year we spent every moment, to the last second, to develop the 2006 car to fight with Ferrari for the championship. Now we are a little bit late, we know that, and we need to recover quickly. We have everything to get back on top. We have the people, the finance, the drivers, everything. You turn the page and you try to do the best you can, and at this moment everybody is motivated to give the best to Fernando and Heikki – I mean Giancarlo. I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
JT: I have been covering this point quite widely over the last month but I will summarise. Michael has made an outstanding contribution to Ferrari. He has won 72 Grands Prix, I think, for Ferrari, five World Championship Drivers titles, contributed to six Manufacturers and he has decided to stop his racing career and I understand his decision. Ferrari is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. It’s had its ups and downs. Overall, we have been quite competitive for the last ten years so we have been trying to work on a stable team which can allow itself to lose some strong team members like Michael. Our responsibility was to try and find the best driver but not only the best in terms of driving but in terms of mentality to suit the team, to fit the team. Michael, nevertheless is still a part of the company and we are very happy with his contribution. He’s happy about his situation and we are very happy with Kimi and Felipe so now we just have to demonstrate all that with some results. We have to deliver, so we will try to deliver.

Q: Giancarlo, obviously you’re very much the team leader now; how much of a responsibility is that?
Giancarlo Fisichella:
It’s no responsibility. It’s just important to do our best, to do my best for the thousand people who are working for us. The team is very motivated to work with myself and Heikki and we want to do the best results. It’s not easy but we’re all happy, we’re all motivated to go forward, to improve the car, the balance, the grip, everything to fight for victory.

Q: It didn’t look so good this morning, but much better this afternoon. What was the difference between the two?
GF:
Well, I didn’t test last week so the last time (I was here) was last year so this morning I tried to get used to the circuit and get more confident with the circuit, and then in the afternoon the car balance was there. We tried new tyres and some other things and the car was better. My feeling with the circuit was better too and at the end of the session we were second and third which is quite encouraging for tomorrow. So although we still have a lot of work to do because the grip is quite poor, especially with this condition, with this track temperature, but we are going better and step by step. It’s going to be a tough race, we know, but we will do our best.

Q: Renault have been winners for the last two years, you were the winner last year, so what changed?
GF:
I have great memories of last year, it was a great weekend for me. I was on pole and then I won the race. The car was fantastic, it was a tough race physically and mentally but because the car was really good, I was really comfortable. I won the race without making any mistakes. This year, I don’t think the car is as good as last year but anything can happen. Our target is to score maximum points and to get on the podium, obviously. It’s important to do a good strategy and not make any mistakes in the race, which is quite easy with the track temperatures and the level of grip.

Q: Kimi, obviously you were winner of the Australian Grand Prix; how do you feel testing went today?
Kimi Raikkonen:
I think it went reasonably OK. I wasn’t 100 percent happy with the car but we learned some things. The circuit was slightly different than it was last week, so we still have some work to do.

Q: In what way different?
KR:
Just the grip level is slightly… the set-up is not as good as it was a week ago. Something has slightly changed, maybe the weather. The grip is slightly different so we need to work on the car still.

Q: Is there a big difference between the two tyre specifications?
KR:
I would say it’s similar to what it was in Melbourne. The harder was working better than the softer one but here it seems to be the opposite.

Q: And what’s the situation with your race engine from Melbourne?
KR:
We are going to keep it. There’s no reason to change it.

Q: And now a question to you both: what are your feelings about the possible ban of traction control?
KR:
I think it’s going to be more fun, although not always fun because for sure it’s going to make it more difficult to drive on the limit, but when I started in Formula One, we didn’t have traction control so I think it’s going to make a difference in the races, for sure, but maybe not so much over one lap but over the race distance, for sure. We will see how it goes.
GF: Yeah, it’s good, it’s a good option. It’s good to make it more difficult for the drivers and I agree with that. When I started racing in Formula One there was no traction control for a couple of years and it was more fun, more difficult so it’s more in the hands of the drivers to judge the traction at the exit of the slow speed corners.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) If I understood correctly, Mr Todt, you have decided to keep the engine. Could you explain the technical reasons for that please?
JT:
Rather than talking about technical I would say it’s for sporting reasons. Since last year, it’s one engine for two race weekends so we just completed the first race in Australia and then we are going to keep both engines we had in Australia for Malaysia. It’s as simple as that. You know the whole rumour started from speculation. It is true to say that at the end of the Australian Grand Prix, on the last laps, Michael… you see?
FB: You see, I am not the only one!
JT: …Kimi had a problem with the pipe and he lost some water, very little water, so we did more checks than if it did not happen. Then Kimi simulated the problem during the free testing that we had in Malaysia and after all that, nothing demonstrates that we should change our programme which means we keep the same engine we had in Australia.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) But you just decided today to say that you tested last week in Malaysia but why did you decide to keep it secret until today?
JT:
You should know because we have the same talking on behalf of Ferrari for a few years that we accept speculation but it doesn’t change our way of strategy of announcing and there was no specific reasons to emphasise on the engine, because again we never emphasised the engine situation but speculation from outside spoke about the engine situation.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, do you think it’s going to be a one-two for Ferrari, looking at the results from this morning and this afternoon?
KR:
I don’t know, it’s too early to say. It’s always a difficult race. I think it will be easier to say after qualifying how things have gone but anything can really happen because the race is for sure one of the hardest for the cars, for the drivers, for everything, so we will do the best that we can and hopefully we can have a good result for the team but we will just wait and see.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Question for the two team principals: talking with Bernie, he said that he would like to change this Friday formula, making one car for one of the racing drivers and the second car for a young driver or a test driver. Do you agree with that proposal or not?
JT:
It’s the first time that I’ve heard of this proposal so I’m open. It’s the same as talking about night racing on street circuits. If we have a specific meeting with this point on the agenda we will discuss it and if we find there is very good evidence that it is a good thing, which, honestly, at the moment, I would not support then we can discuss but if I see good reasons to do that then we will discuss.
FB: We did talk about that but we had a problem with the promoters. The promoters want to have the two racing drivers on Friday as well. Maybe there is a time to discuss it but for the moment I agree with Jean, we haven’t spoken about it. But when you have a new driver in this time, this is the time to support this decision because it’s very hard for Heikki to be driving on these new circuits. I believe Friday is very helpful for him.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Kimi, how do you rate your chances of getting your first pole here as you are keeping the engine?
KR:
It has not changed anything. We will do the best we can tomorrow and hopefully we can achieve a good result, at least. It is going to be difficult always to get pole position, but we have a good chance for it and we just need to work on the car and see how the weather is tomorrow and do the best that we can.

Q: (Marco Evangelisti – Corriere dello Sport) Kimi, do you think that the decision to keep the engine can result in more conservative race tactics? Or will it have no effect?
KR:
We need to see the position and how the race goes. I think everything really goes from there and it is too early to decide now. I think after qualifying we are closer than we are now. I need to analyse a bit from today and see where we think we are and then decide.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) For the two team bosses: lots of new race venues are coming along – how much loyalty does Formula One owe to its traditional venues?
FB:
Formula One is changing, like any business. There is an evolution of Formula One as you can see. And I believe some Grands Prix in Europe were good for the old days, but ‘corporate’ is now involved in Formula One and we need hospitality and we need room, we need hotel, we need service; and, in some places, really this does not exist, including France. In Magny-Cours, there is not a good example of what is there for the future of Formula One. That is my view. My view is as simple as that. We need to be kind like an ambassador for the business of our company. Sure, Europe is very important. But it is very important as well to take care of our people, take care of our supporters and take care of whatever Formula One needs. It needs hospitality and communication and an airport close (-by) and hotels. This is what is needed. I am very happy to race in different countries because I believe this is the nature of Formula One.
JT: Formula One is a world-wide sport, a world-wide business. On the one side, I like history and nothing has demonstrated so far that most of the races are still (to be) in Europe and I mean (from) what we see of the future, it does not change, it is a tendency, but we must demonstrate that Formula One is a worldwide discipline and it is a big challenge. When you see circuits like Malaysia, Turkey, China, some coming in like Abu Dhabi - it pushes everybody to work to always improve the quality of the circuit, the safety and push even the European organisers to do better. It is healthy competition and it is good. If it is healthy competition, it is always good.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Giancarlo, do you think Ferrari is beatable from what you have seen today?
GF:
Considering Melbourne, I don’t think so. Even in testing they were quite competitive last week and today they were on top in both sessions. They are a step forward compared to everyone else and compared to us. For sure, they are quicker than us, but anything can happen.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Yesterday, you said could fight BMW. Has that changed or does it remain the same?
GF:
I think, again, we have made a step forward compared to the last race and I think Ferrari and McLaren too are ahead. We should have the same pace as BMW . Last race, BMW were quicker than us, but we may be there -- so we are little bit better.

Q: (Marco Evangelisti – Corriere dello Sport) Giancarlo, step forward after step forward… How long will it take for Renault to close the gap to McLaren and to Ferrari?
GF:
It is difficult to say… how much time we need for that. Compared to last race, it is a good step, but to find a good step it is difficult -- and sometimes you need a month and sometimes you need just a new front wing, let’s say, and the car could change much better. You can gain enough seconds. Obviously, we need to find the right direction to make our car better. We have got a good potential and we need to develop it and to push night and day as we are at the moment.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, do you think you have the same advantage that you enjoyed in Melbourne?
KR:
I don’t know because I haven’t really had any time to look at what happened in the last session so I cannot give you a specific answer. I think the race is still the only place where you can really see because even in qualifying you don’t know how much fuel the others are running so we need to wait for the race to get some idea. We are in a good position and that is the main thing.

Q: (Marco Evangelisti – Corriere dello Sport) Giancarlo, last year Renault seemed to have a clear technical edge. What has happened this winter? Why have you not kept your clear advantage?
GF:
It is a question (that is) difficult even for us to answer. We obviously last year worked with Michelin for a long time and the car handling, balance and grip was just fantastic. We finished one and two here in Malaysia and at the beginning of the season we were very competitive compared to other people. This year, we changed Bridgestone tyres and the tyres are completely different to last year in compound and construction and we found some problems in the wind tunnel, really from the first time we went in with the Bridgestone tyres and we lost a lot of down-force and we are still struggling to find it back.

Q: (Mike Doodson) Question for Jean: Kimi’s tattoo – I wonder if he asked you (about it) before the work was done in Melbourne and if he didn’t ask, what advice would you, or your sponsors, have given him?
JT:
I read about it. Yesterday, we had dinner and it was not part of the agenda, so I did not notice (phone rings) but the most important thing (for me) is our people in the team to be happy. So, if Kimi would be happy to put a tattoo on the face, and feel comfortable, honestly, if you ask my opinion, I would say better put it somewhere where it is not so disruptive because you may then have some problems in the future, but you know I mean a lot of things are said, you know not smiling, smiling, but at the end of the day we are whole up in the team everybody is very focussed with or without tattoo and I don’t care. It is as simple as that. And if a sponsor complains about the tattoo I am prepared to change the sponsor to keep him happy.