FIA Thursday press conference - Malaysia 20 Mar 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: David Coulthard (Red Bull), Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Kazuki Nakajima (Williams), Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso)
Q: Sebastian, you have been here before, havent you, you did Friday last year.
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, last year I was able to do the first free practice. I did around 39 laps - I just looked it up. After that I was banned! And I gave all the time on Friday morning to my team-mates.
Q: So your thoughts about the race?
SV: Well, in the last race I only did about 500 meters maybe, so this time I definitely want to do more. I think we had a very strong performance last weekend in Melbourne, especially in qualifying. To be honest we didnt expect that, and hopefully we can keep up the performance and do similarly here.
Q: Is the atmosphere in the team a little bit different after Sebastiens result last weekend?
SV: No. In the end we were very lucky. It was a very strange race I think, and we were able to take two points still, for the team. I think he did a very good job. First of all the strategy was perfect to bring him in, and then he was fuelled to finish, and I think he would have been able to score five points, so bring back fourth position, but then we had a technical problem with his car. Of course, everybody was angry - two laps to the end and then the car breaks down, but anyway, we were lucky to get two points.
Q: What are you feelings about the fact that youre using the well-developed car from last year and youre going to get the new car in a couple of races time?
SV: Im looking forward to the new car. I think its a good step forward and then we can see. So far I think it has been the right decision. Obviously we are not a very big team. We are very young and we are about to grow, and based on the experience the team made, especially last year, for the first couple of races I think it was a much better decision to start with a good version of last years car.
Q: Robert, I guess you have been having a fairly busy few days with sponsors.
Robert Kubica: Yeah, a bit. As usual here, its quite a home Grand Prix for our team because of Petronas, the prime sponsor partner of our team. So we did some PR activities, playing with the kids and visiting some Petronas facilities. Yeah, it was okay.
Q: Very encouraging pace last weekend, does that encourage you for the season or do you feel it was a bit of a one-off?
RK: I think the performance in qualifying was a big surprise to everybody and to ourselves as well. We knew where we are, more or less, after the last test in Barcelona but we were not expecting to be so close to McLaren and I think Ferrari has some problems, so we cannot say where we are in comparison to them. But in qualifying, everything went quite well. I did quite a quick lap, some small offs, otherwise I could have been on pole but we know that in windy conditions we are struggling a bit, so it all depends. But I think we are on a good way and looking at the progress we have made in the past four weeks. Its incredible and I think the people in Hinwil and Munich have done a very good job and we are on a good way to improve and get closer to the top.
Q: And what about the collision with Kazuki in Melbourne?
RK: Sh*t happens. What can I say?
Q: Were you very frustrated?
RK: Racing is racing. Normally behind the safety car there is no racing but he made a mistake, it cost me a bit more than him but this is how it is. He missed his braking point, I think. We were very slow and he hit me.
Q: Your version Kazuki? How did you see it?
Kazuki Nakajima: Yeah, it was a shame to have an accident and to hit Robert. Yes, I respect the stewards decision, so it is a shame to have the (10 place) grid penalty. We will start from there.
Q: So you have a ten place grid penalty; I was reminded that the same thing happened in GP2 last year.
KN: Yeah, sometimes I have a bit of an excuse for some of last years accidents, but yeah, I think I was in the wrong place sometimes.
Q: What were your feelings about last weekend, though? You had a fantastic result in the end.
KN: Yes, the result was fantastic and it was really good for the team to have this big boost. We are second in the manufacturers championship at the moment and for me it was really great to score points in the first race of the season.
Q: Were the general physical demands of that race tough on you? Its going to be tough one here too.
KN: Yes, it was a tough race with high temperatures and many safety cars but at the end of the race I was okay. Here, I think the situation will be a little bit different with high humidity, but not as high temperatures as in Melbourne. I think Ive done a good preparation. Ive spent some days training in KL (Kuala Lumpur) these last two days so hopefully its going to work well here.
Q: Felipe, pole position last year to fifth place, but fifth the year before from 21st on the grid - its an interesting circuit for you.
Felipe Massa: Yeah, for sure, I like the circuit. Last year, we had pole position. Unfortunately the race was not as perfect as the qualifying, so hopefully we can have a very good weekend on Sunday, especially. Im looking forward to it. It was a very frustrating race for us in Australia and hopefully now we can start a new championship because the last race was not like everybody expected in the team. But everybody is really looking forward because we have a good car, working on the problems that we had last week. Weve pretty much solved the problems, so hopefully we can have a very good weekend.
Q: You had a lot of incidents last weekend. It wasnt just the final one - which didnt cause your retirement, of course, but there was the first lap - it was a lively race for you.
FM: Hopefully, when we have a very bad weekend, especially not finishing the race because of reliability problems, everything has happened in this race, so now we are looking forward to having a very clean race and finishing in the end.
Q: Did you hear Davids threat on television...?
FM: I was a bit surprised, to be honest, because we are there to race. I tried to pass him. I was inside and he closed (the door on) me and we crashed. I think everybody knows two cars cannot be in the same place in a corner and usually the guy whos outside has more possibility to go off, so thats it.
Q: So you havent apologised then?
FM: No, because I didnt do anything wrong. When I do something wrong, I will apologise but this time I dont need to.
Q: David, you havent carried out your threat then?
David Coulthard: Well, no, and obviously apologies for my strong language but I was frustrated because
SV: What was it? What was it? Can you repeat it?
DC: You can read it on the website. The reality is, in this situation, Felipe is not racing me for the world championship so he can do the same manoeuvre for the next 17 Grands Prix and have the same result, because quite clearly my eyes point forward, they dont point rearward. Hes got a much clearer view as to how much space there is and I didnt take a different line than I took any other lap so I was fully prepared for him to pass me in corner three because a Ferrari has a much better top speed, its a much quicker car. He made his choice. If he makes the same choice (again), hell get the same result. I cant make my car invisible but as I say, Im not fighting for the world championship, he is, so next time he should wait until corner three.
Q: Coming to this race what are your feelings about the potential of a wet track over the next few days without traction control. It is a quick circuit as well, isnt it?
DC: I think if it is just normal rain conditions then it will be absolutely fine and I believe they have resurfaced the track. But, certainly, what we have seen here in the past when we have heavy rain there has been a lot of aquaplaning with cars flying off the circuit. I guess you cant do anything about that with or without traction control but certainly on power having TC (Traction Control) helped a great deal. But thats all in the past now. This is what we have and I guess everyone will race with the car that they have.
Q: And there is some heavy braking as well for the final corner and the first corner and we saw a lot of incidents at the first corner last Sunday. Do you think the same thing is going to happen here?
DC: There is always a potential for incident. It is very difficult for all the cars to find their positions and thats racing. You have just got to try and make the best you can and get through. Obviously everyone wants to get through, no-one wants to crash at the first corner, so I guess well take it like every other grand prix.
Q: Do you think we are going to see a different pattern? We have seen such phenomenal reliability over the last few years and all of a sudden that last race we had six finishers. It was extraordinary.
DC: Yeah, you are forgetting I have been driving for Red Bull Racing and our reliability has been one of the worst in the pit lane. I think Ferrari up until the last two years have shown amazing reliability. During Michaels (Schumacher) period they had very few problems. They really rewrote what people can expect from a grand prix car. I think what you saw in Melbourne, obviously there were a lot of incidents, thats why cars didnt finish. A few had mechanical issues. I think it is unlikely that suddenly a year into the regulations with two race engines and things like that you will see that continuing. It was probably a consequence of hot conditions. We do all our winter testing in the cool and issues like that. I think that will get ironed out pretty quickly, but I think that definitely you will see more cars leaving the circuit and having incidents because the cars are trickier to drive.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Sumie Dan - DS Agency) Kazuki, after Melbourne, did you talk with your father about the race? What did he say to you?
KN: Yes, I did over a phone call. He was quite happy that I scored a point and I think before the race he said it might be an unusual race with lots of accidents. There were maybe more than he expected but yes it was like that.
Q: (Jon McEvoy - The Daily Mail) Felipe, I was just wondering about your response to Davids explanation of the accident last week. It looked from your face that you didnt see it the way that he saw it.
FM: Like I said, thats racing. As Robert said, thats racing. Everyone is racing and when you are quicker than the car in front you try to overtake. I did a normal manoeuvre. I dived inside and to be honest I didnt expect David to close the door completely, so I didnt have anything to do. In my opinion he didnt see me, but thats my opinion. Also when you do something wrong the FIA is there to take action. They didnt even put my car or his car under investigation, so it was a pretty normal incident.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, this is just the second race of the season but already there are rumours about next year and one of them was about Sebastian (Vettel) replacing you in Ferrari from 2009.
FM: I have a three-year contract, so I am very comfortable in the team. Everybody is happy with the team itself, everybody, but for sure the last race was not a very fantastic weekend for everybody in the team. For the drivers, but also for the team and the reliability and you know it is not because of one result that it is going to change everything in the team. So everybody is happy with the drivers, everybody is happy with the team itself and I have a three-year contract if you dont remember.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, may I ask you a comment please about the decision of the Ferrari board and that Jean Todt is leaving the role of CEO. And could you tell us why you and your team mate made so many mistakes during the race because the feeling is that you lose a little bit of your temper after what happened in qualifying. Is it true that you are a little bit more nervous than usual?
FM: No, it is not true. About Jean, you need to ask him. He is here, so you are welcome to speak to him and even after yesterday what we saw in the communication from Ferrari he is still around. He still participates in the most important decisions of the Ferrari F1 team. I feel that he is still taking a lot of responsibility for everything that is happening in the team. I think you should ask him because the only thing I can say is that he is still around 100 per cent. Maybe he is not coming to all the races, maybe he is not working from 7 oclock to 9 oclock in the evening like he was doing before but he is still around for the most important decisions. But anyway you ask him what you wanted to ask. About the race, it was a very crazy race. Not just for me or Kimi or the team. I lost many places at the start, so for sure I was recovering all the places I lost. I was recovering my race and I would have been able to finish in a good position because the pace was very good. Unfortunately we had a very bad race for both cars and also for the team because of reliability. It is not because of the new rules. It is not because of the modifications that we had from this year to last year that caused all the problems. It was just a bad race for us.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Massa, does your team already know what exactly happened with the engines?
FM: Yeah, we broke the valve in the engine and for the clear specification I think you should ask our technical people. For sure speaking to an engineer it looks like we are very confident that we solved the problem but we prefer to not answer everything because it is better to ask out technical people.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, what about the rumours of you going to Ferrari? Even if it is true or not, is it something that makes you happy that you are already considered as a promise for a good team even though you have had such a few races?
SV: We have a Ferrari engine in the back now, but the rest you can ask Felipe. I think he was quite clear on what he said.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) Sebastian, your team mate has a lot of experience but it is not F1 experience. Have you been able to help him at all or has he asked for help with anything to do with the car?
SV: In the end you know we are team mates and we speak about the car and different things. To be honest you never go to your team mate and ask for one particular advice. He never comes to you to ask for one particular bit of advice. You are always exchanging information. Thats clear. Obviously as you say he has a lot of experience racing in Champ Car. I think we had a long winter for the team. It has been quite hard. It was the first time we did so many kilometres off season and I think it was good for the drivers, for the team and good for him to get used to the car. But there was no particular thing he came to me and was asking for.