FIA Thursday press conference - Bahrain 03 Apr 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: Nico Rosberg (Williams), Jarno Trulli (Toyota), Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren).
Q: Nico, this is a circuit of which you have got some pretty good memories
Nico Rosberg: Yes, really good. I have had some great races here dating back to 2004 if I am not mistaken when Lewis and I were actually standing on the podium after the race. It was the Macau/Bahrain challenge at the time, so even then it was great times. I have had many great races here.
Q: You won the GP2 title here as well
NR: Yes. Wining the GP2 title here was fantastic and one of the most important steps in my career on my way to Formula One. I really enjoy the track.
Q: Two very different results so far in the races. Obviously you hope it is going to be the first one rather than the second one when you had problems getting heat into the tyres? Do you think that is going to continue during the year?
NR: No. The first race we definitely benefited from other people making mistakes and having reliability issues. In the second race we struggled in qualifying mainly. Our race pace was more or less what we wanted it to be which was behind BMW to have the chance to finish seventh or eighth. But in qualifying we really struggled and we think it is mainly due to the asphalt change and we have been working hard to try and understand the reasons for that. Anyway, here in Bahrain and in the next couple of races I think we should be back to where we want to be.
Q: Do you think it was the very smooth nature of the circuit - similar perhaps to Magny-Cours?
NR: Yes, amongst others things that was the reason that hurt us the most. That's what we think.
Q: Is that easily curable?
NR: It is not that straightforward. It is quite a complex thing and we have many people working on it in the factory. They have come up with some very good ideas, so I am quite confident that we will make some good steps forward in a good direction for the near future.
Q: Jarno, obviously Toyota tested here. One or two people are saying that it was not that much of an advantage but I am sure you are saying yes it is.
Jarno Trulli: I will say yes. It is an advantage because obviously I know what we should get. We got the car set-up and I don't think there is much change unless the circuit has changed dramatically. But I believe we have got some advantage and we have some new bits on the car which we can test here.
Q: Toyota are looking much better than last year. Where has the improvement come from?
JT: It is a much better car in every area. People have been working really hard over the wintertime and they have done a really great job. From the beginning of testing I have found a completely different car compared to the previous one and pretty soon we realised we had a competitive car in our hands especially a car which we can work with and we can balance. I am enjoying driving and I am enjoying the racing. It is a completely different season I would say.
Q: It is reported you were pretty exhausted at the end of the last race?
JT: It was not after the last race. It was hard because it was hot and especially in the last 10 laps we were pushing really hard on hard tyres which were not our best tyres for the race to hold Lewis back because he was coming up really quick. But in the end that is normal for a driver. It was like a qualifying run and I really enjoyed it because I could retain my position and it was nice because I gave the team a perfect weekend where we all did a great job and came away with a fourth position. Obviously I was happy even if I was exhausted. But it was hot for everyone.
Q: Can you get on the podium do you believe?
JT: Oh yes. I took it easy because I know the way I am. Until I am in the car it is fine. When I have to get out I just have to take a little bit more time compared to the others because, physically, my body reacts in a different way. We have made some studies during the years and I just have to take it easy. I didn't have to get on the podium, so I took my time.
Q: Nick, interesting comments about this circuit from you. But this is a circuit you really enjoy, particularly from turn five to the penultimate corner?
Nick Heidfeld: It is definitely one of the nicest parts on the calendar for me. It is probably a bit difficult to see it as exciting from the outside because it is just buildings in the middle of nowhere. But there are some very nice corners, relatively quick in fourth and fifth gear and a bit of up and downhill and I really enjoy it.
Q: What sort of challenge is that going to represent without driver aids like traction control and engine braking?
NH: The bigger problems will come on the lower speed corners. We also have some difficult entries similar to the ones we get in Malaysia. There are some entries where you don't just brake in a straight line but where you turn at the same time. It is the loss of the engine push system that is going to be more difficult, but it is fun.
Q: And what about the sand? Watching the course cars going around just now the amount of sand that is on the circuit is incredible.
NH: Yes, but we have seen in the past that it looks dramatic but the effect on the circuit and also on the cars are quite small. I was testing here a couple of years ago and quite early on in the test, even without a lot of other cars running, the grip was there straight away. It improves a bit but it is not as bad as it looks.
Q: You didn't test here when Ferrari and Toyota were here. Is that going to be a disadvantage? And also no testing of course since the last race
NH: I think it is a small disadvantage compared to Ferrari and Toyota. But we still have some time in the Friday practice sessions and Saturday morning. I don't think it is going to be a big problem but yes they have a small advantage.
Q: And Ralf Schumacher says you and BMW can challenge Ferrari and McLaren. Do you think that is true?
NH: It is difficult to say how it will be throughout the season. At the last race we were able to fight with McLaren. In the first race we were able to fight with Ferrari but they struggled there as they had some problems. Unfortunately on those weekends there was at least one team, so two cars, quicker than us. We are fighting hard to win our first Grand Prix this year but it is difficult to say how it will be over the season.
Q: Lewis, you're the man who has had the nicest time I think of everyone since the last race. Tell us what you have been doing.
Lewis Hamilton: How do you know?
Q: I have been to Koh Samui twice.
LH: Oh really. My trainer and I and Adrian Sutil went away to Thailand. We did a little bit of travelling. We did Bangkok and Phuket and a couple of other islands. But we did a lot of training out there which was quite cool. But to have another driver with you doing the training, to see the competitiveness, makes it fun.
Q: Is it quite difficult to remind yourself that you're not fully on holiday when it's half holiday and half training?
LH: Not really because we very rarely are on holiday when we know that we are training. It's a part of our lives, it's something that we enjoy doing. I wake up in the morning, I feel... straight away, without even thinking about it, I'm going training. It was relaxed training but it was very efficient.
Q: What did it consist of particularly?
LH: We did a lot of running, in the heat, obviously, it's like doing double the work anywhere else. A lot of kayaking, a lot of swimming. I'm not particularly one who likes being far out in the deep sea, but I got over it, I overcame one of my fears which was good.
LH: Yeah, we played tennis, we played golf, we played basketball and beach volleyball, so I was improving in all those areas.
Q: Tell us about this circuit. As you mentioned, you were here a long time ago as well in F3. I think it was Martin Whitmarsh who mentioned that there are not a lot of landmarks, it must be quite difficult for a driver in many ways.
LH: It is. I guess it's one of those circuits where you don't feel like you're particularly going anywhere because you don't have trees flying past you. All you have is perhaps a couple of markers, braking boards, a couple of bridges, but apart from that there's nothing really giving you a great indication of just how quick you're going or where you need to be braking. Some of the braking zones are a little bit out of your sight, but it's a really cool circuit, I really do enjoy it. I've had a great time here for the past few years, especially the first time I came here where I sort of thought my career was over and managed to pull a miracle out of the bag and me and Nico were on the podium. But last year was great here, from here I was leading the World Championship but coming here this year I obviously want to do one better. I think we're in a good position to do that.
Q: Mixed results so far with the win in Australia, but not quite such a good result in Malaysia. So what are your feelings coming here?
LH: I think when we went to Malaysia we easily had a very good package and obviously with a couple of hiccups, not only being put five places back but also with the pit stop issue we had, we sort of just didn't get the best from the weekend. But I think our underlying pace was as good as Ferrari's, if not a little bit slower but we had the car to be in the top three, so that still gives us confidence and I think coming here we would have learned from the mistake we made in the last race and look forward.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ralf Bach - R & B) A question for every driver: do you have any opinion about Max Mosley's party last week and about the discussions since?
NH: Nothing I want to share with you.
JT: No, no comment.
Q: (Ed Gorman - The Times) Lewis, you said you didn't like deep water. Are you frightened of being eaten by a shark?
LH: I definitely don't like great white sharks, that's for sure. I guess it's the unknown, not really knowing what's below you. I do like scuba diving, so being under the water is a completely different thing from floating on the top. You see all those Discovery channels when the bloody shark jumps up, eats whatever's floating on the top. I just don't fancy being in that position.
Q: (Ed Gorman - The Times) Could I also ask all four drivers: Honda today said that 'it is necessary that senior figures in sport and business maintain the highest standards of conduct in order to fulfil their duties with integrity and respect.' Could each driver please tell me whether they agree with that statement and whether they feel that Max Mosley is upholding those standards by remaining in his position as president of the FIA?
JT: I drive a car, so all I can say is about my car and my team, nothing else.
NR: I think, in general, yes, if you're a figure like us who are racing drivers or something, you've got to try and set a good example in general, because a lot of people are watching you and also looking up to what you do and things like that. I think it's important to also think about other people and young people or whatever. I'm just talking about my situation, young drivers coming up or whatever and I think it's important to try and set a good example for people who are coming up.
LH: Yeah, I think that's key, to set a good example. We all, especially the young people, we're always looking up to at least someone to show us the way and set a good example is the best way of saying it. I totally agree with what they were saying.
NH: Again, I don't want to comment on the subject.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) Nico, as your team celebrates its thirty years in F1, tell us maybe your two or three best memories in your three seasons with the team?
NR: I think it's been a good time. It's great to see, as the team is celebrating thirty years, it's a big landmark, I think and we're going to have other like I think the 500th race, I'm not sure exactly of the numbers, but there are some other great numbers that are coming up this year. I've come a long way with the team and we really respect each other, I think, and I fit in well, so I'm enjoying it at the moment and I really hope that together we can continue to grow, as we've been doing recently. You mustn't forget we just managed to get onto the podium which hasn't been the case for many years with Williams, so we're going in the right direction. My two best memories? Yeah, the podium obviously was very special and fantastic. And the other one would be maybe my first race with the team, because as a young driver coming in, you just don't know what to expect and to just have a great first race is something very nice.
Q: (Patrick Salomon - Gulf Daily News) A question for Lewis: were you guys surprised by the sudden change in allocation of your garages and will that affect you guys at all?
LH: No, to be honest I quite like it down there. We're nice and out of the way, it's closer to the pit entry of the circuit and it's actually quite cosy down there, so we'll do the best shot we can. It makes no difference.
Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) Lewis, it came to light this week regarding your fine for speeding in France, I think I'm right in saying that you agreed to take in a driver education course. Is that correct?
LH: Yeah, I said that I'm happy to do whatever I need to do to help and to show to them that I support the rules. They haven't asked for me, requested for me to go back and do any specific course but I said that I've got massive support.
Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) But along those lines, that's part of a young person like yourself setting a good example.
LH: Absolutely, I think everyone makes mistakes. I'm young and this is part of my life that for me, in my position, and being a potential role model for lots of young kids, setting a good example is one of our top priorities, so that's something I'm going to continue to do.