FIA Thursday press conference - Hungary 31 Jul 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: Fernando Alonso (Renault), Timo Glock (Toyota), Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren) and Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari).
Q: Timo, any after effects from your accident in Hockenheim?
Timo Glock: No, not really. Maybe too many interviews and stuff like this. But at the end I am okay. I did the test in Jerez without any problems, 80 laps or 78 laps without any problems.
Q: In some ways was it a relief to know that it was a mechanical failure rather than any problem you had?
TG: You know you have to see it from two sides. Until I came into the medical centre I was sure that maybe I made a mistake and came a bit too wide out of the kerb and with a heavy fuelled car I felt some bottoming, so I thought it might be my mistake. But then they told me that the rear suspension collapsed and that was the reason for the crash. When I saw it the first time it looked more spectacular than it felt in the car. For sure it was a bit painful on the back in the first impact but when you see so much stuff flying around, it looks more spectacular than it was right at the end.
Q: Have you been examined here this morning by the doctors?
TG: Yeah, it was quite a quick check. They knew that I did the test without any problems. They got all the pictures from MRT and stuff like this. There has been another check and everything was alright.
Q: And there has been no problem since the test?
TG: No, no. Everything easy.
Q: Fernando, you have won here before and been on pole here. Is it a good circuit for Renault?
Fernando Alonso: We will see. It has been a good circuit for Renault in the past. But there have been this year some good circuits for us in the past and this year it is not anymore like that, so we will see how is this weekend. Obviously we arrive with some confidence and some optimistic feeling. In Jerez we found some good solutions it seems, so it depends of course how the others improve as well. But we should be a little bit better again here.
Q: What is the feeling within the team after the second place in Hockenheim?
FA: I think more or less the same. Obviously the target and the goal for the rest of the season is very clear to try to be fourth in the Constructors Championship. Now we are sixth but only two points from Toyota and one from Red Bull, so the last race with eight points was a big, big step for us in terms of confidence and motivation to keep pushing. It didnt change too much in the team but now we are closer to our goal.
Q: Is development still continuing within the team or has that slowed looking forward to next year?
FA: No, there is still some developing in this car and some improvements in every race. Its true also that in Jerez in some of the test we were also looking at next years car. We were testing with slick tyres, so it was a good opportunity to test maybe new solutions for next years car but this years car is still the main priority at the moment.
Q: And talking of next year. Everyone says you are the key to the driver market next year. What is your contractual situation at Renault?
FA: I have a contract with Renault for the long term. But of course at the end of every season you need to look at what the possibilities are. It is not the time now in the middle of August to think but for sure in September and October I will have a think and we will decide.
Q: Heikki, some people are saying your role in McLaren is a support role for Lewis Hamilton. How do you see your role?
Heikki Kovalainen: Well, I think first of all I dont think Lewis needs any help. I think he has shown himself that he can do the job and that he doesnt need anyone there. The second point is that I am trying to do the maximum for myself and I am not helping any other drivers, thats for sure. And I have no instructions from the team. In the past it has been very clear that at McLaren they have had the policy of equal drivers and both have the same opportunities. I have the same car, the same opportunity and I am just working towards improving the pace and the results. The last few races have been a little bit disappointing but the only way to move on is to keep working hard and eventually the results will come. Interestingly, following this conversation it always arises that I am helping and I am in the support role but I dont see it like that.
Q: What about testing at Jerez for this grand prix. How did that go?
HK: I think it went really well. Gary (Paffett) did the first day and Pedro (de la Rosa) the next two days and I did the final day. Overall I think we improved the package again. It is a very big push from everybody in the team to improve the car all the time. I think we are making good progress and for myself the last day we made some set-up changes and some modifications to try to improve my situation, especially improving the pace in the races. I feel that we have made a step forward and we will see how it goes this weekend but in general the qualifying has been strong but in the races I have suffered more, so we are trying to focus on that. I think we are making good progress and we will see this weekend if we have made a significant step or not.
Q: This was a good race for you last year.
HK: Yeah, I finished eighth, so it was good. You can only be satisfied when you win the race. I think I started last year from 12th position and finished eighth, so it was a good race. I had no big fights, no big incidents. It was a fairly straightforward race. I think I touched Fernando earlier on in the race and it made a little hole on the nose box, so I had a nice ventilation in the car. Thats what I remember from last year.
Q: A lot of Finns come here. Does it feel like a home race?
HK: At least last year I remember the atmosphere here being particularly good. There were many Finnish flags and I know there were a lot of Finnish fans around, so I think this could be the closest one to be considered my home grand prix with more supporters from Finland. Obviously unless we have a grand prix in Finland, it is not quite a home race.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Germany) What are your thoughts about McLaren clarifying your contract for next year?
HK: I think as far as I am concerned I have never been worried about my contractual situation. Since the beginning of my McLaren career it has been the target to extend this relationship for many, many years. I think it is just to clarify the situation for everybody of where we are at the moment. First of all I can say I am very, very happy with this team. I have had no second thoughts since I joined this team. I think there is a great potential in this team and I want to be part of it. I want to become a successful driver in this team and hopefully we can announce at some point in the future that I can stay here for many, many years. I would be happy to finish my career at this team to be honest.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) To all the guys, you have tested with slicks and you have tested with 2009 aerodynamics. What can we expect the cars to be like next year?
HK: First of all I can say I havent tested slicks. I havent tested the package. Pedro has done, so I have no feelings myself.
FA: I tested only once with slicks in Barcelona but it was with 2008 downforce, so I dont know. In Jerez I think they were testing and the timed laps are quicker with 2009 configuration compared to 2008.
TG: For me I didnt test the slick tyres in Jerez. I think Jarno (Trulli) did the whole programme. I just tested it for one time in Barcelona and we have to wait and see. It was a different tyre figuration and it is difficult to say but at the end it will be interesting and I am happy that we go back to slick tyres.
Q: (Michael Trawniczek - Rally & More) Fernando, you were fighting for the top places in past years and with this car it is not possible. Now you are looking a little sad. Can you describe the feeling for a pilot who has to go through this phase of a career? Is this the hardest phase of your career?
FA: No, the feeling is, as I said, sometimes a little bit of frustration when you see you do a perfect race and you finish sixth or seventh and there is nothing more than you can do. You do a perfect lap in qualifying, maybe you are fifth. This is not what I have been used to the last few three or four years when I have been on pole positions and on the podium. But it is part of the job and the sport is like that. You go up and down. It is not that the same guy is winning the Tour de France or the World Cup or whatever. Every year its a new challenge and some new difficulties. Now we are in a moment that is difficult. We need to recover a little bit of confidence and build a winning team again. We are in that phase but I am not worried. Obviously I am just 27 years old and still have many years to come. Even Michael Schumacher, the guy with more titles, spent four years at Ferrari not winning, so I need to be patient and I need to work harder than ever now to win again as soon as possible.
Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) Fernando, this race last year was a difficult one for you personally. How much happier do you feel personally even though you are not in a championship winning car?
FA: Much happier this year for sure. Last year again it is true that I had a possibility to fight for the championship and it was okay. I knew that this year it was not possible any more. But if I was racing for McLaren now at this moment maybe I would be in the same position as I am now without the possibility to win. So at least I am happy to be with Renault with the full support of the team and knowing that everybody is working night and day to give me the best car possible. One day we will be seventh, one day we will be fifth and hopefully one day we will be on the podium and everybody on the podium will be there with some excitement.
Q: (Peter Farkas - Auto Motor) Fernando, you and Flavio have both commented that Renault might have been hurt by keeping to the engine freeze much more than the others. Can you explain what you mean by that?
FA: When the engine was frozen two or three years ago I think Renault more or less stopped developing and carried on with the new regulations. At the Viry factory in Paris there are less people working and just the maintenance of the engine. Build the engine and nothing more than that, no research and no developing. I was in another team last year and I know how much they improved the engine during the season and how many steps we introduced and it is the same for all the teams. Every three or four races there is a little step in the engine which gives you some horsepower. For Renault, it has not been like that for the last two years. There has been a lack of power probably in the last three years.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) After your intensive working in Jerez last week, how much closer do you think you are to Lewiss race pace?
HK: I am confident that we made steps forward and I think it is fair to say that Lewis hit the sweet-spot in the last couple of races pretty well. It was always going to be difficult to match him. We will find out this weekend how things have improved. I think had the Silverstone race been dry, it could have been a different story. I felt my car was very strong there and the whole package was very much together and at Hockenheim I was never able to get the same feeling. I think we have got on top of things pretty well. Certainly the feeling at Woking and the last day I spent testing in Jerez confirmed that we are heading in the right direction but the only way to improve the things is to keep working, keep moving forward and eventually we will arrive there. I have no doubt about that.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, could you clarify why you went to Lugano. Is it true that you are trying to transfer your home there? And for all of you: where are you going to go in the holiday break and are you going to go to Beijing to see the Olympic Games, and which is the sport that you will principally follow in the Olympics?
FA: I was in Lugano just for a little holiday. I was there for three days, because I know Jarno is living close to Lugano and he was always telling me it was a nice place with nice weather and I was there for two days. Its true that I was finding some accommodation but it was a hotel, not a house, and it was only to stay for one night. I have no plans to move there.
I wont be going to Lugano any more in the break, of course, not to Italy. We will see. I have nothing planned. At the moment I will go to Switzerland for a few days - I have no idea. But I think my wife will decide unfortunately!
I will be following all the sports where we have some good Spanish contenders. I think in tennis we have Nadal, in cycling we have some strong guys there as well. No athletics because we are not very strong there.
TG: In the break I will go to Los Angeles, to Monterrey, where there is a big old-timer event where I will drive a Toyota sports car in a show event and maybe spend four or five days in Los Angeles and have a little break there. I dont know at the moment. I will definitely watch the Olympics but I dont have any special interests where Im a fan or whatever but cycling is definitely one thing which I will follow.
HK: I think I will go - and this is probably the only time apart from Christmas I will go to north Finland to see my parents, in the area where I am born, and do a little bit of fishing and just walking in the forest and enjoying not seeing anyone else but myself. I will see some animals: reindeer, maybe bears, things like that. In my family I make decisions where I go, I dont know what my girlfriend will do, but this is my holiday.
FA: You will see wait two years!
HK: This is a team order in my team and Im in the strong position this time. As for the Olympic Games, Im definitely going to be watching a lot of it and I think that, as a Finn, the most interesting part will be the javelin competition. We have a guy who was World Champion last year, Tero Pitkamaki, and Im going to try to support him especially, to take the gold medal. He has a great opportunity. We have a few other guys, other athletes who have a good opportunity to be successful but Im very interested in athletics, and I watch all these Grands Prix meetings on television mostly. I will spend a lot of my time, and again, I might need to put team orders in place because my girlfriend might be watching something else.
Q: (Frederic Ferret - LEquipe) Question to all drivers about the sharkfin engine cover. How important is it for your driving style and for the performance of the car?
TG: I havent tested it. Kamui (Kobayashi), our test driver, tested it on the last day (at Jerez), so I may have it on maybe tomorrow, so we will have to wait and see but hopefully it will give us more performance and maybe a bit more stability.
FA: I tested it and I found no difference when I tested it. We keep it on the car because according to the wind tunnel its a little bit better the numbers but no big change in terms of driver feeling.
HK: I havent tested it but we tried it in Hockenheim, I think Lewis tried it, and again, I feel we didnt really feel a difference, so thats why we havent run it since then. I think we need to maybe work on it a little bit more and to understand where the benefits are and where there are no benefits. I think that were not running it at the moment.
Q: (Jon McEvoy - The Daily Mail) Fernando, Im just wondering, a year on from the major row you had here with Lewis, have you and Lewis made up now?
FA: After last year here, in my opinion there was nothing to discuss or to say. It was planned, before qualifying, to have - last year we had fuel-burning laps - it was my turn to do the extra lap here, so you gain nearly a tenth when you do your quick lap on the last (set of) new tyre(s). That was not the case and at the end we nearly didnt cross the line on time. I crossed the line seventh tenths of a second before qualifying finished, I think, and Lewis didnt. I got penalised and all the mess started. There was nothing to discuss. It was more a team decision and a team philosophy that it was not a problem at all with anything between Lewis and me. We do what the team tells us and nothing more. If we dont do that, the team is not normally very happy with us but that time they seemed quite happy.
Q: (Jon McEvoy - The Daily Mail) As a follow-up, if I may, it seems therefore that youre blaming Ron Dennis. Maybe I could ask the same about him? Have you made up with Ron Dennis?
FA: Nothing. Again, I think everyone makes his choices and he was very clear on his philosophy and his way to run (the team) and to compete like that. As a professional Im not like that and we chose different ways. Its all OK with everybody. You just need to make choices. He made that choice, and I made that choice.
Q: (Michael Trawniczek - Rally & More) My question is for all of you: I was at the Ennstal Classic last weekend, an old-timer rally, and there was a meeting of the former Formula One drivers club. There were names like Hans Herrmann and Sir Stirling Moss. Jochen Mass was voted as new president and he said that he wanted to make the club younger, to open it up for younger drivers. Do you recognise this club, can you imagine meeting your fellow drivers when you are 45 to go fishing or to watch the Monaco Grand Prix or something like that?
FA: I will do whatever my wife wants. If its time to join the club, I will join, if she says no, then I wont join.
HK: For me its the opposite; if they ask me to join the club, I make my decision whether my girlfriend is happy or not. I try to keep it that way, I think its better.
TG: For me, Im not sure at the moment. The schedule is quite tight, so I think at the moment theres no time for fishing. Maybe in a couple of years. We will see.
Q: (Peter Farkas - Auto Motor) Timo, David Coulthard said that the FIA should start an investigation into the structural integration of the Toyota car, if it is safe enough or not. Are you confident it is as safe as it can be?
TG: Yeah, definitely. As I said, I did the test in Jerez and at the end we did all the investigations and found out because at Silverstone we had quite a lot of trouble in the race. I went through the gravel a couple of times and stuff like this which, in the end, I think was the main reason why we had the problem at Hockenheim. For me there is no doubt that our car is safe enough to drive in the race and to compete this season. When you operate on the limit, things happen like this and we analysed it and we know why and there is no reason to have any doubts.
Q: (Gaetan Vigneron - RTBF TV) Question for Timo: I was a little bit surprised by the time it took for the medical car to get the signal to go to you, to the crash site, and you got out of the car on your own. It was a little bit surprising because normally there is another procedure. Whats your opinion about that?
TG: For me, the reason why I stayed in the car, was First of all, after the first impact I couldnt really breathe. I think before I hit the wall I breathed at the wrong moment and I didnt expect an impact like this but in the end I just took my time to get out of the car and before that I was OK and I had no pain, and I dont know how long it took before the medical car was at my car but in the end, I dont think the lights were on but the crash was heavy enough to take me out of the car like they normally do. For me, everything was OK. My feeling was that I was OK and had no problems to get out of the car.
Q: (MC) Weve been joined by Kimi. I guess its been a bit of a race to get here?
Kimi Raikkonen: Yeah, I got stuck at the airport in Switzerland for a couple of hours.
Q: In testing, do you think youve found the reasons for your lack of performance in the last couple of races?
KR: Its difficult to say, really. In Germany we definitely didnt have the speed that we were hoping for but then there were many other people who didnt either. We will see this weekend. You can always think that from the testing that we found something or at least we should understand better what our position is but racing is a different place and hopefully we will do better here.
Q: What about your own motivation? Does that remain the same?
KR: Yeah, it hasnt disappeared anywhere but of course its not nice when its not going so well but its not the first time. We just keep pushing and at some point it starts going better again.
Q: People are talking about you retiring, not necessarily at the end of this year but at the end of next year. Are there any thoughts on that?
KR: I never said anything like that. I only said that I have a contract until the end of next year and then somebody made up that I will stop at the end of this year or the end of next year, but I never said that.
Q: Are you still enjoying Formula One?
KR: Yeah, but like I said, there are a lot of other things in life but Im enjoying this. I have a great time, I have a great time with them. Of course it would be better if we could do a little bit better right now but thats racing and for sure we will get where we want.
Q: (Frederic Ferret - LEquipe) Have you tested the sharkfin engine cover? And how is it with your driving style and the performance of the car?
KR: I didnt test it. I think we will probably run it tomorrow and see how it is but I think Felipe tried it on the last day of the test. We will see how it works tomorrow.
Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Kimi, can you describe how much of the time at Jerez you could use for finding the reasons for the lack of performance in the last races?
KR: The whole test, thats why we went there. We tried to more or less understand if we have done something wrong, taken a wrong direction. We tried many, many things and we at least know where we had a problem, or if we had a problem or not. I think we have a clearer picture than before.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) Kimi, when you set up a car for a race, how much do you look at Felipe Massas settings or do you pretty much go 100 percent your own way?
KR: Of course you always look at your team-mate, and then in the end you need to do what you think is the best way and what is best for you. Sometimes they can be very close, sometimes they are more far away from each other and I would say that this year they would probably be closer than they were last year but it really depends from race to race and it keeps changing.
Q: (Peter Farkas - Auto Motor) Kimi, it wasnt really hot in Hockenheim but its quite hot here. Do you think it will help Ferrari to use its tyres more efficiently?
KR: Usually when its been hot its been good for us but the last few races have been quite up and down for us. Hopefully it helps us but then I might be wrong. We need to wait until tomorrow.
Q: (Bryron Young - The Daily Mirror) Kimi, do the last two results make Lewis the championship favourite now?
KR: For sure theyve been very fast in the last races and we havent really been exactly doing so well. There are many races to go, but he has a little gap over us, so its not easy to catch up, especially if we dont start winning, it will be pretty difficult. Hopefully we can catch up.