FIA Thursday press conference - Europe 21 Aug 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: Rubens Barrichello (Honda), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Felipe Massa (Ferrari) and Jarno Trulli (Toyota).
Q: A question to you all. Can you give us your impressions of the circuit and Valencia?
Jarno Trulli: So far it is nice, warm and sunny. The circuit looks good but obviously we need to wait until we get into the rhythm of the weekend to understand what kind or what type of circuit it is as we dont know much about it. But it looks pretty good, very well organised and obviously the atmosphere seems great because we are in Spain and for sure we will have a lot of Spanish supporters.
Rubens Barrichello: I love it. I think the facility and the track, the surface, the asphalt, is all fantastic. I mean, well prepared, very, very nice. The only thing I dont like is that the policemen keep on telling me to turn right. My hotel is a five minute walk from here and it takes me half an hour as they tell me to go to Barcelona and come back so thats the only thing I dont think they are very well prepared. Apart from that the whole situation inside of the track is pretty nice.
Q: You are hoping to cut your lap time between hotel and circuit?
RB: I hope by Sunday it will take me only 20 minutes.
Q: Felipe, your feelings on what you have seen so far?
Felipe Massa: I think it is pretty impressive, interesting. I think it is a pretty different track than we are used to having on the calendar. You can have maybe some corners which seem to be like Monaco but some very different corners, very long straights which even can be similar to Bahrain for example. I think it is very nice. It will be very, very dirty tomorrow because you can see that the asphalt is very, very slippery and dirty but I think it will be ok. I think it will be nice. I like the city, very nice, so hopefully we can have a nice race for us but also for the people.
Q: Lewis, your first impressions?
Lewis Hamilton: First of all it is great to be here in Valencia. I had a race here in GP2 in 2006 but this is really the first time, apart from the launch last year for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, into the city for me and it is a beautiful place. I think they have done a fantastic job in building the place up. It has got a great hotel and the track looks incredible. I think it looks pretty awesome, so I am looking forward to getting out on it tomorrow.
Q: Jarno, two podiums for Toyota over the last few races. What are your feelings for the rest of the season? Are there developments still coming, whats happening with Toyota?
JT: I think the team is doing a very good job this year. We start pretty well and we have always improved the car. The team is keeping on pushing the development work, so I am confident that before the end of the season we can do some good results. There are some circumstances and some circuits where we are extremely competitive like it was in Hungary and Magny-Cours and some others maybe we suffer a bit more but nevertheless I think we will always fight for top 10 in qualifying and our aim is always to score points at every race obviously. Our target will be finishing fourth in the Constructors championship.
Q: Are there developments still coming?
JT: Yeah, even here. We always have some new bits. They are already concentrating on next years car development but they are still pushing on this years car as obviously the fight for fourth in the Constructors championship is very tight. We would like to finish fourth.
Q: What is your own situation with the team for next year?
JT: We have a contract in place, so we believe we can stay together for next year.
Q: Rubens, you had developments in Budapest but what about the rest of the season?
RB: I think in terms of pure developments, aerodynamic and mechanical, thats it. But we have to optimise everything that we brought to Hungary and before. We have new, little things in place. We had a new rear suspension for Hungary but unfortunately we couldnt rig test it before because of lack of time and in these two weeks we could see that there was a big margin for improvement. We are expecting that to work better here. And the spirit is good because although the preparation for next year is already in place, people are working very, very hard with the tools that we have in hand to improve the car. I am definitely looking forward to the end of the season with the tracks that are coming on as we can score points.
Q: There were articles in the press after Hungary that Fernando Alonso would be joining Honda next year. Where does that leave you?
RB: I think the team is definitely talking to Fernando but thats the question mark. I have never been so enthusiastic about my whole situation with the team. I left Ferrari because I didnt have the freedom to do what I wanted to do. I have that at Honda but I still have not had the car to perform and I am waiting for that chance. What can I say, but honestly the day that I feel that I am slower than my first race is the day I will call it off and stop. The conversations are there and I am talking to the team, I am talking to all the teams. I want to be racing.
Q: Felipe, have you got over the disappointment of the last race?
FM: Yeah, for sure. We need to look forward and we need to look to the next seven races. We know we still have 70 points in front of us and we need to do our best to recover. For sure if you look back it would have been a great moment to win the last race but sometimes this sport is like that and we need to look forward. The most important thing is that we are very competitive. As I mentioned before even with the qualifying I would have been able to fight for the pole because the car was great. I didnt do a good lap which is why I was not able to fight for the pole. But in the race we showed our performance. We showed great performance, good speed, good pace. We showed that we are there which is the most important thing. It can be very important for the next races.
Q: Is the first lap performance of the Ferrari a thing of the past? Is that now optimised and as good as it could be?
FM: Yeah, I think so. If you look at Q2 I did a great lap. I was a little bit in traffic and I didnt do a great lap in Q3 and you know that if you dont do everything right, with the big competition that we have with McLaren, maybe you cannot start on pole. I lost the possibility to start on pole because I didnt do a great lap but I was quite happy to start third instead of second as it gave me the chance to fight.
Q: Lewis, youve been quoted as saying consistency is the key to the rest of the championship. Why do you think there has been less consistency this year amongst all the championship contenders, in comparison to last year?
LH: I cant remember saying that but my guess is as good as yours. I think we are all pushing very, very hard, its a closer season than it was last year. I think all the teams are perhaps pushing even more to the edge and thats where you really see mistakes starting to happen. This year there are lots of opportunities to make mistakes and there are lots of unknowns: we come to new circuits, lots of different things with the car. Its nothing new but last year, for sure last year we had I was looking at my results from last year; for the first nine or 12 races it was quite unreal. Who knows? We might have that another year but I think this year everyone has pretty much the same sort of run, especially us guys at the front.
Q: In Hungary, you had a long stint on the super-soft tyre. Were you particularly pleased with the way that worked out because there have been problems with tyre wear? Have you changed anything?
LH: Not really. I think the tyres were very similar. Obviously I had to change (tyres) at that time, so I think I did something like 30 laps or so on the softer tyre but it held together quite well for me and if anything, I was even more comfortable on that tyre than I was on the prime.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) Lewis and the other guys: Ive just been with Fernando Alonso at his personal press conference. Hes just mentioned that in the light of what happened yesterday, the Spanish plane disaster, that hes hoping to get you guys together to hopefully observe a minutes silence as a mark of respect before practice. Presumably that is something you would be more than happy to go along with providing the FIA also agreed?
LH: Yes. For me, I would definitely be looking forward to doing that. I just want to send out my heartfelt thoughts and best wishes to all the families and to all the people in Spain. I think its a tragedy, I was really sad to hear it had happened. Were in a beautiful country, in a beautiful city. I just hope that doesnt stall our weekend. I hope we are able to move on and do the country proud.
FM: I think last year we had a similar accident in Brazil, and it was a disaster, it was so sad. As Lewis said, I give 100 percent support to the people because we are here for sport and there are so many important things apart from sport which are the lives of these people, and its a very sad moment. I think all of us need to do everything we can to help these people.
JT: I share the same feelings.
Q: (Peter Windsor - Speed Channel) Lewis, Im just wondering what the verdict was on the puncture in Hungary, now that Bridgestone and your engineers have presumably had time to look at it? There was talk about possibly the serrated edge of the apex kerb on some of the corners being the cause. Equally, it may have been debris. Any information on that?
LH: For me, Ive not spoken to my engineers about it. That was the last race. You might want to ask them if you do a press conference with them, but for me it was a tyre failure, it was just one of those things, a little bit unfortunate, but I dont think they really found the exact cause of it.
Q: (Peter Windsor - Speed Channel) Felipe, Ferraris engine reliability, touch wood, has been brilliant. We saw Kimi with the exhaust failure still finishing second in France. What was the verdict on your engine failure? Could it have been managed any differently by the engineers? What is the thinking on that?
FM: No, definitely not. We had a completely different problem, which maybe you can have once every ten years. It was a manufacturing problem of the piece and you cannot do anything. We have never had this problem except at that particular moment, so theres nothing that can be done about that.
Q: (Livio Orrichio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) To all the drivers: are you satisfied with the run-off areas of the track?
JT: Well, I did have a look and its difficult to comment at the moment because we dont know exactly the speed in certain corners but I must say its a safe circuit anyway, and so far I can see that they have done a pretty good job, but its probably still a bit too early to judge.
RB: Its very similar to Melbourne, in a way, because you have limited space on a road circuit. I think its nicely done. Obviously if you have problems in turns nine and ten which is the bridge if a car parked there I think you would have to stop the race because its not even a safety car issue. You would have to take the car away and bring trucks onto the bridge. It might be a bit of an issue but I think, so far, as Jarno said, we have to really understand what is the speed of the cars, and the only corner that we were concerned about, as a team, was turn one, because you dont have a lot of run-off in that turn but apart from that it looks OK to me.
FM: It looks OK. We just need to run and see exactly how it is when you are in the car. I think, especially if you have good grip from the asphalt, it should be OK. If you dont have really good grip, the run-off areas are smaller than you think, so we need to run and see.
LH: I think theyve done a good job.
Q: (Frederic Ferret - LEquipe) Lewis, does your driving style lead to you having problems on some tyre compounds?
LH: No, why would you say that?
Q: (Frederic Ferret - LEquipe) Because of the puncture in Hungary and the one in Turkey last year.
LH: I think in Turkey it was more about my driving style but I dont think it was the case in Hungary.
Q: (Frederic Ferret - LEquipe) Have you changed your driving style since last year?
Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) Lewis and Felipe, can we just get your thoughts on the title fight at this stage; what is going to be the key now towards winning the title?
FM: Whether or not you are losing points which was already the key since the first race. It seems to be that all of us have lost important points this year. I think the key will be to be consistent which was already the key since the beginning of the first race which everybody was saying. It doesnt change anything.
LH: I agree.