FIA Friday press conference - Europe 22 Aug 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers and team principals: Fernando Alonso (Renault), Flavio Briatore (Renault),
Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber), Mario Theissen (BMW Sauber).
Q: A question to the drivers: your feelings about the track, safety and any overtaking places?
Fernando Alonso: Well, the track I think is good. Obviously the first day is difficult for everybody to get the braking points especially as it is very hard on brakes. You need to find the braking points as soon as you can and then there are some parts that are very similar. I think going into turn 12 and going to turn 17, the two longest straights, are very similar, so one time I thought I was in turn 17 and I was in turn 12 and I missed the apex and vice-versa. This was P1. In P2 I learned the track a little bit more. It is not easy, quite challenging and also the last sector is quite nice to drive and you need to really concentrate to get the maximum there. We can say that it is not a normal street circuit, it is a little bit more than a street circuit.
Robert Kubica: Well, as Fernando said, a new track is a new challenge for everybody, especially in first free practice. Some drivers did prepare a bit more than the others with simulators and stuff like this but, anyway, it took three or four laps to learn where to go and it is not easy on the braking. There are three or four very long straights which in the end you have heavy braking, so it is a very demanding track in this area. I feel I miss some high speed corners. In the last sector there are some high speed corners but they are flat out easy, so it is a stop-and-go track which is good for me.
Q: Do you think there are overtaking points?
RK: Yeah, I mean we have seen in Hockenheim with the hairpin in corner five that once you have very hard braking after a very long straight there are opportunities to overtake as I think everybody misses overtaking in F1. I think here in Valencia we have some opportunities in two places or maybe three. Also it is quite difficult if you are on the same pace or just a bit quicker if someone doesnt make a mistake.
Q: For the team principals: what are your impression of the infrastructure, the facilities and the event itself?
Mario Theissen: I walked the track yesterday and I can tell you it is even more challenging than to do it by car especially in the heat of lunchtime. I think they did a hell of a job. It is very impressive what they have put together here in less than a year. The track, as the drivers said, is not a real street circuit. It is quite fast. You have run-off zones as we havent seen them on any street circuit so far. I have to say I am really impressed.
Q: Flavio, did you walk the circuit?
Flavio Briatore: No, I was running. I saw the Olympics and I was on the circuit, so I did five kilometres. It was a good run. A little bit warm because it was 1.30 pm. No, we really need to congratulate the people of Valencia for the job they have done. I was here a few months ago and I never believed they would finish the circuit so quickly. The result, like Robert said, is not only the street circuit, it is something more than that. It is an amazing job, really. The ambience is fantastic. This is another good circuit for Formula One with the boats in the harbour, the atmosphere. It is the right way to see Formula One go. I am very impressed with the job done by Valencia.
Q: Flavio, do you feel that Renault are falling a little bit behind with engine development?
FB: There is no engine development as far as I know. We have the frozen engine, so I dont think there are any developments. What happened I believe is quite simple. The rule to block the engines last year was first for saving money, economise the engine department, and I believe Renault did what was the principal of the rule. We redid Renault Sport completely. We have 97 people less. For me it is not development at all, it is only a question to have the frozen engine. Maybe we froze a very expensive engine. It costs a lot in maintenance anyway to keep going. If we did not have this kind of rule maybe now we would have an engine at 27,000 revs. We followed the rule completely and if we are behind it is not only the engine, it is the car, the aerodynamics is something different. Like you have seen in the last three months the car has improved and Fernando has done an amazing job in the team to motivate everybody. The idea of the engineers, the federation, everybody was to freeze engines at a certain point, to have basically one per cent up or down or every engine the same. You dont want to penalise somebody for five years, it would be too long. And if somebody was in difficulty because the reliability was not there, I remember at the time McLaren had a problem with that, we are sure the federation should put the right arrangement to make sure the engine finishes the race. This is what we were talking about.
Q: Fernando, good times today. Do you feel you are still climbing up the field this year?
FA: Absolutely. I think we started the season not in a perfect way. The first three races I think we were just in Q3, P9 or P10 in Q2. Then in Barcelona we made a step and then we kept improving the car race after race. We are in a position always now to be in the top six in qualifying and always in the points in races. This is something that at the beginning of the season was impossible for us. For sure we are improving, we are climbing and this weekend maybe we will see another step forward hopefully.
Q: Mario, it means more pressure from behind for you. But you have said you want to be getting on terms with the two ahead.
MT: Well, it is never nice if you have to look back. We are pushing ahead but what I wanted to express is that we have moved resources from this years car to next years car already but we are still developing this years car and we have some developments in the pipeline for the races to come. We are still pushing ahead. You cannot predict any results, so we will see what we can do.
Q: Robert, do you still feel that the title fight is not between three drivers?
RK: I think I was in a better position after Canada in the drivers standings. Unfortunately we missed some pace in the last three or four races to Ferrari and McLaren and Renault and Toyota have improved quite a lot. In Hockenheim my race was screwed by the safety car when I was running P4 which was a very good place for me with good pace, but in Hungary that pace was a bit less competitive than in the beginning of the season. In the beginning of the year it was much easier to fight against Ferrari and McLaren. Now we are sometimes against Renault and Toyota but you know, as Mario said, the team is working and we will see what will be the result in the next few races.
Q: Has there been a little bit of soul searching in the team after the last few races and where you have been losing out and where you can move forward again?
MT: Well, definitely we have looked at all the technical data after Budapest which was a race to forget for our team and we have identified the reasons for that and certainly did everything to iron them out and I am very confident that we have got on top of that.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Thomas Richtr TV Nova) On the pit entry. It does not seem clear who decided to go in and who decided to stay on track. I believe Nico Rosberg also showed that at times it could be confusing.
RK:I think the pit entry is quite nice, quite challenging. I think if you look into the details you clearly see who is coming in and who is not coming in because if you want to enter the pit you can brake a few metres later, so you can gain something on the braking. Of course there can be some misunderstanding but anyway you are not allowed to cross the white lines, so the rules are pretty clear.
FA: I think as Robert said it is maybe from the outside more difficult to look who is going into the pits than on the inside. But when a car in front of you goes into the pits you see clearly that he brakes a little bit later and when you go to the pits you brake late. Also you have to stay on the right part of the white line. Today, one time, I was not. It was my mistake and if you stay on the right I dont think it is a problem and it is not dangerous or anything like that.
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) Is it better for Formula One to race on historical circuits or to find new locations like Valencia and Singapore?
MT: There is no either/or. We need both. We certainly need the traditional circuits, like Spa, which have made Formula One what it is now. We also need new venues like this place which is a really exciting place. We see new solutions from the track and also it is very good to be in a place where several hundred thousand people live already, so it is much easier to attract the crowd. It is easier to accommodate people and certainly Valencia is a track which has a great future in my view.
FB: I think the same. Maybe on the historical circuits like Silverstone or Germany or Spa it is not easy to accommodate all the people we have. When we started racing the team was 120 people or 80 people. Now we have more people, more media, so it is very difficult, especially in Spa or Silverstone, to accommodate everybody. I believe this is the right direction to go with Singapore, with Valencia. It is a fantastic show if you see what has happened here in Valencia with the boats in the harbour. For sure I have a better feeling here than in Hockenheim.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Fernando, Rubens (Barrichello) said in the main press conference yesterday that you were in talks with Honda. I just wondered what the situation was, although I know it might be difficult with Flavio sat next to you.
FB: Dont worry, I am not jealous.
FA: Nothing at all. As I have said many times, I think for next year the time to think about it will be the end of the season or in the last part of the championship. Now I am not talking to anyone and it is not the time. I am fully concentrated on the championship and I think it would be a mistake to think about next year so early.
Q: (Frédéric Ferret LEquipe) What parts of the circuit do you like best and what parts are the most challenging for you?
RK: I like tracks like this as there is a lot of heavy braking. The braking into the last corner is quite interesting with lateral load. You go from the corner to the corner and you have to choose a good line over the kerbs which is quite nice. The first braking is quite difficult and also the braking into corner 12 is very good braking.
FA: I like the last sector. I think turn 19, turn 20 and the last corner, as Robert said, braking with some lateral G, is always exciting and you move a little bit in the seat and the cockpit and it is a feeling that maybe you dont have in any other place.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) For Mario, when are you going to announce your drivers for next year? And for Flavio, do you think Renault are doing enough to keep Fernando next year?
MT: Was the question when will we announce next years driver line-up? Between now and the end of the season.
FB: About the same. What is more important is to give a winning car to Fernando. That is our mission for the future. This is what we try to do. Like every team manager tries to do for their own driver.
Q: (Will Buxton Australasian Motorsport News) Flavio and Mario, there was a FOTA meeting this morning at Toyotas motorhome. Im just wondering if you can give us a little insight into what was discussed.
MT: It was not a FOTA meeting but a normal team principals meeting and we discussed the future and financial issues: how to keep the sport sustainable for all the teams.
FB: I completely agree with Mario.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Kubica, it looks as if you are happy today with BMW but how was your experience in the Renault school of drivers?
RK: I have grown up in single-seaters mainly in the first two years with Formula Renault. In the first year I was driving with an Italian team and in the second year I joined the RDD programme which, unfortunately, was always looking a bit different for the future, so I decided to go my own way. I changed category to Formula Three and then I worked for a short time with Renault on my first test in Formula One at Barcelona in 2005 which was the prize for winning the World Series by Renault, so I always have good memories.
Q: (Miran Alisic Pop TV) Question for all four of you: if you look back 100 years at Formula One the most famous tracks in history have corner names which is part of the heritage of Formula One. New tracks only have numbers which mean nothing to anybody, so what do you think? Should the organisers of new circuits name corners like it used to be in the past?
MT: They should name them after the first driver who crashes in one of the corners.
RK: I am not a big fan of naming the corners because its much more difficult to remember the names, its much more difficult to speak with the engineers to describe whats going on in certain corners. If you ask me the names of the Silverstone corners, I dont even know maybe one or two.
FA: The same.
FB: Same. Maybe Kate Moss!
Q: (Jaime Rodriguez El Mundo) Fernando, are you proud of this second Grand Prix in Spain? Flavio, did you know eight years ago that Formula One would be so successful in Spain?
FA: If Im proud of racing in Spain? Of course Im very proud and now with a second race, its something that I was not expecting three or four years ago, for sure. We cannot forget that in 2003, when I started winning races with Renault and being on the podium, national TV was not broadcasting the races live. Now, in 2008, we have fans at tests over the winter and we have full grandstands at the two Spanish Grands Prix and two races here in Spain, so there has been a big change in Spain and all the Spanish people about Formula One. I am in the middle of everything, so I am very happy.
FB: I believe Fernando has taken Formula One to Spain principally, because, as he said, we know how difficult it was to get television to televise the Grand Prix in Spain. Spain started learning about Formula One with Fernando. Without Fernando we would still have 350 spectators as it was before. This is fact, without Fernando, there was no Formula One in Spain, thats for sure.
Q: (Heinz Prüller ORF) Talking of famous corners, the next Grand Prix is in Belgium at Spa. Can you tell me how you think Eau Rouge will be without traction control this year? Do you have any simulation regarding expectations for Eau Rouge?
FA: If we get wheelspin in Eau Rouge, it means we will have about 3000 horsepower and we dont have that. I think it will easily be flat out and it wont be any different compared to last year with TC (traction control). I think we tend to spin the wheels and to have more problems in the first gear corners, in the very slow hairpins and the small chicanes. In the rest of the corners there is no difference at all compared to last year. I think Eau Rouge will be fine for everybody and we are all looking forward to coming to Spa because I think most of the drivers love that circuit.
RK: More or less the same.
Q: (Will Buxton Australasian Motorsport News) Flavio and Mario: Formula One is obviously a huge engineering challenge; the greatest challenge for the future is to make it more environmentally viable. KERS coming in next season is the start of that. With a clean sheet of paper, where would you like to see the environmental drive of Formula One move towards in the future?
MT: I would say there are quite a few challenges as you said before. Its also a big challenge to make it economically viable and thats the first step. Then, in our view, as a second step, it should pioneer future road car technologies because we are in a unique position, having unique resources at hand, working under huge time pressure, we are able to do developments in a fraction of the time you could do it on the road car side. And if we manage to focus on subjects which are relevant to future road cars we can completely reposition Formula One, image-wise and also on the financial side. So in my view, it is very important and this is why we have always supported KERS as a first step in this direction, knowing that it is not cheap, it costs us a lot of money but it is definitely better invested than what we did before using two engines on Friday, two on Saturday and two on Sunday.
FB: You know Formula One is a race but its entertainment as well. We need it to be more efficient. I believe its possible to do the same job with at least sixty percent less than what we spend now. And then I agree with Mario. If were talking about new technology, to be the pioneer of new technology we need to be sure of safety before introducing the car because we have the responsibility to the driver. At the moment, were talking about KERS. You know on the one hand we have frozen the engines because we want to have a more economical picture, but on the other hand we are developing KERS and nobody knows how much it costs us. It looks like weve closed the window and weve opened the door, its a little bit strange. KERS is something that nobody knows how much it costs us. When youre budgeting something in Formula One, its always fifty percent more or a hundred percent more. This time its fantastic because nobody knows much it costs, there is no limit. For me, I dont think its the right way to push a small team to spend this kind of money. I agreed to develop together any system in Formula One. Formula One should develop KERS together. Im pretty happy because I think this is the right way to go when youre talking about the environment. But its usually the prototype every time in Formula One, everybody believes that if they develop a system they have a little advantage, but this way the costs are completely uncontrolled. I believe all the teams were quite happy to develop KERS together. Formula One together, all the working groups, all the engineers together develop the new system and this is really the only way to control costs, because we establish the budget, there was the same tender for everybody. Im not happy to develop any technology when I dont know what the budget is, thats for sure.
Q: (James Allen ITV) I would like to ask the two drivers, looking forward to tomorrow in qualifying, which corners in particular and which areas of the track do you think will be decisive in getting those fractional few tenths you might need to get in front of the opposition? And it looked as if the difference between the hard tyre and the soft tyre was quite a lot today; is that the way it felt to you, in terms of one lap performance?
RK: Its difficult to evaluate the tyres because every twenty minutes or half an hour, when you were going out for a new stint, the car was feeling better, the track had picked up more rubber and it becomes quicker and quicker. But the softer tyres are always giving a bit more grip than the harder tyres. Probably here, with variable grip, especially today, the difference is much bigger than normally but Im expecting tomorrow in qualifying the difference being as always, so just a couple of tenths. For the qualifying lap, I think everythings the same at every circuit. You need to put everything together to do as good a lap as possible. You can always be quicker somewhere, so I dont believe you can do a perfect lap. You can improve a bit everywhere and only afterwards you know if you could have gone a bit quicker in certain places or not, but the lap is already gone. Its a kind of compromise between feelings and experience from free practice.
FA: As Robert said, I think we need to wait and see tomorrow regarding the tyres because today it was difficult to test anything on the tyres because every time we went onto the track there was better grip than the run before. Even with old tyres, you go for the next run and you improve your previous time when you had new tyres. This is normal for a street circuit and well keep improving until a point tomorrow in qualifying when there will only be a few tenths between the two tyres and I dont know which one will be quicker. And for the perfect lap in qualifying, its very difficult. I think you do Q1 and Q2 with low fuel and then you get to Q3 and you put in a number of kilos of fuel in order to choose your lap and the car changes completely, especially under the heavy braking. You have only two opportunities, two runs, two sets of tyres in Q3. On the first one you try to get a feeling where to brake and what the grip level is with that amount of fuel and then on the second lap you try to push but there are always difficulties to get the perfect lap, but most of the problems on this track with these characteristics will be on braking. Braking stability, going into the corner with some confidence on the brakes will be quite good in terms of a timed lap.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) Mario, I heard that you already sent a report of the KERS accident to the FIA. Could you explain to us exactly what happened, if you understood everything and you can guarantee that it will never happen again?
MT: We sent the report to the FIA on Tuesday, I think, so before this weekend. In parallel we issued a press release yesterday in which we tried to explain it in common terms. It is really complicated and very technical. We have fully understood the Jerez incident and on top of that, in the course of the analysis we did, we have found a lot of other issues, which we have put together as a sort of design recommendation for high voltage system. This is included in the report we gave to the FIA. And on top of that, we have announced that we will do a presentation to the other teams at the next technical working group in the first week of September, in order to make all the safety-relevant information available to everybody.
Q: (Ann Giuntini LEquipe) Flavio, you said that you would like to have KERS in common. You already have frozen engines, standard ECUs, single tyre manufacturer. What is your real philosophy for Formula One, apart from saving money? GP2?
FB: I think its very difficult to understand why we need a thousand people to run two cars. This is my philosophy, its too many. We are racing. Everybody forgets what the public wants. I dont see so many people from the public interested in our gearbox. I dont see so many people interested in Fernandos suspension. I dont see the public going crazy about Fernandos brakes or Kubicas. I think we have all generations of press, media, IQ but they always ask the same questions. I think this is wrong. The world has changed, we are in the entertainment business as well. We are not in the mechanical engineering business. The money is coming from the commercial side from marketing. Its not coming from selling a piece of suspension or gearbox or used cars. We are not car dealers. This is what I think about Formula One. Its as simple as that.