FIA Thursday press conference - Belgium 04 Sep 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber), Kazuki Nakajima (Williams), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso).
Q: Kazuki, this is your first time here in F1. But you have been looking at it on the simulator?
Kazuki Nakajima: Yeah, not very much but I did some work on the simulator. Obviously it is not exactly the same as a real track but I got some feeling of how to drive here in an F1 car.
Q: What is different when you use a simulator?
KN: Obviously, I could get some feeling of how the speed is on the track or how the car balance will be or a feeling for the braking point. That is the thing. Obviously for Valencia I think it helped us quite a lot.
Q: You had your best qualifying performance ever in Valencia. What made the difference do you think?
KN: Nothing really but fortunately we had a very good car, much more competitive than the last few races. That helped me a lot and for Nico as well. The weekend was quite good for us. For me, especially, apart from the first lap of the race. We had a good feeling. It just gave me a bit more confidence, especially as we had had a difficult few races, so it was very good to come back to a good position.
Q: What is the situation for next year?
KN: I have not got any for news for next year but I really hope to stay at Williams. That would be my best choice, I think. I don't think there are many other choices. But I think to stay at Williams is the ideal thing for me.
Q: And there is a possibility of staying at Williams?
KN: I hope so.
Q: Is there a good possibility?
KN: I think so, but we will have to wait for the team's decision.
Q: Sebastian, it was your best ever qualifying performance as well in Valencia?
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, it was true.
Q: What made the difference with you?
SV: We had a very, very good weekend in Valencia. Everything was running perfect, I think. We had a very good preparation day on Friday and obviously a very good qualifying day on Saturday and also a good race. It is difficult to point out what made the difference. In the end we were trying to do our best. I think the car was very competitive there. I like the circuit and I think that was the key to success.
Q: In the press release Giorgio Ascanelli said 'we must be doing something right, but I don't know what.'
SV: As I say we had a perfect weekend. We have been working very hard to get where we are now and now the job is to stay there. I think it will be difficult enough, but if you see the development we have made during the season the whole team has changed. The whole attitude if different now, everybody is extremely motivated and extremely willing to achieve something. It has not always been like that in the past. We have become much stronger than we were and I think that is the key, that is the reason why. There is no secret or anything funny or anything special. We came to Valencia and we had no new parts, we had no track knowledge like everyone, so it was down to pure work I guess.
Q: Do you think the next two circuits will suit you and the car?
SV: I think so. Monza is a bit extreme but I think both kinds of circuit, the layout and the characteristics should suit our car. Here we have a lot of fast corners and I think that should be very good for us and Monza obviously there is a lot of straight lines but I think we have an efficient car, so I think we should be in a strong position there as well. But all in all you have to say we have to keep our feet on the ground. In Valencia, as I say, we had the perfect weekend and we were even able to follow a bit the pace of the guys in front and that was very surprising. Obviously, you cannot expect that to happen every race. We have to focus and we have to try to maximise our own potential every time possible. If we can get some points or get close to the top 10 positions, it is very good for us.
Q: Do you remember your race here last year?
SV: It was quite short. At first I had a technical problem, then a problem with the steering rack. I was going up to Eau Rouge and the car didn't steer like I wanted it to. It was quite a bit funny. We retired, so it was not the best race for me.
Q: You would prefer to wipe that one?
Q: Kimi, you are the winner here for the last three years.
Kimi Raikkonen: Yes, it has been a good place. Hopefully it will be this year also.
Q: A lot has been written about your last few races. Do you feel there is a problem of some sort or is it just circumstances?
KR: Definitely, it hasn't been races that we wanted. There has been a problem but it is not the first time and it is not the end of the life. We have been trying to fix them and hopefully we have found something now and we can get back where we should be. Things go wrong sometimes. You have bad races but hopefully now we can have a stronger weekend and get back.
Q: When you say hopefully you have found something, was that in the test in Monza?
KR: I mean we tried many things and we were pretty happy with the car but you never know from a test. It can be a good test and then you come to the next place and it is a different circuit with different conditions. It can get back to where it was, so hopefully we found something and we can be stronger but I mean it is too early to say. We had a good feeling from the test but we will see now.
Q: The team have said that they feel the qualifying performance should be better after the Monza test.
KR: Mainly there. In the races, apart from the last race, we have not been too bad speed-wise but if you are stuck behind other cars, then it is pretty much over at that point. If you can qualify at the front, it will help big time and we should be fine. Anyhow, we try to improve on all areas and hopefully that has happened.
Q: You had the engine failure in Valencia. Are you confident that that is not going to happen again?
KR: Yeah, I think we know what the problem was and it was more or less the same issue with Felipe's engine the race before. Hopefully we fixed it. So far in testing and on the bench we have been okay. It can happen again but we are pretty sure that we have fixed the problem and it should be fine.
Q: Nick, in some ways you've been through a similar sort of patch but then you were fastest in testing in Monza.
Nick Heidfeld: Yes, I mean it's quite similar to what Kimi said. Testing goes well but that doesn't mean that it will be perfect here. But definitely I was happy with Monza testing. We tried a couple of things which most likely will only work at Monza but anyway, we go there after this race, so it's not looking too bad and we also tried some small things which should help me.
Q: Are you feeling a bit under pressure? Mario Theissen has been quoted as saying he needs points from both drivers now.
NH: Yes, but I put myself under pressure more than anybody else could do from the outside. It's pretty clear; if one car finishes on the podium and I finish ninth, nobody needs to tell me anything.
Q: So what can you do about it? You're obviously working hard in testing, what more can you do?
NH: Well, obviously it's all about understanding the problems and then changing some things and trying to go quicker. I was in a similar situation a while ago this year and I thought I had put that behind me and then I was a bit surprised to run into a similar sort of problem again in Valencia. I knew roughly where to search and I think I've made steps forward but we will find out in the next couple of races.
Q: Since you had the problem in qualifying, your qualifying seems to have been quite erratic, it's been up and down.
NH: It has, actually. I think lap time-wise, pace-wise, I was a lot better than earlier this season, so I was pretty happy with that but on the one hand I had some bad luck with traffic but secondly, I made more mistakes than usual but that's obviously something I'm also working on but I don't think that's as difficult to change as the pace problems I had earlier in the season. Although qualifying didn't go perfectly, I was rather happy with the pace I had.
Q: You qualified sixth here and finished fifth last year, is it a circuit on which you would hope to do the same again?
NH: Well, you always hope for more obviously but if I would finish there, most likely it wouldn't be a bad result but nobody knows what will happen here on Sunday. The weather forecast isn't the best. It could rain which I wouldn't mind because I enjoy driving in wet conditions but you cannot predict and say I would be happy with this or that.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Kimi, you have a variety of weather here; what would you prefer for this weekend?
KR: Either it's dry or raining all the time. It's much easier for everybody. When it gets between those two weathers you have more luck involved. It's more if you get it right or wrong when it starts raining and it gets drier, so hopefully it's for me, anything is good but maybe dry would nice.
Q: (Juha Päätalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Kimi, last year you had similar problems in qualifying but you were able to solve that. How much can the work of last year help you to find a solution because it hasn't yet been that way. Is the car very different from last year on that point?
KR: No, but we haven't solved the issues yet. We had similar issues last year at some point of the season. We were pretty OK at the beginning of this season and then it seems to have turned a bit worse. Hopefully we will get back to where we were earlier on but we will see now if we have made improvements or not, then we will go from there.
Q: (Mike Doodson) This is a question for all four of you about pit stops. David Coulthard recently said that he thought the racing would be more interesting if there were no pit stops. He thinks that pit stops distort the results of the races. We've also had incidents with fires in Hungary and a mechanic who was hurt in Valencia. I'm interested to know if you drivers would be interested or would like to see the end of pit stops, which, incidentally, came in 15 years ago.
NH: Well, hopefully we will see more overtaking next year with the new regulations but until we've had a couple of races we don't know. And as we all know, overtaking is so difficult that I think it would be a good idea to keep the pit stops to at least see some (overtaking).
KR: We see now most of the overtaking taking place at the pit stops, so without them, we probably will be running behind each other more, nothing really happening. Sometimes people get hurt in the pit stops unfortunately but that's part of racing, so it hasn't been too bad.
SV: I think when we are about to retire, we are looking for more interesting races as well because we will be in a position to watch the races. Honestly, in the car the races are pretty interesting and you are pretty busy. As Nick said, next year there should be more overtaking, so hopefully that by the time we are retiring the racing is more interesting.
KN: In my opinion it's better to keep the pit stops because at the moment that's the thing which makes the difference between other drivers, so we have a bit of choice for strategy. Sometimes it makes the racing more interesting.
Q: (Thierry Wilmotte - Le Soir) Kimi, everybody knows that team orders are not allowed, but can you imagine that at the end of the season you can decide on your own to help Felipe to fight for the title?
KR: It can happen. It all depends on how the next races go and where we are at the end of the year but we race as a team. We will see. Hopefully we don't end up in this situation, hopefully I will be in the championship up to the last race. But you never know what happens.
Q: To all of you: what is on your i-Pod?
KN: Any kind of music but most of it is Japanese pop. Since I came to Europe, I especially tend to listen more to Japanese songs, maybe to remind me of home.
SV: Any kind really, German folk songs are my favourite. Anything really, a bit of everything.
KR: Mostly Finnish music, all sorts. You wouldn't know, so it doesn't matter what I say.
NH: Yeah, similar to the others, a lot of different stuff, not a lot of classic stuff. No German folk music, more in the direction of R&B, hip-hop, not so much techno, more chill-out but various stuff.
SV: Why don't you like folk songs?
NH: Why do you like it, that's more difficult to answer, I think?
SV: I like the lyrics.
NH: I like the smile on the singers' faces, just like yours.
Q: Is Eau Rouge your favourite corner, and if so why?
NH: Ah, that's pretty easy to answer for me. It's not my favourite corner. In the past it was very exciting but nowadays with V8s and so much grip, it is not a big challenge any more.
KR: Yeah, from a driving point of view, at least, it's not really a corner. It's more straight for us. In the wet it's quite exciting but as Nick said, before it was much more challenging and the cars are better and we don't go so fast, so it's not a big deal any more.
SV: I still think it's a very nice corner and everybody would miss it if it wasn't part of the calendar but it's true, it's not that challenging, at least in dry conditions. I crashed here in wet conditions and it's more challenging definitely.
KN: For me it was good in GP2 but I will probably find it's going to be easier to go flat-out (in F1), so maybe less fun.
Q: If you were not an F1 driver, what would you be doing?
KN: That's a very difficult question. I have no idea but I think I would probably be doing something related to racing because that's the only thing that I'm interested in, even not as a driver, maybe doing something in racing.
SV: If I wouldn't have made it, I think I would look for the best possible education to get in the highest position to tell the drivers that made it in motorsport how they should do it the right way.
KR: It would probably be something to do with motorsport. It's always been part of my life, so I wouldn't think it would be much different in some other category or motocross or something like that.
NH: Yeah, pretty similar, actually. I enjoy sports a lot and most likely with an engine involved, probably motorbikes would have been interesting, rallying or whatever, just competing, travelling the world and doing sport.
Q: (Mike Doodson) So which is your favourite corner?
NH: My favourite corner is the Esses at Suzuka which have not been there (on the calendar this year), so I'm looking forward to next year.
KR: I don't really know. There are a lot of nice corners, so it's hard to pick one.
SV: Yeah, I would say there are too many. Probably the one in Montreal when you go to the personal parking, the right hander is quite nice! No, there are so many corners. I enjoy all of the tracks, so I like a lot of corners.
KN: Yeah, I agree with Nick, I think the Esses or the first and second corners at Suzuka would be nice, which I've never done in an F1 car but I'm sure it will be good.