FIA Thursday press conference - Italy 11 Sep 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: Sebastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso), Giancarlo Fisichella (Force India), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Nico Rosberg (Williams) and Jarno Trulli (Toyota).
Q: Sebastien, two good results in the last two races. What are your feelings about those results? Is this the start and can you repeat them?
Sebastien Bourdais: For sure we hope to carry the momentum, that's the goal. Valencia was nothing special for me, just the team did a great job and the car was very competitive. But we didn't really fix the issues that I had been facing in previous races. Then we arrived in Spa and obviously I felt really good straight away. We had just had a few handling problems here and there but nothing fundamental. We found some solutions for this and in qualifying it was really strong. And in the race we looked set for fifth place which was quite unreal to be honest. When Claudio (Valestri, his race engineer) told me 'you are racing Kimi coming out of the pits' I was thinking 'what the hell is he saying, this doesn't sound right.' But it was just a great race and I can only hope that it had been 43 laps, not 44. That is pretty much the end of it.
Q: Do you feel you are getting on top of it now and the results can be repeated?
SB: It is tough to say. Obviously I felt really good on that track in Spa, it is a track which I always liked and it flows nicely. You don't have many entries with a lot of brakes in the corners, so that suited my style very well and it was not really showing the problems I had been facing with the R3. Obviously we came here and tested and I wasn't very comfortable but we will see if we can use some of the knowledge that we took from Spa and try and build from there and see what can happen.
Q: What is your future with the team?
SB: That's the question. All I can say is that right now it seems to be going fairly well. I will just try to keep the momentum going. It is not my decision obviously. If I could say what I wanted to do it is quite clear I would like to stay with Toro Rosso and use the work we have put together this year to try and build something strong for next year. I keep on doing the best I can and we will see if it is good enough. Obviously it is Gerhard (Berger, team co-owner), Franz (Tost, team principal) and Dietrich's (Mateschitz, co-owner) decision, so we will see.
Q: Nico, a good test here and some new components tested since then?
Nico Rosberg: The thing is with this track you have a completely different aerodynamic level, so it definitely gives us a better chance to do well here. We had a really good test and I really enjoyed this track. I have done well here in past years and the test was fantastic, we were second on both days. We should not be overly excited now, but I think we can - relatively to the races I've been in the near past or the near future - do well here. So maybe we have a chance to score a point or so.
Q: What is it about the circuit you particularly like?
NR: I think it is just the characteristic. I think it is really fun, big speed, big stops with the chicanes going over the kerbs, a good challenge and then all the medium speed corners. It is a nice track.
Q: I know you speak Italian. Do you feel Italian as well?
NR: I do think part of me is Italian. I have grown up with Italian friends and so I have really grown up with the culture also. And I get on best with Italian people. I really like the way they think and everything so it is fun and nice to race here too.
Q: Jarno, do you feel the Toyota engine is as strong as the other engines out there?
Jarno Trulli: Yeah, I think we have in general a competitive car but obviously this is not the kind of track our car likes very much, so we will fight hard as anyway in the last few years I have always been scoring points. So far this year we have been more competitive on a high downforce level than a low downforce circuit. We are here to fight and I think our engine is up with the best and I believe it is just a matter of getting everything right and finding a good way to make the car and tyres working on this circuit.
Q: What about the possibility of rain here?
JT: There is a high chance of rain. I can say this is not the best place to race with rain but we have to deal with it.
Q: And your feelings about racing at home in Italy?
JT: It is always nice to be back in Italy, in Monza especially, because there is always a special atmosphere here in Monza during testing and races. There are a lot of supporters from Ferrari and a lot of Italians, so it is definitely nice to be back home. I only live a couple of hours away from here.
Q: Felipe, your feelings about how the car is suited to this circuit?
Felipe Massa: For sure, as Nico said, it is a track which is completely different to any other track for how you prepare your car in terms of aerodynamics. I think we had quite a good test. I really hope that we can be very competitive. McLaren showed for sure a very good performance on the test and also last year, so it will be a big competition for sure. But I think we are in the right direction in terms of preparing for this race and see if we can start on Friday and Saturday morning with a reasonable set up.
Q: Would rain help you?
FM: We have seen many times this year that in the rain we lost a little bit of performance, so maybe it would be nice not to have the rain here and not have any opportunity to have a consistent race.
Q: Your best results here have been two ninth places.
FM: In Formula One. But before Formula One I won every race I did here, so it is not bad.
Q: I am sorry, I only have the Formula One records.
FM: It's okay, I know.
Q: Is it a circuit that you like?
FM: Yeah, I really like the circuit. As I said I had a great memory in the other categories, in Formula Renault, in Formula 3000, I always had very strong races here. Unfortunately in Formula One... last year it could have been a second place. We were doing a good race but then I had a mechanical problem in the car. I like the track and I am really motivated and optimistic that we can do a good job this weekend.
Q: Giancarlo, only one non finish out of 11 grands prix here at Monza. Presumably it is a circuit you like as well?
Giancarlo Fisichella: I have got great memories in Formula Three and even in Formula One two years ago I finished third and it was nice to be on the podium in front of my fans here. It is a great circuit. It is obviously different compared to other circuits, especially with the wing level. It is a tough circuit as because of the wing level there is very poor grip especially in the braking point like turn one and turn four. The car is really inconsistent and for that you need good control of the car.
Q: Do you feel the team has made progress in the last three or four races?
GF: Yeah, for sure. We have made through the season a step forward compared to last year, especially in the last couple of races. We got the new quick up shift and we made another step forward in the last couple of races. I was quicker than one of the Hondas in Valencia and in the last race we were just a few hundredths slower than the Hondas and the gap between us and the leaders was 1.3 or 1.4 seconds which is quite a lot but 1.3 or 1.4 four or five years ago, there was a possibility to start fourth or fifth. Now the gap is very small, so it is quite tough for us.
Q: What about your own future, do you see it in Formula One?
GF: Yeah, absolutely. I think we are very close to again finalising a contract with Force India for next year. I've had a difficult season because obviously the results are not what we were expecting, what we hoped for but the atmosphere is good, they are pushing really hard and as I told you, we made a step forward. I feel well, I think they are happy with me, so for sure next year we will work together again.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) Felipe, Lewis has just remarked at his McLaren press conference that despite what happened and the penalty in Spa, that he's coming here on a high, he feels like he's coming here as a race winner. I'm just wondering if, from your perspective, do you feel the same thing, that you're coming here as a race winner, even though the win was effectively handed to you by the stewards?
FM: To be honest, I've given my ideas on this many times about what happened. What's happened is that he took an advantage by cutting the chicane. You can ask other drivers how many overtaking manoeuvres you see there: no overtaking. Going from the last corner to the first corner is such a small straight, so he took an advantage, that's clear, that's my opinion, so it doesn't change.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) Could I ask the other four drivers what they thought about that incident and Kimi, and as a follow-up, do you think you and other drivers might be afraid to fight for a position now that you might get a penalty?
GF: I have just seen pictures, so it is difficult for me to say whether what happened was right or not. For sure, maybe, he took a small advantage, that's why he had the possibility, as Felipe said, to overtake him again in braking for turn one. But obviously, a 25s penalty was quite a strong penalty. As for the second question: when we get in the car and we're fighting to overtake a car, we don't think about that. We just try to do our best. Obviously we know if we cut a chicane or we take an advantage we need to back off and give the position back.
SB: Yes, I think the rules are very clear. Maybe the penalty was a bit hard, but I think he's made the same mistake twice: he's done it in Magny-Cours and he's done it again in Spa. I don't really understand why there's been such a mess around it. There's a rule book and everybody has to obey the same thing. The penalty is really rough but in the end it's up to you to give the position back or not. Pretty straightforward.
NR: Yeah, I definitely agree, because he did get an advantage, because he wouldn't have been that close behind Kimi had he not cut the chicane. But then again, I also think the penalty was a bit harsh as that did not have such a big effect on the actual race result in the end.
JT: Well, I agree completely with my colleagues. The penalty was quite big but I'm not a steward and I cannot decide what kind of penalty should be given. But on the other hand, it was very clear that he got an advantage out of it, so that's where it is. The rules are very clear. If you cut the chicane and you get an advantage, you just have to drop back and give back the position and in Lewis's case he shouldn't have attacked straight away at the next corner; that was it. On the other hand, with this new chicane, there is a lot of run-off, it gives you more chance to attack because in the case of a mistake, you wouldn't end up in a wall or in the gravel. If it was the case of Lewis in Spa, he wouldn't have gone much further than that. We have more chances to overtake.
SB: I think it was very clear and I agree as well. You have to be responsible for what you decide to do, and in this particular case, if you do gain an advantage like I said, you just give it back and make sure that you don't expose yourself to penalties. I think it's the easiest way to handle it. In my previous experience, my previous life in the States, it was actually a common thing. The stewards would not take action if you gave the position back, so I think it's only fair.
NR: I agree and I don't think it's going to stop us from trying to attack, definitely.
Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) To any one of you: although it says in the rules you give a place back, does it say in the rules how much advantage you are supposed to give back? Because Lewis was effectively second both crossing the line - the time sheets prove that - and also going into the La Source hairpin. Just for clarification because we don't know the rules like you guys do.
SB: The rules are available for everybody to read I think and they are very clear. You gain an advantage, you gain an advantage. It doesn't matter how big it is, if you end up being in a position to pass at the next corner then you gain an advantage, because at that place, as everybody said, you are never going to be in a position to pass, if you exit the chicane normally behind the guy, because it stretches out, it's normal. It's very simple, I think.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) Felipe, how do you see the championship battle here shaping up for you in the last five races?
FM: I see it as being pretty competitive. I think when you see that there is a two points' difference and we have five races ahead of us, everything is really completely open. We have 50 points (available) in the championship which is quite a big number of points, compared to the difference, so the battle is hundred percent open. We saw this year that you have some races where maybe Ferrari was a little bit better. You had other races where perhaps McLaren were a little bit better. It's really difficult to make a clear comment on which track we maybe can have an advantage or not, or maybe if we have an advantage or if they have an advantage. I think it will be very competitive all through the races.