FIA Thursday press conference - China 16 Apr 2009
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: Rubens Barrichello (Brawn GP), Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren), Kazuki Nakajima (Williams), Jarno Trulli (Toyota) and Mark Webber (Red Bull).
Q: Heikki, what are your feelings about the start of the season? It would be nice to do a lap, I suspect. How are you going to overcome that? What are your feelings about it?
Heikki Kovalainen: Well, I think there are many positives from these races apart from the actual race day. It has been pretty poor both race days. Like you said, I have not been able to complete a race lap yet. But otherwise I feel I am getting more out of the team. I work better throughout the whole weekend with the team and, in fact, the base has been pretty promising. I am over those disappointments now and I just move on and try to complete the weekend with a good Sunday as well.
Q: The team as a whole has also had a hard time. What is the mood within the team now?
HK: It is very positive. If you look at the circumstances it could be a kind of time to bring the team down but I think everyone has kept the focus, kept digging deep, kept working hard. We have got another upgrade for the car this weekend, so I think this is the attitude that we need at this difficult time, just keep our heads up. That is what the whole team has done including myself. I am just trying to put as much effort in as I can. We just try to power through these difficult times.
Q: With those upgrades will you expect an improvement in terms of position?
HK: Hopefully, yes. Obviously, that is why we are pushing very hard to move up the grid. We are not trying to stay around 10th place or so. We are always aiming to eventually arrive in pole position and be winning races again. Clearly this is our target. I think for this weekend it would be unrealistic to say we will be fighting for pole position but I think can have another good step forward and hopefully we can start the challenge to get into the top 10 in qualifying, into Q3. That is the next step and then obviously always trying to fight for the victory if possible but just keep improving throughout these weekends. That is the main key at the moment.
Q: Mark, so far there seems to have been a lot of promise if not the result. What are your feelings about the first couple of races?
Mark Webber: I agree with that. We had a pretty good run in Melbourne until the first corner. I think Heikki hit Rubens. I havent spoken to Heikki about that yet but Rubens and I said we are going to bash him up later on. Yeah, that happens.
HK: You guys brake so early for the first corner. Next time I will run over you even more.
MW: Then Malaysia was obviously an exceptional race with the weather in the end and that could have gone either way for many people obviously with people who were pitting or werent pitting for different tyres. We are in a reasonable situation pace wise. Were not right at the front but not going too bad, so we are coming here very optimistic again to try and fight for a podium if we can. It is not easy. Jarno has done a good job so far and Nico (Rosberg) as well with the Williams. So it is tough out there as usual and we will do our best.
Q: Obviously Sebastian (Vettel) was running fairly light in qualifying in Malaysia. That must have been quite a promising and encouraging position on the grid for him though?
MW: Yeah, it was a reasonable job as you say with the fuel load. And Kubicas pace, he also could have been third. Jarno did a very good job. Q3 is a very important session, we know that, and the fuel load is quite powerful for lap time, always has been. Like I said we will try and do the same here and get up at the front if we can.
Q: Heikki was talking about upgrades. When are you expecting new bits and pieces? When are you expecting the magic diffuser?
MW: Early in Europe we will get the diffuser and we have a pretty good upgrade for Barcelona, so not a lot going on for the next two races but I think for Barcelona we will be in better shape and then a few races after that we might see the introduction of a different rear to the car.
Q: Kazuki, I hear you were at Suzuka the other day. Can you tell us about the day and also about the modifications to the circuit?
Kazuki Nakajima: I have been to the Suzuka circuit for the opening event and it was really impressive as the whole circuit, apart from the track lay out, has been renewed completely. All the pit buildings, garages, grandstands. It was pretty impressive if you know what it was before. It is completely different, so it was quite nice.
Q: Did you do any laps? I hear your father was there as well.
KN: Yeah, he was there. I think he did a lap with an old F1 car but I didnt manage to do any laps. It was a shame. I was there but I didnt manage to drive anything. I am sure that the layout of the track has not been changed but they have resurfaced the track.
Q: How was the reaction to you as a grand prix driver as obviously you are gaining in status?
KN: It has been since, I think 2005, that I have been to Suzuka and the reaction of the fans was massive and I struggled to walk though the paddock. It was maybe a bit too much for me but it is always nice to come back, especially as a grand prix driver and I am really looking forward to going back in October.
Q: And your feelings about the season so far as the car looks very competitive?
KN: Yeah, there are a lot of positives. The car is quite competitive and Nico (Rosberg) had a great start in Malaysia and he was leading the race. It is quite clear that we have a very competitive car and I didnt make the most of it for some reason. At the moment we have a good car and we just need to keep it good. From now I think it is going to be a massive development race, so we just need to keep up with this.
Q: Jarno, a massive development race. First of all your feelings about the car. Is it better or worse than you expected?
Jarno Trulli: I think that the car has been developed pretty well over the winter time, so the first race went pretty well scoring lots of points. But there is still a lot of work to do. Our car is competitive but we still have to catch up with Brawn GP as at the moment they are more competitive than us. There is work to do and we are focussed on that job.
Q: When are you expecting upgrades?
JT: We have got some upgrades here, front wing and rear end of the car as well. We are consistently working on it. The team so far has done a good job. Obviously after so much noise about the rear diffuser we are a little bit undecided about what is going on but on the other hand we were quite confident that we would win the race and in the end I am pleased with it.
Q: This circuit has not been good for you.
JT: No matter. I will just get on with my job and with my team to do the best for this weekend. Hopefully it will be a good weekend as I have an important reason to get a good result. As you can see on my overall I am wearing a message for my new charity campaign, Abruzzo in the Heart. You all probably have heard about the dramatic situation in the region after the earthquake. I want to support the people and to do that I gave up one of my sponsors to give visibility and raise money. I am going to ask GPDA drivers, teams, everyone, to join me. This is not just asking about the money. I am raising money but I want to ask people to donate not just money but items.
Q: Rubens, this is a really circuit for you. You have finished all five races and you won in 2004. Do you know who was second in 2004?
Rubens Barrichello: Jenson (Button).
Q: So it is looking pretty good, isnt it?
RB: Yeah, I like the track very much. It is a track on which Ive always gone quite well. The weather is going to be dodgy, maybe just because we changed the date of the race. It could play into good hands. I think the first two races have been quite good for the spectators to see the racing plus the wet has brought more of a show, so I think this one will be no different.
Q: Two months ago, you probably didnt have a Grand Prix seat. Tell us about your emotions regarding the start of this season?
RB: As Ive mentioned before, Ive always been very, very positive about myself racing. But in all honesty, I think only myself and probably my two kids knew that I was going to race. It was fun to watch them, in the way that they look at it: hes having a longer holiday but hes going to go sometime soon. Not even my wife knew if I was going to race, or the whole of Brazil. So it was nice to see that. I knew the car was going to be good, I didnt know how good. We knew the engine was very, very strong, as it is, so it was just a dream when they phoned me and said I was going to drive. After four laps in the car, I could see it was very competitive.
Q: What are you feelings about the tyre choices for this race? Different temperatures here too; it seems to be all over the place.
RB: It is. Myself, I still need to understand what is the reason why we bring such different tyres, if its for the show itself or I think we have a very good tyre for here and a softer tyre which all the teams might struggle with. That may make the race itself very nice because someone might be struggling, you have overtaking and thats quite nice, but Im sure were capable of bringing out of the four types of tyre that we have we can bring different tyres that can be better for us drivers. In Australia, the tyres were already graining after five laps and it will be the same here, possibly even more because the track itself is more abrasive, and if its cold the tyres are going to be a bad effect. If this is for the show itself, I dont think its dangerous for us danger in the way that you could be driving five seconds slower and another car is catching up quite quickly, but its lovely for the show itself.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Beniamino Natale - ANSA) I would like to ask Jarno if he has anything more to say about his help for Abruzzo, his home region where there was this dramatic earthquake?
JT: We have probably all seen what happened there and being part of Abruzzo I wanted to do something special. It took a few days before really realising what was going on, because honestly it is a dramatic situation there. Nearly three hundred people died which is not so many compared to what really happened. We dont have a city or villages anymore; everything has gone, blown away. More than one hundred thousand people have been left with nothing: no houses, no jobs, families. It must be really hard. I didnt go back yet because I havent had time because of the travelling and work. I will go back just after these two flyaway races. At the same time, I was trying to think what to do and I believe that as I am from Abruzzo and this is an Italian business but everyone around the world knows about the earthquake and because I work around the world, I just wanted to show to everyone or let everyone know whats going on there. There isnt much difference between the tsunami and the earthquake in Abruzzo, its a dramatic situation and I want to make my contribution. Eventually, the final target will be to raise money first of all and then at the end of the season see how much we have and try to go there and rebuild schools everything basically has to be rebuilt. I just want to try really hard. For once in my life, I will probably go and knock on everyones door to raise some money.
Q: (Luis Fernando Ramos - Racing Magazine) Mark, we saw you working amongst the drivers in Malaysia during the interruption, discussing the conditions. I want to hear how the GPDA is now and how do you see yourself in the role as GPDA leader?
MW: The GPDA is very strong at the moment. We have a full grid of active members within the association with the exception of Kimi. So we have come quite a good way. Its always been very, very important that the GPDA is constantly counselling each other on different issues that come across our sport. My role was not that difficult in Malaysia. All the drivers were concerned about the conditions and I was just really asking the guys what they thought, because there could have been a situation where the race might have been turned round quite quickly, i.e. they could have started the race quite fast again, in their eyes, but in our eyes obviously it was totally different. So I thought it was worth asking a few guys towards the front and guys with experience, and I also asked Lewis being the World Champion and all the responses were the same. So when we communicate a lot better off the track it makes it easier for the guys to have more respect for each other when we are under off-course pressure from the teams or under pressure from ourselves to get the results. The organisation is going fine.
Q: Jarno, in Sepang you managed to qualify second and the team got on the podium, so are you confident that Toyota is able to catch Brawn GP?
JT: We cannot take the Malaysian result as all the other races because first of all it has been cut short. A lot of events affected the race, so it would be unfair but the first two races definitely showed that looking at the performance, Toyota is not far away from Brawn and for sure its in the top three teams. On the other hand, there is some work to do in order to beat Brawn GP but Im confident because my engineers worked really hard, they have a good idea of what to do in the future and its better to start being second in the championship rather than being fourth or fifth as we were in the past. I think we have a pretty good car, a good base and now its just a matter of developing it.
Q: (Carole Capitaine - LEquipe) Can you tell us about the decision of the court of appeal?
HK: I think we have a clear direction now. Everyone can go and develop things accordingly. For me as a driver it doesnt make any difference. I drive the car and hopefully there is more grip now.
MW: (Thumbs up)
KN: Well, it doesnt affect me. Im pleased and as a team we are pleased that its clearly allowed now. As I said, its just going to be a development race from now. It doesnt make a big difference to us.
JT: Well, obviously no difference. Im just happy about it.
RB: I like the decision a lot!
Q: (Adam Hay-Nicholls - Metro) Question for all of you: have you stayed out in Asia and what have you been up to if you have?
HK: I went back to England after the last race, spent four days in Woking working with the engineers with a bit of simulation as well and then got back on Saturday, went to Singapore for a few days, found a nice golf course. Then when I lost all the balls I turned up here!
MW: Yeah, I went back to the UK as well and I got here as late as possible and I leave as quickly as possible.
KN: I was in Japan and I had a full week off in Japan well, not a full week off but then I went to Suzuka for one day.
JT: Just after the last race I flew back to Europe. I went to the factory, did some work and then spent some days at home with the kids and obviously Easter with the family. I just managed to lose my voice on the flight coming here to China. Im here since Tuesday morning; I havent done much, to be honest because there isnt much to do, and I will fly out on Sunday night.
RB: Ive been back to Brazil, so Ive been flying for four days already.
Q: I have a question for Rubens: Lewis Hamilton said yesterday that this is only the start after the decision. Brawn GP is leading (the Constructors) at the moment but usually in the middle of the season more competitive drivers emerge and Brawn GP wont have as much advantage as they have now. What do you think about this opinion?
RB: I hope hes wrong.