FIA Wednesday press conference - Monaco 20 May 2009
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: Sebastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Adrian Sutil (Force India), Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull).
Q: Adrian, memories of last year here. Do you ever look back and think what might have been?
Arian Sutil: No, I look back in a good way. I think it was a great race for me being in fourth place between the Ferraris. It was a big success. For sure, a really unlucky ending and a lot of tears but thats how it is, thats sport. You have to bring it to the chequered flag. For the team it was very good and still I get lots of questions about it. It is good to hear that they talk about it and it is still in their memories.
Q: Recently you have been showing the same sort of perseverance, the same sort of staying power to the end of the race. Are you hopeful that with the slightly different nature of this circuit it might reap a good performance this weekend?
AS: Yeah, I think all the field will be really close, so every tenth, every hundredth will count for a good lap and finally maybe to get a few places on the grid. But lets see. I think everything is possible in Monaco. It is a tricky circuit. I like street circuits very much and it is one of my favourites, so I hope it will help me for a better position.
Q: I think you are still the Formula Three record holder here?
AS: Yeah, still. Exactly. Hopefully it is a good omen.
Q: What are your feelings about the performances recently? It seems that the technical side of the car is improving.
AS: Yeah, step by step we are doing our improvements. The problem is that the other teams improved their cars quite a lot, in big steps, so it is hard for us to catch up. But of course overall the balance is really good and it is definitely a big change to last year. We are very fast on the straight line, so straight line speed is really good. We need a little bit more downforce but reliability-wise it is really promising. There is potential in the car but we need somehow to catch up the train. It is difficult.
Q: We do see that your straight line speed is very good. But can you have downforce as well?
AS: Yeah, thats the thing. It is a compromise we are looking for but right now the factory is pushing a lot and trying to give their support in the best way. But as I said it is difficult for us but lets see how we go on. We are trying our best to put everything on the car right now.
Q: Sebastien, your feelings about the season so far and your own performances?
Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah, it has been obviously a steep learning curve for us as we had zero kilometres, or nearly, before the first race. The car has been changing every race, so it hasnt been easy to understand the car and optimise it. Here and there we felt we did a good job. I think obviously at the last one we got a major update and we were hoping for a big step forward and a great performance which didnt come. I think as a whole we didnt optimise what we had and that was a bit of a shame and obviously here it is a completely different game. You cant be quite sure of what is going to happen, if the car is going to be easy enough to drive to give you the confidence to go fast. It is always a very interesting weekend and I think all through the season it will be a very changeable, movable target. We have done what we could with what we had at the beginning. Now I think the car has a lot more potential and it is up to us to use it better.
Q: What do you think is lacking? Where do you think you need to improve? Everything?
SB: No, I think quite clearly since the beginning of the season up until Monaco we were definitely lacking downforce and that is what you need these days to go quicker. For sure here if you do not have downforce it is quite hard but once again we have some new parts on the car which should help us get a little bit closer. We will give our very best and see what happens.
Q: Do you feel this is your home grand prix?
SB: Yeah, I mean to me Monaco is very much like France. You have a lot of French supporters that come over. It is a very unique track, loaded with history and for the French it is always very special to drive here. I have had my fair share of success here and I really like the place, so hopefully we can put on a good show and have a good result.
Q: Sebastian, a phenomenal performance last year. Nineteenth on the grid to fifth. Is it a circuit that you enjoy?
Sebastian Vettel: Yes, I do. I mean last year we had a difficult time here as we introduced the car for the first time, so we had no spare parts, nothing. It wasnt very easy to deal with but in the race, fortunately, it was a chaotic race with wet and dry conditions, so we survived. We were on a one stop strategy and able to catch a lot of cars and in the end score some points, so it was a very good race for us.
Q: How do you feel you have changed since one year ago? Your driving, your own personality?
SV: Well, I think as a person I am still the same guy. I dont think I have changed much. Hopefully I have learnt a lot and I feel much more comfortable sitting in the car, driving the car and working together with the crew, with the team. Obviously this year Im with Red Bull Racing and it is my first season with them. It is a different team but I think I get used to it and getting better I suppose.
Q: So what are your expectations for the Monaco Grand Prix this year?
SV: It is always difficult to say and give a number but I think we have a very competitive car. We saw that the last five races. Also independently from the results I think the race was always very good and promising, so why should it change much for here. We have some new bits on the car, so if any they will help us I hope and we will be even stronger, so lets see.
Q: Your concentration has come out in Monza and China as well. Obviously it is very important around here. Do you see that as one of your assets perhaps?
SV: I hope so. I mean it is a very long race around here and street circuits are always very difficult. You need to be very focussed. It is all about keeping your concentration up and in the end you need to push just as hard as on a normal circuit but you are not allowed to make any mistakes. It is a bit more spicy but I think that is the extra challenge around here.
Q: Felipe, you felt that you could have finished third in the last grand prix. Is that the sort of progress you are expecting here?
Felipe Massa: I hope for sure. The last race we took a big step forward. We were very competitive during the race. I know we had a problem at the end of the race but at least with the pace point of view we took a big step forward. Here is a very different track compared to tracks we have had until now. So many things can be different here because of the lay-out of the track, so I think it is a little bit different for everybody. Sometimes you will see cars which are a little bit more competitive in one track but less in others. I hope our car can be as competitive as we were in the last race here as well. Also I hope we can have a very good race, start in a good shape and finish in a good shape. What happened in the last race was really a shame.
Q: Is there less emphasis on the technical side here and is it more on the drivers?
FM: Well, for sure it is a very technical track. The way you drive here is different than other tracks. Usually you need to anticipate the corners as you are getting to the corner and some corners you have understeer and some you have oversteer. The corners you have understeer you need to anticipate because if you are turning in the right place as if it was a normal corner maybe you lose a little bit of the apex, so you need to anticipate to get very close to the wall but not touch it. So it is different driving here. It is also very important as Sebastian said for the concentration. It is a huge factor in this race.
Q: You have had pole position here and two third places, so what chance of being on the podium again this year?
FM: Well, I hope we can have a great race as we have had in the last two years. Especially last year it was really, really good. We had a fantastic car and fantastic pace here. I made pole position with two laps more fuel, so it was one of the best poles of my career. The race was a big lottery unfortunately but I think we were very strong. I hope we can be strong as well and having a car to fight.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q:(Frederic Ferret LEquipe) How important is a driver on this track? Can you say what the difference is for a driver with the other tracks and here?
FM: Well, as I said it is a different track compared to the others. It is very technical. The concentration is very important. If you make a single mistake you can go to the wall. It doesnt mean you cannot make mistakes on this track. But if you make a mistake you need to be very lucky, to be on the right place, so you can still recover. But for sure the margin is very small compared to the other tracks.
SV: Yeah, I mean basically on this circuit the driver is very important, more important than on other circuits. As Felipe said you dont have a lot of room for mistakes and you need to be quite brave around here and as I said before you need to push just as hard as on any other circuit but that is the difficult thing as you have got the walls and the rails everywhere. It is difficult but good fun. So I think, to answer the question, the driver here is more important and by how much is difficult to say. You always need a good car as well but maybe the driver can make more of a difference here
SB: I think it all depends on how you rate the level of the field. If you think there are big differences between drivers then you have one opinion. If you dont think so then maybe it is not so relevant. Personally I think the quality of the field is very high, so since you have nearly all the best in the world and in the end we have all been through street circuits and road circuits. I think the biggest difference is that some guys like street circuits better than others. Thats what makes the biggest differences as it is true that it is a unique exercise. You cant drive here like you drive in Malaysia or modern tracks with a lot of run-off. It is narrow, it is tricky, it is a little bumpy and you have a little bit of everything. But probably you need a little bit more anticipation here than anywhere else.
AS: Yeah, a driver circuit I think. It showed in the last years always and thats why for us we always hope for Monaco as sometimes we can perform better. You need to risk quite a lot here but not too risk too much. There is a small edge and the car is moving around a lot. You have to play with the car, control it, so in the end I think it is up to the driver if he likes street circuits, if he feels good through the barriers, through the streets. But I do think there is a big difference in the end lap time-wise. You can gain or lose if maybe you risk a little bit more than the others.
SV: May I add one thing. I think also if you look from 1984 to 1993 because we have just had the discussion this morning, there were only two guys winning here: Senna and Prost. They must have done something better than the rest of the field.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) Question for everybody: just a few minutes ago, a court in Paris rejected the Ferrari appeal and as you know it will have a very big effect on Formula One in the future. May I have your comments because I think it will also affect your personal future. Maybe you will have to change categories if your teams dont decide to do Formula One next year.
SV: I havent heard the result yet, so I dont know what to answer now. First I want to see what happened exactly and then we will see what the reaction is from everyone and then I will also know a little bit more about my future.
FM: Its very difficult to comment. I think many things arent over yet. The way the championship has started has been very different compared to other years. We have had a lot of political fighting in many areas. I dont think that has helped the sport, for sure. I think many people have been a little bit upset because of many of these fights. I dont really know what to answer. It would be nice to have more sport and less politics, thats what were here for. We are not here for political reasons, we are here for sport, to fight for positions. Thats the good thing about Formula One. I hope things are going to be OK. For sure, if we lose Ferrari, Formula One wont be the same. People can say whatever they want but if you lose Ferrari, Formula One wont be the same. You see many teams which are trying to get into Formula One next year but you can imagine that if you lose Ferrari and maybe you get GP2 teams it wont be the same; with all respect, it wont be the same. The only thing I hope is to have more sport and less politics. We are here to race, we are here to fight each other on the track, not outside.
AS: Actually, I have no comment really. I didnt hear about the stuff going on right now. First I want to read it.
SB: I think its very difficult to comment on anything until we really know whats going to happen. Right now its negotiation time, everybody is trying to pull the strings the way it goes. Im not aware of much of it, so I will leave it at that.
Q: (Oliver Reuter Kölner Express) Question to Sebastian Vettel: how do you like your new double D model?
SV: Well, we will see. We dont know yet. As I said before, we tried to bring more and more bits to the car which will help the performance but we will see on Thursday where we are and also on Saturday, whether we are able to make a step forward or not. But nevertheless, I think its difficult to prove anything on this circuit because its so different to a normal circuit. I think we will have a clearer picture in the next races; the next round at Istanbul.
Q: (Ed Gorman The Times) Question for Felipe: when Luca di Montezemolo threatened that Ferrari would leave Formula One, both you and Kimi put out a statement that you supported that. Do you also support the move to take the matter to court over next years rules and if you did support that could you explain why?
FM: I think I said enough. Before, Ive said enough about all these problems, so I dont want to go into the details, so I support my team. I will support my team because I think Ferrari, to be honest, is not alone. Ferrari maybe took the lead but I dont think its just Ferrari which thinks like that. I think its many other teams. Yeah, I support my team.
Q: (Fulvio Solms Corriere dello Sport) Felipe, at this historical moment in your sport, do you feel firstly a Formula One driver or a Ferrari driver?
FM: Well, I am a Ferrari driver and I race in Formula One and Im very proud of that.
Q: (Heinz Prüller) To all of you: I would like to have your personal opinion, what is the most difficult, most fearsome, most challenging corner on this circuit for you personally?
SB: For me it used to be the swimming pool but not anymore because now its not blind and you have some room, not a lot, but some. Now for sure its Casino, because if you get it wrong there its an over 200kph approach and it doesnt go well.
SV: I think, as Sebastien said, there are some blind corners and like Felipe said before, you need to anticipate, so I think that is the most challenging around here, so places like the Casino, swimming pool, the fast bits obviously, you need to have a little bit of balls but overall its a very difficult circuit and youre not just losing or gaining time in the fast bits, also in the corners that you see very well, like the harbour chicane but these are the key corners if youre looking for lap time.
FM: Yeah, maybe similar thoughts. I think Casino is quite difficult, I crashed there two or three years ago I think. You have many difficult corners but maybe this place is more tricky. If youre talking about lap time, every corner is important because you can gain or lose in every corner, so I think you need to be really consistent and perfect in most of the corners.
AS: Yeah, I think very similar places: the Tabac corner, swimming pool and then Casino corner. You always want to push more but then somehow you reach a limit and its easy to go a little bit over it and crash. Its high speed there and you always think it can be a little bit faster but you have to see where the limit is really.
Q: (Sarah Holt BBC Sport) Sebastian, how important do you think it is that you stop Jensons (Button) winning streak this weekend? If he maybe wins five races are your own championship hopes and those of Red Bull effectively over?
SV: Well, first of all I think its a good position for the rest of the field that we basically have the points system still but nothing is impossible, we have just done five races, there are a lot more races to come. Of course it is important to stop Brawn GP winning, not just for us, I think for everyone, so we would like to turn the whole thing around and basically start winning at the earliest possible opportunity. Of course the target is to beat them and the target is to win the race, so to do so we need to beat everyone.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) All of you have some kind of a relationship with the FIA and your teams as well. The president of the FIA wants a regulation that as far as we understand, nobody wants in Formula One. What do you think about that?
FM: I think that many of the ideas which came from FOTA were very good ideas, to be honest and I think just because of political games, many of these ideas were not in Formula One. Im not political, Im very neutral, Im a driver, I want the best for the sport I race in and I think many of these ideas were very interesting. You need to think about the sport. Im not here to make judgement, that this is right, this is wrong. Im not a political guy, so I cannot really answer very clearly or very deeply about your question but what I say is that many of the ideas were very interesting but they werent accepted because of other reasons. But I dont have anything against anybody, so I just want better ideas for the sport, for the fans, because at the end of the day we race for the fans, we race because of them, we race because of the sponsors. Many ideas come up but if they are not good ideas, its less interesting for the fans, its more difficult for the fans and its more difficult for the sponsors as well. AS: The only thing I can say is that cost-saving is important, so its a good thing to think about it and try to make a new regulation for next year, absolutely OK, but there are always two sides, so if you agree or you dont agree, I think you have to find a middle way and find a solution very quickly.
SB: I think that what came out for this year obviously we see a great show this year. I think the regulations are quite sensible, it helps what it was meant to, meaning overtaking, less turbulence. For sure, another step seems to be necessary to proceed forwards with cost savings. Then its up to the teams to somehow find a way to communicate with the FIA and to find an agreement. Theres nothing that we can do. The only thing I would say is that us drivers, as members of the GPDA, we only kind of look at safety for us, or the way we see it from the inside and we start to have a good relationship with the FIA, to have some communication going and its good. Thats all Im going to say really.
SV: Well, I think first of all we are all here for the same reason, we are here in this room now because we love driving cars. Motor sport and Formula One is our life, we want to compete with each other. I think its always difficult to make new rules or think about the rules, try to improve and so on. You might have an opinion for one thing, not have an opinion for another one. You might like one way to go and dislike another. I think you will find an advantage, disadvantage. In the end its always linked to a lot of discussion, so its never easy. As Felipe said, we need to see why we are here. Personally, I think we want to race and Formula One is obviously the best platform in the world to do so. Were here for the fans and we all want the sport to continue. As I said, its always tricky and there are always a lot of discussions, so I think its very difficult to know where to go.
Q: (Walter Koster Saarbrücker Zeitung) Question to Sebastian, Red Bull driver. Sebastian, have you done some special things to improve your starting situation? It was not the best in the past, especially in Barcelona, or was it more a technical problem?
SV: No, youre right, we didnt have a very good start there. Obviously, as at every race, you look into it and you try to improve. Very clearly we could see that our start wasnt the best out of the top group, so basically both cars, Mark (Webber) and me, were lacking a little bit of performance there but Im confident that we will fix it and we will have a reasonable and good start here in dry conditions. In wet conditions, its always obviously a bit different, always trickier but I think we should be OK.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) Question for Bourdais about politics again: there is a lot of talk about another championship. You were in America, you won in America in a situation similar to that which might arise in future in Formula One, with two different monocoque championships. Could you tell us what is the effect (of such a championship) on the motor racing environment, to have two championships?
SB: No, there is nothing I can say. I think its very difficult to foresee Formula One with two different chassis. Maybe thats what it will be in the end but I think the teams have been quite strong about that opinion, to make sure it was not going to go through. The FIA seems to be quite keen on it, I think theres going to be a compromise to find somewhere and theres no way you can compare the States to Formula One, its two different ways of approaching racing and I wont even go there. Its too long and complicated.
Q: (Frederic Ferret LEquipe) Felipe, you said that you needed more confidence here than at other circuits; does the return of performance to your Ferrari give you enough confidence or are you still worried about reliability?
FM: No, no, Im very confident. I think we can do a good job. What happened to my car especially in the last race was something that I never saw before. We had the fuel in the car but the car was reading wrong numbers, so the refuelling machine was putting the right fuel in, it was reading the right numbers of the amount of fuel that went inside but the car was saying to the engineers, to the telemetry, that all the fuel was not inside. Then we changed the refuelling machine, we did exactly the same thing, and we again had the wrong numbers, so maybe I saved fuel for nothing.