FIA Thursday press conference - Belgium 27 Aug 2009
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso), Romain Grosjean (Renault), Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull).
Q: Sebastian, what are your feelings about last weekend? You had new bits on the car.
Sebastien Buemi: I would say that it was a difficult weekend in the end but we could improve our performance. We see that if we put everything together we can be in the top 10 which is quite positive. We just need to keep pushing hard. We will have another small step on the car for this weekend, so hopefully we will be able to have a clean weekend without any mistakes or whatever. I am sure if we can put everything together we can finish around P10 or P8.
Q: You have got a new team-mate. Has that affected your decisions as obviously Sebastien Bourdais had more experience than Jaime Alguersuari?
SB: I would say not really. I am not looking too much at him. I can look at the testing he is doing and if I can improve myself I always take it but in the end I really try to keep all the focus on myself with my engineer. It is important to see what your team-mate is doing but in the end it doesnt make you faster. For sure it changes a little bit because Bourdais had quite a bit more experience than me and now maybe I am a little bit more leading with decisions in the testing, so for sure it is a bit different but I would say that it doesnt change so much.
Q: What about this circuit? You have been here in GP2 but it is the first time here in a Formula One car. Talk about the commitment to this circuit with the fast curves compared to say Valencia last weekend.
SB: It is going to be quite a big difference I think. If you look at the lap time it is nearly 10 seconds, so it is quite big. Now it is nearly 11 races I have done in F1, so I am getting used to it. We will see what we can do. The circuit should be good for our car as we saw Red Bull performed really well in Silverstone. It was a fast circuit and it is again the case here, so we should be quite confident at the moment.
Q: How are your thoughts about coming here and the commitment around these fast corners in only your second Formula One race?
Romain Grosjean: Well, it is going to be interesting to see the difference between the Formula One car and the GP2 car. For me the aim is still to learn. I think there are still many things to learn. Having Fernando (Alonso) is a great help for me. I try to improve and see what he is doing to improve myself.
Q: What about your feelings after your first grand prix? Were there any surprises for you?
RG: Very hot. No, it was a nice grand prix. The aim was to finish the race, trying to get as much experience as possible. In this particular case it was very good. I could notice some things on the car which I didnt notice before the race, so we know a little bit more where we can work here. It was very interesting for me, the start and all the procedures, the pit stop procedure, the length of the race. All this was quite new and there is still a lot to do about it but it was good to finish the race and get some experience.
Q: And since then working up to this race? How much more homework have you done for this race?
RG: Well, not much difference. I think the team helped me a lot before Valencia trying to send me as much information as possible and here I think they are doing the same. We have to take the weekend in the same way that we did Valencia, trying to improve session by session and to see what we can achieve by the end of the weekend.
Q: Just a little personal question. Is it true you still work in your fathers bank?
RG: Well, it is not my fathers bank. But, yes, I am still working in Geneva in the bank and I went on Tuesday morning, the only day I had in Geneva, and it was very good to stay with my previous life and get back to the bank. Everybody was very happy to see me there and it was a great moment.
Q: Heikki is just considering whether to move his account to your bank?
RG: Very nice.
Heikki Kovalainen: I think what Romain did was to go on Tuesday to check his bank account to see if Flavio (Briatore) had already paid it for him.
Q: Heikki, it is interesting to read that the team is not very confident about this race. Why is that?
HK: Well, I think the characteristics of the circuit previously this year have not favoured our car. But, obviously, the last two races have been exceptionally good and if we could repeat that it would be fantastic. But like you said, expectations of the team are not quite as high because of the nature of the circuit but, who knows, we must not give up at this point. We will have to see how practice goes. I am quite confident that we have improved the high-speed performance of the car significantly since Silverstone time. I think it will be interesting to see where we end up.
Q: Just tell us about the commitment for this circuit.
HK: Well, it has got quite a few high-speed corners, many corners that are almost flat out, but not quite, so you need to get a good balance with the car. I think the corners because they are not quite flat out, maybe apart from Eau Rouge which is not as exciting as it might look. The challenge is to nail those high-speed corners and get the car balance right, so you need to work hard on Friday and Saturday morning.
Q: Tell us about the effect of having the short wheel base car.
HK: I think first of all this weekend we are not going to be running the short wheel base car on both sides. I think there was some uncertainty about it in Valencia, so the teams decided not to run the spec that Lewis (Hamilton) had in Valencia. I was happy with the long wheel base car and all the preparations have been with the long wheel base. It would not have been a big advantage for me as I am lighter and I can set up the car and move the weight around easier than Lewis, so they are the facts why we are not running them. I dont think we even have it here with us this weekend, so I dont even think we will be testing it.
Q: Are you a bit disappointed with the final result having started second on the grid?
HK: Maybe a little bit. You would rather go one step forward from the second place but overall I think it was my best race of the season and the second race with the upgraded package, so I was quite happy about that. I was on the front row and I could have been on pole. I think in the race, without wrong tyres that were fitted on the last stint, I think the result could have been even better, so I am actually quite pleased about the result and coming here to Spa, one of my favourite circuits, I feel actually very positive and I look forward to driving tomorrow.
Q: Sebastian, last weekend was obviously not a very good weekend for you. First of all, two engines failures which means you have got two less for the rest of the season. What are the repercussions you expect from that?
HK: I have got three left if you fancy a Mercedes.
Sebastian Vettel: Well, we need to see. Obviously it is not a good thing as you said. Last weekend having two failures within two days was not a good thing. Surely it affects the programme for the rest of the season. The last thing we want is to take a penalty, so the question now is what can we do. We are considering now all our options and possibly this means less running for myself on a Friday, so less practice which for sure is not an advantage. But in the end of the day do you want to take a grid penalty, yes or no, and I think you know maybe it is better to have a bit of time off and take some coffee in the break rather than starting 10 places back at some race, so we will see but for sure from now onwards we cannot have any mistakes or failures again. Thats for sure.
Q: And how do you feel about your championship chances still?
SV: I think it is still possible. I am not giving up, definitely not. For sure 25 points is not easy but we have seen how quickly things can change. Also I think one thing that extremely helps is that Jenson has not been very consistent the last races. He hasnt scored a lot of points. I dont know what was wrong but in the end it helps us. We should have been scoring some points the last few races, we did not, so that doesnt help but for the future it still remains open. We will push and we will fight. We are in the hunting position, so we will have to score big points.
Q: Sebastian was just talking about how the car was well suited at Silverstone. Are you feeling the same about this race as well?
SV: I think it should suit our car more than Valencia but in the end of the day we have to find out. Just by the layout, the speed of the corners, I think it favours our car, but we still need to see how quick we are. I hope we are extremely quick. I hope the weather will be according to what we need and according to our liking. If that means rain, then it is rain. If it is dry, then it is dry. We will see. But, for sure, looking at the championship we are in the hunting position, so we have to win races and score big points, so our target for this weekend is to win and I think it looks good so far. We havent done a single lap, so we need to find out.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frédéric Ferret LEquipe) Romain and Sébastien, what do you expect from the corners here? Are there some which you are looking out for, some where you will be cautious in a Formula One car?
SB: I think that for sure, on the first lap I will be a bit cautious through Eau Rouge, so maybe I will be looking out for that. Im just looking forward to driving the circuit because its a beautiful circuit, its one of my favourites. Yeah, Im happy when this day will be over and it will soon be tomorrow and we will see what we can do.
RG: As Sébastien said, we have to go gradually during the session. Basically there is much more testing than in GP2, so we will have the time to go step by step and see where the biggest differences are and what we can do.
Q: (Joris Fioriti AFP) Sébastien, you used to be the youngest driver on the grid, youre not any more. Do you have less pressure because of that and then to Romain, do you take Sébastien as an example right from his first race at the beginning of the season he has scored some points and did a pretty good job?
SB: I think that when you are driving the car you are not really thinking about being the youngest or the oldest. So its not making any changes to my driving and doesnt change the pressure or whatever. I dont feel much pressure. I feel the pressure that I put on myself and OK, maybe my team-mate is younger but it doesnt change anything.
RG: I think that for myself its difficult to compare to anybody else. Every situation is different; I had no testing, I had just one race last week and we are here in Spa which is a monument in racing, a fantastic circuit but very difficult, I think. I will see. I will do my best and try to still learn a lot and at the end we will see.
Q: (Will Buxton Australasian Motor Sport News) Heikki, its getting to that point of the year when everyone is talking about driver contracts for next year. As far as we are aware McLaren havent taken up their option on you yet, so what are you looking at for next year? Are you talking with other teams? How are things looking?
HK: Well, first of all I will not talk about the contractual situation here in public. I did once this year which I regret. But I think that apart from that, the most important thing now is to focus on performance and thats what Im here to do. I had a great weekend last weekend with the updated car. I was on the front row, as I said, and could have been on pole and the race could have been better without the last stint troubles, so Im quite looking forward to building on that and I feel Im in great form. Here we are at Spa, a fantastic circuit, so thats what Im focussing on at the moment.
Q: (Bob McKenzie The Daily Express) Sebastian, at the end of the race in Valencia, Jenson (Button) wasnt very happy. He said that you cut him up at the first corner, he dropped back to ninth; theres aggression and theres over-aggression, he said. I wonder if hed spoken to you about it and if you felt you had been over-aggressive?
SV: I havent heard about it. I think we are here to race, so I dont know. Maybe I have to talk to him later if it was a problem for him. As I said, we try to race, we try to defend our position, so theres not much more to say.
Q: (Bob McKenzie The Daily Express) Does the title aspect of it come in? You know youre up against him for the title?
SV: Well, I think you know, youre not sitting in the car and voluntarily giving a place to the guy who is starting behind you. For sure, in that moment it doesnt really matter how many points you have, you try to defend your position and try to get as far in front as you can. Obviously, looking back at Valencia, I had no chance to stay in front of Kimi (Räikkönen) at the start, he had some button to press and easily got me round the outside. I started on the dirty side and I knew that at the first and especially second corner it would be crucial to be on the inside and on the clean side, so I tried to get to the inside as early as possible. I think it was fine, so for me I dont think there was any problem, but maybe I have to talk to Jenson later, I dont know.
Q: (Luis Fernando Ramos Racing Magazine) A question for all drivers: as young drivers in your first seasons, even racers in Formula One, how do you see Barrichellos motivation to keep racing and also winning, and do you see yourself in 15 years also motivated to be in Formula One?
SV: As far as Im concerned, I enjoy driving the car, so I can see the pleasure he feels every time he jumps into the car. But obviously ten years, 15 years is a long, long time. I dont know. I think you have to do it step-by-step. If someone would have stepped up to Rubenss car at his first or second Grand Prix and would have said you will race more than 260 Grands Prix in Formula One its difficult to realise what it means or how long it is. I think you have to do it step-by-step and as long as you feel happy, as Sebastien said before, you dont think about how young or how old you are. I think, as David (Coulthard) said last year or two years ago, as long as you are quick enough you are not too old and as soon as you are quick enough you are not too young any more. I dont think age matters. At some point yes, probably, when you get grey and fat but hes still in good shape.
HK: Rubens is clearly doing a fantastic job. I think its difficult to predict, in the future, what I will be doing when Im 37 or 38. I would like to think I would still obviously be in good shape and good form but I think that when the day comes when I dont give a hundred percent any more that then will be the time to stop but I dont see it happening very soon yet.
RG: Its impossible to say what you are going to do in 15 years. For sure, Formula One is the best thing in the world for every driver who is here. We dont want to leave and I think the best thing Rubens could do is win the race last week and this shows that hes still fast enough and there is no age problem.
SB: I think the other drivers have summed it up quite well, so as long as hes enjoying it I think its the most important thing and then youve got to be fast and thats what he is. He won the race and you can see that its possible to be fast even if youre a bit older than the other guys. I dont, for the moment, imagine myself in 15 years but why not?
Q: (Joonas Partanen Iltalehti) Heikki, there has been some criticism about your race pace., Do you personally think that criticism has been justified and if so, what is the biggest problem?
HK: Well, first of all, I havent had any criticism about my race pace from anyone in the team. I myself have talked to many people in the team and said that I can do much better, and last weekend in Valencia, particularly, was quite a lot better. I think its quite a lot down to driving style, how you manage these tyres. One weekend you have softer tyres, one weekend youve got harder tyres and how you manage them throughout the race is quite crucial, so thats what Ive been working on very hard in these last few weeks, especially this last week and a half, since weve been back at work. Thats all I can say, really.
Q: (Balazs Vajta Autosport Es Formula) Heikki, as we all know, Spa is a race where it can rain, and my question is actually a double question: first of all, do you expect your car to be better in the rain than in the dry, and my second question is, do you expect any difference from the short wheel base car in the rain compared to the dry?
HK: Well, I think its difficult to say whether the car will be better or worse in the dry than in the rain. I think I would expect the performance of the cars, relatively, around our car will be similar in any kind of conditions. I think that if you have the grip, if youve got the downforce, youre going to go quickly in the rain and you are going to go quickly in the dry. If you havent got it, youre going to be in trouble. I think its more down to how much water there is on the track and which tyres youre on, whether youre on the intermediate tyres or on the full wet tyres that can then play a part in the result of the Grand Prix. Apart from that, I think its difficult to predict whats going to happen if it rains.
Q: (Panagiotis Seitanidis Antenna TV) Sebastian, you said you would welcome any weather we might have on Sunday but since this circuit suits your car, would you prefer an eventful dry race than your favourite rain?
SV: In the end, our target here, as I said, is to get the maximum points, so our target is to win, so I would like to have winning conditions on Sunday. I dont care if its wet or dry or both. In the end, you have to be quick, no matter what the conditions.
Q: (Will Buxton Australasian Motor Sport News) Romain, it was your Grand Prix debut last weekend but you were involved in a bit of weird situation in the pits when Luca Badoer moved out of your way. You guys were fighting for position on track. Have you ever experienced anything like that before, how did it compute in your head when that happened?
RG: Its still competition in the pits. I gained a place which was quite good. It was a bit of a moment but nothing different to what I was used to in GP2. I think we were fighting and it was the way to gain a position and at the end, it helped my race quite a lot.
Q: (MC) Can I ask a question to Romain to compare GP2 and F1 because sometimes we watch GP2 races and they seem to be pretty chaotic, whereas F1 seems to be relatively, can I say, sensible. What are your feelings about it?
RG: Well, to be honest I was quite surprised how difficult it is to follow a car in Formula One. I dont know from where it came but for sure I was behind Luca Badoer for quite a long time in the first stint and I couldnt get closer than 0.8s because you lose most of the downforce and the car goes much faster and this makes your life quite hard when you follow another car. I think theres a different spirit of building the car. In GP2 all the cars are the same and the ground effect is quite big compared to the aero and in Formula One we are using more aerodynamic downforce than ground effect, so in the end it makes the race much harder to fight and to get close to another car.