FIA Thursday press conference - Hungary 28 Jul 2011
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers - Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso), Jenson Button (McLaren), Heikki Kovalainen (Team Lotus), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Mark Webber (Red Bull).
Q: Heikki, I guess you have got good memories of this circuit. Your win in 2008 from second on the grid?
Heikki Kovalainen: Yeah, of course a great memory for myself. It was the best day of my racing career so far but I think I am 110 per cent ready for the next one of those so waiting for that.
Q: Is this still a very popular race with your compatriots?
HK: Yeah, absolutely. There are a lot of Finnish people coming over here to watch the Grand Prix. It is very, very easy to get here from Finland I think and I think also, the Finnish people, they love the city. They come here for a holiday as well so always seem to be a lot of Finnish flags around here, which is great.
Q: So this is as close to home as it gets is it?
HK: kind of, kind of. For a home Grand Prix I suppose there are probably more Finnish flags and Finnish supporters here than any other Grand Prix, so in that sense yes.
Q: What's your aim at Grands Prix these days? What are you looking to do, just get closer to say Scuderia Toro Rosso for example.
HK: Yeah, of course, at the Grand Prix, the aim always has to be a win and a pole but at the moment that is not realistic, so we are targeting at the moment to be ahead of the other new teams and closing the gap to the cars ahead of us. We still have got a lot of work to do. We have got to improve as a team, but we are constantly working on it and that's where the focus is at the moment.
Q: But do you see that can happen? Can you get ahead of Toro Rosso by the end of the year, for example?
HK: By the end of the year, I don't know. We are trying to close the gap every weekend but Formula One is very competitive. The teams ahead of us are bigger and better than we are at the moment so it is not very easy but whether it is by the end of this year or next year, whenever it is, the target is to close the gap. We believe we can do it so that's why we are doing it.
Q: Jaime, similar question. This circuit holds some memories for you too. Your first ever Grand Prix here a couple of years ago.
Jaime Alguersuari: Yeah it is nice to be back here. I like this place and the track is very nice so hopefully we have a good race and we stay in the points on Sunday.
Q: The results have been pretty good recently. Have you been pleased with them?
JA: Yes, I think we have done the maximum we could have done in the last races. It is difficult to say where we are now, as I think Force India have done a great step forward in terms of performance, so it is a bit difficult to stay in front of them now in the race but we will see how we can attack this weekend in comparison to last weekend and where we will finish.
Q: And you talk all the time about learning. Everyone is always learning, but do you feel you are really making progress?
JA: I think this year it's pretty good. I think it's the biggest example so far as this year everything changed a lot in Formula One. The tyres, and it was a bit difficult at the beginning of the season to get the best out of the car, to work for qualifying and to work for the race. Now everything is coming up. It's a bit late, as I think the other teams have done a really good step forward, especially Force India, so it has been difficult at the moment to stay in front of them. But I think we are getting out the maximum of the car. Last race at the Nurburgring there was nothing else we could do. I think we did a good race, we did the maximum we could have done and (Paul) di Resta finished a fair bit behind me. He was clearly faster than me, so I think we have done really the best. I think there is still potential to come from our side set-up wise, of development during the year, but I think the target is to stay very close to Force India, to the championship, which will be tough and obviously to stay in front of Williams.
Q: Mark, obviously a winner a year ago and just one retirement in nine races here. That's not a bad record is it?
Mark Webber: Yeah, I didn't know about that. That's good. I hope I can continue. Last year's race was good and looking to give it another crack this weekend if I can. The car should be good here. I've been pretty quick myself of late so I'll see what I can do.
Q: Everyone says the Red Bulls are going to be quick here, but where do you see yourselves?
MW: Well, last year is a little bit of a form card. Obviously, the regulations have changed a lot since then, so let's see how that goes. Clearly, McLaren and Ferrari aren't hanging round as well. Qualifying has tightened up a lot in the last few events and so have the races, as we saw. Silverstone would have been a track where you would think we could have been a bit more competitive or more dominant compared to the high standards we have set around some particular venues around the world and this one you might pick as well. So, find out Sunday night.
Q: In fact, third place in the last four races. You must be getting a bit fed up with that?
MW: Yeah, I think it has been consistent. I suppose all of us here want to do better, that's human nature. I have had some good fights. The last race was a very good Grand Prix from all of us fighting for the victory, and it went Lewis (Hamilton's) way. Yeah, it is better than having five fifths in a row. But to get the win you need everything perfect, even for second for that matter. To bang out podiums you still need to get a lot of things right, so I am not getting too carried away with a good run of results, but to go the next step you have just got to tick the last few boxes and just get it done.
Q: You have had a couple of pole positions in the last two races as well. Do you feel you have got work to do on your start? Is that a problem do you feel?
MW: I think the whole team, we all do, need to. Felipe probably had the best start at the last race. Sebastian (Vettel) was under a lot of pressure himself, so both of us didn't have the easiest run to the first corner. Silverstone was a dry track, intermediates on the car, so it was an interesting start. Sebastian did the same to me as what I did to him at Silverstone the year before. A little bit more grip on that side and off you go. The starts, you know. Jenson has had some good ones and the last one was a shocker for him. That's just the car. There a lot of things that go into the starts, how it all works, so we need to continue to focus on that. We need to focus on pit-stops. That's Formula One racing. Lots of things need to be put into the mix to get the right results.
Q: Felipe, that pit-stop at the last race. That was a little bit too exciting wasn't it, the last lap in Germany?
Felipe Massa: Yeah, a little bit. We lost one position, but we are working pretty hard in all directions and sometimes it happens.
Q: Just talk about this circuit. A little bit emotional coming back here, I believe, for you. It is the circuit where you had your accident. What are your thoughts coming back here?
FM: Well it's a circuit I really enjoy to drive. I always had little problems on the weekends here. I remember in 2007 in the qualifying I had a problem and sat on the back. In 2008, I was leading, three laps to go, and I had an engine fail. In 2009, my accident. So, every year something happens. Last year was the best one, I finished fourth, and I hope this year we can have a good direction, finish on the podium, also try to win. But anyway, it is a place I always enjoy to come here. Especially after my accident. I have a lot of fans here so really like the people here. Also to come back. I was with my doctor, the doctor who operated on me, yesterday, so it always a great pleasure as this is a good side. It is something that you never forget and this is a good point and also I hope I can have all this good energy for a good weekend as well.
Q: You come off the back of two really fighting races. This was Felipe Massa of old. This is the one we wanted to see. You must have been very pleased with those last two races?
FM: Yeah, it was okay. You are always pleased when you finish in the front. But I think it was two good races in terms of fights, especially the last race, the biggest problem was not just the pit-stop. It was also the amount of seconds I lost behind Nico (Rosberg) in the first stint. I think that I lost all the opportunity to fight with the guys in front. But just looking to improve even more this race and even after the break.
Q: Jenson, this is a bit of a momentous weekend in some ways and a circuit where you had your first win from 14th on the grid, let's remember?
Jenson Button: Yeah, got very good memories of 2006. Obviously a long time ago now and it's the perfect place for me to have my 200th Grand Prix I suppose. The last couple of races for me have been a bit difficult in terms of not finishing so hopefully we can have a good result here on such a special weekend.
Q: People talk about it being a circuit that is difficult to overtake on and yet from 14th on the grid you must have done a fair bit of it?
JB: Yeah, in mixed conditions it is always a lot easier when you are trying to find the grip and it is changing every lap. But you can overtake here. There are a couple of places and I think with the tyres, with KERS, with DRS, we have seen a lot of improvements in overtaking. I don't think this will be any different. First of all the aim is to qualify as high as possible and and not have to overtake anyone but it is always there if it's needed.
Q: I know the cycling finished a week ago, with the Tour de France, but McLaren were involved with Mark Cavendish's bike as well. I think you have done a certain amount of cycling on that bike as well. Did you help with the development?
JB: Did I help the development? Not really, it needs an engine strapped to it for me to help with the development. I have had a lot of fun on it, but it is very different to what those guys are doing. It is great to see so many wins by Cav in the tour and also to get the green jersey. Yeah it's nice. We have got a lot of wins this year. I think it is seven in total now.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Luis Fernando Ramos - Radio Banderantes) The question is to Mark, Felipe and Jenson. On qualifying this year you have been more often than not outqualified by your team-mate. I just want to hear the reasons about that and how do you feel this is evolving throughout the season, the qualifying. Will it be better against your team-mate?
MW: Yeah, it's an important part of the weekend. All three of us have pretty strong team-mates and that's what you want. I think all of us also are pretty good drivers. We are driving for the three top teams and you can argue it's only the six to eight drivers are the best guys on the grid so inevitably there is going to be a bit of momentum either way. Speaking from my side, we know Seb has done a good job in qualifying, particularly at the start of the season. The last few races it has tightened up a little bit and last year there wasn't much in it so let's see how we go for the second part of the championship
FM: Yeah, I think its the same. Qualifying is an important part of the race. The position you start is always important. Fernando did a better job on the qualifying so just need to improve a bit, to fight to try and be in front, and it is an important part. Just pushing hard to improve all the time.
JB: Yeah, exactly the same. We are racing against the best drivers in the world and sometimes it goes one way rather than the other. This year for me Lewis has been quicker in qualifying which is something you want to improve on. You want to be as quick as you can in qualifying as it is always all about getting a better position for Sunday and making your race a lot easier. But I think it is a little bit different this year than it has been over the past few years. I think even if you have qualified a few places back, you can still have a really good race and really fight for a victory so I think Saturdays are important but obviously Sundays are the ones that get you the good points.
Q: (Michael Noir Trawniczek - Rally & More) Felipe, if you compare yourself with Fernando, he is often quicker than you. Do you think you can change this on a consistent basis and what do you think you have to improve to beat him?
FM: I think we can, for sure, in terms of working and trying to improve the direction. He did a better job, I have no problem to say that, just working hard at all the races, in all directions, on the car, on the set-up and hopefully we get there. We're working to achieve that.
Q: (Peter Farkas - Auto Motor) Jenson, I think these conditions recall some nice memories for you from 2006; are you actually hoping for rain for this year's race as well?
JB: Yeah. You know rain would be a lot of fun around here. We've been here in the wet before and for me it was one of the best races I've been involved in and actually watched back, because there was a lot of overtaking, a lot of fighting. Yeah, it brings something to the race, but I think even in the dry, wet or intermediate conditions we've got to make sure we're quick. Lewis proved at the last race the pace of the car is very good in dry conditions, in cool conditions. I also think we'll be there in hot conditions. Whatever the weather does we've got to be ready for it. I agree that when it's mixed conditions here it's a fun race.
Q: (Peter Vamosi - Vas Nepe) Jenson, have you seen your overalls for Saturday, the Hungarian edition? What do you think about it and do you know where Kalocsa is? (Note: Kalocsa is a Hungarian town whose emblem will be seen on the back of the McLaren drivers' driving suits on Saturday)
JB: This is going to be a very short answer to this one. No, I haven't... and no. But I've enjoyed wearing different overalls over this season. Some have been pretty cool, some have been interesting but it's a nice change, it's nice that there's a lot of interest in it. I think it's a great bit of marketing by Hugo Boss, personally, and it's good to get people involved with the team: fans of the sport, fans of McLaren, to actually have an involvement in what the drivers wear.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Mark, Felipe and Jenson, in the last three races we had wins from Vettel in Valencia, Alonso in Silverstone, and Hamilton at Nurburgring. Is it realistic to believe that we will have a fight between your teams in this race? We have elements to believe that: maybe hot weather, the tyres supplied and the evolution of the teams.
MW: If I understood the question correctly, you mean that the same teams can fight for victory here? I think it will be tight again. All three teams, as you've said, have shown forms of well, they have won, simple as that. It's not chances, ifs, buts and whens. They actually have gone out and won Grands Prix fair and square: Sebastian in Valencia, Fernando in Silverstone and then Lewis. None of those victories were handed to them, no one was in front and then had a technical problem. They were Grands Prix that were won fair and square, so there is real form there, and I think that this weekend, whether it's three teams remains to be seen, but two definitely could challenge for the victory. Three is a bonus, obviously, for the neutrals, you guys. Three would be the maximum; I don't think we will have four teams but three will probably mean that one of six drivers can win the race.
FM: I think the same. In the last races we saw improvements from our car, even McLaren at the last race. Red Bull was, for sure, always very strong, even if they didn't win they were strong anyway so I think here we can see another fight between us. Sometimes there are tracks that are better for one car than the others. We will wait and see how it's going to be here, but I think it can be a big battle again.
JB: I think it's a great time for F1, to have three top teams fighting at the front. We've had four different winners from the last four races and hopefully we will have a great race here. As we've said, we don't know who is going to be the most competitive here. It was great to see three teams fighting for victory at the last race, and hopefully it's going to be the same thing here. Hopefully there will be six of us really at the front with a chance of victory. That's all we all love doing, we all love the challenge and hopefully we will get the chance to fight for it here.
Q: (Sarah Holt - BBC Sport) Actually, my question is just a continuation; Jenson, do you think we can see this tight three-way battle now for the rest of the season?
JB: I really don't know. I think if you look at the last three races you would say we've all been making improvements in different areas. The races have been reasonably close even if there's been a different winner in every race, there's been a good fight, it hasn't been an easy victory for anyone. I hope so, obviously I hope that we are the quickest and we can win every race, but I think it's also fun when you have the challenge of fighting with other top teams and I think that's the way it's going to be when you're at the pinnacle of the sport. There's going to be a lot of competition, it's not just one team doing a great job; we're all pushing as hard as we can. We're trying to look at every area possible and we're all doing a pretty good job, I would say, in terms of teamwork and the pace of the car.
Q:(: (Heinz Prüller - Forza) Gentlemen, the usual Budapest question: what are you planning for your holidays - if we promise we won't follow you?
MW: A lot of cycling - no, no, just relaxing in France.
FM: Well, go to Brazil. A little bit of time at home is always good. We don't live very close to Brazil, so when I have a bit of time, even if it's not very hot there, it's winter, but home is always home.
JB: I'm going to the beach, I'm going to Hawaii for a few days and then I've got a best friend's wedding to go to which is going to be interesting.
HK: I'm going in the snow in Finland, playing golf in the snow, in the winter in Finland. Handicap's coming down. Yesterday came down to 9.4 so now on the way to single figures, probably.
JA: I stay in Barcelona in Spain.
Q: (James Allen - Financial Times) Mark, you were saying it's tightened up in qualifying and in the last few races the other teams have actually been faster than you in qualifying. You called for a reaction from the team post-race in Germany; have you been to the factory, have you seen the conveyor belt of go-faster bits coming from Red Bull for the second half of the season and how are you feeling about that?
MW: Yeah, I've been to the factory but there's no real knee-jerk reaction. Obviously, we don't plan to start having meetings and start planning more stuff any quicker than we probably had envisaged anyway. We know that we don't take anything for granted, we've never done that over the last 18 months. We know that people can arrive back very very quickly and hopefully you can go back away again as quickly as they arrived, so obviously Adrian's working very hard with his group of people. Rob Marshall (chief designer), everyone, the guys are working very hard. As JB touched on, we're not all cruising around, we're trying to do what we can conceptually for our car that's going to work for the remaining races and you cannot redesign the car in three days, obviously. We were a little bit off the pace in Nurburgring, not much. We challenged for victory but we need to go quicker again, and that's what we've got to work on and address. It's by going racing that you learn about yourself; we don't learn about ourselves at the factory, we learn about going racing and that's the most important thing, to react in a positive, constructive way off the back of being beaten fair and square.
Q: (Mat Coch - pitpass.com) This is to anyone who is willing to answer: we're halfway through the season, we've got DRS and new tyres. What are your thoughts: has DRS helped overtaking more, have the tyres contributed more? At the halfway mark, what are your thoughts?
JB: I think the tyres have played a big part, and KERS. I don't think we can forget about KERS. I think it's played a big part in overtaking. Obviously we all have it, but it's how you use it on the circuit. I think DRS has obviously made a couple of boring moves, but I think it's helped tremendously. I think the good outweighs the bad, with DRS. The last race - it was very very difficult to overtake with DRS, for me it was impossible but it put you in an easier position to challenge later on in the lap. I think the changes that have been made have been great and I think we've just got to watch the races back and see the fights and the overtaking moves. It's that we're taking more risks this year, it's a different situation than we've found before. There's a lot of great overtaking and I think Formula One is in a great place. I keep saying it but it's the truth.
Q: (Peter Farkas - Auto Motor) To all, of you, a follow-up on the holiday thread; so when will you leave Budapest? None of you plan to stay here for a couple of days after the race?
MW: I leave Monday morning.
FM: Sunday evening. Moderator: Saturday evening?
FM: Sunday! Saturday evening? I hope not. I cannot say so much because two years ago on Saturday evening I was not the you know.
JB: Yeah, Sunday. It's always strange staying around after a Grand Prix.
HK: Sunday, seven o' clock.
JA: I leave on Monday morning.
MW: It's a beautiful city, though.
Q: (Gary Meenaghan - The National) This is obviously a back-to-back race; just wondered what your thoughts were on that: how draining is it for a driver and some of the challenges that are involved in racing two consecutive weekends?
MW: Yeah, it's not a bad question, actually. I think it's something that's not new to us. We've had back-to-backs; for the experienced guys it's obviously something that we've experienced quite a lot. We know it's coming, you prepare for it. Obviously the teams know it's coming as well in terms of logistics, in terms of how they deal with it, but for us, normally it's two Europeans. Obviously sometimes we have back-to-backs later in the year: Japan and Korea and things like that. If you had two Singapore Grands Prix in a row obviously it's a little bit more draining, an event like that but obviously when you have two cool events like we're going to have here, that's not very demanding or taxing on us. Obviously the cars are much easier physically as well, so I think that from our perspective the load is obviously not too bad. It's reasonably straightforward. Obviously you just get sick of the sight of the mechanics and the engineers; ten days in a row and you have only two days away from them, but we all love each other, so that's fine. I'm sure after the back-toback we look forward to a break.
FM: I think the same. It's not very easy for the whole team, to do back-to-back races. Sometimes it's not so difficult, some races are a little bit more difficult and you have a little bit of travelling to do from one race to another. Here it's OK. For the team, for sure, it's a big effort. But especially this back-to-back is also the best one because everyone knows we have a little bit of time afterwards to relax and to prepare yourself for the next part of the season. It's OK.
JB: For us it's not an issue. Physically it's not too demanding. As Felipe said, we have a nice break after this. For the team, yeah, it's lot busier. They don't get a break between the two races like we do, they are flat out, which again is not so bad because they know they've got the break coming up. For them, the busy one is Barcelona-Monaco, that, for them, is very very hectic. That's the tough one.
JA: I think the calendar has been quite good. As Jenson says, it's not really a big issue for the drivers. I think racing is not as physical as it was. As long as back-to-back races are in Europe, I don't think it's an issue for anyone, to be honest, so at the moment it's fine.
For tickets and travel to 2011 Formula One races, click here.