Q&A with Midlands Tiago Monteiro 15 Aug 2006
Midlands result at the last round in Hungary was the teams best to date in 2006, with Tiago Monteiro finishing ninth, immediately ahead of Christijan Albers. With only five races left, both drivers are more determined than ever to reach their pre-season targets of scoring points. Monteiro spoke to the teams press office about his year so far and the progress the team have been making
Q: For the last few races, you and Christijan have been contenders for the top 16 in qualifying, and you made it through again in Hungary. Have you been impressed by the consistent improvement in performance?
Tiago Monteiro: Definitely. The last five or six races have been an improvement, and you can see that by the fact that we are always fighting for the top 16. When we dont make it, were only two or three tenths away from it, and were much closer to pole than weve ever been. Its very encouraging and very motivating for everyone - the drivers and the team. Im pretty happy with that.
Q: At the start of the year, there seemed to be some problems that made it hard to have a clean qualifying session
TM: True, but thats part of the game. When we started the season, we were three or four seconds off pole, like last year, and to be honest, we were not happy at all. We had high expectations for the M16 and we were really hoping to be closer to our opposition at the beginning of the season, right out of the gate. But the fact is that we didnt test that much early in the year, so most of the testing we did took place on race weekends. Thats a lot of development time to overcome, but were catching up.
Q: You also had some niggling failures in races, which must have been very frustrating.
TM: It was for me, especially, since I wasnt used to technical problems after last year, when we were one of the most reliable teams! In 2005, we basically ran a 2004 Jordan chassis, so it was therefore a very reliable, mechanically-sorted car that everybody knew very well. This year, we have a brand-new car thats more competitive, but that also means its a little bit more fragile. These cars are pushed to the limits, and its normal in F1 to have problems. What wasnt normal was to not have problems, like last year! So we werent used to having these kinds of problems. Anyway, apart from the mechanical issues - which seem to be more or less under control - we are still not performing as well in races as we are in qualifying. So we need to find out what the others are doing differently than us to give them the extra race pace that we cant seem to be able to maintain. Were working on that, believe me.
Q: Whats been the highlight for you this season, or do you think its still to come?
TM: Its still to come, definitely. To get into the top 16 is important, and weve done it a few times this year. But my feeling is that a proper highlight is still to come.
Q: What about disappointments? There have been a few first lap dramas
TM: I guess Monaco was disappointing, because I think it was a race where we could have done something, especially when you look at the results. Id been in the top 10 or 15 all weekend, so it was supposed to have been the first race where we were going to be in the top 16, and it should have been. But in qualifying, Barrichello blocked me on my flying lap, and then in the race, well, we all know what happened. Unfortunately, it was the kind of race where you needed to be there at the end, because points were on offer. So that was a big disappointment. The other one, I would say, was having two retirements in a row, in Indy and Magny-Cours. Thats definitely not normal for me.
Q: You and Christijan are always going to be lining up on the same part of the grid, which increases the chances of both of you being involved if something happens
TM: Thats exactly the point. We are in identical cars, fighting at a similar level, so we were always close to each other on the track. And were both competitive, we both want to win, so theres always going to be some risk. Its part of the game, because we are fighting side by side. If I am always sitting next to Raikkonen or whoever, the chances of us coming together are going to be higher. In Monaco, I think Chris made a mistake, but I understand how it could have happened. I can also accept responsibility for my role in the collision in Canada. OK, were on the same team, so we should be helping each other finish races - everyone understands that. But at the end of the day, were also fighting each other for position, and that has to be taken into account.
Q: Is it good to have a quick team mate to push you?
TM: Yes, I think so. Last year, Narain (Karthikeyan) often had amazing pace but sometimes he was a bit too erratic and not as consistent, unfortunately. I dont know if Christijan is as quick as Narain over one lap, but he is a lot more consistent. He hardly ever makes mistakes, and he is a very solid driver. So we are pushing each other a lot, and thats good for us and its good for the team. One of the reasons the team is progressing so much is that theres not one session where my focus can be less than 110 percent, and its the same for him. Every time were out on track, were always pushing hard. And off track, were putting in the effort, as well, and not only with regard to physical fitness. I think Im spending more time than ever with my engineers, because Im paying attention to all the details. Everything on the car is important, from the tiniest little part to the smallest adjustment - its amazing. I guess that is what sets F1 apart as the top form of motorsport. Ive still got a lot to learn on that side, but Im getting better at giving feedback and interpreting how everything affects the car.
Q: If Ferraris form is anything to go by, Bridgestone has clearly been strong recently. Has that been a big help?
TM: Yes, absolutely. So much of our success depends on the tyre choice we make for each track, so its very important to get it right. Because of production schedules and lead times, we have to choose them very early, so its always a bit of a gamble. But luckily, weve been making some good choices at the last few races. Lets hope that trend continues for the rest of the season and helps us score a few points before were done.