No action taken over Glock-Coulthard incident

Spanish Grand Prix race stewards have decided not to take action over the incident involving Timo Glock and David Coulthard.

The pair made contact towards the end of the Spanish Grand Prix Glock tried an overtaking manoeuvre on Coulthard at Turn 5 and the two make contact. Glock knocked the back of the Red Bull causing damage to his front wing and giving Coulthard a puncture, although the damage is not severe enough to make either man retire and both drivers finish the race.

The race stewards investigated the incident but have decided that no action is necessary.

Coulthard was left unimpressed by the incident and believes that it cost him a chance of gaining some points.

“Jenson finished sixth and I was running behind Jenson. It is a disaster,” Coulthard began. “It s terrible, but who is interested in hearing about me complaining about people running into me?”

It s the third accident that Coulthard has been involved in this season in Australia, he clashed with Felipe Massa, and in Bahrain, he tangled with Button. In all three cases, Coulthard has been hit by drivers trying to pull an overtaking manoeuvre on him. The Scot has said he is getting tired of all the incidents.

“I think I’ve said enough, haven’t I?” he continued. “In my last column I did the whole thing on how I wish people would know that my eyes face out front, they don’t face back. What you see on the video footage is not what I see in the car.

“You make a commitment and what I do is make it clear whether I am moving out of the way or taking an early line. It seems to have worked through most of my career, so I don’t know what has gone wrong this year.

“There will be all this stuff about my age and the oldest driver getting involved in all the incidents, which you can fuel the flames or not, but I don’t know what I can do. Should I just drive off the circuit and let all these people by?

“It is unbelievably difficult to overtake. You lose so much downforce following the other cars, and I think there is an element of that, but most of the race he wasn’t with me.

“I got held up with Mark because the team brought him out right in front of me, and he is going slow and I am dropping from Jenson, so they had all their eggs in the basket as Mark was on for big points, and so I drop two, three or four seconds and that allowed Glock to get close after the pit-stop.

“It could be worse. I could be battling for the world championship and that would be me not going to win it. I am not battling for the championship. I finished 10th last year so I am in that area between 8th and 18th.”

Bridgestone: Tyre Failure Not The Cause of Accident

Bridgestone are continuing their investigations into the cause of Heikki Kovalainen s horrific 220km/h crash at Barcelona yesterday, but do not believe the incident was a result of tyre failure.

Heikki Kovalainen was knocked unconscious after his McLaren suffered a problem with the left front tyre and careered into the tyre wall at Turn 9. The Finn has since been cleared from any physical or brain damage and is expected to be fit and well for the next Grand Prix in Istanbul.

Bridgestone Motorsport are investigating the cause of the accident but have so far ruled out tyre failure:

“Regarding Heikki Kovalainen s incident we do not believe that there was a tyre failure,” the tyre supplier said in a statement after the race. “As is normal we are now conducting a thorough investigation with the team and we are happy Kovalainen appears to have not sustained any visible injuries.”

McLaren Team Principal Ron Dennis said after the race that he was “99.9 per cent certain the wheel failed”, and would be working with Enkei to understand exactly what had happened. Wheels rarely fail, but such failures are typically caused by foreign objects working themselves into the mechanism during use, rather than a fault in the actual manufacturing process.

“As far as we can tell, because we ve now got the parts a wheel failed,” the Englishman said. “A very unusual occurrence. It had only had 14km on it, so it was a brand new wheel so we have to analyse the components to find out. But at the moment, it s 99.9 per cent certain the wheel failed.”

“It s a new wheel and under circumstances like this it will normally be something to do with our partners who make the wheel but it would be completely inappropriate for me to make any comment until we ve analysed the pieces. Obviously, when we know we ll share it with you.”

Spanish Grand Prix: Lap by Lap Report

Ferrari s Kimi Raikkonen will line up in pole position for the 2008 Formula 1 Gran Premio De Espana Telefonica. Alongside him, Renault s Fernando Alonso starts from second at the Circuit de Catalunya, his home track, after a stunning qualifying performance.

Conditions ahead of the race are fine, with clear skies and a track temperature of 39 degrees and a humidity of 29%. 132,000 people have turned out for the race buoyed by Alonso s revitalised performance in qualifying.

Every driver starts on the softer option tyre. Alonso nearly collects the wall on the formation lap as he heats his tyres and takes a minor excursion over the grass just before the pit straight. The Ferrari duo have an excellent start Massa overtakes Alonso to take second place; Raikkonen remains in the lead. Hamilton gains a place by overtaking Kubica. Fisichella and Rosberg also have good starts with Rosberg up to 11th from 15th, and Fisichella up to 15th from 19th.

There is contact at the first corner when the Force India of Adrian Sutil collides with the Red Bull of David Coulthard, with the Toro Rosso of Sebastien Vettel collecting the Force India as it spins. Vettel and Sutil are out of the race, and the crash forces a safety car situation; David Coulthard limps on in 16th place.

The safety car comes in after lap 3 and the remaining cars all get away cleanly with Raikkonen leading the pack.

Lap 5 Nelson Piquet, running in tenth place, goes across the gravel and drops back to 18th place, just behind Sebastian Bourdais.. Raikkonen starts to pull out a lead over his team-mate Massa. It is suspected that Alonso is running lighter than Massa and therefore the Ferrari driver is holding up the Renault car.

Lap 7 Two cars are off the track. Nelson Piquet attempts an overtake on the Toro Rosso of Bourdais. Bourdais fails to see Piquet s R26 and turns into the side of the him, sending the R26 off the track and into retirement. Bourdais comes into the pits to get a new nose cone. Unfortunately, the front left has taken some suspension damage and Bourdais also retires.

Lap 9 The Super Aguri of Anthony Davidson pits. Mechanics are seen peering underneath the car. It appears that the race-car has a problem and Davidson is wheeled back into the pits, retiring from the race, leaving just 17 drivers still racing. Later Davidson explains he hit carbon fibre at the starts of the race and suffers from understeer thanks to some barge board damage. After Piquet goes off, stones and debris are thrown onto the track and one of these punctures his water radiator, causing his retirement.

Lap 10 Raikkonen continues to set fastest laps, lap after lap, and now has a lead of 3 seconds over Massa, who is nearly 2 seconds ahead of third placed man, Fernando Alonso.

Lap 14 Hamilton closes up to the back of former team-mate Fernando Alonso and starts to put pressure on the Spaniard.

Lap 16 Fernando Alonso pits from third place. He is once again given the soft tyre option. His stop is 9.3 seconds long, indicating the Spanish driver is going for a two-stop strategy. Alonso rejoins in 11th place just behind Rubens Barrichello.

Lap 19 Felipe Massa pits from second place, underlying the astounding performance of his team-mate in qualifying. The Brazilian takes on another set of soft tyres and rejoins the race in eighth place. Meanwhile, Hamilton is making little progress, lapping in the low 1:22s with both Ferraris lapping in the 1:21s although the McLaren is fuelled longer than both the Ferraris.

Lap 20 Kimi Raikkonen pits and is also given a second set of soft tyres. Raikkonen rejoins in fifth place. Jarno Trulli and Mark Webber also pit from 8th and 6th respectively.

Lap 21 Hamilton and Kubica both pit from 1st and 2nd places. Hamilton rejoins just behind Rosberg in fifth place. Both drivers are given the softer option tyres.

Lap 22 – Heikki Kovalainen has a big crash into the tyre wall at Turn 9 after a mechanical failure halfway through the corner. The safety car and medical car is deployed. It is estimated that Kovalainen crashes at around 140mph. The pit-lane is closed, disrupting the strategy of some teams, most notably Nick Heidfeld who is currently leading the race.

Lap 24 Backmarkers are allowed to pass the safety car to allow them to catch up. Heidfeld as to pit as he has run out of fuel. As the pit lane is still closed, Heidfeld will be penalised. Kovalainen s car has been pulled out of the tyre barrier but there is no news on the condition of the Finnish driver. Raikkonen is back leading the race, albeit being the safety car.

Lap 25 The pit-lane reopens. Barrichello, Button, Nakajima, Fisichella, Coulthard and Glock all pit. Barrichello comes out on track and knocks the nose cone off his car. He then makes contact with another car in the pit-lane. The nose cone doesn t come off totally and rubs on the front right of his tyre. Barrichello is seen weaving on the track, trying to shake the nose cone free.

Lap 26 Barrichello pits again to get a new nose-cone and is currently running in last place. Kovalainen s McLaren is tractored off. Kovalainen is stretchered off. The Finnish driver is OK and gives a thumbs-up to the crowd. An on-board shot appears to show that he got a blow-out on his left-front, causing him to crash. The failure is almost identical to Lewis Hamilton last season.

Lap 28 The safety car is in with just 16 runners left. Raikkonen continues to lead, with Massa in second, just ahead of Hamilton, Kubica, Heidfeld and Alonso.

Lap 31 Race control confirm that Heidfeld have been given a 10 second stop-go penalty for pitting when the pit-lane was closed under safety car conditions. The penalty looks set to ruin the German s race as the penalty will see him end up at the rear of the field.

Lap 32 Raikkonen is eking out a gap over his team-mate, and is now just over two seconds ahead. Rosberg is pressuring Trulli for P8. Takuma Sato is in 11th place, ahead of Fisichella, Button, Coulthard, Glock and Barrichello.

Lap 33 Heidfeld takes his stop-go penalty. As predicated, he rejoins in last place, several seconds behind last placed man, Barrichello.

Lap 34 Alonso engine starts to smoke, and the Spaniard parks his car on the side of the track and retires. Lots of Spanish fans start to leave the track. Alonso takes the time to go and chat to some of the fans at the track-side before heading back to the pits on the back of a scooter. Barrichello pits, and eventually retires. 14 runners remain.

Lap 37 The Ferraris start to pull away from the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton Raikkonen is nearly 3 seconds ahead of Massa who now has a 2.2 second lead over Hamilton. Kubica is fourth with Mark Webber fifth.

Lap 39 Sato pits and takes on a set of hard tyres. He rejoins in 14th place at the back of the field.

Lap 41 Nico Rosberg retires from 7th after an engine failure, parking his car on the side of the main straight.

Lap 44 Sato has a very slow lap of 1:28.319 as Massa laps him. Fisichella pits from P8, switching to the harder tyre, and rejoins ahead of Takuma Sato.

Lap 45 Massa puts in the fastest lap of the race so far with a 1:21.801. Heidfeld pits for the third time, also taking on the harder tyre compound.

Lap 46 Massa pits from second position while his team-mate Raikkonen puts in the fastest lap of the race so far. Massa takes on the harder compound tyre. Webber also pits from fifth place along with the Toyota of Trulli. Trulli has a poor stop, 4 seconds over the expected time. Luckily, he had a 9 second advantage over Nakajima so hopefully won t hurt his position.

Lap 47 Raikkonen, Hamilton and Kubica all pit. All three take on hard tyres. Raikkonen is delayed slightly by Kubica as he departs. Raikkonen rejoins in front of Massa therefore keeping the lead. Hamilton and Kubica join behind Massa so there is no change in the top four positions.

Lap 48 Heidfeld is catching the Force India of Fisichella. He attempts to pass for P11 but fails to make it stick. Kovalainen is taken by helicopter as a precaution to a hospital in Barcelona for further tests after his big 140mph accident. The latest news is that the Finnish driver is OK and has no broken bones.

Lap 51 Nakajima pits from fifth place, as does the Toyota of Glock. Both take on hard tyres. Nakajima rejoins in ninth, Glock in tenth.

Lap 52 Coulthard pits from seventh and rejoins in ninth.

Lap 53 Trulli pits from seventh. Top four are separated by less than 7.5 seconds.

Lap 54 Coulthard and Glock scrap for P9 at turn 5. Glock goes in too hard and the two make contract. Turn 7 and Glock hits the rear of Coulthard giving the Scot a left rear puncture and knocking Glock s front wing. Driving around the track, Coulthard is losing pieces of carbon fibres.

Lap 55 Heidfeld finally overtakes Fisichella to take P9 after a small mistake by Fisichella. Coulthard is in the pits again for new tyres. He rejoins in 13th place behind the Super Aguri of Takuma Sato. Hamilton appears to have no answer to the Ferraris Raikkonen remains at the front of the pack, over 3 seconds ahead of Massa; The Brazilian remains just under two seconds ahead of the McLaren driver. Robert Kubica remains in fourth.

Lap 57 Race control confirm they will be investigating an incident between cars 9 and 12 (Coulthard and Glock) after the race.

Lap 60 Coulthard catches the Super Aguri of Takuma Sato and gingerly looks to overtake.

Lap 61 Coulthard eventually manages to overtake Sato to take P12. Coulthard is now over 20 seconds behind 11th placed man, Glock.

Pole position translates into victory for Kimi Raikkonen with his second win of the season, and the fourth win of the season for Ferrari and extending his lead at the top of the drivers championship. It s a one-two for the scarlet clad team with Massa coming in second. Hamilton finishes third. Kubica is unable to make it three consecutive podiums in a row for BMW, in fourth place.

It s a good drive for Webber and Button who finish in fifth and sixth. Button sets his fastest lap of the race of the final lap with a 1:22.353. Nakajima and Trulli take the final points of the race. Glock, Coulthard and Sato are the only other cars to finish the race.

The fastest lap of the race goes to the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen with a 1:21.670 on lap 46.

Spanish Grand Prix: Post Qualifying Press Conference

The press conference was attended by top three drivers from Qualifying, ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, which included Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen (1m21.813s), Fernando Alonso of Renault (1m21.904s) and Felipe Massa of Ferrari (1m22.058s).

TV UNILATERALS

Q: What are your feelings being on pole again?
Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: It is a nice feeling. I have been trying to get it. It should give us a better chance for tomorrow. It is only qualifying but it is a good place to be.

Q: You are on the clean side of the track. But it has been a difficult weekend for you and the other drivers with the wind. Can you talk about that?
KR: Actually I have been happier with the car than I have in previous races. We changed a bit with the starting point and it seems to be working quite well. Of course in places it is a little bit trickier here, but it is a nice circuit and they have changed the outside of the circuit, so if you run wide it makes it more difficult. But apart from that it has been a good weekend so far.

Q: What do you mean when you say you have changed the starting point? Does the car feel different to what it did in Bahrain?
KR: No. We just changed the set-up quite a bit. It seems to work. We wanted to try something in a test. We had a rainy day and we tried something on the car. It gave me a good feeling, so we decided to keep it. It seems to be working so far.

Q: Fernando, congratulations what a performance from you and the team. You cannot be dissatisfied with being second.
Fernando ALONSO: I was really excited when I crossed the line because I knew the time was good. I knew that only Kimi was running behind. When I crossed the line I knew that it was the first row in the worst case. That is something for sure we didn t expect at all for this race maybe even the whole season. I cannot be happier than I am now.

Q: Can you describe how the car feels compared to the first three races?
FA: The car feels better. I am happier with the car. We have made a step forward no doubt. We have seen a big improvement in the car. I think the whole weekend has been difficult for everybody with the track conditions. We have tried to find a good balance around these conditions. We have a better car than what we had yesterday. The second place of today is more than what we expected for the whole weekend, so the job is nearly done.

Q: Can you just tell us how it feels to have worked so hard and got back to this and this result in front of your home crowd?
FA: It is unbelievable. It s difficult to describe or say anything as the team did a huge effort to improve the car. We keep doing work. We started the season with a little bit of disappointment because maybe in the winter we expected to be a bit stronger than we were in the first few races. Now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to work even harder after the disappointments. The team made a step here and they have very aggressive plans to come in the coming races, so step-by-step we need to raise our level. That makes me very happy and hopeful of things for the future.

Q: Felipe, third today but the look on your face suggests you are perhaps a little bit disappointed?
Felipe MASSA: No, I just couldn t put a lap together on the last try. On the first try I put a lap together but it s not there to be honest. In competition like today, in all the sessions we saw that if you lose a tenth you can lose one or two positions. I put a lap together at the wrong moment but we have a good car.

Q: What actually happened on the third sector?
FM: I just lost a little bit which maybe cost me the fight for pole.

Q: It looked like a little bit of wheel spin on television?
FM: I had a little bit of wheel spin in turn seven and also in the slow corners. That s the way it is. When you have big competition like that you can lose or gain positions very easily.

Q: And the track conditions here in Barcelona?
FM: It is okay. It is quite hot and we also had a lot of rubber down. I think it is okay.

Q: Kimi, the last seven pole winners have won the Spanish Grand Prix. I don t want to tempt fate but none the less you are in good shape. It appears the McLaren Mercedes challenge here has not been quite the same as in other races.
KR: I don t even know where they ended up. The qualifying is one part but tomorrow is when we get the points. Last year we couldn t finish the race, but for sure we should have good speed in the race as long as we get a clean start. We are confident in ourselves and the team. We need a good clean first few corners and then try to maximise our position and do the best job we can. But this is the best place for sure to try and win the race.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Kimi, it s quite strange to say that despite the fact that you re leading the World Championship this is your first pole of the year.
KR: For sure even last year qualifying wasn t our strongest part, so it is nice to be at the front. It always makes your life a bit easier. It s the best place to try and win, so I am very happy. The car seems to be working well.

Q: Interesting tactics out there. You were actually slower from Q1 to Q2.
KR: For sure we always try to go faster, but sometimes you do not find the perfect place and if you are too close (to another car) you always lose time. In the end the main thing is to be in the top ten in the second one. That was enough, so there was nothing to worry about.

Q: You have not done much testing because of the weather, so did you find a different car?
KR: Maybe it was a good thing because when the test was here there was a lot of rubber on the circuit and it was very fast. Maybe it was more like it is here now. Everybody has been here a lot, so we know the circuit and we know the set-up. It is not a big advantage.

Q: But did the car feel very different?
KR: From the test?

Q: From the previous version.
KR: It is always difficult to say because we are at a different circuit. It feels good for sure because at the last race I never got it right. In that way it is a huge difference. But it is not so much in the car but the set-up. For sure the new parts have improved the car.

Q: Fernando, the question has to be asked: where did that result come from?
FA: I think the car is better than in the first two races, no doubt. I think we managed to get both cars in Q3, so that means that the team performance has been greater than in the first three races, and maybe even better than we expected because we knew that we had made a step forward but being in the top ten in all three qualifying sessions is nice and well done to everybody in the team because this is a great achievement by everybody.

Q: And 115,000 people were cheering for you…
FA: Yes, that s worth a couple of tenths, for sure.

Q: Do you feel that the modifications have made a difference?
FA: Yes, absolutely. We felt (them) more in the tests, because it was better conditions to test and we were able to compare the new pieces to the old ones and we saw a very clear result that the car is better and easier to drive and quicker with more performance. This weekend, we had some difficulties to set up the car because the track seems slower for everybody but balance-wise we were not extremely happy yesterday, so today we made some changes. We are still not totally happy but I m sure the others have had even more problems than us, it seems.

Q: We ve seen quite a wind out there today. Does the new engine cover make a difference in those conditions?
FA: We can go to the America s Cup with this engine cover! Today it was windy, so maybe it also helped.

Q: Felipe, the third sector seems to have been the problem since yesterday.
FM: I don t think so. I think in a qualifying like that you can see the difference in the lap times. If you don t put exactly every sector together you can lose two positions in a very easy way. If you look I did my best lap at my first attempt when I did a perfect lap, but then on the second try, I couldn t put the lap together, so then I stayed with my lap time from the first attempt, but I was heavier on fuel, for sure. The tendency is to improve the lap time, so I couldn t do a perfect lap at the second attempt and I lost two positions. In a way I was even lucky, because I was very very close to the guys behind, so I could easily have been fifth. So you can see, if you don t put the lap together you can lose positions, but that doesn t mean I m happy with the car. I m quite happy and I think we can have a good race tomorrow.

Q: And much quicker from Q1 to Q2 as well.
FM: Yeah. Q2 is when you have soft tyres, we have hard tyres in Q1. You just go out after a big break, so it s normal to be quicker in Q2.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Rodrigo Franca VIP Magazine) Fernando, yesterday you said on Spanish TV that the best you can do here is seventh place if nobody has a problem among Ferrari, McLaren and BMW. Now, you seem surprised with your performance. What can you promise for your fans here in Barcelona?
FA: Same thing. I think seventh is the aim for tomorrow. I think the result is good but we need to keep calm and to know that we cannot make bigger steps every race. We are extremely happy with how the weekend went so far but we cannot say to the fans or to anyone that we will be on the podium because we know that would maybe be a little optimistic because seeing Q1 and Q2, we were fourth in Q2 with two attempts, two new sets of tyres, so with the first one we were something like eighth or ninth, so I think we are still there. I think Q3 has been extremely good, because there are many reasons why we got into Q3 and we will see tomorrow.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, before you said that looking at the strategies you might not have such an advantage. Does that mean you are starting with low fuel and that s why you are so far in front?
FA: No, we will see tomorrow. I think you never know. I think we went for our optimum strategy and the result maybe has been better than what we thought when we planned the strategy, so now let s take advantage of the great result today. You never know what fuel the others have but the car is better, we re happy and we are more confident. Even Q1 and Q2… as I said, being fourth in Q2 was totally impossible in the first two races when we were tenth with some milli-seconds to be in Q3. Today we ve been fourth, it was much better.

Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Germany) Kimi, two questions: how optimum was your last lap, and secondly was it difficult today to get a performance lap, because at your first attempt, it would have given you a place around 16th in first qualifying?
KR: I don t know how you compare the last qualifying and the first qualifying. It s always difficult to get it right but the car has been pretty good this weekend. It gives you more and more confidence and that gives you better results. I would say that the tyres went away a bit in the first one but then we changed the way a little bit on the second try and also the traffic was quite difficult, so it makes a big difference if you cannot use your out lap as you want or you are too close to the cars in front, so we managed to get a good gap and a good lap. The lap was good, as I said, but for sure, if you get ten sets of tyres you are always going to go quicker on one of them. Probably you would never get a perfect lap.

Q: (Laurentzi Garmendia – Berria) To both Ferrari drivers: do you see Fernando Alonso as a threat for victory for tomorrow?
KR: It s very difficult to say. I think we will see tomorrow after the start, at the first pit stop and how much fuel everybody has, but it s too early to say. There are many things that can happen to us. He s on the front row, so they have a good chance to win it, and to challenge us, and for sure they are in a strong position.
FM: I think Fernando knows better than us how much his car improves, so if he has a good car in his hands he can fight for victory. He knows better than us.

Q: (Laurentzi Garmendia – Berria) Fernando, do you see this great result as a one-off or maybe as a milestone for the coming races?
FA: Hopefully it s the direction that will go from now on. Maybe the first row is, again, a bit optimistic, to think that we will go to Turkey and be between the two Ferraris. That s a little bit difficult, we know that, but the first step is to be in Q3 with a little bit more of a gap and more relaxed and today we managed it with both cars and not being so close to eleventh, so we made the first step. The next one is to be in the top five and the next one on the podium; this is the programme for the whole season. It seems that we managed to make the first step. The other two steps will be even harder but the team is making a great effort to achieve that and I have full confidence in them.

Q: (Marco Evangelisti Corriere dello Sport) Fernando, does this unexpected step forward make you more optimistic even for next year if you stay with Renault?
FA: Yeah, more optimistic now for sure. When I finished the Bahrain race I was not very happy with tenth place and fighting with a difficult car and not being competitive all weekend, not only in the race. What I want is the result tomorrow. We saw another performance from the Renault cars this weekend, so I will arrive at the next Grand Prix with much more confidence. Being in the first row for Renault is… it s a year and a half or nearly two years that they were not on the front row, so hopefully we are coming back.

Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Question to Alonso and Massa: Felipe is on the clean side of the track, Alonso is on the dirty side. What happens if you have a similar start to last year?
FA: We will see. It s only Saturday afternoon, we will see tomorrow. It all depends on how the first fifty or a hundred meters are. You feel straight away if you have had a good start or you had a bad start. It depends on your position after these two hundred meters. You have different targets for the first corner. I ll be on the wrong side, as you said, so maybe I arrive in the first corner and I m fighting for fifth. It s difficult to know today how it will be at the start tomorrow.

Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) Kimi, is pole position here as important as it is in Monaco?
KR: I think so. Even if you re not on pole position it doesn t change much. If you stay there at the start, any target if you re on the front row is hard. It should give you a better chance at least, so you cannot get better than first place in qualifying, so I m very happy with that.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, you said before that seventh place is your target, but looking how well you did in Q2 and your position, can we say that a podium is something that is completely unrealistic or do you still think there could be a chance?
FA: No, we will see. When you say what is your target for the race, for us it has always been in the points. We didn t manage it in the last race. We just managed eighth in Sepang, so we are going to change our approach. Certainly we ve got this one result and we will think about over-optimistic results. We need to be on target which is being in the points, knowing that we cannot be confused, knowing that there are three teams ahead of us at the moment. Maybe we have reduced the gap but they are still there, so we will see. I m extremely happy about today, for sure one of the happiest days of 2008 so far, but we cannot think that we have the same pace as Ferrari. Being second, between them, is a little bit unrealistic.

Spanish Grand Prix: Qualifying Report

After his absolute dominance during both Practice Sessions, Kimi Raikkonen looks set to secure pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix. The Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona has welcomed Formula One for eighteen consecutive years, moving from Jerez in 1991.

The 2.9 mile (4.6 km) long track is familiar for many of the drivers as F1 teams do a lot of testing at the circuit the track has a little of everything, from both high- and low-speed corners, off-camber and on-camber, with a long pit straight. Drivers will find themselves at full throttle for around 62% of each lap and their average speeds will be around 125mph (207 km/h). A good aerodynamic package is essential for this circuit, and many teams have opted to bring developments this weekend, not less Ferrari who have opted for a revolutionary front-wing to assist with the high downforce levels required.

There are few big braking zones and plenty of high-speed corners meaning this is not a circuit conducive to many overtaking moves. The track is known for being tough on tyres thanks to the long, high-speed corners and abrasive track surface therefore teams must keep a close eye on their tyre wear throughout the race weekend. A good qualifying session coupled with the right race strategy is critical for a good result at the track.

Q1

Conditions are superb for qualifying, with clear skies and track temperature of 39 degrees. The Force India of Sutil is the first car to take to the track followed by teammate Fisichella, with the team looking to take a car into Q2 for the first time this year. Sutil crosses the line to set a lap time of 1:23.224.

With fifteen minutes remaining Raikkonen abandons a flying lap due to traffic, but continues through to start another. Nakajima sets a time of 1:22.396 to go fastest with just over fourteen minutes of the session to go, ahead of Rosberg, Bourdais and Glock.

Raikkonen sets a time of 1:22.050 to go fastest, with Hamilton setting a blistering time of 1:21.366 to knock the Finn off the top of the timesheets for the first time this weekend. Trulli goes third fastest.

With ten minutes remaining, ten drivers have yet to set a competitive time including the local favourite, Fernando Alonso.

With eight minutes remaining, the Spaniard takes to the track, this time in a new tub, just favouring the feel of the chassis around this circuit. Alonso crosses the line in third, knocking Coulthard back to fourth.

Massa then goes second behind Hamilton, with Nakajima third! Kovalainen has yet to set a time with four minutes of the session left, he eventually goes third. Raikkonen takes to the track again, this time setting a time six tenths faster than Hamilton on a 1:20.701.

With one minute to go, Barrichello, Fisichella, Vettel, Sutil, Sato and Davidson are in the danger zone. Drivers knocked out after the final shuffle include Coulthard, who looked to struggle on the last lap perhaps with traffic, Vettel, Fisichella, who missed the flag and couldn t improve, Sutil, Davidson and Sato. Trulli improved to second, over four tenths behind Kimi.

Q2

Alonso is the first to the track, five minutes into the session. The Spaniard completes a stunning lap of 1:20.976, surely at the limits of what the Renault can do. Trulli goes fastest with a 1:20.915. Hamilton sets a time of 1:20.825, but Raikkonen goes fastest again on a 1:20.784.

Kovalainen goes eighth, after a poor lap, taking too much curb at the final chicane. Kubica goes fastest with a 1:20.597, whilst Heidfeld, on the harder tyre, fails to improve from twelfth.

Drivers currently in the drop zone include Massa, Heidfeld, Nakajima, Rosberg, Button and Bourdais. Heidfeld pits for soft tyres and leaves the pits, with almost everyone else, with two minutes remaining.

Massa sets a time of 1:20.584 to top the timesheets ahead of Kubica. Bourdais abandons his lap after running wide through two corners. Hamilton sets a fastest middle sector, but abandons his lap finishing the session seventh.

Drivers knocked out of this session include Barrichello, Nakajima, Button, Glock, Rosberg and Bourdais.

Q3

Trulli takes to the track with eight minutes remaining. He sets a time of 1:23.393 with fuel onboard. Hamilton goes quickest on a 1:22.379, with team-mate Kovalainen going second on a 1:22.911. Massa goes fastest on a 1:22.058, with Alonso popping a time into third.

Surprisingly, Raikkonen goes fourth, half a second off the pace. Kubica, Heidfeld, Kovalainen, Webber, Piquet and Trulli complete the top ten.

Raikkonen pits and takes on soft tyres, with an adjustment to the front wing. Hamilton fails to secure pole during the final run. Kovalainen goes third, Kubica improves to second. Alonso then surprises all by taking pole to cheers from the crowd but Raikkonen grabs pole in the dying seconds on a 1:21.813.

Top ten positions are Raikkonen, Alonso, Massa, Kubica, Hamilton, Kovalainen, Webber, Trulli, Heidfeld and Piquet.

Kimi fires warning shot

KR_CarKimi Raikkonen sent out an ominous warning to his championship rivals in Barcelona after topping the time-sheets in both practice sessions, with Renault an unexpected presence in the afternoon.

The Finn was a full 1.3 seconds slower than he went in the morning session but retained an advantage over his team-mate Felipe Massa and the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen.

Hamilton, who lapped third quickest in the morning session, half a second slower than Raikkonen, struggled with oversteer throughout the day and ended the afternoon languishing in eleventh place after spinning at Turn 10 on his hot-lap.

Things weren t much better for Kovalainen in the sister McLaren who completed just eight laps as a result of a gearbox problem.

But it was Renault that caused the biggest upset of the day with Nelson Piquet and Fernando going second and third quickest respectively in the second session, only a tenth of a second shy of Raikkonen.

The lap times yo-yoed around with no fewer than eight drivers occupying the top spot including, in the early stages, the Force India and Williams driver pairings.

Then with 27 minutes remaining Alonso lit up the timing-screens much to the delight of his adoring Spanish fans. The celebrations were temporary however with team-mate Nelson Piquet knocking the double world champion off the top spot by a scant one hundredth of a second shortly after.

Nakajima held on to fourth place for Williams, with Massa fifth and 0.2 seconds slower than Raikkonen.Mark Webber and David Coulthard took sixth and eighth for Red Bull, split by Rosberg, while the two Force Indias were demoted to ninth and tenth.

BMW Sauber kept a low key with Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld lining up twelfth and thirteenth followed by Trulli, Button, Kovalainen and Barrichello.

Toro Rosso and Super Aguri brought up the rear split by the Toyota of Timo Glock.

Spanish Grand Prix: Friday Press Conference

Team representatives attending Friday’s Press Conference, ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, included Pat Symonds of Renault, Sam Michael of Williams, Adrian Newey of Red Bull, Willy Rampf of BMW, and Aldo Costa of Ferrari.

Q: A question to all of you, the 2009 car. Can you tell us how important you feel that car is going to be? How advanced you are already and what are the significant points about it?
Pat SYMONDS: I am not quite sure what you mean by important. Every car is important every year. It is very interesting as it s the first big change we have had for a long while. I am sure everyone knows it is a big change to the aerodynamics and it s a replacement of grooved tyres with slick tyres which in turn means using different weight distributions and all sorts of things. It is a very interesting challenge. It s, I guess, quite a difficult one. We do need to start on it early and we have started on it early. I am sure we are all the same. Obviously we have had models in the wind tunnel even though we are still discussing the finer details of the aerodynamic rules. It is a good project. I hope and believe that it will improve overtaking which is one of the main reasons for kicking it all off, so let s see what we get.
Sam MICHAEL: I think the rules are quite different, especially aerodynamically for a start and getting rid of all of the majority of the appendages on the car barge-boards, flip-ups, chimney. Physically from the outside the cars are going to look quite different with a very wide front wing and narrow rear wing. The target which came from the TWG which was to improve overtaking and it remains to be seen how much impact we will have on that. It will definitely have some impact and that will be good. That combined with big tyres and a big increase in tyre grip. As Pat said everyone has started their wind tunnel programmes and also CFD programmes. It is quite a difficult balance this year to balance how much you develop the current car, the 2008 car, and how much you develop the 09. Normally even if you have reasonable rule changes from one year to another they are not as fundamental as this one, so you can continue developing the car right to the last race and the bits you develop on that car can be carried over to next year s car but it almost doesn t apply now. If you are still developing you car at the last race it will get thrown in the bin at the end of this season. It is probably harder for the three teams fighting for the championship, but it is equally hard for the teams that are fighting I would say to be the best of the rest at the moment, that fourth spot. There are three or four teams that are capable of running in that position and it is going to increase the pressure on them as well. We are all going to be doing that balancing act throughout the season.
Adrian NEWEY: It s a new challenge for the engineers which is great. I must admit my reservations. The biggest problem is a question of resource. As Sam said we are all in a position where we are all for our various different reasons desperately trying to improve this year s car but at the same time we are conscious that you have got to start researching a very different car for next year. If you had limitless resources you would divide everything in two, you would go to four wind tunnels as I believe Honda are using at the moment and off you go and start research. If you don t have those resources then it is a much more difficult juggling act. The last really big regulation change we had was 2004-05 when the front wing was lifted considerably. The great thing as far as I was concerned about that rule was it didn t really come out until the beginning of July by which time we had all done the bulk of our development for that year. We could all go off starting from the same place and do our best in the time available. This one is very different. We have known about it since November-December. As Pat says rules are still subtly changing but we have known the essence of it for a long time, so it really is a question of how we divide resources.
Willy RAMPF: For us it is a very demanding rule change and quite different to the last years. In the last year we had always a fluent transition from the one car to the next one as the regulations changes were fairly small. This is completely different now because we have to run the development project parallel which is not so easy because we have the one wind tunnel. It means we have to divide the capacity of one wind tunnel and currently we are doing a lot of work on CFD to sort out the basic requirements and then go into the wind tunnel.

Aldo COSTA: Again, it is very interesting but it will be very difficult to measure change in aerodynamic. We have also got the KERS and the tyres. This will require a rethink of all of the mass redistribution of the car. It will mean a lot of studies not only aero study, but also a lot of research in the KERS area, a lot of research in the basic car layout, so it is very demanding, so strategic choices during this year will be to be focussed more on this year s car or vice-versa. It will be very difficult to do.

Q: Another question to you all. Can you give us some idea of the modifications that you have made since the last grand prix? Pat, I think yours is the most obvious.
PS: Aerodynamic and suspension. A lot of aerodynamic changes and when you say most obvious, yes, it probably is. You will see a very different engine cover, some subtleties around the barge-board and the front brake areas. Changes to suspension, quite a lot of things. I think this becomes a general trend these days. Most teams tend to cover the first three races with only minor changes, the sort of things we can get done and fit to the cars without extensive testing because we cannot really do that testing while we are out of Europe. Coming back to Europe there is a big back-log of things we are trying to get on the car. We had quite a good test here the other week although one day was spoiled by the weather, the rest of it we managed to get a lot of stuff done, so that s reflected on the cars here.

Q: Do you feel that you have made a step forward and that you have got closer to the opposition?
PS: It s difficult to say. The test was, of course, perhaps a little bit more difficult than usual and it is always difficult to see where you are in a test. It was a bit more difficult than usual because people were running different levels of downforce and of course the 2009 tyres at times, so it wasn t always easy to see how people were approaching things. Again, if you look at today, the mere fact we have been testing here means that the Friday programme is a little bit different to usual. I think we have made a little bit of a gain relative to most of our competitors not all of them but most of them but the proof of the pudding will be know by Sunday night I guess.

Q: Sam, your modifications?
SM: A lot of ours are aerodynamic for this race. There is a new front and rear wing, diffuser, barge-board area. Because everyone is doing the same thing you need to find two-or-three tenths just to stay where you are. If you can find anything above that then you will close the gap to the guys in front. As Pat said it is fairly normal to get quite a big upgrade when you come back to Europe, so you have to try extra special to actually upset the order and then that can play into things like mechanical changes as well.

Q: Now you have got Kazuki Nakajima who is almost entirely new to the team and Nico is still young although he has got a couple of seasons under his belt. Do you feel they are still lacking in a little bit of experience?
SM: They are both young, you can t deny that. Nico has been driving F1 cars for four years now because he was a test driver for a year before he started racing. He has come on a lot but he is clearly not the same age as guys who have been driving three or four times as long as him. But he is doing a good job. Kazuki is obviously a rookie. We do have a very young driver line-up but that can bring benefits as well in terms of enthusiasm and ability to look outside of the box. But it means the race engineers and the people at the top need to inject the experience to tell them what to do and what not to do.

Q: So it is a balance between their inexperience and your experience.
SM: Yes, that s right. Throughout F1 you always get different driver line-ups. Sometimes they are positive and sometimes you just need to help them out more but so far they have done a good enough job with the car.

Q: Adrian, your modifications here?
AN: Obviously educating our rookies. Apart from that pretty much the same as Sam apart from that one. A new front wing and a few other aerodynamic bits and pieces. Same again really. The European season is the start of the first big upgrade. Traditionally now a lot of the teams are doing the same. They will have a big upgrade just past the first race and then a further one for the first European. We didn t get all the parts we wanted tested in the test because of the rain on the last day and some of our parts didn t arrive until that last day, so as Pat hinted we may have done a little bit of evaluation this morning which we wouldn t normally do at a race weekend. But we have done loads of miles around here, so felt confident in doing so.

Q: Renault have been saying they feel they are a little bit down on power. I think that is fair enough to say, Pat?
PS: I am not sure who has said that but maybe it is fair enough to say, yes.

Q: So are you hurting in that area as well do you feel?
AN: We have obviously got the same engine as Pat has in the back. Other than that I wouldn t like to say. We are certainly very happy with the service Renault have provided us. We are a customer but we do not feel like a customer. They give us extremely good support in all areas and we are very happy with that.

Q: So the fact you haven t said no means it is a yes really?
AN: No, I didn t say that. It is difficult to judge really. It is very difficult to judge the relative power of engines installed in the car because you have got so many different factors. It is difficult to tell sometimes.

Q: Willy, what modifications have you made?
WR: We have quite a number of small modifications on the aerodynamic side, mainly on the bodywork. The most obvious parts are engine cover basically a different fin and rear wing mounted on a so-called centre strut which is new for us, which we have introduced here; basically tested last week but introduced here for the first time.

Q: I remember last year you stepped up the pace of development to have something new at every race. Have you done the same again this year?
WR: Yes. In principal we keep the same: bringing new components for each race and up to now we have been able to do so and we still want to do it. We don t think that waiting for a huge update to be ready and developed is the right thing for us. That s our opinion. We believe more in optimising the car as it is because the car still has potential for further development.

Q: Aldo, modifications here?
AC: It s obvious that we have changed the nose, the nose concept is different, and then there are other small details from the aerodynamic point of view on the bodywork, on the diffuser, that we have changed for this race. So mainly the changes are aerodynamic parts.

Q: Why have you changed the nose if, as someone says, it s not a major change?
AC: It s one of the aerodynamic changes that we had on the way during the winter. It probably took a little bit more time because it s more difficult from the crash (test) point of view, so we decided to come here with the different nose. It s a programme that we had to develop as with all the other aerodynamic developments that we are doing.

Q: We saw Felipe much quicker in the first two sectors today and yet he always seemed to lose time in the last sector. Is that something about this circuit or is it about him?
AC: He tested the car last week for two days, so he had very very good reference. This morning, particularly, he was not very happy with the grip of the hard tyre in the slow speed corners of the last sector, so that s why he struggled but then, little by little, during the session, it went better and better and at the end he was OK.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) Willy, can you tell us how Robert Kubica has developed as a driver from his first race through to the last two when he s been on the podium?
WR: Obviously he has gained a lot of experience and I think especially this winter, when we brought the new car onto the track, it was very important that we relied on and got very exact feedback from the drivers to develop the car, because if it comes to balance issues, it s not always so easy to see it in the wind tunnel or on the data. So here we were relying on the drivers, both drivers. I think Robert did a very good job. His comments are quite precise and quite repeatable, and this is very important for us. For sure he learned a lot, he made a step up compared to last year but he also has much more experience than last year.

Q: (Mike Doodson) I m interested to know if the changes made over the last three or four years have saved money and if they will save money in the future?
AN: It depends whether you are a customer such as Williams and ourselves or whether you are a manufacturer in the first place. Certainly in our case with Renault, it hasn t really had very much effect because what Renault charge us for is the manufacture, supply and operation of the engines, not the development. That they absorb within their works effort. For us as privateers, it hasn t really had very much effect. I m sure for the manufacturers themselves it has had an effect, depending on how they ve taken it. Some manufacturers have really cut right back and taken the intent of the engine freeze which was to stop spending as much money on the development of the engine to heart. Other manufacturers have continued spending on smaller gains, accepting that whilst the gains will be smaller per euro spent, there were still gains available. I don t know if that answers your question. From now on, when there is a more solid freeze, then the cost to the manufacturers will probably go down as well. Again, there s no sign from the supplied teams, which you could argue are perhaps those who would most like the financial assistance, that it has actually made much difference.
WR: I don t know about a figure about overall engine costs but overall, the number of engines has gone down because with frozen engines, the development programme is much much lower than it was before and for each modification we do on an engine, you have to do quite a few dyno runs. It means that it s not only a development programme but also for reliability reasons. To confirm it you have to run a lot of engines and this is not necessary any more. So for sure there is a significant step down in engine costs.
PS: I think that your question was about changing the engine, rather than the engine freeze. Obviously changing the engine, going from the V10 to the V8, did require a lot of money, change always does. The freeze is a different thing, and certainly at Renault we embraced the freeze and we took it in the spirit in which it was intended and it did save us a lot of money. As Willy said, for every development that you do, you need to run engines on the dyno. They re not cheap, these engines, and I think that s one of the problems with the frozen engine. We ve actually frozen an engine that is an expensive engine. It s an engine that we designed to run at over 20,000rpm and I think that if we had known at the time that the freeze was coming and it was designed, we would probably have worked harder at reducing the unit costs of the engine. They are expensive engines, as I say. It depends whether they are test or race engines but they approach a quarter of a million euros an engine. But our engine-related budget has gone down considerably since the engine freeze, so it has been good for us. I don t think I ll talk numbers. Or percentages.
AC: Very similar situation for us also. For us, the rules have meant big cost reduction in engine activity in terms of development costs, in terms of costs of overall units that you produce in a year, and also it reduced the number of people involved in the engine department, really, so it was a bigger cost-saving. As Pat said, we could probably have done more in terms of reducing the unit price of the engine and I have to add another point. We could have done more to increase the mileage of the engines before freezing, so instead of two races, we could probably have done something more, even better. But OK, we have to accept the situation as it was done.
SM: Just to finish on that point Aldo just raised, because that s also a significant point that changed two or three years ago, and that s going from the quantity of engines that we used to use. We used to go through twelve engines every two race weekends. We now go through two, so that s come down by a factor of six, because we used to change engines… engines used to do 350 kilometres, so you would change them every night on both cars. Notwithstanding what Adrian said, because he s right about the cost to private teams, but if you actually said right, you need to multiply the number of engines you need now by six, then that would be a pretty big number.

Q: (Michael Schmidt Auto Moto und Sport) Question to Aldo Costa: It seems that Ferrari is playing down the importance of the new nose a little bit. To say it s just another aero development sounds a bit odd. I think it s a big effort to do that, bigger than just putting a new flap on, so it must be worth it.
AC: Yeah, of course you have to consider the performance gain versus the money you spend doing this development because we don t have an infinite budget. So performance development versus cost was something worth doing, for sure. As you say, it was probably a bit bigger in terms of advantage than a small flap or a front wing endplate. But in terms of performance advantage it s in the range of other car developments that we do during the year.

Q: (Daniel Garcia The Press Association) A question to Pat: Can the Spanish fans be optimistic after today s results or do they have to wait until tomorrow?
PS: I don t think the results of Friday are ever a good indication of how everything is going to go throughout the weekend. As I said earlier, I am hopeful and reasonably confident that we ve moved forward a little bit. To say that we ve moved up to the front row of the grid would be incorrect, we most definitely haven t, so I think you just need to decide what level of optimism you re aiming at.

Q: (MC) Perhaps we thought that the return of Fernando would also be a return to the days when Fernando was in the team, but it doesn t seem to have happened. We all know there was a problem last year with using the new tyres. Have you found the problem that is holding you up this year?
PS: Yes, I think it s well known that really our major problem last year was that we lacked correlation between the wind tunnel and the car, and it was something that as we looked into it, we traced back in fact to the end of 2006, it wasn t just the 2007 problem. Where we are now, I think, is suffering from the wake of that problem. It took a long while to identify it precisely and to understand how it had occurred and then to fix it and all that was time that we would rather have been developing the car and moving it forward. So I would say that the car had a problem this year in the sense that it had a problem last year. What it suffers from is a little bit of a lack of development. When you re running your wind tunnels 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as pretty well everyone is now, and in our case it s a single wind tunnel, it s hard to find extra time. We stopped development of last year s car early, we released this year s car a little bit later than we have done in previous years, and all of that was to try and make up time. It wasn t enough, and I think that where we lack now is simple aerodynamic efficiency, the sort of week on week improvements that you make. We just need a few more weeks to make them and it s very hard because it means that all the time you have to be improving at a greater rate than your rivals and these are pretty tough rivals sitting round me.

Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) Adrian, given that winglets are banned next year, would the temptation be to make the monocoque into winglets or would the rules prevent that?
AN: I think the answer is that the rules prevent it. The rules have an even more extensive set of exclusion areas where you can t put bodywork than we have currently, and on top of that there s a regulation where there s a minimum cross-sectional curvature from near the front of the side pod, all the way to the rear axle which is designed to try and prevent flick-ups and winglets and so forth. In that sense, they are pretty thorough, they are quite complicated, they ll certainly create a much simpler looking shape, I think, in all cases. From a purely technical point of view, it s quite fun at the moment to have a new set of rules to get your teeth into and think about, but ultimately they will be a more restrictive set of regulations. It depends on your viewpoint as to whether you think that s a good thing or not.

Alonso: We gained a couple of tenths

9787Fernando Alonso is confident that Renault have made progress during the spring break, but does not believe that the new components on his R28 will yield more than two tenths of a second in lap time improvement.

Analysis carried out by Forumula1.com suggests that such a performance gain is considerably less than the Régie made last year and is unlikely to catapult the team significantly up the grid.

“I think we made a step forward in terms of competitiveness of the car and we will see this weekend what the result is,” the double world champion told the assembled media in Thursday s press conference.

“It was difficult to read times as it was a mix of slick tyre and more or less fuel between the teams, so you know we tried to concentrate on our performance and our car and I think we gained a couple of tenths in the car,” added the Spaniard reflecting on testing at Barcelona last week.

Should Alonso s predictions prove to be accurate, Forumula1.com estimates that the gain in lap-time would be at most half that delivered by Renault during last year s spring break ahead of the European season.*

In 2007 Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fissichella were around 1.2 seconds slower than the front-runners in qualifying trim during the same three fly-away races as this year.

Following testing at Barcelona in late April the Enstone-based outfit went on to race at Barcelona, Monaco and Montreal this time only 0.8 seconds slower than the front-runners. And in the second qualifying sessions at Monaco and Montreal, Fissichella lapped sixth and seventh quickest respectively, seven tenths of a slower than the pace-setters.

Not only then, had Renault improved the car in line with the gains the rest of the teams had made, but they had also managed to close the gap. Based on last year, Alonso s latest prediction of an improvement in the region of two tenths of a second is unlikely to bring him out of the mid-field.

Renault s Technical Director Bob Bell however is more optimistic about the extent of the R28 s improvement citing a performance gain of “multiple tenths of a second”:

“We are reasonably confident that the things we are putting on the car will produce a clear and definable performance advantage,” he said.

“I think we will also see some more unquantifiable benefits with improvements to the driveability and feel of the car because if we give the drivers more confidence, particularly under braking, they can extract more performance from the car.

“So we can be reasonably confident that it will be a big step forward and that it will be multiple tenths of a second.”

*Analysis based on qualifying performances in Q2, when the cars are running at optimum fuel levels.

Spanish Grand Prix: Thursday Press Conference

Drivers attending Thursday’s Press Conference, ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, included Rubens Barrichello of Honda, Pedro De La Rosa of McLaren Mercedes, Fernando Alonso of Renault, and Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari.

Q: Pedro, how much has your role changed this year? Are you still doing pretty much what you have always been doing?
Pedro de la ROSA: My role is pretty much unchanged. Obviously, we are very limited on mileage during the testing season and we have to maximise every mile we do and every set of tyres. From that point of view it hasn t changed at all.

Q: So perhaps you can describe what that is.
PdlR: It is the normal work that a test driver needs to do. First of all you have to be at every grand prix as a reserve driver and that s why I am here. Secondly at the test sessions I am testing anything that is required by the team, backing all that work up in the simulation facilities at Woking and being of any help for the team. It is very similar to before but basically doing less kilometres at the track and spending more time in the simulator, so it is great fun.

Q: You are not frustrated at not racing?
PdlR: Yes, of course it is frustrating not racing. I have to be realistic as I am at that point of my career where I don t have many more years left. Not because of me but because of the other people s perception unfortunately. Every year that goes by it is just getting closer to a point where I won t be able to race again. I am aware of that. I am a realistic person and I am just hoping that something happens for me.

Q: Lewis had a little blip at the last race. How were you able to help him during that weekend and how have you been able to help him since?
PdlR: A blip? What do you mean? A blip could mean also to go up. We hope that the blip comes here. Yes, he had a bad weekend but all we can do from the team s point of view is to make sure that we make it as simple as possible for him not to make any mistakes. That s what we have been focussing on for the past few weeks, to make sure that this won t happen again. Not that he has to change anything, but from our point of view we make sure that is simpler for him to activate everything he has to from the cockpit.

Q: Does your role include driver coach, giving advice to drivers or anything like that?
PdlR: That s not a part which is included in my contract but obviously I am just trying to be helpful for everyone. I am just trying to listen as much as I can and know what the biggest problems are. For example this afternoon I will walk around the track and see if there is anything I can see. During test sessions I am driving around the corners on the side-road just to see with my eyes if I can help. If I see anything I don t like I go to the guys and I just tell them. I am very open and they can rely on me fully. They know I will always help, that s my role.

Q: Rubens, I think in Turkey it will be 257 times you have turned up to a race. Looking back at the last race you didn t look like a driver about to retire, giving Fernando quite a hard time. What was that like?
Rubens BARRICHELLO: It was bad. We were fighting for 10th place. I wish it were first and second. That would have been a lot better. He was having plenty of problems with his rear wing and I was having a lot of understeer on the car. Unfortunately in Formula One nowadays it is still very impossible to overtake. Hopefully in the future, if slicks really come into play, that will be the way to go. To play with a lot less aerodynamic devices and with a lot more grip from the ground and from the tyre that will give us the chance to follow other cars. As soon as I caught him I turned the revs down because there was nothing I could do. I was five kph slower on the straight. I feel very motivated. You talk to the young guys and they are all sort of fed up with F1, too much to do, PR. My life has kept on getting better and better. The first year with Honda I really did a lot of PR. But they put things in place and I am focussing and putting my energy on the car. I have been working quite hard. Last week I did 140 laps around Barcelona which I thought was phenomenal. I still feel young on that side. I am just going to prove Pedro wrong. I think I have many more years left.

Q: Going back to the car. Do you think you are close to scoring points?
RB: We had a god improvement last week and obviously the first race was what it was and we would have finished in the points already with the car. But the first race is always a bit crazy anyway. In Malaysia we were far out and in Bahrain we had the pace but we did not have the straight line speed to overtake. But I think we are very close to the points. I think Barcelona is open on that. The car is a good time better. I don t know how much improvement the others made because last week was very difficult to read. It was slicks on the car, people with less fuel and more fuel, so it was really difficult to see. But the car is better definitely better. We have made an improvement and hopefully that is going to put us on Q3 all the time and that will lead us to points and more.

Q: It would be a nice way to celebrate your record. Apparently the celebrations are going to last several races?
RB: There is a little bit of confusion. You ask everyone and the numbers seem to go up and down, so we decided to take Turkey because that is the races I have taken part in. The ones that are not happy with that, because it seems too early, then we have three races to celebrate the Brazilian way.

Q: Fernando, the car has been modified quite a lot. Outward particularly things that we can see but obviously inwardly as well. How are you feeling about the modifications since Bahrain?
Fernando ALONSO: I think we made a step forward in terms of competitiveness of the car and we will see this weekend what the result is. I think as Rubens said last week it was difficult to read times as it was a mix of slick tyre and more or less fuel between the teams, so you know we tried to concentrate on our performance and our car and I think we gained a couple of tenths in the car. We will see if it is able or not to make us easy in Q3 and not have the problems we had in the first few races and hopefully regularly get in the points. Obviously we were in Australia, we just had one point in Sepang and were not in the points in Bahrain. This is not possible for us, so we need to raise our level and hopefully here is the starting point.

Q: You have been in the top four here for the last five years including a win from pole position. What are the chances of maintaining that record?
FA: Very difficult this year. It is true that every time I come here to my home grand prix I had always the possibility to fight for the pole position and fight for the victory. If not, the podium was a real possibility always. This year I don t think it is a real possibility, just a dream as it was in the first few races. Something strange needs to happen during the race if we want to reach the podium now. Hopefully this will be the first step we need to do during this season to be close to the podium. Sooner or later we need to start improving the car and I think this race will be the first opportunity to see if we are going in the right direction.

Q: The President of Ferrari had some interesting comments to make about your chances of joining Ferrari in the near future it would seem. Did they come as a surprise to you?
FA: No. I have nothing to say. People talk about me, normally very often, which is good. It seems I am quite famous here. Part of that I respect everybody.

Q: A lot of the press thought that you would be going to Ferrari next year. But you weren t expecting to?
FA: I don t expect anything. This is only the fourth race of the championship. I try to be better and better every year a better driver. This year will be a tough season for me. It seems I will race in the middle of the group always, so at the end of the year I will be a better driver and for next year we will see.

Q: Kimi, what does it mean for you to be leading the championship at this time of the year, coming here for the start of the European season?
KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN: Of course it s nice but the season is only a few races old. It is a long way to go and it doesn t help if you are leading now and you can t keep it up and lead when it really matters. But so far it has been pretty okay. It could have been better at the start of the season but we are leading in the points, so I need to be happy.

Q: You won here in 2005 but it hasn t been a fantastic circuit for you this one, has it?
KR: No, last year we didn t finish. I think we only did nine laps in the race. I can t remember all the things that have happened here but usually they are not very good results. It can turn around. Hopefully this year we can be strong and finish the race at least. We will see how it goes tomorrow.

Q: How do you feel about the modifications made to your car since Bahrain?
KR: I don t really have a clear picture about it. I did four or five laps in the dry and it was a bit damp. The team is happy how we improved the car and we brought some new parts and they seem to work. It should be better. I tried the new front on a few laps on intermediates, so we will see how it goes over the weekend, how the car goes. It should be better than it was in previous races.

Q: So tomorrow will be a real discovery for you in comparison?
KR: I have been here before in dry conditions and every time you improve the car it should make it better. We have some work to do but I think for sure we can be fast here.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) To Alonso, can you confirm you are using the mass damper here? If you are, is it a new motivation for you and your team to improve in the championship?
FA: No, we are not using the mass damper. We are using a different concept of suspension but most of the teams are using it already, so we just will be similar to everybody from this race.

Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) Kimi, how do you see the hierarchy between Ferrari, McLaren and BMW? Is the fight between the two of you or is BMW also a threat now?
KR: I mean they were second best in the last race, so for sure they are there. I think it all depends from race to race. If you look at the last couple of races they are very similar and we are a little bit ahead of them. I don t know how it is going to be here. We need to wait and see really but it is going to be close between all the three teams.

Q: (Anne Giuntini L Equipe) Pedro, has your role this season with two quite young drivers become even more major than it was last season with Fernando in the team?
PdlR: No, it is exactly the same really. The only thing for me that changes, that is more demanding every year for a test driver, is that you have very little kilometres available to you and whenever you are sat behind the wheel driving you have to be fully prepared. There is no room to have a run to feel warm and feel the car again. You have to prepare very well physically outside of the car because you are not that often in the car. That for me is the biggest challenge and maximising every kilometre you have. Every kilometre is a jewel you have and you have to use it. That s why I think my experience is important. But from a driving point of view, the fact that they are young and Heikki being new to the team, it hasn t changed much really. Fernando was new to the team last year, so it was a little bit the same.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, were you expecting some bigger improvements from the test?
FA: No not really. We had what we were expecting and we are quite happy with the car and the improvement we did. But, as I said, maybe we will not be happy anymore tomorrow when we see the others and they are quick as well. I think we did a god job and probably the others teams did a good job as well. It is just a matter of which team took the biggest step and we are optimistic we can improve, but we must improve what we did in the first few races. So let s start from this race.

Q: (Toni Lopez La Vanguardia) Question for Pedro and Fernando, today, the FIA has launched a campaign against racism. Do you agree that it starts here and now in Barcelona?
PdlR: He s a two-time World Champion, he should take…
FA: He s from Barcelona, so…
PdlR: I don t really know what to say. I was not aware of that and all I can say is that the Spanish people will show to the world how good they are this weekend, and how good historically they ve been. We ve never had any problems here before and we will never have (them again). Wait and see. But I was not aware of this campaign or anything to be honest.
FA: Same. I was not aware but this weekend it will be OK and it will always be OK here. Everybody will be able to see that.

Q: (Jerome Bourret L Equipe) To Kimi and Fernando, can you imagine, during your career, racing two hundred and sixty GPs or will you be fed up with the PR etc before that point?
KR: What, whether I will do two hundred and sixty something races? I don t even know how many I have now but probably not.
FA: I don t know, I don t know. I don t think so either. I don t know how many I have at the moment either, but 260 seems too many years.
RB: By the time that I finish I will have three hundred anyway, so…
FA: The problem is Rubens. Without Rubens you can go for the record but with him it will be tough.

Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) After the test here there was a lot of discussion about the coming ban of tyre warming blankets. A lot of series don t have tyre-warming blankets and have pit stops. Is that going to be a problem for F1, to have this ban?
PdlR: My personal point of view is that obviously it s a matter of safety. Running without tyre warmers, tyre blankets, obviously increases the chances… or makes the speed difference between the car that comes out of the pit lane and the car that is on a flying lap much greater, so the possibility of an accident is higher. We have seen the bigger accidents over the past few years happen when one car is slower than another, not necessarily a car is stopped on the track. The speed difference is a safety issue for me, that s my point of view, so that s what I am saying. I ve raced all my career without tyre warmers but it s quite different in Formula One, mainly because the compounds or the compound-operating window is very narrow in Formula One. So until they are at a very high temperature, they do not work at all. In other categories you have a much more progressive build-up of temperature and grip, so it s easier. I find it more difficult here.
RB: Well, I think there are good and bad points to be honest. On the one hand people want to see some overtaking which is fair. We all want to see that, but the problem is that I think Formula One could become quite boring. People will invent a car that has a big tank again and whoever stays on the track gains the advantage of that one pit stop. I think at the end of the day it will become a little bit too much like IndyCars or something like that which is fine, but I think Formula One is about the competitiveness of what s going on on the track. To add to that, I ve also raced throughout my whole career before Formula One without tyre blankets but I never saw something like this. You go out of the pits and you already have a chance to spin out of the garage, and when you get to the first corner, it s like an ice rink and so with that, if you get conditions like we ve had at Nürburgring in the past or any race that is very cold and we take the wrong tyres, then it s going to be very, very dangerous.
FA: Yes, same thing. I think it s dangerous. As Pedro says, the speed difference between the cars and as Rubens said, the races will become boring because you need to stay on the track. When you pit, over the next two laps you will be eight seconds slower, so you cannot be creative with the strategy or anything like that, so it will become more boring. I know that in some other categories they don t have tyre blankets like IndyCars, but they don t have any corners either, they go around. I think Formula One is different, the compounds are different and as Rubens said, we should look for the maximum performance in the car. We are in Formula One, so it needs to be the peak of motor sports. And (the notion of) saving costs is a little bit ridiculous.
KR: I haven t run the tyres at all, so I don t really have any idea how it will be but I heard that, as Rubens and everybody else said, it s going to be very difficult, so I m not really in the right place to say. But if it s purely for saving money, it s the wrong place to save money. It s not much and they are going to spend the same money somewhere else anyhow, so…

Q: So Pedro, is the GPDA planning to do anything about this?
PdlR: Well, first of all we are going to talk between ourselves to see what is the majority agreement of the GPDA and then we will act accordingly. We are very relaxed about it, we are not in a hurry. We were waiting until this week, because I tested the tyres at Jerez back in early December, I think, and it was extremely dangerous. It was very cold and I nearly put the car into the pit wall, just coming out of the garage. The car didn t turn and I nearly hit the wall, so it would have been quite embarrassing if I had done so, but I just avoided a stupid accident. And then, when we came here, Bridgestone has made some further steps and now the tyres are easier to warm up, so they are working at a lower temperature range. They are still difficult; we were waiting for these tests to happen, so that we could have a meeting between the drivers who had done the tests with the tyres and then decide accordingly. We are pretty relaxed, we just know that the FIA will listen to us and we just have to be sure that we all have the same criteria, that s all.

Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) To all of you, considering the information about the 2009 aerodynamic package that you have, do you think it s a good direction for Formula One? Will it be easier to drive, easier to overtake?
RB: I think it follows the rule that I think all drivers want which is less aero and better mechanical grip, but whether it will be good or not is a bit too far ahead to know. But I think it is, it s a step that… Honestly, I don t know how we got into the grooves. We raced go-karts, formula cars and everything on slick tyres and all of sudden, for a boy who dreamed of racing in Formula One, they have this tyre that is just ugly. Of course, Bridgestone has done a super job with the tyres because we are going faster and faster, but you saw last week that when we put slick tyres back on the cars, even though it was a hard compound, we went 2.5s faster. That s the way it should be: slick tyres.
PdlR: I would add that where we are, or where we think that the regulations should be for next year, or what I am aware of, is that it s definitely in the right direction. These new regulations come from a thorough study by the technical working group and everyone involved in the FIA and there s some scientific proof that less downforce and more mechanical grip will improve overtaking opportunities. Still, Formula One will always be Formula One, it s going to be more difficult than motorbikes here in Spain there s always this tendency of comparing both and we just have to be aware of that. It s definitely in the right direction. I am very comfortable with that.
RB: Back in 98, when I first tested the tyre, I had a crash that I really thought I was going to stop, but because of the lack of mechanical grip caused by the tyre, I kept on spinning and crashed. So I think we depend a lot on the grip level of the tyre. If we have the whole tyre on the ground, it s going to help a lot on the safety side as well.

Q: (Carlos Miquel Diario AS) Kimi, do you agree with Montezemolo when he says it might not be good for Ferrari to have Fernando Alonso as your team-mate?
KR: (Laughs) It s better that I don t say anything.

Massa: Ferrari even grippier with 09 aero regs

Felipe Massa is ecstatic with the level of grip afforded from his Ferrari even with adaptations that anticipate next year s aerodynamic restrictions.

The Brazilian ran a modified version of his F2008 at the four-day Barcelona test last week in preperation for 2009 which will see greater aerodynamic constraints imposed on the teams as well as the re-introduction of slick tyres.

Massa was astonished by the level of grip that was available to him despite running with reduced downforce.

“The team adapted the car to have less downforce when running these tyres,” the 26-year-old revealed on his official website, “but when I had a go it was basically this year s car with no changes and it was quite incredible as the car had a lot of downforce so the lap times were also very impressive.”

“It felt like I was driving a completely new car as you need to be a lot more aggressive in your driving style, as the grip level was much higher than usual. From a driving point of view it was really amazing and it was a great pleasure to get the maximum out of the performance of the car, making the most of the aerodynamic and mechanical grip and setting some incredible lap times.”

Alongside the 2009-specification test, Ferrari, like the rest of the paddock, has been developing a number of new components to bring to the start of the European season this week. Most visibly was the introduction of a hole in the nose cone channel the hot air that builds up under the car. However, Massa has become the latest in the Ferrari camp to downplay the significance of the component.

“I was the first to test our new and much discussed nose with the slot in it on the F2008. Everyone was talking about this but only because it is so highly visible, but in reality, it represents just a small step forward in our performance. It is not this that will make the car one second a lap quicker!”

Massa arrives at the Spanish Grand Prix this week fresh from race victory at Bahrain a fortnight ago week ago. The Brazilian will be hoping to replicate the success he enjoyed last year when he followed up his Bahrain triumph with his second consecutive win of the season having emerged unscathed from a first-corner tussle with Fernando Alonso.

“Last year I won here what was, to be honest, an amazing race and for me it is difficult to forget! I remember being very very close to Alonso in qualifying and he was in a very determined mood as he was at his home race and in a competitive car. It was a tough competition between us. I made a very good start and maintained the advantage through the first corner where Alonso tried everything he knew to pass me. That start was really his only chance to get by because we had a very good strategy.”

“We had a bit of a moment next to one another in the first corner, but I had the inside line and managed to stay in front. I had a very good pace in the race and from then on it was not so difficult to control the pace.”