This weekend will see Felipe Massa return to the track where he suffered his life-threatening accident, just over a year ago.
Consequently, the Brazilian was the focus of attention for the first press conference of the weekend, with compatriot Rubens Barrichello; Robert Kubica, Sakon Yamamoto and Heikki Kovalainen alongside.
DRIVERS: Rubens BARRICHELLO (Williams), Heikki KOVALAINEN (Lotus), Robert KUBICA (Renault), Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), Sakon YAMAMOTO (HRT)
Q: Robert, you regard this as your home race, don’t you?
Robert KUBICA: Yeah, it is the closest race to Poland. Many fans are coming here. As there will not be a Polish Grand Prix I think Hungary we can call it my home race.
Q: There are a lot of Poles here?
RK: For now, not, but expecting quite a lot. I think the biggest part of fans in Hungary are Polish and Finns, so I think there will be quite a lot of Polish fans.
Q: You have suggested that this could be a good circuit for you. Maybe not as good as Monaco, but it is almost like a street circuit in the countryside. That’s what it has been described as.
RK: I think we can be closer to the top here. The track characteristics suit our car better. Things have changed since Monaco. Monaco is a long time ago, so all cars have been improved. Most of the cars now are running F-duct although in Hungary here it is not so important. But I think it is still quite a big advantage. We will have to see. The cars are a bit different, so we will have to see.
Q: It has been suggested that the Renault engine is down on power. Is that something you have noticed?
RK: Well, difficult to say. From the numbers we lack power but how much and how big an affect it is it is impossible for me to judge. It is not a secret and I think it is not the first year that the Renault engine unfortunately is not the strongest one.
Q: Sakon-san, tell us how difficult it is to come in Formula One in the middle of the season as you have?
Sakon YAMAMOTO: Yes, it is not the easiest way to come back into Formula One but as long as I have got an opportunity to come back here I am really happy and appreciate for the team and I will try to do my best in the third race this year.
Q: This is a circuit you know quite well.
SY: I know it quite well since in 2006 and 2007 I drove (becomes inaudible) and in 2008 I drove GP2, so this is the fourth time I’m here.
Q: And a circuit you like. How well do you think you can do? Or is it impossible to really change the hierarchy down there?
SY: Personally I like the circuit lay-out and for us it is going to be a tough race again, but still I try to enjoy myself and pushing this challenging circuit.
Q: Rubens, a former winner here. If you can remember those days. Is it a favourite circuit?
Rubens BARRICHELLO: Why do you say that?
Q: It was a year or two ago.
RB: It was probably more than that. I do enjoy it here. I enjoy the weekend as a whole as you don’t turn up here and everything is set. Every time you come in there are some differences in the way the car behaves and the weekends evolve a lot in the way that you have to set up the car. You know that Saturday is going to be different, so if some rain comes it is a different thing again, how are you going to use the tyres. Qualifying is where the big bang is as you need to be towards the front for you to have a good race.
Q: With the rain expected, particularly tomorrow, will it take longer for the circuit to evolve and pick up grip?
RB: I think when it happens it makes it more exciting as with the Friday and Saturday you have chances to perform in a way that you want the car to be close to perfect. It is very difficult for you to get close to perfect, but when it rains it makes it even more difficult as sometimes you have to follow between set-up and things like this and the track changes as well as you clean all the rubber and it makes it more exciting. The chances are you don’t have all faster cars in front and you have some slower cars that are supposedly at the back and they are in front, so that’s what’s the challenge, especially now driving a car that is capable of getting to Q3 but is not as fast as we wished. It is a good time to put the car on a better show and the hope is to finish on a higher pointer.
Q: Is this a circuit that is suited to the Williams or vice versa?
RB: That’s a difficult one. I have never actually driven the Williams here, but I have seen on the papers they qualified well here last year. I think this circuit goes in a way that Monaco goes, so maximum downforce and so on. I think that we can do well. We are going to keep it very fair and simple and just work as hard as we can.
Q: Felipe, first of all, of course, coming back here where you had an awful accident last year. I believe that you have been to the hospital and met up with some of the rescue people. Tell us about it?
Felipe MASSA: The thing is it is a very special place looking at what’s happened to me so many times here. Coming in 2007 and having a difficult qualifying and doing a bad race from the back. Even in 2006 and then you come into 2008 and it was one of the best races of my career, starting third going to first at the first corner and doing fantastic pace and then suddenly from the middle of the race to the end it starts to reduce the pace, saving the car, just to finish the race in the position I was which was first and then three laps to go the engine blows up. For here it is okay, definitely. But then you come the next year. It was a difficult season. We didn’t have the same pace we wanted compared to 2008. But I think it was a good track for us. Kimi (RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen) finished second and we were pretty good on the test. I think it was supposed to be a good race weekend as well and then the most incredible accident, the most incredible thing happens of all my life. Anyway it is a special place for me and we know that after such a difficult time that I had here it is a track I enjoy, a place I enjoy and a place that everybody supports me especially everywhere I go after the accident. So Iet’s try to keep pushing.
Q: Have you managed to meet up with some of the hospital people?
FM: Yeah, I went to the hospital here inside the track. I saw most of the people who took me out from the car and did a lot for me which was very important in that moment. I think this is the best thing that can happen in your life to see a guy who is working very hard to help you. I think this is really nice .
Q: Looking back at last weekend a point you made was that you are not very happy on the harder tyres. Are you going to be happier on the combination that we have here?
FM: Well, I expect so. It was definitely a much better combination compared to many races that I had the hard tyres.
Q: And a word about last weekend. What are your feelings after Hockenheim?
FM: Well, we know that sometimes you have a difficult time but anyway you always learn and we always need to think forward and always need to be stronger and stronger all the time in your career, in your life, and what I can say is I am very strong and looking forward to the victory.
Q: Heikki, you are also a former winner here, so is this a favourite circuit?
Heikki KOVALAINEN: Certainly a circuit that I always look forward to coming back. The first and only victory so far in my career came here, so it is a very special place. It was an unfortunate race for Felipe. He and Lewis (Hamilton) were both doing a great race and I really deserved to be third that day but they both had problems. It was a special moment for me and also it is sort of a home race for me as there are a lot of Finns normally turning up here. I am always looking forward to coming here and I like the track. This year it might be a bit more difficult to win the race but I will enjoy every day.
Q: It has been suggested that this is a circuit which could well suit the car or vice versa.
HK: It is irrelevant, isn’t it. It suits the car, but if it doesn’t suit the car it doesn’t really change our target. The target is to be ahead of the other teams and even if they seem like they have made a step forward, Virgin especially, I think in the Hockenheim race I was just behind them and I was a pit stop ahead of both of the Virgin cars, so let’s hope that trend continues here. That is our first target and I am also looking forward to seeing the gap to the cars ahead of us. It might be less here than let’s say a circuit like Silverstone. A very high speed circuit is something that is not good for our car and that peak downforce at high speed is something that we are lacking, so hopefully that will play into our hands a little bit as well.
Q: How much of a worry is reliability?
HK: Well, Hockenheim was again good on my side but unfortunate for Jarno (Trulli). He seemed to have something pushing all the unfortunate things for his side. Fingers crossed it will be better here with both cars running every day and also finish the race. I still say it is a concern. It is something that we can never prepare enough to say that it doesn’t happen but the team has done absolutely everything they can to make sure that the cars are reliable and will finish races.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Joris Fioriti AFP) Rubens, what did you think when you heard what Felipe had to do last week and do you regret you were forced to do the same thing in 2002 in Austria? To Felipe, do you think you should have done something last week because of the comments that came out in the Brazilian media?
RB: All I can say is that I was very sorry to see he had to go through such a bad thing. There is nothing else. Nobody should have to go through those feelings and Felipe is a friend and I wished he didn’t go through that.
FM: I did a great race last race and it was definitely a nice time one year after the accident but, anyway, we need to look forward and think about this weekend which is the most important thing.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, does this also change something in your perspective of your relationship with Ferrari? Was this something that was unexpected and might change your vision of the future?
FM: For sure it makes me even stronger.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Felipe, after the last race, I asked you if you were not worried about your image in Brazil, and you said absolutely no.’ And after almost a week, we realise what happened there. What’s your comment? People say that you betrayed the country.
FM: For sure not. I will always do everything I can for my country. For me my country is the most important thing. For sure, I have already proved many times in my life many things I did in my life, in my career, what I’m able to do for my country, and as I said, definitely whoever is thinking like that is completely wrong. I’m doing everything I can, I will always do everything I can for my country, which is the most important thing for me, because it’s my home.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Felipe, welcome back here first of all. In the post-race press conference in Germany, obviously neither yourself nor Fernando (Alonso) would concede that team orders had taken place. Obviously what followed was that the FIA found Ferrari guilty and fined them, and the matter is now going before the World Motorsport Council. On that basis, can we get your reaction to the fact that the FIA found Ferrari guilty? And also you said that you were looking forward to fighting for victory here. If a similar situation to what happened in Germany was to arise here, would you be allowed to fight for victory?
FM: As I said, there’s no real point in going back to last weekend. We need to think about the present. I think we have spoken a lot about what’s happened in the last race. So yes, I will fight for victory here in whatever conditions.
Q: (Arianna Ravelli Corriere della Sera) So if you are in the same situation this weekend, you will react in the same way or not?
FM: I will win.
Q: (Anne Giuntini L’Equipe) Felipe, we understood that when you say that you are working for the team, at least when you said it last week, working for the team now risks to be working for your team-mate.
FM: For sure not. I’m working for the team and we know how important it is to work for the team.
Q: (Anne Giuntini L’Equipe) But if your team-mate has to fight to be World Champion, it’s mainly himselfâ€¦
FM: Well, I think you remember very well what has happened in the past, no? In 2007. You remember very well what’s happened in 2008, no? So I don’t think you really have to go through all the points. For sure, if the team really has the chance to win the championship I want the best for the team.
Q: (Sarah Holt BBC Sport) Felipe, have you had assurances from the team that you will be able to be allowed to continue fighting for victory? Have you spoken to them about that? It hasn’t affected your motivation?
FM: Sure, for sure I’ve spoken to everybody inside the team. As I said, I’m not here really just to race, I’m here to win. That’s really my point. As long as I am in the condition to win, we need to go to the end, to fight for victory. As long as the condition is different then I definitely want the best for the team. I work for the team, I’m professional and I think everybody needs to understand my point.
Q: (Holly Samos BBC Radio Five Live) This is a question for Rubens, Felipe, whoever else might want to answer: should the team order rule be scrapped? What’s your view?
RB: It’s not up to us to decide. Whenever they said team orders should not take place, other ways of telling the driver to back off were introduced. So in that respect, you should think, OK, so this should not take place’ and then the team should decide to do whatever. I just think that we should do something to stop this thing, because at the end of the day, it could get into a bit of drama here. When you are racing, you want to beat the other one, but I wouldn’t feel nice, I wouldn’t feel good if you tell me I’ll give you this which makes you faster than the other one’ and then you win. I don’t like that, I never did and that’s why I had to make changes in my life and that’s why I changed teams and that’s why I moved on. So I think it’s in the hands of the top people to change that because you should be allowed to race. What’s the problem? If you don’t win the championship by one point, so be it. You had your chance, you had to go, and then you win the championship by one point because somebody let you win? What’s the point? That’s my view. If I have to be a bad guy and to be World Champion, I don’t care for that. I will teach my boys the same way my father taught me and I’m happy with that.
HK: I don’t really want to get into this debate too much. I’m just here to race.
RK: It’s not so simple, I think. We are all working for our teams. I think the most importantâ€¦ unless you like it or you don’t like it is the team. If there’s a chance or an opportunity to help the team to score better results or whatever in the final standings, it’s normal that you are asked to do it. It’s normal that you will do it, and that’s very simple. I know it’s not always easy to let your team-mate by but sometimes it’s important for the team, and that’s how it was working, that’s how it will work for many years, so unless we say it’s not allowed to overtake your team-mate, because I think this is the only rule to stop it, but you cannot put it. It was like this ten years ago, it will be like this in the next ten years.
Q: (Alan Baldwin Reuters) Rubens, this situation at Ferrari, you’ve been through all this before. What kind of advice can you give Felipe for the rest of the season? How should he respond now, in the team?
RB: I called him and I’ve already told him, so it’s going to be between me and him. I told him what I think, but there’s not a lot to tell. He feels the same thing I felt some time ago, and that should be it.
Q: (Byron Young The Daily Mirror) Felipe, could we just establish the facts? Are you the number two driver now? And if not, what was the point in giving away the seven points to Fernando? I know you’re a great driver and a great competitor and a lot of us are very confused why you did what you did last weekend.
FM: The time when I say I am number two driver I will not race any more. So I am not.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) During the Silverstone weekend, Webber said that if I thought I was in this condition maybe I wouldn’t re-signâ€¦ I wouldn’t renew the contract.’ Did you feel the same during these last few days, Felipe? FM: No. To be honest, all of you are trying to put words in my mouth. I have my thinking and will not really go through all these points, because it’s not the case.
Q: (Alessandro Berbic Fox TV Serbia) Rubens, we will now leave the previous topic. Rubens, 300 Grand Prix starts. When you reached 257, your car had a special designation as I remember. Do you plan anything big on that front? Number 300 is really a big one.
RB: Yeah, I don’t know when you guys are counting 300 but I’m counting (number) 300 as Spa. Spa is going to be the 300th for me as the 257th was in Turkey. First of all, thank you very much for changing the subject, it’s very kind of you! Secondly, it is a fantastic moment, to be reaching 300 grands prix and to be as competitive as I am, to be able to enjoy the time in the car as I enjoy it, and to be racing for a team that has great spirit and going for it, it’s fantastic. I’m going to Spa with a new livery on the helmet, just to commemorate that. I don’t know if the team is actually going to have something different, but to be fairly honest, I’m so proud to reach this point, because I haven’t ever thought of that, but it’s something that the numbers will serve me in a way that maybe one day I will be sitting down and looking at those numbers and they will feel very special. Right now, I’m having the pleasure to drive the car and be some competitive at 300. For me that’s the most important thing.
Q: (Alessandro Berbic Fox TV Serbia) Well, congratulations, but I have to remind you that you said, when you reached 257, that your goal was to reach 300. What the next goal? 350?
RB: Four hundred? Ha ha.
Q: (Alessandro Berbic Fox TV Serbia) Felipe, coming back here a year after your terrible accident, do you think that you’re going to feel a bit uneasy on the first couple of laps?
FM: For sure not. It’s really nothing to do with my way of working. To be honest, I don’t remember a single thing from the accident. I don’t remember the corner. I saw it many times, but I don’t remember anything, so when you close the visor, you don’t think about these things, you just think about doing your best and working and achieving the maximum you can. So for sure, nothing of this thing has happened and I’m pretty sure that Rubens has a very, very strong spring on his car now.
RB: I promise you that he’s really like that. I don’t think he will fear anything. Three or four months ago we were playing poker back in Brazil and he just said I have a surprise for you’ and he put the helmet in which he had the accident on the table and it destroyed my night, completely destroyed my night and I started losing money with the poker and he had fun with it, so I think he’s going to drive flat out without aâ€¦ I’m driving for a different team, so you’re safe now, it’s OK.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) I have a question for Heikki: this has been a week where everybody’s been criticising Ferrari for not being very sporting with team orders, but if I’m not wrong, in 2008, in Hockenheim, you received the same message on the radio from Ron Dennis: Lewis is much faster than you’ and Lewis passed you in the same turn as Felipe and he won the championship by one point. Is that true?
HK: I don’t remember that. For me, there’s no point in going into the past, actually. I’m just here to race with Lotus and that’s all I can say.