Local hero Mark Webber is joined by Vitaly Petrov, Bruno Senna and Jarno Trulli to preview this season’s Grand Prix.
DRIVERS: Vitaly Petrov (Renault), Bruno Senna (HRT), Jarno Trulli (Lotus), Mark Webber (Red Bull).
Q. Bruno, how tough was Bahrain?
Bruno SENNA: It was a pretty big challenge. The team arrived there with no previous preparation and everything had to be done there and we struggled a little bit. We couldn’t learn from previous experience, so we had to do everything on the few laps we had and it didn’t make our lives easy but the team still did a pretty amazing job to be there and get both cars on the grid.
Q. What has been happening since then to the team?
BS: Obviously there is a big check list of things that need to be changed. With no testing and no time to test between the first two races there are no big changes, a few changes but not enough. But we hope that by Europe we can have some updates, some new things on the car, which will improve performance and reliability.
Q. It is a massive learning curve for you and the team. Lotus at least have experienced drivers.
BS: I think both for the new teams and the new drivers it is very important to get some miles of testing. It would be great for us if we could test a little bit when we get to Europe after the first races as we could take many of the kinks, the very basic things that we could have been able to sort out with a few miles of testing, get them sorted out, and I believe that it would make everyone’s live much better, both the new teams and the current teams considering that these guys have to overtake us a few more times than necessary if we were a bit quicker and more prepared.
Q. Vitaly, any surprises for you about Formula One in your first grand prix in Bahrain?
Vitaly PETROV: Surprise in Bahrain? Not really. I don’t know. It was like a racing weekend like it was in GP2. It was just Formula One.
Q. What did you find particularly difficult about Formula One though?
VP: Difficult means getting quicker like the guys in front of us. It is very difficult to improve the car as you need to tell your engineer, your mechanics, the people around where we can improve the car and this is the most difficult part when I start to work with them. It is not difficult, but to improve the car you must go to the engine guys and say ‘come on, I need more power’ or something like this.
Q. How has the reaction been in Russia to you racing in Formula One?
VP: There was a big explosion there. A lot of newspapers and magazines started to speak and write about me. I don’t know what’s happened there now but now my manager has brought me some magazines to look at and a lot speak about me.
Q. Will you be going to Russia quite soon?
VP: I don’t think so. Too much work. I try to focus on F1. I don’t want to think about anything more.
Q. Jarno, your feelings after Bahrain? It was an impressive performance.
Jarno TRULLI: Well, we were all very happy as a team to have Lotus back in Formula One after 16 years and to finish the race with both cars. This is what our target was and we achieved it. Not in an easy way as for the new teams life is very hard at the beginning. We were limited in time and the team has done a great, great job to put both cars on the grid well prepared and reliable. I think the team had done a very good job. Operationally we are extremely experienced as there are a lot of experienced people who are also professional. The pit stops, race preparation, race weekend, all went pretty smoothly. We had some little mechanical gremlins but nothing really major. The last 10 laps were difficult for me as I lost the hydraulic but I managed anyway to finish the race. At the end of the day Bahrain was a great day for Lotus. Now we have to look forward and see how we can improve our performance.
Q. Do you think you can get on terms with the established teams during this year?
JT: The aim is to get closer. How close we don’t know. At the moment it is a bit too difficult. We know that these first four races will be very hard. We don’t have any major improvement on the car. Only once we are back in Europe we will probably start pushing. We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us but the team has shown they are very committed. Everybody is committed and motivated and serious about this project. But things are not going to happen from one day to another as we need a bit of time.
Q. Not much progress here except for some more running.
JT: We have got a few bits, probably as everybody else, but nothing really major and what we would need to make a step. We target the first four races to try and sort the little problems out and try to be reliable in order to finish all the races and to run the team through the race weekend like qualifying, pit stop, and do our job to build up and gel the team together. Then once in Europe we will really have to start pushing hard on the car development.
Q. Mark, talking about new bits. I saw Kenny (Handkammer) unpack what looked like a massive hamper of go faster bits. Already the race has begun for Red Bull racing but that is one of their great assets.
Mark WEBBER: Yeah, Kenny always knows what boxes to open from the factory. We are always developing the car and to win grands prix you need to develop it. It is not rocket science. You have got to keep chipping away, so we will see how we go.
Q. The pace of the car in Bahrain must have been hugely encouraging?
MW: Absolutely after such a short, but long winter in terms of a lot of speculation and people really struggling to dissect what was going on in the testing with the times and people’s performances. Then we went to Bahrain and it was nice for us to finally get the gloves off and as a team we were very encouraged by how the car worked. Sebastian (Vettel) had a nice clean weekend and did very well up until he had his problem. I didn’t do well in Q3 and paid the price for the race. But in the race the car felt fantastic but never got to execute a clean grand prix but very, very excited about the prospects for the rest of this season but also we know it is going to be a tough season with some good competition.
Q. How important is it that so little has changed in Red Bull Racing? The same two drivers are still there and only two other teams have maintained the same team of drivers.
MW: Very good. I think technically also we have kept a lot of our mainstays in terms of the people who have been there for the growing time we have done at Red Bull at Milton Keynes and also working with Renault at Viry. This stuff doesn’t take five minutes to get organised, so that helps us a lot. Engineer wise and race driver wise it is also a big positive I believe with the limited testing and executing clean weekends. All those types of things can only help you.
Q. You are now a winner having won two races last year. Does that make it easier for you or does it put more pressure on?
MW: No, I think there is always pressure at this level. You always want to do the best job for the team, yourself, everyone. That is why we enjoy it. It is exciting to go out there and see if you can do it again, so I suppose more composure. Brazil was a different type of victory for me compared to the NÃ¼rburgring in terms of how the race was, so the more times you experience it you have more composure, more control how you control the racing itself, so I hope I get into that position again this year and try and do it as often as possible.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q. (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Mark, at the moment it looks like it is going to be Ferrari and Red Bull. But do you see Sebastian as your main opponent at the moment considering you know what package you both have?
MW: No, I think we have had a small sample in Bahrain. We have had one qualifying session and one race. We realise how important qualifying was and the race went surprisingly, probably as we all thought it would. I thought it would not go like that in terms of how the tyres would behave and there were lots of teams probably a little bit concerned about how the grand prix would go in terms of learning a bit too much, if you know what I mean. But in the end we pretty much didn’t learn a great deal as the race was executed as it was. In terms of the opposition and how that will relate in the next few grands prix, we need to see. Clearly Sebastian is quick. We have known that since he arrived in Formula One. But there are also other guys that are on a level playing field, so it is going to be a long season of different people I think fighting for victories.
Q. Mark, we saw a year ago you get here having really battled to be here after the injuries you had. Can you tell us how they your legs are now? Have they fully recovered? Are they still troubling you in any way?
MW: Well, it is a different ball game to last year. Mentally I didn’t really have an off-season last year as I had the big adventure race which takes a little bit of toll on you anyway in terms of being down there seven days and then I broke my leg on the last day pretty much. Mentally it is draining to have the winter I had, so coming to the first race I had a few unanswered questions. The longest run I had done was 17 laps in the car in testing in one hit and then I was going to go into a grand prix here. A lot less concerns for me coming here. I have done a lot more testing. I have already got a grand prix under my belt. There are a few little niggles here and there but they are absolutely nothing compared to what I had. I am in really good shape and I feel good and ready to go for a whole season, not just for this weekend. We are well prepared. We don’t have to work out when we are going to have surgery in season and have stupid things like that to manage. We have just got to manage about going fast.
Q. Mark, do you take any confidence about of your performance in Germany last year. You bounced back from a bad qualifying sessions and a bad race at Silverstone. That is not unlike the situation you had in Bahrain a couple of weeks ago. Is this the Germany of 2010?
MW: Let’s hope so Phil. I have always been pretty critical of my own mistakes and Bahrain certain was a poor Q3 for me. It was pretty challenging conditions for most guys but I did a poor lap and you don’t want to make a habit of that so I am pretty keen on Saturday to have a clean go at it and as long as I have done my best then I can be happy. If my best is like it was in Germany and that was enough on the day then we will see what happens. But anything can happen. It is an early part of the weekend and we will see how the car performs on Friday and then try and build the weekend from there as we did in Germany.
Q. (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) This is probably the best chance for you to win your home grand prix. How important would it be for you to win your home grand prix?
MW: It would be a beautiful feeling of course. I don’t think there is any driver that would not like to have a chance to win their home grand prix. I am very lucky to have a home grand prix. Not every driver on the grid has a home race. I have been coming here for a long time and the car is performing very well and we have the best opportunity to have a crack at it but you need everything perfect, everything needs to be executed right. It would be a beautiful feeling and it would be up there with Monaco and there are a few special events you would like to win. Brazil was special as it was a race where Ayrton Senna and people like that raced on the same track, the same podium, so that had a lot of history to it as well but here as your home race it would be a nice event. I have seen Mick Doohan win on motorbikes on Philip Island and to win a world championship event in your own backyard is clearly a special day for any sportsman or woman.
Q. (Frederick Ferret – L’Equipe) Mark, how difficult was it for you as an Australian to become a Formula One driver, more difficult than if you were English, for instance?
MW: Well, if you look at the statistics, I think it is (difficult), because there’s not many guys who have arrived in Formula One from this part of the world. Obviously it’s very, very difficult to get over there and get started and get going. Obviously the European guys have it a lot easier in terms of having their family close by; it’s much easier in that early part of your career to try and get going, so it is tough. I think we have a little bit more success on two wheels because I think dirt bikes and then motorbikes you can have a little bit more of a chance. But it looks like Formula One has been very, very challenging for a long, long time. Obviously only three guys have won races, we’ve had two World Champions. It’s not maybe as easy, geographically, compared to some of the other nations, to try and compete in Formula One. And also Australia, when it comes to car manufacturers, back in the days of tobacco and all that sort of stuff, on the world stage, Australia is such a small country. We don’t have a huge influence on different markets, but then you can also argue that there were a lot of Finnish drivers doing well from a very small country as well. The Finns had a different reputation for whatever reason, World Champions.
Q. (Chris Lines Associated Press) Bruno, you had a lot of problems with your hydraulics in Bahrain. Has the team been able to fix that and what are the chances of you being able to go race distance?
BS: I didn’t have so many problems with the hydraulics. There were a few problems with the clutch. On my car, the hydraulics were fairly reliable. The problem we had in the race was just a metal brace that broke on the water radiator pipes, so the engine ran out of water. These little things have been fixed, so I think we should be able to finish the race, that’s our objective this time, finish the race. Hopefully we will be able to do that. We were quite close to finishing the race last time out. It was a shame that we got that problem, but it was just because of no testing. These sorts of problems happen when the installation is very new. They are not supposed to happen in public really.
Q. (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) Mark, Lewis Hamilton has speculated that you might consider retiring at the end of the year. Could we hear your thoughts on your future please?
MW: Very motivated, enjoying my job and looking forward to a great season. That’s the way I’ve always approached every year. I’ve no intention at all of retiring, give or take whatever season I have. That’s Lewis’s opinion and he’s free to have that. I don’t have a big problem with what he’s said. I’m very happy at the moment, enjoying driving for the guys that I am driving for. It’s a very, very good situation for me at the moment and I’m looking forward to it.
Q. (Mike Doodson) Bruno, last year you said on several occasions how irritating it was that 99 percent of journalists asked you only one question which was about the relationship and expectations of you because of your family name. I’m interested in your family name. My wife is South American and she takes both her parent’s names, her father’s name first and mother’s name second. I’m interested to know what is in your passport: are you Bruno Lalli, Bruno Lalli Senna or are you Bruno Senna?
BS: I am Bruno Senna Lalli. That’s my birth name. In Brazil, we chose the names we want. There’s no effective rule for what names you carry on from your family.
Q. (Mike Doodson) So in fact the choice of name was yours, so you can’t really blame the journalists from majoring on it.
BS: Not my choice! There was no point in starting my career racing as Bruno Lalli, because as soon as people found out that I was related to Ayrton people would call me a coward for trying to run away from it. So there was no point to it. I just assumed that the natural way was that people would call me Bruno Senna. I don’t have a choice with that.
Q. (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Jarno and Mark, you raced here last year with the new time schedule and you’re pretty influential in the GPDA. Do you think there are some security issues in racing at this time now that you have one year’s experience, or are you going to find a way to see better even in bad sunlight conditions?
JT: We raised our concerns last year but apparently nothing has changed. There is very little you can do on the safety side on the track, apart from starting the race an hour earlier which probably won’t hurt anyone. We have given our opinion and that’s it. The FIA or whoever has decided to keep the twilight race at that time, so we just have to deal with it. This year, if we want to make a change for next year, we will say that we are very happy at the end of the race. That’s the only way.
MW: Jarno has hit it on the head. If you picked the best time to have a high speed sporting motor race event, obviously it’s not when the sun is at eye level with us. Anyway, that’s how it is for lots of different commercial reasons. As Jarno says, next time we say it’s fantastic and we should say we should have the race at 5 o’clock at every race in the season and I think they will move it somewhere else.
Q. (Joris Fioriti AFP) Jarno, at this time of your career, isn’t it disappointing to just want to finish a race as an objective? Bruno, with the name that you have, isn’t it hard to start your career with an objective of just trying to finish a race?
JT: Well, you have to finish a race if you want to score points, so this is a good point for both of us. Obviously I was hoping for more, but given the situation where Formula One was, I think I made a good choice to join Lotus. It’s a new team but with a great brand behind it and especially a great motivation and a big project. I knew that it would have been a difficult first season, first part of the season, but my hope is that I’m going to do this season like a preparation for next year and so it’s somehow a bit disappointing, but on the other hand, I think it’s also important for a driver to have a new challenge and also prove that you can start again from zero and bounce back. I think that if I can do it, I can once more prove that I can do a certain job. Obviously it’s not going to be easy, I think, but I’m motivated and strong enough to do that, and so probably in one year’s time I will discuss again and see where we all are with Lotus, me and the team. I’m looking forward to this challenge and I’m really fired up.
BS: I don’t see myself as being different to anyone just because I have the name. Obviously it would be great to start in a car in which I could be fighting for a win. But this is the opportunity that I’ve been presented with but obviously I’m not only here because of my surname. I have results in my short career that qualify me to have a super licence, so I guess I’m entitled to be here as much as anyone else with the same results.
Q. (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Michael Schumacher was slower than his team-mate in all free practices, in qualifying and in the race in Bahrain. What happened, and can Michael Schumacher come back to being the Michael Schumacher that we knew?
MW: I think it’s one race, again. There’s been a pretty limited testing programme for Michael to get into a new category again, basically. The cars have changed quite a lot since he last drove. You know you can never underestimate him because of what he’s done in the past. Clearly this is his second career. He’s had his first career which we know was exceptional, and he’s coming back and hats off to him, big balls to come back and have another go. We will see over time how this decision turns out. Obviously the team are looking to progress as well. I think they’re aiming to be World Champions this year because that’s the World Championship team from last year. Brawn were World Champions and anything other than that is probably not what the new operation is after. The whole thing has got to go forward. Michael is a good guy to have the energy and influence to make this happen. Rosberg is pretty tidy, we know that. They both were competitive in Bahrain, in my opinion. They put the car on the limit and that’s how it went. It will move around as the season goes on.
VP: Nico Rosberg is not slow driver. He was maybe not in a strong team in the last few years. He’s very strong, he has a good car now, but wait, Michael will wake up very soon and he will come back and it will be interesting to look at.
BS: I think they are correct. It’s very easy to judge someone from one race weekend, it’s his first race weekend in three years in Formula One. He’s proved himself a lot in his whole career, so there’s no reason to doubt that he can achieve great things again. It’s hard to see what’s going to happen, the results he’s going to achieve, but I don’t think talent runs away from you.
JT: I think they’ve all said everything. It’s difficult to judge after one race. I believe Michael needs a bit of time anyway to get back into the rhythm but nevertheless I don’t think his team-mate is any slower than him. He’s got quite a tough task ahead of him, a long season, he’s got a strong team-mate and he has another new career ahead of him. He needs to develop. Give him some time and he will probably be back on the pace.
Q. Mark, this time last year, everyone was looking at Brawn as the car which had really jumped ahead. This year it seems to be your car. That pressure, does it make you approach the season any differently? Is the speed of your car overstated by people like Lewis Hamilton saying it was insanely fast?
MW: The last time I looked at the Constructors’ we were not leading it, so we have work to do. Pace is one thing, but we need to execute clean weekends. We showed last year that we have absolutely the people to do this and we did it many times last year, so we want to try get back on that way as soon as possible, and those types of perfect weekends are very, very difficult to pull off. Ferrari had a few plate-spinning themselves in that race as they had some problems with their cars. They got their cars home. They deserved a one-two, they did the best job and that was the result, so we will go here clearly with some great optimism for our programme and we can do a very, very solid job but it’s not like we’re waking up in the morning going ‘there’s no one else on the track with us.’ There are some serious boys here and that’s why we’re all here and excited about what might happen.