Nelson Piquet is confident of a change in fortunes starting with this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix. The Brazilian, whose future with Renault looks ever uncertain, believes that the introduction of the team’s ‘Trick Diffuser’ may be the spring board he needs to kick start his floundering season.
Piquet was joined in the press conference by both Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica. Two drivers who have also had a very disappointing start to the 2009 campaign.
This is in stark contrast to Toyota’s Timo Glock who was also present at this afternoon’s Press Conference. As a current resident of Bahrain, the German will be hoping to impress once again this weekend infront of his adopted homeland.
Timo GLOCK (Toyota),
Robert KUBICA (BMW Sauber),
Nelson PIQUET (Renault),
Kimi RÃ„IKKÃ–NEN (Ferrari)
Q: Different fortunes for many of you. For three of you not a very good start to the season. For one of you a slightly extraordinary start. Timo, let s start with the good news. Three points scores, two of them from the pit lane. What are your feelings about the start to the season?
Timo GLOCK: Yeah, it was not a bad start, I would say. Like you say two times from the pit lane. I didn t really expect the points but we had a strong race in Melbourne and Malaysia as well with the right tyre choice. We did everything right in the race and again in Shanghai in wet conditions we had quite a good pace and two times from the back of the field after the start behind the safety car and after I damaged the front wing I had to go in the pit. I think I was again behind the whole field and to come into the points again was good and we have to be satisfied with it.
Q: Kimi, you qualify in the top 10 but then it all seems to go away from you. A best of 10th so far. What are your feelings about it so far?
Kimi RÃ„IKKÃ–NEN: I mean definitely not what we wanted or what I wanted either but we don t have the speed right now in the car unfortunately. We are going to get some new parts at the next race but this race probably can be a bit difficult again. Hopefully the testing here helps a bit and it will be slightly better for us but I don t know yet. We need to wait and see.
Q: Robert, a similarly disappointing start. Is it reliability or performance?
Robert KUBICA: I think both of them. A bit of bad luck as well, I would say, in the first three races of the season. Not an ideal start of the year but that is how it is and we hope to get better soon. Bahrain will be difficult but for sure we hope for some points.
Q: Nelson, the same thing with you. You have qualified each time 17th but still hoping to get into the points.
Nelson PIQUET: Yeah, for sure. I think this weekend should be a big weekend for both of us and the team because we have the new diffusers and obviously it is going to be a dry weekend, so we are not going to have any problems. We are really going to be able to show our new pace of the car. I think hopefully both cars can score points and we can start from zero here again.
Q: Are you worried about your future or do you think that is going to be the magic ingredient?
NP: I think it has been a crazy start to the year. Two races in the wet and in Australia, unfortunately, we were going to finish quite well and I had a little brake failure. Qualifying is not very good and I am struggling a little bit to get the performance out of the first lap. But I think obviously we had a tough car fighting between from 10th to 15th over there was very tight. Now with the new diffuser it should be much easier to be running closer to the top 10. It is a different story when you are running there, you get into less problems and this track should suit us quite well.
Q: And they always seem to give you a lot of fuel as well just to make things a little bit more difficult.
NP: Yeah, but that s what happens when you don t have a very good position at the beginning of the race. That s always a risk you have to take to try to get lucky with the safety car or get lucky because of the weather or the cars around you are going to be lighter and overtake them when they go into the pits. But the important thing is to qualify closer to the front and then you can have a better strategy for the race.
Q: Robert, you qualified on pole here last year and finished third. And you have tested here as well. Does that make for anything?
RK: Well, as you mention we have a good memory from here. Although we finished third it couldn t be better but we were right behind two Ferraris which were very strong here last year. Today s situation is a bit different for both of the teams, for us and for Ferrari. We are not as strong as we were. This situation makes it more difficult for the coming weekend. We have been testing here. I only drove one day because on two days I stopped because of the sand storm. It can be quite an advantage, a small advantage, but I am not expecting miracles because we were strong here last year and we have been testing, we will be mega.
Q: What about KERS? You tried that in China. Are you going to try that again? Did you feel it was an advantage?
RK: Yeah, I will use KERS tomorrow.
Q: And then see what happens for the rest of the weekend?
RK: Yeah, the plan is to run it through all the weekend.
Q: And how did you feel? You felt it was an advantage obviously?
RK: Well, if I felt it was an advantage in China I would have used it the whole weekend. As you know I removed it but the result in China on Saturday was not what I was expecting. It is quite difficult for myself to use it but I hope in Bahrain I will face less problems with the balance and weight distribution issues.
Q: Kimi, same thing. When are you likely to be using it again?
KR: I don t use it tomorrow. The other car will run it and then we will make the decision which way we go. We either take it and use it if we don t have any issues with it and we will put it also in my car but really we want to look a little bit and compare the two cars with and without and see a little difference. That s our main thing tomorrow.
Q: You have never seemed to be a massive fan of KERS.
KR: It is probably faster in quite a few places but the car was not too bad the last race in qualifying. I think we could have been faster even there but we had an issue with it. It is not much different driving with or without it for us.
Q: The diffuser modifications. When would you expect to get that?
KR: Hopefully we will have the new parts for the next race in Barcelona.
Q: You have been second and third here in the past and you tested here as well, so are you feeling a little bit more confident about this?
KR: Like I said, hopefully the testing at the beginning of this year will help us this week. It has usually been okay for us. Of course we are not in the position we were the last few years right now but I still think we should have a better chance here than maybe at some previous races.
Q: Timo, Toyota tested here. Your feelings about here?
TG: Yeah, we have to wait and see. The test we did here was quite different to the conditions we have now. It is much warmer. This will be one point for tomorrow to see where the car is. We are still missing a little bit with the car we had in the winter tests. The winter tests were pretty consistent. Every time we went out in the car it didn t really have any problems with the set-up and now over a race weekend when we start on a Friday on a green track it is a bit tricky with the car and we have to try and find a way to get it more consistent over the weekend and have a stronger start. A good qualifying is important to start more in the top 10, top five, to be able to fight for the podium.
Q: In terms of the development race are you happy with the pace of that and are you now looking to use KERS as well?
TG: No, so far at the moment we are not planning to use KERS but we have to be careful in terms of development. We have to be stronger now I think even than in the winter time to keep that advantage against the other teams. Everybody will come up with a new aero package in Barcelona and we have to fight for that position where we are at the moment. For me Red Bull made quite a big step in China. They were really quick and we have to fight that we can stay in that position where we are at the moment.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Joris Fioriti AFP) You were just talking about the Red Bull performance in China. Were you surprised by it?
TG: For me they were quite strong already at the tests and at the end they developed from race to race. The race in Australia showed already the pace. Sebastian (Vettel) was in P2 in the race and in Malaysia as well they were quick, so for me it is not a big surprise but I think they made a little step or they were maybe just a little bit better sorted out. The temperatures in Shanghai were quite cold compared to the other races and maybe that is part of the difference but for me they looked strong in testing.
KR: Yeah, I mean they have been looking fast every race. Like Timo said they were a bit stronger in the last race. I don t know if they got some new parts or not but they have definitely been strong all year.
NP: Hopefully they won t be too quick when they get the new parts. Otherwise that is going to make our life a lot more difficult.
Q: (Lukasz Ceglinski Gazeta Wyborscza) Robert, Renault, McLaren and even Force India have had some significant updates on their package. You will basically drive the same car as in Australia. Do you feel frustrated about that?
RK: Not really. This is the reality, that we didn t get any big upgrades until now and we will not get any here as well, just a few really small ones. Somehow we have seen this last year, I m pretty sure, so it s not really frustration, this is the situation. We are waiting for the Barcelona package which will probably be a big step forward, we hope so, but as you know, everybody else is working as well. Everybody is expecting to move forward in Barcelona with their new aero packages, everyone is working, so we have to see how we will be compared to them in Barcelona.
Q: (Bill Johnson The National) Principally to you, Kimi: are you surprised at those who are making the early running in this season s drivers championship and if so do you welcome the so-called new kids on the block getting onto the podium that you used to regard as your own territory?
KR: It s normal for them to be there. I don t think that they are new in Formula One. It s not a big surprise. Those teams were fast in the winter testing. We are missing speed right now. Hopefully we can turn it around pretty quickly, I expect at the next race. They are welcome. For sure we would rather be there but right now we are not in a position to fight for those positions, so we just need to make the best (performance) as we can here and then hopefully get back to where we should be in the next race.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) For all of you: we ve had four races in five weeks. In the past you would all be going testing next week. Are you looking forward to the time off or would you prefer to be going off and trying lots of news parts?
KR: When you have a situation like the one we are in, it would probably be nice to try the new parts before the race but that s how it is, we re having some time off, so we go to the next race and sort it out there.
TG: In the end, we have to wait for Barcelona as Kimi said, to test the new parts on Friday in free practice but it s not an easy situation because when you get new parts for the race weekend and you have to try them while the track is evolving it s quite tricky to sort that out but at the end we all have to deal with it, it s all the same. The time off after the first four races is not too bad. I think everybody has travelled quite a lot. The mechanics have had a hard life as well and I think everybody is happy to have a couple of days off.
RK: In our situation it would be good to have days of testing, although you have to have something new to test otherwise it doesn t make sense. I think that it would be good, in our situation, to have a couple of days running at some track.
NP: I ve had four weekends of races and one weekend of roadshow, so I ve had five busy weeks but obviously if I could test it would be good, the same for everybody, no testing, so one week s rest a little bit.
Q: Robert, Kimi, does it mean you will probably go to the factory and go through everything and maybe some simulation?
RK: We go to the factory, of course, but I think the problem for everybody is known, so you don t need additional input from the driver. We don t have simulators, so there will be no simulation but of course we try to help the team as much as we can from the driver point of view but as I said, I think the problem is known by everybody and there is no need for additional meetings or things like that.
KR: Similar story, all the people are working one hundred percent, they know what they re doing. It s more the time that s against us than anything else. I have some other work to do anyhow. I don t know if I will go to the factory or not. If they need me, yes, but people know what they re doing. We usually plan the meetings if we need something but we are here and we always discuss all those things, so it probably won t be necessary to go there.
Q: (Sarah Holt) Kimi, do you feel under extra pressure, personally or from within Ferrari, to score points for the team or for yourself this weekend?
KR: For sure I want to score points but I don t feel any pressure. We try to do our best every time and unfortunately we haven t managed to score any points so far. We are all one team and we all don t feel so good when we have bad races but that s how it is right now unfortunately. We do the best that we can here and hopefully we get some points.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Kimi, can you believe you are in this position after three races without a point compared to 18 months ago when you were World Champion?
KR: Things change quickly in Formula One, we know that. There are new rules. Of course we had pretty good winter testing. We probably saw in the last test that we were not where we wanted to be, exactly, but it hasn t been the start of the season that we were looking for as a team but we just need to work harder and improve the situation and get back to where we want to be. We know that we can do it but it takes a while. That s unfortunately the situation where we are.
Q: (Joris Fioriti AFP) Do you think you are far away from Red Bull and Brawn GP?
TG: For me, it looks like it s a bit track dependent. We were quite strong in Malaysia and in Shanghai we struggled a bit, so for me, behind Brawn and maybe the gap to Brawn is slightly bigger, slightly lower depending on the track, but for me they look quite strong in Q3 in China as well with a lot of fuel on board. After Brawn, I think it s always track dependent who is quicker.
KR: We are probably one second behind them, so I think it depends a bit from circuit to circuit but that s more or less where we are and we know that, so we are aiming to catch them up and of course, when you re once behind, it s not easy because everybody is also going forward, so it s hard to catch up completely but for sure we are going to get much closer next race.
RK: I think the gap is similar to Ferrari as we have seen in the last three races, we ve been close together, sometimes in front, sometimes behind them, so I think the gap is very similar as Kimi mentioned.
NP: Hopefully with the new aero package that we have here we can fight them. Maybe this track is a bit different compared to China but I think we re going to be much closer than we were but we should be with them.
Q: (Alan Baldwin Reuters) Can I ask Robert a similar question to the one that Kimi was asked regarding your position here because this time last year you had a reasonable chance of winning, you were on pole. You come here with three races gone and you re yet to score points. Would you have believed that this time last year, that you would be four races into the championship and still looking for that?
RK: Of course it s difficult to predict what will happen in Formula One but we have seen today s situation is completely different to last year. There are new teams which are very strong. There are big teams in the past which are now struggling. This is the reality. There is nothing to panic about. We have to keep working, keep improving and stay calm and everybody will be going in the same direction to get back on the track where we would like to be with our goals, with our targets, as a team, as a driver. The situation is not the best, it s not ideal but we have to take it step by step, move forward and try to catch the front runners.