Felipe Massa was again full of praise for his future team-mate, Fernando Alonso, as the Brazilian looked to fully retract the statements made about the Spaniard’s involvement in the Singapore race-fix scandal.
Speaking infront of the international media at his home race, Massa also reiterated his desire to return to Grand Prix racing at the start of next season and spoke openly about his return to the cockpit at Fiorano, earlier in the week.
Massa’s Team Principal, Stefano Domenicali, also moved to quell any suspected tension between his future drivers, claiming that Ferrari are fully committed to building a championship contender for both Alonso and Massa next season.
Both Ferrari men were joined by McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh and Lewis Hamilton.
This weekend sees Hamilton return to the scene of last season’s dramatic title triumph, and the Brit is in a fighting mood. Armed with his powerful KERS system, Hamilton used the media event to signal his desire to win this Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Martin Whitmarsh also spoke at length during the conference, but attempted to divert all questions relating to the Woking team’s possible 2010 driver line up.
2009 BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE October 16, 2009
DRIVERS AND TEAM PRINCIPALS:
Stefano DOMENICALI (Ferrari),
Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren Mercedes),
Felipe MASSA (Ferrari),
Martin WHITMARSH (McLaren Mercedes)
Q: Felipe, can we have an update; a progress report. How are you?
Felipe MASSA: Very good. I mean it would be better to be driving the car but I am quite happy that things are going quite well. The recovery was really great, so I can say I am the same as before. In the last three weeks, which was after the second operation, I started to do fitness and I have to say now I am really the same I was before the accident in terms of the physical side. I did the simulator, not really one day, it was 100kms in Fiorano in the 2007 car and it was very good. To be honest, I was pushing, I was not really slow, everything was normal. Even the consistency was good. Everything was really normal and I am really, really happy.
Q: What is the next step. What more do you have to do?
FM: Now I can do everything, like I was doing before. The only big issue is that everything needs to be 100 per cent ready as our sport is a risk sport. We can have another accident. I hope not, but we can. It is better to be 100 per cent ready to recover from another accident. That is why we are waiting a little bit more and it will be better to wait until next year.
Q: What is it like being here and not driving?
FM: Not easy. I have to say I want to be in the car, driving especially here in Brazil. It would have been fantastic to come back for this race. Unfortunately we need to wait a little bit more. It is not very easy to be on the outside just looking and not doing anything, just discussing what s happening on the test, but let s prepare everything for next year to be in a good shape.
Q: Stefano, what more can Ferrari do to help Felipe?
Stefano DOMENICALI: Well, I think what we can do is first of all thinking ahead and looking ahead, to have a good car, a better car than this year. That is the thing that is fundamental, surely. Then, of course, working together and trying to prepare himself and see what we can do in terms of his fitness preparation and work with the engineers, the simulator. This is what we can do and what we will do. We know that it seems a long way to go but the first race next year will be much faster than what we all think and we need to do the right thing to be sure that Felipe will be totally 100 per cent ready with the team at that day.
Q: Since the last race you have also announced your other driver for next year. An interesting mix of drivers. How are you going to manage them?
SD: It is more you are trying to put on the table. That is part of the game. We will have a great couple of drivers who know what the main focus is. The main focus is that the team s interest has the priority. Felipe has been part of our family for many years and he knows that very well. Fernando (Alonso), I am pretty sure, will understand that as that is the nature of our team and they have to respect it and there will be no problem at all.
Q: Lewis, as you have mentioned, you come here in a very different situation to what you have had for the last couple of years. Explain that and how you are taking it.
Lewis HAMILTON: Firstly, I would like to say welcome back to Felipe. It is great to see him. I have not seen him since he disappeared on us and it is the first time we have spoken, so welcome back. I think the sport has missed him and I have missed my battles with him, so I looking forward to next year and seeing him back on the grid and having some great fights again. Coming here it is a much more relaxed environment for me. Last year was extremely intense and I am sure it is the same for Felipe now. We can come here more relaxed. For me, at least I can be in the car and I am very happy I can be in the car and we approach it in the sense that it is not we want to win the championship this weekend. It is more or less go out and win the race, have a great race and see what we can do, so it is quite a different approach. A different feeling at least in the team.
Q: Looking back a year ago when you were here for the championship and the outcome of the championship was almost influenced by another driver, although admittedly he was doing his own race, how much does a driver bear in mind there is a fight going on for the championship when he is racing? How easy is it to do that? Is it something you bear in mind at all?
LH: I think when you are on the track and you know that someone is battling, at least for me the way I see it, is you have respect for all the drivers. I would want to make sure I get out of the way and not ruin anyone s race. It doesn t have to be for the championship. It can be any race where you are maybe midfield or being overtaken. I know what it is like leading a race and you don t want to get held up. I always make sure that I do a good job, so the others will do a good job for me. I am sure the drivers are all aware of it.
Q: Martin, what is your driver situation for next year?
Martin WHITMARSH: Again, just before I answer that one. Felipe is behind me and you have only got to spend 30 seconds in his presence to know he is going to be competitive next year. What a tough little guy. He looks in good shape now in fact. I think that is fantastic for Formula One. He drove a fantastic race here last year and put on a real fight with Lewis, so it is fantastic he is back. I am sure it will be an exciting year next year. Regarding our situation with drivers, we are in a different situation. They were very intense races the last two times we have been here. We have got two young, ambitious drivers in our team, Lewis is one of those, and we are going to concentrate on doing the best job we can here and in Abu Dhabi and try and win some races and enjoy it. We will plan for the future and when we have something to announce we will announce it, but here we are loyal to the two race drivers we have and we want to do as good a job as we can.
Q: Are we likely to hear before the end of the season?
MW: No, I don t think you are now. The end of the season is accelerating upon us. What we are really concentrating on back in Woking is that we are developing an entirely new car with quite an aggressive engineering programme. We intend to start the season much more competitively than we started this one. That s the priority and in the meanwhile we will see what we can do in these two races. I think that is our concentration. We will concentrate on some of those other issues after the season now.
Q: You can claim a certain amount of interest in the World Championship via the Mercedes link in the back of the Brawn car. Tell us about the effort that has gone into that engine.
MW: I think it is right that we remain impartial in the championship to a degree. We are going to race and do the best job we can, but it is satisfying for our partner Mercedes Benz. They have done a fantastic job over the last few years and for them to be in line to win a championship when we haven t had such a good season is good news. It is good for them and well deserved. It is an interesting title fight now. It is there to be lost and we know how difficult that can be. It adds a bit of pressure. In a way for the fans it would be great if the championship went down to the last race in Abu Dhabi but on the other hand I am sure there are some of our friends in Brawn who would be delighted to see it finished off here.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, we saw you shaking hands with Fernando. He said yesterday that he wants to talk to you about next year. Have you already had the chance to speak about that and are you ready to give him some advice for the new partnership?
FM: Well, we ve just shaken hands. I asked how is it going here, he said very difficult, so no more than that. We haven t really spoken about next year, but for sure we re going to have enough time to speak about next year and I hope that we can have a great team and we can have very good results for Ferrari.
Q: (Rodrigo Franca VIP Magazine) Stefano, what will be the biggest challenge for Ferrari next season? The arrival of Fernando Alonso, building a new and competitive car or adapting to the new rules?
SD: It s very simple: the biggest challenge is if I can say what Martin has already anticipated: to have a much quicker and more reliable car at the beginning of the season because if we have a good car then I think everything will be reasonably easy to manage. For sure, this is the biggest challenge. We don t want to live not just from the technical point of view but also from the human point of view the year that we have lived this year, so we are really looking forward to being positive for next year. This, for sure, is the biggest challenge.
Q: (Mark Surer Sky Germany) Lewis, the engine loses horsepower here because of the altitude. Do you think that because of that, KERS is even more of an advantage, can you feel more help from the KERS?
LH: No. Of course we lose power because of the altitude we re at right now. That power we can t recover but fortunately the KERS is not affected by the altitude, so it s the same as before. We don t have any more of a gain than we do at other circuits but being quite a short circuit it s good enough here, it s as good as anywhere.
Q: (Ingo RÃ¶rsch Sportbild) Lewis, if we say the title decision will be open until Abu Dhabi, can you describe the feeling to come to the last race like last year in Brazil and you only have to score points. What will Jenson (Button) feel then?
LH: It s different for everyone, I think. It s different for myself, it s different for Felipe, it s different for Jenson. I can t tell you what he s feeling or what he s going to go through but for me, I approached it the sameâ€¦ I arrived here quite relaxed, I was in a good mood, I was in good spirits. It was intense when you arrive at the circuit but that s just your competitiveness coming out. It was just about balancing your mind and your focus and really looking after your energy and doing the best job you can do. Every race is different, so I can t say how it s going to be for these guys.
Q: (Heiko Wasser RTL) Felipe, first of all, we are happy to see you here. You re doing the chequered flag job on Sunday; I hope you will get the first one. We ve seen different scenes here in the past. Would you prefer to show the chequered flag to a red car or to a Brazilian driver? And who do you think is going to be World Champion?
FM: Well, for sure it will be a pretty difficult job for me to do the chequered flag. We at Ferrari are definitely not in a very great position this year. I hope I can show the chequered flag to our team but I hope that Rubens (Barrichello) has a chance to fight for the championship. For sure, if I give the chequered flag to Rubens finishing first I will be very happy. It would be very good for Brazil. After that, we want our car to be first in the race.
To be honest, Jenson has a greater chance in the World Championship. He has a good possibility to score not a lot of points and still be World Champion. I think he has the best possibility to win the championship. Rubens s case is very difficult but as I told him before, he doesn t need to think about anything, he just needs to think about winning the race and the result will be what it will be. It doesn t depend anymore on just Rubens, it depends more on Jenson. I think Jenson has a greater chance.
Q: (Sarah Holt BBC Sport) It s for Lewis and Felipe: last year you only had to come fifth to seal the title ahead of Felipe. Martin, you decided to perhaps take a more cautious approach to the race. Perhaps you could answer this question too. What would your advice be to Jenson and Brawn: would you say to really go for it and get the title won or would you just say take it easy, take it steadily and get the points in the bag and seal the title?
MW: I think it s different for everyone but here, last year, we took a relatively defensive strategy and it turned into a very difficult race for us, for all of us. I think it s a balance. I think that s what racing drivers are generally pretty good at, assessing the risk benefit, probably better than most humans. I think that he doesn t have to go all out and win but if you get too defensive, then I think it can hamper your natural flair and flow. For Lewis last year, the team had made some mistakes in the previous year. I think we went flat out when we didn t need to and Lewis was new at that time. We should have guided him better and so after what happened in 2007, I think there was an enormous amount of pressure, probably a little more so than even with Jenson. But I think the right thing is that they probably can t be too defensive, it s very, very competitive in Formula One now. He needs some points and I think if he just does the job normally with the car that he has, with the points advantage that he has, he ought to win the championship and he ought to be able to win it here, but anything can happen. We will see. Undeniably there is a lot of pressure on him but he shouldn t be too cautious.
FM: As I said before about Rubens, you don t need to care too much. He just needs to do his job, trying to win, and the second result which is Jenson s doesn t depend on Rubens. He just needs to try to win and score as many points as possible. I think on Jenson s side, he just needs to try his best, for sure, not be banging wheels with other cars, that s the most important thing, not to be too aggressive in terms of overtaking. But he needs to push, otherwise people will catch him and try to overtake and then he s at risk of finishing outside or whatever. He needs to push, but needs to be careful when it comes to fighting.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti Corriere dello Sport) Lewis, Felipe said some days ago that the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix should be cancelled. What do you think about this?
LH: You should ask him. For me, there are 17 or 18 races in a season. There are lots and lots of what ifs? What if this happened, what if that happened? That s all you can really say. At the end of the day we had a great race, it came down to the last race, we had a great season, a great battle and I came out on top. There s not really much to say on that.