British duo Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton are joined in the press conference by Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso to preview this weekend’s race.
DRIVERS: Fernando ALONSO (Ferrari), Jenson BUTTON (McLaren), Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren), Mark WEBBER (Red Bull)
Q: Lots of things have been said about team-mates and the relationship between team-mates. How good is your relationship? Could it be better, could it be worse? Mark, would you like to start.
Mark WEBBER: I think the press are bored. There is nothing else to talk about, so they want to talk about team-mates. That seems to have been the topic for the last 10 days or whatever.
Q: You seem to have chipped in as well though?
MW: Well, the press continually ask and try to put some fireworks on these two. My opinion was exactly as it was. It is not the easiest to have a warm, fuzzy relationship as we are all competitors but we don’t hate each other’s guts. It’s the way it’s always been at the front in Formula One, in the 70s, 80s, 90s and it will continue in the future. It is certainly not rocket science.
Q: And the relationship with your team-mate?
MW: Sensational, amazing.
Q: We have heard this before.
MW: Yeah, it’s a broken record.
Fernando ALONSO: Very good as always.
Q: As always?
Q: You have always had a good relationship with your team-mate?
Q: Working relationship or…?
Q: Lewis, would like to comment?
Lewis HAMILTON: About what?
Q: Team-mates. Previous team-mates even.
LH: I have had great team-mates and great relationships.
Q: Can you see what Damon Hill and Mark Webber have been talking about and how it could all implode with your current team-mate?
LH: No, I have been in touch with Damon and he insists he is supportive of both myself and Jenson and things have been mis-communicated, so that puts that to rest. Otherwise everything is sweet. We are here at the British Grand Prix and excited to see how the rest of the weekend goes.
Jenson BUTTON: I always love the lead-up to the British Grand Prix. It is always exciting. I wet myself when I read the quotes in the papers the other day. The great thing is, it is great that the weekend is here as we will have something good to talk about hopefully, on Formula One as a whole, as we are always looking for a story leading up to the British Grand Prix and it is all over now which is good and we can concentrate on the important bit.
Q: Can I ask all four drivers about the new circuit. Have you had a look at it? What are your feelings about it?
MW: I think when they designed it they weren’t really planning probably to have a Formula One race here, so they were looking very aggressively towards making it more towards the bikes. I think then it was a bonus they got the cars back which we are all very happy about. The work the BRDC, Damon, everyone has done I must say it’s incredible how they kept their heels in the ground and kept the event here which is great for all of us. Back to the track itself they kept all the good stuff, the sections of the circuit that the drivers like I believe. It would still be nice if we had Bridge in there and some of the other corners were nice, but you can’t have everything when you have certainly a world class category in Moto GP here. They have made an adjustment and I think it is still good for both of us. I don’t think there will be any more overtaking than it was in the past. It was always a difficult track to overtake on and I think that will still be the case but that’s the same for most circuits around the world. So overall positive. A huge amount of effort has gone in and that needs to be applauded and hopefully we can have a good race this weekend.
Q: Fernando, have you had a look at it?
FA: I did some laps with a bicycle today. Nothing really more to add to what Mark said. We love to drive here. We love high speed circuits as this one. As Mark said I think overtaking will be difficult but no more difficult than it was in the past, so here we will enjoy this weekend a lot.
Q: I believe the McLaren duo have been practicing it on Scalextric. Is that right?
JB: Yes. It is very slippery at turn one, lot of oversteer. Apart from that the circuit was pretty good and I enjoyed it.
LH: He was really quick on Scalextric, so watch out for him this weekend.
Q: He was quickest?
LH: He lapped me, almost twice. I crashed quite a lot.
Q: What are your thoughts on the new part of the circuit?
JB: I like it. It does take away from the flow of the old circuit. This is the first real massive change to the circuit that has really slowed us down. I think it will add to the circuit. I really do. It does take away from the flow but it is interesting to have some slow speed corners in there. You need mechanical grip and hopefully it will help with overtaking as this is a pretty tough track to overtake. With a couple of slow corners it might change that. It possibly could be different with the downforce level we run here because of the slow speed corners and it will work the tyres differently.
LH: I like it. I think they have done a great job. Seeing the grand prix back here is very special for us all here in the UK. As Mark was saying Damon and the FIA and everyone have done a great job getting the place sorted and fixed. It is great to see the track move in a positive direction. I grew up watching the track and seeing the history. I am used to the old circuit and it took me a while to really get used to seeing some of the new corners and when I drove on the simulator I even drove old circuit straight away and forgot we had to take these new corners. It is a little bit different turning right into Abbey instead of turning left. But I think it is positive and I hope that we are still able to put on an even better show than we have in the past. I think it should be good for the fans.
Q: Mark, presumably no after-effects after Valencia?
MW: All good, ready to go.
Q: You have got a new chassis here. Tell us about that. Also, you were quite emotional and sentimental about the old one as it has been good to you.
MW: The new chassis, a different chassis obviously, it is the only car we have that we can use, so we have to take that one which is no problem at all. It will be fine. The other car had a few pole positions, a couple of victories with it, Monaco and a few things, so it would have been nice not to finish its life like that. But it is going to be rebuilt and it will be back again shortly.
Q: Is that going to be yours in the future?
MW: I think it will be a spare car.
Q: Fernando, it seems to be a feeling in the team that you should have been a winner in the last two races. Do you think that moment has passed? Are you worried about that or do you think you can carry on on that form here in Britain as well?
FA: I think it will be more difficult here to be honest. The characteristics of the track we know are maybe not the same as Canada or Valencia with the different circuit characteristics, so we will see. I am quite optimistic for this weekend. We have had two unlucky weekends, so very soon we will arrive at a lucky weekend.
Q: Lewis, you have got a special helmet here. You have had a very busy time over the last week, so it must be good to be back being a racing driver again.
LH: It has been a busy week, same for myself and Jenson, it always is for the British Grand Prix. It’s our home grand prix, so the build-up to it has lots of work with all the partners who keep us racing. Helmet-wise I want to do something special every year at my two favourite Grands Prix which are Silverstone and Monaco. I did something a little bit different for Monaco. Last year I already had a slightly different helmet with the British flag on it and this year I have got all my family coming who are from Grenada, so I wanted to make sure that I was representing both flags, so I have got the Grenadian flag and British flag on top of the helmet and the stars down the side. I thought it was quite cool as my family roots are from the West Indies. I thought it was quite unique to do it and in the future these helmets hopefully will be quite valuable and who knows, maybe I will put them up for charity, maybe raise some money that way.
Q: Jenson, you have both got the new blown diffuser here. How important is that going to be and actually get it right and working correctly?
JB: Yeah, if you look at the cars at the last race that had new diffusers and exhaust systems, some of them seemed to get it very right, some not so right, so it obviously takes time. Without testing it is very difficult. We will see what happens. We are hoping we are going to put it on and it will be fine, but we know it will take a little bit getting used to and I am sure there is set-up work needed, so we are going to have a busy couple of days getting it right. But it is an important package and we have got belief in the team and we think it is going to be the right move, so I am looking forward to working with it.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Oliver Holt The Daily Mirror) Lewis and Jenson, if we take you at face value and say there’s no hint of animosity in your relationship, shouldn’t there be? You’re both fighting for the title, shouldn’t there be a bit of needle between you?
LH: We know you guys want it but no, we’re doing a good job, I think. We’re working very much on our acting careers and they seem to be going very well because we’re convincing all of you. He’s going to be James Bond and I’m going to be the villain in the movie, so we’re working on those roles.
JB: You know the important thing is that we work together and we do and that helps in the team. When you get on the circuit you want to beat each other, that’s exactly the way it is, but we’re not on the circuit right now, we’re here talking to you guys. I wish we were on the circuit.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Mark, sorry to come back to the subject but the images of your accident were quite impressive, mainly one, when everything looks blue on TV, the blue of the sky. You were taking off. When you saw the image of the accident, what did you think and if, tomorrow when you are behind another car it will come to your mind?
MW: It’s definitely an unusual situation for a single-seater to go into the sky like that. For sure I was concerned what might happen. It’s a freakish crash and I was a bit worried about some of the bridges. I didn’t know if there were any bridges there. I had pretty much an idea that there weren’t I was just making sure there were none of those but I couldn’t do anything about it anyway. I had the crash before here, I’ve come back from other crashes, all of us have had crashes. Fernando had a pretty good one in Brazil one year and this happens. We have mechanical failures, we have other crashes which are ones that we don’t want to have, but it’s part of the business and part of our profession. I’m not worried at all about my ability behind the wheel, going forward.
Q: (Andrew Benson BBC Sport) Fernando, this is a track that you would expect Red Bull to disappear on, just as they did in Barcelona. You’ve had a race with the new rear end already unlike the McLaren guys. Have the team had any sense from the simulations whether that will bring you closer to the Red Bulls at this sort of track?
FA: We don’t know. I think we need to wait and see. Obviously in Barcelona we were off the pace quite a lot, nearly one second, so we expect a better performance here but as you said, I think Red Bulls are clearly the favourites at the moment before free practice, but hopefully we can change this feeling tomorrow when we go in the car and hopefully we will see good grip and good performance in our car as well. But we don’t have a clear idea or clear simulation. We just need to work hard tomorrow in free practice, to set up the car right for this new circuit, also knowing the circuit well tomorrow, doing more laps than normal and hopefully arriving to Saturday with a good car.
Q: (Ivo Pakvis Jhed Media) Fernando, as a Dutchman, I really have to ask you, we would really like the World Championship on Sunday afternoon. Could we arrange that you win the race and we take the championship?
FA: I think we really are playing well now in football and Sunday will be a good opportunity for us to win the championship but this is difficult from here to do anything, so let’s try to do our job in motor sport and then hopefully enjoy what they do on TV.
Q: (Geoff Sweet The Sun) Could I ask the British boys, given that you are obviously bosom buddies, in the two weeks before the races, how much do you liaise with each other? Do you pass on tips to each other, technical knowledge, whatever? Give the man in the street an idea of how you do actually get on?
JB: We’ve actually had a pretty busy week with sponsor activities and what have you. We’ve both driven the simulator, we know what we’re doing in the simulator, set-up work and what have you. It’s very useful. I think it’s a tool that a few teams use and it’s also very useful to get used to new tracks like this, the new layout. But we’ve spent a lot of time together this week because of the PR events leading up to this race. It’s always going to be a busy race for us but the good thing is that I think we’ve kept it pretty much under control, so we’ve got time to relax and focus on the weekend.
LH: I think we’ve got an incredibly great team who help us get through our events as smoothly as possible and to be honest, the events that we do, rather than be too tiring or boring or zapping your energy, they actually make it quite fun for us. For example today we drove up in aâ€¦ what was it?
JB: A VeeDub camper van which was pretty awesome.
LH: Which was quite funny. It was funny, we drove up at fifty miles an hour from Woking, it took us forever but it was a kind of a unique experience. There’s lots of great things that our team does and as Jenson says, testing on our simulator definitely does make up for the time that we miss on the actual track.
Q: (Ya’acov Zalel Hege Magazine) Jenson, if you were following Lewis in the last race when the safety car came out, would you ask your team to do something about it as Alonso has asked when he was in this position?
JB: It’s a situation that didn’t happen, so we’re clutching at straws here to try and make a story, aren’t we? You race as a team and I’m sure that the team would clarify the situation.
Q: (Jon McEvoy The Daily Mail) Fernando, you drove with Lewis for a year. What’s your reading of the way the British boys get on?
FA: Very good, I think.
Q: (Jon McEvoy The Daily Mail) A bit better than in your day?
Q: (Carlos Miquel Diario AS) Fernando and Lewis, we know this week that you are very good friends on SMS. Did you make that communication for a year, something like that? And the second question is to Fernando whether he thinks that Hamilton manoeuvred intentionally behind the safety car?
FA: Well, I think Valencia is in the past, so let’s concentrate on the future, as I said before. We have arrived here after two unlucky races for us, we didn’t win the points we wanted, so we knew what we have to do: (score) thirty points more than our main competitors in the second part of the season. I think we can do it after what happened to us in the first part of the season with all the problems we faced, I think we can do a better job in the second half, so hopefully it’s enough to be in the fight for the championship, hopefully. That’s all. As for SMS, I think we all send SMSs to people, so a normal thing.
LH: I think he answered it pretty good.
Q: (Sarah Holt BBC Sport) Fernando, your answer there reminds me that we’ve got four of the five race winners up here now, so maybe you could all answer how important it is this weekend to do well, ahead of the second half of the season as we’re at the halfway point and you’ve all had different experiences so far?
FA: I think it’s important; not only here, the next couple of races are important. We have three races in four weeks now, there are 75 points to play for now in July, so it’s important to score more than the others in these next three races.
MW: We know it’s changing event by event. The new points’ system is pretty interesting in that sense. Fernando had a few problems with the safety car in the last race, Lewis had a drive-through, still got second. Jenson didn’t qualify well, had a good race. I crashed, Seb had a perfect weekend, and it’s up and down like this until the end of the year. We know whoever has the best weekends consistently, all the way to Abu Dhabi, is going to be the guy who will be in the best shape. There’s going to be some more tears before the year’s out in terms of some reliability, some mistakes, some pit stops, that’s Grand Prix racing, and that’s why we’re all here and that’s why we all watch it, so looking forward to it. There are some great opportunities in the future, clearly, for all of us to do well.
JB: I agree with everything. The only thing I would say is that with the new points’ system, I think it works pretty well, I think that it’s not just going to be about consistency for the rest of the season. We do have to win races, that’s the same for all of us. If any of us are going to challenge for the championship with the difference in points from first to second now, it is key to win races. We’re all pushing very hard, I’m sure, we can all talk about the improvements that we’ve got coming to our cars but until we see them on the circuit we really don’t know where any of us stand. It’s an exciting time for Formula One, I think. We’ve had many different winners and we’ve had some great fights this year and long may it continue because it’s a great year for Formula One and we shouldn’t forget that.
LH: Yeah, I think they’ve pretty much said everything.
Q: (Alan Baldwin Reuters) Fernando, after Valencia, the FIA said that the Formula One Commission was going to look at the safety car regulations. I was wondering if you’d heard any more about that and whether you were going to raise it with Charlie (Whiting) in the drivers’ briefing, about what should be done?
FA: No, I don’t have any more information. I know that there was a meeting yesterday. We have our meeting now with the engineers, some with the team at 5.30 today, so maybe I will know something more, but no information at the moment.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Fernando, just going back to Valencia, you were obviously very angry and outspoken afterwards about the events that happened. Is it difficult to try and keep your cool in such circumstances? And in the future, should such an incident occur again, do you think you might adopt a cooler approach?
FA: As I said last week – I said everything I think on the website and in the days after the race in much calmer conditions. As I’ve said now, also, Valencia is in the past. We know what we have to do, we’ve been unlucky in the last two races, so we seek to change this situation in the next half of the season.
Q: (Andrew Benson BBC Sport) Mark, I understand that there’s some high kerbs at four or five corners around the track that are causing some concern among the drivers. Could you tell us about that please?
MW: Yeah, you’re right. I think at Becketts there are a few larger sections behind the main kerbing, if you like, which the drivers are certainly not a fan of. We don’t feel the necessity to have this type of kerbing in high speed corners because the main aim of that kerbing is to keep us inside the circuit, for example, like Monza and Canada, all those types ofâ€¦ NÃ¼rburgring last chicane, Barcelona last chicane. So to have them in fifth and sixth gear corners isn’t particularly necessary, so hopefully the guys can have a look at that tonight. We’ve seen here many cars in the past aquaplaning across Maggotts and Becketts out of control. I think Montoya had a pretty decent suspension failure here a few years ago across there, so it’s best that the cars go across a smoothish surface within reason and we don’t need to add any largish bumps to have a car potentially projected… it doesn’t matter what, front, sideways or rearwards, you could then be at head height for a driver that’s on the apex. I think low speed corners are fine, but it’s just the fast stuff that we feel is a bit unnecessary. I don’t imagine that the bike guys are particularly I think they’re really for touring cars and maybe some other saloon racing here at this track. But I don’t imagine that the bike guys would be particularly too keen to roll over them either.