As Formula One revs up for its Blue Riband events, Sebastien Buemi, Jenson Button, Timo Glock, Roberg Kubica and Felipa Massa all faced the world’s media in the weekend’s opening press conference.
DRIVERS: Sebastien BUEMI (Toro Rosso), Jenson BUTTON (McLaren), Timo GLOCK (Virgin), Robert KUBICA (Renault), Felipe MASSA (Ferrari)
Q: A question to you all. Just look back at last weekend and look ahead to this weekend. What do you think of this circuit? What are your chances? Sebastien, perhaps we can start with you.
Sebastien BUEMI: Barcelona was a new start to the season with all the new updates. I think we didn’t do too bad considering we are a small team, so I am expecting to have a good car here in Monaco. We were quite competitive last year and we have some new bits coming for here, so it should not be too bad. We should be near Q3, 10th space, 11th space, so that will be our objective and to score points.
Q: You have had a lot of bad luck so far this year. How can you get rid of that as this is not the best place to get rid of bad luck is it?
SB: Exactly. It has been a very difficult start to the season for me with all the incidents and we had a lot of technical problems, so I am hoping to have a clean weekend. That is most important. I am pretty sure we can do it as my team-mate seemed to have a consistent car until the end of the race, so I am hoping to have the same for this race but we will see.
Q: Do you think you made a jump forward with the updates from last weekend?
SB: I think we stayed more or less where we were. Our updates seemed to be working a bit better than expected as we seem to be ahead of Williams and near to Force India at the same level, so this is good for us. Now we need to see on this circuit how it reacts but I think we have a decent car for this kind of circuit.
Q: Robert, your thoughts of last weekend and this coming weekend?
Robert KUBICA: Barcelona on our side was a good weekend for us performance wise. We were a bit surprised about our performance in qualifying. We did not bring a big upgrade to Barcelona, so we were expecting to maybe lose some ground. Actually we did lose some ground to Red Bull but to the others cars like Ferrari, McLaren or Mercedes we were quite close, so good performance. But, unfortunately, not so good first lap and then all race with a damaged front wing, so it was not easy but I managed to finish eighth. We know Barcelona is very difficult for overtaking, so it has been quite a tough race, but anyway quite a good weekend. For here, Monaco is quite a different grand prix to what we have raced this year, so it will be interesting to see how our car will be performing here. Unfortunately, from our side, we don’t have a specific downforce level for here. Normally from the past I was used to having some different wings with more downforce. Drag and efficiency is not so important here in Monaco, but we will be using practically the same wings as all year, so we will have to see if our downforce level is good for here.
Q: But you like kart tracks and this is like a big kart track, isn’t it?
RK: I like street circuits. I used to always make quite good results here and overall on street circuits, so I enjoy driving and I am looking forward to that.
Q: You are in a new team. How is the relationship going? Do you feel you are building the team around you?
RK: So far so good. When you are joining a new team or when you are working you try to create a good atmosphere with the engineers, the mechanics in the workshop and on the race track, so I think it is normal you are trying to do the best atmosphere you can to work well. Especially when you have problems then it helps when you have a good relationship and respect with each other. This is what we are doing, so from this point of view there is nothing we can improve. All is going quite well.
Q: Timo, tell us about last weekend, this weekend?
Timo GLOCK: Last weekend was good for the whole team to bring both cars through the race without problems. I was quite happy that at least the changes we made worked out. For here I think it will be a difficult one for us. The track will be quite hard for our car. We struggle a bit especially in low and medium speed corners with general downforce, so it will be a bit of a struggle. But we will work as hard as possible and be close again to Lotus. We had a good pace in the race in Barcelona against Lotus. We struggled a bit in qualifying. That is our target to be closer to them again.
Q: Is it going to be really difficult with 24 cars out on the circuit, particularly in qualifying?
TG: Yeah, qualifying will be difficult. For us we have to find a way to get two runs in with a clean lap. But the race is another point. We had a lot of blue flags coming up in Barcelona and Barcelona is a really easy track to have a look at your mirrors and see and judge where the others are. That will be a bit more challenging here. But the team is doing a really good job on that and try to inform me as much as possible. We will see how we get around it.
Q: One of the new drivers said he had 15 laps without blue flags last weekend out of 66. That has got to be so difficult?
TG: Yeah, definitely. I think my stint was only until the first pit stop without any blue flags. Then I came out of the pits and it started to be from that lap on to the end with blue flags and here it will be really difficult.
Q: Jenson, last weekend, this weekend?´
Jenson BUTTON: Last weekend was a bit frustrating. The pace of the car in qualifying wasn’t where we hoped it would be. The Red Bulls had a big gap at the front. I think it was almost one second, so that was disappointing but in the race the cars seemed to be working well. The pace of the car was pretty good. I wasn’t able to unlock that for most of the race as I was stuck behind Michael (Schumacher). But it was a pretty tricky race for me as I lost my dash I think on lap three, so I had no lights or anything. You learn where to shift but when you are in tow some lap and not others you are hitting the limiter a lot, so it was pretty tricky. Also on my pit stop I came in in second gear instead of first and I had no lights or anything for the launch, so it wasn’t the best situation. I think we dealt with it pretty well and got some good points but there were a lot more points out there for us. I think the pace of the car was good and if we had got everything right it would have been much better. But I still came away from there with 10 points, so not too bad but looking forward to this weekend and really put it right and have a good race here and get the best out of the car. It is a very unique race Monaco. I don’t think and I hope Red Bull don’t have the advantage they had in Barcelona. If it is dry I think we can have a good race here. We won’t really know until tomorrow if the car is performing well here but there is no reason it won’t be. McLaren have a very good record here and if it is wet it will throw it up in the air. It will be pretty crazy for all of us. But it is a race we all look forward to. It is unique and to get a good result here means a lot.
Q: Two things about last year. First of all you parked in the wrong place having just won the race and also you said at the press conference after the race that you tried to downplay in your mind the importance of what a fantastic race it would be to win and of course you went on to win it. How do you treat it this year?
JB: It is a little bit different as I won the race last year. You come into this race a lot more relaxed and I am really looking forward to it. I am excited about the challenge. I would prefer if it was dry this weekend. It is an exciting race in the dry and is exciting enough. If it is wet it is going to be pretty crazy for us out there especially with so many cars. In qualifying with 24 cars out there it will be pretty mad in the dry, but in the wet pretty impossible to get a clear lap. But I am excited about the weekend. It is a fun weekend and for Formula One it is the most glamorous weekend we have on the calendar. For us we are heads down and doing our work but for the people and the fans of Formula One it is a lot of fun and we will hopefully put on a good show.
Q: Felipe, last weekend, this weekend?
Felipe MASSA: Last weekend was not really great for me, especially in qualifying, looking at the difference. Red Bull was in front of most of the other teams. I was struggling a lot to find the good grip level on the tyres and in the race, starting ninth and finishing sixth was not so bad. I did a good start and then the race was quite boring as Jenson said. Difficult to overtake, almost impossible, and struggling a lot with the grip level as well. I did most of the race behind them and I just had no grip to try anything. It was not a very nice race to do, so I hope we can do a better job this weekend and also the different tyres which on our car were working quite well in Bahrain. We will see how it is going to be. Also, Monaco is always Monaco but I hope we can do a better job here.
Q: And the driver can make the difference here as well?
FM: Yeah. It is always a difficult track and you can lose time very easily in whatever corner you go here, so the driver is always important to do a little bit better on some of the little details. We will see how the weather is going to be as if it is raining here it is always a lottery but I am looking forwards to doing a good job here.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Sarah Holt BBC Sport) Jenson and Felipe and anyone else if they would like to comment. Do you think the Red Bulls will be as far ahead as they were in Barcelona here or do you think that the different nature of this track means there is an opportunity to close the gap a little bit?
JB: It is a very difficult question to answer as we haven’t been around the circuit and we haven’t done a single lap yet. But if you look at every race this season the Red Bulls have qualified on pole whatever the conditions and whatever the type of circuit. They are going to be quick but I am hoping the gap is not quite what it was in Barcelona. If they get it a little bit wrong in qualifying there might be another team that can fight them for the pole which is exciting. I don’t think we expected that after Friday in Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix. But here I think it will be a bit more mixed up and I hope so as they were quite a bit in front in qualifying in Barcelona. But this is a very different circuit to Barcelona, a lot of very low speed corners here and you need good mechanical grip and I think we are all doing our best to make sure it is an exciting race for ourselves and for you guys. We don’t want the Red Bulls walking off with it into the distance.
FM: Red Bull has always been the best car in qualifying this season. I think they have a very good car which works very well on new tyres in qualifying. In many races we have seen them very strong in qualifying but then their race pace was a little bit different than how it was in qualifying. Maybe they can again be very strong in qualifying, but we need to try to be closer, or even better would be to be in front, because I think the races are always a little different. Qualifying is very important as Red Bull have shown. Until now, they have been the best in qualifying, so it’s something that we need to understand, how to prepare the best for one timed lap, or even two timed laps, depending on Q1, Q2 or Q3.
Q: (Andrew Frankl Forza) To Jenson and Felipe, the FIA is trying to promote safe driving. How can you promote safe driving if some of you guys are doing 190 mph with one hand on the steering wheel?
RK: Good question.
JB: Always a great question to try and answer. We’re in a controlled environment, this is very different from driving on the road. We are professionals, this is what we’ve grown up doing and we are supposed to be the best in the world at what we do. I think it’s wrong to compare it to driving on the road. I think the way that we drive on the road is very different to the way we work on the circuit and the way that we drive on the circuit. I’m a little bit surprised that you try to make out that they are the same.
Q: (Andrew Frankl Forza) As an example to millions of young people, who are trying to imitate what you are doing and I just think it’s a bad example. I’m not suggesting that you are the guilty party. I’m just asking.
JB: I think youngsters are probably more intelligent than you’re letting on. I think that they understand that driving on the road is very different than driving in a racing car. It hasn’t changed for the last 50 years. There have been professionals in motor sport and there have been kids growing up and driving on the roads. That’s not changed. I think kids these days understand the difference between what we do and also driving on the M25 around London, for example.
Q: (Bob McKenzie The Daily Express) There was a suggestion that they might split qualifying but that seems to have been shot down. Wouldn’t you have preferred to have the top teams running in a separate qualifying and the slow backmarkers on their own, because you are going to get held up?
FM: When you are qualifying and you cannot do your lap it’s always not nice. Here it is the worst track for that. I think we’ve done a good job until now in qualifying: Q1, Q2 and Q3 but here will be a big problem, I think, especially in Q1. It would be nice to have a little bit different qualifying. At least you can make it more real, to give the possibility for every driver to do his best. I think to find a free lap here will not be easy. But anyway, the decision has been made and so we need to try to do our best.
TG: The point is that we all signed up for that and the situation is as it is and we can’t change it. The point is that in GP2 they have 24 or 26 cars and they manage it as well. It’s difficult. I had the same situation in 2007 when I never found a clear lap but that’s Monaco. Monaco is different and we all have to manage it.
JB: There’s obviously a bigger time difference between the cars in F1 than in GP2 but it’s going to be tricky for all of us. Normally, if you’re on a flying lap and you find traffic you want to back out of it and try and find space for the next lap but I think we’ve got to just keep hammering it around. I don’t think we can back off. We’ve got to just try and stay on it, because that might be the quickest lap we do. I think it’s going to be pretty tricky in Q1 but we’ll cope, I’m sure. A few of us will be angry at the end of Q1 and not happy but we’ve all got to deal with the same situation.
Q: (Bob McKenzie The Daily Express) Did you not vote for it to happen?
JB: It’s not down to us, it was down to the teams to make a decision, wasn’t it?
Q: (Joris Fioriti AFP) Jenson, are you happy with the Red Bulls’ lack of reliability this year because otherwise they would be in the same situation that you were in with the best car in many ways last year?
JB: Yeah. At the last race they had a second advantage over pretty much anyone. I don’t think we’ve seen that in Formula One for many years. So yeah, they do have a good advantage in qualifying and they’re also quite fast in the race. F1 is never straightforward and obviously they’ve had their issues and haven’t been able to come away with five victories out of five, which is great for us because at the moment we’re all playing a little bit of catch-up when it comes to qualifying pace anyway. We’re all working hard to catch them. So yes, we are in a good position and maybe they haven’t made the best out of some of the situations they’ve found themselves in.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Question to Kubica: the car here is a little less important than on other tracks and you like to drive on street circuits. What do you predict for yourself this weekend?
RK: The car is still very important. I finished second in 2008 and I was starting second last in 2009, so it shows that the car is still important, and that’s why it’s very, very difficult to predict. There are two options: either our car will be very good or our car will not be so good. Of course we are trying hard to improve the car and we hope that Monaco will be a good track for us.
Q: (Joris Fioriti AFP) Sebastian, when do you think your bad luck is going to end?
SB: I hope this weekend. Obviously it’s not all through bad luck, but we try to fix our problems and to understand why they happen, so I hope it will be fine for this weekend.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, Ferrari won’t be using the F-duct here and you didn’t seem to be very happy about it last weekend. How will the situation be in the future? Is it possible that Fernando can use it and you not, for example, in Turkey and other races?
FM: No, because we’re not using it for a reason. It depends on the track when we use it and it depends on the track when we don’t use it. We always prepare the best for every track we go to, so if we don’t have the F-duct on this track it’s because it’s better without it. But for sure we’re going to use it in other races.
Q: (Carlos Miquel Diario AS) Question for all of you: how proud are you to compete in Formula One? Tomorrow is Formula One’s birthday. When you see Formula One’s history, are you proud to be in this competition?
JB: Yeah, this is where we wanted to be years ago, well, for me anyway. I’m 30 now, getting on, but when I was eight years old I used to watch racing between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna when they were both at McLaren. I was very passionate about racing then. My dream was obviously to be in Formula One and to fight against the best drivers in the world. It’s a real privilege to be racing against the best drivers in the world and also to be in one of the most successful teams in the world. Yes, I’ve been in it for ten years now. This is my eleventh year in Formula One, so to be here for so long does mean a lot to me.
FM: Yeah, it’s the same. I think Formula One is a dream for every driver. To become a Formula One driver means you are at the top of motor sport. You are doing what you always dreamed of, especially when you get to Formula One and then you have the possibility to improve and to grow inside the category, to go to good teams. We are doing what we love to do. We have a great life. When you’re working in an area which you love, I think you do so with a lot of pleasure and passion. That’s why time goes by too quickly, because we’re doing what we like to do. It’s really a big pleasure for all of us.
SB: I think Felipe and Jenson summed it up quite well. Maybe ten years ago when I was driving in karting I was just dreaming of one day being in Formula One and now I’m there, it’s my second season, so for sure, you do what you love to do, so you just try to do your best and I hope it’s going to continue like that for many years and for sure, you are so proud because you can fight against the best people and against the best teams. You’re part of it and you just want to grow inside it and have good success.
RK: Same. There’s not a lot to add.
TG: As everyone already said, when you start in go-karting you just look up to Formula One and you have your heroes. Jenson has been here for ten years. It’s my third year and I was watching him sometimes on TV. It’s great to be in Formula One and to achieve that target as a driver, just a big pleasure to be here and fight against all the top guys.
Q: (Marco Evangelisti Corriere dello Sport) Felipe, how much did the car efficiency let you down in the five races so far? Did you expect, at the beginning of the season, to have a better car or did you expect a little bit more from yourself in terms of fitting to the F10?
FM: All during the winter tests I was 110 percent happy with the car and then we went to the first race and the car was great, everything was working perfectly as I wanted and then when we changed the tyres I was always struggling a little bit more to get used to the car, to get used to the grip level, so that was the biggest problem, the biggest issue that I felt in the last races. There are some issues that I felt this year but I’m working very hard and I’m going to solve the problem. We know it’s an issue that has cost me a few points in the last races, but it’s something that I know I’m going to solve.
Q: (Anne Giuntini L’Equipe) Felipe, why, precisely, were you not happy with the F-duct? Was it the way you have to use it which is not comfortable, or is it in its own efficiency?
FM: I never said I was not happy with the F-duct.
Q: (Anne Giuntini L’Equipe) It’s just the previous remark, it’s not the question that you’re not unhappy with it.
FM: As I said, I had some races where I was struggling with the grip level of the car and we didn’t have the F-duct, so it’s not really with the F-duct that I have a problem.
Q: (Sarah Holt BBC Sport) Felipe, it’s a similar question really. After Barcelona, Stefano said the guys back at the factory were going to look into some potential problems with your car because you hadn’t felt comfortable with that. Have they found anything that might improve things for this weekend?
FM: Yeah, we have so many ideas, looking around Barcelona, so let’s try to use these ideas to see if they’re going to work but for sure we have a group inside the factory and myself as well working very hard to solve all the problems I had.