Thursday Press Conference, Attended By:
Fernando ALONSO (MCLAREN MERCEDES), Rubens BARRICHELLO (HONDA), Vitantonio LIUZZI (TORO ROSSO), Felipe MASSA (FERRARI), Pedro de la ROSA (MCLAREN MERCEDES)
Q: What are your feelings about the changes to the circuit? Is it better for racing, is it better for you drivers?
Vitantonio LIUZZI: It will give more chances for overtaking in the race because we go from a slow corner before the beginning of the straight and I think it might help to make a better spectacle and more fun in the race. Before, for sure, it was more demanding with two high speed corners which was maybe nicer from the drivers point of view, but it s much better now from a racing point of view.
Rubens BARRICHELLO: I agree with Tonio. I think it might be the case that the racing is better except that we lost two corners that were very challenging and good and if we look back, we ve lost so many circuits by doing that, so obviously, if you have the space I would rather have a bit more room for going off or something, but still have those corners that we had. It was the same case in Hockenheim, for example. It was just lovely to be there but we had to improve safety and then we cut the track short. I don t want to see that happening too often, but in the way that is safer now and probably a little bit better for overtaking, I think we have to agree.
Fernando ALONSO: Yeah, same thing. I think the last corners were very nice, so we will miss them, for sure. I think the overtaking will be exactly the same this year as last year. If you had a quicker car last year, you could exit from the last corner quick enough to overtake people, and now, if you have a quick car, you can follow maybe someone in the chicane. If the cars are very close together, as we found in the test, fighting with someone, it was impossible to follow anyone in the chicane, so I think the chicane was not made for overtaking reasons. I think it s more for safety issues, so as far as whether it s safer now than before, I m happy to run with the new chicane. That s the important thing.
Q: Can you follow through the final corner?
FA: The final corner? Yes, but it s not a corner. For us, the straight starts exiting from the chicane because the last corner isn t a corner any longer.
Q: Somebody said you re only about 10km/h slower through the final corner.
FA: I don t know. Maybe.
Felipe MASSA: From the driving point of view, it s worse, for sure. It s a new bit of Monte Carlo on the nice Barcelona track, but from the show side of things, it maybe can be a little bit better for overtaking, because it was just impossible to follow another car before because it was not flat, so it was a difficult corner. Now it s easily flat, so now it s a little bit easier to follow the car in front, even without losing speed, so for the show it can beâ€¦it s always difficult to overtake in Formula One, but it could be a little bit easier.
Pedro de la ROSA: I think that first of all it s safer, that s something that all the drivers were looking forward to, and secondly I find it allows you to get closer to the guy in front in the last corner which is easily taken flat. Before it was not flat, you were keeping momentum. Now it s acceleration, so it s different. It gives us a slightly higher percentage chance of overtaking to turn one, so overall, I m pretty happy with it. I like the chicane, actually, the kerbs etc. add some variety to the track as well.
Q: Rubens, you obviously had some problems in the first three races; had those problems been cured when you came here for the test?
RB: No. I think the car is better than ever. Obviously the test and the effort that the team is making with the car had to result in some changes, so I think the car is a little bit better, but everyone improved, so we have to put the car on the track and see what it does. But although we know where the problem is, it s been very difficult to address, even though the team has been working 24 hours a day, flat out, and I think it will be some time before we can sort out the problems, but we have some upgrades such as this one and then we re going to have another for Montreal and then again in France and hopefully by then we will have a competitive car.
Q: How desperate is the team becoming? And how desperate are the drivers becoming?
RB: Well, I don t think it s desperation, it s the fact that we need to work together. It doesn t matter if I get out of the car and say this car is bad. They already know what the car is. We have to be very specific about the problems and to translate that to the engineers and those people who work on the aerodynamics of the car. Being very specific will make the car better, so now that the wind tunnel is working well and so on, we can see that the things that are happening on the track are happening in the tunnel as well, which wasn t the case before, so now we are tracking the problem much better.
Q: So was the basic problem a wrongly calibrated wind tunnel?
RB: No, no, but I think the tunnel is too new for us anyway. We are discovering that. I m not saying it was wrongly calibrated, I think we had to have a better understanding of what it was giving us but right now it s giving us support, so that s why I can say that I am confident that we can sort out the problem.
Q: Tonio, what about the changes to your car in the test and what sort of a difference do you think it s going to make here?
TL: For sure we had some updates in the car, quite a lot, I have to say, but for sure, all the other teams will have improved as much as ours, so I don t know and I don t think it will make a big difference in races. We are not where we expected to be anyway at the beginning. We are always explaining the fact that we didn t test at the beginning of the season. We had a month less than anybody else in testing, and we are still paying for that. We thought it would have been easier to catch up but now we have had quite a few bits. We are still waiting for the big one to come, and hopefully by Canada it will be time to make a big step forward. We are positive because now, with the new technical director and the entire new group, we are growing quicker, let s say, and we are positive, but for sure we are optimistic for this race, but I think the big change for us will come in a couple of a races.
Q: People are talking about you perhaps moving up to Red Bull Racing; is that something you feel ready for, to move up to what might be termed the senior team within Red Bull?
TL: Inside the Red Bull world, we don t see a team one or a team two. I m happy to work with Toro Rosso because it s a totally Italian group. For sure, this year we ve had this disadvantage of no testing and we started with this big handicap. I felt ready to have a strong season when the team was ready to have a good car, but now we are both struggling and we are having good times and bad times and at the moment we are struggling. But regarding the step into Red Bull, I don t know if it will happen. I m happy to be with Toro Rosso and I m anyway happy to be in the Red Bull world because they have supported me for many years and I want to give back the help that they ve given me in the past.
Q: Pedro, you ve been with McLaren a few years so you re a good person to judge the atmosphere within the team this year, how much it s changed, two completely new drivers within the team and some great success; how have things changed?
PdlR: Well, everything is quite different this year, starting obviously with the drivers. I think that Fernando s arrival at the team has brought great leadership and that translates into people obviously being extremely motivated and him also giving the team very good direction, where we have to go. And then, on the other hand, Lewis just brings youth and he works very hard. He s always pushing. Lewis has actually been with the team for a long time. Since I ve been with the team, I ve always seen him. We ve been working together for a few years now, so I feel like Fernando is newer to the team than Lewis is, but they both bring very good things and at the end of the day, it s how you can get all the people, those here and back at the factory, to give 110 percent, and thanks to Fernando we have achieved that.
Q: When you talked about this circuit, you said that if a car works well here, it should work well everywhere. Could you expand on that?
PdlR: Absolutely, l think Barcelona is a great test track, that s why we like to test here so much because it s very demanding on the aerodynamic side of the car, but also on the engine, so if your car works well here, you can say that it s a very complete race car and it will be very very quick everywhere. So that s why we like to test here so much, and that s why we are looking forward to this weekend.
Q: Felipe, last weekend you were awarded the Trofeo Bandini; what did that mean to you?
FM: It was very nice. It was nice to see how many important drivers had been awarded this trophy, and for me, it was really nice to be one of them and receive this very nice and important trophy, so I was very happy about that. It gives us even more motivation to receive some good trophies sometimes. It s really good to keep pushing hard and trying to keep improving and work even harder.
Q: Do you think the test here proved that you are still managing to keep the same distance ahead of the competition?
FM: Well, for sure we re working very hard, but it s a little bit difficult to have a 100 percent good idea as to what everybody is doing but it s also quite important to show speed, to show improvement and I think we made a step forward so we re quite happy and we will keep working harder to keep improving the car. For sure McLaren was very very competitive in the last races. We expected they would be competitive anyway, so that s why we have kept working hard.
Q: Fernando, do you think you ve made a big enough jump forward to be competitive with Ferrari?
FA: I don t think we know. Nobody knows at the moment. Tomorrow again won t be the perfect day to see because on Fridays we are always a little bit confused, the results are a bit confused so I think we need to wait and see until Saturday afternoon after qualifying especially in Q1 and Q2 when everybody is on low fuel. In my opinion, we won t see how quick our car is compared to the Ferrari until that moment. As Pedro has said, we ve worked hard, we ve improved the car, but everybody did the same, so now it s the time to see which of the teams has improved the car a little bit more than the others.
Q: Looking back at the Bahrain Grand Prix, do you just write that off as being not a very good weekend, and move forward, or was there something you felt you had to solve?
FA: I think I will try to forget it. It was a bad weekend, a bad race. These things happen, unfortunately, normally one or two a year, when you never get the perfect balance in the car, you never get the confidence in the car and you lose a few points but this normally happens to everybody, sometime in the season s 17 races. It will happen to everybody. I tried to score as many points as I could and I m leading the championship.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dominic FugÃ¨re Le Journal de MontrÃ©al) Skipping ahead a little bit, you ll be in Montreal in two races and it will be the first race there without Michael Schumacher who has dominated there for six years out of ten, and without Jacques Villeneuve who was one of the big reasons for F1 s popularity. I m just wondering how you feel about that race and how different it will be this year?
RB: Everyone loves to go to Montreal and I think that love of going there, because the city is nice and the track is good for overtaking, transforms to the public. The public is always very good in receiving us and so I think people will mostly feel for Jacques not being there. For Michael, they already got used to the situation by watching the race on TV, so they re expecting him not to be there and that s it, but I think the race will run with good expectations.
PdlR: I think that everyone will miss Jacques in Montreal as we have been missing him for the past year and that will translate in people, just missing him. I m missing him, I thought he brought a lot of things to Formula One: a great character, a great person, different in many things to all of us and I thought that was unique. I ve always regarded him as a very very strong personality but he will be back somehow, for sure.
FM: Well, first of all I was Jacques s team-mate and I saw how important he was to Canada, to Montreal and also to Formula One, so it was very nice to see the crowd, all the people there, most of them wearing his cap and really supporting him a lot, which already came from his father who was a legend. Also, we remember that it was just 25 years that his father passed away. Anyway, I think it will be a very important race, very nice to remember Jacques, his father and I think that s the important key to the race as well. Michael, for sure, drove some fantastic races there but I think people are really really crazy for the Villeneuve family. It will be nice to go there, and for sure I will meet Jacques again.
FA: Same as everybody. I think people will miss Jacques more than Michael, no doubt. It is Jacques s home Grand Prix and we saw a lot of people supporting him every year, great people there, enthusiastic about Formula One and about the Villeneuves, so I think that will be the big loss this year when we arrive there. But we will see many people supporting him anyway, even if he s not racing, he will maybe be there watching and people will be there for him as well.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, you are coming here as the leader of the championship with a new car. Is the pressure different from last year?
FA: No, it is the same. It is the third consecutive year that I come to Spain leading the championship, so for me it is something very special, but it is the same as the previous years. It is normally fourth or fifth of the championship so it is difficult to get too much stress or nervous about the race because we are only at the beginning of the championship so this race is more for fun that the last four or five when you are more tense.
Q: (Jon McEvoy The Daily Mail) Fernando, Ron Dennis said that he had a word with you before Bahrain and put his arm around you because you may have felt resentment at the spotlight falling on Lewis, and not you. How do you feel about that?
FA: Well, I had no conversation with Ron, so that is not true and I feel very good. We have a fantastic relationship between all three drivers, Pedro, Lewis and me, and we try to help the team as much as we can and we did a good start with five podiums, six possible podiums, in three races for the two cars, and thanks to that we are leading in both championships, drivers and constructors. I think that is the mentality of the team and the atmosphere we need to keep if we want to win. We will see, we have done only three races, but for sure it is good to have competition in the team as I have had in the last three or four years in the first few races.
Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Fernando, are you at the point now when you feel you can extract the full potential from the car?
FA: I don t know. It is difficult to say, probably, after one or two races I was thinking that I understand the tyres now more or less and the car, I can drive with much more comfort, that I know what I am doing, and then we arrived here in the last week to the test and I learned so many things again about the tyres, the long runs, everything, first lap performance. So there is no doubt I keep learning about the new car and the reactions of the car and the tyres and it will take more time to be 100 per cent confident and comfortable in the car, but I think all the drivers are the same. Everyday in the car we learn more things. Testing and racing are also for that, not only for the engineers point of view to keep developing the car, but also for the drivers to keep learning new things about our car.
Q: Is that the case, Felipe, do you feel the same?
FM: For sure. Everything is changing so quickly in Formula One so drivers need to adapt as quickly as possible to the new changes, rules, to the new everything! So, for sure it is the same for everybody. Even if I was using Bridgestone last year, the tyres are so different now compared to last year you have to adapt quickly. It is the same for every driver.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) A question for all drivers one month without a race, is that good?
RB: It is a bit too much. I start to drive a bit too quick on the roads so I miss the speed.
VL: Definitely, too much, especially because we have just one testing in between since February. I would prefer to have it every week.
PdlR: I am not racing so it doesn t make a big difference to me, but I have worked hard these past months, so I prefer it when we have some races.
FM: It is a bit too much, but fortunately we did some tests in between and that helps a little bit. It was good to have a little bit of a break.
FA: Same thing. Nice to have a holiday, but also good to race.
Q: (Carole Capitaine L Equipe) Fernando, Spain your home grand prix, can you explain how you have not only a new car but new colours, but not blue and yellow?
FA: We will see a lot of blue and yellow anyway in the grandstands, I guess, I heard some people are coming and they will be blue and yellow and so the grandstands will not change so much from the last couple of years. My feeling is always the same for me and I always feel very motivated and I feel a lot of people behind me try to support me and enjoy the race as well as, at the end of the day, they try to enjoy the whole weekend. They arrive on Friday, they sleep somewhere and on Saturday they don t sleep at all and on Sunday they see the race and then some of them sleep and you know it is a big show and a big party for everybody and that is the most important thing that people enjoy the race and for me it is very special. There is only one of these feelings per year and it is always here in Barcelona, so I am happy to race here.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) We are going to have another Spanish race next year with Valencia for the next seven years and it is going to close the championship. It is going to be a city track. What are your feelings?
FA: For me, it is not going to be a big difference. We have 17, 18 or 19 races in the calendar, or whatever, and we go always to every country and we are happy to race in any place. Now we have two Grands Prix in Spain and for me it will be okay and I twill be nice to see how it develops in Spain the last four or five years as before we didn t even have television coverage four years ago and now we are going to have two Grands Prix in the country, so it is very special. So I am happy for the motor sport in Spain but for us it is not a big change to take the plane to Valencia or take the plane to Italy..
Q: (Heinz PrÃ¼ller Kronen Zeitung) Fernando, may I ask you which was the first Spanish Grand Prix that you saw live and the first you saw on television?
FA: Live, never. I never came to a circuit. And TV, none. None of the Spanish Grands Prix.
Q: (Miguel Angel Santos Diario AS) A question for Fernando, in terms of lap times, who is faster Lewis Hamilton or Pedro de la Rosa?
FA: I don t know. I will do a comparison next time and take the watch to the track. I don t know. It is very difficult to see and very difficult to compare this. Any of us if we take the same car and we go out for one timed lap, maybe you do a better time but the other one may have more or less wind on the straight and even with the same set-up the Formula One cars can change so much. It is impossible to do it but for sure Pedro is very quick and Lewis as well.
Q: (Toni Lopez La Vanguardia) For Pedro and Fernando, do you prefer to race on a real circuit or on a street circuit?
FA: I don t know. The direction that Formula One is trying to go in the last couple of years is to improve safety (we have changed the last couple of corners in Barcelona) and to slow down the cars and now to have a race on the streets when we have a circuit only 20 or 30 kilometres away in Valencia, that is a little bit difficult to understand, what the Formula One bosses want, but for us so far as it is safe and they put in what is required to make it safe we will race anywhere.
PdlR: Absolutely, for me it is the same. We are extremely happy to go there. Two is better than one and three is better than two. The most Grands Prix we have in Spain we must be proud of it. We are all the drivers asking for safety first, ahead of your nationality. We want to be sure we will be as safe as Barcelona, for example.
Q: (Tatiana Cunha Folha de Sao Paulo) Felipe, would you say the championship starts now for you and forget the first three races?
FM: You cannot say that because it started already in Australia. For sure, it is different now. The first two races were not what I expected but the third was fantastic. We cannot say the championship starts now, but we will work hard to try and repeat what happened in the last race or be consistent on the podium. That is the most important thing.
Q: (Peter Windsor – F1 Racing) Pedro, it looks as if Williams were victims of the new test regulations. Does that sound alarm bells? Do you have spare cars now for testing in the future?
PdlR: Well, nowadays, I think you go testing it is very different from last year. The fact that you have only one car means you have to maximise the running time and you cannot compare data to a second car. You can only compare yourself to yourself with limited new tyres. It means we are trying to maximise the running time. Other teams, like Williams, for example, lost a car in testing makes it a huge setback for everyone so you definitely not only have to maximise your running time, but also do very good quality testing and don t get lost. You could have spare parts as long as you have only one car running, but I don t think Williams had that and that is why they packed up.
Q: (Peter Windsor – F1 Racing) So you guys have a spare car when you go testing?
PdlR: Normally, yes. Obviously in some exceptional conditions, we don t have (one). We don t have one standing next to the other one. Let me make that clear. The team manager is the best-prepared person to answer this question, but we have a maximum amount of spare parts in the truck, but we don t have a second car waiting there. We only have one running car with some spare parts.
FM: We have spare parts as well, but need to mount and it takes time. And we don t have another car there ready to run.