FIA Thursday Press Conference
Q: Tonio, a really difficult start to the season. How has it been?
Vitantonio LIUZZI: You said the right word, difficult, really difficult, but we knew that from the beginning. Everything started really late. We are building the new car for this year so we knew we would not have an easy start. We went to Australia with not one kilometre in the new car and basically the first kilometre was done in qualifying so I think the result was not too bad. A step forward from last year. We understood just a bit, doing seven laps in Australia but I think we went to Malaysia with more understanding about the new car. We showed a much stronger result. For sure we have to still work hard and the team is pushing a lot. Already here we have some upgrades. We will have some more for Turkey so everything will be better. The team starts to work much more professionally so everything is going in the right direction.
Q: Do you think you can get on terms with the other teams that were new last year?
VL: I think we will be close in this race. We will close the gap even more in the next few races. The car and the team are growing. The developments should be coming soon so it will depend also how other teams will react in these next few races. Virgin is the closest team with whom we have a gap who we could fight. Lotus made a big step forward but our intention is to grow more and more this year and to put the right basis for a proper 2012.
Q: Is the 107 per cent rule something that you think you can get through every single time?
VL: I think it shouldn’t be a problem anymore. In Australia it was a problem as we did not have a kilometre in the car so we did not know what to expect. In Malaysia we were well under the 107 per cent and Malaysia is maybe the toughest circuit for that kind of problems. We are planning to improve the car soon and every race so we hope that we don’t face any more that issue as we want to fight closer and closer with our competitors and be ahead of them soon.
Q: Lewis, interesting little point you made in your preview - whether you remember it or not - about Jim Clark and the fact that you have become the driver who has driven for one team the longest in the history of Formula One racing. Just tell us about that.
Lewis HAMILTON: I think this is my fifth year with my team, but we have had more races probably in this decade than probably what they had back in Jim Clark’s day so maybe I have just done more races. I don’t know if it is actually more years or not. I think it feels pretty good to know that I have been consistent and that I have had a good track record with a great team and that it is going to continue.
Q: And loyalty is something you place quite highly I think?
LH: Yeah, I think my family, particularly my Dad, was one to really point out that was a very important value that I should grow up with. From a very early age I felt that was something quite important. Of course, loyalty is an important key to relationships in life but they are not the deciding factor. But you have got to try and keep good relationships with people as long as you can.
Q: You have got some updates that you are using I think tomorrow that you tried in Malaysia. What are you expecting from those?
LH: I have no expectations going into tomorrow. I think the car, the temperatures are better here, so the car I am sure will be better this weekend than it was last weekend. With the upgrades, they were upgrades that came to the last race but didn’t particularly work and so it is just an attempt to try and get them to work as there is a decent amount of potential. But whether or not we will get it done and we make it work who knows – but it will be something we will continue to work on.
Q: Both you and Jenson Button were faster than Red Bull at times during the last grand prix. Can you carry that over? Can you be faster than them consistently. Obviously, it all depends on if they take a jump ahead as well.
LH: I think a lot of factors come into it. My guess is in the last race they had to probably cool their car a lot more so they probably lost a bit of time there. Whether or not they had as good a KERS or as much KERS as us I don’t really know. It was close there but I am sure that they will be back on top form this weekend and have even more pace than they did in the last race. Whether or not we will be as close as we were in the last race we will find out here. Race pace tends to be quite similar to theirs, it is just generally in qualifying they seem to have an advantage.
Q: Rubens, a disappointing start to the season for you. Does it have an affect on a driver of your experience?
Rubens BARRICHELLO: I think it would have an affect on a driver with any experience, really. It is not the dream start to the year we wished we would have had. Having said that all the time you are working hard and making the car better. By a mistake I put myself out of contention in Australia in qualifying and the race was going good until the problem again. In Malaysia it was just not there. The car was not competitive and we were struggling. I am sure it is going to be a lot better here. We have new parts, we have new things and we are hoping for a much, much brighter weekend.
Q: Where do you see yourselves in the hierarchy? What sort of level?
RB: In which way?
Q: In terms of qualifying as you have not actually finished a race?
RB: I think we would have qualified top 10 in the first race. The second race we were 15th and it was the best we could have achieved. Here I don’t know. We just need to see how the car will develop. Without any changes I guess we can be a top 12. With the changes I hope we can be top six.
Q: You were the first winner of the Chinese Grand Prix. What do you remember of that, particularly what happened on the podium?
RB: Ha, ha. I remember having a shower with Mr (Luca di) Montezemolo. It was a nice champagne shower. It was a good event. I remember that year the tyres were having some problems on the front, but as soon as you went through the phase of that you were able to push really hard. That is what we had the whole weekend and I was able to keep it consistent and to win the race – which was great.
Q: Sebastian, pole here for the last two years. You won in 2009. Back-to-back race wins, do you feel yourself that you’re on a major roll at the moment?
Sebastian VETTEL: I don’t know. Obviously you feel good after the races we have so far, especially last weekend. We try to make this feeling last but we come here and we have to refocus. It is pretty much the same approach that we have had in every other race as well. It will be a tough weekend. We have seen the last two events here that the weather can play a very important role so we will see what happens.
Q: In Malaysia, Christian Horner said that the major focus was mainly on tyres. Is that going to continue?
SV: I guess yes. I think it will be the same situation here. How the tyres behave we will find out probably tomorrow. Melbourne and Malaysia was quite different. It could be that we will have a similar situation here as in Malaysia, but we don’t know, we have to confirm. It is a different track again. Outside conditions are different, it is quite a bit cooler here, less humid, so as I said I guess tyres will be one of the most important. They always have been and this year with the new tyres we have and the amount of stops we have to face on Sunday they will be important and I guess we will find out a lot more tomorrow.
SV: Pretty much and also Mercedes. We have had only two races this year and we have been very fortunate to run at the front. McLaren was pushing very hard. They made a very strong impression already in Melbourne, also considering where they have been at the tests where it was difficult to read the true pace. Ferrari were very, very quick at the testing as well as Mercedes, especially at the end. We are just two races in and we have seen from last year how many things can change in only a couple of races. Some tracks maybe suit your car more than others so we will have to see. In the end we don’t care so much about the rest, we care about ourselves and we try to do the best job we can and hopefully that ensures we have a good chance to run at the front again.
Q: Michael, a former winner here as well. You came from sixth on the grid, which is the lowest anyone has come from to win here. That was the last podium you had. It has been a disappointing start to the season I am sure you will agree even though you got the first points in Malaysia?
Michael SCHUMACHER: Yep, I probably have to agree on this.
Q: How disappointing?
MS: Well it is natural or obvious that we had other expectations. We have spoken about the reasons why a certain performance was not able to be delivered. That is where we are but in Formula One it is not the first time it has happened to me that things do not go to xpectations. It is what it is and the only way to go forward is to work off your problems and that is what we are about to do right now.
Q: It was said there was going to be a big post-mortem, a big examination after Malaysia. Have you had that and what has that revealed? Has it been positive?
MS: Well we learned more and more about the car. Naturally timing after Malaysia to China there is a very short amount of time available and it is not the case that we have major upgrades for this event. We will have for other events. It is more actually to understand the car and pull out the true and complete potential. There is more potential than we have been able to show, but we haven’t yet found the tweak to make use of it.
Q: Is there one area that you are particularly concentrating on? Is it aerodynamics? Is it tyres? It is always tyres I guess.
MS: You know, the secret of Formula One is not one particular area. It is always paying attention to all kinds of details. There are less important areas, absolutely, but we kind of try to figure out all the little bits and pieces and get them working.
Q: That is still on-going?
MS: It is an on-gong process I am afraid. But when the tough get going the going gets tough, sorry when the tough get going...
Q: I think we know what you mean.
MS: Yes exactly, you know what I want to say.
Q: Good try though.
MS: When the going gets tough the tough get going. I got it right now.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Lewis, you came away from Malaysia having lost a place, penalised after the race. What was your reaction to that? Did you think the penalty was fair?
LH: It didn’t really make much difference. I was seventh; so seventh or eighth, it’s pretty crap either way. That’s racing. I think it was fair.
Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Why did you think it was fair? Did you feel that you had been weaving on the track or defending?
LH: Well, the previous year, obviously I had some big weaves on the straight which everyone disagreed with, which was fine. They said that they would be stricter on that this year. Looking back at it, I didn’t weave even half as much as I did in the previous time, and I didn’t put anyone in danger – but the rules state that you can only move once, to the better position. I think the confusing part was really whether I was defending a place or trying to lose the tow. But at the end of the day I got 20s. It was one place so I feel fortunate that it wasn’t any more than that and I will just try to avoid doing that in the future, so no one can complain.
Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) And is there any incentive to use it this weekend to get back on track?
LH: I don’t use that, I use the difficult race that we had. I definitely want to bounce back from that because we really had the opportunity to finish second quite easily and to end up eighth after starting second on the grid is not the kind of performance that we want to have in the future. I feel positive about this weekend. It’s in the past. It’s very early stages in the championship. I actually look at it as a blessing because there have been many races where you have started in nice positions and you don’t get any points at all. I’ve still got a couple of points and who knows whether they will be quite valuable points in the future?
Q: (Xu Zuji - West China Daily) First question for Sebastian: you know you already have two pole positions here in China, but last year you were sixth in the race. How about this year? A third pole position and winner? Are you confident?
SV: It’s always a long weekend. Obviously you work both Friday and Saturday to prepare the cars as much as you can and ideally on Saturday afternoon you get the best position on the grid that you can get for the race. So the target, for sure, is to have a good qualifying and then ultimately have a good race because that’s where you can score points. So looking back at last year’s race, obviously we were not strong enough, we were struggling a little bit with the conditions but still got some points. For this year, every year is different, so we will see what we can do – but surely, as I tried to say earlier, we will try to push as hard as we can and try to get the maximum out of the car one more time, and ideally have a good result. Of course, I wouldn’t mind if everything goes well and we can get another pole position or another victory.
Q: (Xu Zuji - West China City Daily) Do you know the weather forecast? It says there will be rain.
SV: OK, you are local so you probably know better than us. We will see. We also have some forecasts and yeah, there’s also some rain. We will see when and how much. That’s always the same question.
Q: (Xu Zuji - West China City Daily) Do you think yourself unstoppable this year?
SV: We’ve obviously had two good races but we come here and we start again. That’s the name of the game at every event, every race so surely we try to keep it going. We saw at the last race that it’s getting very tight and you can take nothing for granted. Of course, the day will come when we might finish second, fifth, tenth, whatsoever but that’s life. That’s Formula One.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – Agence France Presse) To Sebastian and Lewis. Sebastian, you said after the Malaysia race that the fact that Nick Heidfeld came up to second after the start was a good thing for you because he held back the others and helped you to get a small gap. Do you think that without him, Lewis could have threatened you a lot? And Lewis, did you think that if you had the same race pace as Red Bull that you could have fought for victory?
SV: As I said in Malaysia, obviously Nick had a phenomenal start. Both Renaults – both Lotus Renaults – had a good start and of course it was a comfortable situation for me because I think Lewis would probably have had a bit stronger pace than Nick at the time but nevertheless, I think Nick had a strong pace throughout the whole race, otherwise you are not able to finish on the podium. It was not a bad race at all for them but as I said, it was a bit of a luxury situation because I could pull away and didn’t have that much pressure from behind at that stage, but for all the other stints, I don’t think we had Nick behind us, we had Lewis or Jenson behind us and we were able to react. Of course it was important but if, if, if… I cannot answer these kind of questions.
LH: I think I could have competed for the win. Obviously we started second and for whatever reason I lost position at the beginning and didn’t really see Heidfeld pop down the outside so I was caught napping a little bit but I had Jenson on the inside, so I was more focusing on him, obviously not touching Sebastian. I got held up for quite a few laps and once I got past, I think I was exchanging similar lap times to Sebastian. I think I would have probably been able to hold onto him if not, but it’s all if and when. But in the second stint, I think I was catching him after the pit stop, once I jumped Heidfeld, so I think it could have been close had we not… but the rest of the race was a disaster so it doesn’t really matter.
Q: (Fulvio Solms – Corriere dello Sport) Question to you all: Pirelli is thinking of a new rule for the future. It would give you the four compounds to each team at every race, with complete freedom to use them. What do you think about that? What’s your opinion about this possible new rule? Four compounds at every race and you can chose every time which to use.
MS: Honestly, we are not aware of this idea and I’m not sure it makes sense to discuss rumours right now, so….
SV: It’s the first time I heard of this.
MS: We’re all hearing about this for the first time, right now. We weren’t aware of this. I don’t like to talk about rumours. If it’s the case, then maybe we can talk about it.
Q: (Gary Meenaghan – The National) It’s been confirmed that the Yas Marina organisers are changing the track slightly for this year’s race and they’re going to widen the turns at turn five and six, which is the one onto the first straight and then eight and nine which are the turns before the second straight. I was just wondering if you think these changes are the kind of changes that Formula One needs to be making to improve overtaking and if you think that it’s important to take driver criticism and adapt.
MS: We saw last year in the last race with Fernando [Alonso] and Vitaly [Petrov] – that’s the reason why it comes into discussion and as much as the teams in Formula One have worked on the cars, there was probably a need to have circuits in general – I’m not just saying Abu Dhabi – but in general to make revisions in order to allow overtaking. There are some interesting views and we’re very happy to hear that Abu Dhabi, after building a very good track is open to make further changes in order to see if we can find some guidelines for the future that may improve the overtaking situation. So, I think it’s a good step in the right direction, to see what will be done, what effect it will have. Nevertheless, if you look at this year’s competition in general, it does offer a lot more overtaking possibilities, and I think that in that respect, in terms of spectacle and interest in the sport has risen extremely and it’s very pleasing to see what happened in the first two races this year.
Q: (Gary Meenaghan – The National) Is it something that the GPDA have got involved with at all?
SV: Rubens is a director.
RB: The GPDA gets together to say what we think and we forward the issues to the FIA. Basically, I think the last few years’ - I wouldn’t say criticism - or maybe constructive criticism where we think that this may be done or that, the GPDA is more in favour in helping safety rather than anything else, because with the new rules for the rear wing, you could argue that with the long straights in Abu Dhabi there is no need for change, because you’re going to have a lot of overtaking anyway, but having said that, it was fair to see that last year there were not enough opportunities just if you have a difference in speed greater than five kilometres an hour or so. It’s always good if they have the possibilities financially to change the track and maybe to improve that. It’s just a great thing. Of course drivers will go there and some will say it’s better and some will say it’s worse but as long as it improves the show it’s the way forward.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – Agence France Presse) We as journalists talked a lot about rubber bullets and marbles over the last few days. Do you think it’s a very important issue that you are put in danger or is it something that doesn’t really mean anything?
LH: I think it’s normal. In the past we had a lot of marbles in places like Montreal and of course you don’t have any run-off area, so it’s reasonably dangerous in some places there but now we have it more at other circuits – most of the circuits – but I don’t think it’s bad. I’ve tried overtaking a little bit. These tyres, OK, when you do go onto the marbles, you lose a bit of grip and it’s not that easy to clean them up as perhaps it was in the past but that’s racing. I don’t see any danger whatsoever.
SV: The amount of marbles or pick-up we have next to the racing line is more than what we are used to simply because we are on different tyres. We have seen this throughout testing and now in the first couple of races we have double the amount of cars on the track in the race. There are a lot of marbles but I think Pirelli is aware of that and should it become a problem I think they can get on top of it and change it. There’s nothing we have to fear. I think the amount you can see on television, as well, at the beginning compared to the end, I think the amount of marbles and pick-up is huge but as I said, I don’t think we have anything to fear.
Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Hello again, Seb, what are your plans for KERS this weekend? Are Red Bull going to try and run it again tomorrow and get it working properly on this circuit, or are you happy that you’re fast enough to run without it?
SV: No, I think I said many times that KERS is an advantage this year so to run KERS will actually help you if you’re looking for lap time and performance, because compared to two years ago, you obviously don’t have any flexibility or any advantage to get by moving the weight distribution and so on. Your hands are tied this year so it makes sense to run KERS and it’s our target obviously. We were not proud not to have it in Australia. We were, for the majority of the weekend, able to run it in Malaysia and within that short amount of time I think we made a big step. Obviously now we’ve only had a couple of days but the guys again have been pushing very hard and I’m confident we will have it in the car, that’s for sure and I’m confident that it will work all weekend this weekend. Yes, we will be using it tomorrow –and Saturday and Sunday, I hope.