French Grand Prix FIA Thursday press conference transcript with Fernando Alonso (Renault) Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren) Tiago Monteiro (Jordan) Jarno Trulli (Toyota) Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Q: Tiago, what was the reaction in Portugal after the...
French Grand Prix FIA Thursday press conference transcript with
Q: Tiago, what was the reaction in Portugal after the race two weeks ago?
Tiago Monteiro: The reaction was a bit crazy. Of course, everybody had seen the circumstances and the reasons for this result, but when it's the first Portuguese driver that gets to the podium, everybody forgot about the circumstances and it was just a crazy crazy atmosphere. It reminded everybody about the Euro Cup when there was this big national enthusiasm and since Saturday, when I came back from testing, I have been in Portugal for some PR, I've been doing TV shows, radio, conferences, spending some time with sponsors, and it's been really really busy. It's a great atmosphere, everybody's happy and excited and again, as I said before, I need to take advantage of this opportunity and enjoy it as much as I can.
Q: You mentioned the testing, how is the latest version of the car?
Tiago Monteiro: It's not ready yet, I would say. We had some teething problems: cooling in particular so we are going to be using it as the third car here and at Silverstone and then we have another test at Paul Ricard after Silverstone and we're hoping then to work on the performance. But we're going to use those two Fridays to work on the reliability and hopefully we will be using the new car for Hockenheim.
Q: Now the drivers have put out a statement that has been signed by 19 drivers but seven have not signed. You're one of them. Can you tell us why you haven't signed?
Tiago Monteiro: The main reason is that I haven't heard of or seen this paper. I read about it in the press but nobody contacted us or asked our opinion, so that's probably the main reason for it.
Q: Jarno, first of all, a good result here last year. What are your feelings coming here?
Jarno Trulli: Always good, I always like Magny-Cours, even if last year the memories weren't the best but it was still an experience that I have now. I have a special feeling for Magny-Cours because I was here with Prost, then I continued with Renault so I always have a lot of supporters for the French Grand Prix so it's always nice to be back.
Q: You have a new third driver in Olivier Panis; does that make a lot of difference in your preparations?
Jarno Trulli: I think Olivier is an experienced driver who will do a very good job, as well as Ricardo (Zonta) has done in the past. So it's a pleasure for me to have Olivier on board again, on the track. I think even for him it's nice to be back after a long time, especially here in front of his home crowd.
Q: Now you had your first pole position with Toyota at the last race, but be honest with us, was there a little bit of a gamble on low fuel?
Jarno Trulli: No, not really, to be honest, because we didn't know what was going to happen on Sunday, so we were not sure. The decision (not to race) was basically taken on Sunday, probably just before the race, and you just go out in qualifying and try to do your best and then think about tomorrow's race, and this is what happened. I did an extremely good lap, everything went fine for me and for the team and the car. Obviously I'm sure there were some people heavier than me but I wasn't so light.
Q: Kimi, you could say you lost ten points in the last race. Is that the way you look at it? How do you see it?
Kimi Raikkonen: I guess it was disappointing but in the end, under the circumstances, there was nothing I could have done so I listened to people what we should do and that was the decision.
Q: But looking at it from a championship point of view, obviously Michael's got ten points closer to you.
Kimi Raikkonen: Yeah, that's true, but of course every race we don't race is not going to help us because we need as many races as possible to try to catch up Renault and Alonso but that's the situation and we will try to do it here.
Q: What about this circuit, you've had quite a good finishing record here?
Kimi Raikkonen: Yeah, it's quite a nice circuit, it's a little bit different than it used to be, but OK, last year maybe it wasn't our strongest race, even though we had a new car here. I think the car should be good. We have some new parts and a new engine for this race, so I'm looking forward to it.
Q: Now the FIA has reserved some dates for next year: 20 races next year, including three races on successive weekends. What do you feel about that as a driver?
Kimi Raikkonen: I haven't seen any dates or anything, but I don't think it makes much difference because we would be testing anyhow between races if we don't have back-to-back. For me, it doesn't make a difference.
Q: Fernando, your feelings about the last race, in a way losing ten points to Michael?
Fernando Alonso: Again, it was a difficult weekend for everybody and not a fantastic feeling when you have to come in to the pits, but those were the circumstances. It's true that we lost ten points but as Kimi said, always when we arrive at a Grand Prix we are thinking of points and we need to race and score points which is the main thing over the weekend so hopefully this Sunday will be a good race for us.
Q: Can you tell us about your time since Indianapolis?
Fernando Alonso: Yeah. I had three days testing in Jerez. On the day in the middle I went to Paris for a promotion and at the weekend I was in England at Goodwood. It was a busy week, but now we are ready for this July with four races and concentrating on the championship.
Q: A good race here last year...
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, it was OK. I did the pole and then I had a close fight with Michael with a good race, different strategies, so it was quite an interesting race to drive and to watch also, so hopefully I think we can be very competitive here this year. The R25 is performing very well at all the circuits and I think here, especially, maybe even more.
Q: Well Michael has won here seven times, but only once from pole position. Is it one of your favourite circuits for that reason? Does winning at one track make it a favourite?
Michael Schumacher: Your question is it a favourite circuit because of the fact that not winning from pole position... It has been good for me like Canada, but I think it's pretty clear what my most preferred circuit is.
Q: What are your feelings coming here under those circumstances?
Michael Schumacher: It's a new weekend, so I just look forward to it.
Q: Same question as I asked Tiago about that form that 19 drivers have signed; yours is one of the signatures missing, can you tell us why?
Michael Schumacher: As far as I understand, it was an initiative from Renault, I don't recall they called me, first of all. I would have been surprised if they had anyway. Just to make clear, this was not a GPDA thing. I think we just have different opinions about it, which is only natural so I would not have signed it.
Q: Was there anything in particular about the form which you objected to?
Michael Schumacher: There were certain points that were never really part of the discussion, actually, so there was no point in signing it.
Q: A question for Michael -- because of the circumstances at the last race, where you got ten points, you are now much closer to Kimi and Fernando in the title race. What do you think you need to do to make it a three-way battle this season? Another win here?
Michael Schumacher: I think it needs to be more than just another win here, honestly. But it would be the right way to go ahead.
Q: Michael, how competitive do you think you will be this weekend at this track?
Michael Schumacher: We have been working pretty hard the last month, several months, and I think we have made some progress, pretty obviously, so I just hope that the next step we are bringing here will bring us back into real competition. I think we were looking quite good already in Indianapolis and I believe we can look better than we have been. Whether that is enough... We shall see.
Q: A question for Michael and Jarno. After the document we saw, do you think that the GPDA will be weaker in the future or not?
Michael Schumacher: As I said, the GPDA was not involved in that one because it's nothing to do with circuit safety or where you have to look for an issue where you have a problem with something, here it is a mechanical situation, from one team to another, which is not a subject matter for the GPDA to get involved in.
Jarno Trulli: Well, I think the situation is not clear. I think we will be weaker because there is something not clear as I received the document direct from the GPDA and we all know how many people are in the GPDA and probably most of us here are GPDA members. So, I don't really understand the situation and I will try to understand it better tomorrow when we will have a meeting. Anyway, we will all get the information from the GPDA by email. So nobody can say I didn't get the message. You can only say I didn't agree. That is my opinion. But I think it is better to discuss it more.
Q: Michael how representative was your overall race time in Indianapolis of what it would have been if there was a full grid?
Michael Schumacher: Put it this way, the first and last stint, I was in control of the situation so the speed I did was not the maximum speed, but then when pit-stop times happened, and the middle stint, that was pretty representative.
Q: Thank-you. And a second question, to the three Michelin runners. Based on that information and your simulations, how do you think you would have gone, knowing the race time that Michael did?
Jarno Trulli: To be honest, I did not look at the race of the lap times so I have no idea.
Q: But what about the engineers at Toyota, they must have looked at the data surely?
Jarno Trulli: I don't know to be honest you should ask them.
Kimi Raikkonen: I was on my way to New York already before the race finished. I haven't seen my engineers yet; maybe they looked at it so I will know later what the situation is.
Fernando Alonso: I saw the race, but the TV screen, not the times, so I don't know exactly. They did a 1m 11s I think or something like that and it is impossible to know how were the conditions on Sunday afternoon, how much rubber there was on the track and very difficult to think what our teams would have done.
Q: To the Michelin guys, are you not concerned that Michelin can put now on the track some more conservative tyres and lose performance after what Max Mosley and the World Council said yesterday. And Tiago I would like to know why you decided to race in the end because you were in the meeting and your team was in agreement with the decision to put the chicane?
Fernando Alonso: I think the tyres will perform exactly the same and I think the Indianapolis problem was a very specific problem of that configuration of the circuit and what happened there and after the times and the performances the tyres gave to us in the last test last week, I think we are more competitive than before. I think the tyres are extremely, extremely good for this race and for Silverstone as well and I have no worries at all.
Kimi Raikkonen: I think that for some reason the last high speed corner at Indianapolis just didn't suit our tyres and you really need to ask Michelin about that.
Jarno Trulli: I don't think we'll have any safety problem or any performance problem. What happened in Indianapolis was just a special case, unfortunately a bad case for us and for Michelin. But these things can happen and it is part of racing and motor sport and I think Michelin will compete again as strong as before.
Tiago Monteiro: Most of the times, drivers do as they are told by their teams and sponsors and especially team managers -- and the decision was to race from the beginning and, also, from what I know and I heard, we never said we wouldn't race and we actually said no matter how that whether with a chicane or not, we were going to race. I don t know. I know there were some other opinions out there, but we said we were always going to race anyway. We have our sponsors' commitments, Bridgestone as well. So there was no way we wouldn't race.
Q: Fernando, this is the home race for Renault, you are leading the championship -- is there more pressure on you to make a good result in this race than in an other one?
Fernando Alonso: No. Not really, no. It is exactly the same honestly. It is the home Grand Prix of the Renault people, a lot of them will be here and a lot of important people from the Renault Group will be here again so we are very optimistic for this race especially regarding the last year's results so I think we arrive here in a very good moment. We are leading both championships, the car has improved a lot again last week in Jerez, so we arrive in a perfect point this weekend in Magny-Cours.
Q: Michael, Formula One took a hit with the United States race. What do you think Formula One has to do to regain the confidence in the United States?
Michael Schumacher: It is pretty obvious what has happened, but despite that I think that Formula One will return to the States at some stage and be very strong. I don't know the calendar for next year, but there is no reason why we should not return and show a good show again as we have done. Plus there has been so much talk about Formula One in the United States that it probably has created much more spectators than before.
Q: How can you regain the confidence of the fans that were disillusioned?
Michael Schumacher: I think there is a lot you can do to state the facts -- the fact is that one tyre company had a problem and therefore their cars couldn't race. I think it is pretty simple and if you don't create more casino than there is at the end of the day, then you just have to say it is a sport and it is like an injured sportsman, or athlete, or someone who cannot run because he has a muscle problem or whatever, it is just the way sport happens.
Q: Can I put that question to the other drivers and also, what do you think of Michelin's gesture that they are going to refund the ticket prices to all the fans plus buy 20,000 tickets and give them away for 2006 at Indy?
Kimi Raikkonen: I don't have anything to say.
Fernando Alonso: I think it's good that Michelin does this kind of thing to help the people and to help all the people who were there, and because of our fault, they didn't see a proper race.
Jarno Trulli: Well obviously Michelin and everyone in Formula One will try to help the USA supporters after this race at Indianapolis. It was a bit of a downside for all of us, but obviously these things can happen. I've been told that a few years ago an Indy Car race couldn't take place because on the oval there was too much lateral G(-force) and they didn't race for safety reasons. So it's quite similar conditions. Unfortunately, this is a sport which pushes everything to the limit and sometimes we go over the limit. Michelin have admitted the failure for that race, but they will be back, and they are back again and we will try again to go back to the USA and do our best next year.
Tiago Monteiro: A bit the same. The sport is all about limits, every department is pushing to the limit, sometimes I think those things happen (that they go over the limit). What they are doing now, I think, is fair. They are trying to calm people down and be nice to the people who got a bit pissed off with the situation.
Q: For all of you, there is an idea and a proposal to put on a non-championship race at the end of the year in Indianapolis. What do you think of that?
Kimi Raikkonen: Why non-championship?
Fernando Alonso: I don't know. I've heard nothing about that, so let's wait and see.
Michael Schumacher: There's no point in talking about stories. There are always stories, so let's talk about facts.
Jarno Trulli: Well, to be honest, I haven't heard anything about this. Anyway as I driver, I would be happy to drive.
Tiago Monteiro: No, I haven't heard anything about this either, but the more I drive then the happier I am. I can do five more if you want!
Q: If you were a Formula One driver, you were a fan, sitting in front of the TV getting ready to watch the race at Indianapolis and then you see what happens, how would you feel about it, and how would your consideration of Formula One be now? Would you still consider it to be exciting?
Fernando Alonso: For me, yes. These things happen in the sport as we all say. If you start watching a tennis game these days and there is a problem with safety with one of the players and they suspend the game, these things happen. You are disappointed at that moment. There were a lot of fans at the track, but there was a safety problem. We all wanted to race, we arrived, ready to race on Sunday morning but with the configuration of the circuit that we had, it was not possible to race. So we tried to find other solutions. OK, we had this problem with the tyres, but at the same time, I think all the fans understood that we are at the limit. This is a tyre that had won all the races in which it had competed this year so it's not a bad tyre. This is a specific problem that we had to sort out and I think the people understood.
Tiago Monteiro: I think maybe it was the lack of information for the fans. We all knew what was going on. We knew that there was a really big security issue. I think most of the fans didn't know exactly what was happening, so it was a bit of a farce for them. So yes, if you were in the grandstands, and it also depends on how long you've been there in the sun, drinking beer and then it's like... what's going on? Of course you're not very happy because you don't know why people are coming into the pits and there are only six cars on the track.
Q: Michael, what was your reaction when you realised that debris was being thrown on the track by the fans? Did you think about stopping?
Michael Schumacher: No, at no time was the debris big enough or concerning enough. It was little plastic cups. There was a bit of beer around which you could smell, but not see. To hit us you would need to be very lucky. We go that quickly. No, I wasn't too concerned.
Q: Secondly your reaction to... despite what everyone was saying about the race, the fact that the TV ratings, the initial input globally were up for that race and specifically in America. Why do you think that is?
Michael Schumacher: Good question. You should be better at answering that question! Don't know.
Q: Question for the Michelin guys: I think we all know that the issue is specific to turn 13 at Indy, but Max Mosley has made public that he has been asking Michelin questions about soft sidewalls. We go to Monza further in the championship where we run the car very quickly and also take quite a lot of kerb. Are you worried about any issues at Monza, particularly that it's only a few days before the extraordinary general meeting where the penalties will be discussed again?
Kimi Raikkonen: No, I'm not worried about it. I think the circuit is completely different, even if it is a high speed circuit, but the corners aren't as high speed as the one at Indy. It was also a banked corner at Indy so I think that was a small part of the problem.
Fernando Alonso: Same. I think three or four teams tested at Monza three weeks ago, more than a thousand laps without problems, so the race will be OK.
Jarno Trulli: I'm really not concerned. What we had in Indianapolis was a strange situation and it was quite far away from where we are based, so it was difficult to react for Michelin and conditions were different from the previous season so all these things mixed up created. Well, we know what happened. I think Monza will be a normal Grand Prix with no problems.