Kimi Raikkonen teleconference (Nov. 6, 2003) Michelin announces product launch from SEMA Guest: Kimi Raikkonen, F-1 West McLaren Mercedes driver Michelin Introduction: Welcome everyone. We are out in Las Vegas at SEMA, the Specialty Equipment...
Kimi Raikkonen teleconference (Nov. 6, 2003)
Michelin announces product launch from SEMA
Guest: Kimi Raikkonen, F-1 West McLaren Mercedes driver
Michelin Introduction: Welcome everyone. We are out in Las Vegas at SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association annual show. It is an important day for Michelin, as we will be announcing plans to introduce four new high performance production tires for 2004. These tires draw on the technology developed in various motorsports programs including Formula One, World Rally, Le Mans and motorcycle racing. We are delighted to welcome Kimi Raikkonen, who had an outstanding 2003 Formula One race season. Kimi, thank you so much for joining us today at SEMA.
Q: Kimi - Please tell us a little about the 2003 race season. Going into the start of the season what were your expectations and as the season progressed, how did your season evolve?
Kimi: "First of all, after the 2002 season, we did not have many expectations because the 2002 season was quite difficult. First the car was not reliable and it was not quick enough. Then we did a lot of work over the winter with testing. We improved the car, the engine and the tires. We got the package much better together and we had more knowledge with the tires since it was our second year. That also helped us greatly. We went to the first race and we noticed that we were very quick, quick enough to fight for the victory. But after five races, we were not as quick compared to other teams. But we found our way back a little bit and became much stronger."
Q: Obviously a major development during the course of the year was the situation with the MP4/18. Can you bring us up to date on what happened and what impact that had on you and the team? Obviously it was difficult with the pressure on the team as you were trying to develop a new car during the season when you were still racing the old car.
Kimi: "The expectations were high even before the MP4/18. But the introduction became later and later into the season and then it never came. At least we learned something for next year's car. But even with two cars, we have enough people to improve the new car. We need to put all the efforts into the new car. We feel positive that is what we can do. Once we made our decision to keep racing with the old car, we focused our efforts into winning while also taking some new ideas from the new car. That helped us a lot during the season."
Q: When will the new car first appear?
Kimi: "I don't really know. I know we start testing later this month, but I have not really talked to anyone with the team since the end of the season."
@#Q: Last year was a tough year in Formula One because they kept changing the rules with the qualification and the impounding of the cars. Do you look for them when they start the year to keep everything the same or are you going to have to scramble somewhat during the year with rule changes throughout the year like last season?
Kimi: "I don't really know but it would be easier if they kept them the same throughout the year. For next year we have some changes. But to me it does not make a big difference. We have practice on Friday then more practice and qualifying on Saturday, and also the one engine rule."
Q: Do you like the qualifying set-up the way it is? As in all motorsports, they say the first ones out are always laying down the rubber for the next qualifier, thus the last qualifier receives an advantage over all the previous drivers.
Kimi: "You like it when you have good qualifying and you hate it when you have bad. But sometimes it can work well if you start a little bit earlier and there is less oil on the track, which did happen a few times. But mainly if you start last in the last five cars then you have the best chance. Obviously with this qualifying, if you make a mistake it costs you a lot more than it would have in previous years. But it is the same for all the drivers and the best driver usually comes out on top."
Q: What is the status of the Canadian Grand Prix? What do you think about that race? Does it make a difference having an 18th race of the season?
Kimi: "Yes, I think it does make a difference especially for the drivers and the teams. It is harder with travel and the increase of work. We have more flyaway races. But on the other hand, Montreal is a nice place to race. It has a great atmosphere. The circuit may not be one of the most interesting but it is good for spectators. There is also a lot of areas for overtaking."
Q: The folks in the United States are used to NASCAR with 36 some races. What is it like to have a 17-18 race season and what is your schedule like in between the races and during the rest of the season?
Kimi: "I don't know how they work their schedule in NASCAR, but between every race we have one week off. Then we just go race to race every two weeks. Between those races, we will do some testing during those days. It is quite difficult especially when you have five races in a row and then you come back to Europe and go directly to the test track and then back to the next race. It does make it more difficult. But we need to do testing in order to try to improve the whole package - from tires, engine and car."
Q: Your season is currently over, when do you start testing again?
Kimi: "We start testing again later this month. I think we have three tests in six weeks. Then after January we start really testing with a number of planned tests. We will probably test every week for at least four days. It really gets busy."
Q: The U.S. Grand Prix has been changed to June for next year. What are your thoughts of the U.S. Grand Prix and Formula One in the United States? And do you think the date change will attract more people?
Kimi: "It might attract more people because it will be warmer, but I really don't know. The track itself is very nice. It is quite good for the people. They can see quite a lot of the track from each place in the stands. It is a very good race. The track has a long straight and it makes it easier to overtake. As it being good for us, every time we have come to the US, it is not as big as in Europe but it is getting better. It was better last year. Hopefully it will be better this coming year and more people will come to the track. NASCAR is the biggest motorsports program in the United States and Formula One will never make it as big as NASCAR here. That is just the way it goes."
Q: Where would you expect the toughest competition to come from next year as you try to climb that last step to the championship?
Kimi: "I would assume it would be from the same teams. Before it was Ferrari, Williams and us, but now the Renaults are strong. But it all depends on who gets the best car. Maybe one team does not get the car right for the season. But judging from last year, I think it would be the four teams - Ferrari, Williams, Renault and McLaren. But it all depends on which team develops the best car. I think next year will be close especially since this year it was interesting at every race."
Q: Do you see the 2004 World Championship as being very wide open?
Kimi: "Yeah, like I said, I think so. I can't really say who can win it. You might get an idea from testing and from the beginning of the year but you never know what the other teams are doing. After the first race, you kind of know where you stand and how the other teams match up. But until that you don't know. You just hope that you have the best car in testing. You can't tell who will be the quickest next year. That is why we try to get the car sorted out over the winter to give us the best chance."
Q: During your off-season, do you get a chance to have fun, do any sports, or take a vacation?
Kimi: "We really don't have that much time off between the end of the season and the start of testing. Basically, the drivers like to do what they want during their off-season, if it is doing sports, spending time with friends or family or just relaxing. We travel so much during the season it is nice just to go home, relax and not do anything."