Spanish GP: Thursday press conference

Spanish GP: Thursday press conference

Present: Fernando Alonso (Renault), Marc Gene (WilliamsF1), Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar) and Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Q: For the two test drivers, can you give us an idea of what your job is, your ...

Present: Fernando Alonso (Renault), Marc Gene (WilliamsF1), Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar) and Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)

Q: For the two test drivers, can you give us an idea of what your job is, your responsibilities?

Marc Gene: All teams have test drivers now, almost all of them, but I think really top teams need them because it's only those teams that have two cars and sometimes three cars. For me the busiest time of the year was the beginning of the season because we had a three car team and our main issue there was reliability compared to last year. We thought the way to get reliability was to do as many kilometres as possible. In fact we did 25,000 between the three cars which was really impressive and it paid off, because I think that the car is - you never know because something might happen this weekend but I think we are the most reliable on the grid at the moment. So that was the issue. My responsibility was engine development but especially reliability-wise. Now I concentrate a lot on tyre work and also engine development and sometimes new parts for aerodynamics, traction control and all that. But it's really to try and let one of the race drivers rest every other week, so last week I was with Ralf and next week it's Juan testing and the next time with Ralf, so that's the way Williams tends to test.

Thursday press conference: Fernando Alonso, Pedro de la Rosa and Marc Gene.
Photo by BMW PressClub.

Fernando Alonso: For me, it's a very important year. It's the first year that I'm in a big team like Renault. I think we did a good job this winter and I think the results of the car are going well. We have two fourths and a fifth, eight points already in four races so we are quite happy. After this race, we have a second test car so I will do all the tests as Marc explained: one car for me and one car for one of the two drivers. I think the test driver in a top team is very important because we do a lot of tests, a lot of improvement on the car, there are a lot of parts on the car to be tested every week and there's constant development on the car. We will see at the end of the year. I try to learn a lot, do a lot of kilometres and improve myself.

Q: But both of you have been fulltime Grand Prix drivers, so how do you see your careers progressing?

FA: It's a completely different job. This year is quite frustrating to watch the race on TV. But you do realise that your job is very important for the team. You feel part of the team and that's the main thing. I'm the third driver but I do realise that the team needs me, that's motivation for me. For sure, for any racing driver racing is our life. When we are in the car, we are living. When we are not in the car, we are waiting for the next time that we are in the car. So for sure we miss racing.

MG: Both situations are not ideal, obviously. When you race for a modest team you get a kick from the racing, and it's very exciting because you're racing wheel-to-wheel but before the start, you know that unless something really unexpected happens you've got no chance of even scoring points nowadays because top teams are so reliable. On the other hand, now I get to drive one of the best cars in Formula One and do many more miles than when I was racing in a modest team. Maybe the only good thing about this is that Williams is very fair in that we usually tend to run the same fuel level, myself, Juan and Ralf, so I can really compare myself to them on the pace. But apart from that, there's not really much more you can show on performance. So it's really your team who can read from the times. The other teams might not even know. So now I have the car and I don't race whereas before I had the car but it wasn't very competitive in racing. It's difficult to have the ideal situation. Who would be the ideal example? Probably everybody is looking what (Olivier) Panis did but this is difficult to repeat too. Wurz is looking to do this probably, OK, maybe Badoer is in a different situation but probably he's looking for this too. But hopefully, a midfield team will see that you've got a lot of experience, your face is as good as the lead drivers and that you can as good a job as your lead drivers. But the driver market in Formula One is extremely tough now. There's a lot of young drivers coming in and not many seats available so it's difficult. But that's the idea, in theory. We will see if it works out next year.

Q: Pedro, is this your 50th race here or not?

Pedro de la Rosa: Yes, it's my 50th Grand Prix here. I think there's a little bit of confusion because in Monaco in 2000 I started and I crashed on the first lap and then there was a new race, so I don't think that was counted as a Grand Prix for me. That's the main confusion. But it doesn't really matter: 50 or 51, I have very little points to my name, so I think we have a lot of work to do ahead of us.

Q: This is your home Grand Prix, the organisers are making great efforts to upgrade the facilities. How do you feel about it?

PdelaR: I think it's fantastic to be racing at home, especially at a circuit like this one, which you can see that it's changing, it's getting modern: more modern grandstands, bigger, better. This is good because it's Spain. Formula One is very good place to see how a country develops and we don't have Formula One teams but at least the circuit that we have is of really high standard and I would say that it's the best in the world after Malaysia. Now we have to try to beat Malaysia.

Q: When is Jaguar going to complete the turnaround?

PdelaR: The only thing I can say is that we are going to have a very tough two months in front of us and we just have to try to get the most out of the package we have at the moment and that's it. We are waiting for the new wind tunnel and new bits, new people are joining and just getting new points on the car, because that's the only way we are going to make the car quicker: just adding better, quicker aero parts. From my side, I just have to enjoy it to the maximum that I can. If there's any possibility of getting points, that's fine but I don't think we are in the position of dreaming about points if the other people don't have big problems. This is my message and it's a realistic one, it's the whole message of the Jaguar Racing Team and there's really nothing much more we can add. It's two months. It's not going to be any shorter. I think we are looking at the Silverstone Grand Prix basically and that's quite a realistic date.

Q: Kimi, are you expecting improvements here?

Kimi Raikkonen: Yes, for sure, I'm expecting. We had very good tests last week and I hope we are going to better here. At least we should finish the race this time and that's the big thing now.

Q: You've done quite a bit of testing here. Is that an advantage?

KR: I think it helps because we more or less know the set-up for this circuit and then we just need to get it better. As I said, the main thing this weekend is to finish the race and I think we are going to score points and, who knows, maybe get on the podium.

Q: Michael, this has been a circuit on which McLaren has a tremendous record. Do you feel that you are at a disadvantage here?

Michael Schumacher: Not necessarily, honestly. We have had a good test here. We haven't only had one test here. We've been here several times. You could say that being here more often gives you a greater advantage. It might be true to some degree, but you have to see it in relation to the new car, the experience you've had with the new car and our base with the new car is obviously very good. What you then need is to finalise the set-up. We've had some time to do this as the last test was here - with two new cars so we feel pretty much prepared for it. On the other hand, if you look at last year, with the exception of the last stint, I had a very good battle with Mika, being pretty equal except in the last stint and then obviously it was a fortunate win. But Ferrari has gone up step-by-step and this circuit certainly shows how much the potential of the car is.

Q: Have you got new bits and pieces here?

MS: Yes, we have a few aerodynamic bits on the car which are different and to our knowledge better but it's going up in small steps.

Q: You had an accident in testing last week. Can you tell us a little more about it?

MS: No, we had a problem with the front end of the car which caused me to go off the circuit. It was a problem with the front nose which we are still investigating which consequently then damaged the suspension afterwards.

Q: A question about Formula One as a whole: Jordan have had to lay off people, BAR have done the same thing earlier this year. Eddie Jordan has said that he feels that some of the top teams aren't taking the economic problem seriously enough. What do you think about that?

MS: You quoted two examples of which probably only one is right because I think BAR have re-structured. They've dismissed some people to bring in new people, whereas Jordan has simply let people go, for whatever reason. I don't want to get into that.

At the end of the day, there has always been the case that you have had good times and lesser good times in Formula One financially. Maybe we are getting to an area where finally it's getting a little bit tougher because if the world economy is tough, which it is at the moment, it reflects onto Formula One. But then usually Formula One is the first to get out of it again because good companies want to invest and they invest in good teams. If you do a good job - and Eddie has shown how good a job he can do as a small team to get up to then become interesting to good sponsors. At the moment, he's on the other side. He's obviously dropped a bit on performance, for whatever reason, and that makes him less interesting for other partners and sponsors. Whether, overall, this is to be seen as this and whether the big teams can actually take care - which they do, what does he propose? Should they give him money to keep running? It's not really feasible. I think one step ahead is the engine situation in the future which is looking in this direction. But Formula One has always been in a certain way and I don't think you can change it from one day to another. In the long term, certain steps will surely be taken to secure the business is going, to keep it stable.

Questions from the floor

Q: For Michael. How difficult is it for you not to get so excited about the new car considering how far ahead you were in the last race?

MS: It's pretty easy. If you look at the beginning of the season I was so much ahead of everybody in Australia and then it turned around in Malaysia for whatever reason. I have enough experience of motor racing. You can have a good situation for a certain time and then it can change. I remember 1994, we were sort of miles ahead and then the championship got tight, for obviously other reasons as well, but I have seen this often enough, for other teams as well. Very often we were chasing other teams and we were able to pick up and suddenly make the championship very tight for them. In Formula One you can never rest and never feel too comfortable. You always have to look ahead and keep on fighting and only when the job is done can you be sure.

Q. Michael, we have had a year of driver aids now. Are the cars easier to drive and do you think the racing is better or worse?

MS: To me it is clearly an improvement because as a driver I prefer a much more neutral situation, a much more advanced and technology improved situation, which we have now. I prefer working that way. Does it make racing more or less interesting? Well, if you look through the years I don't think it really changes a lot to what is shown to the outside. We have the same circuits and about the same number of overtaking moves as we had in the past. It is pretty close together in all honesty, simply a little bit more complicated but it offers other opportunities.

Q: To the three Spanish drivers: What do you think of the health of Spanish motor sport?

PdelaR: I think it is good, it is growing but from my point of view it is not enough because we are three of us and we have no Spanish sponsors in Formula One, the television is only local, not national, so I think we have to be critical against ourselves and say we haven't achieved the goals or something is wrong because I think Spain deserves a little bit more support. For me, for the past ten years when we didn't have any Formula One drivers and we had Spanish TV that was broadcasting nationwide and now we don't have that so I think we just have to look into ourselves and try to fix it because it is not enough. Okay, my results are not spectacular that's for sure, but it is not only about results.

FA: I think the situation in Spain is quite bad because we don't have the TV so we must try to find another channel and that's very strange because we are three drivers now in Formula One we have good categories like Formula 3, Formula Nissan, quite important in Europe but not in Spain, and here the people think in football and motorbikes, this really is strange.

MG: If you asked about Formula One I would agree with Pedro and Fernando. When we had Formula One broadcast in Spain the viewers were not so bad - over a million. If you compare that to bikes, when we had a world champion, which is the pinnacle, you never have more viewers than that, I think we got up to four million. But if you compare that to 125 (cc - motorbikes) which is very big in Spain, it was comparable to 125 having drivers fighting for the world championship.

We are Mediterranean and all countries want their people to win but probably here second place is not good enough so just imagine if you really are outside the points. That is probably why Formula One hasn't really blown away the Spaniards. I thought it really was going to be bigger. But if you talk about motor sport in general, I think Spain is in a really advantaged situation at the moment because we have the Telefonica world series, which in my opinion is as good as Formula 3000 at the moment and although the cars are not built in Spain - the chassis are in Italy and the engines in Britain, but the promoters are here and I think with the base as good as it is, now different drivers will be coming up to the top. What to do to get the Spanish TV broadcasting it is to get the TV rights to be a bit cheaper because it is very expensive, not just in Spain but everywhere. But really for Formula One to be huge in Spain we need to be in a top team racing, it is the only way. We really have a winning mentality supportive kind of thing and that is the only way it is going to happen.

Q: To Michael, not about Formula One. In an interview you were asked about politics and said you don't vote because of certain reasons. Do you think this could change in the future?

MS: Maybe, yes.

Q: What must change then for you to do that?

MS: I think I expressed it quite clearly. If I can see the politics in a way I can agree with it then I would vote but that is not the case at the moment.

Q: Because you are not in Germany is it more difficult to judge the politics?

MS: In my opinion the only way to judge politics is what you get from the media and I am pretty reachable in news and watching television and that is the main way of understanding what politics want to achieve and what is the goal and direction. I don't think you need to be in Germany yourself to see and hear but probably it is less correct for a person, and that is another reason that has not been expressed so much. As I am a Swiss resident I should probably be less involved in this and shouldn't really vote for something that is not really in my interest and I should leave it up to the Germans who live there to do so.

Q: Michael. Today the new Formula One magazine came out. There is a story about the 100 most powerful people in Formula One, you are listed as number one, Bernie Ecclestone is number two, Luca di Montezemolo is number three and Max Mosley is number four.

MS: I didn't know I paid Bernie so much money!

Q: I was going to ask you how you got there and now we know, but is this fair? Do you think this magazine is fair in putting people in that sort of order?

MS: Clearly no. There is probably one person judging that and whoever he feels is his buddy he puts maybe in number one or number two or whatever. No, I feel that is completely unfair. If I rate the job certain people do in our team to the amount of work I have to do I should probably not even be on the list amongst the 100.

Q: Pedro. Talking about the popularity of Formula One in Spain, how easy is it for you to walk around downtown Barcelona?

PdelaR: It is not a big problem. People in Spain are very respectful and I think the people know me but I have no problems but its popularity is quite big now especially since I joined Formula One. Before I was a complete unknown man, now more or less they know you but it is fine.

Q: Do they stop and ask for an autograph?

PdelaR: Yes, some do, some don't, but it is nothing. I think in other countries Formula One drivers are more well known but it is growing. I have felt in the last few years a big change especially. It's unbelievable but initially when I joined Formula One it grew a lot then it sort of stabilised. Then when I 'left' Arrows, when I didn't continue in Arrows, suddenly I was in all the papers, for bad reasons but I was there. Now it has stabilised again.

Q: Another question for Michael and Kimi. I am curious to know if the drivers see the race the same as we do. The last Grand Prix the spectators and media thought the race was not very exciting but when you look at the race after, do you find it interesting and exciting or boring?

KR: From my point of view it was pretty interesting at least at the beginning of the race. I had a big battle with Montoya and of course it wasn't for long, but I think the races are always interesting when you are driving in them, you do your best and push as hard as you can. I think it is quite different from outside to inside.

MS: It depends from what point of view you look and where the spectator is watching, if he is watching at the front, the midfield, the back end, because you have different levels of excitement depending on what is the race. If you take Brazil, for sure Brazil was more exciting than Imola was, even for myself, no doubt, but then I am one driver out of 22.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Pedro de la Rosa , Michael Schumacher , Kimi Raikkonen , Marc Gene , Fernando Alonso , Eddie Jordan , Bernie Ecclestone
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Jaguar Racing , Jordan