Drivers - Timo Glock (Virgin), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Heikki Kovalainen (Lotus), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Vitaly Petrov (Renault) and Adrian Sutil (Force India).
Q: Timo, I think a little bit of a frustrating start to the season for you judging from your comments recently?
Timo Glock: Not a perfect start to the year for us, but we just have to get on with it and make the best out of it.
Q: How do you think you can improve? In which direction? It is suggested that you are not very happy with the CFD.
TG: I am not happy with the car at the moment, that’s the main point. I think aerodynamically we are not where we should be. We have got a good update for here. The numbers are looking good and we have to see if that turns it around on the track. Simulator and all that stuff went okay in the last week and I think the parts are not looking that bad but, as I said, it counts on track and we have to see what we can do here.
Q: Do you feel you are attacking the teams in front or more on the defensive from the team behind?
TG: At the moment we are too far away from Lotus, I think. I just hope we manage to be closer here and have to watch out (that) we stay where we are at the moment.
Q: Heikki, a very good race in China. Did you enjoy that?
Heikki Kovalainen: Yeah, absolutely. For the first time since a long time we were actually racing cars properly on track. It was a great feeling and we just need to carry on doing that every weekend from now on.
Q: Do you think you can continue to be ahead of the established teams, as that is what you are looking at isn’t it?
HK: Yeah, the target has to be to join the midfield and to be ahead of the established teams that are directly ahead of us. That’s what we are working on. Still, in certain conditions, especially in qualifying, the gap is still not small enough. We are still on our own land if you like. But in some other conditions, in warmer conditions, et cetera, we have already got close a couple of times and hopefully the upgrades that we are bringing to the next few races will be bigger than the direct competition ahead of us. That’s what we have got to be targeting as a team and I think we can do it.
Q: Adrian, your feelings about Force India’s progress. Are they making enough progress do you feel?
Adrian Sutil: I think it should come now once we have started the European season really. For this race we have a little update. We don’t know if we can run it but it is all to the direction for the next step, the big step, of upgrade package we introduce in Barcelona or Monaco. Here, we have a different front wing on. We will try it on Friday and let’s see how it works, but, looking to the development, it is looking good. We expected to be not that strong in the first few races but we are not doing bad, always close to the top 10 or in the top 10. As a team we scored four points. That’s not so bad and hopefully now our season will start.
Q: It is always said you are a wet weather specialist. Are you enjoying the weather forecast for his race?
AS: Yeah, yeah, it looks very rainy, so I enjoy it absolutely. We have not had a rain race or race session this year. Different story with the Pirelli tyres, we have not so much data in the rain conditions with these tyres, so it is going to be a challenge. But in general I like the conditions and I think we are going to be good.
Q: Vitaly, I have been looking at your record here. It is pretty good. You won in GP2, first time in Q3 here, fastest lap last year. So do you like the circuit?
Vitaly Petrov: Yeah, of course I like this track as I have very good memories here. In 2008 and 2009 I took some podiums and 2010 it was the first I was going into Q3 and it was a good race so I am always happy to come back.
Q: It has been suggested that the team hasn’t been running to its full potential up until now. Do you feel you have found the full potential in the break that we have had since China?
VP: We bring some new parts here, some new upgrades. We hope to fight with Ferrari and McLaren. This track is not easy but anyway this is why we are here. The team has tried to push as hard as they can to be in front so let’s wait for this weekend and we will see where we are.
Q: Do you really think you can make the jump to Ferrari and McLaren?
VP: It is a difficult question. With this weather we have now everything is possible, as in the rain, as you know, it is completely different. But to McLaren and Red Bull is is still quite far but, you know, Ferrari is not far, so I think we need just to stay focused and do our job.
Q: Felipe, you’re the most successful driver in Formula One (here) with three wins from three pole positions but maybe not this weekend, depending on the rain of course?
Felipe Massa: It depends on the rain. It can be good, it can be bad. It is always a little bit of a lottery. We will have to see how it is going to be this weekend. But it is true I had great races here, winning three times in a row and starting from pole position all three times was a great feeling. I hope we can carry on in the same direction. The last two years were not great, but anyway it is a circuit I enjoy. I like to drive here. I had great times here and I hope everything is going in a similar direction.
Q: And you had a very good race in China as well. Since then, I think the team has found certain problem areas, so when do you think you can perhaps catch up the ground that has been lost?
FM: We have been working so hard, especially during this break, which was slightly longer than normal to understand everything and I hope we understand things a little bit more compared to the last race and compared to the first, second and third race. I hope we have an interesting step that we can feel in the car especially in qualifying as qualifying we were struggling so much in the first races. In the race we always get a good pace compared to the qualifying and I hope we get better in the qualifying and we keep good pace in the race so we can fight with Red Bull which was very strong. We see. Everybody is working very hard to improve the car. It is always difficult to say how the new parts will be, but I hope we understand so many important things that makes the car stronger and we will see here, especially with this weather, as we don’t know how it is going to be as well.
Q: Lewis, you are a previous winner here and winner of the last grand prix as well, and we can remember you being squeezed into the pit-wall by Timo during GP2. Timo, are you going to deny it?
TG: There was enough space. It was a good race.
Q: There was enough space. What: about a centimetre on each side? Your feelings about this circuit, Lewis?
Lewis Hamilton: I have had good races here since 2006. Obviously, GP2 was quite an important experience I had here. It was right in front of all the bosses and probably one of the most exciting races I had had up until then in my career. Every year something interesting has happened here. Obviously, 2008 I think I blew up one of my tyres here, through turn eight, but then obviously I got my first win here. That was a great feeling. Coming back it is going to be very, very tough this weekend, not really knowing what conditions we are going to have and it will be very interesting to see the upgrades everyone has to bring here. I just hope that what we have is a step forward. Whether it is a big or small step we will see tomorrow.
Q: Do you think it really is just between Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and Red Bull Racing at the moment?
LH: I don’t think so, especially with this break. The other guys seem to be closing the gap gradually. Look at Mercedes, they were very competitive in the last race. You see Ferrari, they are always there or thereabouts and it doesn’t seem like it is going to take too much for them to make the quick switch and be right up there with us and also the Renaults are doing fantastic and Petrov is driving fantastically well. I think it is going to be quite close at some point. I just hope that we are able to continue to move forward as I am sure the Red Bulls will do that to.
Q: We certainly have not had a wet race here, have we? Have you experienced this circuit wet?
LH: I don’t think I have been here when it is wet. I didn’t even know it rained here. This is the first time I have seen it rain, so it is going to be interesting. Turn eight is going to be an interesting one if it is wet, but fingers crossed it will dry out.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Julien Febreau - L’Equipe) A question for Felipe and Lewis. Can you speak about turn eight and the difficulty and the pleasure of it and do you fear that your tyre will struggle at that turn?
LH: I think, for me, I had quite an interesting experience through there in 2008, so I probably adjusted my driving style to hopefully suit the tyres a little bit better over the last couple of years and I hope that will help this weekend. It is a great corner. You enter it flat out. I think the Red Bulls were flat out there a couple of times last year and we were quite close. It is a corner where you are continuously building up lateral G and you really have to be quite precise with the line that you take and how much you are taking out of the tyres, and also how much minimum speed you carry through there as you carry it all the way down the next straight. But it is quite a straightforward corner. I don’t think any of the drivers struggle with it but you do have to perhaps compromise the overall set-up of your car to suit that corner perhaps more than the others. At least that is what I have experienced.
FM: Yeah, for sure it is a very special corner. As Lewis said you have a huge amount of lateral G-Force in the corner. You need a good car. You need to think about the set-up for that corner as well in this track. Interesting thing is that you have a lot of G Force but then you even have one bump in the middle of the corner that sometimes if you are a little bit too aggressive you can even lose a little bit the rear of your car. But it is a very special corner to do, especially the first part. It is more difficult. The second, the last part, is like an easy flat out corner. But it is very nice. It is a little different corner to what we are used to doing in most of the tracks and I think that makes this track quite special as well. We will see this year with the degradations that we have on the tyres that we need to take care as well.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) A question for Vitaly, Felipe and Lewis. Considering the degradation of the tyres, are you more concerned about wet or dry conditions as you don’t know exactly the behaviour of the rain tyres.
VP: Nobody from us knows how the tyres will be working here. I think we did just a few laps in the Barcelona test so to be honest I don’t know really what to say. We need just to wait to tomorrow’s free practice and we will see how it is.
FM: We need to run, to have a clear idea. I did some laps in the rain in the winter and also when we did a filming day it was raining a lot in Fiorano as well. We ran and it was almost snowing. The grip was very low but it is better to wait to see how it is going to be here in normal conditions and we will see how these tyres work. But it is not very clear to everybody. Everybody needs to learn how it is.
LH: I agree with what they have said. We have not really had a lot of time on the tyres, finding the right tyre pressures, finding the right balance and those kind of things that are going to come into play. But I hope it dries up and we don’t have to experience that this weekend, but I am sure at some stage it is going to become quite important for strategy and we probably won’t see too many people using the tyres in practice mainly because we don’t have too many sets of the tyres. It will be interesting.
Q: (Sarah Holt - BBC Sport) Lewis it was exciting for you and for the team that you won last time in China. How realistic is it to expect that you can now mount a season-long challenge?
LH: Of course you can come from the last race and be very excited and confident going into the next race, but I don’t have particularly high hopes. I generally don’t like to expect too much as then, obviously, if it doesn’t work out, then it is a big comedown from that. But I would prefer to arrive here cautious. We may not be the quickest this weekend, which is definitely possible, but if we are then that will be fantastic and we will do what we can to win. In the last race we didn’t win because we had the fastest car. We won because we generally out-drove and out-did them with strategy. Our car was the next quickest, but I hope we have closed the gap. But you never know again who has improved their car more than others so fingers crossed our upgrade is good enough but we will see tomorrow.
Q: (Sarah Holt - BBC Sport) To clarify, you don’t have particularly high hopes for this weekend or for the season for the title challenge?
LH: I was referring to this weekend, just because we have had that break and everyone is making a step forward. You have to assume everyone is making a step forward. We had a good half-asecond that we needed to jump to catch the Red Bull. Whether we will have that half-a-second we will have to wait and see, but we have to assume that whatever we bring they will have brought the same or similar. But for the rest of the season, of course, we are on top of our game and we are pushing as hard as we can to win more races. I think it was a great boost for us the last race and to then have that couple of weeks break was fantastic from our guys so I was happy I was able to do that for them.
Q: (Ian Parkes - Press Association) Lewis, I would have suggested that you would come here with confidence and on a considerable high after China so why the caution?
LH: In terms of my own performance and my driving I am confident that I can get in the car and do the same job that I did in the last race, but race-by-race you learn and people learn from other peoples’ experiences through strategy how to control their tyres and everyone is improving constantly. And just because it is such a big break. In this kind of break, generally we have gone back to Barcelona in the past and everyone has brought quite a big upgrade, so you have to expect that it is the same this weekend. Even though we won the last race, we were still slightly trailing behind the Red Bulls in pure pace, but you have to also be cautious of the fact that others like Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes have also made the step. Perhaps closer to us or past us, you never know. I am just not getting all excited, just looking forward to getting in the car and doing the best job we can this weekend to score some points. I am confident with what is coming over the next few races that hopefully it will put us in better shape.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, here and Barcelona are two key races for Ferrari to see how this season is going to go. You have been in Ferrari for many years. How different is this year, the pressure, compared to other years in the past knowing that in the winter you have very big expectations and, so far, the results have not come?
FM: Well, I had good years, great cars, fighting and winning since the beginning. We also had some difficult years like 2009 and how we started the season and how we saw especially Red Bull - McLaren as well - show good performance. But Red Bull, especially in qualifying, are showing they have the quickest car. Sebastian (Vettel) has won many races already, his worst result was a second. It is clear that he has got more points and it is clear that we need to have a good result and a good step now, in Barcelona and that’s what we are really pushing to have that. It is clear to see that we never give up, but the difference is quite big. We really need to have our feet on the ground and to work to improve the car. I would say more in the qualifying. In the race we show that we have a much more competitive car compared to the qualifying but we are looking at how how much points Sebastian has and the team has as well. It is important to have a good step and to be very close to fight.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Felipe, you have won here three times and you have spoken how much you enjoyed this track. I think when you won it for the third time you were joking, saying you almost felt Turkish. With the threat of this race not being on the calendar so far, how much would you miss it if it wasn’t. How much does it mean to you as a driver?
FM: As I said it is a very special place for me. I won three times, especially the first time it was a big fight with Fernando (Alonso) and Michael (Schumacher) in 2006. In 2007, it was a little bit more free the race and in 2008 I had a big fight with Lewis. It is true that it is track you always like to come. You always have a good result, good feeling and we will miss it if we are not coming here next year. I would miss it definitely as it is a place that you have some better results than you expected. It is a good place but we will see how it is going to be.
LH: I think he’s answered it quite well. It’s a great track for racing. I think it generally provides quite good overtaking opportunities and as a drivers – I speak for myself – I always enjoy driving here. It’s quite a challenge. It’s got some great high speed corners and quite a nice mixture of corners. Of course it would be a shame to not have the Grand Prix on the calendar but we love to race at circuits that are challenging and exciting for us, so fingers crossed it will be here.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, it’s springtime and the rumours about next season are already starting.
FM: No! Really?
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) In Italy. We heard about you being connected to Red Bull, Nico Rosberg coming to Ferrari. What do you think?
FM: Really, nothing to say. Since I came to Ferrari I have been answering all of these things about me going away, so there’s nothing to say really. We concentrate on doing the best we can with the car and to get all we want. It’s just one more. It always seems to be at this time, more or less, no, during the season? It’s the same as usual.
Q: (Joris Fioriti - Agence France Presse) For the drivers in the front row: in the past, the guy who had the fastest car was the guy who was winning and this year, because of the strategy - and Lewis knows this really well - you may finish fifth with the best car or first with a car that isn’t as good as the best car. Is it something that stresses you, do you like it, personally? Does it add too much pressure to you and you would rather go back to the old system?
LH: I think it still remains the same - that the fastest car generally ends up at the front. The fastest car has obviously won the first two races and then almost won the third race. But of course, being in the early stages of the season, where strategy is still not fully optimised or the way the tyres behave through each race is not fully known, what the characteristics will be like, it makes it a bit more exciting for us because we can approach the weekend thinking there’s a greater possibility than there perhaps would have been in the past. I think it’s definitely exciting for the fans, which is probably the most important thing.
FM: Yeah, I agree with Lewis. In the fastest car you have more possibilities to win, compared to the others, which we maybe didn’t see in the last race but we saw that Sebastian won most of the races. But anyway, I think that depending on the situation with the tyres, with the strategies. I heard Page so many good things about the last race. All of you guys were really impressed with the race, really happy with the fights and everything. Even if I couldn’t finish in the position that I would like, fighting for victory, I think it really was an interesting race. It’s true that race after race, all teams are going in the right direction in terms of everything around the weekend. But anyway, I think it’s much better than in the past, how the fights are, how is the overtaking, even the wing is doing a good job. I think it’s interesting for overtaking. The tyres are helping a lot as well, so is the KERS. It’s important that we have fun on the track but it’s also important that everyone who watches Formula One - the fans - get really excited.
VP: Really nothing to say. They’re right. It’s good to have the fastest car, but you can see what Lewis did last race. He just destroyed all of us because of the tactics, so this year… for example last year we discussed tactics for about 20 minutes and this year we spend around 50 minutes with the team, deciding what to do and what strategy to use, because the team has to react like this. Sometimes you wait just one lap more and you’re out of position. I think this year it’s more exciting, you need to think during the race, the drivers need to talk to the team, explaining how the tyres are, that you need to come in, or what is going on. Things like this. It’s trickier this year and more exciting maybe.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado do Sao Paulo) To all drivers: all of you have said you expect a step forward, changing the cars. Is it realistic to believe that we can have big changes from what we have seen until now this year?
TG: It’s difficult to say, if I understand the question. We have a big update here and we think we have a good step forward but you never know how it’s going to work out and you never know how it’s going to be on track.
HK: Well, if we were expecting to go backwards I think something would be wrong, so you’ve got to be expecting to go forwards and that’s why the teams are in Formula One, that’s why all the teams have got such capabilities and that’s why the better teams are at the front, because they have more advanced technology and facilities and whatever, to go further ahead. I think it’s correct to expect to go better and then the relative performance between the cars at the back and at the front… at the back, we probably expect to make bigger steps forward, relative to the opponents than the Red Bulls and McLarens because they have less margin but there is still distance and the gap between our teams. For us, it’s correct to expect that we would be gaining and we are in a position at the moment that hopefully a small relative gain to our direct opponents ahead of us will result us actually jumping ahead and you can see it on the scorecard, but then of course, the next step gets tricky; to gain on Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull is another story.
AS: Everybody is trying to improve all the time, every race, but for some, updates work better, for some, not so good, so sometimes you think or the (wind) tunnel numbers tell you (that you have) a really good update but it doesn’t work, but sometimes it’s different. It’s just natural that you always try to improve and that’s why we’re all here. We don’t want to get worse, like Heikki said. We want to go better at every race, as a driver, as a team, so that’s just natural.
VP: You can see our exhaust; I think we’ve moved in the right direction and we will bring something new for this event. We will see how it works.
FM: You know what Formula One is, what technology is; how engineers work, so a bigger step forward can be possible. We have seen what McLaren did from the last test to the first race: they did a big step forward, so it can be possible.
LH: I’ve got nothing to say.
Q: (Cezary Gutowski - Sportowy Tempo) Question to all of you except Heikki who has already answered: when you go around the paddock, do you notice the absence of Robert Kubica and do you miss him as a friend and a personality in Formula One?
TG: Yeah, definitely. I have known him for a couple of years now. I spent a complete year with him at BMW and just a couple of days ago we sent messages back and forth. He’s a special guy and I think everyone is missing him. He’s a very good racer and it’s a shame that he’s not here, but I just hope that he recovers as quickly as possible and will be back in the paddock again.
AS: He’s a great character and I’ve known him for a long time as well. It’s always very disappointing and shocking to hear that something like this can happen. It shows that motor sport is still dangerous. At the same time, I think he was very lucky to be alive, so we wish him all the best … I wish him all the best and he should definitely come back here. He absolutely deserved to be in Formula One, he proved that many times and he’s a really good racer.
VP: When I came to Renault at the same time as Robert, I didn’t know him before but with him, the team was loose, like one family, because he always tried to push the team, to wake up, to explain what to do. He was also a positive guy, he knew exactly what to do and all the guys in the team believed in him and he was always funny and very, very quick. What we saw last year, he was one of the best drivers. So we all miss him. We know he just left hospital; now he has a long time to recover, so we all support him and we are waiting for him. I hope that this year we can see him in the paddock, just to say hello.
FM: I’ve known him since he was racing Formula Renault. I moved from Renault to Formula 3000 and he was starting in Formula Renault so I’ve known him a long time already and he’s a great driver, a very friendly guy, a very nice guy and an incredible talent, for sure. We miss him, for sure, fighting with him on the track. He was always very strong, a very good driver. The way he drives and the way he works, the way he believes, so I really hope he’s back here to do what he likes to do which is racing and just to see him in the paddock to have fun together as well.
LH: I think everyone - all the drivers - have paid a compliment to him and fair dos to that; I second what they’ve all said, really. I’ve known him since I was about 13. We raced together, as soon as I got to Italy, so I’ve known him quite a long time and we generally came up through the ranks together, so perhaps I’ve known him a little bit longer than some others but I think that as we got to Formula One, known him perhaps a little bit less because you have less time for that kind of thing, but obviously he’s a great talent in the sport and he definitely deserves to be here so I hope that he has a very, very fast recovery and no doubt he has the right people behind him to help him recover in the best way. And knowing him, and how competitive he is, he will be doing everything he can to get back on the scene, so I look forward to welcoming him back, the same as everyone else.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazetta dello Sport) Felipe, can you estimate the lap time and improvement in respect of the ‘old’ Ferrari that we saw in China, for example?
FM: I think it’s always difficult to say, really, how big the step is going to be. Even if we always have an idea how new pieces are going to be, we don’t have an idea about the other teams, so we don’t have any idea about how everybody’s racing, so it’s always difficult, especially before you try all these new parts you have on the car. I hope we have a bigger step than the others, that’s always what everybody hopes in Formula One, so we will wait and see.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Going back to what has been said about the excitement of the races – more overtaking, DRS, the KERS, the tyres - but Mark Webber, for example, in the last few days has said that overtaking has become too easy. He says that you probably had to take more risks in the past to overtake. Do you think this is the case or not?
LH: His car’s too fast!
FM: For his car, for sure, it can be easier than… It depends on the situation. For sure, when you go out of the garage and you have new tyres and you find cars with old tyres in front of you, it’s definitely very easy but it’s because of the tyres, it’s because of the high degradation. I think when you are in a similar situation it’s not so easy, but the wing helps, you know? I don’t think it’s just the wing which makes overtaking possible, easier or not easier, it’s everything, together with the tyre degradation and everything: how the cars use the tyres; how the strategy works as well. I think it’s better for you guys. How many years have I heard people saying ‘the good thing was the past, when Senna, Piquet, Mansell… it was really fun to see all these drivers race. They knew how to do it: Villeneuve, Arnoux.’ It’s true. It was also different cars as well and I even heard some things like after China: ‘ah, now Formula One is back to how it was before’. It’s important to see you guys happy as well, and I think for the fans it’s what we care about. If they are happy and the drivers are happy as well, we will carry on like that.
LH: I think Mark’s car is too fast, it’s definitely too easy for him to overtake people. But as Felipe was saying, I don’t personally feel it’s too easy to overtake. I had some great battles with people in the last race and it’s definitely just as hard but obviously when you have the opportunity to use the wing it makes it a little bit easy, but it allows you to get closer and really remain in close proximity to be able to attack in places. It aids overtaking but it doesn’t make it too easy, personally.
TG: I’ve start behind a couple of times now, but I’ve never managed to be on the podium this year and last year so I will have to talk to Mark and ask him what he did different to me. I think it was quite interesting to see how good the car is, he had a good strategy as well, lots of good overtaking manoeuvres so he had everything right but as I said, I have to find a way to make that happen as well.
HK: I think that on the circuits that we’ve had so far, he’s never really struggled to overtake anyway, so I think Barcelona will be the first real test, in order to make a fair comment. In the past, we’ve also had long straights in Sepang and China and you’ve always been able to overtake in those places and maybe the wing is helping a little bit but let’s wait and see when we go to Barcelona, where we never overtake, so let’s see if we overtake a few more times now. It will be a fair judgement. Someone said to me that we’ve had 148 overtaking moves in the first three races, which is not bad.
AS: I think it’s a little bit easier in some places but it’s still the same in others. Australia, I think, was a good example. I thought it would be easier to overtake but you just couldn’t get close enough in the last corner and nothing really happened. And the same in China, I would say. The straight was a bit longer but also the activation point was a bit later and I was in the middle of the pack and on almost every lap in the first stint I had the chance to activate my rear wing but I couldn’t manage to pass. It was just not enough. It’s helpful but it’s not too easy. That’s why I think it’s still OK.
VP: Nothing to say, really. I think we are moving in the right direction with the rear wing, it’s more exciting to watch racing and good for us, even in the last race I had so many overtaking manoeuvres. I think we are moving in the right way because with the DRS system, with this 700 [metre] straight or something, I think at every race this line will be shorter because at the moment it’s too easy to overtake. Sometimes it’s harder, it depends. I think the FIA will move this line so it’s a little bit shorter, so the car won’t just stay behind and overtake the car in front easier. I think it’s more exciting when you go in to the corner together and you can still fight under braking. I think it’s interesting. I think in the last race there were seventy-something overtakings. I think it’s good, no?