An interview with Cristiano da Matta Scott Dixon Kenny Brack Part 2 of 2 Q: Cristiano, everybody here obviously is interested in comparisons between F1 and CART on this track. You drove an F1 car earlier this year, obviously in a different...
An interview with
Cristiano da Matta
Part 2 of 2
Q: Cristiano, everybody here obviously is interested in comparisons between F1 and CART on this track. You drove an F1 car earlier this year, obviously in a different place, but can you compare the two a little bit, since you are the only person around here right now who has driven both this year?
Cristiano da Matta: Well, I think the lap comparison is the best way to compare the two. Even though it's pretty unfair to compare one car to the other, it seems one side spends $200 million more than the other side - (laughter) - and plus they have not only that, but they have the tire war going on their side, too. We are running Bridgestones [Potenzas]. They are good compounds for consistency and everything, but they are not as good as the F1 Bridgestones which are built for automated performance.
Today we are, if I am not mistaken, six seconds behind the Formula 1 lap time, and somebody told me three seconds from the lap time they did on Friday. So, I think that our engineers are very smart and our manufacturers, with 10 percent of the budget we can go to three seconds, I think it's pretty amazing. (Laughter).
Q: Earlier, Cristiano talked about preparation for the race by going around in the rental car. Did you play the video game or did you watch films of F1? How did you prepare for this race?
Kenny Brack: Obviously, watching the track on TV is a little bit of a help. I actually went over to a friend of mine who has one of those Grand Prix III games - where you can learn how to turn right and left and so forth, it's very difficult to do a quick lap because you don't have the feel. But, I did that, anyway.
And then the rental car is always good thing when you come to the track. You go around and take a good look at everything. But it still takes you probably 30, 40 laps before you have every little detail down, and maybe it takes even longer depending on when the track changes and stuff like that. Those are things that you can never really learn, other than with experience having been there.
Cristiano da Matta: Well, I did a little bit of the games, too, but like Kenny, I found out when you get to the racetrack, it's completely different. Not completely different, the turns go the same way, but when you are inside the car, it's real life, it's a different feeling, it's a different perspective.
I think to learn a track, 95 percent of it, it's all after you are getting in the race car. You can only get five percent done by just going around in the rental car, or with computer games, watching races on TV and the track. I think it's a lot better when you are getting with the car just to see how the car is going to feel through each turn, under braking, in each acceleration point - it's just a whole different world. But you still have to get the five percent done.
Scott Dixon: I'm exactly the same way. I'm sure most of us play the video game now and then, but, I just go around in the rental car. But things for the curves, you don't know how the car is going to take it, so it's hard to pick up on, as Cristiano said, the smaller parts. It doesn't help a whole lot.
Kenny Brack: With the video game, there are a lot of people playing those, and think that's the real deal, but there are a couple of things missing. First of all, you can't feel what's going on. And secondly, if you make a mistake, there's nobody behind you whacking you in the head with a club to make you pass out for an hour or so. And so it's not really the real thing.
Q: Toyota being first through sixth, what's the advantage? Is it the horsepower or driveability that you guys are gaining over everybody else?
Cristiano da Matta: I think to be one through six, it has to be both. If it was only one thing, they would not be one through six.
Hats off to them because last weekend, we were a little bit down on power compared to the opposition. Of course, I think every driver from Toyota was screaming about that after the first qualifying or after the race. Then we come back here and it seems like we are a little bit ahead now again. So it's a very good job again, for all of our Toyota friends, let's keep it like this.
Scott Dixon: I think that Toyota does a very good job in the way they help the teams with different things. It's one thing to have horsepower and drivability, which, I guess all three of the engine manufacturers have to a certain extent, depending on the track. But Toyota, they also help the teams with a lot of simulations and stuff like that. So it's a great resource that they can help with the teams. So they are really helping out a lot.
The only problem is that there are a lot of teams running Toyota. So you have an advantage, but there are a lot of other drivers having the same thing.
Q: Would all three of you drivers comment on the revisions to the qualifying? This is the first time we've gone to the new system.
Kenny Brack: I think it's good for the fans that there is not a quiet track out there for the first half hour.
I don't think it changes too much for us because even if we get to run 15 minutes before the qualifying starts, the track grip is still going to pick up with each car that goes out on new tires. So everybody is still going to try to wait for everybody to be the last one out there - to take advantage of the extra track. For sure, it's a good thing. Basically, it's the same for us, but better for the fans. I think it's an improvement for that matter.
Cristiano da Matta: One thing that helps us a little bit is before if you risk going out for the first time in the last 25 minutes or 20 minutes and you had a red, you only had 45 minutes guaranteed [green flag time]. So, that means going out in 40 minutes, you would only have five minutes left guaranteed. Now, you have 35 minutes, with 30 minutes guaranteed, so you can make risk going out a little later.
Scott Dixon: That was basically the main thing I was sort of happy with. With the guaranteed stuff, for sure, and obviously it helps balance-wise for the track.
It does change a lot for our position and especially towards the end, it doesn't make a big difference, but it's especially good for the crowd. We have been so many places and they sit there for 40 minutes watching nothing.
Merrill Cain: It was an hour-long session previous to this weekend where we went with a short practice session followed by a short break and then 35 minutes of qualifying.
Q: Next year with the departure of Toyota, how much would you miss the Japanese engine?
Kenny Brack: That depends where you go. For sure, I think it's not going to be so good for them going elsewhere, but that's the way it's going to go. And next year, I don't think anyone would have a disadvantage because everyone would run the same stuff. So it's not going to be bad for the series in that way. I think that it's sad to lose a big engine manufacturer like that.
Q: Could you talk about running on the curbs? I don't know how many other tracks other than Surfer's [Paradise] that has as many curves you might go up on. How does that affect the car and how do you think it will affect you in the race?
Kenny Brack: I don't know. It's hard to say, really. Sure, you run over a lot of the curbs here. But I think everyone has to strengthen their suspension after Vancouver, anyway.
Cristiano da Matta: I think even though we have lots of curbs here, they are not as hard as [Monterrey] Mexico, for example and even Surfers. In Vancouver, they are a lot harder, with a bigger hit, too. So it should be okay.
Scott Dixon: Obviously they are fine, but I think we could pretty much just about hit anything in one of the Target [Chip Ganassi Racing] cars and they are still pretty strong, after that.
Merrill Cain: Thank you very much. Excellent effort in qualifying today. Good luck in the second round tomorrow.
Friday press conference, part I