Present: Fernando Alonso (Renault) Jenson Button (BAR) Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) David Coulthard (McLaren) Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Q: A question for you all, first of all. Those of you who have seen the section, what are you thoughts on...
Q: A question for you all, first of all. Those of you who have seen the section, what are you thoughts on the new section of track from the swimming pool to Rascasse?
David Coulthard: It looks a lot more open. I'm conscious of not saying it looks easier, just in case I go and drop the ball there, but it does look like it's less challenging, the entry to Rascasse, than it was in the past, which in some respects is a shame because that was one of the difficult spots on the track. But I think generally, it may give us more opportunity for overtaking, then if not overtaking, it should make it easier to lap slower cars during the race, so all in all, I would say it is an improvement.
The only thing I'm not too sure about is the length of the pit lane exit. It goes all the way, if I am understanding correctly what I've seen this morning, it goes all the way round the first corner and about ten meters up the hill towards casino which is a long time to be sitting on the pit limit. (He's corrected by his colleagues.) It's not? So you can go full speed? OK. So I didn't understand it. In that case it's going to be quite interesting to stay inside the yellow line. What they've done is taken the barrier from the entry to turn one and left the kerb where the barrier used to be, so they've created a lot more space on the inside, so that should help produce some incidents there as well.
Jenson Button: Rascasse is just a different entry really, isn't it? It's not all that different. You're coming in at 45 degrees instead of 90. The chicane beforehand is a little bit tighter, isn't it? It looks okay; it's just a normal chicane, isn't it? But the best bit about it is that it's tarmac pretty much all the way round, which will be quite nice. We won't be braking into turn one and both wheels locking up, so that's nice.
Juan Pablo Montoya: It's alright, you know. It's a bit different. I'm surprised they still kept the very slow chicane after the swimming pool. I think it could have been a bit quicker. I think, into the last corner, it will probably save a lot of money for the teams because that's the place that everybody crashes.
Michael Schumacher: I tried to see yesterday but there were so many cars parked that I couldn't actually see properly, so I will have to go round later.
Fernando Alonso: I will go later on but obviously the biggest change is Rascasse, the last corner (not quite). It's a bit different. It should be okay, more possibility to overtake and lap as well, so it's a good change.
Q: The second question I wanted to ask you all concerns qualifying - very important here, but elsewhere as well. Have you found that that the one lap format has meant that your approach to qualifying has changed? How do you prepare for qualifying? Are you concentrating harder than ever?
DC: Well, I think I've probably struggled with it more than the others sitting here in that I've had a 12th, a 13th and a 14th in the qualifying sessions so far. Obviously you don't have the opportunity to find out where the track is, or also where your car is. I think the history of the MP4/17 at McLaren, we haven't had it as a particularly good qualifying car. It's been on the front row three times in its career, but otherwise it's tended to be a much stronger race car so I think we probably struggle a bit more than the others. That's why we're hoping that when the 18 comes, that we'll be able to feel much sooner over a single lap.
Q: Have you changed your approach, Jenson?
JB: Not at all...well, obviously it's different because we don't have four goes at it any more. I like qualifying now, I really do. I find it very exciting, but obviously it's going to be very important here and probably the most difficult circuit to get it correct is here. Either people will be pushing too gently, to stay off the wall, or you're going to have nasty accidents, so I think qualifying is going to be pretty good here.
JPM: I don't think it's changed very much. The only thing is that before you used to build it up and now you've just got to go out there and do it. I think this weekend it will be pretty crucial. It's going to be quite exciting - suddenly one lap, and you've really got to be on it. It's going to be quite a challenge.
Q: How much do you think people will leave a little margin -- even if they say they're not leaving a margin, do you think people will?
JPM: The thing is that if you crash in qualifying and you damage your car and you end up on the back of the grid you're out of the race straight away, at least out of the points for a race.
MS: I guess the level of concentration is there straight away whereas sometimes it wasn't necessary to be there straight away as you knew the circuit would improve so much. So it's important to be just ready for the last run. Now it's only the one and final run and the concentration has to be there for this.
Q: Is there something that you specifically do to be right on the pace immediately?
MS: Just be aware of the facts. Just be aware of the fact that this is the run that counts.
FA: No I didn't change anything. Obviously I think we all are a little more concentrated for that single lap because before we had four opportunities, basically, now we have one and it's the last one, so you are a little more concentrated. Anyway, I think it will be a very interesting race, especially because here is the most difficult qualifying for us drivers and it's the most important qualifying as well for the race, because overtaking is nearly impossible here so the grid position will be very important. So you know the combination of the most important and most difficult qualifying of the year will probably be a good thing to see from the outside.
Q: Fernando, does the Renault suit the circuit?
FA: Well, I don't know. We are confident here. I think we have a good car, a good chassis and probably we can fight for a good position here in Monaco. Regarding last year's result, we had a very good race here with Jarno and Jenson, so we are quite optimistic for this weekend.
Q: Michael, you have a fantastic record here, but how much of a tactical challenge is it going to be this weekend under the new rules?
MS: Yeah. If you compare it to other races, however, it's probably pretty similar in terms of tactical challenge, with maybe the extra fact that overtaking is very much unlikely here. But I think the logistic challenge for the team is much higher. To work in the circumstances that they have to work here, that's quite a big challenge for them.
Q: Are you worried about wild card qualifying?
MS: No, because if someone really does do something like that, and he does the speed that he does in qualifying, that will the speed that he will do in the race, probably for not very long, because he goes into the pits, but he can still do this speed, and therefore he goes with you or with whoever but he comes in earlier. But I don't think it's then the case that you need to be worried about blocking because it's a slowish car. It's not.
Q: Have they investigated what happened in the pits in Austria to your satisfaction?
MS: Yes, it's been explained to me and everything was clear afterwards.
Q: Do you have any worries for the future?
MS: No, I don't think so. It is a technical piece and we have seen problems with other teams in the past and now we had one but it is like everything -- sometimes you can have problems with them and you can't always anticipate it.
Q: Can you tell us what the problem was?
MS: I think Ross is much better at explaining. I know there was some problem with the valve which got a problem after Rubens' refuelling where some fuel was in the wrong area and came out after my pit stop but the exact details I can't tell you.
Q: Juan Pablo, obviously you retired from that race but up until then the reliability had been fairly good. Is that what you are tending to rely on now, reliability, even though, of course, here you were on pole last year...?
JPM: Not really. The car has shown a lot more potential. Last week in the test it showed more promise again and we have got more things here so we are really heading in the right direction. The car is a lot more competitive and it has been getting a lot more competitive race by race. I think the only race we struggled was Barcelona, the others have been pretty competitive and I think here should be a really good race for the car. Last year we were on pole and I think this year with a shorter wheelbase it should be a lot better, it should go through the slow corners a lot better and it should make a better time so hopefully we will be able to challenge for a win here.
Q: They said the problem was actually caused by the three starts, was it?
JPM: Yeah, with the race starts and everything, I think they knew from quite early in the race that the problem was there and they were waiting to see when it would happen. I was very surprised when I said I had a problem with the engine and nobody really replied or asked what's going on so I think they were expecting it.
Q: Jenson, an excellent but lonely fourth place. Does it signal a change in fortune?
JB: I think the car's been reasonably competitive for the whole season; we just haven't got the results. I think it is a reasonable position to finish in at the moment, we are not a top team at the moment, so it is good.
Q: At the start of the season you came in for quite a bit of criticism from your team-mate, do you think you have answered that?
JB: I don't really care. I really am not interested in answering that, but we are working well together well.
Q: So it is not a problem now?
JB: No, not at all. I think we said a few things that were a bit pathetic really but had to be said but we are working well together now. We are both very competitive, as we all are.
Q: David, the new car has now made an appearance but while you did 211 laps over two days at Paul Ricard, it did 27. Is that a problem? Are you a bit worried about when it will appear?
DC: Well, it was in another garage and it was doing another programme, so it was not really possible to follow what they were doing. I think you would hope that any new car would go onto the track, be three seconds faster than anyone else then you would just polish it and take it to the next Grand Prix but that is fantasy rather than reality and it will be ready when it is ready and then we will take it racing and hope to get some results.
Q: Obviously, you started the season very competitively. Do you think you can still be competitive with the older car?
DC: Yeah, I think that certainly Kimi has done a podium every race that he has finished and that is pretty competitive. I haven't had the same fortune and I have made a few mistakes so I have paid the price for that but the Ferrari looked strong in Austria but it didn't look quite so strong in Barcelona. I think what you are seeing is a variation - circuit to circuit in terms of the tyre performance. If Michelin have a stronger tyre here you can expect that all those guys around about are going to look pretty strong relative to Ferrari.
Q: Michael, some years ago you left Monaco to test the car. What will happen on Friday, on the free day?
MS: We don't intend to do testing. We maybe used to do some checks but I don't think it is scheduled.
Q: Michael, as a racing driver you want to win by whatever margin you can. This year, is it somewhat more satisfying because you really have to fight for the win?
MS: You can see it in different ways, even last year. Certainly there were races that were more easy to win, then there were other races that were tight, like Brazil and so on, but in the end if you have a tough race like we had in Austria and you are stuck in a position where you think you might have to be happy with third position and take the points then you still win it. That makes you extra happy; there is a certain extra satisfaction. Having said that, a driver fights for the championship instead of victories and the earlier and quicker he can achieve that the more confident and happy he is in another way, so you don't lose happiness by doing what we did last year.
Q: Michael, is Fernando your main enemy here in Monaco?
MS: He is a competitor, not an enemy...
Q: And Renault?
MS: It is a bit difficult to predict because we saw they were very strong in Barcelona, not so strong the race before in Imola, not so strong in Austria, so it will be interesting to see how strong they are here. I don't think there is any parallel at the moment where you can say that particular package is strong or is weak. I think a lot is within the tyre situation and we have to see how good the different teams run with the tyres that they have at the moment.
Q: David, hotel rooms are scarce this weekend. Do you suddenly find a lot of friends call up and say can I have a room and maybe a discount as well?
DC: Yeah, obviously I don't wait until the weekend to organise rooms for friends, that's taken care of a long time ahead of schedule. Obviously you get people ringing you up later to organise it and if they pay enough they will get a room, if they don't then we are full!