US GP Thursday press conference

Drivers: Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar) Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) Kimi Raikkonen (Sauber) Jacques Villeneuve (BAR) Q: Ladies and gentlemen, the press conference is just about to start. Our left to right on the front row,...

Drivers:
Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar)
Mika Hakkinen (McLaren)
Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams)
Kimi Raikkonen (Sauber)
Jacques Villeneuve (BAR)

Q: Ladies and gentlemen, the press conference is just about to start.

Our left to right on the front row, Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya and Pedro de la Rosa. And an all Finnish back row, left to right, Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen. Let's start, first of all, with Pedro. Pedro, welcome. The results in Italy, what's that meant to you, what's it meant to the team?

Pedro DE LA ROSA: Well, it's meant that finally we put together in a whole weekend a good performance from Friday to Saturday and Sunday. Basically, our biggest weakest point was that on the previous races we were quick on Saturday maybe and then we were not quick on the race; and when we qualified badly, we were quick on the race and not qualifying. Basically, we put together a strong performance from a team point of view. Strategy was very good and from driving point of view. So finally we made it.

Q: What about here, do you think you can do the same again here? Your weak point, I think, is high down force, isn't it?

PDR: Well, several things we have to improve, not only in high down force. But we don't know how competitive we will be here because it's such an unusual circuit here, low down force. But then you need to be quick on the very tight corners with no down force in the car. So we'll see how we adapt to this very particular circuit.

Q: What about from your own personal point of view? You weren't here last year, so this is your first time?

PDR: No, no, I was here.

Q: You were here, sorry.

PDR: Good memory. (Laughter)

Q: It was a whole year, you know, come on. I can't remember what happened yesterday.

So what are your own feelings about coming back here?

PDR: It's a good racing track because it's very long straight, so overtaking is not very difficult. And apart from that, I'm not - I don't really like the infield section, I think it could be a little bit better with more challenging corners, which is too slow. But nothing apart from that. I think the racing here is interesting which is the main thing.

Q: Okay. Juan Pablo, first of all, the win in Italy, what's that brought to you personally?

Juan Pablo MONTOYA: I thought, you know, big relief. We've been working for it really hard all year long and there's few occasions we had chance to win and didn't came and now I think I was patient enough that it came; and it feels good.

Q: What about another win here?

JPM: We have to wait and see. I haven't even started the weekend, my first time here. It's going to be quite interesting road course. We'll see what happens, you know. We'll see.

Q: You say the first time here, you won the last time you came here.

JPM: Yeah, but it's completely different. I think last time Jacques was here, he won as well. No, not last time, the one before. Sorry.

I don't know, we'll see. The track should suit the car quite well. You know, long straights, we've got a lot of power. So should be quite a good race for us.

Q: It happens with certain drivers, four world champions, but having won one race they then went on to win the next one, same with Mika, for example, successive Grands Prix, although they were separated by - they were different years. Do you think, does it sort of unlock a secret?

JPM: Not really. I haven't found anything different. It's just, you know, you work really hard for it and suddenly it just comes. I didn't really expect after Rubens passed me, I didn't really expect to win because he was so much quicker. I just tried to keep pushing all the race and I went into the pits really early and it came into my hands.

Q: I think you went to Rockingham last weekend to reacquaint yourself with CART. Just looking back last weekend to this weekend, what are the differences now that you see between CART and Grand Prix racing?

JPM: Well, you know, in CART, essentially the cars are completely different. The atmosphere is a lot more relaxed there and it's quite amazing. Some people complain because they not allow people here in the paddock but it's too many people in the CART paddock and you can't even walk.

Q: Really, that was a feeling?

JPM: That was quite tough, you know, because there's mainly English fans, most of them are Formula One fans. They see you suddenly walking in the paddock, it's something new for them.

Q: Jacques, if I can come to you. Is that a feeling that you have as well? Do you feel the same?

Jacques VILLENEUVE: Yeah, yeah, definitely. It's probably - the fans probably feel greater they can walk down the paddock in CART but it just makes your life very difficult when you're trying to work professionally. So as a driver, I enjoy being in the F1 paddock a lot more just because we can concentrate on our work better.

Q: Do you still have a great affiliation with Indianapolis?

JV: Great memories here, definitely. Having won here, it opened the door to Williams for '96. So it's been a very important race and I will always remember it, of course.

Q: What are your feelings coming back this time?

JV: Well, it's strange to be here and to not be racing on the oval. So that makes it a little bit strange. But it's a fun track to drive; but, as Pedro was saying, it's not very interesting. There's no corner where your heartbeat goes up. It's more like, you know, playing with go-karts with your friends. That's how it feels a little bit; but, it's good for racing because you have the long straight line, so that's a good thing.

Q: Yeah, okay. Mika, some people might have thought that having announced your impending retirement, what do you still have to gain, that you might not come to these last two races. What do you still have to gain, do you feel?

Mika HAKKINEN: Well, it would be still correct to win some races, to be honest, is the goal and I have a commitment to the team to finish the season. So I'm going to go for it in these two races.

Q: To what extent will you be helping Kimi over the next year? What can you do? Can you help him?

MH: Well, there's definitely plenty of different elements and we really haven't sat down yet to talk about it. But certainly I have plenty of experience in the past with the team and Formula One in general. So certainly there could be a lot of help what I can give and start giving examples. This is not maybe the right time.

Q: But you think there will be something that you can help him with?

MH: Certainly.

Q: Is it really going to be one year? A lot of people say once you've stopped, that you probably won't come back.

MH: Well, I'm going to take it easy one year. I'm going to see what it feels like and I have all the doors open. So at the moment the plan is just take it easy and see what happens. But I think after a few months, four or five months, I could start feeling that way and I want to come back. We'll see.

Q: If you do stop, do you have plans? Do you have plans of what you're going to do?

MH: There are certain plans, but it's too early stages to talk about it. My main target is just to relax and take it easy and see what comes. Always there is plenty of different offers what people has come up to me and just have to decide what I'm going to do.

Q: But not for a couple of weeks?

MH: Definitely, no.

Q: Kimi, were you ever expecting to replace Mika? I mean, when you first came into Formula One, did you have a dream that that might happen?

Kimi RAIKKONEN: No, for sure not. Because I think at the same time last year I even didn't know that I would race in Formula One this year. Suddenly I had a chance to call McLaren and I'm very happy to go there.

Q: I'm sure you're not going to say yes to this, but some people might say it's almost happened too quickly for you.

KR: Yeah, of course, things have happened very quickly for me in the last two years but I think it's only in a positive way that the things are going and I'm only looking forward.

Q: You don't feel you'll be out of your depth?

KR: No.

Q: That was fairly short and sharp, wasn't it? (Laughter) What's the relationship between the two of you? How do you look at Mika? Is he a sort of uncle or just an ordinary competitor? He's kind of an old boy, you know. (Laughter)

MH: What a question you have today. My gosh, give me a break.

KR: He's my friend and, of course, I can learn lots from Mika and he has experience with the team and he can help me.

Q: Are you prepared for the pressure that is going to be coming from McLaren? Do you feel there will be a lot of pressure?

KM: Yeah, for sure. They're waiting, they're expecting lots of things from me; but also I had a big push this year to start - came from Formula Renault to Formula One and improve myself in Formula One. So I think it's not going to be any bigger pressure than big enough this year.

Q: Getting back to Mika again, would you like him to help you? Would you like him to be in the background as it were? How far in the background?

KM: I don't know. But, for sure, it's helping if somebody like Mika who knows what the team is doing and the beginning for sure it's going to be a help if he want to help me and I will listen if he has something to say to me.

Q: Are there areas where you see that he can help you?

KM: Don't know yet really.

MH: I'm sure the driving points are going to definitely - Kimi can handle that, you know, like you have seen.

Q: But the pressure side of it?

MH: I think pressure is something which is very personal thing. Either you can handle it or you can handle it less. Everybody is different and everybody handles the pressure differently. I think if you talk with Kimi, for example, he's been handling the pressure this year starting the first season, you know. I think has been extremely good.

Q: Now, I've been asked to ask a question to all of you, or those of you who would like to comment, about Murray Walker who sat up here. It's going to be his last race that he's commentating on and he's probably said very nice things about most of you. Would you just like to make a comment about the fact, what he has contributed to the sport? Who can I start with? Go ahead. If. It's a bit quiet, Murray, I'm very sorry. Jacques. (Laughter)

JV: Well, racing can be very exciting but when you watch TV, it's the commentating that can make or break the excitement that is there or is not there. I think Murray has been a very big part of that. That's been a very big help in the UK and actually even - I have a lot of friends who have been watching the race in Canada and they were talking about the entertainment of watching Murray commentating the race.

Q: Mika.

MH: I think Murray, when he's going to go, is going to be a loss, a loss for Formula One. I think certainly in England basically, because at least his commentating in England is very spectacular.

And always Murray has been supporting McLaren big way all the time. I'm very happy for that. (Laughter)

But you can always come back, you know. (Laughter)

Q: Juan Pablo, I don't know if you have the experience.

JPM: I experienced actually Murray more on TV than life. When I was racing in England in the smaller series, I used to watch always the race and he was the commentator; and he was really good.

Q: Pedro.

PDR: I just remember when I was racing in Formula Three, Murray commentated one of my races. I just have that image of him commentating a Formula Three race, not only Formula One; and I thought it was incredible. He didn't make any mistake, also. (Laughter)

I must say that I'm not sure how the British people are going to react about watching a race without his voice. It will be very, very strange. We'll miss you from our side; but, as Mika said, maybe you come back.

Q: Kimi, I don't know if you've experienced Murray.

KR: Not much but like last year I spent quite a bit time in England. Sometimes when I had the time I watched a Formula One race and there was always very good commentators.

Q: Thank you, gentlemen. Some questions from the floor? If you would raise a hand, microphones will come to you.

Q: Mika, do you feel that considering two world championships recently that you are being treated fairly by McLaren in the situation?

MH: I definitely feel there's very fair support from the team, definitely. I have no problems at all.

Q: Jacques, if you could reflect back to your race here last year. You probably put on as good a show as anybody in the field. You had a spin down here in the turn that probably kept you off the podium, but just talk a little bit about that race and reflect back on it.

JV: Well, as I said before, it's a fun racetrack. The infield is not exciting but the way you could drive it, you could actually work, you could work and you would always be sliding a little bit and you could work yourself on getting closer to someone so you could have a shot at them down the main straight. It wasn't sufficient to be quick just in one part of the track. If you were just quick in the straight but very slow in the corners, then you couldn't race anyone, and vice versa. So that made it actually a lot of fun. The straight line is longer than it looks just because we get onto it before the banked corner, before turn one or the last corner for us. So I just remember it being a lot of fun, more like a game than a race.

Q: Jacques, just to follow up on that. How well do you think your car will be suited to the track this year? Is a top six a realistic hope for you this year?

JV: Well, our car didn't seem to be suited to any track this year, so I don't think there will be anything special here. (Laughter)

But we seem to be always a lot better off in the races than in qualifying. This being a track where you can overtake, then that's one of the tracks where we should be able to get in the points.

Q: Mika, leaving the team this year, is it because you're burned out a little bit or is it you want to be with your son? What are the reasons basically?

MH: I think just what you said, those things. I think all of those are not as extremely true, but part of it, yes. I think being in Formula One for so many years, it's the time when you feel that way, you achieved a lot and then you start getting to the time when you're getting tired and you kind of really cannot a hundred percent focus anymore and you don't do any good for yourself and you don't do any good for the team. So that's why the decision to take a break was the right decision.

Q: Question to all of you: Is anybody of you concerned about safety measures in these times being here?

Q: Anyone concerned? No?

They're shaking their heads.

Q: Just one more question. Is everybody feeling fine to take part in this Grand Prix?

JPM: Yeah.

PDR: I'm physically okay, are you? (Laughter)

Q: So all feeling positive, yeah.

Q: I have a question very similar to the other guys. In Monza there was a lot of discussion in which way to start the race. It seems all the Formula One world was under shock after what's happened here in America. Now I'd like to understand in your mind how is the feeling - I mean, did you pass through this shock and now is a race like every others or there will be some - some things to think even here? And do you want to show something together like in Monza, I mean to take the initiative to do something before the race? Thanks.

Q: Who would like to comment on that? You were all asked to comment. Jacques?

JV: Well, you know, once you got in the race in Monza, nothing else existed for this hour and a half of racing. That's how it should be in anything you do. There's been more time since Monza and, you know, everything is different, there's been a big change. The shock is still there but you just have to go along. There's no reason for us to do anything different here.

Q: Mika, any further comment?

MH: No, I agree with Jacques.

Q: Pedro, Juan Pablo? Quite happy with that?

JPM: Yeah.

Q: any other questions, please? Yeah, in the front.

Q: To any of you who would like to answer. Concerning the infield portion of the circuit, do any of you think that there is space there, given that it's inside an oval, is there space to improve the circuit? Tony George, I think, has talked about reconfiguring at times. Would you have suggestions for reconfiguring and do you think it's possible to do fairly easily?

JV: You probably could go back to turn three and use the other back straight and have two long straights. (Laughter)

Q: Do you think it's basically impossible given this is inside an oval to really make it a (end of question inaudible)

JV: Either you make two interesting corners and get back on the straights or have a lot of very tight and go-kart type of corners. There's a certain amount of space and the more corners you put in the amount of space, the more illogical and - yeah, it becomes very Mickey Mouse, the track.

If you look at all the tracks that were made in the last ten years - no, the five years, most modern tracks, there is a small piece of land and let's put as many corners as we can in this piece of land. There is never any logic to the layout of the track.

Q: Pedro, you were here last year apparently. (Laughter)

PDR: Yeah, I agree completely. We have to lengthen the track. That's one of the most important things. It's one of the shortest circuits. Lap times was 1:14, I think, was pole position, this year it will be even quicker. So we are looking at the 1:12 lap time, I think it's too short. So we need to lengthen the track, make it more interesting with a couple of corners, more quicker corners. If we can use the back straight which, I don't know, would be a very good idea because then you increase the overtaking opportunities to double. And that's it. I mean this is what we want and it's up to the organizers to say if it's possible or not.

Q: Mike in the front here, yeah. Michael Murray. (Editor note. Murray Walker - ITV).

Q: It's a question for Mika and Kimi. All of us here like your age in the fact we all speak English and we're lucky enough that you all speak English to us. Given that Uncle Mika and Nephew Kimi are going to be talking to each other a lot in the future, the question is: Do you talk to each other in Finnish? I've always wondered, do you have regional accents when you talk to each other? (Laughter)

Q: This is his last race, so be kind to him. (Laughter)

MH: No, we do speak the Finnish when we're having a conversation. I don't think Kimi has any kind of accent. I'm close by Helsinki in the capital, and I don't feel I have any kind of accent. What do you think, Kimi?

KR: No, I don't think so either. I also live very close to Helsinki and all the people speak very normal in there. (Laughter)

Q: Can I follow that up? Ron Dennis told us that you had gone on holiday together during the summer. How did that happen? What do two racing drivers who are on holiday talk about to each other during those days?

MH: Well, not probably so much - well, maybe it's bad to call holiday together, to be honest. It was just the one week - or was it two weeks? I think one week.

It's not definitely a concentration and discussing about the motor racing all the time. There's a lot of subjects, other things - and it's better I don't go into details. (Laughter)

Q: Fishing?

MH: Kimi can say.

KR: No, we just spoke and we had some good fun on there, and that's all.

Q: Okay.

Q: Mika, you've raced on a lot of great circuits throughout your career. It was a new experience racing here last year. Did this place have any type of aura for you?

MH: Sorry?

Q: Any type of special feeling, any type of aura, atmosphere?

MH: It was definitely last year a very positive experience to come down here and to drive the track. I think it was very positive. I found it was very - it was more - it was easier than I expected. I mean to drive the track, it was easier than I expected. And the way the things were organized around the track, I think it was fantastic considering it was the first Grand Prix in the U.S. last year. So I think in terms of organization, it was really fantastic.

Q: Well, in the United States this place is viewed as a shrine.

MH: Sure, sure.

Q: Did it feel that way to you?

MH: Yeah, it was pretty good.

Q: Kimi, can you talk about the excitement of coming into Formula One at a young age and having a compatriot from your country that you could look to if you had any problems and how much help he's been?

KR: Yeah, I think so. It's made life a bit more easier to come to Formula One if you have like Mika from Finland, also. If I have some things that I want to ask from him, probably he can help me. It's always easier than if you would be alone here and you want to ask from someone, you don't have any people to go and ask help. For sure, this year has been very interesting for me and has been lots of fun. I've really enjoyed it.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Sauber , McLaren , Williams