US Grand Prix FIA Thursday press conference transcript with Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) Heikki Kovalainen (Renault) Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber) Takuma Sato (Super Aguri) Scott Speed (Toro Rosso) Jarno Trulli (Toyota) Moderator: Just to update you...
US Grand Prix FIA Thursday press conference transcript with
Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
Heikki Kovalainen (Renault)
Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber)
Takuma Sato (Super Aguri)
Scott Speed (Toro Rosso)
Jarno Trulli (Toyota)
Moderator: Just to update you on Lewis Hamilton, who is on his way to the press conference at the moment, but his flight was delayed from Washington. It wasn't delayed, rather, it was canceled, so he had to get another flight. He's going to be a little bit late, I'm afraid, but he will be here.
Those that are here are now taking their seats. And in the back row, our right to left, Takuma Sato, Lewis Hamilton and Jarno Trulli. And the front row, our right to left, Scott Speed, Robert Kubica and Heikki Kovalainen.
I'm going to start, if I might, with Takuma.
Takuma Sato: Hello.
Moderator: Hello. Your feelings after Canada, an excellent race.
Takuma Sato: Yes, first of all it's great here nobody hurt in the last race and showing Formula One safety level so high after we see a lot of indiscretion a few years ago. But no, that was very frustrating for us, I have to say. Big thanks to the teams. Yeah, I mean personally our team feeling was absolutely fantastic. That's one of the outstanding results from our team in last two-and-a-half years. Obviously, it was a difficult race. So many things happened in such an eventful race. Given the choice, I think everybody has a chance, everybody has a little difficulty. But I think at the end of the day, we made the right call. It was so exciting to be racing on the last few laps and grabbed my position back. That was really exciting. I'm very, very happy with that.
Moderator: Around the outside going into the final chicane, it's not the usual chosen way of overtaking.
Takuma Sato: Montreal, obviously it's difficult, but nothing is impossible. I think overtake after long straight. Heavy braking is possible to overtake, but obviously you've got get good exit from the corner before. Not only that, you need other good car on the braking stability. Obviously when I was battling Fernando, his car was very good speed down the straight. Once he pull away, I got a big tow. That was quite surprising to see. But at the end of the straight, you know, I had opportunity and go side by side and braking late. I was confident and I was totally controlled comfortable. Because the one thing the last race, I think it was for everybody, but it was so difficult because of the marbles, because of the situation, tires or the strategy was unusual. So try not to make any error was extremely important. So how we do it, but I'm very pleased it handled very well.
Moderator: What about here, you've been third on the grid here, you finished third here, you've been on the podium, what about this race?
Takuma Sato: Yes, I have great memory here in Indianapolis. It's such a nice feeling. You could bring such a great momentum from the last week, and two consecutive races always is logistically difficult, but from the driver point of view it's nice to have a race straight away. I think it's going to be incredibly difficult to repeat what happened in Canada. But I'm confident that our team prepare the best we can, and hopefully we have a strong weekend.
Moderator: Thank you, Takuma. Jarno, obviously a shocking race in many ways for you last weekend.
Jarno Trulli: Well, the weekend was a bit dramatic weekend at one stage. But fortunately we could overcome the problem with front suspension, and we shouldn't have any problem for the future. Actually, the part has been redesigned, and we'll get it soon.
But the race was also quite a dramatic race because of the accident, because so many accidents, because of the Safety Car, you know, the new rules. So many things happened. Obviously, it was a difficult race, and I think the people who won the race really deserve it. But many others got, like it or not, losing getting position on the track and probably it was the one that has lost the position has lost the result. Unfortunately with the accident with Robert, had to pit because I had a flat tire, and from then on I was laying on the back of the grid. I couldn't do much with the Safety Car coming out every time, and it was really difficult.
Moderator: How affected were you by the accident? How much were you thinking about that accident?
Jarno Trulli: The race, my race was basically spoiled there because I had to pit for an extra tire change, so obviously I dropped down in the grid. There was very little to do at that stage. But then on top of that, you know, when you are involved in an accident, you're always concerned, especially when you see someone else's car completely destroyed. So it was very difficult. No one had any information about Robert until the end of the race. So I was a little bit concerned. I think I guess everyone was concerned.
Moderator: What about this race, you've been on the pole position here, four times you finished fourth, twice from 20th and 22nd on the grid. So what are your chances here?
Jarno Trulli: Well, if we look at the statistics, you know, Canada has never brought me luck, while here has always done very good race. So I just hope I can bounce back because it's now three races I don't score points because of bad luck. I want to make sure I have free-trouble weekend and try to do my best and try to get the best out of the car.
Moderator: OK, thank you very much. Heikki, obviously a good result last weekend. How much of a relief was that to have that result?
Heikki Kovalainen: Honestly, not so much. I've always felt confident even after a lot of mistakes and after bad races; I haven't lost my confidence, and I always feel the team has been a hundred percent behind me. In that way, it was a big relief. It was good to score points, and to get five points is very important for myself, for the team and to get the championship going. Now our car is getting better. So I think that's more important. But other than that, it doesn't really change my life and our team's life much at all.
Moderator: Tell us about the improvements in the car. Is it a lot better now?
Heikki Kovalainen: Yes, I think so. Already in Monaco, the car was performing a lot better there, and at the end of the race my pace, even though I was driving at the back of the queue, was pretty good. And Fisi had a strong result there and all the way in Canada throughout the weekend. The car did feel pretty good, but obviously a couple of mistakes, one on Friday and one on Saturday, they completely compromised my race, especially qualifying. We have to make sure that we get the full potential out of our car. I think we should be able to fight for top-10 positions now on a consistent basis. When we get there, then the races become a lot more easier. Then we should score points consistently.
Moderator: You have been quoted as saying you've learned some change of attitude from the weekend to last weekend. What was the main thing that you learned from last weekend?
Heikki Kovalainen: I don't know if I said that or not, but obviously mistakes in the free practice, they cost me a lot of track time. When I went to qualifying, I really didn't have 100 percent confidence, you know, how much I can attack. It was actually the first time I used the super-soft tires in qualifying because of all the problems in the practice. When you go to qualifying with that kind of a situation, it's always going to be very difficult when everybody else is on the top of their games and you are still finding your way around the track and with the car and with the tires and everything.
So I think the main lesson from that weekend is we've got to do the free practice properly. We've got to make sure we set up the car and 100 percent ready for the qualifying, and then I think everything will be back to normal.
Moderator: Thank you very much. Robert, first of all, I'm sure I echo everyone's feelings here that it's very good to see you.
Robert Kubica: Thank you.
Moderator: Any aftereffects since the accident, obviously?
Robert Kubica: Not really. I have bit of pain of ankle first day, but now it's 100 percent OK. So no headache, nothing like, nearly like brand new. So really lucky, and I mean very positive for myself, very important to come back as soon as possible because we have to wait for the doctors of FIA and Indy here of the Grand Prix to give me the OK. But I feel like nothing happened.
Moderator: What is the procedure now, when are you going to have a medical examination?
Robert Kubica: Probably the doctors will check myself. I have already a report from the Montreal doctor and Dr. (inaudible), who say, looks everything is OK, quite surprised after all the exams that nothing happens to me. So, yeah, I mean we have to wait, we have to see. I feel 100 percent good, but, you know, you have to always wait for the decision. Then probably hopefully I will be back in the car with better performance than in Canada. (Laughter)
Moderator: Have you had a look, have you seen the accident on TV?
Robert Kubica: Yeah, I have seen it also live when I was there. (Laughter) But also Scott has good position to look at it there. I saw some pictures. But I saw it because for me, as Jarno came to the hospital, it was also important to understand what happened and why suddenly I have no control from the car. And apparently it was the front wing when we touched which went under the car and to lift my car up and I have no -- I couldn't steer anymore. So that's why I went off.
Moderator: So you're looking forward to driving, obviously, this weekend.
Robert Kubica: I mean I really feel like nothing happens. I want to be back in the car, and I am looking forward. Again, Canada, it was very unlucky for me starting from Friday problems with the fuel leak and then performance-wise was not good. I was looking very much forward for Canada because last year I was very competitive there, Nick was competitive, but apparently we faced some problems with the car, and it doesn't pay off. So let's hope I'm in good shape, that the car will be good shape and doctors will give me OK to race here and to be competitive.
Moderator: Let's hope so. Thank you. Scott, sorry to keep you waiting. Really, your performance, best performance so far this year appears to be the race before, in fact, Monaco. That must have been a great race for you.
Scott Speed: Yeah, Monaco was definitely good for us. Since Barcelona we have made big steps forward with our car. We knew it was going to be a long beginning of the season because of all the winter testing we missed, but certainly the car is coming together. We're still waiting for at least one more big update that should put us in a position where we can fight for points, I think. But until then the team has done a fantastic job, and we've definitely closed the gap.
Moderator: Have you been satisfied with your other performances, though, so far this year?
Scott Speed: Yeah, for me, I think, the beginning of the year has been very good. We've had good races; we've just been I think very unlucky. We haven't finished any. I think especially starting from Barcelona, we've been at the right pace or at a pace that was better than we kind of expected. So this weekend I expect to be at a similar pace to where we were in Canada. But once we get back to Europe, I think we have another improvement waiting for us.
Moderator: Obviously, some changes within the team as well in that you're using the design from Adrian Newey and obviously Gerhard Berger has come in and so on, so forth, there's quite a few changes there. Those presumably have been positive?
Scott Speed: I think Gerhard has been there from the start, but certainly having a car that's up to date is good for us because we can develop like everyone else throughout the year, unlike last year where we pretty much had what we had at the very beginning and needed to try to make the best as we could toward the end of the year.
Moderator: Some questions from the floor, please, if you would raise your hand and give me your name and publication.
Q: Scott, tell us what you saw of Robert's accident.
Scott Speed: Well, actually after my accident at the very beginning of the race, I was kind of stranded on the track there without a way to get back to the pits. So I was using a chair and watching the big screen in front of me about 3 meters away from where Robert hit the first wall. So I was quite startled to say the least. Initially was just really, really concerned because it was such a huge-looking crash, especially as close as I was to it. Yeah, waited like everyone else to make sure he was OK.
Moderator: Some more questions.
Q: Question for Robert. Can you tell us what you remember of it, yourself as you went through the accident, what was going through your mind and exactly what you can remember of that?
Robert Kubica: Well, I mean I can't remember pretty a lot, of course. What I remember is what you see. We were racing with Jarno, the corner was going to the left, I show up before the corner to the left-hand side of Jarno, then as the corner was a left-hander, I thought Jarno would go there and I went on the right-hand side, but apparently I would be on the left one and he picked a bit wider. I was not expecting it, we touched, the front wing went under the car and I have no more control. When I was on the outside of the track on the grass, suddenly I took something which lift my car pretty much and I hit the wall. When I stop, I stop. (Laughter)
You know, nothing more. I mean, it shows, you know, just that -- reviewing images, it looks much shocked I was, and in reality I was because when I stopped, I realized I was not in bad shape. That was very important for me. I mean, I have been involved already in one accident a few years ago. It was in road car, and I knew straight away that something was really bad. But this time when I stop and I was taking myself kind of, you know, moving and I want to see what's going on, I feel a bit of ankle pain and that was all. So it was very important. It shows that the push of FIA for the safety, you know, to the teams and that they crash test everything, it has been a big improvement. And also big thanks to FIA because in the end they are pushing for the safety, and probably 10 years ago we would not speak here, and this time I'm like nothing happens.
Moderator: Some more questions?
Q: Robert, you can consider that you were still conscious at the end of the accident, and how difficult was it to bring you out of the cockpit?
Robert Kubica: Well, apparently it was not difficult, but the problem was for me that there was some water or oil coming out from the car, and I have a lot of burning. As soon as the marshals were slowly pulling me out of the car, I felt burning on my shoulder because there was oil probably on the ground and it was really hot. But I mean, everything went smooth, and thanks also to rescue team and to everybody who was involved in my accident, you know, from the doctors, from the rescue, from the marshals that they have done great job.
Moderator: Just as a matter of interest, are drivers told not to move if you've had a big accident like that, are you asked just to stay still in the car, don't try and get out, don't try and undo your belts? Are there specific instructions? Perhaps Jarno is the most experienced.
Jarno Trulli: No, we don't have any specific instruction. Obviously, as Robert say, the first thing you do is you check up yourself. You try moving around if you're fine. It's important in such a big accident to not move too much the neck and spine because that's one part that can be really badly injured. But I think straight away you realize if you're fine or not by yourself. Then it's up to the doctor the way they extract you from the car is what's important.
Moderator: But you're not really expected to get out on your own after something like that?
Jarno Trulli: If you can, if you feel OK, you will get out of the car by yourself. Because in a way, if you have a big pain, I don't think you will move much. You would feel a lot of pain.
Moderator: Exactly. OK, some more questions, please.
Q: Robert, did you actually get a chance to get on the radio and talk to your crew or was that system destroyed in the crash?
Robert Kubica: Well, looking at the pictures, I think radio was not any more there. (Laughter) I mean, I don't know what has been left. So, of course, I mean, I don't know what has been left in the car. So I haven't seen it, but in looking at pictures, I mean this is a bit strange question. Of course, you know, how you want to talk, there's nothing left.
Q: Is there a standard procedure of getting in contact with your team and saying I'm OK? Is there any --
Robert Kubica: Yeah, of course there is. But after such an accident, such a crash, first of all you don't think to say something to the team. You think about yourself. As Jarno say, it was important to don't move. I could go out from the car by myself because I have -- I realize I'm OK. But, of course, I could have been under shock or something, and the injury can be much more. So that's why marshals and the rescue crew and doctors say stay calm, we pull you away from the car alone and slowly. That's what's most important, to keep everything under control.
Q: And how long honestly did if take until the first thought was, 'Will I be able to race in Indy?'
Robert Kubica: Well, the thing was that -- I realized very quickly I'm quite OK. You never know how will be after, if your head will headache, neck. But everybody was saying that the morning after will be the worst one. First thing, of course, I woke up Monday morning, I stood up and I just try to move and I have nothing, no pain at all. So I say, 'Whoa, that's good.' Of course, I want to come back straight away, but, you know, first of all it's the safety and your own body and your own mind which you have to, you know, listen and then, of course, if I would have some preoccupation or I would not be 100 percent, I would say by myself I don't want to race, I don't want to race because in the end it's not only me on the track, there are other drivers. And not only drivers, but marshals and everybody. But I feel very good. So as I said, we have to wait for the FIA decision and then we will see.
Moderator: Some more questions.
Q: Takuma, the car is much more competitive this year. How much is that because you obviously have a very good chassis this year and how much is it because it's the second year of the team and the team is much more jelled together?
Takuma Sato: Yeah, it is extremely important to get momentum from last year. To be honest, obviously, last year's team standing extremely difficult position with very limited resource, 90 days to go to Bahrain, and all we had was a four-and-a-half-years-old SA23 chassis. It's now a famous story, but I was stuck in the Melbourne airport for long time, and take it back and build up the car like this. Through the season it was consistently, we made some little upgrades, and every time reflected it's a good result and obviously give us confidence. So the guys did the wind tunnel, and the technical group in the field did a fantastic job. By the end of the season, our car was in 10th grid at conclusion at Brazil with good fight.
So in second season, so important to start from there. We know it is extremely difficult to do that but we've done it. I'm so happy to see all the boys come together and all the results come together. To be honest, we didn't expect this high result on the second year. The important thing is understanding why it was good and why it was not. I think our team is very strong in that point. So just made a point and that's why we're here. I'm not expecting a super job in every race but continuously working and continuous with the communication with such a small team is extremely important. And, also, we have a lot of great support from (inaudible) Honda and the relationship with them and the Super Aguri Team doing a fantastic job. I'm very happy with them and very proud to be a part of it.
Q: This is to Robert. The image of the accident showed that the first impact, the protection you had inside the cockpit, your side flew in the first impact, leaving your head to move to all sides after that. Don't you think there is something to review in the safety area?
Robert Kubica: I think you are not right, frankly.
Q: It wasn't inside there?
Robert Kubica: Yes, it was.
Moderator: We've been joined by Lewis Hamilton. Lewis, greetings. I think you've had a bit of an exciting journey getting here, haven't you?
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah. I was in New York for a couple of days and I had an appearance for Mercedes Benz and then I went to Indy -- sorry, to Washington yesterday for another appearance for Exxon Mobil. Getting back, the flight was canceled -- well, was delayed I think from 4 to 8, and half an hour at a time and eventually it was canceled at 9. So we ended up staying in the hotel, and then luckily we flew out this morning.
Moderator: Tell us about your feelings about the reaction since last weekend, your win, your maiden win.
Lewis Hamilton: As I said, I've been in New York, so I've not really heard too much about it. I know that there was -- I heard that I had the front pages back in the UK on the Monday, which is awesome. But other than that, I don't really, have not really been able to feel what has gone on around the world.
Moderator: Because I think the reaction has been phenomenal, but it's extraordinary that you haven't been able to gauge that.
Lewis Hamilton: I think it's been quite good, to be honest. I've been able to relax. I have had something like 200 text messages from friends. It's almost impossible to reply to them all, but I'm trying.
Moderator: Your feelings after last weekend coming into this race?
Lewis Hamilton: Well, obviously it was a big stepping-stone in my career and in my life. It was a great feeling to get the first win. Definitely not expected after going into only my sixth Grand Prix, especially at Canada where it wasn't one of my strongest circuits. I think Fernando is probably quicker than me there. But I did a solid job. Coming out of it, it was very positive for the team. Extended our lead with the Constructors Championship. Great points for me, and coming here we have to try and continue with other performance we have. I know the guys back at the factory are still working very hard and not taking it lightly that we're ahead.
Moderator: Are you expecting Ferrari to be more competitive here this weekend than they were, say, for the last two races?
Lewis Hamilton: Possibly. I think they will be, after the last race they're probably scratching their heads and definitely focusing very hard to improve for the next race. So in only a week you can't make too many improvements, but I don't know why they weren't as quick as us last week. But we'll see this weekend. I think they've been quite, you know, as you can see they've been very strong here in the past few years. So surely they will be quick here, but fingers crossed, we will be able to match them.
Moderator: I'm sure there are some questions from the floor for you. Shall we continue with questions from the floor?
Q: Lewis, I don't know if you know what Fernando said to radio, Spanish radio. He said that the team support you more than him because you are British. Do you feel there is all this support from the team, there is not equal support between the two drivers?
Lewis Hamilton: I find it strange he said that because I feel that ever since he joined the team, the team had been extremely motivated to push us both toward winning. Ron and the other guys on the team have been pushing extremely hard to make sure we have -- working very hard to make sure we have equal opportunity. It's probably always going to be difficult in a business, but obviously I've got a great relationship with all the guys in the team because I've been with them since I was 13. At the end of the day when Fernando came into the team, they were extremely excited, and I feel built a very good relationship with him. So I don't see why he would say that. But I guess because he is Spanish and I am English, he might feel that way, but I don't agree with it, personally.
Q: Lewis, now you have the possibility to become not only World Champion but even the youngest World Champion ever, do you have any particular feeling about that?
Lewis Hamilton: To be honest, I try not to focus on that. I think I came into the season with a very open mind and being realistic of the fact that I am a rookie and I've got a lot to learn. It is still very steep learning curve, and yes, I have a great opportunity to, one, be in the best team and have one of the best drivers to compare myself to. But I still feel there's going to be times during the season which, you know, will be some lows, some highs, and I think it's way too early. Eleven races to go, I think it's way too early to even start thinking about the championship. I just have to approach every race exactly the same as I always have and to try and do a solid job. Each time I go out in the car, I learn something new. I'm becoming more and more comfortable in the car, with the team, with the controls and with the rules and the regulations and just the whole racing, qualifying. I'm always learning bit by bit, and I will continue throughout the season.
Q: Lewis, do you think that Fernando is surprised by your results, that's probably why he said these things? He was not expecting you to be as quick and to win so early?
Lewis Hamilton: I can't -- I doubt it very much he was expecting me to do as well as I have, but I don't know whether that's why he would be saying what he's saying. But, you know, definitely coming into the team, he's the two-time World Champion, and he's not really been challenged -- well, I think he has some challenges in the past but not really had probably someone as close as me and as good a friend off the track, probably. So it's a very difficult situation.
Moderator: Some more questions.
Q: Scott, you've been in town a couple of days. What sort of welcome have you got here from the fans and the people of Indianapolis?
Scott Speed: Yeah, I think very similar to last year. It's like my homecoming of the year. Certainly, I have a lot more support here than the rest of the races. It's nice to be back in America. I'm enjoying very much my time here.
Q: Lewis, when you were out and about in New York and Washington, do you get recognized at all yet by Americans?
Lewis Hamilton: I got recognized a couple of times, but the majority of the time I think it was a Spanish couple. (Laughter) No, no, actually I was quite surprised, actually. They said we're Spanish, but we support you. And then there was a couple of English tourists out there. But none of the Americans have noticed. I was able to walk around as free as everyone else.
Jarno Trulli: The Spanish couple was lying. (Laughter)
Q: Takuma, you mentioned how quickly the team was set up last year, and I presume the factory Honda team gave you a lot of help. Have they asked for help back yet? (Laughter)
Takuma Sato: To be honest, as the same Honda family, we are both competing with each other to improve the performance now. But I think it's end of the day to still the individual team. No, we don't do this, but, you know, our team's ambition -- my personal ambition is still same, you know. Not beating one team and beat everybody else. If anybody in front of you, there is opportunity. If you are aiming toward the head, you have to overtake everything and pass them for the team. So hopefully this situation made us even stronger, but I think either team, it's the same Honda family, but I think we are competing with each other in very nice way.
Moderator: Some more questions?
Q: Lewis, in a race like Montreal, how much have you been aware in the cockpit that if the Safety Car comes out at the wrong moment your race could have been over, whatever advantage you have before, and what do you think about this rule in general?
Lewis Hamilton: Obviously, I was aware of it going into the race. It's always going to be an issue. So far this year I think we've all been very fortunate where it's not hampered us, but obviously it did in Montreal. But I was obviously in the right place at the right time. Very fortunate that the team made a good decision, got me in a lap early, and I avoided the first Safety Car.
My views, I have not really had too many troubles with it, so I don't have any bad views of the rule, but I can't say it was probably the best idea. I think the previous years were maybe a little bit better.
Q: To Robert, could you tell us what did you do the last few days? When did you arrive here? When did you leave Montreal and what did you do in between?
Robert Kubica: Well, of course, I tried to relax and just, you know, cool down and make sure that I will be 100 percent fit for this Grand Prix and we try and did some rehabilitation, we did some relaxing, walking. All of my situation, the ankle is improving a lot and now is 100 percent back to normal. So this was very important to get quick, even the small problem which I had to be fixed and now it's fixed. So I think thanks to Ricardo and Joseph who helped me in this three days. We have done good job and I'm able to be here.
Moderator: Some more questions?
Q: Lewis, coming here like a winner, how is your feeling to be in this monument of all the motor racing? And have you, something that you remember about this track, the 500 miles?
And a question for Robert: If you felt after accident, about the fact that you have the image of John Paul II in your helmet.
Lewis Hamilton: Do you want to go first, Robert?
For me, I come here feeling exactly the same as I have for every race, very excited. I have literally just driven into the circuit, and I haven't had time to see anything. It's an amazing opportunity for any driver to come here and compete. Watching the Indy 500 over the years, it's an awesome race, and I've always wanted to go and have a -- to go and watch and be a spectator. But to be here racing on the circuit is pretty cool. Just flying over, I could see what the track was like. It's quite a nice complex.
Robert Kubica: I think it's quite personal question, so I will not comment. I mean I think it's not related to racing, so I keep it for myself.
Moderator: Any more questions? No more questions. Thank you very much, gentlemen. Thank you.