An interview with: Cristiano da Matta Part II Q Could you sense a different emotion with the team from the early practice sessions when you guys first got back together to actually get on the racetrack? Cristiano da Matta: One thing I felt on...
An interview with: Cristiano da Matta
Q Could you sense a different emotion with the team from the early practice sessions when you guys first got back together to actually get on the racetrack?
Cristiano da Matta: One thing I felt on the team, everybody like me didn't seem to forget through the holiday and through the time off we've had about our last couple of races. Everybody's so fired up about the season. Everybody's so like excited about the idea that we really can win this championship, we are one of the contenders. Everybody's so fired up about that.
It was like coming out of Fontana last year. It felt almost like we had won that race just a few days before.
Q You were at the Miami press conference today. It sounded like there was an awful lot of cheering going on in the background. Was the mood very upbeat about the race down there?
Cristiano da Matta: Yeah, everybody was quite excited. First reason why, I think it used to be such a great event here on downtown Miami that everybody I think have only good memories on their minds about the race. That's, of course, very good. To have everything back, everybody was quite excited about it and everybody was really looking forward. There's a lot of people really trying to make it happen the best way possible. So I think it's going to be a great event.
For me, even better, because I don't have a home race anymore. Don't have a race in Brazil anymore. It's going to be nice to race back where I live.
Q Do you think a lot of Brazilians will fly up for the race?
Cristiano da Matta: I'm sure. I'm sure that's going to happen. One thing that everybody would ask me when I'm back to Brazil, everybody tells me, because in Homestead, when the race was in Homestead, they used to come to watch the race here, not only the Brazilians that live here, but also a lot of people from Brazil.
Last year, for example, we didn't have a race in Brazil, and we didn't have a race close to Brazil. The closest race we had to Brazil was Houston, which is like a ten-hour flight. It's not as easy to get to because there's only one direct flight per day. To Miami, you have over six or seven flights daily and nightly. Maybe even more than that. It's only from Sao Paolo, Rio, it's eight, seven and a half hours. It's not too bad.
A lot of people I'm sure is going to be coming to watch because it's the better opportunity they have to watch a sport they love over there, which is Champ car.
Q What's the chances we'll see you at Indy this year?
Cristiano da Matta: So far very, very small. I still try to believe that it's going to happen. But to be honest with you, I would say that my chances to be there this year are less than 20%.
Q You talk about getting consistency. You know, early in your career, now you're this old veteran, earlier in your career, you made a name by winning races. How hard is it to change the mindset? I'm not saying you're not looking to win races, but all during the year, as you said, you have to finish. Is that a big change for you?
Cristiano da Matta: That's I think the hardest thing for a driver because to achieve that, you cannot follow your instinct, you just have to sometimes settle for fourth place finish. That's not what you're really want to do. So I think it's difficult. I think every driver has to work on that a lot.
I felt like last year I had a big, big improvement on this area, on myself. I think I just wasn't more consistent last year because of some other factors. But not because I crashed and it was my fault. I made very, very few mistakes last year. I think with the more experience, one more year with the team, with Newman/Haas, one more year with the engineers, crew, working together with all the same guys, I think is going to do it for us.
I think it's just going to -- all this consistency that we were missing I think is just going to suddenly be there.
Q Do you and Tony still have a bet on bicycles this year?
Cristiano da Matta: No, not anymore. I have to pay him too many. Last year he didn't pay me even once. I try to put a bet with him that to start with he has to give me three, then we start talking (laughter).
John Procida: Cristiano actually led the championship points through the first three races until we went to first Japan and then Milwaukee, when he was actually taken out on the first lap at each race in a crash that he was basically caught up in, not really involved in the crash itself, just got collected. I just wanted to add that.
Q Did the events of last year, do you think a lot of these changes are just a result of the way things went last year? In other words, do you think maybe things happen for a reason, happened last year, to necessitate change this year in the drivers' minds?
Cristiano da Matta: I believe that in life everything happens for a reason. In Brazil, there's a saying that says that God always rights everything in the right way, but sometimes the line to get there is not straight, it's a little bit -- there's a couple of turns.
I think that's the way everything in life is.
Maybe everything that happened with CART last year was just something that made us more switched on, and not only my racing career, you have to learn the lessons - right? - Everything that happens that is not exactly the way you wanted, and try to do the changes needed to prevent those things to happen again and to make everything better on the future. I think that's what happened.
Q Do you think things have now kind of moved into the 21st century in a sense, maybe they'd become a little too sedentary, and now the circuit in general from the leadership down to the track, everything is kind of where it's supposed to be, maybe where you all wanted it to be?
Cristiano da Matta: Well, I think it's very difficult to change things from one year to the other. But I think definitely we are going on the right way. I think the very first positive thing we have right now is the schedule we have because it's more international, there are more races in Canada, more in Mexico than last year. There's new venues coming into the circuit this year.
The kind of races that we had the best success last year, which are the street courses and the road courses. It seems to me like that's where it's different. Like outside the US, I see people enjoying to watch the CART races everywhere. But inside the US especially, it looks like we have a better following when we are running road courses and street courses. We adding lots of those type of tracks this year. I think it's just -- we're just doing what is going to be good for the series and what seems to be where the crowd likes to watch us.
I think the schedule is very positive. I think all the other issues that were change so far, many, many, many small issues, but they were all something that was bothering either in the competition side the teams or the drivers, like the qualifying procedure wasn't a hundred percent fair, with two groups, now everybody is going to be able to qualify at the same time. The fuel economy races, so on. I think it's all great changes to make more better racing. I think everybody's going to have to be driving harder and harder. I think that's what the crowd likes to see, hard racing and everybody pushing it to the very edge. I think all the changes were made thinking about that.
I think that's the way that the sport needs to go.
John Procida: Any last questions for Cristiano? We'll wrap this up. I want to thank you for joining us today as well as all of our members in the media. See you in Mexico on Friday.
Cristiano da Matta: Okay, thank you all. See you there.
Part I da Matta interview