CHAMPCAR/CART: Cristiano da Matta press conference, part II

CART FedEx Championship Series July 2, 2002 An interview With Cristiano da Matta Part 2 of 2 Q</I>: Last Wednesday you and I talked and in three different answers to questions you thought or you said you didn't think you really had ...

CART FedEx Championship Series
July 2, 2002

An interview With Cristiano da Matta
Part 2 of 2

Q</I>: Last Wednesday you and I talked and in three different answers to questions you thought or you said you didn't think you really had a chance at all at Chicago.

Cristiano da Matta: (Laughs) Yeah, I really meant that.

Q</I>: I am glad I didn't bet my hair.

Cristiano da Matta: All right. (Laughs).

Q</I>: (Laughs) So what happened?

Cristiano da Matta: Well, we were in the improving process with our oval setup. Since Motegi we have been improving a lot. If you look back to the left, the race before Chicago, which was Milwaukee, I was running within the top six up until I had a mechanical problem, and Christian (Fittipaldi) finished fourth. So that's already a big improvement from Motegi. I just didn't believe that we were going to make that much more progress in that month off we had between Milwaukee, a month off oval races but we had a couple of road races, but I didn't think we were going to make that much progress. I think because last year we struggled so much in those types of tracks, I really didn't think the engineers were going to be able to find a good solutions for the problem in such a short period. They did. (Laughs). You know, I have to, you know, take my hat off to them, congratulate them for the great work they did, and that's -- that was all the difference. It was all understanding of the car and the ovals, understanding the aerodynamics and the mechanical grip and we were just getting closer and closer to be ultra competitive in the ovals.

Q</I>:   You always had a lot of faith in your team.  Is that faith now just
increased  -- do you almost look at them as though they are magicians?

Cristiano da Matta: Well, I say yes, because to come -- I have seen teams be in a situation where we were, for example, with our ovals struggling bad, struggling so much that just sometimes you think back and you know, I am a huge race fan so I have seen teams in this situation before and I think every time I see a team in the situation like that, usually when it is so bad, when we were so slow like we were usually it takes like two years so you come out of it.

So to do it -- to come out of that situation in like, in six months, it is just, for me, they did a superb job, like they are very -- of course they are very proud of themselves right now and they should be because it's just -- it is unbelievable. I swear I didn't expect it. I got into Chicago and I was thinking, okay, if I finish this season top five, I am going to be doing fine because then next couple of races we're back to the road courses then I can start scoring big points again. But we won, so they impressed me. I think they are magic.

Q</I>: When you climbed out of your car after qualifying, you kind of walked away a little bit and I don't know -- don't even know if you remember this but you turned around and you looked at the car again. I was thinking, gee, I wondered if he thought maybe he climbed in the wrong car.

Cristiano da Matta: No, I -- after the morning session I had the feeling for the car and the car was pretty good. So I knew I was going to have a shot for the pole. I was a little mad because I made a little mistake in my last lap, left corner on qualifying, and I lost the chance of being on pole. I was pretty mad at that time. But I didn't want to say anything because I wanted to try to surprise people. Because if I say I had the car to go for pole and I made the mistake, I didn't want to say that, otherwise, people would expect us to run good on the next day. I say no problem, I told the engineers what happened. I tried to push too hard coming out of Turn 4 and I lost the rear a little bit and correct it but I lost some time there. The team kept it to themselves. The guys told me, hey, you know that you are coming this much faster that lap, I said, yeah, I know, but sorry, I miss it. And I knew it was going to be good on Sunday.

Q</I>: There was some talk from some of the drivers that the rear wing configuration at Chicago didn't allow for passing and that it -- the cars would get quite unstable as you got up close. What was your experience with that?

Cristiano da Matta: Well, I think the rear wing is not bad. The rear wing seems to work fine in other tracks, like Japan, and Motegi, we had a lot of passing. Germany and England last year, and Milwaukee we had some passing too, it was just the Chicago track is a tough race to pass. I think the winning configurations maybe still not perfect but we're going the right way. I think the changes CART has been making they have been all very positive. And if you look right now, it's a lot better than last year. It's easier to pass than last year, but still not where we want it to be. The Chicago track is a tough track to pass. It is a tough track to drive so it makes it a tough track to pass too. That's the biggest thing. I think on the wing package we're going the right way. Maybe we still have some more to go but we're definitely heading the right way.

Q</I>: Going into Toronto this weekend, passing pretty much is narrowed down to Turns 1 and Turn 3. Do you see any other places that you might be able to make a good move?

Cristiano da Matta: Yes, I think also going into turn 7 it's a little bit more difficult than going into Turn 3 and going into Turn 1 but it is possible to pass there. I have seen passing there in the past, but it's not -- definitely not impossible, but it is difficult. For overtaking points for a street course it's pretty good. I think Toronto is probably actually the only street course, I think rather than Australia, they that offer us so many overtaking points.

Q</I>: Christian had the problem with the wheel nut so did other people in other races. What is the team doing to try to correct that or have you figured out what went wrong?

Cristiano da Matta: I think there's nothing wrong with the wheel nut. I don't think there's anything wrong with the guns that we use to change the tires. It is just -- now we don't have to refuel the car all the 35 gallons the fuel tank can take. So what happens it's sometimes -- before you could take your time changing the tires because the fuel was going to take more time than tires anyway. So the fuel would be the determining factor for how long your stop was going to take. Now because you don't have to fill the tank up, if you rush the tires you do gain time in your stop. I think everybody is just pushing harder and harder on trying to change the tires as quick as they can, and when you are pushing hard you are on the edge, it is just more likely to make mistakes.

Q</I>: I assume the team is practicing those this week too?

Cristiano da Matta: I am sure. It's probably one of the biggest strengths of Newman/Haas. It's definitely the crews we had. For my car and for Christian's car, they both have been there at Newman/Haas for a long time. They all know each other for a long time, and they have been practicing that together for a long time. So if you see a crew like Christian's do something like that, it's just happens, you know, it is just like sometimes a driver spins in a race, or, you know, right to right something wrong it is just -- it a human mistake. It's always going to happen.

Q</I>: With the three wins behind new a row what is your level of confidence going into Toronto? Is it higher than you would have been without them or are you getting a little anxious that somebody might be catching you?

Cristiano da Matta: No, I am not thinking like this. I am thinking about what we can do to make my car better and what I can do to make my drive better. I am not thinking about people trying to catch me or trying to run away from people. I am just thinking about improving and I think once we do that, if we do it right, I think the result will come naturally, and we don't have to worry about that.

Q</I>: Let me advance a theory here about this confidence issue. You've had some success coming in at the end of last year. You had success at the beginning of this season, and you had a test with F-1 and all of this has maybe given you some encouragement to -- that you do have skills that were obvious, but an athlete needs to be encouraged. Did that help with your confidence and your ability now to be -- to have this kind of success you are having now with three straight wins even on the oval where you didn't have success before?

Cristiano da Matta: Well, I had success before in the oval. I just didn't have it last year and at the beginning of the season but I won the Chicago race before and I won Fontana last year too.

Q</I>: That's true. But what has the success this year and the confidence that people have shown towards you, what has that done for your confidence in believing that, yes, I can run at the front and I can win?

Cristiano da Matta: Well, I always knew I could do the job. I never had any doubt about myself because I have won not only won but every previous series that I competed before the CART race I have won almost every Championship that I participated in before. So I knew I could have done the job, but the thing is you organize everything around you so you can do the job too. I think of course, your confidence -- once you get to a level like CART you have -- everybody that's there is there because they have won a Championship or has dominated other series. So you are competing against guys that are pretty confident too, and very good too. So against those guys to get something extra, sometimes -- it's not that I had some doubt. I knew I could win races. I knew I could fight for the Championship, but to know that I am able to win those many races in a row, that increases my confidence because I didn't know that I was going to be able to do that.

Q</I>: So it does matter when you go out at the beginning of an event, you have got three events in a row now and you go to Toronto not trying to win or proving to win but knowing that you can and that someone, like a Championship fighter, someone is going to have to knock you out to get the victory?

Cristiano da Matta: Well, yeah, it's just -- I believe a little bit in those things like in the atmosphere inside the team, how positive everybody is about it, about the team, so I think about the races, about themselves, and I think it's not only for the driver, but for everybody. When you are doing something and you are not thinking, well, I am doing this right, and maybe this is the right thing to do. When you are thinking just I know I am doing this right because I won this and this and this and this in a row or I have won so much lately I am sure this is the right thing to do. It really makes a difference.

Q</I>: Just like Brazil when you go out in the World Cup Final you have to bring your best shot because I am going to be there and you are going to have to catch me at the finish.

Cristiano da Matta: Yeah, it's the same kind of deal, like Brazilian players they are better than the Germans. It was just too, you know, be calm and do the job. So now that's the way we're thinking inside the team. We know we're very good and we know we have tough competition too but we can do it.

Merrill Cain: Thanks again for taking some time with us this afternoon. We hope you can enjoy a couple of days off here. We look forward to seeing you on the racetrack this weekend as you go for the record of four consecutive victories in the streets of Toronto at the Molson Indy. We appreciate it.

Cristiano da Matta: Thank you, Merrill.

-cart-

Cristiano da Matta part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Cristiano da Matta