CHAMPCAR/CART: Elkhart Lake: Top three qualifiers press conference, part II

An interview with Bruno Junqueira Cristiano da Matta Alex Tagliani Part 2 of 2 Merrill Cain: We'll open it up for questions. Q: Cristiano, on your lap, did you know that you were going to see Bruno's car sitting backwards on the track or...

An interview with
Bruno Junqueira
Cristiano da Matta
Alex Tagliani

Part 2 of 2

Merrill Cain: We'll open it up for questions.

Q: Cristiano, on your lap, did you know that you were going to see Bruno's car sitting backwards on the track or was it a surprise?

Cristiano da Matta: No, my crew called me on the radio before that. I kept on it until I got to Canada [corner]. They told me that the car was on the exit. They said, "Watch out because I don't think you're going to find room." When I got there, there wasn't much room on either side. There were a lot of pieces of his car lying in the middle of the track, a lot of debris. I had to slow down basically, and go slowly to the pits. There was nothing else I could do.

Q: Alex, you said that you didn't have the car to get on pole today. How confident are you to improve the car tomorrow morning and fight for the victory tomorrow?

Alex Tagliani: Well, if I would have tried to find somebody in front of me to do the perfect lap, I could have found a couple of tenths. The draft is very important. If you have the right gap with the guy in front of you, you can improve your time quite a bit.

But yesterday I was caught in traffic and I didn't have any good laps. I didn't want to risk it today. I wanted to do a lap by myself. So there would have been a little bit of time there, but I think we had a little bit too much push in the car to do a very fast lap.

But the car could change in the race because there are times you run with a heavy fuel tank. Hopefully our car is not going to destroy the tires, and is consistent. We'll be ok with a good pit stop strategy and a little bit of luck.

Q: Every week now on road courses in the qualifying it comes down to the last minute or minute and a half. Almost everybody among the top guys turns their fast lap. Is this putting more pressure on you guys? Do you feel differently about this kind of qualifying than you did in the past?

Bruno Junqueira: For sure that puts a lot of pressure on you because this championship is really close. If you don't give a hundred percent, you're going to be 10th or 12th instead of on the pole or second. You just don't lose one or two spots, you lose a lot of positions. You always have to get the maximum from the car.

I remember last weekend in Mid-Ohio. Friday I didn't get a lap. I was 10th and I had a car to be in the top three. I think it was the same today for Cristiano. I don't know which position he finished this session in, but he finished sixth or seventh.

Cristiano da Matta: I didn't check.

Bruno Junqueira: He had a car to be in the top three for sure, as well. That's very, very difficult.

Cristiano da Matta: It's difficult, too. But it's the risk you take. If you want to run with the best track conditions, you have to go out the very last minute. So everybody is trying to play this kind of game. It's proven week in and week out. The way it works is to go out the very last minute.

Some tracks are more sensitive to rubber. Some tracks are a little bit less. But I would guess like 70 to 80% of the tracks we go to are more sensitive to rubber so you have to wait until the end. Of course, there is more pressure, not only to put the lap together, but to find a clear gap on the track.

Q: The race tomorrow is extended. We've gone from 50 laps to 55, now up to 60. This track is not as physical as Mid-Ohio. What are the elements that come into play in the longer races? How might it affect strategy?

Bruno Junqueira: This track is not that physical, but 60 laps here will be not easy, especially if it will be hot. 60 laps is not easy. It's not like Mid-Ohio or Portland, but is not easy.

I think this track is very easy to make mistakes on. A lot of drivers, they just put a wheel off the track and sometimes even if you don't make a mistake, you get into a little bit of dirt or gravel and you can slip a little bit and make a mistake. You have to pay attention the whole race.

All the fast corners take a lot of driver concentration. Today, for example, like when Nakano went off, I knew it was dirty anyway on the Canada corner. It's very difficult because I could see Nakano when he put dirt down there, so I went in a little bit cautiously.

It's easy to make mistakes when the guy in front of you goes off and you are the first one to go through the dirt he leaves on course.

But I hope I can have a clean race tomorrow and everybody can have a clean race.

Cristiano da Matta: The other point about this track, as Mid-Ohio is probably the toughest race for the drivers, I think this is the toughest racetrack for the cars. It's a tough race for the equipment. I mean, the engine spends a long time on top revs, with lots of gear changes and a lot of hard braking. It's hard on the brakes, the gearbox and the engines. But not as hard on the drivers like at Mid-Ohio.

Alex Tagliani:  It's pretty much the same as those two guys said.
There's always something happening.  There's always dirt.  Like Bruno
says, you put two wheels off, there's dirt.  You don't see it until you
get there.  Then you start spinning.  You need to pay more attention.

I also think the track is very difficult on the cars, but it's changing quite a bit. The guy who is going to win is the guy who is going to be able to have the most consistent and fast car throughout the whole race. It's easier to have a good car at the beginning of the race and then if the track picks up grip - and this track seems to pick up a lot of grip - the car can go loose, and it's impossible to drive on this high-speed track with a car that is loose.

A consistent car through the whole race will be a winner, for sure.

Q: Cristiano, how do you approach the race tomorrow? Last week you had a fast car during the race. You tried to overtake Patrick [Carpentier], but had no success. Tomorrow are you going to play it safer or do you think it's possible to overtake?

Cristiano da Matta: What you're going to do during the race depends on what your position is in the race, and if your car is running good or not. If I have a good car, I feel like I can try to go challenge Bruno. I will try. If not, I'm going to try to finish as high as I can, of course.

Q: Can you talk about going off course trying to overtake Carpentier last week?

Cristiano da Matta:  When I did that last week, I wasn't trying to pass
Patrick, I was just caught off guard.  I thought I was doing something
that I was 100% in control of.  And suddenly when he moved to the right,
it completely cut off my air and I lost the downforce.  I guess I learned
that lesson - I hope so.  I'll try not to let this happen again.

But I'm not going to drive like a chicken because I made one mistake. I had another 10 races in this championship that I think I drove very well and I never made any mistake in one of those races. I think overall in my whole career I made very few mistakes. I'll try to keep on getting better. But it's not going to change my whole approach to the race. If I feel I can do it, I'll try it. If I feel like I cannot do it, I'll maybe be a little more conservative.

Q:   Alex, the last month or so your teammate has been the focus of
attention, with two wins and issues about his contract.  You're pretty
well set for next year, but you haven't won the last two races.  What's
your approach been?  What are you looking for tomorrow?

Alex Tagliani: Well, my approach for tomorrow is I'm just going to drive and get the best result I can. I'm definitely not looking for a ride because of my contract. I don't really care what's going on around me. It's good for a team that has been really struggling in the past, especially this year at the beginning when we were caught off guard with the whole chassis thing. Like I said many times before, you need to take your hat off to that team because they've been acting like a Formula 1 team- building and developing parts on their own. It's really difficult for a team to do that. They picked up the pace. Pat won two races recently and showed that the car was good. Today we're competitive again. For the team, we just need to continue in that direction.

Regarding what Pat is going to do next year, we should ask him. I don't know.

Merrill Cain: Thank you very much, gentlemen. Congratulations on a good effort today. Best of luck tomorrow in the Grand Prix at Road America Featuring the Motorola 220.


Top three press conference part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Cristiano da Matta