Top three qualifiers for Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Interview with Sebastien Bourdais, Paul Tracy and Adrian Fernandez Part 2 of 2 Q: How has your rehab from last year been? Fernandez: It's getting better. It's not what I would like ...
Top three qualifiers for Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Interview with Sebastien Bourdais, Paul Tracy and Adrian Fernandez
Part 2 of 2
Q: How has your rehab from last year been?
Fernandez: It's getting better. It's not what I would like to be. It takes time, especially after the two biggest accidents of my life. Both of them could have cost my life. I spent a lot of time in physiotherapy, coming back in the car, had another one. I couldn't do any go-karting, any type of driving, until the end of January. The type of exercises I was doing, it was very different from what I've used to. I was not building any muscle, things like that. I've been trying to make that deficit up as quick as possible in the last few weeks, but still it's difficult. I'm not a hundred percent there. I hope I can get into a rhythm tomorrow in the race, just get to the end.
Apart from that, my speed is coming back. I've been trying to make no mistakes, just trying to take my time, not pressure myself to be there. I just want to have a good season, nothing out of the normal. The team is experienced. It's our third year. 99 percent of the people who are in Fernandez Racing are people that have been with us since the beginning. We're starting to get some consistency. I think that's very key.
Q: How do you approach the racing over here since the exodus of so many teams from last year?
Tracy: Out on the racetrack, it's still the same thing. You're pushing, you're like this, to the limit all the time, regardless. Maybe the field is right now not as deep as it used to be. In the front eight or nine guys, it's everything you have when you're out there for qualifying. It doesn't change. It's still the same.
Fernandez: I agree. At the front, it's not going to be changing. I mean, a lot of these rookies, like Sebastien, he has a lot of experience. A lot of them, they have very good qualities, very good curriculum. We expect a lot of them being competitive. Right now, to be honest, for me, it's hard to recognize the cars, know who they are. But I'm very excited, to be honest, about the future of CART now. All the past things are over. Chris and the whole CART group has done a tremendous job of putting this race together in St. Petersburg. I think it's one of the nicest tracks we race in a street course. It's a new thing. It's a new future. I'm up for it. I think it's going to be a good start from here.
Q: Do you feel that, with a field that might not be as strong, that if you don't win the title, you may not ever win it?
Tracy: No, I don't feel that. I mean, you know, I'm just doing the best I can. I've won a lot of races, 19 wins. But the championship has eluded me. It's not for a lack of trying, lack of effort. From my standpoint, I do the best that I can every time I'm in the car. I'm human, I make mistakes sometimes. But, you know, that's what has enabled me to stay in the championship for 13 years, is that I give everything I can. That's what the team expects from me. Along the way, everybody makes mistakes. We're just out here doing the best we can - everybody is.
Q: Paul, are you surprised with how well Sebastien has done this year?
Tracy: I don't know about that. I'm not surprised because I watched TV, I saw the races that he won last year in Formula 3000. I knew he was testing in Formula 1. You don't get an opportunity to do things like that unless you're a talented driver. He's in a great team, a team I've driven for before. They have a championship-winning effort, a solid group of people. When you're able to put yourself into a situation like that, it makes life a lot easier. He's in the best team, and he's showing that he's got the talent. He deserves to be there.
Q: What is the situation with your engineer leaving the team?
Tracy: I don't have a new engineer. We lost my engineer last Friday, he quit. That was a little disappointing. Tony is my race weekend engineer, but he's not shop-based. My shop-based engineer, Kelly, quit last week, so we're actually kind of in a little -- we were dropped in a little bit of a hole this weekend. On Friday afternoon, the crew chief was supposed to receive the starting setup, and there was no engineer around. We're looking for a replacement. We're talking to a few people. We haven't nailed down who we want yet. We have a couple weeks before the next race. We have some good options. I think it will be a good change for the team, as well.
Q: Sebastien, talk about your thoughts on matching the feat of Nigel Mansell who won the pole in his debut.
Bourdais: I think it's a big satisfaction. I mean, to be on the pole at the first event has not been a thing we saw very much. Definitely, as Paul said, the car and the team is very experienced. The package was very good. Even if I'm young, I'll still be pretty much full of experience with different cars, like endurance cars, sports cars, experience in F1. It's just difficult to compare during the history. But, no, I feel very proud. I just hope it will continue like this. I remember that Nigel did the first pole in his first race, but he also won the championship, so what I can expect is to do the same.
Q: Are you concerned about the start?
Bourdais: I hope not. I don't have to take care about the others. I just hope to keep going, you know, and beat the race. But it's always a big challenge in the first race to see who's strong, who is not. It's always changes also from one race to another. We'll see. Everybody is going to push as much as possible, try to win the race. It's difficult to have a prediction of how the classification is going to be.
Q: Sebastien, are you concerned about the length of the race tomorrow?
Bourdais: Yeah, for sure it will be different. First of all, it's a lot longer. It's a two-hour race. I never did a single race two hours long. I don't know. It's probably going to be tough, especially with the concentration. The street course demands a lot from you, the concentration. As soon as you make a small mistake, it takes a big consequence. But apart from that, a race is a race, you're pushing from the beginning to the end. The key in the Champ Car is to manage very well the yellows. I hope it won't be full of them tomorrow. For sure, it will happen. I just expect that I will work very well with the team to get the best of it.
Q: Sebastien, have you done pit stops before?
Bourdais: We trained in spring training a lot on this.
Q: How much did you take from Pat's setup?
Tracy: Well, his setup was a little bit different from mine. Springs, shocks were different, different motion ratios on the rocker arms, suspension. We both kind of had different setups to start with. My car was okay yesterday, but not fantastic. He ended up fourth. Because of our limited running yesterday in qualifying, we weren't very happy with the car, we decided to start with his setup this morning. We made some changes, and the car was good. We started out, the car felt good, made a few changes in the session, made it better. The changes we made, he put on his car for qualifying.
Q: Sebastien, are you prepared for the physical challenges of tomorrow's race?
Bourdais: I think I'm pretty well prepared. I trained a lot since the last few months. Anyway, I used to train a lot all the time, especially to prepare for this first race. I don't think so. I feel this track is not really grippy. The effort on the steering wheel is not really hard. It's more about the concentration during two hours long which will probably be more an issue.
Mauk: That wraps up our final qualifying press conference. Tomorrow's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, 105 laps around the streets of St. Petersburg gets underway at 1 p.m. Thank you.