Malaysia GP Thursday Press Conference
Drivers: Rubens Barrichello (Williams), Karun Chandhok (HRT), Kamui Kobayashi (BMW Sauber) and Nico Rosberg (Mercedes).
Q: Karun, obviously a very steep learning curve for you this year. Tell us about it.
Karun Chandhok: It is not ideal. I don’t think anyone in F1 has gone straight into qualifying without testing or a single lap of free practice. Bahrain was far from ideal. It is going to be very tough. With the car we didn’t do any winter testing. We are two months behind the program, but we will keep chipping away and see where we end up. Melbourne was a step forward. We got one car to the finish and that was a step in itself. The more miles we do, the more we learn about the car. These guys were lucky to be pounding around Valencia, Barcelona and Jerez in the winter time and we didn’t get that opportunity, so unfortunately we are testing in public in front of all you guys and all these cameras and it is not easy, but these are the cards we have been dealt with, so we will do the best job we can.
Q: What are the effects of the finish in Melbourne? What sort of things did you learn?
KC: First of all, morale-wise it was good for the boys. The mechanics on my car worked two nights straight in Bahrain, two nights straight in Melbourne. They just went back to shower and came straight back to the circuit. It was a fantastic effort from the guys in the garage. It is good for them to have put in all that work and see a car get to the finish. For them it is a morale boost. For us as a team we learnt a lot. We have never done the long runs with these tires before. We learnt a lot about what the car is like on 160-170kgs, whatever it was. There is so much to learn. For me it was a bit strange as I have never been lapped before in my life in normal circumstances and it was quite difficult. It had drizzled or rained at the beginning of the race, so going off-line was quite tricky. I didn’t want to get in any of these guys’ way, so I tried to get out of the way but it was a very strange race.
Q: Where do you think the pace is going to come from? Is it from you, from just learning how to use the tires, the engine, just the chassis, the set-up, the experience?
KC: All of the above. I think we are both rookies in the team, so we have got a lot to learn obviously. Qualifying in particular is quite critical in F1 and learning about how you have got to bring the tires in for the one lap and get the tires to the optimum temperature and pressure for your qualifying lap. In GP2 we did not have tire warmers and so the way you went about was a bit different. In Melbourne, for example, that was my mistake. I was too slow on the out lap, just building the tires up gently, and I dumped four tenths to myself just between lap one and lap two of the first sector because I did not know how to get the tires in for lap one. Just small things like that. There is a lot to learn as drivers for the team. It is not rocket science. We need downforce. That is the big thing in F1 and we are a long way behind these guys in terms of downforce levels. Mechanically as well I think the first step was to get the car finished and now we are trying to develop it.
Q: Kamui, you had two-and-a-half tremendous races last year and then the two races so far this year. Tell us the difference between the two as they were fantastic races last year for Toyota, but so far this year it hasn’t been fantastic.
Kamui Kobayashi: I think the last two races for me were very really bad luck. In the first one I had a problem with the hydraulics which I was not really expecting from the winter test. In the last race I think the front wing failed, but also for me it was quite difficult. Last year the last two races for me were great. I had no testing, like only eight months and I expected it to be really hard but the car had good potential. I spent two years as a test driver, so it was very easy to communicate with everybody and really easy to get there. This year it’s a new team and we have to work hard. At the moment I am not showing the performance myself as I didn’t finish race, but the most important thing in the future is to finish the race.
Q: In testing the car looked very good. Do you think you are showing the true pace of it at the moment or is there more to come?
KK: Yeah, I think that’s our problem at the moment and we try to find a reason. The winter test was a great performance. We are not always looking for the top. A good place to be will be the second group on the top and this year is our best target. I think the winter test was a good shape and I think we are quite frustrated at the moment. In Bahrain the situation was a little bit difficult. We were struggling, especially on the bumps, and the car was really difficult to drive. But in Melbourne it was a good improvement for us. The position was difficult but pace-wise it was much closer with the guys in the second group, so I think it was a good step for us to improve. I think this week will be another step that we need to improve.
Q: Do you think this race will be better for you? It is a circuit you know, isn’t it?
KK: This is a circuit I know very well. I think I had two races at this circuit with GP2 Asia which was a good experience.
Q: Nico, in spite of two good finishes so far the team keeps saying it is not quite on the pace yet. Is it something that you know about or are not certain why?
Nico Rosberg: We know that we are not quite where we want to be yet, but I think that was to be expected in some ways. With Mercedes coming in and everything the team needs to grow. We have massive potential. A really strong group of people and strong support from Mercedes-Petronas, so I am very confident that very soon we will be able to close the gap.
Q: Tell us about the challenge of this circuit. What is important here?
NR: The track here in Malaysia is one of my nice favorite tracks. It is really nice to drive. There are lots of different combinations of corners and it is very challenging. It is going to be tough for the drivers because of the heat. It is one of the most challenging races for a driver’s fitness in the year but that’s why I did all my training in the winter, so I should be fine. Car-wise it is also quite demanding with the temperatures but I think we made some good progress on the set-up in Melbourne which should help us here also, so I am looking forward to a good weekend.
Q: What is it like being the team-mate of the most successful Formula One driver of all time?
NR: It has been a great experience for me as it is just interesting working with him. Until now the partnership with him has been very good. Everything has been open, very relaxed, so I am able to learn a few things and for me it has been a great opportunity.
Q: Rubens, you have done all 11 Malaysian Grands Prix. Tell us from your point of view the challenge of this circuit.
Rubens Barrichello: Much the same. It is one of my favorites. I think it has great types of corners. You go from very high speed to some low speed, quite technical corners. It is an aerodynamic driven track and you have to have a balance on the braking for you to get a fix on the corner ratio before you get back on the power, so it is quite nice. It is not easy to set up the car which makes it even more interesting. To get to a reasonable level is okay, but to get it really well set up for you to be really happy is not easy, so it is quite exciting.
Q: A new team for you this year. How are you finding Williams which is a very established team?
RB: A bunch of fighters, good people, good working method. We are working well together, a lot of fine tuning things to get to the bottom of it but working well together. I am delighted to be working with them. They are very open. There is a lot of freedom inside, so obviously they are getting to know Cosworth and Cosworth are getting to know them. It has been a good job. We are far away from where we think we can be but so far it is going in the right direction.
Q: Where do you feel you are in the hierarchy? Obviously, you feel as though you should be higher up.
RB: I think there is the top four doing better than us and then there is us Renault and Force India closely behind. It was fantastic to see Robert (Kubica) doing so well and going right up the front and keep up the pace as in qualifying we are pretty much the same. I think we can knock on the door of big points every time before we can put some new upgrades on the car and then really start to show what we are capable of.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret - L’Equipe) Nico, where do you think your car can match the best cars on the grid?
NR: It’s going to be mainly aerodynamics, that’s where the main progress has to come from. One of the things is obviously the McLaren invention or whatever that is, which all the teams are looking at, at the moment, and then there’s also some mechanical things we believe that we can do better and those developments will be coming very soon. I was in the factory about two weeks ago and they presented the developments to me and it’s looking very promising, so for me it was really encouraging and I look forward to seeing how it goes.
Q: (Santhosh Kumar - Deccan Chronicle) Rubens, you are inching towards 300 Grand Prix appearances. As the most experienced driver on the grid, what is your impression of Karun Chandhok and do you have any advice for him?
RB: It’s like he said, I think he’s probably the very first driver to going straight into qualifying in Formula One history, so I think he’s done quite well. It must have been such an adventure of a rollercoaster, going into that qualifier not knowing the car and how quickly it would go. I think that so far there’s no bad stuff. You cannot see how fast either he or Bruno (Senna) are going because the car is not showing what they can do, because at the moment, you would like to see their car going throughout the one and a half hours (of practice). They would have time to sit down and talk about the set-up. Right now they are trying to fix the problems before getting the set-up, so it’s just ‘keep the feet on the ground and do the work.’ Honestly, I can say that I haven’t been in a situation like that. I’ve been young, like them, but I had cars that although they had reliability problems, I was able to run and get to know them. There was testing beforehand, so for them it must be a lot more difficult. For me, Formula One is a lot easier now. I can just concentrate on racing, that’s why I’m still thinking that I can do another 300 - not!
Q: (Ted Kravitz - BBC Sport) Rubens and Nico, you’ve effectively swapped seats. What would you say was the one difference from your previous teams to your current one, and if you could give each other one piece of advice about taking the other one’s seat, what would it be?
RB: I haven’t thought of that.
NR: It’s true. We even have the same engineers. We have, literally, swapped seats. Differences? It’s difficult, there’s not a big difference. Yes, you see some small differences in the way that the working environment is and the ways of going about things, but Williams is strong in some areas, we’re stronger in others, so it’s not a night and day difference. And advice is a bit more difficult, isn’t it?
RB: When I come to a new team, I come with the experience of the whole lot, I don’t come with the experience of Brawn last year, how they do this or that. Obviously you leave the team and you have some of the experience of what they were planning to have this year and you tend to speak out and tell the team what you know about it and how to attack. So my philosophy is to learn the team and then try to say, ‘look, this never worked in a team like Ferrari or Brawn and it never will’, so we tend to go from there. But the Williams team is very well based. They were winners from the past and it’s just a question of time before they win again. Again, on the Brawn side, I’ve had a happy time there, so there’s no bad advice as such. Maybe tell Jocky (Clear) not to punch the helmet before the race as he goes (thump) ‘good luck’. The sound isn’t great inside the helmet.
NR: He hasn’t done that to me yet, but I will tell him after this.
Q: (Chris Lines - Associated Press) Karun, you’ve started so far behind in terms of preparation and we look at all the new teams and there seems to be a mini-competition between them. Are you so far back that you can’t even hope to catch up to those guys or do you feel that you have a chance by getting back to Europe, developing the car?
KC: We’ll wait and see. At the moment, this weekend, I think it’s highly unlikely that we will be in a position to chase either Lotus or Virgin in terms of performance. As I said before, at the moment there’s no real performance upgrades on the car. There are bits coming out of Europe all the time but they’re just bits to try and get the car more reliable. It’s performance bits at the moment, they will only come once we go back to Europe. We’ve got a good team of people on board. Obviously Geoff Willis has come as technical director, we’ve got Toni Cuquerella who has come from BMW, the engineers as well, we’ve got a lot of people who have come from either BMW or Williams or Renault, so there’s people with recent F1 experience in the team. Rome wasn’t built in a day. We need to put the structure in place and get everyone working in the same direction. They’ve all got their ideas of how these respected teams did things. They now have to put it together and make sure it’s unified in a way that Hispania would do things. Like I said, there’s good enough people there to steer a development program. I’m not here to drive around at the back of the grid for the rest of the season. I wouldn’t have signed with Colin (Kolles) and the team if I didn’t think there was potential to at least fight with the other new teams. The first half of the season is going to be tough but hopefully we can start to fight to be best of the new teams in the second half of the season. Relative to the existing teams, I think the gap is quite big at the moment. You look at qualifying in Melbourne, it was nearly two seconds between the top of the new teams and the last of the existing teams. That’s quite a big gap to bridge. Whether that gap will be closed during the season we shall wait and see. I doubt it but we can certainly try and close the gap and try, and I hope to be the best of the new teams in the second half of the season.
Q: (Chris Lines - Associated Press) Kamui, your front wing came off three times in Australia; has that been sorted out?
KK: I think the front wing has three times… there was no problem with the front wing but the first one was because of my mistake at the beginning (of free practice). I hit a pylon at the fast corner. I think we tried to repair it and maybe there was still a problem with it and maybe some mis-communication in the team and we didn’t change the complete kit of the front wing. I think that was the problem with the second wing. And the last wing was maybe because of some contact with someone. It was not really a big crash, or whatever, but maybe I touched the front wing just a little bit and suddenly after some corners, I think it was after the start with (Vitaly) Petrov and then turn three with Tonio (Liuzzi) and this was our only chance, and after turn five the wing was on but suddenly I lost the front wing on the straight. For me there was nothing to do. We just have to make a stronger front wing.
Q: (Frederic Ferret - L’Equipe) Rubens, Michael says that he needs some time to find the rhythm again to fight against you all. As a former team-mate and an experienced driver, do you have an explanation why he’s struggling to find the pace again?
RB: Well, give him the time, that’s all I can say. I don’t know. I haven’t stopped for three years and come back. I will sometime. I will give myself a chance!
Q: (Ralf Bach - R & B) Rubens, are you surprised that Nico is the quicker driver at the moment in the Mercedes team or are you surprised that they allowed him to be quicker?
RB: Why is the question for me? Why don’t you ask them? Well, honestly I am surprised, surprised in the way that you stop, you come back to a new Formula One that is all different and people improve and different cars and so on. But I am surprised. I think Nico is doing a super job.
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