Brazilian GP: Thursday Press Conference
Rubens BARRICHELLO (Williams)
Lucas di GRASSI (Virgin Racing)
Felipe MASSA (Ferrari)
Bruno SENNA (HRT)
Q: A question to you all. Can you give us a summary of your season.
Bruno SENNA: Well, as everybody knows we started late and we had a very public development throughout the season. I have learnt so much personally and I have developed so much as well, so it has been a great season for me. I think the experience I have gathered this year has been really, really valuable and creates a path for me to continue in Formula One which is very important for me. Of course, I would have loved to have fought for points, wins and podiums but I have got to take it step-by-step and I am happy with the job we have done. I think the team have done pretty well this year considering how we started and we need to continue pushing until the last race as there are still two races to go and the championship is not over yet.
Lucas di GRASSI: Everyone that has a first year knows that it is extremely difficult in Formula One. But I think my year was special as it was also the team's first year. We had difficulties with the car and the driving itself but I think those difficulties helped me to become a better driver. Driving a lot of circuits I didn't know and learning a lot with the development of the car also helped me a lot to understand much better about Formula One. For sure it was more difficult but at the same time it was more valuable. I think I had a good advantage in having a very, very good and experienced team-mate who helped me to push my boundaries of driving the car. After 17 races my balance of my year is definitely positive but I have a lot more to learn and a lot to improve both in my driving and my professional life, so I am quite happy with how the year progressed but there is a lot more to come.
Q: Rubens, a new team for you.
Rubens BARRICHELLO: I am having a great year to be honest. People ask me how was it to switch from a winning car to not a wining car and that's the only side you have to re-adapt to itself. But I am having a great year because we start the season in a not so good condition as far as the result is concerned and we developed the car so much, especially after Turkey. We had a great time and great meetings together where, I cannot explain, but all the bits of the aerodynamics that were coming to the car were not necessarily improving it, so we had to change the characteristic of it and so on. It has been a lot of fun going in and out of meetings trying to make changes to the car and with the team understanding that it made it really special. Montreal, for example, was a different car to drive already and the results started to be a lot better. The team is great fun to work with. Bunch of warriors like I have said before. With the amount of money they have they had to really go for it and there is no limit, I mean the sky is the limit and they really work for it, so I am having a great year.
Q: Felipe, obviously coming back from injury and missing the last part of last season.
Felipe MASSA: Yeah, definitely last year was worse than this one because of the accident. The result this year is not 100 per cent as I expected, especially in qualifying, to put a lap together and to make the car 100 per cent ready for the first lap on the tires. That was the most difficult thing for me during the championship. I really hope to finish well in these last two races as the championship is not finished yet, so I hope we can do a good job in the last two races and also prepare for much better qualifying laps next year as we know how important qualifying is and starting on the front. The chance you have to win the race is there, so that's why this year was not great because of the qualifying and the position on the grid. It is true that I also had some races where I didn't finish in the points, some crashes, in the first corner also in Singapore where I had a problem in qualifying and started last. I had some races which were not great. But anyway 100 per cent concentrated on finishing well the season in these last two races and also thinking about next year.
Q: I think all four of you are from Sao Paulo. Just talk about your memories coming to the circuit, Bruno and Lucas.
Senna: My first memories of the circuit was television of course but first live memories are from 1993 when I came here for the first time to see Ayrton. I was able to go inside his 1992 McLaren and I was very small.
Barrichello: Do you remember me?
Senna: No, I don't remember you. You were too unknown. I didn't care about you. It was a great experience for me. I managed to come here in 1993 and 1994. I still don't remember you from 1994 anyway. It was quite special. The first time I came here I drove a single seater. I drove an afternoon here, so it was the first time I drove a single seater. It is basically where my career started, so the circuit has very special meaning to me. Even though I have never raced here before and I have never done any relevant mileage here, it is still a circuit I know by heart very well.
Di Grassi: The first memories I have of the track is looking from the kart racing track that is just opposite to the back straight. I used to go there a lot when I was a kid, when I was 12 or 13, and I was always looking from the go-kart track to the racing track and I'd imagine and I'd wonder if one day I will be there, wonder if one day I will drive a car there. The first time I drove a racing car was Interlagos. The first time I raced was here at Interlagos but it has been more than seven years that I don't drive here in a racing car. Definitely to drive a Formula One car for the first time here is going to be an amazing experience, it doesn't matter what happens.
Q: Rubens and Felipe. You two have locked out the pole position for every year since 2003 apart from one year when Fernando (Alonso) was on pole. Just your thoughts on qualifying and the race this weekend.
Barrichello: The track is very special. It is not because we are Brazilians but the track is not easy to set up the car and the limits are, when you think I am on the limit you can a little further, especially turn six and seven where it makes it very, very special. Qualifying has been so good every year even though I didn't have such a competitive car you can make it up, so the challenge for tomorrow is to set up the car well and to have the car that you wish for on Saturday. Sometimes it rained, like last year, and the visibility last year and the aquaplaning was incredible but the track is still safe enough for you to do it nicely. People ask me if I have known the circuit forever and you have got to remember when I raced Formula Fords here I raced on the old circuit. It was the last year of the older one and I am so proud to have done that as it has been such a long and nice one.
Senna: It has been a long time, huh?
Barrichello: Yeah, it was. You were probably not born, you bastard. But anyway in a way I raced here from Formula Three in 1990 or something. I had one race and then I came into Formula One, so all I know about this circuit is in a Formula One car. It is very, very special. It has been bumpy sometimes in the past but now I think it is all done. It is a nice circuit. I can read that people like coming here. Racing is very, very alive because of the nature of the straight with tiny bits of bends that makes it draggy and you have a chance to have a slipstream, so it is a very special race.
Q: Felipe, three successive poles for the last three times you've been here.
Massa: Yeah, they were great races: 2006, 2007, 2008, but it's also true that it's a circuit where I love to race. Even before Formula One I won two races here in Formula Chevrolet, the category in which I started. Then I came back when I was in Formula One. But as Rubens says, it's a track where you have some directions in terms of set-up, in terms of how to do a great lap. There are also some corners which are not easy to do, especially talking about lap times, which is after turn six, which is very technical as well. And also, you see overtaking at every race here. It's a track which is small, it's not so big, not so long like many of the new tracks, but I think it's very well done. You can see many nice battles on this race track, especially when you have a nice time, even before Formula One, in the two victories that I had, and in Formula One with another two victories with three pole positions, it makes the track even more special. But when you see the people in the grandstands, it's just amazing, to see the Brazilian people very 'hot', singing all day long. For us it is something that is very, very special and gives you extra power as well.
Q: A quick word with all of you about your plans for next year; how far advanced are you, where are you for next year?
Senna: I'm still in this year, not next year yet. I'm focused on this year, finishing the championship strongly. Of course we know a lot of people in the paddock, but next year's still a bit further up the road.
Di Grassi: No news from my side either. I think I had a good time with the team this year. The natural progression would be to stay with the team and evolve together with the car but nothing has been confirmed yet. Of course, we try to talk to a lot of the teams as well, see where there is an opening for a new driver with one year's experience but that's it.
Barrichello: Well, I'm talking deeply with Williams and nobody else. My feeling is that I will be here next year.
Q: It can't take place without you, can it?
Massa: Well, no news, so I stay here next year, so nothing changes.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Joris Fioriti - AFP) There's a movie about Ayrton Senna which is going to come out. I was wondering if any of you have seen it, if you liked it, and then to all of you, if you had any special memories of that day in 1994 and what you still think about Ayrton Senna, what he means to you?
Senna: I watched it for the first time last night; the movie's awesome. It reminded me of so many things that just got dulled by time. It's very special for me, I think for anyone who's a racing driver it's going to be quite special, whoever was a fan of Ayrton. For people who didn't know Ayrton, they will have a pretty good image of what Ayrton was all about. It's not a movie about racing itself but it's a movie about the life of Ayrton, the implications of what he did in his life. It feels very special and definitely brought back many memories, good memories and some sad memories as well, of course.
Di Grassi: I have very few memories of Ayrton when he was actually racing, because I was so young. I was not even into karting yet. But I remember perfectly what I was doing the day he died. I had a radio-controlled airplane, something that Ayrton liked to do as well, and I was playing with it and my father rang. He was racing go-karts and I was starting to race go-karts and I wasn't even watching the race, I was playing in the field, and he said 'come back home, there is something going on' and I came back home and then I saw everything and I saw the implications that that day had with Brazil itself, and that was the very, very deep image that I will never forget. It showed how important... for me, it made the connection as to how much, how important racing was for the Brazilian people. For sure, it motivated me to race go-karts and so on.
Barrichello: I don't have a lot of memories of him because I was so young as well! Well, he was the man, for me he was everything since he helped me a great deal going to the go-kart World Championships. We know the story. Unfortunately I couldn't be at the cinema yesterday to watch the preview but I will be the very first one to watch it when it comes out. I think it's on the twelfth of this month, so I will be there whenever it happens.
Massa: As Rubens says, Senna was really amazing. He was an amazing driver. I remember so many races that he did. He was a great driver in the race, but what he was able to do in qualifying was something that I never saw before, that a driver could do most of the pole positions in a season, most of the time with a big difference between his pole and the other times. For me, that was really one of the strongest points as well. You could see that he had something different. He won many, many races, he was very strong, but what he did in qualifying was really, really amazing for me.
Q: Have you seen the film?
Massa: Not yet because I couldn't go yesterday either, but I am really looking forward to seeing it as soon as possible.
Q: (Sarah Holt - BBC Sport) Felipe, how focused are Ferrari on making sure that Alonso wins the title here this weekend? Do you think he can do it? And will you be expected to help him?
Massa: Well, he is first in the championship, so for sure I think he can do it. I think the focus is to win the championship. If he wins here, for sure it's good for the team, but the focus is that he can win the championship. He's first and we know how... some races (ago) everybody was sure that Red Bull was going to win easily and then something happened in the race, so they lost many points which is exactly what happened in the last race. So Sebastian had ten pole positions, he won three races, so you can see that everything can be possible in the championship, especially now that Fernando is in front, so the chances of winning are quite big.
Q: (Jonathan Legard - BBC Sport) Felipe, given your prowess at this circuit, how do you see your role in affecting the title race?
Massa: Well, for sure, when you have a driver there taking points away from other drivers who are fighting for the championship it's always important. I see myself there and for sure thinking about starting in the best position and finishing in the best position as well.
Q: (Jonathan Legard - BBC Sport) And just one other thought. You talked about your season being not as good as you expected; what has held you back in particular, in qualifying for example?
Massa: Well, to have the right grip on the first lap, to prepare the tires, to have the right grip for the first lap. That was the most difficult thing.
Q: (Jon McEvoy - The Daily Mail) Just going back to Ferrari, if you're leading the race, would you give way to let Fernando through to win it?
Massa: Well, I already did that, you know? 2007, you don't remember? So it depends on me. I'm a professional driver.
Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) Felipe, another question, you've spoken warmly about the fans here and the reaction you've had over the past few years. Are you slightly concerned that after what happened in Germany this year that their reaction might be slightly different towards this year, and following on from Jon's question, if you do something similar like allow Alonso through again, will that reaction not turn against you again, because they expect you, a Brazilian, to win the race in front of your home crowd?
Massa: Well, I expect me to win the race as well and I will do the best I can to win the race for them, for the people. It's also true that even after the race in Germany, when I arrived in Brazil, the people were very nice with me, very fantastic, pushing me forward. The real people are great. Journalists are much more difficult.
Q: (Joris Fioriti - AFP) Felipe, you talked about your first lap in qualifying; do you have any idea why you can't reach the level of performance of Fernando this year? Is it due to your accident...?
Massa: No. For sure it's due to the temperature of the tires, the way I drive, for the first lap on the tires. I was struggling just to have the right grip for the first lap, so that was the main issue. Everybody knows that even in 2008 I was the driver on the grid who did the most pole positions, so it's something that I know how to do, but this year I was missing the direction.
Q: (Jonathan Legard - BBC Sport) Rubens, how do you see the title race now? Two races to go, is it Alonso hitting the front? You know all about Ferrari, have they got the momentum, are they on their way?
Barrichello: I think it's fairly open still. Obviously minor chances for a few of them; not as it was at the last race. I've said before that I think Alonso was running on the outside and coming strongly. The best car is still Red Bull and if everything goes to plan, I think Red Bull should win the race but Ferrari has always been quite strong here as has McLaren, so I think it's fantastic that we have such a fight and hope to be in between them, among them and just make the show quite special for the public as it always seems to be.
Q: (Joris Fioriti - AFP) Rubens, when you came into F1, Ayrton Senna was a big man and you were a small guy, and he helped you. Do think that there's the same kind of relationship between you and Felipe? When he came, you were the big man, he was the small guy and...
Barrichello: He's still a small guy.
Massa: He was never big. Smaller than me.
Barrichello: I've been very open to my friends. In Brazil, we get on very well. We see each other much more than some of the others: the Germans or the Spanish guys. I don't see them close too often. All four of us are quite good friends. Lucas or Bruno know that if they need anything they can reach me; the same thing with Felipe. So many times we get the plane back to Brazil or to some other places and he would say or I would say 'have you learned that that line was the faster one...' 'oh, I haven't thought of that.' You just put a note and next year you try it. We're fairly open and if there is anything with my experience that I can help I'm very glad to tell it and be fairly open.
Massa: And also me and Lucas live in the same building. He never has food in his house, he's always coming to my house to eat.
Di Grassi: Hey, that's... that's true. Free lunch.
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