Monaco: Wednesday Press Conference
David Coulthard (Red Bull)
Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes)
Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber)
Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari).
Q. Robert, fourth for the team in Spain yet again, but I'm sure you were happy with it.
Robert Kubica: Well, of course I was happy, not only because of the fourth place but because this was the first race this season without any problem, that the car was working 100 percent, and that we hadn't made any mistake in qualifying. Everybody has worked well, so the results come. The results should have already come in the first race in Australia, but I hope that Barcelona was not our first race without problems and not the last one this season.
Q. But you mentioned those reliability issues that you had and Nick had in Spain; since then you've been testing in Ricard; is there any indication that you've overcome those problems?
RK: As you said, we've had reliability problems. I don't know what was exactly Nick's failure in Barcelona, what was wrong, but of course we were trying to do our best to get rid of them and I think we've made really good progress in this direction and I don't think we will have any more of those kind of problems and now we have to concentrate on keeping going and keep finishing with two cars in the positions where we should be, because until now, it was only at Bahrain that we finished with both cars in the points.
Q. Was that the focus of the test at Ricard?
RK: Not really. Of course we were mainly focussing on preparing for Monaco and Montreal. I was driving for two days and we did quite a lot of work on set-up to prepare Monaco and on the last day, the third day, we did some aerodynamic work for Montreal.
Q. Obviously, it's going to be the first time you've raced a Formula One car here; you've raced a World Series car here. What do you think is going to be the difference?
RK: Well, I've driven a Formula One car here last year as a Friday driver (on Thursday). Unfortunately, we had some problems during those free practice sessions and I couldn't do many laps, but this will be the first race in a Formula One car, something special but normally I perform well on street circuits. We will see. Last year's Monaco Grand Prix was not really good for our team, but we have worked pretty hard to prepare for this Grand Prix and to be competitive.
Q. David, Robert's first race in a Formula One car around here; does this track still give you a buzz?
David Coulthard: Yeah, absolutely. This is the one that is obviously the biggest challenge for a driver, it's the one that gives you the most nerves beforehand because you can make a mistake on your first lap and you can make a mistake on your last lap. There's just no room for error here, so it's a big challenge, but you get much more than the normal points reward from a satisfaction point of view if you finish this Grand Prix.
Q. How important was your finish in Spain for you?
DC: Well, points are obviously always important for a team, especially when you're in mid-grid and trying to improve on seventh place which is where the team's been for the last few years in the Constructors' Championship. I think that, encouragingly, you can see the pace of the car has been improving significantly over each of the races. We just haven't had the reliability.
We had a lot of problems at the end of that Grand Prix but we were able to get to the finish and I'm excited about the fact that I think we're the most improved team since the beginning of the year. Our rate of development is there for everyone to see and we've just got to keep building on that.
Q. Does that result represent a leap forward, was it a significant result, one that you expect elsewhere?
DC: The thing that I take most encouragement from is that our race pace in Bahrain where we had our first set of upgrades and then in Barcelona, relative to the front runners, we've got closer to McLaren and Ferrari, and that's enabled us to be more competitive in the races, get closer to BMW. Obviously we're in front of Renault and we've got to take heart from that. They don't win two World Championships by accident and we're moving forward as a team, the investment is paying off.
Q. Does it come as a relief when you have a result like that after no scores?
DC: It's nice. That's what we're here for is to get points and obviously the guys sitting in front of me are battling over real chances for pole position, real chances for race victories. We are not, at this time, but our goal is to continue to develop and reduce the gap in lap time and yes, finishing in fifth place, and giving some points to the team, but ultimately it's not something to throw a party for. We've got to build through the year and at the end of the season we can reflect on how much progress we've made.
Q. Kimi, like David, you're a previous winner here. What are your feelings about the circuit?
Kimi Raikkonen: It's a nice place, always. Good fun. You never really know before you come here how it's going to go but I think we should have a pretty good package, so we will see how it goes.
Q. It's said that you're still really having problems adjusting to Bridgestone tyres after using Michelins; is that the case and how does it manifest itself?
KR: I don't know if it's exactly the tyres but for sure I'm not as happy with the car as I could be but I think it's getting there. It seems to take a bit of time but we've sorted out a lot of things and I think we've found something in the end, so hopefully it will start to go where we want.
Q. Is it a lack of confidence and knowing what they're going to do?
KR: Not really, but if the car doesn't work as you like it to, it's hard to go as fast as you want. I think we just need to get everything together now and start getting better results.
Q. And looking at the championship as a whole, you're obviously a few points adrift at the moment, but of course, you now have three rivals. Is it still winnable?
KR: It's only four races old and so many things can happen. Unfortunately we had a retirement in the last race. I think we could be in a completely different situation now in the championship, but at least the gap is not too big. As you said, there are many cars fighting for it so probably the points can go differently to normal when there are only two guys there. It's less easy to catch anybody so hopefully we can catch up.
Q. So you're not too worried.
KR: Not yet, it's a long season and I'm probably not the only one who will have problems during the season.
Q. Lewis, quite a few comments since Spain and we still remember that you said in Spain that this circuit is not one that you regard as a lottery having won here three times before, but do you think it's going to be a lot different in Formula One?
Lewis Hamilton: Definitely. Over the week, we were looking at previous races and the different strategies you can run here and I think possibly because of the rules and regulations it does tend to make it a little bit more of a lottery than other circuits but still you need to be quick. It's not necessarily always the fastest driver that wins here. It's just all about having everything in the right place so that's what we need to work for.
Q. How much use will the experience of those previous wins be, in spite of them being in different cars?
LH: It's a slightly different car, a bit of a different beast but I think it will definitely help. Experience of a circuit is always a positive for a driver and especially on a circuit like this where, as David said, there is no room for error and it's all about knowing your braking zones, knowing where the bumps are, so I'm sure it will help.
Q. Obviously you've had fantastic results over the four races we've had so far. Do you think that your relationship has changed, within the team, particularly with your teammate? He is the World Champion; you're now the World Championship leader.
LH: I don't think it's changed. I think with the team, the relationship grows constantly. I've been at McLaren for a long long time, and it just gets better and better. We're very much working extremely hard together to succeed and it's going extremely well at the moment so, as you can see, it's getting better and better. I think with me and Fernando the relationship is growing. We're sort of starting to understand each other. Obviously we've got a huge amount of respect for each other as we always have. But it's doing fine.
Q. Is it rivalry or a master-pupil relationship?
LH: I never actually thought it was a master-pupil thing to be honest. I think that as in every team, there's a little bit of rivalry there but that's only on the track. We're professionals. Off the track we're friends, we can talk, we're relaxed, there's no tension there.
Questions From The Floor
Q. (Sal Zanca - Associated Press) Lewis, what do you remember from your first time here and how has it changed for you to come here as leader?
LH: Well, I think the first time I came here obviously was in Formula Three and it wasn't the Grand Prix weekend. We were in some other paddock, miles away, but it was still a great experience. The track is awesome to drive, but obviously I've come here this weekend, as a Formula One driver, it is completely different outside the car - just because of the tension, the whole glitz and glamour. You start to see it and it is unreal.
Q. (Randy Phillips - The Gazette) David, how do you feel as the old driver surrounded by young guys and, secondly, do you miss guys like (Jacques) Villeneuve and Michael (Schumacher)?
DC: Well, taking the last part of the question first... No, because life moves on and sport is something that is constantly evolving, especially Formula One. Just look at the technology that has changed since I started in 1994. There were wide cars, slick tyres, no traction control, 3.5 litre engines through to what we have today. Someone asked me a question earlier about the future of diesel F1 cars... Bring it on! If that's the future, then that is what we will have.
I am not one of these people who live for 'oh, it was nice yesterday'. I am excited about tomorrow. I know there are a number of your colleagues who still think the 70's was the best F1 racing well, you know, I've got news for them: we can't go back and the world can't go back. I am sure it was a much nicer place then that today in many respects. To return to the first part of your question, I don't think about age. I didn't think about age when I was 11 years old racing against 16-year-olds which at that time was a big difference.
I am not sure that my balls had dropped then and some guys at 16 were shaving. I don't think about the age today. As Lewis has shown, and as Fernando showed, and who-ever, Kimi when he came in… If you are good enough, you are old enough. And if you are good enough you are not too old until such time as your age physically is affecting your ability to drive the car.
I don't personally believe that is the case for me. I don't think Michael retired because he was too old; I think (it was) for various other reasons that we'll probably never really understand and, well, we all make a choice in life and my choice is to be here because I love to go racing. And, why stop doing something that I love when I have the opportunity to continue?
Q. (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Kimi, do you think that McLaren has an advantage with their car against you on this circuit?
KR: I don't know really. I didn't do the test there for Monaco, last week; I did for Montreal. So I don't have a good idea how good it will be. But I know that we still seem to be going good and I only know what I know from the past that we always used to go well with McLaren, so probably they will be strong, but I don't think that we should be any weaker than at any other races.
Q. (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Lewis, you won here in Formula Three and in GP2, and in testing at Paul Ricard on a slow configuration circuit, you were one of the fastest as well. Do you think you have best chance of winning here in your first five races?
LH: I think the chance I have here is as good as ever. We come here having improved the car over the last few test days. We are getting stronger and stronger throughout the season and I think that we are going to be strong here this weekend, but without a doubt, the BMW will be there and so will Ferrari. Yes, the test went well, but we just have to see. It is still a new experience for me, to drive a Formula One car around here is a lot different to a GP2 car or an F3 car. So we have to wait and see how it goes.
Q. (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Lewis, when you left for Australia, you were relatively unknown. Now, you can't pick up a British newspaper without seeing your name. How do you deal with all the hype? Do you read all the press?
LH: No, I don't read much about what is going on back in the UK in terms of what is being written about me. I think it is the way I deal with it. I don't feel I particularly need to read it. The hype, for sure, is growing, but that is the way I control it. It is nice to see your face in a magazine, or a newspaper. It is good to see that you have the support, but I hear they are very good stories, so that keeps me happy.
Q. (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Lewis, one of the comments made since Barcelona – by Eddie Jordan and by Keke Rosberg, to name, but two – is that we have not yet seen an aggressive side to your racing nature and that a true champion, a consistent winner has an aggressive style and a win at all costs attitude. Do you feel you have that in you?
LH: I don't know if I particularly believe that 'win at all costs' is the way forward. For sure, we are here to win, so you prepare yourself and you work as hard as you can, but I don't particularly agree with win at all costs. Sure, every driver has a different way to look at it.
Q. (Randy Phillips – The Gazette) Lewis, when you are by yourself and reflect on the last four races, four podiums, what do you think? Do you give yourself a pat on the back?
LH: Well, it has just been a rollercoaster, the whole journey. One, getting to Formula One, and, then, having four podiums in my first four races -- it is unknown, but it is difficult, you know, I don't think it has kicked in really. You look at the races and you think ‘wow' I finished second to Felipe Massa! It is just that these last few years, I have been watching these guys racing and I was admiring them. And, now, I am amongst them. It is really difficult to come to terms with…
Q. (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) David, you have known Mark Webber for many years, but now you have had five months as teammates. How has your relationship changed?
DC: Well, the thing is that now I get to compare our driving styles with telemetry and things like that, whereas in the past our relationship was as a competitor and a co-director of the GPDA. He is a hard working professional and the relationship is the right one to see the team move forward.
Q. (Sal Zanca – Associated Press) For David and Lewis, as the oldest and newest, what are your views on night racing? And, were you consulted by the FIA or by Bernie?
DC: Lewis may well have been consulted, but I have never been asked my opinion on any of the circuits or any of the changes, ever, because it is not really for me to make a decision about circuits. The FIA have their simulations for layouts and safety requirements and Bernie, commercially, has obviously run the business fantastically well and we all benefit from that.
So I would not want to be involved in that side of it. Night race? I raced at Le Mans. We didn't have streetlights then and you had to rely on headlights. Everyone is talking about it, so it is fantastic for Formula One. It just keeps … I am just surprised it was not issued in November, or maybe it was, to keep F1 in the media all through the winter.
There is enough going on now to keep at the front, because we have a great championship, a mix of drivers battling for it, and as I have said before, F1 has changed a lot over the decade, so it is just another of those challenges. I am sure there will be enough light to see the circuit, so it will be a bit of a non-event. I don't suppose any of you feel any different when driving in a city at night or in the day; if the lights are on.
LH: For me, it will be quite exciting. It is something new. I have never driven a single-seater at night. We've seen the Champ-Cars. It seems to work with them and they have done a great job. As David said, it will be something new, exciting. I think it will be pretty tough, the speed that we drive at.
And being a street circuit as well, I can see it being extremely challenging, especially for me. No-one has approached us about it. I don't think any of the drivers get approached about any decisions that are taken in regard to circuits.
Q. (Sal Zanca – Associated Press) What is the toughest element going to be?
LH: I can only imagine it will be something like Monaco with the barriers if it is going to be a street circuit. Usually in Monaco, there is plenty of sun, so we are able to see the circuit, see the bumps and see far ahead of your-self, but I imagine it will be a little bit darker.
Ok, we will have the lights, but I don't know how good they are going to be. What kind of visor are we going to use? Judging your position on the track is going to be different from before too. In the daytime, you can take in a lot of information, because you can see it all, but if you miss out a couple of bits on a street circuit, you never know what could happen.
Q. (Juha Paatalo – Financial Times Germany) After Barcelona and some more problems in testing, how worried are you about reliability here?
KR: I don't think it is an issue. We had a problem in the race, but we know what it was and it was a small problem that unfortunately cost our race. I don't think it is going to happen anymore. It has been solved. And the problems in testing were just some new things that we tried. It wasn't a massive problem. It just took longer than it should (have). I don't have any problems about reliability.
Q. (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Kimi, how frustrating have these last few races been?
KR: A little bit, of course, but I am here the first year and I knew in Australia that we were not 100 per cent happy with the car, so it wasn't a surprise that we had some hard times. I think at least we know what we want and we have worked on it and found it. Unfortunately, with not so much testing now, we seem to find a good set up in a test, but then a week later in the race it is not there anymore, so we just need to understand a little bit more. But it is a long season and we are in good position in the championship and we keep fighting and we see what happens…
Q. (Frederic Ferret – L'Equipe) Kimi, Mario Almondo in Barcelona talked about a special way of working with his drivers. Can you tell us about this?
KR: I don't know what he meant. You have to ask him yourself.
Q. (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Kimi, who do you react to being described as a ‘bad luck' driver?
KR: It is part of racing, unfortunately. I don't know if it is bad luck. Sometimes I can be, but everyone really must work harder to make sure these things don't happen. We cannot change it. We just have to make sure everything is right for the races. This can always happen. Unfortunately it is not the first time for me and probably will not be the last time. So we just try to recover from it. It is a long season and we haven't lost anything yet.
Q. (Randy Phillips – The Gazette) Robert, how much better is the car now than last summer when you joined the team full-time?
RK: It is much better. Last year, we were on the limit to Q3 and this season it looks as if our position is fifth or sixth without any big problems till now. But we have to work hard to close up to the top teams and to develop and improve the car. This situation will now last all season. The teams behind, Renault and Red Bull, in Barcelona and Bahrain, they were really quick so we have to work to be even better.
Q. (Randy Phillips – The Gazette) Does this put extra pressure on you?
RK: I don't think so. There was no pressure last year and none this year. I just get in the car and none this year. I just get in the car and do the best I can and drive as fast as possible.