USGP: Thursday Press Conference
Participating: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes), Heikki Kovalainen (Renault), Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber), Takuma Sato (Super Aguri), Scott Speed (Toro Rosso), Jarno Trulli (Toyota).
Q. Takuma, your feelings after your excellent race in Canada.
Takuma Sato: Yes, first of all, it's great that nobody was hurt in the last race, demonstrating that Formula One's safety level is so high after a lot of investigation a few years ago. That was the very first point that I had to make, and a big thanks to the teams. Personally, our team feeling is absolutely fantastic, that was an outstanding result for our team in the last one and half years.
Obviously, it was a difficult race, so many things happened and such an eventful race and given the choice, I think everybody has got a chance, and everybody had slight difficulty, but at the end of the day, we made the right call. It was so exciting to race on the last few laps. I got my position back which was really exciting, I am very very happy with that.
Q. Round the outside going into the final chicane, quite an overtaking manoeuvre.
TS: Montreal is difficult but nothing is impossible. I think overtaking after a long straight, heavy braking is possible but obviously you need to get a good exit out of the corner before. Not only that, you need a good car under braking and stability. Obviously, when I was battling with Fernando, his car had very good speed down the straight and at one stage he pulled away, even though I got a big tow, and that was quite surprising to see.
But at the end of the straight I had the opportunity to go side by side, braking late and I was confident. I was totally controlled and comfortable because the one thing in the last race that affected everybody was the marbles, because the situation with tyres or strategy was unusual, so trying not to make any error was extremely important, so we had to figure out how to do it but I'm very pleased that we handled it very well.
Q. What about here: you've been third on the grid, you've finished third, you've been on the podium; what about this race?
TS: Yes, personally I have great memories of Indianapolis. It's such a nice feeling, there's such a great momentum from last week and two consecutive races are always logistically difficult but from a driver's point of view, it's nice to have a race again straight away. I think it's going to be incredibly difficult to repeat what happened in Canada but I'm confident that our team prepares the best we can and hopefully we will have a strong weekend.
Q. Jarno, obviously a shocking race for you in many ways last weekend.
Jarno Trulli: Well, the weekend was a bit dramatic at one stage, but fortunately we could overcome the problem with the front suspension and we shouldn't have any problems in the future. The part has been redesigned and we'll get it soon. But the race was also quite a chaotic and dramatic, because there were so many accidents, because of the safety car, because of the new rules, so many things happened, and obviously it was a difficult race.
I think the people who won the race really deserved it but many others got lucky or not, losing or gaining position on the track, and probably I was the one who lost position and who lost a result. Unfortunately, after the accident with Robert I had to pit because I had a flat tyre and from then on I was just lying at the back of the field and I couldn't do much with the safety car coming out every time. It was very difficult.
Q. How affected were you by that accident? How much were you thinking about that accident during the race?
JT: My race was basically spoiled there because I had to pit for an extra tyre change, so obviously I dropped down the field and there was very little I could do at that stage, but then on top of that, when you're involved in an accident, you are always concerned, especially when you see someone else's car completely destroyed, so it was very difficult. No one had any information about Robert until the end of the race, so I was a little bit concerned. I guess everyone was concerned.
Q. What about this race? You've been on pole position here, four times you've finished fourth, twice from 20th or lower. What are the chances here?
JT: Well, if you look at the statistics, Canada has never brought me luck, whereas here I've always had very good races. I just hope I can bounce back, because it's now three races that I haven't scored points because of bad luck, and I just want to make sure that I have a troublefree weekend and try to do my best, and try to get the best out of the car.
Q. Heikki, obviously a good result last weekend. How much of a relief was it to have that result?
Heikki Kovalainen: Honestly, not so much. I've always felt confident, even after a lot of mistakes and after bad races, I haven't lost my confidence and I've always felt the team has been 100 percent behind me, so in that way it wasn't a big relief. It was good to score points, and to get five points is very important for myself, for the team and to get the championship going, now our car is getting better. So I think that's more important, but other than that, it doesn't really change my life and our team's life much at all.
Q. Tell us about improvements in the car. Is it a lot better now?
HK: Yes, I think so. Already in Monaco the car was performing a lot better there and at the end of the race, my pace - even though I was driving at the back of the queue - was pretty good and Fisi had a strong result there. And throughout the weekend in Canada the car felt pretty good but obviously a couple of mistakes, one on Friday and one on Saturday, completely compromised my race, especially qualifying.
We have to make sure that we get the full potential out of our car. I think we should be able to fight for top ten positions now on a consistent basis. When we get there, then the races become a lot easier, then we should also score points more consistently.
Q. You've been quoted as saying you learned a change of attitude and approach to a race weekend from last weekend's experience.
HK: I don't know if I said that or not but obviously mistakes in free practice cost me a lot of track time and when I went into qualifying, I really didn't have 100 percent confidence in how much I could attack. It was actually the first time that I'd used the super soft tyre in qualifying, because of all the problems in practice.
And when you go in to qualifying with that kind of situation, it's always going to be very difficult when everybody else is on the top of their game and you are still finding your way around the track and with the car and with the tyres and everything.
So I think the main lesson from that weekend is that we've got to do the free practice properly, we've got to make sure that we set up the car 100 percent ready for qualifying and then I think everything will be back to normal.
Q. Robert, any after effects since the accident?
Robert Kubica: Not really. I had a bit of pain in my ankle on the first day but now it's 100 percent OK, no headache, nothing. Nearly like brand new! I was really lucky and very positive for myself, very important to come back as soon as possible. Of course, we have to wait for the decision of the FIA doctors and of Indy, here at the Grand Prix, to give me the OK, but I feel like nothing has happened.
Q. What is the procedure now, when are you going to have a medical examination?
RK: Well, the doctors will probably check me. I already have reports from the Montreal doctor, Doctor Denis, who said that everything looks OK. They were quite surprised that after everything that had happened, nothing happened to me. We have to wait, we have to see. I feel 100 percent good, but you always have to wait for the decision and then probably, hopefully I will be back in the car, with a better performance than in Canada.
Q. Have you seen the accident on TV?
RK: Well, yes. I also saw it live when I was there! (Laughter) But Scott also had a good position to see it. I saw that on some pictures. But I saw it because as Jarno came to the hospital, it was also important to understand what happened, and why suddenly I had no control of the car. Apparently it was the front wing – when we touched – which went under the car and lifted my car up and I couldn't steer any more, which is why I went off.
Q. So obviously you're looking forward to driving this weekend.
RK: I really feel as if nothing has happened. I want to be back in the car and I'm looking forward to it. Canada was very unlucky for me, starting from Friday: problems with a fuel leak, and then performance-wise it was not good. I was looking forward very much to Canada because last year I was very competitive there, Nick was competitive, but apparently we faced some problems with the car and it doesn't pay off, so let's hope I'm in good shape, that the car will be in good shape and the doctors will give me the OK to race here and we will be competitive.
Q. Scott, really, your best performance so far this year appears to be the race before, in fact, Monaco. That must have been a great race for you.
Scott Speed: Yeah, Monaco was definitely good for us. Since Barcelona we have made big steps forward with our car. We knew it was going to be a long beginning of the season because of all the winter testing we missed but certainly the car is coming together. We're still waiting for at least one more big update that should put us in a position where we can fight for points, I think. But until then the team has done a fantastic job and we've definitely closed the gap.
Q. Have you been satisfied with your other performances, though, so far this year?
SS: Yeah, for me I think the beginning of the year has been very good. We've had good races, we've just been, I think, very unlucky. We haven't finished any. I think especially starting from Barcelona, we've been at the right pace or at a pace that was better than we expected. So this weekend I expect to be at a similar pace to where we were in Canada. But once we get back to Europe I think we have another improvement waiting for us.
Q. Obviously some changes within the team as well in that you're using the design from Adrian Newey and obviously Gerhard Berger has come in and so on, there's quite a few changes there. Those presumably have been positive?
SS: I think Gerhard has been there from the start, but certainly having a car that's up to date is good for us because we can develop like everyone else throughout the year, unlike last year where we pretty much had what we had at the very beginning and needed to try to make the best as we could towards the end of the year.
Questions From The Floor
Q. (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Scott, tell us what you saw of Robert's accident?
SS: Well, actually after my accident at the very beginning of the race I was kind of stranded on the track without a way to get back to the pits. So I was using a chair and watching the big screen in front of me about three meters away from where Robert hit the first wall. So I was quite startled to say the least. Initially I was just really, really concerned because it was such a huge looking crash, especially as close as I was to it. Yeah, I waited like everyone else to make sure he was okay.
Q. (Ed Gorman – The Times) Robert, can you tell us what you remember of it, yourself as you went through the accident, what was going through your mind and exactly what you can remember of that?
RK: Well, I can't remember a lot, of course. What I remember is what you see. We were racing with Jarno, the corner was going to the left. I showed up before the corner on the left-hand side of Jarno. Then as the corner was a left-hander, I thought Jarno would go there and I went on the right-hand side, but apparently Jarno thought I would be on the left one and he went a bit wider.
I was not expecting it, we touched, the front wing went under the car and I had no more control. When I was on the outside of the track on the grass, suddenly I took something which lifted up my car pretty much and I hit the wall. When I stop, I stop. (Laughter) You know, nothing more. It shows, that - reviewing images - it looks how shocked I was, and in reality I was because when I stopped, I realized I was not in bad shape.
That was very important for me. I have already been involved in one accident a few years ago. It was in a road car and I knew straight away that something was really bad. But this time when I stopped and I was checking myself, moving and I wanted to see what was going on. I felt a bit of ankle pain and that was all.
So it was very important. It shows that the FIA's push for safety, to the teams and that the crash tests - everything - has shown a big improvement. And also big thanks to the FIA because in the end they are pushing for safety, and probably ten years ago we would not be speaking here, and this time I'm like nothing has happened.
Q. (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Robert, you were still conscious at the end of the accident, how difficult was it to get you out of the cockpit?
RK: Well, apparently it was not difficult but the problem was for me that there was some water or oil coming out from the car and I felt a lot of burning. As soon as the marshals were slowly pulling me out of the car, I felt burning on my shoulder because there was oil probably on the ground and it was really hot. But everything went smoothly, and thanks also to the rescue team and to everybody who was involved in my accident, from the doctors, from the rescue team, from the marshals - they have done a great job.
Q. Just as a matter of interest, are drivers told not to move if you've had a big accident like that, are you asked just to stay still in the car, don't try and get out, don't try and undo your belts? Are there specific instructions? Perhaps Jarno is the most experienced.
JT: No, we don't have any specific instruction. Obviously, as Robert says, the first thing you do is you check yourself. You try moving around if you're fine. It's important in such a big accident not to move your neck and spine too much because that's one part that can be really badly injured. But I think straight away you realize yourself if you're fine or not. Then it's up to the doctor the way they extract you from the car, that's what is important.
Q. But you're not really expected to get out on your own after something like that?
JT: If you can, if you feel okay, you will get out of the car by yourself. Because in a way, if you have a big pain, I don't think you will move much. You would feel a lot of pain.
Q. (Andreas Gröbl – Die Presse) Robert, did you actually get the chance to get on the radio and talk to your crew or was that system destroyed in the crash?
RK: Well, looking at the pictures I think that the radio was not there anymore. I don't know what has been left in the car. I haven't seen it. I mean I've seen the pictures, this is a bit of a strange question I think. How do you want to talk? There was nothing left.
Q. (Andreas Gröbl – Die Presse) Is there a standard procedure of getting in contact with your team and saying: "I'm ok"?
RK: Of course. There is but after such a crash you don't think to say something to the team, you think about yourself. As Jarno said it was important to not move. I could have gone out of the car by myself because I realised I was ok, but of course I could have been under shock and then the danger can be much more. So that's why marshals and the rescue crew and doctors said "Stay calm, we will pull you away from the car slowly." That's what is most important, keeping everything under control.
Q. (Andreas Gröbl – Die Presse ) And how long honestly did it take until you thought “will I be able to race in Indy?”
RK: I realised very quickly that I'm quite ok, of course you never know how you will be the day after... your headache... your neck… Everybody was saying the morning after would be the worst. The first thing was I woke up and then on Monday morning I stood up and tried to move and I had no pain at all.
So I said: “Whoah, that's good.” Of course I want to come back straight away but I know first of all it's about safety and it's your own body and mind that you have to listen to. Of course if I am not 100% I would say by myself I don't want to race because in the end it's not only me on the track but other drivers, marshals and everybody. But I feel very good so we have to wait for the FIA decision and then we will see.
Q. (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Takuma, the car is much more competitive this year. How much of that is that you have a very good chassis and how much is that it is the second year for the team, you are much more gelled this year?
TS: Yeah, it is extremely important to get the momentum from last year. To be honest, obviously, last year's team was standing in an extremely difficult position with very limited resources. With 90 days to go to Bahrain, all we had was a four-and-a-half years old SA23 chassis. It's now a famous story, but I was also stuck in the Melbourne airport for long time…The build-up to take it back and build up the car like this…
Through the season we consistently made little upgrades and every time they've led to good results. That obviously gave us confidence and we are doing a fantastic job and by the end of the season we were in 10th place in Brazil. So in our second season we wanted to improve from there, but we knew it would be extremely difficult to do that but we've done it and we are so happy to see the all the results come together.
To be honest we didn't expect this type of result on the second year but the important thing was understanding what was good and what was not. I think our team is very strong on that point. We just earned a point and that is why we are here. I'm not expecting to do that job in every single race but we are continuously working and of course it helps with the communication that we are such a small team, that's been extremely important.
Also you know we had a lot of great support from Honda and the relationship with them and the Super Aguri team is fantastic. I'm very very happy with them and very proud to be a part of it.
Q. (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) The images of the accident show us that the protection of the cockpit was ruined by the first impact, leaving your head to move to all sides after that. Don't you think it is something to review in the safety standards?
RK: I think you are not right. Simply.
Q. (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) It wasn't like that?
Q. Lewis, I think you have had a bit of an exciting journey getting here?
LH: I was in New York for a couple of days, I had an appearance for Mercedes Benz. Then I went to Washington yesterday for another appearance for Exxon Mobil and getting back the flight was delayed from 4 o'clock to 8 o'clock half an hour at a time, then eventually it was cancelled at nine. So we ended up staying in a hotel and luckily we flew out this morning.
Q. Tell us about your feelings about the reaction to last weekend?
LH: As I've said I've been in New York so I've not really heard too much about it. I know that I had the front pages back in the UK on the Monday which is awesome. But other than that I've not really been able to feel what has gone on around the world.
Q. I think the reaction has been phenomenal but it's extraordinary that you haven't been able to gauge that.
LH: I think that's been quite good to be honest, I've been able to relax. I have had something like 200 text messages from friends and it's almost impossible to reply to them all but I'm trying.
Q. And your feelings after last weekend, coming into this race?
LH: Well, obviously it's a big stepping stone in my career and in my life. It was a great feeling to get the first win and definitely not expected going into my sixth Grand Prix. Especially at Canada which wasn't one of my strongest circuits. I think Fernando (Alonso) was probably quicker than me there.
But I did a solid job. It's obviously very positive for the team, we've extended our lead in the constructor's championship… great points for me… and coming here we've got to continue with that performance. I know the guys back at the factory are still working very hard and we are not taking it lightly that we are ahead.
Q. Are you expecting Ferrari to be more competitive this weekend than they were in the last two races?
LH: Possibly, after the last race they were probably scratching their heads and definitely focusing very hard to improve for the next race. In only a week you can't make too many improvements. But I don't know why they weren't as quick as us last weekend. As you can see they've been very quick here in the past few years so surely they'll be quick here. But fingers crossed we will be able to match them.
Q. (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, I don't know if you know what Fernando said to radio, Spanish radio. He said that the team supports you more than him because you are British. Do you feel there is all this support from the team, there is not equal support between the two drivers?
LH: I find it strange he said that because I feel that ever since he joined the team, the team have been extremely motivated to push us both toward winning. Ron and the other guys on the team have been working very hard to make sure we have equal opportunity. It's probably always going to be difficult in a business, but obviously I've got a great relationship with all the guys in the team because I've been with them since I was 13.
At the end of the day when Fernando came into the team, they were extremely excited and I feel built a very good relationship with him. So I don't see why he would say that. But I guess because he is Spanish and I am English, he might feel that way, but I don't agree with it personally.
Q. (Marco Evangelisti - Corriere dello Sport) Lewis, now you have the possibility to become not only world champion but even the youngest world champion ever, do you have any particular feeling about that?
LH: To be honest, I try not to focus on that. I think I came into the season with a very open mind and being realistic of the fact that I am a rookie and I've got a lot to learn. It is still very steep learning curve, and yes, I have a great opportunity to be in the best team and have one of the best drivers to compare myself to. But I still feel there's going to be times during the season which will be some lows, some highs, and I think it's way too early.
Eleven races to go, I think it's way too early to even start thinking about the championship. I just have to approach every race exactly the same as I always have and to try and do a solid job. Each time I go out in the car, I learn something new. I'm becoming more and more comfortable in the car, with the team, with the controls and with the rules and the regulations and just the whole racing. I'm always learning bit by bit and I will continue throughout the season.
Q. (Paulo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, do you think that Fernando is surprised by your results? That's probably why he said these things? He was not expecting you to be as quick and to win so early?
LH: I doubt very much that he was expecting me to do as well as I have. But I don't know whether that's why he would be saying what he's saying. But definitely coming into the team, he's the two-time world champion and he's not really been challenged -- well, I think he has some challenges in the past but not really had probably someone as close as me and as good a friend off the track probably. So it's a very difficult situation.
Q. (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Scott, you've been in town a couple of days. What sort of welcome have you had from the fans and the people of Indianapolis?
SS: Yeah, I think very similar to last year. It's like my homecoming of the year. Certainly I have a lot more support here than the rest of the races. It's nice to be back in America. I'm enjoying my time here very much.
Q. (Steve Keating - Reuters) Lewis, when you were out and about in New York and Washington, did you get recognized at all yet by Americans?
LH: I got recognized a couple of times, but I think it was a Spanish couple (laughter). No, no, actually I was quite surprised. They said we're Spanish but we support you. And then there was a couple of English tourists out there. But none of the Americans have noticed. I was able to walk around as free as everyone else.
JT: The Spanish couple was lying. (more laughter)
Q. (Derek Daly – Speed TV) Takuma, you mentioned how quickly the team was set up last year and I presume the factory Honda team gave you a lot of help. Have they asked for help back yet? (Laughter)
TS: To be honest, as the same Honda family, we are both competing with each other to improve the performance now. But I think at the end of the day it's still up to the individual team. No, we don't do this, but our team's ambition -- my personal ambition is still same. Not beating one team but beating everybody else. If anybody is in front of you, there is opportunity. If you are aiming towards the head, you have to overtake everything and pass them for the team. So hopefully this situation made us even stronger, but I think with either team, it's the same Honda family but I think we are competing with each other in very nice way.
Q. (Michael Schmidt – Auto Motor und Sport) Lewis, in a race like Montreal, how much were you aware in the cockpit that if the safety car comes out at the wrong moment your race could have been over, whatever advantage you have before and what do you think about this rule in general?
LH: Obviously, I was aware of it going into the race. It's always going to be an issue. So far this year I think we've all been very fortunate where it's not hampered us but obviously it did in Montreal. But I was obviously in the right place at the right time. Very fortunate that the team made a good decision, got me in a lap early and I avoided the first safety car. My views… I have not really had too many troubles with it, so I don't have any bad views of the rule but I can't say it is the best idea. I think the previous years were maybe a little bit better.
Q. (René Hofmann – Süddeutsche Zeitung) To Robert, could you tell us what have you done the last few days? When did you arrive here? When did you leave Montreal and what did you do in between?
RK: Well, of course, I tried to relax and just cool down and make sure that I will be a hundred percent fit for this Grand Prix and we tried to do some rehabilitation. We did some relaxing, walking. The ankle is improving a lot and now is a hundred percent back to normal. So this was very important to get done, even the small problem that I had to be fixed and now it's fixed. So I thank to Ricardo and Joseph (Team members) who helped me in these three days, we have done good job and I'm able to be here.
Q. (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, coming here as a winner, how is your feeling to be in this monument of motor racing? And have you, something that you remember about this track, the 500 miles? And a question for Robert. If you thought after accident, about the fact that you have the image of John Paul II in your helmet?
LH: I come here feeling exactly the same as I have for every race, very excited. I have literally just driven into the circuit and I haven't had time to see anything. It's an amazing opportunity for any driver to come here and compete. Watching the Indy 500 over the years, it's an awesome race and I've always wanted to go and watch and be a spectator. But to be here racing on the circuit is pretty cool. Just flying over, I could see what the track was like. It's quite a nice complex.
RK: I think it's quite personal question, so I will not comment. I mean I think it's not related to racing, so I keep it for myself.