European GP: Thursday Press Conference
Drivers: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes), Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber), Christian Klien (Honda), Nico Rosberg (Williams), Ralf Schumacher (Toyota), Adrian Sutil (Spyker).
Q. Christian, you drove both the Honda and the Spyker at the Spa test; what was that like?
Christian Klien: Well, it was obviously a great experience to drive two different cars on one track in one test. Spyker invited me for a test just to get to know the team, get to know the car as well.
Obviously testing is very restricted this year for a test driver, so it's important to get as much time in the car as possible so we sat down with Honda and asked them if there was a possibility to test with Spyker and they agreed, they were very supportive, and they loaned me to Spyker for this test day.
It was a very interesting test and obviously there's maybe a chance to do some racing for them this year.
Q. What chances are there of a race drive next year?
CK: It's all very open. I've done the test with Spyker, so it's down to them if they give me the chance to race for them this year. With Honda, we have to see. You will know in one hour.
Q. Ralf, again, testing looked pretty good at Spa, fourth fastest on the first two days.
Ralf Schumacher: We seem to pick up pace, especially on those kind of circuits. Spa is another quick circuit which seems to suit our car. Obviously we have to wait and see how it is here but it shouldn't be too bad either.
Q. Your feelings about this race? You've qualified second twice here, you've won here as well, three times fourth in the race.
RS: Well, it would be great to repeat it, but this year it's a little bit difficult, I guess. But we are trying hard. For us, the priority is top ten in qualifying with both cars and then we see from there.
Q. But you feel this sort of circuit doesn't really suit your car as well as one with longer, faster corners.
RS: That I don't know because I haven't been here with the car. We will find out during the weekend, but having said that, why should it be worse? We know which direction we have to go to make it work so I hope we will do so here as well.
Q. When is that coming, when is that likely?
RS: We know what we have to do with the car, it exists. In the last few races we've changed a few things and that should apply for this circuit as well. We will find out tomorrow.
Q. Adrian, one year on since you made your Formula One debut here at this circuit, a bit more than a year in fact. What are your feelings about your Formula One career so far?
Adrian Sutil: Yes, it's nice to be back here. Last year it was my first time in the car here on the Friday and it was a great day. This time it's as a race driver, my first home Grand Prix. It's a really nice feeling and I really look forward to the race weekend.
Q. But you have a new teammate and probably a new teammate at the next race as well. How disruptive is that for you?
AS: It doesn't matter for me really. I'm concentrating on my own things. It's nice to have Markus next to me, he's a really, really nice guy. I like him and I think we will have a good weekend. But I don't really care about my teammates. I know what my job is and I try to do it as well as possible.
Q. Is the car difficult to drive? We've seen a few excursions over the last few races.
AS: For sure it's difficult to drive but normally in qualifying we have a good balance and I'm quite happy with the car. We had some technical problems in the last races. Hopefully they are fixed for this race and for the following races as well. But I'm confident. I'm always confident, and for our possibilities at the moment I'm quite happy with the car.
Q. Nico, we could say that you've had a lot of bad luck. Is it bad luck or is it something that could have been avoided? It seems to have continued and continued.
Nico Rosberg: Yeah, sometimes it just didn't go the right way as it sometimes is in races and at other times, it was just not good enough on the reliability front and that's it. So I don't think bad luck, as such, really counts. The results this year, points-wise, could have gone a lot better but that's just the way it is and I hope that in the coming races I can break loose and score some points, that would be great.
Q. Are developments coming along OK at a reasonable rate?
NR: Yeah, definitely. The factory is working very hard, and we've had a whole new (range of) aero parts and everything coming through lately. We're definitely making progress but so is everybody else and I think we've kind of stayed where we were, more or less, so it's really important to try and get a few bits and pieces coming again in the near future to try and break into the top eight again.
Q. What about this race?
NR: I think this track is good for our car, similar to Monaco or places like that. It's going to suit our car a little bit better, I think, so there's a better chance here for us to get some points than compared to Silverstone, for instance.
Q. Lewis, how are you? I hear you've had some 'flu.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, I'm OK, I've just not had a great week. I was a bit ill at the beginning of the week but I'm feeling a lot better now.
Q. And a busy day today; tell us about what you've been doing so far?
LH: It's normal. We have plenty of appearances to do and some working with Mercedes Benz. The weather's not been great. People say it's typical English weather but if you look at Silverstone, I think we had a good weekend.
Q. And also some karting today as well.
LH: Yeah, we did the Vodafone karting event and it's really nerve-wracking going back in a go-kart because I'm a bit rusty. I know Nico's been in a kart since me.
NR: You're lucky I was not at the event.
LH: But I was on form. I was actually quite impressed. It's good to see the youngsters... it's incredible to see how quick these young kids are, how committed they are.
Q. More committed than you remember being at that age?
LH: I wouldn't say more than me, but I'm just remembering how committed you are at such a young age. It's good to still see that people are like that.
Q. What is your approach now to the coming races? Halfway through the season, you are leading the championship. People have been talking, even McLaren have been talking, about adopting a relatively conservative approach.
LH: Of course we have to bear in mind that we have to try and finish every race and maintain the level if we can. But that doesn't mean that we slack. We are going to keep on pushing hard to beat everyone.
That is how we have been all season. The whole team is pushing extremely hard back at the factory to improve the car. I'm working hard at my training to improve my game. Yes we go into the race thinking ‘ok, we need the points.' But we want to win, so it is a balance.
Q. A difficult balance?
LH: I don't think it is difficult, maybe it would be for some people…
Q. Nick, you didn't test at Spa, how do you feel about coming to this race?
Nick Heidfeld: Obviously I'm very much looking forward to my home Grand Prix. Spa is a very different circuit to here and we actually didn't test a lot of parts for the Nurburgring.
I think we are coming here knowing that we have a good package. As in the last couple of races we are maybe trying to keep Renault behind us and trying to hold our position in the constructor's championship. Of course we are trying to go forward and challenge Ferrari and McLaren but as we have seen at Silverstone and Magny-Cours they are too far ahead.
Q. Apart from the gearbox problem though, your team were taking on the McLaren-Mercedes at the Spa test.
NH: Yes, the team was very happy with the test we did there. Actually we did expect it to go well because we knew it was a similar downforce package as we use in Indianapolis and Canada where we have already been strong this year.
Q. And of course on this circuit you have had mixed results but some very good ones. Your first pole…
NH: Yes, I prefer to remember the good ones. I got my very first pole position here, my first and only one so far. I also finished second the same weekend. Of course it would be fantastic to do the same again at my home Grand Prix. But as I just said at the moment I think we are the third strongest team so fifth position would be good.
Questions From The Floor
Q. (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) A question for Lewis. Of course next week will be very important for the situation of McLaren in this championship. What is your feeling, knowing that everything you have worked for could be cancelled?
LH: I'm not really bothered about it to be honest. I don't think that is going to happen, so I'm not worried, I'm very confident. I'm confident in what the team has done over the years and I have every confidence in the team now. I don't believe anything like that would happen. On my part that is all I'm going to say. Otherwise you should speak to Fernando.
Q. (Erik Kirschbaum – Reuters) Ralf, you have had a difficult and frustrating year so far. How do you feel about coming home now and would you call this your most frustrating year in Formula One?
RS: First of all it is good to be here, good to be back. I have hope that one of us [Germans] that we have here now can do something for the home fans who have come to see us. So far yes it has been a difficult year result-wise. But we have made some progress recently. We have made some progress with the car performance. It is only mid-season so there are a lot of races to go really. I'm quite sure that towards the end we will be slightly stronger as well.
Q. (Marco Degl'Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) A question to you all. What do you expect from the FIA council on Thursday? Can you imagine a punishment for McLaren?
NH: I don't know really what to expect because I don't have enough information about it. I have read about it in the press but I focus on myself, on the job I do inside the team. Of course I will watch it and see what happens but I have no clue what will happen.
Q. Ralf, your brother told us that you talked in Canada and after that he had a good feeling and he said you were on your way and you had some opportunities for next year. Can you tell us some news?
RS: If you talked to him you should know! All I can say is that at the moment I concentrate on what I do. As soon as I have any news I'm sure you will be the first to know. At the moment there is nothing to say.
Q. (Carole Capitaine – L'Equipe) Question for Lewis. At Silverstone you said you had a problem with the set-up on your car. What do you expect from this race?
LH: I expect it to be better. We went down a certain route… You only have P1, P2, P3 and it's not a lot of time to find the perfect set-up. Sometimes you go down one route and its too late to go back to another one, you don't have enough time so you continue with that and hope it is good enough. We didn't have the right set-up for once at Silverstone. Going into this weekend we understand where we went wrong, we think we come here a bit stronger.
Q. (MC) How good was the Spa test for you?
LH: The Spa test went well for me, I had a nice clear day with no rain. I think everyone else had some rain over the next couple of days. It was a real boost of confidence for me. We got there and the car felt better than it has felt all season so I was very, very happy. We did the team briefing and I was just comfortable with my set-up. When you drive a car that you are comfortable with it is just a pleasure. So for once I enjoyed testing.
Q. (MC) So would that have actually been a step forward in terms of set-up for future races?
LH: Maybe for that track. But in terms of just making sure we have the right direction I think we have gone back to where we were before and we have to continue to make sure we improve in that area.