Turkish GP: Thursday Press Conference
Participating: David, Coulthard (Red Bull), Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber), Heikki Kovalainen (Renault), Felipe Massa (Ferrari).
Q. Heikki, a winner in GP2 here, so presumably it's quite a favourite circuit of yours.
Heikki Kovalainen: Well, I've been a winner in GP2 at many other circuits and it really hasn't worked out the same in F1, so I don't think you can look back too much but like some other circuits, I've got good memories from here. I like this circuit, they've done a very good job with the layout here, so I'm looking forward to driving F1 here as well.
Q. You must be very pleased with your reliability this year because you're the only non-McLaren driver to have finished every race so far.
HK: Yeah. It's something that's nice to hear but obviously it would have been nice to have been ahead in another statistic, for example, the number of wins or the number of poles or that kind of stuff.
But it hasn't worked out quite like that for us this year but in any case, it shows that the reliability we've also had over the last few years is still there this year, so now we just need to focus on performance and then we get back on top.
Q. What do you feel about the fact that the team has now said the emphasis is more on 2008?
HK: I think it's a decision made by the team and it's also the right one. I think it's time to focus on next year, now we've sorted out some of the problems with this year's car and also the problems that we've had with the wind tunnel earlier this year and even at the end of last year.
Now that all that is correlating well and we are getting the right results from the wind tunnel, I think it's time to shift the focus on 2008. But still the race team is focusing hard for this car and myself, obviously, I will drive as fast as I can until the end of the year.
Q. And will you still be with the team in 2008? What's the contract situation?
HK: Well, I certainly hope I can be with the team. I think together we can achieve a good result in the future, but like Flavio said, he hasn't made a decision yet and it will be made around Monza weekend - before or after or sometime around that time when he makes his mind up. At the moment honestly, I don't know. Like I say, I hope I stay with Renault.
Q. David, new bits here? What effect do you hope they are going to have?
David Coulthard: Well, unsurprisingly, I hope it's going to improve performance. We've a new front wing to evaluate tomorrow. One of the limitations we've had from the car is being able to run enough front angle to balance and if it gives us what we believe it will, it should unlock a little bit more potential from this car, because rear stability generally in high speed corners is good so with some fast corners here, we could do with some more front flap.
Q. Is this a circuit you feel is going to suit the car better than Hungary, for instance?
DC: Personally, yes. I think that the fast flowing nature of the circuit should suit the car better. I think our drag levels with this car - if you think back a year ago with RB2 – we were pretty slow in a straight line and slow through the turns, so clearly we don't have the quickest car through the corners this year but it's a lot more competitive on the straights. Obviously a large percentage of the lap time is made up from straight line running, so I would expect to be more competitive here.
Q. The story that many of us have seen over the last few days – obviously it's been a bit slow in terms of motor sport...
DC: Thank you!
Q. … is about your biography.
DC: This is the pretext that there's nothing else to talk about, so let's talk about that.
Q. Perhaps you can tell us a little bit about it.
DC: Well, I've never done a book before. Well, I did a book with the Gerry Donaldson in '98 which was a diary of a racing season but I've never actually done a book on who I am, where I come from and all the stuff that might not be particularly interesting to you here but to followers of the sport generally: the journey from a wee village in Scotland to having competed for 14 seasons in Formula One and continuing.
I felt it was an interesting time for me to tell a little bit about that story and there's obviously some things in there from the past which a lot of people didn't know about, and there are some things when I've got the opportunity to correct - what was maybe public opinion in certain areas - by giving my take on the story, so for followers of motor sport, I think it will generally be an interesting book. Q. And it's out now?
Q. Nick, the news from you is that you've signed for two more years?
Nick Heidfeld: Well, I cannot talk about anything that specific. It's BMW's policy now to only announce their drivers for next season, which doesn't necessarily mean that it's exactly the same what is written in the contract.
Q. But Sunday will be your 80th race for BMW Sauber. Obviously you're comfortable with the team.
NH: Yeah, very much so. I've been with Sauber a couple of years ago with Felipe, for example, and always had a good time there and I was quite certain that when BMW took over that we would move forward, but obviously not as quickly as we've done now.
I believed that when I joined them nearly two years ago and I think we will be able to keep improving further. The team's goal and my goal as well is to fight for the World Championship and hopefully we can be in a position to do that in two years' time, but as you know as well as I do it's very difficult to plan things in Formula One.
Q. But obviously the pace of motivation, the future excites you otherwise you wouldn't re-sign.
NH: Yeah, definitely. There was interest from other teams as well but I'm very confident in the team, they know what they're doing, things are looking promising in the factory also, with building a new home now for the Hinwil base and so far everything is going in the right direction.
But at the moment, I have to say it's sort of easy for the team to keep the spirit up. As I've said before, when we have a low – it will come at some point – then we will all have to stick together and be strong and try to get ourselves out of it but luckily, so far, it hasn't really happened.
Q. Felipe, obviously coming back to Turkey is great for you: last year's winner, your first Grand Prix win.
Felipe Massa: Yeah, for sure, it's a special circuit for me. I got my first pole position, my first victory here so it's very special. Hopefully we can repeat it, it would be fantastic. I like the track, I like the place, the country, the city and especially the track. It's very challenging for the drivers, so hopefully I can have a great result here on Sunday.
Q. Eleventh fastest lap in Hungary, but I think the team thinks that this is a circuit that's much more suited to the car…
FM (to NH): You must be happy because I wasn't in front of you.
Q. But does this circuit suit the Ferrari better than in Hungary?
FM: Yeah, not just the circuit but also the luck, on Saturday. But anyway, I think Hungary was a disaster for me, a disastrous result. We knew, starting from the back, it could have been very very difficult to do something but it was frustrating.
Even I expected to do something better but it was a very difficult track for overtaking, starting very heavy, so I didn't have a single opportunity. It was very frustrating to be the whole race behind slower cars, knowing that the pace of the car was not what I was showing. But here, it's a very good track, I think our car must be very competitive and I'm really looking to having a great qualifying, a great race and I think we can do that.
Q. And it's vital, surely, to stay in the hunt for the World Championship.
FM: Yeah, for sure. I would never put my head down. I always keep it up and fight until the last moment.
Questions From The Floor
Q. (Adrian Rodriguez Huber – Agencia Efe) Question for Felipe; we saw you playing football yesterday with other drivers, one of them Fernando. Is everything now straightened up between you guys?
FM: Yeah, I just asked him… because he wanted to play at the front and then afterwards he said 'I'll play in the middle', so I said ‘I just like to play in the middle if you give me the ball.' But he gave me the ball, we had a great match.
I don't have any kind of problems (with him). Sometimes we might have a problem in the race but things change for the other races and since qualifying. So I don't have any problems. We play football and we had a lot of fun, so that's the way it works.
Q. (Victor Seara – Tele 5) Felipe, do you think that the problems between the McLaren drivers will help the Ferrari drivers fight for the World Championship?
FM: I hope so. But I don't know. Actually we don't know exactly what's happened. We know that there's a big competition between the McLaren drivers but there's also a big competition between every driver. We know also that sometimes people talk too much, sometimes people write too much and we don't know exactly what's going on.
So I think if you look from the first race until now we didn't see really a big big problem, looking at the championship, because of them, of the fight from the McLaren drivers so it's very difficult to say that.
Q. (Niki Takeda – Formula PA) Question for Felipe; why do you have a new chassis here? Was there something amiss with the previous chassis or what?
FM: No, no. It's very normal to change chassis during the season. Every season I did in Formula One I changed the chassis maybe one or two times, so it's nothing different, just a normal plan.
Q. (Michael Schmidt – Auto Motor und Sport) Felipe, when you compare yourself with Kimi, do you see a pattern on which type or layout of circuit he has the upper hand or you have the upper hand?
FM: I think on some circuits I was maybe a little bit quicker, some circuits he was a bit quicker, so on some circuits I was not very lucky, on some circuits he was not very lucky but the competition is very high.
Q. (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Guys, can you tell me, was there any time in your racing career – not just F1 – where a teammate did something that got you so mad that you said ‘I'm going to get some revenge on him.'
DC: It involves girls, it doesn't involve cars!
NH: A long time ago, in Formula Ford, I had one race when Tomas Enge was my teammate and I was leading and took it easy on the last couple of laps and he crashed into my car. He won, I was second and I was a bit mad but after a few minutes or hours you cool down and I didn't do any revenge on him.
FM: Normal fights, normal situations, nothing really which remains like a crazy thing, just normal situations.
HK: No, I think it's like David said, it goes to a subject that is better not to talk about in a press conference.
DC: When I was teammates with Gil de Ferran in Opel Lotus, I remember at Zolder on the first lap I touched the back of his tyre and punctured his tyre and he spent the whole race hanging over the pit wall doing this (gesture) to me.
We'd driven to Zolder from England, we were driving for Paul Stewart Racing at the time and we had to share the car back and get the boat back and from leaving Zolder to arriving back in Milton Keynes, he never said one word to me, and I was talking all the time, saying ‘come on, man, that's racing, you've got to get over it.'
Nothing. Not one word. Anyway, we eventually got over it. It made me realise that South Americans take their racing very seriously, especially if someone cuts their tyre.
Q. (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, could you clarify how is the relationship with Fernando now?
FM: Normal. Normal. Well, the problem I had everybody saw, but it doesn't mean that I don't talk to him any more. Normal things happen, it can happen with anybody here and I don't have problems on my heart that I will never talk to a guy. It's pretty normal, no problem.
Q. (Adrian Rodriguez Huber – Agencia Efe) Question for David: as the most experienced of the four and as a former member of the McLaren team, what's your impression about what happened in Hungary and how do you think Ron Dennis has managed all this situation?
DC: Well, I did say in the ITV column that I do on their website that I think that Ron is clearly as experienced as any team principal to deal with this, having gone through similar situations if you go back to the era that I remember watching when I was growing up: Prost and Senna, and I'm sure it was maybe happening with other McLaren drivers before that.
So it is a difficult scenario and I think that Ron put it forward in Hungary that to try and create an environment as transparent as possible so that neither driver feels that one's being favoured over the other, and then for the rest he can't control what they do once they're in the car.
A completely rational, sensible person can do the craziest things when the emotions are running high. I think it's always going to be great stuff for you, great stuff for the public at home, because it's another side show to the actual entertainment that goes on on the race track. I think there was a lot made of the strategy of when one car goes out and whether it impedes the other one.
I think it's fundamental to the way that the race teams operate that you can only pit one car at one time. We don't really speak about it, but if we use Felipe and Kimi as an example, they could be running as quick as each other and at Monza, for instance, whichever one gets the premier pit stop slot is going to win the race, because there's a point where if you stay out one lap longer, you're going to have the benefit, and if you're running head to toe, you're going to pass your teammate for not doing anything else other than having a better pit slot.
If you want to have really open racing between teammates, you need like you have in America which is two pit slots where the two drivers can have independent strategies, independent of each other, whereas there always has to be an element of ‘well, the strategy says lap 22 is the premier lap'.
Well, do you give that to Felipe or do you give it to Kimi? And if you make that decision before the race, you know you're favouring one driver over the other. That's been happening for ever, but you never talk about that, you talk about one incident in Budapest.
I also mentioned that how do we know that Ferrari didn't deliberately not put fuel in Felipe's car? Maybe that was a team decision to benefit Kimi. How do you forget to put fuel in the car? (Laughs, off-mike comments from Felipe.) No one said anything about that. I don't know, it didn't allow you to get out on the track.
FM: Yeah, but it wasn't on purpose. It was a misunderstanding.
DC: Pretty fundamental misunderstanding. I think it's a conspiracy to favour Kimi. (Laughter). Good luck.
Q. (Peter Windsor – Speed) Question to all four guys: I don't know if you're aware of it, but I don't think either of the McLaren drivers are here today and they are not coming today, and I just wondered if you could each tell us whether Thursday is a part of a Grand Prix weekend that you enjoy, that you always have enjoyed throughout your careers, as part of motor sport. You meet the mechanics, you do all that stuff, or whether, if you could have your meetings now with your engineers downtown you would be happy not to be here on a Thursday and just get in the car on Friday morning?
DC: I think that's interesting because I remember, specifically, the first time I didn't turn up on a Thursday was a long time ago now, but it was the weekend of my first win and back in those days, I didn't really have someone to run around and pick up girlfriends but I remember my girlfriend's flight at that time was late coming in on a Thursday.
By the time she'd arrived, by the time I would have driven out to the circuit, I would have missed more than half the day so I phoned Frank and said ‘do you mind if I don't come in?' and he was fine and I won that Grand Prix. So I don't think there's any link with turning up on a Thursday and… We've decided on our strategy of how we're going to run Friday. We know the set-up, nothing changes particularly today, so I've always felt it's a very inefficient use of our time.
The mechanics need to be here to set everything up, the infrastructure needs to be put in place…But really this is not the most efficient day of your weekend either, I guess. So in answering your question, I would be quite happy to turn up Friday morning and get into it.
NH: Well, as David said, it's not the most important time to be here, but we still have a couple of things to do. I think it's important to speak with the engineers. You could do that beforehand on the phone or in the city or wherever but for me it's just part of Formula One, of motor sport, that you turn up on the Thursday, do all your meetings with the engineers and it's a bit strange that suddenly you stay in the city and don't know what's going on there.
FM: For me, I remember when I was in the other categories. We used to arrive two days before without testing, just staying there, looking at the track, doing nothing. Here we do, here we have meetings, we talk about the car, we're talking about many things and for me it's pretty OK, I have no problem.
It's much more important now compared to some years ago when I remember it was a whole day long at the track doing nothing, so here at least you have some things to do, not just here, talking to you guys, but also with the engineers and everything, preparing things for tomorrow.
HK: I think the way the format is now in Formula One… in certain teams they have decided that the Thursday is quite useful and for myself I find it useful as well, to have a chat with my engineers, with the mechanics, together prepare for tomorrow, to start running the cars, and we also walk the track on Thursday, that's tradition with our engineers.
I have nothing against it, but I guess if there was an opportunity to shorten the weekend, do the same things but in a shorter time, it would be better. We also have a lot of free time on Saturday afternoon after qualifying, Sunday morning too. I think we could maybe try to tighten the whole timescale.
Q. (Richard Williams – The Guardian) David, Ron Dennis has talked quite a lot in the last few weeks about the values that he believes the McLaren team represents. From your long experience that you're working with him – and it's something he seems to get quite emotional about – could you say what you think those values represent and how they might impinge on the life of a McLaren driver?
DC: I think Mika Hakkinen has come out in response to the various wild speculations over the designs being within McLaren or with one of the McLaren designers, and Mika's words were similar to what I would say, which is… his experience, during his time at McLaren, was that there was never any question of anything being on the car that hadn't been checked off by the FIA if it was a grey area, which is how sometimes people put things on their car, because he felt that if the car was found to be operating with something that could be interpreted in a different way, then the team would be penalised, so it always had to be exactly as the rules stated, or written to the FIA and qualified that it could be accepted.
It may have turned out after several events that the FIA, as they often do, re-clarified their original acceptance and then that item would then be removed, as we saw with the mass damper that was on the Renault for most of the season – fine – and then it was taken away again. So that was my experience, of course, during my nine seasons racing there for McLaren.
I think that when that is coming from the top all the way down, rather than coming from the top…(and then someone further down to hierarchy saying) you know ‘do it, yeah, do it, it will be fine.' Then it sets a very clear example as to how the organisation is structured and how they chose to go motor racing.
So I have no doubt that when he makes his emotional statements that he absolutely believes in what he's saying and it's sincere. I equally think that it's impossible for any one individual within a large organisation to know absolutely every detail of what goes on, because you just can't, you can't know what the lay-up is inside a front wing unless you're the guy in the carbon shop laying up the wing, or you cannot know the internals of the piston or something unless you're at Ilmor in the build shop.
But if you set rules, how you want to operate as a company, then you have to trust in the others around you to be professional to do that. I think that emotion is because there's a passion and belief that he does things in a sporting way. In other things that he does - whether that's to everyone's flavour and taste or not is down to personal opinion.