Spa: Thursday Press Conference
DRIVERS: Fernando ALONSO (MCLAREN MERCEDES), Robert KUBICA (BMW SAUBER), Felipe MASSA (FERRARI), Nico ROSBERG (WILLIAMS), Adrian SUTIL (SPYKER)
Q: Adrian, how did you feel about the performance of the B-spec Spyker at last weekend’s Grand Prix, the first time you’d run it?
Adrian SUTIL: Well, the last race was not our best race, to be honest. I was expecting more but we had to take all the downforce off and the car was not easy to drive, for sure. I think it will be better here, when we have our normal set-up and we have our proper downforce. I think it should be a little bit better than Monza but we can’t expect too much, because all the teams are developing and trying to improve their cars, so it’s hard to catch up with them. If we find half a second, it will be very good but even then, if we can pass some cars it will be difficult, because the gap to Toro Rosso was one second in Monza. But I’m always positive, so I give my best and hope for the best. We will, for sure, be a little bit more competitive.
Q: Did you test here?
AS: Yes, I tested here. One day. I really liked the circuit and the car seemed to be alright but it was the A-spec car, so it will again be a new experience here.
Q: What are your feelings about your first year in Formula One?
AS: Oh yes, very nice. It’s the best job I can have. I really enjoy every race, it’s very nice to be in Formula One. It’s hard work, different to all the other categories, but it’s perfect, I really feel well.
Q: But do you feel you’ve accomplished what you wanted to?
AS: Yeah. I knew it would be a difficult year with Spyker, with a new team. It’s always difficult and I knew the performance of the car already, so I couldn’t expect that much but I think I can be quite happy. I’m still learning and I’m feeling good, I’m feeling well-prepared every race now.
Q: Robert, I believe you’ve been here before in Formula Three and Formula Renault. What are your feelings about the changes to the circuit?
Robert KUBICA: Yeah, I have been racing here a few times, in Formula Three last time in 2003. I prefer the last version, so the old version of the chicane but of course, this is how it is and still I enjoy Spa very much, especially driving a Formula One car here in July when we were testing here. The three days of testing went pretty good.
Q: It’s quite interesting that of all the tests so far this year, this is the only one where there’s a big gap between the test and the race itself, so the car could be quite substantially different.
RK: Yeah. I think more or less it’s the same for everybody. We have improved the car a bit since last time we were here, but of course this is a different aerodynamic configuration track compared to Hungary, for example, and Monza. We will see on Friday. We still have a bit of time to set up the car and tune it and we hope we will be at the same competitive level as in Monza.
Q: I read some quotes from you about traction control and it was almost as though you were in favour of keeping it rather than having it banned. Is that the case?
RK: Someone asked me how I would like Formula One. I said I would like slick tyres back, V10 engines and everything that would make the car quicker. I don’t care whether traction control is on the cars or off. We have already done some testing with this year’s car with these systems and in the end, after one day, I think everybody will adapt themselves and the set-up work and in the end, everything will stay the same.
Q: Nico, some good performances race-wise. Do you think you’re getting closer to BMW?
Nico ROSBERG: I’m not sure. I think more than getting closer to BMW, we have really established ourselves as top of the mid-pack in the last few races, which really is fantastic because everybody was saying that Williams was probably going to drop off in performance towards the end, as the others pick up their development pace and everything, and in fact we’ve been the ones developing quickest of all, pace-wise, so it’s been very reassuring and very nice to see and it’s been great to have some good results lately.
Q: And is that going to continue in the last four races?
NR: I hope so. I’m not sure. We’re going to have to see. We didn’t have a particularly great test here, but then again, we’ve surprised ourselves lately, also in Istanbul, so I can probably come here looking at it quite positively.
Q: How do you feel about the future, which presumably you are going to be part of? Where can they be next year?
NR: Well, I think it’s very important for the team to do a good step forward and I’m very confident from that point of view because they’ve been working very well in the factory, they’ve achieved some very good initial results with the new car and everything, so I’m quite confident that we can really make a good step forward next year.
Q: And you’re still with them next year?
NR: Yes, definitely.
Q: Fernando, any comment to make on what’s happening in Paris today?
Fernando ALONSO: No.
Q: What about this circuit? You were second here in 2005; what are your feelings about the track as a whole?
FA: Well, like every driver, when we are here in Spa we enjoy driving here and we have fun driving Formula One here on this circuit because it’s a very technical and very difficult circuit. We all love Spa, so in a way it’s very good to come back here. I raced only once in Formula One here in 2005. It was a wet race and at the end it was dry, so it was a very difficult race. I came second, so it was not bad but for sure this year will be different. I will maybe have a chance to win the race and I will go for it.
Q: What do you feel about the changes that have been made to the circuit?
FA: For me it’s very similar. Before the last corner was left-right, now it’s right-left, so in a way it’s very very similar. I think it’s better from the safety point of view, so I’m happy with the changes.
Q: I’m told they’ve put some astro-turf over some of the run-offs that were being used by drivers.
FA: Yes. There are a couple of small changes in those corners as well and I think all of them are to improve safety, so I think we all agree with all the changes.
Q: And what about the team preparations for here? The test was quite some while ago. Have you got many changes?
FA: Yes. I think that for us, that test is just about tyres and about not much more than that. I think the chassis will be completely different, the aero package we are running now is completely different, the engine as well, so the car will be much much quicker this time.
Q: Felipe, what happened last weekend? Have they worked out what it was?
Felipe MASSA: Well, I had a problem with the rear damper. The damper just locked, so the car was bottoming quite heavily. First of all I thought it was a puncture and then I called the team straight away saying that I had a big problem with the rear of the car and it was not possible to even do one corner, because when I went into a corner, the car was jumping on the ground and you couldn’t drive, so I asked straight away if I could pit and they changed the tyres but the problem was not with the tyres. It was a big shame.
Q: Do you feel the championship is no longer attainable now?
FM: Well, I’m still fighting, I’m still keeping my head up and trying to win as many races as possible, trying to fight every weekend, very very important weekends, and what’s going to happen in the end? I don’t know. For sure I will not give up, so every race will be very important for me and I hope I can fight for a victory at every race so I will just give up when I see that it is not really possible any more. At the moment it’s still possible, very difficult, but we will keep fighting.
Q: We keep asking if Ferrari is suited to certain circuits and it is to some of them and not to others. Which is this one?
FM: Well, you keep saying that, not me. We try to fight on every circuit, so it depends whatever layout we have. For sure, on some kind of layouts this year our car was less competitive than on other tracks, so hopefully we can be very competitive on this track.
Q: How did you feel about the test then?
FM: It was very good. The car was pretty quick, pretty consistent so hopefully we can be very quick here.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (James Allen – ITV) Fernando, you always said at the start of the year that the second half of the season is when you would start to come good with this package. How much of the performance that you have at the moment is down to that and how much is down to the experience you have got in comparison with Lewis for example?
FA: I don’t know. It is very difficult to say. What is true is that I am more comfortable now with the car, with the team, with everything, and I approach the races a little more comfortable than the first part of the season. Between the new car, the new team, the new approach, the tyres etc… I was always with some doubts at the start of each weekend. Now I have everything under control before starting tomorrow’s practice. I know what I am doing, I know what are the changes in the set-up, how it will react to the car. At the beginning of the championship if we have understeer on the car and you try to change the front-spring I didn’t know how the car will react to that change. Now I know the car really well and everything, so I can react a little bit more precise.
Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) I’m going to change subject, guys, and ask each of you personally what you think of the war in Iraq. Is the situation being made worse by the British and Americans being there? Should they pull out immediately or stay for the long haul?
(None of the drivers are forthcoming)
Q: Let’s start with Robert.
RK: I think we are in a Formula One conference, so I will not answer this question.
Q: Anybody else?
Q: (Mike Doodson – Auto Action) For Felipe, about the problems you had in Monza. You told us some interesting details but was there anything new on the car in Monza? Or do you think that the damage may have been caused because you were trying to match the McLarens over the kerbs?
FM: No, no, it had nothing to do with the kerbs. It was something... we had a big problem on the damper. I don’t really need to say what caused the problem but it is a problem with the damper, nothing to do with the kerbs. Just something happened, but it is nothing to do with the kerbs, nothing to do with the start, nothing to do with the way we were driving, it is something that happens.
Q: Is it a new part?
FM: No, we used already this damper before.
Q: (Nikki Takeda – Formula PA) Last time we were here for the test and lots of drivers were not so happy about the pit entrance. Has any work been done to that and has anyone been to see it?
FM: I was one of them who was not happy with the pit entrance. It is very narrow, we have a lot of space there to do a nice job and for me the job was not very well done. I didn’t check if they changed the pit lane entrance but I think it was mentioned in the briefing with Charlie (Whiting) and he is going to work on that but I don’t know…
Q: Has anybody else seen it?
AS: I was walking around there and I had a look. It is very narrow around there. They said two cars could come through there but I think the measurement is exactly two cars and not more, so we have to go by rim-on-rim then we can go through there. So if there is something wrong, if some car is stopping there, you can’t pass him. So I think it is just a really bad pit entry. I don’t like it, it is too narrow.
Q: Is there anything that can be done now? Will you ask for something to be done?
FM: Well it depends, I think if you call all the people in Belgium to do the job, maybe they can do it in one day but I don’t think it will be possible.
Q: (James Allen – ITV) Felipe, in the first lap at Monza obviously Lewis lost some momentum, you were trying to get past him through the Lesmos. Were you happy with where he put his car through that phase? Did you have a conversation with him after?
FM: No, I didn’t have a conversation. He tried and we touched…
Q: No, in the Lesmos, later in the lap.
FM: The Lesmos? No, normal.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) The question is to Alonso. You say you have a car to fight for the victory here. What do you feel, knowing that depending what happens today in Paris, tomorrow you cannot get in your car and participate in the grand prix?
FA: I’m not thinking about anything outside here in the paddock. I have a meeting with my engineers now, preparing the strategy for tomorrow, which tyres we are using in P1 and which in P2. I was checking the forecast for all weekend, the set-up, comparing the test we did in July, the updates that are on the car... So any more than this I am not ready to think. My 100% concentration will be in this paddock, in this track and on winning this race. Other than that I will not have even two seconds of thinking.
Q: (Peter Windsor - F1 Racing) Felipe, who makes the dampers for Ferrari?
Q: Sorry, I should know this.
FM: It is not up to you, it is up to us to know that. I will not comment exactly what caused the problem, I said that.
Q: I was just asking who makes the dampers? What manufacturer?
FM: No, I will not mention that.
Q: And the second part of my question. Is there any chance that a similar problem could have happened to Kimi’s car on Saturday and caused that accident?
FM: I think so. Maybe, yeah.
Q: Why then at the time were Ferrari so convinced that it was a driver error and he just hit a bump? How did they know that? How did Kimi know that at 300kph within seconds of the accident?
FM: Because when he had an accident he didn’t have any problem with the damper like I had, so we didn’t find any problem in the car, the engineer explained. It was a different problem, so it was not related to the car.
Q: But it could have been the damper that caused it?
FM: I don’t think so. Because the damper, when we had the problem, was completely blocked. So it was broken. But it was nothing that it caused, just a feeling, so it was a different problem.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto Motor und Sport) Fernando, if the title is decided today in the courtroom what kind of title will it have been for the driver?
FA: Again I have no answer to this question. I will not comment anything on what is happening today. The answer will be the same as I said before. I am concentrating on the race. I don’t think what can happen and what cannot happen in Paris. I am not in that matter today.
Q: (Panos Diamantis – Car and Driver) Of the four championship contenders you are the only one who had to change from Michelin to Bridgestone tyres. How much of a handicap do you think this was and can you please tell me did you have to change some things in your driving style to adapt to Bridgestone?
FA: First of all I think Kimi also switched from Michelin to Bridgestone this year. I think it was more in the winter. I think all the Michelin drivers from last year had to adapt a little bit to the new tyres. In terms of braking, which is probably the main difference, we all felt with the Bridgestone tyre more movement with the car under braking. So you need a little bit of control with that and maybe setup changes also with this braking issue. And also maybe the traction. With Michelin it seems always to be a benefit to put the car straight and go on power with the straight line traction and with Bridgestone it is not a big advantage to do that, so you need to carry your speed into the corners, in the middle of the corners. So after one week testing you are a little bit ready to use the Bridgestone but the more laps you do the better you understand them.
Q: (Carlos Miquel – Diario AS) Fernando, why did you decide not to go to Paris? Lewis [Hamilton] is in Paris and Pedro [De La Rosa] is in Paris. Some reason?
FA: No comment.