Bahrain GP: Friday Press Conference
Participating: Stefano Domenicali (Ferrari), John Howett (Toyota), Christian Horner (Red Bull).
Q. A question to you all. Your feelings about your performances so far this year in the first two races.
Stefano Domenicali: As always we need to be very cautious. We have seen the reaction of the team after the very difficult race we had in Australia. The performance seems to be there. We saw the performance of the other teams which was different from race to race.
I am expecting to see this kind of variation in terms of performance all through the year. There will be certain tracks for sure where we will have some teams that will be performing better than the other. We need to be very cautious. At the last race we showed that the performance was really there and we hope to keep the pace.
Q. It was a temporary circuit in Australia whereas in Malaysia it is a permanent circuit. We go to more permanent circuits than temporary circuits. Do you feel that you are at an advantage at a permanent circuit than on a temporary circuit?
SD: If you look retrospectively we are more competitive on a permanent circuit. But don't forget that we won races in Australia. That shows as I said we will have a situation where everything varies from time to time. As you know the performance in qualifying is making the difference above all on these kinds of tracks.
Q. John, your feelings?
John Howett: We were encouraged by the performance in Malaysia. It was more or less where we think we should be competing based on the winter test evaluation. We didn't do a particularly god job in bringing the cars home in Australia, but certainly that second bunch behind the two quick teams is very tight.
Q. And that is where you wanted to be?
JH: No, we race to win. But we have to be practical as the gap in our view to Ferrari is still fairly significant.
Christian Horner: We had one of our best winters since Red Bull Racing came into Formula One. For the first time ever we have had continuity of engine partner and other areas within the team. We arrived in Australia after quite a positive winter test program but we had a few incidents there. There was a brake issue with Mark (Webber) in qualifying and then to have both drivers go out in the race in what turned out to be an atypical race with only six finishers was disappointing.
In Malaysia we had a far better sight of our potential. We had a fuel pump issue with Mark in the race, but generally the performance was promising. We can see that the car has got potential. But as John said, it is an immensely tightly fought pack behind the big two teams but certainly we took a lot of encouragement out of Malaysia.
Q. A lot of us were concentrating on the reliability of your cars, particularly after last year. Do you feel you have got that beat or is it still a bit of a niggle?
CH: Having completed almost 10,000kms trouble-free in testing we were disappointed to have a brake failure with Mark in qualifying in Australia. Then there was obviously a track rod issue in free practice on Friday in Malaysia with David (Coulthard) which caused in the end quite a spectacular looking accident. Certainly the transmission problems blighted us last year, but the whole transmission group back in Milton Keynes have done a really good job especially with the new challenge of the four-race gearbox, so hopefully we are now going in a very strong direction.
Q. Just to go back to that track rod issue. Can you tell us how the track rod issue was resolved? What happened in Malaysia? Can you give us an update on that?
CH: We had a component failure with a titanium shroud on a carbon rod that basically de-bonded itself. That caused David to run wide and hit a very large bump. It was a very heavy impact into the side of the curb which caused spectacular looking damage. It was fairly similar to I think an issue McLaren had here three or four years ago on a rear track rod.
Basically we took precautions and strengthened the components in question. Having completed so many miles per season we really didn't expect it to be an issue, but we took an extra precaution to make sure it doesn't reoccur.
Q. So they have been reinforced?
CH: There has been a very slight process change because the design actually wasn't at fault. I think it was a human error with a component that had infant mortality and it was replaced with a component that had done approximately 2,500kms and trouble free. We have looked at the process very carefully. We worked with the FIA over that and are happy that there are no issues and the suspension is more than integral.
Q. John, the team has tested here as has Ferrari. You were the only two teams. One or two people are sort of saying 'well, we didn't think it was worth it'. Of course they would say that because they weren't here. What are your feelings about the advantages of having been here?
JH: I think one of the reasons we wanted to come was we were running a new cooling operation with a more undercut side pod and we wanted a guarantee of reasonable ambient temperatures and we got it. With two teams here we kept out of each other's way in race simulations and completed them without red flags, so from our side it was an extremely good test and a very high return on the investment.
Q. You have got a new driver in Timo Glock. What sort of effect has that had on the atmosphere within the team and on Jarno (Trulli) who has been there for a little while?
JH: I don't know about Timo but I think it is really great to see Jarno so motivated and so happy at the moment. That's mainly the car. Timo is very quick and I think they are pushing each other. They have a good relationship and at the moment things are going very well.
Q. What do you think about Timo's performances in the first two races?
JH: I think we put him under pressure in the first race. We had a five place penalty for the gear box. We released him late at the end of qualifying, so basically he got a five place penalty because he was clearly in the way. In the race he was performing fairly well. He had a small off and was unfortunate not to come back on the track. In Malaysia basically again he had issues. I think we need to get him there in a good condition and allow him to race. In Malaysia through no fault of his own he was hit from behind.
Q. Stefano, looking at Kimi (Raikkonen) a year ago and a year later. Tell us about the differences in Kimi.
SD: I think that Kimi, of course, after a year's experience understands how to relate better with the team. That's a normal process which we were expecting last year. That's the relationship on both sides - from Kimi to the team and from the team to Kimi. I think that for sure now this package is very good. Kimi fits very well in the team. He likes the way we are working. Everyone is very motivated because we always said that the family constant of our team is always there. I think he has understood that.
Q. What about Felipe. He has had a very tough start to the championship. A bit like last year when he came here and it all changed.
SD: Of course Felipe is the first who is not happy about his start. But once again as we always said we work as a team. We had a problem in the first race, it was something connected to reliability which gave us big problems. In the second race the car was there. We need to look forward. For sure, he has shown that he is very strong. He is very motivated and is willing to come here and to show that for sure the zero scoring is not an achievement that will continue.
Q. What about yourself? Things have changed for you, too. What other surprises? Have you had any surprises in being team principal?
SD: Surprises. You try to anticipate everything mentally beforehand, but it's almost impossible to predict everything. You try to cope with this enormous responsibility and the pressure that you have to handle but that's the way this job is. I'm like that, I try to do my best, because I can count on great people around me and the team is really strong.
Questions From The Floor
Q. (Ottavio Daviddi – Tuttosport) John, you said that Jarno is very motivated, but did you expect him to be so competitive in these first races of the season? And do you think that a podium is a possible target for you and for him?
JH: I think he likes the car. Clearly there's a gap between us and, shall we say, third or second place on the podium, so we've just got to keep working and improving the car. I think that given a good car, we have a very strong capability. His race performances have been strong, consistent, and if we can improve the overall speed of the car we will be there.
Q. (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Stefano, you're now team principal. Is Jean Todt still helping you out in any way, giving advice or any help?
SD: Of course. He is still the best and we always said that our strength is to have dynamic changes in the structure and this is part of these changes in a dynamic way. He's still with us, as you can see – he's here – so of course this is a strength, it's not a negative point.
Q. (MC) How many races do you expect him to come to?
SD: I don't know. He will always be there, in any case, even if he's not physically, for sure he will still be on the case. Q. Could you also outline what sort of contact you have with Michael Schumacher during the race weekend?
SD: Telephone is the easiest thing to use, so we are in touch every day by telephone, just an exchange of opinions and of course his opinion is always very useful for our engineering side of the team. Q. Does he have a data read-out at home, how does he follow the race?
SD: He has information that he can follow.
Q. The same as we have, the same monitors?
SD: He has our monitors, our information. Of course, he watches television, he has the television information but he also has our information because we want to keep this as, once again, a help in terms of his experience and trying to analyze what we can do to improve things.
Q. (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Stefano, we saw Michael riding a KTM at Misano last weekend and yesterday he was at Mugello with MotoGP? What do you think about his situation on two wheels; do you think that in the end he will be starting a new adventure there? And the second question is about Kimi, because Kimi yesterday said he would like to test a MotoGP. Is he allowed to do that? Has he your permission? Are you thinking about it?
SD: With regards to Michael, I think it was two years ago that Michael came to Mugello for the first time to see MotoGP and he realized that the world on two wheels is also a fascinating world. He has racing, speed and new challenges in his DNA but we have to respect that and as far as we know, for sure he has a challenging view of his life but not with any kind of official or a secondary objective. With regards to Kimi, I would say that for sure he's using his motocross bike as we know, because he likes it, but I would say that he's more concentrating on four wheels now up to November and then we will see.
Q. (Ottavio Daviddi – Tuttosport) Stefano, looking at practice today, do you think a one-two result is possible in the race?
SD: I'm going to keep my hands up. No, for sure, our objective is this kind of target but as we always see, as often seen on Friday, the times are misleading, so we need to be very careful. For sure, the performance seems quite competitive and I would say very good but it's too early to say that.
Q. (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Christian, Toyota and three other major manufacturers made their feelings quite clear yesterday regarding the Max Mosley situation. I was just wondering from your own perspective what your thoughts were on Max's position as a team principal, whether you can comment on him to stand down.
CH: Obviously the manufacturers made their position known yesterday. The FIA have responded. The Senate have called a general assembly and it would be inappropriate for me to comment further than that.
Q. (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Question for all three of you: we're only three races into the season, with all the rule changes for next year, where are you guys at with the 2009 program?
JH: We're working hard. I think there have been some recent meetings to clarify some of the aerodynamic issues because there are some grey areas that need closing, otherwise we don't all go in a straight line, but I think everybody is working hard on KERS, is working hard on the new aerodynamic package. You have to, that's the competitive nature of Formula One.
SD: Yeah, I can confirm what John said. We are working very hard because as you may know, next year the cars will be completely different and if you start with the wrong project then it will be a very difficult season. So I would say that the most difficult thing is, at least for us, is to keep a very high concentration and a very high performance, or try to achieve every time a better performance for this championship, to be very very competitive with the new car because it's a completely new project, a completely new design, new shape plus we have the KERS. This year, for sure, is a very challenging year for us at least, but I'm pretty sure also for the other teams.
CH: I think it's probably a bigger challenge even for us as an independent team, without the depth of resource of my colleagues here because balancing your focus on developing this year's car and facing a radical change in the concept of what a Formula One car is for next year, both aerodynamically and with the new energy recovery system is a challenge. There are areas which we are already focused hard on in Milton Keynes, trying to maintain a balance, not forgetting about 2008. We're only in race three here but it's certainly going to be a very very busy year.
Q. (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) It's a question for Stefano and Christian: could you explain to us why you remain silent about the embarrassing story about Max?
CH: I've said my bit. I think it would be inappropriate and not the right forum to discuss this further. The FIA have made a statement and we will await the outcome.
SD: From our side, as we have said for the time being, we will not make any kind of declaration but I think it's a matter of role and responsibility. My role here is to be focused on what we have to do, keep the feet on the ground because we are behind in the championships, so my role is that. Everyone has his role and beyond that there is responsibility connected to that and that's it.