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DATE News (chronologically)
06/19/08
f1
French GP: Thursday Press Conference
Massa and Raikkonen listen
Drivers: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Felipe Massa (Ferrari).

Q: A question to all of you first of all. Looking back to Canada, your thoughts on that race, what you learned and your feelings after the race.
Kimi Raikkonen:
Not much to say, really. I didn’t score any points, so it was a bit of a bad weekend but those come sometimes.

Q: Anything to be gained or learned?
KR:
No, like I said it was not the weekend we were looking for but that’s racing, so hopefully we will do better here.
Felipe Massa: It was a strange race. I think it was a little bit harder to overtake. It was a difficult race and for sure people who stayed in the track was able to score points. That was also my case. I think it was possible to score a little bit more but in circumstances like that I think it was a good race. I remember after two races I was pretty much behind in the championship and now everything is open, so everybody is pretty close, so I think in a way not so negative a race for me.
Lewis Hamilton: I think it was a pretty cool weekend for me really apart from it not ending the way we wanted it to, but that’s racing.

Q: Anything to be learned or gained?
LH:
Not particularly, no.

Q: Robert, obviously a good one for you.
Robert Kubica:
Yeah, winning my first race in my F1 career and the first race win for BMW Sauber with Nick finishing second, so yes it was a great weekend. We had a bit of luck in the end with what was happening at the end of the pit lane. But this is racing. We were a bit unlucky in Monaco or Lewis was a bit more lucky in Monaco. In Canada I was more lucky, so a good weekend all in all.

Q: Looking forward to this weekend. Kimi, you have finished every one of your seven races here and won here last year. You finished second from 13th in 2005, so generally speaking I would have thought a good circuit for you.
KR:
Yeah, I quite enjoy it. It’s a nice circuit, not probably the easiest to overtake here but overall it is a nice circuit and I enjoy it here. Hopefully we can get a good result. Last year we started to get things going more right here and hopefully it is the same this year.

Q: Felipe, Ferrari have seven wins in 11 years here. Your feelings, as in the last two years you have gone back a place from your grid position. Second last year from pole and third the year before from second.
FM:
Yeah, I mean for sure it’s not a bad result. Both years in Ferrari I was on the podium. Last year I was on pole and had great pace in the race. I lost a little bit of time in the traffic and lost a position in the second pit stop. The pace itself was very good during the whole race, so I am looking forward to having a competitive race and I think it is a good track for us.

Q: What are your feelings about the track, Lewis? You had a good result from second to third last year but McLaren actually have not won here since 2000.
LH:
As you said I have only been here once. My first time here last year I qualified on the front row in second and finished third, so I was quite happy with it. I like this circuit and I think it is quite challenging, very technical. I think this year we have a better chance in terms of the package we have. It is a better package than we had last year, so therefore we should be quicker. It is going to be a challenge this weekend but that’s the way it goes.

Q: Robert, obviously fourth on the grid last year and finished fourth as well.
RK:
Last year was a good weekend for us. I was coming back after the Canada accident, so fourth was the maximum I could achieve. I enjoy racing here. It is a kind of track which has all kinds of corners with high speed chicanes, low speed chicanes, hairpins and high speed corners. It is a good track and I always like to race here.

Q: Looking back at two weeks ago. What has been the reaction since then and what’s been the feeling in Poland?
RK:
Well, I think everybody knows the reaction because they could see it. In the end, we came back to Europe, we went testing in Barcelona. I was testing for the first two days, Nick was testing on the last day, trying to improve the car, preparing for the next Grands Prix and in the end it was a very good weekend for us in Canada but we have to keep our feet on the ground and keep working, keep pushing because we know there is a gap to the Ferraris and McLarens and we need to make bigger steps to close it and we will try our best.

Q: Do you think you can challenge Ferrari and McLaren at this race?
RK:
Lately it’s quite difficult. In Canada, in qualifying I think we were helped a bit by the track conditions, the tarmac was breaking up and the conditions were completely different than in free practice. I managed to do quite a quick, clean lap, and managed to put the car on the front row, but looking at free practice, looking at Monaco, at Turkey, the gap is quite big, so we have to try our best and with a ten place penalty for Lewis we will try to score as many points as possible and we will try to do our best.

Q: Lewis, how does your ten place penalty change your approach to this weekend?
LH:
It doesn’t really. It’s a race, I’m here to win and so I approach it the same. Obviously we want to finish, we want to get as many points as possible. It just makes that harder but it’s quite funny, that’s the way it goes.

Q: Does it change the set-up, does it change the strategy?
LH:
I don’t particularly think so. Obviously it would be nice to qualify on the front row which would put us just outside the top ten but I don’t know. I will have to wait and speak to my engineers.

Q: I have been asked to ask you a question about a number plate. Have you bought LEW15?
LH:
No. Absolutely no interest. That sounds about the worst number plate I’ve ever heard of. I’m not stupid enough to spend a couple of hundred grand on a bloody number plate. I wouldn’t spend a hundred pounds on a number plate. A number plate’s a number plate. It doesn’t mean nothing to me. I just heard about it today. It was the first I’d heard about it.

Q: Felipe, do you feel that the threat from BMW and McLaren is roughly equal? You’ve been quoted as saying you still feel a big threat here from them?
FM:
I think it’s difficult to say. I think they are very competitive, for sure. On some tracks it was pretty difficult to be in front of them, on some tracks they were a little bit behind. If you look back to Montreal I don’t think we showed our proper pace, especially in qualifying, because of the track situation. It was very difficult for us, especially. Me and Kimi were struggling so much in the last sector but in the race we back on the pace again. I don’t think we could show our real pace. In Monaco we qualified first and second and we had a great car there but in the circumstances in the race, it was pretty difficult and we finished behind, but we had a lot of first and seconds this year. I think we can be competitive but they will be competitive as well. Hopefully we can be competitive enough to be in front.

Q: Kimi, last year there were more perfect weekends for everybody but so far this year we’ve seen drivers not have good weekends; for instance, you’ve had two bad races the last two weekends. What are your feelings about the championship, the way it’s going?
KR:
It definitely looked better for me before the last two races but there’s still a long way to go. The points’ gap is pretty small between all the guys at the front, so we haven’t lost anything yet. As long as we start getting where we should be in the races, we can easily come back but we cannot really afford to drop back more than we are now. It’s not the perfect place but like Felipe said, I think we have a strong package and we just need to get the best out of it and use it. We will see what happens now, but there are definitely many races to go, so nothing lost or gained. I’m not too worried about it.

Q: But at the same time this is quite a crucial race to score some points?
KR:
Yeah, definitely we are going to score points, if we can just get the car to the finish, but we’re here to try to win the race, so hopefully we can manage to do it and that would help a lot.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) Robert, Fernando Alonso has confirmed this afternoon that the GPDA are looking at the cost of the super license, the thousand percent increase in how much more that it is costing the drivers, how much more you’re going to have to pay per point. He’s also mentioned that there’s a possibility that if the worst came to the worst, the drivers could go on strike. Could we have your thoughts first of all on that, Robert, and to the other three drivers, although you’re not members of the GPDA, would you actually support your fellow drivers in this instance should the worst come to the worst?
RK:
Well, I agree with what Fernando has said about the costs of the super license which has increased quite a lot compared to last year, I think eight times, or something like that. It’s quite a lot of money, especially if you are scoring points like Lewis did last year and it’s your first year in Formula One. But another point is that experienced drivers who don’t have a quick car are not scoring points, so they don’t care because they don’t have to pay. So I think it will be difficult to get all drivers to have the same idea but we are trying to convince the FIA to reduce the cost.
LH: I’ve always said that even though I’m not a member of the GPDA, I’ve always said that they have my support and it’s something I agree with as well.
FM: It’s the first time that I’ve heard that, I didn’t hear about it before because I was in Brazil, but if it’s what Robert says, for sure I support (them) one hundred percent because I don’t see a reason for the price to be different for the top drivers and the guys who are in smaller teams. I think the super license has to be the same for everybody.
KR: For sure I support (them). Of course it’s better if it’s not so expensive and it’s the same for everybody, but I don’t think there’s any reason to go on strike and not race. I don‘t think that’s the right way to go but it would be nice if we could reduce it.

Q: (David Croft - BBC 5) A stupid question, perhaps, but I assume you all pay your own super licenses?
KR:
Yeah.
FM: Yeah.
(General assent.)

Q: (David Croft - BBC 5) Kimi, is there another way that a compromise could be found, if you’re not agreeing with the possibility of a strike? What is the compromise that could be worked out?
KR:
I don’t know. I don’t see that first of all you can say that we strike but it’s never going to happen that all the drivers will strike. Hopefully there is some nice solution that can be found at some point.

Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) Lewis, in an interview that you did yesterday with my colleague from the BBC, you talked about the pressures today of being in Formula One. Could you just expand on that and what exactly it is this year that you’re going through that is perhaps different to last year?
LH:
Well, there’s not really much to say, just that for sure, being at the top in Formula One there’s a lot more demand on you. All the sponsors want to see you and that’s really what is demanding. Last year I was in my first season and they probably wanted to see Fernando more than me as he was the well-known driver, and as the year went on I became more and more popular and they started to ask for me as well. And this year there’s a great demand for me through sponsors and through different appearances and charity events and stuff like that, and trying to fit that all in with preparing for… going to the factory, preparing for the next Grand Prix and also for the tests that we have to do and making sure that we’re still fit and making sure that we have some time for the family and trying to fit it all in this year is a lot harder. But we’re managing to do it. I’ve got a great team around me and that’s my fitness team, the actual team itself, and also my management team. They’re all doing a fantastic job and even though there’s all those demands on me this year, I’m actually managing to perhaps do a better job.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, does starting behind in this Grand Prix change the pressure? Do you feel that you have less pressure than usual?
LH:
For me, I don’t think I have less pressure. At the back I think there’s more work for me to do. Considering we’re all so close in the championship, I guess it spices it up a bit, if that’s what they want. It’s going to be harder, coming from the back, but I don’t have any doubts or any worries, I think we’re going to have a very strong package this weekend, and I think the car will be as good if not better than it was in the last race. With that pace, as long as we stay out of trouble we should be able to score some good points.

Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto Motor und Sport) Lewis, coming back to Canada, looking at your performance, was it more annoying for you to lose a possible victory with such an incident in the pit lane compared to, say, a mistake out on the circuit and you spin or crash?
LH:
No, for me it was less annoying because I find when you under-achieve on the circuit, if you make a mistake such as hitting the wall when you’re in the lead by ten seconds, that would have really affected me a lot more. But it was such a silly, such a small incident which took two of the drivers out, it was a shame, but as I said, I wasn’t that gutted. If anything, I was more gutted for Kimi because it was just unfortunate for being there at the time.

Q: (Anne Giuntini - L’Equipe) Sorry to disturb you, Lewis, but is it what you call a small incident involving Kimi being a victim? Is it smaller than a mistake that would annoy only you?
LH:
That’s what I just said, didn’t I? I was just saying, in terms of the pressure I feel on myself and then the pressure I put on myself in the race and to perform, I feel I would be more affected if I was out on the track and I was driving, in the lead, doing a perfect race and then I made a huge mistake and crashed into the wall. It’s a different feeling, that’s all I’m saying. But obviously it was not a small incident and, as I said, I was more sorry and more concerned for Kimi because he was having a good race.

Q: (Ed Gorman - The Times) Lewis, can you just talk about your goals for this weekend? Are you aiming for a points’ finish, a podium finish? Do you think it’s realistic to think of a win?
LH:
Approaching a weekend I’m obviously always aiming to win but realistically I think we just have to try and aim for a podium finish if possible, but I think it’s going to be very, very tough. As you can see, we’re all very close and there’s now quite a few teams that are very competitive and this is not the easy track to overtake as well, so I will keep my fingers crossed and do the best job I can and I hope we can push and finish in the top five.

Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) A question for all of you: Auto Motor und Sport magazine said only ten F1 drivers make over US$10m. Compared to other sportsmen are you guys really underpaid?
RK:
I think my opinion is that I’m not doing it for money. Of course, I need something for food and to live but in the end my approach is the same when I was racing in karting. In karting I wasn’t paid, so no difference.
LH: Yes, good answer.
KR: I’m happy with what I’m getting. I’m not doing it for the money either, but for sure, you still put your life at risk and you need to get something for it. For sure, if people didn’t think that you should get paid so much, they wouldn’t pay, so there’s always some reason. But I cannot really answer for the others. As I said, I’m happy where I am, what I’m doing, so that’s the main thing.

Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) Robert, getting back to yourself and the super license situation, although you have a good point on the matter, would you expect ordinary members of the general public out there to sympathize with your situation, bearing in mind the amount of money you do earn as a Formula One driver?
RK:
I think the whole issue is not new, so I don’t see the reason why we should discuss it now. As a driver, as a GPDA member, we think that the cost is too much. The FIA is saying that it goes to safety and I agree, safety is very important, so in the end, if the standard of safety can improve, we should pay for it, because in the end there is quite a high risk of accident. My case last year and Heikki’s (accident) this year in Barcelona show that the FIA is making a great effort and doing a very good job in safety. But then I don’t see the point why some drivers have to pay more and some others not. In the end, we are all on the same track driving F1 cars.

Q: (Thierry Vautrat - Sud Ouest) I just want to ask Felipe, how happy are you to have left the two street circuits behind and to go back to a normal circuit and could it be a new start to the season for you, considering the Ferraris are always very good on this track?
FM:
I think we were pretty strong on the street circuits as well, so in terms of performance we were definitely not behind. I think our guy in the factory did a great job in Monaco – a really great job in Monaco. I think we had a competitive car in Montreal. As I said, it’s difficult to explain why we suffered so much in qualifying, because of the track situation, but I think we were looking very strong until then. For sure, I’m also happy to come back to this kind of circuit because we can be competitive and usually on this kind of track, the race is a little bit more normal, so if you start in a good position, you have an even bigger chance to finish in a good position. I think it can be good. It’s not the start of the championship for me because the start was in the first race and I was behind, so now I have recovered a lot of points and I am in a very good position, but we still have many races to go and we know that things can change very quick in one race, so we need to keep the performance, we need to keep the concentration and everything to finish most of the races and bring as many points home race-by-race and then at the end of the championship we’re going to see if we did well or not.

Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Robert, there were some quotes on Kimi’s website after Montreal saying that he was happy that you won there and not the other guys up there with you this afternoon, which seems to suggest that he doesn’t really rate you much as a title rival. Do you feel underestimated by these guys?
RK:
I don’t think so. Realistically, looking and watching the situation of me and my team, I don’t put me as well as a title contender. In the end, normally the fastest car and fastest driver wins the title but sometimes it happens that in some seasons the most consistent driver (wins) and the only way we could achieve this position for now, leading the championship, has been without making any mistakes. It has been racing with very good strategy, with good reliability. We have improved our car a lot in this direction, so reliability for now is a hundred percent perfect and the guys in the workshop have made a really big step forward in this direction because last year, in the end, we were losing a lot of points by not finishing races, so in the end I don‘t think so. Looking at the situation, in Kimi’s case, I would worry more about Felipe and Lewis than myself.

Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Kubica, the driver’s weight is very important this year, but it will be even more important next year with the change in the technical regulations. Are you worried about it, and is there any pressure from the GPDA to increase the minimum weight of the car?
RK:
Yeah, but changing the regulations, adding KERS, the cars will get much heavier and already now, in BMW Sauber’s case, there was clearly an advantage to weigh less than what I was weighing at the beginning of the season, so we made an effort in the workshop, the guys did a big effort to reduce the weight of the car, I reduced my weight and we came to a good result, but next year, adding KERS which will weigh around 35 kilos - more or less - it will become very, very important to be light or to have a light car, and to have a light car will cost the teams a lot of money to reduce the weight. It will maybe even be more dangerous because the parts will be lighter and more fragile and I’m worried that some teams will chose light drivers because it’s more advantageous. I don’t think this is the way to go. I’ve put my views to the FIA, also the GPDA, but I think their answer was quite negative, but we will see.
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