An interview with Ana Beatriz and Justin Wilson
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us today. Starting the call with us is Firestone Indy Lights driver Ana Beatriz, and joining us in a few minutes will be IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson. Good afternoon, Ana.
ANA BEATRIZ: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for inviting me again.
MODERATOR: Ana is a rookie in Firestone Indy Lights, driving the No. 20 Healthy Choice entry for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. She began her career in go‑karts in Brazil and competed in Formula Renault, South American Formula 3 and A1GP before coming to the U.S. this season. So far this season she's recorded seven top-10 finishes in the first 10 races, led laps in three races, and last Saturday became the first woman to win in a Firestone Indy Lights race when she took the checkered at Nashville Superspeedway, and she currently ranks third in points.
Congratulations on a great season so far and on the victory on Saturday.
In the press conference after the race I know you were asked about the significance of the victory, being the first woman to win in Indy Lights, and I think obviously at the time with the victory being so fresh, you hadn't necessarily had a lot of time to think about it. Now that it's been a few days and maybe you've had a chance to reflect on things, is there a sense of significance to your victory?
ANA BEATRIZ : Yeah, like I didn't change much my idea. The win is so amazing for me because I came from Brazil and I had the opportunity for a driver bid that was given to me because I didn't have enough money, my family didn't have enough money, and they just had the confidence in my talent and they invested everything they could so I can continue my career, and they brought me to the U.S.
So the victory means that the confidence was right, that I had something, and we won our first race and it was just amazing.
So it meant a lot to me as a driver. I could see being the first female driver is a bonus. That's something really, really nice. But for me it means a lot winning as a rookie driver this year.
MODERATOR: You made the decision obviously to pursue your racing career here in the United States. What led you to come to the U.S. and what led you to Firestone Indy Lights?
ANA BEATRIZ : 2007 I didn't race. I did A1GP in Shanghai. I was the rookie driver of the Brazilian team at the time, and we tested in England, and we decided to test in the U.S. Andre Ribeiro, he drove for Penske in the '90s, and he knows a lot of people here. We just came and talked with Roger Bailey about the series and we were amazed about everything.
I loved the environment and American racing, I loved the environment in the Sam Schmidt team, and we could see a bright future for me here in America, and I think we were right.
MODERATOR: This is your first season racing on ovals, but you got off to a great start with a seventh at Homestead, finished fifth at Indy, third at Iowa, now of course you got the win at Nashville. Can you talk a little bit about the learning process for racing on ovals and how you've been able to adapt and succeed so quickly?
ANA BEATRIZ : Well, I think we started at Homestead and we got some point races that I did some mistakes; like Kansas we were fast and I didn't finish well in the race, and Milwaukee, and those races made me think a lot, learn a lot from my mistakes, and Sam Schmidt for sure helped me a lot.
We did a very good race in Indy, and I got my first podium in Iowa. I was just feeling the confidence, and Sam Schmidt continues to work hard, and I learn. And then Nashville, we won. It was just amazing. I'm really surprised that I won my first race on an oval.
MODERATOR: What are some of the specific nuances to it that you've had to pick up to learn how to race on ovals, as well?
ANA BEATRIZ : It's watching a lot of videos and look at a lot of data like from Alex Lloyd from last year, the way he drove the cars and why he was faster. It's just more the steering wheel, how you can scrap less speed and gain more speed in the exit of the corners. There's so much details, it's hard to explain. But I was getting all these things, and I put it together and I could learn it. And we finally did really well and won Nashville.
MODERATOR: The rest of the season there's two more races on ovals and then two road course double‑header weekends. You're only about 40 points back in the points. What do you think are your chances for a shot at the championship?
ANA BEATRIZ : Well, after Nashville I think my Healthy Choice Sam Schmidt crew, they are really confident, and if the team continues to be consistent as we've been, I think we have good chances.
I'm not going to put a lot of expectations because I think we're doing really well, and we just want to continue being consistent. If we can win more races, that would be amazing. But the most important thing right now is getting the points.
MODERATOR: Following this season, do you foresee a second year of Indy Lights, or do you think you'll be trying to move up to the next level, or what kind of things do you have in mind for next season and beyond?
ANA BEATRIZ : Well, I think it would be really nice to do another season in Indy Lights and try to fight for the championship since the beginning. But it all depends on my results, and I really believe that Andre Ribeiro is taking care of it and that he will decide the best thing for me.
MODERATOR: You're living in Indianapolis. Just tell us a little bit, how do you like the city? What kind of things do you do between races? And do you hang out with some of the other Brazilian drivers in town?
ANA BEATRIZ : Not really. All the drivers have been really busy right now, especially the IndyCar drivers. I really enjoy living in Indianapolis. I think it's not a big city but it has everything that I need, and I have my friends, Brazilian friends, American friends. In my free time I have a social life, and then of course go do my physical stuff to get prepared for the races, go to the Sam Schmidt shop, be a little more with the guys, and like doing sports, running, and for sure taking care of my apartment. That takes a lot of time, as well. But it's more or less like things that I do here.
Q. The drivers today as far as skills, do you think that they have to have more skills than say drivers say 30 or 40 years ago when racing was a completely different sport basically?
ANA BEATRIZ : I really don't know how to answer this, but I think it changed a lot. I think in the past racing was a lot of passion, and the drivers raced with passion and they wouldn't think about physical too much or go to massage therapy.
Nowadays, IndyCar drivers, they have such time to be complete in everything. The passion I think continues, but I think it's just more romantic. I don't know about the skills. I don't see Emerson Fittipaldi as anything different from Scott Dixon; both amazing drivers.
Q. Do you believe it's only a matter of time before female racers are common in motorsports?
ANA BEATRIZ : I think so. I think little girls, they don't realize that they can do it. When they see Danica (Patrick) winning, or now I won, and they can realize, oh, I can do it and that sport is amazing, I want to start and everything, so I think in the future we're going to see more and more female drivers coming.
Q. You must have gone through a lot coming from a foreign country. You've got a lot of adjustments that you've made. What's been the biggest challenge plus all the stuff you had to learn along the way? What's been the biggest challenge for you so far?
ANA BEATRIZ : Well, I lived in England last year and I can say that it was really hard for me. I learned a lot of things there, and it was my first time outside of Brazil.
Here in America I think it was so much easier. I think Americans were so nice, and Sam Schmidt helped me a lot, as well. I can't say it's really hard for me here. I'm loving really living here. I miss my friends, I miss my family, but I know that I'm going to see them at the end of the year.
Q. Isn't there a famous supermodel named Ana Beatriz Barros from Brazil, too?
ANA BEATRIZ: Yeah. Was the question about her?
Q. No, but have you ever been mistaken for her?
ANA BEATRIZ : Yeah, some people ‑‑ because I'm Brazilian, I was known by Bia Figueiredo, and then everybody in Brazil called me like this.
But when I came to America and when I said, 'Hi, I'm Bia Figueiredo,' nobody could understand it and I have to repeat it. And I thought, that's not going to work; I have to put an easier name for Americans so they can say it. So we changed to Ana Beatriz. A lot of people put in Google 'Ana Beatriz,' and it shows Ana Beatriz Barros with bikinis and she's gorgeous, as well. People are like, 'Wow, Ana Beatriz like that.' No, that's not me. It's a funny thing.
Q. I wanted to ask you, you were just talking about this a while ago, but the fact that Danica finally won a race this year and then you won, do you feel like that in itself makes a female driver even more accepted? Do you understand what I'm saying? And not just a novelty but as a force?
ANA BEATRIZ : I think so. I think just getting more respect, as well. I believe the future of the gender wouldn't be any more an issue because I think there will be more and more women drivers and maybe could be 50 percent one day, I don't know. The winnings of Danica and mine I think is just the beginning.
Q. Your goal right now, is your goal still Formula One, or do you have a certain place you want to get to? What is your long‑term goal, I guess?
ANA BEATRIZ : My long‑term goal is become a top driver in IndyCars.
Q. How much has Sam Schmidt meant to your career at this point? What does he bring that's new or his team bring that's new and refreshing for you?
ANA BEATRIZ : I can say that Sam Schmidt team, they have been amazing with me since the beginning when I was the first time here. They are the best team, they have the best cars, and they are the best to teach things for the drivers. And I think I understood it and tried to get almost everything they teach me.
It's hard work, and I think we are working really well together, and it's really special for me.
Q. In a nutshell, what was that thing that got you interested in driving race cars? You may have said this earlier. I got on here late. But do you remember back that moment or that week or that year when you decided you wanted to drive race cars? What was it that turned you on to race cars?
ANA BEATRIZ : I always was an energetic girl, and when I was five or six years old, my dad took me to the go‑karting place, and I was watching the go‑karting and they were crashing, and I just loved it.
At the time go‑kart racing was big in Brazil, and my dad told me, Bia, here is where I started. I said, Dad, that's amazing. I want to start, I want to start. He just let me start when I was eight years old, but I always kept annoying him between that time.
Q. He didn't tell you little girls don't drive race cars?
ANA BEATRIZ : No, my parents, especially my father, he always let me do whatever I wanted. He always supported me in everything, so it's just amazing.
Q. Coming from Brazil, I mean, sports‑wise it's a very macho country and you're in a male‑dominated macho sport. Can you just talk about some of the obstacles you maybe had to overcome to be accepted in this sport?
ANA BEATRIZ : It was hard work, especially in the beginning. The boys were dominant, and I really had to do a lot of bad things to get their respect. I'll give you an example. I used to drive with Nelson Piquet, Jr., in go‑karting when we were eight years old. And one day Nelson Piquet couldn't pass me, and then the session was over, and Nelson Piquet's father was fighting with him because he couldn't pass me. What's that, you know? What's the problem? So it was really hard to get the respect.
But by the time that I could win, start to win races, people just got used to me in Brazil so I didn't have many problems anymore, and all the drivers started to respect me.
I can say right now, Americans, they are really more acceptable about women racing than in Brazil and Europe.
Q. So what do you think the reaction would have been back in Brazil to your win?
ANA BEATRIZ : Well, I can tell it was something huge in a Brazil. I was really, really excited that I could say that for one week we were more famous than Tony (Kanaan), Helio (Castroneves) and whatever, because all the newspapers were talking about it. And I'm really glad that all the press that are in Brazil did that. That's really, really nice.
Q. Do you see yourself as a role model now for young girls?
ANA BEATRIZ : I don't know. I don't know. I hope so. I think it's nice. Last time I went to Brazil I saw some little girls trying go‑karting, and they went running to get an autograph and said I was their hero, and I was like, 'Wow, that's impressive.' I don't know really. It's strange to think about it.
Q. You mentioned the super model and bikinis. Danica Patrick did the swimsuit issue with Sports Illustrated. Do you think that helps or hinders the progress of women auto racing drivers?
ANA BEATRIZ : I think a strong point for Danica is that she can achieve the public that doesn't watch the races, and that's maybe why she's so big, and she feels good to do it and she's not shy. So I think it's very good for her.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate that, congratulations, again, on the win at Nashville and best of luck the rest of the way.
Ladies and gentlemen, we're joined now by Justin Wilson. Good afternoon.
JUSTIN WILSON: Good afternoon.
MODERATOR: Thank you for giving us a call. Justin is in his first season in the IndyCar Series drivers newer Newman/Haas/Lanigan racing, has four top-10 finishes including seventh on the short ovals at Iowa and Richmond, and he's qualified in the top three at the two road-course events.
Prior to this season Justin competed for four years in Champ Car, recording wins and poles in each of the last four seasons and he also competed in Formula One in 2003.
We talked to you on the teleconference shortly after the unification announcement, right before the season started. Now that we're slightly past halfway, maybe kind of give us your impressions of how things have gone so far in 2008.
JUSTIN WILSON : Obviously we haven't had the results we were looking for. We knew it was going to be tough. We knew the situation was very difficult, and you know, this is just where we find ourselves. I think we're pretty much in line with what I expected through this transitioning year, and hopefully we can put it together in the next couple of courses and finally get on the podium and improve the results, because I feel we've shown well in a lot of races but don't have anything on paper to say that.
People that know, watching it, will understand what we've done, but to the casual fan they might not realize what we've gone through and what we've achieved.
The aim now is to try and translate that into something a little bit more substantial, and hopefully we can get some good results here.
MODERATOR: The remainder of the schedule has four road or street courses, two road courses, two street courses. You've qualified well on each of those types of courses this year, third on the Streets of St. Petersburg and second on the road course at Watkins Glen. Is there kind of a generally different approach to take between a road course vs. a street course?
JUSTIN WILSON : No, I think you approach both of them very similar. You go out there and you try and get a good setup and work through it. It's just the fact that we're coming from a background where we have setups for the road courses and we're able to translate them and work them out much quicker than we can with the ovals. We just don't have the experience, either myself or the team, to really advance our setup on the ovals in a tight time frame.
I think that's also a part of the schedule is the oval weekends generally are a little bit more rapid fire in the practice sessions and qualifying, whereas the road sessions seem to happen a little bit slower. You get a little bit more time to think about it and work a setup out, whereas on the ovals, you're on the backside the whole weekend.
It's just tough, and it's what we expected, and hopefully, like I said, this off‑season ‑‑ in fact, before the off‑season we have a couple of tests planned to really go and address that and work on our weak areas because we want to be out there winning races and fighting for the championship.
MODERATOR: This weekend will be your first visit to Mid‑Ohio, although the team has raced there in the past with a different race car. What's the process that you go through personally and as a team when you prepare for a new track? And obviously, this year especially, about 10 of the 12 tracks have been new to you guys. How do you prepare to go to a new track?
JUSTIN WILSON : Well, in an ideal situation I like to run it on a simulator. I've got some software which I run and get to drive the tracks. Mid‑Ohio unfortunately isn't on it yet, but instead of that, watch some videos, try and get some on‑board laps from other people driving, even in saloon cars. It all helps to get familiar with the track. And then if we can look at some data, walk around the track, get a view from real life what it's going to look like and try and piece all that together so that when we go out there you're ready for it and you know what the picture looks like, you know which corners are intimidating and which ones are wide open and lots of runoff, so you get to build that picture pretty quick.
MODERATOR: After Mid‑Ohio the IndyCar Series goes to Edmonton for the first time, but it's a place that you and several of the other drivers in the series have been to several times, and you especially have had some great success with a victory and two podium finishes there. Tell us a little bit about the circuit in Edmonton and your expectations for that weekend.
JUSTIN WILSON : Obviously this is going to be the first race that we're going to that we've really known the track and get to compete on our home soil, if you like, what we're used to doing.
In the past I've run strong there, and between Newman/Haas/Lanigan and myself, we've won all three races, so I'm hoping we can translate it into a good weekend.
It's a very fast circuit. It's an airport circuit with some sections that are like a permanent road circuit. And then there's other places which are like street circuits because you have the wall so close you can't afford to make a mistake.
I find it a really interesting track, and it's just getting the aggression down ‑‑ if you get too aggressive you're going to make a mistake and go off the road. If you don't push hard enough, you're just not going to be quick enough. It's a fun track and a fun setting.
MODERATOR: Yesterday it was announced that Paul Tracy would be back racing in Edmonton. What are your thoughts on his return for the race?
JUSTIN WILSON : I think it's going to be really interesting. Paul is always an interesting guy to be around and race against. He's a lot of fun. I like him and am looking forward to having him back, back behind the wheel.
In typical Paul fashion I expect a few fireworks along the way (laughing).
Q. It's been a long time since you've been out of Formula One. Is there anything that you miss about Formula One, obviously going back to Champ Car and your current IndyCar racing?
JUSTIN WILSON : Not really, no. I really enjoy the lifestyle and the type of racing over here in America. I find it a lot less politics involved. There's still quite a bit, but that's going to be racing no matter where you go.
But it's more down to getting in the car and racing and making the most of it. We all have the same equipment, same engine, the same tires, and I like being able to compete every weekend. So right now, no, I really enjoy it here and don't miss Formula One.
It's fun to look back on the Formula One days and think, 'That's great, I was there.' But at the time, you don't enjoy it. In this racing, you enjoy it while you do it.
Q. The other thing I wanted to ask you is other than the basic tracks and layouts from ovals to the street courses, do you find any big differences between the Champ Cars of last year and the IndyCars of this year?
JUSTIN WILSON : I'm really pleasantly surprised how well this car is on the road circuits. I really enjoy driving it, and it gives me good feedback, and it's a lot of fun. They're more similar than I expected.
The biggest difference is in the power delivery, the turbo, so that's the biggest thing to get used to. But other than that, it's got four wheels and I like to push it to the limit.
Q. How glad are you to have actually run across to a paddle shift this year and you didn't have to revert back to the old stick shift like they used last year?
JUSTIN WILSON : That's nice. It's nice to have the paddle shift. With my size, that makes life easier. It's one less thing to complicate the cockpit. On one hand you kind of miss the stick shift because it was a rhythm, a routine you had to get into and it was just one more thing the driver had to do. But this makes life a little easier for everyone.
Q. Without hard work in the garage and on the track, results just don't happen. Are good results just hard work meaning good luck or hard work overcoming bad luck?
JUSTIN WILSON : Well, it's a bit of everything. It's getting everything in order in the right situation, hard work. Everybody in the pits is working hard. But some people may be working hard in the wrong areas and the wrong direction, and that's what a good team can do is they've got the people that have the experience and are able to just put everything together. It's whoever is putting it all together the right way at the right time.
I think Newman/Haas/Lanigan have got some fantastic people, and I feel very privileged to drive the McDonald's car and go out there and be able to attack. From what I've seen, it's not that much different to what was happening in the other teams I drove for, but it's just the subtle details that make the difference, and that's what counts in this sport.
Q. And you mentioned good teams putting it all together. When they do that, all of a sudden they get on a hot streak. Is a hot streak like finding a magic and then all of a sudden it disappears?
JUSTIN WILSON : Yeah, I mean, it's ‑‑ when you get into that situation, I think it's a case of the driver, the engineer working really well together, and also they connect so you're able to use less words to understand what's going on. And that's where you can move faster, you can develop the car quicker, and you find a better setup quicker, and that also translates down to life is less stressful for the crew guys. They don't have to work as hard and they get more sleep at night.
It's all the little subtle things that just snowball and make your life easier and better.
Q. Final question that I asked Ana, too. You guys come from ‑‑ this is a foreign country to you, and you've got to make a lot of adjustments, plus make adjustments that you have to as a necessity of being a driver. What are the biggest challenges you've found in that way?
JUSTIN WILSON : I think it's a little bit easier for me speaking a similar language. There's still things I have to get used to, pronouncing "water" and "tomato" and things like that. I haven't quite got to that. But I have not found it too difficult.
I think the hardest thing is probably for my wife who gets to spend more time at home than I do. I go on the road traveling and go and see all these cool places, and she's sat at home. So that's the hard bit is finding something to occupy her and keep her motivated ‑‑ not motivated, but sane I think is probably the right word. She's used to working. She worked for a race team back in the UK and now she's not allowed to work. So that's the biggest challenge. But other than that it's pretty simple and pretty easy to get along here and enjoy your career.
Q. Can you go over the qualifying process and how different it is in this circuit than it was last year and whether it would be an advantage? I notice you've been right in the front for the two road races, an advantage for you or a disadvantage for you, particularly as it applies to the Edmonton track?
JUSTIN WILSON : Yeah, well, I really like the qualifying format we have for the road courses. I think it's probably one of the best we've come across. I think it's new for everybody to some degree this year.
But yeah, the way we have the shootout, so everybody goes out ‑‑ or everybody splits into two groups, so two groups go out separately, and the quickest six from each group moves forward to a third group, if you like, and it just ‑‑ the process of elimination that whittles it down and keeps the action going, but also, there's not too many cars on track so you don't have all the excuses that drivers used to come up with of traffic and got their lap ruined by somebody else going slow.
So I think the format is really good, and you get to see the final six drivers really go after it and try and put their best lap together in the last five, 10 minutes of the session.
I really enjoy it and hopefully they're going to keep that format for the future, because I think it works well.
Q. And what about as it applies to specific tracks, Edmonton, for example?
JUSTIN WILSON : Yeah, I mean, Edmonton was always pretty tough, trying to get a good clear lap in qualifying, because Turn 1 to Turn 9 was all one sequence. It might not look like it from the outside, but inside the car you never stop turning the wheel, and it's your timing, and somebody ‑‑ if you catch another car in that section, it'll ruin your laps by a large chunk of time and you can't overcome it.
It allows you to hopefully get a clear lap through that section and be able to advance if you're quick enough into the next one.
Yeah, I think it just results in really the quickest guys will find a way to get through and make it to that last session where the fans get to see a shootout between the quickest guys on that day.
Q. Does it not also give you a little bit more track time if you're in the top?
JUSTIN WILSON : It does, but at that stage your car is set and it's time to go. It gives you maybe one more run than some people, but in that run you're just trying to piece it all together. You're not really making too many adjustments. Unless you sneaked in, your car is what you've got, and you've just got to go out there and prove yourself again.
Q. And what about not having the provisional pole on the day before?
JUSTIN WILSON : I think, you know, it's different. I can see pros and cons. But ultimately I think this is the right way to go, having the practice session, time to think about it, and then moving forwards with the qualifying day. It puts more emphasis on the actual qualifying in my opinion.
Q. I'm wondering, what kind of relationship have you and Graham developed over the last eight months, nine months since y'all have been teammates? And how has it benefitted you?
JUSTIN WILSON : Well, I think it's been a lot of fun working with Graham (Rahal). He's young and enthusiastic and also very mature for his age. I really like him and get on well with him as a teammate.
We both feel like we're in this together and trying to make the most of the circumstances this year, and we both feel that we have to work with each other to move the car forwards and allow us to be up there competing for the win as opposed to battling down in 20th or whatever. And we feel we've made some progress, and there's weekends where I can help him out on his setup and there's weekends where he can help me out on my setup, and I think ultimately it's a good relationship.
Q. Take people inside. On a regular race weekend, how much are teammates, how much are you guys actually together? Are you only together like during the little engineering meetings? How often are y'all face to face talking about the car?
JUSTIN WILSON : Yeah, we're together in those meetings with the engineers. Obviously all the things we have to do, the drivers' meetings, the autograph sessions. But then also when we go back to the truck before and after a session, we're probably sitting in the same little room waiting for the session to start or talking about certain things about the car between ourselves.
We're used to spending a fair bit of time with each other, so it actually helps when you like the guy you're working with.
Q. The funny thing about it is you guys are both trying to win, like you look at teammates. But just an honest question, are you ever in conversation with a teammate and you don't tell him everything you know because you still want an edge somewhere?
JUSTIN WILSON : I've had that situation before in my career where you think, well, I know you're not telling me everything, so I'm not telling you everything. It's not a healthy situation for the team. Maybe if you're fighting out for first and second you could see where that comes into play, but right now, we need each other as much as anyone else on the team to help move the car forwards and get up there as quick as possible back to what we used to.
But even still, I find racing in the States is a much more open, much friendlier place than Formula One. In Formula One it didn't matter where you were in the grid, you didn't really say anything to your teammate and you definitely didn't try and help him in any way. It's just a different mentality.
And here you help each other, and if that guy is able to go out and go quicker, then he's just better. But if you're able to go quicker, then you're better. So it's just the way it is.
Q. Last thing, you were talking a while ago about not having the stick shift now and having the paddle shift. Y'all had paddles last year at Champ Car, right?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, in the panel chassis we had the paddle shift.
Q. I'm wondering as a driver, this is a weird question, but does it make it a little more like a video game when you've got the paddles if you understand what I'm saying? Not that it's ever easy, but you've just got to get your foot on the gas and you've got your fingers on the paddles? Does it ever feel like a video game out there at all?
JUSTIN WILSON : I can see what you're saying, yes. I remember the first time I drove the Formula One car it was so effortless that it was like a video game. You had to step back and calm yourself down a little bit before you get carried away and realize that you can get hurt doing this.
With the Champ Car and the IndyCar, it definitely feels a little bit more surreal, but you don't have to work on the timing of the downshifts and the blip in the throttle and things like that. So that's made life a little bit easier, not quite as complicated.
But at the same time, because of that, we go deeper into the corner and you push it harder and you've got two hands on the wheel. It's a trade‑off. You don't have to get that technique perfect anymore because you don't need it. But you then have just got to push the car in other areas.
MODERATOR: Justin, thanks again for giving us a call today. We appreciate that, and best of luck here in the next few races as we close out the season.
JUSTIN WILSON: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me on, and I hope, also, we can improve our results and get back on here and tell you how it was.