Chinese GP: Thursday Press Conference
During the Thursday FIA press conference of the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen answered the questions of the gathered press.
Fernando, you come off a roll of two wins. What are your feelings about this race?
Fernando Alonso: "Hopefully we can do well here. Obviously the victory I am still thinking is very far and we are not as quick as maybe the contenders for the win here but we can do a good job again and take hopefully many points for the team. I think the car is really nice to drive now in the last month and a half, so I don't see any reason that here we will not have a competitive car. But as I said maybe not for the win but hopefully the podium will be our target."
Tell us about the continuing development of the car that has helped to make it a winner?
FA: "We have been introducing new parts at every race but some of them were a little bit better from a performance point of view but some of them were not so good, so you know I think we are still not completely sure how the car changed dramatically in the last couple of weeks. We introduced a new front wing but I think it is something more than that. You know, little things in the set-up as well, I think, helped us a lot. We found some new way to set up the car in the last couple of races and it seems to work fine, especially in the long run pace in the race, so we will keep this set-up for sure for this race."
What about the challenges of this circuit?
FA: "I think turn one is our main challenge from a driver's point of view because it is a very long corner that you need to guess more or less to turn in and you need to continually downshift all the way through turn one and you can make good time there. Also there is the very long straight at the back. You need to have a good exit from the corner before but I think it is very similar for everybody and the set-up of the car can also be crucial here as it is a very, very long straight and you need to take some downforce off but you need the downforce in the corners, so you need to find the compromise."
Kimi, a winner here last year and three times on the podium. What are your thoughts about this race?
Kimi Raikkonen: "It is nice to come back here. I have had some good races in the past here but hopefully we can have similar achievement this year but we need to see what we can do."
It is your birthday tomorrow, what is the best present you could give yourself or could be given to you?
KR: "Like I said, hopefully I can challenge for a win. The car is definitely improving and it is better for me but we are still not exactly where we want to be. But this is a different place from the last circuit. Last year we had a good time and hopefully this year we can again."
Is qualifying going to be any better for Ferrari than, say at Fuji?
KR: "I mean at Fuji I had a pretty okay qualifying but then it didn't work out in the race as well. For sure qualifying for all the teams is going to make a big difference and if you are driving behind cars it is going to be difficult to get past anybody."
Lewis, dramas last weekend and last year here as well. What are the lessons you have taken from last year and last weekend?
Lewis Hamilton: "I think from last year it is just keep your head up, things happen and I guess to avoid the gravel trap here. I think from last weekend there are quite a lot of positives I took from the weekend and I move forward, put that in the past. The team remain positive. We make mistakes together as a team and we move on together, so onwards and upwards for us."
Has your approach changed from last weekend to how you approach this weekend's race?
So what is the general approach then?
LH: "The same as always. We come here and we are going to try and do the best job we can. The car is very competitive and we were very quick here last year but we should perhaps be a little bit more competitive this year with the good car that we have. But it is going to be a very tough weekend without a doubt, so we will try and do the best job we can."
Renault have won the last two races. Do you regard them a threat to your championship hopes?
LH: "They have obviously done a fantastic job and it is great to see them doing so well. You can see how hard they have worked over the last two years, so it is not a surprise to see them doing well. They are a great team and I am sure they are going to be pushing us hard throughout the weekend."
Robert, this hasn't been a very good circuit for you in the past.
Robert Kubica: "Yeah, if you compare results of the race. I retired when I was leading the race, so that was not bad."
But you have had two best in qualifying of ninth place and a best of 13th in the race.
RK: "There is nothing to say. They were two wet qualifying sessions, so it has been quite difficult but still in the race in 2006 I was doing a very good race but unfortunately I was last after corner one as I was hit by Doornbos but gaining a lot of positions and running P5 but then with gambling with tire choice and it didn't work out. Last year again during drying conditions on the track I had good pace. We chose dry tires but in my first stop it started to rain and I kept the tires and in two laps I overtook two Ferraris and I was leading the race, so all in all I think it was not bad."
How much has consistency been the watchword of the season for the BMW Sauber team and for yourself?
RK: "I think the only way to stay in the championship was with consistency and reliability. It was just great this season. Compared to last year we have done very big progress. Last year we had many technical issues but this year none, so the biggest steps were there comparing last year from this year. That is why we are still in the game. Of course our position is not the best one but if I am still among three drivers who can fight for the championship it is due to the reliability which is 100 per cent perfect this season."
Does that idea of consistency change the way you drive?
RK: "I am always trying to give maximum but just this season I am really thinking that reliability will be the issue. Last year was completely different. Last year I had many races when there was some technical issue. This season when reliability is perfect you are not thinking about it. But from a driving point of view, it is no different."
Questions from the floor
(Chinese media) Kimi, you said you would challenge for a win for your birthday present, so what will you do if you are first and Felipe was second?
KR: "I always try to win but hopefully we are in a position this weekend to fight for that. I know what the team expects from me and I know what they want, they want both championships, so we will see how the race goes and where we are and then maybe there is some different approach we can take. That we will see during the race."
(Chinese media) Fernando, you said earlier this week you would do your best to help Felipe win the World Championship. Could I ask in which aspects in detail, what you will do? By the way, my home city is the sister city of Oviedo.
FA: "Very good. Obviously I was asked this question. When I said this in Fuji what I meant is that now we have a competitive car it seems that we are able to fight sometimes with Ferrari and McLaren and first of all we need to have a competitive, hard car here in Shanghai and Brazil to be fighting with Ferrari and McLaren. If we do that and Felipe wins the race and I can be second or third I will be happy to help Felipe to take as many points as possible and this is the only approach."
(Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) To all drivers. What do you think about the last punishment by the stewards? Do you agree or do you feel some hesitation next time you try to overtake your competitor?
LH: "We both had penalties, Felipe and I, but that is motor racing. You move forward and try to avoid it in the future."
(Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Does it affect your driving?
RK: "It is very easy. I haven't seen them, so I cannot judge them. I don't know what happened."
FA: "It is the same as always. We probably believe that there are too many penalties because sometimes the races are decided by the stewards. Sometimes they are wrong, sometimes they are fair."
KR: "I haven't been hurt too badly by any of those but I mean sometimes it is difficult to say. Everybody has their own opinions whether it is right or wrong and that is always going to be the case. Some like it, some not and for me it is okay. Whatever we say is not going to change much, so there is no point to put too much input in."
(Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Lewis, can I just get your opinion on Fernando's comment that he is willing to help Felipe get the title?
LH: "Honestly, I don't have an opinion on it. I focus on my job and that's the most important thing. I think we can be competitive this weekend and challenge for points and try to win. What the others do is none of my business."
(Jon McEvoy – The Daily Mail) Fernando, you said to AS on Sunday that although you hadn't seen what Lewis did at the start of the race you agreed with what the stewards did. Can you explain that?
FA: "I saw it as I was just behind them."
(Jon McEvoy – The Daily Mail) It is just to AS you said that you didn't see it but you agreed with it anyway?
FA: "Sometimes what you read in newspapers is wrong."
(Jon McEvoy – The Daily Mail) So would you like to see Lewis win as much as the other two drivers?
FA: "We can be here forever and you cannot misunderstand what I say, you know. When we say all these things, my best relationship for example is with Robert. I would like to see him winning the championship but I know this is quite difficult because I think the performance of his car etc it will be difficult to recover 12 points.
"I will do my own race but after all, when you finish the race and see the results, you prefer some drivers to win or some teams to win compared to others but I don't think that I will be a key part of the championship. Whatever driver wins will win because he won the last two races or did a better job than the other one, so that's all. You can take whatever you can from my comment but it is very simple."
(Paulo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, compared to last season when you were chasing Lewis and looking now at the situation how much different is it? Will it be easier or more difficult for Ferrari to try to achieve everything?
KR: "What do you mean? I mean we try as a team to win both championships. It's as simple as that."
(Paulo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Will it be easier or more difficult for Ferrari to try to achieve everything?
KR: "Yeah, it can be easier or it can be more difficult. It depends really how these last two races go. Anything can happen. There are three guys who can win, so last year I was quite a bit behind and I was still able to do it, so I am not going to start guessing who is going to win. I am sure whoever wins deserves it in the end and we hope that our team will be there."
(Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) To all of you: it seems that the number of races is reducing. What is the ideal number of races for an ideal fight for the championship?
FA: "It's OK like this, I think."
KR: "Yeah, I guess we expect to have 18 or maybe 17 next year but one or two races doesn't make much difference. I think we would have more testing if we don't have races and if we do more racing, there's less testing, so for us racing is always the nicest thing, I prefer races."
LH: "I agree."
RK: "This season the best would be seven, from my point of view. Someone should know why."
(Chris Lines – AP) Robert, you made some comments last week about Lewis's driving at Monza, said that some of his overtaking was dangerous. Can I ask you to comment further on that and whether you have discussed this directly with Lewis?
RK: "I think there is nothing more to comment on. When one driver is overtaking another one and crossing his line just in front of his wheel, it's quite dangerous, especially if someone behind has to lift off. I have been involved in an accident in a similar situation in Canada and I know what it means when a front wheel hits a rear wheel and from my point of view it's quite dangerous. I just say this: while nothing happens everything is fine but if something happens then I think everyone will realize. That's all. We haven't spoken. I didn't make a comment about Lewis, I just said overall that these kinds of moves are pretty dangerous, especially in wet conditions. That's all."
(Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Lewis, do you feel your driving is at all dangerous in any way?
LH: "Not really."
(Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Do Fernando or Kimi feel anything about Lewis's driving this season, that perhaps it's been a bit over the edge?
KR: "No comment."
FA: "No comment."
(Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Lewis, could I just ask you about your mood coming into this race because following what happened in Fuji you've received quite a lot of criticism from both drivers old and new, past and present...
LH: "Have I? Well, I haven't seen that. I was in Tokyo for a couple of days and then I came here and I've not really paid any attention to it. When you have not such a good race there's always going to be criticism which doesn't matter whether it's positive or negative, you move forward, you put it in the past but coming here, I feel just as strong as I always do. We've still got two races, we're still five points ahead, I still have a great opportunity to make the next step. My team and myself have really collected ourselves and are kind of moving forward."
(Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Do you think you can take that step compared to last year?
LH: "We'll see. Who knows what's going to happen but we will give it our best shot."
(Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Do you feel confident though?
LH: "We'll give it our best shot. I feel good."
(Will Buxton – Australasian Motorsport News) Question to all four drivers: the whole notion of what makes a safe or an unsafe overtaking move – obviously you guys are out there racing, you are not going for a Sunday afternoon drive over to your grandma's house. What, in your mind, constitutes an unsafe move and what constitutes a safe move?
KR: "First of all, it is a dangerous sport, so when you race against somebody, you try to make sure that first of all you want to get round him and not crash into him because it's not going to help you or him. But sometimes you get it wrong, when you push on the limit and both guys try to go as fast as possible in a corner and not try to let the other guy past. Sometimes you end up hitting each other and that's racing. The rules are quite tight.
"Sometimes you get penalized, sometimes not but as I said, there are always many different views of the same incidents or the same situations. There is always going to be talk about penalties and stuff but that's unfortunately going to be a big part of Formula One. It's not always best for the sport but we're here to race and try to get past people and sometimes you get penalties out of it, even when you don't think it's right. But that's how it goes."
FA: "Nothing to add."
(Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Lewis, last year in Interlagos you made a mistake in the last race. When Alonso overtook you, you tried to overtake him and then you made a mistake. In this last race, the nature of the mistake was very similar: Kimi overtook you, you tried to recover the place and you made a mistake. How are you emotionally at this race which could result in the World Championship?
LH: "Firstly, in Brazil I didn't try to overtake him and make a mistake. Fernando was on the outside and he braked a little bit earlier than I anticipated and so I had to try to avoid him, so I went wide and that forced me to go off, so that wasn't a maneuver trying to overtake. In the last race, it was a racing maneuver and it didn't come off but that's motor racing, what can you do? I don't plan on changing my approach, it's not necessary."
(Chinese Media) To all of you: this year, seven drivers have already won races. Moreover, neither a McLaren nor a Ferrari driver was able to once in the last three races. Do you think there will be even more uncertainties in the final two races this year than last year?
LH: "I think McLaren and Ferrari will both be competitive in the last two races, as will BMW and Renault but who knows who's going to win? For sure whoever does the best job will finish at the top. We all have a chance of doing that."
KR: "There's a lot of… you win a lot or you can lose a lot in the last two races. For me or Heikki it's more for the team, to get the points in the first place and Lewis and Felipe are racing against themselves. At some point, when the points are close, the other guy needs to try to keep the other bloke behind and vice versa, so a lot of things can easily go well for one guy and go badly for another. Then you see different results sometimes, it can be because of the weather but I wouldn't put money one anybody, anybody can win really. It gets more exciting in the last couple of races, especially for the guys who are fighting for the championship."
FA: "I think Ferrari and McLaren are clear favorites to win the last races, one of the four guys. But I think the last few races were a little bit special. In Monza it rained a lot, the favorites started behind. Singapore was (affected by) the safety car, if not the Ferrari and McLaren were leading the race until the safety cars. With normal conditions, I think you will have more normal results."
(Jon McEvoy – The Daily Mail) To all drivers other than Lewis: do you think there's a feeling among the drivers that you are jealous or envious of the fact that Lewis at the moment is leading the drivers' standings and also that wherever you go he seems to be the biggest star?
RK: "I'm pretty happy with what I'm doing, so I'm fine."
FA: "I'm very happy."
KR: "I'm happy with my life, I wouldn't change it."
(Will Buxton – Australasian Motorsport News) To all drivers: going back to the point of safe driving and punishments handed out by stewards. As you say, you guys know in your own minds when you've pulled off a safe move or a fair move. How much do you think it would help having a permanent steward and more particularly a permanent steward who was a former racing driver to be able to understand exactly what racing is all about?
FA: "I think it's a good idea to have an ex-driver with the stewards just to help them, just because the decisions they take are difficult to know from the outside if you never drove a Formula One car. As Kimi said before, I think it's difficult to get the same feeling and the same comment from all the drivers on the same accident.
"Some of them will think that it's fair, some of them not because I think that's normal. For the drivers, what will help is to have consistency in the penalties. If one time you do something and you get penalized, it's not possible that the next time you do the same thing and you don't get penalized. I think we ask for a little bit more consistency, even if they are very harsh."
KR: "Yeah, for sure that would help. It would keep people happier also, that every time you get the same decision. Maybe if there would be an older driver there would be more respect and people wouldn't complain as much. It's only that people want to have the same thing happening every time, the same penalties and same rules."
LH: "I've not really given it much thought to be honest."
RK: "I agree with them."
(Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Robert, everybody is basically talking about Lewis against Felipe but you are also in the championship. How do you live this moment, how much confidence do you have that you can make it? How are you approaching these last two races?
RK: "My approach is pretty much the same as usual, as it has been all season, why I had zero points after the first race or after seven races I was leader of the championship. I'm always trying to do my best and trying to score as many points as possible. We are of course trying to maximize the potential of this car which we have seen lately is maybe not the fastest one but it is the most reliable one.
"For sure, that's a key point but still, for the last two races, with twelve points behind, I think the two drivers in front of me have much more to lose than I have to win. Of course it will be good to have the fastest car, to be able to fight for poles and to be able to win races and at that point I would say I have some chance because in normal conditions I would be able to fight.
"There is no secret that lately we have dropped off pace-wise. Additionally, Renault and Toyota were quicker than us in Fuji, so that makes my life and the team's much more difficult to compete against Ferrari and McLaren. But the last few races have shown up that everything is possible, due to the weather, due to the safety car, due to the first corner accident in Fuji, that racing is unpredictable, so that's why we should try to do our best."