Brazilian GP: Thursday Press Conference
DRIVERS: Rubens BARRICHELLO (Honda), David COULTHARD (Red Bull), Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren Mercedes), Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), Nelson PIQUET (Renault)
Q: Nelson, what are your experiences of the Interlagos track? How much racing have you done here?
Nelson PIQUET: To be honest not much. It is going to be like arriving at the track like I arrived in Australia or China. I did one race with my father back in 2005 if I remember. It was in an Aston Martin in a 12-hour race and that was it. When I started my F3 career here the first season we didn't have any races here and then I went straight to England, so I don't have much experience but I think motivation and the crowd will help me.
Q: You have had some good races recently. What chances do you think you have of holding onto the seat next year?
Piquet: I think I have a good chance. The team is quite happy. I mean all the boys are on my side, so I don't see any reasons why I would be under threat. It has been a tough season obviously but I am learning a lot and improving a lot and discovering a lot of new things. It has been a tough year but I am sure we will be okay.
Q: So you are quite hopeful or confident would you say?
Q: David, what are your emotions coming into this race?
David COULTHARD: I guess I should be emotional but I think it will be more on Sunday when I realize when I step out of the car, hopefully after the checkered flag, for the last time that this part of my life has come to an end. It is difficult for anyone sitting around this table, apart from Rubens who has been doing it for longer than me, to imagine what that might be like. But I am not stopping because I don't love driving grand prix cars or I don't love racing but I recognize that my journey has reached its natural conclusion, so when I walk out of the paddock on Sunday that will be it.
Q: You have a special livery on the car. Tell us about that.
Coulthard: Yeah, it is great that at the last grand prix we had permission from all the teams to run my car in an independent livery which I think is a first in this modern era of Formula One. I am sure it might have happened decades ago. The teams have agreed for me to run with the 'Wings for Life' foundation colors which is a foundation that was started in 2004 to promote research into spinal cord injuries. I think in a lot of cases people imagine that it is extreme sports where most people are suffering from those sorts of injuries but the statistics show it is actually only about three per cent of the injuries that come from extreme sports. All of the other injuries, which is about 130,000 people a year find themselves confined to a wheelchair through household injuries, car crashes, everyday life. Currently there is very little government funding for this type of research and the pharmaceutical companies are not interested, of course, as you can't buy a pill to cure spinal cord injury. It was founded by Dietrich Mateschitz who obviously is the founder of Red Bull and Heinz Kinigadner whose son suffered a spinal cord injury in a motorbike accident. All of the money that is raised through public donations goes to fund various institutions throughout the world and works with other foundations, like the Christopher Reeve Foundation, to find a cure for spinal cord injuries.
Q: David, you have seen many World Championships decided. What are your thoughts about this one?
Coulthard: Well, I have been asked this a lot coming up to this race, so I will say in front of the two championship contenders what I have said to the media. With a seven point lead Lewis is the most likely to achieve the championship. I think that is quite clear. He has led the championship for the majority of the season and it should be a formality. For me Felipe is the most improved driver of the season. We have always known that he has speed, but some of his drivers this year and notably Budapest, which ultimately he wasn't able to win that race but his pass on Lewis clearly defined himself as one of the most attacking drivers. It was a world class pass and therefore not to sit on the fence but either of these guys for me are truly worthy of this world championship. But you have to say Lewis has the upper hand, so I guess a consolation might be if Felipe wins the grand prix, satisfies the Brazilian crowd, and Lewis comes in with a points' scoring position. But as we know, anything can happen, so I am as excited to know the outcome as everyone else.
Q: Rubens, your thoughts about the World Championship?
Rubens BARRICHELLO: I think it has been an exciting year. It had its ups and downs but they have been fighting for a long period in quite good battles and I think it is going to be a very good ending. It is just like DC said, Lewis has the upper hand. Sunday, as far as I can see, it can be a wet day, so I think it is going to be really nice for the Brazilians to see how things come out. Thankfully, Felipe, as I have said before, has great chances to win the race which the Brazilians are really hopeful for. It is the only thing he can aim for. He has to win the race and not worry too much about the rest and see what the rest is. As a Brazilian I am really proud that we have the decision once again here as I think Brazilians deserve that.
Q: What about your own future? This is your 16th Brazilian Grand Prix.
Barrichello: I am really proud to be here. It used to be a tough race for me at the beginning, when we lost Ayrton and so on. It was tough with lots of pressure and not a good car. But I have done really well to do just like soccer, when you play at home you play better. I have a wonderful time but the week goes past so quickly now and it is an enjoyment, lots of work but it is really nice to be here, especially for me as I was born just 100 meters away from the main door here and for me it is the best race of the whole year.
Q: And your career next year?
Barrichello: It is on hold, obviously. I don't want to stop. I won't stop because I think I deserve better. I am driving better than I used to when I finished second in the championship behind Michael. The aim is not to stop. The job done this year has been quite good. If it wasn't for minor problems I think I would have more than 20 points with a car we can see is not good at all. What I have been telling people is that I cannot sell the experience or the speed as that is a proven point. They see that and they see all the statistics. But what I can sell is my motivation. I am very honest with myself and the day I feel that I don't have it anymore is the day I will stop, but up until now I have been driving better than ever. It is on hold as Honda wants to try some other people, test them in Barcelona. To be very honest I think they try to change the destiny of things as if they want to win by next year they need someone who is very experienced with my qualities to do it. But I am on hold. I am hopeful. I am talking to other teams as well, so hopefully it will be fine.
Q: Lewis and Felipe. A question to both of you. We have heard about the pressure. Going back to the early part of your career, how does that pressure when you were eight years old weigh up to the pressure you are feeling now?
Lewis HAMILTON: For me I think it quite similar to every championship you do. For me it is just another race, that's the way to approach it to myself and that's how I did it in the past. It is exciting. Everyone enjoys the last race, for sure. It is great for the spectators, it is great for the fans, for the media, for the team, for everyone. We will give it the best shot we can as a team collectively and hopefully we can come out on top.
Felipe MASSA: I think it is very similar. When you are racing it doesn't matter whether you are in Formula One or in go-karts, whatever category you are. When you get inside the car you are thinking about racing. You are not thinking I am in Formula One, it is the most important motorsport. You don't think about that, you think about racing. You think about doing your best and fighting, so for me it is exactly the same fighting for the championship in Formula One or for victory or whatever if you are fighting in a go-kart. When you are in a go-kart you want to win. It is your dream. Your motivation is to win that race or that championship. You don't think about Formula One as you live for that moment. That's why it is the same now. You want to win now. For sure, you have much more expectation and pressure but when you are driving you don't think about that.
Q: Another question to both of you. What does it mean to have your families with you? What do you draw from them?
Massa: I think having the family together is very important. I have always had my family together in my career. In go-kart and the other categories it was a little bit more difficult as I didn't have so much money for them to go to the race. But at least I always had them very close to me, talking on the phone almost every day. I think it is very important as when you are happy in your private life, when you have a good family, I think it makes your professional life even better. When you get inside the car you don't put in all the problems that you have outside. I think it is always very nice. They don't come to every race but they come a lot and I feel very happy. For sure I don't follow so much the advice from my mum, otherwise I would go very slow!
Hamilton: I think as you can see I always have my family with me. I always have a part of my family with me and I know I have all my family's support and that is what is important. I know they are proud of me and they have worked just as hard as I have to get me here today. So when I come here it is not about me, it is about us as a team together. They pretty much come to all the races, not so much the international races as it is lot of time for my brother off school. Without my family I would not be here today, so it is great we are able to share the experience throughout the season.
Q: Lewis, how important is the Constructors' championship to you? Is there a bit of a conflict of interest there?
Hamilton: Not really. It is quite simple really, we are here to win. We don't have to win, so that is a pressure off our shoulders. We come here with a strong package and with a hope that we can challenge for a win and we will do the best job we can. We have not come here to finish further down the order but we obviously know that it is not do or die. It would be great for the team to win. I think the team deserve it as they have worked so hard. When you think about all the people that collectively made the two cars competitive throughout the season with a remarkable reliability. It is just down to the solid job and it would be great to give them the championship. We will do the best job we can and see what the result is.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret - L'Equipe) A question to Lewis and Felipe. What do you think of this particular track and how is it for your car?
Hamilton: I love this track. It has always been one I've liked. I think I learnt it from a computer game years and years ago, me and my brother used to play it. Just watching it over the years it was always a spectacular race to watch whether it was raining or whether it was dry. When I came here last year and actually drove the circuit it feels like a real racing circuit. It is quite bumpy in some areas, it has got a nice combination of corners. It is not too long but it is not too short. It has a great long straight, so there are areas to overtake. It really has a lot of character. We don't really see too many circuits like this which have so much character, so I like it.
Massa: Well, first of all this (circuit) is part of my story. I started here, I grew up in this area. I started when I was eight over the other side, at the go-kart track, and I started my career in open-wheelers here in '98. I love the circuit. It's a very special circuit for me. It's a circuit that, as Lewis said, gives you a lot of pleasure to drive. Always when you are at home and you have a nice circuit to drive, you always have extra motivation, extra good energy, so I think it's even nicer to race here at Interlagos, so let's try to do a great job.
I think our car can be quite strong here, because in the past we were very strong here. If you look at this season, on some tracks we were stronger, some tracks McLaren was stronger. We were struggling a lot at Hockenheim, for example, and they were very quick, but we were very quick at the next race, so I don't think that because China wasn't a great performance for us that here it will be the same. I think this is a track that suits our car quite well. We like to race with these tires, so I think we can be very strong.
Hamilton: I feel the same.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) This is a question for Nelson and Rubens: I would like to ask you your opinion about Felipe and what do you think about his mission impossible this weekend?
Piquet: I think anything's possible, as we saw last year with Kimi winning the championship. I think Felipe has done a very good job this year. As David said, he has been improving a lot and he showed this year that he's clearly also fighting for the title. He has one of the best cars and he has been driving very well. If I had to quote odds as to who will win the race, I think Felipe has more of a chance of winning the race - being at home, knowing the track very well and being very confident here. He has already won a race here and he knows it would make everybody very happy here if he won the race. But Lewis will also be very strong, probably as quick as Felipe. Basically Lewis will have to take it very calmly the whole weekend. He doesn't need to push for anything, he just needs to score a few points and that's it. At the end of the story, we don't know if it's going to rain or if it's going to be dry. It can be a hectic race on Sunday. I think both of them have done a very good job this year. They both deserve it, so I think it's just up to Sunday when we see what's going to happen.
Barrichello: I think he's had a fantastic year because after three races, if we remember, especially from our Italian friends, you guys wanted to change him because he had zero points and we all knew that he could win races and be fighting for the championship and it was what he did. He won two consecutive races and he was back into the championship. So I think for someone to do that, it means that you need to be mentally prepared to go through the bad phases and learn, so I think he's done superbly and he comes to this final race in the same position as Kimi last year. It is a mission impossible but, like I said before, he has to win the race to have any chance and that's what he has to aim for. I don't think he has to go thinking of championships or things like that. He has to race just like any other race.
Q: (Brazilian media) Lewis, David said you are one of the most attacking drivers in Formula One right now and this is really your style, but last year here, you made a little mistake in sector one on the first lap and it maybe slightly cost you your chance of winning the World Championship. My question: are you ready to change your mental and technical approach to just drive a conservative race, try to avoid mistakes, try to avoid any kind of trouble? Are you ready to race to be just fourth or fifth?
Hamilton: Well, first of all, obviously last year the beginning of the race didn't go well but I don't think that had any bearing on how the championship ended. If my car hadn't stopped, then we would have won. This year, I don't think I need to change anything.
Q: (Rodrigo Franca - VIP Magazine) Felipe, you've participated in a lot of events during this Brazilian Grand Prix week and you have had the chance to talk to some fans. How do you see their expectations? Does the Brazilian crowd know that your mission is very difficult here at Interlagos?
Massa: Yeah, for sure they know but you know how fans are, they are very excited, they try to push you, trying to put you in the best position. For sure the position is quite difficult but I have a great time in my country. I have great motivation, great encouragement from my fans and that's fantastic. You go out to restaurants, in the road and everybody looks to you and congratulates you and gives a lot of good energy for the weekend. I think that's a great feeling, it's a great time to be here, first of all, fighting for the championship in my home country and secondly in a good position in my career. That's already a great feeling.
Q: (Bob McKenzie - The Daily Express) Felipe, we in Britain see Lewis as a great story of someone who has come up from the bottom but you've had hard times as well. Does it seem strange now, when the whole country is expecting you, do you think back to those hard times and what sort of struggles you and your family had to make?
Massa: I think everybody has their own story. The beginning of my career was not like the beginning of Lewis's career but I think we grew up a lot and we learn so many things with our mistakes, with our difficulties in the past, even in Formula One. If I had to go back, I wouldn't change my career because I think I learned so much and when you get here, especially at the beginning of the career, when you have a bad result and nobody expects anything from you and then you suddenly improve and you get into the position to fight for the championship, you're driving the best dream car which every driver would love to drive, I think that's a fantastic feeling, especially when you look back and you're here now and you're having great expectations from your country, you have great energy. I have a great feeling with the Brazilian people and that's great. I think it's a dream come true. But we always want more, that's our life. When you win one race, you want to win a second time. I never won the championship but I think it's the same: when you win the first time, you push even harder to win the second time. I think that's part of the mentality of sports people.
Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) Lewis, I was just wondering how different your mindset is coming into this race compared to last year, on the back of the respective races in China - obviously when you came off the track and this year when you've won the race. Are you calmer, more confident?
Hamilton: I think it's quite a bit different to last year, simply because last year we came here and I'd had one bad race, so it was all a bit hectic and the pressure of being at the last race etc. was upon me and perhaps it got to me. But this year I feel it's just another race and we've come from a great race in China and I know here that we will be just as strong, if not a little bit stronger. It looks positive and again, my approach is the same as in the last race. We are just here to do the best job we can and we're not looking at it and saying that we have to do anything again. We don't really have much pressure on us, we just have to do a good job and regardless of whether we win, it's not so important but as a team we would love to win, so we will do the best job, that's what racing's about.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Lewis, some days ago, Eddie Jordan said you must be very careful here. He said that Massa touched you on purpose in Japan. Do you think it's possible, are you prepared for it, will you try to avoid some strange situations on the track?
Hamilton: I don't really read much what people say, so I don't pay too much attention to it. We're here to race, I believe every driver that's here is a great sportsman and we're all very competitive, so I just have to trust and believe in everybody and hope that we can have a fair, straight race. That's what motor racing is all about and that's why I race, that's what makes it so exciting.
Q: (Miran Alesic - Pop TV) Felipe, it's 17 years since the last Brazilian won the Formula One World Championship. You were around ten at that time. Do you still remember that, can you remember how your feelings were then and did you believe at that time that you would ever continue the same story?
Massa: Yeah, for sure I remember Senna winning the championships, fighting for some others in which he was very competitive as well. As a Brazilian, Senna was like a kind of god here in Brazil, and before that was Nelson's father. I think we have a great country in terms of building drivers and I would hope that we can carry on with that story. I would love to win the championship, that's why I'm here, that's what I'm working for, doing my best to achieve my dreams but also trying to keep up the nice story that Brazil has in Formula One. It will be fantastic.
Q: (Vanessa Riuz - Radio Globo) For Nelsinho and Rubens: I know you've been asked about this loads and loads of times during this week but now since you're all together and you're just behind the contenders, I would like to know whether you're willing to do something to help Felipe Massa in this race, or if this is not an issue for you?
Barrichello: I think he can help me with some power in my car or something. I don't think I can help him much, unfortunately. I would be willing to get some help from him, amazingly. Or the blue flag maybe. I don't think it's an issue at all, I think the Brazilians are very well prepared in the way that all I would ask of the guys who come here to cheer Felipe on is to respect Lewis. I think Brazil can do that quite well and I don't think it's an issue. Imagine me doing something against Lewis; would Felipe be happy with that? Would he be a worthy champion? I don't think so. I think the guys have fought the whole championship by themselves and that's the way it has to be. I would not get in the way.
Piquet: Obviously there's not much we can do really. This is all racing, we have to treat this race as if it was the first race of the season. Probably both of them are going to be in a different league to us, their cars are a bit quicker than ours. Obviously I don't want to get in the way of the championship, I'm not going to take sides. I think both of them have been fighting for it for the whole year and I think they should take the championship as everybody else has done it over the past fifty years. There's nothing I can do, it's them and their cars and we have to race as if it was a normal race.
Q: (Will Buxton - Australasian Motorsport News) Nelson, two years ago you were in a very similar situation to Felipe today, in that you were going to the last round of a season and you needed to catch up to Lewis to win the title. Can you just talk us through your mindset then and maybe give us a window into what Felipe must be going through now, as to how you tried to beat Lewis in the last round of a season, knowing that you've got to do all you can and hope that he messes up.
Piquet: I don't remember much of it, because you tend to remember only the good times and obviously I entered that weekend trying to win the championship. Obviously I knew I had to do well in both races at Monza and unfortunately it wasn't very good. In the first race, I think I finished second and Lewis third, I don't remember very well, and Giorgio (Pantano) won and the only chance I had... I think Lewis won the race... was it the first race already? The only thing I could do in the last race was tie with him in the championship or something like that, so I just pushed. There's nothing much you can do really. You have to enter the weekend as a normal weekend. If you start entering the weekend with different thoughts or different methods or a different way of thinking, it should not be. It's like every weekend. Every weekend you enter a race to win, to try to do your best, to try to perform, to try to be at your top level and it's not because it's a championship-deciding weekend, that you're going to enter it differently. Obviously you have a bit more pressure but I think the driver that manages to keep it the calmest and keep it the most natural possible, they're going to do the best job.