Singapore GP: Thursday Press Conference
Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren Mercedes),
Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN (Ferrari),
Nico ROSBERG (Williams),
Mark WEBBER (Red Bull)
Q: A question to you all. What are your feelings about this circuit, about Singapore? Your feelings about racing at night?
Mark WEBBER: I think it is great coming here. It is a brilliant change for us to race at night. I think it worked very well last year in terms of the atmosphere. I think it was pretty good whether you were a journalist, photographer, spectator, driver, mechanic. I think it was just a unique one and I think all sporting events at night have a little bit of a different feel to them, an atmosphere. I think they have learned a little bit with the track. They have changed a little bit this year with the bumps here and there, a little bit of kerbing, the pit lane entry and exit, there are a few little tweaks. It was a good event and I like coming to this part of the world. It is not far from home for me, so it is good.
Nico ROSBERG: I think it is a fantastic event and it works really well. There is a bit of a question mark if it rains, what the visibility is going to be like then with the floodlights and everything but I guess it should be alright. Although maybe with the spray and everything I don’t know. We will have to wait and see. But it looks a bit unlikely that it will rain this weekend for now but we will see.
Lewis HAMILTON: Petty much the same. It is a great track and a great show we put on last year and I am sure we can do the same this year.
Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: Last year was a nice race. We will see what we can do this year but hopefully for us it should be a little better than last year but we will see how it goes.
Q: Mark, do you still feel the championship is possible?
MW: The drivers’ championship is very difficult. I think Jenson has to get four or five points on us and it’s all over. I am coming here trying to get the best result for me and looking forward to Suzuka next week as well as we have got a few good tracks hopefully that we can get some good results at. But the championship is much more difficult now.
Q: Last year you had a gearbox problem. How do you feel about reliability this year? Is it a problem at this circuit, particularly with jumping over the curbs?
MW: I hope that it will be better this year. We have shown this year that we have had a few engine problems but on the chassis side we have been pretty good, so touch wood we will be okay Sunday night and we can get a good chunk of points.
Q: Is it a circuit you feel is more suited to the car?
MW: No, I think we have seen already in Monaco and Valencia that they have not been probably our best circuits of the year compared to some others but it doesn't mean we are going to be out the back massively. We are still going to be in the hunt but we won’t have an advantage. The stop-start nature of these tracks is something we will look to improve next year.
Q: Nico, Monza was a bit of a nightmare for you. First time I think you have been out of the points for quite some time. What are your feelings about this place?
NR: I mean both Spa and Monza were very difficult. At Spa we were lucky in the middle sector that we could be competitive, so that helped us in general, but we didn’t really deserve points there either. Then Monza was a complete disaster to be honest. I am looking forward to this one as it is back to the car with the aerodynamics that we had used in Valencia where we were running fifth and were very competitive in the race. They have worked on that a lot over the last couple of weeks and we have a good upgrade for this race. I am pretty confident that we are going to be up there again and really battling for some good points which is where I prefer to be obviously.
Q: You were second here last year. You were on the podium and hoping for the same again. Is that possible?
NR: I think the podium is possible this year for sure. We need to be a bit lucky to get there. I think in pure pace we can be in the top six or top five, but if we are a bit lucky we can finish in the top three which would be a great result again for us, similar to last year.
Q: Is it a bit of a frustration that you are knocking on the door of the podium all the time?
NR: A little bit but that’s not that important I guess. What counts is your championship position and we are in quite a good position at the moment being sixth. It is not going to be easy to hold on to that to the end of the year but I will do my best. A podium would be nice. It would be great to have one at least this year, maybe even two, we will see in the last few races. I am sure there will be one or two opportunities.
Q: Lewis, you have been saying that you come here with quite a different attitude to how you came here last year when you were in championship contention.
LH: I cannot really remember saying that. I arrive the same as always.
Q: The attitude was that you were slightly more cautious last year because you were in a championship battle.
LH: Obviously yes, we just wanted to get points last year but nonetheless we went out there to win the race. We started off second, very competitive, but I think with the safety car I got a bit of traffic during one of my stints and wasn’t able to get much better than third. But nonetheless we are generally quite competitive on street circuits. This weekend we do have an upgrade package and it sounds like everyone else has as well, so perhaps we will just be in the same position, who knows. We will have to see if our upgrade package works as good as we hope. But in terms of the race we want to win but I want to finish the race this time, so that’s the plan.
Q: Tell us a bit more about the upgrade. Is it the last one of the year?
LH: Yeah, I mean there is not really much point developing this car. There is not much more we can get from it. There is no real benefit really. We have got four races left which, of course, we want to be at the front competing for wins and challenging the top teams but I think it is wise that we focus and make sure we can compete for the full season next year and give ourselves a fair chance to compete with the faster teams.
Q: So the focus is on next year already?
LH: It will be after this and the next race for sure.
Q: Kimi, you have spoken about not having any more modifications on the Ferrari. What are your expectations for this race?
KR: I think we have a similar weekend than any other this year. It is very hard to say where we are before we even run. Circuits like Monaco and Valencia have been pretty okay for us, so maybe this is more like them. But I mean everybody seems to go forward and we have had no new parts since Hungary. All we have is small ones, but nothing major, but still we have been able to have good results, so hopefully it is the same here. Let’s wait and see for tomorrow and then we will have a much better idea.
Q: What did you take out of last year’s race? It wasn’t a good ending for you.
KR: No, it wasn’t. But that is what happens sometimes. It did not make much difference with my last year’s position. I think overall the car suited this track very well. Usually it is a different car and different tires we should be okay here and it is a nice circuit. They have changed it a little bit, but we will see how it is.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ed Gorman – The Times) Nico, knowing what you now know about what happened here last year, do you consider yourself the rightful winner of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix?
NR: No, not really. It is way too far back now, so I wouldn’t really be in a position to say that, no.
Q: (Pablo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Mark, considering the ban to Flavio Briatore and he is your manager. Do you think he will be missed in Formula One?
MW: He will be missed or I will miss him?
Q: (Pablo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) If Formula One is going to miss a person like Briatore?
MW: Yes, for sure. He was a very good character for our sport and I think a lot of people agree with that but it doesn’t seem like he is going to be around again for a good while, so that is the way it is.
Q: (MC) Can I ask where does that leave you then?
MW: My life has changed massively. It has turned it upside down. You wouldn’t believe. Honestly I have had Flavio looking after me for 11 years. I have never looked at the contract after I signed it on that first day and there are not many people in this paddock you can do that with. He has been sensational for me. I won’t work with anyone else in the future if I can’t work with him.
Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC) Question for all drivers: after we had the Renault ruling this week, do you think that there are still some wider effects from the fall-out of the Renault scandal going into this race, or is it back to business for Formula One, anticipating the next one maybe?
MW: Well, I don’t think it’s ideal for our sport. We all love the sport and so we all strive very hard to get here. It was a dream for all of us to compete at the highest level, so when it’s not about… when I was growing up, the Sennas, the Prosts and those guys were people you aspired to and I’m sure whether it’s photographers or journalists or anyone you want to try and aspire to work at the top end of the sport. It’s a shame that you’re not always reporting about activities that you should be reporting about. There’s been a consistent trend over the last few years like that. I’m certainly running out of patience sticking up for the sport and I’m sure other people are as well.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) To all drivers: Nelson Piquet crashed on purpose; do you think there is space for a driver like this in Formula One?
LH: I think it’s a difficult one. Obviously, at least for myself, I can never see myself being in that position and I’m sure it’s the same for the rest of us drivers here. I think yesterday someone said that I said he would be back in Formula One very soon. All I can say is that I wish him well, I was just trying to be positive for him because I know how tough it can be in tough situations and I’m sure he and his family don’t feel so great right now, so all I can do is send some positive energy and hope the best for them.
KR: He admitted it himself but I think it will be difficult for him to get back after that kind of thing. It’s not something I want to be involved in. If he comes back, it’s going to be good for him, if not maybe there is a reason for it.
Q: (Mark Fogarty – Auto Action) Lewis and Kimi, as the reigning and previous World Champions, do you not have an opinion on this race fixing scandal? Does it not outrage you, could you not fill us in on what you think about such a serious thing that has happened in your sport, particularly as you’re representatives as World Champions?
LH: It’s not our job, really, to comment on it. Our job is to focus on our race weekend and go out and try and put on a great show for everyone, that’s what we’re here to do.
KR: It’s not our team... Of course it’s not a nice thing but I don’t want to get involved in the whole situation. There’s nothing that I can change there. You say some things and then people write it sometimes wrongly and you end up suddenly being part of it in the wrong way. We try to work in our team. It’s not a nice thing for the sport but unfortunately some kind of scandal seems to happen every year. Hopefully it stops at some point and there’s more about racing.
Q: (Paulo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Since you’re out there risking your lives, would you feel comfortable to be racing close to another guy who you knew has done something on purpose? He put himself in danger but he could also put you in danger.
KR: Well, accidents can always happen, but I don’t think there are many people who want to have accidents on purpose. It’s a dangerous sport, anything can go wrong, even at slow speeds and you can get badly hurt but that’s the risk we take.
Q: (Alessia Cruciani – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Do you think it’s right not to penalize Nelsinho after what’s happened ?
MW: The situation that happened is very complex. Again, I’m not really in a position to really understand. I only see what you guys see. Whether he should get a big penalty or not is not that easy to comment on. I think enough damage has been done to him. First of all, he got himself in a situation that of course he regrets. That’s what he did and that’s what he has to live with. I think it’s very difficult for him to come back.
NR: The thing is that on the one hand without him, the whole thing wouldn’t have come out, so he helped to take these two people out of the sport who created such a illegal incident. But on the other hand he was just as much involved as they were, so it’s a bit of a difficult one, I guess.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) As drivers and fans, doesn’t it make you want to scream when you hear this stuff? You seem to be pretty quiet and calm; it’s quite shocking, isn’t it?
MW: Yeah, but you know mate, we get used to it, we get used to it as drivers because the stuff that goes on, goes on, and what can we do? As we’ve just said, we are fans of the sport as well, we want it to be projected in the right way, we want it to be taken very seriously, like you obviously hope most other sports can be, but at the moment, it’s off the back of another poor example. We’re not proud of that, of course, but all of us in this room, us four, haven’t been involved in what happened last year, but we can’t do anything about it. Yeah, you can look at the way it gets handled, you can look at that, how the cases get handled, you can look at that in isolation but again, that’s not up to us.
Q: (Jonathan Legard – BBC) Just picking up your point there about being fans, what about the fans of the sport, people who pay good money to come and watch? Is there a danger that a relationship of trust might be fractured with the audience – not just people who come to a race but also who watch it on television, listen to it on radio and follow it in magazines and so on, that they’ll think ‘can we really trust what’s happening on the track, can we trust Formula One?’?
NR: If I can answer that: we have this everywhere in life: if it’s business, sport, it doesn’t matter where, there are always going to be individuals who do something illegal. It’s a matter of getting them out of the way, which has been done, and it’s been a negative thing for the sport but now we will have a great race weekend, we will have a superb race result, great action on track and everything will be a thing of the past again. So I think we just get on with it. It happens everywhere in life.
Q: (Will Buxton – Australasian Motor Sport News) Nico, there have been words attributed to you over the last week saying that you’re now looking at Brawn or McLaren for next year. Just wondering on your thoughts if you were to partner Lewis next year – you’re obviously good friends for a long time. And Lewis, your thoughts on potentially having Nico as a team-mate next year?
NR: I was team-mates with Lewis in go-karts. We had a great time at the time, so I would enjoy being team-mates with Lewis again in the future.
LH: I know that a lot’s been said, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but obviously we’ve got a great relationship. At the moment I’m very happy with how things are in the team but we have to see what happens.
NR: That didn’t sound all too positive from Lewis. He isn’t too excited…
Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Kimi, what about you? Luca di Montezemolo said yesterday that it was between you and a Spanish guy. Everybody knows what he meant. It’s getting closer and closer.
KR: It’s the same story still. I have a contract and I guess they want to talk about it, but it hasn’t really changed anything since the last race or the race before.