Category Archives: Interviews

Australian GP Saturday qualifying press conference

Today we saw Red Bull lock out the front row of the grid ahead of tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix, with Sebastian Vettel leading Mark Webber. Fernando Alonso joined these two in the post-qualifying press conference:

Q: Sebastian, what a lap. The final sector of it you were hanging it off the edge of the kerbs, you were all over the place. You certainly spoiled the day for the Webber fans here in Melbourne.
Sebastian Vettel:
Yeah, I think obviously first of all it is a great result for both of us and for the team. Mark’s home race, so it is a little bit funny remembering last year from Germany, so kind of revenge but it is a long race tomorrow. But coming back to qualifying, I think we did a good step into qualifying with the car, improving it, and the final session was all about ‘does it start to rain or not.’ Everyone went out. We waited a little bit and the first lap was the quickest and just spot on everywhere until I reached the last three corners. I would say turn 14, the fast right hander, I was still on the edge and okay but after that I think I lost a little bit, especially the last corner onto the main straight. It was a very good lap up to that point. I was very happy. I think the result says it all, so looking forward to tomorrow. It is quite good to start at the front. We don’t know how messy it might get tomorrow, safety car, no safety car. There is always a lot happening in Albert Park but it is good to be on pole. The clean side as well, so I am very happy.

Q: Mark, eight one-hundredths of a second down on Sebastian. You lost time in the middle sector there but what did you think of your performance? Are you happy?
Mark Webber:
Not really. I would love to be on pole. Second is a good result as Seb said for the team. Both of us are up there which is fantastic. It is a lot better than my qualifying in Bahrain. The lap was pretty decent but for both of us there is always a little bit here and there where you can get a little bit more out of it. In the end I did my best. That’s all I could do. The middle sector, turn six and nine, is always a balancing act to get the entries and exit clean, so overall I would say I would like to be one place further up but Seb did a good job for the team, so very, very close and see how we go tomorrow.

Q: Fernando, you are a further eight one-hundredths down on Mark. Are you closer to the Red Bulls on race pace, do you think, than you are on qualifying pace?
Fernando Alonso:
No idea. We see tomorrow. Qualifying has been good for us. We knew that to beat the Red Bulls was a difficult thing to do here, so we just concentrated to maximise our potential, so third I think is a very good result and the pace has been good in one lap performance, so we are close to them and tomorrow we see. The race is long. We will try to finish the race and hopefully be on the podium again like in Bahrain and keep on scoring points. The race is long and as Sebastian said here will be a very long race with safety cars, accidents, problems, very tough also for the mechanical aspect of the car. First we need to finish the race and then we will see if we were quick enough to fight for the win or not.

Q: Sebastian, you said on the radio at the end that ‘we will show them’. Do you feel you have something to prove and , if so, who is them?
SV:
Everyone else. I got the call P1 and Mark P2, so at the end of the day you are a team and the result in Bahrain for both of us, myself and Mark, was probably not as the car is. We have got another chance here. There are lots of races this year but it is quickly said on the radio, things like that. We are all motivated and I am looking forward to tomorrow.

Q: Sebastian, we spoke about the final sector. That was also where both the two Red Bull cars were particularly strong. What was the trick to that?
SV:
Nail it! I think that the car has been working well yesterday. I think I was a bit behind Mark in the first two practice sessions and overnight we did a step forward. I think to qualifying again it was another step and then it was pretty much head to head. You were talking about the first run in Q3. We were all the teams in the same situation. We didn’t know if it would start to rain or not. We had the forecast of some drizzle, but you never know how strong that is going to be. It can easily spoil your lap. I think that the first run I had in Q3, the first two sectors were spot on. The third sector was getting a bit messy towards the end, so I lost it a little bit into 15, braking a bit late and I had not so clean an exit onto the main straight, so it wasn’t ideal but still it was enough. For all of us we are trying to push so hard and trying to get every single bit out of the car. Especially here in Melbourne it is very easy to overshoot on entry and therefore have a bad exit or be too patient on entry and therefore having a good exit but having lost the time on the entrance of the corner. It is always a compromise to find. I like the circuit. It is very bumpy, very rough, but you really need to concentrate hard. Being on pole positions is a great achievement from all of us. Mark second, so it is the best possible result for the team, so looking forward to the race.

Q: You have never finished here, but you have only been here twice. What are the major factors in the race going to be? How difficult is the car to drive on the bumps under braking?
SV:
Well, I think the main thing is to finish. See the chequered flag this time. Last year we were close, only a couple of laps. But today was qualifying. Similar to Bahrain, Saturday is completely different to Sunday. Now we have a rough idea what is happening on Sunday, meaning that everyone of us will jump into the car with a lot of fuel in the car and it will be totally different. I think it will be even more bumpy and more difficult to control. It is a very long race. You need to focus on your own race, keeping the car on the track and at the same time managing your tyres plus trying to keep the car always on the limit. On top of that Albert Park is well known for any kind of happenings. I remember two years back only seven cars finished, so safety car, accidents, could be quite messy, so the main thing is to have a tidy race and bring the car home. Starting first that‘s where you want to finish as well.

Q: Mark, particularly impressive on the harder tyres in Q2. That must be encouraging even if you are disappointed not to be on pole?
MW:
The team has done a great job all weekend. We have been competitive all weekend. We have always been in the top few, so that was not what we expected as we know we have some very good opposition here. But in the end we got the maximum result for the team. Obviously I am not happy with the order but Seb did a great job and both of us pushed each other hard and that is what it’s about at this level. He got one back on me from Germany last year when I got pole from him as he said before, so in the end we had a good battle today and we go again tomorrow. It is a long, long race in terms of safety cars and a lot of the smaller teams with inexperienced drivers are also getting used to this new type of venue compared to Bahrain. It is a different type of track, so I don’t think that we will be finishing in the order in terms of the top 10. I think there will be few changes potentially, so we will see how it goes.

Q: How much did you change from this morning to this afternoon and from yesterday as well?
MW:
We changed a bit overnight, as much as we could. We got pretty much the optimum out of the car today. It went very well. It is evident that Sebastian and I are trying to find time that is probably not there and we can see that with his last sector in places and my middle sector. All of a sudden you start to look for a lap time which is much more riskier to get and easy to make mistakes. I wasn’t particularly keen on repeating my Bahrain performance. That was a good lap. Just a bee’s dick off pole, but at least I am on the front row and have a good chance to start the race in a good position.

Q: Fernando, apart from everything else you had a new wing on the car today from yesterday. Has that made a big difference? Anything major?
FA:
Some, some new parts put in the car. You put it in because you believe it is better. We are talking about hundredths of seconds. Anything is welcome but for this race we didn’t change the car in a way.

Q: You won here in 2006 and you said yesterday you were concentrating on race settings, so is third on the grid a surprise for you?
FA:
Not a surprise as I was not expecting any clear order. Yesterday’s times they mean nearly nothing as with the different fuel loads we have this year anyone can have a different preparation for the weekend. Yesterday we were in P15, so we were preparing for the race compared to our competitors maybe a little bit more, so for tomorrow I am confident. But as we all three said already, tomorrow’s race is a very long race with many things that normally happen here. Also there is the weather as it is not so clear that it will be dry, so anything can happen tomorrow. Better to start in the top three, top five, if you want to fight for a podium or a win, so definitely extremely happy with the position in the top three but we know that this is only the start of the weekend and tomorrow is the real job.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, in Bahrain you were surrounded by the two Ferraris. Here you have Mark on your side. Which is the better situation?
MW:
I think clearly to have Mark here. As Mark said before we were pushing each other hard in qualifying and now we sit here first and second. That is a great achievement. It is better than having two Ferraris up here and only one Red Bull.

Q: Mark, what is your emotion right now? Is it frustration or disappointment?
MW:
For sure I have had tougher days in my life, so I will sleep well tonight. It is the competitive instinct that you come here looking to get the maximum and you always want to do a little bit better than what you did. In the end we both showed today that probably that was where the car was as we repeated the lap times a few times. I will be happy in the morning when I wake up. I am in a good position to have a decent race, but this place is incredibly unpredictable come Sunday afternoon. Not only because of the type of circuit it is but because there can be some changeable weather tomorrow afternoon. I am getting happier every minute.

Q: (Carlos Miquel – Diario AS) Fernando, what’s your plan for tomorrow? To wait for the Red Bull Racing battle or to attack your friend Mark Webber?
FA:
I will think about it tonight and make a decision tomorrow. No, let’s wait and see. Obviously, the first priority is to finish the race. We need the points. You cannot have a DNF (did not finish) in the second race of the championship because of one stupid mistake. So the first priority is to finish the race and the second priority is to finish in a better position than where you normally started the race. Not if you started on pole, but if you start third you only look ahead of you and there are Mark and Sebastian and hopefully you can have a chance to fight with them. If not, obviously we need to fight to be on the podium, because that would also be a good result, to finish the first two races on the podium. So let’s wait and see and tomorrow we will see how the race develops.

Q: (Luis Fernando – Racing Magazine) Mark, a few days ago, you said it was better to be first or third in qualifying because it would be a bit of a mess to start on the right side of the grid, so can we assume that tomorrow you will be more in a defensive frame of mind than an attacking one?
MW:
I would still take second over third, obviously. I still have a reasonable position to start the race. It’s very difficult to know how it will unfold until basically the first hundred meters tomorrow. We’re still very, very optimistic. Our starts were good in Bahrain. In the past there has been a bit of a difference from left to right here but we will see what happens. Obviously the Lamborghinis decided to smash into each other on the front straight quite solidly today, so there’s been a bit of a clean-up after that and hopefully the track is clean. It’s always the way; Budapest, Monaco, there are a few tracks and this is one of them where there is a discrepancy from left to right but that’s how it’s always been, so I will see how it goes.

Q: (Mark Fogarty – Auto Action) Mark, perhaps more than ever, the eyes of a nation will be on you tomorrow. How daunting a prospect is that?
MW:
Not really, mate, because I know tomorrow’s papers will be wrapping fish and chips on Monday. They’re very fickle and most people down here obviously think that this is the only race of the season. I have a much, much bigger thing in mind, obviously, a good result tomorrow. Of course I’m keen to do well here, but every Grand Prix is a very respectful thing to take part in. I’ve a very good team behind me and whether I’m in Australia, Budapest, Japan we give our best. Every time we get in the car we have to deliver. Today I didn’t feel any pressure at all. I felt like I drove well and I enjoyed it. When the helmet is on, it’s over to me to do the job.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Vettel, in the last race on softer tyres, it looks like you had a little bit better performance than Ferrari and when you used hard tyres, it looked Alonso was maybe a little bit better. Considering what you saw in free practice, what can you expect from the race?
SV:
Well, I think this is a different circuit here, different tyres as well, soft and hard, but they are both different to Bahrain, so I think, as Fernando has already mentioned, the lap times on Friday weren’t really representative. Everyone is doing whatever he thinks is best for his kind of preparation, either qualifying, something in between, or race. I think we will have a good car in the race. To be honest, I don’t think you have to be a genius if you look at yesterday, we didn’t really focus on qualifying too much. I think it makes us confident for the race and we should have a good car, so Fernando was saying that they have a new front wing on the car, only a couple of hundredths or as Mark said it could be two hundred hundredths. Obviously it’s not that much but everyone is trying to push, trying to improve. I think tomorrow it will be much more about having a tidy race as it is likely that a lot of things happen here: safety cars, as we said already. There’s usually a lot of action at Albert Park. I hope for a boring race and we finish as we start. I’m sorry for you but we didn’t really get the job done in Bahrain, so we will try to do it here.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) I was about to ask how boring it could be; can you promise a more colourful race for the TV spectators?
SV:
Well, I think yes, because this circuit has an edge that there is simply more action than probably in Bahrain, so more things happening. The circuit’s not that long, so you might also have more situations lapping cars, lapping groups which can always be a dangerous situation for yourself and for them as well. There’s not a lot of run-off whereas in Bahrain, if you maybe do a mistake you just run wide and you come back. Here it always looks nice on TV but it feels horrible in the car, as I felt yesterday. It’s immediately gravel or something that isn’t that smooth. Yeah, I think we will have more excitement tomorrow just because of the circuit, first of all. Secondly, I think it’s a bit closer here than it was in Bahrain. It’s also a shorter track, so it’s natural, and lastly, as Fernando said, we don’t know the weather yet. There’s usually always sunshine in Australia, so I don’t know what’s wrong this year. You never know what happens. Just a couple of drops on the circuit can make a difference. So you keep the car on the track and try to bring it home. For us, I think the target is clear.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, we have seen that the Red Bull is a fast car, but the reliability is probably not at its best. What do you have to do with the team, how have you spoken to them to try to avoid the problems that you had in Bahrain? Are you worried about it?
SV:
Well, it’s not fair to say that we are struggling with reliability. In Bahrain, we were obviously a bit unlucky with the failure that we had. A spark plug failure doesn’t really happen too often but it happened in that case. The main thing is that we carried on and we still finished fourth. I think Mark had a solid race in Bahrain. If you look at reliability, I think it was quite boring for him to follow another car for the whole race and not be able to pass, even though he was probably quicker. To come back, I think we have nothing to fear. We have good and strong people on board. If there’s any indication that we might have a weakness here or there, which, to be frank with you, in testing it’s natural, I think, because the car is new because you always have some problems here and there to solve. We solved them and so far we’ve had no issues. In that regard I’m quite confident.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Mark, there are reports in the papers that Sydney will make a bid for this race after the contract expires. But you also say you like it here. What is it about Melbourne that makes it the perfect home for the Australian Grand Prix?
MW:
Look, this is not the Melbourne Grand Prix for me, it’s the Australian Grand Prix. We should be proud of having a big event like this in Australia. I know Australia’s very territorial when it comes to separate states and in many ways we are different countries within one but it’s a big country and you can get here to watch the race from any part of Australia if you’re keen. I don’t have a clue where they’re going to run a Grand Prix in Sydney at the moment. Of course it’s a long way away if they’re looking to design something half decent, but there’s nothing wrong with this venue. All the drivers like it. Transport is sensational. Seb says we need to resurface it in places a little bit but we can do that if we have to. You always think it’s greener somewhere else. Adelaide put on a good show and so has this place. We’ve been here for a long time.

Bahrain GP Friday press conference

Today it was a case of old to new, as today’s press conference replaced world champions with up-and-coming youngsters. Today we had Lucas di Grassi, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg, Heikki Kovalainen and Robert Kubica. Here is the full transcript:

Q: Gentlemen, how is it to be in F1? Lucas, would you like to start?
Lucas Di Grassi:
For me it is a great honour to be here in F1. It is my first races as official driver, so there has been a lot of work, a lot of effort to arrive in this position, so I am just enjoying every minute I am in the car, trying to learn as much as I can and trying to evolve as a driver. It is a great feeling.

Q: Nico?
Nico Hulkenberg:
I mean it is nice and great to finally be here but I am sure every driver who has come here worked very hard and long for it, same for me. Just happy to be here and looking forward hopefully to a long career.

Q: It is the same thing for Robert and Heikki in a way; a new team for you, Robert. What are your feelings about that?
Robert Kubica:
Quite happy, actually. It is not easy to change after four years being with one team. It is quite a different mentality team, so we have done quite good work in winter to prepare for the new season, new challenge. It is okay.

Q: And for Heikki?
Heikki Kovalainen:
For me also. Obviously I had a very different winter. We started from zero with the team and have seen the team growing and building all the time. We managed to do a little bit of testing but arrived here a little bit on the back foot. But today has been fantastic. Both cars have been running without any problems so far. It is very good and the atmosphere is very good. I am enjoying it. I think F1 is good as always.

Q: Lucas, tell us about your day today and how things have been going?
LG:
I had pretty much a difficult start to the day in P1. I had some small issue in the car which did not allow me to do many laps and I need more mileage. Everything got back to a good position in P2 as I did quite a good run with both sets of tyres and we were able to do a different set-up change, so it helped a lot.

Q: How do you see the weekend developing for you and the team?
LG:
Everybody in the team is pushing really hard. As everybody knows the car came together months ago and we had a lot of problems in testing, so our main reason to be here and our main way of development is to get everything done properly and with it on time. We are not rushing anything. We are making sure the car is having the best performance. The team is working very, very hard and the team worked all night last night, so everyone is giving 100 per cent and I am trying to do the same when I am driving.

Q: Nico, a remarkable day for you ending up sixth. How has it gone?
NH:
It was okay. We were able to go through our programme and be able to get comfortable in the car on the track. It ran smoothly without any technical or other problems.

Q: In testing, you held the record for red flags, so you must be happy with the reliability today?
NH:
Yeah, I mean again also Williams has pushed very hard and still everyday there is a new guy coming from the UK bringing new parts, not only performance parts but reliability parts, to get our car better. A big thank you to the guys in the factory. Without them we would not be where we are.

Q: How good a teacher is Rubens Barrichello? The most experienced guy on the grid.
NH:
He is not really teaching me. I am just looking at what he is doing. As a team-mate he is always transparent. I can see how he drives, how he works, how he approaches the weekend, so in that aspect I can see and learn from him.

Q: You have got a new engine. Is it quite a surprise where you are?
NH:
With a new engine? I think Cosworth have also done a good and remarkable job. We did not have any problems during winter testing and again here the engine is running fine and performance wise it is not too bad at all.

Q: Heikki, you had the Mercedes engine last year and you can compare the Cosworth to the Mercedes. How does it come out?
HK:
I think to give a direct comparison is probably not fair as the performance of the car at this stage is very different. But I think so far they have done a very good job. Like Nico says, the reliability has been fantastic. I have not had a single problem. I don’t think if anyone had a problem with the engine and just the initial feeling is that the power is competitive. I don’t think that will not be an issue. I think it is good.

Q: What is lacking within the car? Is it your confidence?
HK:
It is not confidence. What is lacking is another 10 to 20 months of time and give the team a bit of a chance to put some performance into the car. We built the car and the team in just under six months time and you cannot ask for more than this. We put the car on the track in testing and today we looked like a professional race team. We were running the car first on the track this morning. I mean you cannot expect performance to be better than this yet. I am sure it will be. We have already shown many things that not many teams could do, so I have all the confidence that given a bit of time, give us a year or two, even less than that, we can put a lot of performance in the car and move up the grid. You have got to start somewhere and we are still growing, we are still building the team so it is not my confidence. I am very confident in fact. I have had a good winter and I feel 100 per cent shape and I feel today I had a very good today and we went forward but we need a bit of time.

Q: How do you see the weekend developing? Do you feel you will be able to close that gap to the established teams?
HK:
If we could find three or four seconds it would be pretty good, wouldn’t it. I am sure we will be working hard but we just do not know yet what everybody else has done. We have just focussed on our own preparation today like a professional race team does. We will prepare for the race, we have compared the tyres, we have done various checks with the set-up and tried to tune the car for the circuit and also for myself getting adapted to the circuit. That is what we are really worried about. I am sure eventually we can close the gap to the leaders and that is what we are here for but it will not happen overnight. The teams ahead of us are all good teams. Formula One is incredibly competitive but we have been quite brave. We have entered the competition and from what we have shown today I think we can go with chin up, full steam ahead.

Q: Sebastian, how do you feel about today?
Sebastian Vettel:
I would have loved to run more. I think this morning the circuit was not in very good shape with not a lot of rubber down, especially on the new part of the circuit. But in the afternoon I think we had quite a lot of rubber, but I did not run very much. I had a problem with the brakes, brake failure, and Mark had a problem as well, so I would have loved to do more laps.

Q: Is it a worry to have that failure? Brakes is a big thing this year.
SV:
It is not a nice feeling, but it depends where it happens. I think it happens if you go up in Monaco up to the casino it is the worst place. Here there is quite a lot of run-off, so it was no problem, but it is not something you like to happen.

Q: Fifth fastest with that brake failure. Do you feel that is where you are or do you think it should be better?
SV:
I think today is still very difficult to read. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is a bit more difficult, but if you really want to say precisely where everyone is I think at this stage it is still a bit too early. From what I have seen in the session it is no secret that this afternoon Ferrari seemed to run a bit heavier whereas Mercedes tried with a little bit less fuel in the beginning and then put some fuel back into the car for the rest of it. I think at this stage we are in decent shape. I would have loved to run a lot more and get more laps and more data, but at this stage I think Ferrari and McLaren look extremely competitive.

Q: Last year the team did a fantastic job with the development. It is almost certainly going to be a development battle this year. Are you confident in the programme that Red Bull have?
SV:
Yeah, as you said it will be the same kind of battle as last year. Obviously that is not very cheap. But for everyone it is the same thing, so where we are now and I am sure the cars will improve a lot as they are still quite young. I think this year there is a lot to discover with the new regulations, no refuelling, the tyres are different, so I think everyone is in a steep learning curve and we will see. The cars we will have at the end of the year they might be better but you get 25 points for a win here as you do at the last race, so we will see.

Q: Robert, your feelings about today? You ended up 15th.
RK:
It was quite a good day. It was different running with this temperature compared to winter testing, so we have quite a nice run, smooth without major problems. We have to work a bit on the car to improve it and try to do our best tomorrow which will finally be the day of truth.

Q: You’re a former pole-winner here. What are your feelings about the circuit, particularly the new part?
RK:
The new part doesn’t look really interesting, at least for myself it’s a kind of a street circuit, it reminds me of a Monte Carlo a bit, the Monaco race track. It’s very slow, a lot of bumps, quite tough for the tyres and very appropriate compared to the old section of track. Yes, it was quite dirty as Sebastian mentioned. This morning it was quite slippery there. Afterwards it improved but there is still quite a big delta shift between the grip of the new section and the old section.

Q: And you’ve been quoted as saying that Renault could create a surprise?
RK:
When did I say this, a long time ago? Well, it depends how it goes but I think we were in pretty good shape in winter testing, maybe not in the last tests but before we were surprisingly good. But we have to keep working. Actually, we are doing it very hard. The guys didn’t go to bed last night, preparing the car because new bits arrived quite late, so it was quite a tough two days for them. But let’s hope we will pay them back on the performance side.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Mikolaj Sokol – Rzeczpospolita) Sebastian and Robert, with 23 cars on the track, some of them significantly slower than you, how can you deal with traffic? Is it a big issue?
SV:
Yes, I think it is a big issue, especially practice and at least the first qualifying session. Of course, speaking to Lucas or Timo or the other guys, Heikki, it’s not the easiest time that they have to face. Obviously they are just about to start, so I think it’s fair to give them time. For sure, if you arrive and you have that big delta between the cars and at least six cars are quite a bit slower than the rest and for sure it could be a problem and one or the other will suffer. It will happen in qualifying that you probably don’t get your lap time. These guys are trying their best as well, so you have to respect that, but if you’re five seconds quicker then it’s very difficult to estimate at the start of the lap if you will be fine or not. Here, I think it’s quite OK because you can see quite a lot, but if you go to Singapore or Monaco where half of the circuit is blind anyway then it’s very difficult. We’ve had problems in the past with traffic, it will be quite a mess but that’s life, I guess.
RK: Yeah, I’ve had similar problems to Sebastian. They are there, for sure they are not having an easy time to keep the car on the track, so that’s how it is. They are there and from our side we can only try and get some more space when they are in front of us, but it’s hard for them, it’s hard for us. That’s how it is.

Q: (Tomasz Richter – TV Nova) To you all, do you enjoy the new section of the track or would you prefer to go straight after turn three?
RK:
Old one, probably, old section, so old track.
SV: I think that the biggest difficulty is that you have a different level of grip as well, which makes the delta quite high. If you look at the asphalt of the new circuit compared to the new track it’s quite different. That doesn’t make life easy, it’s actually very slow, very bumpy, so I also prefer the old track.
HK: I don’t know the reasons for the change – I don’t know if there is a good reason. I thought the old one was good but for me, if we drove to the centre and back, I don’t really have a preference.
LG: I preferred the old one. I raced here in GP2 and it’s quite a fast part of the track which is now a very slow section and very bumpy, so I preferred the old one.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat ) Sebastian, how difficult is it to decide which compound to use for Q3 at this circuit?
SV:
Well, I think the biggest unknown is how the racing will look on Sunday. Obviously the temperature should help all of us but I think it will nevertheless be something new. Either it will be total excitement for the spectators, a mess for us in the car, because some drivers will struggle more with tyres, some less, or it will be boring and the cars will just follow each other because they’re stuck behind each other and they can’t do much, so I think we have to see. In qualifying, first of all we need to see what we have done today compared to the others. Then tomorrow morning – the latest at lunchtime, more or less, you have to decide what you want to do in qualifying. I think first of all you have to manage to get into Q3. It looks tight, so it won’t be easy. There is a strong midfield as well, so if you are talking of the top teams, you have a very, very strong midfield and they could easily ruin your day. I don’t know yet. If you ask me now, I have no clue. I also think it makes it more difficult, as I said, because we don’t know how the race will unfold. We will see.

Q: Nico, your ex-partner Nico Rosberg set fastest lap in his first race for Williams, so do you expect the same this year?
NH:
No, I don’t expect the same. I hope for a good points’ finish but as Sebastian mentioned, we are still a bit left in the dark as to who is where, even today. There are big differences in lap times, and obviously big differences in fuel loads, so we will have to wait and see where we end up but I hope for a good points result.

Q: (Cezary Gutowski – Przeglad Sportowy) For the Renault-engined guys: there is some noise about getting engines up to parity. Do you think your engines are that under-performing? Do you think you really need more horsepower?
SV:
I think an engine here, an engine there. Obviously engine regulations are frozen and yes, last year we didn’t have the easiest time, especially myself. We had some engine failures. Nevertheless, I think we did a very good job recovering. Reliability was fine after we fixed the problem and we did not have to change an engine, so we did not have to take a penalty. I think, last year, everyone had more or less the same opinion that the Mercedes engine was probably a bit ahead of the rest and as I said, the regulations are frozen, so what can you do? I think we don’t have anything to fear, no weakness from that side, so for sure, as I said, a little bit maybe, but it’s very difficult to measure as well. The cars are different. If you look at our top speed compared to the Renault top speed, it’s totally different because the car is a different car, different concept, different amount of drag on the straight, so you can’t really compare just from the speeds.
RK: If the regulations were the same I might have some sort of feeling because I switched from another engine supplier to Renault but we are running much heavier this year, so it’s difficult to compare. I think we just need to wait. Actually, in the past Renault has always been very good with their consumption. I think a lot of people improved that so we maybe still have a bit of an advantage but not as big as it was in the past, for sure. Horsepower is always welcome, more power is always welcome.

Q: (Oliver Knaack – Berliner Zeitung) Sebastian, you missed more than 30 minutes of this last practice, can you describe the exact failure of the brakes, what happened at the front or rear and what was the problem?
SV:
Maybe some of you, between the practice and the press conference were able to have a coffee. I was not. I just got out of my suit and had a short de-brief and came here so I don’t know the reason yet for the failure we had, so we need to see. It’s always difficult. You don’t really analyse within the session because you just make sure you change (the damaged part) as quickly as possible and use the amount of time you have left. It was on the front, the front left. I think you could see that from the TV.

Q: (Tomasz Richter – TV Nova) Nico, we could see some black smoke from the front tyres; do you expect some brake issues regarding the heavier cars and are they the same brake specification as last year?
NH:
It shouldn’t be a problem but Bahrain is always quite heavy on brakes. I’m sure every team is aware of that. We take that into consideration but it’s just brake dust. If you have big braking from 300kph down to 60 kph, there’s just a lot of smoke but right now I’m not too worried about that.

Bahrain GP Thursday press conference

Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton at the Bahrain Thursday conference

Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton at the Bahrain Thursday conference

The first official press conference of the F1 2010 season began today, with the drivers being Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa. Here is the full transcript of the interview:

Q: A question to all of you. What are you most looking forward to during this season? Who is going to start? The World Champion.
Jenson Button:
The same as all of us I think, and that is getting out there. It has been a few months since we actually raced for three of us here, so getting out there and racing, that’s what we all love. Testing is part of the job but racing is the bit what we really enjoy. I am looking forward to getting out there. It is such a competitive season, it looks like. It is possibly one of the most exciting seasons we have seen in Formula One, so just being a part of that is very special.

Q: Lewis, what are you most looking forward to?
Lewis Hamilton:
Just getting on the track. Testing was good fun but obviously we did not have as much testing as we have had in the past and the more time in the car the more fun we have. Just looking forward to it all kicking off and to see where everyone else sits.

Q: Felipe?
Felipe Massa:
Well, to get back to racing after eight months. It is a long time. I am looking forward to getting back to racing, to starting in a good direction after as Lewis said not many tests. But it is nice to be back racing.

Q: Michael, after an even longer absence what are you looking forward to? And welcome back.
Michael Schumacher:
Thank you. The green light or the red light going off.

Q: The green light or rather when the red goes off?
MS:
Yes.
FM: You are very motivated. You are already in the overalls.
MS: Exactly.

Q: Fernando?
Fernando Alonso:
The same as everybody. Just starting the competition, the racing. Testing is okay but it is just preparation for the race itself, so looking forward to Sunday.

Q: Who has walked around the circuit? Any of you? Michael, what are your thoughts on the new section of the circuit? It is all probably fairly new to you.
MS:
The first part looks quite exciting. The later part a little less exciting, but then you have to drive it and feel it in reality.

Q: Has anyone else been around the circuit to have a look at it? Jenson, been around the circuit?
JB:
No, we are going out this afternoon.

Q: Lewis?
LH:
The same.

Q: Jenson, a new team. What are the greatest changes and challenges for you?
JB:
I think moving teams. I was with my previous team for seven years, so moving teams can be tricky. It is a completely new environment, it is a real challenge and most of us do not really like change, but it has been good. Even after sort of two months I really feel part of the team. We have not even gone racing yet and I feel a big part of the team. I have always worked very hard to make myself fit into a team reasonably well but the team have been great. They are so hungry for a good season. Last year for them was not the best and it has made them hungry for success this year. It has been good and having the simulator there has helped me a lot to get used to the environment of being in this car. I spent a lot of time at the factory, not just with the engineers, just spending time at the factory, so I am part of the furniture there. Testing has gone well as well. It is important to really use every second or every minute you are with the team as it comes around very quickly. We have Friday and Saturday morning before qualifying but it is not a lot of time, so you have got to be ready for when you arrive here in Bahrain.

Q: Having number one and being World Champion on the car. How motivating is that or is it even restrictive?
JB:
I can’t see it as restrictive in any way. You should look at it in a positive way. Stepping into the car and seeing the number one on it is a very special feeling, especially here in Bahrain at the first race. Just before I put on my helmet and I look at the car and see the No 1 it is going to be an emotional moment but as soon as you step into the car and close your visor last season is out the window and you are purely focussed on this year.

Q: You won here last year. Is it a good circuit for you?
JB:
I like it. It is a fun circuit to drive and it is a place you can overtake which is great. The new section is pretty slow. There are nine new corners on the circuit and most of them are slow now, so it is tricky and I look forward to getting out there and seeing what we make of it as it is difficult walking around it and trying to understand it. The simulator is useful but still in reality it is nice to get out there and feel it in the car. I hope it does make overtaking better but I am not sure if that is going to be the case. I think it could possibly make the racing more exciting as it is very tricky, so I look forward to getting out on the circuit tomorrow morning.

Q: Lewis, the man next to you is the reigning World Champion. How does that change things for you? Is that extra motivation?
LH:
I don’t think it makes a huge difference. Jenson has been welcomed into the team and he seems to be doing a great job, very productive, enthusiastic and he has really brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the team. I can only see it as a positive. On my side, for me, just from coming from not so good a year last year but to finish on quite a high I feel just as determined as ever if not more.

Q: Which of the rule changes has been the most challenging as far as you are concerned?
LH:
Probably just being a little bit heavier. Otherwise it has been pretty straight forward. Just trying to understand the tyres a little bit and understand the approach to the long stints being a little bit different to last year on lighter fuel but otherwise it is pretty straight forward. I am sure this weekend will be a challenge for everyone but we are all in the same boat.

Q: You finished second here in 2007, the first time you came here.
LH:
That seems like a long time ago. We had a good car back then. The last two years things haven’t been particularly special but hopefully this weekend will be a new start for us and hopefully a positive for me and Jenson.

Q: Felipe, a big welcome back to you. What is it like to return, to be back in the car and back at a race meeting again?
FM:
It is just nice to be back in business. That is my job for many years. I have lost a bit of races and just nice to be back. I feel really happy and a lot of motivation to get back to the job.

Q: You are a former winner here, but also in the past you have had some slow parts to the season. Is that something you are conscious of and determined to change?
FM:
I think it is something that we understood in the past that the first race is important to finish, important to score points. Even in the last years we always had some problems in the car to finish the race. That I hope doesn’t happen. I hope we can finish most of the races in good points as we know at the end of the season it is always important to be there on a good amount of points. Many people say at the beginning of the season what is important is the reliability. Reliability is always important. It is important to finish the race. We did a lot of kilometres in the winter test which helps when you have a good car to start the season.

Q: Michael, what’s it like to be back at a race meeting when you are a driver and fully involved after an absence of three years?
MS:
Well, naturally it is a bit more intense. From the morning to the evening with lots more details than you want and naturally you have to pay attention.

Q: How much are you still team building? People have spoken how you built a team at Ferrari. What is happening at Mercedes now?
MS:
I think it is difficult to say right now what is going to be the development. Naturally you have to adapt, you have to evolve developing into the team. It is probably the thing that you will find some potential, you still can improve, to understand how at certain moments the team will work, why it will work, how you can combine the two things. But so far I have to say that the guys are good guys. It is good harmony, particularly due to knowing the boss quite well and he knows me too. It makes things a lot easier, a lot smoother, but otherwise I am sure there is some potential we will have to develop.

Q: You are a two-time winner here. What are your feelings about this circuit?
MS:
Making it three.

Q: Fernando is a two-time winner as well, aren’t you?
FA:
Yes, three also.

Q: But Fernando, again new team, new challenges. What are the major challenges? What are the major changes?
FA:
As Jenson said I think every time you change team you need to adapt yourself a little bit to the new people, the new philosophy of working, of preparing the season. It has been a great time so far. I have been very comfortable with the team from day one to now, so I think we arrive at the first race with a good preparation and ready for the fight.

Q: Ferrari have been said to be one of the two top teams. Is that the way you see it?
FA:
Not really. We are not comparing too much the times in winter or making many predictions for these first races. We have just been concentrating on our programme to try to be as prepared a possible for the first race. I think the four teams – Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari – any of the four teams can be a favourite for this race and for the first part of the championship with, I am sure, some teams also like Sauber and Force India, they will have a very good race as well. I think we will do our best. We are well prepared for this start of the season but we want to be World Champions in November, not in March. We will do our best but the goal is to win the championship and we know this is not easy at all and we need to work very hard for 10 months, so it is only the start.

Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton at the Bahrain Thursday conference

Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton at the Bahrain Thursday conference

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Thomas Richtr – TV Nova) For all the drivers. If it was up to you and not working groups or the FIA, would you choose this year’s regulation regarding the refuelling ban and heavy cars at the start or last year’s regulation when it was a sprint from pit stop to pit stop?
FA:
I am happy with any decision. It is just a new challenge for all of us. For the engineers, teams, drivers it is change in Formula One, so any change is normally welcome as it offers you the possibility of discovering some new area of our sport. I am happy with the change but I was happy last year. We will see. We need to give some time to the new regulations to see how the races are. If we see more overtaking, if not? Maybe the races are very spectacular or maybe the races are very boring. We need to wait and see a few races to see if the new regulations are working or not.
MS: Last year… yeah, for the simple fact it leaves more scope for strategy. Naturally, as a race driver you want to drive the fastest car and if you have full tanks to half full tanks it naturally makes a big difference.
FM: I think the regulations have to be good for everybody: for the drivers, for the teams but also a lot for the guys who are watching the race. It’s very difficult to say which ones (regulations) I prefer, the new ones or the ones from last year. We haven’t yet done a single race, it’s very early to say which one I prefer, but I think if it’s good to everybody – for the moment I don’t think anybody is against the regulations, so if it’s good for everybody, it should be no problem to change. It’s also a new challenge for everybody, as Fernando says, so we just need to focus on every new point and try to do the best.
LH: I think it’s a new challenge in the sport for all of us and the key is that we’re moving forward, so I’m excited to see how it works and I’m sure we will do everything we can, collectively, to put on a good show.
JB: I think everything’s been said. I think turn one’s going to be pretty interesting with that much fuel – going down to turn one. I think we forget about qualifying as well. Qualifying is different to last year: we will be running on low tanks all the way through, which is great. I think we will have more of an understanding after qualifying than the last couple of seasons with the cars on low fuel. But I think the differences from qualifying to the races will be bigger than we’ve seen before. Some cars will be very good on light fuel, maybe not so good on 150/160 kilos of fuel, so it’s going to be interesting to see.

Q: (Jonathan Legard – BBC Sport) Michael, do you remember how you felt coming into the sport for the first time, up against champions who you had watched, the likes of Senna and Prost and so on? With your record and reputation, you’re very much the man to beat; is it going to be everyone else’s aim to attack you and challenge you on the track?
MS:
Yes. Basically when I arrived, I wasn’t that full of confidence to be on the same playing field but being with them the first time, I noticed that I could be (competitive) and I do feel pretty much the same now. There’s no reason why somebody should not feel in the position to fight me because all those guys who will be on the grid on Sunday have good reasons to be there because they’re highly talented. I have the greatest respect for each of them; for me, each one is a big competitor that I have to look at.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Michael, you always said you don’t like understeer in your cars, and this year, due to the weight of the car, the tyres, the nature of the cars, you have understeer. Do you think that because of that we may not see the best of you?
MS:
I think it varies very much from car to car, it’s a characteristic which is given to a car. Sometimes, you’re right, it may be given by the tyres, then it’s up to you and your team to get the balance that you want, because in the past, don’t forget a car suited me because I like oversteer, I like a neutral car, the fastest car, whatever that is!

Q: (James Allen – Financial Times) Fernando, you’ve talked about settling in; do you think you’re ready to win? And what do you think of Michael coming back?
FA:
Yes, I think I’m ready to win. Every time you arrive at the first race of the championship you’ve been preparing yourself all winter for this moment, so I’ve been waiting very long to be here at Ferrari as well, many years of preparation for this moment, so now I feel ready to fight and hopefully we’re in a position to do that. To have Michael here, OK – it was a surprise for sure when he came back but as I said many times, it’s a very good thing for all of us, for all the drivers, for our sport and that can only help Formula One and because we are part of Formula One, all the drivers, it also helps us, so I am very happy that he’s here and hopefully we can have good fights.

Q: (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Question to Jenson and Lewis: just been watching the dynamic between you two guys while the other three have been answering questions at the front. You’ve been having a good laugh and a joke, sharing comments etc. Is that a good indicator of the friendship/relationship you two have already developed over the past few weeks together?
JB:
It’s all for show! Exactly what we were told to do by Steve (press officer Steve Cooper).
LH: I agree. We’re focusing on a potential move to acting in the future!
JB: And no one’s asking us any questions, so…

Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) I have a question for you, Jenson. How do you feel about defending your title this season against Fernando in the Ferrari, Michael back at Mercedes, Lewis in the same equipment as you will have? Do you feel you will need a dominant start again this weekend?
JB:
Yes, I think every championship, for any champion, I think it’s important to be quick out of the blocks. If you look back, normally the guy that really fights for the championship and gets the championship is strong from the word ‘go’, so yes, I think it is important for all of us to be up there at the front here in Bahrain. The competition is very fierce, I must say, but that’s why it is exciting. For a fan of Formula One, this season should be electric, it really should be. If it’s not, we’re doing something seriously wrong. It’s obviously great to have Felipe back after his horrific accident last year. Great to have Michael back because it makes me feel young again! Looking at this race, I don’t think there have been so many competitive drivers in competitive cars for a long time, so it’s great to see.

Q: (Jacques Deschenaux – GP Guide) To all of you, will the new distribution of points with 25 for the first, 18 to the second, change your approach and maybe your strategy for the race?
MS:
You still want to score the 25, so that’s the main strategy. It’s certainly a little bit fairer, I think, in a way that if you have somebody who wins most of the races, naturally you will most likely say that he is going to be the champion by the end of the year, rather than somebody there just sitting, waiting and taking second and third places and suddenly being World Champion. I don’t think that makes much sense, as it has been in past years. Actually I think I was the reason why it was implemented, the small gaps, because I was winning so much and nobody could find a way to stop that. I think it’s absolutely correct, the way it is now.
FM: I think it’s correct as well. I think the winner, the victory is always more important than anything, so if you win, maybe to have a little bit more points is always better. So I’m with Michael.
LH: Well, what they said was right. It’s another challenge, it’s a small change to the results. As Felipe said, when you win the race it should be rewarded perhaps a little bit more than the guys who come in second and third. I think it will be interesting to see how it pans out. I’ve not really thought about it too much to be honest.
JB: I think we need to see how it goes. It’s the same as before. You still want to go out and win as many races as you can. Obviously when you’re fighting for a championship – I know how that feels now – it’s about being consistent as well. When you’re fighting for a win, it’s very difficult to hold back and think ‘I’ll come in second and pick up the points.’ We all want to win races and that’s what we’re here to do.
FA: I agree.

Q: (Carlos Miquel – Diario AS) Fernando, in the past you have said Michael is the best driver in history. Now, Michael is back, do you believe the same? And a question for Michael: who could be your biggest rival this year?
FA:
Yes, if I said that, it’s because I really think that. If you see the World Championships that Michael has it’s something that is impossible to repeat and part of the history in our sport, as I said. Looking at the numbers, Grand Prix wins, pole positions, championships etc, I think we all agree that Michael is the best ever, so I’m happy that he’s here and as I said, hopefully winning a championship or winning a Grand Prix with Michael on the track has more value, so we will try.
MS: At my age, I keep forgetting things if they are too long away, so what was the question?
Basically, I think there are the four main teams that you’re looking at and in all those cars – so you’re talking about a potential eight drivers, seven around me that I have to look out for. Four of them are sitting here right now and there are three more that aren’t here right now. It’s very tough to mention which is the one, but it doesn’t matter who it is, because you’re focused on the one that it is.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) To all of you apart from Michael Schumacher: you were saying, Fernando, that winning a race ahead of Michael Schumacher would bring more importance. Don’t you think that if Michael starts to win too much, it’s going to be very bad for all of you in the end and for the sport too?
FM:
Well, for sure we need to work very hard not to let him win too much. Every team wants to win but it’s the best for the sport to have the best drivers on the track, the best teams fighting on the track and I think that’s always great for the sport. Anyway, everybody wants to win, everybody wants to keep winning all the time. But it’s a big competition, so I think it will be very difficult as we saw in the tests, to see a single car winning every race. But anyway, you never know. The race starts now and we need to wait and see.
LH: We have to wait and see, we have to wait and see.
JB: Yeah. I think you’ve answered it yourself.
FA: I agree!

Brawn: Mercedes behind with preparations

Ross Brawn

Ross Brawn

Mercedes GP team principal Ross Brawn has admitted that his team is behind in preparations for the Bahrain Grand Prix and the rest of the season, but believes the team still has a strong car.

While Mercedes has returned to F1 for the first time since 1955, they had taken over the old Brawn GP team, so it w0uld have seemed that they would have been well prepared. However, Ross Brawn says differently:

"Everyone at Mercedes GP is proud to be representing the rich
motorsport pedigree of Mercedes-Benz as we start the season as the
first Mercedes works team for over half a century," Brawn began. "In
addition, knowing that we go into the new season as the reigning
World Champions gives the team confidence and a fierce pride to
defend our position.
owever, this is a new season and a new challenge. We had a strong
pre-season testing programme with the MGP W01 but we have not quite
reached the level of preparation that we would have liked prior to
Bahrain; the car shows promise and we have a strong development
programme planned for the season but there is a lot of hard work
ahead to ensure that we will be in the fight for the title.

It’s odd to me reading this, after what happened last year. When Jenson Button won his sixth race out of 7 in Turkey, Brawn GP switched focus to their 2010 car, which would end up as the W01. Their wind tunnel (believed to be up to 5 wind tunnels) system was now completely working on the aerodynamic setup for 2010, and not the rest of the season. The wind tunnel was used for 2009 twice after this, in Valencia when Barrichello ended up winning, and near the end of the season, just to ensure that Button had a good enough car to secure the title.

Apart from these two times, the 2010 car has been developed on from June 2009 until now. So how can they say they are behind in preparations? The team say the car shows promise, rather than saying it’s good right now, which says a lot. One possible reason for this problem is a wind tunnel calibration error. I’m saying this because it happened to the team back in 2007 (when they were Honda). It’s not based on facts, but it could be a possibility.

Brawn then talked about his views on his driver line-up and the 2010 season:

"I am very pleased with how our new drivers, Michael and Nico, have 
settled into the team and developed a close working relationship," 
Brawn continued. "They have really pushed the development of the car 
throughout testing and they will push each other to achieve better
results on the race track.
This season should be a fantastic one for the fans, with so many 
talented drivers competing and what is likely to be a very close 
fight for the title between the top teams - and that can only be 
good for our sport."

Insider: Hurley can save USF1

An insider from the USF1 factory, who will remain anonymous, has said that a backer of USF1, Chad Hurley, has the best chance of saving the troubled team.

At the moment, the Charlotte squad are behind on their car development, lacking the funds to pay the bills, and have only one driver signed. This all points to bankruptcy and collapse.

Many people are looking to Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson to save the company. However, the insider, who can only be identified as a senior staff member, believes that Hurley is USF1’s best chance for survival:

"We feel Hurley and Parris Mullins [adviser to Hurley] have our best
interest [at heart] and also feel Hurley has no intention of
abandoning us even though the media has said he's gone with Campos.

"With all this talk about where US F1 is at, it's been missed that
there are 60+ people who have had to suffer through this for the
last two months. All of us left jobs and many of us travelled cross-
country for this opportunity.

"But having said that, throughout the turmoil, the team has really
come together and we're all committed to the project; precious few
have left in spite of the uncertainty of whether we'll be paid this
Friday. I've never seen such dedication. The US can field a F1 team,
in fact easily so after what I've seen."

However, it’s not as simple as that. The insider went on to explain, very strongly, about what went wrong at the base. He also blames Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor for certain failures of the team:

"All engineering decisions were having to be funneled through [Ken]
Anderson before anything could be signed off. And that's where the
hold up was."

"Tooling for the tub was completed in early December, but then it
sat for nearly a month before the laminate schedules for the outer
skin were approved."

"Now Anderson himself wasn't designing the laminate schedule, but
he was in the wings... as early as last October the production
manager was collared about the lack of resources, but the managers
were put off by saying: 'Well, Ken has a plan'."

"The irony of all this is that there has been precious little in the
way of formal planning and documentation. No production schedules,
simply very little in the way of planning."

"Our January 15 pay cheque was late. It was paid by the 20th or so,
but it certainly caused commotion and people started asking questions."

"That's when all the company's issues came to a head, and the
conclusion was... yes, we had been lied to about the long-term
budget, and indeed the company had a cash flow issue. But as
mentioned, that really was a secondary issue."

"Think of it this way, ignoring the fact that we were lied to about
the budget, if you don't have a car or can't show serious progress
in that direction, potential sponsors aren't going to have a tendency
to give you money."

"At the moment there are still 60 people working in Charlotte, but
10 have already left."

Then, he went on to talk about how the staff members felt about the project:

"In a meeting between the employees, Windsor and Anderson, Windsor
put the question up to the employees: 'Who here doesn't think we'll
make Bahrain?' I think Windsor might have meant it somewhat
rhetorically, but he was answered nonetheless, and 100 per cent of
the staff raised their hands. He was visibly shocked."

Ken Anderson was challenged about this employee’s interview. Very quickly, he described it as “twisted and one-sided”. Judging by his response, I’d say Anderson has dealt with disgruntled employees like this before.

Peter Windsor can say what he likes, but if 100% of his employees think they will fail to get to Bahrain, the writing is on the wall for the team. It’s been a disaster year for them, and we’re still 3 weeks away from Bahrain.

Kovalainen: We are lacking downforce

Heikki Kovalainen in the Lotus T127

Heikki Kovalainen in the Lotus T127

Lotus F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen has admitted that this year’s T127, Lotus’ first in 16 years, has a fundamental downforce problem. Today, in Jerez testing, he finished 3.2 seconds behind leader Mark Webber.

“I think the main issue is the downforce,” the former Renault and McLaren driver explained to reporters. “We have not been able to develop the aero package as we should have; we had five months to build the car and everything’s been a bit conservative. Before they started to design the car, they had no information about the engine, so cooling and everything is quite conservative.

“For sure, we can improve – just by looking at the car I could probably improve a few things; I’m sure we will be able to do this but it’ll just take a little time.”

“Once everybody in the UK – the design and manufacturing teams – begin working, we’ll be able to make big improvements.”

“I think it’s quite clear that we’re lacking downforce compared to the quickest cars. It’s not surprising, we expected it – but just looking at the numbers we knew where we were going to be.”

When the T127 was launched a few weeks ago, I actually noted the too simple rear wing design that the car had. It looks like this problem may haunt Lotus for some time.

Force India VJM03 launched

The Force India 2010 car, to be called the VJM03, has been launched online today.

The team has said that this year’s car is an evolution of last year’s car, the VJM02. That car was superb in low-downforce conditions, but hugely struggled everywhere else. This year’s car is hoped to be much better in medium and high-downforce circuits.

Force India are to continue using Mercedes engines, widely considered the best engines on the grid last year. Their driver line-up has also been unaffected, with the team electing to stick with Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi. Paul di Resta will be the reserve driver, and will take part in Friday practice sessions with the team. This widens speculation that he will be hires as a race driver for 2011.

The car was fired up earlier today. It will make its first public debut tomorrow, when Adrian Sutil drives the car at the second of the main F1 tests, in Jerez. The car’s designer, Mark Smith, said:

“The VJM03 is definitely an evolution of the VJM02 in terms of the design philosophies we have developed at Force India over the last year. We are very happy with the direction, therefore we have opted to evolve the car rather than significantly revise.”

“Obviously one of the major aspects we have had to contend with are regulation changes which have had a considerable impact on some aspects of the design of the car. The removal of refuelling from races increases the amount of fuel needed to be stored in the cars – almost twice the amount we ran in 2009. There is a compromise now: either make the car much longer or wider, or, as we have done, a combination of both. This of course has influenced the mechanical design solutions and also the aerodynamics, specifically with respects to the diffuser and bodywork.”

“Even with the ban of double diffusers for 2011, we recognise that we still have to push as much as we possibly can in this area in 2010 as we have targets to meet and the double diffuser is a key development aspect of the car.”

“The VJM02 was a relatively low drag car that showed well on the low downforce tracks. As was demonstrated throughout 2009, that was a useful attribute but as we go into 2010 we have tried to maintain a high level of aerodynamic efficiency, but we recognise that our championship position will be enhanced by a general level of performance that is suited to all types of circuits. We have, we believe, quite an efficient car overall.”

The livery is almost exactly the same, except the sides of the rear wing are now green. A bit lazy, in my opinion, but it’s still nice paint work. The car features a much wider wheelbase, mostly made at the back, for the larger fuel tank. The shark fin engine cover has been revised, the engine intake is lower and further forward, and the nosecone is higher. However, the team is not sporting last year’s Reb Bull horned nose design. The front wing actually looks much simpler, with bigger and less main sections, and oddly plain endplates.

They were right: it is definitely only an evolution rather than a revolution. The real question is whether they have solved their downforce problems. We should get a good indicator tomorrow at the Jerez test.

Force India have released interviews with Adrian Sutil, Vitantonio Liuzzi, and chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer:

Adrian Sutil, driver

2009 was a transitional year for the team, and you scored your best result in F1 to date. How would you sum up this year?
2009 was a really important year. I was very close to scoring points in a lot of races and, frustratingly, something always happened. So when we got to Monza, it was a pretty perfect weekend. I scored my first front row, my first points since 2007 and it gave me a lot of extra confidence. I was very happy when the success came and it was for sure a big moment in my career, the turning point. It’s really different to start from the front row and race at the front and I feel it has helped me to grow. I know I need to follow it up this year now.

How do you feel going into this year?
I hope we will have a good season and I am pretty confident we will. We have had a good winter and a very good development programme so expectations are high. The car looks great, we did a positive step with the wind tunnel simulations but let’s test and see where we are. I know we need to perform well and from my side I have tried to be perfectly prepared.

What will your aims be this year, how do you intend to build on last year?
2010 is a really important season and we are very optimistic about going well. When you start a season you always want it to be better than the previous one and I think this year it’s important to be consistent from the first race. It’s the first time we have been completely on schedule so I feel this will be the first season when I can show from the beginning to the end what is possible on the car and what I can do. I’d like to be in the midfield and be competitive from Bahrain.

This is now your fourth season with the Silverstone-based team. What does this stability mean for you?
I feel really good in the team, it’s like family for me as they know me very well, they know how I work and my strengths and weaknesses. With that kind of relationship they can really get the things that suit me and I have confidence in them to do it. At the end of last season I felt very good and it was hard to find a better option for 2010. Over the past four years we have of course seen many different changes but when Vijay took over in 2007 it was a step in the right direction. He’s committed to go for it and he has his goals. Right now we’re looking really good, we’ve sorted out all the issues and this winter has been a consistent working situation so it’s a big advantage. It’s nice to be one of the few teams who have stability now and can just focus on the racing.

The competition is very tough this year, with new teams and more world champions in the field than in previous years. What are your thoughts on this?
The competition of course will be really tough with four world champions in the field now – of course Lewis and Jenson in McLaren, Fernando in the Ferrari and now Michael back in Mercedes. I have a lot of respect for all of them and I’m actually really excited about being on the same grid, but at the end of the day they are your competitors. You can’t hold them up as heroes or goals – when we’re racing they are people you need to beat. If you do go well against them it will really lift you so I’m looking forward to seeing how I do.

Vitantonio Liuzzi, driver

It’s finally a chance to get a full race season under your belt for the first time since 2007. What are your thoughts on this?
After one and a half years in a test role, I feel really prepared, both physically and mentally for a full race season. My objective is to be as strong and consistent as possible and give good feedback to the team to help them improve. For sure scoring points as many times as I can is going to be the key and you never know, perhaps we can get something more as well if everything comes together.

How would you review your five races in 2009? What did you learn?
It was a great opportunity to learn the tracks and then get back to the rhythm of a F1 car. I was a bit disappointed with some races, but we knew that the car would suit Monza much better than the other types of circuit. We had a bit of bad luck as well, like qualifying in Brazil when I aquaplaned off. Although it was difficult to score points, it was important for me to show that when the car is performing well I am ready to bring the results in and I’m always the same, fast competitive driver I’ve always been. It was a good warm up for 2010.

Do you feel this time round as a racer you’re approaching it differently?
In Force India I feel really good, the atmosphere is great and the team works well together. Even when I was in a difficult position last year as a test driver they were very supportive and I’ve built a good strong relationship with them. I feel like I’m in a family and for sure much better environment than I have been in the past. This year is a new start for me. I’m a different person from two years ago and I am approaching it from a different mentality. It’s a different Tonio and I’m looking forward to what can come. I’m still young and have a lot of time in front of me so I just want to prove what I can do.

Do you feel confident in the VJM03?
I have to say that the team, looking at what we did last year, has done a fantastic job. They never stopped working on the 2009 car to push right to the end, but have been flat out for 2010 as well. I am really confident in the work they have done over the winter and we’ve built a car that can regularly be in the points. That’s also my aim, plus to be more consistent and competitive throughout the whole season.

With the new teams coming in, Force India won’t be the smallest team on the grid any more. Is this an advantage?
Yes, this is an advantage for us as we know how to operate on smaller levels that the bigger teams will have to get used to, while the new teams have a tough job to do. I think it will be a good season for us.

Otmar Szafnauer, chief operating officer

You’ve been with the team for nearly four months now. What impressions have you gained?
I like the atmosphere in the team. With half the people of a big team we design a good car and the wind tunnel guys do a very good job in getting the numbers that are required. You just don’t have the time or resources available to waste, so you just get on with the job.

When you joined the team was in a very stable situation, and was enjoying some success on the track. Has that helped to make things very straightforward for you?
I think stability does produce results. That’s not to say you shouldn’t change and improve as clearly you should, but huge upheavals never help. If you can have stability with the right people pulling in the same direction, you’re much better off. Fortunately we have that here.

What improvements are already underway?
There are two big improvements from 2009. One has been the increase in our CFD [Computational Fluid Dynamics] resource, thanks to a new partnership with CRL in India, which has increased our capacity by five-fold. The other principal area has been the utilisation of the wind tunnel to a greater extent, almost 24 -7. Coupled together this has allowed us to take great steps forward. Last year Simon Roberts also instilled some very good processes and procedures that have also helped to refine our procedures, communications within the company and ultimately the decision making process. Simon did a great job in doing that, and I’m going to carry that forward.

Like Red Bull you missed the Valencia test, and instead you are shaking down the new car at Silverstone. What was the thinking behind that?
It was a strategic decision. By missing the first test, we can gain a little bit more development time – a little bit longer in the tunnel, a little bit longer thinking about what’s important on the car. It was just a trade-off decision. We completed a shakedown day, before the testing started that regains a little bit of what we’ve lost.

This year there is a Resource Restriction Agreement taking shape – how does that affect Force India?
There’s a step down in personnel allowed at races this year, as well as on external expenditure, but neither affect us at all. If we change nothing this year, we’ll be below both of the levels set whereas some other teams will have to come down. It is very much to our advantage as we are not having to learn any new skills or working operations procedures.

What are the big challenges that the team faces over the next year or two?
Our biggest challenge is to get the wind tunnel up to 24-7, and becoming efficient with our CFD capacity. For you to maximise your performance there are a thousand little things that you need to get right. This year the racing is going to be a bit different, with no refuelling, and it’s always good to have more money so you can do more development throughout the year!

You mentioned the changes in race strategy this year. Do you think that the team could gain from being quick on its feet and making the right calls?
Yes, especially early on in the year when people haven’t quite settled down yet. I think in F1 we’re all quick to learn, and quick to learn from each other. If we can make some good calls early on, that will help us.

You have kept the same drivers. What do they bring to the team?
Adrian is a great asset. He’s very talented, and he’s fast and fearless, and he’ll gain from the experience he now has. If Tonio can learn from last year, and his confidence is up knowing that he’s got a regular seat now, he has great potential.

Finally you have signed Paul di Resta as third driver. How do you see his role?
He’s a young driver with a lot of potential, and we’re going to work with him to maximise that potential. And that should be to the benefit of this team. He can help us in simulator testing, and he should be doing some Friday testing just to get familiar with the car and hone his skills. And then we’ll see about the future.

Pictures of the new VJM03 (helmet photos included):

Button: Title chances better at McLaren

Jenson Button at the Autosport International

Jenson Button at the Autosport International

Jenson Button has said that his early experiences at McLaren have convinced him that his title chances are better at McLaren than former team Brawn.

Button left Brawn at the end of 2009, after winning the driver championship with the team. He has joined McLaren to partner Lewis Hamilton for next season.

At the Autosport International show, he is convinced that he has done the right thing:

“If I was at Brawn still, I would go into the season positive, but not as positive as I am now.”

“I have spent some time at the factory in the simulator, with the engineers and it is going very well. The two guys I have got looking after me, who are working with me, have been great.”

“They know this is a difficult switch for me, a difficult change, but they have been very good. They are very hungry to succeed this year – which is exactly what I am. It is a good partnership.”

Button has also responded to critics who think that Lewis Hamilton will dominate him this season. He believes that the two can spur each other on to achieve great things:

“I don’t know who will build the best car this year, but we will work as hard as we can. I am really looking forward to the partnership with Lewis. That is the truth – from the bottom of my heart.”

“We can work very well together and we can, as a team, fight for the world championship together. And us two together is a much stronger team than us in separate teams.”

“When we get to the end of the year we will see [where we finished]. But, at the moment, we will work together and there is no reason to say I am going to beat him, or he is going to beat me.”

“I am sure everyone is opinionated about it, but nobody knows until the last race finishes. We are going to work together and we are hopefully going to do a good job for the British fans.”

He was then asked about how he felt about Michael Schuamcher returning. He replied:

“A few people have said he is 41 years old, is he too old to be racing in F1 and has he lost it? I don’t think so.”

“He has won more world championships than anyone. He will be competitive. He is not a silly guy. He won’t be coming back to F1 to be slow – he is going to be competitive and he will be ready for the first race. And I hope so. It will be great if Michael is fighting it out at the front.”

“It is really good for F1, and it will bring a few fans back that maybe left when Michael did. And it is made for the best season in F1 I think – ever. I really do think that. It is going to be such a competitive season.”

“You have got four world champions – one guy that missed out by one point and a few very, very talented people. It is exciting. New teams. New drivers. It is great.”

Alonso: Ferrari titles may take time

Felipe Massa, Bernie Ecclestone and Fernando Alonso

Felipe Massa, Bernie Ecclestone and Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso has sais that, despite just joining Ferrari, world titles may take time to come for him and the team.

“It’s not that easy. Michael Schumacher himself needed five years to win after joining Ferrari,” Alonso told Spanish radio Onda Cero in an interview.

“Formula 1 is not simply mathematics. We see the same in football and in other sports, where you see that a great team can lose in a small team’s stadium.”

“In F1 it’s more or less the same, and theory is not everything. Then things on track must go well and you have to prove things.”

Also, Alosno says that it is difficult to tell who will be his main rivals for next year, as testing has not yet begun.

“It’s hard to pick the order,” he said. “The two Mercedes drivers, the two McLaren drivers, maybe the two Red Bulls, and also my team-mate Massa are in theory the big favourites for the title, but there could be some surprises, like it happened last year with Brawn or Toyota, which started the championship very well.”

Also, he responded to rumours that he and Felipe Massa were not getting along.

“The memory of the Nurburgring race is just for those who few who will be looking for any kind of controversy,” he said. “Surely there will be a start in which the two McLarens are too close to each other and then there will be a debate about Button and Hamilton having problems, and the same if Felipe and I have it, or Michael and Rosberg.”

“That’s the expectation created by a big team, with the all media attention it brings. There’s not a problem, we are both prepared to help Ferrari.”

Di Resta closing in on Force India drive (includes interview video)

Paul Di Resta testing for Force India last December

Paul Di Resta testing for Force India last December

Current DTM driver, Paul Di Resta, says that he is currently closing in on a contract as a test driver for Force India for this season.

He has driven a Force India before, in the young driver test last December, and impressed with getting 2nd fastest laps in 2 days out of 3. Regarding this test, Di Resta was happy, saying:

“Yeah. We had a very difficult year in the DTM last year. It did not get off to the best start but then, during the year, we started talking to Force India. And thankfully they gave me an opportunity to go down to Jerez and do three half days in the car.”

“It was a big opportunity and something I have waited a long time to do, to get a serious chance to drive the car, and it was very productive. We came out very strong and also moved forward and built a relationship with Force India.”

He is currently in negotiations with Vijay Mallya and the Force India team regarding a test driver contract for this year. Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi have already locked out the race seats. He stated:

“Things are moving along quite strong. Since the test for sure we have been in talks, and I would say we are about 90 per cent there. We are in the final stages of finishing off for the programme they have set and hopefully we can build a very long and strong relationship for me to try and race with Force India in the future.”

Di Resta also added that he may not be able to compete in DTM in the future with Merceedes, having spent 3 years with the team.

A full interview with Paul Di Resta, at the Autosport International, is available here:

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers