Tag Archives: Felipe Massa

Ferrari decision revealed: WMSC ignores recommendations, Todt says: “Not enough evidence”

The reasoning of the World Motor Sport Council letting Ferrari off with charges of team orders has been explained today, and it’s not a pretty sight. The WMSC ignored a reccomendation from the Reporter (investigator) to penalise Fernando Alonso, while Jean Todt claimed there was “not enough evidence”.

Lars Osterlind, one of the top names of the FIA since Max Mosley took over years ago, and tipped for Presidency in the future (currently Vice-President), was appointed as the Reporter for this case. Put simply, he was in charge of investigating every single aspect of the team orders case, and he showed the WMSC some truly damning evidence to incriminate Ferrari.

For example, he found out that both drivers, before the team order, were instructed to turn their engines down, presumably to save fuel or the engine. However, Lars found that Alonso soon turned up the revs on his car “without Mr. Massa being informed. Mr Fernando Alonso was therefore benefiting from a definite performance advantage over Mr Felipe Massa in the moments preceding the contentious overtaking.”

He then went on to explain why the ethics of sport were broken:

“Motor racing ought to be unpredictable, as it has been to
date. Part of that competitive element is to take equal
interest in all competitors. Irrespective of their fitness,
talent or position in the race, competitors should be able
to rely on themselves for purposes of winning the race
without any form of external aid influencing their sporting
performance.”

He presented his full findings in a 160-page document, and gave it to the World Motor Sport Council. The FIA acknowledged that Ferrari had interfered with the race, but refused to increase the penalty, stating:

"There were many examples of what could have been said to be 
team orders in Formula 1 in recent years, and therefore there 
has been inconsistency in its application.

Also its application to indirect team orders via messages 
where drivers raise no complaints is uncertain and difficult 
to detect and police."

They even admitted that rules 39.1 (no team orders) and 151.c (bringing the sport into disrepute) were broken, but still found no reason to full prove that Ferrari's messages directly interfered with he race, rather Felipe Massa made a "decision based on the evidence presented" to him by the team.

Ferrari claimed that "team orders were different from team strategy", meaning that there would be a difference between a "supply of information or a request for what a team would like a driver to do" and direct orders.

The WMSC also noted that they had received letters of support for Ferrari from Frank Williams and Peter Sauber, heads of the Williams and Sauber teams.

Meanwhile, FIA president Jean Todt claimed that there was "not enough evidence" to fully prove Ferrari's guilt. Seeing as he was in charge of Ferrari during the biggest team order scandals in F1, why are we not surprised?

Really, this is a scandalous day for Formula 1. This completely undermines the team orders ban, and will almost certainly destroy the championship battle in terms of team-mates racing each other. Ferrari, the FIA, and the WMSC should hang their heads in shame.

No further punishment for Ferrari after team orders

The World Motor Sport Council have decided that Ferrari will escape any further punishment for their team orders in Germany this year. They also announced that the $100,000 fine imposed by the FIA will continue to be upheld.

However, no reason has yet been disclosed for their decision to let them off. A statement will be added here when it is made.

All I can say is that this is absolutely disgraceful. Even if the WMSC couldn’t prosecute them under the rule banning team orders, they could just have easily used rule 151c (bringing the sport into disrepute) to serve justice.

Put simply, the WMSC have just shown themselves as being spineless cowards. It’s not as if the fans were looking for Ferrari to be thrown out altogether, maybe a larger fine and suspended ban would have done fine. A $100,000 is nothing compared to the damage Ferrari have done to the sport in recent weeks.

More on this soon.

Update: Ferrari do have to pay the FIA’s legal costs, but this surely isn’t much. Also, the Sporting Working Group are to look into whether the team orders ban should stay or not. Ferrari have released a short statement:

“Ferrari has taken note of the decision of the FIA World Council, relating to the outcome of this year’s German Grand Prix and wishes to express its appreciation of the Council’s proposal to review article 39.1 of the Formula 1 sporting regulations, in light of what emerged during today’s discussions.

Now, all the team’s efforts will be focussed on the next event on track, when the Italian Grand Prix takes place at Monza this weekend.”

Piquet: Massa still blames me for lost championship

Nelson Piquet Jr has revealed that, because of his actions at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, Felipe Massa still blames him to this day for losing the 2008 Driver’s Championship. Felipe lost the title by a single point to Lewis Hamilton, and lost 10 points in the Singapore Grand Prix, after a mistake in the pit lane, which was caused by a safety car deployment, which in turn had been caused by Piquet Jr.

If it was a mistake by Piquet that had brought out the safety car, then nothing would have been said of it. But as we all know, Nelson deliberately crashed his Renault, specifically to bring out the safety car to help his team-mate Fernando Alonso win the race.

The problem with Massa’s pit stop had been caused by the Ferrari traffic lights operator releasing Massa too early, causing the fuel rig to be ripped out and was still attached to the car as Felipe left the pits. It has been well acknowledged that this mistake by the light operator was caused by the chaotic nature of the pit lane, which of course was triggered by the safety car.

In my mind, despite other losses of points in other races that year, Massa deserves to blame Piquet for what he did. Nelson, however, seems surprised, in an interview with Portugese magazine Istoe (translation has been verified):

“Massa was very upset with me because he thinks, to this day,
that he lost the 2008 championship because of me.

It is no use arguing that he had a DNF in Hungary, that he and
Ferrari made mistakes. Not to mention his lack of luck. For the
love of God, that last lap in Interlagos was pure luck for
(Lewis) Hamilton (who was the champion) and bad luck to him.

But he is still very upset. I have never talked to him again.
We stumble upon each other every now and then, but we don’t
keep on touch.”

He did not remain on the defense, however, as he soon went on the attack, as he criticised Massa for his actions at the German Grand Prix this year:

"Generally you’d want to make such arrangements in a subtle 
manner. At the end of the straight, a driver breaks a little 
early into a corner, let the team mate close the gap and 
overtake. Alright, with the fight for the first place it is 
harder to make it subtle, but it didn’t have to be so blatant. 
There is where Massa surprised me.

He wanted to expose Ferrari’s team game to cause a bit of a 
mess. Because the situation itself is normal. The most common 
code is the one Ferrari uses, that your team mate is faster 
than you. Massa understood, but wanted to make sure that, if 
it was for him, there would be no overtaking.

Ferrari will never miss the opportunity to let one of its 
drivers close the gap to the championship leaders. If Massa 
does not want that to happen, he needs to accept he is slower 
and race faster. He needs to work to get faster than Alonso. 
There’s no other way."

I'm particularly interested at the part where he says: "Generally you'd want to make such arrangements in a subtle manner." Well he would certainly know about it wouldn't he? I can understand his comments on the German Grand Prix debacle, but when it comes to the Crash-gate saga again, I don't even want him to open his mouth.

For those of you who are interested, Piquet has been racing this year in the, erm, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (a world series held entirely in America, I should note). He has competed in 4 races out of 15, and finished in the top 10 3 times. Before you think that's impressive, it's only pickup trucks he's been racing.

Massa and Alonso grilled in press conference

Both Ferrari drivers, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, have been hounded by the press following the team orders controversy surrounding the German Grand Prix. After Felipe was ordered to allow Fernando through, who went on to win the race, they were promptly summoned to the press conference, where they just about survived a grilling.

Normally, the first part of the press conference is an extremely boring affair, with lots of “for sures” and “the team did a great job” statements. However, the second part is much more interesting, when the newspaper journalists get to ask any question they want, and the drivers must respond. So without further ado, here are the stinging questions that Felipe and Fernando endured:

Q: (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Fernando and Felipe, via a coded message it appears that we’ve just witnessed a clear case of team orders being handed out. To Fernando, do you feel embarrassed about taking such a win, and to Felipe do you feel angry about having to give up such a win?
FM:
For sure, you always want to win. That’s always what we’re working for. For sure we don’t have team orders, so we just need to do the race that we can and if you see that you cannot do the race that you can, you need to think about the team. I think that’s the most important thing.
FA: Yeah, same. What’s important is the team result, so I’m happy.

Q: (Fredrik Af Petersens) Felipe, you said earlier that you lost out to Fernando on the hard tyres. How come that after you were passed, that you were doing more or less exactly the same lap times, a couple of times even faster?
FM:
I was pushing hard as well but maybe I think he slowed down, I don’t know. He was controlling the pace.

Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Felipe, after this afternoon, do you now think you’re the number two driver at Ferrari?
FM:
Well, I cannot say that I’m there fighting for first position in the championship. I’ve lost many points, important points, and the only thing I can say is that I know what I can do, I can win races, that’s what counts and everybody saw today that I can win races and I can be competitive. For sure, what happened today is something that has happened in many races this year: when I put on the hard tyres I struggle. This is exactly what happened in the race. On the soft tyres, I was very strong and then when we went onto the hard, I was struggling again, so there’s no news about that. So I know why sometimes I’m a little bit penalised, it’s just because of the very hard tyres that we have this year. I don’t think it’s a good thing, to be honest, because you don’t have strategies any more. Then also the grip level on hard tyres for me was always a little bit of an issue this year, and most of the races that we used these tyres I was struggling. And this is another one where I was very good on the soft tyres in the first part of the race, and then we put on the hard tyres and I was struggling again. It’s a similar issue that we have had in some races.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Alonso, in a normal race, do you think you could have overtaken Massa, and Massa, in a normal race do you think Alonso could overtake you?
FM:
Well, I think I was holding in a good way anyway, but the race is long and you always have many laps, so you never know what can happen in 20 laps. So maybe yes.
FA: Yeah, I think there was one moment also on (I don’t know) which lap it was but we were side-by-side into turn six, especially with the people we were lapping – always there is a better chance to overtake and even though we didn’t see too many overtakings here today we’ve seen a lot in the past on this circuit but this year maybe with the new cars etc we didn’t see too many.

Q: (Ian Gordon – News of the World) Fernando, you said after Valencia that the race had been manipulated in favour of Lewis. Those words seem a bit hollow now. Where will this victory rank in your career, is it up there with Singapore 2008?
FA:
I think you have a very strong result from Ferrari today, one and two, a very strong performance all weekend and if the final thought of the weekend is your question it’s because maybe you didn’t see the whole practice, qualifying and the race, so maybe it’s too early for you that Ferrari came back so strong.

Q: (Ian Gordon – News of the World) Team orders are banned in Formula One. They were banned in 2002, that was blatant team orders.
FA:
Sure.

Q: (Ian Gordon – News of the World) Eddie Jordan just said that you two should be kicked out of the race.
FA:
Again, if this is the final thought of the weekend for you, I think it is because you didn’t see the performance of the team and the performance from our car this weekend.

Q: (Juha Päätalo – Financial Times Germany) Fernando, I think we all know what happened on lap 48 and we don’t need any fairy tales about tyres or anything to be clear of that. I just want to ask you, because in 2006 in Monza you said that Formula One is not a sport any more for you but was that which we saw today a sport?
FA:
I think we tried to do our race, we tried to do as good as we can. We are professional drivers, we try to work in a team and we try to do the best we can every day, not only here on the track but also between the races, at the factory etc, preparing the races. Again, I think we’ve been doing a good job over the last couple of races and finally we got a strong Sunday with a strong result. I think we are happy with this, although there are things which are more for you if you want to write all these things.

Q: (Carlos Miquel – Diario AS) Fernando, do you feel that some people are worrying because you are back in the championship?
FA:
Maybe it seems like this, yes.

Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) Fernando, what have you got to say to the people who would call this a dirty win and if you win the championship, a dirty champion?
FA:
I have 19 races to… look at the overall races, there are a lot of points that we win sometimes and a lot of points that we lose sometimes. As I said, today was a good day, some other races were bad days for us, disappointing but as I said before, we need to remain focused, keep working, keep developing the car, not to be too excited when we win, not to be too down when we lose. In November, (we need to) try to be in the fight for the championship, not forgetting that Red Bull has so far been very dominant, not scoring many points on Sunday, or the points that they should have scored on Sunday, but remain very strong and McLaren as well, leading both championships, so there is still a long way to go for us.

Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) The reality is, though, that you couldn’t beat him on the track, so you had to get the team to do it for you.
FA:
If that’s your opinion.

Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) I’m asking you, is that not your opinion?
FA:
No.

Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) He had to give you this win, didn’t he, Fernando?
FA:
No.

Q: (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Fernando, you’ve said that you’re happy with this win but to be honest, I’ve never seen a driver look less happy in the middle of a podium there today, and in the middle of this press conference here. Why can’t you just be honest with us for once, and just admit that this win was handed to you on a plate today?
SV:
Can I go?

Q: (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Go Sebastian! Sebastian, give us your thoughts?
FA:
Hopefully the next question is for Sebastian. No, stay, stay. As I said, I think we were competitive on Friday, I was very competitive on Friday, first position. Finishing second in qualifying by 12 centimeters, I heard yesterday and today I think we scored the fastest lap of the race, so overall I don’t think I was very slow this weekend.

Q: (Miran Alisic – Korpmedia) I have a question for Sebastian. I think you had some not similar but close situations with Mark as well. Do you feel proud that what has happened at Ferrari today hasn’t happened in your team?
SV:
Don’t you have another question maybe? Yeah, maybe they should have crashed. I don’t know, I haven’t seen the incident. I was too far back. I always saw them going into the hairpin when I was coming out of turn five, so I don’t know what you’re all talking about. I can guess but I don’t know. For sure my advice would not be it’s better to crash because also then you get a lot of questions that you have to answer so… Yeah, for me I was focusing on my own race and trying to do my thing, trying to stay close enough, trying to get closer, trying to put them under pressure. It didn’t work, so I’m not pleased with that. No matter who you race, it’s always difficult in Formula One to pass people and sometimes you have to take a lot of risk. When you don’t have to race your team-mate, you’re racing for the team, both of you, both drivers and on the other hand everyone looks for his own advantage. We had a couple of situations this year in our team, so it’s quite a comedy that we are not in focus at this stage but life changes quickly, so… It’s never wise to say anything that you might regret. Maybe in a week’s time. I’m happy where we are now, as a team. Again, I can only repeat that from the outside there was more of a fuss made than there was inside. I can assure you that Mark and myself are always looking to do our best but on top of that, I think we understood many times this year that the team is the main priority and we are racing for the team, in the end. We don’t get our cheque from you guys, we get it from the team. I think that’s something we always have to respect.

Q: (Ralf Bach – R & B) Felipe, you said it was your decision to let Fernando past, so my first question is why did you take this decision, as a racing driver in Formula One, and my second question is do you have any idea why Rob Smedley said sorry to you? FM: No. (Regarding your first question) As I said, because I was not so strong on the hard, so we need to think about the team.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Felipe, Rubens damaged his image a lot in Brazil when he did what you did today. Until now you had the support of the country; aren’t you worried that now after you did what Rubens did you have deeply damaged your image in Brazil?
FM:
For sure not, for sure not. I’m very professional and I’ve showed in my career how professional I am. You are professional as well, you work for a company. I believe you are doing what you have to do, so I’m professional and today I showed how professional I am. That’s it.

Q: (Tony Dodgins – Tony Dodgins Associates) Fernando you’re getting quite a bit of flak but as you say, you’ve been the quicker Ferrari driver for most of the weekend. We see it so often that the guy who is second on the grid gets beaten away by the guy who is third. Is there ever a case for actually asking to reverse the positions on the grid?
FA:
I think there are some circuits where the clean side is an advantage. There are some circuits where it is not an advantage, for example in Hungary next weekend, it will be crucial to be on the clean side. There are other circuits like that. There’s nothing we can do. We have a fifty percent chance of being on the clean or dirty side of the grid, unless you are the quickest which secures the clean side. The only thing we can do is to fight for pole position which allows you to be on the clean side. If not, I don’t see any other possibility. Maybe there should be more distance. Instead of eight meters, maybe 12 or whatever.

Q: (Tony Dodgins – Tony Dodgins Associates) Take today, if you’d been able to opt to start third instead of second and actually swap places, would you have done it?
FA:
Maybe I would have done a bad start, you never know. I think it was a good start today, overtaking Sebastian and that was our target today. You never know.

Q: (Anne Giuntini – L’Equipe) To both Fernando and Felipe, we always talk about the show, the necessity of the show in Formula One. Can you conceive that race lovers and show lovers might be a bit frustrated today?
FA:
Well, I think we try to put on a good show always for people, for spectators but as Felipe or Sebastian said, we work for companies, we work for teams. Sometimes, as we saw this year, there are crashes between team-mates and the loss of 42 points for the team. Today Ferrari has 42 in their pocket, so I think it’s what we are here for.

Q: (Ted Kravitz – BBC Sport) Fernando, after the pit stop, when you were behind Felipe, we heard a radio message, it wasn’t very clear, but it sounded like you were telling the team guys ‘think of the victory.’ Did you say that?
FA:
No.

Ferrari fined $100,000 and WMSC to investigate further

Ferrari have been fined $100,000 after they broke the Sporting Regulations of Formula 1 twice, regarding the team order to Felipe Massa to allow Fernando Alonso through, during the German Grand Prix. Also, the World Motor Sport Council have been referred to, meaning that they will investigate this matter further.

Felipe Massa is ordered to allow Fernando Alonso through

Felipe Massa is ordered to allow Fernando Alonso through

After the race, the team claimed that they had not ordered Massa to let Alonso through, and only “provided him with information”, even though radio transmissions proved otherwise. Also, Massa said that he allowed Alonso through,albeit of his own choosing.

The stewards decided that this incident broke article 39.1 of the Sporting Regulations, which states: “Team orders which interfere with a race result are prohibited.” Also, it was decided that the infamous article 151c of the International Sporting Code was broken , which involves bringing the sport into disrepute.

They decided on a fine of $100,000, even though they fined Ferrari $1,000,000 after Austria, when Rubens Barrichello allowed Michael Schumacher through at the very last second on the final lap, after being shouted at for many laps by the Ferrari boss, Jean Todt.

While the opportunity of further punishment is appealing, the fact of the matter is that the next World Motor Sport Council meeting is in September, by which time the excuse will be “it’s too late for another penalty”. In my opinion, a big loss of constructor’s points would do, as they would lose plenty more money by finishing further down the order. However, the drivers’ points should remain unchanged, as they weren’t the ones who orchestrated this incident, although you could argue that Felipe was a bit spineless letting Alonso through.

Team orders taint F1 yet again by Ferrari

It couldn’t come worse for Felipe Massa. Exactly one year after his crash in Hungary that ruled him out for the rest of the year, his team have turned his back on him, and blatantly taken a rightful win off him. Of course, championship points are what Fernando needs at the moment, but this cannot cover what happened today.

This incident kicked off when Alonso was unable to make a move on Massa for the lead. He complained on the radio: “This is ridiculous”. Clearly, the heads of the team wanted Fernando to get through, and the engineers, specifically Rob Smedley, were fighting for the drivers to battle over the lead themselves. After many laps of arguing over the matter, Smedley dejectedly ordered Massa to lift and allow Alonso through.

After this, nobody on the pit wall spoke to each other, Smedley sitting there, with his arms folded, not saying a word. Stefano Domenicail was in between Smedley and Chris Dyer, who was similarly refusing to talk, although it is not known what side of the argument he was on.

The problem lies within the FIA’s inability to punish Ferrari for this blatant act of team orders. Firstly, the stewards will need to find hard evidence to hand out a penalty, and unfortunately “Fernando is faster than you” just doesn’t cut it as evidence. While there is 100% certainty that the race was manipulated by Ferrari, they have conveniently maneuvered themselves in such a way that they cannot realistically be punished. And secondly…. Jean Todt is FIA president. Do you trust him in this situation? I don’t. But it would be nice to be surprised.

If Ferrari were to be punished, excellent. Team orders would be fully banned (at least in situations in relation to the lead of the race), and it would not happen again. If that were the case, then I would be happy enough, and move on. But, Ferrari, even if they were summoned to the stewards, could use many other blatant team orders to defend themselves. Look at Kovalainen letting Hamilton through in Germany 2008, or Raikkonen and Massa in China ’08. The radio transmission “Driver X is faster than you” has previously been shown to work, and I don’t think that it will change this time.

So, we must point the finger of blame, but I don’t think it should be aimed at Fernando Alonso. While he certainly gained from this, it was the team who made the call, and they are the ones who need to be taught a lesson. On the other hand, Fernando’s complaining about “this is ridiculous” earlier on shows that he was expecting Massa to let him through, as opposed to what happened in Australia, when he was held up by Felipe all race long.

However, should we not criticise Massa, who was obviously slower than Alonso? When Fernando got through, he was up to half a second faster at points, and pulled out a 4 second lead by the end of the race. This situation would never have happened if Felipe had the pace to stay away from Fernando in the first place.

But that’s not justifying the team order. What happened today has happened many times before, and it needs to stop now. The McLaren and Red Bull bosses are saying that they treat their drivers equally (cough *Webber* cough), and that Alonso is gaining an unfair advantage by using Massa to help himself to some extra points, and this is perfectly true. Look at what happened in Turkey, when Vettel and Webber collided. While what happened was completely unnecessary, at least the team allowed them to race each other, rather than ruin the excitement (before the crash, that is) by issuing team orders.

In fact, the shining example of how to treat your drivers comes from McLaren, who have been excellent so far in giving equal treatment to both Button and Hamilton. While the “save fuel” incident initially caused concern, the team later said that it was a mistake by Hamilton’s engineer, and I would believe them. If the world championship ended today, then McLaren would totally deserve to win it. Button or Hamilton? Doesn’t really matter.

You know what the worst part of this is for me? While in London, I bought a Ferrari shirt, and I’m wearing it as I write this.  Looking back, not a perfectly timed purchase.

Massa’s Ferrari contract extended until 2012

Felipe Massa will continue to drive for Ferrari until the end of the 2012 season

Felipe Massa will continue to drive for Ferrari until the end of the 2012 season

Felipe Massa’s contract with the Ferrari team has been extended until the 2012 season. In an announcement today, the Brazilian said that he is able to continue racing with his “second family”. This is despite him being out-performed in many races this year by team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Felipe spoke today about his new deal with Ferrari:

"Throughout my entire Formula 1 career, I have always raced with an 
engine made in Maranello and it is a matter of pride for me to be 
able to continue working with a team that I regard as a second 
family."

Also, team principal Stefano Domenicali added:

"Felipe has been part of Ferrari for almost a decade and together 
with us, he has grown as a driver and as a man, going through some 
very difficult times as well as giving us moments of great 
happiness. We wanted to show proof of stability for the future, 
believing in the worth of a driver pairing that is without equal 
in terms of talent, speed and its ability to work together for 
the good of the team."

While this isn't totally unexpected, I'm a little bit surprised by this news. Felipe has been beaten by Fernando 4 times out of 7 races so far this year, and it would have been more if it wasn't for Fernando's crash in Monaco, Massa holding him up in Australia, and Alonso's engine failure in Malaysia.

With Ferrari having an unchanged line-up for the next 2 years, McLaren not going to change drivers any time soon, and Renault and Mercedes looking solid as well, this means that there will be very little driver transfers for next season. More on this later.

Australian GP press conference

Jenson Button, with Felipe Massa and an extremely interested Robert Kubica

Jenson Button, with Felipe Massa and an extremely interested Robert Kubica

Today we saw Jenson Button take his first win for McLaren, and Robert Kubica take a well-deserved second place for Renault. Here is the transcript of the post-race press conference:

Q: Jenson, an incredible race. 50 laps plus on a set of soft tyres. You made the early gamble for the slick tyres and that was the game changer. Was that your call?
Jenson Button:
It was. I think it is a lot easier for the drivers to feel the conditions. The team can see it on TV with the clouds coming in, but we can feel out on the circuit what is happening. I didn’t have a balance on the inters, I was really struggling and I lost a couple of places, so I thought ‘let’s get in, stick the slicks on.’ There was a dry line. A few places were a little bit wet. When I went into the pit lane I thought I had made a catastrophic decision as it was soaking wet in the pit lane. But once I got it going and up to speed, I had a little off at turn three, but the pace was pretty good and I was able to put in some good laps and overtake three or four cars when they stopped and put their tyres on, so it was the right call and I am very happy that I made it.

Q: How do you feel to win on the second race with your new team?
JB:
I mean, it is very special. It has taken me a little while to get to grips inside the car. The team has been fantastic though. They have really welcomed me in, but it has taken me a little bit of time to adapt to inside the cockpit. I don’t know what to say really, it is very difficult to put it into words. But a very special feeling and we will take a lot from this. I feel I am just building in confidence and hopefully when we get to the next race we can do something similar as this feels too good.

Q: Robert, you went from ninth to fourth at the start, then decided not to take a second pit stop for a new set of tyres. How hard was that call for you?
Robert Kubica:
It was difficult because we struggled with the warm-up, so when we saw Jenson being very quick we just pitted in the same lap as Felipe did. Our guys, the mechanics, did a fantastic job and I overtook Felipe in the pit stop but Jenson was much quicker with one or two laps already on the tyres. He built the temperature up, so they are very quick on the straight lines and I was not confident about the conditions as it was my first lap going through the corners with the slick tyres, so it was very difficult to fight with Jenson. It was tough. First of all I thought we would pit again. Then when I had really big degradation I asked my team if we are going to pit again and they said if we can manage we will not do it, so I took a bit more care with the tyres. But on the other hand I had first of all Lewis attacking quite strongly. He came very quickly behind me and I then…, I don’t know, he decided to pit. Then Felipe again, so I was just taking care of the tyres but also keeping good speed and that we would keep second place to the end.

Q: Felipe, it looked like pretty hard work early on and then the race came towards you and two podiums in two races.
Felipe Massa:
It is just fantastic, especially coming to Australia. My best result here was sixth. Having a problem in the qualifying and starting last in 2007 and then getting here which I cannot say was the best race for me. In terms of pace I was struggling a lot yesterday, but I did a fantastic start. We lost some positions on the pit stop and also a little bit on the track because of some mistakes with the difficult track. But it is just fantastic to have one second and one third. We know how important this is for the championship, especially my past. At the beginning of the championship I never had a lot of points like I have now, so this is very nice. The team did a fantastic job, so very happy to finish third in a difficult race like this.

Q: Jenson, Lewis pitted for a second set of tyres and complained about it afterwards on the radio. How did that decision process play out with you and the team and him?
JB:
I don’t know what their idea of pitting was. I guess he was stuck behind Robert and couldn’t get past. I never thought of putting on a second set. I didn’t think that would be an option really. It was always to run the race on one set of tyres if we could after it stopped raining. My pace was not great once I settled into the car. I felt I was starting to damage the rear tyres, so I settled into a pace that was consistent to not destroy the rears. The good thing was Robert was not closing and about 20 laps to go I started pushing just to pull the gap a little more just in case people had pitted and were two to three seconds a lap faster and it was just enough to get me to the end comfortably. We could not have done a better strategy. I think my decision at the beginning was my call but from a lot of feedback from what the circuit was doing and the other cars. It is always a team effort and I need to thank the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team for all their hard work and it is good to see we are improving every step of the way.

Q: Robert, this is the first time you have finished in Melbourne. What does this result mean for you and the Renault team?
RK:
Unfortunately, Australia was never lucky for me. I have been very quick each year and could finish in the last two years easy on the podium but for two crashes I didn’t manage it. To be honest we were not expecting to finish on the podium, so I think for Renault and myself it is a very special result as we were trying to push really hard during the winter. This is the best result we could get from the beginning of the season and it is a big thanks to the guys for all their effort but we have to keep realistic. We are not up to the pace for fighting for the podium in a normal race, so we have to keep pushing, keep working and I am sure we will manage sooner or later to be with the pace of the top teams.

Q: Felipe, a sweet moment for you at the start and a reverse of what happened in Bahrain. You passed your team-mate Fernando Alonso. Tell us about it.
FM:
Actually, I had a fantastic start, so I was able to do the start without wheel spin and I saw many cars in front, especially Fernando and Webber doing some wheel spin and I was able to do a very smooth start and pass them in a good way. I was very happy for the start and also the whole race was very difficult. Lots of slippery, low grip everywhere and to finish the race was very difficult today.

Q: Jenson, the track was damp at the start but when it dried out why was it so much easier today to overtake? Why was there so much more overtaking than there was in the first grand prix in Bahrain? Can you explain that?
JB:
I think it comes down to degradation. You had a lot of cars out of place which is different to Bahrain. The top eight cars were in the top eight slots pretty much. I think a lot of it is the degradation of the tyres. There was a lot of rear graining, some people did two stops, some people did one stop. Some people were trying to look after tyres, other people were pushing hard. There were lots of different ideas out there and it is great to see as, as you said, Bahrain was not the most exciting grand prix. I love that place and it was disappointing not to have a good grand prix, but here I knew what was going on. I could see quite a bit on the TV screens and it did look like a very exciting race. Hopefully we are going to have more races like this and that is what we all love.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Jenson, second win here in Australia. You must be getting to like the place.
JB:
It is. It is. The start of the race wasn’t perfect for me. I touched with Fernando at turn one. I was half-way alongside him on the inside and I don’t know if he just couldn’t see me because of the mirrors. I don’t know what, but we touched. It obviously cost him a lot of time and it cost me a lot of time. It wasn’t the best start to the race and then on the inters I was really struggling. I just did not have a balance. A lot of oversteer in the car. There were very strange grip levels out there on the tyre and I was really, really struggling. I could see a dry line appearing in most places and at the rate my rear tyres were going away I knew there must have been enough grip for slicks. I made the call to pit early as I thought if I don’t pit early I am just going to keep going backwards. I thought it was a terrible call initially as the pit lane was so wet and after my first lap out of the pits I thought it was a pretty catastrophic mistake. But after that I could get into it. I found on the dry parts I could push pretty hard and then really it was about picking people off as they came out onto the circuit. It was a nice feeling as they are searching for the grip and I know where it is and I am able to overtake. It was a good feeling. I got up behind Sebastian and made a little mistake, ran wide, so I couldn’t really have a go at him. He obviously had his own problems. But from then on I just had to conserve the tyres. I had a big issue on about lap 15 where the rears just started going away from me and I had a lot of graining from the rear and I thought that’s it for me, they’re just going to swallow me up. I took a lot of front wing out, closed the diff and just hoped for the best really. Towards the end of the race I could start pushing and got the balance back and the car felt very good. I was in a very happy place the last 20 laps knowing I had a good gap and it would have been very difficult for anyone to catch me.

Q: What about the pace of Sebastian? Do you think you could have got on terms with him?
JB:
I was catching him initially and it was strange. He would start pulling away and I would start pulling him in. Then the team said you have got to look after these tyres. You are going to try and do the whole race on these tyres, 45, 50 laps, and I thought we will back off a little bit and see where we are. From previous experience, I don’t know if it is the case now, but the Red Bulls have been quite tough on their rear tyres. I just settled into a pace and we would see what would happen. I don’t know. If he had stayed in the race there are always ifs and buts and we don’t know how he would have ended up. The important thing is we came away with a win for whatever reason and I am very happy. The team should be very proud of themselves. We didn’t put a foot wrong.

Q: Robert, surprised to be second?
RK:
After yesterday, yes. Before the season, I think after two tests, I called my friend and I said ‘I think in Australia it will be possible to finish on the podium.’ It was around two months ago. Of course we were planning to finish on the podium with our pace. As we saw yesterday our pace was far off the podium but with this strange race we were able to make a lot of places and finish second.

Q: Do you think the higher temperature today was better for you whereas the low temperature yesterday wasn’t so good?
RK:
We know where we are struggling and I think yesterday was unfortunately a good example. We were very strong in P1 where there was a lot of sunshine and hot track conditions. Extremely competitive. Then unfortunately clouds came in for all weekend and the temperature dropped down and we were just struggling. We were not able to stress the tyre and increase the temperature, especially every lap of their usage. This was the case in qualifying. Okay, we are still not up to the pace of the top cars but today was a good example of not giving up and with a hard job, sometimes you get paid back.

Q: How much of a challenge did you have from the Ferrari?
RK:
I had more challenge from Hamilton and I was very surprised he pitted. First of all I thought it was a drive through as for me it was strange that he was pitting. He was much quicker than me. He was not far behind Jenson and at that point of the race if he had managed to overtake me, most probably he would go for it. He had quite a difficult time to catch me although there were a couple of places where he was very close to me and I think once he overshoot the braking. We were very close to touch, but then I had to take care of my tyres. Felipe came quite quickly behind me but I knew the cars behind they would struggle even more with the tyres, so I just settled to the consistent lap. As soon as I tried to push I did like three or four-tenths quicker a lap but then the lap again was four-tenths slower, so I just put up my pace which I thought would be reasonable without mistakes and try to bring the car home.

Q: Felipe, tell us a little bit about the first corner. What happened there?
FM:
The start?

Q: Yes.
FM:
I just did a great start, so I was able to spin the wheels much less than the cars in front. I was changing gears very quickly just to not get it to go into the wheel spin as the grip was very low. That gave me a lot of possibilities to just go through. I saw Fernando and Mark spinning the wheels and that was just great, especially to arrive at the first corner. It was very slippery to brake at the right place and not try to fight with everybody. It was a good point of the race.

Q: And you had quite big challenges from both Mark and Lewis during the race.
FM:
Yes, I made some mistakes. My tyres were suffering, trying to keep the tyres in the right condition, at the right temperature, especially at the beginning of the race. I was suffering from that yesterday as well. But then after 20 laps, let’s say, they started to improve a lot. Maybe I picked up the pace with a bit of degradation and I started to do my race twenty laps after I changed my tyres. For sure, we had some fights and I lost some positions in the race. But the team did a great job with the strategy, not to stop, and I think that was a great job for the top three.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Jenson, would you have ever thought that it would take you only two races to win your first race with McLaren?
JB:
No. I thought it would take longer than this, but a lot of it depends on what sort of car you come out of the box with. This race was obviously unusual. I don’t know where we would stand in general pace but it’s not what all racing is about. It’s about strategy, it’s about thinking and it’s about conserving and we did it correctly today and we came away with a good victory. This is very special. Whatever happens over the next few races, this means a lot to me, to be in this position right now. After being with one team for seven years and clinching the title and here, after two races, getting a victory is very special to me. A lot of that goes to the team for their efforts and making me feel welcome within the team, because that’s something I do need, to be competitive, and I have that. So now we’ve just got to look at improving the car because out and outright pace in qualifying is something that we’re lacking a little bit, so it’s an area we desperately need to work on. When you can get good points’ finishes like this it really does mean a lot to you when you don’t have a car that you think is quick enough to win races every weekend, so these are important points for us and we’ve just got to work hard and hope that we can bring some good packages to the next few races.

Q: Jenson, there’s been a lot of talk over the last couple of days over Bahrain; is this the race that might put the suggestions to rest for a while?
JB:
I don’t think there’s any getting away from the fact that we probably all thought that the last race was not the most exciting and what were we going to do about it now, but I’m glad that we haven’t really jumped to too many conclusions or ideas, because I think this race was a great race. I had a lot of fun; obviously when you win the race you have more fun than any other position but overtaking cars on the circuit and watching on the screen I could see that there was a lot of action going on. I hope it’s not just because of the weather conditions. I hope that we can have races like this because this is what we love and hopefully these sorts of races are here to stay. You are going to have races that aren’t the most exhilarating experience for us but that’s the way it is. Not every football match is fun to watch. It’s got to be a bit of a balance, I think. One thing that was pretty tricky in this race was the light. I had a clear visor and at the end of the race I was struggling to see on the last few laps. It seemed a lot darker than last year. I suppose it was because there was no sunlight, it was all behind clouds, so that might be something we need to look at a little bit.

Q: (Flavio Vanetti – Corriere della Sera) Felipe, did you have a real chance to catch Robert, and what about the duels you had during the race with Fernando, except of course the first one at the first turn?
FM:
Well, I caught Robert but we didn’t have very good top speed on the straight and when I got very close, I lost a lot of grip, so it was not possible to get close enough to try to pass. So the only time I was passed was because I made a mistake in the second last corner, and then Lewis passed me and then I also made a mistake in turn one and then Mark passed me, so that was the only way I lost a position. So when you get very close, it was quite difficult and also Fernando, when he was behind me, sometimes he was just locking wheels. Then you see a guy coming closer and then you just do two good laps and then he’s far away with no possibility to pass, but it was a good fight from everybody, not just from me and Fernando but from most of the cars on the track. Most of the cars on the track were fighting the whole race, I think.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) To all of you; Red Bull has the fastest car but they are off the podium for the second race running. What do you think of that?
RK:
Better for us.
JB: I think they have got a very quick car and for whatever reason they aren’t here. I think reliability was the issue for Sebastian at the first race and I don’t know what happened here, so I can’t really say much on that.

Q: (Sudhir Chandran – Chequered Flag) Robert, you mentioned about those laps with Lewis behind you. Was it as difficult to keep him behind you as it appeared to us?
RK:
It was quite difficult because we are quite quick on the straight but McLaren, with the device that they are using, they are extremely quick and it was very, very difficult. He was much quicker than me, his tyres were in better shape and he had a more competitive car. I knew that without a mistake it would be difficult for him to overtake me, but I think he once tried before corner eleven and I didn’t see him in the mirrors and I thought he was on the inside. I left a space and it just shows that they were really quick. Jenson was side-by-side with me in the middle of the straight going into turn 13. That’s how it is. I was surprised when he pitted. It was very good for me, because I could just concentrate on saving the tyres, driving my pace and not concentrating on looking in the mirror and just blocking him, so it was a much better, much easier race for me.

Q: (Chris Lines – Associated Press) Jenson, could you tell us about the decision-making within McLaren? You stayed out, Lewis was called in. How much of that was the driver’s call and how much of it was the team’s call? Also, your thoughts on the first corner: Fernando got caught between you and Michael (Schumacher).
JB:
It’s always a very tricky corner here. It’s very, very narrow. When one person gets a bad start it can be a bit of a nightmare. Fernando got a poor start, so that meant that I was on the inside, Michael was on the outside and it’s difficult for three cars to get through turn one as we saw. But when you’re in a racing environment it’s very difficult and it can also be very dangerous to back out of that situation, because if you hit the brakes during the straight, you can cause a big accident behind you. I think it was just one of those things and I’m sorry for Fernando that he was turned around. It cost me a lot of places as well. So that was turn one, really. It was very slippery as well, so it was tricky for us on heavy fuel.
As for the stops, I don’t know if it was Lewis’s decision or the team’s. For me, I didn’t think we would be pitting at all, because that was never the idea for us, and that’s why I was looking after the tyres. Maybe he was graining the rears or maybe he flat-spotted a front or something, I don’t know. But it’s very tricky to look after the tyres when you’re behind another car as we’ve seen many times before, so maybe his tyres were getting seriously damaged behind Robert.

Q: An open question: how difficult is it to pass, with the cars’ aerodynamics the way they are, because we saw Hamilton and Webber really struggling towards the end with obviously better tyres. Is it extremely difficult this year or is it just the same as other years?
JB:
I found it very difficult in Bahrain. You’ve got a much smaller front tyre, so mechanically you have less grip, so when you lose the downforce by following other cars, which inevitably happens, you have less mechanical grip, so you have less grip. I think it’s more difficult this year. If we have another race like this where we have mixed conditions and the tyres are graining and people do two stops and some people do one, I think we can have a great race and especially in somewhere like Malaysia where it’s wide, it’s open, you can overtake, I think we can have a really exciting race, but here you’re a little bit limited to overtaking, so I’m surprised there was so much.
RK: I don’t think it’s just the tyres. For me actually it’s easier to overtake this year than it was in the past, because I’m driving a car that has better top speed. There’s quite a lot of percentage if you have good top speed or not and you want to overtake. If you are the quickest car in a straight line it’s easier to overtake than if you are the slowest. I don’t think it’s just the tyres, it’s everything. It’s always been very difficult to overtake in F1.

Q: (Tom Cary – The Daily Telegraph) Jenson, you appear very calm at the moment; how does the first win for McLaren compare with you first win with Brawn 12 months ago?
JB:
You can’t really compare victories like that. They are both very special but they are very different and the emotions that were going through my head before and after the race were very different also than last year. This one is a special victory because I’ve only been with this team for a short period of time but this is one of the main reasons why I wanted to be here. I think that the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team is pretty much always fighting it out for victories and as a driver you want to be in that situation. But on the other hand, I think the conditions helped us in this race, definitely. We’re not in the position to go to the next two or three races and walk away with victories, so we’ve got to enjoy this moment and think that we’ve got some good points when we’re not the quickest and we’ve got to work on the areas where we think we’re weak. We’re doing that right now and I think that every race we go to from here we will be closer and closer to the front when it comes to qualifying and hopefully race pace is pretty much there now.

Engine changes for both Ferrari drivers

Both Massa's and Alonso's cars require engine changes

Both Massa's and Alonso's cars require engine changes

Ferrari have announced that both Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso’s cars require an engine change before today’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Data analysis after qualifying showed “some abnormal parameters” on Felipe Massa’s car, which soon showed up on Alonso’s car as well. After many discussions, it was decided that both cars were to undergo an engine change.

Since both drivers are at the start of their 8-engine allowance for the season, Ferrari feel that they can use the old engines in other practice sessions in other practice sessions across the season.

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!

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