DRIVERS – Kamui KOBAYASHI (Sauber), Nico HULKENBERG (Force India), Pedro DE LA ROSA (HRT), Kimi RAIKKONEN (Lotus), Fernando ALONSO (Ferrari), Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull).
Kamui, so far this season a couple of good races and a couple not so good. What’s been the difference between them?
Kamui KOBAYASHI: Of course it’s definitely the car. We had quite good performance at the start, quite a good start to the season. Unfortunately, we also some races where the strategy was not really going well. It’s not let’s a bad thing for my season. I had a great start but I think we have to work hard especially on the long runs.
Yesterday, Fernando talked about drivers having more respect for one another. Do you think that’s the case? Should drivers leave more space for each other?
KK: Maybe. I don’t know. It’s always difficult to say.
You’re quite an aggressive overtaker
KK: Yeah, but for me I’m doing something quite normal. It’s not special. I’m just doing my job. Maybe it looks aggressive but I never crash with anyone. I never crash and stop the car. There may be contact but it’s always quite OK. Maybe it looks aggressive but it’s not aggressive in fact.
And of course, you’ve been on the receiving end as we remember from Spa last year.
KK: Spa last year? Where? Ah, with Lewis, you mean? That’s what I mean that was just an accident you know. I didn’t expect both cars to make contact because there was no point. I didn’t expect Lewis to come across and I just stayed on my line. It was just sudden, you know. There was no way to avoid that. That was something special though, it’s not really a racing accident and not aggressive stuff from me, so…
Nico, on paper you’ve been beaten by your team-mate so far this year. How are you feeling about it?
Nico HULKENBERG: Well, the first four races have been quite tough to be honest. I would have liked to take more than two points out of the first four races. We have been quite unfortunate in some races, such as Melbourne, where we had a first-corner incident and there was very little I could do and then a clutch failure issues in Bahrain. These were two races where we potentially could have finished in the points. But I’m looking forward, I’m bedding in well with the team. I think the team is doing a good job in putting everything together and if we get a bit more luck then I think it will be good.
How do you feel about team development? Are the developments coming at a reasonable rate as far as you’re concerned?
NH: Yes, definitely. We bring some new parts, probably like every other team, here and we have to wait and see where the new parts put us but obviously we’re hoping it’s a step forward. I think it is a step forward but just how big a step we’ll see over the next two days.
Pedro, we see a new team that has recently moved to new premises and taken on a lot of new staff. What sort of role do you see yourself playing in the development of Hispania Racing Team?
Pedro DE LA ROSA: As you’ve said, everything is new. We’re establishing ourselves; restructuring the team; we are growing. But really I’m not playing any different role than any other race driver would do. I’m part of the team; I’m a race driver; I’m experienced. If they need my advice on anything, I am there. But I’m not playing any special role other than driving as fast as I can and giving good feedback about the car.
You spent so long at McLaren are you not trying to put some of those influences on the team?
PDLR: Gradually I will. That’s the aim and that’s what I’m here for as well. But so far the team has been extremely busy trying to move into our new premises in Madrid, establish a structure, a ‘basement’ as I say, and after that we will grow gradually and that’s when I think my input will be, if possible, more beneficial. But so far the objective has been clear. We have to establish ourselves, we have to put he ground for building more floors on top of us but so far I’ve been very discreet and not in a very important position.
And where do hope the team will be at the end of the year?
PDLR: I have no idea really. We are improving race by race. We have made the car a lot quicker. Don’t forget at the first grand prix we did not qualify and gradually we have been closing the gap to pole position. That’s what we have to aim for: race by race, closing the gap, making sure that our car is a little bit quicker than it was at the previous grand prix. After that, at the end of the year, we will see. We don’t have to set ourselves any targets other than making the team more competitive race by race.
Kimi, you were plainly a little frustrated that you could have won at Bahrain but didn't. Is that a true appraisal of your feelings about Bahrain?
Kimi RAIKKONEN: Yeah, I think once you get so close, you're not happy with second. If you’re 20 seconds behind then it doesn’t really matter but we had a chance but at least for the team it was a good weekend.
You’re a two-time winner here, both from pole position. Do you think a win is possible here? You’ve said you team will be winners at some stage.
KR: Well, the rules are different, so you don’t have to be on pole now to win. We’ll try. I don’t know how it will go. It’s very difficult to say before the weekend starts. The teams are very close. So if everything goes smoothly then we can be up there. But small difficulties in some areas and you’re suddenly much further back. We try to do everything right and then see what happens.
You didn't test at Mugello as apparently the team hadn’t brought major modification, but for this race have you at least brought modifications that will at least see you maintain where you were at the opening rounds?
KR: We should have some new parts and we’ll see what happens.
Fernando, another winner here in 2006. How did you feel the Ferrari was in testing? Did you feel it was a lot different?
Fernando ALONSO: No, not really. We didn’t have any big improvements in the car, so what we tested were different set-ups and things we missed from winter testing. It’s been quite difficult for us with a lot of problems on the car and not many laps. The Mugello test was to complete what we had left from winter but in terms of improvements, we had minimum changes on the car so it felt the same?
Did that set-up research, as it were, make you feel more comfortable with the car, more competitive?
FA: Well, we’ll see. Obviously we had some ideas in terms of setup and some different possibilities that we were not introducing in the first four races because we didn’t have the opportunity to test them. So, it was good in Mugello: some of them were positive; some of them were negative so it’s good to know. As much information as you have is better preparation for the next grand prix. Obviously we arrive more prepared now than how we arrived in Australia with only three tests in the winter. But to make the car faster I think in terms of setup you cannot find much. If you want to be running at the front it’s more aerodynamic parts and updates in the car. Hopefully they come but we need to wait.
You know this circuit pretty well, you had a very good start to the race last year – do you think we’re going to see more overtaking on the circuit now, what with more KERS and a longer DRS as well?
FA: I think it will be similar to last year, to be honest. I saw some numbers of previous races here. On average like four or five overtaking manoeuvres in the last nine years and last year there were 57 – so it was a big change. The race this year will be similar to last year because of the degradation, the DRS and the KERS. With all the possibilities that we have now, as we had last year, for sure we will see some more overtaking. This changes also a little bit the philosophy of this circuit. As Kimi said, pole position was 60 per cent of the victories, now pole position is obviously the best starting position but it’s not crucial anymore because with this year’s tyres it’s less important.
Sebastian, you broke the mould last year by winning from second on the grid, where you’ve started for the last three years but you won last year from there. This is such a performance track, is this a track where you’re really looking for an indicator for the rest of the first half of the season? If you’re competitive here you will be elsewhere?
Sebastian VETTEL: Well, I think if you are competitive here I think it means that you have been previously. It’s a track that we usually know quite a lot from winter testing, we have some data to compare to, so it’s very familiar. But it doesn’t mean if you are competitive here you are competitive everywhere. Equally, if you are not competitive here it doesn’t mean you will never be competitive. I think it’s similar to other tracks. Really, if you think which sector you’re talking about, which speed range of the cars. I think you have sectors on every track where you could get an indication. As I said, I think it’s the fact that we know a lot about this track, we have a lot of data to compare against, to see if we did a step forward compared to the winter and how big the step was. Surely then you have to consider different temperatures: it’s a different time of year so it’s also difficult to compare black and white – but yeah as a rule of thumb probably this circuit does give you an idea because simply you have all the corners you find somewhere else, you have tight chicanes like in the last sector, hard braking for the hairpin, fast corners like in the first sector. You have a bit of everything.
And yet everyone has been here, everyone knows exactly what sort of setup they would require. Is it perhaps one of the toughest races in that respect?
SV: Yeah it is. But as I said as well, you race here in May, it’s quite different if you look at the temperatures compared to February or March, so yeah, it does have a big change on the setup, so whatever you might have found out over the winter in testing, it might not work in the same way or the same style it did during testing. Also, you need to consider that the cars you launch are quite different to the cars you race at the first race, and then, you know, you race around May or June later in the season. So, yeah, it’s a bit wishy-washy because of that – but overall it’s a track we know fairly well from a driving point of view as we’ve done a lot of laps here. We should know our way around here.
Questions from the floor
(Alex Popov – RTR TV) Question for Pedro and Fernando, about the Spanish Grand Prix in general because here and there we read about the difficult situation in Valencia, the difficult situation in Barcelona and now we have two grand prix but in the worst situation we will finish with no grand prix at all. Your thoughts about it.
PDLR: I’ve said a lot already since the first time we were told that Spain would have two grands prix, that it was a historical moment and a unique situation and we should be very, very proud of it. I still say the same answer: we still have two grands prix in Spain this year, and we should, all of us, be very proud, very happy and maximise this moment and then wait for the future to tell us what will happen – which is completely out of our hands, you know? This is all I can say. I’m very happy to be here, this is a Spanish Grand Prix, but also a Spanish Grand Prix with a Spanish driver in a Spanish team – so let’s forget about what might happen in the future because, as I said, I have absolutely no control over it.
(Mike Doodson – Honorary) Gentlemen, Michael Schumacher persistently criticises the Pirelli tyres, or at least the policy of Pirelli. To us and the fans it’s clear that Pirelli has been a major ingredient in the improvement of the quality of the racing this year and last year. Do any of you share Michael’s concerns about the tyres or do you think he’s just making excuses for not winning?
FA: I think Seb should answer, being German.
SV: Yeah? I think, y’know, we get a completely different impression inside the car than you might get outside the car. So, you’re always talking of two different worlds. I think for us quality of racing, if you compare racing today, you have to, I think, look after your tyres a lot more than probably you had to three, four, five years ago. For us, if you take, for instance, 2009 where we were allowed to refuel, we had new tyres and the tyres lasted longer, in that they didn’t see that much degradation. It’s a different quality inside the car because you can push nearly every lap similar to qualifying, whereas now I think the racing is different: we fuel the cars up, they are much heavier, and if you have a heavier car there’s more stress for the tyres, so it puts the whole thing in a different window. If you put a new set of tyres on with 20 laps to go, or 15 laps to go, which is, let’s say, the stint length, earlier, a couple of years ago, it’s a different world for the tyres. The tyres do see more degradation and then we start to slide and then one guy slides more than the other because he puts his tyres on two laps earlier. It creates a different type of racing, more overtaking, which I imagine is seen as better quality from the outside, simply because things happen. I think it depends what you really want. We have more overtaking. Fernando is good with numbers, so like Fernando said earlier. I think the races today – over the last two years since we have changed a couple of things – has become much better. Also for us. I had a race here where I was following – how many laps is the race, 66? – I think I was following Felipe [Massa] for 60 laps out of that and I couldn’t pass. Nowadays you know that your chance will come in the race and that’s changing the position inside the car as well.
FA: I don’t know. I agree with Seb but I don’t agree that Michael has continually criticised Pirelli. Michael said one thing and what has been written in the press has maybe exaggerated what he said. I read what he said and I don’t see any big problem with that.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Fernando, you have a very different car from this race. Let’s suppose this car does not correspondent to that criteria…
FA: We’ll see, we’ll see after the race, because we don’t know what car we have. Obviously we have new parts, but everybody has new parts. Because it’s Ferrari, there are quite a lot of expectations every race we go to. It seems like only Ferrari is bringing new parts. We have a step forward, we believe, on what we had in Bahrain, but we also know that it’s not the last step we have to do. It’s a continuous work, that we need to start here in Barcelona, making a step forward and try to improve our qualifying position and our race pace, but in Monaco we have to bring new parts. In Canada (we have to) bring new parts. So we will not bring a new car to every race as it seems that we brought here in Barcelona.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) But just to finish the question: if the car does not correspond…
FA: I answer you on Sunday.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Yes, but just to finish: considering your car has completely new ideas, a revolutionary car, do you think this could be the end of the season for Ferrari and you will start thinking about next year’s car?
FA: I don’t think so. I don’t think so. We need to see how the car works here and if it works fine, it will be a good step, the first step of many that we have to do during the next couple of races. If the step is not good enough, because the others improved the same or more than us so we remain in the same position, we need to work harder, for Monaco and for Canada, and bring more new parts in a more aggressive approach or whatever, because the championship is long and we will never give up in May, after four races.
Q: (Livio Orricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Do you think the basis of this car could be used for next year’s car?
FA: I think so. Yes.
Q: (Gary Meenaghan – The National) For all of you: if you look at the drivers in 1992, there were only two non-European countries represented. If you look at the same field twenty years later, this year, there are seven non-European countries represented. Is there a chance that in a few more years, the majority of the drivers will come from outside Europe and how do you think that will impact the sport?
KK: It’s difficult to stay. For drivers I think it’s very difficult, everywhere, Asia especially. I don’t know for the future, but at the moment I don’t know how many Europeans there are now? 17. We have to see. It’s very important for a programme for the development of drivers. I think that this programme is quite weak everywhere. I think for the future, they definitely have to work a lot. It’s very difficult to find how young drivers come to Formula One. I don’t know how it can be changed for the future but I definitely think we have to work on programmes for driver development.
Q: A huge German presence on the grid at the moment, Nico. Can you see that being maintained by a young driver programme in Germany?
NH: Which young driver programme? Is there one? I don’t know. We don’t keep track of that statistic. I think it will always be a good mixture between European and non-European drivers in the future.
Q: (Andy Benson – BBC Sport) To anyone, but Fernando and Sebastian particularly: following the rulings in the two Nico Rosberg incidents in Bahrain – one of which Fernando was involved in – are you clear in terms of what’s allowed and what isn’t when it comes to defending your position?
Q: (Andy Benson – BBC Sport) Has your understanding changed between before Bahrain to now?
FA: No, maybe I did…
SV: Fernando made it pretty clear. He said ‘you have to leave the space. All the time you have to leave the space!’
FA: Yes. Yes.
SV: It was clear, no?
FA: As I did last year with Sebastian. In Monza.
Q: (Andy Benson – BBC Sport) That isn’t what happened in Bahrain.
SV: He just thought my car was slimmer.
FA: But you passed. You passed.
SV: I think the rule is clear. You can argue. I think there were two incidents with Nico in Bahrain, one with Fernando and I think Fernando made his point clear afterwards. And with Lewis, and I think Lewis got past, so I think you can talk for hours now, but if you saw the situation in Bahrain, it’s exceptional, because you have a kind of asphalt run-off. Yes, it’s pretty dirty but we always try to go on the limit, the one who is overtaking, the one who is defending. Surely sometimes you need to respect that the guy is there and you need to leave the space. I think if it would have been grass, it would have been a different story. You wouldn’t go there in the first place. In Fernando’s case I think he would have made the same point.
Q: (Carlos Miguel- La Gaceta) Fernando and Pedro, if a fan of Formula One in Spain is thinking about coming here on Sunday, what are your goals for the race? What can you offer to the people?
PdelaR: Well, from our point of view, you know our goal is to fight and to improve from where we left it in Bahrain and that’s all we can offer, we can promise. We cannot promise victories – we leave that for Fernando - but we will promise, wherever we finish, we will do it with the pride of being here and doing a serious job, giving it all, and maximising what we have.
FA: Same thing. And giving 100 percent. We cannot promise anything. This is not a mathematical problem, it’s a sport, we all try to do our best so we will work hard, we will take care of every detail this weekend as we do normally, trying to do a serious job and hopefully finishing in the best position possible, but you cannot promise anything.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Leaving aside whether or not it’s a home race for you guys, how much of a difference does it actually make for you to be back in Europe again? Kimi, you don’t actually like the travelling very much out of Europe, do you?
KR: Yeah but I I arrived in China on the Thursday morning, so arriving for a European race on the Thursday morning is no different really.
PdelaR: I’m biased answering this question because it’s back to Europe, but especially it’s back to Spain, so for us, it’s a Grand Prix that arrives a little bit too early in our development programme, as far as I’m concerned. We have been improving since Australia but we probably need more Grands Prix to offer a more competitive show to our fans. That’s the only downside, but nevertheless, we are here, we are in Spain. It’s our home ground and we are very happy to be here. I’m looking forward to it. I used to live ten minutes away from the track and this is something that – when you grow up – you can always listen to the engines, so the Formula One cars, when you wake up every morning during the weekends – for me it’s a very special event, absolutely.
Q: Kamui, not so easy commuting from Japan.
KK: For sure. I’m used to being here a lot of times. I came to Europe 17 years ago and I’ve been here to Barcelona a lot of times. After long trips being back in Europe in Formula One is always great and it’s always great to see the motorhomes in Barcelona. This is always great and it’s always good to be back in Europe for Formula One.
SV: I think for all of us we’re happy to race in Europe. Surely we have races overseas which we enjoy. For instance, we all love going to Australia. Yes, it’s a long trip but once we are there I think we all enjoy being there and it’s the same here. In the end, I don’t think it makes a difference how long you travel. Yes, it is more convenient if you are only an hour, an hour and a half or two hours on the plane rather than twelve and then another twelve. As I said, I think every country we go to, there is a strong culture for motor sport. We hope for a lot of excitement and for a lot of people to come. It makes us feel very special when we are on the grid, to see that the grandstand is packed and usually around here are a lot of fans, cheering, especially for Fernando and the Spanish drivers, but it’s the same when we go to Silverstone, they’re cheering for their drivers. I think we can be very happy everywhere we go, and hopefully put on a great show so that the people enjoy it as well and they come back next year.
Q: (Alex Popov - RTR TV) Gentlemen, after testing at Mugello, Vitaly Petrov criticised the circuit, because he expressed concern about its safety, so do you think he was wrong to express his concern like this? He was criticised by other drivers, because he expressed concern. Is he wrong?
FA: I think everyone will have his opinion. I’m not someone to say that Vitaly is right or wrong. It’s more maybe the safety commission’s job or whatever. Personally, everyone will have their opinion, as I said. I like Mugello, I like the layout, I like the feelings, the emotions that you have driving there. As I said after the test, driving one lap in Mugello is like driving one hundred at another circuit, for adrenalin and how much you enjoy the lap. We were in Italy, with a lot of Ferrari support. I enjoy those three days testing so much, but in terms of how safe the track was or not, I don’t have the information to give an answer.
NH: Personally I enjoyed Mugello very much. I think it’s a very different circuit to all the others that we go to. You always feel like you’re flying there, a lot of fourth, fifth, sixth gear action which is great to have. Like Fernando said, whether you feel safe or not is a very personal thing. I think it was OK.
KK: That’s a great circuit. There are a lot of very safe circuits like Abu Dhabi without gravel, but this circuit had gravel and if we made a mistake we ended up in the gravel which is good for drivers and good for training and testing. The test was something we had to try and in the race, of course we have to stay on the track and it’s difficult to take a lot of risks but during testing we can take more risks to improve our driving. It’s great for me.
SV: Well, the first time I heard that he was saying something about safety at Mugello. I think we all loved the track because it’s different – like Nico said, there’s a lot of high speed corners. Sure, if the speeds are high, there is higher risk. There is obviously quite a lot of run-off but surely here and there you would like to have more. As long as nothing happens, everything is fine; if something happens… it’s always easy to say something after there’s an incident and say this and that. I think it was not as if we felt we were scared. We left the garage feeling safe. I think if we would race there one day, potentially yes or no, then surely here or there you can argue to make improvements for safety, but I think they did everything they could on the day.
Q: (Vanessa Ruiz – Radio Estado ESPN) Nico mentioned that Mugello is different from every other track that you guys race on in the year so does this very fact make it less useful to have tested there instead of somewhere else?
KK: Difficult. I think maybe it’s not really useful for mechanical stuff but definitely useful for aero development at least, because we can test the aero on the straights. Difficult to see the stability in the corner. Basically I think this was a good test.
FA: I agree. I think it was good to test some parts of the car, not for some others, but like all the other circuits. When we test in Jerez, test in Barcelona, we try different things. I remember in the old days testing in Paul Ricard. Some days we test on the 50s lap circuit because we were testing for Monaco Grand Prix: different tyres and different parts, so every test is welcome for different areas of the car, but it’s good. For people who don’t like Mugello there is a very easy solution.