Full transcript from the drivers press conference ahead of the United States Grand Prix weekend, Round 19 of the 2012 Formula 1 world championship, at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas featuring: Pedro de la Rosa (HRT), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Sergio Perez (Sauber), Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) and Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus).
Gentlemen, a question to you all to start with: what are your impressions of the circuit so far; your feelings about being back in America. What it’s like to be back here?Pedro de la Rosa: Good morning to everyone. I’ve just been doing a lap, just walking around. I don’t know much apart from this lap, and apart from what I’ve been able to see from the internet – from the lap Jerome [D’Ambrosio] did in the Lotus — and it looks fantastic… a very difficult track, with very big gradient changes and very challenging because most of the corners, the apexes are blind. So let’s see tomorrow, but it’s one of those tracks that you can say it’s going to be difficult and challenging.Lewis, have you done anything on simulation?
Lewis Hamilton: Good morning everyone. Yeah, I think everyone’s done simulations probably. It’s quite an interesting track. It’s quite difficult to learn initially but it looks fantastic to drive. I really started to enjoy it once I got used to it, which took perhaps a little bit longer than some of the other circuits to learn but it’s going to be very interesting this weekend.
Sergio Perez: I haven’t done any simulator, we don’t have one with Sauber. I’ve seen some video of the track and I walked the track and it’s amazing. I think it will be very enjoyable for all the drivers.
Fernando, have you been around the circuit, done any simulation?
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, we did some simulator programmes, after Singapore it was that we started. A bit more intense this last week and yesterday I also did two laps on the bicycle. The programme is to do some more this afternoon. So, we are more or less ready. The track seems spectacular, very, very nice. It will be challenging for us drivers and for the engineers as well. I think it will be a good show for everybody and hopefully some good overtakings as well, opportunities around the track. It can be a very good weekend.
Sebastian Vettel: We also prepared in the simulator but apart from that I haven’t seen much. I will walk the track this afternoon but I think if we have to wait until we get out until we have a judgement on how the circuit feels. So by the looks of it, it looks quite interesting, but you know it’s always the feeling you get inside the car that is most important, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
Kimi Raikkonen: I’ve only seen the video from when they did the demo run here, but I haven’t seen the circuit itself. I will see tomorrow how it goes.
You won’t even walk the circuit this afternoon?
KR: I don’t know yet. I’ll have to see.
After the comment from the last Grand Prix, it’s good to see…
KR: Well, I mean, if I found a golf cart or something.
Some individual questions now. Pedro, there have obviously been some stories around about HRT etc. What can you tell us? What are your own personal plans? What do you know? Maybe you can’t tell us anything.
PdelaR: Well, unfortunately there’s not much I can say really. It’s a corporate decision, which I’m not involved in. All I can say is, we are here, that there are two Grands Prix to go and no matter what’s going on in the background, we will give it 100 per cent like we’ve always done. No matter in which position we fight and who we fight against we will do a professional job. We are here to do that and there are two very interesting Grands Prix left. Hopefully there’s some more retirements than in the last few races, even more and we can achieve a good result. But first we have to finish the races and make sure that we do as much as we can on both Friday sessions that are left.
Lewis, obviously winner of the last US Grand Prix which took place on this soil in 2007 from pole position, an interesting comment from your team boss saying that you regret your decision, or you may have regretted your decision to change teams. What’s your reply to that?
LH: Yeah, I was a little bit surprised to hear that. It’s clearly absolutely not the case. But I’ve got a great team and I’ve been with them such a long time. So, I’m sure everyone has emotions within the team but I’m still here giving 100 per cent to them for the last two races. Of course it’s quite emotional for me but I’m very, very happy with the decision I’ve made.
Sergio, do you call this your home Grand Prix? To what extent is it?
SP: Well, it’s the closest one I have ever raced in the last eight, nine years in my life, so I expect to have a lot of support here, many Mexicans coming because it’s quite close to Mexico. I think it will be a great weekend.Fernando and Sebastian. It’s interesting to come to this race with the championship the way it is with this very much a level playing field: a circuit that no-one’s ever raced on before. What sort of preparations can you make? What are your feelings? What sort of plans do you have? Has anything changed for you just for this one race?
FA: Nothing really changed in terms of preparation and approach for the weekend. Maximum concentration, maximum effort from everybody in the team. Preparing some new parts that we are bringing every Grand Prix and hopefully that we can test them tomorrow and have some feedback about that. Try to do our very good, smooth Friday, good test and here, maybe more important than some other circuits, to do a lot of laps, to learn the racing lines, the possibilities and some… maybe tricks… that the circuit can have. And a good Saturday, try to be in the best position possible for the race and 58 or 60 or whatever laps, qualifying laps, Sunday try to score as many points as possible. Exactly the same as every other weekend.
Sebastian, is there any more you can do? I mean you do a huge amount anyway…
SV: Usually you try to prepare as much as you can. It’s not the first time we’ve raced on a completely new circuit. Obviously we had this kind of challenge previous years as well. I think we do what we can. The most important is to get into the rhythm tomorrow and have a good start and go from there.
Kimi, winner of the last Grand Prix, what has changed in terms of your feeling coming to a Grand Prix. Has anything changed?
KR: Not really. Of course the team is happy, I’m happy that we finally win but it’s a new place, new race again and we try to do the best. I don’t expect we suddenly going to start winning or being in front. Probably it’s going to be very similar to where we’ve been in the last races in top five and then go from there and see what happens.
Have they all brought their T-shirts with them?
KR: I don’t know, I just arrived here. I don’t know yet.
Questions from the floor
Sebastian, do you remember your first Grand Prix in America, and what sort of memories do you have?
SV: I remember my first race obviously. I think you can’t forget. There are some positives, some negatives. I didn’t have the best start, and not the best first corner but then it was quite an interesting race. And obviously a big challenge at the end of the race. I was physically destroyed, I remember that as well. And I knew that I had a lot to do – but I knew as well that’s what I want to do in the future. Sitting here 100 races later is quite crazy in a way. I think if the number gives you anything, it’s just that you don’t realise how quickly time goes by. I think it’s always like that when you do something you enjoy a lot. You don’t count the days and the months and the years going by. Looking back now it doesn’t seem a long time ago but looking on the calendar it’s five years ago. So… yeah.
Fernando, what is your memory for your hundredth Grand Prix?
FA: I don’t remember anything. I don’t even know where it was.
Question for Pedro, the Spanish media were yesterday reporting that there are concerns within the team that, due to a lack of spare parts, your cars aren’t actually going to be safe to run this weekend. Is that media scandal or have those voices, have those concerns been voiced inside the team?
PdelaR: It’s something that I’m not aware of and it’s the first news comes from you. All I can say is that we might be modest, we are small and we are what we are – but we are a professional Formula One team and for sure when we start running it’s because the car is safe. I’m experienced enough to… y’know, I would never jump into an unsafe car because of parts being too old. So no, the answer is, the car is slow but it’s safe.
Sebastian, I was wondering what it would mean to you if, at the end of the week, you have won your third world drivers’ [title].
SV: I think it would be incredible. Obviously it has been a very tough season, up and down I think for everyone. Extremely challenging, different to previous years in many ways. I think we learned a lot and did way less mistakes this year. We have a very competitive car, we’ve had one since the start of the season. Maybe sometimes not good enough to win but still good enough to collect a lot of points. I think that put us in a very strong position and we are able to fight for the championship. Only two races to go, so whatever happens this weekend, before anything happens we have to make sure we get the maximum on Friday, on Saturday, because the points are there to grab on Sunday and not before. But for sure it would mean a lot, and probably difficult now to find the right words.
Fernando, what would it mean to you to do it?
FA: I think we need to wait and see. I think as Sebastian said, now is very difficult to imagine what it can mean or what emotions that you could feel. We’ll just concentrate in our job and try to do a good weekend and then fighting in Brazil for the championship, because in my case I cannot do anything here. I can only save this much points and wait for Brazil.Just one more to Lewis. You’d like to be where those guys are, gunning for your third… how hard is it for you to watch on knowing that you are not involved in that? Maybe you could speak about how much respect you have for these guys and how brilliantly they’re each doing as well?
LH: I think it goes without saying that these two are obviously two of the best here. What they’ve achieved it absolutely incredible and all of us other drivers are trying our hardest to aspire to do the same. They’re both incredible professional. Amazing to see how professional they are considering how much pressure there is on the both of them. But they’re both world champions, they handle it no problem. And as for me, it is what it is. Happy just to be here fighting. I’ve got two last races in my team and just want to do the best job and try and see if we can still fight with them, even though we’re not fighting for the championship.
Question for Fernando. Sebastian will have his 100th race this week and you are almost 200 and yet both of you are going for the third championship. Can’t believe that 2005, 2006 you already won two and now there is another guy, half the races that you did and will go for the third. How do you feel about that?
FA: Yeah. I think it’s normal, it’s motorsport. When I won the second championship I was also around this number of races. I start in 2003 in Renault and then in 2006 won the second title. And 2007 fight for the third title until the last race, so similar of what Sebastian is now. It’s good, it’s sport and everyone has his own career. We saw many examples in Formula One. We saw with all the drivers, with Michael [Schumacher], now after winning seven titles, three years with not very good results. We saw Barrichello for example, was a man who raced more times here in Formula One, he was fighting for Q1 with Williams and fighting for world championship with Brawn GP the following [preceding] year. It’s up and down for everybody. I’m proud of my nearly 200 Grands Prix, always fighting with all the cars, always winning some Grand Prix every year and yeah, fighting for the world championship already four or five years. So, it’s good and I’m happy.Sergio, could you quantify emotionally how you’re feeling? You started in Guadalajara and now you’re not that far away; this track has been erected over the last year. How do you feel emotionally about the evolution of your career and how you’re here, so close to home?
SP: I feel very happy to be so close to home. I left Mexico at a very young age. All these guys, they always do a race or two during the year in their own countries and they have done all their careers in their countries. I had to move to their countries to do my own career which means that I left Mexico at a very young age. I think it’s the closest that I will race. I will have all my family – even my grandmother is coming here, my friends, all the people who never saw me racing live, they will be here, plus lot of Mexican fans, so it’s great. I feel very emotional about this weekend.
Fernando, after the aero tests Ferrari had recently, are you now more or less optimistic? FA: Same.
To Fernando: as you said, it’s not the first time you have fought for the world championship at the last races. What’s different, compared to the past? How have you changed compared to the past?
FA: I’m much more relaxed, much more focused. In 2006, I arrived at the last race fighting with Michael in Brazil. It was quite stressful, quite an intense weekend and not easy to get focused or sleep or things like that because it was a very emotional weekend. The year after, 2007, it was also a very stressful last race, three of us fighting for the world champion: Lewis, Kimi and me and it was also a stressful weekend and not easy to do things. In 2010, we arrived in Abu Dhabi, again fighting for the world championship at the last race. I was much more calm there, I was more confident and things in the race, in the weekend were quite good for us and we did more or less – in terms of preparation and approach – it was much more calm and more mature, I felt, in 2010. The race was what it was and we didn’t win in the end but feeling-wise we were much more prepared. In these last two races, I feel, as I said before, completely normal. It’s good experience. It’s the fourth time we have been fighting for the world championship up to the last race – hopefully – and you really feel the difference, being much more focused, concentrated, trying to do the job and understanding that if you do everything perfectly you have a chance; if you make a mistake you will lose the chance, so let’s focus on us.
Fernando, is it an advantage for you that you’ve never raced here before this weekend, in terms of the fact that you need to take it to the next round, and also, just how confident are you that you are going to make it, and if you are, what gives you that confidence?
FA: I don’t think it’s an advantage for it to be a new circuit. I think we all will adapt very quickly in first practice and we all have simulators and everything that we use to prepare for the race, so I think that’s more or less the same as every other race. Confident? I’m very confident, I trust my team, I trust myself. We are honest with ourselves, we know that we don’t have the quickest package out there and we’ve qualified an average of sixth or seventh this season, so if we see that on Saturday we are sixth or seventh, people will say ‘maybe you say bye-bye to the title’. No. I think it’s our normal position but even with this normal position, we were leading the championship until three races ago and we are ten points behind the leader, so this is not our strong point. Our strong point is to score more points than the others on Sunday and I’m sure we will do this in the next two races.
Lewis and Kimi: if you have a winning package this weekend – if after qualifying you realise you have a chance, what can you do not to disturb the world championship battle between these two?
LH: Go for it Kimi, I would love to hear what you have to say.
KR: We try to do the best that we can as a team in the race, and wherever we end up, if we take some points out of either of them, that’s racing, that’s life. We don’t try to disturb anything, we’re just doing our normal race and see what happens. I’m not looking who is there or if I’m taking points from them or somebody else. We just try to win, if not, score as much as we can.
LH: It was a good answer. Yeah. We have no means to try and get in the way of anyone, but we want to beat them, we’re still fighting for position in the championship, even though we’re not fighting for the top position so we just have to focus on our job. Kimi did a great job in the last race. I think we were very strong as well, hopefully we will have less reliability issues this weekend and hopefully we can compete right at the front with all these guys.
Question for Kimi, Pedro, Lewis and Sergio; between Sebastian and Fernando, who would be your bet for the championship?
KR: I think whoever scores most points will get it and deserves it. Right now Sebastian is in a bit of a stronger position but we’ve seen before many times that you have one bad race and things are completely different.
PdelaR: I think that until Brazil, I’m not prepared to answer this question. I don’t know. We’ll see.
LH: I don’t know really. I think you just put money on both of them. Either way, you have a good chance of winning. SP: Well, I think after this weekend we will have a better idea, but let’s wait until Brazil. Everything can happen.Sebastian and any other driver, what do you make of the request for drivers to clean up their language a little bit post-race and do you see that as an attempt to appease an American audience that might be a little sensitive to that sort of thing?
SV: I think if you’re sensitive you should watch – I don’t know – some kids’ programme. You have the remote control in your hand, so you can choose. Surely it wasn’t intentional at the last race. I think it’s a bit unnecessary to create such a big fuss but anyway, if I said some things that weren’t appropriate then I apologise but I think there’s not a lot I have to do differently to succeed in that regard.
Checo, there have been lots of rumours recently over the past weeks that Esteban Gutierrez will finally be at Sauber; everything indicates that it will be so, but what would it mean to you to have two Mexicans in 2013, especially with someone so close to you, and someone that will be here presently?
SP: It will be good for the country, for us. I think he’s a good driver. As you said, there have been a lot of rumours that he will be the driver taking my place at Sauber but at the moment I know as much as you do, so I have no idea as to who is going to come. If he comes, it will be good to have two Mexican drivers after so much time without a driver; now we are finally going to have two on the grid. If it happens I think it’s great.
To all but Sebastian: do you feel that a driver getting the championship three times in a row is good for the sport, because fans are basically fearing a repeat of the Schumacher era when it got boring? You just turned the TV on and Schumacher won whatever happened and so they are a bit confused about this. What are your thoughts on this?
PdelaR: I will start, I will break the ice, iceman. I think that the important thing is really not how many championships one driver (wins) or if he dominates or there’s an era related to a team or driver. I think the important thing really is that the championship is decided in the last race and by a small amount of points. This is the deciding factor, and I think that this year is a great example of a great championship that hopefully is decided in the last race between great drivers, great teams. That’s my view. Those championships, like last year, were pretty boring for all except Sebastian. When there is such domination, it’s not as good. That’s my view.
LH: Yeah, I agree with Pedro. I think to keep the championship title battle right to the last races is for me the most exciting. When I’ve watched it in the past, when the championship’s finished before, there’s not really a lot of point watching the last few races. The suspense is not there, so I think we’ve just got to try – and this year is a good year – to show that hopefully these guys will go to the last race and people will enjoy it.
SP: I think that last year was maybe a bit boring, with Sebastian winning a lot, but this year it has been a great championship and I think the one that wins, it will be a great champion because it will be well deserved and it will be a great championship. It has been a great championship all year, with so many different winners in the beginning, and so many cars fighting for wins. I think it has been a great year, this year.
FA: Yeah, I think it’s OK, to arrive to the last race; more interesting.