Malaysia Thursday Press Conference

Malaysia Thursday Press Conference
Participating: Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), David Coulthard (Red Bull Racing).

Q. A question for you both: do you feel that your performance in Melbourne was fairly indicative of your overall capabilities? Was that where you expected to be?

Giancarlo Fisichella: Well, first of all, it was a weekend which was affected by Saturday's first qualifying where the weather was the main factor of the weekend. There I have been lucky and it was easy for me to manage the gap on Sunday morning and I started on pole. Then, people like Michael, my team-mate, Rubens, the McLarens, they started a little bit further back so it was a bit of a difficult race for them but somewhere, sometime in the middle of the race, all the drivers showed how competitive their cars were and themselves so I think we are in good shape. We won the race because we were quick and because we wanted to be competitive and we are quite optimistic for this weekend.

David Coulthard: Well, I would say the same about the qualifying. Obviously we had a window which helped us in first qualifying, which inevitably changed people's strategies for Sunday morning but we know we were in amongst the majority in terms of our strategy - maybe we could have been a couple of laps longer which certainly would have slowed us down a bit in second qualifying but nonetheless, our basic pace during the weekend was closer to the fastest times than we maybe would have expected so I think generally - putting to one side where we finished as a team in the points - I think our overall pace is better than where they finished with the Jaguar car, and therefore it wouldn't be a surprise if we have opportunities again to score points, but under normal running circumstances you would expect us to be behind the big four teams.

Q. It is, obviously, a new team in ownership. Where do you see it lacking? You've been with McLaren and Williams; what does your current team, Red Bull Racing, still need do you think?

DC: Well, all the obvious things. There's no problem with the people that are involved, but you need stability and investment to develop the technology. OK, regulations have changed again for this year a little bit, and every year you've got to react to those changes but in either maintaining a partnership with the current engine supplier or establishing a long term partnership with a manufacturer is obviously important and understanding that as soon as possible and increasing the investment in all areas so that the team can keep pace of development with the other teams. So for me, that's where we were at race one and it was a dry race and at various points, as Giancarlo says, you got to see what people's pace was so fast forward to race nineteen: are we still maintaining that position? Of course the dream is to reduce the gap to the big teams, but why should we, with a smaller factory, smaller resources be able to do that? So it's about reducing the potential increase in lap time that you could see during the course of the season.

Q. When you look at your lap time you were just over a second off fastest lap of the race; that must have been fairly satisfactory.

DC: Yeah, because I would believe that Fernando's lap was a charging, coming through the field, doing everything he could, whereas Giancarlo was on a maintenance programme because he had the race won from the first corner and it was just about maintaining that position. For my race, I certainly think I could have pushed a little bit harder at certain points but there was a little bit of uncertainty on my part as to what to expect the evolution of the car to be, because that's the first full distance I've done. In testing we didn't quite get there, so better to be a little bit cautious and maintain the position rather than being silly and running wide somewhere. It's a long-winded way of saying I could have been closer to the fastest lap time.

Q. So you're quite optimistic.

DC: I think that Christmas came early for the team to get two cars in the points. Circumstances played their part but nonetheless, that's what a Grand Prix throws up. We're closer to the quickest pace than I would have expected - than I potentially expected - going to Melbourne, so that gives us all a boost to get on with the job of putting things in place in the future.

Q. Giancarlo, you won by just over six seconds from somebody who had come up from eleventh place on the grid to second. How much did you have in reserve?

GF: Quite honestly, quite a lot. I was very calm during the race. The only problem for me was to get through the first corner and be the leader. As soon as I did that, I was very calm, very convinced. The car balance was really good. Right at the end, Rubens was catching me, particularly because I lost four or five seconds behind Jacques. Some of my engineers told me to push a little bit. I did a 25.9s which was a very good lap time and I wasn't at the limit, honestly, so I was very comfortable in the car and to win the race with six seconds to Rubens was OK. The important thing was to be first. I won the race. I'm really confident. I'm happy.

Q. Now you've been back to Europe. Is that a little bit of a disadvantage, do you think?

GF: No. The schedule for me was to go to the Maldives, but unfortunately I had a problem with my son who was in hospital with an infection. Now he's OK, he's out of hospital, but that's the reason why I went back to Europe.

Q. But you've been here since Tuesday...

GF: Yes, I've been here since Tuesday morning, I landed at 7 o' clock in Kuala Lumpur and I started a bit of a programme of training with the trainers. I'm happy. I feel OK. It's really hot, it's going to be a very tough race physically and mentally but I'm in good condition.

Q. What's the great challenge of this circuit, particularly looking at the tyre situation?

GF: It's a difficult situation, physically, mentally. It's a difficult circuit for the tyres, first of all because it's going to be very hot and then it's quite abrasive asphalt, tarmac. So for the race, it's important to keep a good pace, but it's important to save the tyres, especially the last ten laps will be very interesting. It's important to be concentrated, not to make mistakes and then you score a result.

Q. David, look at this circuit, the extremes of temperature, the difficulty with the tyres as Giancarlo was saying. Is it a situation whereby if it works here, it will be OK for the rest of the season?

DC: Well, you think so with the majority of people's engines being into the second phase of their life in warm conditions. Tyre-wise, I think if you look at the choices of the majority then whereas if you look at what we raced here in the past, with prime and option then both the prime and option that are here are quite conservative, so I wouldn't expect any big problems with the tyres. Yes, for sure, heat is an issue, but they can simulate hot engines by putting lots of tank tape on the radiators in winter testing. It's not quite the same, but in terms of running the engine hot you can do that, but it's all the other parts for which this is the ultimate test.

Questions From The Floor

Q. (James Allen - ITV): Giancarlo, you mentioned about your son. How close did you come to not actually doing the race at all? Was there a time at which you were thinking you might have to go back to Europe before the race?

GF: Yeah, I knew that problem just before second qualifying. I was a bit worried, but when I spoke with my wife, she told me 'don't worry, we're in the hospital but the worst moment has passed and we have to be here just because the doctor wants to see him for a couple of days.' Obviously I was really nervous and disappointed about that, but as soon as the lights went out, I was just concentrated on the race.

Q. (Marc Surer - Premiere TV): David, you always go at the circuit in a Mercedes car. Now you are driving for a team which is not related to a manufacturer. With what car are you arriving now?

DC: Well, Mercedes. I was part of the family for a long time and Petra, who as you know looks after friends of the family, so I will be using a Mercedes during the course of this year. It's a brand new one as well, they're very brave.

Q. (David Tremayne - The Independent): DC, a couple of questions for you: how happy are you within the team and how important is it for you as a driver to be in a team where it appears everyone loves you and is giving you maximum support?

DC: I guess that's because they don't all know me that well at the moment, if you think they all love me! I don't really know that many people in the team is the truth so far because my winter testing was with the test team and obviously it's all the race team (whom I'm working with now). So I'm still getting to know a lot of the people but you know it's some of the people who I worked with 14 years ago at Paul Stewart Racing. So, some of the oldest relationships I have in motor sport are within what is Red Bull Racing now and it obviously started with PSR. So I feel comfortable. I just want to do my job and enjoy myself and go home. I don't need to feel the banging the head against the brick wall frustration that sometimes has been there in the past. Why do I want to do that through choice? I actively pursued continuing my Grand Prix career because I enjoy the thrill of going racing on a Sunday. The whole Grand Prix weekend is a main source of pleasure to me, even on the bad days, so I enjoyed the good fortune we had as a team in Melbourne and expect that normal order will be resumed for the majority of the remaining Grands Prix, but it still means we can do our jobs and give direction, and give an opinion on what needs to be worked on.

Q. (David Tremayne - The Independent): You said in Melbourne that the racer's instinct kicked in at the first corner, and you may be aware that you've been shit-canned quite a lot in certain areas of the media as being over the hill and everything else. The performance you gave there reminded a lot of people that's probably an incorrect view. What would you say to your critics after a race like Melbourne?

DC: You know, people having an opinion on my as a driver is... they're right and we as professional sports people earn our pennies because of the public interest and the link between the racing, the media and feeding the public, so I don't have a problem with people deciding that on the face of it, armed with the information that they have, their opinion is this. But the reality is, of course, that you can't pass judgment - or full judgment - unless you're armed with all the facts, because otherwise you'd never have trials for court cases for anything. You'd just walk in and go 'guilty fâ€"k 'em, lock 'em up'. I'm armed with all the facts, through my eyes because I've experienced the emotions involved with being a Grand Prix driver and other people in the team are armed with all the facts with their view. To the outside world, depending on how close the relationship they have with either me or other members of the team, then they get more or less of the facts. This is a long-winded way of not really answering the question in that I don't have anything to say to the critics because I'm not doing it for them. And yes, the media, you play an important part in our sport and you can build a driver and you can break a driver, but you know I probably did more damage on my own, through the difficulties I had with one lap qualifying, than any single person just saying 'oh yeah, he should go off and do something else.' I don't want to do something else.

Q. (Azrul Ananda - Jawa Pos): David, you spent so many years with McLaren which is a very tidy team, very neat team, everything is so organized, you tuck your shirts in. Now you're in Red Bull which is more relaxed; how do you feel about the difference?

DC: Well, I think McLaren's T-shirts are untucked now. Life is becoming a little bit less formal generally, but yes, of course McLaren has a very regimented way of operating internally and externally, but it's people who are on the inside, and when you know those people then it's as friendly as any other environment and I certainly don't judge a team by how accessible it is to the outside world, because frankly speaking, when you're doing a job, the minimum distractions you have - which means less people about the team - then the better it is, you can just concentrate. I'm sure Giancarlo doesn't mind me saying that I thought it was quite telling in Melbourne, when I was leaving the paddock, I popped into Renault just to say well done on his victory, and he was sitting alone in a room. I can totally relate to why he would be doing that, because he was wanting to savour the moment for himself, not being out there being asked lots of questions and being harangued by people. The inner motivation, the inner voice - sometimes you have to talk to yourself a little bit to enjoy it, and not having too many people around is a good thing.

Q. (James Allen - ITV): Giancarlo, in the build-up to this season, everyone has been talking about this extraordinary battle between Raikkonen and Montoya, the team mate's duel that everyone has been savouring the prospect of, but the reality is that the battle between you and Fernando is every bit as exciting and every bit as intense. What does it feel like from the inside? Obviously Melbourne wasn't a typical race, and he's saying 'I don't count Melbourne because of what happened' but what do you feel in terms of the battle you're having with him?

GF: Aah, it's going to be tough. Honestly, it's nice to work with Fernando. He's a very a nice guy, there's a very good friendship between me and him. We work together which is very important for the team and I think he's one of the best drivers in Formula One. He's quick and consistent during the race, so it's going to be interesting to see how it is at the end of the season between me and him. But for sure it's going to be tough.

Q. (Rami Tuisku - Ilta Sanomat): David, how does it feel now you don't have a Finnish driver as your teammate? (Laughter)

DC: I have to buy my own vodka now. (Laughter) I'm enjoying the relationship I'm having with Christian (Klien) and Tonio (Liuzzi) because they're younger guys and developing their lives; so we've been training together and doing things that I never did with Mika or with Kimi. At the end of the day, it's great if you can get along with your teammate because it just makes the whole weekend more pleasurable, but ultimately you're out there trying to do your own thing.

Q. (Wolfgang Rother - Premiere TV): Michael Schumacher was heavily criticized after his move against Nick Heidfeld (in Melbourne). Some media wrote about harsh Rambo-style driving and there might be some aggressive feelings among the drivers now, and there might be even some come-back in the next race. What is your opinion about the move and the feeling?

DC: I did watch the race afterwards and my opinion of it, and I do have the benefit of being in the car - you've got to remember that he, sitting in the car, all he can see is this little mirror to make a judgment where the other car is, so it's not as clear in the car as it is from the outside. From the outside, he does appear to squeeze, once Nick had already put himself towards the inside, would be the obvious observation to make and then once Nick is on the grass, and there is only one way he's going is into the side of Michael. What we don't see clearly from the television was... did Nick just brake too late on the dust and was he always going to run into him? Even if Michael hadn't squeezed him onto the grass, would he still have hit him, but just at the apex? So I think clearly Michael did move but I think there's a bit of over-reaction saying that he's Rambo and there's a big push-back. When I see him, and when we talk in the drivers' briefing, the GPDA meeting on Friday evening, then that will be one of the things that I'll raise and we'll talk about it and I'm sure Michael will give his opinion but ultimately it gives you all something to talk about, doesn't it? It was great Giancarlo winning but having an incident adds to the spectacle. For me, what was more questionable was the marshals running across the track. At one point there were about four or five marshals running from where, several years ago, a marshal was killed, across the racing line to give him (Schumacher) a push, for a privileged service - he'd obviously paid his valet parking ticket beforehand. I'm not saying you don't want cars on the track, because when there's only 20 cars out there, you need them all running but I know how difficult that corner is. If a driver did make a mistake, you could, even with a yellow flag, you could end up sliding off into somewhere.

GF: I think maybe Michael's manoeuvre was to disturb Nick Heidfeld. Maybe Nick was braking a bit too late and he's gone onto the gravel and he couldn't stop the car. At the end of the race the marshal (stewards) didn't give them any advertising (warning) so I think it was OK.

Q. (Heinz Pruller - ORF TV): Giancarlo, before the season began, a lot of people said you would be the ideal driver for the championship this year because you use the tyres better etc. Could you say you confirmed this in Melbourne and this is your own feeling?

GF: Well, we are just at the first race, at the start of the season. Yes, I won the first race but we still have 18 races to go. I feel confident to be quick, to fight for the podium, to fight to win a race sometimes because I have a great car, I have a great team and I feel confident, physically and mentally. So if we continue to be competitive, if we continue to do the right development on the package, I think we can try to win the championship, why not?

Participating: Jacques Villeneuve (Sauber), Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren).

Q. Was your Melbourne performance what you expected, or did you expect to be better or worse off?

Kimi Raikkonen: In practice, it was..(shrugs and laughs)... well, and after that, I think we were unlucky with the qualifying and with the weather. Quite a lot of people were stopped. And then I stalled the car on the start and that didn't help, but I think the race pace was pretty good so, looking at how the car usually runs here, better on this circuit than Melbourne, I think we should have a pretty good package.

Jacques Villeneuve: We were expecting to be more competitive so I hope it was just a bad weekend.

Q. Yes, you have had massive amounts of criticism about that sadly. What are your feelings about it?

JV: It's okay. I'm used to it. I've had years of practice! It doesn't ... Well you learn not to read. It's much better.

Q. What's been done for this race to cure the situation?

JV: We got to Melbourne not prepared because our winter testing didn't go very well and the last test session when we were planning on doing race simulations, we got snowed in. So, we had no idea how the car would evolve and so we made our set-up accordingly and we went the wrong way. Then, we just carried that the whole race.

Q. So you would expect a complete reversal?

JV: Well, complete would mean, given where we finished in the last race that we would be right at the front! I don't think we are that competitive, but definitely we should be a lot better than in Melbourne and hopefully the heat should help us out as well.

Q. You've had quite a lot of time to acclimatize here and you've been fairly busy. Can you tell us what you've been up to?

JV: Well a lot of shaking hands and, you know, PR. We did five days non-stop, but it is an important one. Our main sponsor is Petronas here from Malaysia so it is a home race for the team.

Q. Kimi, you have obviously got a new team-mate this year, now that David's moved on, and he is perhaps more of a contemporary of yours. What difference does that make to you?

KR: Well it doesn't make any difference on my side because in the end I work with exactly the same people. I just try to the best work I can with them and hopefully we are quicker. Of course, I have a different team-mate, but everything seems good between us and that's a good thing and I hope it stays like that. Hopefully, we will see who is quicker.

Q. It was suggested that you share the same sense of humour and that Ron was going to start up some practical jokes again... Has that happened?

KR: No idea. We are different persons. We are more similar in our lives than maybe I had with David, but I don't really think it is going to make much difference to us.

Q. Looking at this circuit, what are the challenges here?

KR: For sure, it is much more hot here than it was at the last race and so will be harder for the cars and the tyres. It is good for us that the car is very good for tyres, usually, so I don't see any problems. But it is going to be a bigger challenge here than it was in the first race. But like I said, our cars are usually strong here and we have a very good package anyhow so we should be quite strong.

Q. What do you do, as a driver, to try and preserve the tyres?

KR: I can do some things. It depends from race to race. Sometimes you get stuck behind someone and you try to get past and then you can save the tyres and everything else, but mainly you try to go as quickly as you can all the time so you cannot only look after your tyres and lose a lot of lap time. So you push as hard as you can and maybe try to save in some places if you can.

Q. Jacques, one always thinks of you as being flat out all the way. Is the prospect of conserving tyres of interest to you?

JV: I thought that is what we needed to do and obviously in Melbourne it was not required at all. There was no tyre degradation and they could have lasted forever, but Melbourne was colder than expected as well. I think we will get a better read on what the tyres will do this season from this race.

Q. Is this a race where the heat is at the extreme, the tyres are going to be very difficult and the engine is going to be very difficult - if it all works out well here is it going to be okay for the rest of the season?

JV: This is definitely one of the hardest races and has been for most years. But this season we go to some other places that might be hotter. But if you survive here and it is your second race on the engine then normally you should be alright the rest of the season.

KR: Yes, it is going to be hard for the cars and for everyone, but things can go wrong at other races also so if you do well here I think you look better all round, but it is not mean you wont have problems at other races.

Q. From where you were, what did you think of the Renault performance?

KR: It looked pretty strong in the race, but Fisichella had an easy race because he started in first place and there were a few slower cars in the middle. I think Alonso was quick during the race, but if you look at our race pace where we were in clear air I don't think we were that much behind and the car was missing a few parts and that didn't help. So I think race-wise we should be there, maybe not exactly as good as they are but it depends a lot from circuit to circuit. I think our car is pretty good.

JV: They were quite impressive. We knew they were fast after the winter testing, but they were a lot faster than we thought.

Questions From The Floor

Q. (Dan Knutson, National Speedsport News) Can you guys just tell us a little about the training regime you adopt for this race?

KR: I don't think it is any different to the winter or between any other races. Of course, it is more humid here so I've been here for a week to get used to the hot and humid conditions. That's the main thing. Yes, I've been out running a few times. I just try to stay outside a little bit.

JV: The training you do all year - this is just a continuation and you just get here and get used to the heat a little bit. But you don't really do anything different. We have been quite busy with the PR week so there wasn't a lot of time to do sports in that week, so that is why we train hard in the winter and all season.

Q. (Marc Surer, Premiere TV) Kimi you stalled the engine. What happened? I heard you pressed the wrong button... If that is so, can you explain what you do when you come back to prepare the car?

KR: I didn't press any wrong buttons. I just let the clutch out a little too much and the car just stopped. Basically, usually, it should under-stall, but it didn't go and this time it stalled the engine. It was my mistake and it cost us quite a bit.

Q. Was it at the point where the clutch began to bite?

KR: I guess it is, but I didn't find it correctly...

Q. (James Allen, ITV) Jacques it has been suggested that part of the problem you are having with the car is braking and you want to do something different. Is that accurate? What are you struggling with?

JV: Yes that has been the main problem, braking. F1 has evolved a lot over the last few years and mainly on the electronics side and it takes a long time to get used to everything with the car and the other thing is that with all the electronics you have now, you don't feel everything that is happening. You become a bit of a passenger in the race-car and that is very different to what I'm used to.

Q. (Livio Oricchio, O Estado de Sao Paulo) Jacques in 1998 you drove a very difficult car for the Williams team and in the BAR team from 1999 to 2003. Last year you were of Formula One almost to the end of the season. Do you think seven years out of driving good cars could affect you as a driver?

JV: I have good training in driving hard cars! But the Sauber-Petronas is not a difficult car to drive. So there was nothing nasty happening with it. We just weren't fast enough in Melbourne.

Q. (Wolfgang Rother, Premiere TV) Was Michael Schumacher's move on Nick Heidfeld at the last race too aggressive and do you think there will be any backlash among the other drivers towards Michael?

JV: I didn't see the accident so I cant really comment. I only saw it on the big screen while I was racing, so I wasn't concentrating on it too much.

KR: I haven't seen the accident. I only saw the cars in the gravel. I don't know what happened.

Q. (Luc Domenjoz, Le Matin) For Jacques, apparently the team don't let you set up the car how you would like... Can you tell us more of this?

JV: I just think we are not doing enough mileage at the moment to get into it. The winter testing was not conclusive on that because we didn't do a lot of mileage and then the one when we were going to concentrate on set up work, which was at Imola, we got snowed in... So we didn't actually work on it and with the two race per engine rule, you don't drive on Friday or Saturday, you just do the minimum amount of laps to choose a tyre, you don't work on set up, so it will take us a while to work together in the same direction. That's all.

Q. Would a third driver help?

JV: It would definitely help in figuring out what the tyres are doing. It is a big help now that we have a limited number of laps.

Q. (Dominic Fugere, Le Journal de Montreal) Kimi, you have a third driver, how do you think this helps you?

KR: I think it helps especially on the tyre side. We can easily put him to do the testing for that and do basically as many laps as he has the time to do so we get a much better picture. Set-up wise, maybe it helps in some places. Overall, it is a help and if it wasn't any help we wouldn't do it.

Q. So if I understand this right, Pedro does most of the work to find the tyre and then you guys take a few laps to work on the set-up for your car...?

KR: We have drivers for our own cars and you can't just take someone's set up and think its right for you. You do what you think is best and so far we seem to have found the set-up quite easily and always the question mark is the tyres. In Melbourne, it was clear that it wasn't difficult but it will be more difficult in other races this year to choose tyres. Then he will help us because he has done many more laps than us on them.

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