Thursday Press Conference - Bahrain
Participating: Fernando Alonso, Flavio Briatore
Q. Flavio, it has been a pretty good start to the season from where you are?
Flavio Briatore: I think so, yes. We were competitive this winter and expected to be on the podium but we never expected to be so strong. We dominated the first race with Giancarlo and the second with Fernando. We expected somebody to be stronger, but it is a surprise to see McLaren not so strong and the Ferrari not so strong, this is a big surprise.
Q. Obviously it is very early in the championship so who do you see as your big rivals?
FB: I don't know. No really. Some teams have new cars, let's see what happens. We are talking about using the old car, but in one race, Fernando had a problem and was challenged by Jarno with Toyota and Fisichella was challenged by Red Bull. This is what we are seeing at this moment.
Q. So what's the atmosphere like in the team now?
FB: You know it's the atmosphere at Renault, it's always good. Last year the atmosphere was very good, even though we had a very difficult car and last year as well sometimes there was criticism of Fernando I remembered you know, I have a very long memory in this business and now this year everything is perfect. Last year Fernando did an incredible job as did Jarno at the beginning, because the car was very difficult to drive and we missed the opportunities in Canada, in Spa when we had problems. The team was already strong last year. Sure, Ferrari dominated everybody last year but I don't think it was only the car. I think the tyres were also a big plus. The car is the same car this year. What we have changed is that Michelin have done a very good job in the winter and have caught Ferrari and Bridgestone. But the atmosphere in the team is the same. Sure, winning two races means there is more enthusiasm in the factory and the people are pushing much harder to keep this position, to be able to give the right car to Fernando and Giancarlo, to be competitive with everybody else. You know we are a very young team and the atmosphere in our team was always very good. We have never had aggravation, the drivers are friendly. They were friendly, Jarno and Fernando and now Fernando and Fisichella are friendly. It's a really happy team. It was before, as well. It's the result of a lot of work, done by both sides, in Paris and in London, but it's the result of everything. The drivers have improved, Fernando has another year's experience, he's still young and Fisichella comes back to us with a completely different spirit and a completely different attitude. For the moment, we are very happy.
Q. Do you think the time will come when you're going to have to manage the two drivers, when they may be racing one another? It's a very nice situation to be in...
FB: I like this kind of situation. But you know that when you have... I always say that the head is important. We have two very intelligent drivers and both are racing for the Renault team. I think this is very good, this kind of problem, plus it's magic if our two drivers are racing together. It would mean that already we have the Constructors' Championship in the pocket and afterwards really, it is quite normal to have two drivers racing. We are still racing as a sport, and team orders were forbidden, but really it's nice having two racing drivers in the team and not just one.
Q. Fernando, what do you think about that situation? It is obvious you have both won races so far.
Fernando Alonso: As Flavio said, it is nice to compete and to fight for the race with your team-mate because it means the car is more competitive than the others. But remember we only did two races, one I was penalised probably because of the rain on Saturday in Australia and the other one I won the race, so I am really confident to keep this level, both cases on the podium with different circumstances for me and good points so far in these two races.
Q. What has the reaction been like in Spain?
FA: Obviously, as usual, when you do well they over-react, I think, and when you do bad they speak too much as well, so it is a little bit too much.
Q. What is it going to be like when we get to Barcelona then?
FA: I am sure that it will be completely full, the stands, people will enjoy the race for sure and it will be like a party.
Q. This race, when did you arrive here, is there much acclimatising to do for this race?
FA: I arrived yesterday night, so not too much. It is only one hour difference and it has been all week quite hot in Europe, so the temperature is not as extreme as Malaysia and it should be okay this weekend for all the teams and drivers. It is very easy this race compared to the last one.
Q. Well, you will be surprised at what the monitors were saying earlier because they were saying 36 degrees ambient and 51 degrees track temperature, which isn't that far away from Malaysia. Were you expecting that? FA: Yes. We were expecting this to be a little more hot on Sunday and Saturday it should be maybe a little bit hotter, and this can help our car and our tyres. The important thing is the humidity is very low compared to Malaysia and this caused problems for the teams and drivers in Sepang.
Q. So are you going to do your own work on your drinks bottle this weekend?
FA: We tested it last week and it was the first priority and everything works okay.
Q. That must be the first time a team has gone drinks bottle testing?
FA: Nah, I mean, it happened last year also. Normally the teams are in a strong position to develop the car and to forget the driver, and that is normal, because we prefer a quick car than a comfortable car. Some races have to be in between.
Q. Flavio, how conservative has the team been in the first two races?
FB: I don't know. The team really tried. We arrived in Formula One with Renault at 100 percent and every year we say we do a step. I believe what we have this year is the consequence of the charge that was done in the last four years. Nothing happens by chance in Formula One, it is very complicated, there is a lot of people working together to get a quick car. The team knows the performance we had in these two races and this is very good because we demand a lot from the people in the factory, and when you are very, very bad or very, very good, I am sure it is better the second, when you are very, very good. I mean, I believe it is great to see people smiling when you arrive in the office on a Monday. It is a surprise, but it is good to be a surprise. This is quite an ideal team, two drivers together and everyone saw the two drivers are together because really the people spend a lot of time together and we do not want to play in the press conference saying that we are happy when we are not happy. And this is great.
Questions From The Floor
Q. (Adrian Rodriguez Huber - Spanish International Press Agency) Fernando, first how does it feel to be the leader of the World Championship, does it put any extra pressure on you? Secondly, we do get very excited in Spain with what you have been accomplishing over these years but did you think some people this time may have gone too far by almost kidnapping you in your own house? You couldn't even go out, you had to leave because of all that was going on around your house.
FA: For the first question, leading the championship is not really a problem, it is not giving me any more pressure because we only did two races and maybe I feel pressure if we were in the last two races and I was leading the championship. Now is not a real picture of all the drivers and all the championships so we have to forget and think race by race. Second question, really in Spain it went too far, all the people, especially journalists, and this is a problem. But it is not what I want, to be in front of my house waiting for a picture, and if they think they have to do that it is their problem.
Q. (Adrian Rodriguez Huber- Spanish International Press Agency) But do you think that they put your security in danger?
FA: For sure, also as I was not in the place they were. They were in front of my parents' house and I was not there, I was with a friend and I watched on television what they were doing, their ridiculous position in front of the house.
Q. (Marc Surer Premier TV) I was surprised when they told you which gear you should be in at Sepang.
FA: I was surprised too. Sometimes they see on the computer, on the data, that some temperatures on oil pressure is going too low or too high in some corners and when I heard this opinion, these words, I knew that it was safer to go fifth gear in that corner and, for sure, it was not a problem for me to do it. Maybe if they asked in a different corner then maybe I ask why, but because it was happening in turn six in Sepang, it was a corner that was between fourth and fifth, it was not clear, and I was going in fourth and they said fifth and it was no problem at all.
Q. Just that one corner it was a problem?
FA: It was not a problem, but because we had a very safe gap they thought it was safe to go like this. But it was not a big risk.
Q. (German Radio and TV) Fernando, Ferrari are bringing their new car here, what do you think about it?
FA: Ferrari is a very strong team, one of the favourites for all the Grands Prix, and now with their new car for sure they will have more potential and they will be more competitive than the last race. But at the moment Renault won the first two Grands Prix and is the team to beat and they have to look in the Renault garage, not Renault have to look at all the other teams. I also think, too, that last year's Ferrari car was not bad at all. So their new car, for sure, is better, but I think the key to beat Ferrari to the top is not only the car.
Q. (German Radio and TV ) What do you think of Bahrain and the people?
FA: I really don't spend much time here in Bahrain. Last year we visited a market on the street and they have different cultures, different ways to live, and for us it is sometimes strange, not worse, not better, but a different culture. The circuit itself, as we see, has fantastic facilities and the track is very wide, smooth, and it is good for Formula One to come to this country.
Q. (German Radio and TV ) Flavio, is it right that you don't care what Ferrari is doing?
FB: I am only looking for my team, really, because I am not in charge of Ferrari and I look at our team, our garage, our drivers. And I said before, in Malaysia we had the Toyota behind us and in Australia we had the Red Bull and we didn't look at them. We do our race, and do whatever is possible. If someone is in front of us, someone is better, quicker or whatever, but our concentration is in our team, I don't care about the other teams.
Q. (Adrian Rodriguez Huber- Spanish International Press Agency) Fernando, do you think you have realistic chance to win here in Bahrain; and secondly, do you have any comments for the other Spanish driver who is going to be here this weekend, Pedro de la Rosa with McLaren?
FA: Here in Bahrain we know it will be difficult. Last year it was not a perfect track for us for the characteristics of the corners and the circuit, but this year we have a completely different package. We have a very strong engine, a very nice car aerodynamically and everything can change. Maybe we have a competitive car here and I am quite convinced of that and we can fight for the podium, minimum. To win a race there are a lot of things you need to have qualifying, a good tyre choice, strategy and so on, and I think to arrive to approach the weekend thinking of the podium is not stupid at all for the way we are with the car now. For the second question, Pedro is replacing Montoya for this race and I am happy, obviously. The more Spanish drivers we have in Formula One the better for Spain, for the people, there is now a lot of interest in Formula One in Spain and for sure a lot of people will enjoy this race more than others, with two Spanish drivers on the track. And also Montoya is still in the championship and he will not take too many points this race.
Q. (Dominic Fugere Le Journal de Montreal) Mr Briatore, you said a few weeks ago that Formula One needed to look into making the show better and making it more interesting for the fans. In which way do you think that the fact that Ferrari has not been winning many races, that Renault have been doing well and that Red Bull and Toyota were right behind you, in which way do you think that might help the popularity of Formula One?
FB: For sure, for us it is more interesting than last year! This, for us, is changing a lot already. Formula One is a big television event, it is the race it is the sport. What I was talking about two weeks ago was putting Formula One back on the sports pages and not on the pages for finance, the newspapers, talking about a championship in 2008, who manages it, money and whatever. I believe Formula One is a sport, we have a car, we have a driver, the people want to see a race, they don't want to know how much Renault spend, how much Ferrari spend, or Toyota spends. The people want to see a race. This is what we are talking about. When you put rules in the way, the race is better. Maybe the aerodynamics of the car changes but for everybody. People want to see a race, they want to see overtaking. I believe the race in Australia, when Fernando started 14th or 13th, and he was overtaking a lot. When you see that it is great for the sport, it is great for our business. This is my point. We are concentrating on our event, a big television event, to increase the spectacle of the race is important.
Q. (Dominic Fugere Le Journal de Montreal) And do you think the fact that Ferrari doesn't look like they are going to win all the races adds to that, because that has been a complaint that has been going on for a long time?
FB: I don't say that Renault winning is better for Formula One, I just said that the fact that Ferrari is not winning is good news. Because last year your guys were always tell me how boring it used to be with Ferrari first and second, oh my God, Schumacher again, oh my God, this year it's not so many My God. And I think this is great. This is what the media says, it's not me. I read this in the newspaper, you guys. It see last year everyone was saying not Ferrari again. This year it is not like that, this year it is more interesting because people want to see what happens.
Q. (Adrian Rodriguez Huber- Spanish International Press Agency ) Flavio, how do you feel yourself?
FB: I feel great, like everyone in the team. It was difficult when I came back in Formula One in 2001 to expect Renault to be in the top teams in 2005. I know it is not finished yet, because we have done nothing, like Fernando said, we have won two races. But at least we are sure that Renault is in the top teams. We were third in 2004, I hope this year we will finish better than last year. You need to be happy when you have done the job and you have the nice environment around you, I mean, I feel happy with that.
Participating: (Jarno Trulli, John Howett)
Q. John, how much of a surprise was the Malaysian result?
John Howett: The team has been working very hard throughout the winter. I think everybody was uncertain - because of the very difficult winter test conditions, the resurfacing of Barcelona - where we were, and I think Jarno clearly demonstrated the pace of the car at the beginning of the Australian race and in qualifying and then I think demonstrated and confirmed where we are currently.
Q. Jarno, obviously a difficult weekend for you at Sepang. How do you feel about this race?
Jarno Trulli: Yes, I believe that every weekend we have to go down and see where we are. We know we have a good car for a good baseline but we still have to discover it, we still have to learn a lot of things. For example, we have learned quite a lot from Australia to Malaysia and in Malaysia we got it better from the beginning to the end of the race. Here we've got similar conditions and we just hope to be competitive. We never know if we're going to be as competitive as we were in Malaysia, because obviously we were very quick but it will be nice to be always in the points and fighting for the top positions. At the end of the day, Toyota has got the potential to do it and we are constantly working on and improving our car.
Q. Do you feel you can be consistent championship contenders?
JT: I am more realistic. I am optimistic but I keep my feet on the ground and say we still have a lot of work to do. The potential is high but we are not using it completely yet. We are working on many areas to improve our car performance and I believe we will have races where we will perform better than others. I'm sure Malaysia was one of those. What we have to do is to prove our package at every race and try to do our best during this season. This is not the right season yet to fight for the championship, but the start is quite promising.
Q. You said the conditions were right in Sepang, given that it's 36 degrees out there and 51 degrees track temperature, is it going to be the same here?
JT: We remain confident, because, as I say, the conditions are very similar here. We have understood quite a lot about the tyres and we believe here we've got a similar package which might help our car and chassis. On the engine side we are okay, we have had full finishes in two races. I remain confident, but I want to keep my feet on the ground and I want to discover the weekend then at the end of the weekend I can talk better about it.
Q. John, just to go back to that point that Jarno made that you couldn't really totally fight for the championship, is that the case?
JH: I think it's realistic. We are still a young team. I think we have a very good baseline, as Jarno said, and we have a lot of improvements in the pipeline for both chassis and engine and we just have to keep up the momentum and see how the season moves. I think, all along, we thought we would have the best season ever and that's really our target and ambition, and if at the end of the season we are fighting for the top two or three places in the championship for us it will be extremely good.
Q. Do you notice a different atmosphere now in the factory at Cologne?
JH: Yeah, sure. People have been working very hard, particularly the guys working in the composite shops day and night to make the parts, so I think everybody's really happy. I think they felt that we had been knocking on the door of something like this and probably haven't demonstrated the full capability of the whole team and therefore they are delighted, so yeah, they are putting even more effort in.
Q. Is there a lot coming onto the car for Imola?
JH: Oh yeah. We have improvements on both chassis and engine for Imola and we have a clear programme. I think we're trying to accelerate as hard as we can to get more, but I guess every other team will be doing the same. It is that relative performance that probably makes the sport so enjoyable and so thrilling.
Q. Can you look at the results so far and say 'that's where we think we are' or is it still really up in the air?
JH: I think you can't deny that it wasn't a fluke what Jarno achieved and I think that was reinforced by Ralf in Sepang, so clearly the baseline is very good, but we have got to keep the pressure up and we've got to keep the improvements otherwise we will stand still and we've got keep this momentum running. But I'm confident that both Mike (Gascoyne) and Luca (Marmorini) can do that with the people they've got with them.
Q. Jarno, has it been difficult settling into such an already big organisation? Has it been difficult to find your way around?
JT: I think it is never easy when you join a number one constructor which obviously wants to do well in Formula One. There was a lot of pressure, there is still a lot of pressure. I think both me and Ralf have settled in really well, thanks to the people who are working with the team who are definitely helping us. They are listening and they trust in us and the job we are doing and eventually this result that came in Sepang, not only from me but also Ralf's performance, it was an answer to all those people who have been working with us and showing the direction. It is always difficult when you change teams but to be honest this time was easier than any other time before.
Q. I guess the success brings everyone together...
JT: Yeah, I think so.
Questions From The Floor
Q. (Marc Surer Premier TV) Jarno, you mentioned the temperature before. Are you worried, going to Imola? Imola is quite a cold race normally and I think you've been struggling in Melbourne with tyre temperatures?
JT: Imola is a question mark for us. It is a very difficult technical circuit where the car really has to prove its potential in all areas: aerodynamically, mechanically and on the engine side because we have got a lot of long straight, acceleration, hard braking, kerbs, changing direction. It is going to be a tough weekend, so I would prefer to look forward to this weekend and when we get to Imola we will see, because we are getting a lot of updates on the car, so we remain confident but we know that Imola will be an important weekend for us.
Q. (Thierry Tassin RTBF TV) Jarno, you have twice been on the front row next to a Renault. Compared to last year, it looks like the Renault hasn't got the advantage at the start that they had before. Do you believe their opposition has improved or you left with the secrets from Renault and you put it in the Toyota?
JT: Let's put it this way, I think I've joined the team in the last year. It's the way we've set up the car, the way we also use the electronics, and obviously the team has got the resources and they have followed the drivers' direction, from me and Ralf and we have definitely improved our starting system which is still weak, but we are on the way up. We know that area has to be improved but it is definitely a step forward compared to last year. On the other hand, I think I've always been quite quick at the start and so at Sepang it wasn't too bad.
Q. (Heinz Pruller ORF Austrian TV) Gentlemen, from what you've learned already, in which race, on what circuit do you think Toyota will have the best chance to win their first Grand Prix this year?
JT: I think honestly we have started the season with different targets. Our target is aiming for podiums but mainly to show signs of progress, scoring points and doing a nice and flawless championship. At the moment, I think the results me and Ralf had in Sepang was an extremely good result and gave a good boost to the team but I think it's too early to talk about winning races. I don't think we are ready yet. We have a good car, a good baseline and it is all up to the team and the potential we have to develop the car because we've got an extremely experienced team out there. Some of them, like Renault, are definitely quicker than us at the moment but we are on the way up, so at the moment it is impossible for us to predict when the first victory is going to arrive. It may be this week, it may be in one year, we don't know but we are working to top the list and hopefully this will happen soon.
JH: I probably agree with Jarno. I think the two races, historically, we have been competitive at have been Indianapolis and Canada so if you look at the historic relative performance of the car, we have performed well there but I think really we are just focussing on the programme we have got and improving more and more as we go through the season.
Q. (Gulf Daily News) You raced here last year and you're here again this year, under two different circumstances, how do you rate your chances this weekend?
JT: It is always difficult to predict a weekend. It doesn't matter which track you are on. Well, the temperatures are high here, there are similar conditions like in Malaysia so we are confident. But it is difficult, now, to talk about this weekend because until we get on the track and we see where we are and how our car and tyres and chassis and everything works, we cannot predict anything. The only thing I can say is that we remain confident. I like the circuit and we will see.
Q. (Dominic Fugere Le Journal de Montreal) Jarno, you just mentioned that there has been a significant difference between the way you used the electronics last year compared to this year. Can you elaborate on this a little bit?
JT: I will go through the details that I can. I learned a lot of things, analysed a lot of data and we are using the car and electronics better but there is still some room for improvement. The electronics people are extremely competent, they are really good, they follow the drivers' directions and we've made some better starts compared to last year but it is not enough. I don't want to go through details with you because obviously it is top secret.
Q. (Dominic Fugere Le Journal de Montreal) Aside from the start would you say that you are using more electronics or less, a little bit more driver input than mechanical, if you want?
JT: We are using what the FIA give us the opportunity to use, nothing more and nothing less. We are using all that we can use, partly electronics, partly mechanical, the other part is probably up to the driver.
Q. (Andrea Cremonesi Gazzetta dello Sport ) Jarno, yesterday the World Council received the procedure for anti-doping in Formula One; what is your opinion and do you think there is doping in Formula One?
JT: Personally I never had an opportunity to talk about doping, but I think I have had an anti-doping test personally at Silverstone last year. Everything looked quite professional. I never had a problem and I am the first driver to be present if there is an anti-doping. But honestly I don't think there is any anti-doping in Formula One in the drivers. You can dope the car, probably, and you can make it quicker, but it's an extremely top level sport. It's difficult, it's quite demanding, physically but with a good fitness you can make it. But personally I don't trust any of these words about doping in Formula One, this is my opinion. And anyway, we've got the anti-doping tests so...
Q. To continue on that vein, how careful are you when you have to take medication for whatever reasons?
JT: Well, I'm lucky because Toyota is one of the few teams that has a doctor who follows the drivers, step-by-step on everything, so the medicine we are given, if we have to take it, is strictly controlled by the doctor. So I don't have any problem with it. I sometimes had to change from one medicine to another because some of them were on the anti-doping list, but I think I am lucky to have a doctor available full-time for the team and for the drivers.
Q. (Gaetan Vigneron RTBF TV) John, you have just got Pascal Vasselon, ex-Michelin, in your team. What will be his job, and was it difficult to get him, because I think Williams was also interested in him?
JH: I don't know about the competing teams. I think the situation was that Michelin wanted to keep him within their corporation but not in a motor sport environment. As you probably know, he was originally with Renault in Formula One, moved to Michelin, and wanted to stay within Formula One. We offered him a position within our R&D department and he accepted. For us, he will probably be involved in suspension development and other associated chassis areas in our R&D department, but we didn't feel there was any strong competition from other teams.
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