BAHRAIN GP - THURSDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 9 MARCH 2006
DRIVERS: Fernando ALONSO (RENAULT), Kimi RAIKKONEN (MCLAREN), Nico ROSBERG (WILLIAMS), Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI), Scott SPEED (TORO ROSSO)
Q: Nico, you ended your GP2 winning series here with two dominant victories; what's it like to be starting your Grand Prix racing career here?
Nico ROSBERG: Well, this is a perfect place to start for me. I have had some great success here on this track in the past and I really enjoy the track and the place so it couldn't be a better first race for me, definitely.
Q: How do you see this first season, what are your targets?
Rosberg: I don't know. It's really difficult to say because even through the winter testing you don't really know where you are with the car so it's difficult really to set a target. I just hope I do a good job and I improve all the time and that I've done a good job at the end of the year.
Q: This time last year you were about to start your GP2 career; are you more relaxed starting Grand Prix racing?
Rosberg: Well, it's similar. It's always a step up and it gets more difficult so you are always similarly nervous because you want to go out and do a good job, and it's always important to do a good job at the time, so it's probably similar.
Q: What about you, Scott? How do you start this season?
Scott SPEED: Certainly there's a lot of nerves when you're starting your first Grand Prix but I think that having done the Friday testing in North America certainly helped me to get used to the media aspect and the biggest changes in Formula One so certainly there's a bit of nerves but I think nothing abnormal.
Q: What are the most difficult things? Is it the Media?
Speed: Yeah, certainly the media is one thing but also the amount of people that work together within a team and to try to get everyone to work together, is definitely the biggest difference in Formula One.
Q: So is it with excitement that you start the new season?
Speed: Yeah, definitely, excited. I've been dreaming about it since I was 11 years old and I drove my first go-kart. So I get a sense of completion that I've kind of completed a big part of my goal in life.
Q: And your hopes here?
Speed: Yeah, like Nico said, it's very difficult to tell with the pieces in testing but I think we are generally aiming to gain as many points as possible.
Q: Kimi, what about your feelings for this year?
Kimi RAIKKONEN: I don't think we are exactly where we want to be but we are in a much better position than we were one month ago. I think we have been quite quick sometimes, but Renault and Honda might be quicker than us. It really depends if we get everything sorted out, in which case we might be able to fight for wins. But we will just do the best that we can and see where we end up.
Q: Do you look back, do you look forward at the start of the year? How do you feel about what happened last year, for example and what could be happening next year?
Raikkonen: We just try to do our best that we can this year. Last year is passed and next year, I don't know what will happen. It will be an interesting year for sure and with all the changes to the rules, the first few races are always more difficult than after that. But let's just wait and see.
Q: What are the worrying aspects, what is worrying you in particular as you come into the start of the season? You say it's better than it was a month ago...
Raikkonen: I don't really worry about anything, but of course if we had more time it would maybe be better for us, but we are starting to race and that's a nice thing. We had some problems with the engine, but like I said, we've improved the situation a lot and we seem to have got rid of all the problems but you never know in the races what will happen. But I think we should be okay but who knows?
Q: Michael, what about your feelings coming into this season? You look as though you're up for it, ready for it.
Michael Schumacher: Yep.
Q: How much of an advantage do you think it has been testing here?
Schumacher: It's difficult to quantify, but it's certainly no disadvantage being here. We have V8 engines, new aerodynamics, different new tyres so to chose your compounds and the tyre you want, probably you are a little bit advanced in this direction, but then on the other hand the other guys who have not been here in general have enough experience not to take too long to get on top of that, I guess.
Q: Whatever advantage you may have here is only an advantage for here or particularly for next weekend as well?
Schumacher: As it wasn't as hot as maybe we would have liked it, it's probably not a great advantage compared to Malaysia but the chance to test here freely was quite important in a way for us, because if you go to some of the big tests in Europe, especially in the beginning, when cars are not yet very reliable, you get a lot of red flag situations and so on, so you cannot really do your programme as efficiently as we could be.
Q: Now for the last five seasons you've started the following season as World Champion. What changes does it make when you're not World Champion?
Schumacher: Not really much, honestly. I have to walk a little bit further to my garage. That's the only thing.
Q: What about Bridgestone? How do you feel they've met the challenge this year?
Schumacher: We have worked very hard and we certainly have improved the game, but then it's always the question: have we improved enough? It's something we will find out this weekend. As always we have had a long winter, a lot of talk, a lot of question marks and finally we answer them, in a way, at the first race. It's always better to drive than talk, honestly.
Q: Fernando, World Champion, has it changed your life?
Fernando ALONSO: No, not at all. I think nothing has changed but obviously this weekend I will have number one on my car so it's a dream come true and I will try my best again, all through this season and try to repeat the success we had last year.
Q: Do you think you approach this season slightly differently to ones you have in the past?
Alonso: Yes, in a way yes, because I always arrived at the first race, in the past, thinking to be fighting for the races or to be on the podium, winning races or something like that. Now I have much more confidence in myself and am much more looking forward to the championship, at the end, to be World Champion again. It doesn't matter how many races you win, maybe. It's only a matter of being champion at the end and this is a different approach.
Q: The confidence of winning the championship, you've seen what that has done Michael in the past. Do you now feel that you can benefit from that as well?
Alonso: It depends on how quick the car is. It doesn't matter how motivated you are because as soon as you start the race and the green lights go on, all the drivers do their maximum, their best and sometimes you can do it and sometimes not. I think the best thing is that we arrive ready again, the new car is competitive and strong enough to be quick on race pace. I think we are ready for the first race, we'll see what happens on Sunday.
Q: People talk about your move to McLaren, that it might become an issue, maybe not at the start of the season but it might become an issue later on in the year. To what extent do you see this as a transitional year?
Alonso: I see 2006 as a year to defend the title and to win again. It's my last year with Renault and I need to win for them and for me and I will do my maximum. For me, it's in a different way. I see I'm much more relaxed now, for the future, and I can really concentrate to win this year, not talking about which team I will be with next year in the coming races.
Q: Michael, can I come back to you as the most experienced driver in the field; what difference does it make starting the championship here in Bahrain rather in Australia?
Schumacher: It's not really a big difference other than that we have less time change to cope with and that's about it.
Q: A bit warmer?
Schumacher: Australia can be hot. It can be hot here but it can also be cold because two weeks ago it was reasonably cold at certain moments, so I don't really see a big difference.
Q: And the media pressure? The Australian media in comparison to the Bahraini media?
Schumacher: No, because you guys are sort of all the same anyway wherever we go.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Philippe Joubin - L'Equipe) In terms of driving, do you enjoy driving the V8 engines and have you had to change your driving style at all to adapt to the V8s?
Alonso: Not for me. Basically it is the same. Obviously there are some corners that are now easy flat when last year it was little more challenge, I don't know. In my opinion, I like to have the most powerful car in my hands, so it's always better to have the V10 for the feelings but what we really like is the competition and we are all with the same V8. What we really like is to fight with the others.
Q: Michael, you said the car was better balanced with the amount of power from the V8 and the amount of rubber you have.
Schumacher: It's more in harmony.
Q: So do you enjoy it more?
Schumacher: Yeah. It's much sharper to drive.
Raikkonen: Yeah, I think it goes a bit slower in a straight line and the corner speed is about the same as in previous years. I haven't changed my driving at all. You just try to go as quickly as you can. Of course, the torque is not as much as in a V10 so there are more details I different areas but it hasn't really changed much.
Q: (Azrul Anada - Jawa Pos Indonesia) About lap times in Bahrain. In testing we've seen Honda and McLaren quite close to last year in Valencia. How much difference will there be in Bahrain and when can you pass the lap time of last year with the V10.
Schumacher: It's not only a question for here, it's a general question for all tracks, generally you lose 2-3 seconds going from a V10 to a V8, but our engineers are so efficient so it has not made a big difference. We were off the pace last year but it all depends. Plus it's unfair to compare to last year. You had to have one tyre for the whole race and our qualifying strategy was completely different to what it will be this weekend. So it's really unfair to make a comparison.
Q: Fernando, will lap times come down to last year's level?
Alonso: I think conditions will be about one second slower this year but it' true that the qualifying format will be really different. We will run empty fuel at start of qualifying, so those times will be better this year compared to last year.
Raikkonen: Nothing to add.
Q: (David Croft - BBC Radio 5) We have some rookies this year. Is there any advice the three guys at the front can give them?
Alonso: I'm 24, so I don't have extremely good experience. When I started in Formula One I just enjoyed it and concentrated on doing my job. It's true there is lots of media attention. The cars are unfortunately so different from one to the other that you cannot find results very quickly.
Raikkonen: Hopefully they let us past if we're behind.
Schumacher: I don't think they need advice. Generally the young generation have so much time in go-karts. For sure a Formula One car has a lot more horsepower than other cars but apart from that there is not much difference.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) Scott, you say you're a bit nervous, but how much of an advantage is it to have raced here in a GP2 car and tested an F1 car ahead of making your F1 debut?
Speed: Having tested here in an F1 car certainly makes life a lot easier than if you haven't tested before. I think Montreal, Malaysia and Australia will be a lot more difficult in terms of learning the track procedures, compared to Bahrain with already a bit of track experience. It's a big help.
Q: (Jerome Bourret - L'Equipe) Honda have gone very well this winter but are not represented here. What is your opinion on them?
Rosberg: I'll start. They've been really strong in testing in the winter I think, and especially now with Anthony Davidson doing time in Valencia, so I think they'll be towards the very front.
Speed: Certainly when we were testing here with them last month they were for sure showing some good pace, expect them to do very well.
Raikkonen: Yeah they've been quick, as Renault have been also, so we'll just have to wait and see for a few days to see what is the real pace of all the teams.
Alonso: Same comment. They have been very quick but we'll have to wait to see in races.
Q: (Harry Kiner - ARD Radio) I look at the front row and see Fernando, Michael and Kimi. Am I right in thinking you are the three favourites for the title?
Raikkonen: I wish, but it's the same answer really. We don't really know exactly. It depends on the cars on what will happen. For sure, everybody of us wants to win championship and everybody does their best.
Schumacher: I think there's more than three because honestly as we spoke about Honda who have two drivers. Also, we all have team-mates so it's got be a nice season for all of us.
Q: (Peter Windsor - Speed Channel) Michael, sorry to ask you but unfortunately it's the first chance many of us have had to ask this question, but, what happened on the formation lap at Shanghai and what was your opinion on the decision of the stewards afterwards?
Schumacher: Honestly I don't see any sense in going back into it. It's decided to what it was and we can't change it anyway. We don't have a Minardi team anymore. It's different now. Sometimes certain things do happen and it's coincidence, sometimes things come together.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) - Michael, your team came here to test and had some problems with the clutch system. The team decides to test in Mugello. How is the real mechanical situation?
Schumacher: First of all, we did everything to schedule, we did more running than we planned to do. The only difference was that instead of staying in Italy we were going to Valencia and we had only three days available in Valencia, but staying in Italy meant we had six or seven days available for driving. It's true the weather wasn't great, but for what we had to do we figured out our issues. Its true as well we would have loved to do more kilometres, but we are now more prepared because the car was quick right from the beginning and even quicker now and I think we can be quite confident to be reliable as well.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) About the new qualifying system. It seems the last part is quite complicated to explain to the people in the grandstand. Are you worried it will change again during the season and what do you think about this mechanism? Worried about changing again?
Schumacher: The only reason we could probably be forced to change is if you explain it the wrong way if people don't understand so it's you're (the journalist's) job to explain it so we don't have to.
Alonso: It will be quite complex, but any qualifying will be difficult for us and for the people behind the TV and hopefully this one will stay for a long time.
Raikkonen: It will be interesting and it will take a few races to learn what the best way is. The gap between the sessions is only five minutes I think so three will be a lot of people rushing around. I think it will be okay.
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) - Michael, last year you had an expert driver in Rubens, now you have an inexperienced team-mate. Is this a problem to find the solution to problems to find the set-up?
Schumacher: No. First because Felipe is quite experienced in the meantime. Second, it depends on the team and on how you develop, with the team, a new car. The only question we have is in terms of driving style. Maybe we have different driving styles that require to different set-ups so it will be quite interesting to see if I can take profit more than I used to or not.