FRENCH GP - THURSDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 13 JULY 2006
DRIVERS: Pedro DE LA ROSA (McLaren), Vitantonio LIUZZI (Toro Rosso), Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), Franck MONTAGNY (Super Aguri), Nico ROSBERG (Williams), Jarno TRULLI
Q: Tonio, you won the team's first point in the USA, that's a big step for them, isn't it?
Vitantonio LIUZZI: Yeah, definitely. We went pretty close for many races and then it happened. We were really happy. It was the right race. For sure we were a bit lucky because of the accident at the first corner but then I think we deserved it because we were pretty quick for our pace. We fought with Nico, with David and at the end we scored this point and I'm really happy for me and for the team because I think we deserved it. We worked hard from the beginning of the year and now we are making some steps forward and looking forward to the future.
Q: Does it make a big difference within a team when something like that happens, a different atmosphere?
Liuzzi: Yeah, definitely. Everyone is really positive and optimistic for the future and as I said, they deserved it because they worked hard. It's a new team, everything is brand new, it's the first time for Toro Rosso and finally the first point.
Q: What about your own future? Are you hoping to move to Red Bull Racing?
Liuzzi: It's not a hope. We don't know what will happen, me neither. At the moment I am fixed with Toro Rosso. I have to say that I'm happy with the job that they are doing and I think that in the future they are getting much much stronger. For 2007, there are big steps forward coming so I don't know what Red Bull will decide. I am linked to Red Bull so whatever Mr Mateschitz decides for me is fine.
Q: Nico, a disappointment in the USA; was it really 1) that you were running a heavier car and 2) a bit of a lack of understanding of Bridgestone tyres?
Nico ROSBERG: No, I wouldn't say it's down to Bridgestone, definitely not because there were other teams that were running very similar tyres to us if not the same and they did pretty well, so it's not down to the tyres. Yeah, it's very difficult to put your finger on it at the moment. It's probably a variation of a few things. Partly, I'm sure, it's aerodynamic. We've found the problem, more or less, on the aerodynamic side of things. We're working on it but it's not something that you can change from one day to the next, obviously, but they're really confident they can progress on that.
Q: So maybe no change here but possibly Hockenheim?
Rosberg: Well, we have a new package here. We went away for two races where we used a low downforce package; now we are back on a higher downforce package from say Silverstone or somewhere like that so they've had some time to work on that. But I'm sure everybody else has too, so we're hoping that we've made a good step there too.
Q: If we can jump forwards, the next race is one of your home races. What are your feelings about Hockenheim, is it a big thing to race at home?
Rosberg: I was born right next to the circuit. I'm German it is my home race. I'm really looking forward to it because it's always nice to race where you have a few more supporters and things like that and you know a lot of people and it's very nice. And I really enjoy the track also. I've had some great experiences there. It's one of the first tracks I ever drove on in a racing car, so I'm looking forward to that.
Q: Felipe, your best result ever at the last Grand Prix, how does that affect you in terms of your spirit and your confidence?
Felipe MASSA: I think it's very nice. It gives you more motivation to keep pushing hard, keep working a lot, so it was a good result for us as a team, not just for me in the team, but looking at the championship situation it was a great achievement. Hopefully we can carry on with the same kind of results.
Q: Ferrari were so dominant in the States but can they keep up that impetus?
Massa: For sure, we expect that Renault and McLaren will be a little bit stronger here compared to Indy. We expect that they will come back to fight really hard with us. Hopefully we can manage to stay in front. The second part of the championship will be very tough but everybody in the team is very motivated - drivers, the whole team - so I think that's very important for us to try to be at the front.
Q: Franck, hidden away in the preview of this race was the fact that this is going to be your last race with the team for the moment. I guess you always knew that was going to happen.
Franck MONTAGNY: Yes, sure. I'm quite happy to be here anyway because my last race, initially, was going to be just after Barcelona so I have had some extra races since then so I am quite happy to be part of the race for my home Grand Prix.
Q: What does your home Grand Prix mean to you?
Montagny: Well, I think it's the same for everybody. When you come home it's always a little bit better. People speak your language and you get a few more fans and it's a little bit a warmer feeling so it's a little bit better, but it doesn't change so much now, it's the race anyway...
Q: The team's going to have the new car for the next race as well. What difference is that going to make?
Montagny: A big one, I believe. For the next race, there's going to be the new car but not the complete new car. There are still some improvements coming in the next two or three events.
Q: Pedro, welcome back. A bit of a surprise? How are you going to keep the headlines in Spain?
Pedro de la ROSA: Well, I think that everyone has their own aims and my objective is really to score as many points for the team. I don't really care about how many other Spaniards are on the grid and what they are doing. I am extremely happy to be here, I was not expecting it, but as a test driver you always have to be ready for it. It comes at a good time in my career. I know the car well, I have done plenty of kilometres (in it) and I'm fit for it. I'm very happy and I hope that I got rid of the rust in Bahrain, in the run-off areas there. I got rid of some of my rust there, and I'm now ready for it.
Q: You've had one race since when?
De la Rosa: My last complete season was 2002, so you just have to realise that Bahrain (last year) was my first race after two and a half years, something like that, and now it's... but it's good to have had Bahrain. At least I've had one race since 2002. The only thing really will be the start and the first lap that you will see a little bit different, but after that we've done pit stop practice, we've done so many kilometers in winter testing and now in summer testing. I don't think it will be very different really.
Q: So do you have to consciously get yourself up to speed or does it just come naturally?
De la Rosa: No, I think it comes naturally. I was here last year as the third driver which is a major advantage, really, because as soon as I go onto the track tomorrow, I have been here before last year, one year is not a long time, and everything will be fresh so it's quite a good thing that I was here as a third driver.
Q: Jarno, things were so much better in Canada and the USA, very encouraging. Can you keep up that momentum?
Jarno TRULLI: I knew that it had to come. We just had to wait a little bit because things were not working out well for me, for the team, for the mechanics, so I could see them really frustrated so... In Canada it really was good to score points, in a difficult way, because anyway I struggled during the race with some problems, but eventually again in Indianapolis, things were not looking so good but I knew that I had a good car. The car was very competitive, the Bridgestone tyres were dominant so I got the chance, starting from the pit lane, not even from the back of the grid. I was somehow lucky so I think I deserved this result because finishing fourth was a great result for me and the team and it was great to see my mechanics smiling at the end of the race and I just feel that the team in general can keep on, carry on and as I said at the beginning of the season, we will bounce back and I think we are doing a good job at the moment. We still have some work to do, to improve the car, to make it more reliable, but I really feel that we've made major progress from the beginning of the season.
Q: Do you regard this circuit as being a Renault/Michelin circuit?
Trulli: Well, so far as I remember, Renault has always been strong here with Michelin tyres as well, so I think they will be very competitive, but Ferrari has a strong car. We are improving and Bridgestone as well. In the last few months they have been working really hard and they have given us a big chance in the last two races because their tyres were competitive in Indianapolis and they were competitive in Canada as well, so I expect a tough battle again.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Pedro, when did the team inform you exactly that you were to drive here and how have the days been since then?
De la Rosa: Well the first hint I had came on Monday night from the team really, just the first hint that things could change, and I was surprised. And then Tuesday morning I was on my way to the team, as we normally do Tuesday and Wednesdays, before a Grand Prix, to do all the simulation work with the engineers and I was just driving to the team and at 0930 I got the phone call that said I would be driving here. Obviously, it was a surprise and I've been quite excited since then and the rest of the days since then have been normal. Tuesday I was in the factory and Wednesday I was at home trying to handle the situation as calmly as I could and there was a lot of expectation from Spanish media and Spanish supporters, which I really appreciated, and I say a very honest thank-you. Today, I woke up at five o'clock and it has been no different.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) I'd like to ask all of you what do you think of Montoya moving to Nascar? And second question is - years from now, when you are done with Formula One would you consider racing in Nascar or Indycars or Touring Cars or another series?
Montagny: Well, I will start: If he chooses it, maybe it is because it is a good choice for him and maybe he is done with Formula One and he is happy to go there. I don't know, but I know that this championship is very strong around the world so it starts to open a little bit to European drivers and some other countries' drivers and so maybe it is a good thing, but it is his life and not mine.
De la Rosa: I have a more European mentality in terms of motor racing and I don't know the States I have never raced there and I don't know Nascars, I don't know Champcars and I don't know IRL so it is up to everyone. Since I was a kid I followed all the steps prior to Formula One and Formula One so all I can say really is that I am happy where I am.
Trulli: Personally, I cannot judge someone else's decision. He probably knows better than everyone else what he is doing and he is happy to do what he is doing. Talking about my future I am happy where I am and totally committed about Formula One and feel I still have a lot to do and a lot to give to Formula One so for the moment I am concentrating on what I am doing.
Liuzzi: Yes, it is a strange decision, but I understand that whatever you do after Formula One it is a step back I think because Formula One is the maximum level of car racing and I think he did this just because he likes the mentality of Nascars. I think he is one of the closest guys in the paddock to have the mentality and way of life of a Nascar guy and it is a funny choice but it is a cool decision.
Rosberg: Yes; I generally think it is a strong decision in a way because probably everything for next year would have been a bit of a step back for him and I think it is strong to say I am going to Nascar and I am having a great time over there. But personally I don't think it is my kind of thing to drive around in a circle without any corners or anything else. I don't think it would be fun for me. For me, it is definitely F1 and I hope I have a long career ahead of me and then maybe DTM might be a possibility.
Massa: Yes, I think it was a bit strange to see that, one day after the other, he changed his idea completely about racing, just changed to the US and Nascar and I have no idea how it is to race there because I have no idea of how it is to race in the US. For me it was a little bit of a surprise, but Montoya used to live there and he knows quite well racing there and maybe he likes to live there as well. So, he saw his situation in the championship and everything and maybe he took the decision. I thought it was a little bit strange, but he took the decision and maybe he can have some success there.
Q: (Elmar Dreher - DPA) Is it just decided you will race to the end of the season or might you be replaced by Lewis Hamilton or somebody else who will drive for McLaren Mercedes?
De la Rosa: Well all I can say really is that I've only been told about the next few races and that's it and obviously it is not my decision. I want to do all of the championship. The decision won't be taken by me, unfortunately.
Q: So your feeling is that when the next choice is made you are at the head of the list?
De la Rosa: Yes, I mean all I have to do really is look at it week by week and that's all I want to do really. Now, I am here at Magny Cours and it is a major opportunity for me and let's make sure I don't make any mistakes and that's it. Next week is a different week. We go testing in Jerez and then comes Hockenheim and we will see. But obviously it is not my decision.
Q: (Sergio Alvarez - Agencia Efe) A question for Pedro, how do you face this big challenge? Do you face it as if it is your last opportunity to get a really good wheel in your hands?
De la Rosa: Well, I don't take it as a last chance because in Bahrain I took it like this is my last chance and it wasn't - here I am - so I just want to enjoy myself and drive to the limit of the car myself as I have done in testing when I have always been genuinely quick, finish the race, get some points and that's it really. I don't want to set goals or aims to this weekend. Just carry on as I have been lately and that's it.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazetta dello Sport) Tonio you have the t-shirt of our national team and I would like to know if you are going to do something tomorrow in the car, all the mechanics I know also feel something may happen?
Liuzzi: We don't know at the moment, it is just because Italy won the World Cup and I think it is obvious that I wear this shirt to party with all the other people from Italy here in the paddock and also to blame all the French friends we have got here. It is a kind of joke and to show also Italy that we even from Formula One, all around the world, that we follow soccer, that we follow our nation and we are cheering and crossing our fingers for them even for another sport.
Trulli: (joining in after prompt) I don't want to get involved in this kind of situation because it is something that happens very often in football so I think that Zidane's reaction was pretty tough. I can understand it, but unfortunately I cannot judge him on more than I have seen and everyone has seen. We all know that in football when you play, you play hard -- in words and also in running. So you try to do the best for your team in any case and it doesn't matter how you win, because we have also lost sometimes in a bad way, and we never really came back saying something. Zidane was a great player and he is still a great player, but unfortunately the way he has gone out is not really nice. As I say again, I can understand this reaction, but I cannot forgive him because even if he has been accused, well the Italian nation has been accused even more during this championship. We have been accused, really slammed by the international press, really criticised... everything. But the great thing from the Italians in this championship is that we have shown how to do it and now people just have to close their mouth and say 'they are the champions' because they played very well and that was the best way to answer all the people who tried to put pressure on a team that was trying to do their best.
Q: (Adam Hay-Nicholls - Two Paws Agency) Franck and Pedro, with your experience as third drivers, what are your opinions on the decision to eradicate the third drivers from Fridays from next year?
De la Rosa: First of all I didn't know, so my personal opinion is that Fridays are really boring for the people, for the spectators, you know. Being a test driver here and not having a third car on Fridays, I have to go to the paddock club to talk to the guys that are there and I don't know what to say because there is nothing to say. So just as a spectator and about Fridays I have to say that if the third drivers weren't there then Fridays would be even more boring so I think that something should be done to improve the show on Friday and one very good solution would be to make it an open test day. That is my point of view.
Montagny: More or less the same. On Friday, it is quite boring for the race drivers and the test drivers and no-body is running and everyone is losing time more or less so it would be nice to see some cars on the track and to show some new drivers and stuff like that. It would be good to have all the third cars on the track because everybody gets a third car and third engineers and everything and all the teams ready to do that and we keep the car in the box so it is quite a shame and I don't think that is a good way but then rules are changing every year so that's the way it is.
Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Deutschland) So, Pedro, one more question -- it was two days ago they told you about that and I understand you did some simulation on that day, but do you think you are well prepared enough for a race this weekend?
De la Rosa: Yes, as well as you can be really if you are a test driver. Of course I would liked to have raced the first ten races, but as far as being a test driver is concerned I am the best prepared at the moment because I know the car and I was here last year doing the third driver so I have the circuit fresh in my mind. So I am confident and physically strong, too, and I was in Jerez last week, in very hot conditions, doing very long runs three days in a row. No problems. I am quite confident.