ITALIAN GP - THURSDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 7 SEPTEMBER 2006
DRIVERS: Giancarlo FISICHELLA (Renault), Heikki KOVALAINEN (Renault), Vitantonio LIUZZI (Toro Rosso), Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), Jarno TRULLI (Toyota)
Q: Tonio, your feelings about this circuit, your debut in the Italian Grand Prix this weekend.
Tonio LIUZZI: Yes, of course, Monza gives everybody good feelings because it's the fastest circuit in the championship so that's always awesome. It's the only one that's left with this kind of top speed and it's amazing. Last week we had a test and it was really great, especially for us Italians, I think it's a special feeling because of the atmosphere, the crowd, and it's a shame that there's this rumour that from next year that maybe or maybe not (the race will be held here)... we still don't know, it's a big worry for us because we love Monza. I especially love Monza and to make a debut here in my first Formula One Grand Prix - I'm really looking forward to it.
Q: How's the V10 going to do in comparison to the V8s?
Liuzzi: In testing, it was fine. For sure, we still have to work hard because we are still a bit far away from the leaders, we are still struggling a little bit in top speed but we are working on it. We are looking forward to next season but at the moment we are trying to give our best.
Q: So nothing special this weekend?
Liuzzi: We will see tomorrow.
Q: Jarno, the reliability has improved over the last few races but it seems you just need to climb up the order a little bit.
Jarno TRULLI: Yeah, definitely. I believe that Toyota is really bouncing back, especially from the beginning of the season up to now, we've made a huge improvement. Obviously the reliability sometimes didn't play on our side, also luck, but in the end, I must praise everybody in the team because they have reacted pretty well from the beginning and they are still pushing and carrying on the development of the car and we are looking stronger. Obviously the time you lose at the beginning is not easy to recover, but nevertheless, I believe the car is getting stronger and stronger and we are always very competitive during the Grand Prix weekend, being always in the top six. The last race wasn't a great race for me, a bit of bad luck but also I have to admit that my tyre choice wasn't great.
Q: You've been fourth here and fifth from fifth on the grid last year. Is this circuit a good one for you?
Trulli: So far it's always been a circuit where I was very very competitive so I expect another strong weekend but you never know. Every race has different history so we have to go out and race and see what happens during the weekend. Last week we had quite a good promising test in preparation for this Grand Prix. Obviously the race weekend is different, so I just hope that all our choices are right for this weekend.
Q: Giancarlo, you also have a good record here: your best qualifying is third on the grid, your best finish is third as well. You've usually finished here, so what do you feel about Monza?
Giancarlo FISICHELLA: Yeah, Monza is my home Grand Prix so it's a big pleasure for me to race in my country and there are lots of fans looking forward to it. Last year I did my best result in Monza, third, after 17 years... the last Italian driver who got on the podium was Michele Alboreto 17 years ago, and I think the last Italian winner was I don't know who, forty years ago! So obviously the target is to get on the podium again, but the aim is to win the race.
Q: And what chances do you feel, after testing last week?
Fisichella: I think we've got a good chance; the package was working pretty well. As in the last few races, we are quite competitive with Ferrari, so it's going to be quite tough.
Q: Since then there's been the announcement of the 2007 Renault line-up with yourself and Heikki. We'll come to him in a moment, but do you feel it puts you under quite a lot of pressure next year?
Fisichella: I'm happy about Heikki. He's a nice guy, he's a good driver and I'm sure it's going to be a good strong team next year. It's going to be a tough season, obviously, but I'm looking forward to it, but I'm still concentrated on the end of this season.
Q: But do you feel under pressure for next year?
Fisichella: Yes, a bit, a bit, yes, but I like it when I am under pressure.
Q: Heikki, some people have been saying that you're stepping straight into Alonso's shoes, that's pretty heavy for you, isn't it?
Heikki KOVALAINEN: Some people might say that. Obviously everybody's got their own opinions but Fernando also started when he was very young, but I have all the confidence in me, and I also have confidence in the team. They will guide me. I am quite confident that we can repeat the success they've had before.
Q: It's surely quite a task being thrown into a team that is obviously right up at the top. They're going to be expecting major results.
Kovalainen: Yes, of course, the expectations are going to be very high, but for me, I will take it calmly and easier at the beginning, of course. The Melbourne race next year is going to be difficult for me but I will try to finish the first race, that's going to be the target, and hopefully score some points and then we can improve from there and like I said, I have all the confidence in the team and I feel that I've already done a good job with the team this year, so the team also knows what I can do and therefore they already look forward to a successful season next year.
Q: Felipe, a fantastic win two weeks ago, obviously, and also a good time in testing, 0.8s quicker than anyone else on that last day here. Do you feel right at the top at the moment?
Felipe MASSA: Yeah, for sure I'm really happy with my moments, especially taking the last five or six races into account. I was always quite competitive, quite strong, always top three on the grid, and winning the last race was really fantastic for me. Even the testing was really good, the car was behaving very well, very strong, good speed, good stability, good downforce, and everything was really working well, so hopefully we can show the same performance this weekend as we showed last week in testing, and also at the last race. So really, I think we're going to be strong and we're pretty confident that we can be very very strong in this race.
Q: Since the win in Turkey, have you felt a great relief, a great weight off your shoulders, looking back?
Massa: Yeah, for sure. After you achieve victory, for sure things get much better. For sure you remain much more motivated but also more relaxed, but anyway, I think it's a time to work even harder, to carry on at this level, so I'm really happy with all the achievements but we are still working hard for the championships.
Q: You probably don't want to be reminded of this but your best result here has been ninth place, so what chances of improving on that?
Massa: I don't really want to look at this position so I want to improve my position here at Monza. I hope I can.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) This is a question for all five of you: on Sunday, Michael Schumacher will announce if he will retire or not, and of course that is his decision, but, would you like to see him continue so that you can race against him next year, and regardless of if he retires or not, what do you think of what he has accomplished in his career?
Trulli: It's been a pleasure for me to race with him, and obviously he has achieved a lot. It's not up to me to say how much, but the numbers speak for themselves. Obviously we don't know what's going to happen but if he leaves Formula One, we will miss him a little bit as a driver, we will miss him in the football matches, because that has been very nice this year but on the other hand, I think it's his own life and he has to get on with it. It's difficult now. We don't know what's going to happen. He's given a lot to Formula One, he's given a lot to Ferrari and it's normal that a lot of people will miss him.
Fisichella: Yeah, I agree with Jarno. Formula One will miss Michael. I don't think we will miss Michael in the football games because even if he retires, I think he will play with us. He loves playing football. He's a great driver, he's a nice guy and he is still fit, he's still quick. I think he's still got a chance to continue and I would like to race with him next year.
Massa: Well, we don't know if he will retire or not so we need to wait and see, but for sure, it's a big pleasure just to have the experience to race with him, and I'm more close to Michael even since 2003 when I was test driver. He's a very nice guy, we get along quite well and he's very professional, he's definitely the most complete driver in Formula One, in my opinion. But we really don't know if he's going to retire or not.
Kovalainen: Well of course for me, as a rookie next year it would be great to fight with Michael because obviously he's won everything as they've already said. I've actually had a chance one time to fight with him in a charity event in Paris and I would like to have another go!
Liuzzi: Yeah, of course it would be a big shame if he retires because he's the greatest champion of the last ten years for sure and to race with him has always been pretty fair and he has given us some good lessons on TV. He's always been a great guy and a great driver to talk about racing and sports with but for sure, that's life. Sometime he thought maybe he had to continue a bit more with his family and I agree with his decision if he will retire. We still don't know if he will be in the championship next year, but if not, it's just a decision which arises once in your life, the time when you have to say it's over.
Q: (Ottavo Daviddi - Tuttosport) We talk of Michael's retirement, but we are not sure of it this season... Do you prefer if he continues to race or not?
Fisichella: I said yes. We want to see him with us again next year.
Kovalainen: Yes, I'd like to have another go...
Liuzzi: Yes, of course, it is good if he stays, but he cannot race until he is 60 or 70 -- so there will have to be a time when he has to...
Massa: Who knows? Who knows?
Trulli: For me, it doesn't change much. It's just a question of a champion and does he want to stay or to go. I have been fighting with him. I have been ahead and I have been behind. He has won and he has lost. And he will continue doing this. It's not a question of we like or we don't like. It's a question of he wants to continue or he doesn't want to continue so it is up to him rather than up to us.
Q: (Heinz Prueller - ORF) Gentlemen, we are talking so much about Michael. Can I ask all of you to recall one memory of him that stands out in your mind - a race, or a conversation or a party? Or whatever?
Trulli: Well, we have had so many and just one... Well, the first time I met him was at a go-kart track. He was just a Formula One driver who wanted to show that he was able also to drive go-karts and it was great for me, a young kid, to have someone like him, a champion, not racing, but competing and testing. That was in Italy many years ago and actually after that he said some very good words about myself and I must say that and I have to thank him for what he has done for me.
Liuzzi: Yes, I was going to say the same as Jarno because the first time I met him was in Kerpen at the world karting championship, in 2001, and it was the year I won -- and it was really cool to meet him there because he was racing against us and at the beginning we thought I would be disturbed because I was fighting for the championship and it was my last race, but then I have to say he was really, really professional and it was great to race with him because he was a great competitor, really fast and winning a world championship when Michael was there was a really great experience and also we had some good talk and once I was in Formula One it was really weird that I met him three years before in karting at my World Cup and then being in Formula One with him. But there was a promise I did to him. I hoped that I would be able to race against him in the future and it happened so it was really great.
Q: Heikki can you remember what he said after you beat him (karting) at Bercy?
Kovalainen: Yes. I can remember what he said. He said congratulations, well done and that was it and obviously it was a charity event, nothing like a Formula One race, but for me it was a great moment, of course, because at that time I was even more nobody than I am now and that time nobody knew what I had been doing. For me, it was a great opportunity to beat him because we all had the same cars and nobody did any practice and it was a fun event. But I took it very seriously and it was one of my best moments so far in my career.
Massa: I think I have many, not just from racing, for sure. The last race was very special for me because winning the first race and you see that your team-mate is Michael Schumacher is just amazing. For sure I will never forget that and we have had many other great times, including the goal we made yesterday. It was really incredible.
Fisichella: My only time when we can talk together is in the football match for charity. And he is a very nice guy and especially when I bring my family and my children he is nice guy he talks and he plays with the children so you can see he is a father like me, a normal guy, a nice guy. But in the race weekend, of course, he is a bit more nervous and a bit more closed, but I can say he is a nice guy.
Q: Is he more competitive on the football pitch than he is on the race track? Or will he be?
Fisichella: Well, he loves to play football and he is playing very often now, football. Together, we play very well. We did a good job in the last football games and even last night we scored both goals and it was great.
Q (Diego Mejia - RCN): I'd like to know from you what difference the new track surface has made? Is it more or less grippy? More difficult? Has it shifted the balance between one tyre manufacturer and another?
Fisichella: The new surface looks ok. The first day the grip wasn't great, but the second it was better. I don't know about the third day because I didn't drive then. There are still too many bumps, which is a bit unfair here, but apart from that it is fine and there is not a big difference to the old one.
Q: And has it changed the balance of power?
Fisichella: I think it is about the same. I think the last day there was some problem with the blistering, but I think everything is ok.
Massa: I think it is much better than before. I remember Monza was a lot bumpier and now you can still feel them but it is much smoother and there is more grip. So I think they did a good job.
Kovalainen: I did one test on the old surface and then this test and for me I never had any problems with the old surface. There are always some bumps on the race tracks and maybe this one is a bit smoother, but at the end I think the difference between the teams and the tyre manufacturers, it is going to be the same and it won't decide the winner of the race.
Liuzzi: I didn't think there was a change in tyre manufacturer performance because I also only drove here for two hours on Friday and it was pretty dirty and slippery so I prefer to see it as slightly less bumpy, but more standard for the whole way through. There was a quite a big difference in grip between some corners and now it is more standard all through. So I prefer it more this year.
Trulli: In terms of safety, bumps, grip and in every way they have done a very good job and it doesn't really change the balance between the two tyre-makers.
Q: (Heinz Prueller - ORF) Heikki, how many laps, or kilometres, approximately, did you do in testing for Renault in the last two years?
Kovalainen: I think in the last two years around 28,000 kilometres. This year, alone, about 18,500.
Q: (Heinz Prueller - ORF): So that's almost around the world?
Kovalainen: Tell me about it...
Q: (Heinz Prueller - ORF): And Felipe, how did you see the pitting situation in Turkey and could you have stayed out longer before refuelling?
Massa: Aah, for sure, I was supposed to stop on lap 18 so it was already lap 13 so it was stupid to stay on the track so it was the right time to come in...
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) Felipe, after your first win, do you expect more support from Italian fans or not for this race?
Massa: Yes, definitely. You can see the people are warm and I had a really very big welcome here in Monza and even last week when I went to Cerignola, the city of my grandparents, who came from this city. I went there to receive the key of the city and it was a very special moment for me and I could see all of the people around the square -- and there were thousands of people there to see me -- and it was a great moment for me. I really like Italy because for me it is a very special country. Most of the Brazilian drivers went to England to start their careers, but I went to Italy so I have done all of my career here in Italy to become a Ferrari driver. So, for me, it is a very special country, which I love and the people are very nice -- and especially the food. I also have an Italian passport and I feel very comfortable here. I love to come here in Italy.