F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Thursday press conference transcript
DRIVERS – Vitaly PETROV (Caterham), Daniel RICCIARDO (Toro Rosso), Charles PIC (Marussia), Kamui KOBAYASHI (Sauber), Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), Jenson BUTTON (McLaren)
Vitaly, like a number of drivers here today whom we’ll all be talking to about the same subject, the future is not decided for you. What are your feelings about that, what’s happening and when are we likely to hear about it? Vitaly PETROV: Bob, I think you’ll know what I mean when I answer this question. Last time you asked Nico [Hulkenberg] the same question so, I think I will answer the same: I’ll focus on this year trying to do the best race to race. My management is doing the work and that’s it.
What about the recent performances? The car seems to be going better. Are you happy with that? You’ve been matching Heikki pretty much if not finishing ahead of him. VP: I’m working quite hard to beat him every race and I have a goal. Look like we now understand much more the car and the set-up. We’re very excited for this weekend because we bring quite a big package of updates, so we’ll need to test a lot of things in P1, P2 and P3 – probably even in quali. We’re looking forward to understanding them, as those updates will probably be on next year’s car as well. So I’m really excited to see how they are because in the last few months we bring some updates but we didn’t bring in… towards being quicker, you know. So this is why this test is quite important for us.
Daniel, the news came out a couple of days ago that you're staying with the team. I guess everybody thought that was automatic but it doesn’t seem that way. Daniel RICCIARDO: I guess until something’s signed and sealed, you always keep a bit reserved, so it’s nice to get confirmation that I’ll be back with Toro Rosso next year. Yeah, it’s good to now focus on the last few races and it’s good to know we’ve got that behind us for next season. There are some big expectations there have been some big changes throughout this year and they’ll be in full effect next year essentially. It’s been a little bit too late to make a huge difference this year but we’re definitely expecting good things for next year and I’ll have a bit more experience behind me, which will help as well.
Talking about improvements in the car, will there be improvements here? DR: We hope so. We’re not bringing any big updates this weekend, nothing to brag about. We’ve been pretty good since the summer break, we’ve definitely been more consistent in compiling the points more regularly. Unfortunately, in India it wasn’t the case, but prior to that we’ve been pretty good. This weekend we’ll see what happens. Quite a few sponsors and guests here this weekend, so we’ll do our best to impress them all.
Charles, also a question about the future. What is there in the pipeline for you? Charles PIC: I don’t know, there are still three races to go and I want to be focused on this. Of course we are asking about next year but nothing is done, so I will have to wait.
Are there updates coming for the car here? CP: No. I think from Singapore we made a step and we are much closer to Caterham, our direct competitor and our objective is to try to keep this 10th position.
Kamui, again, another future question for you, what’s happening with you? Kamui KOBAYASHI: Hi everyone. I have the same thing as the guys – we have to work hard to get next year’s seat. I think I’m pretty confident to deserve a Formula One seat but for sure we definitely need to focus for these last three races. So, let’s see. We don't have so many seats [available] either, so this is also a big question, so I think I try to focus on the results and also negotiate with other teams or the same team, I don’t know.
And this is a circuit where you scored your first World Championship points, so it must be one that you remember. KK: Yes, definitely. I have a good memory here. Abu Dhabi is one of my good memories of track, and especially I think like Toyota’s race is something special for me and at the same time scoring first points here. Of course I think we had different cars and I think had to take a different approach. But the last two years experiencing it with the same team I have quite a positive feeling for here.
Felipe, we haven’t spoken to you since you were decided for 2013 for Ferrari. It must be a relief to be signed. Felipe MASSA: Yes, I think it’s very nice to stay with Ferrari after a long time now. Going to the eighth championship for Ferrari, not counting even when I signed the contract when I was a young driver. Not so young anymore but still a young driver, before Formula One, when I signed a contract for Ferrari. It’s a long time now. It’s very nice, and really looking forward to finish well this end of the Championship but also to concentrate 100 per cent for different and very competitive 2013 as well.
The race results have been getting better for you over the last few races. Has that been because the car has come towards you with the development? FM: A little bit, yes, but also I think, y’know, I would say maybe I had a better direction for the second part of the season. I had good races before, for example the pace was very good in the race, the possibility to score good points and finish in the points was high but always something was happening with some race and I couldn’t put it together. I would say after August everything was much more in the right direction. Nothing was happening during the race; the position on the start was better; so I think you know, this helps a lot. Also my mind, I mean I put it on my mind that if it’s OK, it’s OK, if it’s not OK, is not OK and that’s fine. I try to enjoy, like I always did in my career, going in the car, trying to have fun, enjoy and I think when you do that, you can put the best possible and make the car as quick as possible and the result is there.
Jenson, you’ve had three third places here. Is it a track that’s going to suit the McLaren this year? Jenson BUTTON: I really don’t know! I think as you’ve seen in the last few races, Red Bull, the Ferrari and our car have been relatively strong. Maybe Ferrari and us not quite as strong as the Red Bulls but this is a very different type of circuit to India. It’s not front-limited like India was, I think the rear is going to be the limitation. So, we will see. It is going to be very competitive, I think. And that’s just those three teams: I think you’ll also have a couple of other teams that we’ve seen be strong on occasions. Especially the latter part of the season, that we’ll see at the front fighting as well.
I don’t know if you’ve been out on the circuit but they’ve added some kerbs, quite a few kerbs around the circuit. JB: I haven’t, no, I’m going to head out this evening. This is a fun circuit to drive. It’s a difficult circuit to overtake on but it’s fun to drive and it’s good that they’ve put bigger kerbs in, I think. Last year, if you saw the footage, we were using probably more of the circuit than we should be because there isn’t a limit in terms of a big kerb to stop you from going over the white lines. Now there are bigger kerbs, I think it’s a good thing: it keeps us all on the circuit, keeps us in the right place between the white lines. Now we have to see what the kerb ride is like because obviously it’s different to what it was last year.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Alex Popov - RTI) Vitaly and Kamui, since nobody in big business in Russia and Japan are interested in following you or supporting you next year, if it's like this, would you consider looking for a foreign sponsor, a big international company, not specially Russian or Japanese? VP: I don't think it's my job to do it, because I don't understand too much about it. My management must do that, and I hope for that, so I don't know what to say. KK: I think it's interesting, but after the race at Suzuka this year, since then I think Japan is more interested in motor sport, especially Formula One. I think if I had a little bit more time I could find more sponsoring from Japan. This is what I'm looking for. After Suzuka, we definitely had a lot of contact from a couple of companies. It's very difficult to judge what I have to say, because I'm not deciding the team and I don't know the budget. I have no idea. This is a very difficult moment, but at the moment I could find quite a lot of sponsors and we definitely see a lot of good signs after the Suzuka result. It's very important to get international but also my preference is if I could bring some sponsoring from Japan, to get more popular in Japan. I think this is what I'm really focusing on at the moment.
Q: (Ross Macdonald - Gulf News Broadcasting) Jenson, what is Abu Dhabi to you? Is it just another day at the office, or is there something special about the place? JB: I haven't actually spent much time in Abu Dhabi. The only time I've actually been in Abu Dhabi was for a party, post-Grand Prix. Apart from that, I've never actually been to Abu Dhabi. I've only stayed at the hotels on the outskirts. I've obviously been to the circuit. The facilities out here are phenomenal, probably the best in the world. I think for the people watching and the people watching on TV, it looks like a spectacular race. I think everything's done very well here. It's a good Grand Prix, not a bad Grand Prix for me over the last three years. I like coming here, it's an enjoyable Grand Prix for me but as I said, I haven't been here, I've been down the road in Dubai for the last three days.
Q: (Ross Macdonald - Gulf News Broadcasting) How was the party? JB: I can't remember. It must mean it was good.
Q: (Ian Parkes - Press Association) Jenson, just been speaking to Sergio earlier and he's mentioned that he's already had a couple of conversations with you about McLaren, what it's going to be like joining next season. I was just wondering about the ten year age gap between you two, whether you feel like an older brother to him in some respects?
FM: Getting older. JB: I don't actually think I'm that old. I was surprised when I was told he was 22-years old. It seems like he's been around for a lot longer than that. But no, I don't feel like an older brother, no. It's important to work closely with your teammate. I think that when he's in the team he will probably learn a lot from someone who is older, with more experience, which is me but I still think that when you're an older driver you can still learn from a younger teammate, to bring fresh ideas to the table. But as an old brother? No, I definitely don't feel like that.
Q: (Ian Parkes - Press Association) What do you expect to learn from him? JB: I don't know yet. We'll see.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Jenson, just following up on Parksey's question: how much has Lewis learned from you, given that the age gap there is a few years as well? JB: That's a great question. I don't know. I think you will have to ask him that. You'll get a good answer, I'm sure, on that one.
Q: (Kate Walker - Girl Racer) Charles, we have heard today that Marussia have confirmed that they have got financial difficulties. We know that there are possibilities of new investors in the team. Does this mean that you are broadening your discussions with other teams for a drive next year? CP: Actually, I try to be focused on my job and for the moment, my job is to give my best for the three last races. After we will see what's open for next year. We are speaking with some team but I think it's too early to say anything. Thank you.
Q: (Mike Casey - Associated Press) Jenson, following up on Perez: what does he bring to the team? You're losing Lewis, does he make the team better? From what you've seen in his driving, how is he different from Lewis? JB: Obviously it's very difficult to know what he brings to the team, because he's not there yet. With Lewis leaving, obviously the team loses a very fast driver, a guy that's achieved a lot with the team, wins and obviously a World Championship - the last guy to win a World Championship for the team. It is a big loss but things change and you learn to move on and adapt. It's definitely not the end of two strong drivers at McLaren. I think Sergio will be fast but I really don't know. He's obviously unknown in a McLaren, because he's not there yet. But it's a great opportunity for Checo and I'm sure he will take it with both hands.
Q: (Ralf Bach – R&B) Jenson, do you think that Lewis is able to make a Mercedes car quicker and better next year? JB: I really don't know. I think the first year with a new team is always a little bit tricky. It's a new experience for Lewis. I'm sure he's excited about it. I really don't know. He's as quick as they come but sometimes it's not that easy to win Grand Prix and to build a team around you and also to help a team achieve great results.
Q: (Gaetan Vigneron - RTBF) For all you: between Fernando and Sebastian, which is the driver who deserves the title the most, do you think? VP: I think it's clear, for me, at the moment, today, that the Red Bull car has a big advantage compared to Ferrari. This year, Alonso did a fantastic job from the beginning; he's had a few crashes but all of us know that Ferrari is not on the same pace as Red Bull. It will be difficult for Ferrari but I think Ferrari also has the passion to win and they bring a lot of updates maybe for this weekend or another weekend. I really don't know, but what I can see at the moment is that Red Bull is the quicker car. That's it.
DR: I think he said that quite well. I think this season has been very hard to judge. It's been a very exciting season. I think anything can happen, so even if it is the case that the package of Vettel himself and the car is better at this stage, it doesn't confirm a World Championship. You have to get it done on Sunday and there are still three Sundays to go. Things can happen. I think they both have had their little bit of bad luck this season. I think, for now, they're going to go head-to-toe but yeah, we'll see. Obviously Red Bull's been the car to beat for the last four races or so, but I think the pace is always changing, and Ferrari's obviously got some good experience and some good people behind them, so I'm sure a surprise is not impossible either. See what happens, it's exciting. I would like to be part of it.
CP: Yes, I think maybe Sebastian is in a little bit better position than Fernando right now. From the last few races, they had a little advantage but I think it's still quite open and there are three races left. The championship is still quite close so anything can happen.
KK: For sure, I think Red Bull has the greater advantage but I think the last three races will be quite difficult to judge. At the moment, I think Sebastian has the greater chance but if there's something... if Sebastian misses one race, then I think there is a lot of chance for Fernando. We will see. But at the moment I think Sebastian has more chance.
FM: Well, I think both drivers have had a fantastic championship. I think Fernando did an incredible job up to now, Sebastian as well, especially in the second part of the championship, so I think we are not talking about one guy who has many victories and the other one not. I think we are talking about two drivers one of which will win and who we will say deserved it. But anyway, I hope Fernando will win.
JB: It's a very difficult one to answer. As Felipe said, they have both done a fantastic job this year. You would say that throughout the season, Fernando has been the more consistent. In the last few races, yeah, it's been a great job by Red Bull, but also a great job by Sebastian. He's been given the equipment and he's delivered. You don't win Grands Prix on your own, and you don't win championships on your own, so whoever comes out on top is the driver and the team that deserves to win it.
Q: (Vanessa Ruiz - ESPN Radio) Kamui, you just said that you were pretty confident that you're going to get a seat next year. Sauber has just confirmed Nico Hulkenberg and postponed the decision or at least the announcement about the second driver, so I wonder what it is that makes you confident that you're going to get the seat? KK: It's a feeling. I have nothing, you know, but just feeling. If I can explain something I think it's better but unfortunately not. I think we have to see. I think we still have the last three races and if we have some good results in the last three races maybe something can happen. I believe in that and try to focus. But the feeling for next year is just... feeling.
Q: (Ross Macdonald - Gulf News Broadcasting) Felipe, I know last year you took part in a charity football match when you were in Abu Dhabi. Is that something you will be trying to do again this year, or do you see Abu Dhabi as more than just another day at the office? FM: I thing Abu Dhabi is growing a lot. Every year when you come here you see so many new things so I think that's very nice. I had a nice football match last year. This year we didn't have it but anyway I think it's really a nice place to come: you have nice restaurants, great hotels and everything. It's beautiful. As Jenson says, it's one of the most incredible races, even to watch. I really enjoying coming here. Hopefully we can have a good race as well, another great race for the people.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Kamui, when you first came into Formula One you had about two or three races to make an impression and you did it and you secured your future. Do you feel that these next three races are a similar situation, that you could possibly change things in the last three races and secure your future? KK: Of course, I think this is a good opportunity like three years ago, but this year I have a little bit different feeling. I didn't know three years ago that Toyota would leave Formula One, so just to give myself a good result, just driving for the same team. At the same time, I have to negotiate and do everything, a good result is very important, but this year it seems there are not many seats left so I think we have to move quite quickly as well.