DRIVERS – Narain KARTHIKEYAN (HRT), Kamui KOBAYASHI (Sauber), Heikki KOVALAINEN (Caterham), Kimi RAIKKONEN (Lotus), Fernando ALONSO (Ferrari), Pastor MALDONADO (Williams)
Narain, tell us how HRT has changed in the last six months. How much has it changed and developed?
Narain KARTHIKEYAN: Yeah, I think we’ve come a long way since Australia and the team has a permanent facility now and the factory is very impressive. Everything has come under one roof. There’s a design office, we’re hiring a lot of people and the car is getting slightly better. It’s a positive step and hopefully this will continue throughout the season. We have some upgrades coming during the holidays and hopefully we’ll start using them soon and close the gap. The car at the moment is similar to the Marussia, but we can improve still a little bit and that’s what we are planning to do.
It’s an unfortunate fact that you do see a lot of blue flags in your position. Tell us how difficult it is from that point of view, and how much your race is compromised by that? How much do you have to race in the first quarter of the race?
NK: Yes, that part where you don’t have the blue flags in the first of the race is where you try and do what you can and push. But after that, yes, once the blue starts coming you have to go offline sometimes and you pick up lots of marbles and after that it’s managing the tyres and so on. It’s quite difficult for us but we try to stay out of the way of the leaders.
Kamui, your best performance in Hockenheim: in fact a fantastic performance from both Sauber cars. Have you sorted out the problems you had in the past few races?
Kamui KOBAYASHI: I think it’s not really a big problem. It’s basically that we had speed everywhere but unfortunately we missed some piece of the puzzle and we could not compete at the end of the weekend, in the race. We believe we had a really good car and had good performance but we just need to piece together all the puzzle. Yeah, I think otherwise we are not worried about our pace. For sure it’s not the best of the car but for sure we can fight for good positions.
Is there a problem with qualifying? If you started further up perhaps you could be a winner?
KK: Definitely. In Hockenheim I had quite good confidence in the dry but unfortunately in the wet, especially on the inter tyre in that situation in Hockenheim qualifying, we struggled a lot to warm them up. I think a lot of drivers struggled but we struggled as well and that is the point – if it had been dry I think we could quite easily have found Q3 and then I think the race would have been completely different. This is what we need. Unfortunately in the last two races we had a wet qualifying and a little bit of a difficult time. In the dry we definitely have a good car. In the wet, sometimes it’s good, sometimes not good. It’s difficult to say what is the clear answer [to that]. We show a really good car in the dry and we definitely we see in the factory many people are working so hard and we see really good performance in the car and so thanks to all the guys working on the car.
Heikki, a lot of rumours going around the paddock at the moment about where you might be going etc. What can you tell us?
Heikki KOVALAINEN: I think it’s the time of the season where you hear a lot of rumours regarding a lot of drivers, and for me nothing has changed at the moment. The only focus is improving our team and our car, and making the best out of what we’ve got. Then at some point we’ll sit down with my management and sit down with Caterham first and then see what we’ll do for the future.
You’re a previous winner at this circuit. What are you feelings coming into this race?
HK: Pretty similar feelings to any other grand prix. It’s too long since I won here. It’s just one weekend in the whole championship. Of course, as a Finn this feels a little bit like a home grand prix. We have a lot of people from Finland always turning up here. In that way it is perhaps a warmer feeling through the weekend than some of the races. But apart from that, it’s business as usual.
Kimi, presumably you feel the same way about the crowd, but what about the car. Is it progressing? People were talking about it as a winner earlier this season. Is it keeping up that reputation? Is it keeping that performance?
Kimi RAIKKONEN: Well, it hasn't won any races, so it’s not a winner. I mean, we have a good package but for many races we probably haven’t got the best out of it in all conditions at all races but that’s up to us. We are still pretty happy but of course you want to do better. We wish to win races but it hasn’t happened so far, so hopefully we can win some this year. It’s not easy and we know that. We keep trying to improve things and learn from the things that we do and we’ll see what we can do in the second part [of the season].
Is fourth the best you can do at the moment and is qualifying an emphasis for you?
KR: We had a good speed last weekend, apart from the rain. We couldn’t get anything in the rain for some reason. That really put us in a not very good position. If it’s a dry weekend… the car has been good in the wet in Silverstone but for some reason not in qualifying in the last race. I think we’re finding the place where I want to be with the car and the set-up and things like that and hopefully we can be a bit better here than we were last week.
Fernando, since last weekend, you and Felipe felt the moral obligation to visit earthquake victims very close to the factory at Maranello. Can you tell us of that experience: what you found, what you saw?
Fernando ALONSO: yeah, we were visiting some of the camps that still have people there and it’s not clear when they will come back home, because some of the cities are still quite damaged and most of the buildings will still need some repair. For sure, it’s not an easy situation. A sad feeling a little bit. We tried to give them some support from the Ferrari factory and all the team. When the earthquake arrived everyone cares about these people and they were in the news everyday, but now after a few months or whatever, people tend to forget, so we were just visiting them to give them full support and to wish that everything will become better and better every day and that normality will arrive sooner rather than later.
You’ve come into this race obviously having won last weekend, you won your first race here and you’ll go into the break leading the Championship. Do you see yourself as favourite to win the Championship and, if not, who is?
FA: Well, I think we are in a good position in terms of points that we achieve in the first half of the season, in the first ten races, but we are, as you said, only half. We did ten and there remain another ten important races with the same possibilities for everybody. I think the distance between the top five, top six is not a distance or a gap that is impossible to recover. You just need one good race or two good races and you are up there. So, we need to keep the concentration, try to keep maximising what we have in our hands every weekend – sometimes we know that can be a podium, sometimes maybe it’s a fifth position, sometimes a seventh, but we cannot afford to make any mistakes or anything that we will regret. So, we need to keep doing good – some good consistency but in terms of the Championship it’s obviously way to early to think and still McLaren, Red Bull, Lotus, Mercedes – anyone is in contention at the moment.
Pastor, obviously you won in Barcelona: what has changed, what has happened since then – you really haven’t followed that up. What’s happened since then.
Pastor MALDONADO: Yeah, I think after Barcelona, for whatever reason we didn’t consolidate our results. I did a couple of mistakes and then I’ve been a bit unlucky as well at the same time. We’ve been working so hard in the team, trying to keep our performance. Maybe in qualifying we did a great job and as I mentioned, for whatever reason we haven’t been very strong on races. Now in the second part of the Championship we are looking to recover the points we lost and to every time be strong and the strongest.
What about this circuit? You were very quick in Monaco, there are mid-speed corners just like in Barcelona as well. Is this looking a good circuit for you?
PM: Yeah, I hope so. For sure now the gaps are very close and I hope to have a great car here. It’s going to be very important to understand the tyres, to understand and to prepare the car for quali and the race – which is a compromise I think here. And yeah, I love this circuit. It’s very technical, very hard mentally and physically and for sure looking forward to have a great result and to be back to the points again with the team.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
(Dan Knutson – Honorary) Fernando, in Germany you told us how much better the car was. Could you expand a bit? Just how much has it improved since Jerez testing and what race was the biggest update?
FA: Well, definitely we did improve the car a lot. I don’t know how much, or I cannot quantify it in terms of lap time because it will be difficult. I think between two and three seconds maybe but obviously it’s a number that cannot be very precise. I think the biggest improvement that we introduced was in Barcelona; the biggest updates were mainly the aerodynamics of the car – but we knew that in the first three or four races, when we were in China, Bahrain, the car was not doing what we were expecting. And when we arrived in Barcelona, everything became a little bit more normal for us and from that point, all the updates it was fine-tuning. But the Barcelona one was to make everything back to work.
(Péter Farkas – Autó-Motor) Kimi, we have not really heard anything about the infamous power steering lately. Have you and the team taking a step forward regarding that? And before, did you have any real life situations where you felt you couldn’t achieve a better result because of the power steering?
KR: There’s no point to talk about it because I mean, when we say something people try to make a massive story out of it. Like I always said, it’s not perfect – it’s still not – it’s improved a lot since we started. But still a way to go. It’s OK to race, it’s not like it’s somehow going to make me one second faster or half a second faster if we going to get it exactly as we want. And this is… I know that I’ve driven better ones and there’s definitely still things that we can improve. We’re working for it, but it’s not the easiest thing to get right. So we have to work on those and hopefully at some point we will get it exactly as we want.
(Harry Kiner – ARA Radio) Fernando, for you two questions please. In Ferrari team I heard they call you a maestro: is it true and how does it come? And managed to stay out of any trouble this year – how to you do it?
FA: In Ferrari they call me Fernando normally. But always with Ferrari as we are already repeating it was a very good reception, welcome from day one. And it’s like family for me. I’m in Italy 80 per cent of my free time and I have my best friends there working also in Italy now in the factory in the road cars, so I spend free time there. Most of the time as I said I’m better in Italy even than in Spain, so this is something for sure curious.
This year it has been not easy to go out of problems or troubles in the races because the grid is so tight, so in one-tenth you have four or five cars. In the races we are more or less at the same performance, it’s not like last year when there were six cars and then a different group of cars and then a different group again. This year every detail counts, every pitstop counts, the starts… so I think it’s a little bit more stress on the grid or between all of us, so we’ve been lucky in some moments of the Championship, in some manoeuvres, in some incidents and we’ve been finishing all the races in the points, which obviously helps for us. We obviously need to keep doing like this and hopefully have the whole season trouble-free.
(Adrian Huber - Agencia EFE) Fernando, your figures keep improving: nine years ago you won here your first race and last Sunday you won your 30th. Back nine years, did you imaging you will get all this? What were your feelings then?
FA: No, no, definitely not. When you win your first grand prix it’s just a lot of emotions going on. A lot of satisfaction, proudness of the team, of yourself, or family… a lot of thoughts are coming when you win your first grand prix. You cannot imagine that you will repeat that feeling or that happiness more times or very often. So when you keep winning after some years, some different teams, different regulations that have changed a lot from 2003 obviously: V10, V8… Michelin, Bridgestone, Pirelli, refuelling, no refuelling. It has been a lot of time since 2003. If I look back obviously, for sure I never imagine to have the luck and the possibility to achieve the two World Championships and now driving for Ferrari.
Q: (Gabor Joo - Index) Kimi and Fernando; Red Bull have these new engine mapping rules for this weekend. Do you expect Red Bull to struggle a bit?
FA: I think it's a question for Red Bull.
KR: I don't know what they're doing so we will see.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Kimi, when you look back at the two years that you were out of Formula One, do you think they have had any influence in your performance up to now? And what happened when you were leaving Hockenheim? We saw some pictures (of him tripping over a barrier he was trying to climb over)...
KR: I almost felldown. It was close!
I was two years out (of Formula One). I was doing different things and I don't think that if I'd been driving two years in Formula I would be any different really. I maybe took a few practices, a few races to know everything exactly (when I came back). Of course it's a new team, so it took a bit to get to know everybody there and to get everything exactly as I wanted, but I think we're getting there now and it hasn't been too bad really. It's been OK.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Kimi, what is the maximum to be achieved with Lotus in the Constructors' and Drivers' championships and which one is more important for you?
KR: I will tell you at the end of the year. We will try to do the maximum all the time. I don't know where we're going to end up. We're doing pretty OK now. I think they didn't probably expect us to do so well as a team at the beginning of the year, and we try to improve and hopefully we will manage to do that. We're in the fight for the top three. We're now fourth in the team championship and I'm fourth in the drivers. We go race-by-race and on my side try to score as many points as I can, and try to help the team... I guess they want to be as high as they can in the team championship. For me I want to be as high as I can from my side. Both things really influence each other so we will just try to do better and hopefully manage to do that.
Q: (Ian Gordon - The Times) Fernando, it's incredible to think that it's six years since your last drivers' title. A couple of points more in those years and you could have had four or five titles at the moment instead of two. What will it mean to you to win that third title if you do so this year, for yourself and for Ferrari? It will put you in a higher band of elite drivers, the Laudas and the Prosts.
FA: Well, I think we need to wait and see when we have real possibilities of fighting for this championship. At the moment, as we said, we are happy with the points achieved in the first half but we need to keep working hard, we need to keep consistency and we need to keep doing good results. This can change very quickly, in two or three races and then we talk about very different things. Not much point to talk about the championship now. But as I said, when we finished Brazil in 2006, it was a dream for me to (even think to) win three World Championships in my career. If it's this year, in two years' time or in six years' time, I don't know but the third one will be very important for me. To have the same as Ayrton had - three World Championships - he was idol or my reference when I was in go-karts and some big names, as you said, Lauda etc so three is a pretty good number which I always dream of, and hopefully arrive sooner rather than later.
Q: (Carlos Miguel - La Gaceta) Fernando, do you believe the new map rules could be good for Ferrari, because maybe Red Bull is slower with these new rules?
FA: As we said before, it doesn't change anything for us. We will have exactly the same car as Silverstone or Germany and for them, we have no idea. I think they are having their press conference at four, so it's more a question for them.
Q: (Alexander Hoffstatter - Austrian Press Agency) The Olympics are going to start tomorrow; do you like the idea of an Olympic Formula One race or is it just not realistic?
HK: I suppose you think I'm the nice man who will give you the answer. I don't think it's realistic but why not? I have nothing against it but how do you fit a race track in an Olympic Games? I don't know. But who knows? Why not?
Q: (Adrian Huber - Agencia EFE) Fernando, at the very beginning of the year, you took the role of cheering up the people in your team. Do you have to calm them down a little bit now, or does everybody know how it's going to go?
FA: People know, certainly, what is our performance, how many points we have, how we achieve these points, how many points we have in the Constructors'. Every race, when you do the analysis after each Grand Prix the numbers never lie, so we know what we have.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, it seems that this is the best season so far for you. How can you explain this? It is not only about the car, of course, but even yourself; have you changed something? Did your Malaysia victory mean that you changed something in the season?
FA: No. Well... I think so far the results have been coming good and as I said, we've been lacking at some moments some details of the weekend and we have achieved a lot of points. I think I've had a very good season, like 2008, winning two races with Renault. 2009 with a car that normally my teammate was out in Q1, I was on the podium, things like that. In 2010, when I arrived at Ferrari, you always asked me if that was my best season, recovering until I arrived in Abu Dhabi leading the championship with that car, and last year you were saying that it was my best season with ten podiums in a car that was quite far from Red Bull and McLaren. And this year, at the moment, you are asking me good things but as I said before, if I have some or three races with some poor results, you will ask me why I'm not concentrated or something like that, so I will always try to do the best I can. I'm pretty happy with my last four or five seasons in Formula One, especially this one because at the moment we are taking care of all the details that seem to be quite important in this championship, because as I said before, the grid is so tight so you need to be close to perfection, let's say, every weekend. If not you lose more positions than in the past but apart from that, it's more or less the same performance so same approach, same preparation as the last four or five seasons.
Q: (Harry Kiner - ARA Radio) A question for all of you, except Fernando; do you think that Fernando's going to make it this year?
NK: I think Fernando is going very well, yes, he has all the support, so I think he should make it.
KK: The championship? I think Fernando is definitely the strongest this season. We can see he's really strong. I think he will do it.
HK: Fernando is definitely in the best position, but I think it's too close to call at the moment. I think it's going to be an exciting end to the season for everyone, not only for the teams, the drivers but also for the spectators.
KR: Fernando is definitely in the best position right now, but like he said himself, you have one or two bad weekends and somebody else suddenly does well in those races and it changes very quickly. There are too many races to go, still, to look into it too much but then we will see what will happen at the end of the last race.
PM: Yeah, Fernando has been really consistent and strong this year, this half season. For sure, he's in the best place. I really wish him all the best for this season. He's driving so well and all the best to him and the Ferrari team.
Q: (Harry Kiner - ARA Radio) And again, to you all, are you going to watch the Olympics?
NK: The Olympics? No, I'm going back to India.
KK: I think I'm maybe going to see a few sports but I'm no big fan of the Olympics so I will just watch some of the results.
HK: Regarding the Olympic Games, yes, absolutely, I will watching them as much as I can. We've got a good few Finnish athletes there. Probably the most interesting for myself is the mens' javelin event. We've got a few guys who are not necessarily at the top in the rankings at the moment, but hopefully the timing of their fitness and preparation is good enough, so that they can snatch a medal. That would be great.
KR: I think it's hard to miss the Olympics even if you would like to. I will look at some on TV, but it's not really sport that I'm following. For sure, there will be some TV so I will watch it.
PM: I will just be supporting the Venezuelan team in the Olympics. I'm not that great a fan of the Olympic Games but for sure I will support the Venezuelan team.
FA: Yeah, I think I will watch as much as I can, but obviously we are on holiday and if you go to the beach, you are not running to see the sport on TV. You see the replay in the evening or whatever
Q: (Pablo Gorondi - Associated Press) Fernando, considering the streak you've been on in the past couple of weeks, we now have a month's vacation coming up; are you afraid that this is going to disrupt the way things have been going for you? Or will you be able to take it up again at the end of the month?
FA: Well, we considered the August break this year to be a little bit longer than normal and a good opportunity to catch some of the quickest cars, because more time is available for us. We think that we should find some extra performance that we are missing at the moment. So being a little bit late with the development of the car at the beginning of the season, being a little bit surprised in a bad way about the performance of the car at the beginning of the season, we need time and we need solutions to make the car faster and I think to have a longer period can only be good news for us.
Q: (Dorel Tant - MSSport1.com) Heikki, would you be tempted to rally a car like Kimi Raikkonen?
HK: You are always tempted, yes, but as we saw with Kimi, it's not so easy, especially to go straight into it at World Rally level, to the top. I think the expectations would need to be zero. It would be purely for fun, it would take a long time to achieve any level of competitive performance. At the moment, all my focus is on Formula One. I feel that since a few years now, my career is more back on track. I feel better here so at the moment, not even for a hobby am I considering rallying. Every effort is now to improve the results in Formula One. Maybe when I get grey and old I will buy an Escort Mk2 and rally at home, but that's just for fun.
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