DRIVERS – Paul DI RESTA (Force India), Kamui KOBAYASHI (Sauber), Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren), Sergio PÉREZ (Sauber), Jenson BUTTON (McLaren)
Paul, first of all, you’re coming here off the back of your best-ever result in Singapore, your hopes for this race.
Paul DI RESTA: I suppose to lead off where we finished in Singapore. It was obviously a great result, I think, given Monza qualifying and then taking the penalty, having a reasonable race but then going to Singapore and doing a bit better. Certainly it was a very strong fourth towards the latter stages of the race. A lot of points needed, obviously, to try to catch the Saubers, y’know, and thankfully they didn’t score. But this will be a testing track for us and we know it’s going to be a lot of hard work to try to achieve some good points for us.
Kamui, obviously the home favourite: is that a distraction or an encouragement for you when you come here to Suzuka?
Kamui KOBAYASHI: I think it’s more an encouragement, that means it’s great to be here, back to Suzuka, which is a really great circuit and my favourite as well. And definitely our car could be competitive here as well. After Singapore, which is a little bit difficult circuit for us, back to Suzuka which is our best track, I think it will be great. Really, there will be a big amount of power from a lot of fans and the Japanese people at the race.
Felipe, on pole and a second place here in the past. What are your hopes for this weekend?
Felipe MASSA: Similar result to what you just said! The track is really fantastic here, it’s a great place, very challenging to drive here, y’know? One of the best tracks, so, looking forward for a good result at the end, a good race for us.
Lewis, you had success at Fuji but third place here, a podium obviously, in 2009. What are your thoughts about coming to this race?
Lewis HAMILTON: I generally love coming here, the whole trip’s been fantastic so far and the track is one of the best in the world. It’s one that I haven’t won at before but we’ve got a car that I think can win – so let’s hope it’s a better weekend.
Sergio, 17th on the grid to eighth place last year, which is a pretty good drive and an interesting tyre strategy as well. Kamui says it’s a circuit that really suits the car, what are your hopes?
Sergio PÉREZ: Yes, I think it’s a really good circuit for our car. Last year we didn’t have such a good car as this year and still we managed to come from the back of the grid – we had a failure, a problem in qualifying in Q1, so we start really from 17th and managed to do a good race, a good strategy as you just said, so I’m looking forward a lot of fight for the victory here. I think we’ve got a very strong car at this circuit.
Jenson, 12 out of 12 races you’ve finished here. That’s a pretty good record, you’ve never retired, never had to walk home. Last year’s winner as well, what are your expectations?
Jenson BUTTON: Well obviously I’ve got a little penalty which doesn’t help, especially around here because it’s not the easiest place to overtake – but I’m really excited. I think this is one of the most special races on the calendar for all of us. We love – well I personally love – driving this circuit, it’s a real challenge and a circuit you love to win on. Especially with the crowd here, the spectators are very supportive of us all so it’s a special place to win. A good result is something I’m obviously looking for. The win is more difficult than it would have been without the penalty but it’s still definitely a possibility and we’re doing everything we can to make it possible.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
(Jim Armstrong – AP) Lewis, if I could just ask you about your move to Mercedes, given the results of the two teams over the years, do you feel there’s a bit of a risk in going to that team?
LH: No. I’m not really here to talk about that this weekend. I’m here to talk about trying to win this World Championship still. So we’ve got six races ahead in a great team that I’ve had a great, an incredible journey with and I’m working on trying to finish that on a high.
(Dan Knutson – Honorary) Sergio, just recently we asked you if you were talking to other top teams and you said ‘no’. If that was the case, how quickly did this whole thing come about?
SP: No, there has been some talks before but I didn’t want to give too much information about my opportunities, my options. So the question doesn’t come that often because if I say at that time ‘yes’, then I will be full of questions. So it’s better to… I wanted to keep it in low profile, focussing always in my team, giving my hundred per cent to my team that I’m very thankfully they give me this opportunity. We have six races with a strong car to go and I want to leave on a very high from this team.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport ) Lewis, what was the thing that made you change the team where you’ve grown up through your career? Was it just challenge or…?
LH: To be honest, I had a big press conference or meeting with the Brits the other day, so the story is already out and I’ve already spoken about that stuff. Like I said, I’m here to focus on this weekend.
Q: (Marco degli Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport ) Jenson, among the six drivers here, you are the only one not involved in these moves. How do you judge, from your point of view, what’s happened and what might happen next year?
JB: It’s nice to be the one not in that position – it normally is me. We all move about. That’s the way Formula One is. You’re either trying to find a better possibility, a better team that you think can give you an opportunity to win races or you’re looking for another challenge. There’s always going be people moving around in Formula One. It’s the same with team personnel; it’s not just the drivers. It just seems that it’s all come at once.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) If I could ask the three drivers on the back row: the three drivers in front of you are all sorted for next year. What’s your individual position for next year? Could you just let us know, one by one, what’s happening?
PDR: Nothing at the moment. Our team’s policy is always not to talk about driver contracts and there’s not much more I can say. Things have progressed quite a lot since Singapore and I’m sure the reactions to that will obviously be sorted soon.
KK: Same as Paul. I have no idea. I think we still have six races left to race and Suzuka for me is pretty important, so I just try to focus and think later. These two drivers are the first movement (in the driver market) so this is quite exciting for the rest of the time.
FM: Nothing at the moment but I’m pretty confident things will be OK.
Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer) A question for Felipe: with Sergio signed for McLaren, that’s one of your rumoured replacements at Ferrari out of the picture. Does that give you additional confidence that your contract will be renewed for next year?
FM: Well, I think maybe. I don’t know. As I said, I’m pretty confident things are going in the right direction. Also, I think Sergio is doing a good job this year and he showed his performance and I’m happy that he can sign for a big team as well. But anyway, I need to concentrate on doing the best and that’s the way it is.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sergio, was Ferrari ever an issue for you? Were you talking to them?
SP: Yeah, we were talking to them but it was never an option. I’ve been talking with them because I was part of the academy. I have a good contact with them and good communication, but obviously the place I got is the best place I can be and I’m so, so happy and thankful also for them (Ferrari) because at the time they helped me a lot to come into Formula One, but now I’m moving forward and I want to thank McLaren for taking me on board and trusting in me.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Lewis or Jenson: what’s the best piece of advice you could give to the new McLaren driver in the middle there, for next season?
JB: I don’t really think Sergio needs any advice. He’s let his driving do the talking and he’s had some very good performances over the last couple of years and that’s the reason he’s got the drive he has at the moment and why he’s got the drive he has next year.
LH: He’ll be fine.
Q: (Marco degl’Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sergio, when Luca di Montezemolo said some weeks that you were not yet mature enough for a big team, had you already made an agreement with McLaren?
SP: No. Not yet.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, you had a good race in Singapore and perhaps your expectations of staying at Ferrari increased. Do you think that another strong race here would be enough to secure your place for next season, or will we still have to wait a little while?
FM: Let’s concentrate on having a good result and then we will see. As I said, things are not signed so it’s better not to talk so much and concentrate on the job. We’re going in the right direction so let’s hope we can have a good race here, a good race in Korea and a good end to the championship. That’s very important for me, for the team, for everybody.
Q: (Andrew Gwilym – Press Association) Lewis, this is obviously the first race since your move was confirmed. Have you spoken to your mechanics at all since you’ve been in Suzuka, talking through your reasons. I could imagine that they might have been quite disappointed that you are leaving.
LH: I haven’t… I’ve been to see them but no, I haven’t spoken about things. It’s business as usual which, here this weekend, is focusing on trying to win. That’s how professional they are and vice versa.
Q: (Dan Knutson – Honorary) Lewis, you may have covered this with the Brits(British press), but we weren’t privy to be there. In life, when you make a big decision, many of us, once it’s made, you can relax because good, bad or indifferent, it’s done so do you feel calmer now, that the decision is made?
LH: Absolutely, yeah, I feel fantastic. Very very happy and excited and grateful that I can now just focus on these next six races. I know there’s a lot of work ahead of me. I know I’m leaving a very very good car for this guy (Perez) to step into…
SP: Thank you.
LH: Yeah. Trust me, it will be a good car next year as well, I know. I know exactly what’s going on next year with your car.
Q: (Vanessa Ruiz – ESPN Radio) Sergio, you just said that Ferrari was never an option. What did you mean, exactly, that it was never an option – for you or why it was never an option for Ferrari? Why?
SP: It was never actually with them… if they wanted me or no, they wanted me to go… it was never actually, basically… it was difficult for them, Ferrari, to make that decision. I think they are happy with Felipe. He’s a very good driver, a proven driver as well. I’m not a proven driver, I’m not a guarantee as Felipe is so probably that’s why I was never an option for them. The opportunity for me never came so I never saw them as an option for me.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Jenson, can you talk about the special relationship that you have with Japan and the things you did last week?
JB: Ah, yes. Obviously I was working with a Japanese team for many years. The biggest connection is obviously my girlfriend, Jessie. And yeah, I love the country, I love the culture, I love the people, I love the food. Last week, last Thursday, yes, I was in Japan, I’ve been in Japan all week, and I headed up to the Sendai region and visited what used to be a town very close to Natori. It’s where the tsunami hit. So basically (I was) still raising awareness for what happened last year and also for what is still on-going here in Japan, especially in that region and the difficulties that they still have. So it was a very emotional day but I think a very good day, and hopefully we can help the people that have suffered from the disaster, the people who don’t have homes at the moment, so that was the main reason for doing it. Also in the afternoon I went to a local kart circuit, a place called Sugo. It’s got a big history of motor sport. I think it’s the place where Michael Schumacher raced in an F3000 car, I think the only race he did in an F3000 car. And then I watched 15 or 16 kids driving around the local kart circuit there, all people who were affected by the tsunami in that region, which is a really good experience, to see them in the different categories of karting. It’s such a pure sport, karting, it’s just pure driving and that’s why I think we all still love it so much. Hopefully, one day we will see one of those kids on the Formula One grid, because there’s a lot of talent here in Japan and it would nice to hopefully help one of those kids one day.
Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer) Another question for you, Lewis: when you were working your way up through the ranks, Michael Schumacher was the man to beat. Now you’re replacing him. Can you tell us what that feels like for a driver; are they big racing boots to fill, is it an ego boost to replace the legend? What’s it like inside your head in that context?
LH: I don’t see myself as replacing Michael. I don’t think anyone can replace Michael, he’s a legend in the sport, has achieved so much already. I feel privileged to have been in Formula One in the time where… I watched him winning all his World Championships at home in my living room so to have been on the track with him in 2006 and then for him to come back and for me to get to race with him has been a real privilege so I hope that one day, I can achieve some of the things he has done.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Paul, we know that your name has also been close to Ferrari for next year. Would a year at Ferrari be something that you would agree to do or, looking at your career, are you looking for something longer term with another team?
PdiR: I’ve always said, coming through my career and into Formula One, the important thing is winning races and winning championships, and whenever the opportunity is given, that’s the position I want to be in but just now, obviously, with Force India, my mentality is different and results like we got in Singapore are big. That’s the position I’m in. I’ve got six races up and coming to try and maximise, to do a job under the contract that I’m in.
Q: (Mineoki Yoneya – La Vie Creative) Kamui, you definitely need a good result here this weekend, so are you a bit nervous and how is Suzuka different from the last two years, from the mental point of view?
KK: I don’t feel so much pressure, quite relaxed, so many people around me want to be close but I’m just here for racing. In comparison to the last two years, we’ve got more experience. In 2010, I came to Suzuka… I drove only one race in Suzuka (before) so I didn’t have so much experience actually other than now, but now it’s my third time in Suzuka and I have more experience, and I definitely have the confidence to do well this weekend.
Q: (Andrew Gwilym – Press Association) Kamui, with Michael leaving Mercedes, he’s been linked with a seat at Sauber next year. If you were both to be at Sauber next year, would you welcome the chance to work with Michael?
KK: It’s difficult to say. I don’t think that’s realistic. I can definitely work (with him) but I don’t know, we have to ask Michael. I don’t know if he really wants to come to Sauber. This is a different story. Easy to make a really difficult connection, but I don’t think he really wants to come to Sauber.
Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) I just wanted to ask Sergio his thoughts on moving to McLaren and filling Lewis Hamilton’s seat there. That’s fairly big shoes to fill; is he confident that he can fill them adequately?
SP: Well, of course, I rate Lewis as one of the fastest drivers on the grid, so it won’t be easy at all. I know I have very big shoes to fill so it will be difficult but I will give everything I can, I will work as hard as possible to give the best result and to win championships with this great team.
Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) And can I get your opinion please on your new teammate, Jenson Button, who is an equally tough competitor?
SP: Yeah, of course, it will be great to have a very good champion. He’s a World Champion and it will be a pleasure to work with him together, to reach the same target for the team which is winning and make the best car possible, so I’m looking forward to working together with the whole team and so motivated, enthusiastic to start working with my new team, but first, as I say, I want to finish the next six races on a very high for my team and give everything I can for my team that gave me the opportunity to become a Formula One driver.
Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) Surely the expectation from the word go has got to be to win races, hasn’t it?
SP: Of course. I think with McLaren there is no other option. You have to win every race, you have a car that you can win every race. It’s a guarantee. McLaren is always a guarantee, so I have to work very hard. I have to give everything to my team and I’m ready to do that, once I have finished this season.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) What were you thinking when Montezemolo was saying about you that you are too young, not mature enough for such a team?
SP: Yeah. Of course I respect… he’s a person that I respect a lot. Maybe to drive for Ferrari you need more experience. I think he has his arguments, it’s better you ask him what he meant by that. Maybe I’m too young to join a team like Ferrari. I don’t know. I feel ready to drive for a top team and to fight for the championship. If this answers your question.
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