DRIVERS – Nico ROSBERG (Mercedes), Romain GROSJEAN (Lotus), Pastor MALDONADO (Williams), Mark WEBBER (Red Bull Racing), Fernando ALONSO (Ferrari), Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull Racing)
Nico, coming first of all to you. It has been mentioned that this is a better circuit for you than Suzuka. What are your feelings about that?
Nico ROSBERG: Already in the race in Japan things were looking better. Michael put in a consistent pace there. For sure here this track should suit us more. All the conditions, all the circumstances, the long straights and everything. I’m definitely looking forward to it and I’m confident that we can do better again.
The big problem is keeping Sauber at bay in the Constructors’ Championship, isn’t it?
NR: Personally, I’m looking forward, so I want to try to maximise the points that we can get and I’m convinced we can do (that)… there are still a lot of points to be had in the next few races and that isn’t going to be a concern.
So you’re quite happy with the way things are going?
Romain, there is a new exhaust system on the car. What are you hoping for from that?
Romain GROSJEAN: Hopefully some good performance. We were one of the only teams not to use it so it may help us to go quicker. We know our weakness this year on the car and this may help us to improve quite well.
Obviously you had the problem last weekend and went to see Mark after the race. What did you say and are you quite happy that you’ve cleared the air?
RG: Yes, Mark came to see me and I completely understand that he was unhappy. The only thing I could say was to apologise and that’s what I did. I’m clearly conscious of the risk at the start, I’m working on changing on quite a lot of things but work doesn’t come from one day to the other one. There is a process going on. I said I was very sorry. I’m not stupid and I’m conscious of the risk. And hopefully by now it will be a different and I will not make the mistake of focusing on the wrong targets.
And Mark, are you happy with that?
Mark WEBBER: Yeah, absolutely. I went to see Romain, we had a discussion about it and that was that. So, yes.
Pastor, again a team that feels the car is suited to this circuit. Is that your feeling?
Pastor MALDONADO: I hope so! I hope to have a competitive car and a part of that is to be quite competitive in quali. We missed a couple of tenths in the last qualifying in Suzuka and we were out of Quali 3. It was quite a good pace during the race but we are really looking forward here to being in Quali 3 and very competitive. But it’s very difficult to know exactly where we’ll be.
At the moment your future seems to be undecided. Is it your decision and have you been in contact with other teams apart from Williams?
PM: To be honest I realty want to stay with Williams. It’s a good team and the team is getting better and better every day. We’ve been rebuilding everything in the team and I think now it’s more compact and the car is looking, as I mentioned before, every day better and better. So good confidence with them but at the moment there is not confirmation. So looking forward to seeing that but otherwise looking forward to remaining in Formula One for sure.
Mark, you’ve had an unfortunate second half to the season, since your win at the British Grand Prix. This is a circuit that has been up and down for you. You pretty much sealed the championship here for Red Bull Racing when you finished third. Can you get it back? Can you turn things around here?
MW: Yes. That’s the goal, mate. As you’ve said, we’ve had a few ropey runs of late. Lost of different reasons: a few on my side – not driving well enough – a few on some dodgy strategies, and last weekend was out of my hands. In that case, all of a sudden, three or four or five races with definitely not the points you want. I’m really looking forward to this race. It’s… in terms of atmosphere it’s not off the charts, we know that, but in terms of the race track, it’s not a bad little circuit to drive on so I think the car will go well here.
Fernando, how badly do you need a good result this weekend?
Fernando ALONSO: Well, I think we all need some good points this weekend but it’s the same situation for everybody, if not worse, so that’s it.
And with five races how much are Ferrari pushing as well.
FA: I think we have been pushing from the first test in the winter, so nothing has changed in the last five races. We just need to keep doing the things we’ve been doing so far. I think it has nearly been a perfect championship for us at the moment, with good strategies, good starts, good approach to the races. Everything we had in our hands on Sunday we maximised the points. We had one zero in Spa and one zero in Suzuka but things completely outside of our team, so apart from that we don’t need to change too many things.
Of course your rival is Sebastian there, winner here last year and winner of the last two races this year. Does that give you confidence? What is the feeling coming to this race:
Sebastian VETTEL: Of course. We had a good two last races as you mentioned. We obviously come here on a high and we try to produce the momentum to have another very strong result here. We know that this circuit should be quite good for us. Historically we have been competitive here. The two years we have been racing here before I think we always had a very good car, so try again.
It’s interesting that people say this circuit suits the car or vice versa, as this seems to be a circuit that has a bit of everything: it has a lot of straights, it has the twisty section at the end, it’s got some fast, flowing corners in the middle. Is it just an all-round car that you have?
SV: In the end I think it’s the nature of the track that maybe we used to like in the last two years. We should be reasonably competitive but then again, this year I think it has been very unpredictable and you don’t know what happens so it could be the case here. We have to try our best to get another strong result. If you look at the layout, for sure you start off with a lot of straights and then you finish off with corners. It looks a little strange compared to other places because usually it’s a bit more of a mix. But here you get the straights first and then the corners.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
(Johnny Herbert – Sky Sports F1) Romain, clearly you have the speed to be a Formula One driver, it’s a first time here in Korea, we’ve got a tricky couple of corners on that first lap, Eric Boullier said it’s really down to you now to sort out your situation. Tell me what you’re going to do different here this weekend.
RG: Not having any contact on the first lap, that’s clearly one of the objectives. I’d say there’s work in progress and it takes a bit of time but yeah, it’s a cycle as well: things have been going bad, and the more it goes bad… I’m conscious of the risk at the start. The Spa accident was quite impressive and I was the first one to be happy that Fernando had nothing [injured], I’m conscious of the risk; I paid the price as well for my mistake. In the team we spoke quite a lot; they are not happy, I am not happy the way we have been going through the first laps. There is 550 people working at Enstone to give us the best car and if you ruin everything in the first 100m it’s not good. I’m conscious of all of that and will try to take as many precautions as possible to go through the first lap – and then normally in the race we are OK.
(Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, what is Ferrari bringing here as updates, and do you feel confident that you’re going to have the speed to fight with Red Bull?
FA: Not many updates, obviously it has been only four days from Suzuka to here so we will try to set up the car as best we can for this race, this layout. But, I remain reasonably confident that we will be competitive. We’ve been more or less competitive in the last eight, ten races – maybe not the fastest but always in position to fight for podiums etcetera. I think here will be no different.
(Carlos Miguel – La Gaceta) Fernando, do you believe that Kimi Räikkönen must apologise with you, like Romain with Mark Webber?
FA: No, I think in the start in Suzuka it was very tight in between all of us, that’s the problem of starting in the middle of the group: I had Jenson on the right, Kimi on the left and you cannot disappear in those moments. It was an unlucky situation with the front wing of Kimi and my rear tyre. After the puncture I could not start the car on the corner – so it was a mix of things that were not in our part – but y’know, in the last seven, six races, when we were in Suzuka, now five races, one or two have gone wrong, and one or two will go wrong for the others.
(Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Mark, you are sixty points behind the leader of the championship. How is your role now? To help Sebastian or try to recover this gap?
MW: I need to win, so that’s my goal, I’ve come here to push. It was a good little battle between Seb and I in Suzuka, he did a very good job in Q3. We did a very good job, and looking to finish the season as strongly as possible for myself.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, with only four points advantage, obviously your strategy has to change in the last few races. Are you going to attack more?
FA: I think we’ve been attacking in all the races. We were fighting in all the races the maximum we can, approaching the races to maximise the points we have available. Sometimes we were on the podium, sometimes we were fourth, sometimes we were fifth and this will not change now. I don’t we can over-drive or over-do what is available for us. As I said, now we have lost many points, in the last four races let’s say, because at Spa we had a DNF which we had nothing to do with. In Monza we had a Q3 problem and started in tenth, and in Suzuka we had a puncture at the start, in the first corner. All these last four races, in which we lost a lot points, I think are just some unlucky situations. Things normally change, they go up and down. Hopefully our bad run will finish and we will start a run of good runs until the end.
Q: (Luis Fernando Ramos – Racing Magazine) Sebastian, in all your complete seasons in Formula One, we have seen an improvement in terms of results in the second part of the season, after the summer break. Is it just a coincidence, or do you feel that you put all the bits together and feel more confident and improve in the second part of the season?
SV: I have good holidays in the summer, so I should consider doing the same in the winter break! I don’t know. As Fernando has said a couple of times now, I think it has been fairly up and down for a lot of us. We have seen this year that there are a lot of cars that can surprise. Look at the race we had in Barcelona for instance, where the Williams was very competitive. Pastor drove a fantastic race and won. In China Nico was very strong and won the race so there’s more than one or two cars that are able to win. Of course you need to get everything right for every weekend in order to be competitive but I think it has been the story of the championship. It has been up and down. Same for us, we have good races, bad races. I think the last couple of races were good for us but again, only three races ago we didn’t finish the race in Monza. Things can change quickly, so we need to stay focused and concentrated on what we have. Whether there is a trend where we do better in the second half I don’t know, but throughout the season we are pushing very hard, trying to get our maximum.
Q: (Jonathan Ledgard – BBC Sport) Fernando and Mark, as very keen cyclists and very knowledgeable, I was wondering what you made of the news overnight about Lance Armstrong, who has allegedly been involved in the most systematic, professionalised form of cheating ever, and how much your faith in your beloved sport has been shaken?
MW: Yeah, disappointing. I was a keen cyclist fan through the early 2000s. But slowly, slowly, slowly, over time lost a little bit of passion for the sport. It has been quite obvious, in the last few years, that this was probably going to come, from people on the inside, but the damn wall has now broken and I think that obviously he was the last tree in the forest they wanted to drop down, and a big tree at that. It’s good that they’re trying to clean the sport up, and even retrospectively, it sends a message to lots of different sports that irrespective of what you’ve achieved and how you’ve done it at the time – first of all, it’s a good message – the karma, we’ll come and get you.
FA: The same. Nothing really to add. Obviously I love cycling, I love bicycles and sure Lance was more than another rider, he was some kind of idol for many people and inspiration for many of us and many media people in the world. It’s not easy and I think he will remain an inspiration for many people, whatever happened, whatever the result. Not easy to put together all things.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti – Corriere della Serra) To Fernando and Sebastian: Lewis seems to downplay his chances in the championship. What’s your opinion on that?
FA: I don’t know how many points he’s behind now. Well, I think it’s more difficult (for him) because now there’s not only one driver ahead that you need to take some points off. We are now two with more or less the same points ahead and he’s behind, so for sure the chances for him are a little bit lower. If we see the form of McLaren and Lewis before Suzuka, there’s still plenty of time and plenty of points to do it. I think he still has the possibility…
SV: I think they are still fighting for the championship. I think that is their target, or has to be their target. I think if you look at the races we had after the summer break, so far, I think if you summed them up, in average, I think McLaren was the most competitive car. They are the ones which will be very competitive, no matter where we go, at least that’s what the last couple of races showed. I think they still have a very good chance.
Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer) To anyone who wants to answer it: we’ve all heard a lot about how the season is up and down. Psychologically, from a driver’s point of view, does that make it easier for you, when you’re gearing yourself up, mentally knowing that it could be anyone’s weekend, or is it more difficult, knowing that it’s more variable, that it’s not necessarily about your car, your talent or about that circuit?
NR: Well, for us, in our situation, for example, for me it’s an extra motivation, because I come here and I’m not sure that I’m definitely going to be in the same position as in Suzuka. There’s a chance that I will be able to be a lot further up and fighting for much better positions, so it’s quite a nice thing.
PM: All the races are difficult, not only this year. For sure this year, the championship is more competitive. The strong teams, the medium grip teams get closer and we have more chance to fight for good results, but for sure it’s more challenging for us but we are enjoying that.
MW: Not really. I think that as a competitor you want it to be more consistent and obviously achieving nice results. I’ve enjoyed the racing, to be honest, that’s been quite good, but ultimately we like to have the taste of success and that’s what we strive for each weekend so I prefer that than the enjoyment of the racing, I suppose. That’s the balance we try to strike, but obviously we work hard as a team. We would like to make it more boring if we can, but we’ve got some tough opposition so that’s the name of the game and let’s see how the season finishes off.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) I’d like to ask anybody who would like to answer it really, but Sauber put out a press release earlier on this morning announcing that Monisha (Kaltenborn) was going to be taking over from Peter (Sauber) as team principal, which will make her the first woman team principal. I know we’ve got used to seeing Monisha around and being chief executive, but it is quite a breakthrough. Maybe you could comment on this?
MW: Yeah, I think it’s great. Why not? There’s absolutely no reason why… we have very successful businesswomen around the world so there’s absolutely no reason why she cannot run a successful racing team. Some of the qualities that females have in terms of making decisions faster than a room full of men might be a positive thing. I look forward to seeing how she goes.
SV: I don’t think her job really changes; I think she was already doing what she’s doing now. Obviously I still know some of the guys at Sauber from a couple of years ago, but I think that at this stage they would probably be happier to put out a press release saying that they’ve found a lot of cash for next year.
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