DRIVERS: Timo GLOCK (Virgin), Nick HEIDFELD (Renault), Nico ROSBERG (Mercedes), Michael SCHUMACHER (Mercedes), Adrian SUTIL (Force India), Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull).
Q: Timo, earlier on this year you called for some sort of change of direction with the Marussia Virgin Racing team. Are you happy with recent developments?
Timo Glock: To be honest on track definitely in terms of the performance of the car I think we are not where we want to be, but in terms of changes for the future I am happy. The commitment the team made and the announcement of the partnership with McLaren is a positive sign for the future. At the moment operating on track we are getting the maximum out of our package, more than 100 per cent sometimes and it is a bit unfortunate that people don’t see it that we are doing a good job at the back but that’s how it is. We have to make the best for next year.
Q: When would you expect to see improvement then? Not until next year?
TG: It is difficult to say, depends on how quickly we can really start in terms of looking into this year’s car. If we find quick improvement I think we can manage to bring an update at the end of the year, but it is too early to say. I just hope we can do a proper job in terms of the development for the 2012 year and if we have something for the 2011 year it would be great.
Q: Nick, we understand the team has recently upgraded its wind tunnel from 50 per cent to 60 per cent. Has that held up things and are you expecting now to see progress?
Nick HEIDFELD: Yes, definitely it slowed things down a bit but in the long term it is definitely a benefit. After we changed that, already we understood more and saw a few more directions we could develop into. We are actually bringing some bigger parts for the Nürburgring race here onto the car which hopefully will work straight away. The figures look good but it is quite big so it is going to be interesting to see the data from the circuit. I hope even more than usual we will have dry conditions as in the wet it will be more tricky to find out.
Q: It is interesting to hear from some people that you are still considered as a stand-in driver for Robert (Kubica). Obviously you would like to hold onto your drive for next year. What do you need to do?
NH: Well as always in Formula One you just do the best job you can. I try to deliver on the circuit and then you hold talks and see how it goes. So far I think the season has gone quite well. We have had some problems over the last couple of races but were still able with the team to hold onto some points. We try to fight Mercedes, but not Sebastian, he is a bit too far a way. But trying to beat Mercedes. They just overtook us on the last race and that’s what we are targeting.
Q: Adrian, your thoughts on the team’s and your performance at this half-way juncture in the championship?
Adrian SUTIL: I would say a difficult start to the season, but we knew that after the winter test. Now we are creeping up, getting better and better, so I think the next half of the season is going to be our season. That’s what we are fighting for. It is not too bad. We wanted to have a bit more points, of course. I think we missed a big opportunity in Montreal and also at the last race in Silverstone. The cars were running fine. We were both, me and Paul (di Resta) were in the points but then we had a little issue in the pit-stops and strategy didn’t work out so well. But the potential is there. You can really feel we are really close to the Q3. Sometimes we are able to go into Q3 and then the race pace is there as well. Not too unhappy, but know we have to show it on track again and score a lot of points for the next few races.
Q: What does it mean for you to be racing here, your home grand prix? It could be a wet weekend. Huge number of fans expected and a quarter of the field is coming from the host country.
AS: Yeah, the Nürburgring for me is something special. It is the home of motor racing here in Germany. It is so beautiful and it is a real historical, old circuit and the atmosphere is very special anyway all around this area. I did my licence here, my race licence in the Nurburgring as well many years ago. It is a place where I always like to go. My family also is close to this place and so it is my real home grand prix.
Q: Did you learn sledging here like, as Nick said, he learnt to sledge here as well?
NH: And bicycle.
AS: Not yet, no, no. A lot of rain here, that’s normal, so you need to take shorts, you need to take rain jackets probably winter jackets altogether. Your suitcase is always very big here.
Q: Michael, recently the message coming from Mercedes seemed to be very, very positive, very optimistic. The recent upgrades seemed to give you, both drivers, and the management as well a lot of hope. What are your feelings about it?
Michael SCHUMACHER: Yes, well certainly we very much look forward to this weekend. Despite the upgrades, in particular hearing that we have almost sold out Nürburgring weekend. Ticket sales are going very well. Coming here as the German national team, Mercedes and us two drivers, it is going to be a very special weekend. I have lots of good memories from this place and with the recent updates we hope to be able to improve our game and give something to our fans here. The weather as you pointed out before is going to be a subject and it is going to be interesting but, listening to our guys in terms of upgrade and positioning where we could be, coming back to the rules as they exist right now it will be interesting to find out what does that mean to the individual teams and where that is going to move us. So lots of things to look forward to and it is going to be an exciting weekend.
Q: Everyone is waiting for your first win since your comeback.
MS: Me too.
Q: How far away is it?
MS: Well I don’t think we are in a position yet to talk about winning races. We are on the way. We steadily improve although maybe results don’t show it but if I see in terms of the organisation how we equip ourselves, how we move forward, what’s the actions for the future, I am very optimistic to be quite honest. It wasn’t initially a long term project for me when I signed up but after a while I understood it is going to be and there is nothing that you can rush through. You have to progressively step up and that’s what we are doing.
Q: Sebastian, your first home grand prix as World Champion. What does that mean to you?
Sebastian VETTEL: Well I mean generally after winning the championship last year coming here it is not that different to two years ago or last year in Hockenheim. It is always great first of all to have the opportunity to race in your home country, in front of your home crowd. We are six drivers now so we all share that feeling this weekend and I am looking forward to it. Many times people talk about extra pressure or things that could slow you down but to be honest I think it is more positive than anything else to have people in the grandstands, people outside the paddock and inside the paddock as well support you and trying to push you forward to allow you to find maybe this extra tenth or two around the lap.
Q: The results of the last three grands prix, you have been a winner, McLaren have been a winner and Ferrari have been a winner. The regulations have slightly changed as well. Are you going to find out this weekend, or is it going to be next weekend in Hungary, where the true performance is and where the true position is?
SV: Well I think we have seen the true performance throughout the season so far already. We have had enough races to judge. Last weekend unfortunately we were discussing or we were talking more about rules and rule changes rather than the racing. But from here it should be clear right from the start so there is not a lot to talk about in that regard and we focus on racing again. I think it has been fairly tight all year, especially as you said especially the last three races with three different teams winning, so for here it is difficult to say who will be strongest. We are here to find out but I think we have a good chance. We seem to like the track. We had a very good race two years ago, very, very good race pace so we will see. Since then things have changed. I think we have learned a lot. At this stage everything looks fine. We are as confident as we can be and I, in particular, am looking forward to the race on Sunday.
Q: Nico, first of all I believe you were meant to drive the W196 around the Nordschleife this morning or maybe yesterday. Did it happen and what was it like?
Nico ROSBERG: Yeah, it was this morning. It was a very, very special experience for me to drive the car which (Juan Manuel) Fangio had his first win in a Mercedes in 1954 and around the Nordschleife. It was just a part of it, but still it was very, very nice. Even I must say I didn’t know what to expect. To drive the car was fun. It feels like a go-kart and the position is cool. The gear shifting, very easy to shift and everything, so it was great. The only thing was the driving position which was very strange. A big steering wheel and the pedals completely right and left as there was the big gearbox in the middle, right between your legs, so it was quite strange.
Q: Like the question to Michael, the progress of Mercedes and also driving for virtually the national team this weekend.
NR: Of course, all that comes together. As I say this morning to see the history of the team and then to drive the Silver Arrow here in the Nurburgring in front of the home crowd is a great experience. For us performance wise this weekend is about consolidating our upgrade that we brought to Silverstone so there are another few bits and pieces just to make sure that is working well and so, as Michael said already, we are genuinely optimistic that we can move forward from here and that we are going to progress. That’s why I hope I can put in a very good result here at home.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frédéric Ferret – L’Equipe) Michael and Sebastian, you are two World Champions, can you rate one another’s seasons and both of you, do you think that Sebastian could become the next Michael Schumacher?
SV: I can rate many seasons by Michael, he did a lot of seasons and he obviously won the Championship seven times. Obviously he’s sitting next to me, so whatever I say, he can hear as well but I don’t think we have to go through all this again. You have been there for most of the time as well so I think you remember. He had very good seasons, but he also had seasons where he was in a bit of trouble and came out of it, made huge progress with the team and himself, even though he didn’t win the championship.
And on the second question – yeah, I’m not his brother, he has one already. Surely, for all of us, except Michael, we will always be compared to him and left with his big footsteps or footprints, but it will be very, very difficult to catch up. Everything he achieved is quite phenomenal, so the question is not only if there will ever be a German achieving that again, the question is if there will ever again be a driver in Formula One achieving what he has done.
MS: Well, as he talked about footsteps, I think we both have similar sized shoes so it should be good.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) To all drivers, six drivers means 25 per cent of the grid; why do you have so many German drivers in Formula One?
MS: Why? At the moment, I think the general reason is that we have a huge German industry for cars that is interested in Formula One and that in the past – not only Mercedes but other manufacturers – have invested in Formula One and have invested in young driver programmes and still do. So motor sport in general is of a much higher importance than it used to be and there are lots of schools and talent scouts to find the drivers of the future. Luckily, because of this possibility there is a big mass of drivers anyway who do go-karts, do many, many kinds of categories, so we were lucky to establish the final six ones that you see at the moment here. This is part of the reason that finances and support have been given to us and the opportunities have been given. But then, why did we have, at certain moments, so many Brazilian drivers, so many Italian drivers? I think it’s a sort of phase of life that you go through. Why were there more than 10 Italian drivers – I think even 12 or 14 Italian drivers when I started Formula One? Why we have almost none at the moment, apart from Jarno (and Vitantonio Liuzzi)? I don’t know, whether it’s just because of the financial side or whether there are other reasons or it’s just coincidence.
SV: I agree with what Michael says. In a way, it’s also as he said, sometimes you have more Italian drivers, there are a lot of French drivers. At the moment we have one Italian (two), no French drivers. I think it changes naturally, but surely, I think for the future, it will be even more important, very difficult. I still believe we have great categories in Germany, giving chances to young drivers, but overall, I think motorsport becomes very expensive from an early age, so you need strong people behind you to support you so unfortunately it’s no longer as open as maybe it used to be, just because you need so much money right from the start to go karting. I hope that in the future, there will be manufacturers like Michael said, or individual companies supporting young kids and giving them the chance to, one, have fun, and secondly, maybe live their dream and end up in Formula One or DTM or whatever.
NR: Surely, Michael himself is also responsible for there being so many good Germans in racing, because he’s the one who gave the sport such a boom in Germany, and then there’s a knock-on effect from there, that more kids want to start racing, there’s more money to support them and everything.
Q: (Gary Chappell – The Daily Express) Sebastian, you probably won many fans with your impressions of other drivers on Top Gear (UK TV show) recently. How determined are you to do an impression of, say, Mark Webber and win at the Nurburgring here and claim your first home win?
SV: I think the impression I did was about what happened in the past, so it’s a bit more difficult to predict what is going to happen in the future. I really enjoyed the show, it was great fun, not just the lap I did in the Reasonably Priced Car but also afterwards. Obviously I’ve now had two full years with Mark and am now in the third year alongside him and I still sometimes struggle to understand everything he says, whereas I get quite familiar with all the accents we have in the garage, with people from the UK, even from Ireland and I get along quite well; with Mark’s accent here and there I still struggle, so it’s not an easy one to copy either.
Q: (Marc Ellerich – Sport1) Mr Schumacher, there are reports that maybe it’s the last time that the Grand Prix will take place at the Nurburgring. What is your comment on that?
MS: It would be a shame.
Q: (Adam Hay-Nicholls – Metro) Adrian, I heard you went to the Nordschleife yesterday and had a small accident with a rather expensive car. Is that true?
AS: It was on Tuesday, yes.
Q: (Adam Hay-Nicholls – Metro) Can you tell us what happened?
AS: Well, it was made up to be very dramatic but it was just a technical problem that I had. I went out of the pits and something was broken at the rear of the car so I lost control at a very slow speed and I touched a barrier at about 10km/h and that’s it. Nothing really major was broken. I stopped the car there because it was not good to go back to the pits like that and I changed the car. There were a few more cars there, same ones and I had a good day, three great laps in this Gumpert Apollo, a very fast car, very amazing around this place and that was it. When I read the newspaper the next day, I was laughing really hard because they said I lost all my teeth and I just made it out of the carbon wreck of this car and I thought, OK, well, that was lucky then. So I’m in one piece and in good shape and it was just nothing to mention, really.
Q: (Walter Costa – Saarbrücker Zeitung) Michael, at the beginning of this season, you announced that ‘this year we will be stronger, we will be better.’ Do you remember your points and place after nine races last year? I can tell you. Thirty-four points in ninth place and this year, 28 points in tenth place. Are you disappointed until now?
MS: Yes, I am, yeah, absolutely. I think we all expected something different, as we all remember coming to Australia, to the first race and we were very excited, having had a good winter test and then it didn’t transform. Now we all know the reason and now we are on the way to improve our game, but as I mentioned at the beginning and have done so very often, it’s a mission and the mission unfortunately doesn’t always go in one line upwards. It’s like a stock market: before it goes up, it falls down a couple of times and the general trend, what I can see in the factory, the progress that we are making in terms of the infrastructure, how the team is building up, I see very good signs that we can make it.
Q: (Gary Chappell – The Daily Express) Sebastian again, if you’re coming into the last few corners on Sunday behind Mark Webber, chasing victory at your home Grand Prix…
SV: Or Michael.
Q: (Gary Chappell – The Daily Express) Well, maybe, but if…
SV: What do you mean, maybe?
Q: (Gary Chappell – The Daily Express) But if you’re told by your team to maintain the gap behind Mark, what do you think you will do?
SV: I think it always depends on the situation in the race. Obviously I know where you’re coming from. I don’t think there was anything for us to gain as a team in the last race. Fernando was quite far away and whoever was fourth, Felipe or Lewis, they were battling, they were quite far away from us, so as a team there was nothing to gain. Surely, as Mark said, he wanted to race, he wanted to improve that one position. I didn’t want to let him by, I tried to defend. Surely, if he would have been useless in terms of if I would have had no chance any more, then there’s no point because at the end of the day he’s my team-mate, I move over and let him go. It depends, as I said, on the situation. On the one hand you want to race for yourself and on the other hand you try the best for the team. To be honest, I don’t think there’s much we have to talk through and go through again. On Sunday, obviously for that to happen, first of all we have to have a lot of good laps to then be in a position to fight against each other for the victory, so I think that stage is quite far away so I would rather start tomorrow morning with free practice one and go from there.
Q: (Ralf Bach – Autobild Motorsport) Sebastian, why the hell do you have 80 points more than Mark Webber this year?
SV: I think I’ve finished in better positions in the races so far.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Sebastian, the blown diffuser is back, do you think we will have a similar situation to Valencia here or similar to Silverstone?
SV: First of all, I think you need to see that Valencia and Silverstone are very, very different from each other. At Valencia, there are no really fast corners and there are hardly any slow speed corners at Silverstone – just a couple in the new layout – but the circuits are very different to each other. It’s difficult to say. Here you have a bit of both, a bit of slow speed, more than in Silverstone, and more high speed than in Valencia, so I would say right in the middle, but we need to see. At this stage, after Silverstone, it was very difficult to say OK, now because of the rule change, that’s why Ferrari was quick, that’s why – I don’t know – McLaren was maybe a little bit worse that weekend. I don’t think that was the reason. In the end, we all lost a little bit. It’s difficult to measure. Now we go back to where we have been in Valencia, so I think, generally, we didn’t change the world switching the blown exhaust or the blown diffusers on and off. As I said, the most important thing is that we focus on the racing again.