DRIVERS – Rubens BARRICHELLO (Williams), Narain KARTHIKEYAN (HRT), Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), Michael SCHUMACHER (Mercedes), Jarno TRULLI (Team Lotus), Adrian SUTIL (Force India)
Q: First of all your impressions of India. Adrian, I know you have been here a few times and you’ve been here probably a whole week now.
Adrian SUTIL: Yes, so I know this country. Quite good job on the circuit really. I went around the circuit this morning and it all looked finished. Looks very interesting lay-out wise. It was still very dusty I have to say, quite dirty, so we will have to see how it is for tomorrow morning. But hopefully it is going to be a great event. For us it is very special and now since a few years we are doing better and better so India knows about our team here and now I think it is time to introduce Formula One here in India. Great weekend for us, many people watching us, and I look forward to it.
Rubens BARRICHELLO: I have also felt that the track is quite good. They have done a super job in a short period of time. We are going to go out tomorrow but like any new circuit there should be some dirt on it and some dust, but that’s fairly normal. I am enjoying what I have seen so far.
Jarno TRULLI: Well I have to say I arrived only last night but the circuit itself looks pretty good. They must be really proud about having such a nice circuit in India especially for the future of this country’s motorsport. The layout of the circuit seems very interesting. Obviously the question mark is about how dirty and dusty it is. I have been around this morning cycling and it was very dusty. I hope they can clean today and tomorrow morning and see how the circuit develops over the weekend. But it is definitely something that looks pretty good.
Felipe MASSA: I think it is very nice, I am enjoying being here in India and also to see the circuit. It is pretty interesting even all these hairpins with very wide braking point which you can choose two different lines. I think that is a very interesting even for overtaking and everything so I think it will be a nice circuit.
Narain KARTHIKEYAN: First of all, as I have been saying, I did not think in my racing career that I would be racing in India and here we are just around the corner. With the circuit, again like everybody else, it is wide in some places, I am sure lots of different lines you are going to see, lots of overtaking. It is definitely a very challenging circuit, with lots of run off areas and so on, so they have done a very good job, no doubt.
Michael SCHUMACHER: Equally to the other guys I think they have done a very nice job here. It looks very interesting. Just seen the safety car running around and saw the elevation change, some blind spots, so quite a bit of a challenge for us with high and low speed corners, good overtaking, so a good mixture of all that we like to enjoy ourselves on so I look forward to drive the car. That’s the real feeling. That’s the only thing that really tells you how you feel about it.
Q: Interesting you mention the blind spot, particularly going up into..
MS: Turn three.
Q: Yes, into the hairpin. That’s going to be interesting isn’t it?
MS: Yeah, exactly. It is a new sort of philosophy with this overtaking with getting the circuits very wide at the entry as we have the one line defend mechanism so if you go that far certainly the other guy choosing the outside line can take a good run at you at the end of the straight. It offers a good tactical perspective for overtaking, for having a good show, and hopefully make the Indian fans enjoy Formula One after this weekend.
Q: Adrian, I guess you have been here for a few days doing promotions. Tell us about what you have been doing?
AS: Well I was in Delhi first day, then I went to Mumbai. Always press stuff, appearances, just normal events for us, kind of KIngfisher events and it was quite nice to see how many fans we have got and how excited the people are. During the years it has picked up. I have seen that every year I come back here and people were more aware of what we were doing on the circuit so I hope it is going to be another step after this weekend.
Q: What are your expectations from a competitive point of view as you have been particularly good in qualifying over the last couple of races, but not quite so good in the races?
AS: Yeah, I think in Korea the qualifying was quite good again but in the race I just didn’t have the right balance. We had a lot of understeer and that’s why I couldn’t go into the points. I think we have to try to address that here for this race. We have some modifications so hopefully that will help. I am quite pleased with the speed of the car, we are always around this top 10 area, but probably at the moment a little bit better in qualifying than in the race so let’s see what comes out. I am confident for this weekend though.
Q: Rubens, you have said you have tried this circuit on your home simulator, whatever that is, so what was it like to drive on the home simulator?
RB: I have actually built a small simulator at home as I am racing on the internet with different things which is great and I just adapt the circuit.
FM: He is racing for seven hours a day.
RB: He races for five-and-a-half. We meet each other on those games and he was the one that introduced it to me so that’s why I am there. My wife is pissed off at him, not me.
FM: Mine too.
RB: We definitely won’t end up being at the same house anyway without the wives. I try to adapt this Formula One game into India which was quite nice. I did 100 laps on it. You could see the elevation, turn three and the opening and so on, so it was quite nice. The team is looking forward to see as Pastor (Maldonado) has been on the Williams simulator with the track and there is a difference in time. The time that I set and the time that he sent and we want to see which one is better. He might go home to drive the Abu Dhabi one.
Q: What sort of lap time are you reckoning?
RB: It is on the 26’s, high 26’s, low 27’s
Q: And Pastor reckons what?
RB: I think on the Williams simulator he was on the high 29’s. It is not who is right or wrong, it is just the fun side. It was good to learn the lines and see what the car reaction is to the track and so on. It is going to be a little bit different as the track is dusty and the lines should be getting better all the time up until the end of the race really. Just such as Korea, for example, so I don’t think we will have the full picture tomorrow.
Q: Jarno, I guess the locals were all hoping that Karun (Chandhok) might have been driving for the team, but it is very important for the team that the regular drivers are in the car?
JT: Yeah, I think so. I believe the team is trying to get the best position for the team’s future. There is a lot of investment made by the team for the future, for next year, in order to make this step into the midfield and I think none of us wants to lose this opportunity to finish 10th in the championship. This, I believe, is the main reason for not giving Karun another chance. But it is not down to me, honestly, to talk about it. This race is the only thing I can think about.
Q: Lotus is a very active team. Is the focus very much on 2012? Are you looking for a different role, for example, for next year?
JT: No, not really. We are focussed already on next year’s car as we have several new things coming in which should make us take a step forward in terms of performance. We really hope that we can do what we haven’t done or what we were not able to do this year. We were expecting to be fighting the midfield and we were not quite there so for next year I think Tony (Fernandes) and everybody is determined to make this step and they are working very hard on next year’s car and there are several deals in place in order to get a good package together for next year’s car so we are very confident of making this step.
Q: So you are suggesting a step rather than a jump?
JT: It depends. If you look at certain results we don’t really need that jump. We just need a little further step as we are in a situation that the car in front is slightly quicker than us and the car behind us are definitely slower than us so we just need a further step to be in the midfield. Obviously If you want to think about winning races it is different. You need a further jump but you need to take things step-by-step. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the team was built just two years ago.
Q: Felipe, some good races recently from the team. What are your thoughts on the recent performances?
FM: Well I think it was okay. We didn’t bring so many pieces in the last races so the car was more or less similar four races ago, for example. But it is true that in some tracks the car was a bit more competitive than at other tracks. I would say the last two tracks the car was a little bit more competitive compared to Spa, Monza so I think depends on the layout of the track. Maybe we can be a bit more competitive, depending on the track maybe it was a bit more difficult, so we will see how it is going to be here and how it is going to be in the next two races as well. I hope we can push hard to see better results.
Q: What tracks does it suit and is this one and the next two exactly those sort of tracks that suits?
FM: I think it is difficult to say as at some tracks we expected to be competitive and we were not so competitive and some other tracks where we expected to be in a difficult direction we were competitive, for example, in England, so we will see. It is difficult to say.
Q: Narain, the expectations of a huge nation are on your shoulders. How are they?
NK: Well I can say so many things, but the realistic thing with our car is to possibly finish the race and beat your team-mate. If you do that, I think at the moment, we can’t expect much more. It is an historic and symbolic moment that an Indian driver is on the grid and, of course, there is a lot following Formula One for a long time. There will be a lot of fans here. It will be hard to explain but it is what it is. I want to enjoy the weekend, have a lot of fun, and try and do the best I can do.
Q: What are your inner feelings at the moment. Massive excitement? Anticipation?
NK: Yeah, lots of, thousands of requests for passes. I just need to relax and from tomorrow it is going to be different, you are in the car a lot. I just want to enjoy the whole atmosphere. My family, everyone is coming. All the sponsors and so on so it is a huge day for Indian motorsport and those first few laps tomorrow are going to be very special, yes.
Q: Just give us some indication of the support you have had from India and from the industry as well?
NK: Since I started in Formula Three in England I had the support of the Tata Group, India’s largest group, and a few other sponsors. Once Formula One is here the exposure will create a big opportunity for the young drivers and for the whole motorsport infrastructure to grow. We are all looking forward to it. India is different to China. There has been a lot of interest in Formula One for a long time and and Michael probably has millions of sponsors here. It has been that long, since 1993, that it has been on TV live here and I think it is going to be very good for the sport and all the motorsport fraternity here is very, very excited.
Q: Michael, we have always slightly thought of you as the fourth team but more recently you have been getting up there almost into third place in terms of the team. Can we expect more in the last three races?
MS: I guess it is maybe more to do with nature of tracks that one suits us more than others so, therefore, we might have a chance indeed to go a little bit further forward than just being seventh or eighth. This track, honestly, probably plays a little bit in our hands and can be a little helpful. Qualifying usually is difficult but then the race we look a little bit stronger recently so let’s find out.
Q: And the next two after that?
MS: Well, I have not really thought about it. Let’s think about this one here.
Q: There was quite a lot of excitement about the front wing that you used at the last race. What was it like for the driver? Did you notice the difference?
Q: Perfect? No improvement to be made?
MS: We didn’t use a different front wing, quite honestly. It was as good as before.
Q: So no change?
Q: Have you been to India before? Narain just mentioned there are a lot of fans of you here. Have you seen a huge amount of interest?
MS: I only arrived yesterday so I haven’t really been out in town and sort of got the social touch but certainly I want to go over the weekend and see a little bit more because when we have the opportunity and chance to travel to different countries I usually like to see a little bit more of the country. I have had a very warm welcome from all the people I have met so far. That is very nice. We had a press conference this morning, together with Mercedes, lots of interest and follow-up from the media side and I just look forward for the main fact. It is a new track for us and it is always a great challenge, but even more important is how are we received with the sport that we all love here in this new country. How do the Indian fans like what we are doing? We just hope we can enjoy them as much as we have an opportunity to do so.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Adil Jal Darukhanwala – Zigwheels Racer) Michael and Adrian, I don’t think either of you has been present in Q3 in the last couple of races, even though you make it into the top ten. Is there any reason? Is it about the cars not being easy on the tyres, or is it taking much more of your soft tyres to get into Q3? What is the real reason?
MS: I guess it was only the last race that I haven’t been in (Q3) and I guess (it was) having just selected a bad set of tyres, because I wasn’t too long or just too… because you just pick up a tenth of time with soft tyres, which normally almost give you a second. And I had already experienced some problems on the ‘out’ lap, but I thought I had enough in hand to do so. But generally, our performance is around seventh and eighth, that’s what our base point is for qualifying. In the race, when we get things right, we can occasionally do better and I expect similar, hopefully a little further forward here, this weekend.
AS: Well, for me qualifying has been a little bit better but also tyre life and everything is difficult for us in the race. But also in the last race, as I said before, the balance was just not good, so we have to try and make it better again. I think in Singapore we were very strong and competitive in the race, also in Suzuka, it could have been a little bit better, but the safety car caught me out, and that’s the main reason why I lost the points, but I see our car quite consistent as well so in qualifying – in the race, sometimes a bit better than in qualifying, worse in the race, or the opposite way around but nothing to be concerned about.
Q: (Marco Degl’Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, what are your personal targets and what are the team’s for the last three races? Are you more concentrated on scoring points and winning here or more concentrated on starting to develop the car for next year?
FM: I think both. We’ve concentrated on the last three races. The target is always to fight for the podium, to try to see if we have the possibility to even get to fight for the victory. That’s always the target. It’s not easy but that’s always the direction we take. Already, we’re working very hard for next year, already developing the car, trying to put all the ideas for the new car, trying to see everything that we were not so happy this year about, to try to make the car stronger next year, which I guess most of the team is already working very hard on next year. But now these are important moments to put all the good points for the next year’s development.
Q: (Vinayak Punde – Hindustan Times) Narain, given how dusty the track is, and that there will probably be a line with grip and if you get off the racing line, it will be fairly dusty, is there concern about trying to overtake in circumstances like this, with the DRS wing open?
NK: Well, off-line yes, it is going to be dirty for sure, so you just have to see where the best level of grip is and go for it. For us, the big problem is when you go off-line when you get lapped, that’s the problem. We will try to see how it goes. The track is going to evolve a lot and we have to see where the level of grip is.
Q: (Talek Harris– Agence France Presse) Michael, given the championship is already finished and with the two incidents we’ve had over the last couple of weeks, do you think there will be a temptation for drivers to take it easy this weekend?
MS: I don’t think that while we drive, we think that we put ourselves in danger. First of all, when we take the cars to the limit, that’s what we feel comfortable with and therefore our ambition is always to take the cars to the limit and it will be the same here this weekend. To have total safety I think is absolutely impossible to call, in any part of life. Yes, there is more risk involved in race car sport and yes, Formula One is probably the quickest motor racing sport that you have around the world. At the same time, safety has been hugely improved. If you look at a new project such as this track, there’s lots of huge run-off areas and it certainly has a very high standard of safety. If on top, something happens, then that’s what I would call fate and fate is something that we all have to face sooner or later. I’m certainly very much touched by what has happened for both of the drivers that we have lost but unfortunately you have to say that that’s life.
Q: (Chetan Narulla – planetF1.com) Michael, as Narain said, you have millions of fans here in India but also all over the world. How important is it for you to get on the top step of podium next year, how important is it for Mercedes to give you a good car?
MS: I think it is very important for all of us: that’s what we’re here for. All of us involved in the team know the taste of winning races and championships and that’s what we’re here for, to do exactly that. We know that we are in the situation that we have to face right now and there’s only one way forward, that’s to focus, we’re concentrated and don’t panic and that’s what we’re doing. We’re building up the future of Mercedes and hope to take the fruits of that rather sooner than later. But then there are limits to what you can do and you have to accept those limits too, and that’s what we’re doing right now.
Q: (Gary Meenaghan – The National) This is obviously the first time we’ve been to India; we’ve been to a few new tracks in recent years but this is the first time that we’ve come to what is almost a new continent. Can you just give us an idea of if it feels different, some of the biggest differences that you’ve noticed and does it really feel as if Formula One is breaking new ground coming here?
RB: I would say so, I would say that it’s great that Formula One is expanding and going to new places. Obviously in my long career, I never had the chance to get to India, for example, so it’s great that with my sport and my job I’m able to visit a (new) country. It’s been quite good to visit here. It’s really been a good experience and a new one so I think that with Formula One trying to go back to United States and some other tracks, I think it’s really really good. It’s more travelling for all of us, but I think Formula One is a worldwide business and it needs to be like that.
JT: Definitely, every single new circuit and country that we visit is a breakthrough for Formula One. Formula One is not only a sport or motor sport, it’s also business and it also brings a lot of messages to the countries that we visit, so it’s definitely important that we expand and I think Formula One is spreading very well in the last five years and as we have heard, we are going to have two grands prix in the USA, which we all know is important. It’s important for car manufacturers, it’s important for Formula One, which has never been really highly rated in the US, but I think Formula One wants to be in every country, and I think every country wants to have a Formula One race. I think it’s important for both sides.
Q: (Mridubha Kumar – ESPNStar.com) Michael, we have the soft and hard compound tyres here and given that it’s a new track, and the hard compound is returning after Silverstone, what do you reckon in terms of tyre wear in this race?
MS: Well, that’s going to be an interesting subject for all of us this weekend because new asphalt and new tracks have their own nature and character, and whether the tyres fit together with this is going to be an interesting one. Pirelli took a very safe option with the hard tyre that can maybe be rather entertaining to drive this tyre, as tyre temperatures need to be in the right window in order to make use of this tyre and you have to use it at least once in the race, and the one I guess is probably spot on but with the development over the weekend, again, to anticipate and look forward to how the track may change, how to use the tyres for strategy and so on and set-up, is going to be a big challenge for all of us. Nobody knows the track, nobody knows the answer, everybody’s going out there to try and find that.