DRIVERS – Vitaly PETROV (Caterham), Romain GROSJEAN (Lotus), Bruno SENNA (Williams), Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren), Fernando ALONSO (Ferrari), Paul DI RESTA (Force India).
Vitaly, your thoughts on the updates that the team brought to Valencia, where you ran very competitively, and I think you have more here as well.
Vitaly PETROV: Actually we bring not so many updates to Valencia, just front wing and, slightly, bodywork. But here, yes, we bring new back bodywork, new exhaust, some front wings and probably the rear wing, so we have quite a big update here.
Where do you think that can bring you? Do you have any idea? Can you be in the points? That, obviously, has to be the major aim.
VP: First of all we need to see how these upgrades will work. This weekend we know the weather will be not fantastic it. It’s a disappointment. Also our straight-line test, we didn’t do much work because of heavy rain. But you know all the 24 cars are quite close to each other and quite competitive, so if we gain something definitely we will be, maybe, more competitive than in the last race. So I hope these upgrades will give us some good feedback and we can fight with the cars in front.
Romain, first of all, congratulations on you marriage, week before last I think. In Valencia, you led the grand prix. People forget sometimes that you haven’t been a front runner for long, that you haven’t done that many grands prix. How exciting was that? And what did you learn from leading the race?
Romain GROSJEAN: Well, same position as Valencia, behind Fernando. It was a very good weekend, a very good grand prix. It’s nice to be able to fight for the front with Lewis, Fernando with Sebastian Vettel, all the big guys. We have a car, which is very competitive, and the factory is doing a fantastic job. It’s good to be here, good to be able to get a lot of experience by fighting with the big teams and the top drivers and hopefully at the next one we get a little bit more luck and I can got to first place.
Do you feel you have made a lot of progress this year? Do you feel you have matured almost?
RG: I think you progress every time you’re in the car. It’s difficult with no testing to improve yourself so every race weekend you learn something new, in terms of set-up, in terms of driving, in terms of tyre management or whatever, and for sure when you fight at the front you learn even more than when you are at the back.
Bruno, in a couple of weeks’ time you’re going to be picking up the Trofeo Bandini. What does it mean to you to have won that trophy?
Bruno SENNA: It’s very special. You know that Lewis has taken it before, Seb and Nico. So there are quite a few drivers that are successful now have won this in the past, so it’s very encouraging for me that they see potential in me – especially from last year as that was such a tough situation to be in. It’s going to be a special event and I’m looking forward to being there.
We can see that the Williams car this year has performance. But are you happy with it? Are there any issues you have with the car?
BS: Of course we’re happy with it. It’s difficult for a team to make such a leap from a difficult season [last year] as Williams has done. So it’s very encouraging for us to have a car that is consistently in the points. On the other hand we always want more. We always want the car to be faster and faster, so we keep pushing the team and the team keeps pushing us to improve. We are always trying to find the magic button to make the car go faster than the other ones.
Lewis, we saw in Valencia that Red Bull seem to be really quick, I don’t think there’s any disputing that, but have McLaren got an answer to that, because we see that they’re bringing update to this race?
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, we definitely have some upgrades, so I’m really, really excited to see how they behave on the car and if they actually deliver what we think they’re going to deliver. But whether or not… I don’t know if it’s as big as what they brought at the last race, but who knows. I think our car generally goes a little bit better on high-speed circuits than it does at low-speed circuits, so fingers crossed it will be a little bit stronger this weekend.
You’ve had so many instances where you’ve been so close to scoring big points this season and Valencia to some extent was the same again. Are you still changing your attitude and working towards maximising on those sorts of race?
LH: I haven’t changed anything from the beginning of the season – everything’s still the same. Things don’t always go according to plan, but that’s life. I’m excited now that we have another race and that we have so many races ahead of us and that we still have plenty of opportunities to continue fighting for this championship and that’s what racing is all about.
Fernando, Spain have had a rollercoaster of various things: Nadal going out of Wimbledon, you winning in Valencia, Spain winning the European Championships – how has that effected you, or does it not affect you at all?
Fernando ALONSO: It’s not affecting. You watch TV. Obviously I prefer Nadal wins and the Spain football team wins but it’s not changing your preparation, so your approach for the next race. You are concentrated in your job, speaking with the team, doing some simulator work. You go to bed a little bit more happy or sad but nothing changes.
You were a winner here last year, at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, won the last grand prix at Valencia as well – but two very different circuits I would have thought. How do you see your changes this weekend?
FA: Looking at the characteristics of the circuit, Silverstone should be a little bit better for us and suit our car characteristics a little bit better. As we saw at the beginning of the year in the high-speed corners and also as we saw in Mugello, that the car was performing quite well. Hopefully we see a good Ferrari here this weekend, with me and Felipe. And we see, I think, that it also all depends on the weather. We know that here anything can happen, or more rain than dry at times we will have, looking at the forecast, so we need to be ready for all: we need to be prepared for any track conditions at any time and try to have a smooth qualifying – and that will not be easy when the weather is changing, so you need to be in the right moment on the track to do the lap. And then the race, you know, straight to score as many points as possible – as I said, hopefully the car is performing well here.
Paul, Valencia obviously not such a good qualifying but a reasonable race, I don’t know how you would have looked at that. Really, can you improve on that?
Paul di RESTA: I think Valencia was by far our strongest performance as a team. You have to be relatively confident that hopefully you can carry that into this weekend. We had the potential to be much higher up in qualifying; a mistake in Q3 by me cost that. But we set ourselves quite a risky target in the race and achieved a one-stop strategy, the only car that did that. Obviously the safety car compromised us a lot, so not ideal, but the positive side is that we picked up points. And really that’s key when you’re a midfield team: to capitalise on those small points that are out there to get.
When you do a one-stop strategy like that, what is it like for the driver? Are you holding yourself back all the time, is it frustrating?
PdR: I won’t go into the details of it but it is certainly a different approach. It starts quite early on in the weekend with what your strategy guys come up with and obviously your setup drives you forward that way but I think our car performed well on low and high fuel in Valencia. It was just risky whether that worked. In hindsight, maybe we’d do the race a bit different if we went back – but certainly to come away with a double points finish for the team, we can be very happy. We both ended up doing different things.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to Romain Grosjean, you prefer heat, just like your car, what do you expect this weekend with the rain?
RG: Well, we have to see. This track puts a lot of energy into the tyres so the heat shouldn’t be a problem as it was in Canada, for example, but we have to see if it’s raining or if it’s dry – as Fernando says, take the best chance to get on track at the right time and try to analyse the weather forecast. It shouldn’t be as bad as it has been on the cold conditions.
Q: (Simon Cass – Daily Mail) Question for Fernando and for Lewis, you’ve been extremely successful, both of you, in wet races over the last few years: between you I think you’ve won, could be half. Just tell me why you think that is, why you think you’re so successful when conditions are like that and what extra demands it brings to a driver?
FA: I don’t know really. I think it’s a combination of factors, one will be for sure how competitive is your car. I think either Lewis or me, we’ve been normally lucky to drive in our career good cars and winning cars, so in dry and wet conditions, normally it’s a help, for sure. And then I think it’s the experience that you have and how many wet races you do. Probably with Lewis, racing here in the early categories it rains a lot, and it rains a lot in my region, in Spain. It normally rains a lot of the time, so same also with the experience. The first races I did in Formula One in wet conditions, ten years, eleven years ago, I make a lot of mistakes that now I try to avoid. So the more races you do, the better you feel.
LH: I don’t really have anything else to add to that. I think it’s just a mixture of things coming together on those races. I think we’ve been very fortunate, I would say, to drive for good teams and have good cars in those circumstances.
Q: (Ian Parkes – Press Association) Lewis, just following on from that, one of your best memories in Formula One, of course, was winning here in 2008. What was the secret to success that day because everybody else was spinning off but you won that race by over a minute?
LH: I really still don’t know until today why we were so quick that weekend and didn’t really have any problems at all during the race. I think I had one moment when I went straight on at Abbey, maybe, but otherwise it was quite a smooth race, and I really still don’t know, today, why it all came together, but it was obviously a combination of what I was just commenting on: the tyres, the good pit stops, the good call strategies and maximising the grip on a track which I’d learned for a few years before I’d even got to know in Formula One, where that grip was and I was able to put it into play.
Q: (Gary Meenaghan – The National) I think, with the exception of one man, all five of you have lived in the UK at some point in your career. I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit about that, what it’s like for a young ambitious driver growing up in the UK?
BS: Very wet.
PdiR: I think it is where home is. Obviously Lewis and I are from this country, it wasn’t wet in Scotland, I don’t think. I suppose there’s no place like it. It’s where your family is. I suppose memories: when you’re a child, travelling all over the UK, taking part in many go-kart races. I wouldn’t change it, I don’t see why I should. It’s got me to where I am at the moment.
LH: Generally, I think us Brits should be pretty good in the wet. I think a lot of my success in the wet has come down to a lot of the weather we have here. A lot of my races up in Scotland – Larkhall, Rowrah, all over the country – all the experiences I have had in karting, they have all contributed to the success that I have nowadays, so I’m quite grateful for the changeable conditions throughout my career and also grateful for good weather nowadays.
VP: I agree with what they said.
RG: Never lived here.
FA: My English is not very good, but in 2001 it was zero English. It was not an easy time. The supermarket was not easy.
Q: (Adam Scriven – Racing Post) Fernando, after a difficult winter for the team, you must be delighted with the season so far. How much better is the car now than it was then, and how much more improvement do you think there is to come?
FA: Yeah, we are definitely quite happy with the situation now in terms of points, at least, because in terms of performance we know that there are still a few cars quicker than our car, so we are still not completely happy but the job that the team has done over the last three or four months has been amazing, recovering the maybe 1.5s or something like that that we were off the pace in Australia. So this is good news, not only for this championship or for this moment, but also for the near future of the team, because we faced some difficult times with the wind tunnel correlation etc which was not the best, also for the next projects. Now, definitely, we are in a good direction. There is still a lot to come from the team in the next couple of races and in the next couple of months, in terms of performance in the car, so hopefully they work as they are working now.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti – Corriere Della Sera) Fernando, what is the value of the advantage that you have in the championship?
FA: I think that regarding the points, it’s for sure not a situation that maybe we were expecting because leading the championship is good news for us, but we are also very honest with ourselves and as I said, now there are a few cars that are quicker than us at the moment and we need to close that gap in the next couple of races if we want to fight for the championship. If not, we know that sooner or later they will be in front, if we don’t work better than the others. We are in race eight or nine of twenty, so at the moment championship positions or points are important but it’s not our main priority. As I said, first thing is to improve the car.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Paul, what is the situation with your manager now, because I see reports about Lewis’s Dad no longer working with you. Is that correct?
PdiR: I think everything’s been said that has to be said. I confirm that we’re not working together. I think it’s been reported that we’re no longer working together, so that is the matter at the moment.
Q: (Mike Doodson – Honorary) Romain, your first period in Formula One, a couple of years ago, didn’t go too well, and only a few drivers actually get a second chance at Formula One but you did and now you’re a strong candidate to become yet another winner this year. My question is: looking back, was it a mistake to come into Formula One at that time and take the risk of failing or did it help you this second time around?
RG: Let’s turn it a different way: can you say no one gets a chance in Formula One. The answer is no so it was not a mistake, it was as it was and it was a good experience being with Fernando in the team, it taught me a lot and all the experience I got in 2009 is now in my pocket. I think then it was a little bit of a difficult time but I’m back today, very happy to be and very proud to be part of Lotus and everything I’ve learned is very important today.
Q: (Ian Parkes – Press Association) Paul, I appreciate you don’t want to talk about the reasons behind your split with Anthony but can you at least explain what it means to you going forward now, whether you’re looking at other options: a new manager and in particular bearing in mind that this is the time of year when a driver will look towards negotiating a new contract with other teams etc? How is that going to affect you now without a manager?
PdiR: At the moment I’m just fully focused on my racing. At the end of the day, it’s the results that count for me and what’s going to drive me forward. We’ve had a good year up until now. We need to continue that progress. The focus this weekend is to have a good race. It’s obviously a big weekend for me to have a lot of friends and family around, a lot of support. Being one of the three Brits, I got a feeling for what it is like to have a country behind you at this venue, and the atmosphere is electric. Hopefully we can put on a good show for them and certainly encourage them to get out in their rain jackets because it looks like they’re going to get wet.
Q: (Vanessa Ruiz – ESPN ) Romain, what are the latest updates you and the team have received about the engine failure (in Valencia) and also how does that affect the sense of reliability, because you had a big loss, you and Vettel, you were fighting relevant things like winning a race? And also, do you already know if the car had something to do with it, other parts of the car maybe, the way the car works? What is the news on that?
RG: Well, I think the best person to explain that will be the engineer at Renault Sport F1 but no, we have been trying to analyse what has happened. There are a few ideas on things that have been changed since the last race and hopefully it was a one shot experience that we are not going to have again. But on the other hand, it’s the first time that we’ve had a reliability issue. It was a ‘stupid’ issue, not a big deal, so it should be sorted out by now, and we shouldn’t have any more.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Romain, you said that you were fighting with big guys, with three World Champions. How far are you from them, what are you missing, what don’t you have to be a winner?
RG: At least one World Championship. The more you race, the more you have experience. It’s only my first complete season. I’m in a good team so I’m lucky to have a good car. I’m very pleased to fight at the front but in terms of results, I’m missing at least one World Championship.
Q: (Ian Parkes – Press Association) Bit of a sensitive question but to anyone who would like to answer: obviously we had the accident suffered by Maria de Villota on Tuesday, I’m sure you’re all aware of that. Just your thoughts on that, first of all, if anyone would like to pass on any thoughts and secondly, obviously it was a straightline aero test. I’m sure you’ve all probably done that at some time in the past. Is there anything that can be learned from what Maria went through, going forward in terms of safety and that kind of thing?
FA: Obviously we are very worried for this situation because we are still waiting for some more news. We only know what you all know and there are still some difficult days until the situation is completely clear. The operation has passed completely etc. Sad days, for sure, completely shock when you hear the news and how what happened is possible. Obviously we don’t know all the information it’s difficult to talk about the reasons etc until we know the official version but at the moment, it’s so difficult to imagine how this can happen.
LH: I don’t know her personally, but when I read about it I was absolutely devastated for her and for her family. I think it’s very very tragic and myself and my team, we send on our warmest wishes her way and hope that she has a speedy recovery, hope that things get better.
Q: (Gary Meenaghan – The National) On a lighter note, when I look through the preview press releases, a lot of the drivers spoke about the fans in the UK being very knowledgeable. I was wondering if any of you can think of any interaction you’ve had with a fan here that made you really step back and think ‘wow, this person really knows what they’re talking about’?
PdiR: I think something that is quite unique here is that a lot of the Formula One teams are based around this part of the country and based in Britain, the majority of them, and obviously you get a lot of factory staff, people that are involved in the manufacturing side, smaller companies that are involved, and it’s nice to see the support and see that people are as dedicated to Formula One as they can be. It’s a shame that obviously they can’t get a bit closer to see the design work that they do but the support is well-respected by us.
Q: (Vanessa Ruiz – ESPN) Bruno, we heard that Williams are bringing a lot of updates. Pastor was saying earlier that he feels a lot of pressure because it’s Williams’s home race and there are the updates, and a lot of expectation also because he has already won a Grand Prix, so I wonder how you feel about it, and also if you could explain exactly what you’re bringing here, because you’ve been testing it since Mugello, if I’m right?
BS: I feel really happy that we’re bring updates because everybody else is also moving forward. We have a few bits and pieces. We have wings and pieces of the bodywork that will be different, so it’s always hard to quantify how much that will improve the car, but every little helps as we’ve seen in Barcelona when Pastor won. There was a bit of an update there. So, for sure, it’s going to be the case of trying to maximise the package but again, as Paul said before, the weather is very changeable here and that can mean everything or it can mean nothing. But for sure, it’s the team’s home race, we want to do well, it would be great to finish with both cars in good points-scoring positions. I think that listening to everybody here, everybody is very optimistic about their chances on this track because everybody seems to think that their cars should be well suited to this type of track so I guess we’re going to see another tough weekend, very close battles. Hopefully we can score some good points from there. There is always pressure on a driver, pressure is there every single time we’re in the car.