DRIVERS: Nick HEIDFELD (BMW Sauber), Heikki KOVALAINEN (Lotus), Nico ROSBERG (Mercedes), Vitaly PETROV (Renault), Mark WEBBER (Red Bull)
Q. Vitaly, a lot of new circuits coming up that are new to you. This is the first one. What do you do to prepare for a new circuit like this?
Vitaly PETROV: Play PlayStation. Then I try to watch as much as possible the videos from on-board cameras and the team helps me a lot to prepare. I do some simulator work at home and watch a lot of videos from the on-board camera and bits like this.
Q. A lot has been talked about your future. What is your attitude to that as there are some quite heavy hitters being muted to come into your team?
VP: I am not worried. I do my job. I know what I am doing. Why must I worry? They must worry. I think I will continue to do my job and I think everything looks good.
Q. Is this a good circuit for Renault given how well the cars went in Monaco?
VP: Yeah, I think it is a good circuit for our car, our team. I think we will be quite strong here. I hope everything will be good for us. We will see.
Q. Where is the car strong?
VP: Braking, through the corner, exits, everywhere a little. It will be good, I think.
Q. Heikki, the battle with the Virgin cars is the most important for you I guess at this stage of the season.
Heikki KOVALAINEN: Yes, absolutely. We want to finish ahead of them in the championship, so the direct competition is against them and we are not developing our car anymore, so we are not expecting to move forward. That will be our task for next year, I think. At the moment we are trying to maximise the performance we have got and I think we have a good chance to stay ahead of Virgin, so that is our target.
Q. What is your future with the team? Are you signed for next year?
HK: I know where I want to be. That’s all I can say. Otherwise let’s leave it at that at the moment and just focus on the coming weekend.
Q. And the future of the team. How do you see that?
HK: I think there is a lot of potential and I think it will get better. The car will get quicker, so I see it is a very strong future for the team. Who knows how long it will take to arrive at the very top but I think it has got all the potential and the team has got all the commitment, so I think it is a strong option.
Q. Is this a busy grand prix for you as a driver for Lotus?
HK: Yeah, fairly busy. It is one of the busier ones for us. We have a lot of our partners coming to see the race and we pay a lot of visits to different events, so it is going to be quite a busy weekend for us but it is no problem.
Q. Nico, a circuit you like I imagine giving that you had your best ever result here?
Nico ROSBERG: It is probably not one of my favourite race tracks but it is a very challenging track which makes it interesting and also to get the perfect lap is very difficult here as there are so many corners, bumps, curves, different types of corners, so it is good. I have always had a good run here. I think I go well on this track, so I look forward to coming here every time.
Q. Is the potential for rain a bit of a worry? How is that going to affect things?
NR: Yeah, it is a bit of a concern. How is it going to be if there is a lot of rain with the lights, with everything on the track, rivers and things like that. It is very much unknown. But until now I think it has been alright, especially for qualifying and the race. It shouldn’t be wet but first free practice could be very interesting tomorrow.
Q. That is your weather forecast, is it?
NR: I have been here since Sunday and it is pretty much the same every day, so I think that is a good possibility.
Q. The team or the car seem to be better in the race rather than qualifying. Is that a correct take?
NR: It is difficult to say. Maybe we have had a bit of a tendency like that recently but I am not sure. I think in general we are on a level behind the top three teams at the moment and trying to stay ahead of Renault and I think we can do that towards the end of the season.
Q. Mark, is this a better circuit for Red Bull than the last two?
Mark WEBBER: Yeah, I would say so. Without doubt we knew Spa and Monza were going to be probably a little bit more challenging for us. We know we have a fantastic car wherever we go in the world but we probably wouldn’t go to Spa and Monza every day of the week to take our opposition on because there are not many tracks like that on the calendar. We are definitely focused on the tracks where we have the most of them and this is a similar characteristic to how most of the circuits are if you like, so we expect to be a bit more competitive here.
Q. And yet you haven’t actually finished here?
MW: I have only had two races. I think I have had a gearbox and a brake failure. But Brazil was a rubbish track for me in the past and I won there last year. I am ticking a few boxes off, so I hope to do well this weekend.
Q. When you look at the championship how do you see it?
MW: Well, I am leading. There are a few guys that have got a few less points here and there but it is still very interesting. It can move around a little bit either way in a negative or positive way for some people quite quickly. It’s certainly a nice position to be to have a few more points if you like. I’d certainly rather have them than not have them. It doesn’t matter if it is two guys, five guys or eight guys, it doesn’t really change your role or how you go about your job. I am coming here to try and win the race and that’s what we are going to try and do.
Q. It is very tight at the top. Would you prefer to see a few drop off?
MW: Well, eventually they will. Will five of us go to Abu Dhabi? The chances are it could, but it might be unlikely. It might be four. It might be three. It might be one. Who knows. None of us know. But what I do know is that we have to finish races, keep hanging in there. We need to be in the hunt at Abu Dhabi. That’s the important thing. Leading the World Championship in Singapore is not the important thing, leading it at the end is the important thing.
Q. Nick, you have actually had three different jobs in the space of a month which is not bad in Formula One.
Nick HEIDFELD: If they would be paid well, yes.
Q. And if you could do them all at the same time?
NH: Even better, yeah.
Q. But it is quite a fairy-tale return in many ways, isn’t it?
NH: Yes, it is. It was not an easy season for me being a third driver but when the opportunity came along to drive with Pirelli that was an important step for me to get back into the car, to get driving and possibly it could give me an advantage for next year. But when I had the chance to drive for Sauber from Singapore onwards, obviously I had to grab that chance.
Q. Is this a difficult circuit to make a comeback on?
NH: Yes, but I won’t complain as it is one of my favourite tracks. I couldn’t wish for anything better.
Q. It is anti-clockwise and we have got four anti-clockwise circuits out of the next five.
NH: Well, I have tried to stay fit for the whole season. I have not been in the car a lot but I have a simulator at home which I worked in. At least I was lucky enough to do quite a lot of miles with the Toyota car, testing for Pirelli and that should help.
Q. Have you got a particular aim for this race?
NH: Well, as usual I want to perform to the maximum. I want to get the most out of the car but especially for the first weekend it is going to be important to get into a rhythm with the cars and with the tyres as I have not driven this car one kilometre yet. I don’t know this year’s tyres as they have changed from last year, so that’s going to be quite important to just learn things quickly.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q. (Mat Coch – Pitpass.com) Mark, talk to us about the dynamic within the team. Obviously the two of you in the team are going for the championship; historically, it’s proven that two guys in the same team doesn’t really work coming down to the wire – Williams ’87 and McLaren a few years back. Talk to us about how the two of you are working, how you get on professionally at the moment?
MW: Actually, not a lot has changed to be honest, since we started working a few years ago. It’s always been reasonably tight between both of us. The team is doing its absolute utmost to give us both the same opportunities to get the results done, which is the case: to try and beat Ferrari and McLaren week in, week out. To do that, you need to be performing collectively as a group all the time. Seriously, it hasn’t changed too much. Yes, we are coming to an interesting part of the season but every race has been important this year, so our relationship in Bahrain and also the dynamics in the team have been very, very similar to be honest. The briefings after some races this year have been a bit interesting but that’s to be expected. There’s some good healthy rivalry within the team but personally it’s been very rewarding and challenging for myself and I’ve enjoyed every part of the season so far this year mostly. Part of that rivalry – if you want to call it that, you guys like to call it that, but obviously the competition is pushing the car forward as well. That’s what is a big part of this team going forward is both of us pushing hard on development, understanding, working with Adrian and his people. We have some incredibly clever guys and that’s also very rewarding, to work with them, so we both know we’re in a good opportunity, probably more so me because obviously Seb (Vettel) hasn’t been around as long and there will be times when he doesn’t drive competitive cars. At the moment I’m driving one and really enjoying it.
Q. (Chris Lines – Associated Press) Can I get thoughts from all you guys – putting aside Nico’s weather forecast – on the prospects of racing on a wet track at night, what the challenges will be?
MW: Well, we haven’t experienced the rain under the lights yet at this venue. I think one of the biggest things we would like to experience sooner rather than later – if we need to – is the spray. The spray off the cars is also something that we don’t really know how it will work with the clarity of the lights coming through. My money is on that everything will be fine, I don’t think there will be any huge problems. It will be the same rules as normal tracks. If it’s too heavy we obviously can’t race. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night; if the track is too wet, we can’t have a car race. It’s not about trying to race each other, it becomes a survival thing, but we’ll leave it up to the guys to make sure that it’s safe enough to try and stay on the track. If it’s safe enough to stay on the track, then I think it will be a normal Grand Prix.
Q. (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Nick, what have you learned in the Pirelli tests and what do you expect for next year?
NH: I will speak quietly! It was very interesting, obviously, starting to test with Pirelli and helping them develop the tyres. First of all, I think they’ve done a very good job until now because there wasn’t much time for them after they basically learned that they would supply tyres for next season. At the beginning, we mainly focused on working on constructions. We briefly started with compounds, made some good and major steps forward and I believe it will be a good tyre that we will see next year, but there are still a couple of tests to come and it’s difficult to know exactly what’s going to happen during those tests, but so far they have been reliable, no technical problems whatsoever. The grip level is within the range, so it looks positive for now.
Q. And for next year for you, does it make you a man in demand?
NH: Well, as I said, it should be a help, having driven for Pirelli. Some people would argue that it would have been better to stay testing and have even more of an advantage for next year but as I just said, when I had the chance to sign for Sauber for this year I definitely wanted to come back. I want to race, I believe I can do a good job. I’ve signed only for this season, the situation for next year is completely open with Sauber but also with other teams with which I have already been in talks over the last couple of weeks.
Q. (Bob McKenzie – The Daily Express) Mark, you keep surprising people, you keep popping back to the top. Of the contenders, three know how to win championships, two of the teams know how to win championships. You and Seb are the outsiders in that regard and the team is also new to these strata of competition. Do you think that puts you at a disadvantage?
MW: Well, in any case where you have slightly unchartered waters it obviously comes with a degree of inexperience but there’s also that great thing that you are incredibly hungry for it – not that McLaren and Ferrari aren’t – but obviously we as a team at Red Bull totally understand how unique this opportunity is and we’re incredibly excited about trying to have a crack at winning some championships this year. Yes, you’re right, JB (Jenson Button), Lewis (Hamilton) and Fernando (Alonso) have won more titles and hats off to them, it’s an incredible thing to have, and something that all of us on the grid would love to have, but I don’t treat them any differently to guys that really haven’t. I can’t. I have respect for all the competitors and that’s the way it is. They have been there but we’re not leading the championship by mistake. We’re here because we have scored the points, you can’t go and buy them, you’ve got to earn them on the track and we’ve done that. We’re looking to add to that pretty solidly this weekend. It’s a track which should be OK for our car; it’s bumpy and a few things here and there which have been pretty good for us in the past, so we’re optimistic that we can continue to chip away, keep boxing and it’s important to do that in the next few weeks and then the closer it gets the more exciting it will be.
Q. (Bob McKenzie – The Daily Express) Do you find the pressures different and are you up to them for the next few races?
MW: Yeah, I’m not treating this like a normal race, but I’m not far off it. We’ve got to come here and it’s similar how it was at the start of the year. We’ve got to try and get the best as we can out of the car, as they will be, and we’ll see after qualifying where we are, and then we’ll do our best for the race. Very, very… usually you get what you deserve in this game. We know non-finishes are not part of the menu, so we need to make sure we don’t do that and I need to keep scoring. It’s absolutely as boring as anything but that’s what it is: getting as many points as I can and keep chipping away and winning makes a difference. That’s what our goal is, to try and do here. It’s completely suicidal to sit back and say ‘OK, I can pick up fifth and sixth’. That’s not good enough. We know that in Monza, those kind of races, well particularly the race that I had there wasn’t what we want to do for the rest of the year and we’re looking forward to some podiums in the future and that’s what we need to do at this stage, to keep it alive – well, not to keep it alive but keep massively in the hunt.
Q. (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Hallo Nick, I want to know if you can elaborate a bit more on the conflicting emotions that you’ve had since last season, up until today? Did you ever think that your F1 career was over, was finished?
NH: No, I never thought it was over. Of course you’re never one hundred percent sure, but as I said, we’ve always been in contact with teams and there was and is interest from different teams, so I always believed that I would be back.
Q. (Mat Coch – Pitpass.com) Nick, following on from that, in Melbourne, you took over the chairmanship of the GPDA from Pedro (de la Rosa). You’ve now taken over his seat; is the GPDA chairmanship something that you’re probably going to have to relinquish to someone else, or is that something you intend on fulfilling for the rest of the season?
NH: No, (Rubens) Barrichello took over this job two races ago, I think, because at that time, I didn’t know that I would be here now. I took over the Pirelli job and wasn’t at the circuits anymore and it’s quite important for the director of the GPDA to be at the tracks, to look at the circuits, to be there at the meetings, so Rubens is doing that now.