Drivers: Lucas di Grassi (Virgin), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Robert Kubica (Renault), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes).
Q: A question to all those of you who have been here before. Your thoughts on coming back to this circuit, to Canada and Lucas your first impressions of Canada as I don’t think you’ve been here before. So if you would like to start.
Lucas di Grassi: Yeah, it is my first time in Canada driving. I was here in 2008 as a reserve driver for Renault...
My view on the track is that it is pretty different to all the other tracks I have been to so far. It is pretty much a street circuit but also with very low downforce and very high speed. I am looking forward to seeing how the car behaves here and see how the weather is going to be at the weekend as I think it is going to play a very important role as the weekend develops.
Nico Rosberg: For me it is one of the best races of the year to come to Montreal. It is fantastic and I really enjoy the track. It is a great track. Lot of fun. Also the city, the spectators are great, very enthusiastic, so it is definitely a highlight.
Felipe Massa: Yeah, the thing is, as Nico and Lucas said, it is a great place to be. I love to come here. The people love Formula One and enjoy it a lot, also because of good stories from the Villeneuve’s and also it is nice to be here. The track is a bit different, like a mix between Australia and also very long straights, so it is nice to drive here. I have never had like a great result, never won here, but anyway it is a track I enjoy and hope we can do a good job during the weekend.
Robert Kubica: It is a good track as all drivers say. Very enjoyable to drive, challenging. It has a bit different characteristics to what we are used to racing this year, so we will have to see how our car will suit this track. A long straight line, so downforce level will be reduced. Heavy braking and low speed corners, so traction and braking stability I think is the key point of this track and of course top speed.
Lewis Hamilton: I am as well happy to be back. I love it here. It is one of my favourite grands prix of the year. It is a little bit sad that we haven’t had it for the last couple of years. But I am really very, very happy to be here. I hope the weather improves. Every time I have been here I had my first grand prix win here, so great memories. Even of 2008, that was still a great memory and I am really hoping we can continue in that style and have a good, productive weekend. It is great to be in the city. The city is fantastic here. It is one of the best and youngest and most fun cities to be in throughout the grand prix calendar, so I am really happy to be here and looking forward to a good weekend.
Q: Lucas, talk a bit about the progress that the team is making. How is it getting on?
LdiG: The team has started the year in a very difficult way. We had very little time to develop the car and the crew itself but I have seen a lot of improvement, not only in the car but the team as a whole. The mechanics working together, the engineering side. Everyone who was not used to Formula One now is much more used to Formula One. The time frame and everything else. The car itself we haven’t developed as fast as we would like, especially because of the reliability problems we had at the beginning of the year. All the focus was to get that problem sorted out and it has been improving a lot recently although we have still to improve. Now I think is the point we need to shift a little bit from the reliability side to the performance side. I strongly think that we can be the best of the new teams. That is our aim, our target and that is what we are going to work for.
Q: I remember a team last year didn’t have a lot of downforce and when they came to circuits which didn’t need a lot of downforce they performed better. Are you thinking the same thing here for you?
LdiG: I think because everyone else is going to reduce the amount of downforce it is going to be, I’d say, closer but the gap is not going to reduce enough for us to fight with anyone on the midfield. I think there is a possibility here of a lot of safety cars and a lot of strategy gambles around it and because of this reduced gap we expect to have this reduced gap to the midfield grid. It is a good chance for us to have a strong result.
Q: Nico, looking back at the last few races the performance has been very up and down. I know you hoped for better from Turkey. What about here?
NR: It is not going quite to plan recently. We haven’t quite managed to close the gap like we were hoping to yet, but we are really making good progress and we had the F-Duct in Turkey which gave us a good step. Here is a very different track. I am confident that we can do that little bit better here and really have a good opportunity to score some good points and with a bit of a luck maybe even a podium or something depending on the weather also which could be a bit of a mess. I think it will be an interesting weekend.
Q: Have you got small steps here or big steps in terms of development?
NR: We have a continuous development programme through the whole year. We are always going to be bringing smaller or bigger steps all the time.
Q: What about the huge braking here. How does that affect your car? Are you confident about that?
NR: I think in general our braking performance has been pretty good, so that should be one of our assets for this weekend. For me I really enjoy this track, so I think it can be good.
Q: Felipe, you have re-signed until 2012. What sort of effect does that have on a driver knowing that you are settled and safe for another two-and-a-half years?
FM: Well, I think that is a good point. From the driver point of view it is just fantastic to re-sign for Ferrari. It shows that everybody from the team trusts you. I think that is a very good point for me to keep pushing harder and harder all the time and to keep working together with the team to achieve the best. That is everything I want and everything the team wants and so very happy to stay a little bit more time with Ferrari which is a team I always dreamed to race for. This is my fifth championship (season) with Ferrari and to say we stay for another two years is just a fantastic feeling.
Q: We saw at the last grand prix during the race itself that Red Bull and McLaren were very much in a class of their own. Can Ferrari be up there with them at this race?
FM: Well, I hope. That is always our target to be the best. We saw a very strong Red Bull and McLaren in the last race and I am pretty sure they will be strong here as well. We were also behind Mercedes and Renault in the last race, so we are pushing hard to be in front and the potential to fight for the best which is always the most important point. It is not easy but that is what we are working for.
Q: Robert, you won here two years ago and you were saying you love the circuit as well. What is it about the circuit that you particularly like?
RK: It has a bit different characteristic as I have mentioned before than other tracks. It’s kind of a mixture between Monaco and Monza with very low speed corners but a very long straight line, so you have to reduce your downforce level but on the other hand you have to have good mechanical grip. A lot of heavy braking which I always liked and I always perform well. I think a mixture of my car and the characteristics of the track which normally suit my driving should be good. It will be the first time we will run lower downforce level wings, so we will have to see how our car will be compared to the others.
Q: If I am not mistaken you like the lack of run-off here. Why is that?
RK: I don’t know. I like it when the walls are close and when there is very small margin for a mistake which is always more challenging and it gives you, at least for myself, more fun to drive. It has always been like this in F3 when I was racing in Macao or in other street circuits. It has been like this for Monaco with the F1 car. The only real track which I don’t enjoy so much as a street circuit is Singapore. I don’t know for what reason. But it looks like when I come to street circuits or with the low grip level tracks I am performing well.
Q: Lewis, a previous winner here and twice on pole position as well. A circuit that you enjoy as well.
LH: Yeah absolutely. I have generally done quite well here in the last few years. I don’t know why. Again it is a bit of a street circuit which I seem to go quite well on. I have just always been able to dial the car in here. It has suited my driving style, so hopefully we will see the same this weekend. I am hoping the car will be quite competitive and we are able to compete with the guys at the front. Really just excited to get back out there as it has been a little while since we have been here.
Q: The last race was very much McLaren versus Red Bull and as you pointed out there were specific areas where both of those cars were particularly good. Can you see the same thing happening here?
LH: I would guess so, but this is a circuit where perhaps there is less opportunity for the advantage of the Red Bull maybe. There are a couple of corners, turn four, turn seven, and I think turn 10, turn nine maybe where the Red Bull will be quite strong on those exits but otherwise we should be strong on the straights. But you never know. I think other teams are constantly developing their cars and as Nico said we are also doing the same thing, trying to develop our car throughout the year, so we always try to bring small bits to each track. Hopefully our car suits the track a little bit better than it did in Monaco and we can have a good weekend.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Can I ask you guys a two-part question. One, what guidelines does your team give you for racing your team-mate? Two, let’s say you are racing your team-mate, you are behind and you get a good run on him down the straight, he leaves you room on the inside, not a lot but just enough, what do you do?
LdiG: Well, we have no team orders whatsoever if it is a team-mate or any other driver. On the track what matters for me and the team is to race as hard as you can and consider the risk you take in every overtaking manoeuvre. I think it answers both questions.
Q: If you put yourself in Sebastian’s (Vettel) place would you have gone for that gap?
LdiG: Again, you have to assess your risk situation and see situation by situation how much risk you have to take in each overtaking manoeuvre. That’s how I approach it.
NR: Same for me. In Istanbul for example it was try and overtake if you can but do it sensibly. That’s the main message.
FM: Yeah, as well. We are always racing against other drivers and when you are on the track and you see your team-mate in the front and you have a better car for sure you are going t try and overtake. But I think the most important thing is to respect the team. Both are racing for the same team. I think what happened in the last race was not nice for the team, so I think it is important to know that both are racing for the same team and not risk a lot when you are going to overtake your team-mate.
RK: I mean we don’t have any rules, so of course as the guys say you try to balance the risk you will have to take to overtake whoever it is, your team-mate or anyone else and you always try, especially if you are already side-by-side or in the front to not hit the other guy as it doesn’t pay off. You are already in front, so what does it matter if you take half-a-metre wider line or narrow. It is really depending on the situation and whatever it is and whoever you are overtaking you always try to balance the risk to overtake him.
LH: We don’t have any team orders and of course we always want to support the team in getting the most points but clearly both drivers always want to win, so if there is an opportunity you take it. But as Lucas said you have to weigh up the risks and try to make as sensible a move as possible.
Q: (Daniel Bastien – FM 103.3) Lewis, in Turkey you said that you felt the win was a bit inherited. Do you think here on this track you and the team have all you need to beat the Red Bulls at their own game?
LH: It is difficult to say, simply because we are always improving but we won’t really know until Saturday what our true pace is but in terms of the gap that we have between ourselves and Red Bull we haven’t made a significant step forward to have closed that gap. My guess is that they will still be very competitive. However, we have the very long straight here which suits our car more. I don’t know if they have brought their F-duct but I am hoping that we are going to be more on a par this weekend and therefore, maybe a bit like the last weekend we can be a little bit closer but maybe even more this weekend, hopefully.
Q: (Randy Phillips – The Gazette) Felipe, I know drivers don’t like to dwell on past accidents, but you had an accident last year and I wondered if it was a difficult decision for you to decide to resume your career?
FM: Well, no. Just a little bit after the accident I was normal. I just had a big head but anyway I was thinking the same as I was thinking before. A month afterwards I was driving go-karts and I didn’t feel any different, so everything that I was doing in my life was exactly the same as before. Even the stupid things. When I was playing PlayStation I was doing the same lap times or whatever. Nothing changed. That’s why it was easy not to even think about it.
Q: (Thierry Cerinato – L’Equipe) It’s also Le Mans this weekend; what does this race represent for you and would you like to race there one day or another in your career?
LdiG: I think it’s a very busy weekend; there is Formula One, Le Mans and the World Cup starting as well. Talking about Le Mans, I think it’s an amazing race. I think every driver thinks of it as a very spectacular race. It’s very, very different from what we do here in terms of strategy, in terms of the cars, the whole race, the track, everything. Personally I want to do Le Mans one day and I want to try that kind of race in my career.
NR: I just always hear what a fantastic weekend it is, so I would really like to go as a spectator one day with some friends and just experience it. But driving? I don’t think so, no.
FM: It’s a race I enjoy, I respect. It’s a very important race but it’s completely different to what we’re doing here. You need to drive in a different way, a different style. You need to think about 24 hours of racing, not like a sprint race. Anyway, maybe one day we can do it.
RK: I think Le Mans is part of the history and future of motor sport, but it’s a completely different approach to what we are doing currently. Formula One is completely different. Although it is still racing, the approach of the drivers, of the teams is completely different to this weekend. Maybe one day it would be possible for me to drive there, maybe yes, maybe not. I will see.
LH: As the drivers have said, it’s a very prestigious race and one I like to watch but I don’t have any plans to do it. Maybe in the future, anything’s possible, but my current plan is just to focus on my job here and this is what I love doing for now.
Q: (Jeff Pappone – The Globe and Mail) Question for Nico; Michael Schumacher won his first World Championship in 1994. You were a child at the time; there are five other German drivers on the grid today who are about the same age as you. Can you just talk a little bit about that effect on German motor sport, young kids growing up when Michael was the big star and how that may have changed things in your country?
NR: Well, I’m sure that the fact that Michael was so successful is one of the causes for us having so many German drivers now because the sport just became so big in Germany, so amongst other things, thanks to him and as a result there’s much more interest, many more young kids want to try and start go-karting, there’s much more money available from companies to support these young kids and everything. That’s definitely one of the reasons why we now have so many German drivers. Even I’m very thankful because there’s a lot of interest from my home country too, so it’s great.
Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Lewis, two years ago your race was finished at the pit lane exit lights. Was that the lowest point in your championship campaign that year?
LH: I don’t think so. I was having a good race that weekend, it was just a small mess-up and everyone makes mistakes. I don’t really remember too much from that year at the moment, so I’m sure I’ve had much, much lower points in my career. It was just one of those experiences that you learn from. We were very competitive here and it was looking like we could have at least competed for a podium finish that weekend. It was a little bit disappointing to end my race and also Kimi’s (R?ikk?nen) but that’s motor racing and these things happen and I’ve grown from that.
Q: (Jonathan Legard – BBC Sport) Lewis, the team has talked about the misunderstanding between you and Jenson in Turkey and I was wondering how those situations can be avoided in the future, and also whether you’ve had a chat with (chief engineer) Phil Prew about it? Martin Whitmarsh was saying earlier in the week that it was just an opinion expressed, not necessarily the fact.
LH: I think for us what we’ve done is clearly reflecting on a great result, a one-two, our second one-two in the year which has been great because we’ve not had one for a long time. What we have to work on is the communication and make sure that we are always communicating and understanding one another, but that’s how you build all relationships, it’s working on that communication and making sure we get the point across in the best way possible.
Q: (Daniel Bastien – FM 103.3) Felipe, in 2008 you came so close to the championship title. Last year you had a bad accident; good news: you became a father; this year not the best car; a lot of rumours surrounding Robert. Now Ferrari has placed their trust in you for the next two years. Would you say your life has been a roller coaster over the last 18 months?
FM: Yeah, but not because of the rumours but because of what happened in the accident and then I became a father. It was these kinds of things. Since I came to Ferrari there have been different rumours every year. I don’t care. I just care about what I want, I just care about my job in the team and for what I see, how the people are working and how they respect me. That’s the most important thing, not what we hear. I would say every year that I have raced for Ferrari all the rumours have not been true, so what can I say?
Q: (Bob McKenzie – The Daily Express) Lewis, I will ask you but if the other drivers can answer as well without saying ‘same’ that would be great. People like coming here because there is a very fine margin to having a big accident and taking the car out and Robert touched on that earlier: you’ve got to drive precisely here and it seems it attracts a lot of entertainment because of that, unlike other circuits where you’ve got 100 hundred yards to drive off, turn the car around and get back on the circuit. Which do you prefer? Do the drivers prefer a circuit that challenges them or do they like one that gives them a huge margin to look good?
LH: I think that at the end of the day all the circuits are challenging but then of course they are different in the way they challenge your skills. I think a lot of us like the street circuits where there’s a lot less room for error. Obviously in the olden days we had the other circuits where you just had grass on the outside whereas now we have Astroturf and a lot of tarmac which makes it a lot easier. But nonetheless, it’s still a real challenge. When we come back to a track like this, it is one of the older circuits, with real character. As Robert said, you can get really close to the walls and there’s the real danger factor there which also puts some of the excitement back into it. It also has the character whereby the tyres grain quite a lot. If you go off-line it’s easy to crash. It’s just a great race. You look around the calendar at the circuits and you see some of the historic, classic circuits and this is just one of those.
Q: (Bob McKenzie – The Daily Express) Is Formula One too safe?
LdiG: Formula One has become much safer recently as have many other sports as well. When it comes to circuits like street circuits, you have less margin for making mistakes and I think because of that, it makes it more exciting for the drivers and it makes it more exciting for the public to watch as well, but I don’t say it’s more difficult to do a lap on a circuit like this or where you have a great run-off area if you make a mistake. I think the level of difficulty is the same, or it’s similar. I strongly agree with you that the new circuits in Formula One should be following the same line as the old circuits have in the past, with long straights, overtaking points, some points where you don’t have the margin for making a mistake. I particularly like street circuits a lot, just because you are not able to make a single mistake at any point because it can ruin the whole weekend. In my opinion, I would like to see the next circuits as being similar as well.
Q: (Danny Vear – Le Journal de Montreal) To all of you: did you enjoy meeting the crowd from Montreal this morning, and do you feel this kind of event should happen a little more often in Formula One, especially at other grands prix?
LH: What are you referring to, the signing session? Yeah, the signing session takes place at every Grand Prix. I think it happens at every Grand Prix. We do a signing session at all the grands prix since last year. It is a great way for us to get in touch with the fans and see them up close and personal. For me, I haven’t been here for a few years and now I have quite a good few friends from my previous experiences here, so it’s great for me to have seen them today. It kind of gives you a bit of a buzz because we’ve just arrived and straight away we’ve got that kind of reception, so I’m happy to see it.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Coming back to the situation where you have to fight your team-mate, do you feel more comfortable to be in a defending position or in the attacking position, compared to a situation where you have to fight a driver from a different team?
FM: For sure, it depends on the condition. On some tracks, when you race in Monaco, for sure if you’re easy-going being at the front you can defend your position in a very easy way. On some tracks, like here or maybe Monza, they are races where it’s much easier to be overtaken, especially if you don’t have a good top speed. It’s simply that you take care a lot more if you’re at the front. But also when you are behind you also more enjoy fighting to overtake somebody than to maybe lose your position. It depends on the circumstances.
RK: I think the bigger difference is which car you have in front of you and which car behind. If you have behind you a car equipped with KERS like last year, it was difficult to defend, it was much easier to overtake. On the other hand this year we have the F-duct but some teams are really taking a big advantage on the straight, so of course those cars have easier opportunities to overtake and if you have to defend them, it’s much more difficult. It’s rather more car dependent, I would say, than anything else.
NR: It’s the same being in front or behind. What’s important is that when you do make a move on your team-mate that you feel that it’s safe to do it and you’re not taking a big risk, that’s the main thing. I don’t have a particular problem with it.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) To all drivers: which do you prefer, a circuit like Istanbul Park with big run-off areas, or the same circuit with the run-off areas of Suzuka? Maybe it’s more exciting.
RK: I don’t think it’s as easy as that. I would say I’m a big fan of street circuits but I’m also a big fan of safety because I have gone through a big crash here in Canada, so you know there has to be a balance. Thanks to the FIA and the teams, Formula One has become much safer and I would say that thanks to this big effort I’m still here. If I had crashed ten years ago with such a big impact as I had three years ago, I probably wouldn’t be here. It’s not so easy. I enjoy driving close to the walls and I think we all agree that it’s much more challenging but you know if you lose the car you go off and it’s good to see that there’s no barrier and that you’re not risking anything. I don’t think it’s easy to answer, and it’s not so easy to balance it. With the design of the tracks, I think the FIA is trying to balance those things.
LH: For us, all that really matters is the tarmac between the white lines. The FIA are doing a fantastic job with the safety around those white lines, and that’s not really what we need to focus on. The most important thing to us is how cool the track is, that’s between the white lines. As I’ve said before, some tracks you like that have less run-off like Suzuka but Suzuka is quite dangerous but there has to be a real fine balance between safety and the danger aspect.
LdiG: I agree. I think there is the possibility to make a track that is challenging but is also safe at the same time. One thing has nothing to do with the other. If you have big run-off areas at some points on the track which are key to safety, you can have the walls close at other points of the track that make it challenging but not unsafe. So instead of just making huge run-off areas everywhere, there is also the possibility of balancing between these two.
NR: If you take turn eight, for example, in Turkey, there were a lot of people who went off there and if there had been sand and then the wall very close there would have been massive shunts during the weekend, and especially if you clip the sand in a wrong way, you can start rolling or whatever and it would have been extremely dangerous, so for sure it’s a good development to have asphalt run-off areas on those corners.
FM: As Nico said, I wanted to speak about turn eight. If you put turn eight in Monaco, it would not be so nice but anyway, I enjoy driving on street circuits but also on tracks like Turkey, which are different, but safety is the most important point as Robert said about his accident. My accident was completely different, but it’s important that because of having a safe car and also a safe helmet we are here, enjoying it and speaking about the next race. I think safety is the most important thing, but I also enjoy driving on these different kinds of circuits.