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FIA Thursday press conference - Spanish GP, Catalunya

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Drivers: Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso), Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Pastor Maldonado (Williams), Sergio Perez (Sauber) Mark Webber (Red Bull).

Q: A question to all the Spanish-speaking drivers. Do you feel it is a home race, particularly Pastor and Sergio, and about your home race, Jaime and Fernando. Sergio, does it feel like your home race? 
Sergio Perez: Not really. It feels closer to home but my home is in Mexico. But I always enjoy it when I am in Barcelona and in Spain as well.

Q: Jaime, it is very much your home race anyway?
Jaime Alguersuari: Yeah, I really feel nice when I drive here. It is very special for me as I have the crowd and the environment, the weather. I live in Barcelona, in the town, so it is cool to drive here and for me it is one of the best races in the year.

Q: Does it make it easier for you to race here or more difficult? Do you feel the crowd is behind you?
JA: Well, I think it makes no difference. For me it is easier as I am quite near from my house so I don’t have to take a plane or anything. But it is really a one-off, one more weekend in the season and the track is quite cool as well to drive. It is quite enjoyable.

Q: Pastor, your feelings. I realise it is a long way from home.
Pastor Maldonado: For sure it is not a home race but here in Barcelona there are many Venezuelan people. To be here is always fun. I am very happy to be here with the weather so good. We speak Spanish so that is great for me.

Q: Fernando?
Fernando Alonso: Obviously, good to be here, Barcelona and Valencia, both races feel a home race for me. Racing in Spain is special. As Jaime said, good motivation. There are some extra pressures, but good pressure as there is a lot of support from the grandstands, from the people, hotels, et cetera, so it is a weekend that we normally enjoy a lot.

Q: Nigel Mansell always used to say it was worth an extra half-a-second a lap or so. Maybe a second depending on how he was feeling.
FA: A little bit optimistic that calculation, but you try to do the best you can and the whole team try to support you and have everything ready and try to find perfection in this weekend. So maybe one-tenth.

Q: Only a tenth?
FA: Yes.

Q: Mark, winner from pole here last year. You have finished seven out of the eight Spanish Grands Prix you have had here. Is this a good circuit for you?
Mark Webber: Seems to be, yeah. I didn’t know I’d finished that many races here. I will try to keep that going and have a clean weekend and try to go one step further than the last few races and do what I did last year. It would be nice.

Q: How difficult is it to do that one step better. We know what you mean by that I think?
MW: We need a perfect weekend. We know that. To win at this level you need to get everything right. It is not like I am starting to try now. I have been trying the last few races. Turkey was the first race where I had a clean weekend with the car, which was nice, so we managed to have reasonable quali, reasonable first stint, and after that it was a good race with Fernando and we still managed to get a good result. But the other races have been a bit more chaotic for different reasons, but we look to have less chaotic races and keep it as Turkey was and keep executing a clean grand prix and getting it all right and that’s what you need to do to win.

Q: Sergio, just give an account of your season so far. How do you feel things have gone for you?
SP: Well, so far I am very happy with my season. Even though I had a very good debut, finishing seventh, in the last races I had the pace to be on the points consistently. For one reason or another I could not manage in the end to get the points, but my adaptation to Formula One has gone very good so I am very motivated. The team has supported me a lot and I am very happy and looking forward for this weekend. I think now, after four races, I am quite ready to start to show the progress and ultimately to aim for the points.

Q: I think you have got a lot of updates here. It is difficult to know where that is going to put you. What are the hopes from those updates?†
SP: I think we are quite optimistic. We hope everything goes according to our plan. Many teams are bringing updates so we have to keep pushing to keep improving. I think so far the car has been quick especially in the races. If you see the last race I had a problem with my front wing, I broke my front wing in the third corner, so I lost about 40 seconds but recovered from that to still finish 13th so the pace of the car is quite good. We have to keep improving and I am very optimistic we are going to do a good job this weekend.

Q: Jaime, you scored a point here last year. Your team-mate was running a genuine seventh place in the last race. What are you hoping for this weekend?
JA: I really hope the season turns around a bit for me and from this weekend onwards we can have a much better season. For one reason or another it was not really the best beginning for me and hopefully we can finish in the points. We will see if the strategy goes with us and it helps us to be more consistent in the race with tyre degradation and so on and we can score some points and hopefully, as I say, just turn around the season. Then we can score some points as well in Monaco and the next races. The target is to be in top 10 and we have shown it, we have shown we have potential and that this year the car is more competitive, especially on the Saturdays, than last year. We have showed it in qualifying. For me I am struggling a bit in the race. We did not have the chance to finish China or Malaysia in good conditions but in general we have good experiences from SÈbastien (Buemi), who seemed to have no problems in the race and we will see where we can finish here.

Q: I think you were heading to the simulator in Milton Keynes after the Turkish Grand Prix. What did you learn there?
JA: Well, it was very nice, as you drive for Red Bull Racing and you test the simulator and you have a really nice feeling. It was worth going. Some things to learn and it is always nice to drive on the simulator.

Q: How long did you spend there?
JA: About two days we drove for here and Monaco. It was worth visiting.

Q: Pastor, just tell us about your season so far. How do you feel you have done so far this year?
PM: It was not so easy for us, especially at the beginning, the first two races, as we have some problems in both cars, so it was difficult to keep the car to the end of the races. I am improving every time, every race. The team is pushing and we are working so hard to be competitive and I am quite confident from now to be in the top 10. I think we can do that. The potential is so high in the team. We just need to put all the points together and to get the right things and finalise in top 10. The car is so quick, we just need to concentrate on some little things and we will see. Our potential is so high. I always said that. We need to be together in that moment. But it has been difficult for us but we can see that we can score some points.

Q: I think there are a lot of improvements on the car coming to this race? How do you feel about those improvements?
PM: As I told you before, the team did a very, very strong job, especially the past two weeks just to improve. We have a very good aero package here and hope that it will function. I don’t know if you saw the last race we were very close to going into Q3 so I hope to be there this race. We do our best and let’s see.

Q: Mark, what sort of updates have you coming here?
MW: No, nothing.

Q: Nothing? It always looks like Christmas Day down there?
MW: We don’t have Christmas. Spark plugs, new spark plugs.

Q: Blown floor? What do you feel about that?
MW: What’s the rule this hour.

Q: True. You tell me, I don’t know.
MW: We don’t know either. It changes every hour.

Q: What is your feeling about the performance you perhaps get from that? It has been around for quite a long time hasn’t it?
MW: Yeah, it will affect all the fast teams for sure.

Q: Do you imagine losing it?
MW: Out of our hands, isn’t it mate. At the start of the week it was banned, this week not, today not. Another Technical Working Group meeting after Monaco but I think it will affect all the top teams that have utilising this system, not just this year but obviously a little bit last year.

Q: A lot of people have been talking about overtaking at this circuit. Do you think it is going to change a great deal in this grand prix?†
MW: It will definitely be better than what we have had in the past. It has to be. The tyres are playing a big role these days and the wing on this straight as well. The last sector in Turkey is a little bit more open for different moves, so turn one here is a bit different but you can still get the job done with the tyres and with the wing. It will be a different Spanish Grand Prix to what we have seen in the past in terms of overtaking. Not the most overtakes we have seen here in the past but that will probably change on Sunday.

Q: Can you still get close enough through that final corner?
MW: Yeah, if someone is in trouble on the tyres, it doesn’t matter who you are.

Q: Is qualifying less important now or is it more important to conserve tyres?
MW: Well it was absolutely crucial in years gone by, qualifying, we know that. Where you finished the first lap in the seasons gone by particularly when refuelling was brought back in it was very, very sensitive. You had to get it right. When we had pit-stops before that with fuelling it was still important but you could still get something out of it by going longer, shorter and recovering a bit. But, at the moment, we know with these regulations you can recover the most we have seen in the last 10 years so it has changed a lot.

Q: Fernando, we have news that you have extended your contract to 2016 which is quite a long time. But you have also said you will probably end your days at Ferrari?
FA: Yeah, it was good news for me, for my career to extend the contract and to make an extension to 2016. As I also said last year the intention is to finish my career at Ferrari. I don’t imagine any other better place to race for a racing driver. I have been lucky to arrive here last year. I felt at home from day one and now I have this possibility to be racing here. At the end of 2016 it will be seven years in Ferrari, so I feel very privileged, very happy to that, and in 2017 we will see maybe another contract, if I am not too old at that point and if Ferrari are still happy with me.

Q: What does it mean to have that stability and for a driver to know that you are in that team for so many more years?
FA: Well, it is not a big change in my mind or in my head as it was already for me very clear that I would race here for many years. Despite what the number of the contract said, which year it finished, the stability was already 100 per cent in my case and I felt the same with the team. This is just a public confirmation, nothing changed inside the team and stability is always good for a Formula One team. There are so many rule changes, so many things to look at, that for a driver point of view or a team point of view it is good to programme in the long-term to develop and to create a good partnership together and bring some success to Maranello.

Q: You have already won this race from pole position in 2006. And three second places here. You have finished eight out of your nine races here. I think what all your compatriots want to know is can you win on Sunday?
FA: Anything can happen in Formula One. Any of us sitting here can win the race. You never know what is going to happen. Red Bull is very dominant in this first part of the championship. It is difficult to beat them in the race. It is nearly impossible to beat them in qualifying, but this is something that we want to change and we want to change starting here in Barcelona. We brought some new parts in Turkey that seemed to work fine for us and we did a step forward and closed the gap a little bit with them. Second part of these new parts are coming here to Barcelona, so hopefully we can make another step forward and close even more the gap but knowing that, as some of the guys said, I think all the teams will bring some new parts. It is just time tomorrow to see, or wait for Saturday afternoon after qualifying, which of the teams did the better job and brought some extra parts here and we see how competitive the Ferrari can be after Barcelona. We are optimistic. We are confident. We have been working a lot and the intention is to close even more the gap and to be fighting with them very soon.


Q: (David Croft - BBC Radio Five Live) Fernando, 2016 is a long time. Whose idea was it to start contract negotiations and extend it now, yours or the team’s?
FA: Both, I have to say. I think it was very easy, very simple for us. We started talking maybe one or two weeks ago, about the future. Both sides wanted to continue. I was very happy with the team; they seemed to be happy with me as well. So we said, OK, we make an extension of the contract. We arrived at the date of 2016 and everything is more clear for us, for the team members and for everyone: to have some stability, as we said. It was a decision from both sides.
Q: (David Croft - BBC Radio Five Live) It’s got to be the quickest contract negotiation ever, isn’t it?
FA: Yeah, it was very… I think when both sides want to continue, it’s the best thing. You find a compromise, a decision, very, very quickly.

Q: (Frederic Ferret - L’Equipe) Mark, last year you were mentioning Sebastian’s qualifying; do you have an explanation for Sebastian’s dominance this year, and do you think that the fact that you are coming up to the two races that you won against him last year will give you more strength and more confidence?
MW: What’s absolutely clear is that we were very, very, very even on the Bridgestone tyres, and it’s not quite like that on the Pirellis so far, particularly on new tyres. That’s not an excuse, I’m just answering your question. That’s the only thing that’s changed. It’s a big change for the drivers, obviously, to get used to that. Seb’s doing a good job and clearly it’s up to me to do better.
Races here? Well, look, I like Sepang, I like a lot of the tracks we’ve already been to but I didn’t win there. This is another track that’s not too bad. Monaco is a very unique venue, as we know, it’s going to be very interesting this year on strategy. There’s many tracks I enjoy driving on but haven’t had victories on and there are some tracks which I’ve won at which maybe I don’t enjoy as much. Yeah, I’m looking forward to this weekend. It’s always been a good Grand Prix, particularly since Fernando’s been at the front, in the Renault days. There’s a good atmosphere with the crowd, good fireworks and all that sort of stuff. It makes a difference from the last venues; it’s nice to race in front of people. They’re passionate about it now, alongside their motorcycle racing. It’s one of the reasons why I threw my helmet into the crowd last year, to give something back to the guys here. They’re really passionate about the sport and that’s good.

Q: (Toni Lopez - La Vanguardia) Fernando, in these six seasons until the end of your contract, how many championships would you like to win, at the least†?
FA: Formula One is impossible to predict and it’s impossible to think about winning championships before I’ve even started. I think the intention is to keep enjoying racing. For sure, I think I’m in the best team possible to fight for World Championships. I think some other teams go up and down. They have good years and bad years. At Ferrari, in the worst season you finish third or second in the World Championship, so this is something that Ferrari can offer to a driver. So in these six years, I will try to enjoy racing and I’m sure that opportunity will come. Opportunity came last year. We missed it by only four points and hopefully we can repeat that fight and next time, hopefully, we can take it. But it’s impossible to predict.

Q: (Andy Benson - BBC Sport) Fernando and Mark; last year the Red Bull was about a second a lap faster than anything else around here. This year, the Red Bull has been even quicker compared to the other cars than it was last year at other circuits, so what hope or chance is there of anyone getting anywhere near the Red Bulls this weekend?
FA: You’re talking about his car so maybe he can answer. I think it’s true that the gap was around one second here last year. This year, in some races it was even more than one second but we’re working hard. I think all the teams who are trying to catch them are working hard and that gap should theoretically be less and less at every race. Here, I will be disappointed if it’s one second again. So we try to give them a hard time this weekend.
MW: Yeah, there were two tracks that stood out last year: here and Budapest, particularly in qualifying where the car was very, very strong and it was a big surprise to us and also the opposition. Of course, we hope we have a nice advantage again, coming to this venue, but it’s not a given. For sure, the car should perform well around here. The gap in qualifying was quite big, the race with Lewis last year, for me, was obviously under control. He was our closest rival, then he had a problem with the front left. Seb had a problem and Fernando got second. But the race was a bit different to qualifying in terms of pace. As we have seen, again in the last three years with the Red Bull, everyone talks about qualifying now, but that’s generally been a trend that we are strong in qualifying and still strong enough in the race. We haven’t been unsuccessful in races in the last few years either, so yeah, I hope we still have a good gap and see what happens.

Q: (Mike Doodson - Honorary) I guess this question is for the two veteran drivers, Mark and Fernando: with all the buttons and levers and stuff in the cockpit this year, you guys are busier than ever and inevitably it seems all the strategy is being done on the pit wall, because there are so many factors that they can perceive that you cannot. Do you regret that the driver no longer has the same control over strategy that perhaps he used to have in the past?
MW: I think that, as usual, you will never get everyone to agree on the first part of your question in terms of levers and buttons in the cockpit. Obviously, it becomes a little bit political sometimes on those issues, in terms of what some teams like and some teams don’t but in the end, when we’re all using the same button or buttons at the same time, particularly in qualifying, I’m not a huge fan of us patting our tummy at the same time for no real benefit for anybody. We’re just going round the track doing the same thing, basically. If we’re racing, it’s a different story. Whatever we can do to help the show but there are parts of the weekend when we don’t need to use all the toys for the benefit of anybody. For the strategy side of things, I think we’ve seen the racing change, of course. It’s not often that you see what happened with Fernando and I in Turkey, where Fernando comes past me and then I can come back past him again later in the race. I would like to see the last time we saw that in a grand prix, for a clean… no mechanical problems on the cars, obviously. It was just a different situation that we went through in the grand prix, so that was a little bit unusual and probably will happen again in the future. That’s mainly because of the tyres, so the tyres are now playing a big role in how the grands prix are executed and you’re right, yes, we’re getting a lot of help from the pit wall. We’ve always had that, particularly in the fuelling days. In terms of influence from the pit wall, I don’t think that much has changed. It’s now maybe as busy - maybe a little bit more busy for us in the car than it was in fuelling days, for us, not to manipulate the strategy but we’ve got to try and look after the tyres a bit and that sort of stuff. In the fuelling days, it was basically just flat out and you were going against the fuel in the car. Strategy-wise, I don’t think a huge amount has changed in the cockpit, more pit stops but it’s the same for everyone. So the people are helping us as much as they were in the early two thousands and late nineties.

Q: (Joris Fioriti - Agence France Presse) Fernando, do you consider that Mark plays a key role in the championship because he’s the only one, apart from Sebastian Vettel, who drives a Red Bull and so he could take points out of Sebastian? And on that matter, how do you consider yourself, Mark?
FA: I think Mark, for sure, last year was taking some points from Sebastian. That hasn’t happened in these four races. In the numbers, when you see the championship now, you see that Vettel is quite far in front and then a group of six or eight cars, not too far behind one another. It’s only Sebastian who has got a bit too far ahead at the moment and this is also thanks to his fantastic driving in these first four races: no mistakes, very quick and he deserved all those points. So it’s up to us, now, to recover this gap, it’s up to us to have more competitive cars, better cars than Red Bull, so we are working on that and winning races. If we do that - the championship is long - to recover the gap and there are still plenty of races, but to do any reaction or any recovery in terms of points, you need to have the best car. It’s happened in many years, it happened in 2006 to me. I remember I had a gap of 32 points to Michael in Canada, which is more or less 75 or 80 points today, and Michael had the same gap to me with two races to go. So you can catch up any distance, but you need to have the best car in one part of the championship, so we are working on that. And as you said, if it happened like last year that the Red Bull was the quickest car but sometimes Mark was winning, sometimes Sebastian was winning, sometimes they didn’t finish races, sometimes they crashed together and if we can have something like that, it will be even better.

Q: (Andy Benson - BBC Sport) Fernando, you arrived in Turkey saying that you thought the car would be two tenths quicker than it had been before, compared to the others. It turned out to be a lot more than that: you nearly halved the gap to Sebastian in qualifying. Where did that come from and what are you expecting from this weekend?
FA: Well, it came from race pace and from tyre management, I think, because in qualifying, I think in Malaysia it was one second again. In China, it was 1.4s and Turkey was one second behind pole position, so more or less the same distance. But the race pace depends on how is the tyre management you can have in the race, how easy your car is in that particular race, concerning the set-up or whatever you can find on Friday; it helps the Sunday performance, so in Turkey, it seems that we went in the right direction in terms of set-up of the car, in terms of tyres and we were a little bit more competitive than expected in the race. So we would like to bring that experience to these coming races and hopefully we can keep having some advantage in tyre wear and tyre behaviour. And here, I don’t know. We will see how is the performance of the car, how the new parts work but as I said, the most important thing is how you approach the weekend and how you manage your tyres.


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2012 Race Drivers

Sebastian Vettel
Mark Webber
Lewis Hamilton
Jenson Button
Fernando Alonso
Felipe Massa
Michael Schumacher
Nico Rosberg
Kimi Räikkönen
Romain Grosjean
Paul di Resta
Nico Hulkenberg
Kamui Kobayashi
Sergio Perez
Daniel Ricciardo
Jean-Eric Vergne
Pastor Maldonado
Bruno Senna
Heikki Kovalainen
Vitaly Petrov
Pedro de la Rosa
Narain Karthikeyan
Timo Glock
Charles Pic

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