Q: Nick, second here in 2005. Renault reckon they are historically good here. What are your thoughts about this race coming up?
Nick Heidfeld: I am definitely looking forward to it. Renault has been strong here the last couple of years. Robert (Kubica) did a strong job here last year qualifying second and finishing on the podium. Obviously, it is going to be the first time for me with this car here. It seems that our car performs strong over a bumpy surface, which we always have here in Monaco, so it is going to be interesting.
Q: And you have finished nine out of your 10 Monaco Grands Prix. What’s the secret to that?
NH: Not crashing into the barriers! I didn’t know that. I think that is quite a high rate of finishing and probably that’s why even in weak cars sometimes you score points here, so that’s obviously quite important.
Q: This year you are saying that tyres are the key?
NH: Well tyres this year have been important in each of the races. For the first time this year we are on the supersoft tyres. We have used them in testing but that was quite a while ago and it is going to be crucial and quite interesting to see how the tyres are going to behave. We will try to use Practice One and Two to get a good understanding for them.
Q: Nico, very much a home race. Your school is next door to the paddock.
Nico Rosberg: Yeah, it is always very, very special to race here. It is the city I grew up in and my school is one floor above I think, if I am not wrong. Just here.
Q: They are still waiting for you, I think?
NR: It is nice. I really enjoy the track too. I think it is a fantastic track and I have always gone well here so I think we can do really well this weekend.
Q: What’s the secret? What’s the policy that you have? You said aggressive and precise?
NR: Yeah, it is the combination between the two really. You have to be very aggressive on a street circuit like this and at the same time you cannot afford any mistakes. You need be very precise with the way you are putting the car. It is something I really enjoy.
Q: Your best qualifying is fifth around here and sixth for the last three years I think?
NR: Sixth in the last three years?
Q: Yes, I think so.
NR: Okay, so now it is time to make a big jump forward.
Q: How far?
NR: We will see, but it is definitely possible as the qualifying from the past years I was quicker than where I eventually qualified so if it all goes together I think we will definitely be further forward. Then in the race anything is possible with a lot of pit stops and everything this year with the tyres.
Q: That’s the point isn’t it, anything is possible? It is no longer predictable or goes according to the formbook does it?
NR: Yeah, even for a track like Monaco now the race will open up things a lot.
Q: Jarno, a former winner in 2004. How special is it to win around here?
Jarno Trulli: I think special because Monaco is special. The glamour and any driver wants to win here. That was the case in 2004 and now here I am, back again. I always enjoy the streets of Monaco and I have always done well here.
Q: You had a good weekend last week in Spain. Tell us about it?
JT: It was a tough weekend until the race and the race then turned out to be much better. The team is doing a great job as we took some big aero update which eventually showed how close we were with the midfield pack and our, let’s say, direct rivals from last year, we lapped them so it just shows how farther we have gone. Now we need a further step in order to be an established midfield runner. Last week was great because for half the race I was battling with the guys in the midfield. Then we fell a little bit apart with the hard tyres. We knew we were struggling with them, but definitely the team is doing a very good job.
Q: Given the demands of this circuit and the fact that is it very different, can you do the same again?
JT: Same or better. We always look to do better. Obviously, Monaco is Monaco. We know anything can happen and it is unpredictable. We have the confidence to think positive and come here and say that we can do better than Barcelona so let’s hope we can really succeed. But we won’t get any feedback until we have Thursday practice and we get an idea as very often in the past, I remember before this race I was starting on pole and then in this race I was starting on the last row of the grid so it just shows how important the car is around the streets of Monaco.
Q: Michael, a five-time winner here. Seven times starting from the front row. How special is this race?
Michael Schumacher: I guess everybody has the same opinion. It is the race of the year that has the highest emotion and highest prestige.
Q: But is it a race you can predict, particularly this year. It seems predictions are virtually out of the window?
MS: Yep, absolutely. Due to very different strategies that we apply this year compared to probably previous years. From my point of view I have absolutely no sort of feeling and understanding whether our car may suit this track any better than other tracks so it is going to be completely open.
Q: But you had a better race in Spain. Did you enjoy Spain?
MS: I think I enjoyed Spain as much as I enjoyed Turkey in terms of action and in terms of driving. It is just the result I was a lot more happy about.
Q: Which? In Spain?
MS: Yes, obviously.
Q: And you had your mirrors full of Nico as well?
MS: Indeed, yes.
Q: But he was behaving himself?
MS: We had a couple of nice manoeuvres together but I think we are both clever and smart enough to avoid collisions and still have fun on the track.
Q: So no idea of how you are going to go here?
Q: Jenson, a former winner here also but a bit of a problem here last year. And the year you won you were having to run to the podium. Do you remember that?
Jenson Button: Yes and it was because I hadn’t been on the podium here for so many years. I think it was five years between my second place here and winning the race. But it was the most enjoyable 200metres I have ever had running.
Q: Do you regard this as a home race?
JB: I don’t live here.
Q: You don’t live here any longer? I know your Dad does or hereabouts.
JB: Yeah. For me, it is a very special race. It is a race you would love to win. Every race you would love to win, but this one is very special. I think it’s because even if you’re leading the race it’s very stressful. Mentally it is very, very draining. It does feel like the road is narrowing over the 78 laps. But it is a very, very special race to win. For me, the most exciting thing was qualifying. Putting it on pole here in qualifying meant probably as much to me as it did to win the race. When you are pushing to the car to the limit on low fuel, new tyres, getting as close as you can to the barriers, that is a real buzz, so I enjoyed Saturday as much as Sunday.
Q: Martin Whitmarsh says your third sector performance last weekend, that’s the very tight sector in Spain, bodes well and suggests you could be good around here as well?
JB: Yeah, we were good in Turkey in the last sector and in Barcelona. Whether it changes when you have got a barrier next to the circuit I don’t know, we will have to see. But I think we have to be positive coming into this race. The last race was good for Lewis and myself after lap one and he was able to push Sebastian until the end. It has been a little while since we have seen that so it shows that the upgrades that we brought did help. We always want more but I think it was a good upgrade. Here I really don’t know where we are going to be, but we should be positive. Mechanically I think our car is strong and we will see. Our KERS system is very good. I know there are another four cars with it but it should work well for us.
Q: Rubens, you have had 18 Monaco Grands Prix already. I believe you call this your second home race?
Rubens Barrichello: Yes, very much yes.
Q: Tell us why?
RB: Well as I live here and I enjoy being here still going around a true Monte Carlo and having fun with the cars the way it is. To be very honest when I got here back in 1993 I looked at the track and said ‘it is impossible, there is no way you can race a Formula One car around here’ and with time you just start to enjoy it so much. I am a little bit like Jenson in the way that I like Saturday better because qualifying is such a buzz. It is really close to the walls all the time and that’s what keeps me going, it is the buzz from what Formula One can give you.
Q: What about the set-up of the car here. What are the most important points about it?
RB: You need to be asking for maximum traction. You need to have good balance. If the car is either too much oversteer or too much understeer, you are in trouble. It is almost like you want the car more balanced than just the grip level as the grip level here is not high because the asphalt is a common one. Although there are some resurfaces on the track that gives you a little bit more grip. It is all about traction and, especially now with the tyres the way they are, you are going to be asking for better consumption on the tyres. You are going to be looking after the tyres a bit.
Q: Obviously, you are looking for your first points for the Williams team. Does this give you a better or worse chance?
RB: I think a better one, a better one as anything can happen in Monaco. Although qualifying is not so important as it used to be because of the conditions of the tyres I still think qualifying here is going to be important for you to have the first third of the race in a good way. It is sad not to have scored points. Before the beginning of the season you are talking about different prospects but I am sure it will come and hopefully this weekend already.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Julien Febreau, L’Équipe) Question for Michael, Jenson and Jarno. What memory do you have from your first victory here and how exciting was it. The second part of my question is: has it changed something for you?
MS: It was 1994 and that was after the tragedy that we had in Imola. It was still with us in these moments so naturally emotions were a bit low. Nevertheless as I said at the beginning it is the most prestigious race you can win. As Jenson mentioned before, me too, in qualifying I just had a fantastic lap. It was spot on and that is a big thrill and if you can repeat this in the race, although we had a certain margin I think and I was relatively easy up front, so then you don’t have to but it is the ultimate accomplishment you can have from a race over here, no doubt. Has it changed something to me? I put myself into the record of being in a winner in Monaco and then it is all focussed for the championship and it is just a single event.
JB: Obviously, for a racing driver they want to win World Championships in Formula One and that has to be your main aim. But after that, if you are looking at race victories, you would say the Monaco Grand Prix along with your home grand prix, they are both very special to you. The lasting memory for me was obviously parking in the wrong place and running to the finish line. I wouldn’t change that for the world. It might have been embarrassing at the time but I have got very good memories of arriving late and saying to Prince Albert, as I ran up onto the stage, sorry. So yeah it is a very special race and for the person who wins this year they are going to feel very special emotions. You celebrate the victory with not just your team, but with everyone here in Monaco. It is a big celebration and I think that also means something. All these people have come to watch the grand prix. The people on the boats, the people in the grandstands, the marshals, everyone is involved in the celebrations here and that is nice.
JT: Well it is always nice when you get a victory and winning in Monaco is special as it is the most prestigious race that you want to win. Even though it doesn’t make any difference to me, it was nice. I remember a few moments when I crossed the line was my first ever win in Formula One. It was a perfect weekend as I did pole positions then I dominated the whole race and when I crossed the line and had won all my career in a few seconds went through my mind. I was so satisfied. It didn’t change me much apart from that some people didn’t like the fact that I had won Monaco, especially inside the team so it was wrong timing probably. But apart from that it didn’t really change much for myself.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Nico, both father and son have never won the Monaco Grand Prix. If you do it, would that give something extra to you to celebrate that with Keke?
NR: No, not at all. It would just be special in its own way. Not comparing to my father in any way. It would be nice if we both won here, that would be great.
Q: (Marc Surer - Sky TV) Michael, you again had a fantastic start in Spain, coming from the right side. So did Alonso, from the same side. Is it possible that the disadvantage is less on Pirelli tyres, starting on the right-hand side?
MS: There are very clearly some tracks where the difference is less than others, and I think in Turkey it was a clear disadvantage to be on the wrong side, on the left side in that case. In Barcelona, it’s a slight disadvantage to be on the right side, not a big one though. But normally it’s always a disadvantage to be off the line, by bigger or smaller amounts.
Q: (Frederic Ferret - L’Equipe) To all of you, Monaco is also special because you don’t drive on Friday. Do you like that and do you have a routine for what you do on Friday?
JB: For me, I’d rather we practised on Friday and went straight into qualifying on Saturday, because it’s just an extra day of work.
MS: Be good if we could have Thursday and Friday to run around and have some more fun. Well, usually we have events. On my side, I have a couple of events that I have to look out for, and probably a bit of time with the team to prepare for the day after and then the rest is just relaxing.
JB: Yeah, spend time with the engineers and sponsor events most of the day.
RB: I would prefer to drive on Friday and have Thursday off. It’s kind of a boring Friday, really, because you cannot sleep because it’s more noisy because other people are driving on the track, so I would rather have the weekend as a normal one and have Friday and keep on going.
NH: Pretty much the same; I would prefer to drive on Friday. As it is now, you have some meetings with the engineers, some PR stuff to do, but basically in your mind, you’re just looking forward to the next day, you want to get into the car and get on with it.
NR: For me it’s fine (as it is); a quick engineer meeting but then straight to the pool with friends and have a good time and relax. It’s nice like that too.
JT: It’s the longest weekend of the season and I don’t think any one of us enjoys it because, logistically, Monaco is difficult, we all know that. So we spend one more day in such a chaotic situation, a day that most of the time is spent doing PR or media or anything like that. Obviously on Friday, what will I do? We still have to decide, with Tom (Webb, Lotus press officer) and hope I can get a ride on my bike and then lay down by the pool but I’m sure I will have to come here and do some work.
Q: (Marco degli Innocenti - La Gazzetta dello Sport) For you all, qualifying seems to be most exciting but not so important. Would you suggest changing the system again and maybe to come back to the system of some years ago with only one lap, to make it more exciting?
MS: I think it’s good and quite honestly it is only one lap because the tyres only last one lap, or are at their quickest so I don’t think there’s a big difference.
JB: Yeah, people are saving their tyres so much these days that you are running once in every session and that’s it, you’re not really chucking tyres at the car. Last race we did three runs, and in Q2 and Q3 it was just one lap in each session, so it’s pretty limited running now and I think it’s a good system.
RB: I think the changes are quite big because no one was prepared to see what the tyres (were like). The tyres are so different to last year so it’s worth having a look, although I think qualifying is very good. For example, if you go out here in Monaco, you have just one run in Q1 and if you have traffic, you could have a problem as well, so it’s worth having a look. I think qualifying has been quite good for the past so many years but we only have one run right now so it’s worth having a look to see if there’s anything different for next year.
NH: Well, the reason why qualifying might not be as important as in the past any longer is nothing to do with the way qualifying is now, in three sessions. It’s down to the tyres, why some teams over the last few races chose to save some tyres. I think the way qualifying is now with the three sessions, down to ten cars at the end is good, but we have to see if we want to have it the way it is now, that people chose not to go onto the quicker tyres.
NR: Same as Nick.
JT: I’m of the same opinion. The tyre usage nowadays is so important and the way they handle them, so you need to try to use them the minimum possible, save them for the race so at the end of the day, you’re very limited with the running, with the way you want to run. So we have seen races that, even if people are sat on the back of the grid because of a problem, they all have new tyres available and they can still make up places to get easily into the points and also a podium finish, so at the moment qualifying is not important any more.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado do Sao Paulo) To all drivers: with the supersoft and soft tyres, what do you expect from the race? Very short stints as in the last races, or do believe there will be more time on the track?
JB: I really haven’t got a clue yet. I think we haven’t run the supersoft tyre for a long time. We haven’t run it on our existing car. I’m sure there’s going to be quite a bit of degradation on the supersoft. The soft is going to last longer, probably, than on other circuits, because you don’t have high speed here, so there’s a lot less degradation on the high speed corners, but strategy-wise, it’s very, very difficult to know what to do. It’s been very difficult every race this season, to really pick the right strategy. I think when you get into a race situation, there’s more degradation than you expect, for most people, and I think here it’s going to be a little bit up in the air. I think you’re really going to have to think on your feet during the race, because we don’t know where there’s going to be a lot of degradation or not. It might be two stops, there might be five. You never know.
RB: I don’t think it’s any different. We really have to wait and see, because the supersoft was obviously not at the right track [during testing] and whenever we tested in Valencia, Jerez and Barcelona, it was lasting one lap, but you have a lot more grip there so you use the tyre a lot harder and then the tyre has a tougher time, so as Jenson said, we’ve got to wait and see. Obviously we might have some readings on Thursday but by Saturday it’s going to be a different reading because there’s more rubber on the track. I still think the answer is really going to come on Sunday.
Q: (Ian Parks - Press Agency) I don’t know if you are aware but there was a huge lorry fire down at turn one last night and they’ve had to replace a very large section of tarmac there, going into the apex and it’s in the braking zone as well. I just wondered if any of you have been down there and viewed it at all, and if you haven’t, your thoughts on it, how dangerous it might be?
NH: Well, I don’t know if it’s true, but from what I heard, it was dangerous of the guy to smoke and fuel the car at the same time. I don’t know if there really is a reason but that’s the one I was given! I walked the circuit before and it looked OK, it didn’t look… it looked like they did a good job.
JB: I’ve heard about it, but no, I haven’t checked the circuit yet but they’re the professionals, they know how to lay tarmac. Hopefully it will be fine tomorrow.
NR: It might just make the tarmac more oily or something because it’s so fresh, than the other tarmac around and that could be a bit of an issue.
RB: If it is oily, we have to see if it rains, but I don’t think there’s any prediction for that, but there might be a problem.
Q: (Silvia Rene Arias - Parabrisas Magazine, Argentina) We know now that overtaking is possible; I want to know what you think about overtaking here on such a narrow track, Monaco? What’s going to happen?
RB: I think that Monaco is a non-overtaking territory in a way. I think it was very wise of the FIA to actually introduce some of the DRS but not in the tunnel. We’ve got to try to overtake, for sure. There are differences in speed that might make it possible. It’s very, very narrow. We’ve seen in the past people trying to overtake and just crash into each other. I think we need to learn. I’m very happy with the decision that we’re not going to be using (DRS) in the tunnel. The rest is fine; we should try and then see what it brings to the event. If we can make overtaking possible here, it means that we overtake anywhere on Earth, so it remains to be seen.
NH: I think we’ve seen a lot more overtaking everywhere so far, but I think in Monaco it will still stand out in the way that there will not be more overtaking than in the past, even though we will be allowed to use the DRS on the start and finish straight. First of all, it’s (the zone is) very short, like 350meters or something like that - the whole straight - and in the past we’ve had like 800meters. And on top of that, even if you use it, there’s no way you can go, because the car in front of you is taking what we call a straight line, it takes the corner on the right hand side, on the inside. You cannot go to the left on the outside because there’s no way you’re going to pass there, so I think it’s a bit useless to use the DRS here to be honest, but we’re going to use it. If we will see more overtaking? It might be more down to the tyres, but as we’ve discussed earlier on, we still have to fight out how big the differences are between soft and supersoft and how long the tyres are going to last.
NR: I think the tyres could be very interesting this weekend, and if they degrade a lot, that will definitely increase the amount of overtaking that we see.
JT: We can probably see some more overtaking, but it will remain a mission in the way that you can try but not always succeed. Anyway, it will not be down to KERS or DRS, it will probably be more down to the different tyre wear.
MS: Tyres will certainly be the most important factor but I think if you have the right tyre and the right situation in place then it will normally help you. I have at least good memories when in one race I started last and went forward. So overtaking is a chance, yes it’s difficult, it is a challenge but it’s not impossible, and it’s certainly an extra help.
JB: As all the guys have said, tyres are the big difference around here. I don’t think DRS is really going to help you overtake. It might help you get closer, but also we’ve got the benefit of using KERS. I think if the guy in front is struggling a little bit with his tyres and you use your KERS correctly, that can help with an overtaking move. We’ve got two things that should help us here but it’s also going to be extremely difficult, as it always is around Monaco. But we will obviously give it a shot.
Q: (Byron Young - The Daily Mirror) Michael, you’ve had various critics of your on-track tactics over the years, including Rubens sitting up there. The latest is Lewis Hamilton. He said you interfered with the battle for the lead in the last race. You let your friend Seb Vettel through, I think in the last ten laps, and forced him to go wide and onto the marbles a few seconds later. Is that right, or is that wrong, or don’t you care?
MS: I don’t recall it and I don’t think it would make sense because I think I have a lot more… although Seb is my friend, but then Lewis is running a Mercedes engine and that’s obviously a lot more important to me, not that I try to favour or not favour anybody. No, that certainly must have been a misunderstanding, but not my idea. I try to keep out of everybody’s way and just do my own thing.