During the FIA Thursday press conference at the Istanbul Speed Park in Turkey, drivers Jenson Button, Heikki Kovalainen, Robert Kubica and Kazuki Nakajima answered the questions of the gathered press.
Kazuki Nakajima: "It is much better. Even Malaysia and Bahrain I have been there and also Melbourne, so it doesn't make too much difference. Obviously Barcelona was one I knew much better than the other circuits. I raced here last year and the GP2 race was not bad for me, it was not a bad result in terms of speed, so I am looking forward to racing here. It is a great track to drive, it has got a lot of tricky corners and some high speed corners, so I think this going to be good."So far this year you have scored points in two out of the four races which is an excellent effort. Has that surprised you?
KN: "Not surprised but I think this year the fight for the points is very tough and I think it is very important to get points when you have the opportunity. I think I have done well and so far have scored five points, so I think in some ways maybe I am surprised I have scored five points. But that's my job to score points and for that I am quite happy."Qualifying seems to go up and down a fair amount. Is it the car or what do you think it is?
KN: "I think it is a bit of everything. But like in Barcelona when everything was working I think I showed I can do a good job in qualifying. That is the target to do well in qualifying consistently. I am getting more and more experience at the moment, so we will see from here to the rest of the season I think it will be fine."Obviously points for you in the last race as well. That must have been encouraging especially with the upgrade you had as well.
Jenson Button: "Yes, it was very encouraging. The first few races, in qualifying, were reasonable but I struggled in the race to have a good performance basically because twice I crashed at turn one. It was finally nice to get to the end of a Grand Prix and to be not just scoring one point, but to get three points on the board. It was a good race and the pace of the car was reasonable. There is a lot of work still to be done but the positives are we are improving and every race we go to we feel we are getting a little bit more out of the car, and so far everything is going to plan."Have you got more bits coming here?
JB: "A few little things. We have got a few tweaks here which should make a bit of time. Also this is a circuit which I think will suit our car a little bit more than Barcelona which is very bumpy and I think that ride quality is an area where we are lacking. We have got a few tweaks on that side and it is a smoother circuit, so I will be looking for a good performance in qualifying and then we will see. If everyone finishes it is very difficult to score points because you have got six very fast cars and you are fighting over two points but we will aim for points for sure."What about the lack of traction control here? How much of a difference is that going to make?
JB: "On this circuit in some places it's not going to be an issue at all because you have got a lot of positive camber which helps you through the corner. There will be other places where it will be difficult. The last three corners are very slow, so it is going to be interesting there. But also the temperatures aren't high here, so we are not going to be overheating the tyres or causing problems to the rear tyres in that way. But because it is a low temperature we might have issues with the graining on the softer tyre. We will have to wait and see."It is a milestone for your teammate Rubens Barrichello this weekend and he will no doubt be out celebrating.
JB: "It's 257 races this weekend, I've been told."It is!
JB: "That's fantastic. And he doesn't look a day over 37!"Is he showing any signs of slowing down in his old age?
JB: "No, he has been on it this year. He has been doing a very good job. It is good to have a competitive teammate and a very experienced teammate as he is. We have got a very good team and a very good team atmosphere and he is good to have alongside."Robert, obviously you made your debut here in 2006. Fifth on the grid and eighth last year and this year, having said that, your positions so far this year have been second, third and fourth of the races you've finished. How do you feel things are going at the moment?
Robert Kubica: "I mean Turkey is not really a favourite track for me and not the one where I have been lucky. In 2006 in my second race in F1 we had some problems with the tyres, last year I started pretty well but then faced some graining problems. I am looking forward as this year's car is a bit easier for me to drive and I am performing better, so I hope to turn it a different way on this track and hope to be competitive."Qualifying, however, is still good. It is just in the races that the positions are going down this year.
RK: "I think it depends where you look and how much fuel you get. In Australia I was first row but unfortunately I could not finish the race due to the accident with Nakajima. In Malaysia I started with a heavy car and improved my position. Okay, in Bahrain it was difficult to face Ferrari and in Barcelona we were very close with McLaren, so we knew we had to stay in front of them after the first lap. We didn't manage with Lewis Hamilton but still the race pace I think was very strong."Heikki, good to see you and glad that you have passed the test this morning. Can you give us some idea of what you had to do?
Heikki Kovalainen: "It's basically a test all the drivers have to go through when they start their career in F1. When I started last year in Australia I did the base line test. It is a combination of tests and calculations. Basically they check how your brain and body is working and the reactions. I redid the test this morning and improved the score, so the impact seems to have a good effect."Have you noticed how you have been getting better since the accident itself?
HK: "Yes. Obviously the Monday morning after the accident I had a little bit of a headache. But since then it has improved quite rapidly. It was on Thursday when I got out of Spain and on Saturday I started normal training in Finland. I went to a sports institute that is doing work with McLaren and together with our team doctor I went over there and started to prepare for this race. Since then everything has been normal and I am looking forward to hopefully a strong weekend and to getting back in the car and I feel 100 per cent."When I asked Robert this question in France last year about his accident in Montreal there was a certain amount of hilarity. Have you seen it on television and what has been your reaction?
HK: "I have seen it on television afterwards. It was a serious accident I managed to walk away from. I think I was a little bit lucky but also must stress that all the safety standards that the FIA has been pushing for worked very well there. The chassis took the impact reasonably well as did the barriers. The FIA medical team and the marshals did a fantastic job to get me out of there quickly and in a short period of time I am able to make a recovery without any injuries in my body. I think it is something that we must still keep working on but the work paid off that day."Are you surprised that Heikki has such a quick recovery, as you, of course, weren't able to race the week after and had to wait.
RK: "I am not really surprised. He said he was lucky he only had headache the day after. It was a bit similar with me. I didn't have headache but I had a pain in my ankle. But I was one week later in America and I could not race, but I think we are all happy that he is back. I think if he does a good weekend everyone will say he is stronger after accident which was the case with me but which was completely not right."
Questions From The Floor(Will Buxton - Australasian Motorsport News) Just a few words from all four on the current level of safety and the job that the FIA does to ensure you guys are all safe over a Grand Prix weekend.
HK: "As I have said already, I think all the parts of the accident – the car, the barrier and then the lift from the car and to the medical centre and then further to the medical centre in the city - that all worked very well. It is not only luck that I came out of the crash. It is really the work that has paid off. I can't be more than thankful about that. But we should carry on working on improving as much as we can. If there are any other areas we think we can improve then we should go for it."
RK: "I think similar to Heikki. The FIA has done a fantastic job. His accident and my accident in Canada have shown that safety standards in F1 are very high and we have people working on it trying to improve more. I think these two accidents have shown that standards are very high."
JB: "Everything that has been said. It is great that all the time we are taking a view to try and help safety. As the Grand Prix Drivers' Association that's our main aim as well. It is good that we are all working together for a safer sport. It is never going to be the safest sport in the world, we all know that. But there are certain things we can work on to not take away the excitement but to make the sport a little bit safer."
KN: "Same for everybody. Safety has improved a lot. It is good to work together with the FIA and the drivers to help improve. We just need to do that."(Will Buxton – Australasian Motorsport News) For Jenson, Robert and Heikki: Jenson, Monaco 2003, Robert last year in Canada, and Heikki in Spain. I believe all three of you lost consciousness and had no real recollection of the crashes that you had. Having no recollection, how much does that actually help you get over it, not having the mental image in your mind of exactly how it all played out?
JB: "I think when you walk away and you're fine the next day, you get over it very quickly. So obviously if you have an injury you think about it more, but when the accident's happened, you know you've walked away from a situation which you probably didn't think you would walk away from. You have a lot of confidence in the car that you're driving and the circuits that you're racing on."
RK: "I think very similarly. It was a bit different in my case, I think, because I remember most of my accident. When I was asked if I had seen my accident, I saw it for real. It was just what Jenson said: it gives you more confidence and in some ways you are lucky but in other ways it shows how safe Formula One is and how strong F1 cars are."
HK: "All I should really add is that I don't think I lost consciousness at any point. The first people who arrived at the scene reported me being awake and assisting getting myself out of there but I don't have any idea, I don't remember that. But after such a hit on the head, I think it's a bit of a shutdown by the body to protect your brain and your organs. I don't have any issues with that. It would be good if one day the whole image came back into my head. I don't think I would have any problem with that, but at the moment all that I can talk about is what I saw on the video."(Marc Surer – Premiere TV) Heikki, another question. The first moment when you were stuck in the tyres, did you have the tyres on your head, do you remember that? You were stuck in the car, or you don't remember that at all?
HK: "Yeah, I've obviously seen it on the images, that the tyres were over me and I sort of penetrated through the tyre wall, but I don't remember that moment."(Marc Surer – Premiere TV) Did you have marks on your helmet?
HK: "Yes, quite a lot of marks, but I think the helmet did its work, it took the impact very well and I didn't have any injuries to my head, that's the most important thing."(Marc Surer – Premiere TV) Jenson, you mentioned the tyres just now. You have hard tyres here and last year it was 50 degrees on the asphalt, now we maybe have 20-something. Do you think it will be a problem to get the hard tyres up to temperature?
JB: "I think it's going to be very different, for sure, but in the winter we do a lot of testing in colder temperatures and we are able to get tyre temperature, but it's just going to be very different to what we're used to here. The tyres are obviously going to work in a very different way and over the next two days, that's what we're going to be working on and working with. The information from last year will also be useful but it's going to be very different to what we'll experience this year, for sure, both tyres (compounds), not just one tyre."(Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Heikki, was that the first black-out of your career and was that the most serious accident that you've had?
HK: "I think it's yes to both question. I haven't had a black-out before. I've had a couple of serious accidents before but I never knocked myself out like that and therefore it's got to be the most serious accident so far."(Dominic Fugere – Le Journal de Montreal) Question for all four of you: I would like you to fast forward one month from now and just give me a quick answer: if I say to you Montreal, what do you reply?
JB: "Great, great steak, fantastic steak. Four weeks from now, I wouldn't have a clue. I think we will have a greater understanding of the title contenders. For us, as a team, I think you will see us improving, for sure, not enough to fight with the title contenders, but improving all the same."I just wanted a quick word association, that was all.
JB: "Steak was my quick answer. There are loads of good restaurants. There's one called Buena Notte which is fantastic."
KN: "Well, ..."
JB: "Girls, girls, that's a good one."
KN: "The views."
HK: "I don't know, I don't know what to say. It's a great city, great circuit but there's no point in looking too much into the future. I'd rather live in the present time and try to make the right decisions in every-day life, whether it's racing or normal life."
RK: "It's not one of my favourite race tracks."(Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Heikki, you were awake, but what was your first memory after the accident?
HK: "I remember being in intensive care in the hospital in the city, a lot of people around me. I was a bit confused what had happened, so I asked my team doctor Mr Hintsa 'what are we doing here?' and he explained what happened and then after that, the memory has been normal and I was aware of everything after that. That's where I got back on track."(Michael Schmidt – Auto Moto und Sport) Heikki, the tyres did a good job in terms of deceleration but on the other hand it took quite a while before they dug you out of there. Is that a worry?
HK: "Yeah, of course, it's something that we all should look very carefully at and see if there are better compromises but luckily I had no injuries and I was not in a hurry to get out of there, my life was not threatened because of that, so in this case, the tyres did the work very well. But had I injured myself while hitting the barrier, maybe then it was more important to get myself out of there quickly and it would have been a bit marginal. It's something we should have a look at."(Heinz Prüller – ORF) Can I ask you a private question: it's Mothers' Day on Sunday, can I have a few words from you about your early days, the first help your mother gave you, maybe sacrificing or giving you your first car to drive, helping you in your career, whatever?
JB: "Whoops. Is it Mothers' Day on Sunday? OK. I think we can say that our mums have been a big part of our lives. Yeah, my Mum is a big fan of racing... you can ask her, she's going to be in Monaco. She's been a big fan of my racing, been a big supporter. She's kept my feet on the ground for sure."
KN: "Right, I didn't know that, I'm afraid. Yeah, when I was doing go-karting my mother was always taking me to the track and taking me home again. She was helping me a lot, so that was the biggest contribution from my mother."
HK: "Well, obviously she's always been very interested in what all of the kids in our family are doing and she's always supported myself. I think on Sunday she was actually working while I was racing. My dad called her and told her that ‘Heikki's had an accident' and she was like ‘OK'. And then she got home and actually saw what happened and she went a bit crazy, but she's just about recovered now. I think I should try to give her a better Mothers' Day present rather than a call from hospital to say ‘I had a crash.'"
RK: "Well, I think a mum is quite an important person for everybody here, one of the most important in my life and thanks to my mum and my father I am here."(Flavio Vanetti – Corriere della Sera) Jenson, it is said that Honda didn't want the Super Aguri team any longer. What can you say about that, and how bad is it for Formula One to lose a team during the season?
JB: "Personally, I think you need to speak to Oshima-san or Nick Fry who will be here over the weekend. They will be able to give you a much better answer than I can. But obviously for the drivers, for Takuma and Anthony, I'm very sorry for them, because I'm sure it's very difficult doing the first few races and then not having a job racing in F1 from then on, so really just sorry to those guys and hopefully they can get back into Formula One in the future."(Dominic Fugere – Le Journal de Montreal) To go back to the safety barrier, would you guys feel happier if you had a safety barrier which didn't have bits and pieces flying off; that there was just foam behind a steel wall as is being used in America?
JB: "I think the angles at which we hit the wall are far greater than what they do in America, on the ovals. I think if any of us had hit a safer barrier, it wouldn't have been that safe, the speed and the angle at which we would have hit it. What do you think, Heikki?"
HK: "Yeah, I agree with that answer exactly. I think we probably should look more individually at the most dangerous corners. We can see ourselves which are the most critical places and probably make decisions accordingly and it's not that straightforward, just adding some kind of wall here and everywhere. It's not that simple. For myself, at Turn Nine in Barcelona, it worked very well this time and we've just got to see if we can do anything better and look at other corners as well."(Marco Degl'Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) I'm not sure I caught what you said before: you said that your first memory after the accident was in the hospital? But we saw you raising your hand when they took you away from the circuit. At that moment, what were you thinking? Were you not awake?
HK: "Exactly what I said before: I have no idea about waving my hand but also the fact, as I said earlier, that I never lost consciousness. I was awake all the time assisting the people helping me, I told them to take my crash helmet off, I assisted them by telling them I had no injuries, I was OK, just that the brain was confused and I didn't record anything on my hard drive, if you like. Then, when things calmed down a bit and the brain started working again, that was back in the hospital in the town and since then it's all been OK. But it's good for you if I waved, and I guess I felt everything was fine."Source FIA