Monza press conference: Chilton, Ricciardo, Button, Massa, Webber and Alonso
5 September, 2013
Full transcript from the FIA hosted Italian Grand Prix press conference at Monza, featuring: Max Chilton (Marussia), Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso), Jenson Button (McLaren), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari).
Let’s start with the man of the moment, who I don’t expect has stopped smiling since the announcement was made a few days ago that he is going to be joining Red Bull Racing next year. A fantastic moment for you Daniel, but how easy is it going to be for you to concentrate for the remainder of the season? How will you keep that focus?
Daniel Ricciardo: Good afternoon everyone, how’re you going? I think it’s a bit of a relief now that there’s no more speculation and no more dodging questions and all the rest of it. Everyone knows what’s happening, including me. It’s nice. It’s something to look forward to and obviously I’m very pleased with the news but I have eight more races this year and looking forward to giving Toro Rosso a nice farewell I hope and I’ll put all my energy into that. I think this weekend will of course be a bit hectic because the news is fresh but I think from this point on it should start to settle down and get back to normal stuff.
Mark, I guess you’re very pleased it’s gone to your compatriot, but also it must be quite difficult for you with these remaining races. This one for example hasn’t always been kind to you. Talk about your end of season in some ways.
Mark Webber: The writing was on the wall for me. I knew once I made the decision that the season was going to come to a close eventually. The clock doesn’t stop in Formula One and I’m actually happy about that, otherwise I wouldn’t have made the decision. Looking forward to getting as much silverware and the best results I can before the year’s out and Brazil Sunday night, the next chapter. Yeah, it’s all good.
Pleased for Dan?
MW: Of course, yeah. It’s very, very rare to have any Australians in Formula One but to have us I suppose handing the baton over in a very, very successful team… it’s great for Dan obviously, he thoroughly deserves it. The junior categories for him in Europe initially is a great test. Not easy for us to come from that part of the world, which he’s done brilliantly with. It’s the perfect scenario I think for the team, it all fits very, very well. After DC and myself they’ve finally got another driver from the junior programme, which is what it’s all about. So that fits in very, very well. Perfect age. It’s all in his corner. So he can do a tremendous job and yeah, it works out well for him.
Jenson, what’s your situation contract wise?
Jenson Button: Good afternoon everyone. As all contracts are, confidential.
Have you signed?
JB: Not yet.
Are you happy to stay with McLaren?
JB: Yes, I’m very happy to stay where I am. I think it’s very easy, when times are difficult, to look elsewhere but when you’re in a team like McLaren that has been fighting at the front for so many years it’s definitely the wrong move to move elsewhere. I feel I have a very good family in the team and at the end of last year we had the quickest car on the grid. We don’t now but it could easily come our way again next season. I feel we are making good progress so this is the right place to be.
Max, similar question to you. You just had your best qualifying and best result as well, what’s your situation with the team at this stage?
Max Chilton: Good afternoon everyone, I hope you’re having a good day. My situation is the same as it’s been all year. I’ve got a one-year contract. Obviously I’m a rookie and so is Jules and we’re here to learn as much as we can. You learn a lot before you get to Formula One but there’s an awful lot when you do get to Formula One as well. So the main thing I’m trying to do is focus on my skills, get the most out of the car and do the best job for the team. I think for the last couple of races it has been difficult for us but we still have got that 10th place in the championship, so it’s key for us to get the most out of the car when we have the opportunity to get a good race result and if we can get another 12th or 13th that would really help us in the overall championship.
And is there a deadline?
MC: For contract? Not that I know. All I know is the team are happy to keep both of us and I’ll just keep trying to do the best job I can.
Felipe, I guess a similar question to you: what have you got to do to continue with Ferrari?
Felipe Massa: Good results are always important, so I’ll just concentrate on that. There is a big opportunity to carry on with Ferrari, so I just need to concentrate, trying to do the best we can over the car and that’s what I’m looking for.
We’ll move on to Fernando. This is the next step in your fight-back for the championship. Is the car getting better? Are you optimistic? What’s the feeling as you come to this Italian Grand Prix? You’re a two-time winner here?
Fernando Alonso: I’m optimistic. For sure I think in Spa we saw some step forward from us and we hope to continue that direction and keep improving here in Monza. The characteristics of the track should help our performance as well. We have everything in place to do a good weekend. We need to deliver when comes the time in Sunday in the race but we arrive with some good confidence and ready to fight. I think for us it will be a stronger test at the Singapore race when we come back to the maximum level of downforce etc and there we will see how much of a step forward we did but let’s concentrate on this weekend. Let’s try to do the maximum and let’s try to finish in front of our main rivals.
Questions from the floor
A question for Daniel. At Spa the team told us they had not officially signed anybody. Between Spa and now when did you learn you had the seat?
DR: To be honest, in Spa, as I said, I still didn’t know – that was the truth. I found out, I think it was Wednesday that following week, so a few days before the announcement took place. I can confirm I still didn’t know at Spa, so no lies being told there. Yeah, that’s it.
Question for Fernando. What result do you need here and in Singapore to avoid Ferrari stopping the development of the car this year? Two wins?
FA: I don’t think two wins is something that we can put up like a target, y’know? We’ve won two Grand Prix until now in the championship so we will be a little bit too optimistic if we really think that we can win the next two races. We will try to do so and we will hope for the best but more realistic targets are to finish in front of Sebastian [Vettel]. I think it is a target that we want to do in the last couple of Grands Prix, we didn’t arrive to a situation to close the gap, we only close the gap in Silverstone when he retired. So, we need to change this situation. We will be happy finishing in front of him, I think, here in Monza and in Singapore. Finishing in front of Sebastian means being on the podium. Minimum. Because we know how strong he is and how competitive Red Bull will be. So, two podiums and finishing in front of Sebastian is, I think, the target for these next two Grands Prix. If we cannot do so, if we keep losing points, obviously we need to start thinking about the 2014 project because we’ll be only six or seven races remaining with massive points [deficit] so important weeks coming for sure.
Fernando, you just bought a cycling team. Considering the amount of work you have to do as a racing driver, how can you imagine to commit yourself into this team?
FA: Well, it was one week with a lot of work, to be honest. Two or three batteries, telephone every day and it was some things to do. Now, more or less, that’s everything complete. All the decisions and all the work that we need to do for the cycling team will be passed to other people, some managers and some sportive directors that we need to find. We need to find sponsors, we need to do a lot of things in the next month, let’s say, because the first race is in the middle of January in Australia. It’s not something that we can delay much more. It’s a very ambitious project with a lot of hopes on it. I will not, as I said, put too much percentage of my days on the bicycle team, especially now that we are fighting for the championship. But when I arrive in winter time, or something like that, hopefully we can create a solid project. Not so much for 2014 because I don’t think there are many riders now with possibilities to sign but for 2015 onwards we need to create something big. So we will work a little bit.
MW: I think Adrian will design the bikes…
FA: …he’s too busy
Jenson, you did a good job in Spa, what do you expect in Monza, a very fast track?
JB: Yeah, Spa was alright. It’s quite difficult to get excited about sixth place but in terms of the pace of the car it was pretty good. Fourth after turn one and finishing sixth isn’t so bad. So yeah, we’re hoping for a bit more of an improvement. I think we’ve unlocked a little bit of performance with the car and we’re pretty close to challenging the cars in front. Whether we can do that here or not, I don’t know. It’s a very low-downforce circuit here and I think we have a pretty good low-downforce package, so we will see. I think after three or four laps tomorrow we’ll know where we stand in terms of how the downforce is working and the efficiency of it.
Fernando, it’s certainly not match-point right now but how would you describe the situation? Could it be like a set-point? How do you feel yourself, psychologically? Are you worried, are you anxious, are you angry, are you optimistic, how are you?
FA: For what?
The situation in the world championship
FA: I’m relaxed. I think when you do the maximum and you maximise normally the potential of the car and of yourself, finding the limits every time you are behind the wheel, you feel relaxed yourself and happy with the work. Of course we want to fight for the championship like we did last year until the last race, and this year we see that slowly the gap in the championship is increasing every weekend, so we want to stop that. We need to change that situation and hopefully this weekend is the starting point. It’s still plenty of races, plenty of opportunities, plenty of points to play. We believe that we can do it. So let’s start from this weekend.
Felipe, this is a very, very important race for you, you said before, that these two races were important for you, Spa and Monza. How do you feel in terms of the performance of your car? Is it important to have a car good enough to prove and do something well?
FM: I feel that the car was more competitive in Spa than in Hungary. I think it was important for us. I believe we can have a good car here. In the last years, even last year maybe, the car was not so competitive in the season but we had a good race in Monza. We find a good direction for this race, so I hope we can have a good car here so that we can fight and have a great race. Not just here but the second part of the season much better than the first part.
Fernando, again a cycling question, can you talk about your new team, if you have a name already? And can you talk about your passion for cycling and your relationship to Alberto Contador?
FA: Not name yet. As I said, we are waiting for sponsors – you want to write that – what we want is to have a team that can fight for the best things. My passion for cycling has been from a very young age and I do cycling as part of my training and also as part of my life. I’m always in front of the TV or checking the results. Very good friends in the cycling world. We talk of relationship with riders. Alberto is a good friend of mine. This project tried to best things of the two sports. I want to bring to Formula One the best things that cycling can teach me in terms of sacrifice, determination, discipline, training. And I want to bring to my cycling team the best things of Formula One. There are many and hopefully in the team next year, in the cycling, we can see some of the great things of Formula One, in terms of organization, image marketing, professionalism. Let’s try to put the best for the best.
Daniel, what can one realistically expect from you at the beginning of next year? Do you expect to start the season very close to Sebastian or do you have any plan to be there in the second part of the season?
DR: Obviously, I would love to be as competitive as I can as quickly as possible, so for me, I’ll obviously finish the season as strongly as possible with Toro Rosso, but as soon as it’s finished, switch my focus to 2014, try and put in a really good off-season, at least do as much as I can to prepare myself to be there for the first race. I know it’s obviously not going to be as easy as it seems but the best thing I can do is push myself as much as I can. I have one of the best teammates in the world now to measure myself against so no better man to have but him and push myself as hard as I can.
Fernando, next Saturday in Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Tokyo, Madrid fight for the Olympic Games in 2020. What are you feelings about Madrid, a city that you know very well and why do you think Madrid deserves the Olympic Games?
FA: Well, let’s hope so. I think Madrid deserves finally to host the Olympic Games. This is the third time that they try to host it and this time, hopefully, it will be the good one. I think the effort that the city and the country is making is quite good, there is a lot of success in Spanish sport in the last eight or ten years, that hopefully can convince the people. There is the enthusiasm from the whole country to host it, maximum support and we really want it. I know that it will be close. In Spain, we think that the Spanish possibilities are very high. I know that outside of Spain they are relatively less and maybe the favourite is Tokyo but we keep our fingers crossed until Saturday.
Felipe, last year you struggled in the first part of the season but you could identify what was wrong and after the summer break you were very competitive. This year you started very well, but after Monaco, your results haven’t been up to the same standard as before. Can you pinpoint what’s gone wrong in this second part of the season?
FM: I think that what is important to say is that this year the performance was good at every race. We couldn’t put together the results at the end of the race. I was not very lucky in so many things. I had two races where I had problems with the tyres. I spun at the Nurburgring, problem with the suspension in Monaco. For sure so many things happened that I couldn’t finish where I was supposed to but the performance was there. I think that’s important. I just need to put everything together and finish races where I’m supposed to and then I think the performance will be there and the results will be there as well.
Felipe, how long do you want to wait for Ferrari’s decision about your future?
FM: I think you need to ask this question of Stefano (Domenicali).
Fernando, you’ve bought this ‘bike team; I would like to know if there is any possibility that you might take a year off, concentrate on the bicycle team and then maybe take the opportunity for the future when the turbo era builds up and we know how the situation is between teams? Is this crazy or is there a realistic chance of this?
FA: Never an option. I’m in the best moment of my career, I’m with the best experience and performing at the best time. I will not miss any opportunity now. I know that I’m still in very good shape for maybe four, five more years so for sure I will give 100 percent of my passion that is motor sport and my career. After these four or five years, I will see what condition I am in and if I’m performing well. If I’m not feeling good any more, maybe I will think but as I said, I will be 100 percent committed for the next four or five years.
Daniel, changing teams always involves a bit of transition and adjustment. Moving to a team like Red Bull involves that transition under an awful lot of pressure. Are there are any steps you can take this year to ease the transition, given the relationship between the two teams, working more with the engineers, learning more about how to operate inside the big Red Bull team?
DR: I think I’m pretty fortunate to spend some time with Red Bull Racing in the past as a reserve driver. At Toro Rosso, we still go to Milton Keynes to use the simulator so I see a fair chunk of the team, also away from race weekends. Obviously, now that the news is out I will try and if I get some extra time to start to mould a relationship with the crew for next year, yeah, so I’ll ease into it and by December when we really start, I will already try and establish a good relationship with the guys and understand the way they work. As I say, I’m quite fortunate, I already understand a little bit about it, so a little bit of a head start.
Question to both of the Ferrari drivers: talking about Suzuka, how can you make the difference from the other drivers in terms of driving, and do you have any plans to visit somewhere in Japan?
FA: Well, Suzuka is probably the most enjoyable race track of the year so it’s always very special to go there but as I said, for the fantastic layout of the track, also for the fans, also for the passion that we always live when we are in Suzuka. We race after Korea so we will spend from Monday to Thursday probably in Tokyo, relaxing a little bit and preparing for the race and then in Suzuka, just concentrating on the weekend. No special plans to do crazy things but everything there is a little bit special so we will try to enjoy it as always.
FM: Yeah, I think it’s the same. Suzuka is a fantastic place, fantastic track to race on, one of the best, so it’s very nice to be in Japan. I love to go to Japan. As Fernando said, we’re going to spend a few days during the week after the Korean race in Tokyo, a great place to be as well, so really looking forward to racing in Suzuka and having a great race there for the fans as they are some of the best fans in Formula One.
Mark, do you have any suggestions for Daniel in order to manage the relationship with Sebastian; maybe the knife from Crocodile Dundee?
MW: Daniel will handle it fine. He knows how to handle himself so he’ll be OK.
DR: I think that’s obviously for me to figure out. As Mark said, I’ll be right.
Fernando, what do you think about teams with two top drivers? Also looking at the past, what is your opinion? What are the positive things and negative things in this kind of situation?
FA: I think it’s a good thing. There is always, in the top teams, the need to have two very good drivers because they fight for world championships, they fight for constructors’ points and they fight for winning every race they go to, so you cannot have only one driver. This has always been the case in the top teams, always the case in Ferrari, in McLaren, Red Bull now. At the end, or in the middle of the year, there is always one driver who has scored more points than the others and maybe a year later it’s the opposite, the other driver has scored more points. This is the way it is and you need to start or reset to zero every winter and start in the same conditions again and try to build up the points a little bit. So I think this is quite normal in our sport.
Felipe, what kind of result do you need here in Monza to hope to stay with Ferrari next season?
FM: Well, I think I definitely need a good race. That’s always important. I think it’s important to try to use the car in the maximum way it is possible. I think that’s what gives you pleasure, even if you don’t win the race but you did the best you could. I think that’s always the most important thing. The team can see that, race by race, all the time. You cannot forget that Ferrari knows me very well. It’s the team that knows me most. About experience, we know how important next year is as well. Everything starts from zero: different car, different rules, everything, so the driver’s experience is important as well. Sometimes you just look at the results of this race; that’s not what counts the most. I think it’s everything together. But anyway, it’s always important to do the maximum we can in this race and try to use the best of the car that we’re going to have this weekend.
Fernando, your name was mentioned a few times in the Red Bull situation. Were you at all interested in the Red Bull seat? Would you have gone up against Vettel or do you think you’ll finish at Ferrari? Would you be interested in going to Red Bull at any time in the future?
FA: It was only rumours, a lot of rumours. There were rumours about Red Bull, there were rumours in Italy about a sabbatical year, there were so many rumours. I still have three and a half more years with Ferrari which I intend to respect and hopefully to increase a little bit, and as I said, finish my career in the best team in the world which is Ferrari. We are not at the moment achieving the results that we want but we are working very hard and next year will be completely new rules which obviously open the door for many teams to stop the domination that Red Bull seems to have had in the last couple of years so we have high hopes also for next year’s challenge. About the news that now Red Bull have two drivers, it’s very good news that Daniel has signed, also for our country because it has opened up a good possibility for Carlos Sainz to join Toro Rosso, so that was the best news for us.
Max, it’s a hard season for you because it’s your first in F1; where do you think you deserve to be in 2014 and how do you face the next races?
MC: The next few races are going to be pretty challenging. I think we’ve got seven after here and I think I’ve only driven one of them, and that was Singapore so it’s going to be a little bit challenging. Actually, sorry, we’ve got Abu Dhabi as well so there’s five I haven’t driven of the final seven so it will be challenging but it is my first year. As I said earlier, I’m still learning but I’ve done half a year in Formula One, you can’t expect much longer to up your pace and learn and for the last few races the pace has been a lot better, especially qualifying. We did a great team effort in Spa so my focus is just to keep doing what I’m doing and learning and I think for the second half of the year my speed will come through more and hopefully we can keep that tenth place (in the constructors’).