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17 March: Malaysian Grand Prix - FIA Thursday Press Conference - Part 1 - Part 2

Giancarlo FISICHELLA (Renault)
David COULTHARD (Red Bull Racing)

Q: A question for you both: do you feel that your performance in Melbourne was fairly indicative of your overall capabilities? Was that where you expected to be?
Giancarlo FISICHELLA: Well, first of all, it was a weekend which was affected by Saturdayís first qualifying where the weather was the main factor of the weekend. There I have been lucky and it was easy for me to manage the gap on Sunday morning and I started on pole. Then, people like Michael, my team-mate, Rubens, the McLarens, they started a little bit further back so it was a bit of a difficult race for them but somewhere, sometime in the middle of the race, all the drivers showed how competitive their cars were and themselves so I think we are in good shape. We won the race because we were quick and because we wanted to be competitive and we are quite optimistic for this weekend.

David COULTHARD: Well, I would say the same about the qualifying. Obviously we had a window which helped us in first qualifying, which inevitably changed peopleís strategies for Sunday morning but we know we were in amongst the majority in terms of our strategy Ė maybe we could have been a couple of laps longer which certainly would have slowed us down a bit in second qualifying but nonetheless, our basic pace during the weekend was closer to the fastest times than we maybe would have expected so I think generally Ė putting to one side where we finished as a team in the points Ė I think our overall pace is better than where they finished with the Jaguar car, and therefore it wouldnít be a surprise if we have opportunities again to score points, but under normal running circumstances you would expect us to be behind the big four teams.

Q: It is, obviously, a new team in ownership. Where do you see it lacking? Youíve been with McLaren and Williams; what does your current team, Red Bull Racing, still need do you think?
DC: Well, all the obvious things. Thereís no problem with the people that are involved, but you need stability and investment to develop the technology. OK, regulations have changed again for this year a little bit, and every year youíve got to react to those changes but in either maintaining a partnership with the current engine supplier or establishing a long term partnership with a manufacturer is obviously important and understanding that as soon as possible and increasing the investment in all areas so that the team can keep pace of development with the other teams. So for me, thatís where we were at race one and it was a dry race and at various points, as Giancarlo says, you got to see what peopleís pace was so fast forward to race nineteen: are we still maintaining that position? Of course the dream is to reduce the gap to the big teams, but why should we, with a smaller factory, smaller resources be able to do that? So itís about reducing the potential increase in lap time that you could see during the course of the season.

Q: When you look at your lap time you were just over a second off fastest lap of the race; that must have been fairly satisfactory.
DC: Yeah, because I would believe that Fernandoís lap was a charging, coming through the field, doing everything he could, whereas Giancarlo was on a maintenance programme because he had the race won from the first corner and it was just about maintaining that position. For my race, I certainly think I could have pushed a little bit harder at certain points but there was a little bit of uncertainty on my part as to what to expect the evolution of the car to be, because thatís the first full distance Iíve done. In testing we didnít quite get there, so better to be a little bit cautious and maintain the position rather than being silly and running wide somewhere. Itís a long-winded way of saying I could have been closer to the fastest lap time.

Q: So youíre quite optimistic.
DC: I think that Christmas came early for the team to get two cars in the points. Circumstances played their part but nonetheless, thatís what a Grand Prix throws up. Weíre closer to the quickest pace than I would have expected - than I potentially expected - going to Melbourne, so that gives us all a boost to get on with the job of putting things in place in the future.

Q: Giancarlo, you won by just over six seconds from somebody who had come up from eleventh place on the grid to second. How much did you have in reserve?
GF: Quite honestly, quite a lot. I was very calm during the race. The only problem for me was to get through the first corner and be the leader. As soon as I did that, I was very calm, very convinced. The car balance was really good. Right at the end, Rubens was catching me, particularly because I lost four or five seconds behind Jacques. Some of my engineers told me to push a little bit. I did a 25.9s which was a very good lap time and I wasnít at the limit, honestly, so I was very comfortable in the car and to win the race with six seconds to Rubens was OK. The important thing was to be first. I won the race. Iím really confident. Iím happy.

Q: Now youíve been back to Europe. Is that a little bit of a disadvantage, do you think?
GF: No. The schedule for me was to go to the Maldives, but unfortunately I had a problem with my son who was in hospital with an infection. Now heís OK, heís out of hospital, but thatís the reason why I went back to Europe.

Q: But youíve been here since TuesdayÖ
GF: Yes, Iíve been here since Tuesday morning, I landed at 7 oí clock in Kuala Lumpur and I started a bit of a programme of training with the trainers. Iím happy. I feel OK. Itís really hot, itís going to be a very tough race physically and mentally but Iím in good condition.

Q: Whatís the great challenge of this circuit, particularly looking at the tyre situation?
GF: Itís a difficult situation, physically, mentally. Itís a difficult circuit for the tyres, first of all because itís going to be very hot and then itís quite abrasive asphalt, tarmac. So for the race, itís important to keep a good pace, but itís important to save the tyres, especially the last ten laps will be very interesting. Itís important to be concentrated, not to make mistakes and then you score a result.

Q: David, look at this circuit, the extremes of temperature, the difficulty with the tyres as Giancarlo was saying. Is it a situation whereby if it works here, it will be OK for the rest of the season?
DC: Well, you think so with the majority of peopleís engines being into the second phase of their life in warm conditions. Tyre-wise, I think if you look at the choices of the majority then whereas if you look at what we raced here in the past, with prime and option then both the prime and option that are here are quite conservative, so I wouldnít expect any big problems with the tyres. Yes, for sure, heat is an issue, but they can simulate hot engines by putting lots of tank tape on the radiators in winter testing. Itís not quite the same, but in terms of running the engine hot you can do that, but itís all the other parts for which this is the ultimate test.

Questions from the floor

Q: (James Allen Ė ITV): Giancarlo, you mentioned about your son. How close did you come to not actually doing the race at all? Was there a time at which you were thinking you might have to go back to Europe before the race?
GF: Yeah, I knew that problem just before second qualifying. I was a bit worried, but when I spoke with my wife, she told me Ďdonít worry, weíre in the hospital but the worst moment has passed and we have to be here just because the doctor wants to see him for a couple of days.í Obviously I was really nervous and disappointed about that, but as soon as the lights went out, I was just concentrated on the race.

Q: (Marc Surer Ė Premiere TV): David, you always go at the circuit in a Mercedes car. Now you are driving for a team which is not related to a manufacturer. With what car are you arriving now?
DC: Well, Mercedes. I was part of the family for a long time and Petra, who as you know looks after friends of the family, so I will be using a Mercedes during the course of this year. Itís a brand new one as well, theyíre very brave.

Q: (David Tremayne Ė The Independent): DC, a couple of questions for you: how happy are you within the team and how important is it for you as a driver to be in a team where it appears everyone loves you and is giving you maximum support?
DC: I guess thatís because they donít all know me that well at the moment, if you think they all love me! I donít really know that many people in the team is the truth so far because my winter testing was with the test team and obviously itís all the race team (whom Iím working with now). So Iím still getting to know a lot of the people but you know itís some of the people who I worked with 14 years ago at Paul Stewart Racing. So, some of the oldest relationships I have in motor sport are within what is Red Bull Racing now and it obviously started with PSR. So I feel comfortable. I just want to do my job and enjoy myself and go home. I donít need to feel the banging the head against the brick wall frustration that sometimes has been there in the past. Why do I want to do that through choice? I actively pursued continuing my Grand Prix career because I enjoy the thrill of going racing on a Sunday. The whole Grand Prix weekend is a main source of pleasure to me, even on the bad days, so I enjoyed the good fortune we had as a team in Melbourne and expect that normal order will be resumed for the majority of the remaining Grands Prix, but it still means we can do our jobs and give direction, and give an opinion on what needs to be worked on.

Q: (David Tremayne Ė The Independent): You said in Melbourne that the racerís instinct kicked in at the first corner, and you may be aware that youíve been shit-canned quite a lot in certain areas of the media as being over the hill and everything else. The performance you gave there reminded a lot of people thatís probably an incorrect view. What would you say to your critics after a race like Melbourne?
DC: You know, people having an opinion on me as a driver isÖ theyíre right and we as professional sports people earn our pennies because of the public interest and the link between the racing, the media and feeding the public, so I donít have a problem with people deciding that on the face of it, armed with the information that they have, their opinion is this. But the reality is, of course, that you canít pass judgment - or full judgment Ė unless youíre armed with all the facts, because otherwise youíd never have trials for court cases for anything. Youíd just walk in and go Ďguilty fók Ďem, lock Ďem upí. Iím armed with all the facts, through my eyes because Iíve experienced the emotions involved with being a Grand Prix driver and other people in the team are armed with all the facts with their view. To the outside world, depending on how close the relationship they have with either me or other members of the team, then they get more or less of the facts. This is a long-winded way of not really answering the question in that I donít have anything to say to the critics because Iím not doing it for them. And yes, the media, you play an important part in our sport and you can build a driver and you can break a driver, but you know I probably did more damage on my own, through the difficulties I had with one lap qualifying, than any single person just saying Ďoh yeah, he should go off and do something else.í I donít want to do something else.

Q: (Azrul Ananda Ė Jawa Pos): David, you spent so many years with McLaren which is a very tidy team, very neat team, everything is so organized, you tuck your shirts in. Now youíre in Red Bull which is more relaxed; how do you feel about the difference?
DC: Well, I think McLarenís T-shirts are untucked now. Life is becoming a little bit less formal generally, but yes, of course McLaren has a very regimented way of operating internally and externally, but itís people who are on the inside, and when you know those people then itís as friendly as any other environment and I certainly donít judge a team by how accessible it is to the outside world, because frankly speaking, when youíre doing a job, the minimum distractions you have Ė which means less people about the team Ė then the better it is, you can just concentrate. Iím sure Giancarlo doesnít mind me saying that I thought it was quite telling in Melbourne, when I was leaving the paddock, I popped into Renault just to say well done on his victory, and he was sitting alone in a room. I can totally relate to why he would be doing that, because he was wanting to savour the moment for himself, not being out there being asked lots of questions and being harangued by people. The inner motivation, the inner voice Ė sometimes you have to talk to yourself a little bit to enjoy it, and not having too many people around is a good thing.

Q: (James Allen Ė ITV): Giancarlo, in the build-up to this season, everyone has been talking about this extraordinary battle between Raikkonen and Montoya, the team mateís duel that everyone has been savouring the prospect of, but the reality is that the battle between you and Fernando is every bit as exciting and every bit as intense. What does it feel like from the inside? Obviously Melbourne wasnít a typical race, and heís saying ĎI donít count Melbourne because of what happenedí but what do you feel in terms of the battle youíre having with him?
GF: Aah, itís going to be tough. Honestly, itís nice to work with Fernando. Heís a very a nice guy, thereís a very good friendship between me and him. We work together which is very important for the team and I think heís one of the best drivers in Formula One. Heís quick and consistent during the race, so itís going to be interesting to see how it is at the end of the season between me and him. But for sure itís going to be tough.

Q: (Rami Tuisku Ė Ilta Sanomat): David, how does it feel now you donít have a Finnish driver as your teammate? (Laughter)
DC: I have to buy my own vodka now. (Laughter) Iím enjoying the relationship Iím having with Christian (Klien) and Tonio (Liuzzi) because theyíre younger guys and developing their lives; so weíve been training together and doing things that I never did with Mika or with Kimi. At the end of the day, itís great if you can get along with your teammate because it just makes the whole weekend more pleasurable, but ultimately youíre out there trying to do your own thing.

Q: (Wolfgang Rother Ė Premiere TV): Michael Schumacher was heavily criticized after his move against Nick Heidfeld (in Melbourne). Some media wrote about harsh Rambo-style driving and there might be some aggressive feelings among the drivers now, and there might be even some come-back in the next race. What is your opinion about the move and the feeling?
DC: I did watch the race afterwards and my opinion of it, and I do have the benefit of being in the car Ė youíve got to remember that he, sitting in the car, all he can see is this little mirror to make a judgment where the other car is, so itís not as clear in the car as it is from the outside. From the outside, he does appear to squeeze, once Nick had already put himself towards the inside, would be the obvious observation to make and then once Nick is on the grass, and there is only one way heís going is into the side of Michael. What we donít see clearly from the television wasÖ did Nick just brake too late on the dust and was he always going to run into him? Even if Michael hadnít squeezed him onto the grass, would he still have hit him, but just at the apex? So I think clearly Michael did move but I think thereís a bit of over-reaction saying that heís Rambo and thereís a big push-back. When I see him, and when we talk in the driversí briefing, the GPDA meeting on Friday evening, then that will be one of the things that Iíll raise and weíll talk about it and Iím sure Michael will give his opinion but ultimately it gives you all something to talk about, doesnít it? It was great Giancarlo winning but having an incident adds to the spectacle. For me, what was more questionable was the marshals running across the track. At one point there were about four or five marshals running from where, several years ago, a marshal was killed, across the racing line to give him (Schumacher) a push, for a privileged service - heíd obviously paid his valet parking ticket beforehand. Iím not saying you donít want cars on the track, because when thereís only 20 cars out there, you need them all running but I know how difficult that corner is. If a driver did make a mistake, you could, even with a yellow flag, you could end up sliding off into somewhere.

GF: I think maybe Michaelís manoeuvre was to disturb Nick Heidfeld. Maybe Nick was braking a bit too late and heís gone onto the gravel and he couldnít stop the car. At the end of the race the marshal (stewards) didnít give them any advertising (warning) so I think it was OK.

Q: (Heinz Pruller Ė ORF TV): Giancarlo, before the season began, a lot of people said you would be the ideal driver for the championship this year because you use the tyres better etc. Could you say you confirmed this in Melbourne and this is your own feeling?
GF: Well, we are just at the first race, at the start of the season. Yes, I won the first race but we still have 18 races to go. I feel confident to be quick, to fight for the podium, to fight to win a race sometimes because I have a great car, I have a great team and I feel confident, physically and mentally. So if we continue to be competitive, if we continue to do the right development on the package, I think we can try to win the championship, why not?

Part 2

2005 Malaysian Grand Prix - Main Page
2005 Malaysian Grand Prix - Team and Driver Preview Page

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