Australian Grand Prix - Thursday Press Conference

Four drivers were present at the opening press conference of the 2009 Australian Grand Prix: Jenson Button (Brawn GP), Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber), Felipe Massa (Ferrari) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing). Here's what they had to say, as shown in the latest press release from the FIA. Q: Gentlemen, what are your feelings going into the new season?
Jenson BUTTON: I have not slept that much this week, I must say. It is great to be here to start with for me. It is great to be here in Melbourne for the first race. That was the first goal. It is nice to be here and secondly we are in a much better position than most people thought, so it is nice to be here starting the season on a positive note.

Q: Is it a massive excitement. Your father says he is having to take tranquilizers.

JB: I think a bottle of red normally does it. My father does talk a lot. He is very excited at the moment. I don’t know, it is difficult. For everyone else they have been testing for quite a bit of the winter, but for us it has been condensed down to the last two weeks. We have been flat out with testing and simulator work, so it has all been quite busy the last couple of weeks. As I said it is good to be here and it is good to see the team with a very positive attitude. We have gone through a very hard time this winter but they have stayed strong and we’ve proved it with the reliability in testing and getting the car out.

Q: Sebastian, for you a new team as well?

Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, a slightly new team. Obviously looking forward to the season. We had quite a strong winter, I’d say with a lot of work going on. I think our car looks very nice but we have to prove it is one of the best on the circuit still, but let’s see. Right now for everyone it is the same situation as you don’t know exactly where you are, it is a bit of guessing right now, but we focus on ourselves. I think we are in a good position, so we will see but definitely looking forward.

Q: Felipe, a certain amount of unfinished business, I suspect, is your way of looking at the new season.

Felipe MASSA: Well, it depends. We finished the business last year with one point behind but we finished. Now we need to start another one from zero. I hope with a very competitive car like we had last year, but maybe slightly more reliable and a very efficient team. That was what we were doing in the winter, trying to work 100 per cent in every detail, not to lose any point, so I hope.

Q: Is it excitement or anxiety?

FM: What happened in last year’s championship is finished. Everybody starts from zero now. We have 20 drivers fighting, so until the point that you see maybe you have two, three, five or more fighting for the championship. Now everybody is in the same position. For sure, some people are a bit more competitive. Some people are not, depends. But everybody starts from zero. We need to take everything we learned in the past, but we need to work very hard because we know the championship is long and everybody is in the same boat now.

Q: Robert, your feelings coming into the new season?

Robert KUBICA: As always the winter has been very important to try and analyze and to get knowledge about the new components on the car as the regulation change has been quite big. There was a lot to understand, tyres, aerodynamics, KERS. Yeah, looking forward. Finally we will get a clearer picture where we are compared to our competitors and we will see.

Q: Are you excited about the new season?

RK: Yes, as always. It is a new season and like I said it is always good after a six month break to start again. Testing is important but the races are what we like.

Q: There have been changes in the regulations with KERS and other things like slick tyres. What are the things that have affected you most as drivers, personally? Sebastian, perhaps you can start?

SV: Regarding the wide front wing we will see in turn one on Sunday. Other than that I think the biggest change was going to slick tyres and reducing the aerodynamics. Obviously driving is still very similar. If you look at the outside shape of the car you are surprised that it is that closed from the inside from a feeling’s point of view, so not a lot has changed turning left. The car still turns left, so that is important. But I think there is a bit less grip all around, a bit less stability, so you just have less grip, less stability. But I think everyone gets used to it quite quickly. As regards the slick tyres I would say we all have some knowledge, some fresher and some maybe a bit longer ago but it should not be a problem. They seemed to be quite easy to handle but it is always the tyres. They make the contact to the ground, so we will see.

JB: For me it has been the tyres. I really like the way the tyres work compared to the grooves, especially the front of the car, as obviously the surface area is more affected at the front than the rear going from grooves to slicks. I am enjoying driving the tyres. As soon as I drove them last year I found a benefit that suits my style a bit more, so I am happy with that change. Aerodynamically it is obviously different but we have gained so much grip having slick tyres in a way it balances itself out.

RK: As Jenson and Sebastian mentioned, tyres and aerodynamics. I found the grip level quite balanced. Of course through some mid-speed range corners you get more from the slick tyres and in the other corners you are a bit slower because of the aerodynamic loss. But all in all I think lap time is quite similar and as Jenson mentioned the front tyres are quite powerful. KERS was a big topic during the winter and we will see.

Q: How much are you able to notice the KERS benefit and equally the difference with the movable front wing?

RK: I think the front wing we didn’t play with at all, very little during the winter. Of course it depends from car to car as you can adjust one flap, so it will have a bigger or smaller influence depending on the cars. That’s not a big topic to really discuss.

FM: For sure it is a big change compared to last year. We have so many things to work on the car. The KERS and the front wing which it is not necessary to change, just when you are following somebody, so you can change whenever you like once a lap, so you can use it for set up as well. For sure the tyres were a big difference, aerodynamically we lost a lot of downforce compared to last year. At least we lost at Ferrari, I don’t know about the other teams. My car is like that. I feel a big difference to drive especially with the old tyres. With the new tyres you have the grip, so you can be aggressive, you can brake strong and try to bring the car, as we were doing last year. In terms of turning you can be aggressive but with the old tyres the car is sliding much more. It is a little bit different to drive and you need to be smoother than last year, at least in my car.

Q: Jenson, you have been through a roller-coaster of emotions but you always seemed to believe you had a drive. Tell us about the atmosphere within the team.

JB: First of all there was not really an option not to believe. When I found out last November it was obviously a big shock. You can get as down as you like but it doesn’t change anything, so I was keeping in contact with the team all the way through the winter. Some days were good, some days weren’t. But finally we have had a good outcome.

Q: And the atmosphere within the team?

JB: It is as good as you can imagine. But when I went there in November, the day after I found out that we might not be racing this year, the atmosphere was already good. I walked into the factory feeling a little bit down, but chatting to all the different departments expecting a few upset people and no positivity, but there was. They were all going about their business like they had been before the announcement and they knew they were building something that was good. They have done a great job and that pleases me no end. It is great to be a part of that as they have put their heart and soul into producing a car for this year.

Q: Sebastian, in a way same sort of thing. Same family but a different team. Is it very different.

SV: It is a different team, yes. We have the same parent, that is quite special, but still the team is different. I think every team has its own way and its own philosophy. It was basically the same when I came from BMW to Toro Rosso. Of course it is different and you have to adapt. Some things you like and some things you don’t like. When you don’t like something then you just open your mouth and tell them what you don’t like. You talk about it and then you see where you go. I had enough time already at the end of last year, so basically the Monday after Brazil I was already a Red Bull driver. I did all the winter tests and I got a bit more time as Mark had his accident last November. That all helped me in a way to get well known in the factory and to the car and the working procedures of the team. Hopefully we used all our tests at the beginning of this year and this winter with the new car to prepare for this season as in the season there will be no more testing, so that’s it for this year testing-wise.

Q: Now, for the two in the front row, where do you feel your cars and teams are in the hierarchy as we go into the new season?

FM: Difficult. The picture from the winter, at least, is that Brawn is better than anybody, so maybe we need to fight each other (BMW and Ferrari) for third place. I hope not.

RK: I think we have been kept waiting for an answer for quite a long time already. We’ve been asked the same question since February, so let’s keep waiting for another two days and we will see.

For more Q & A with the 4 drivers, click here.
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