The drivers present at the Chinese Grand Prix press conference on Thursday – Rubens Barrichello (Brawn GP), Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren Mercedes), Kazuki Nakajima (Williams), Jarno Trulli (Toyota) and Mark Webber (Red Bull) – referred to the ICA verdict on the controversial double-decker rear diffuser, new updates on 2009 challengers and tire compound decided upon by Bridgestone for the Shanghai race. Here's how they answered: Q: Heikki, what are your feelings about the start of the season? It would be nice to do a lap, I suspect. How are you going to overcome that? What are your feelings about it?
Heikki Kovalainen: Well, I think there are many positives from these races apart from the actual race day. It has been pretty poor both race days. Like you said, I have not been able to complete a race lap yet. But otherwise I feel I am getting more out of the team. I work better throughout the whole weekend with the team and, in fact, the base has been pretty promising. I am over those disappointments now and I just move on and try to complete the weekend with a good Sunday as well.
For the rest of the press conference - including questions from the floor - click here.
Q: The team as a whole has also had a hard time. What is the mood within the team now?HK: It is very positive. If you look at the circumstances it could be a kind of time to bring the team down but I think everyone has kept the focus, kept digging deep, kept working hard. We have got another upgrade for the car this weekend, so I think this is the attitude that we need at this difficult time, just keep our heads up. That is what the whole team has done including myself. I am just trying to put as much effort in as I can. We just try to power through these difficult times.
Q: With those upgrades will you expect an improvement in terms of position?HK: Hopefully, yes. Obviously, that is why we are pushing very hard to move up the grid. We are not trying to stay around 10th place or so. We are always aiming to eventually arrive in pole position and be winning races again. Clearly this is our target. I think for this weekend it would be unrealistic to say we will be fighting for pole position but I think can have another good step forward and hopefully we can start the challenge to get into the top 10 in qualifying, into Q3. That is the next step and then obviously always trying to fight for the victory if possible but just keep improving throughout these weekends. That is the main key at the moment.
Q: Mark, so far there seems to have been a lot of promise if not the result. What are your feelings about the first couple of races?Mark Webber: I agree with that. We had a pretty good run in Melbourne until the first corner. I think Heikki hit Rubens. I haven’t spoken to Heikki about that yet but Rubens and I said we are going to bash him up later on. Yeah, that happens.
HK: You guys brake so early for the first corner. Next time I will run over you even more.MW: Then Malaysia was obviously an exceptional race with the weather in the end and that could have gone either way for many people obviously with people who were pitting or weren’t pitting for different tyres. We are in a reasonable situation pace wise. We’re not right at the front but not going too bad, so we are coming here very optimistic again to try and fight for a podium if we can. It is not easy. Jarno has done a good job so far and Nico (Rosberg) as well with the Williams. So it is tough out there as usual and we will do our best.
Q: Obviously Sebastian (Vettel) was running fairly light in qualifying in Malaysia. That must have been quite a promising and encouraging position on the grid for him though?MW: Yeah, it was a reasonable job as you say with the fuel load. And Kubica’s pace, he also could have been third. Jarno did a very good job. Q3 is a very important session, we know that, and the fuel load is quite powerful for lap time, always has been. Like I said we will try and do the same here and get up at the front if we can.
Q: Heikki was talking about upgrades. When are you expecting new bits and pieces? When are you expecting the magic diffuser?MW: Early in Europe we will get the diffuser and we have a pretty good upgrade for Barcelona, so not a lot going on for the next two races but I think for Barcelona we will be in better shape and then a few races after that we might see the introduction of a different rear to the car.
Q: Kazuki, I hear you were at Suzuka the other day. Can you tell us about the day and also about the modifications to the circuit?Kazuki Nakajima: I have been to the Suzuka circuit for the opening event and it was really impressive as the whole circuit, apart from the track lay out, has been renewed completely. All the pit buildings, garages, grandstands. It was pretty impressive if you know what it was before. It is completely different, so it was quite nice.
Q: Did you do any laps? I hear your father was there as well.KN: Yeah, he was there. I think he did a lap with an old F1 car but I didn’t manage to do any laps. It was a shame. I was there but I didn’t manage to drive anything. I am sure that the layout of the track has not been changed but they have resurfaced the track.
Q: How was the reaction to you as a grand prix driver as obviously you are gaining in status?KN: It has been since, I think 2005, that I have been to Suzuka and the reaction of the fans was massive and I struggled to walk though the paddock. It was maybe a bit too much for me but it is always nice to come back, especially as a grand prix driver and I am really looking forward to going back in October.
Q: And your feelings about the season so far as the car looks very competitive?KN: Yeah, there are a lot of positives. The car is quite competitive and Nico (Rosberg) had a great start in Malaysia and he was leading the race. It is quite clear that we have a very competitive car and I didn’t make the most of it for some reason. At the moment we have a good car and we just need to keep it good. From now I think it is going to be a massive development race, so we just need to keep up with this.
Q: Jarno, a massive development race. First of all your feelings about the car. Is it better or worse than you expected?Jarno Trulli: I think that the car has been developed pretty well over the winter time, so the first race went pretty well scoring lots of points. But there is still a lot of work to do. Our car is competitive but we still have to catch up with Brawn GP as at the moment they are more competitive than us. There is work to do and we are focussed on that job.
Q: When are you expecting upgrades?JT: We have got some upgrades here, front wing and rear end of the car as well. We are consistently working on it. The team so far has done a good job. Obviously after so much noise about the rear diffuser we are a little bit undecided about what is going on but on the other hand we were quite confident that we would win the race and in the end I am pleased with it.
Q: This circuit has not been good for you.JT: No matter. I will just get on with my job and with my team to do the best for this weekend. Hopefully it will be a good weekend as I have an important reason to get a good result. As you can see on my overall I am wearing a message for my new charity campaign, Abruzzo in the Heart. You all probably have heard about the dramatic situation in the region after the earthquake. I want to support the people and to do that I gave up one of my sponsors to give visibility and raise money. I am going to ask GPDA drivers, teams, everyone, to join me. This is not just asking about the money. I am raising money but I want to ask people to donate not just money but items.
Q: Rubens, this is a really circuit for you. You have finished all five races and you won in 2004. Do you know who was second in 2004?Rubens Barrichello: Jenson (Button).
Q: So it is looking pretty good, isn’t it?RB: Yeah, I like the track very much. It is a track on which I’ve always gone quite well. The weather is going to be dodgy, maybe just because we changed the date of the race. It could play into good hands. I think the first two races have been quite good for the spectators to see the racing plus the wet has brought more of a show, so I think this one will be no different.
Q: Two months ago, you probably didn’t have a Grand Prix seat. Tell us about your emotions regarding the start of this season?RB: As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always been very, very positive about myself racing. But in all honesty, I think only myself and probably my two kids knew that I was going to race. It was fun to watch them, in the way that they look at it: ‘he’s having a longer holiday but he’s going to go sometime soon.’ Not even my wife knew if I was going to race, or the whole of Brazil. So it was nice to see that. I knew the car was going to be good, I didn’t know how good. We knew the engine was very, very strong, as it is, so it was just a dream when they phoned me and said I was going to drive. After four laps in the car, I could see it was very competitive.
Q: What are you feelings about the tyre choices for this race? Different temperatures here too; it seems to be all over the place.RB: It is. Myself, I still need to understand what is the reason why we bring such different tyres, if it’s for the show itself or… I think we have a very good tyre for here and a softer tyre which all the teams might struggle with. That may make the race itself very nice because someone might be struggling, you have overtaking and that’s quite nice, but I’m sure we’re capable of bringing – out of the four types of tyre that we have – we can bring different tyres that can be better for us drivers. In Australia, the tyres were already graining after five laps and it will be the same here, possibly even more because the track itself is more abrasive, and if it’s cold the tyres are going to be a bad effect. If this is for the show itself, I don’t think it’s dangerous for us – danger in the way that you could be driving five seconds slower and another car is catching up quite quickly, but it’s lovely for the show itself.
For the rest of the press conference - including questions from the floor - click here.