FIA PRESS CONFERENCE: TEAM REPRESENTATIVES - Bob FERNLEY (Force India), Stefano DOMENICALI (Ferrari), Eric BOULLIER (Lotus), Martin WHITMARSH (McLaren), Norbert HAUG (Mercedes), Christian HORNER (Red Bull).
Q. Gentlemen a subject we can't escape, unfortunately: This grand prix is definitely one of the best organized, the drivers all say that. We've had a lot speculation from both angles, negative and positive, but I'd like to your views regarding the security situation. Are you comfortable with how things are evolving?
Martin WHITMARSH: There have undoubtedly been difficult times here but from a pure team perspective, we've been comfortable with the situation. Clearly we race as an international sport all over the world and we have security concerns and issues at a number or races and we take that very seriously, and we're cautious, and we try to take the right precautions. But ultimately we're a race team. We're here to go motor racing and that's our number one priority.
Norbert HAUG: Absolutely the same.
Christian HORNER: Martin's summed it up perfectly, I think. Formula 1 is a sport at the end of the day and it's wrong for it to be used politically. We're here to race, we trust in the FIA, in the decisions that they made, and we're comfortable with the decisions that they have made. For us, it's about trying to extract the maximum from this weekend as a sporting team in a sporting championship. The calendar is obviously set by the FIA.
Eric BOULLIER: I think everything has been said, so, as far as we are concerned, as Lotus, and regarding the specific question, we are fine.
Stefano DOMENICALI: You are speaking about security and I would say that we have received all the guarantees from the organizers, the federation, the embassy, and it is pretty clear at the moment that it is like that. We don't seem to be the target of anyone that is protesting. We are here for the event that is racing, the race of the F1 World Championship and we are here to make the best of it. From a political point of view, the only thing I can is that there are a lot of things going on and we really hope that all the dialogue that has started within the different parts will do the best thing in the shortest time possible for everyone. This is really the hope that we have, as sportsmen and as a man of the world.
Bob FERNLEY: I completely agree with the guys. Hopefully, the Formula 1 program has brought the world's media here, it gives a good platform for debate and hopefully it will help with the healing process for Bahrain, and that's why we're here.
Q. We'll go on to the sporting side. Martin, if I can start with you. You're leading both championships. How have things evolved today for you in terms of free practice? You're not perhaps quite as competitive as we thought you would be.
MW: No, I think it's been a tricky day. The wind changed direction. I think from about half way through that [afternoon] session there was a tailwind through Turns 4-7, which made it quite tricky for the drivers. I think we weren't happy with where we were in terms of grip, generally. But that's what Friday is about. It's about learning how to set the car up for this particular circuit and these particular conditions. I think the wind is going to be quite significant. It often is here. If you recall it is an island where the wind can change quite dramatically from 10 o'clock in the morning until midday and then drop off in the afternoon, so I think that makes it, with all the other challenges of selection of top gear for the race and for qualifying... wind direction is going to quite an interesting challenge and if you get that right I think you'll be in good shape. So, overall, I think, we've got some reasonable data and the trick is to put that to good effect and make sure we can dial in and have a competitive car tomorrow.
Q. Norbert, obviously a fantastic weekend for you last weekend and you still seem to be up there?
NH: Well, I think it's quite difficult to judge. I would not really read too much into the quickest time on Friday, we saw that before. I think people run various programs, different programs, but I think we are heading in the right direction. We learned quite a lot. The challenge is how to use the tires, how to set up your car and then do the necessary amount of laps for the race and decide on how many stops you will do. You get the first impression of that on Friday. I think the team learned quite a lot. I haven't seen the analysis so far, we'll probably know a bit more later. Currently, I really cannot judge where we are. We should not read into the fact that we are first today that we are the big favorites for tomorrow and Sunday.
Q. Christian, so on the same basis should I not read too much into the fact you were up in the top four today?
CH: I think it's been a sensible day for us, we've worked through a program. I think this year the tire has dominated performance and I think it's crucial to try and understand how the tires work, how to get on top of those tires and I think we've learned a lot over those first three races. Each of the races has been at a different nature of circuit, different conditions. We've seen the form of all the teams moving around a lot and the midfield making a big step as well. And that's produced some great racing, I think last weekend was a phenomenal race and that adds to the challenge. We've worked through our program today, both the drivers seem reasonably happy with their cars and obviously a lot of information to look over tonight before we go into the final practice tomorrow.
EB: We had a heavy Friday today with a lot of parts to evaluate. Parts of the upgrade from Shanghai, we had to use them back on the car. Also, a very heavy program with the tires. It's clear that the key for performance is the tires and also the degradation for the race, as we saw in Shanghai, so we had early runs in practice and obviously heavier fuel load runs as well.
Q. Any change Stefano?
SD: No, I think we have already said what we have to say. For us hopefully this will be the last grand prix of the most difficult start that we've had. But that's the way it is. At the track the only thing we have to do is try to maximise the package that we have and understand the tires and prepare for the race. That will be crucial, as we already said, in this condition the only objective we have at the moment is to try to score the maximum points and considering that we have been third in the Championship it means a lot. It means that we have to stay focussed. Unfortunately it's very painful for us but that's the way it is. So heads up and work hard.
Q. Bob, limited running, obviously...
BF: Well, we had a very busy morning and as you know we didn't run in FP2, we slightly rescheduled our programs, but we're very comfortable. The data was collected this morning for what we need and we're very comfortable for FP3 tomorrow.
Q. The thing that seems to be said is that politics and sport don't mix but even by some of your answers that you gave previously, it's quite obvious that they do. Given that, wouldn't it have been better to try to wait another year for Bahrain to progress a little further before coming back to have a race here?
Martin, as the spokesman of FOTA?
MW: I didn't know I was the spokesman. I think, again, the calendar has been set for some time, we are the competitors, it's a race in the calendar, we are here to race. Period.
Q. Since arriving I've been contacted by a number of Bahrainis who are actually supportive of the race, have you and any of your team members found similar contact from the citizens of Bahrain?
MW: I think there is a lot of support for the race from all parts of society here, so I think that's positive. Clearly often the majority aren't heard on these occasions but I think there's a fair amount of support, you can feel it here. I understand they've sold out the grandstand so presumably that's a tangible sign of support.
CH: I think the guys here have been very welcoming. They look after the teams very well and hopefully we can put on a good show on Sunday. I think at the end of the day it's a sport, we're a sporting team competing in a sport that competes at 20 venues around the world. We'll do our best as we do in all of those other events to do the best job we can on Sunday.