Belgian GP - Press Conference

Drivers – Jean-Eric VERGNE (Toro Rosso), Charles PIC (Marussia), Vitaly PETROV (Caterham), Pedro de la Rosa (HRT), Michael SCHUMACHER (Mercedes), Jenson BUTTON (McLaren)
Belgian GP - Press Conference
Jean-Eric, this is a new circuit for you in Formula One but I understand you’ve raced here before?
Jean-Eric VERGNE: Yeah, I think it’s my favourite track. I’m really happy to be here in F1, to learn this track in and F1 car. I found it amazing in Formula 3 and World Series. So I can’t wait to drive tomorrow in this car, it should be nice.

So you’ve been here in Formula 3 and World Series by Renault?
JEV: Yes. I won three races in F3 in the same weekend here and last year I won as well. I finished second and first. It’s generally a good track for me, so hopefully I make a good run here as well this weekend.

A lot of people feel that with the problem with the technical director at Toros Rosso that development might have finished but I understand that’s not the case.
JEV: So far everything is OK. The team is still pushing really hard. I don’t have much to say about it.

You have some updates here though?
JEV: Yeah we have some good updates. Well, I don’t know if they’re good, but we have some and also we’re testing some new things for next year’s car – front suspension. So, everything is still going on quite well in the team and we’re looking forward to this weekend.

Charles, obviously you’ve raced the first half of the season – how do you feel it’s gone as far as you’re concerned?
Charles PIC: Quite good. I am quite happy about my first half of the season. Everything was new for me. So, first races were not easy because everything was new and there were a lot of things to learn. But I am quite happy with my progress and quite happy with the team’s progress because the start of the year was not easy. We were not able to make the winter tests. They worked really hard and made a lot of improvements and even if you cannot always… it’s not easy to see because the position is not changing but we are trying to close the gap. So, really looking forward to the second part of the season and to updates coming from the summer, so we’ll see how it is and on my side I will be focused to keep pushing hard and improving myself.

I guess you measure yourself on your team-mate obviously but also on the people either side of you and in front of you. Are you happy with the gap between yourselves and Caterham?
CP: Yes, we are not in the position yet to fight with them but it was much closer for the last two races – Hockenheim and Budapest. It’s great and I hope that with the update it will be even closer this weekend.

Vitaly, the one problem you’ve had so far is qualifying in relation to your team-mate, whereas in the races you seem to have beaten him. Is that something you intend to tackle in the second half of the season?
Vitaly PETROV: Of course I will try my best. What is good is that I know the problem, so we will try to fix this problem in the second half of the season, so I will try to get close to my team-mate and then we will see.

One of the things you did during the break was visit some cities in Russia. It seems that you’re going to all sorts of cities that most of us have never heard of. What’s the idea behind that programme?
VP: First of all it was part of my private sponsor, called Russian helicopters, so I visited two big cities, the first one is Rostov and the second one is Ulan-Ude. Actually, it was a good visit because it’s the first time I’ve been there. You know, Ulan-Ude is very close to China. It’s like if you go across the river you will be in China. From Moscow it’s six or seven hours flying. I visited the biggest lake in the world, it’s called Baikal. Unfortunately I was just there for one day. This lake it’s line is for 365 kilometres and length, it’s quite… I don’t how much it is. Actually, it was a good experience and I hope that I will go back there maybe, one day.

Pedro, the team has obviously made strides forward, what are your own ambitions for the second half of the season and what about your thoughts professionally for the second half of the season?
Pedro DE LA ROSA: Professionally? You mean racing? Well, I think that we’ve made progress; we’ve managed in this first of the season to go in qualifying, from not qualifying in Australia outside the 107 per cent, to 103.4 per cent in Valencia, so I think that’s a very, very aggressive improvement. However the positions are similar. In fact we’re qualifying in more or less the last two positions and then it’s difficult for us. Although we’re closer to pole position we still haven’t made enough steps on the positions regarding the qualifying and the race finishes. So that’s where we are concentrating: we still have to make the car quicker in the second half of the season. We don’t have anything new for the next few races. We will have an upgrade for Singapore. That’s where we are – but we are definitely happy with what we’ve done and what we’ve achieved, although it may not look like it in the results. We’ve still can do a lot better in the second half.

And how important will the break have been to the team? OK, you’re saying they won’t have brought anything for the immediate races – but for future races?
PdlR: I think the break is nothing as we haven’t been able to work or gain any advantage from the break, so for us it doesn’t make any difference. Before the break we knew that the upgrade was coming in Singapore, if everything goes to plan – and after the break it’s still the same. Until Singapore I think we will be more or less in the positions that we’ve been so far, and then wait for Singapore for this next upgrade.

Michael, another milestone here at Spa: 300th grand prix weekend. What does that mean to you? Does that mean a lot to you at this stage or will it in the future?
Michael SCHUMACHER: It’s certainly an interesting, beautiful, nice number to be around. A number that I didn’t think about, that I would do that, at the time that I retired at the end of 2006. And now here we are and I’m counting the 300 – because at one point it was the talk about whether there would be somebody able to beat Riccardo Patrese’s record of 250-whatever. I said ‘forget that, it isn’t interesting for me’, and here we are. And suddenly… it isn’t anything that I’m challenging or looking for to have just a number on my board but being the 300, yeah it’s a beautiful side-effect.

I think you’ve seen the poster down the road which says ‘Michael, make it 400’. What chances?
MS: I guess I can say not. It’s obviously nice that the fans are still with me and encourage me to go on. This morning I had a beautiful welcome, becoming the honorary citizen of Spa, that is something very special to me. And that’s why the 300 becomes special – because it’s in Spa. It all happened to me here in Spa. First race, first victory, some beautiful victories and interesting races and 2004 the seventh title, last year the 20th anniversary and now number 300 and being honoured. So it’s a full package. Spa has always meant a lot to me. I always called it my living room – now I can officially call it my living room. It’s good.

But should we never say never?
MS: For the 400? We probably say no for that one.

Jenson, during the break, not only an Iron Man but your own triathlon as well. But the triathlon didn’t end quite the way you wanted to – perhaps we should share that story?
Jenson BUTTON: I think we should move on from that one!

The whole of Britain knows about it, so how about the whole of the world.
JB: I did a triathlon for [charity] Help for Heroes and it was quite cold in the water. People were wearing wetsuits, I’d left mine in the hotel so I decided to try to squeeze into my girlfriend’s… which felt OK until I got into the water and then it tightened up in… certain areas. So that was the end of my race. I had a panic attack in the water! So yeah, good and bad memories but it was a great event and I think everyone had fun and we raised a lot of money for Help for Heroes. In the end it was fun but the most important thing is what we raised.

Your aims for the second half of the season? How do you see the second half of the season? People are talking about perhaps driver orders that you’ll help Lewis…
JB: I’m I think 40 points behind Lewis, so you’d say that I’m going to give up on fighting for the Championship just because I’m 40 points behind my team-mate? Lewis is 40 points behind Fernando and I still think he thinks he’s got a very good chance of winning this Championship, so no, we go racing as always and try to do the best job we can. The last two races for us before the break were very good: I had a second in Hockenheim and obviously Lewis’s win in Hungary – so we come here positive we can get a very good result. So, no, that’s definitely not the situation and we want to get as many points for ourselves but also for the team. The team championship, the Constructors’ Championship is very, very important to McLaren and it’s something that we’re going to work on as much as we can.

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