F1 Thursday Notebook: Italian GP Monza Edition

The Formula One Italian Grand Prix is being held this weekend at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. (Photo: Getty Images)

IT’S BACK! Italian GP RaceCast featuring live practice, qualifying and race updates!

Button Intending To Stay At McLaren

Button Intending To Stay At McLaren

Jenson Button attends a press conference at Monza. (Photo: Getty Images)

Jenson Button says he doesn’t have any plans to look elsewhere, despite not yet having a firm McLaren contract for 2014.

The team has an option on the former champion, but is believed to have not yet taken it up.

“I’m very happy to stay where I am,” said Button. “I think it’s very easy, when times are difficult, to look elsewhere but when you’re in a team like McLaren that has been fighting at the front for so many years, it’s definitely the wrong move to move elsewhere. I feel I have a very good family in the team, and at the end of last year we had the quickest car on the grid. We don’t now but it could easily come our way again next season. I feel we are making good progress so this is the right place to be.”

Meanwhile, having finished sixth in Belgium, Button is hoping to see improved form this weekend.

Spa was alright. It’s quite difficult to get excited about sixth place but in terms of the pace of the car, it was pretty good,” Button said. “Fourth after turn one and finishing sixth isn’t so bad. So yeah, we’re hoping for a bit more of an improvement. I think we’ve unlocked a little bit of performance with the car and we’re pretty close to challenging the cars in front.

“Whether we can do that here or not, I don’t know. It’s a very low downforce circuit here, and I think we have a pretty good low downforce package, so we will see. I think after three or four laps tomorrow we’ll know where we stand in terms of how the downforce is working and the efficiency of it.”

Good Monza Result Would Help Me, Says Massa

Good Monza Result Would Help Me, Says Massa

Ferrari’s Brazilian driver Felipe Massa sits during a press conference at the Autodromo Nazionale circuit in Monza. (Photo: Getty Images)

Felipe Massa admits that a good race in Italy this weekend could help him hang on to his Ferrari drive for next season.

Massa has endured a mediocre year so far, and once again his job is under threat.

“I think I definitely need a good race,” said Massa Thursday. “That’s always important. I think it’s important to try to use the car in the maximum way it is possible. I think that’s what gives you pleasure, even if you don’t win the race but you did the best you could. I think that’s always the most important thing. The team can see that, race by race, all the time. You cannot forget that Ferrari knows me very well. It’s the team that knows me most.

“About experience, we know how important next year is as well. Everything starts from zero: different car, different rules, everything, so the driver’s experience is important, as well. Sometimes you just look at the results of this race; that’s not what counts the most. I think it’s everything together. But, anyway, it’s always important to do the maximum we can in this race and try to use the best of the car that we’re going to have this weekend.”

Massa believes that the car will be quick at Monza: I feel that the car was more competitive in Spa than in Hungary. I think it was important for us. I believe we can have a good car here. In the last years, even last year maybe, the car was not so competitive in the season, but we had a good race in Monza. We find a good direction for this race, so I hope we can have a good car here so that we can fight and have a great race.”

Massa says he hasn’t had much luck in 2013: “I think that what is important to say is that this year the performance was good at every race. We couldn’t put together the results at the end of the race. I was not very lucky in so many things. I had two races where I had problems with the tires. I spun at the Nurburgring, a problem with the suspension in Monaco.

“For sure, so many things happened that I couldn’t finish where I was supposed to, but the performance was there. I think that’s important. I just need to put everything together and finish races where I’m supposed to and then I think the performance will be there and the results will be there, as well.”

Alonso Still Bullish On Title Hopes

Fernando Alonso

of Spain and Ferrari is interviewed by the media during previews to the Formula One Italian Grand Prix at Autodromo di Monza (Photo: Getty Images)

Even without the prospect of his title challenge losing momentum, the would be a big weekend for Fernando Alonso and Ferrari. At Monza on Thursday, the Spaniard was keen to talk up his prospects.

“I’m optimistic,” he said. “For sure, I think in Spa we saw some step forward from us, and we hope to continue that direction and keep improving here in Monza. The characteristics of the track should help our performance, as well. We have everything in place to do a good weekend. We need to deliver when comes the time in Sunday in the race, but we arrive with some good confidence, and ready to fight.

“I think for us it will be a stronger test at the Singapore race when we come back to the maximum level of downforce etc., and there we will see how much of a step forward we did, but let’s concentrate on this weekend. Let’s try to do the maximum and let’s try to finish in front of our main rivals.”

Asked if he needed two wins in the next two races to get his title challenge back on track, Alonso admitted that was unlikely.

I don’t think two wins is something that we can put up like a target,” he said. “We’ve won two Grand Prix until now in the championship, so we will be a little bit too optimistic if we really think that we can win the next two races. We will try to do so and we will hope for the best but more realistic targets are to finish in front of Sebastian (Vettel). I think it is a target that we want to do in the last couple of Grands Prix. We didn’t arrive to a situation to close the gap; we only close the gap in Silverstone when he retired, so we need to change this situation.

“We will be happy finishing in front of him, I think, here in Monza and in Singapore. Finishing in front of Sebastian means being on the podium, because we know how strong he is and how competitive Red Bull will be. So, two podiums and finishing in front of Sebastian is, I think, the target for these next two Grands Prix.

“If we cannot do so, if we keep losing points, obviously we need to start thinking about the 2014 project because we’ll be only six or seven races remaining with a massive points [deficit], so important weeks coming, for sure.”

Meanwhile, Alonso was keen to downplay speculation about his future.

“It was only rumors, a lot of rumors,” he said. “There were rumors about Red Bull, there were rumors in Italy about a sabbatical year. There were so many rumors. I still have three and a half more years with Ferrari which I intend to respect and hopefully to increase a little bit, and as I said, finish my career in the best team in the world which is Ferrari.

“We are not at the moment achieving the results that we want but we are working very hard, and next year will be completely new rules which obviously open the door for many teams to stop the domination that Red Bull seems to have had in the last couple of years, so we have high hopes also for next year’s challenge.

“About the news that now Red Bull have two drivers, it’s very good news that Daniel (Ricciardo) has signed, also for our country (Spain) because it has opened up a good possibility for Carlos Sainz to join Toro Rosso, so that was the best news for us.”

News Came As A Relief, Says Ricciardo

News Came As A Relief, Says Ricciardo

smiles during a press conference at the Autodromo Nazionale circuit in Monza. (Photo: Getty Images)

Daniel Ricciardo made his first public appearance Thursday since he was confirmed as a Red Bull driver for 2014, and the Aussie made it clear that he was pleased that there would be no more interrogations about his future.

“I think it’s a bit of a relief now that there’s no more speculation and no more dodging questions and all the rest of it,” he said. “Everyone knows what’s happening, including me. It’s nice. It’s something to look forward to and obviously I’m very pleased with the news, but I have eight more races this year and looking forward to giving Toro Rosso a nice farewell, I hope, and I’ll put all my energy into that.

“I think this weekend will, of course, be a bit hectic because the news is fresh but I think from this point on it should start to settle down and get back to normal stuff.”

Ricciardo insisted that he didn’t know he had been hired by Red Bull until last week.

To be honest, in Spa, as I said, I still didn’t know – that was the truth,” he said. “I found out, I think it was Wednesday that following week, so a few days before the announcement took place. I can confirm I still didn’t know at Spa, so no lies being told there.”

Regarding his target for next year, he said: “I would love to be as competitive as I can as quickly as possible, so for me, I’ll obviously finish the season as strongly as possible with Toro Rosso, but as soon as it’s finished, switch my focus to 2014, try and put in a really good off-season, at least do as much as I can to prepare myself to be there for the first race.

“I know it’s obviously not going to be as easy as it seems but the best thing I can do is push myself as much as I can. I have one of the best teammates in the world now to measure myself against, so no better man to have but him and push myself as hard as I can.”

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