Rubens on a Schumacher question: Why ask me?

Rubens Barrichello gave a wonderful answer to a question about Michael Schumacher’s performance at Mercedes, part of what is a worthwhile Q and A session with Barrichello, Nico Rosberg, Kamui Kobayashi and Karun Chandhok.

Here’s Rubens, and I have to think we’re missing some inflection by only seeing the transcript:

Q: (Ralf Bach – R & B) Rubens, are you surprised that Nico is the quicker driver at the moment in the Mercedes team or are you surprised that they allowed him to be quicker?

RB: Why is the question for me? Why don’t you ask them? Well, honestly I am surprised, surprised in the way that you stop, you come back to a new Formula One that is all different and people improve and different cars and so on. But I am surprised. I think Nico is doing a super job.

To give it a little context, the previous question also had gone to Rubens about Schumacher’s performance. But, still… I understand where Rubens is coming from, but he also has to be expecting these types of questions about his former teammate. It’s natural to want his insight. But it also produces a fun, and I think fairly insightful, moment: i.e. Newsflash! Rubens is sick of living in Schumacher’s shadow!

Here are a few more interesting exchanges. First, Kamui answering a question about his “Nico moments” in Australia:

Q: (Chris Lines – Associated Press) Kamui, your front wing came off three times in Australia; has that been sorted out?

KK: I think the front wing has three times… there was no problem with the front wing but the first one was because of my mistake at the beginning (of free practice). I hit a pylon at the fast corner. I think we tried to repair it and maybe there was still a problem with it and maybe some mis-communication in the team and we didn’t change the complete kit of the front wing. I think that was the problem with the second wing. And the last wing was maybe because of some contact with someone. It was not really a big crash, or whatever, but maybe I touched the front wing just a little bit and suddenly after some corners, I think it was after the start with (Vitaly) Petrov and then turn three with Tonio (Liuzzi) and this was our only chance, and after turn five the wing was on but suddenly I lost the front wing on the straight. For me there was nothing to do. We just have to make a stronger front wing.

I can’t tell if it might be language issues, but this answer comes across as though Kamui isn’t telling us the whole truth. The “maybe there was still a problem” phrasing leaves me wondering: “Still what problem? Was it there on the first wing? Was it there on the race wing?” I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I do think there’s something amiss with Sauber here.

Next, part of a Chandhok answer:

Q: (Chris Lines – Associated Press) Karun, you’ve started so far behind in terms of preparation and we look at all the new teams and there seems to be a mini-competition between them. Are you so far back that you can’t even hope to catch up to those guys or do you feel that you have a chance by getting back to Europe, developing the car?

KC: We’ll wait and see. At the moment, this weekend, I think it’s highly unlikely that we will be in a position to chase either Lotus or Virgin in terms of performance. As I said before, at the moment there’s no real performance upgrades on the car. There are bits coming out of Europe all the time but they’re just bits to try and get the car more reliable. It’s performance bits at the moment, they will only come once we go back to Europe. We’ve got a good team of people on board… [snip] I’m not here to drive around at the back of the grid for the rest of the season. I wouldn’t have signed with Colin (Kolles) and the team if I didn’t think there was potential to at least fight with the other new teams. The first half of the season is going to be tough but hopefully we can start to fight to be best of the new teams in the second half of the season. Relative to the existing teams, I think the gap is quite big at the moment. You look at qualifying in Melbourne, it was nearly two seconds between the top of the new teams and the last of the existing teams. That’s quite a big gap to bridge. Whether that gap will be closed during the season we shall wait and see. I doubt it but we can certainly try and close the gap and try, and I hope to be the best of the new teams in the second half of the season.

That seems almost too honest, huh? But if he said much else, we wouldn’t believe him.

And, next, Nico Rosberg:

Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Nico, where do you think your car can match the best cars on the grid?

NR: It’s going to be mainly aerodynamics, that’s where the main progress has to come from. One of the things is obviously the McLaren invention or whatever that is, which all the teams are looking at, at the moment, and then there’s also some mechanical things we believe that we can do better and those developments will be coming very soon. I was in the factory about two weeks ago and they presented the developments to me and it’s looking very promising, so for me it was really encouraging and I look forward to seeing how it goes.

The least satisfying answer. Compared to Chandhok, it just feels so packaged. I wonder if that is a Ross Brawn influence, where Nico is now in a more controlled environment than when he was with Williams? Or… it’s just the answer you’d give.

Finally, without too much comment, this exchange:

Q: (Ted Kravitz – BBC Sport) Rubens and Nico, you’ve effectively swapped seats. What would you say was the one difference from your previous teams to your current one, and if you could give each other one piece of advice about taking the other one’s seat, what would it be?

RB: I haven’t thought of that.

NR: It’s true. We even have the same engineers. We have, literally, swapped seats. Differences? It’s difficult, there’s not a big difference. Yes, you see some small differences in the way that the working environment is and the ways of going about things, but Williams is strong in some areas, we’re stronger in others, so it’s not a night and day difference. And advice is a bit more difficult, isn’t it?

RB: When I come to a new team, I come with the experience of the whole lot, I don’t come with the experience of Brawn last year, how they do this or that. Obviously you leave the team and you have some of the experience of what they were planning to have this year and you tend to speak out and tell the team what you know about it and how to attack. So my philosophy is to learn the team and then try to say, ‘look, this never worked in a team like Ferrari or Brawn and it never will’, so we tend to go from there. But the Williams team is very well based. They were winners from the past and it’s just a question of time before they win again. Again, on the Brawn side, I’ve had a happy time there, so there’s no bad advice as such. Maybe tell Jocky (Clear) not to punch the helmet before the race as he goes (thump) ‘good luck’. The sound isn’t great inside the helmet.

NR: He hasn’t done that to me yet, but I will tell him after this.

And that’s why we like Rubens. Hopefully we’ll see more of the enthusiastic Rubens and less of the sulking one that has been hanging around so far in 2010.

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