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Indian GP: Friday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
25/10/2013

I think as you have pride of place, front and centre, Monisha, I think we should start with you, in what I'm sure is a happier time at Sauber at the moment. The last few races have seen good points-scoring finishes. Has that been a relief to you, something you always thought was on the cars or has it caught you by surprise?
Monisha Kaltenborn: It didn't really catch us by surprise that we improved our performance. We did always believe in it and we had reason to believe in it. But it does make it a lot easier and credible for the team if you can really show that result in points. Because we could see that upward trend from Hungary on but the points were not coming in so it's good if they can be shown like this to the outside.

What's been the change? What's made the big difference?
MK: Well the big difference has been the package, the aerodynamic package we brought in in Hungary. That was a big step for us and we could see that this was really going into the right direction. It counts for more than 50 per cent of this improvement. We then, of course, got a better understanding of the car, which allowed us to operate it differently, to use different set-ups we hadn't been using before. And then, I think to be fair about it, the change in the tyres was - unlike last year - not against us this time, but we benefited maybe more than others from it. So all of this together, and of course a great performance by the team, the drivers, adds to it.

Thank you for that. To your right, Dr Vijay Mallya, it's Force India's home grand prix and if Sauber have benefited from the tyres, has that been to Force India's detriment, and a difficult period of the season since Silverstone for you?
Vijay Mallya: Absolutely. The change in the tyres for Silverstone has been more than just detrimental to us. Within the mechanical design of the car it's proving very difficult for us to get optimum tyre performance. We've dedicated all our R&D tools to the 2014 car, so we are handicapped in a sense. But having said that I think we are understanding tyres and the constraints under which we are operating slightly better. We are pleased with today's free practice performance. We've certainly fared better today than we did in Japan or Korea and I think we'll attempt to even improve on this before the last remaining races. The lady on my left has certainly woken us up. We are now wide awake and hopefully we will hang on to our current sixth position in the Constructors' Championship, though she is getting dangerously close. But having said that, the tyres have not been the best for us in the second half of the season but hopefully whatever we suffer this year will be a good investment for next year's car.

You mentioned the lady to your left getting dangerously close. Are you looking nervously over your shoulder or do you think that the performances can improve and you can hold on to that place?
VM: As I said, I was quite pleased with the free practice performance today. It's certainly a step ahead from Japan and Korea, so that gives me confidence we are heading in the right direction. I also realise the constraints under which we are operating, because the window available to us mechanically is quite a short one. But having said that, I think the results will speak for themselves going forward.

Let me turn to Eric next. In terms of results, Lotus continue to go forward, involved in a three-way battle for second place in the Constructors' Championship. What are your targets for the remaining four races of the season?
Eric Boullier: Well the target is obviously to chase podium finishes and those kind of fights every race. I think this is the prize to chase, to get the chance to be in the second place, or on the podium of the Constructors' Championship.

Romain Grosjean has scored back-to-back podiums in the last two races for the first time in his career. Can you tell us a bit about his form at the moment? Is he a man that could lead your team for next season?
EB: We are definitely pleased with his performance, since Germany actually. Clearly, something switched on and he is working better. I mean the same tyre story as well, the latest spec of tyres suit a little bit more his driving style than Kimi's one. But yes, we are pleased that he is stepping up. We don't have a policy of driver number one and number two but we needed him obviously to step up, yes.

Enough to suggest to yourself that you're looking for one more driver for next season or not?
EB: Yes, definitely. Normally we compete with two cars!

But Romain definitely in for next year?
EB: Romain has a contract signed anyway for next year. It's just, say, a matter of confirmation. We are being prudent after last obviously. But I think it's on its way to be confirmed soon.

Let me turn to Stefano next, if I can. This morning, for Fernando Alonso, not the best start to the weekend with a gearbox problem. Can you explain a bit more about what happened?
Stefano Domenicali: Yeah, it's true. Unfortunately we couldn't do the programme we were expecting to do. We had a problem on a little spring inside the gearbox, so at the end of the day we were able change it and to keep the gearbox for the session.

This was a race gearbox?
SD: No.

So it will be fine for the rest of the weekend?
SD: I hope so.

You'll need it and you'll need a good performance from Fernando and Felipe, because as Eric was touching on, that battle for second place in the Constructors' Championship is mathematically out of your reach this weekend, could go right down to the wire?
SD: For sure, the fight is very strong. We know that around us there is Mercedes and Lotus, who are very competitive and we cannot be complacent. We have second but if we want to beat the opposition we need to perform well with both drivers and with the team of course. It will be for us a very intense end of the season. We know that everyone wants to reach that; we are the same, with the others. It will not be easy because in the last couple of grand prix we saw that Mercedes and Lotus have increased their performance but we will fight up to the end, that's for sure.

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