Drivers: Jenson Button (BMW-Williams), Gaston Mazzacane (Minardi), Jarno Trulli (Jordan) Team principals: Ron Dennis (McLaren), Neil Ressler (Jaguar Racing), Jean Todt (Ferrari) Q. Congratulations, Jean, on Ferrari's performance today. Do...
Q. Congratulations, Jean, on Ferrari's performance today. Do you see this as a good prediction of what will happen this season?
Jean Todt: The first day [of a new season] is always interesting, even though we still have to wait a little longer before we see how the championship is running. We already know the strengths of McLaren, of course, so we must wait for the other teams to provide any surprises, for example Jaguar, Williams with the BMW engine, and BAR and Jordan with their Honda engines. Now it is up to us to be strong as well. So far the potential of our car seems quite good.
Q. Ron, what are your predictions?
Ron Dennis: It is still too early to say. But as Jean points out, the first day does give us some indication of where we stand relative to the other teams. We are not at all surprised by what we see in the positions on today's 'grid.' Inevitably the teams are all running different fuel levels and different tyres. We are almost exactly where we expected to be. Our main competition is going to come from one team, which is the way it has been for the last couple of years. There is no reason why that should change, although I believe that Williams has perhaps been making more negative noises about their performance than reality will show. It is already clear that they are more competitive than they have been presenting themselves to be, and I see them as consistent top ten runners.
Q. There were occasions last year when your policy on the status of your drivers seemed to threaten your chances in the drivers' championship. Will that change this year?
RD: No. It remains exactly the same. It remains ingrained in our philosophy and it will stay that way. I believe it is the correct way to run a Grand Prix team. While alternative systems have benefits, I think the downsides are greater than the ups.
Q. Is reliability a particular concern for McLaren as we go into this first race?
RD: We have put a lot of effort into trying to ensure that we have better reliability in these first races than we had last year. We built a car, nominated MP4/14J, which allowed us to run the engine and gearbox of this year's car a couple of months before the new car itself was ready. That has now got quite a lot of mileage on it, and the new MP4/15 has already done something like 5.500 kilometres of testing. Towards the end of that testing we started to get very good reliability, but at this stage of the season you have to expect some problems. It is not possible to simulate temperatures and the characteristics of the circuits. Albert Park is quite severe on brakes, for example, and this year we may find ourselves with a difficult decision to make on the choice of tyres. But at the end of the day it is the same for everybody. As you can see from today's results, the times are already a lot closer than they were at the end of last season. I am sure it is going to be a close race on Sunday.
Q. Jean, where does the new Ferrari stand on reliability? Have you had any problems in testing?
JT: Yes, we have had some, which is normal, and it is a major issue. Last year we ended the year with good reliability, but now we are starting with a new car and I reckon we must put in a lot of effort to reach the level of reliability that we will need.
Q. What happened to Michael in that incident this afternoon when he crashed into the barriers?
JT: He was on a good lap and he just lost the car. We are now disassembling the car and I am hoping that we will be able to put it back together, at least in time for Sunday.
Q. Neil, although you have now been involved in F1 for a long time, you're a new face to many of us here. Can you tell us what your responsibilities are within the Jaguar team?
Neil Ressler: I am the Chairman of Jaguar Racing and also Chairman of Cosworth Racing. Back in America my job title at Ford Motor Company is Chief Technical Officer, so I have a whole other list of headaches over there.
Q. What percentage of your working time is spent inside racing?
NR: Well, it is a far larger percentage than my boss knows! I am also spending an enormous amount of time. These are both tough jobs, a lot tougher when you are trying to do them than they look to involve.
Q. You have brought the separate elements of the team and its engine together. How much closer do you want them to be?
NR: There is an opportunity here to marshal the resources of Ford Motor Co to provide more assistance [in this task] than there has been in the past. But we are still at the beginning of that trip, not at the end. I am expecting more behind-the-scenes involvement of Ford's technical resources, together with greater financial support both for the team and for Cosworth. If we're good, we'll win. If we're not, we won't.
Q. How long will it take to get it all together?
NR: I am not going to predict outcomes.
Q. Jarno, what are your first impressions of the Jordan team and car?
Jarno Trulli: We have been working really hard through the winter to develop this car. It seems more competitive than the previous one, but unfortunately we are not reliable yet, especially today. Even during the winter I lost a lot of mileage compared with my team mate. Fortunately the atmosphere inside the team is very good. I feel I can work closely with everyone and I hope that by the end of the season we will have found a way to make the car both reliable and quick. I am hoping to get as many points as possible and to have my best ever season in he championship.
Q. Your background bears many similarities to Jenson Button's. Did you ever race each other in karting?
JT: We never raced in the same events, but I used to see him driving very often because we use to be competing at the same circuit on weekends.
Q. You had even less motor racing experience before arriving in F1 than Jenson has had. What advice can you give him?
JT: I cannot give him much advice because I am sure he knows what he has to do: get as much mileage as he possibly can in an F1 car. Once he feels comfortable I know he will be quick, because I know how talented he is. I have known him for a long time and I knew he was talented. But F1 is tough job because it is not just driving a car, it is also having to handle difficult situations. For the moment he needs to get those miles, finish the races and try to perform as well as possible with causing the sort of accidents that could put him in a difficult situation. But I think he is going to be OK. He will soon understand what F1 is all about.
Q. Gaston, how do you feel to have recorded the 12th fastest time today?
Gaston Mazzacane: I am very happy. For sure it is going to be a harder day tomorrow, but Minardi has given me a good, reliable car to be able to get the laps and to learn the track without making too make mistakes. I know I made a few mistakes today, but everything was sorted out in time for the second half of the session.
Q. What are your hopes for this season?
GM: I want to get as much experience as I can, and to improve in the second half of the season. Most of all, I want to repay the confidence of the team.
Q. How easy is it to come from a distant country like Argentina and to make an impression in F1 racing?
GM: There is a long motorsporting tradition in Argentina, although it is a long way from the standards of Formula 1. Unfortunately Argentina has lost its Grand Prix, which means the country has been penalised, and I too feel somewhat penalised. I hope that my country will have a world championship race again before too long.
Q. Jenson, how is F1 for you?
Jenson Button: It has been a good week for me, apart from getting used to the time difference. It's my first time here in Melbourne, so today I have been learning the circuit and working with the team on setting up the car. We have made a few changes that have worked and we ope to show that tomorrow. On my installation lap I was amazed to find just how tight some of the corners are on this circuit, but otherwise there have been no surprises.
Q. How do you answer criticisms that you are too young for F1?
JB: It's difficult for me to say, because these people don't know me as a person or as a driver. I believe that a driver who is ready for F1 is ready for it no matter what his age, within reason. Yes, this is going to be a learning year for me. But I will also be looking for some good results.