Australian Thursday press conference

Drivers: Michael Schumacher Mika Hakkinen Juan Pablo Montoya Team personnel: Bobby Rahal Q. Bobby if I could start off with you: recently you have been joined by Niki Lauda in the team. Can you tell us how you and Niki are going to operate...

Drivers:
Michael Schumacher
Mika Hakkinen
Juan Pablo Montoya

Team personnel:
Bobby Rahal

Q. Bobby if I could start off with you: recently you have been joined by Niki Lauda in the team. Can you tell us how you and Niki are going to operate together, which responsibilities each person is going to have?

Bobby Rahal: Niki has been brought in to basically co-ordinate the efforts of Pi Electronics, Cosworth Racing and of course I report to him. I'm CEO of Jaguar. My job hasn't changed at all. Really his position is to ensure that the three entities operate as one to the betterment of Jaguar Racing, frankly, and that just that is fairly seamlessly run. Ultimately, most importantly, I'm going to be the guy who goes to Niki and tells him I need a lot more money, and he's going to have to find it for me. So far, it's worked quite well.

Q. Is he going to be coming to all the races? Will he be on the pit wall, for example?

BR: I'm sure he'll be in most of the races. I haven't heard precisely, but because his position is more of an overview position, I don't know if that will include every race, although I'm sure Niki being a racer, he'll want to be here. I would expect that he would be at every one.

Q. How is Jackie Stewart involved, if he still is?

BR: Jackie is on the board of Jaguar Racing and of course does commercial work on our behalf. That is really no different than last year. So Jackie will still be involved in a team in that capacity. But being a board member, that's pretty much hands-off. Again, as CEO you report to the board on a quarterly basis, just to bring them up to date with what is going on and get approvals for funding and various other issues - like any business.

Q. And he will come to whatever races he wants to?

BR: I would imagine so, yes.

Q. Does he still have a function to do when he comes to these races here?

BR: Again, on a commercial side, he of course represents HSBC, and is very involved with many of the sponsors that are associated with the team.

Q. A lot of people have been saying that your team - unfortunately for you - could be the disappointment of the season, which is a terrible thing to say.

BR: After last year?

Q. How do you see it?

BR: I think we're going to let our results speak. I think all too often, particularly at this time of the year, there's a lot of talk. Our mantra is under-promise and over-deliver, and I anticipate we'll do that.

Q. Has Eddie been doing that so far?

BR: I don't think Eddie ever under-promises anything, but he is over-delivering, he is doing a great job for us in testing, and I'm very pleased with his commitment to the team.

Q. He's talking a lot.

BR: He's Irish.

Q. Does that worry you, what he has been saying?

BR: No, it doesn't worry me at all. I'm not sure what he has really said. I read a lot of things, but I'm not sure what he has really said. I know, when we talk, that he's committed to this team and, frankly, we're not going to let all the things distract us from what our job is.

Q. He said you were understaffed. Is that the case?

BR: I would say that I'm not sure what understaffed is. Could you always use more people? I'm sure everybody could always use more people. I think we have enough good people to do the job and certainly over time, we will expand, but I don't that is going to be our issue this year.

Q. So what is?

BR: What is our issue? Our issue is, as I say, to really get back to basics, to put in place the people that can do the job, which we're doing. I don't expect miracles, I don't expect things happening overnight, but as I said to our team, we're committed for the future. I know Ford's commitment and Jaguar's commitment is many years out, as are its sponsors. And for us to be in a position to vie for honours in the future, we have to start the process now, and that's what we're doing.

Q. One final comment. You have seen most recently the guy sitting beside you racing. How do you think he's going to get on?

BR: I think he's going to do just fine. It should be an exciting year. I'm looking forward to being a part of it. You know, he's got a lot on his shoulders, there's a lot of talk on his behalf, but I have great confidence in Juan.

Q. Juan, there you have confidence of another team owner anyway. Tell us basically how you've got on in Formula One so far over the last two or three months?

Juan Pablo Montoya: I think it's been very good, to be honest. Testing has gone so far so good, some tracks have been better than others. I think I've done plenty of miles, so we have to wait and see how fast the car is going to be here.

Q. The testing you have done so far includes Kyalami. How important is that going to be for this race?

JPM: I think Kyalami is quite important because, apart from BAR and us, it is the only teams in hot weather. I think for the tyres and everything it is a plus.

Q. But are you worried about reliability?

JPM: Not really. We have done quite a lot of long runs and stuff, and the car seems to be quite good.

Q. You say quite a lot of long runs. Have you done race distances? How many have you done?

JPM: Yes. I couldn't really tell you exactly how many we have done, but we have managed to do a race distance already.

Q. Are you prepared physically? I don't wish to go back to what Simon Arron said at the launch, but are you physically prepared?

JPM: Yeah. I think these cars are a bit less physical than ChampCars, to be honest. It's not that they're easy to drive, but you have so many driving aids, like the power steering and stuff like that, that it makes your life a bit easier.

Q. You won't have power steering next year.

JPM: I don't think I'll have a problem, to be honest. I raced the last two years in ChampCar, a heavy car, a bit more downforce and slick tyres. So I should be all right.

Q. I asked you at the launch what surprised you, what has surprised you about Formula One. You have had a little bit more time now, probably other things have surprised you now?

JPM: It's the amount of time involved in it. You don't think how much time you actually have to be involved in it. There's a lot more testing than I was used to, to be honest. We test every week. Weekly when we're not racing, we're testing. There is a lot of work, there's a lot of PR commitment as well, but that is what I choose.

Q. You're pretty happy with that. It has come as a surprise, but you are still happy with it?

JPM: I'm really happy. I enjoy working with the team. I think I've got a great bunch of guys, so now we have to work, that I learn through the races a lot of stuff, because I think the strategy here is a lot different than what I was used to. So through the year, I've got to learn a lot of stuff.

Q. Looking forward to it?

JPM: Thank you.

Q. Mika, here we're back again, already in your racing suit. You've been in a way quite negative about your prospects for this particular race. Is that correct?

Mika Hakkinen: There's always obviously different comments or opinion that you're reading, and some could be misleading. But certainly the way the winter testing has been going, there have been certain problems that the team has been able to solve. To go in always, the first Grand Prix, there is always some little issues that you are not a hundred per cent sure, but I think what I have experienced already now, a couple of days, when I 've been doing certain interviews and things, there has been a lot of discussion about reliability, are we going to be strong, and things like that, because of what has happened last couple of years, but it should not be an issue at all at the moment, because with the amount of testing the team has done, with the engine, gearbox and also with the new car, we should be quite strong and reliable for this Grand Prix. So we just have to wait and see what happens on Sunday.

Q. How many race distances have you done so far?

MH: To be honest, what we have done on the dyno, with the engine, for example, or with the gearboxes, a massive amount of kilometres in an

extremely reliable way. Personally, I haven't done any race distance myself yet. That way, from start to finish, the race distance I haven't done.

Q. But the team has?

MH: The team has definitely, yes.

Q. What about Alex's [Wurz] role and his input so far?

MH: Alex's role is obviously to take some load off mine and David's shoulders and to do some miles, and definitely to test the car to be a

quicker and faster car. What he has done so far, I'm positive and he seems to be a very professional driver. Obviously time will show his real

potential and his real talent to understand the car and how quick he really is. But so far, he's done a good job.

Q. The same as Olivier, for example?

MH: Yeah, basically. Like I said, it is early days to really comment about Alex's performance. But on the lap times he has done, you really have to keep your foot down to keep him behind.

Q. In terms of the weather this weekend, we're expecting 79 degrees on Sunday. I can't remember what 79 degrees is in Fahrenheit - it's something like 27 or 26, something like that. Is that going to be a problem around here?

MH: Yes, basically. It's going to be a problem for everybody, certainly. I don't think there's many teams who have been testing in very hot

temperatures, for example, so the reliability is an even bigger issue. Driving-wise, I don't think this circuit is more physical or more difficult to drive in a hot temperature compared to, for example, a Brazilian track.

Q. In terms of the car, do you feel it is doing all the things you want it to do? Is it, roughly speaking, the same as you found in the past couple of seasons?

MH: It is very quick.

Q. And it is reacting the way you want it to?

MH: It's funny, but to be honest with you guys, the reality is from last year, where the regulation has been changed and the way the tyres have

changed, it's quite complicated to say the real performance or potential of the car, because one moment you can run the tyres where the car doesn't handle so well and other times it feels fantastic. So the way the tyre development goes, for the driver it's very difficult to really tell you exactly what is the real potential. So this weekend we'll see.

Q. Is the aerodynamic loss around here going to make a big difference for you guys?

MH: Definitely, yes.

Q. What sort of difference is it going to make?

MH: You basically need a car which has a good aerodynamic balance. You have some high-speed corners and you have very hard braking points here, so you need to have very good aerodynamics in your car to have a stable car on entry.

Q. And losing as much as you had in the past, the wings, in terms of aerodynamics?

MH: The tyres have so much grip now, so that compensates the downforce a little bit compared to other years.

Q. Mika, thank you. Michael, world champion again, your third year reign, as it were. First of all, we were just talking about the fact that the regulations have changed. Is personal fitness going to be more important now, do you feel?

Michael Schumacher: It could be because lap times, I believe they will be much faster than we have seen in previous years, so the demand on the driver will be slightly higher, possibly, concerning G forces and so on.

Q. The grippier tyres, higher G forces, as you say?

MS: Yes.

Q. Have you felt that already, for example, at Mugello?

MS: Yes, you do feel that. Already in Barcelona, we did some testing with the old car and the new tyres, and in Mugello during our winter testing, lap times are faster. So in one way sometimes it is easier because the car handles better, has more grip. Sometimes it's easier when a car handles better that you don't need so much personal effort, but then the G force is heavier. So it is a combination, and it depends how tricky the car is to drive, whether it is fast and tricky or it's easy and fast, so there's a combination of things. It depends how the physical effort is affected.

Q. How much is reliability an issue with you?

MS: As every year, you come to the first race and you feel like you would rather have another one or two weeks of testing, to sort out everything, every question mark. Looking back at the past years has always been the same, that you come here and you say there's a few little question marks. But as Mika said before, we have now bench testing and all these kinds of facilities, which do simulate very well what is going on in the Grand Prix. I would be surprised if there will be too many issues.

Q. How many race distances have you done trouble-free?

MS: I certainly know one Rubens did. I was troubled by one in the last day, with a gearbox failure. We did more than 4000 miles with the car, which was about our target. We wanted to do one more race distance to what we did. But as I said, the gearbox problem stopped that.

Open questions

Q. I would like to ask Mika and Michael about your comments on the newcomer, Juan Pablo Montoya. We saw in 1996 a guy like Jacques Villeneuve having a lot of success in his first year, but saw also Zanardi coming from the CART championship and having all kinds of problems. So what can you expect from Montoya?

MH: You can maybe speak to your brother, maybe he can tell more. Go for it, Mike.

Q. It's the only time he will tell you to.

MS: What shall we say? He must have talent, otherwise Williams wouldn't have signed him up, and the rest we find out. I hope he is not too fast.

MH: Exactly. For him, it is going to be definitely an exciting time this year. I'm sure for him it is going to be experience, because they are going to run on new tyres, Michelins, and there could be occasions when they can perform well and occasions when they probably are not so good. But I hope he is not too fast and I hope he enjoys Formula One.

Q. For Bobby Rahal. That is your first race as a Grand Prix team boss. I know you've been on the pit wall in a CART race, but how are you going to approach this weekend?

BR: There's less issues probably to deal with, obviously fewer pit stops, things of that nature. But certainly having watched it on TV quite a bit, also having some good expertise beside me, I think the guidance will be proper. Any street circuit of sorts always presents issues that don't happen maybe a lot of other places, so you just have to be ready. But certainly having a lot of experience with Pace cars and what have you, should situations like that occur, I think we have a pretty good sense of what needs to be done when and how you can take advantage of that. A lot of our strategy is going to be purely based on where we qualify and of course how good the tyres are, how long they last, performance over the course of a run. A lot of the issues we face are no different than what others will face. As I say, this is a team effort and I don't expect a lot of difficulty, but certainly it should be an interesting day.

Q. Could I just ask Michael and Mika, particularly, whether their winter testing has revealed it is any more likely the cars will be able to run closer together with the new front wing regulations?

MH: I did follow some cars in the testing, but I didn't really experience massive differences from last year.

MS: I think the rule changes in itself are fairly small in order to make the effect we're looking for. It's step by step. I think, there have to be done further changes in that direction to reduce aerodynamic efficiency and grip and gain it back from the tyres in order to make closer racing. It's one step, but we really find out through races, not really through testing, because in testing you're not pushing so hard, you don't really try compared to races.

Q. I have one for Mika and Michael. If you go back to the newcomers, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen and Alonso, Bernoldi, you have many of them, do you still remember how did you feel, both of you, a day before your first race in Formula One? What went through your heads?

MH: It is a long time ago. I remember I was so confident I was sure I was going to win the race. That is what went through my mind.

Q. Did you?

MH: It didn't work out like that.

MS: It was slightly different for me. I was not so confident, honestly. I mean, I didn't have much experience of Formula One, I did a little testing in Silverstone and then went straight to Spa. All I was thinking, if I could be somewhere midfield, I would be fine and I found my way on the other side. So it was a pleasant experience.

Q. Were you nervous?

MS: To some degree, yes. Before you get into the car, you're certainly nervous. But once you're inside, you concentrate, you do your job, and you enjoy yourself and the nervousness goes. It goes as well while you see your lap times doing better and better, and not too bad, and you get more and more confident with that automatically.

Q. A question for Bobby. Pay-per-View TV, what would be your view if Formula One went down that road?

BR: I have obviously been reading the papers about the potential of that. I think if maximising the number of people who you want to watch your sport is your objective, then that's probably not the way to go. If maximising the revenue from it, perhaps that is. But I think there seems to be a lot of concern about that by a number of people, about going down that route. So I would say that anything that restricts the number of people who can watch a sport, ultimately that is a negative, because no matter what the sport is based on, its popularity, the success of the sport. So probably Pay-per-View is not a way to create that or expand that field, without question.

Q. Question for Juan. Going back to what Michael and Mika were saying a couple of minutes ago about the day before their first Grand Prix. You have been telling us that you couldn't wait to get here, you've really been pumped about your first race. You are here now, your first qualifying practice session tomorrow. How do you feel? Can you put it into words?

JPM: I think it's pretty exciting. I'm sure before especially the start of the race, you'll get nervous, but what Michael said before, you sit down in the car and you forget about it, you do the job you have to do. We have to wait and see what happens through the weekend. I think it will be a good experience for me. It will be quite interesting to see how the Michelins perform and everything, so we'll see.

Q. Mika, can you tell us about yours and the team's motivation this year compared to last year, when you were No 1 and everyone was chasing and now you're No 2 and chasing. What is different about your motivation and the team's motivation?

MS: (Michael Schumacher answered first) The motivation itself is no different at all. It's probably just the kilos of ballast we had on our

shoulder has gone, the extra kilos. So now we start from a fresh base. We have the No 1 on the car and we know how sweet it is to have it, so we want to keep it. So everything is done in order to do this, and the motivation, as I said before, everybody is so professional, it is simply there.

Q. Mika, is there a different atmosphere?

MH: It is a different situation indeed, yes. It is in one sense interesting to start the season with not No 1, a shame in one sense, but definitely it boosts the team again to work harder and try harder, including me, of course, and try to win back again. I don't know what else really to say about it, but it's a little bit different situation; everybody just tries a little bit more harder again.

Q. A question for Juan Pablo. Frank Williams spoke about the database that a driver builds up over time. Mika and Michael, the two guys that ultimately you will be aiming for, have got more than 10 years in this business. How will you fill up that database? Is it something that you will learn strictly from experience of your own on the track? Can you learn it perhaps by watching past races on TV? How much can you learn by watching these two guys actually on the track?

JPM: I think you can learn from everything, and I think they have advantages of experience. I think for studying as a Formula One driver, I'm in a really good position. I had two years in CART, and that gave me a lot of experience. I think the oval racing gave me a different experience, new things that you learn, that sometimes you might be able to apply here. So I have some experience, I have been racing all my life, since I was five years old, so it is not that I am pretty new in the business. I'm sure through the years, being in Formula One, you learn more, you learn to set up the car better. Especially in the qualifying, you have to find the optimum balance of the car and push it as hard as you can. And the races, the ball game is different, you need to have a consistent car that runs fast. With the tyres and with the way the car is going to behave, you have to find a good balance, and the only way you learn where you want to balance the car is through the races. Starting this race, I believe I wouldn't be surprised if the car is not that good, because it might start a really balanced car and fast car for five laps and then it goes completely the other way.

Q. At the beginning of December, you tested the Michelin tyres for the first time. You told us they let go a little bit suddenly. They have obviously done a lot of development since then. How do you feel about the Michelin tyres and from what you know what the other teams are doing on Bridgestone?

JPM: For me, it's very difficult to compare with Bridgestone, I have never driven them, but with the Michelin that we started on, is completely

different, it's a different world. The tyres seem to be really consistent, so we might be looking quite strong. I don't know. I think Bridgestone should have a little bit of an edge in the first few races, but we'll see. You never know.

Q. Mika, traction control will be back soon. What is your opinion about that?

MH: It makes our life easier, to be honest.

Q. Do you think it will have an effect on results of some teams, the major teams, Ferrari, McLaren, other teams? It will be easier for small teams to get good results with traction control?

MH: I think it is the same with everybody, all the teams the same . The same, in my opinion. It is probably going to make racing a little bit safer, so that's good.

Q. Why is it going to do that?

MH: Because when you do have the horsepower that we have in a car, it's extremely difficult to control with your foot. So if it is controlled by

electronics, it makes life easier. At the same time, if it makes it safer, like when the conditions are changing, sometimes could be damp circuit and the cars could be very difficult to drive, and when you have traction control, it makes the racing much safer. So it's a good thing to have.

Q. Is it going to close up the grid?

MH: I don't know....

-FIA-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Jaguar Racing