Belgian GP Friday Press Conference

Drivers: Pedro Diniz (Sauber) Olivier Panis (Prost) Jacques Villeneuve (BAR). Technical Director: Gary Anderson (Stewart-Ford) Team chiefs : Ron Dennis (McLaren) Sir Frank Williams ...

Drivers: Pedro Diniz (Sauber) Olivier Panis (Prost) Jacques Villeneuve (BAR).

Technical Director: Gary Anderson (Stewart-Ford)

Team chiefs : Ron Dennis (McLaren) Sir Frank Williams

Question : Pedro, in Hungary your present team mate Jean Alesi showed some frustration with the team. Do you share that frustration?

Pedro Paulo Diniz : Yes, we had quite a lot of problems with the reliability of the car, especially at the beginning of the season. We lost a lot of points because of that, which was pretty frustrating.

Question : Olivier, how would you describe your 1999 season with Prost so far?

Olivier Panis : Well, for me this season has not been easy. There has been a change since 1998, because this year's car is a big improvement. But every other team has also had an improved car. In the past two months we have worked strongly to improve the car and now the team is working very well.

Question : Jacques, you lost a wheel this afternoon on one of the fastest sections of this track. What happened?

Jacques Villeneuve : Just a front suspension pulled off when I hit the brakes.

Question : What are your feelings when something like that happens?

Jacques Villeneuve : Well, you just look where you are going to hit, and that was a good spot because there weren't many things to hit. I thought it was pretty safe, so it was OK.

Question : Gary, in the last year you've switched between two 'Gaelic' teams. Can you describe the different atmospheres at Stewart compared with Jordan?

Gary Anderson : They're pretty different. Eddie Jordan is a man unto himself, and he's a really good guy to work with. We had a lot of good times together over the nine years I was with him. Moving to Jackie Stewart, he is very professional and he knows how hard it is to succeed in F1 and achieve the goals we set for ourselves. Having the works Ford engine behind us makes for extra pressure within the team. Having such a young team in a sport as competitive as this, it takes time to get the building blocks in place. But we are doing that every day, trying to build for next year. But there is a definite difference between Eddie's way of life and Jackie's. That breeds through the team. At the end of the day I believe they will both achieve their goals, but they will do it by working in different directions.

Question : Ron, you and your partner recently agreed to sell 40 per cent of TAG-McLaren to DaimlerChrysler. To what extent is McLaren still independent? Is it likely to become a subsidiary of Mercedes?

Ron Dennis : Well, 40 per cent of 100 is a minority, so there can be no form of mathematics which would allow you to interpret a minority interest as being a controlling interest. As we said at Silverstone, that equity was effectively achieved by Mansour Ojjeh and TAG selling 30 per cent of their shares and me selling 10 per cent of mine, which puts TAG and myself equal. As an integral part of the contract, our shareholdings are now locked together. Effectively it is a 60 per cent voting bloc, which means that we have retained control of the group. DaimlerChrysler's involvement is just that : it is group-wide involvement which has coincided with the contract we signed to produce a Mercedes-Benz sports car which will carry McLaren branding. And of course while we are very proud of that, it is also a great commercial opportunity for the group to be making a car which will be sold through the Mercedes-Benz distribution system. It is a big step forward for us and moves us towards becoming the sort of company that we will need to be in a few years' time when big manufacturers like Ford, Toyota, BMW and Honda start to build up their efforts to win in Formula 1. I believe that any GP teams which stand exclusively independent will then start to struggle.

Question : Frank, would you agree that an independent F1 team these days needs the strength of a major car manufacturer to support it?

Sir Frank Williams : If Ron means that an F1 team needs an engine partner, he is most definitely right.

Question : The owners of the TAG-McLaren group have sold an interest in their company to DaimlerChrysler. Would you and your partner Patrick Head consider a similar sale?

Frank Williams : I wouldn't comment on that. But what Ron has done is almost a necessary requirement, in order to have all the financial and technical resources that are necessary. It is also a strong indication to the team that its technical partner is taking a long-term view [of its F1 involvement]. And I think that is very enviable.

Question : On your trip to the USA last weekend you visited the new F1 track at Indianapolis. What can you tell us about it?

Frank Williams : It was my first visit to that circuit. It is an impressive size and a great deal of money has been spent there. The F1 circuit itself should be a good racing track -- maybe a little bland in some ways -- but with plenty of opportunities for overtaking. Some of the corners are very wide indeed, rather like the Cleveland airport track where the Champ cars have raced extraordinarily closely. It should be good for F1.

Question : You also saw the CART race on Chip Ganassi's new oval track in Chicago. Did you go specifically to see Juan-Pablo Montoya?

Frank Williams : I can see him wherever I choose, and if I wanted to talk business with him I certainly wouldn't choose to do it in public. I went there because I hadn't been to an Indy-car race since Laguna Seca in 1983, and I felt it was time I had a better feel for it than I can get by just reading a magazine. I wanted to see what is happening in North American motor racing, plus I knew the Champ Cars are very fast and I just wanted to see what they look like.

Question : What are your impressions of the CART series?

Frank Williams : It is nothing like as intense an operation or a weekend as it is here in Formula 1. It was therefore clearly more relaxed, and I had nothing to do there except look around and talk to people. But I do admire the cars very much. After all, they have 900-plus horsepower -- and I think that's great.

Question : Can you update us on the situation with BMW?

Frank Williams : There's not a lot I can tell you. The BMW people are testing with an old Williams car fitted with their first engine at a private circuit, and they are having their ups and downs. But I know they are running a new engine at present on the dynomometer, and I know they are well on course with the first engine for the first race next year.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jean Alesi , Olivier Panis , Jacques Villeneuve , Eddie Jordan , Patrick Head , Chip Ganassi , Frank Williams , Gary Anderson , Pedro Diniz
Teams Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Jordan