Drivers: Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), Nick Heidfeld (Prost), Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta (BAR) Q. Nick, congratulations on Australia, where you finished 9th. How do you evaluate your performance ...
Q. Nick, congratulations on Australia, where you finished 9th. How do you evaluate your performance there?
Nick Heidfeld: I have mixed feelings about it. First, I was quite happy to have eventually qualified 15th, especially because I had been in last place for most of the time during the free practice sessions. Even so, 15th isn't where I had expected to be, or wanted to be. It was also nice to have finished the race in 9th place, although there weren't too many people who finished it behind me. Physically, the race was not too hard, especially because I was running on my own and didn't have many fights.
Q. The team has been testing since Australia. What can you tell us about that?
NH: We were not able to get enough miles done in [pre-season] testing, and for the testing last week in Silverstone the car had to be flown from Melbourne to Silverstone and then on to Brazil. That made it difficult to change more than a few things. Jean Alesi did the test, for two days, and I understand there have been some improvements. Unfortunately, on the second day there were some problems, again, with the electronics. We have some new electronics here, which I hope will work better. But we are still searching for the problems, and the solutions.
Q. Jacques, what were your feelings after your 4th place in Australia?
Jacques Villeneuve: It feels great. After [getting no points in] the whole of last year it was great to score points at last, and especially to have done it in a good way. We were pretty competitive all weekend, the car is strong and doesn't break down. The whole weight of last season just went away. I am really pleased for the mechanics, because last year they were working all-nighters virtually everywhere. Somehow they're getting to bed a lot earlier now. For me, the motivation never went down, but the winter break was very important for me to get refreshed before the new season started.
Q. You said at the official BAR-Honda launch two months ago that the car was reliable but it wasn't quick enough. What is the situation now?
JV: It is definitely not quick enough. In Australia we had a perfect setup on the chassis, there was not much to improve on [as it was there]. We definitely need more downforce. But we have some new things coming for Silverstone, both on the engine and the aerodynamics, so things are looking good. I still hope we can do as well as we did in Melbourne. There is no reason to think that rival teams will have found any extra reliability since then, at least not until we go back to Europe. I am hoping that we will see the same things happen here that we saw in Melbourne. That would be nice.
Q. Ricardo, well done on your 6th place in Melbourne and your first world championship point. What does that mean for you?
Ricardo Zonta: As you know, I didn't get the point in the race itself. I was fighting [for the position] with Salo, and he was able to overtake me very easily towards the end. But afterwards we discovered that there had been something wrong with his car, and I got the point. It's good, though. Last year I didn't get a point all season, and this year I got one at the first attempt. It's very good for my motivation, of course, but I expect to earn my points in the race, not in any other way. It's good to know now that we have a car which can fight for a place in the top ten, or even the top six.
Q. You've been to look at the circuit today. Has the resurfacing eliminated all the bumps?
RZ: It's less bumpy than before, but not 100 per cent. There are still some slow and medium-fast corners with bumps. It is on the straights that the surface has been improved most. Let's say the circuit is 70 per cent better than last year.
Q. Michael, you have an outstanding record here. In nine GPs at Interlagos you have never finished lower than 5th, and in the other eight starts you have always been on the podium.
Michael Schumacher: Hmmm. I am looking at this from a different angle, because in Melbourne you pointed out that I had a bad record in Australia, and then I won the race! But this is certainly a very demanding circuit. In the past it has been particularly difficult over the bumps, and I am hoping that it will be easier this year from that point of view. I don't really care much about statistics like this, though.
Q. What makes you think that this year's Ferrari will be quick over the bumps here?
MS: I know it is good over bumps. I am the guy who has to drive it! I know where it is good and where it is not. The circuits where we have tested in Europe have not, I suppose, been as bumpy as Interlagos. With the resurfacing, things should be better. But it is one thing for a car to be good over bumps, and quite another for it to have good engine characteristics, efficient aerodynamics and to be well built. In those areas I believe the car is very good. This car is fast and is likely to be fast anywhere.
MS: We are there, we are competitive. It was one of our targets to be there right from the beginning, and I believe we have fulfilled that. But we haven't overtaken the McLarens. You can't expect that, because they have done as good a job as we wanted to do. But in recent years we weren't able to get close to McLaren in the early stages of the season. This is the first year we have been competitive right from the beginning.
Q. There is extremely strong local support for the Brazilian drivers in the race, and especially for your team mate. How do you handle that?
MS: It's good, because he does all the work! He is the focus of the local people, and that allows me to get on with my work. I think he is good enough to win by himself: he doesn't need any help from me.
Q. In your estimation, is Rubens closer to you in performance than Eddie Irvine was?
MS: It looks like it, so far. I hope he doesn't get too close ... But we haven't had any chance yet to see what the exact situation is. In Australia he was stuck behind Heinz-Harald for most of the race, and after that there was no point for him or for me to push anymore. So let's see. But I am pretty sure he will be making life difficult for me, although at the same time he makes things easier for me by pushing the team. The way we were working together in Melbourne was good: we were both very relaxed, very straightforward and very concentrated. That really helps. It means we are fighting the McLarens instead of fighting each other.
Q. Rubens, although you have been very fast here at Interlagos, the records show only one finish in the points ...
Rubens Barrichello: Yes, that was back in 1994, where I had a terrible qualifying and the race just came my way with 4th place. In 1996 I was fighting Michael when I spun off, and last year there were engine problems. I find myself fighting myself here, and reliability. But coming here to my home race I think I have improved both as a man and as a driver. It works my way now. It really helps to see my own public here at my own circuit. When people ask me about the pressure [of racing with Ferrari in Brazil], I can honestly say that it's actually less than ever before. In the past I was trying to do exactly what I am trying to do now, but the difference is that now I have a competitive car. That equalizes the pressure and the performance: it used to be much more difficult to be trying to do something without the right car in which to do it.
Q. What are your feelings now, then?
RB: The people here are just as excited about [the prospects for] this race as I am. I am pleased about the work that has been put into the circuit. I am sure we will still be aware of a few bumps, but this is the best work that has been done at Interlagos since the revised circuit was created in 1990. This is one of the few circuits where we can overtake, so I think you will see a good show this weekend.
Q. Rubens, do you feel quite calm approaching this race?
RB: It's fantastic to hear that the grandstands will be full again, just like some years ago. It's great because it's not just for me: for Ricardo [Zonta] and Pedro [Diniz] there will be a lot of support. For sure the fans are expecting me to win the race, but they also are expecting Ricardo and Pedro to finish in the points. If you remember the race in 1994, Ayrton had a chance to finish on the podium and I was there to finish in the points as well. So we want to have a huge party on Sunday night.
Q. Rubens, do you remember your first time in Interlagos as a boy?
RB: I was born here! In the circuit! I was probably only six years old when my grandfather gave me my first go-kart. He used to live just on that grandstand [turn 1], over there. So I have lived all my life here. During my first four years in school I studied in Interlagos. As I was telling Michael, sometimes where I wave to somebody in the grandstand, it is not because he is a fan but because he is a friend. I might remember him from school or something. I am really close to the public here. I am an Interlagos guy.
Q. Ricardo, do you have similar memories from here?
RZ: I'm from Curitiba, which is one hour's flight away. I came to Sao Paulo just to race go-karts and also to watch the F1 races. But I didn't come before '91 or '92.
Q. Jacques, what is it going to take to keep you BAR next year?
JV: It's looking good right now. The team is working well. The car is running strong until the end. So it shows a big improvement. Sometimes it takes many many years for a team to make the smallest improvement, and if you start at the back the team stays at the back. That is often what you see in F1. After a season like last year it would have been easy for the team just to collapse. It hasn't -- it has actually become stronger.
Q. Michael, after your win in Australia, Ron Dennis was critical about Ferrari and also about the way you had won the race. He said he has never listened to you before and will not again.
MS: So he doesn't listen to me, but he answers? I suppose I shouldn't say much. He should first look after his own problems and his own team, and we will look after our team. We do it in a way we think is best for all of us, and I believe that Ron has always had difficulties with losing races. We know that from history. Should I say more?
Q. Do you think he is worried now because Ferrari seems to be on the pace?
MS: I think he has to be worried. So you will probably see some further statements like this.
Q. Rubens, in the past you spoke about having to live in the shadow of Senna. Are those difficulties past?
RB: I have said everything about this. In 1995 I was trying to fill this hole ... I had the problem that the Brazilian people wanted Rubens Barrichello to be the next Senna. It was the wrong thing. I will never be Ayrton. I can be better or worse than him, but I can never be him. That was really bad for my mental position. But with every problem you learn more from the problems than anything else. And I definitely learned from it. In 1997 I had the chance to start a brand new career, with four years of experience behind me. I can now put it into a good perspective.