GRAND PRIX OF CANADA Thursday 10 June 1999 "Thursday Four" press conference Drivers: Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Alessandro Zanardi (Williams) Absent with the consent of the FIA: Johnny Herbert (Stewart). Team chief: Craig...
GRAND PRIX OF CANADA Thursday 10 June 1999
"Thursday Four" press conference
Drivers: Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Alessandro Zanardi (Williams) Absent with the consent of the FIA: Johnny Herbert (Stewart). Team chief: Craig Pollock (British American Racing)
Q. Alex, does it make you happy to be back here in North America?
Alessandro Zanardi: Well I hope to be happier on Sunday night! But I have always been lucky on this side of the ocean, so at least I am looking forward to having a good race this time. The championship has not started too well for me -- it's been a little uphill -- and I hope I have reached the top of the peak and [the bad luck] will start to go downhill now. We have certainly had a lot of problems. The car has not been as reliable as we were expecting it to be. Also it has not been as fast as we wanted it to be. Having said that, Ralf [Schumacher] has had fewer problems than me, especially in the races, and he has done a beautiful job bringing the car home a few times in the points. Unfortunately that has not been the case for me, but there are plenty of races left this season. If I can get some good results from now on, it will help me to forget about the bad start.
Q. How do you keep your spirits up?
AZ: This is part of any driver's character. We are all capable of doing our job and sometimes some of us get the proof that we are doing it right, by crossing the start/finish line in front of everybody else. Sometimes you have to be happy with whatever you can bring home, given the competitiveness of your car. I certainly miss the competitiveness of the car I had underneath me last year. But having said that, the Winfield-Williams team is a great organisation, and nobody on the team is happy with the performance of the car right now. All I can ask them is to stay flat out to bring the team back to the position where it should be. That is what they are doing. Having a lot of faith in their talent and their capability, I just assume it's a question of time and sooner or later we we will have a car that is capable of producing better results than we are getting right now.
Q. Do you feel you have completed the re-adaptation to F1?
AZ: No, not at all. You never stop adjusting, every day you learn something new. If you have to cover a certain amount of ground, you do get a lot of it done initially, and then you stop making big progress. Although I have learned most of [the techniques for these cars], I still have a lot to learn. Every time the car runs I am quite competitive in terms of what the car is capable of doing. But I still have something to learn about driving the car on these grooved tyres, which is the feature that has changed the handling of the cars most dramatically since I was last in F1.
Q. Mika, is this the type of circuit which favours your driving style? Mika Hakkinen: Ye-e-s-s. It is fun. You have to optimise things to find the best possible setup that suits your driving style and the character of the circuit. And this circuit is difficult, I have to admit, it is more difficult than Barcelona and many other circuits in F1. Let's see what happens this year when we have found the right settings for the car.
Q. Without being able to test here in advance, how is possible to prepare for this race?
MH: Obviously it is difficult. There are not many circuits similar to this Canadian circuit, although there are similarities with Imola, which has a lot of places with hard braking, chicanes and places where you have to get hard on the gas at the exit. But street circuits are always difficult because of things like the dust on the road on the first day, and getting temperature into the tyres. That is even more difficult this year because the tyres are so hard. When you are trying very hard there is always the risk of over-driving the car or going off the road. I think we will see quite a few people going off the road this year.
Q. A leading Italian magazine has just published an interview with Eddie Irvine. Eddie stated that he believes he is a better driver than you and claimed that you have many weaknesses. How do you feel about what he said?
MH: It would be very rare for me to comment on what Eddie said about what he has done in the past. Eddie has been in F1 for quite a few years now and I am sure he has been progressing his talent and his performances, so it is difficult for me to understand how quick he is these days. It seems very strange that he should have passed comment on my ability, and my spirit, because I don't think he knows. I prefer not to say too much.
Q. Craig, when will BAR's association with Honda start on the track?
Craig Pollock: It should be around the 15th of September. I believe they have already stopped testing with the current HRD prototype car, but they have not stopped testing on the bench. We will start testing as soon as humanly possible. We have already started work on the new car.
Q. It must have been a relief to see Jacques running so well in Spain and to have finished the race with the other car. How much pressure have you been feeling from your partners at British American Tobacco?
CP: I would say that BAT has been reasonably good. The pressure has come more from within the team, because nobody wants to perform the way that we are performing. We don't have the reliability that we said we expected to have, and that is the hardest thing to find at the moment. But we do have a fast car, so we can work on the reliability.
Q. How much pressure does Jacques Villeneuve put on the team?
CP: Too much! No, in fact Jacques has been very reasonable. I have seen him in many situations, and I think he knew what he was getting into [when he joined BAR from Williams]. Now and again a little frustration comes out, and rightly so, because he is not letting us down, it is we who are letting him down. Inside the team I have cracked the whip pretty hard, the reason being that there are 11 teams in the paddock and we are number 11, right at the bottom. The other 10 teams have had ten or twenty years in which to evolve, and we haven't had that time. The only way for us to evolve is to diagnose the cancers and cut them out.
Q. Is that why you parted company with two or three people?
CP: The people we, let's say, got rid of were not bad people, they were very good. But we decided to restructure the team, as we announced this week, and restructuring doesn't take place just at the top, it must go all through the team.
Q. Alex, what precise changes would you suggest to make F1 racing closer?
AZ: The changes that have been made to the cars were done mainly as a result of what happened in 1994, to improve safety. I have to take my hat off and thank all the people involved in that, especially our President, Max Mosley, for pushing so hard to make the cars safer. I am one of those drivers who goes for any move he can, and especially in the first days of my career I had many accidents as a result. Twenty years ago, they would have cost me a very high price, maybe even my life itself. If I am here today, it is thanks to the many changes that have been made, probably including the last two, which are the grooved tyres and the narrow track cars. If you had asked me to suggest something to slow the cars, I would have recommended something different to slow down the cars -- which was the original desire -- but then it is always very easy to talk about these things after something has happened. It would not be fair for me to say that this or that should be done, because I am just one voice among many. But I believe that the people who pull the strings in this sport have the problem under consideration, and I expect they will change something in the near future to make it even better.