French GP: Friday press conference

Present: Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin motorsport director) Ange Pasquali (Toyota team manager) David Richards (BAR team principal) Jean Todt (Ferrari team principal) Tom Walkinshaw (Arrows team principal) Q: Ange, it's your first season in...

Present:
Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin motorsport director)
Ange Pasquali (Toyota team manager)
David Richards (BAR team principal)
Jean Todt (Ferrari team principal)
Tom Walkinshaw (Arrows team principal)

Q: Ange, it's your first season in Formula One and the team's. What has been the biggest challenge as far as you're concerned?

Ange Pasquali: Well, as you know, Formula One is the pinnacle of motor sport and for sure, I had a lot to learn and I'm still learning a lot. Coming from rallying with a stop-off of the 24 hours of Le Mans, for me, reaching Formula One was a big mountain to climb, so everything is a challenge for me.

Q: The team has been to a lot of circuits and tested at a lot of them. Did you test here and at Hockenheim, and has that been a great help as far as you're concerned?

AP: Yes, for sure, but most of the circuits have been tested with the old car so we've got some good data last year. But I think every Grand Prix this year is a new start for us.

Q: Did you test here, did you test at Hockenheim?

AP: Not at Hockenheim. Here yes, last year, in July. It was important to test here. We've collected a lot of data but I think here is a new story today and we have to take the maximum out of free practice to be prepared for qualifying.

Q: There have been rumours about drivers such as Alexander Wurz, Jenson Button and Heinz-Harald Frentzen joining Toyota to replace Allan McNish. What's the truth?

AP: Well, at the moment we haven't taken any decision and I think we will take our decision around the end of August, around Spa Grand Prix. We concentrate on our priority, which is the car and improving the car and the team. This decision will be taken with Japan as well, but none of the names you've mentioned now have been in contact or even negotiating with us so there is no truth in those rumours. But rumours are part of Formula One, aren't they?

Q: So is the team generally happy with McNish?

AP: Yes, Allan is doing a reasonable job with us. It's the first year in Formula One for him. For sure it's not easy and he's also been unlucky. If you look at Silverstone, to stay on the grid at his home Grand Prix was not very nice and we are very sorry for that. Yes, Allan is doing a reasonable job with us and good technical feedback during tests, so at the moment there is no emergency.

Q: Pierre, I would suggest that amongst my colleagues the feeling is very much that Michelins work well in warm conditions and not necessarily in the wet. I'm sure you'd like me to say that isn't the case. Persuade me.

Pierre Dupasquier: In that kind of business, the only thing we have to do is go after the facts and not just try persuasion by some tricks in the corridors. I must say we have been pleased to find out at Silverstone in particular that after the Friday testing it was decent, we had a good surprise during the race when David Coulthard used the intermediates. I was shocked by that. I said 'this guy has guts' and he did a pretty good job. He was very fast at this particular time, but to find out this you had to concentrate not on the images, which were great, but on the lap-by-lap times. Every time in the wet it would change. I would say that for those who spent time concentrating on every lap they would find out that beside the red car from Jean (Todt) in front of me, we were pretty much in the pack of all the other cars in the field, which for us was quite a good surprise.

Q: But after the Nürburgring, where you took a radical tyre, have you since changed your policy a little bit?

PD: No, we readjust every time but some times we are a bit too conservative and sometimes we are a bit marginal. We began in Monte Carlo to try different tyres to be in a good position for qualifying. Then we kept the same pace and at the Nürburgring, if you recall what happened, we lost a lot of fast cars and finally Coulthard finished on the heels of Michael and technically, that was very satisfying for us at Nürburgring as it was at Silverstone.

Q: We know that you have two front running teams and your rivals have one. How do you see the advantages and the disadvantages of each course of action?

PD: Well, if we are right, I don't want our competitor doing the same. If we are wrong... One thing is objective. If you have one team you get the result of a car, with your tyres, with a driver, with the team and you just consider this result and it's very difficult, even with the current measurement which we are capable of doing on the car. It's very difficult to isolate it, the downforce, the traction control and the tyre performances, supposing the engine is a bit more easy to set and to compare with others. If we have several teams at a decent level which are comparable, then when something doesn't work, and then for example every day, every test session we have that kind of input. Sometimes, for some reason, one team or one car is just out of pace and if for our tyre manufacturers if one car, from one team, one decent team, is capable of doing, it means your tyres can do it. So it gives everybody an answer to the question, not only us. We don't want to have a umbrella behind our arses, that's not the point. The point is just to make sure that we understand what's going on and if you have several cars, you can do it. If you have one car only, you cannot do it. Fortunately, when you have the best car in field, you have champagne every weekend, that's fine, that's different, but it won't last for ever.

Jean Todt: He's ready for a good show, eh?

PD: Yes, I have better show than tyres, unfortunately. Is that what you mean?

Q: David, a good result at the last race. What sort of effect did that have on the team?

David Richards: Well, so often the case is that everyone is working exceptionally hard and actually doing a very good job but the outside world doesn't see it. It was just reassurance to everybody back at base that all the hard work has been worthwhile and they are on track. It just picked up a bit of the frustration so you will see a fairly cheerful bunch of people this weekend.

Q: What is the situation with Jacques Villeneuve? Is it true that you would like to keep him but perhaps at a different price?

DR: Well, obviously I'm not going to discuss the commercial relationship but I would like to keep him on the long term. Jacques and I have had discussions about this and I think he's also quite keen to stay on the long term as well. Clearly that will be an ongoing discussion between the two of us.

Q: So how important is the different price?

DR: Ah, that's an ongoing discussion between the two of us.

Q: Whereabouts do you see Olivier fitting in next year?

DR: Well, Olivier clearly has done a great job for the team and again he's here at his home event, we are looking for him to do a great job as well.

Q: But has he got a good chance to stay?

DR: Well that's part of the whole discussion we're having, with Jacques and how we move forward in the long term. I wouldn't want to commit myself now to anything definitive.

Q: Jean, everyone is saying that you're going to clinch here for you or clinch the championship in Germany for Michael. How important is the location? Would you purposely carry it over for Michael's sake?

Jean Todt: You know, purposely? We are not so smart. Let's say, we are very pleased with the way the season has got along so far. Each race is important. We know that for the first time since the beginning of the season Michael, and only Michael, is in a position to be champion. We feel it will be very difficult here because you need so many things to achieve that in this Grand Prix. But honestly, the important thing is not to lose it at the last one and we feel that we are in quite a strong position to try to achieve it before the last one.

Q: That's the most optimistic thing you've said so far this year!

JT: So you see, I am improving, eh?

Q: He's won here five times, he does have a fantastic record here.

JT: But you know, I don't like records because they are made to be broken so let's hope we have a good weekend and then we think about records much later. At the moment, I read every day record about Fangio. Let's wait a few years and we will speak about records if we can.

Q: You have done a huge amount in motor sport as a whole. There was a story recently about you perhaps taking over from Luca di Montezemolo at Ferrari. Is that something you would like to do?

JT: I don't like to use a big name, but if we are where we are, it is because we have a good team, very strong. I don't say dream team but it's almost a dream team if we can speak about dreams in our business. We have very strong partners, so all together we are blowing in the same direction, which is probably our strength. We are not the best, but probably we are all aiming in one direction, which makes speed and we don't want to change what we are. That's all. So from the top to the lowest level, I mean to answer about Luca di Montezemolo.

Q: But he has said he may leave the company...

JT: He did not say that. He said very clearly that it's one part of the story which is over after ten years. But life is made of different stories and hopefully we are going to start another story altogether.

Q: Tom, we haven't seen much of you today. Give us an update as to what's been going on?

Tom Walkinshaw: There's not really a lot to say. If I told you we didn't run because the drivers went so well at Silverstone after they had Friday off you wouldn't believe me, would you, so I won't tell you that. Basically, as we speak, there are still negotiations going on in London with investors and the team, and we were advised the best thing is to do very little today so that the consequences of anything happening on the track wouldn't interfere with the negotiations. It's as simple as that really.

Q: And are those negotiations with Morgan Grenfell?

TW: There are negotiations with Morgan Grenfell, yes, and with the investors who are coming in the team, yes, but they are not in contact with each other. It's through a third party in the middle.

Q: So are you hopeful of going out tomorrow?

TW: Yes, the cars will go out tomorrow, definitely.

Q: Can you just confirm that the engines have been paid for?

TW: Well, there was a lot of untrue comment in the press in England anyway, earlier in the week, that we hadn't paid for engines and so forth, and that's not the case. We are up to date with Cosworth and the reason that we are not running is because the management have taken a conscious decision on the advice we were given by the people who are negotiating the deal.

Q: Are you fairly hopeful it's going to turn out OK?

TW: I'm sure that in the end it will be OK. It's just a rather drawn-out process and it's a bit unfortunate it had to be done in the public glare, but anyway, it's there now so we just have to now work our way through it and get it completed.

Q: Tom, in one of the magazines there is a headline that says you are 'a man without a plan'. Is that really true, how do you feel when you read it, and have the problems with the team affected your other businesses?

TW: I normally don't read that magazine but you always find in life when you are having a difficult period all sorts of low-life come out and try to give you a kick. Formula One isn't any different to any other sort of business. Negative publicity isn't good for anyone but I think that in the fullness of time, when the proper full story of this comes out, I don't think we will have anything to be ashamed of. It is a case of now focusing on the priorities. The first priority is to get new investment in the team and fix that and after we have done that we will deal with all the other peripheral nonsense that has gone on around this deal.

Q: Mr Walkinshaw, how many groups of investors are involved and is Craig Pollock holding the pole right now?

TW: I don't know what he is holding at the moment. There are three different groups of investors and I think that is all I can tell you.

Q: Do you want all three to invest?

TW: I don't think all three can invest. There's only one team. I don't think we should be hogging the FIA press conference just on Arrows. There's a lot of other guys here and it is a bit disrespectful if you only have me answering questions on Arrows.

Q: Pierre, of course Michelin wants to win and you work with two top teams. But you have other teams that you want to give top priority to as well, so how do you balance working with two top teams?

PD: In Formula One, the cars are built under the rules and the rules are very straight, very tight, aerodynamics, engine, suspension, gearbox, transmission, everything, and tyres. So far we feel that when we come up with some ideas to improve the front end of Formula One, it has been an improvement for every Formula One team we work with. There is a little bit difference in balance or weight could happen, but everybody is committed to take what we have and to take advantage of it in order to perform as fast as possible. So far there is no conflict at all. Every time we have brought something new we have two tyres available and different strategies the way we can play with this is enough to give any team the opportunity to get the maximum from our product. Every time we come up with an improvement somewhere it has been perceived as an improvement for everybody, even though the car engineers have to maybe re-balance the car, but that is just taking advantage of an improvement, a new resource available.

Q: Ange, you said that none of the three drivers mentioned before have been in contact with Toyota but it seems that half of the drivers are in contact with Toyota. Can you tell us if you have any contract with any drivers other than Allan and Mika?

AP: The paddock is full of people working in Formula One so we are all in the same business and if, when you meet someone in the paddock and you shake hands then that is a contact then for sure we have contact with a lot of people.

Q: But more than that?

AP: None more than I have just said. In the morning, when we cross the turnstiles, we start to be in contact with a lot of people because we meet a lot of people in the paddock.

Q: A question for David in the same vein. Jenson (Button) has been talking to a lot of the teams it seems, has he been talking to you?

DR: I have known Jenson...he has been a pal of my son's since they were sort of 12 years old kart racing together, so I see Jenson quite regularly.

Q: I think he wanted to know about Formula One...

DR: Well, quite clearly this is not the environment where you actually disclose who you are talking to and who you are not talking to. My immediate priority is to maintain the relationship with Jacques and get his situation resolved fully for the long term.

Q: Ange, you have tested at many tracks but not all of them. When Toyota comes to a new track, how do you go about setting up?

AP: We have got experienced people in the team as well as a very experienced driver like Mika, and as you know now you work a lot with simulation and computers and software for circuits like Australia and Brazil it hasn't worked that bad, so we try to optimize the Friday free practice and Saturday morning to understand which direction we should follow for the Saturday afternoon qualifying, which is the peak of the weekend. We try to be as close as possible, but you have to do it with the tools you have and that is it, try to be as sharp as possible and benefit from the experience of the people you have in the team, like Gustav as well.

Q: David, how are the other teams affected by the financial difficulties of other teams, and will it affect Formula One on the long-term basis?

DR: Well, any uncertainty around Formula One and all the question marks hanging around have to affect us all. I dare say they affect the column inches you are given in newspapers at the end of the day as well. So, uncertainty is never any good for any business and the sooner we can clear this up and move forward in a sensible and structured way it will be better for everybody. The teams, journalists, the whole sport.

Q: Tom, you tested Sebastian Bourdais a few days ago. What is your opinion about this test?

TW: I have been watching Sebastian for a good couple of months, he drives for a good friend of mine, David Sears. I know David rates him very highly so we wanted to give him a run before the summer break. He did a good job, he was very professional, and we will run him again in September.

Q: And did you discuss it with other team principals?

TW: I didn't discuss it with other team principals. Everybody looks at different drivers and keeps their eye on different people. We have been watching him for the last few months and we wanted to give him a run and see how he performed. He did two days testing with us last week, as you know, and I think he did a very good job for his first time in a Formula One car.

Q: David, when you left Formula One last time you said you wouldn't come back except with the prospect of becoming a fully-fledged team owner. As a potential investor in a Formula One team, is now the right time or is it worth waiting until things go down even further?

DR: The good news is that all the parties feel very positively for the long term. There is nobody out there really preaching doom and gloom. If you look, the manufacturers are committing, they have turned around and said they would be like to be in the sport for a 12-year period. They have come along and said 'we want to be in for a seven and a five year period' and they are prepared to commit to it. We have got the teams who are obviously facing problems in the short term at the moment but if you generally look it is a cyclical nature.

Most sports are but Formula One probably more so than any and yes, we may have gone through a hiatus recently with an influx of cash and maybe we are at the bottom at the moment, but I don't see this lasting for very long, I am sure that a lot of common sense will prevail at the end of the day and we will bang heads together but it is not going to be done by one party or the other is my opinion, it is just going to be by just common sense. The teams are, fundamentally, where the future of this sport lies. We are going to be here. We are the ones that will stay the distance, and I think therefore that the solution will revolve around the teams. I am sure the manufacturers see that, I am sure Bernie sees that and I am sure the FIA see that, and that is where the future will be.

Q: David, when you had Colin McRae at Prodrive he swapped roles with Martin Brundle and Jean you have a background in rallying. What are your comments about the challenge Colin threw down to Michael the other day?

DR: I suspect it was a somewhat lighthearted challenge and I noticed that Michael said he would wait until he retired before he would race around in the forest. It would be an interesting thing but how you would ever get a fair and level playing field I don't really know. Colin acquitted himself very, very well when he got into a Formula One car a few years ago and I am quite certain Michael would do the same in a rally car.

JT: You know, I think it is two very different jobs and I am sure that Michael would be far behind any top rally driver in rallying and the same for any rally driver in Formula One. Saying that, you need experience and a lot of training, but I am sure that Michael will one day decide to do a rally and I can pretend to be his co-driver, so we shall see.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen , David Coulthard , Jacques Villeneuve , Allan McNish , Luca di Montezemolo , Alexander Wurz , Colin McRae , David Sears , David Richards , Jean Todt , Tom Walkinshaw
Teams Ferrari