German GP Thursday press conference

Drivers: Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Ralf Schumacher (Williams) Team personnel: Ove Andersson (Toyota) Norbert Haug (Mercedes) Dr. Mario Thiessen (BMW) Q: I think you went to the BMW factory yesterday. What's it like...

Drivers:
Mika Hakkinen (McLaren)
Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
Ralf Schumacher (Williams)

Team personnel:
Ove Andersson (Toyota)
Norbert Haug (Mercedes)
Dr. Mario Thiessen (BMW)

Q: I think you went to the BMW factory yesterday. What's it like to feel that you have the support of all those people behind you?

Ralf SCHUMACHER: It was great, actually. Yesterday I saw more than 30,000 in two factories and that was just an amazing feeling.

Q: What about this race?

RS: I hope that it's going to be better than the last race was or appeared to be and I'm pretty sure it will be. This circuit suits us a little bit better. The temperatures are there, at the moment, at least and I hope that it doesn't rain again, because that would be a little problem for us as it has proved to be at the previous races, but it should be more promising.

Q: What's your feeling about Heinz-Harald's situation?

RS: I feel sorry for Heinz, the way it's happened, but we don't know the reasons for it. In previous years I've had problems with this team and it appears to happen sometimes, and if people just don't want to work together any more, I think it's the best way, it's best to decide to stop working with each other because it can't help one of them. I heard a rumour that Heinz is going to be with us again next year in a different team and if that's the case, then I'm sure it's a better option for him anyway.

Q: Do you think there will be a reaction against Eddie this weekend?

RS: I don't know. To be fair with Eddie as well, he has big pressure on him. He has big sponsors, he has to prove that he's a good team to stay with so he's under pressure to deliver so one has to understand his decisions as well.

Q: Mika, two weeks a great victory, can you do it again here, what's required?

Mika HAKKINEN: The idea, of course, is to come here to win the Grand Prix, the whole team, me and David, but I suppose all the other drivers have more or less the same thinking, the same idea but obviously it was difficult at Silverstone and I believe it's going to be even harder here, to do the same as we did there.

Q: What is really needed, have there been any modifications since the last race?

MH: Let's say that we had quite a successful test in Monza. Obviously we were happy with our performance so I'm confident of coming here with a car which is quick. Whether it's going to be quick enough I don't know.

Q: Michael, we saw playing football on television last night. Presumably you are recovered from your Monza accident. What happened?

Michael SCHUMACHER: Yes, I had a stiff neck and my bum was a bit sore but it's recovered as you saw yesterday.

Q: Are you satisfied why the accident happened - and what did?

MS: It's pretty straightforward, a broken floor. That doesn't deliver much down-force and causes a little instability in braking.

Q: You've never won with Ferrari here, or been on pole with them. Is it a bit of a bogey race, one that things never quite go right?

MS: I think in previous years it's been the characteristics of the circuit which didn't suit our car. I did win with Benetton. I don't think it's a particular circuit which I have a problem with but we simply need the car to deliver the performance. I don't know whether it was last year or the year before when we even ninth in qualifying and that shows how much that kind of circuit and Monza can be a problem, even though we are competitive on other types of circuit.

Q: Are you a bit more confident with it this time?

MS: Yeah, we have a car which is competitive on all sorts of circuits and circumstances, in the usual situations, and I look forward to this again, but now we have to prove it.

Q: Going to back to the football again; after all the Grands Prix that you've driven, the wins, the titles, which do you get more pleasure out of: driving a racing car or playing football?

MS: Put it this way, it's an unfair comparison because I play football maybe five times a year but I drive I don't know how many times a year, so naturally I'm a racer, so when I am fighting on the circuit that's what I enjoy certainly much more than anything else. But if you ask me what do you prefer, testing or playing football, I would probably say football, but it always depends what is going on at the moment.

Q: We mentioned Monza a moment ago; when you have high speed circuits, and there are a number in the middle of the season, do you make a mental adjustment that you're coming to faster circuits and that when they bite, they bite hard?

MS: No, you don't think that way, you don't think that you're going to have an accident. You don't think that your floor is going to break, that your brakes are going to fail or whatever, because if you look at Monte Carlo, even though it's a very slow circuit it can be very bad too. You feel safe because you trust in the machine that you have and you know that you drive a car to the limit but not over the limit and that's what you think about.

Q: What's your reaction to Heinz-Harald Frentzen leaving Jordan?

MS: I did make some statements already yesterday about this and similarly to Ralf, I certainly feel very sorry for Heinz-Harald for what has happened. As he mentioned, he had some similar problems, obviously, as they were going on, I was informed about them and it's not surprising that this does happen but it's a big shame, because they had a good time together in 1999 and it means that he as a driver can't be too bad. If times are difficult, then maybe you should stick to your driver as well. I'm certainly not very happy to see what's happened to Heinz-Harald. On the other hand, he might get a better opportunity now.

Q: Norbert, what sort of confidence level does Mercedes have after Silverstone?

Norbert HAUG: I have to say that we've done quite a good job so far this year in the races and I think we were very reliable. We had a problem in Canada and I think it's well known what happened there. Apart from that, I have to say that our engine guys are doing a good job. We have to see whether we are strong enough, but we've prepared ourselves in a very thorough manner. We tested a lot in Monza, did a lot of long runs in Stuttgart on the dyno and so we should be quite well prepared but we will have to see whether this influences the outcome of the race.

Q: Do you feel that you are getting back up to the level that you've been at in the past?

NH: I think you have to be very careful in drawing the right conclusions as to what has happened this year. I think it's quite obvious that if you're not taking part in a race like we chose to do quite often. We did not volunteer to do so, but in ten races we didn't start correctly five times so that was a problem, but if you look at our race speeds, we weren't too bad, and if you look at the fact that sometimes you get it right and sometimes you just do not get it right - we didn't get it right at the Nürburgring, for instance, but we definitely got it right at Silverstone - and I think Ferrari was a little bit handicapped at Silverstone because they probably didn't get the best out of the car, and that what's happening in a competitive formula. I'm very sure that Jean Todt, for instance, or Mario Theissen explained these issues in the same way, because we guys know how these things happen and we know that it is a competitive formula. At the same time, well, all the guys who aren't performing very well are heavily criticised but things can change quickly. We saw the Nürburgring, we saw Magny-Cours afterwards and then we saw Silverstone and this, here, Hockenheim, is a completely new ball-game again. It is a different race track from all the others that we've seen before, so we have to wait and see.

Q: Is it more important to win at Hockenheim or Nürburgring?

NH: First of all, I think the most important thing is that you can score the same amount of points on every race track. This race track is very close to Stuttgart, our home base, so basically it's our home circuit in terms of distance. Stuttgart is just 100 kilometres away, Nürburgring is a historic place, it's where the Silver Arrows (legend) started in the thirties, but both races are very important. We have a lot of supporters here, we obviously have a lot of staff people coming from our companies, various factories and so yes, it is an important race.

Q: Ove Andersson welcome. First of all I think there's been a fair amount of speculation on all sorts of drivers potentially joining your team next year - what is the situation at this stage?

Ove ANDERSSON: As a matter of fact we have been connected to about 16 drivers in the press until now, which I think is quite unique. I can only reconfirm what I said when we announced the car that we have Mika Salo as one of the drivers and as far as we're concerned Alan McNish is doing a good job for us now and, if this continues, I see no reason to change.

Q: So Salo is confirmed but McNish isn't yet?

OA: Principally we have a very good co-operation and he will stay in the team if our co-operation continues on the same level. I would say he's confirmed, yes.

Q: At the end of this year there's a ban on testing - to what extent does that apply to you?

OE: Well it's very clear that the FIA regulations apply to us the year we enter the world championship and this is from January 1st next year. I have consulted the FIA concerning this matter in November last year and I got it confirmed that according to the sporting regulations in paragraph 65 we can test until the end of this year. After that, when we are entering the championship, obviously we have to follow the rules for the participating teams so we made our plans based on that situation and if these rules are changed we will be in big trouble. On the other hand people are saying we will gain an unfair advantage on the other teams if we can test all the two months. I cannot agree with that t all, we are a new team, we have not so far participated in any race whatsoever, we are doing some testing and from that point of view all the other teams have been racing for years and years and years. They did 17 races this year so I can't see the unfair view on this. Besides that maybe some of our suppliers could have a problem, like Michelin, they could perhaps use this time when they are working with us, but already we have discussed this and they are ready to guarantee to the other teams that they will only supply us with control tyres. They will guarantee that they will not use this. From that point of view I can't see any unfair advantage at all, we have to take every opportunity to be able to at least qualify and since our plans were made according to the information from the FIA in November last year.

Q: Mario, what are the technical demands at this circuit?

Mario THIESSEN: In fact this is the most demanding track for the engine. This is the reason for us to take the Hockenheim circuit as the reference for endurance testing on the dyno in Munich. It's most demanding because we have the long forest straights where the engine has to he higher revving in top gear for quite a long period - not just as long as in Indy but overall the engine spends a longer time in top gear at higher revs, full throttle, and this is the most demanding thing the engine has to do.

Q: How long is it at full throttle?

MT: The first straight is about 16 seconds, the other three are between ten and 15. So overall it comes close to 50 seconds at full throttle and quite a part of it in top gear and at high revs. I would say it comes between 60 and 70 per cent of the lap in the dry.

Q: So what's the confidence level of BMW as they come here?

MT: Obviously the track should suit us very well although the Motodrome, the infield, is quite different from the straights in the forest but I hope we find the right combination to be quick. This should put us into a good position here.

Q: How do you feel about your rivals at Mercedes - do you have a stronger engine?

MT: It's not just the engine that counts, it's four factors: the engine, the car, the tyres and the driver and only if you get everything right do you have a chance to win. For me there are three teams at the moment who can win here, and I'm happy to see that our team is one of these three.

Q: Mario, I gather that this is the most demanding track but not necessarily the highest for fuel consumption - is that the case?

MT: It's not necessarily the highest fuel consumption but I don't know where we have the highest fuel consumption per kilometre because normally we count fuel consumption per lap. We have longer laps here and probably it is the highest fuel consumption per lap.

Q: To the drivers - are you looking forward to the US Grand Prix, what did you think of the track, of the ambience and of racing at Indy?

MH: Obviously considering it was the first time there I think the organisation of the race was really fine. It was a great event, there was lots of space for everybody, it was an interesting circuit to drive - I'd never experienced an oval track - it was fun. At first I thought it would be mega quick but after the first laps I thought it was a pretty great circuit to drive.

RS: The circuit was reasonably nice. I was surprised by the amount of attention we got on the weekend itself, but I was as well surprised because the day after I was in San Francisco and nobody even knew we were driving in America. So it's been a bit difficult, I think if we went to race in China or wherever we would get more attention, it still has been a bit too early for the Americans to realise what Formula 1 is and you can't expect it after one race but I hope it will happen soon.

Q: Ralf, suppose on Sunday you were running a different strategy to your team-mate. Suppose he were faster than you under those circumstances, would you let him past?

RS: I depends on the circumstance. In Silverstone we cleared that matter, it was not a request it was a question but at the wrong time and it was discussed afterwards. But if there was a race like Magny-Cours when I had a tyre problem with my second set I wouldn't have a problem. If one driver's quicker than the other for whatever reason I think we shouldn't stop ourselves.

Q: Ralf, you are very relaxed today - is it because you are confident in your car after the Monza test?

RS: I'm relaxed - why not? It's a nice, sunny day why shouldn't I relax? We all of us expect a lot from this weekend but if it doesn't happen well, there's always the next race.

Q: Mario and Norbert, have you prepared a gift on the dynos for this home Grand Prix?

MT: No, it would be too much effort for us because now we have five home Grands Prix: Nürburgring, Hockenheim, Spa because most of the drivers are quite close at home, Silverstone of course because of Williams and recently it is Austria too because some people have moved there. We cannot afford to give them gifts at all the Grands Prix!

NH: At our own Grand Prix the team management get the gifts from the drivers!

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Ralf Schumacher , Michael Schumacher , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Mika Hakkinen , Mika Salo , Norbert Haug , Jean Todt , Mario Theissen
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , Jordan