Interview courtesy of and exclusive to BMW Motorsport. Visit their site
How have you been spending your time since the finale of the 2001
season in Japan?
I have been taking a lot of time off doing whatever I want to do and obviously with my new situation I have been relaxing at home and spending a lot of time with my wife and son.
Fitness is a big part of your life as an F1 driver - is this
something you have been concentrating on in particular considering that
you have not been able to be behind the wheel?
Well at the moment I have to do it every day and it is around three hours, which is fine. For some drivers, fitness is not particularly important but for me, I think that fitness is one of the most important things if you want to survive some races in Formula One to the best of your abilities.
We know, of course, that you not only got married at the end of the
season but your wife gave birth to your first child. What effect has
this had on you?
Well we will have to wait and see but at the moment I don't see it affecting my driving. If I feel any changes in this respect, I think I will stop racing! It is a new focus in my life but Formula One racing is still the most important thing for me and all my concentration is directed into that.
Is the testing ban a frustrating time for you?
Usually you would want to be back in the car but because of the special situation I am in at the moment, it is a very nice thing for me to have time to spend with my new family.
There is much talk of teams starting testing with last year's
cars. Is this something you see as happening and how ideal is this
The plan is to launch the new car at the end of January as usual and to use it from the first race onwards.
How else is a team able to improve the car during the testing ban
and how much input do you personally have in the procedure?
The main focus is to work on the FW24 and we are pretty happy with the results so far.
What are your expectations of the FW24? Do you think there is more
power to be gained from BMW?
I don't really worry about either side personally. I must say that BMW definitely have a good engine again - good enough to win races. We will find out if it is the best one. It is the same for the chassis. We have had a good car already this year on several circuits but the main focus is to build a car for next year which is competitive on every circuit and it looks like we have made a big step forward on the aerodynamic side.
Is it fair to say that the 2002 battle will be between yourselves
and Ferrari or do you see the likes of McLaren and even Renault being a
I don't know about Renault. They did a good job for the last few races but I don't think they will be able to compete regularly with the top three but we will see. The main focus for us is Ferrari next year and we will see how McLaren works.
As a front running driver, is it frustrating for you that there will
be 24 cars on the grid next season?
No. Formula One has changed in this respect as well. All of the drivers are respected a lot better than they ever were and I am not concentrating now about trying to get past back markers. If we want to stay out front it is one of the smallest problems to pass the back markers. I am sure that Toyota are going to have a very difficult time but the way they do things I am sure that they will be one of the top teams one day but we will have to see how long it takes.
Towards the end of the season we saw Juan Pablo edging closer to
you. Is this something that worries you or something positive to lift
you to higher levels of performance?
Well it is not a concern. I will try my best for next year and we will see how good it is. You can't change it in any way and we have two good drivers which is a good position for the team and we will see how it goes.
Do you think you have a realistic chance of winning the drivers'
title in 2002?
It will be a hard battle between Juan Pablo and myself as we have seen over the last few races and at the end of the season we will see who is the winner. I will obviously try to win the drivers' title but it is too early really to say yet. Anything can happen. If drivers decide to park in the back of our cars again, it will be difficult!
Safety changes to Albert Park have just been approved with smaller
gaps in the fencing to protect marshals. What other changes on what
other circuits would you most like to see?
It is a difficult question. Obviously I do not have every circuit in front of me at the moment. In general there are some circuits I would like to see further changes at. One of them is Monaco, which is very nice to drive but on the other hand is far too dangerous these days. But a big part of this is the FIA trying very hard to do everything they can.
What do you make of F1 Racing going to Moscow?
I have never been to Moscow apart to land and refuel there but yes I would be pretty excited to race there and to see different people.
How much is F1 a young person's sport now?
Formula One has changed and will change even more. One of the reasons is that people do start a lot earlier than they ever did before and they are cheaper than the older drivers as well so that's why it will change even more in the future.
What do you think of the Motor Show, the fans and all the cars that
It is always great to see people coming to see us here and it is always a big motivation for what we are doing. I think the 7 series with the I-drive is great. I have driven one 7 series already and I get my new one next week. I haven't really had too much chance to drive it yet though.