Japanese GP Thursday press conference

Drivers: Jean Alesi (Jordan) Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) David Coulthard (Mclaren) Team Personnel: Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone) Kazutoshi Nishizawa (Honda) Q: Mr Yasukawa, how important is it to Bridgestone to have a Japanese driver,...

Drivers: Jean Alesi (Jordan) Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) David Coulthard (Mclaren)

Team Personnel: Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone) Kazutoshi Nishizawa (Honda)

Q: Mr Yasukawa, how important is it to Bridgestone to have a Japanese driver, now that Takuma Sato has signed for one of your teams?

<B>Hiroshi YASUKAWA: Well, actually we used to have Japanese Formula One drivers, but we don't have one currently. So we are very pleased and very surprised that we have one again. I think it's very good for the Japanese market. We used to have lots of spectators but now honestly, it's been going down a bit, but next year Toyota is coming, Sato is coming and maybe everybody else is coming and interest is back for Formula One.

Q: How do you feel that you've done against Michelin this year, 12 wins for Bridgestone against four for Michelin?

HY: I'm very pleased. I think we've done a very competition. Our people, everybody very happy, and also many people; I would like to say thank you very much to all media for talking about tyres.

Q: Did you think they would get as many as four wins?

HY: Actually, this competition isn't only about tyres - mainly drivers, teams, so tyres are just a part of racing. I'm very pleased.

Q: We've seen lap times coming down a lot this year in terms of tyres. Can you see them coming down again next year and what do you think the FIA will do about it if they do come down?

HY: I think tyre regulations should remain as this year, because if they're always going to change, it's bad for us and also bad for the teams and also our competitors. I think it's better to stay with the same regulations as this year for a few years.

I don't know if the times will come down again next year.

Q: Mr Nishizawa, the same question for you about Sato - how important is it for Honda to have a Japanese driver?

Kazutoshi NISHIZAWA: First of all, I would like to congratulate Sato as first Japanese driver to win Formula Three championship overseas. He's also to be congratulated for finding his way into Formula One. So we at Honda are particularly happy because he's a graduate of Honda's racing academy so we hope that more will follow.

We are very happy. I think he's a very talented driver.

Q: Now that one of your drivers has joined with Jordan, what will be the engine supply policy next year between Jordan and BAR?

KN: They equal status, so there won't be any difference.

Q: Can you tell us whether you have a 'Suzuka Special' specification engine this year and what can you tell us about it?

KN: Yes. We brought a different specification engine for this race. We made a reasonable step so I hope it helps our teams this weekend. Not a little step, a reasonable step.

Q: What stage is the new engine, and how important it would have been to run it before the testing ban?

KN: Regarding the new engine, at present we are continuing with the dyno testing programme and everything is on schedule. I don't think it's so important (to track test the engine) because so many things can be done with modern dynos. If we can do a track test, it would be helpful but it's not so important, we can do many things on the dynos.

Q: Rubens. How is fatherhood?

B<>Rubens BARRICHELLO: It's great. It put me up to getting used to the Japanese time very well, because I couldn't sleep very well at night, but it's great. It's the best time of my life. After Indianapolis, I just went straight to Brazil and got there, he was already awake. Next week I have to be at the Ferrari celebration at Monza but I will go back to Brazil and then I will come back to Europe and then I will go back to Brazil again. I think it's worth it.

Q: Second place is looking pretty tough this weekend, isn't it?

RB: I've always said that I think second is better than third and third is better than fourth. At the end of the day, we're fighting for second place which is not I think, the best thing in the world, but I think if you look at the races separately, it went quite well. I had a really big chance of winning in Monza, another big chance of winning in Indianapolis and if it wasn't for that, even if I didn't win Indianapolis, I should have been on the same points as David and then we would decide here. I think that after the team won the championship with Michael, it has been proved that with a little bit of help and a little bit more attention I can do the job. I'm happy for that I think that the last couple of races have been quite good. At the end of the day, I have to win the race and David has to finish fifth (or lower). It's a hard task. I don't wish him bad at all. The championship has been decided in the middle of the races, in the middle of the championship. It's not at the last race. It's a bit of luck or a little bit of bad luck. It's just that. It's not going to make me the happiest man in the world, but it's not going to make me different at all. I'm going to be fighting to win for sure and at the end, we're going to see.

Q: You said that Ferrari has been good over the past couple of races, but they've been beaten in the last two races, they've lost two races in succession. You don't feel that there has been a little relaxing of effort since they won the championship?

RB: No, not at all. If you think that after they won the championship they won with Michael in Spa and I could easily say that we could have won the last two races with myself. I quite think that that's the way it should have been. Indianapolis we could say that before, when I got to 2.3s behind Mika, the engine started to give up a little bit and we continued to do the same lap times, we could argue that overtaking was going to be different matter, it was going to be difficult. But Monza for sure, if it wasn't for the pit stop we should have won it. I don't think it's any lack of effort.

And differently to what people think, I don't think Michael is sleeping. He doesn't have bad days at all. Everything that has been going through America, with his state of mind and everything, I don't think he's at all sleeping. I just think that the team gave me a little bit more support, by just saying some things, it just improved, just motivation, just get better and we know, there's the chance to win.

Q: Jean, 200 Grands Prix and now apparently you're going to retire. Is that correct?

Jean ALESI: Yes, it's correct. I finish the season and then I will do something else. At the moment I don't know exactly what I'm going to do. I'm talking seriously with Eddie Jordan. We have some plans together. It's time to stop and even if it's what I love most in my life - it's motor racing - after 200 Grands Prix you need to give the place to the young drivers and I'm glad Honda is happy to have the Japanese Formula Three champion driving for them next year.

Q: But Jean, we all thought you were going to go on for every. You still have all the spirit, the determination...

JA: Yes, I mean when you love something you never think about stopping and we have to be realistic. There is a start, there is an end. Sunday night is going to be the end of my Formula One life as a driver, as a fighter. I have so many things to say, it's very difficult to explain everything in such a short time. In one sentence, I would like to say that I have loved everything, the people who I work with on the good and bad moments, because it cannot be flat; that's why life is interesting. Driving was exciting as well. I've been very sad and I'm still thinking about the drivers we lost, Ratzenberger and Senna in Imola in '94 but the rest was always very exciting.

Q: Are you seriously not going to drive again? They say you have some CART contacts...

JA: I will not stay home even if I love Kumiko and the children as well, but I won't stay home all the time. I will do something. We discussed with Jordan for the latest decision on Sunday last week and since then I haven't really decided what to do.

Q: David, is this a good one for you? You've been third on the grid for the last three years, and your best result are two thirds...

David COULTHARD: Quite clearly I've never won here. I've never been particularly strong on the circuit, but it's not that I don't enjoy the track. I enjoy the challenge of it, it's quite a technical circuit, quite narrow. Certainly the high speed nature and finding the line make it a little more tricky than some of the other circuits we race at. I look forward to coming here. I've watched the videos from the last couple of years, and there's a smile on your face when you think of some of the corners here, and obviously we want to try and finish the season with a good result.

Q: Looking forward to next year, can you see your role changing with a less experienced team-mate?

DC: I think inevitably I think I will have the experience of 'this is what we did last year, this is what we did the year before. Remember when we tried this.' Kimi won't have that knowledge but I think that at the end of the day it comes down to working with the car that you're given that year and every car always changes, always has different characteristics so it will be a new car to both of us, a new engine to both of us. You just have to go out and do your job. Whenever we're out there chasing a lap time, experience at that time doesn't probably make a big difference but it's when you're preparing for the race that it does and thinking about the season ahead it maybe helps a little bit.

Q: This time next year, you will be heading into a load more testing; what do you think about the relaxation of the test ban?

DC: I didn't know anything about it! It's the same for everyone, so you just get on with it. I think I've done most of the tests over the last few years anyway and it's only in the last two or three seasons that we haven't had November testing. There's always been promotions and training. I don't know what you all do when you have your time away from Grand Prix racing but we're still doing things. In actual fact, if you think about it, driving the car is what we love to do. All the promotions and training and things is part of what we get paid for, so it would be nice if we are in the car rather than having to do other things.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: Jean, we're very sad to see you go. If you had your time again, would have taken that Williams drive for '91 or was the pleasure of being a Ferrari driver worth it to you?

JA: First of all, you know when I started in Formula One, I wasn't thinking about it as a plan. You work very hard to win. You try to win. I won Formula Three, then Formula 3000 championship and then there is some possibilities. It's like a game. When I signed for Ferrari, Ferrari was going to win the World Championship. It's like when you go to Lotto, you have the numbers, you play and when the numbers are out, maybe you think it's a shame I didn't put the right numbers. I have to say that I didn't sign with them with a lot of impulse that people thought at the time, I did it with a true belief and tried my best with what I had, until the end of each contract I had, as long as it was a fair contract. I pushed very hard.

Q: David, you know Mika better than most of us. Do you think he will come back after a year off, and how difficult will it be for any driver to take a year off, physically and mentally, and then come back?

DC: I don't really know the second one, of course, and I'm not too sure about the first one either. It's very difficult to try and think what another driver is going to do. He's obviously taken the decision that the pleasure he derives from being involved in Formula One isn't enough to keep going and being away from it for a year - I guess he will find out at some point whether he has the hunger to come back but I think it's quite clear there will be opportunities there for him if he wants to come back. He's young enough, so he can probably maintain his fitness, so it shouldn't really be a problem if he decides to.

Q: Can you see yourself, someway down the road, taking a sabbatical as well?

DC: No, I don't think so. I think for me, the moment I decide I don't want to be involved that will be it. But like any passionate relationship you have with anything, once that love has gone, it's very difficult to re-kindle it - for me.

Q: Jean, would you please remember for us the best and worst moments of your career?

JA: The best one was when I signed for Ferrari and the worst was obviously, when I explained to everyone, talking about the Imola race when we the two drivers died in accidents.

Q: Rubens. You said that Michael doesn't go to sleep, but at Indianapolis he seemed to go to sleep at the time that you were having trouble with your second set of tyres. My question is that you haven't seemed happy about pulling over for Michael in the past, how do you feel about him moving aside for you here in the fight with David? Have you discussed it with Michael, or do you intend to do so?

RB: We never did discuss and we never actually said anything before the race if it was the case. The thing was decided by radio during the race. First I hope I don't have to use him to help me. I had a problem in the Spa race, so his rhythm was much faster. I didn't like the set up with the car and there was a problem it. So he won and I didn't have a chance to do that. The other two races I think I've done by myself. He let me past in Indianapolis because I was on a two stop and he was on a one stop so we had to help each other then. It's a bad thing to let somebody by. At the end of the day, you work for a team and you just have to agree with so many things that probably you wouldn't like to. Sometimes it's fair, sometimes it's not. I hope he doesn't have to let me by. I hope things will be different.

Q: Jean, are you thinking of doing CART, and I would like to ask the other two drivers to pay tribute to Jean?

JA: As I explained, on Sunday I knew what I was going to do next year, not to do in Jordan team, but I'm not excluding anything. I'm just waiting to see what is going to happen now, what is interesting for me. I can't say anything clearly because it's going to be wrong anyway. I'm not worried about doing something different as long as it's with wheels and a steering wheel.

RB: This is not because he's because beside me but I think Jean is very very fair on the track. He's one of the nicest guys on the track. If he's being lapped - DC talking to Rubens: There's still one race to go - you can change that, but he's very fair on the track, but probably my best memory is the first time that I finished second, my really first time, was '95 Canada when he won his first race, so we have a fantastic podium. That's my best memory with Jean.

DC: When Jean was saying his few words, I probably felt the same as any of you have been doing this for a long time. You feel like putting your head back to hold back the tears, because it's a shame in a way that he's stopping, because of the passion that he has for the sport. He is undoubtedly a unique character in Formula One, of which there is no one like Jean. Stop me if I'm wrong but surely we all feel that loss for sport.

I remember him coming to me and telling me I was the most incorrect driver he's ever raced against! Maybe at that time I was, I don't know. It was a good battle, at Imola in '95. I think what Rubens said was absolutely correct, he's very fair to the point of hindering his own lap time when he's been in situations when the car hasn't been up to his standard and a lot of the younger guys could learn something from that. I think we're all sad that he's stopping.

Q: Jean, you're leaving but why? Is it your heart or a matter of circumstances?

JA: Formula One is obviously changing slowly and you need to accept it, especially when you love the sport. After 200 races, it's not difficult to understand how our sport changes and I understand it's time for me to stop. Sometimes it's not a question of ability but in this business you can wait until the moment you can't drive any more because you really look ridiculous, so I will enjoy my race from tomorrow to Sunday. I will try, because I'm not young any more, but I will try to drive as I was driving in '89 for the last race, but it's time to stop.

Q: But you don't look ridiculous... When did you decide that Jean?

JA: You know when I joined the Jordan team that I knew that I had the chance not to drive next year, but I decided to take the risk anyway, because I understood that it was a very good opportunity for me to finish on the best way as possible and actually that's what's happened. In the four races, the whole team has made me enjoy a lot what I was going to lose a little bit the good feeling, the way to drive and the way to share the results with the team.

Q: What will you miss most about Formula One, and what or who will you miss least?

JA: Because it's my last press conference, I'm to answer everything! I don't believe that there exists one job in the world where everything is good and there is some bad and good sides. But when you drive with passion, when you have the chance to be a driver in Formula One and when you fight and you drive with your abilities, it's fantastic. There are so many things that you don't like but they go together. I don't think it's fair to say I don't like that, I don't like that. The whole thing together has been OK, a very good balance.

Q: Could you name a few of the people who you consider to be most helpful to your career since you started?

JA: For sure, I was very surprised in the first race that I drove because nobody knows anything about the difficulties of young drivers getting into Formula One at the time, because it was 12 or 13 years ago. It may be different now, but at the time I was surprised nobody knew from where I was coming and how difficult it was to find the budget so if I say, now, Ken Tyrrell, Frank Williams or Mr Montezemolo, it's wrong because there were so many people who helped me for $1000 and these thousands dollars helped you get the chance to continue with the difficult moments which is karting, Formula Three or Formula 3000. These people are very important, because when you're in Formula One is very easy.

Q: Jean, do you think that in the next years, people will think of you as a sort of Roberto Baggio (Ed's note: Italian footballer) who is much more loved when he's out of competition?

JA: It's very important to enjoy when you're really doing your sport. Then when people think like that it's really too late.

Q: Jean, of all the cars that you drove, was there one that was a favourite?

JA: The first one, for sure, the Tyrrell was really amazing. I so enjoyed driving it, even last time at Goodwood.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Takuma Sato , Rubens Barrichello , Jean Alesi , David Coulthard , Eddie Jordan , Frank Williams , Hiroshi Yasukawa
Teams Ferrari , Williams , Jordan