Spanish GP: Friday press conference

Present: Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) David Coulthard (McLaren) Ralph Firman (Jordan) Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) Justin Wilson (Minardi) Q: To you all, the FIA have just announced that traction control is not going to be banned in 2004, but...

Present:
Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari)
David Coulthard (McLaren)
Ralph Firman (Jordan)
Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams)
Justin Wilson (Minardi)

Q: To you all, the FIA have just announced that traction control is not going to be banned in 2004, but launch control and fully automatic gearboxes will be. Could I have a reaction from you?

David Coulthard: It makes bugger-all difference. Don't think that it's different to pull the paddle, so whether it's done automatically or the driver does it... The only thing it does do is maybe if the driver makes a little mistake and is distracted then he might shift early or late and lose a bit of straight-line speed, so it could have some influence on the ability to race.

But I think traction control being left is generally - if you listen to the drivers - we all agree that there are some really good safety issues with running TC (traction control). And what happens is, with traction control, you just drive the car harder on entries to the mid-corner. There's a thing with a few ex-Grand Prix drivers where they feel that it should be removed because a fundamental part of driving is obviously control and your right foot, but you still have an influence over how the performance of your car is even with TC because it's not as simple as getting to the apex and going to full power. If you do that and use more traction control because you've gone on the power too early, then you cut cylinders which affect your acceleration down the next straight.

You use more TC, the barrels are open, the fuel's going in, you use more fuel, so there are still certain skills that we are all aware of as drivers that ex-drivers and maybe people who haven't driven aren't aware of, so taking it away isn't fundamentally going to change who is at the front, and there's still a lot of skill involved in trying to get the maximum out of TC as it sits.

Rubens Barrichello: I would like to get a bit more information about it. It's better to wait and check. I've been quite focused on setting up the car and I haven't had a chance to see that. I think the drivers should be involved in that decision in a way. The drivers should get involved in all the decisions because we are the ones who drive so I wouldn't mind getting a little bit earlier to some place and saying yes or no for something that we feel like.

Juan Pablo Montoya: I knew about it this morning or last night, I think, somebody mentioned it. It's the same for everybody. It's a good thing, I think, that the electronics are still there because you're never going to have the question 'are they cheating, what are they doing?' That way, everybody's got full electronic things but to use the clutch at the start, I think, is a good thing because there's a chance for mistakes. Now it's all up to the car, not up to the driver. Paddle shift doesn't make any difference.

Ralph Firman: Very similar to Juan, really. I think off the start would be good to maybe have a clutch start, maybe more opportunity to overtake or be overtaken, one or the other. But the paddle shift doesn't make any difference, just pulling or pushing a lever.

Justin Wilson: No further comment really. It's all been said already. We've been making manual starts since the start of the season so for us it won't make any difference.

Q: Justin and Ralph, what about your initial feelings about Formula One, after four races now?

JW: Obviously it's fantastic to be one of the drivers on the grid. It's been a lot of hard work to get here but we've just got to keep pushing forward, trying to improve. I wasn't totally happy with qualifying today so I will try and focus on tomorrow and improve that.

RF: I'm obviously delighted to be here. Obviously Eddie gave me the chance this year which is great. The deal was done very very late so there's been only a handful of testing days this year and most of those have been hampered by rain as well. But I've had a good run so far. I feel I've been improving all the time. I've been a little bit unlucky in the first few races; in three of them I think we've had suspension failures or an engine problem last weekend and in Malaysia I had a good race and got to the end. I think today I'm only 0.3s off Giancarlo which is good so I'm improving all the time. I feel every weekend I gain another tenth, but maybe today is the first time that I've shown how quickly I've gone in qualifying, anyway.

Q: In fact you had a conventional test last week, didn't you?

RF: Yes, the first test since the start of the season. The first day was good and then unfortunately it rained on the second day, but we did find a couple of things on the car, even though we had a lot more things to test on the second day which have helped myself and it was nice to have a test day away from a race meeting. When you're at a race meeting, you're always chasing times and when you go to a normal test you can concentrate more on doing your own thing and not, obviously, chasing times.

That's another thing; because of lack of testing, now I'm doing everything in the public eye whereas lots of other people have had days and days of testing and been able to get all their mistakes out of the way in pre-season testing. But I haven't had that opportunity. But the team's been great and I'm working well with Dominic and Gary and going forward. It's working very well.

Q: Justin, how's the financing going? Are you almost up to target?

JW: Yeah, we've had a tremendous response and we're not far off the target now. We're up to one million and fifty thousand pounds as of last week. It's quite an amazing feeling to have that many people supporting you and wanting to be involved in a driver. It's been great.

Q: Are you feeling better here, that this is one of the circuits that you know?

JW: Yeah, we've been going quite well today. Unfortunately qualifying didn't go as well but in the test it was going good. I'm happier with the car from Imola. And like Ralph says, he's had a test day now to get used to things and settle in and as of yet, we haven't had one test day. We did the shakedown at the start of the season, just before Melbourne and that's it. It's just every other weekend drive the car, so all the time I'm feeling more and more comfortable, happy with the surroundings and able to find a bit more in the car.

Q: David, how do you feel about qualifying ninth today?

DC: Well, naturally disappointed not to be closer to the front but the way the system is, to handicap those who are further up in the championship, everyone would agree the conditions were a little more dusty at the start after the Seats were out there running. Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful lap. A couple of small mistakes that cost some time but there wasn't much more that could be done in those conditions.

Q: How do you feel about the new car, are you pushing for that?

DC: I don't think anyone in the team is not pushing to have the new car out and the sooner we can get that on track, because we believe it will be a quicker car, then the better the position we'll be in to continue winning Grands Prix. When you're waiting for something, it always seems to take longer but everyone's working as hard as they can.

Q: Got any idea when you might see it?

DC: Well, we obviously have some ideas but there's no point in giving out a day because it may be earlier, it may be later. It just depends when it all comes together. It's a bit like a natural birth. You know, you have an idea when it's going to pop out but unless you can induce it, which you can't do with a Grand Prix car, it's just a case of when all the parts come together.

Q: You've got your new car, Rubens, how do you feel about it in race situation now?

RB: Race situation, that's still to be discovered. It's something that we don't know. We've been putting in some mileage last week, finding out a little bit on the set-up and everything because the car got every piece not long time ago. It's been ready probably a month and a bit ago and then we decided not to take it to Imola so I really only had a chance to put it on and see the set-up just last week. But I'm confident. It's definitely a better car, they've done a fantastic job and everything and I'm quite happy.

Q: How did it go today; there was some suggestion you were in the spare car?

RB: I drove the T-car. There was a small problem with my car and it was only very late that they decided that my car wasn't going to be ready, so I jumped into the T-car and there was a small confusion on the position of the pedals, they way I drive and the way Michael drives and when I got in the pedals were completely different. There was a time that I thought I wouldn't go out because there was a problem so for me it was a relief to put in a lap because even though today is nothing, it was actually quite fun to go out. I probably had five seconds to sit in the car and relax and go. So it was OK, the car feels good.

Q: Juan Pablo, 14th today what was the problem?

JPM: Loads of oversteer. You know, since we started today I had a lot of oversteer and no stability at high-speed and I haven't been able to cure it yet.

Q: It may seem extraordinary to people that having done over 900 laps, which is what you have done round here since November last year, that you still have a problem here. Why should that be?

JPM: It is probably the worst set-up I've had over the winter. But what can you do?

Q: Was that just the change in conditions?

JPM: Probably. All the time you come here and test it is very cold and I think that produces a lot of downforce and causes a lot of problems. Last year's test here the car here the car looked very competitive so I don't know...it's just not very good at the moment. Both Ralf and myself struggled with oversteer and hopefully tomorrow should be better.

Q: You had a fairly big accident at Silverstone last week I believe....

JPM: Yeah kind of.

Q: What part did the HANS play in that does you feel?

JPM: I think it helped a little bit with my head. I didn't hit the steering wheel or anything. I did feel it stop my head and it was pretty good.

Q: So you are pretty much in favour of it?

JPM: You have to use it...especially when I hit the tyres I thought it was pretty good. But I was a bit surprised to be underneath the tyres. I think you are not meant to be underneath the tyres when you have a belt, and actually the belt was on top of me. What can you do...nothing.

Q: Gentlemen, can I ask an Austrian question because it is the next race and presumably the last one...Are you looking forward to the Austrian Grand Prix and how sorry, or maybe not sorry, will you be to lose this race?

DC: I've always gone well on that track. It's a funny little circuit to drive because there are not many corners, but usually it has given some interesting results in the races and incidents and I think it will be a shame not to have it on the calendar. From a track point of view it is not as great a loss, I'm afraid to say, as somewhere like Spa but as an event on the calendar my impression is that the local people have been very friendly, very welcoming and certainly I will miss having that on the calendar.

RB: Like David said I think it is a great circuit for overtaking. If we have to take circuits away we should be looking at overtaking in the first place because we are missing that a little bit even though we are trying to improve. I think Austria is a circuit that you can choose to run some downforce and people choosing less downforce and it makes the racing interesting. Again as David said I go quite well there so it is sad to see it go.

Q: To David and Juan Pablo, how have you seen the new Ferrari?

JPM: Red like always. The old one was quick, I'm surprised actually it should have been a lot quicker. I was expecting it to be a lot quicker here today. Probably they need more time but I was really expecting them to be quicker than they were today. I think they could have done the same lap time with the old car.

DC: I think it is better to wait until after the race and then you can judge the weekend's performance. So far we've seen one hour and one lap. I haven't really seen too much of the cars and I haven't seen any mags to look at the comparisons. I wouldn't have known it was a different car visually from what I saw on the television. I'm not really studying...

JPM: The cooling looks good.

DC: Rubens designed that!

Q: Question to Rubens and Montoya. In the practice this morning we had Michelin tyres in the first seven positions and then in the qualifying we saw Bridgestone tyres first. What changed? The cars, the circuit?

RB: In my opinion the Friday morning people to choose to set up the car to the qualifying on Friday and some choose for the Sunday so it makes completely no sense to check the times on a Friday morning. It is a small thing relative to Friday afternoon. Even though people might choose to run some fuel for whatever reason, I think Friday afternoon is more towards what the weekend can be. Again you saw McLaren and Williams were not so good today, they will be tomorrow. I think Friday nowadays doesn't tell you much.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan