Part II Q How are you approaching the Brazilian F3000 race? It's a lot bigger than what you've been used to - Formula Renault last year was essentially a national series; this is a big international one in front of all the F1 people. Has it ...
Q How are you approaching the Brazilian F3000 race? It's a lot bigger than what you've been used to - Formula Renault last year was essentially a national series; this is a big international one in front of all the F1 people. Has it changed the way you are going to approach the weekend?
Ryan Briscoe: The general approach is that I'm not going to try and go out there and be a superstar in my first race. I want to just start trying to get points in the beginning and see where I'm at. I hope that in the first race I will be able to be right up there and hopefully get a podium, but at the moment I'm just going to try and be a little bit conservative. I know at the moment we're not the best cars out there and we've still got a lot to learn, so I think for the first race or two it's just going to be try and get out there and learn as much as possible, try and finish the races.
Q Where do you think you can make most improvement in your F3000 times?
Ryan Briscoe: Well, I think at the moment we're still a bit off with the set-up so we've still got room for improvement with that, and basically every time I get in the car I'm building up confidence so I think as time goes by and the more kilometres I get in the car I will be improving myself just a little bit every time. So I'm feeling confident that things will be getting better as we go on.
Q Who do you reckon is the gun in F3000 this year?
Ryan Briscoe: Well, from the testing that I have seen, it seems like (Czech driver) Tomas Enge is going to be very difficult to beat with Arden (team), although all the testing we have done so far has been in very cold conditions and going to Brazil it's going to be quite hot and different. Things could turn around. But looking at last year as well, he (Enge) was always very competitive and he is bringing with him a lot of experience.
Q We keep hearing a lot about new cars or all-new cars in F3000 this year. Can you just enlighten those of us who aren't all that technical what the basic specs are for the 2002 F3000 cars?
Ryan Briscoe: The difference from last year is it's basically a narrower, longer car, more like F1 dimensions. We've got smaller rear tyres, larger front tyres. The difference to drive I'm not sure, because I didn't ever drive last year's (F3000) car, but it's same engine, it's a three litre V8 Ford Zytek engine which produces, I think, about 450 horsepower. The car is made by Lola, and it's is carbon fibre monocoque chassis and it's basically restricted to changes to springs, bars, dampers, sort of similar rules to the Formula Renault class with what you can change on the car.
Q And a control tyre?
Ryan Briscoe: Controlled Avon tyre. We've got slicks and we've got rain tyres.
Q So not the four grooves of an F1 tyre?
Ryan Briscoe: No, it's slick tyre with a harder compound.
Q In that context, do you notice much difference driving an F1 car with four grooves in the tyres compared to a 3000 car with slicks?
Ryan Briscoe: From the tyre point of view, it changes a bit after how many laps the tyre comes on and after how many laps it goes off. Actually, driving the car there's so much more that's different that it's difficult to actually compare what the tyre is doing with the different power and aerodynamics and different chassis it's difficult to do a comparison of the tyre.
Q With very little practice time in the F3000 before each race, are you going to have time with your Toyota F1 commitments to do a lot of testing in between races with the F3000 team?
Ryan Briscoe: There isn't much F3000 testing in between the races because we're limited to a certain number of hours. At the moment I can't remember exactly what the number is, but it's not many. I think my first test in the F3000 will be some time after Imola (San Marino GP in mid-April) so that shouldn't be a problem.
Q Just for the record, could you tell us the F1 tests that you've done for Toyota, when they were, and basically what you did in terms of number of days or laps at each one?
Ryan Briscoe: My first test was mid-November last year when I did 80 laps over three days. It was in last year's Toyota F1 car. Then I had another drive in February this year in the new car, and that was basically just running on old-spec aerodynamics and nothing special, just a few kilometres to get my "super licence". And then my first official test was last Wednesday at Barcelona, where I did 55 laps.
Q And the F3000 testing, where have you done that over the past few weeks?
Ryan Briscoe: We have had four official tests at Estoril (in Portugal), Barcelona (Spain), Imola (Italy), and Silverstone (England). The first two tests were restricted to two half days because the FIA weren't allowing the teams to run two cars at a time and then the third and fourth tests were two full days.
Q Just to divert briefly, what happened to the Ferrari Michelotto in Melbourne? Why did it spear off the track?
Ryan Briscoe: There was a mechanical failure in the left rear suspension area.
Q Still on the Ferrari, that's probably the first time you've raced a car with a roof. What were your impressions?
Ryan Briscoe: It was my first time, and I thought it was quite a lot of fun. It was very different to racing open wheelers. It's quite a heavier car and you don't really feel the power of it, but it was different and the team I was racing for, Prancing Horse, were also very professional and I just had a whole lot of fun racing that car.
Q So you would be up for something in the future, who knows when? You're not discriminatory against cars with roofs?
Ryan Briscoe: No, I'd definitely be up for something. At the moment, it would just be a sort of one-off situation, because it's not the sort of thing I'm looking at racing as a future career. But, definitely, if something popped up and I had time to go and do it I would be out, for sure.
Q We know that you are the reserve driver for Toyota, we also know that they have got another test driver, Stephane Sarrazin, who has been around in F3000 over some years and drove an F1 race in South America a couple of years back. With him around, will that mean that - while you will remain cleqyarly the third driver as the reserve driver - that you perhaps won't get to do a lot of testing with Toyota this year, or is it likely to be shared up between you and Sarrazin?
Ryan Briscoe: Our testing is going to be shared quite evenly. He had a test a couple of weeks ago at Paul Ricard (circuit, in France). I tested at Barcelona this week. He will be doing a test, I think, in a week or two at Valencia (in Spain), which I won't be at, but then we will both be present at Mugello (in Italy) after the Imola race and for the rest of the year it will be balanced between us quite evenly.
Q With these new cars in F3000, does that perhaps level the playing field a bit for the drivers in that there are some guys who have been in F3000 for three or four years - guys like Tomas Enge and Mario Haberfeld and maybe some others - against someone who is coming in for the first year? Does the fact that the cars are new mean that you're perhaps on a better footing to compete against those more experienced guys?
Ryan Briscoe: It's probably a help, but it sort of levels the playing field more for the teams because, for the driving, adapting to this new car hasn't been difficult for drivers from last year because it's very similar. It's made by the same car company, and they haven't really changed how the driving of it is dramatically, so it's more of a levelling of the playing field for the teams.
Q English is your first language and you speak fluent Italian from having lived in Italy for some years now. You mentioned some months back that you were thinking of learning another language or two. How you are going with German and or French?
Ryan Briscoe: I'm not studying German at all, but at the beginning of this year I again started doing a few French lessons, which is part of the Toyota program. But it's difficult, because when it comes February I'm sort of away 95 per cent of the time and it's very difficult to continue with lessons. That's coming on quite slowly, although I've picked up a few words, but not really enough to get by in a French conversation.
Q You live in Viareggio on the Mediterranean Coast in Italy, but Toyota's F1 team is based in Germany and they do a lot of their testing at Paul Ricard in France, and Nordic Racing, the F3000 team, is based in England. It is interesting that you are going to continue to live in Italy, by the sound of it. What's the reasoning behind that?
Ryan Briscoe: I've got the fitness aspect of things here in Italy. The Toyota team doctor (Riccardo Ceccarelli) lives here and he has got a gym and medical centre here, and there are quite a few (racing) drivers living here. There are two other drivers from Toyota's Young Driver Program who are also living here - (Frenchman) Frank Perera and (Swede) Alex Storckenfeldt - and basically it's part of the Toyota schedule that I live here - and it's fine by me. I don't really need to be in England with Nordic, because if there is ever a need for me to go to the team I will just fly there and go there for the day. All communication is done by phone or e-mail. In Toyota it's the same deal: if I'm needed there (in Germany or France) I can just get there in a matter of hours. With the fitness it's just important to be here every day and being fully on top of that.
Q You just mentioned the other young drivers. Do you have much to do with them?
Ryan Briscoe: They're racing for the same team I raced for last year in Formula Renault and they live here and we get along fine. I try to help them out as much as I can with the Formula Renault. I've got last year's experience and I can sometimes try to be helpful, but we're just basically good friends.
Q Do you train with them as well? Do you do things as a group or are you more focused as individuals in terms of training?
Ryan Briscoe: Often we're at the gym at the same time but we don't really train together because on each day we have sort of got different programs to do, so not really.
Q Can you tell us a bit about your teammate in the F3000 team, Nordic? We understand he is Hungarian, but can you just tell us a bit about him and what his form is like?
Ryan Briscoe: His name is Zsolt Baumgartner. He raced in F3000 with the Prost team last year and has probably raced in Germany's F3 Championship. He's a good guy. He's a nice character and we get along very well. His pace is all right, he has been sort of around my time, sort of thing, so it's a good comparison on times. We are able to compare data, which is often useful.
Q Presumably with the experience that he has got, he's a bit older than you?
Ryan Briscoe: He's only one year older than me.
Q You have done quite a lot of racing in Europe now and you attended a few GPs last year, and you will attend more this year. In that context, what did you feel about the Foster's Australian Grand Prix and, in particular, the atmosphere compared to somewhere like Italy where there is a much stronger heritage in F1 racing?
Ryan Briscoe: I was very impressed with the Australian Grand Prix and, from a spectator point of view, I think it was fantastic. There were lots of support classes and there was always something going on, so it was a very interesting place to be. It was just really fantastic. There was always things happening. For sure, in Italy there are lots of enthusiasts for Ferrari, and for F1 in general, and there's probably a lot more owner passion, let's take Imola or Monza, but I thought Melbourne was fantastic.
Q Because of your Italian connections - you've been there for four, maybe even five years - as a reserve driver for Toyota do you have a sense that the Italian fans are behind you in where you're going in F1?
Ryan Briscoe: I'm not really sure. I've got lots of friends in Italy and lots of friends who are behind me for sure, but I was very surprised in Melbourne. Like, I was a lot more popular than I was expecting. So I wouldn't say it really compares to Italy, no.
Q Not so much a comparison, but just the fact that you have raced there for three or four years and that you must be fairly well known to the motor sport community in Italy. Whether you've felt any sense that they are excited that you are pushing towards F1?
Ryan Briscoe: I mean, definitely, because I have been living in Italy for now five years, and for them it's good to see that someone is coming from an Italian racing career, sort of moving up the ranks. But, in any case, I'm not Italian and they would really be pushing for Italian nationality drivers, so it's not really in my case.
HOST'S CONCLUSION - It must be getting quite late there for Ryan in Italy. At this point we should say thanks very much yet again to Ryan. This is the second or third time that we have had a telephone hook-up with him. Certainly we wish him all the best for the new F3000 season and, as the reserve driver and test driver for Toyota this year, we hope that he continues to press on towards a full-time F1 race career.
Ryan Briscoe: Thanks a lot. It's been good fun.
Part I Briscoe interview