Grand Prix of Australia Melbourne Friday, March 5, 1999 "Friday Five" press conference: Drivers: Marc Gene (Minardi), Pedro de la Rosa (Arrows) and Ricardo Zonta (BAR). Team chiefs: Craig Pollock (BAR) and Norbert Haug (Mercedes)....
Grand Prix of Australia Melbourne
Friday, March 5, 1999
"Friday Five" press conference: Drivers: Marc Gene (Minardi), Pedro de la Rosa (Arrows) and Ricardo Zonta (BAR). Team chiefs: Craig Pollock (BAR) and Norbert Haug (Mercedes). Industry: Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone)
Q. Marc, have you enjoyed your first day of F1 racing? And what are your first impressions of the Grand Prix scene?
MG: I am very happy, first because I was concerned about how many laps it would take me to learn the circuit, and it happened a bit quicker than I expected. I was told beforehand that it took eight or ten laps to find the braking points and all the right lines, and it was quite straightforward. I was also concerned to get as many non-stop laps as possible. It went quite well and I didn't make any mistakes. I was even quite surprised with my pace, although we got it wrong with the setup in the second session. F1 is the biggest circus in the world, as I discovered when I arrived here on Tuesday. But all 22 drivers are human beings. In the lower formulas, the media talk about Schumacher, Hill and Hakkinen almost as though they are divine beings. Obviously they are much better than me at the moment, but when you see what they are doing you realise that it is feasible. Maybe it will take two or three years, but I can do it. So it's a nice feeling to be up against the best, but it's also a good feeling to know that it can be done -- with a lot of work.
Q. Ricardo, what about you?
RZ: We changed the setup of the car in the first session and I was also trying to learn the circuit. I did seven laps in the first session, but I had a problem with the car in the second and didn't get any laps. They only just got the car back and they're trying to find the problem. Although I have driven an F1 car before, I found the brakes of the BAR very powerful and it was difficult to find the limit.
Q. Norbert, what can you tell us about Mika's accident this afternoon?
NH: He just lost it in the corner, I would say because he was going a bit too quick. The car is damaged, but we can repair it and I think Mika will be able to drive it tomorrow. Mika himself is OK. He has no physical problems.
Q. With first and second places today, you must be quite pleased ...
NH: As you can see from the TV screens, our cars looked quite good out on the track, while some of the others were struggling a bit with the setup. We prepared ourselves for the race and we have already found quite a good setup using only one set of tyres per car. I am particularly pleased for David that he did his best time of the day on old tyres that already, I think, 29 laps. That shows he is really fighting and going for it. Mika was on a very quick lap, and he only just missed it in the final corner. We must not be too confident, because I am sure that other cars will be able to use the track better tomorrow when there is more grip. For me, the gap of 1.6 seconds to Ferrari is just not real. Everybody could see that they were not on the limit, so I would be happy if it comes down to 0.6 second or even 0.06 seconds -- as long as we are in front.
Q. Congratulations, Hiroshi, on the great job done by Bridgestone. Your tyres are even quicker with four grooves this year than they were last year with three!
HY: This makes a very difficult issue for us because the FIA asked us for slower tyres this year. I believe our tyres are slower than last year, but everything else -- the chassis, aerodynamics, engines and drivers -- are even better than they were last year, so that is why the lap times are so much quicker.
Q. Is this year's compound really harder than last year?
HY: Yes, and it was to be expected. When we came into F1 with slicks in 1997 we were running a soft compound. It got harder last year with three grooves and harder again this year with four. With the limit on tyres this year, which is down from ten to eight sets per car per race, we have to be concerned about tyre life. That is another reason for going to a harder compound.
Q. Craig, this must have been a momentous day for you ...
CP: It has been an interesting day and I am very proud of what our team has done. We started from a green field site less than a year ago and today we are here racing. We knew we were going to have reliability problems, and while we have let down one of our drivers a little bit, it has gone quite well for the other. But we didn't get enough testing and I don't think this is just an issue for British American Racing. My opinion is that this will be a race of attrition.
Q. Would you describe yourself as totally prepared for this race?
CP: No, we are not totally prepared and I don't think we will be totally ready for Brazil either. I hope that we will be able to do something by Imola.