Australian GP Thursday Press Conference

Drivers: Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), Eddie Irvine (Jaguar), Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Engine suppliers: Gerhard Berger (BMW), Takefumi Hosaka (Honda) Q. Gerhard, what level of results will you be satisfied to see for BMW this ...

Drivers: Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), Eddie Irvine (Jaguar), Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)

Engine suppliers: Gerhard Berger (BMW), Takefumi Hosaka (Honda)

Q. Gerhard, what level of results will you be satisfied to see for BMW this year?

Gerhard Berger: If we can be somewhere ahead of the midfield -- wherever that is! -- then I think we will have achieved our goals. We have a very aggressive driver pairing. Ralf showed his potential last year, so we are confident that he will be able to help us move in the right direction. With Jenson it is very interesting to have such a young driver working with us. Of course it is only the beginning of the racing now, he still has a lot to learn and he will have to cope with the pressures of a race weekend. But we believe he has high potential and will be one of the great drivers for the future. That is why we are prepared to invest in him and help him to move forward over the next few years.

Q. Is there any chance of you getting back into the cockpit?

GB: [With my extra weight now], how would I get in? No, there is no chance at all. Actually, when I come into the circuit I sometimes ask myself what it would be like to get back in. But I don't have the feeling anymore. Somewhere the fire has [burned out]. I can look back on my fantastic years as a driver, and it's nice to be still involved in F1, but the nicest thing was to have been a driver.

Q. Mr Hosaka, welcome to you and welcome back to Honda as an F1 contestant. Can you explain why your company changed its mind about forming its own all-Honda F1 team last year and decided just to supply engines to BAR?

Takefumi Hosaka: First of all, let me apologise for my poor English. What I can say is that for our third entry into Formula 1, we investigated many approaches, and the first intention was to try to build our own chassis. Unfortunately, after some deep investigation we reached the conclusion that we could not do it successfully. We needed more knowledge and more time. At the same time, inside Honda there were young engineers who still wanted to make the chassis as well as the engine. To do that, however, we would have needed our own team, and we would have been committed to managing it. But [we realised that] that was not our purpose, and because of that we changed our stance and returned to being an engine supplier.

Q. Where does Honda stand in terms of development?

TH: Well, we still have two more days. Unfortunately, we do not expect to reach our target yet. I would say we are 80 per cent of the way, with more preparation still to do. We don't even know yet how many horsepower we are going to need to win races. It is only through racing that we will know exactly how many horsepower we are going to need to win. Just as soon as we know, we will immediately modify our engines. Maybe it will be too much to ask for those changes in time for the Brazilian GP. Please give us a little more time ...

Q. Is your relationship with BAR deeper than simply as its supplier of engines?

TH: The last time Honda was involved in F1, we just supplied engines. But this time have a very good collaboration with BAR, not just as the supplier of an engine but also on the chassis side. This helps us when we are modifying the engine and in designing new power units.

Q. Eddie, you always wanted number 1 status. Are you happy with your position at Jaguar Racing?

Eddie Irvine: I am very happy that I made the change. I am obviously not going to be in a situation which is as competitive as I had at Ferrari last year. But you will remember that it was the same situation for Michael when he left Benetton for Ferrari in 1995. There is a lot of work to be done. Over the past few years I have seen what Ferrari did to become competitive, and when I see where we are now I know how far we have to go. The time will come when we are closer, and the closer you get the more difficult it becomes. But at the moment there are so many areas in which we can improve that it gives me a lot of hope.

Q. Do you therefore see Jaguar growing into a position where it can challenge McLaren and Ferrari?

EI: It has to be like that. It's the whole idea [of Jaguar being in F1]. The way I see it, it is a lot easier for Jaguar to grow into a position from which to challenge McLaren than it [has been] for Ferrari, because Ferrari is based in Italy and it is a lot more difficult to do things there than it is in England. We have a got a great engine supplier in Cosworth -- I believe they are second to none -- and we have certain other advantages over Ferrari. The main issue is the wind tunnel. We don't have one yet and it will be a year and a half or two years before our own tunnel is ready. The wind tunnel we use is out in California, and the guys do as much running on it as they can, but you'll never be able to challenge people like McLaren or Ferrari while you're living like that. But it's going to be fun getting there ...

Q. Mika, who do you expect to have as your main challengers this year?

Mika Hakkinen: Ferrari ... probably. It won't be until the weekend, though. We don't even know yet who exactly will be our main competitor. We'll see.

Q. Your team mate David Coulthard says he has changed his approach. Will he be someone to fear?

MH: Yes. Over the winter David has worked very hard in many areas. And if you haven't won a championship you always tend to look at different areas inside yourself, to become a better driver, until one day you find a balance and get the confidence to win races. David still has to win the races and win the championship. It is going to be very interesting.

Q. Last year the fight between you and David may have been responsible for McLaren losing the constructors' championship to Ferrari. Is there a likelihood of a change in tactics?

MH: You can look at this subject in lots of different ways. There were a lot of races last year that we didn't finish, and that is just one of the many reasons why we didn't win the title like we should have done. I am confident about the coming season. I am much more relaxed than I was in 1998 and 1999. I am starting this year with a very calm approach. I shall wait to see how this weekend goes, and take the season as it comes. It will be fabulous if we are [capable of] finishing the race. If not, we will just have to work harder. But I am not nervous about tomorrow or Saturday or Sunday. I feel good about that. It means I can step in a direction of becoming a better driver. It's not a question of being less hungry. I want to be stronger and to win in a different way from the past.

Q. Michael, will McLaren be your major rival this year?

Michael Schumacher, Certainly, yes. If you look back on the past few years and on the process of continuous development, you have to say it will be down to Ferrari and McLaren.

Q. What do you think of your new team mate? Is his situation inside Ferrari different from Eddie's last year?

MS: I reckon him ... quite fast. When I talk of Ferrari and McLaren, I include all four of the drivers. I don't think his situation is different from Eddie's. But honestly, you can't make someone slower by contract. If he's faster, he's faster. And whoever is faster is going to be the number 1 driver. It's as simple as that.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Michael Schumacher , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Gerhard Berger
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Benetton , Jaguar Racing