DRIVERS: Jenson Button (Williams) Johnny Herbert (Jaguar) Jacques Villeneuve (BAR) TEAM PERSONALITIES: Gerhard Berger (BMW) Gustav Brunner (Minardi) Q. Jenson, is it difficult for you to be racing while speculation rages around you about...
Jenson Button (Williams)
Johnny Herbert (Jaguar)
Jacques Villeneuve (BAR)
Gerhard Berger (BMW)
Gustav Brunner (Minardi)
Q. Jenson, is it difficult for you to be racing while speculation rages around you about your future as an F1 driver?
Jenson Button: Actually driving is not a problem, because when you're [in the car] you concentrate on what your job is, which is to drive. I have no problems during practice, qualifying or the race: it's when I have to get out of the car that it can get a bit difficult. There are people asking the same question over and over again, which [I don't enjoy]. What goes on off the circuit is important, but for me it's not THE most important aspect. And I feel fine when I am on the circuit.
Q. I guess that your management team looks after most of the negotiations about your future. How much do you get involved?
JB: Quite a bit, obviously, because if I wasn't here there wouldn't be anything to be negotiated. But I don't [let myself] get involved on race weekends. [My priority] then is to relax and concentrate on the job in hand.
Q. Has F1 been what you expected in your first year?
JB: The driving is what I expected it to be. I knew it would be hard racing against the best drivers in the world. But off the circuit it's very difficult to know what to expect. There are bad times and good times. But that's no problem.
Q. What are your impressions of the A1-Ring?
JB: It is a different colour from most circuits! It is nice and fast and wide. It is very smooth as well. I like it ... although looking at the times today it hasn't been too good. But then tomorrow is the important day. Today I have been getting used to the circuit and trying to set up the car. We have to get the balance sorted.
Q. Jacques, things seem to have gone well for BAR ...
Jacques Villeneuve: Yes. The car seems to be running strong. Ricardo is quick, too, so that's good for the team. We have some new aero bits, which has given us even more of an improvement than we had at Magny-Cours. It all seems to suit the car.
Q. Are those parts for everywhere?
JV: Apart from Hockenheim and Monza, the rest of the tracks require quite a lot of downforce, too, so whatever we have here is relevant and will stay on the car.
Q. Have you been impressed by Honda's pace?
JV: We should get some new development at the next race. That should be good.
Q. Yesterday we talked in the press conference about your amazing run of quick starts this year. What has made the big difference since last year?
JV: It's all the cheating we are allowed to do, basically. Last year we were having very poor starts in the first part of the season. I whined about that a lot, and we made some changes which made it work a lot better. Over the winter we worked on an aspect of it, which works well. There are other [factors] which help - like having an engine which is very easy to drive.
Q. Otherwise it's mainly clutch, is it?
JV: That's part of it. There is a physical side to it, and then there's also [things like] hydraulics and codes, basically. It just depends on how much you can control it. But the clutch has been good from the start of this season and we haven't touched it since the first race.
Q. Everyone's waiting for you to make a decision about which team you'll be driving for next season. Are you in a rush to make that decision?
JV: I would like to make my decision as early as possible. The longer you wait the more nervous everyone becomes, and it's not useful for the team. So there is no need to wait for the sake of waiting. As soon as I am ready to make a decision, then I will make it.
Q. Johnny, there has also been a lot of talk about your future ...
Johnny Herbert: Yes, sure. It's that time of year and of course there is speculation. Whatever decision you reach, you have to make it for yourself. Sure, it's possible that I won't be in F1 next year. I have to look at whatever I want to do and what I feel I want to do. Maybe a change would be good for me, although F1 was the dream I always had. I have now had a good ten-year run at it and now, maybe, it is the time [to quit]. If I can find the right seat and stay here [I will do it], but at the end of the day it looks more the other way.
Q. What ambitions do you have outside F1?
JH: Formula 1 was always the first [objective]. I also wanted to do Le Mans, and I have won that [with Mazda in 1991]. So that's two [objectives achieved]. Indianapolis was one other thing, so maybe you'll soon see me whizzing round in real circles.
Q. Have you spoken to any American teams?
JH: Not myself. But that will probably happen shortly.
Q. Can you see any progress with your current F1 team?
JH: Yes, there is progress. It is frustrating for everyone there, and everyone was expecting things to change with a snap of the fingers following the change of name and the arrival of Neil Ressler. Unfortunately F1 doesn't work like that and it takes a long process before everything can come together. We don't have our own wind tunnel, we don't have any modern dynos - and those are things that a team must have to compete against Ferrari and McLaren. When you do have them, it means there are [fewer] excuses that can be made. Jaguar has come into this in a very committed mood, so it won't be until another two or three years before you see the changes starting to take effect.
Q. Gustav, many well-placed people in F1 have said nice things about the Minardi you designed this year ...
Gustav Brunner: Thank you very much for the compliments! We have made a good step forward with the car, although we haven't left the last spot on the grid yet. We also made some aerodynamic changes for this race - we have a new front wing here - and it is going better.
Q. How long can Minardi continue the way it is going?
GB: The team has made progress, you know. When I came here to Minardi two years ago we were five seconds behind [the leaders]. Now we have reduced that gap to two and a half seconds and we only need to find another half a second to be with the rest. I think we will get it together for next year.
Q. Do you know which power unit you will be running in 2001?
GB: No, as [happens most] years we have not decided what engine we are going to have, but we are in touch with every possible supplier.
Q. Have you received offers to join other teams?
GB: I have not listened to them. I heard a few of them but I am too much involved with Minardi.
Q. Gerhard, not a good day today for BMW. In fact, the king of the Austrians has been Gustav here ...
Gerhard Berger: Friday is a very difficult day from which to make comparisons. We lost one car quite early in the second session today, so we tried to get the setup right for the race with Jenson.
Q. Do you expect the quick circuits now coming up on the schedule to be good for the BMW engine?
GB: This year we learned that our car is good on circuits both quick and slow. The important thing is to use the potential correctly. Sometimes we get the setup right but sometimes we don't have it right. I don't expect Hockenheim to be better than Zeltweg, or the other way around.
Q. Looking at your compatriot Alexander Wurz, what advice would you offer?
GB: You cannot offer a lot of advice, because Formula 1 has its own rules. Either you survive or you don't. And there is nothing you can do for anyone once he has got himself into a difficult situation. The only thing Alexander can do is to try to go as fast as possible, either to show his speed or to bring some results home. That's all he needs to do, and nobody can help him. It is never nice to see someone in such a difficult position, especially following the press. There are a lot of jokes going about, which is never very nice to see. You have to remember that even if a driver is having trouble staying in F1, he is still one of the 20 best drivers in the world. On one side I hope he can get things together. On the other side, there is nothing anyone else can do for him. He has to do it all himself.