"Friday Five" press conference Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella (Benetton) Eddie Irvine (Ferrari) Mika Salo (Ferrari) Jacques Villeneuve (BAR) Team chief: Norbert Haug (Mercedes) Q. Giancarlo, you started from pole position...
"Friday Five" press conference
Q. Giancarlo, you started from pole position here last year. Is this one of your favourite circuits?
Giancarlo Fisichella: If you look at my position today, I must be very disappointed. I am 18th, and that's not good. But to be honest I am a little bit optimistic and confident about tomorrow, not to be on pole position but maybe to be in the top ten. All through the second session today I had a problem with a rear brake caliper: the car felt very strange under braking. Then I also used only one set of tyres, and there was a lot of fuel [on board]. I believe a lot of people used new tyres, and many of them were on low fuel. But I am quite confident.
Q. Yesterday, Alexander Wurz suggested that your car does not suit this circuit ...
GF: Not really. The best circuits for us are Hockenheim, Spa and Monza, the circuits with high-speed corners. With very low downforce there is a good balance: we must now improve the car when it is carrying a lot of downforce. I hope we will be better at Hockenheim, because in the last test at Monza we were quite competitive. Here we are using low downforce and the car is quite OK. It's not fantastic, but we are working in a good direction and my target for tomorrow is to be in the top ten. Maybe we can hope for pole [again] -- if it is raining.
Q. Jacques, both of the BAR drivers were quick today. Is that an encouraging sign? Or was it because you went to new tyres?
Jacques Villeneuve: The car is working really well. We put on new tyres at the end, but the way the cars was set up there wasn't much [extra speed] in them, in fact I was only one-tenth quicker. This year, every time the tracks have been understeery, at places like Imola and Barcelona, it has suited our car. It seems to prove the same thing here, so I am very confident. Today's times are very close, so whether you're in the top six or out of the top ten tomorrow could be a matter of just a couple of tenths. I think many people have a chance of figuring at the front.
Q. Are you happy with the team now?
JV: Yes, the team has always been working very hard. It's just that we have had so many mechanical failures and so many different fixings [to do]. That is where all the money and time has gone, not on getting performance. But I don't need to push the team. Everyone is pushing himself or herself, which is great. A lot of work has already gone into next year's car, because there is not much we can achieve this year anyway. That makes it important to concentrate on next year, also with the new engine to be considered.
Q. Norbert, since Silverstone, how much has the championship changed, do you feel?
Norbert Haug: If you look at the facts, in the last two years since we started to be competitive and have been able to fight for races, it has been quite obvious that our strongest opposition has come from Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari. But I would not underestimate the competition right now. Ferrari, with these two guys here in front of me now, is certainly strong. People who think we already have the championship in our pocket are certainly not right. I got a good indication of this last year around Hockenheim time when everybody started to say, 'it's all done.' In fact the championship had only just started. So very often what the experts say is just not right. Therefore we have to concentrate, and we cannot win races if we make mistakes. We have already made some mistakes and there may be a couple more to come. But I think we are going to see some good races.
Q. Mika Salo, what does it feel like to be with Ferrari as the replacement for Michael Schumacher?
Mika Salo: Of course it is unfortunate for Michael, but it is a big chance for me. I have had a few days to get used to it, and now I am really happening about what has been happening. The team has been really helpful: I was made more than welcome the first time I walked into the factory, and since then it has been really nice.
Q. It takes time to get used to new things inside a team. What are the differences that you are having to adjust to?
MS: The actual driving of the car is no problem, it is getting everything out of it that is more difficult. It takes a while to get used to that, but the Ferrari team has been more than helpful. I get anything I want -- even more than I want -- and I have been talking to Michael on the phone. He has helped me, and he has told me to call him any time I want to know something. There are still a lot of little things to learn, like [my spin] today, I lost it because I was doing something other than driving. We will get there.
Q. You had a day off on Saturday. Was the free day for your wedding?
MS: Yes. It was really nice of them to let me go for one day. They actually asked me what time the wedding was: I think they expected me to do some running with the car in the morning, then get married and do some more running in the afternoon.
Q. Eddie, now you're number 1 at Ferrari, how do you feel about your chances in the world championship?
Eddie Irvine: I don't know what they are. The season is halfway through and I am eight points behind Mika Hakkinen. If it keeps going like this to the end, I will finish 16 points behind him. Obviously we have got to turn things around. Whether we can or not, I don't know, but it will not be through lack of trying on my part. I am 100 per cent focused on trying to do it, but we have seen over the past few years how difficult it is to do that. Michael has been trying harder than anyone and he's the best driver in the world, but he still hasn't managed it. I am going to give it my best shot, that's for sure.
Q. Is it a great opportunity, do you feel?
EI: Oh for sure, Jeeze! To have a chance to go for the world title in any team is fantastic, so to have a chance to go for it in Ferrari is even better. But winning the world championship ain't easy.
Q. If you have got enough points when Michael comes back, do you expect him to drive for you?
EI: I don't know. There was a fantastic quote in one of the German magazines [which claimed] I said Michael would have to be my number 2. It was something that the guy who wrote it obviously made up over his breakfast. It has nothing to do with me. I'll be going out there to try and beat the two McLarens in every race. The moment Michael comes back, it is up to Jean Todt to decide what the story will be. But it's not for me to decide. I just have to try and beat them on my own.