Austrian GP Thursday press conference

DRIVERS: Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) David Coulthard (McLaren) Alexander Wurz (Benetton) TEAM PRINCIPALS: Takefumi Hosaka (Honda) Craig Pollock (BAR) Q. Rubens, you've just come back from Brazil. How was the holiday? Rubens Barrichello:...

Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari)
David Coulthard (McLaren)
Alexander Wurz (Benetton)

Takefumi Hosaka (Honda)
Craig Pollock (BAR)

Q. Rubens, you've just come back from Brazil. How was the holiday?

Rubens Barrichello: It was great. It's wintertime back home, and quite cold. I spent my time in the mountains, at an altitude of 1700 metres, training and having fun.

Q. A lot of people have said that they need a holiday at this stage of the season. Is that the case?

RB: Driving for Ferrari we do a lot of testing, so you do need at least a week's holiday once every two months, without talking about racing cars. Next week I will be spending three days at Mugello, then another day at Fiorano. That's quite a tough four days. It's good to get out of that world, so that when you come back you realise how much you're missing it. The jet lag is no problem, because I was going to bed every night at 8 o'clock local time - 1 o'clock in the morning European time - and I was getting a lot of sleep as well as doing all my training. I was doing the things I used to do at home: watching TV, spending time with the dogs and enjoying being with my family. I think it was something I needed - and I have come back refreshed.

Q. David, how did you enjoy your first opportunity to run at Mugello, on Ferrari's home ground, in last week's test?

David Coulthard: Although I did a lot of practice starts, I didn't do much running [on the track]. It's a very challenging, interesting track set in beautiful countryside. There's nice food ...

Q. How much did you learn?

DC: You learn something every time you test. I don't think you learn more because it's Mugello. Wherever you test, wet or dry, you learn something. The best way to learn about your rivals is at a Grand Prix, because you know the weight of the cars and you can be sure that whatever they do in qualifying will be the quickest they can present. It is inevitable that too much will be made of testing, whether it's in winter or summer. We all know the form of the various teams, and it's unusual for one car to come from the back of the front just because that team has been out testing.

Q. Who do you most fear in the race, Michael Schumacher or your team mate Mika Hakkinen?

DC: I know it's a matter of your choice of words, but just to be clear, I don't fear anyone. I relish the challenge of competing against the other GP drivers, and naturally the biggest challenge comes from within your own team because your team mate is the only driver about whom you can be sure machinery-wise. But Michael is the leader of the championship and also therefore the driver from whom I am trying to claw back points. But Rubens is very close behind Mika and me, so it could all change very quickly. As drivers, we all know how it feels to be in front because it gets you pumped up, while if you're behind you know you have to be a bit quicker.

Q. Alex, coming to your home Grand Prix you would normally be full of hope. But things haven't gone well for you this year ...

Alexander Wurz: No, it's been very disappointing to have zero points on my score card. I am pushing hard to change that this weekend.

Q. Are you being given a fair chance?

AW: Well, what answer do you expect now? Of course, the team knows that with two cars it is easier to score points than with just one. That's logical. And that's why we have prepared very hard, including a big test at Silverstone last week. Last year I finished 5th here, and it's worth trying to achieve something even better than that. I am pushing hard, that's for sure.

Q. Pat Symonds, who is your team's technical chief, was brought in to engineer your car for the Nürburgring race. Did that arrangement make a lasting improvement in the car?

AW: Certainly it was very interesting to be working with another engineer for the first time since I came into Formula 1. I wish I could have him back because he is really good: he makes logical changes and listens a lot to what I tell him about my feelings on the car. My own race engineer and I have learned a lot from him, and since then I have always been challenging Giancarlo. There have been a few rumours about differences in material, but anyway this weekend again we can do it. Due to the characteristics of this circuit I expect the closest qualifying of the whole year. We have to push hard and keep it up there.

Q. You mention the rumours about possible inequalities in the equipment. Are those stories false or true?

AW: As David just said, we can't do anything about the past and we must look to the future. Here, that means things like the development engine we'll be using on Saturday: I tried it in Silverstone and it has a few more horsepower than the previous one. We will have two very similar cars for this weekend's race, and for the rest of the season, so everything looks right for me, which is good.

Q. We heard about some blow-ups with those qualifying engines at Silverstone ...

AW: It is certainly true that we had some engine problems, but that was because we were trying to recreate some of the problems I had earlier in the year and it was all done on purpose. Three times this year - in Brazil, Monaco and Magny-Cours - I have had an engine blow-up either before the start or on the first lap. I think we understand the problem now because although Mecachrome has not solved it, at least we know what to do in order to avoid it happening again.

Q. Craig, your man Villeneuve finished 4th in the last GP, in France. Do you expect more results like that in the remaining eight races?

Craig Pollock: 'Expecting' is one big word, isn't it? We have done it once, which doesn't mean to say we can do it again, although it was a big upgrade on the car. We already have some more things coming here, in fact we expect to have something new at almost every race. Fourth place is a good result, but being able to improve on 4th when you are competing with McLaren and Ferrari is very, very difficult.

Q. It has been said that you were disappointed about Honda's decision to supply a second team with engines next year. What were your feelings about that?

CP: I didn't put the flags up! I look forward to the challenge from Jordan, however. I understand that we will both be supplied with the same [specification of] engine, so we'll just have to make a better chassis [than theirs] and create a better team.

Q. This year's BAR chassis appears to suffer on high downforce circuits. After the 4th place in France, where do you expect it to shine again?

CP: Hockenheim, Monza, Spa ... circuits like that. Monaco and Magny-Cours were expected to be our worst circuits, so that French result was a good one. Meanwhile, I have to say that it can only be a dream to hope to do better than 4th place. Meanwhile, everything looks very close at our end of the grid.

Q. What is the Jacques situation? Is he staying with you next year?

CP: You'll have to ask Jacques that question. I have just spent five days on a boat with Jacques and I tried very hard. I offered him a concrete waistcoat in case he didn't sign [with BAR for a third year], but I couldn't catch him, so that didn't work out. I would love to think he will be staying. I have now done everything I can. It's a question of where he believes he will get the best performance in the years to come. We are doing everything we can to prove to him that the car will be upgraded and that there will be slight changes, technically, within the company. We can't do any more than that.

Q. Mr Hosaka, the announcement of the decision to supply Jordan appeared to have been made in a rush. Do you have any further details you can give us?

Takefumi Hosaka: It was at the Nürburgring press conference that I commented on the Jordan/Mugen programme for this year and next year. Since then, the situation became a little different because Jordan gave Mugen notice of the termination of their engine contract. When we heard that and confirmed that the contract was officially cancelled, we immediately started to discuss what we should do because we received a proposal from Jordan that they wanted to know what possibility there was of having a works Honda engine in place of the arrangement with Mugen. After a feasibility study which took about one month to complete, we decided to supply the same engine as BAR's to Jordan.

Q. You were testing the Athena project chassis at Silverstone last week. What can you tell us about that programme?

TH: That is correct. 'Athena' is the name we give to the car using our own electrical control systems, which will be supplying from next year. We are also studying a lot of new chassis elements, including suspensions. The information we gained from the test is still under investigation, but provided we see good results we would like to introduce those elements to racing. As far as chassis development is concerned, BAR is our teacher - and we still need to do further research.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Alexander Wurz
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Benetton , Jordan , CIP