"Thursday Five" press conference Drivers: Rubens Barrichello (Stewart) David Coulthard (McLaren) Alexander Wurz (Benetton) Engineer: Gustav Brunner (Minardi). Team chief: Jean Todt (Ferrari) Q. Gustav, there are reports...
"Thursday Five" press conference
Q. Gustav, there are reports that Minardi has a new aerodynamic package for this race. What can you tell us about that?
Gustav Brunner: Yes, we have made considerable improvements with a new underfloor diffuser, and we hope the effects will show up in our results. It has not yet been tested on a circuit, in fact it is just being mounted now. We will have it on both cars this weekend.
Q. For a team the size of Minardi, what is involved in making big developments like this in mid-season?
GB: It is very difficult. As you know, all the other teams have large groups of aerodynamicists who can put a lot of effort into this type of research. To be introducing an aerodynamic update like this at the end of July is a bit late in the season, but we are limited in our resources. In fact we are the last small team in F1. Even though we have grown considerably since last year, from 80 to 120 people, the next smallest teams -- which I assume to be Arrows or Sauber -- already have 200 or more. The same goes for the budget: it makes it very difficult to stay close to them.
Q. Rubens, what are the chances of you becoming the sixth different driver to win a Grand Prix this year?
Rubens Barrichello: I said at the beginning of the year that the chances are quite slim, and both Ferrari and McLaren have been developing their cars at a faster rate than we are able to develop ours. But I think we are doing quite a good job. We were certainly unlucky not to have scored as many points as we should have, when you consider races like Brazil with the engine, Monaco with the suspension problem or Silverstone and the puncture. Without those things, I would say we should now have had as many points as Frentzen. After Silverstone some of the magazines suggested that I was only running in the points because Mika [Hakkinen] had dropped out, but that really was not the story. In fact I overtook Damon and was racing Frentzen [for what would have been 4th place], so we were there. I had the speed on the straight to be able to fight for a good place, and without my puncture, 5th was definitely a possibility, maybe even 4th or 3rd. I am quite enthusiastic about this weekend, when we will have some new things on the car, like a revised exhaust and other mechanical bits. Austria has been quite kind to us and a win is possible. Having to fight for it [with a Ferrari or a McLaren], but it would obviously make it possible if we can have some luck.
Q. Alexander, after the miserable time you have had so far this year, can things improve here?
Alexander Wurz: I am looking forward to this race, of course, but honestly this is not the type of circuit that suits our car. I expect we will look much more competitive in Germany than here, because our low downforce aerodynamic package works extremely well. Here we have to use the same sort of aerodynamic settings that we had at Magny-Cours and Silverstone, where we were struggling to get the car's efficiency right. But we have to wait and see, because we will be setting up the car a little differently here, just to try and get round the problem we discovered on the car last week.
Q. Does this mean you have discovered what the problem was that made the car so uncompetitive at Silverstone?
AW: Well, we have been on the way to discovering the problem for the past few weeks, and now I think we have really found it. Now we are working hard to find the complete solution and maybe in time for Budapest our car will also be working there as well as it already does on the low downforce circuits like Canada, Hockenheim and Monza. In F1 now, most of the grip and the good lap times come from good aerodynamics. You still need plenty of power and good mechanical grip, of course, but aerodynamics is a big issue in F1.
Q. Jean, there have been many strange reasons published for the events that led up to Michael Schumacher's accident at Silverstone. Can you please tell us exactly what happened?
Jean Todt: In trying to brake hard for Stowe corner, Michael just lost hydraulic pressure in his brakes, because a bleed nipple was loose. Unfortunately he could not do anything, so he lost control on the car and ran straight on.
Q. Can you give us an update on his condition, please?
JT: On Sunday he went back to his home in Switzerland. He had left the hospital in Northampton on the Tuesday after the accident and I must say that he was very well looked after there. The operation went fairly well. On Tuesday he moved to a clinic near Geneva and left it to go home on Sunday. He immediately started rehabilitation, putting his right foot on the floor and working hard on the sensitiveness. All the doctors are quite happy with the way he is responding to this problem, which is of course something very unusual for him.
Q. Apart from the leg fractures, are there any other injuries?
JT: He has a little damage to the rear part of his foot, but it is nothing serious. The major thing is the broken leg.
Q. When do you expect Michael to be fit to drive again?
JT: I will not answer this question. He will definitely come back when the doctors feel it is the right time, and when he himself feels able to come back. We hope it will be before the end of the season, but there is no point in speculating over that. We know that most people will be speculating, but we have no intention of getting into that.
Q. Apart from Mika Salo, were there any other drivers under consideration to take over Michael's car? Why was Salo chosen?
JT: It was definitely not an easy choice, because we have a very good driver in Luca Badoer, who is also racing with Minardi. In our opinion there were two options: either to take Luca from Minardi and use him as our spare driver; or to look for another driver who was available and would do a good job. Considering the tension and pressure that we knew we would be facing, we felt it was better to ask Mika Salo to drive our car. They were the only two drivers under consideration.
Q. David, has your success at Silverstone changed anything for you?
DC: It is obviously nice to get a win, but then on Tuesday we went straight into more testing at Monza. Silverstone wasn't like my first-ever win, it just happened to be my first win of the year. It is nice to be back up a little higher in the champions hip, but it is still difficult for me after having missed four races [due to mechanical failure].