Belgian GP: Friday press conference

Present: Gerhard Berger (BMW motorsport director) Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin motorsport director) Norbert Haug (Mercedes motorsport director) Eddie Jordan (Jordan team principal) Hisao Suganuma (Bridgestone technical manager) Q: Suganuma-san,...

Present:
Gerhard Berger (BMW motorsport director)
Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin motorsport director)
Norbert Haug (Mercedes motorsport director)
Eddie Jordan (Jordan team principal)
Hisao Suganuma (Bridgestone technical manager)

Q: Suganuma-san, Rubens Barrichello has recently paid tribute to the work by Bridgestone which has helped them win the World Championships; can you give us an idea of the work that has gone on between Bridgestone and Ferrari?

Hisao Suganuma: We are working very closely and Ferrari provides a lot of chances to try different kinds of tyres so therefore we have many opportunities to vary our prototype tyres and therefore we can find the best spec for respective races, so that is the best point of working with Ferrari.

Q: Does what Ferrari chose work well for the other teams?

HS: We have a very good relationship with the other teams and then also we have a chance to variate our prototype tyres but Ferrari provides most of the chances to try our tyres, but that is the best point with Ferrari. But we also respect the other teams' results as well so we can confirm Ferrari's results with the other teams; we compare and that makes a more accurate result for us.

Q: We've just had a gap without any testing; how have you been reacting during these five weeks?

HS: Basically, what we used most in these three races was based on last year's results and also we did a lot of testing before the test ban started, so then we compared this year's results and last year's race results and then we made the best candidate for the race.

Q: What are the major requirements of tyres here?

HS: It's basically stability, that is the first, because of a couple of fast corners so to run in those corners would be the key to being competitive in this circuit, so I believe stability is the first point, then consistency throughout the race distance.

Q: What about the actual compression here at Eau Rouge, do you take that into account with tyres?

HS: Yes, we think about the Eau Rouge requirement, which, as I said, is stability which is the greatest issue, so therefore we provide two specs for this circuit; one of the specs will be suitable through that corner.

Q: Pierre, people keep saying that if Michelin could get it right, be better than Bridgestone, it would have turned the whole championship around. Is that putting a lot of pressure on you?

Pierre Dupasquier: I think it's absolutely right. If you provide a tyre that is two seconds faster than anything else, it will give a big help to our partners, there's no doubt about it! We're trying hard.

Q: It seems a delicate balance for Michelin between being too aggressive and too conservative and that seems to be the balance that you don't always get right. Is that the case?

PD: It depends on the circumstances. Normally we try to provide a tyre which will be difficult to use but as fast as possible, and a tyre that will be more safe and can be used in any circumstances, even circumstances that we don't necessarily think about before. In fact here at Spa, you can have 12 degrees on the ground or you can have 45 on the ground. We are obliged to cover a wide range so we try to have two tyres but what you said is the not the case here. The two tyres, option and prime, are very close to each other.

Q: Going back to being aggressive and conservative, would you say that there are certain races where you have been too aggressive and certain races where you have been more conservative?

PD: Not that much. Look at Magny-Cours. I think we were pretty much competitive and there was nothing to do about it. Hockenheim was a bit different, but again we didn't think we could pick up one second somewhere just with the tyres being less conservative and the stability was enough. And talking about Hungary, we have been very consistent and conservative during the race also. At least one of our tyres was just appropriate.

Q: What about today, were you expecting that performance from McLaren?

PD: We expect the best from everybody, every parameter of the car, every time. I think everybody is working very hard and we will see for qualifying and the race, it's tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

Q: Gerhard, Ford coming back into Grand Prix racing....

Gerhard Berger: Sorry, sorry. I want to say something first. I'm very happy that Eddie Jordan gets the Ford engine. I think it's very good for him, it's very good for Formula One, it's a very good investment for Ford. That's what he asked me to tell here, what he asked me, so I just wanted to say that....

Eddie Jordan: He asked me, would I please speak to his CEO so that he can get a new contract. Yes, he has a new contract.

GB: I'm managing his boat.

EJ: I'm negotiating his new fee.

Q: What is the situation with your new contract, what is holding it up?

GB: There is no new contract. I have a new contract, also next year, and somebody asked me what are you going to do afterwards and I say in the winter it's time to think about it but not before. Now we are in the middle of the season so let's finish the season and then in the winter I will have to think a little bit about it but there's nothing special behind it. Let's see what's going to come.

Q: Don't you enjoy the job?

GB: I love it, I love it. It's great, everything is fine.

Q: A question for both you and Norbert. Patrick Faure of Renault is quoted as saying that the dominance of Ferrari is hurting Formula One and that the rules will have to be revised. Do you agree with that? How can you see the rules being revised?

GB: No, I don't see it this way at all. We have always seen in Formula One cycles where you had cars very dominant. Remember back in '88 the McLaren, remember back to Williams at the time, and if somebody is doing a good job, we shouldn't look to change the regulations, we should look that we do our job better. They are very very strong, they have good resources, they have good budgets and they are a very strong group of people, but the time is going to change again and I think there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to close up. It may take a bit of time, but it would be completely wrong to sort this problem out with changing the regulations.

Q: Norbert, your view?

Norbert Haug: Very much the same. I think you certainly cannot blame Ferrari for being faster and for being more successful this season. As Gerhard pointed out, both the other way around, there was a period when Williams was dominant and also a period when McLaren Mercedes was dominant and I'm 100 per cent convinced that, because this is something that you can look up in the history books, it's certainly not going to last forever, the dominance of Ferrari. I think we make great steps, I think Williams-BMW is doing good, we have to accept that we only work the first year with Michelin, but I think we put some highlights like Monaco and Magny-Cours. What we need is 17 highlights in the year, not only two.

Q: What about the return of Ford?

NH: I think it's great. It's great for Eddie, it's great for Formula One, if there is a full commitment behind, but I'm sure Eddie can point out that in a much better way, but I think it's great to have Ford back.

Q: You mentioned Michelin a moment ago, do you think your two or three pronged attack with Williams and Renault is stronger than the single pronged attack of Ferrari with Bridgestone?

NH: Well, certainly not at the moment as the results point out, but I think that it would be completely unfair to blame Michelin as a tyre partner, and we certainly do not do that. We are competitive individuals in our team within Michelin and I think if we get it right together, like Magny-Cours, like Monaco, then we can have a great performance. If we get it wrong like Saturday in Hungary, we certainly are not good enough and then we are 10th and 11th or whatever we have been. But, come race day, we did a much better job. That just shows, it's the same team, the same group of people, the same drivers, if we bring things together in the right way, and if we understand then we can perform. This is a learning process and I'm sure we're going to make big steps forward. I'm very confident that we can accelerate and that we can raise our game.

Q: Eddie, there wasn't actually a formal announcement that you're going to have Ford engines next year. Could you just confirm that?

EJ: Well, I thought most of the media have confirmed it, but what actually happened was a bit different. In Hungary, relatively late on Saturday afternoon, a signed, confirmed contract arrived and in view of the fact that there was nobody there either from Cosworth or Ford themselves to have a proper, open press release and conference, I was told, particularly in light of, we of course went to Honda for me to make sure that I had the ability to be able to go, and I will come back to Honda in a second, so as a result of that and their press release that went out, I did, with the permission of the people at Ford to make an announcement that Jordan and Ford would be together for the next three years using Cosworth engines.

Q: You mentioned Honda...

EJ: I think Honda need, in this particular case, a huge vote of thanks because what they did was a very sporting situation and the circumstances may have helped them in their longer term future, but I did have a contract which they recognised and they absolutely totally sportingly allowed me, which was important for Jordan, to have a much longer contract with Ford and with Cosworth to be put in place and for that, I personally want it on record that I'm thanking them here.

Q: Now you and BAR worked together very well with Honda, can you see the same situation with Jaguar as well?

EJ: I hope so. There was so much media speculation that ourselves and BAR were at loggerheads, which was absolute nonsense, it was never the case. Craig and more recently Dave Richards would be absolutely able to confirm that. We worked harmoniously together. I think now you can see the development in the Honda engine is getting there and I'd like to think that Jordan and BAR worked tirelessly to get this together, and I have no reason, whatsoever, to believe that Jaguar and Jordan can't work in harmony in this case. It's a perfectly natural thing, It would be crazy for both of us if we gave up the opportunity of driving both of us further up the grid. That's the natural thing to do.

Q: What about from a tyre point of view. Michelin rather like having manufacturers on board - are they going to be chasing you?

EJ: I am not sure what that question really means, but we are at a situation where decisions have to be made. My personal view is that we are getting unbelievable service from Bridgestone. We are, and try to be, a very loyal team and there is not reason to believe...I noticed your question about Ferrari, but we have not suffered in any shape or form as a result of the development that may be seen to be going to Ferrari. He comes to our factory every week with his group of people and the attention to detail that we get from Bridgestone is absolutely first rate. Of course, we have a new partner in Ford and this aspect, of course, it would be natural to discuss it with them. But I think issues like this will remain within the team and our view is that Bridgestone are an extremely competent and competitive tyre manufacturer and we have to wait and see.

Q: Gerhard, Formula One takes a lot of financial and technical resources. What can you tell us about the long-term commitment of BMW to touring cars and junior formulae?

GB: You are absolutely right, the priority in our company is clearly Formula One and it takes nearly everything, budget wise, technical resources and management capacity. But on the other side, touring cars is very important for BMW, especially the touring cars close to the road cars, especially the touring cars used by private teams. We have an extremely high number of private clients who race BMW products and for this reason I think we are still going to take care of touring cars in the future.

Q: For the two tyre companies, do you think you will either win or lose partners for next season?

HS: That is really difficult to answer at this stage but I believe we will stay with our current partners.

PD: There are some discussions going on but the idea is to stay consistent to what we had this year.

Q: Eddie, when Jaguar took over the Stewart team it was very clear at the time that it was the Ford Motor Company and Ford were coming in branded as Jaguar. How are the dynamics of your Ford deal going to relate to the Jaguar Ford deal?

EJ: Thanks...I think there is no doubting where Jaguar sit in this. They are fully owned by Ford and they are the works team and they continue. Some people seem to think...I have read some places where Ford have been welcomed back. I am not sure that is accurate because I don't think Ford have ever been away, but maybe there under a slightly different name, so Jordan will sit with Jaguar as a competitor on the track on a Sunday but where there is work and development to do they will work tirelessly to make it work together. We spent three years with people debating the pros and cons about BAR and Jordan (both having Honda engines) as to how they could and couldn't work. I think everybody could see that it worked particularly well. We are all sensible people trying to get the best out of it. We are not trying to be in competition with each other, we are in competition with the rest of these guys who are already quicker than us. We have got to focus on them and any idea, as we had in our team, of trying to focus on BAR first was absolutely nonsense and anyone who tried to do that was losing total focus. Our work is to work with Cosworth, with Ford, with Jaguar to get the best results that we can and we have to have our day. A couple of years ago we were able to win races. We intend to win races again, and we will need some help from Jaguar and Jaguar will need some help from us and we will be good true partners, I have no problem with that.

Q: Eddie, we had a press conference at which Niki Lauda appeared on the Thursday before the Hungarian Grand Prix and the story he told us was rather different from the one that you told us on Sunday morning in Hungary. Could you tell us who you were dealing with at Ford and why we still haven't had this press release about it from Ford.

EJ: I can make no comment about Niki, he is not here to speak for himself and it is a question that should be directed at him, what he said. What I said, I stand by, and it is a very simple situation that Jordan and Cosworth and Ford entered into an agreement late on that Saturday evening, so it is possible that negotiations did go on, I am not sure of the timeframe you are talking about with Niki, but really that is a question you need to direct to Niki.

Q: So who signed the contract?

EJ: I am not sure why we have to go into this situation, but Ford of Europe, the president, signed one part and the vice president of global business, Richard Parry Jones signed the other part, so they are the two people and including my signature that is what was there.

Q: To Gerhard, the future of the Belgian Grand Prix is not sure. As a former driver, what do you feel about the possible loss of such a beautiful track?

GB: Well, I think everybody agrees with me, it would be a real pity to lose this track. This is one of the old traditional high-speed circuits where we all look forward to come, especially the drivers. But we cannot have just this side of the view. I think there is more to a Grand Prix weekend, and at the end of the day Bernie and Max have to see what is right for the business, where is the right place to go, where is not the right place to go. But from a driver's point of view we miss circuits like this and we will be missing more circuits like this.

Q: Gerhard, talking about the dominance of Ferrari, do you think that if McLaren were still on Bridgestones that Williams and Michelin would have won more races this year?

GB: Not at all. First I think the dominance of Ferrari is not a tyre question, I think that Ferrari have built a fantastic car, there is a fantastic reliability and on top of it you have Michael Schumacher who is also doing quite a good job! We have seen some circuits where I think Michelin had the best choice of tyres, we have seen some circuits where Bridgestone was very strong, but again, it is not a tyre question. I think for Michelin to get the help of two top teams is very helpful. I have also seen in the past and you also have seen in the past, if you have a tyre company that has just one top team and then the top team has a problem, then it is very difficult to figure out: Is it the tyres, is it the driver, is it the chassis, what is it? So from this side I think we always have a good reference point with McLaren and they have a good reference point with us and it helps sometimes. I think if you have to work very close with one team, like Bridgestone do with Ferrari, it gives some advantages and some disadvantages and I think both ways are okay.

Q: Eddie, what can you say about your drivers for next year? Are you talking to Felipe Massa?

EJ: No I am not. The drivers I have next year have already been signed on a long-term contract and they are the two drivers we have at the moment.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Eddie Jordan , Gerhard Berger , Norbert Haug , Felipe Massa , Niki Lauda
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Jordan