Thursday 27 August 1998 "Thursday Four" press conference Drivers: Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Williams), Mika Hakkinen (McLaren), Damon Hill (Jordan) and Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Q. Mika, can you tell us anything now about the...
Thursday 27 August 1998
Q. Mika, can you tell us anything now about the problem with your car which cost you so dearly in Hungary?
MH: Unfortunately, I can't give any exact details of what happened. But it was a technical failure related to the front suspension which made it virtually impossible to drive, both into and out of the corners. If I had tried to go full speed I would definitely have gone off the road or had a shunt. It would even have been dangerous if I had tried to push it because there were other cars going past at twice the speed I was going. Mentally it was very tough to have to accept that situation because at the start of the race my car had been going really well and I was enjoying driving it. The balance was really good and I was feeling quite comfortable. When I got the problem it was a real disaster to see everybody coming past.
Q. It has been suggested that Goodyear may now have overtaken Bridgestone in tyre performance. How did your tyres perform in Hungary?
MH: I can't say how well our tyres performed compared to Goodyear in the race, because of the problem. But seeing the development that Bridgestone has been doing, and how competitive the tyres are, I am still confident.
Q. You were in Prague last week. What was happening there?
MH: It was very interesting to visit the Czech Republic. Our sponsor did a huge promotion there and virtually the whole town was upside down. McLaren brought the two-seater GP car and did some runs at a local track, there was a Mercedes GT car and we met Dominik Hasek, who is the goal keeper for the Czech Republic ice hockey team and also a really nice guy. We did a lot of interviews, of course, but I was also interested to see such a beautiful city.
Q. Damon, what are Jordan's prospects for the rest of the year?
DH: We have a good chance, although it is going to be difficult -- but not impossible -- to upset the cars that are in contention for the championship. But we are slowly closing the gap, because the progress that Jordan has made is truly impressive. Just think back to the beginning of the season, when the car was nowhere near where we wanted it to be, and then compare its performance in the last four races, culminating with qualifying in Hungary. That shows what an amazing job our guys have done. A lot of the credit also goes to Mugen-Honda, whose engines have given us more horsepower and better reliability. Goodyear has helped, too, but it is the package which has come right.
Q. Heinz-Harald, what happened to you after the race in Hungary? What were your movements, as it were?
HHF: Well, I was struggling a bit [with my health] in Hungary. It started on Friday afternoon, when I had to go to the toilet every hour. I felt very bad and in the night I got a fever and chills. I had to throw up a couple of times ... in fact I can go into a lot more detail if you're interested. We had some analyses done, but I didn't get much sleep. The Williams toilet was so busy that we had to do some technical briefings from there. I even had to take my mobile in there, too ... and it was nothing to laugh at. The worst moment was on Saturday afternoon when I had a temperature of over 39 degrees and had to take some tablets to bring it down.
Q. There are rumours that you have lost the Williams seat. Have you made a decision yet about your future?
HHF: Nothing is decided yet. I have read the rumours about Ralf Schumacher signing a contract to drive a Williams for four years, but I haven't been told anything about that by the team. We are still in negotiations and I am also talking to other teams.
Q. Michael, where do you think Ralf should go?
MS: Ralf has several options and he will decide what is right for him. I don't want to speculate on that. The point is that Williams is a very experienced winning team, while others are less experienced. Others may not be as good in the same areas, but they may have other skills and advantages. Ralf will look for the best deal and the best package for him.
Q. How do you assess your own chances this weekend?
MS: Everyone likes this circuit, especially me. I believe we have a competitive package to be able to fight in this race. It will be tough but I see no reason why we shouldn't be fighting for victory. Spa has always been a special place for me. There are always lots of supporters here and I consider it to be my third 'home' race.
Q. How much has the long wheelbase version of the Ferrari 300 improved since the attempt to use it at Hockenheim had to be abandoned?
MS: We have now tested it extensively enough to feel confident about racing it here and at Monza in two weeks. We found at Monza that it is a step forward, although only a little one. The long wheelbase suits certain areas. At Hockenheim there was still a question mark over its reliability and we didn't want to take a risk. But since then we have improved a lot and now we are more confident. I feel less worried about Monza than I did before.