Canadian GP Friday press conference

DRIVERS: Jenson Button (Williams) Eddie Irvine (Jaguar). TEAM PRINCIPALS: Ron Dennis (McLaren) Eddie Jordan (Jordan) Craig Pollock (BAR) Jean Todt (Ferrari) Q. Ron, a lot of people have noticed a change in David Coulthard over the past few ...

Jenson Button (Williams)
Eddie Irvine (Jaguar).

Ron Dennis (McLaren)
Eddie Jordan (Jordan)
Craig Pollock (BAR)
Jean Todt (Ferrari)

Q. Ron, a lot of people have noticed a change in David Coulthard over the past few races. What about yourself?

Ron Dennis: David has obviously raised his game - and that is what you would expect him to do. Any driver will dig hard for motivation and try to improve his performance, and it is clear that he has taken a step up. Both in qualifying and the races, the differences in time between him and Mika are now closer than ever, and as you saw at Monaco he is now outperforming Mika. He has got better.

Q. In effect, your two drivers are now in direct conflict with each other when they're out on the circuit. Does that give you a good feeling?

RD: Yes, of course. We are here to win races and to earn points. Whichever of the two wins them is immaterial at this stage. We know where the competition is coming from, and when there are two championships to be contested, you need as many points as possible. It is obviously an asset and an advantage to have two strong drivers.

Q. From a car point of view, what needs to be improved?

RD: All racing cars have their weak elements, and those weaknesses are always going to show up whenever you put a car on its limits. That is the nature of the game. What we try to do, through testing, is to identify clearly where those limits are, and then to focus our research on those aspects of the car which are the limiting factors. As you would expect, these things vary between one circuit and another. Normally speaking, though, by the time the race comes the drivers are usually pretty happy with the balance of their cars. So this year's McLaren is not a car with an inherent imbalance. Our engine's performance is constantly improving. We have focused closely on driveability this year, and a lot of the work that has been done shows performance improvements, too. In general the package is quite good. It is difficult at the moment to differentiate between our car and Ferrari's, obviously because of the different drivers, but it's very close. I expect any difference or advantage to swing between the two teams as the season progresses.

Q. Jenson, this is your first time here in Montreal. What do you think of it so far?

Jenson Button: Difficult! As you probably saw today, I am finding it difficult to get used to the circuit, and we had a few problems. But by tomorrow I hope that more practice will help me to move up the time sheets. Today we have concentrated on doing our own thing. I can only hope that we'll be on the pace tomorrow.

Q. What is the most difficult aspect of the circuit?

JB: Probably the braking into the chicanes and the hairpin. Those are the areas where I have to make up the greatest amount of time. I hope to be working on that tomorrow.

Q. There have been countless rumours about you, your drive and your position next year. Do you have any influence on that?

JB: I hope so! If I didn't, there would be no reason for me to be here. Like any F1 driver, I have to do a good job to keep my seat. That is what I am going to do. It is still very early to say what I am going to do next year, so I am concentrating race by race. There's no use thinking about next year, so I just concentrate on what I am doing now {My destination for next year] is not really an issue at the moment. It will be more of a problem at the end of the year, and I will think about it a lot more then. But now I am just concentrating on doing my job and doing the best that I can.

Q. Jean, there have been different reports about the cause of Michael's retirement with suspension damage at Monaco. One explanation is that it was caused by damage to the exhaust, while another - which is shared by two drivers - is that Michael may have hit the wall. What can you tell us?

Jean Todt: We had some reliability problems with the exhaust [systems] on both cars. We managed to finish the race with Rubens, in spite of the breakage of his exhaust, but unfortunately for Michael the exhaust on his car broke into two pieces and the temperature of the [escaping gases] was more than the suspension could stand. So it broke. That's all. [Whatever other drivers say], it is just a story that Michael hit the wall. We have information from the telemetry and from Michael. And I think Michael is the best driver to say exactly what happened to him.

Q. Rubens has had a bit of an on-and-off start. How do you see it, with the team?

JT: As you all know, Ferrari is not the easiest team for a new driver, and Rubens has Michael as his team mate, none of which makes life easy for him. Anyway, he is learning slowly, we are all supporting him and we are very happy about the job he is doing. The only way to help him is to give him a competitive car.

Q. Eddie Jordan, there has been a lot of talk about which engines your team will be using next year. Can you tell us any more?

Eddie Jordan: The situation on engines is quite clear: if you're to have a realistic chance of winning a world title, it is now quite obvious that you need a major car manufacturer as your partner.

Q. Do you feel you have a major manufacturer?

EJ: We are of course talking to a number of manufacturers. We have been very open about that and our [current] partner, Mugen, is aware of that. We have had a lot of success with Mugen: we won races with their engine last year and the year before, and it is Mugen who has got us to where we are. They are superb people. But with new names coming in, the indications are that the [best] way forward is with a major manufacturer. This has already been discussed between me and [Mugen boss] Hirotoshi Honda.

Q. After the excellent reliability of your cars last year, your drivers have had some miserably bad luck this year, especially with gearboxes ...

EJ: Yes, it's very disturbing. But for this season we followed a strategic plan [which took into account the fact that] the McLaren and Ferrari teams are a cut above everybody else. Inside Jordan, we knew that hard decisions would have to be made if we were ever to join them [at their own] level. Yes, we had reliability last year, because the car was built that way. But in terms of outright performance we were simply not quick enough, and we had to put that right, starting at the end of last year. Remember that Michael was out of racing for seven races, which meant that our two successes may have been part of a distorted picture. What we therefore did was to try to lighten as many parts as possible - just as everybody does - in order to lift our game. As a result of that, some things got missed. We have also had problems with our own electronics, although I think we got a handle on that after Silverstone. [Trulli's] Monaco retirement was an entirely different problem. But when we had an opportunity we were able to start one car from the front row and one from the second, so there is no doubt that the car is improving. We are developing ideas now that should enable us to be even more competitive and to take on the two leading teams. It isn't healthy for F1 to have two teams flying away and making the rest of us look like fools.

Q. Eddie, congratulations on your 4th place at Monaco. Was it a relief to have scored Jaguar's first points of the season?

Eddie Irvine: It's a relief in a way because I'm out there to get points. But the biggest relief was [having the new] clutch. We have lost points at previous races because we couldn't get off the line. The relief for me is to have fixed that and to know that we don't have to expect to lose positions at the start. In fact, now we have the opportunity to make up positions, and as long as we qualify reasonably well, that means I have a chance of scoring points in every race. [Not being able to do that] has cost us dearly this year: just as good starts made by the BAR guys has allowed them to score points, so we have lost points with our bad starts.

Q. Craig, are you pleased with Jacques' 10th place today?

Craig Pollock: I am certainly more pleased than we were in Monaco, where we never found the right set-up and went in completely the wrong direction. Today it looks as though we are in the right direction. Jacques' confidence is up, he seems to be at ease and he's happy. The whole team is very happy, in fact.

Q. Yet the magazines are full of reports that he's leaving, or that you're leaving ...

CP: They have been full of stories since we created the team, so we're getting used to it. The rumour mills keep on turning, and we're learning the hard way. We just have to keep our heads down and work through it.

Q. Jacques says there isn't enough downforce in the car. What so you have to do to keep him?

CP: Perform! If he says that, then he's probably right. In Monaco, though, it wasn't just a lack of downforce [that held us back], we just didn't find the right set-up. I don't think Jacques was working brilliantly well with his engineer. There was certainly some pressure on him, too.

Q. How do things look for you at the circuits coming up?

CP: There are a couple of circuits where I expect us to be struggling. We'll be a lot better on the low downforce circuits, though.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Jenson Button , David Coulthard , Eddie Jordan , Jean Todt
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Jordan , CIP