Canadian GP: Friday press conference

Present: Jenson Button (Renault), Olivier Panis (BAR) and Jacques Villenuve (BAR) Guenther Steiner (Jaguar Managing/Technical director) Otmar Szafnauer (Honda Vice President) Q: You've been at Jaguar now for about six months. What changes have...

Present: Jenson Button (Renault), Olivier Panis (BAR) and Jacques Villenuve (BAR) Guenther Steiner (Jaguar Managing/Technical director) Otmar Szafnauer (Honda Vice President)

Q: You've been at Jaguar now for about six months. What changes have you made, what needs doing and what alternations have you made?

Guenther STEINER: A lot of people have seen we have changed some of the staff we have got there. We just reorganised everything a little bit and it took me a few months to realise where I have to work. We are still continuing and this restructuring will go on for the rest of the year and even next year. You always have to move up to go quicker, but up to now we have to strengthen our aerodynamic department, which was the weakest link of the company in my opinion, not only down to people, but also we didn't have a wind tunnel to start with and the wind tunnel that we did use was in America. We used it two weeks a month and didn't have enough people and that is the biggest change we have made. We went from thirty people to fifty people in the aero department and our next gains will come from there, but we are still working on a lot of other parts on production and other parts of the company.

Q: Quite a number of the aero people seem to have come from Arrows. Have you got a contra deal with him for aero people and engines?

GS: No, it doesn't work this easily, no. People challenge us. We have jobs vacant and if people apply, we consider them. They did a good job on their car so for sure you have to get good people in, but there is no deal with Tom. We just employ people.

Q: What about the aerodynamic modifications? Are they on course for Silverstone?

GS: Yeah, everything is going to program at the moment. We will have a package at Silverstone. We are still evaluating and testing. We start testing three weeks on the car and then we will see how much we gain. But everything is on course and in production now.

Q: Otmar, welcome. Can you tell me where you have come from and what your job is with Honda?

Otmar SZAFNAUER: Well my job with Honda...I'm the vice president of Honda Racing Development and previously I've come from British American Racing. I was the operations director at British American Racing for three years and prior to that, you may notice by my accent, I came from America and raced in the USAC Formula 2000, owned my own team and did a bit of racing there as well.

Q: Are you the English-speaking side of Honda?

OS: Yes, I will be the representative at these events and yes, I think my English hopefully is up to the standard that everyone in this room expects. But there are many English-speaking Japanese people at Honda as well.

Q: Some people might say that Honda, having been so strong in the late eighties, for instance, haven't got the plot right this time. They're still struggling three years down the line to be competitive.

OS: I want to thank you for recognizing Honda's past performance in Formula One. The lapse has been almost ten years that Honda has stayed away from Formula One. In that time, technology has moved on and Honda has recognized that this is the formula that is most challenging to them in the world, and that's why they are here. They are here to take up the challenge, they are here for the long run and they are keenly aware that we haven't met the world's expectations yet but we are working hard with our two teams to do so.

Q: In theory you were meant to have a modification or upgrading here. What happened to that, when can we expect it?

OS: Well that's a two-pronged answer. There is an upgrade for Canada but it isn't a completely new engine, which I think you are referring to. We were able to improve the engine we started the season with and improve on the Austria-spec qualifying engine to the point where we met our Canadian Grand Prix performance targets with that engine. Therefore we had a choice coming into Canada, and we opted to use the previous engine rather than introduce the new engine which is at its infancy of development and continue to develop that, and you will see that engine shortly.

Q: That is an all-new engine?

OS: All new. It's quite a task to produce an engine mid-season and it's quite difficult to produce that new engine, test it a week before the race introduction and have it all go well. We were fortunate to have developed in two routes. One continued to develop the engine we started the season with, at the same time introduce an all-new engine, so we had that option for this Grand Prix.

Q: Jenson, not a good day today so far.

Jenson BUTTON: No, it hasn't been the best - except for England winning, of course. The first run in practice we had a problem and I had to sit out the whole session, which was a shame. In the second session, yeah, we just didn't seem on the pace where we thought we would be but again. It's only practice and we have just been working on the race set-up and I think we've got a good race set-up over a certain number of laps. It's just getting that one lap sorted which obviously we will work on tomorrow morning, because I think we need to. I don't know what Jarno's problem was.

Q: Generally speaking, are you making the kind of progress that you want?

JB: Yeah, I think so. I think the car is working very well. Aerodynamically we keep getting new bits on the car. Also the engine, to start with, is a lot more reliable than it was at the start of the season and it's also got more power. Also tomorrow in qualifying we've got a slightly better engine than we have had previously, so I'm looking forward to that.

Q: Has the launch control problem that you had in Monaco been solved?

JB: My right finger, yeah. Hopefully, yes, I've done a lot of practising and I haven't done it since, so hopefully it's gone.

Q: Jacques, today has been positive, hasn't it?

Jacques VILLENEUVE: Yeah, we end up being quick on Friday but by taking fuel out, so it looks good.

Q: What about the modifications that have been made to the car?

JV: They feel good, they definitely feel good and it's an improvement. I think it's the first time in four years where you feel there's an improvement on the car, so that is a very nice thing, but I think it will be very, very difficult for us to be in the top ten tomorrow because I don't think we are that competitive.

Q: Is it that the modifications haven't been tested enough or they are not going to bring you that much?

JV: No, they bring us a bunch. If we didn't have them we would be even slower, that's what I was saying. Don't think that we have modifications nobody else has. We've made a step forward but everybody else has. Hopefully our step forward is bigger than the opposition's, so even if we have a six, seven, eight tenths better car, for example, anybody else will have a half second car better, that's only three tenths difference. It's not the whole eight tenths so I'm not sure exactly what is the difference anyway. So don't expect a major leap. If we qualified comfortably before 14th, 15th, 16th, then now we will be 12th.

Q: What about the new Honda engine Otmar was talking about?

JV: We tested it in Silverstone and we weren't happy running it here because we didn't put enough miles on it so it wasn't ready to be raced.

Q: Will that bring you into the top ten?

JV: Well, it definitely wasn't... we weren't running it in full spec at the test, so the way it was at the test, no.

Q: Is there still pressure for you here as much as at other Grands Prix?

JV: Well, this year there is pressure at every race because we haven't been capable of being close enough to the points anywhere. So there's not extra pressure coming here. Of course, after today, because people think we are competitive now because we had a good Friday, there will be pressure tomorrow and I expect a little bit of disappointment tomorrow.

Q: So you are busily disarming everybody?

JV: No, it's just that with this new package it was important to see how the car worked. We did a lot of brake work because last year we had tremendous trouble with brakes somehow, so we checked that in the morning and everything was fine. So in the afternoon it was important to see if the car changed with low fuel, and to see how quick we could go, so we could learn in one day everything about this new package.

Q: So there weren't too many surprises running it with low fuel?

JV: No, no, the car felt good with and without fuel, which is a good thing, so now we can just concentrate on doing the set-up and we will know that whatever set-up works for qualifying will work for the race as well.

Q: Olivier. It is terrible to think you haven't finished a race yet. Are you a little bit frustrated this season?

Olivier PANIS: It is quite a bit tough this time, but we have to wait. When you cry you put harm down or you continue to work hard and continue to develop the car. This is the way I try, and the new aero kit we have here is definitely a little bit of an improvement, but I quite agree with Jacques, we need to try to continue to push hard and to improve the car again to start going for better positions in qualifying.

Q: What about this circuit for you. You have had good things and pretty bad things as well...

OP I like the racing here and all the time I have had good results. I am sure I have had a bad accident but it is not Montreal's fault or the Canadian Grand Prix's fault. At this race I had a big accident, but I don't care about this and I continue to be concentrated and I like this race.

Q: The pit lane exit has been changed, where I suspect now we know where the white line is that you are approaching in the pit lane faster than cars on the circuit are approaching that second corner. Is that going to be an issue during the race?

OP Well, it is really fast, the pit exit, and also because we are going on the outside of the corner it is very dusty. We need to find the braking point and be sure we don't go out on the first corner after a pit stop. We need to discuss it in the drivers' briefing, but everybody improves for the safety point of view, it might be good but we need to discuss it.

Q: Would taking short-cuts at the end of the final chicane also be something you would want to discuss?

OP Well, I think so. Every driver works really hard with the FIA from the safety point of view. Everybody made the best to improve, and I think we have improved the last chicane quite a lot with the tyres. If somebody hits the wall it is definitely better, but it is difficult sometimes to improve everything in the first time.

Q: For Jacques, despite your troubles at BAR, every time you come here you are treated as a hero. How does it feel to have people sticking behind you and what are the reasons for that?

JV: It is great that the crowd is still positive after four very bad years. There is a little bit of a family feeling with the fans here and I think that is what has helped to keep everybody motivated. I guess they just have fun. They come here, they are cheering the racing, they are cheering anytime there is an overtaking move, whenever someone does a good lap, it is just a very positive crowd. Maybe it is because of the end of winter or something.

Q: It's not because of you?

JV: I don't know but, of course, the welcome is definitely warmer here for me than anywhere else, but I think everybody that comes here feels the people in a warmer way, the mechanics, everybody who comes here for the race enjoys coming here and looks forward to this race, so there must be a reason.

Q: Guenther. What have been the biggest challenges for you, adapting from the rally world to Formula One?

GS: You want the long story or the short one? It was a little bit of a change, but the biggest thing I realised is how the events come up so quickly, each one after the other. In rallying you normally have at least three weeks, there are one or two events where it is two weeks between them, but here you have a race every two weeks if not every week, and you have to move so fast and take such quick actions. That is the biggest change for me which I just realised once the season started after three or four races, after the fly-always. You have to be more responsive than rallying, but all the rest is very similar. It is a team sport, you have to build a team behind you, a good technical team which delivers you the goods on the track. The biggest difference is the speed of it, but nothing else.

Q: Jacques. Do you still feel you have a lot to do in Formula One?

JV: Yeah, definitely. Win more races and more championships. That's the reason for any driver, or for most drivers, racing. Having done it once is definitely not enough.

Q: Jacques and Jenson. Can you give your point of view about the pit lane exit as well?

JV: I am quite happy with the exit of the pit lane. It might be a little bit more difficult when you come out and the track is dusty, but you don't destroy somebody else's lap in practice or qualifying and that is the main thing.

JB: I think it is much better than last year. The only thing I would say about it is I don't know how they made it so bumpy. It is very bumpy compared to the rest of the circuit.

JV: Are we on the same bit of the track?

JB: Yeah, the pits. It's because you have got light fuel - it rides over the bumps easier.

Q: Jacques. If I am not mistaken, this time last year you were a little more optimistic about the potential for progress at BAR and you don't seem that way today. What has changed and...

JV: I actually am more positive with the progress possible with the team now since we have all the new technical people in place. I think that finally the team can make a step forward. Now, we still have to see what the engine is capable of and I think everyone working hard at Honda has realised there is a lot of work that is needed and that is why there is a new engine that is ready and almost usable.

Q: Jacques. How do you think the CART racers will be going on this track later on?

JV: I am sure they will have a lot of fun, and it will be good to find out, finally, what is the exact lap time difference and how much quicker Formula One is.

Q: Jacques. We have seen here and in some other circuits that the run-off areas are paved now rather than gravel. Do you think this is a safer way to go, specifically in terms of the accident that Alexander Wurz had here when he was upside down?

JV: Upside down I would rather land on asphalt than sand because if your roll bar gets dug in the sand then it is your head that will hit, and the head is definitely not as solid as the roll cage on the car. Nine times out of ten it will be safer to have asphalt. The only time it's not safer is when you have no wheels attached on your car, but by then you are probably in other troubles anyway.

Q: Guenther. You talk about building up the team. By the start of next season, how many more people would you like to have?

GS: I wouldn't like to change the quantity of the people we have to up the quality of the people. We have got enough, we are a big team and there is no point to put more people in place, just to get the team to work together properly and organised and get the direction. The team will work then.

Q: Jacques. Michael (Schumacher) said in the press conference that he is ready to go to your restaurant for a free meal if you pay for it. Are you ready for that?

JV: He is earning enough money to pay for his own food. Yeah, he can come whenever he wants. I am sure we will get him a table and some free food, there is no problem there.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Olivier Panis , Alexander Wurz
Teams British American Racing