Present: Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Arrows), Nick Heidfeld (Sauber), Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), Norbert Haug (Mercedes motorsport director), Mario Theissen (BMW motorsport director). Q: Norbert. Today the performance seemed very promising. Are you ...
Present: Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Arrows), Nick Heidfeld (Sauber), Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), Norbert Haug (Mercedes motorsport director), Mario Theissen (BMW motorsport director).
Q: Norbert. Today the performance seemed very promising. Are you expecting a follow-up to the results in the last couple of races?
Norbert Haug: It would be nice but I don't think it's quite realistic. Friday times do not mean that much. We learned quite a lot and have quite a good baseline, but my judgement is not that we are fighting for pole position.
Q: How much progress is being made on the engine?
NoHa: We continuously develop the engine and make steps. We introduced a new step in Canada. We will use that tomorrow and in the race again. We did not use it today, but we are improving. There is still a lot of room for improvement but I think we've made quite significant steps since the start of the season.
Q: Is there still development to come. Some people say the engine isn't giving straight-line speed, for example, and that the straight-line speed is not going to be there.
NoHa: Well, you know there are so many suggestions that are wrong. I'm sure Mario can tell you the same stories. If you judge engine power on straight-line speed it's just wrong. I think Ferrari has got a very good combination and in the last races they have very good straight-line speed. They certainly have a lot of power as well, but you cannot judge the engine performance by straight-line speed, that's not possible. I could make it easy now and say we were in front of Ralf Schumacher and he couldn't overtake us so we must be at least as powerful, but it makes no sense. At the end of the day, the lap time counts. I think we improved in Monaco and Montreal, we did better lap times in Montreal. We were quite competitive in terms of lap times and it was a step. It wasn't a huge step but certainly a step in the right direction, and we're going to continue in that way.
Q: So there is room for more development.
NoHa: Absolutely. Until we are ahead of Ferrari.
Q: Mario. How do you feel about the results so far this year?
Mario Theissen: Different. The first races were quite good. We gathered quite a lot of points in the early races. We were satisfied with the competitive situation as well after having been able to close in a bit on the superior car this year. We were quite strong, and surprisingly strong in Monaco, and we were about as strong as expected in Montreal, we just didn't finish the race. So we have been working on reliability primarily in the past two or three weeks but other than that, I have to say, we are satisfied with the season so far. We are certainly where we wanted to be, maybe a bit better even.
Q: You've mentioned the problems that you had in Montreal. Have they been solved?
MT: It was two different problems. Juan Pablo's engine had a valve failure and on Ralf's engine... Ralf crossed the finishing line with the engine okay and immediately after that a piston gave up. I have to say that it wasn't a quality problem with the piston, but rather due to the operation conditions of the engine. And certainly we have taken some counter-measures for here, for this weekend, and I'm confident it will work.
Q: You've been on pole position for the last two races, what chances again?
MT: Well, I would prefer to get a few points instead of pole position.
Q: Can I ask all three drivers what they think of the new section of circuit?
Kimi Raikkonen: I think it's something different, for sure. For me it's okay. The only problem is that it makes the circuit quite slow now because there aren't many quick corners anyway and the first corner is really tight and the two after that also. Maybe it gives a few more opportunities for overtaking in the first corner, so it should be more interesting for the spectators.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen: For us drivers, it's not a problem if we like it or not. We will get used to it in the circumstances. If the spectators can enjoy it, because they can see maybe some more overtaking or they have the opportunity to see the car better in the infield then that's okay, we're happy with that. I'm happy.
Nick Heidfeld: I think it's well done. I like the new part. I think it's quite difficult to drive, especially the second and third corners. You will see a lot of cars struggling there with the balance, not only the car balance but also to find the right balance driving through there is difficult. So it's quite nice. The biggest problem for me is braking into the first corner. It's very bumpy. That's quite a big problem.
Q: Kimi, I've seen you go wide at the first corner. Is it the braking? What's been happening there?
KR: The problem, as Nick said, is that it's quite bumpy. There's a big bump under braking and then you lock wheels and that's why I went a bit wide a couple of times and flat-spotted my tyre once in the first session. We didn't really want to put the second set on, which is why I didn't do many laps. That's the only problem really with the new layout.
Q: We also see you going over the kerbs at the Veedol Chicane which looks a rocky ride. Are you improving it over the kerbs there?
KR: Yes. I don't know if it's our car set-up or maybe the kerbs are a bit bumpy. There have been many other circuits where you need to use the kerbs and the car has usually been quite good over the kerbs. It just takes time to get the right line and the right set-up. Sometimes it's a bit harder than on other laps but I think it's going to be OK.
Q: Heinz-Harald. Are you still making progress with the car?
HHF: Yes and no. I mean, we make some progress sometimes and we discover some new things while going testing that we have to sort out, so it is a quite nice challenge really.
Q: How are you getting on with that challenge?
HHF: I am hanging into it. I would really appreciate it if we could grow together this season and get some good results. I feel that the people and the team have the potential for being in the points more often. I think it is up to us to get the best of it and I also try very much to help them with the information I can give them and I am fighting very hard to improve the circumstances there.
Q: Is the lack of finance hurting at all?
HHF: They have the infrastructure. It would be nice if the Arrows team had works support so the sponsors they have got do not need to pay for an engine. That is some extra budget that would be nice for developing more and doing more testing but unfortunately that is the way it is. We have to live with what we have got.
Q: Nick, the start of the season was very good for you but it seems to have tailed off a bit. What's been happening?
NiHe: I think speed-wise that is not the case, apart from Monaco because we really struggled there. I was seventh in qualifying in Canada, in Austria I was fifth, so the speed really is there and we have just been a bit unlucky in the races. That is also why I am not so happy at the moment. We should have scored more points this year.
Q: Last year there was a policy that you got new parts at every race. Is that still happening?
NiHe Yeah. We are still developing the car all the time. We have a new aerodynamic part of the car here and we are also always trying to make progress on the electronics side. And as I said, I think speed-wise we are still there.
Q: So generally speaking you are pretty happy with the way things are going?
NiHe Yeah. You always want to push for more, but I think the race results from the last couple of races doesn't really show our potential.
Q: Kimi. You seem to have had two different seasons. You have out-qualified David 5-3, and yet in the races he's scored a lot of points - you've scored seven and he's scored 26. How do you feel about the way your season is going?
KR: Of course, it is not the ideal year for me, but so far the qualifying has been very good and unfortunately I have only finished two races from eight and I have had a lot of technical problems with the car. And even in the last race, when I finished, we had a problem with the refuelling and I was just driving around on the circuit, saving fuel so that I could finish the race. It is sad not to finish and score more points because if you score more points it is good for the team and it looks better on the table. But I think soon the luck will start to turn around and I will score more points this year. I am not too sad about what has happened but of course it would be nice to finish all the races.
Q: To Kimi and Heinz-Harald. Are you a little bit concerned about the corner at the start of the race?
HHF: As Nick described, they have made some modifications and it turned out to be a nice challenge there, but there are a couple of bumps there to start and also I would say it has also been a little bit difficult in the past to manage the first corner properly. This time it is a different challenge, there is a lot of run-off area there so you can run wide and there is a little bit more room for avoiding contact, and as Nick said, the braking is a bit bumpy, plus it goes a little bit downhill afterwards so I have to say also that it will be a challenge for people behind to actually watch where the cars are in front, so this could have been a little bit better.
KR: I don't see the problem because there are many other circuits where the first corner is a hairpin - in Malaysia and Monza - and usually the start has been very good.