European GP: Thursday press conference

Present: Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Sauber) Nick Heidfeld (Sauber) Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Ralf Schumacher (Williams) Jos Verstappen (Minardi) Q: Nick, the Sauber train seems to have run out of steam at the moment. Are you happy with the pace...

Present:
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Sauber)
Nick Heidfeld (Sauber)
Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
Ralf Schumacher (Williams)
Jos Verstappen (Minardi)

Q: Nick, the Sauber train seems to have run out of steam at the moment. Are you happy with the pace of development? Are you happy with the way things are going?

Nick Heidfeld: No, obviously not. We're not where we want to be. The last two years we've been a lot stronger but we knew before the season, and already for the last two years, that it's going to be tough to compete against these big manufacturers. I think that only shows how good our performance was over the last two years. Some people said that this year's car has been designed completely wrong but I can't agree with that. We definitely made a step forward from last year to this year, but other teams definitely made a bigger step.

Q: What about your own future? How do you feel about next year?

NH: Well, as you say, my contract runs out this year, so I have to look around for next year. I'm confident but I can't tell you right now.

Q: With Sauber?

NH: Well, we are talking to a couple of teams and also I have a good relationship with Peter, with the whole team, I've felt comfortable there for the last two years but it's too early to say anything.

Q: Heinz-Harald, this is your 150th Grand Prix but I hear you're not very excited about this fact.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen: Well, I never count the races. Actually it took me a long time to figure out it really was the 150th Grand Prix. I counted them all together but yes, indeed, it is.

Q: Does it make you feel old, then?

H-HF: No, nothing special. It's a good reason to talk about it and talk about the past and the future and whatever. It's a good moment to talk with journalists about it. It's one of the only reasons!

Q: You've been having a really rotten time of it in the last three races, not only in the races themselves but also in qualifying. What does that do you to your spirit, your morale?

H-HF: I think we are not the fastest at the moment for sure, but we try to keep on fighting and try to do our best in the circumstances we are in at the moment and our main focus is to develop the car a little bit faster. That's our main focus.

Q: But your own problems have been extraordinary - seven laps in the last three races?

H-HF: Yes, it's true, it's a little bit short of mileage. But as I said, I try to do my best, to help the team. We are trying to get the best strategy for the race, to score points. Even though we have got points down to eighth place it is not that easy at the moment and our main focus is on speed at the moment.

Q: Jos, this is your 100th Grand Prix. I'm sure that there must have been times when you never thought you were going to get there.

Jos Verstappen: Like last year, huh? No, we've had some difficulties but here I am.

Q: How has your driving developed in comparison to the past?

JV: Obviously I'm happy to be in Formula One but as soon as you are driving a car you want to have the best results, of course. It's not so easy at the moment but we will still do our best, do the maximum we can, and see what we can do for next year.

Q: Talking of next year, one of your compatriots was saying that you're quite an attractive proposition with so much experience and a lot of Dutch sponsors. What are your thoughts about next year?

JV: I think that's right! No, of course, we're working on the sponsorship and at this time if an experienced driver can bring some money to the team I think that will help of course.

Q: You've got a lot of Dutch sponsors, a new one here apparently?

JV: Yes, that's right, nearly the whole shirt! No, we are working very hard. Even last year when I wasn't driving we worked on it ready to come back, and even this year we were even working harder to get good names and a lot of money and see what we can do for next year.

Q: Have you got any ideas as to how the Arrows chassis that the team has bought would be?

JV: I have no idea. We haven't run it, of course, and I don't know what they will do. I haven't spoken with Paul about it so I have no idea what that will bring or not.

Q: Michael, at the last race you were pursued by two other chassis and Williams were fastest at the Silverstone test. How worried are you about the competitiveness of the Ferrari at the moment?

Michael Schumacher: As long as we keep winning races I am not so concerned.

Q: But they are really knocking on the door, aren't they.

MS: Yep, but I have been saying that since the beginning of the season so I don't need to be surprised now.

Q: Is the pace of development as quick as it always has been, if not quicker?

MS: I think we are doing a sort of high level job as we have done in the past but the others simply have picked up the game on top and closed the competition, but again that is what I had expected and that is where we are.

Q: Could you see Ferrari again picking up the pace of development?

MS: I could not see Ferrari getting up in sort of a margin as we had last year, no, because simply in all the areas the other teams have raised their game and there is not much margin left actually.

Q: Now, your brother came in for a certain amount of criticism for Canada but you have come to his defence. Can you just repeat what you have said about the fact he didn't try to overtake in Montreal?

MS: No, I think it is very simple -- there is a lot of people that talk without knowing what is going on and that is a problem. Then you get criticised for something that people shouldn't even make a comment about and if I hear things like this I don't feel very happy because I wouldn't feel happy if it went the other way around. If you look, it wasn't only him being behind me; there was Montoya behind Ralf and there was Alonso behind Montoya and no-one could pass anyone. I was behind Ralf before and I couldn't pass him either. It is all about a nice story, how to create a story, how to make people look a little bit stupid and that is what I dislike.

Q: So what is your reaction, Ralf?

Ralf Schumacher: Well, there has been talk over the last one-and-a-half to two years and I think it all started here at the Nürburbring. I personally don't understand it but it might be due to the fact that people, as Michael said, do comment where they shouldn't. Wherever there was a possibility in my past, and it will be in my future, to overtake I will take it. There, there wasn't one and I never even came close enough. He had a higher straight-line speed and I was not even able to try it. That is why I didn't and I would rather then take the eight points instead of trying to take the two of us out. And even for that I wouldn't have been close enough.

Q: Talking of taking points, you have finished every race in the points so far this year, the first half of the year. Every driver wants to do that, but has it been a surprise to you?

RS: Yeah. We had reliability problems before the start of the season and to be so consistent is a surprise. But then, after last year, the whole team worked really hard on that because we had a few problems, as you know, last year, and if you want to win a championship that shouldn't happen.

Q: So, in terms of you still looking to build up the points score, is that more important than, perhaps, overtaking?

RS: No, it has nothing to do. I mean, every racing driver, as soon as he sees a possibility he will take it and even if it works or if it doesn't that doesn't matter. As long as I don't see one, I don't even try a stupid move. That is the way I have always been and I will always continue to do that but it has nothing to do that I am not willing to overtake or to try. Scoring points is always good but certainly after we started one and two we would have liked to finish one and two. The possibility was there, our pit strategy might have been a lap short, a bit unlucky, otherwise it would have looked like 2001 and he would have been the whole race behind me, so it only changed it by the one or two laps, that was it.

Q: And obviously the qualifying has been good as well.

RS: Qualifying has improved but whatever way you do it, last year I got criticised by not being good in qualifying. This year I am good in qualifying and reasonably good in the race, I think, I am in front of my team-mate so it can't be that bad but I still get criticised for that so it doesn't really matter anymore, does it?

Q: This weekend is going to mark the tenth year Jean Todt has been with Ferrari. You have spent many years with him, where do you think he stands in the big results Ferrari have had over the last few years?

MS: I think it is very clear what Jean Todt has achieved for the team. I think Ferrari, in the past, has been the highest political team and everybody feared to be in a position as Jean Todt is, to be a driver for Ferrari, to work even for Ferrari, because you weren't sure how long you would stay there. And now you see Jean Todt is there for ten years, I am there for seven years and so many other high level people, mechanics, and everybody is there for so long. We have achieved stability and stability has come from Jean because he has certainly hired the right people, made them stronger and made them happy to stay on and keep on fighting, keep on pushing, keep on being motivated, and that is something which is an outstanding achievement from him.

Q: Ralf, can you explain to us what the team has done to improve the car performance since the beginning of the year? In which areas have you improved the most?

RS: Well I don't think we've got enough time to go through all the points, but it's fair to say that we started with a pretty basic car on the mechanical side and even on the aero side. Aerodynamically, the car has improved massively and I think working on a car that has developed year by year but was basically very similar basic car, we changed everything on the 25 and we had to learn a lot on the mechanical and set-up side and in which direction to go. Plus Michelin have made a huge development throughout the season so far as well. All these factors have come together.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Ralf Schumacher , Jos Verstappen , Michael Schumacher , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Nick Heidfeld , Jean Todt
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , Williams , Minardi