European GP Thursday press conference

Drivers: David Coulthard (McLaren) Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan) Eddie Irvine (Ferrari) Ralf Schumacher (Williams) Q. Mika, the big question here in Germany concerns your status at McLaren. Is it...

Drivers: David Coulthard (McLaren) Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan) Eddie Irvine (Ferrari) Ralf Schumacher (Williams)

Q. Mika, the big question here in Germany concerns your status at McLaren. Is it true that you have been confirmed as the team's number 1 driver for the rest of the season?

Mika Hakkinen: Jeez, I knew something like this would happen! But it's not so easy to give you an answer. In fact I have been asked this type of question ever since I joined the team. You know what the rule is at McLaren: the two drivers are equal and we both fight to the maximum. But it depends on the situation, because things can change.

Q. Have they changed since Monza?

MH: I won't tell you now. But let's see how the weekend goes, then maybe we can discuss the subject in more detail [after qualifying] on Saturday.

David, you're a championship contender, too. What do you feel about team orders?

David Coulthard: It's not a concern for me when I get in the car, even though it's obviously going to be the main topic of conversation [in the paddock]. In the two or three interviews which I have already done here I have said the same, because everyone who's spoken to me asks the same question in the hope of getting the answer before anyone else can do so. The truth is that you will all get the answer at the same time. In any case there isn't a clear answer at the moment. I will just go out in the car to do a good job in qualifying. I will still be trying to beat Mika in the battle for pole position. He has made [pole] his own a lot this year, but that is still my quest and my desire.

Q. It has been suggested that McLaren's policy may be changed after qualifying ...

DC: Well, you cannot find a race strategy until you know where you'll be starting from, or how the warm-up has gone. You [journalists] are all looking for the answers before we have made our race plan! None of us can see into the future, so you will all have to be patient. You're not having to wait because we already know the answer to your question and we don't want to tell you what it is. It is exactly what Mika is saying and what all of us have been saying all week -- which is that everyone must wait until we know how the weekend is going.

Q. Are you concerned that whatever decision is taken [regarding team orders] might prejudice your own hopes in the championship?

DC: Not really, no, because at the beginning of the season I had dropped down [the points table and] I wasn't involved in the fight for the championship. It has only been in the second half of the season that I have come back with any hope of contesting the championship. And I am in with a shout [of winning it]. If I win this weekend, my chances will be looking good. If I don't win, it's not looking good. It is pure logic. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to work out the mathematical possibilities. I am 12 points behind Mika and Eddie, and I would say that Mika has the better chance because he is a better driver than Eddie, um, sorry, I mean he has a better car than Eddie's. (laughter)

Eddie Irvine: Excuse me!

DC: I can only see the championship the same way that you guys see it. The only difference is that I have a little inside information which you don't have.

Q. Eddie, how do you feel about your situation, with two other drivers to fight with you now?

EI: Well, I have been fighting two or three drivers all year. Not a lot has changed, it is just down to us to start performing well again. And I think we can do that this weekend. We are away from the low downforce circuits again and even if we hadn't made any changes to the car I think we could have performed well here. So I think our competitiveness would have come back even without making any changes to the car. Instead, we have been working hard. I did five days of testing last week and I think we have made progress thanks to some new aerodynamic parts. I am very optimistic.

Q. Heinz-Harald, how do you rate your chances? Is it an advantage to be a German driver racing at home?

Heinz-Harald Frentzen: The fact is that we will be racing this weekend on a track whose characteristics are different from the most recent ones. The Nürburgring requires a lot of downforce and we have been a little bit worse this year on the high downforce tracks, compared with the low downforce tracks. Ferrari will be very strong here and I don't expect Eddie to have the difficulties in setting up his car for this track that he had at Monza. So our chances of being on the front row are a lot less than they were in Monza. But we have been working on the car, too, and after trying the new bits at Magny-Cours the car seems to be a bit better here than it was in high downforce configuration at other circuits.

Q. Ralf, of the drivers still active in F1 this year, who do you think has the best chance of being world champion this year?

Ralf Schumacher: I don't really care, so I wish the best of luck to all of them. I had been hoping that someone else would have won this year's championship, but that didn't work. For me, it doesn't matter, really.

Q. Can you finish one place better than you did at Monza?

RS: Again, this circuit requires characteristics [in the car's handling] in circumstances where the car didn't work particularly well so far this season, so this is a question which is difficult for me to answer. I would be happy to be in the points again on Sunday. But now we have to wait to find out everything else.

Q. Mika, is the McLaren affected much by the change in setup from high to low downforce configuration?

MD: No. In fact I feel that this is an aspect of our car which has been particularly strong. High downforce or low downforce, either way you go, it works well. We have proved it this year

Q. How do you feel to be coming here after the disappointment of your retirement while leading at Monza?

MH: I feel alright. I am sure I would have felt happier if the last Grand Prix had ended differently. But it has been a new challenge . After all, our car is extremely strong. We also had some extremely good testing at Magny-Cours last week when we found some new setups. I am confident in the car and feeling very pleased.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Ralf Schumacher , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Jordan