"Friday Five" press conference Drivers: Jean Alesi (Sauber) Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan) Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Team owner: Alain Prost Engineer: Nick Wirth (Benetton) Q. Heinz-Harald, after...
"Friday Five" press conference
Drivers: Jean Alesi (Sauber) Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan) Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Team owner: Alain Prost Engineer: Nick Wirth (Benetton)
Q. Heinz-Harald, after that terrific crash in Canada, how are you now?
Heinz-Harald Frentzen: Thank you for asking. I still have some blue places on my body, but you don't notice these things after the first lap of driving. When you are concentrating and doing your laps on the limit you don't have any pain, you don't really realise.
Q. Brake failure isn't amusing. How big was the impact?
HHF: I read a quote which said I hit the wall at 7g. It sounds quite impressive, but the numbers are wrong. With these cars we get nearly 7g when we are braking. It must have been a high number and it was one of the biggest impacts I ever experienced. Even the head rest broke away. I felt a bit dizzy afterwards, too. There is a very short run-off area there, and I was doing 175 km/h when I lost my brakes, down to zero in the space of only half a metre. It must have been more than 7g ...
Q. Even though you lost 2nd place in Canada because of the crash, you must be quite pleased with the season so far ...
HHF: Yes, so far. I wish the officials had stopped the race immediately after the accident, because then I would have kept the six points. At the end of the season I think I will miss those six points. They may have been very important to our aim of being 3rd in the constructors' championship.
Q. Alain, we are intrigued to see that you have employed a new Technical Director, Alan Jenkins, especially when we know that your engineering staff already includes Bernard Dudot, John Barnard and Loic Bigois. How many designers does an F1 team need these days?
Alain Prost: That's not a very nice way to ask your question. It suggests that an F1 teams needs more and more people, which is not the case. And we are still a long way behind McLaren, for example. In fact what we needed was the right people in the right places. John's position has always been clear and he is not going to be moved, but he is not a Technical Director. We needed an experienced engineer in that position, someone who would take a global view of the whole car and be able to make quick decisions. We need to move forward. In this world, if you don't move you're dead. Bernard has a different position, working mainly as an organiser, but his lack of experience on the chassis side was becoming more and more of a problem, which is why we took this opportunity [with Alan Jenkins]. I have to say that it is not often in F1 that you get this type of opportunity.
Q. What responsibilities will Alan have at Prost Grand Prix?
AP: As Technical Director he will help us to reorganise the whole technical structure of the team. Until his appointment it was very difficult to move. Compromises are not an efficient way of working, and now we will move very quickly -- in the next few days -- to change the entire technical organisation of the team. Alan's first job will be to meet everybody and then to make the right decisions.
Q. Has he started work on the new car?
AP: He's already looking at it, but even before he signed his contract we were talking about the new project, without giving away all the details of course. But we have a completely new engine and gearbox to work on, so he will have a lot of work with so many things to look after. Even though the project [for 2000] has started, he will be taking care of that, too.
Q. What chance do you have of extending the contract with Peugeot beyond the end of next year?
AP: Let's put it this way. The contract finishes at the end of 2000 and now Peugeot is reviewing what will happen then. It is much more complicated than just making a new contract. There will soon be far more constructors involved in F1 and there are important questions to be asked. Where does a constructor like Peugeot want to be in the future? What involvement is required to beat all the other manufacturers competing in F1? That was my question to Peugeot. It is no good signing a contract with a manufacturer just to get an engine to put in the car is no good. First, you have to be aware of everything you will need in terms of money and technical and human resources. That is why no decision has yet been reached. It is better to postpone any decision than to make a bad one.
Q. Nick, That was a great 2nd place for Benetton and Giancarlo Fisichella in Canada. Giancarlo indicated that you had discovered something to help the car in Canada: will it also help at the forthcoming races?
Nick Wirth: Yes, I think so. It wasn't until after our very disappointing performance in Barcelona that we took a long-hard look at what was happening. We didn't think we were getting as much out of the car as we should have done, so we went back to basics. We applied those solutions in Canada, along with some new aerodynamic developments, and they appear to have paid off quite well. But one swallow doesn't make a summer, and a number of the developments which made us competitive in Canada won't be suitable for the high downforce circuits now coming up on the calendar. We have to be realistic about our chances of being competitive in the short term, but we have some interesting developments coming for the future. I hope we can be stronger and more consistent in the second half of the season.
Q. Alexander Wurz seems to have lost some of his competitiveness this year. What can you do to help him?
NW: That's difficult to say. A number of different issues have upset him, things related to what we have done to the car, and there are several reasons why he hasn't got himself together. But I am certainly looking forward to seeing him perform better. He seems quite with the way things are progressing at this race, so we look forward to seeing him perform better. The FTT brake system doesn't suit his driving style as well as Giancarlo, and think that confused Alex a bit. But we pulled that system out of the equation quite early on. It hasn't caused him too much difficulty.
Q. Jean, we heard that Heinz-Harald's accident pulled a lot of g-force in Canada. How big was your own impact this morning?
Jean Alesi: I don't know because I have not checked the numbers. It seems really stupid after a journalist came to see me yesterday to ask me what difference there was in me since I started to race F1 ten years ago -- and I told him I had gained better control of my car! I was thinking about that when I climbed out of the car.
Q. Your car seemed to fly across the gravel trap without losing speed ...
JA: Yes, and I had a similar problem a few years ago at Mugello, when I crashed in a high speed corner. There was a cross-wind that got underneath the flat bottom, and I think that is what happened again this morning. I am perfectly OK, although I expect some bruising. But the car is not in very good condition