French GP: Friday press conference

Present: Denis Chevrier (Renault head of engine operations) Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin motorsport director) Jean Todt (Ferrari team principal) Ange Pasquali (Toyota team manager) Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone motorsport director) Q: Pierre, how...

Denis Chevrier (Renault head of engine operations)
Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin motorsport director)
Jean Todt (Ferrari team principal)
Ange Pasquali (Toyota team manager)
Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone motorsport director)

Q: Pierre, how do you feel about the progress made by Michelin over the last couple of races?

Pierre Dupasquier: Why do you begin with me? As usual, we do the best we can. We do our job step by step. We work closely with our partners. We improve significantly also, as well, and at the end of the day sometimes, it's translated in an improvement and in a good time but that's it.

Q: Do you see that you've made particular improvement over the last few races?

PD: Not really the last few races. The result that appears on the board is just a total thing and many things are involved. If you suppose that the driver is not suspected of being inconsistent, then you have to assume that your aerodynamics, the chassis, the tyres are well suited to a track, to the conditions, when the result is good. That's about it.

Q: One of the things you have is three teams who are in the top four places in the World Championship. How difficult is it to keep those three teams happy when they are all in contention for the World Championship?

PD: We are just a tyre supplier and our achievement is if our partners have the feeling that we supply them with the best tyres in the world. Having three teams, it just means that three different concept of machines are capable with the same tyres, almost, of achieving a good result. When you are only one team, one machine, you don't know where it comes from: is that the car, is that the tyre, is that the aerodynamics, is that the engine, the gearbox? You don't know. It's just if the result is good, it's fine. If it's bad, sorry.

Q: You have three teams; Hiroshi-san, to what extent are you looking to perhaps have one more team in the World Championship? All your eggs are in one basket at the moment. Would you like to run one more top team?

Hiroshi Yasukawa: But I think we now have a very good relationship between Ferrari and ourselves, and Ferrari are developing our tyres and we are very pleased.

Q: So you won't be going out to try and get one of Mr Dupasquier's teams?

HY: If it belongs to him, then I don't want it! (Laughs)

Q: The last race seems to have been a bit of a problem. The opposition seems to be closing; what are you doing about it, and how difficult will it be to draw away when there is this post-Silverstone testing ban?

HY: I don't know how many races we've done with Ferrari, maybe more than 70 races, we are not good -- sometimes good, sometimes bad -- but basically we've made a very good result but honestly, normally, if you compare last year's lap time and this year's lap time, normally our achievement is 1.5 to two seconds quicker. But unfortunately, last race at the Nürburbring, we did not improve which means that we have some reason. Now we and Ferrari are looking for some reason, but of course, we have some responsibilities and we will check our tyres.

Q: Is this forthcoming gap of six weeks going to be a problem?

HY: I don't think so. If you are watching today's sessions, the weather is changing of course, but a race is a race. It's not as if we are always going to win, like last year. We won 15 times, we lost just two races. If we dominate everything, it means that these aren't race meetings.

Q: Ange, last weekend was a very good weekend until Sunday. Have you found an instant cure for those problems which stopped your cars in the race?

Ange Pasquali: Well, at least we have found the cause. We saw on the data that Olivier, when braking, the car was continuing to accelerate. The throttle would remain open, whether it was because he's moving in the car, because we're talking about 5G under braking, so we are investigating that and we have also re-worked the seating position. It might be that. This is what caused Olivier's spin, unfortunately, while he was running a good race. Concerning Cristiano, it was clearly an engine failure and we have found the problem. We have solved it, and we hope that it's not going to happen again this weekend. We are quite confident. Our people have worked a lot and at least we know the reason why.

Q: Obviously you were fast in Nürburbring, but the reliability wasn't there. Which is the more frustrating: being quick but not reliable, or slower and trying to find speed?

AP: When you're not very fast and reliable, you're frustrated, of course, because we do this sport to show performance and this is why Toyota entered Formula One. When you're quick and not reliable, you're frustrated because you can't achieve the job and you come back home, especially from a Grand Prix like Nürburbring which is the home Grand Prix for us, with nothing in the basket, but that's racing and that's also learning. We are on a learning curve which is quite steep because up to now we have only done 26 Grands Prix. We are very very new in Formula One and we have to remember that. But the most important thing for us, above all, is to learn from our mistakes and to learn from our experience. That's the most important thing for us at the moment.

Q: Can you sustain that performance at the Nürburbring?

AP: Well, I think so. Our technical department has worked massively together with our drivers and our test drivers as well and we can see some improvement, step by step. You know for us even a small step is a very important step at this stage and we are quite confident. It's difficult to position ourselves versus the others but we have to progress above all, first of all versus ourselves, so we have to show improvement according to the previous Grand Prix. That's the most important thing.

Q: Jean, first of all the tenth anniversary of you joining Ferrari...

Jean Todt: There's no trophy for that unh? Maybe we can speak with the FIA.

Q:'ve achieved so much for Ferrari in that time, in those ten years, what are you still looking to do in the future?

JT: As long as in my life I look in front of me, I just try to get some fantastic times, even very tough, with people who have been chosen, with the people we are very happy together with and we just feel that it's not yet the time to stop. We have the reward of working for Ferrari. If you like motor racing, if you like motor cars, Ferrari is the best brand in history. So why stop it? There will be time to stop later. The only thing I hope is that we can maintain the level of results.

Q: When you look back, if you look back, what do you think is your greatest achievement in those ten years?

JT: You know, everyone talks about the best, the worst. In ten years, you can imagine that we've had so many good things, so many bad things. But when I joined Ferrari, Ferrari did not have success in the Manufacturers' championship and in the Drivers' championship for many years and we know that what everybody is aiming for is the Drivers' championship. After 21 years Michael got it in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka 2000. It was what we wanted and why he came to Ferrari, and probably why they took me, to try to make a new structure of the team.

Q: You won the championship at this race last year -- which was admittedly a little bit later -- but the championship is still very much alive at the moment; how do you see it developing over the next few races?

JT: I have to say that I was talking with Max (Mosley) a few minutes ago and I said that if you see the starting order for tomorrow, it's what you would have preferred, even for tomorrow afternoon. You know, he wanted to make things more unpredictable. They are more unpredictable, and of course it's not in favour of a strong team which is always trying to be on top of the problems. And the others made a very big effort, they have been progressing on the car side, on the engine side, on the tyre side so I think you have to take into consideration that last year was not a normal year and this year is a normal year, and you cannot expect that having the biggest manufacturers in the world involved in Formula One, some of the biggest suppliers in the world, just makes life easy for Ferrari. So it's normal.

Q: Denis you've been with Renault for quite some time. How have you seen it develop, how as Viry-Chatillon changed over the years.

Denis Chevrier: It has changed first of all regarding the number of people involved in the stuff so it means we talk about an area which is a bit more than 10 years, we can say 15 years from my point of view, and we have really grown by three times in terms of the amount of people. So we have changed a lot. The technology, every technical staff change as well a lot so it means, the means, the tools, the amount of people, everything is changing. In addition to that there are the rules, which also change our job. We are dedicated to match the rules.

Q: When you look back, you have worked with many of the drivers over the years. Any particular memories? How has their job changed as well?

DC: It has changed in terms of the champion will always be champion in terms of the human point of view and a sport point of view. Somebody has to collect the information and have some talents to get thoughts from other people, to enjoy them to push them at their best and everything. That is always some common things which make some people champions compared to other drivers being only very good drivers. That is always the same and that didn't change. What did change was the environment. When I talk about the environment we can talk about the rules for instance. A few years ago there was no restriction on the amount of laps, there was no more restriction on the amount of cars you could us when we talk about the nineties. So we had some sessions where we covered 70-80 laps with one driver jumping from one car to another one. The relationship with a driver was a bit different. We had more technical things to go through the work of the driver than we do now. That changed a lot. The cars as well changed a lot, how safe they are, the spirits of the people have changed a bit and again many people are dealing with the drivers. There are many people around them now and in terms of an individual point of view there is less time for everybody to enjoy the fun and the sport point of view with the champion.

Q: Another change that has taken place for you is a change of philosophy in terms of engine for next year. How much has that already affected things?

DC: Such a choice has to be made without making any danger for the present season. We have proved that we have a target, which was to challenge for podiums this season, so we are dealing with it and we are producing a reasonable good beginning to the season. Our target is to continue to improve. We have on the programme some performance items to come through the season. They have been reasonably productive from the beginning of the season and there some other ones coming and you can't stop a season to deal with a new engine even if its structure is significantly different. You have to deal with both programmes. First of all achieve a good end to the 2003 season, that is the main target, and then deal with the 2004 engine in accordance with the new rules, which played a lot in the change of philosophy we had to achieve. Now it is a different programme for many people, some different people because the same people are not involved in both. It is a project with a schedule, with some normal things, to run strongly on the dyno in November/December, engage this engine in the car in January, and then normal stuff.

Q: If I can come back to Jean again. The performance of the tyres, was it a worry to you at the last race in Nürburbring?

JT: I was expecting this question. I must say that I am very amazed sometimes to see how people have a short memory. As Hiroshi mentioned we are now with Bridgestone since 1999, we have all the record of wins and they have to get a big credit for what we have achieved. If the championship was considered to be boring last year I think bigger is due to the advantage we had with Bridgestone. I don't want to say that we don't have a fantastic car, engine, people, the whole package because the whole package works together, but Bridgestone has been giving us fantastic support. Definitely the tyres in the Nürburbring were not the best for different reasons, the car was not the best either. We have been sitting together and we have been understanding the reason why we were not as good as we should have been. Clearly the competitors did a fantastic job as well, but we are very happy to be with Bridgestone, and I'm sure with Bridgestone we will make life difficult for all the others for the future.

Q: Do you think today's qualifying was credible? Is it good for the sport?

JT: I mean it is dependant on the weather conditions. It is only one lap, which is in the classification order. It is unpredictable and the quickest car was the Minardi because you have to explain why. If you don't explain then people will not understand, but if you explain they will understand and they will feel happy for Minardi.

PD: I've just found out that a racing car if faster on the dry than the wet. It is good news.

Q: To the two tyre chiefs. In the last few races we have seen at the end of the race tyres that look like slicks. Of course they were legal because they passed post-race scrutineering, but where do we draw the line between a grooved tyre and a slick? And how do explain to fans watching on the television and saying these guys are running on slicks?

PD: To find out you should ask the scrutineers and the FIA. The second point is that even if a tyre looks like a slick on TV because it is moving and because the grooves get full of rubbish during the running time. When we clean the tyres afterwards to get rid of the rubbish then the FIA judge if it is good or not. So far it has been judge as a good product, for us at least.

HY: Normally when driving back to the pit for refuelling that time we are normally doing a tyre change. Then most of the cars can keep in groove situation. But anyhow at Bridgestone we are always respectful of the regulations and hopefully we can see grooves. This is what we hope, but sometimes you cannot see a groove from the TV but actually normally they have a groove.

Q: Hiroshi said you were slower in the Nürburbring than last year. After a few days studying the data do you know why?

JT: One of the reasons was because the circuit was different from last year. That explains a little part. The second thing was because we didn't put everything together that we should have done. Slowly and slowly we have understood the reasons.


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jean Todt , Hiroshi Yasukawa
Teams Ferrari , Minardi