French GP Thursday press conference

Drivers: Jean Alesi (Prost) Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Team principals: Corrado Provera (Peugeot) Jean Todt (Ferrari) Sir Frank Williams (Williams) Q. Jean Todt, allow me first to congratulate you on the seventh ...

Drivers:
Jean Alesi (Prost)
Mika Hakkinen (McLaren)
Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)

Team principals:
Corrado Provera (Peugeot)
Jean Todt (Ferrari)
Sir Frank Williams (Williams)

Q. Jean Todt, allow me first to congratulate you on the seventh anniversary of your taking over as manager at Ferrari. Is seven years how long it has had to take?

Jean Todt: Seven years! That's a record, I believe. Definitely it takes time, and once you find yourself in a strong position [in F1] it is very difficult to stay there. To do that you just need to be able to find good people, to get them working together and to keep them. Then you can expect to be more successful. But this is something that takes only seven seconds to say but it takes many years to [achieve]. There is always the risk that people will get fed up with you and want to send you back home. It hasn't happened so far.

Q. How much has your job at Ferrari changed in these seven years?

JT: Through the years it has become easier, in a way. At the beginning it was a desert and since then it has become a strong stream. I have strong people around me: they trust me and I trust them, so together we do a good job. At the beginning there were not so many people around ...

Q. Your job seems to be less hands-on now than it used to be.

JT: As I said, I have good people on whom to rely. The job of a good manager is to find the right people and to put them in a position where they can do a good job.

Q. Do you have any comment on the FIA's revised regulations for 2001?

JT: The new regulations are [the result of] a common understanding within the Technical Working Group which has then been accepted by the F1 Commission and the World Council. We agreed to those changes.

Q. Frank, is there any comment from you on the new regulations?

Sir Frank Williams: It is appropriate that Grand Prix cars should be made safer and safer, albeit at the expense of being pretty. It is important to have [injury] free racing, if we can.

Q. As a member of the steering committee working for the British Racing Drivers' Club and Silverstone, do you regard the FIA's ruling on this year's race as being fair?

FW: I speak openly when I say that I disapprove strongly, and I have told Max [Mosley] so, that Silverstone should have been publicly pilloried, or taken apart, for weather conditions that were beyond human control. Despite the view of all the self-opinionated experts that the car parks should have been paved overnight, etc, that is simply not possible. It was not necessary for Silverstone to have been given such a hard time.

Q. From the point of view of your team, has the first half of this season been better or worse than you anticipated?

FW: Overall, we are where we expected to be, insofar as we had a bit of good fortune, partly in the early demise of other teams at the early race. But I guess we got found out in the last three GPs. I have no idea how we will fare in the remaining races. Like everyone else who brings cars to race in the GPs, we are doing our very, very best.

Q. Michael, let's have some comments from you about this race in terms of last week's testing here. I hear you had some engine failures ...

Michael Schumacher: One. Not some. It was an experimental engine, so it wasn't too worrying for us. We did decent work, in variable temperatures. The first day was very hot, then the other two days were cooler. I would call it a normal three-day test, after returning from Canada which meant a time change. It's not pleasing, but that is normal.

Q. Do you expect the second half of the season to be closer?

MS: I believe it has already been close so far. Our strong advantage has been that we have been both reliable and fast. We obviously hope to keep that and there is no reason why that should not continue. I believe there will be races in which we will be a bit slower than McLaren and others in which we will be stronger. But it has been like this [in the recent past] and it will continue.

Q. It seems to have been like that for years. Does it always have to be like that?

MS: No, it has not been like this for years. In all the other years we haven't been strong enough at the beginning of the season and we caught up by mid-season. This year we have been up there since the beginning of the season. Obviously we don't have that much potential to improve from the base we have, and nor - I believe - does McLaren. If two teams are together, and have strong [engineers] behind them for development, they should develop [to the same extent]. One may fall slightly behind, but will usually catch up again. We are in the position in which we always wished to be.

Q. Mika, do you feel the same way or are you a little less happy than in the past?

Mika Hakkinen: Definitely a bit less happy than in the past. But I still feel confident for the rest of the season. There are still plenty of races to go. We have some strongly committed people on the team, great people who can make the car go even faster in the rest of the season.

Q. Looking back on the first half of the season, what things are you unsatisfied with?

MH: There were some situations earlier in the year when we were struggling with reliability. That was one thing to make me feel uncomfortable. But that is in the past and I am happy about the developments we can expect for the future. I have been promised that things will get a lot better.

Q. Corrado, everyone is talking about Peugeot and its future in F1. What news do you have for us today?

CP: There is no news of what we are still trying to do. We are quite advanced as far as our target is concerned, which is to first give a long-range future to a team in which we believe, which is the team formed by the engineers and mechanics of Peugeot Sport Formula 1 Engines based in Velizy. It takes time. We are in a good position, and as soon as we are ready to communicate we will do so. In any case, for your general information, we will not be announcing anything during the weekend of a Grand Prix, because our first concern is the respect of our people, and we have a lot of good things to tell them when things are ready to be said. So, the situation in which we find ourselves is the one I have described to you. I am sorry I have no news to give you. But the fact [is] that we are on the right road and we believe that we know where we are going.

Q. What efforts have you made for this race?

CP: This is a question that is worth putting to Jean [Alesi]. Since the beginning of the season we have had a new engine. I have read from time to time that we had reliability problems in the winter, but that was true of all parts of the car.

Since the beginning of this season we have put at the disposition of the team an engine that we believe to be quite good - maybe not the best, but of the new generation, quite light and with good power. Starting on Saturday we will provide our two drivers with a new EV4 version of the A20 engine, which is very close to 800 horsepower. According to what Jean and Nick told us after the test here at Magny-Cours, they are quite happy with it. This is our best demonstration of how professional and serious we try to be in respecting the commitment we have made to our other partner in the [Prost-Peugeot] team.

Q. Jean, you seemed to be much happier with the car when I spoke to you here last weekend ...

Jean Alesi: It is true. When we first ran [with the latest engine] at Magny-Cours, the car immediately ran fast. We are quite happy to see the good improvements that the car has made since Monte Carlo. If you include Canada, it has happened at three different circuits, and three times we have been better than we were at the beginning of the championship. We have been struggling with reliability, so now obviously we are looking for an improvement. As Corrado explained, during the winter we didn't do anything, and we are suffering from that. But the speed of the car and the performance of the engine are promising.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Jean Alesi , Mika Hakkinen , Frank Williams , Corrado Provera , Jean Todt
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams