German GP Friday press conference

Drivers: Nick Heidfeld (Sauber) Jacques Villeneuve (BAR) Ricardo Zonta (Jordan) Team personnel: Ross Brawn (Ferrari), Peter Sauber (Sauber) Pat Symonds (Benetton) Q: You've confirmed that you're going stay with BAR, what are your ...

Nick Heidfeld (Sauber)
Jacques Villeneuve (BAR)
Ricardo Zonta (Jordan)

Team personnel:
Ross Brawn (Ferrari),
Peter Sauber (Sauber)
Pat Symonds (Benetton)

Q: You've confirmed that you're going stay with BAR, what are your reasons?

Jacques VILLENEUVE: It's not a question of what the reasons are for staying. I signed my contract last year and you just always look at what's happening everywhere, just in case something happens and you have to look at something else, so there was never really a question of going anywhere else anyway.

Q: You haven't really had the best season with them. You were pretty annoyed with them at Silverstone and they are not shaping up too well against Jordan either, so it might seem a strange decision.

JV: It's not only against Jordan, it's against most of the field, we're not doing too well, we're not very competitive and we have been going backwards, so it is a little bit difficult to accept at this point, and all the work we're doing now is more in desperation than in trying to get the last tenth out of the car.

Q: In terms of car and engine developments, what's coming up?

JV: I think we will see the developments mainly for next year. This car wasn't born very well. It didn't feel right in winter testing. We've improved it a bit but less than the opposition and engine-wise the same, so I think that at this point it is better to not even concentrate on this year and really put all the effort into next year. We're used to getting used to looking at the future so that's what we're going to do again. I still want to win races so I will just keep on working hard and trying to do it.

Q: You've been in a championship fight with Michael Schumacher. What are your thoughts on David Coulthard's chances, what's required to win that battle?

JV: I think he will need some luck at this point because Michael's got a big lead, he's got a very good car and a good team. There's no reason for him not to win it, but as these things go you never know what will happen, and as long as it is physically possible for someone else to win it then you have to watch out.

Q: Nick, it's your best season so far. What, for you, has been the high point? What more can you do?

Nick HEIDFELD: Well, the high point definitely was the race in Brazil, but it's only my second year so there are not to many years to chose which is the best one. Last year was a really bad one for me, and this year everything is working out fine. I hope that we can keep up the pace that we are doing at the moment and people shouldn't expect too much from us because I think compared with what we have in comparison to most other teams, we are really doing a good job.

Q: How much a difference does this race as our home race?

NH: Well it's always nice to drive in Germany, to drive at home. Obviously I hope that the car will work very good here. As we said earlier, we had a good test in Monza. Today it didn't look as good as some people expected but I think we can still improve for tomorrow.

Q: Ricardo, welcome back again. Is it quite difficult to re-adapt from testing to racing, then back to testing, then to racing again?

Ricardo ZONTA: When you're a test driver, you're always testing things for the team and I think you're always trying new tyres and things like this. We just do a certain job, whereas on the race weekend you must push hard and you must set the car up for the race, for qualifying, for everything. It's completely different work.

Q: Have you been surprised at your reception here in Germany?

RZ: Maybe it's because I raced in GT, in Formula 3000 here. I don't know why. Well, I've had no problem. Of course, this weekend has been very exciting for me but I think all the German people have been OK with me, no problem.

Q: What do you know about your future?

RZ: I don't know yet, because I got the news only on Wednesday. Maybe after this weekend I will know if I'm going to drive the next race or not.

Q: Pat, things seem to be going better today.

Pat SYMONDS: Yes, it's been quite a good day for us. We've not done anything out of the ordinary. We've been working on our race set-up today. We're running reasonable fuel levels but I think it's coming together, the Michelins are working well here, the engine has made some more steps forward, the chassis in low downforce configuration is perhaps a little bit better in the higher one. So yes, it's coming together.

Q: Developments seems to have been a little slow, is that right?

PaSy: To my mind, development is always slow. You always things quicker but it's been a very long road, let's say. It takes a while to get down it.

Q: Are you basically where you should have been in June or so? Are you late in development?

PaSy: No, I think we behind where we should have been in June. I think until you're at the front, you're will always say that.

Q: What are we going to see in the next few races then?

PaSy: We've got some further, reasonably major aerodynamic changes coming for Budapest. The engine is developing slowly, bit by bit. After that, obviously things start to tail off as we work more towards the R202, our car for next year. That's well under way.

Q: Peter Sauber, your best season so far. What's made the difference?

Peter SAUBER: The difference. I'm also surprised about this season. This year we have an excellent package: a consistently developed car, and of course the Petronas engine - sorry, the Ferrari engine - which is more powerful and weighs less than last year. And I think a very important thing is two quick and highly motivated drivers.

Q: So how are you going to improve on that for next year?

PeSa: I think it's possible. We need additional money.

Q: Do you regard this as your home race? What is your home race?

PeSa: I think that as a Swiss team, we have different home races. There's Monza, there's Hockenheim, and also we have the Malaysian, our Malaysia partners' home race.

Q: I could ask you this question or Ross Brawn. Why were the Saubers quicker than the Ferraris in a straight-line?

PeSa: I think it's not difficult to be faster in a straight-line . I think it's important to do a fast lap time.

Q: Not a problem, Ross?

Ross BRAWN: I'll always be happy to be faster but generally you're always slow around the corners, it's just a question of choosing the downforce level to get the balance. You've got 75 percent of the circuit where you want the lowest downforce level possible and then 25 percent of the circuit where you want the highest downforce level possible so you're trying to find a compromise and obviously Sauber has found a different compromise to the one we have. I think we've got to move more towards their direction for the race - everybody will - but at the moment we're trying to find a good set-up for the car.

Q: The Silverstone strategy seemed not to be right - what can you do here?

RB: At Silverstone we were expecting McLaren to do a one-stop, our strategy was against a one-stop, but obviously on the Sunday morning they understood what we were doing and they went the opposite direction, which was a good thing to do. As it happened they had the right strategy and we had the wrong strategy.

Q: What's been the reaction to the Monza accident that Michael had?

RB: The floor collapsed between the Curva Grande and the second chicane, the floor dropped onto the track and it's difficult to tell because of the damage in the accident but we could see from the data that we lost a significant amount of downforce and that the front of the floor collapsed. It's the first time that we've run the car at such high speed - 345-350km/h - and of course that exerts a lot more load on those sorts of pieces so it's not a problem we'd seen at any other time this year. So we reinforced the floors for the second day of testing for Rubens and we've done a lot of further modifications for here.

Q: It seems as though you're stepping up your testing workload at a time you seem to be in a strong position.

RB: I wouldn't say we were stepping it up but we're certainly not stepping it down. All the teams are working very hard on next year's car but we haven't made any presumptions about this year yet and we have a new high downforce package for Hungary, we have a new aero package for Spa, you've seen a new engine that will probably be raced this weekend. It's an old adage but to stand still is to go backwards in this business, so everybody at Ferrari is working in the same way that we have for the past five years because it's the only way we know how to work. But it is a delicate time, we've got a substantial lead in both championships and we can only throw it away now. Whatever David does, if we do a sensible job it's very difficult for him.

Q: Are you looking for another test driver?

RB: Not particularly, I think that the new systems that came in at Barcelona are consuming a lot of time both with our software people and on the track. So a lot of the work Luca Badoer's doing is on the systems. I think that will tail off as the systems mature.

Q: Ross, some of the reports say that the car was bottoming out a lot at Monza, was that a reason for the accident?

RB: It's difficult to judge because of the damage to the car afterwards but cars bottoming is perfectly normal, if you watched the McLarens today they were bottoming quite heavily on the straights so I don't believe it was that specifically.

Q: The three drivers, talking about Indianapolis, what are your best memories of the race there last year, what do you think of the track, and what do you think of racing at such a historic venue?

JV: I guess the first memory was the fact that there was actually a big turn-out for the race in America so that was a very good, positive surprise. The track itself was fun in the race because it was like a go-kart track, not very interesting for qualifying. Racing on the infield... you're racing in the same town but you're not on the oval.

NH: I also think it was nice to go to the States. It was quite interesting because of the long straight and people tend to set up their car differently especially from qualifying to race and some people just come flying past you on the long straight. The circuit is okay, the infield is quite slow and maybe in the future it can change a little bit but it's okay.

RZ: Indianapolis was great, there were many overtakes in the race, it was very good for the spectacle, the track was a long straight where we could overtake.

Q: Following up with the technical directors, what is your view of the track and will it be different this year with softer tyres?

RB: In terms of set-up we expected to have more problems than we did because of the banking. We'd done a lot of calculations and were a little bit anxious. I know Bridgestone were a little bit anxious about the loads the tyres may be subjected to but in effect it wasn't so bad. There was nothing extraordinary about how we had to set the car up: it was a twisty infield with a long straight, so as always you're trying to strike a balance between the downforce levels you need. It was interesting in the wet, because parts of the track remained very wet and parts of the track dried very quickly. We also discovered that you could run for an awfully long time on wet tyres because the infield took so long to dry up but really it was a pretty straightforward track.

PaSy: I think as Ross said we had a little bit of trepidation before we went there, we did more simulation of that track than any other but once we did that we weren't that worried because the loads on the banking weren't that high. On a personal level I always like going to new tracks, it's a challenge I enjoy and I think we can't really have a true world championship without racing in the United States. It's great to be back there, yes Indianapolis is a historic venue - that doesn't mean a lot to me I'm afraid - but it's good to be back in the States.

Q: Is it a bit of a worry in Formula 1 that we have a hot day on such a fast circuit as this after the tyre failure that occurred - not to you - in the Monza test?

PaSy: There was a problem with the Michelin tyre at Monza. Just as Ross was saying with Michael's accident it's sometimes very hard to analyse these things because of the damage after the event. It's not known if that was a tyre failure or damage to the tyre but Michelin has reacted in an incredibly impressive day because by the Friday we were testing a new, reinforced construction and all our tyres here this weekend are of that construction. Do I have any worries? Yes, there's always a little bit of unknown in motor racing. We work very hard, we are professional engineers, we try and put safety at the forefront with performance but there is always an element of danger but it's not something that keeps me awake at night.

Q: Ricardo, do you know why you are racing here?

RZ: As I said before I got the news on Wednesday, I'm happy to be here racing of course, but I don't know the reason. I just need to be ready to replace someone.

Q: Jacques, your engineer Jock Clear has suggested that championship-winning technique only comes in small quantities and he went on to say this is possibly why you don't try to qualify ninth instead of eleventh. Do you agree and do the two guys who've worked with Michael Schumacher agree?

JV: It's nice to know that Jock believes I can go quicker but you always try and do your best. The way it's been going this year, we've never really been in a position to be competitive in qualifying and focusing on what we can do in the race, which still means that we need a lucky weekend to be in the top six.

RB: It's difficult to separate the driver's input and the performance of the car. With Michael I've never known him to try less hard on one race than another, sometimes he does a better job than others but that's not for the want of trying. I think there are very few people who can drive a Formula 1 car very quickly in the way he can and my experience with him is that he very rarely has any bad days. I think it's a slightly curious observation and I'm surprised Jacques takes it so lightly because it tends to imply that he's not making the effort and I'm sure he is. Some cars don't display the driver's abilities, and if there's a problem with the car two guys of different abilities will perform at the same level and it's hard to distinguish the ability of two drivers in a car that's not working very well. If the car's working very well then sometimes you see those differences more clearly.

PaSy: I really don't agree at all, I don't think a driver has one good lap in him any more than a composer has one good song in him or an engineer has one good design in him. I think the ravages of time take it out of all of us, and the career of a swordsman is more limited than a more sedentary occupation but a good driver performs to the best of his ability whilst he has the ability and the motivation to do it and the ability will come down over time, motivation is affected by a lot of other things and maybe that's a more relevant point.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Luca Badoer , Michael Schumacher , David Coulthard , Jacques Villeneuve , Nick Heidfeld , Ricardo Zonta , Ross Brawn , Peter Sauber , Jock Clear
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Benetton Formula , Jordan