German GP Thursday press conference

DRIVERS: David Coulthard (McLaren) Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan) Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Ralf Schumacher (Williams) Q. How well prepared do you feel for this race? David Coulthard: It's difficult to judge ...

DRIVERS:
David Coulthard (McLaren)
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan)
Mika Hakkinen (McLaren)
Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
Ralf Schumacher (Williams)

Q. How well prepared do you feel for this race?

David Coulthard: It's difficult to judge exactly, but I did the test at Silverstone last week, and on the last day I tried the car in low downforce configuration. It's never ideal to test a car in one configuration on a track which isn't suited to that low level of wing, but I wanted to get a feel on factors like the aero balance and braking. Apart from testing at Monza, that's the first time I have ever done that, so maybe you could say I am slightly better prepared. This circuit is an interesting challenge and I am looking forward to the weekend. I certainly feel comfortable with the car, with the equipment that I have for this track, and without letting myself get carried away I am as confident as I can be that I have a good chance of winning this race.

Q. When you rely heavily on the testing done by another driver - in McLaren's case it's Olivier Panis - how can you be sure that his judgment will relate to the setup that you ultimately require from your car?

DC: One of the benefits of having a driver as experienced as Olivier [is that the team's race drivers can rely upon his judgment]. When a team employs a young driver for testing who hasn't even covered the 60 laps of a Grand Prix, the very fact that he hasn't [got race experience] means that he cannot know what it feels like. We benefit a great deal from having Olivier to help with our testing. And although I know and understand his desire to go back to full-time racing, from a team point of view we would love to have him stay with us and continue to do what he has been doing. But he is a race driver and I understand that he wants to go racing again. That clearly leaves us with the problem of having to find someone next year who is as good as he is.

Q. So Olivier will definitely be leaving?

DC: He is not definitely going. What I said was that he wants to go racing while we as a team would prefer to keep him. But until we reach a point where [the management] says he's staying, or he says he's going, then we have to assume that it's an ongoing situation.

Q. This week the FIA published the decision of the Stewards of the Meeting from the Austrian GP, which punished McLaren for a rules infraction but allowed Mika to retain his 10 points for winning the race. Earlier this year, in Brazil, the Stewards ruled that your car had not been in conformity but took away your points. Are you upset to have lost your points then, while Mika has been allowed to keep his?

DC: No, I am not upset, because I cannot change what happened in Brazil. Each case is examined [in accordance with] the information which [the Stewards have], and I don't know the full facts of how they looked at the case in Austria, or how their decision was reached. There is nothing to be gained from my paying much attention to that. I don't think too much about it.

Q. Mika, what is your reaction to the Stewards' decision on Tuesday?

Mika Hakkinen: In one sense it is disappointing for the team to have lost the ten points. Because I am part of the team, that also affected me enormously. The positive thing is that I have kept my points But it has been tough for everybody.

Q. I understand that since the race at Zeltweg you have taken some more holiday ...

MH: I have had some time off, which is ideal. The F1 season gets harder every year, never easier, and it is an ideal situation for a driver to have some time off. It enables him to have the best possible preparation for a Grand Prix. I am fit, relaxed and rested. Yes, I am even stronger than in Austria. I am OK.

Q. Michael, you have now recorded only one finish in the past four races. Does this suggest you are now at a crisis point in your attempts to win the championship for Ferrari?

Michael Schumacher: The results haven't been ideal, obviously, but I would like to think that we have now had enough bad luck to be able to start turning things around again. Things are not slipping away yet. Various circumstances have come together to prevent us scoring points, but these things were all normal in the racing business. It's unfortunate but it happens.

Q. Looking at the current positions of the championship, who do you see as your main rival?

MS: (indicates Hakkinen) He's sitting right next to me. He's whichever of the two [McLaren drivers] who is the faster and scores more points.

Q. Ralf, how important is this race for you, and also for BMW?

Ralf Schumacher: It's just one of 17 races on the calendar. It's nice to be in front of a German crowd, of course, but that doesn't change anything. From a BMW point of view, ask me the question again on Sunday evening. We haven't yet been on a circuit with such long straights as Hockenheim, so we still have to see how well everything works here. Apart from the last few races we are very happy with the way things have gone so far this year. Let's see how we go. There is no special pressure.

Q. Heinz-Harald, Jordan seems to spend a lot of time celebrating something without - at the moment - having much to celebrate on the track. Can you explain the pictures we have seen today of you and a big yellow cake?

Heinz-Harald Frentzen: Well, I have signed for two more years with Jordan. That's what we were celebrating today. One of the factors was certainly Honda, which is a big manufacturer with lots of F1 success in previous years. The Honda people are very committed to being successful again, and it is a big help to Jordan that we now have the support of a works engine. It doesn't only mean we'll have more budget available [for developing the car] in future, it also means that we will have a very strong engine partner. Now we look forward to seeing the extra horsepower. After the successes of the past two years, this will be a bonus for us. Now we can go forward.

Q. How different is this latest 'B' version of the EJ10 which you will be racing here this weekend?

HHF: They have modified the car aerodynamically and I am hoping it will be a change for the better. I didn't take part in the last test because I was on holiday and Jarno did the driving. But the results there were clear. We reckon we should have greater efficiency from the car, especially here at Hockenheim, and be able to do better lap times. We wanted to use the modified car at Zeltweg, but there were some technical delays. We reckon it will give us better car balance and improved car behaviour.

Q. It has been confirmed that the so-called 'one move' anti-blocking rule is not so much a regulation as a piece of advice which is to be taken into consideration in the event of collisions on the track. Both David Coulthard and Jacques Villeneuve have now made it clear that they fear an accident at the start unless Michael accepts that he must sometimes back off. I would therefore like to ask Michael if, as the sport's senior driver, he feels comfortable to be taking advantage of such advice when he considers that his actions are likely to be followed by younger drivers.

MS: Why don't you put this question to [FIA Safety Delegate] Charlie Whiting?

Q. We have done that. Charlie indicates that this is not a firm rule in the sense that it has been written into the regulations ...

MS: So it is a rule so far, about what we can do. And he has said that as long as you [make the move] in a safe way, it's OK. Correct? So what are we doing here? Is this Formula 1 or is it drinking coffee in a happy family situation? We are racing in a very hard and fair way, in my view. Nothing else. It has always been like this. If you want to change the rule, we can discuss it. But this is the way it is. And please don't suggest that it is only me who is doing it. That is completely untrue, because if you look through the field you will see many drivers doing it. And some of the same drivers who complain about me are people who have also done it themselves, maybe not at the start but in other circumstances during the race. I think we can discuss the matter, but don't try to create a story in the direction you're trying to go, because there is no point. If the rules allow us to fight like this, then that's how we will fight. It is part of the business.

Q. There remains a clear disagreement between you on one side, and David and Jacques on the other, over the interpretation of the 'advice' ...

MS: That's why we had a meeting before the race in Austria. At that meeting it was made quite clear by Charlie Whiting that what happened at Imola and Magny-Cours - where unfortunately an example was made of me on both occasions - was totally OK.

Q. May I therefore ask David if he still believes that the lack of direction on this matter is likely to lead to a major collision?

DC: Every time you put a car on a track, or every time a driver starts a race, there is the potential for an accident. So I don't think there is much point in making a distinction between what can happen in the first few hundred metres of a Grand Prix and what might happen over the course of the entire race. This is an issue of the rules that apply on every lap. As Michael says, there was a discussion about this in Austria. And Charlie Whiting, as an adviser to the Stewards, gave his opinion on what he felt was the line. As long as we all know where that line is, then we can go racing. This is something that needed to be clarified, and as far as the driving is concerned, it has been clarified.

Q. Following Charlie's clarification, has the danger mentioned by David now increased? It seems that Michael has one opinion on this, while all the other drivers have an opposite opinion ...

MS: Let me say that two drivers - Jacques and David - have a different opinion. The rest of the drivers have another opinion, and Charlie agrees with all those other opinions. Especially in England, I know that things have been turned to make it appear that I am some bad guy who does things which are not allowed to be done. This is not true. The [things I do] are OK. If not, the Stewards would tell me, and I would have to drive accordingly. But that is not the case. I therefore do not understand this casino. We can discuss within our group whether this should be the case. That is a different matter. But in all the years I have been involved in F1, that has been the case. Did you write something similar after Senna held off Mansell at Monaco in 1992? No! You all reported it as great racing! Didn't you?

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Ralf Schumacher , Michael Schumacher , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Olivier Panis , Jacques Villeneuve
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Jordan