"Thursday Five" press conference Drivers: Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan) Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Eddie Irvine (Ferrari) Team chief: Norbert Haug (Mercedes) Tyre company director: Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone) Q.
"Thursday Five" press conference
Q. Hiroshi-san, after the race at Magny-Cours, Bridgestone developed a third type of wet-weather tyre. Why was that necessary?
Hiroshi Yasukawa: Because it was so wet, the French Grand had proved to be difficult for us. In our discussions with different teams after the race, while some of them told us our tyres had performed well, some others said they had been rubbish. Naturally we were concerned about this, which is why we produced a Heavy Wet tyre before Silverstone. In fact we still prefer to bring only two different specifications of wet tyre to each GP. For this weekend's race at Hockenheim, the tyres we have available are the Heavy Wet and the Normal Wet. We used to bring one pattern of wet tyre in two different compounds, but because the Heavy Wet has slightly wider drainage channels, the tread patterns are slightly different on each tyre.
Q. Norbert, what is David Coulthard's status inside the team after his misfortunes in Austria last week?
Norbert Haug: The situation is completely unchanged. The good thing was that we sorted it out after the race and I can tell how it happened. David was first into the motorhome, followed by Ron [Dennis] and Mika [Hakkinen]. It was Mika who said, 'forget it, what happened was a mistake, let's go outside because the media are waiting for us." That is the simple truth of it: they shook hands and left. Of course, we are a team, and that sometimes means we should not always reveal everything to the press because we may need to support someone [in Coulthard's situation]. But in 60 races as Mika's team mate David has never made a mistake like that before. If it were happening on a regular basis, my view would be different, believe me. One mistake is OK: it shouldn't have happened, but every downside has an upside. I think the world championship is now exciting for everyone involved, and in Austria Eddie did a good job to take advantage of our mistake and win the race.
Q. Rubens, what are the chances of you becoming the sixth different driver to win a Grand Prix this year?
Rubens Barrichello: I said at the beginning of the year that the chances are quite slim, and both Ferrari and McLaren have been developing their cars at a faster rate than we are able to develop ours. But I think we are doing quite a good job. We were certainly unlucky not to have scored as many points as we should have, when you consider races like Brazil with the engine, Monaco with the suspension problem or Silverstone and the puncture. Without those things, I would say we should now have had as many points as Frentzen. After Silverstone some of the magazines suggested that I was only running in the points because Mika [Hakkinen] had dropped out, but that really was not the story. In fact I overtook Damon and was racing Frentzen [for what would have been 4th place], so we were there. I had the speed on the straight to be able to fight for a good place, and without my puncture, 5th was definitely a possibility, maybe even 4th or 3rd. I am quite enthusiastic about this weekend, when we will have some new things on the car, like a revised exhaust and other mechanical bits. Austria has been quite kind to us and a win is possible. Having to fight for it [with a Ferrari or a McLaren], but it would obviously make it possible if we can have some luck.
Q. Eddie, how did you maintain your motivation as the designated number 2 to Michael Schumacher until his accident?
Eddie Irvine: You have to examine your options: what's out there and what's available, whatever is going to be the best for you. I had the option to leave Ferrari at the end of last year, and there were some good alternatives available to me. But I felt Ferrari would be a better place for me to be, even if I had to play second fiddle to Michael. When you consider what has happened, I would have felt very sick if I had left the team. Every team is free to run itself the way it wishes. Whether that is right or wrong is irrelevant: it's a free world.
Q. There have been suggestions that you won't be with Ferrari after the end of this year. What is your response to that?
EI: This is not something that I am thinking about much, so let's wait and see. I am leaving it in the hands of my manager, who knows what I want to do, so I want him to get on with that while I concentrate on getting the results that are required this year.
Q. How did you celebrate your win last weekend?
EI: I went to London, which is the worst thing I have ever done after a race. The place closed at 10:30 and we ended up eating in a Chinese restaurant. But the restaurant was bound by the licensing regulations and they couldn't even serve us a beer. I won't be going back there after another victory, I can tell you that. Fortunately we had a great celebration on the plane taking us to England, but we really came down to earth when we arrived.
Q. Is it possible to say you're now on course for the world championship?
EI: We are more on course now that we were at this moment last week: then we were eight points behind Mika, and now it's two points. For sure it's better, but Mika is still the favourite. He has been consistently faster than us all year. Although we have beaten him on a few occasions, we need to step up a gear, we need to start going faster [than the McLarens] to really be in with a chance of the title. That's what we're working on. In the four years that I have been at Ferrari we have never stood still: we have always gone forward, and this year everybody can see that.
Q. Mika, what did Austria mean for your championship bid?
Mika Hakkinen: It was an exciting race and I think I now definitely know everything about overtaking. Obviously it was disappointing to finish 3rd in Austria, as I said after the race. I had wanted to win there, I started from pole position and the car was handling well there. I thought it would be a medium/easy Grand Prix to win, but it turned out to be too difficult. It was still a very enjoyable race, it is just unfortunate I didn't win it. People talk too much about the lack of overtaking, but I have proved that [the truth] is different, you definitely can overtake. It is still possible to have an exciting Grand Prix race.
Q. Are you and David now happy about your relationship?
MH: We're not happy, of course, but we discussed what happened in Austria and we are both now in a positive frame of mind, which should help us for the rest of the season. We will certainly be working very close together. As Norbert told you, we sorted it out after the race. I told David, 'I understand. Things like that happen. Let's forget it.'
Q. Heinz-Harald, what does this race mean for you?
Heinz-Harald Frentzen: This is the busiest race of the year for me. There are lots of requests [for my time] from journalists and the promotions people. But also I am quite confident about this race. We showed in the Monza test that our car is running very well. I am looking forward, really.
HHF: At Zeltweg we weren't entirely happy with the car's performance. We were alright in qualifying, although we struggled a lot in the free practice on Saturday morning. But we managed to get the car right for the afternoon and we were happy to have qualified 4th, behind Eddie. In the race we were struggling -- there were problems with the downforce -- but at Monza the modifications which we had made for the test worked out fine. We have a modified version of the Mugen-Honda engine with a lot more top-end power for this circuit, and it went quite well at the Monza test. But I can't say how much closer we have come to the guys in red or silver. It could be that we are relatively better here than we were at Zeltweg.