Thursday 30 July, 1998 "Thursday Four" press conference Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella (Benetton) Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Ralf Schumacher (Jordan) Team chief: Jean Todt (Ferrari) Q. Mika,...
Thursday 30 July, 1998 "Thursday Four" press conference
Q. Mika, between the two races you were seen on TV wearing some workman's overalls. What have you been doing since Austria?
MH: Life is never easy these days for GP drivers, or for any top sportsman or sportsgirl, because it includes so many promotions. But since the Austrian GP I have been busy visiting Mercedes factories and meeting employees on their production lines. It is always interesting to meet people like that and to sign autographs. It was very nice to see how excited the Mercedes employees are about motor racing and to receive support they give us so much of the time. What you saw on TV was me and David wearing Mercedes overalls when we were in the factory..
Q. Giancarlo, one year ago, Gerhard Berger won the German GP for Benetton here at Hockenheim. Can you do the same again?
GF: We feel very confident for this race, particularly because it is one of my favourite circuits. Last year [with Jordan] I was second on the grid here, and I led a few laps of the race before I got a puncture. Then Benetton won the race. I am confident because the car is getting better, especially on quicker circuits like this one. It is certainly possible [for me] to get a good result here.
Q. Earlier in the season, your team mate Alexander Wurz was recording better results than you. Does he still have that advantage?
GF: Early in the season I went through a very unlucky period. I was making mistakes and I had some accidents. But now I have much more confidence in the team and the car. In the last few races, though, I have been quicker than Alex, although [our performances] are very close -- except for the last race in Austria, where I was on pole and he started 17th due to problems. Alex is a very fast, professional driver. I am happy to have him as my team mate because we work together well and we are friends.
Q. Ralf, you must be satisfied with that world championship point you won in Austria ...
RS: We honestly didn't expect to finish in the points in Austria. We started from ninth place on the grid, but we had been having some problems with the circuit. The result was therefore very satisfying.
Q. Have your points finishes in the last two GPs helped to boost the Jordan team?
RS: These two races have given us some a lot of motivation again, and we are still working hard to improve. Here we have a little step forward on the engine, and we hope that the tyres suit this circuit better than they did in Austria. If that all works out, maybe we can look forward to scoring one or two points here.
Q. Was it fun to be racing your brother wheel-to-wheel?
RS: It showed that in F1 it is possible to race fair. I only changed my line once, but he still wasn't able to get past me for three or four laps. That proves you can keep somebody behind you while still being fair.
Q. M Todt, on the question of team orders, the FIA stated on Wednesday that it is not acceptable for a team to interfere with a race, 'unless it can be justified by the team's interest in the championship.' Since all teams are interested in the championship, is it not the case, now, that team orders are acceptable and should be open to the teams alone to decide?
JT: If you read the press release, you will see that the FIA has said it will study any type of happening during a race, and then form a decision [if necessary]. It is up to the Stewards of the meeting to make a decision on the teams' strategy.
Q. This suggests that you are taking a risk [of transgressing the rules} every time you impose any kind of strategy ...
JT: I agree. It is up to the teams to make their decisions, and then -- if necessary -- to be able to convince the FIA Stewards [of its correctness].
Q. Does this mean, then, that certain teams will continue to claim that that their drivers had 'brake problems,' when in fact they were following team orders?
JT: It is still up to the stewards to decide. I did not participate by making the rules. I cannot make the rules for the FIA, I merely interpret them.
Q. Would it not therefore be in the interest of the public -- and all the teams -- for you to ask the FIA to clarify this rule?
JT: This article has existed for a long time. We did not need to be reminded, because it was already in the regulations. In fact, nothing has changed and we have only been given a reminder.