Attendees: BAR Honda: Jacques Villeneuve (<B>JV</B>), Olivier Panis (<B>OP</B>), Craig Pollock (<B>CP</B>) Jordan Honda: Jarno Trulli (<B>JT</B>), Heinz-Harald Frentzen (HHF), Eddie Jordan...
Attendees: BAR Honda:
Jacques Villeneuve (<B>JV</B>),
Olivier Panis (<B>OP</B>),
Craig Pollock (<B>CP</B>)
Jarno Trulli (<B>JT</B>),
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (HHF),
Eddie Jordan (EJ)
What are your hopes for the year?
<B>JV</B> The target is the same as every year - to try and be as competitive as possible. Last year we finally got some points. This year we need to get podiums and hopefully fight for wins. It's going to be very difficult. We'll just have to work very hard.
HHF We need to have a very good season. I am sure it is going to be very difficult but I am very positive.
<B>JT</B> It would be nice to get points in Melbourne, but it will be tough. We have had no chance to compare where we really are, so I'm looking forward to the first race. This will be a very important season for us with the new 'works' engine support from Honda, so we will do our best. They have been working very hard all winter and everything is looking positive.
<B>CP</B> Last year we were a lot more competitive than in our first year and we tried to concentrate on improving the car. This year we aim to improve again but it is going to be very hard. Everyone is very competent in F1 today. However, this car is better than last year's and although it is difficult to say for sure until we see it on the track, our fingers are crossed for Melbourne.
EJ This year has to be better than last year, which was a big disappointment for Jordan and our worst in the last 5 or 6 years, but we did learn a lot. The association between Honda and Jordan makes a massive jump for us and I am confident that we can make a huge improvement on 2000. But it is difficult as you never know quite what your potential is until it comes to Saturday in Melbourne, so it's exciting but also quite stressful. We are optimistic, we've done a lot of work and we are certainly more reliable than last year, which was our big problem. So fingers crossed we'll be OK for Melbourne.
What are your impressions about the new Honda RA001E engine?
<B>JV</B> Compared to last year it's very similar and very reliable. We will have an entirely new engine for the first race which we haven't tested yet, so we don't know how much difference that will make, but the most important thing at this stage is that the engine is reliable so we should finish the race.
<B>OP</B> I am very positive about the engine. It is very easy to drive, but we all know that we will need to improve it constantly during the season. I'm very confident with all the Honda people and they have all worked really hard for this season.
HHF This is my first year driving for Honda and I expect that we will have a very competitive year. Also for Jordan, this is the first time that we have a 'works' engine so we are looking forward to working closely with Honda and creating more development in the year.
<B>JT</B> For us it is a new adventure with Honda and a good step forward. The engine is smaller, lighter and more powerful compared to last year. Everything looks very good for us at the moment. But we are fighting with Ferrari and McLaren so we have to work really hard all through the season and try to improve the performance of the car and the performance of the engine if we really want to reach the top. We know that is not going to be easy, but I think it is important we are all committed to reaching the top.
Craig, it's your second year with Honda. What are your impressions of the Honda engineers?
<B>CP</B> The first year we worked with Honda engineers it was very easy. Initially, we didn't know how they were going to integrate into our team but it worked out fantastically well and they now have a great rapport with our engineers. But we have something slightly different from Jordan and that is that we don't just have engineers working with us at the race track; we have them on the chassis project at the factory. I think this has been very good for both sides. Last year, BAR was a very young team and needed extra support, and for Honda, we helped with the training of their chassis engineers. We've gone through a programme together of training up engineers and developing the expertise Honda can bring to us, and this can definitely be a big help for the future.
Eddie, this is your first year with Honda. How have you found the team?
EJ This is the first time we have enjoyed an official manufacturer relationship, but we do know some of the people from years before. We are seeing the same very fine quality and attention to detail that we saw in previous years. What is nice about our current situation is that when we request or ask for information about ideas or programmes, there is an immediate reaction. You get the impression that there is a very clear demand for attention to detail and for performance. Success to strive to get the best engineering solution as quickly as possible and that is what is required in F1. The sport has moved into such a high technological centre that I believe the relationship between Jordan and Honda is a big advantage. There's a great history with Honda and they are used to winning; the biggest problem for us perhaps is to win as quickly as we can and give you and the guys at Honda the return on their investment.
Do the drivers have a message for their fans, especially those in Japan?
<B>JV</B> Well it's very nice of all of you all to stay awake all night to see the races. It's not easy I guess when you're in Japan and all the races are in the middle of the night, but keep watching and keep sending the energy because it will be very needed this year.
<B>OP</B> Well we need your support. It's very important for us and it's very important to keep this support during the season. Thank you!
HHF Yes, thank you very much for the support I have got from some Japanese fans, and I would like to give it as a return of having good races this year and together with Honda we'll have also a lot of Japanese influence, so hopefully we'll find a reason to celebrate this year.
<B>JT</B> I already have a lot of Japanese fans but obviously this year with Honda probably I will have a lot more. I just want to say that they need to keep close with us because this year we're going to have a very tough season, but hopefully we're going to celebrate together, fight to win races, fight to score points, and fight to have an exciting season.
What is the difference between this year and last year?
<B>OP</B> Well it's quite difficult to compare but I have some comparisons on the engine side. Well the Honda engine is very easy to drive, it's a very good power unit. The middle range is quite good to be honest compared with the Mercedes engine. I'm very pleased to work with Honda people, I'm very confident. Honda people know the targets and I work very hard for that.
<B>JV</B> Well it's the third year with the team, second year with Honda. Last year was a new engine, new working relationships for everybody so that took a little bit of time to adjust. This year is a continuation of that, so I think we are better prepared this year. <B>OP</B> Well last year I'm sure I learned a lot because I drove the best car and I have some ideas to help prepare the team with the experience of last year, and I'm sure I know the way to improve the car for this season but it's still a little secret, but yeah it's a very good way to improve the team.
Who are your main rivals this year?
<B>CP</B> Obviously for BAR our biggest competitor this year, our direct competitor is Jordan, this guy sitting down here, but if we just think about Jordan we're forgetting about McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari. Our goal has to be to try and get up there with McLaren and Ferrari. We finished fifth in the Championship last year, and fourth equal in points with Benetton. What we have to do is try and improve that position so if we're getting into fourth position it's already very, very good and it's going to be very, very difficult. The Williams car this year appears to be excellent. The BMW engine appears to be performing as well, so we cannot just think about Jordan as being the only competitor, we have to think about Williams, McLaren and Ferrari and trying to get up there, so we cannot focus too much on the Jordan Honda team.
EJ I think Craig is right. There's possibly too much attention paid to the rivalry between the two teams, but BAR are not our enemy. All the teams are our enemy including BAR and we hope to try and beat them all. We have to be fairly realistic about this. We've been in it a bit longer than BAR, and we've been one of the few teams, we're the only team currently running outside McLaren and Ferrari that have won in the last three or four years. That's given us some advantage psychologically in terms of being able to understand what's needed to win in Formula 1 as a team. The positive side, and we must think about the positive side, is that there will be two teams with a huge amount of knowledge going back to Honda to make everything work better, in their case on the chassis side and on the engine side with us, combined together, and I think if we are really professional about it we can try to put two things aside. We are enemies on the track but to what we have in terms of equipment going to the track we should work in every way possible to help ourselves, to help our joint partners in Honda and that will be my target. But on the track it's a different story, we are out to destroy everybody if we can, it doesn't matter who they are and I don't even want to think about the names of the teams. Of course everybody talks about McLaren and Ferrari, but please believe me that the world has changed in Formula 1 since the major manufacturers have come in, so I think you're going to see a much closer Championship in every respect all through the grid and there'll be lots of surprises. It's just very important for Jordan, and I presume the same applies to BAR, that we give the best account of ourselves, drag ourselves back up. You know we finished third the year before last but we had a very bad time last year, so nothing is taken for granted these days, but I'm really quite optimistic for this season, we'll just have to wait to see.