DRIVERS: Mika Salo (Sauber) Jacques Villeneuve (BAR) TEAM PRINCIPALS: Ross Brawn (Ferrari) Flavio Briatore (Benetton) Adrian Newey (McLaren) Neil Ressler (Jaguar) Q. Flavio, you have been looking far and wide for new drivers for next year....
Mika Salo (Sauber)
Jacques Villeneuve (BAR)
Q. Flavio, you have been looking far and wide for new drivers for next year. Can you give us some idea of who and what you're looking for?
Flavio Briatore: Normally we are looking for two drivers for next year, like everybody else. Today we announce Giancarlo Fisichella for the 2001 season. Giancarlo has done a very good job this year, and from the moment I arrived back in the team I saw the guy changing completely. He has been very involved with the team and he has done some very good races. I believe he will suit next year's Benetton. But for the moment he is the only driver we have signed for the 2001 season. He had the option to continue with us in 2001, so it's only a one-year contract, with another option for 2002. If he is doing well and we have got on well together next year, then we will decide for 2002.
Q. The names of Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button have been mentioned in connection with your team, and you have tested at least two young drivers, with Mark Weber also on the list. What are the qualities you are looking for in your second driver for next year?
FB: I am looking for someone to do the job. That's normal. We want somebody who will take points in the championship, somebody who can motivate the other driver and somebody who can build up the team again. At this moment our situation is quite on the boundary. I don't know what has happened with Wurz. It is very clear to everybody that he is in a very difficult moment. From now to the end of the season we would like to help him in the best way possible, because I believe he needs the team to get together with him. We will try. But for next season we need to find somebody else. There is the option of a young driver, and at the moment we are looking for whatever will be best for our team. Jacques [Villeneuve] was the number one option for us, and for one reason or another he has decided to stay with BAR. We wish good luck to him for next year, but I will make sure that we are in front of him anyway. By next week we will have made our decision on a second driver, or rather on who will be the partner for Giancarlo Fisichella, because we want equal status on the team for the drivers. The moment I know, I will tell you.
Q. Ross, we have a very interesting situation in the World Championship. Is this something you relish?
Ross Brawn: I would have preferred it to have been won by now ... certainly by us, anyway. We have been through a very difficult period, at least with Michael, who has scored only ten points in the last five races. That is not the level of points scoring you need to win a World Championship and we have to get ourselves out of that trough, with Michael. I am sure we will. Yes, it's got to a difficult stage, but ours is a strong group of people and we will do our best for the rest of the season.
Q. Michael has come in for quite a lot of criticism recently. What are your feelings about that?
RB: Some people have made a point of his starting technique, and I can understand that. Having said that, it is something that is acceptable to the FIA, which is the judge of these things. I think the level of criticism is now starting to become vindictive. [Michael's critics] now have a different agenda: they are not trying to stop Michael doing what he does at the starts, they have a different objective. And it is something that I am very unhappy about.
Q. Can it be stopped?
RB: Well, it's down to the individuals who are saying these things. They are quite at liberty to discuss them with Michael, but instead they choose to air their opinions in public.
Q. Following the problems Michael has had in the last couple of races, do you expect him to adopt a slightly different approach, perhaps?
RB: Not really, no. Two of the things [which have happened to him in the last four races were] car failures and not his fault at all. The incident at Hockenheim with Giancarlo [Fisichella] was unfortunate, although I don't think anyone was 100 per cent to blame for that. Michael moved across, and although he didn't hit Giancarlo, he put him in a very difficult position. But a change of style, I think, would be a mistake.
Q. There has been a lot of interest from the press in Luca Montezemolo's suggestion that Rubens Barrichello won't be allowed to be a championship contender for Ferrari this year. How do you see that interpretation?
RB: Well, [Mr Montezemolo] will be here this weekend, so you can put that question to him yourself. But I don't think he actually said [what you have suggested]. Certainly what he said to us on the team was that despite Michael's problems, we have got to put a 100 per cent effort behind Michael ... just as we are putting 100 per cent effort behind Rubens. I mean, we have [been given] no decree that it's only Michael who can win the world championship. If Rubens is able to win the next few races, then of course our efforts will go into whatever is best for Ferrari. At Ferrari we have always been very open in our approach: we have always been prepared to do what is best for Ferrari, and to be open about what we are doing. I think that [same policy] exists in other teams. It is just that they will not admit it. Most of our opponents have favoritism within the team, but they are not prepared to come out and admit it. I happen to think that in the last two races McLaren has very heavily favoured Mika, and not David. In Austria David had a different strategy [from Mika's], but as soon as the race had started and they were able to make a clean run, the team slowed down their cars. For that reason David did not get an opportunity to use that strategy. In the last race, at Hockenheim, they brought in Mika under the Safety Car - not David - and David's race was ruined. So it happens in all teams. It is just that Ferrari is the team that is subjected to the spotlight.
Q. Would Adrian care to comment on these remarks?
Adrian Newey: Yes, I can respond. Ross is entitled to his opinions, but from what I know as someone inside the team, [what he suggests] is not the case. If you take the race at Hockenheim, Mika came in to the pits when the Safety Car [was deployed] because he was the lead car at the time. Unless the point in the championship has been reached where it is desirable to favour one driver, which is clearly not the case at the moment, the policy is to call in whoever is leading at the time. Also, if we have reached a situation where our drivers are just racing each other, we may tell them at that point to hold position, in order to avoid the risk of a car problem or of one of the drivers going off the road. One of the problems with the Safety Car - as opposed to, say, CART racing - is that in F1 we are only allowed to have one pitstop crew per team. If the Safety Car comes out at a critical moment, we can bring in one car immediately. What to do with the second driver is a more difficult choice: either you can leave him out on the circuit and wait for him to come in one lap later; or you can queue his car behind the first driver. Either way, the second driver stands to lose a significant number of places.
Q. What happened to David Coulthard's car when its wing parted company with the car during last week's test at Valencia?
AN: The wing was not the cause of the problem: we had a rear suspension failure. It was a fatigue problem in a steel wishbone. We have taken action in the meantime, hoping to avoid a repetition. Obviously that is something that all teams strive to avoid. Unfortunately, sometimes we are not totally successful. But the nature of F1 - and I think most teams would say the same - makes it difficult to have a 100 per cent success record in terms of avoiding suspension failures at some stage or another of the season. It has not involved any major redesign: we have made a relatively small change to hopefully avoid it happening again.
Q. Jacques, late this afternoon we saw your car flying off the circuit several times. What was that all about?
Jacques Villeneuve: Oh, just trying hard. This is not an easy track. It is quite slippery and when you run a lot of downforce you have to try hard. I just got caught out.
Q. How do you see your chances for the rest of this year?
JV: Well, similar to what they have been since the beginning of the season. They are not fantastic. We can get some good points but we need good races to get small points. In average races we cannot expect to be in the points. It's hard work and we are tight on points in the area where we are. We need to improve that a little bit. And any improvement we can make now will be useful for next year. Our car is not very efficient when we have to put in the level of downforce that we are using here. It's a bit like Monaco, although we are finding it difficult to make the car work. But we are not out of the fight. We have been in a worse position on Fridays before.
Q. But the Sauber team has made progress this year, hasn't it?
Mika Salo: Yes. The beginning of the year was difficult, with the disqualification in Australia and then the wing failures in Brazil. It took us a long time to get things back on track. Now things seem to be going quite well and we have made some improvements to the car: it is going quick all the time. Qualifying hasn't always been a big problem for us, it's just that you can have problems with traffic, like we did at Hockenheim. There's nothing you can do if there's a car sideways in front of you on your quick lap. It's just that everyone else is quicker. That's all ...
Q. Neil, we know that Irvine is staying with Jaguar next year. Who are the drivers you are considering for the other place?
Neil Ressler: We are not yet ready to talk about who we are going to sign. We have tested Dario [Franchitti], although that was mainly because we wanted to follow up on some commitments that had been made to him a year or two ago. I expect we'll have something to say [about drivers] within a small number of weeks, but certainly not today or tomorrow.