Friday 14 August 1998 "Friday Five" press conference: Drivers: Mika Salo (Arrows) Alexander Wurz (Benetton) Team principals: Ross Brawn (Ferrari) Eddie Jordan (Jordan) Industry: ...
Friday 14 August 1998 "Friday Five" press conference: Drivers: Mika Salo (Arrows) Alexander Wurz (Benetton) Team principals: Ross Brawn (Ferrari) Eddie Jordan (Jordan) Industry: Perry Bell (Goodyear)
Q. Alexander, your Benetton has a longer wheelbase which you are using here for the first time in a race. How much better does it handle?
AW: Our new 'stretch limousine' is a few centimetres longer -- I don't want to tell you exactly how many -- and it is a little more stable at the rear end. It isn't as nervous as the shorter car was, both going into the corners and coming out of them. In testing at Silverstone we picked up more stability over the bumps and a little more traction. I could feel the difference there and it has definitely been an improvement, but it is difficult for me to make any comparison here because this is my first visit to the Hungaroring circuit.
Q. Mika, last year this was the best race of the season for Arrows. What does that mean for your chances on Sunday?
MS: Well, we have different tyres, different engines, a different chassis and a different driver! Only the name is the same, but everything looked pretty good today, so why shouldn't we do well again? This race is particularly good fun in the rain, with lots of corners where you can play with the car. But today we were just cruising. We'll go a lot quicker tomorrow.
Q. It looked slippery in the wet. What was your experience?
MS: It's only on the pits straight, where there is some new asphalt which was so slippery on the first few laps that we couldn't use full throttle. If it rains before the race and the grid is still wet at the start, it will take ages before we all get moving. The new surface starts halfway through the final corner and continues until halfway through the first corner, which makes it rather interesting under braking. Everything goes quiet and you start sliding until you run into the old asphalt when the tyres grip and everything stops. It's a real pity they didn't resurface the entire circuit. It's no problems in the dry, fortunately: everything feels OK.
Q. There are plenty of rumours about you and your team at the moment. Will there be a Mecachrome engine for Arrows? Will you be going to Williams?
MS: We have a good engine at the moment and I would be happy to stay with that. There are new steps coming all the time and it's no problem. As far as going to Williams is concerned, the Arrows team has an option on me, I am happy where I am now and I hope I can stay. But I am always the last to hear this type of story about my future ...
Q. Eddie Jordan, there are reports about the future of Gary Anderson, your technical chief. What can you tell us about him?
EJ: Gary had successful minor surgery last Tuesday. The team has sent its best wishes to him for a speedy recovery and he remains Technical Director of Jordan Grand Prix. This dialogue about his future has been going on for four or five years and is now getting to be a little irritating. In this business there are very few high quality engineers -- and Gary Anderson is one of them. Virtually the whole of his working life in F1 has been spent with Jordan Grand Prix and I see no reason why that should change.
Q. You recently recruited Mike Gascoyne to join your engineering staff from Tyrrell. What effect has that had?
EJ: When Jordan Grand Prix arrived on the scene in 1991 we had a total of three engineers who designed the car, helped build it and then looked after it at the races. Although they did a remarkable job, I would hate to see what would happen now if we had to manage with only three engineers. We now have 40 people working in the technical office, which by our standards is a huge number, but all the time we are still scouring the market for good people who are fully qualified engineers and free of contract. Mike has been with us for barely one month and he is now looking at all areas of our team. I am also confident that he and Gary, together, will make a potent combination.
Q. Ross, at Hockenheim Ferrari raced the long wheelbase chassis which you had prepared after some promising tests. What is the future of that car?
RB: We feel that the long wheelbase car represents a step forward, but we still had some concerns about its reliability at Hockenheim, where we tried to quantify its performance. Unfortunately, the first day of practice was spoiled for Michael by various incidents, and there are still some reliability issues which must be sorted out.
Q. Michael has said he was already apprehensive about Hockenheim and that he expects Monza to be disappointing too. Is there a common problem between the two circuits?
RB: We don't have a good ride on this car. When it is light on downforce the car becomes very difficult to drive, and this is a problem which we have been trying to resolve. It is partly a problem which we already had with last year's car, and we are now planning a very intensive development programme in the hope of putting it right before Monza next month. Unfortunately that same problem is also apparent here, because this is such a bumpy circuit, and there are a few corners where we are still struggling. Fortunately at least we will be able to put some downforce into the car here, and I expect us to be in much better shape here than we were at Hockenheim.
Q. Perry Bell, despite the announcement by Goodyear last November that it would be withdrawing from F1 racing in 1999, reports persist that you may still be with us next year. We hear lots of stories, including one about letters between Goodyear and the FIA. Can you enlighten us about your company's intentions for 1999?
PB: I am not aware of any letters, and they certainly haven't come through us [at Goodyear Racing]. The situation as far as I know is the same as it was in November, when we issued a press release that stated we would be leaving F1 at the end of the 1998 season. I don't know why there should be any question about that decision. Goodyear's position has been to push hard in Formula 1 in 1998, and to go out a winner. That has been our objective all along.