Drivers: Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) Jenson Button (Williams) Pedro Paulo Diniz (Sauber) Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Eddie Irvine (Jaguar) Q. Eddie, what is your state of health? Has the stomach ailment now gone away? Eddie Irvine: It seems it's...
Q. Eddie, what is your state of health? Has the stomach ailment now gone away?
Eddie Irvine: It seems it's gone. I didn't feel 100 per cent at Hockenheim, but I have been training hard since then. Now I feel very good. It was a strange thing, though. A girl I know, who should have been meeting me in Paris, phoned me at around midnight recently and said she was in hospital with suspected appendicitis. Later she rang me back and said it wasn't appendicitis but the hospital wanted to keep here there anyway. So maybe it is something that's been going around ...
Q. In terms of your future, you're staying with Jaguar next year. Is the team still making progress?
EI: You're not really seeing it, but we are making progress. We now have the new engine - and at least some of them seem to be better - but we are still not totally on top of the job. We have a lot to learn and everyone is trying to find his position, and some people are still learning their jobs. These are very early days. If you look at Ferrari, it was 1993 when Jean Todt [was recruited] to try to make things happen there. But the team is still not there yet really, and McLaren looks very strong at the moment. It's a long process, so we must keep chipping away. I've been in this situation before, so I know about it better than anyone. The main thing is to take the shortest possible route [to success].
Q. Are you happy with the way things are going?
EI: For sure I'm not happy with the way things are going. I would like to be at the front, winning races. But these things take time. You must accept that and get on with your job. We have had issues with the car, which we are solving, but that's causing other issues to arise - and now we've got to solve them. F1's not easy. It's not just us who are struggling, either. Look at where Jordan is now, compared with last year. To get where McLaren and Ferrari are now requires an enormous step. A lot of the smaller teams probably still don't realise how far ahead those two teams are. To be up there consistently is a huge step.
Q. Did you expect it to be as difficult as this?
EI: I didn't expect some of the teams to perform as well as they have done. If you look at BAR and Benetton, they have really turned their season around from last year. They're still not in the same league as the big boys but they have gone from being very bad teams to being good midfield runners. We have probably dropped back a little. Jordan, too, has probably not been able to step forward because that final step [to the winning league] is probably the most difficult of all to make.
Q. Pedro, Eddie mentioned how some of the smaller teams are coming up, and this year Sauber has been scoring points. How difficult are things for the team this year?
Pedro Paulo Diniz: Unfortunately things have been pretty unlucky for me this year. It's true, though, that last year the car was pretty unreliable while this year it's been much better. Basically, it's very difficult to score points now. When these [McLaren and Ferrari] guys finish, that means the first four places are already taken. It leaves the Jordans, the Benettons, the Jaguars and the Williams are all fighting for the last two points places. You need luck to score points, especially when you're in our position. This year's car is much better than last year's, but although we are quite competitive in race conditions, we are missing quite a bit for qualifying. That is something on which we have to work.
Q. With which team do you see your future as an F1 driver?
PPD: I am not sure yet. There is a good possibility that I will stay with Sauber, but I don't yet know what to do. Everybody is talking to everybody - but there is nothing I can tell you.
Q. Mika, you came back from holiday last week to re-start testing, this time at the Valencia track. How was it?
Mika Hakkinen: It was nice to come back to testing, to see the test team boys again, and it was quite a good test. The atmosphere was great. It's a very high downforce circuit indeed, although the straight is extremely long and top speeds are not that low. But the other of the layout is twisty, so it's a really Mickey Mouse circuit ... and not a particular favourite of mine, I have to admit.
Q. What are your feelings about the Hungaroring?
MH: I have been racing here for many years and I have had many positive experiences in Hungary. The results have always been pretty good. For example, in 1992 I finished fourth, starting from the back row, and after that I basically fell in love with Hungary and this track. It's a good place, with some great and positive memories for me. Last year, when McLaren finished 1-2, was very special indeed, especially with about 17,000 Finns coming here to see the race. It's a great feeling to see so many Finnish fans, and to know that so many Finns have made the effort to be here.
Q. Luca Montezemolo has been quoted as saying that Rubens is not a championship contender and will be helping Michael Schumacher to win the championship. How does that affect you?
MH: That's a question for Rubens, not for me. It doesn't affect me too much at all. In terms of a driver's morale, it must be very distracting to hear something like that coming from the management. I doesn't give you very much motivation to race or to give your best to the team. If you know you are there to lose, who wants to do that? Sorry, Rubens, but I am just saying what I think. I don't know, though, whether the words actually came from [Montezemolo's] mouth or whether they have been turned around. But that's what I think. It's not ideal ...
Q. What does Rubens think?
Rubens Barrichello: I don't know what [Montezemolo] said to the press. The important thing is what he told me, which was quite different. You know, it's quite a vote of confidence in me for the team to have brought a second T-car here for me. Why would the team do that if I was only here to be playing for the other [driver]? Basically, what he has said is that he definitely wants Ferrari to win, and it does not matter who does it. Whatever we may have read in the press, that's not what he told me.
Q. Did you have a good celebration after your victory in Germany?
RB: I had no time to celebrate after watching the race again twice that night! It was a great day. I just keep going back to that moment on the podium when I looked at the sky. I really felt the relief, and the weight was going away. Then when I went to Fiorano to test on Tuesday, things seemed to have gone back to normal. But when you're driving the car you find you're enjoying it more. I can't explain why! It just feels different ...
Q. What are your feelings about this race?
RB: I am looking forward to it. This is a track where both Ferrari and I have done well in the past. But I am under no pressure. People try to remind me that I am only ten points behind in the championship, but I am trying to look at my present and living my moment. If I am still in the running for the championship at the last race, then it's another matter. But right now I am just enjoying myself. I believe I am getting better and better every day that I run with Ferrari.
Q. Finding a new circuit is always difficult for a young driver. How easy are you finding it to learn new circuits?
Jenson Button: Once you're used to driving the car, new circuits aren't a big thing. It's obviously better to have more experience, especially when you've done a full race. But now that I am more used to the car I seem to be able to pick up the circuits more easily. I haven't actually seen this circuit yet, though ... Of the circuits that are coming up, I already know two: Spa and Monza.
Q. Hockenheim. That was a great drive through the field ...
JB: Yes, although I think I was lucky in certain ways. The team had prepared a very good strategy on the pit stops. Also, after the second pit stop, when I came in for wets, I don't think I did a bad job of keeping the car on the road, especially with it raining on one side of the circuit and being dry on the other. It was a good race all round. It's great to get a fourth position. Let's just hope that we can get qualifying sorted out this weekend.