"Thursday Five" press conference Drivers: Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan) Marc Gene (Minardi) Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Eddie Irvine (Ferrari) Team chief: Rocco Benetton Q. Rocco, the performances of the Benetton have not...
"Thursday Five" press conference
Q. Rocco, the performances of the Benetton have not been consistent so far this year, from track to track. Is there an explanation for this?
Rocco Benetton: If I could explain the reasons why, I would make sure it didn't happen again. But it seems that we have a fundamental problem on tracks which require high downforce. It is a very hard situation to figure out because it appears that there is a gap between the theoretical calculations and the practical results on the track. For the past three weeks we have been working hard, just to sort out this problem. Being realistic about it, this is a problem which has been dragging us for a few years. But the fundamentals of this year's car are very good: it is just that under certain circumstances the car goes in its own direction.
Q. With the loss of the Hart and Ford customer engines next year, the Supertec product looks like being in some demand. Are you confident in your own contract with Supertec for 2000?
RB: Yes, the contract has already been drawn up, so everything is pretty clear there. On the other hand, all of the Supertec cars are suffering a bit because three teams is definitely a lot. On the other hand, Formula 1 is going through some particular times, and if we have to help we will try to do so. We have to listen [to the demands of other teams]. The idea now is for Supertec to supply just two teams, but we will have to wait and see [what develops].
Q. Marc, you took a commendable 15th place for Minardi in Germany. Tell us about the evolution of the car, which seems to have made big strides in the last couple of races.
Marc Gene: Yes, the team has never given up, they have been working all the time, and the long wheelbase car has been a big improvement, it was a lot more driveable. The second biggest improvement was the new floor which we put on the car for the Austrian GP. It was a big step for me because not only was it quicker but it was a lot more comfortable to drive. At the beginning of the season, whenever I tried to push I would make mistakes. Now I can get to the limit of the car a lot more easily, and since Canada I haven't even spun. This is just because the car has improved. Now the team is proving that the basics of the car are very competitive. Even for me, Hockenheim was a big surprise, because I would never have expected to be that quick there. Here, OK, maybe I could be quick, because this is not so much an engine circuit. But at Hockenheim I was quick through the T3 section, which is the only part with a lot of corners.
Q. Heinz-Harald, there was some controversy inside the Jordan team at the last race, in which your team mate said he was unhappy with his brakes. How satisfied are you with the brakes on your car?
Heinz-Harald Frentzen: I had no problems with my brakes during the race. I don't know exactly what happened [with Damon], although I know that he sometimes uses different brakes [from mine], and he has the option when he wants to take it. But I don't know exactly what happened with him: you must ask Damon.
Q. Do you think you can hold 3rd place in the drivers' championship all the way to the end of the season?
HHF: We have a good chance of regularly finishing in the points or on the podium, but for sure David [Coulthard] is in a better car at the moment. Over the next few races his run of bad luck should stop, and then he will be a strong contender to nick (steal) my 3rd place in the championship.
Q. What are your chances of being the best-placed German in the 1999 world championship?
HHF: Ah, yeah. I hadn't thought about that, really. Michael (Schumacher) is not with us at the moment, so he can't go for the championship. The accident has been a difficult moment for him. I am not fighting for the championship like he was doing before he had the accident. My target is different: we want to achieve 3rd place this year and so far we are right on target. If we achieve that, we can be very proud of our performances this year. That is our mission.
Q. How do you prepare for this circuit?
HHF: Quite a lot of downforce is necessary here, and we will be trying to get the maximum from it here. But I don't think we will be as strong as we were at Hockenheim, although we have made some improvements after Zeltweg, which also requires a lot of downforce and where we had some difficulties during the race. We have managed to find the difficulties that we had there and I am looking forward to this race, although I don't think I will be able to beat Mika to pole position here. My thoughts are with Sam Michael, my race engineer, whose wife is about to have a baby, which means I am without my usual race engineer.
Q. Mika, there is a rumour that you have been on holiday. Is that true?
Mika Hakkinen: Yes, after what happened in the last two GPs I think I deserved a break. I had a great one week holiday, on board a boat in both Sardinia and Corsica. It was a very enjoyable time.
Q. Do you have any more news about the cause of the tyre failure which sent you crashing off at Hockenheim?
MH: Obviously Bridgestone and the team have been investigating, and they are still trying to understand exactly what happened. But they still haven't found the solution for it. Hockenheim is a circuit with extremely high speed straights, and here the tyres are not loaded as much as they are there. This circuit won't give the tyres as hard a time, so I am not worried about that here.
Q. Were there any after-effects to the Hockenheim accident?
HHF: My neck was definitely stiff the next day. I was very lucky to get out of that spin in one piece, because it was a top speed accident, I was going something like 330 km/h, and to lose control at that speed is incredible. The moment the car got out of control and went sideways, I thought it would be launched into the air because of the high speed. Luckily for me, the run-off area at that place, on the entry to the stadium, is quite long. There was a lot of luck for me.
Q. Eddie, you've been making all the headlines recently. What about the reports that you've been relaxing in St Tropez? They say you were in bed until three o'clock in the afternoon ...
Eddie Irvine: It's hard to relax in St Tropez, believe me! I was in bed all day and all night ...