Present: Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) David Coulthard (McLaren) Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) Ralf Schumacher (Williams) Jacques Villeneuve (BAR) Mark Webber (Minardi) Q: A question to all those in contention for second place in...
Q: A question to all those in contention for second place in the Championship: How important is second place in the Championship to you, and what are your expectations, hopes and aims for the rest of the season?
Ralf Schumacher: Same question last year at Spa, wasn't it? I think for us, as a team, in the first place, is to maintain second in the Constructors for next year and then, obviously as well, to take what is left. If it possible to come second, I would appreciate it. I will just see how the end of the season goes.
Juan Pablo Montoya: Being my second season of course you want to do the best you can every season and you want to do it better than the previous season. Second would be a really good step forward, even third is good as well. But as Ralf said, you always want to try to do the best you can. It's very simple.
Rubens Barrichello: It is a plus. I've been fourth, I've been third, so fighting for second right now, having all the support of the team to be able to do that, I would welcome second place right now.
David Coulthard: I think the three guys in front have a better chance of battling for second place than I have in terms of pace if you look at the season so far. But naturally, you do the best job you can in each race and then the results will be coming from that so we just wait and see.
Q: Last year you said you weren't interested in second place, only first.
DC: Well, to be honest, I still feel the same way but I just didn't want to be completely opposite to what everyone else was saying. I think we probably all share the same opinion that our goal is not to be second, our goal is to win but that isn't available. I don't think you lower your sights and say 'OK, I'm going to be delighted to be second', but I think every driver tries to do the best job that he can each weekend and the results are partly of your performance, partly what happens with the reliability, circumstances, there's many issues. I understand the question but it isn't just in our hands.
Q: So there's still a fair amount of needle going on in the Championship in the last five races.
DC: I think there's lots of excitement in the next few races. A few people have said to me whilst we were on the break 'Formula One's boring now, the Championship's won and all that.' And I went 'well, it's not boring to me. Every race is an opportunity to go and do what we love to do and to try and win.' Obviously, as McLaren, we've managed to win one this year and looked like we could have won another in Magny-Cours, so it's not outside the possibilities that we could win another one and that's exciting.
Q: So do you agree that there's a lot left in the Championship.
JPM: Pretty much
RS: Well, certainly the Championship is gone but for us, as well, our target is really to close up the gap to Ferrari. If we want to compete in the Championship, or would like to be anywhere near the Championship next year we have to close up the gap and we don't have a lot of time to do so, so it's going to be very tough and exciting for us.
Q: Juan Pablo, what are your feelings about this circuit? It wasn't a great one for you last year...
JPM: Last year was really bad. We never really got the car right and I didn't put it together at all. Hopefully this year it will change. It seems this year, the circuits where everything went really wrong (last year), this year has been really good. Hopefully it keeps going that way. I think last year I seemed to have a lot of understeer all weekend long and I think this year we can fix it. I understand the car a bit more and I'm working better with the engineers so that should be a plus. It's not a place I love to drive around but we will make the best out of it.
Q: And the poles that you had earlier this year could be vital here...
JPM: I think pole position would be very important. I've been on pole position five times in the last six races but they didn't seem to help much. The best result was the one where I wasn't on pole.
Q: Rubens, I'm sure you're trying to put the mechanical problems that you've had in the last three races behind you, but it seems ironic that they happen to you and that they don't happen to Michael.
RB: In a way I have to think that they are coincidence because that's what they really are. If I stopped to think 'OK, is the team doing something?' I don't think so because the team wouldn't like to see the car in the air as much as they saw it in the last three races, probably. But these things happen. There were three different problems and problems are there to happen. Sometimes they happen to Michael, but they happen at the right time. On Friday or Saturday they have a kind of problem, but not on Sunday. But we learn from it and hopefully it's not going to happen again.
Q: Have you all had a good break?
RB: I've been back home in Brazil, had a fantastic break, had two weeks with my family, my boy. It's been quite good.
JPM: Uuuhh, Miami. Go-karting, jet-skiing.
RS: I stayed in Austria at home. I tried to go somewhere but didn't like it and so I went back home. It started raining quite heavily over the last few days. Luckily it didn't hurt us, but as you've seen on the news, there's a very sad and terrible situation in Austria and in Germany and there still is in some cities, so it's quite bad.
Jacques Villeneuve: I went to Croatia - very nice, very beautiful.
Q: Were you on your boat David, have you got your boat yet?
DC: I've still got a boat, I just don't have the Turkish boat. I was on the boat. I was down in Ibiza for a while and then came back up to the South of France.
Q: Mark, you went to Australia didn't you?
Mark Webber: Yeah, I probably won't do it next year, it's a long way to go for a week but it had to be done, it was always scheduled and it wasn't an ideal break.
Q: What are your plans for next year?
MW: Hopefully I will be here. It has been a good solid season for me so far and the team has done a really good job, I have had a reliable little car and it has been a great little season for me. What happens next year, we haven't decided yet.
Q: We have heard several different rumours, different teams. How many teams are there?
MW: Not as many as you would probably read about, but it only needs to be one.
Q: Now, a new team-mate (Anthony Davidson) for this race. What are your feelings about him?
MW: Well, he has done a lot of laps with BAR in testing so that is a positive thing. You do your Formula Threes, your Formula 3000s and all that sort of stuff, but F1 testing is a good way for you to get a feel for what goes on, especially on a Grand Prix weekend, so that is a good thing for him to have up his sleeve. It was getting quite frustrating for the team, obviously Alex having some problems in qualifying again, so it is good that he (Davidson) should comfortably, obviously, qualify and it will be nice to have someone to be able to compare a bit more stuff with.
Q: So do you think you will get a bid more feedback from Davidson?
MW: Yeah. It will be good for the team.
Q: David, I was going to ask you about the new man at Minardi but obviously you didn't know about it?
DC: No I didn't know, and I don't know him to be honest, but it's great when people get an opportunity and I am sure he is really excited about it. He has had a lot of experience at driving a Formula One car so it shouldn't be too much of a problem here.
Q: After the Monaco win, everyone said this was going to be your next great opportunity. Is it still or have the goalposts changed a bit?
DC: I think the biggest influence on our performance here is going to be the tyres and if I look at when we have looked stronger, excluding Magny-Cours, it has been with softer tyres than what we have actually got available to us here. So the only saving situation, possibly, is the fact that as we have a similar tyre to what we had in Magny-Cours where we had a good performance in the race, then we might have a reasonable situation within the race but it is a full downforce circuit, as is Monaco, and obviously that plays more into the car.
Q: Obviously qualifying is important as well...
DC: Yeah, qualifying is always important and it is interesting to refresh the memory of last year, when Michael was on pole by eight tenths so he obviously had quite an advantage when we were on the same tyres so it will be interesting to see just exactly how well the Michelin works here.
Q: Jacques, in spite of being in Croatia there were lots of stories going on about you during the break. What truth is there in these rumours about CART?
JV: Well, there is very little. I just read it today because I didn't get any papers when I was away and I just read today a bit of what has been written and that apparently I have to make a decision. You only make a decision when you have choices available.
Q: And you don't feel you have choices available?
JV: Unless there is a proposition made you cannot make a decision on an imaginary proposition. I have a good contract for next year and I have no reason to change it. The only way I could start thinking of doing anything else is if there was something very special
Q: So have you not been in contact with David Richards at all during the break?
JV: I have been in contact with nobody during the break. That is what breaks are for.
Q: Mark, these days it seems the trend is to pluck some 19-year-old who has had six Formula Ford races and put him into an F1 car. Do you think that you are better off having had Formula 3000 experience and sportscars and also being a bit more mature for your rookie season in Formula One?
MW: I think when I was 19 I probably wasn't going to be ready for Formula One. I think things come about in stages in your career where sometimes it is meant to be. We have seen exceptional cases, obviously with Kimi and Jenson doing a very very good job. But I think to have that happening every year, if it happens in the future, it is probably not the best way to go about it. I still think that a good solid grounding is crucial. I learned a lot in sportscars, working with a big manufacturer, that was very good, and also working with Renault as well, testing and things, so it makes the transition a lot smoother. A lot of guys can go to a reasonable lap time in a Formula One car, but it is obviously getting more out of it over a full season and working with a big team, so that is what is important.
Q: With Anthony being a test driver for BAR, you probably have a little more insight into how he might do in Formula One. Can you give us some indication of how you think he might fare?
JV: He has done a lot of mileage and he has done a solid job as a test driver. This is one of the most physical tracks so I guess it will be good for him to find out how physical it can be and how much training is needed. But he can do a good job. It is a little difficult to judge testing because when we go testing and we work on the car we are not trying to do the ultimate qualifying lap in testing whereas a test driver will, so then it is always difficult to know really how quick they are.
Q: Jacques, I know you have been quite critical of Champ Cars since the Championship was divided. Do you see anything in open wheel racing in America that might tempt you or interest you, or anything a Formula One driver might want to go and do?
JV: At the moment, apart from a golden contract, I don't see any reason to go racing in the States.
Q: Sorry to give you a hard time on this, but when we ask you about your contract you always say you have a firm contract for next year, but David Richards has made it plain to everybody that he wants a longer term commitment from you and he feels that you're absorbing too much of the team's budget...
JV: I would be open to a longer term if there was any proposition made to think about it, but I have been asked this question for the last six months so I guess the purpose of saying things like that has had an affect because then for six months there has been a lot of hassle about it with no reason. But there is no proposition anywhere so what should I think about? I am just happy to go on with my contract. It's very simple.
Q: You mean to say that David Richards has not actually proposed a longer term contract?
JV: There hasn't been any proposition from anywhere - from the States or from longer terms. So it is easy to put the ball in my camp when actually there is no ball to be played.