Thursday 13 August 1998 "Thursday Four" press conference -- Drivers: Rubens Barrichello (Stewart) Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Jarno Trulli (Prost) Q. Mika, after some memorable ...
Q. Mika, after some memorable successes in the last two GPs, have you been able to relax?
MH: I had a couple of days off, which was really good because I was so busy before the race at Hockenheim. There was a lot of promotional work to do as well as the testing, and to have two races back-to-back is always tough for the teams and their drivers. The two weeks' break since then has been a fantastic time. I had a couple of days testing at Jerez in enormously high temperatures -- more or less like it is here -- and then I was in Germany for a one day road safety promotional campaign.
Q. You talk of the high temperatures at Jerez. Will it have helped you to prepare for conditions which are likely to be similar here?
MH: The only real similarity between the two circuits is the temperature. The design of the Jerez track doesn't have too much similarity to the Hungaroring, except perhaps for the amount of downforce required. Hungary has always been quite a bumpy circuit, too, so it's not too bad to have been at Jerez.
Q. Bridgestone has been developing a wider front tyre. How much experience have you had with it?
MH: We have already done quite a lot of testing with it, on different circuits, and it has been very interesting. Now it is a good tyre, actually, and we are very pleased with it. The advantages [it offers] obviously depend on the different circuits, but I think that we will have to wait until tomorrow and Saturday to see how it performs here in Hungary.
Q. Michael, has Goodyear been able to offer you something similar?
MS: To be honest, we have been using a wider front tyre since the second races of the season, in Argentina. We have also obviously done a lot of testing with different tyre sizes, and as usual you find things here and there, different pieces. There are interesting things coming up, though not so much for here because time has been too tight for us to have [production tyres] of the type that we tested after Hockenheim. But we had already decided up front what we wanted for here, which was another step forward. Development goes on as usual.
Q. With at least two more races on fast circuits, do you have to accept that the car will be as disappointing again as it was at Hockenheim?
MS: No, it has been at two circuits in particular, Monza and Hockenheim, but especially Hockenheim. Monza is not so bad and we expect both Spa and Suzuka to be pretty good for our car. It is a combination of factors which is responsible, not just the long straights and chicanes. There is no point in me going into details, but Hockenheim is the worst.
Q. Is this your type of circuit?
MS: I have no particular type of circuit. It all depends on what the car is capable of doing: if it has enough performance, then you have a chance to win. The more it offers, the better you can perform. But honestly Hockenheim was one of the hardest races I have done for a long time, simply because it was so difficult to keep the car on the road. When you win it doesn't automatically mean that you have put in more effort, or that you have approached things any differently. What it means is that you have done your best with what the car can offer. And here I think we should be performing well.
Q. Rubens, you had a new team mate in France. Have you felt any pressure from Jos Verstappen?
RB: I think I am driving better than ever. I am now established with a team that is growing. Verstappen is a good driver and he brought a lot of good information to the team. I may have had problems with team mates in the past, but it doesn't matter what has happened with the others. It doesn't matter what Jos was doing, or Jan, it isn't extra pressure for me.
Q. Is there any question of you being able to buy your way out of your Stewart contract in order to join Williams?
RB: I have a contract with Stewart until the end of 1999. I also have a buy-out clause, but it's not cheap. And if I want to leave, I will have to pay.
Q. Are you looking for that money?
RB: I wouldn't say that. As a professional who is at the prime moment in his career, though, I have to look around, sure, because it is six years since I have been in F1. If I had had the chance to go to a bigger team, say three or four years ago, maybe I would have struggled because I would not have been mentally prepared then for the big time. Now I feel prepared for it, but I haven't yet driven a car that was capable of winning. So I have to look around. But I have a contract with the Stewart team -- and that is all I can say.
Q. What do you think when you hear that your engine supplier is prepared to spend $10 million on a two year contract for a rally driver?
RB: That's nothing to do with me. But at least it shows how much effort Ford is putting into motorsport. Money is obviously not a problem for them. And it shows how serious they are, which is really good. If Ford is winning on one side, then it should also be winning on the other. With McRae they can definitely do it.
Q. Jarno, a couple of races ago in Austria you were less than happy with the Prost team because they had not replaced your car's shock absorbers. Have you worked out that problem?
JT: Well, something happened during the last few races, but that is part of the sport. Obviously I was very disappointed because for the second time this year we were quite competitive and I was running fifth when, unfortunately for me and for the team, we had this problem and we ended the race at the back of the field. For sure it is a shame, because we haven't got any points this year and we still need to score. It is hard for me, even harder for the team -- and we need to improve morale.