Italian GP Friday press conference

Drivers: Jean Alesi (Prost-Peugeot) Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) Jenson Button (Williams-BMW) Ralf Schumacher (Williams-BMW) Q. Jean, let's look back to the race in Belgium, where the car seemed to be running well and your tactics worked...

Jean Alesi (Prost-Peugeot)
Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari)
Jenson Button (Williams-BMW)
Ralf Schumacher (Williams-BMW)

Q. Jean, let's look back to the race in Belgium, where the car seemed to be running well and your tactics worked perfectly ...

Jean Alesi: Yes, that's true. Let me say first that I feel very old [in such young company] here today. In Belgium the car was competitive in the [wet] conditions. Unfortunately we didn't see the end of the race, so I was unable to bring home any points for the team, and that was a shame for everybody.

Q. Was it your decision to come in and change tyres earlier than anybody else dared to do it?

JA: Yes, but in situations like this it doesn't change anything to say it was the driver's decision or the team's. What was good was to have stopped at that moment, because it gave me the chance to [be racing again] in the top group. It was really enjoyable for my team to see their car racing up there like that. They have been working very hard for nothing, for them to be able to see the number of their car up there on the TV screens. It was a good time for us.

Q. Was that the most competitive your car has been so far this year?

JA: In the [wet] situation at Spa it was good, but it was also very competitive at Monte Carlo - and not so bad in Canada either.

Q. So what about here? What does this race mean to you?

JA: It means a lot because I only did two pole positions in my life, both of them here at Monza [in 1994 and 1997]. I have done a lot of races here. And the fans are unbelievable. I would love to get my first [points finish] of the season here, even though at the moment we are struggling with the car, with the setup ... with everything.

Q. This race is your 180th Grand Prix ...

JA: Yes, but I enjoy my life. I like to drive, to fight ... and it doesn't mean anything to have races like this. I prefer to have good memories.

Q. Will you make it 200 GPs next year?

JA: If I am driving, yes! But sure, I will be driving. Alain has confirmed me ...

Q. Jenson, you've tested here recently, but have you ever raced at Monza?

Jenson Button: No, never. It's a good circuit - and it leaves the driver plenty of time [on the long straights] to rest. The last corner [Parabolica] is good fun, and so is the [Variante] Ascari, but at the moment I am not so sure about the two chicanes. A lot of people, including me, went straight on at the chicanes today. I think it will be interesting in qualifying tomorrow, and in the race, especially on the first lap. I hope the car will work well here.

Q. It went well at Spa, but then these two circuits are very different ...

JB: Not necessarily: the similarities include the long straight, and the Bus Stop chicane, which is quite like the chicanes here. The car didn't look too good today, especially for Ralf (laughs). But the important day is tomorrow.

Q. It was announced yesterday that Luciano Burti will be with Jaguar Racing next year. Like you, he will have come directly from Formula 3, where you and her were racing together last year. What does a driver who comes to F1 from F3 have to learn?

JB: To Start with, I think it will be great for us both to be racing together again. Last year it was the F3 title that we both wanted: and although neither of us won, it was good racing. As for the comparison with F3000, my opinion is that an F3 is much more technical than an F3000, because of the restrictions on what can be changed on an F3000. Also, the racing is a lot closer in F3. I think it is the best way to go.

Q. What about your move to Benetton for next year? Have you been monitoring the performance of this year's car?

JB: Obviously I am looking at what they're doing. But I must concentrate on this year, and on learning the three circuits that follow this one in the championship - especially this one. There will be many changes at Benetton next year: a different engine, a different chassis, a different year.

Q. You've had to learn new circuits for most of the year. How do you feel about the next race, at Indianapolis, where everyone will be new?

JB: I definitely can't wait for Indianapolis. To be racing on an oval - well, at least a part- oval - will be great fun, a first for me. And we also have the crowd to look forward to. It's going to be spectacular with 250,000 people in the stadium. I hope we can put on a show that's good enough to appeal to them.

Q. Rubens, you were fastest in today's practice. How were things going for you at Ferrari?

Rubens Barrichello: Actually, although we were expecting to go quite well, it was a surprise [to be fastest]. In testing I had a problem with the car and I was unhappy until the very last day, when we found out a little of what was going on. But suddenly, with almost the same setup on a different chassis, I was happy again. The car felt good again and off we went. It was just the surprise of feeling such a difference from car to car. We don't normally see such a big difference.

Q. It must be amazing to be a Ferrari driver at Monza ...

RB: Yes. You can almost hear the crowd roaring [over the engine] as you go out of the pits. Whatever happens - whether you've spun, or done a good lap, or whatever - you can see the flags and the reaction. To me it feels like Interlagos, although obviously they're looking more for Michael, because he's been a Ferrari driver longer than I have. I guess they must have been impressed to see me fastest today, and every lap I continued, there seemed to be more flags being waved for me. With the chicane as it is now, with a very slow exit, you can actually see a little of the fans ... if you want to.

Q. Ralf, you're 21st fastest. What went wrong for you today?

Ralf Schumacher: Part of it is because we did a lot of work for the race today, and also because I am not as happy with the car as I was at the test last week. I am sure we will find a way of dealing with it, it's just that we are not as good as we were at Spa, at least to look at the other teams and their cars performances. That applies to both of us.

Q. You were fastest here on the last day of testing ...

RS: Yes, I found a short cut! I am looking for it now ... maybe I will be able to find it again.

Q. Is it true that you made a statement in which you suggested that it had been a mistake for Williams to have let Jenson go?

RS: That was the meaning [of what I said], although the way the magazines wrote it made it seem different. I said it had been a shame to let Jenson go because we have made a good team together this year. We both scored a lot of points this year, which has been good for the team, and we have fitted well together. Frank has obviously had a different idea, though, which we all have to respect. I can't judge it yet, so who knows what will happen when Juan Pablo comes? It would be unfair for me to say anything about him because I haven't even spoken to him yet. I hope he's not going to be too quick. Let's wait and see ...

Q. Being a well- matched pair, has that had something to do with the relationship with Jenson?

RS: We speak the same language, even though I am five years older and have suddenly become the old man of the team ... the way he keeps reminding me. We have both enjoyed the season and he has been one of the best team mates I could have had.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Luciano Burti , Ralf Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Jean Alesi
Teams Ferrari , Williams , Benetton , Jaguar Racing