Italian GP: Thursday press conference

Present Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) Giancarlo Fisichella (Jordan) Jarno Trulli (Renault) Alex Yoong (Minardi) Q: To both Italians, neither of you have very good records here in Formula One. Tell us about whether you like the circuit, whether...

Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari)
Giancarlo Fisichella (Jordan)
Jarno Trulli (Renault)
Alex Yoong (Minardi)

Q: To both Italians, neither of you have very good records here in Formula One. Tell us about whether you like the circuit, whether you have a better record perhaps in other formulae?

Giancarlo Fisichella: Yeah. First of all, I won many races in Formula Three here and it was one of my most favourite tracks. It's still one of my favourites, even if the first corner isn't so exciting. It's my home Grand Prix so we have a lot of fans here, Italian fans, they are pushing, yeah, especially Ferrari but also the Italian drivers, so it's a very important race weekend for me. I hope to do well. It's not easy because we are not so competitive but you never know. It's important to be in the top ten in qualifying and then get through to the end of the race and score some points, that would be our target.

Q: But you quite like this circuit, even though Formula One hasn't been kind to you?

GF: Yes, it's quite a difficult circuit because for the long straights, you need a very low downforce and when you are braking from 350 kph you have to stop the car to 60, it's not easy at all, the grip level is very low. It's not so easy but it's still a good circuit for me.

Q: What do you think about it Jarno?

Jarno Trulli: Well, I have no feelings about it in Formula Three. I was driving in the German championship, I only tried once here in Monza. Regarding Formula One, not such a good feeling. In the last two Grands Prix here in Monza, I didn't manage to go more than two corners. Last year it was one corner where Jenson hit me up the back and two years ago, unfortunately, I was involved in an accident at the second chicane, so not many miles in the race, so I just hope I can do better.

Q: What are your feelings about it being the home race?

JT: It's definitely a great feeling because we've got so much support. We know there are a lot of Ferrari fans which eventually support us as well. I've also got a lot of fan clubs coming over and then I especially like the atmosphere in Monza, I don't know why, but it's so different to every other circuit, it's such a warm place where you can see a lot of supporters and a lot of real Formula One fans, so I like it very much. The track isn't so exciting but that's the way it is, you just have to deal with it.

Q: People in the past have said you're a good qualifier, not so good in the race. How do you feel about your own performance this year?

JT: Well, this year I've proved more than once I can a do a good job in the race but unfortunately I cannot manage to finish races, for whatever reason. I always miss the last 60 kilometres of the race. I have always retired between five and ten laps to go. It's a shame because it's difficult to prove to everybody that you're doing well in the race if you don't finish but on the other hand I'm just trying to do my best with the team. I'm not completely unhappy with the way I have improved through the season.

Q: Giancarlo, a spectacular exit to the last race at Spa. Tell us about it?

GF: It wasn't exactly an exit, it was a big blow-up. We had lots of problems with the reliability in the last few weeks and especially at Spa. BAR and Jordan teams blew up many engines and even last week, unfortunately, in testing here in Monza we blew up a couple of engines, but they know and they are very optimistic for this weekend. We will have the new step of engine, which is a bit better and so that's good news. The question mark is still the reliability.

Q: You mentioned it was quite scary.

GF: Yeah, it was quite scary because there was fire but there was a fire for a couple of seconds and then it was just a big fog.

Q: Now, what about the football, were you playing last night?

GF: Yeah. There was another football game for charity. We won 1-0. Michael did a good score. It was nice, quite a lot of people. It was the 11th of September but that atmosphere was good.

Q: So was the Brazilian star playing as well, Rubens?

Rubens Barrichello: No, no, no. To be honest with you, we do a lot of testing with the car, so whenever I can be home, that's more important for me.

Q: How did the testing go last week?

RB: Quite well, testing all the tyres and testing all the bits that we have for Monza, we're quite optimistic about it. We know that Williams-BMW can run quite fast here as they did last year, but we have a good car, that's the most important thing and it runs well everywhere basically.

Q: One of the important things about this circuit is that the car runs well over the kerbs. Can you explain that?

RB: That's something that we go better through the years. I reckon in 2000 the car was quite good but it didn't run fantastically well over the kerbs. This car is must better. You can see the Williams is a good car running the kerbs as well as much as McLaren. The kerbs here are kind of walls. You cannot be fully committed every lap to it because you might damage the undertray. You just have to think about it. You think about going very fast, you can use them in a good way and gaining some time, so the car is running quite well over the kerbs, I must say.

Q: It must be a completely different art.

RB: Oh yeah, it's a compromise everywhere because you've got to make the car quick on the straight but it has to be quite good on brakes and traction and then you've got to make some kind of compromise to run the kerbs because they are really high, especially the one at the chicane - they are really a big hit.

Q: There's a possibility that Ross may not be very mobile this weekend. How will that affect the team?

RB: Ross has been feeling a back pain for such a long time but like we humans, we do that, when we feel that we just say okay, we'll look at it tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow and with Ferrari, I guess there's a lot of work, a lot of work and there came a time when Ross couldn't move any more. It was last week when he felt it was really painful, so I don't know, I called him several times last week but he was in Paris, Italy, England just to check everything. He's feeling a lot better now and we hope that he's going to be here for the weekend sometime, but it's because of his back pain.

Q: So what kind of effect can you see that having on the way things are run?

RB: Well Luca Baldisseri is going to be doing more or less what... just because of the situation, it's a good time to promote people and see how... for me it's not going to change much whereas in Michael's case he's going to be run by Chris who used to do all the computer side and looking at the data. But he's going to be his engineer. There's another guy on the computer and 'Baldo' is going to be look at the whole picture. I guess it's a good time to do that, but I'm pretty sure Ross is going to be here, even with the back pain he's going to make it.

Q: Alex, welcome back. What was the basis for you taking a step back and not taking part in the last couple of Grands Prix?

Alex Yoong: Well, I thought it was quite good. I went on holiday. Everyone else was working. Well, Hockenheim was a big disappointment for me and to be honest, I was a bit confused with what happened there, so it was good to go away. I went back to Malaysia and got my head around what had happened, just getting my head straight really.

Q: So when you came back, how was the test last week?

AY: The test was good, it felt really good being in the car and with quite a bit of fuel in the car the times were pretty good.

Q: I was told one day you perhaps only had about nine laps?

AY: Yeah, we had a couple of gearbox problems but managed to get a bit of dry running towards the end on Friday, so that was good.

Q: Is that the same gearbox problem that Mark had at Spa?

AY: Similar, not exactly the same. You know, with us, we don't have an infinite number of parts so some of the more used parts get used during the test and occasionally they break down.

Q: So for the rest of the season, what are your hopes?

AY: Well, to improve quite a bit on what happened in the last couple of races and my options are still... I'm just keeping my options open for next year, and try and put myself in as good position as I can for doing something well next year.

Q: Paul Stoddart has been quoted as saying that next year just depends on sponsorship? Is that the case?

AY: Yeah, I think in Minardi's case it's always going to be that way. They are always going to try and get a driver with some sponsorship. I see that being the case.

Q: So did you manage to spend some of the time while you were back in Malaysia drumming up a bit more?

AY: Actually no. I haven't been worrying about that at all, I've just been worrying about training as usual and thinking about this weekend.

Q: So that will come later?

AY: Yeah, I've got other people who look after that. That's something for the team to worry about, I'm not worrying about that at the moment.

Q: Jarno, what was the job you did here last week in the test?

JT: We basically checked our car on low downforce, we checked brakes, we tried to do some long runs for the engine, which unfortunately for us did not go very well, and we basically tried to set the car up on low downforce. I think I am pretty happy about what we did. We also tried new wet tyres, which performed pretty well, and we feel that there is a good improvement in this area so we are not afraid anymore if it is going to rain or we are definitely more optimistic. Talking about the chassis, I am pretty happy on low downforce, it is responding very well. The only question mark is again the reliability on the engine.

Q: Giancarlo, you have tested here but otherwise there is no other circuit in the year with low downforce, is there?

GF: Well, apart from here, which is very low downforce, there was Canada and Spa a little bit, but not like this circuit, so it is the first time we have used that level of downforce. The car is not so good and at the moment we are not competitive enough. We blew up two engines in one day so I haven't tested a lot so tomorrow we will concentrate a lot in the two free practices to do the maximum we can.

Q: Giancarlo, Honda say they know why you had the failures in Spa. Have they told you they have been able to get the problems fixed for this race?

GF: Yeah, they are very optimistic. The engine was okay in the last few days. We will see tomorrow on the track.

Q: Rubens, Ferrari are expecting to be on top this weekend. Does that put you under more pressure when you are performing in front of an Italian audience?

RB: To be honest I think it is going to be a much closer race. I hope not, but I think it will be because of the nature of the circuit, the way that Michelin has been running this year in qualifying and the way they have sorted out their speed and their power. I really think that it is going to be closer. But on the pressure side, I promise you I used to have a lot of pressure when I was driving bad cars because it is hard to perform. Right now I have a wonderful car and a team that is really supporting me, so it is not a big deal any more. To have the Tifosi here...for a guy who runs in Brazil and feels no pressure, around here is easy.

Q: Rubens, can you speak of the amazing and unparalleled reliability the team has had.

RB: Well, I have got to put that down to the fact that we have two test drivers and we have two racing tracks, Mugello and Fiorano, which are a good base for everything. So when we are not running, they are, and by running and running with the fantastic engineers that we have, we can make the car reliable. So we get to a point where we can do a lot of mileage, test the car properly, the first day here for me was Thursday last week, and I have done myself a total of 430km just in one day. The race is 300. It is not tiring for the car, it is tiring for the driver but at the end of the day that is what the reliability is all about, running and getting to know the problems and trying to fix it as soon as possible. So the group of people really make it work. Ferrari has all those people pulling in the right place. It is not one guy trying to do two things - so one guy is doing one thing, the other is doing the other. When you are inside you rely on them. Of course we are in a racing situation where you can have all the glitches, I mean this year I have been three times stopped on the grid by the electronics so they do happen but normally the car is so reliable.

Q: All of you tested last week. What are your opinions on the new speed bumps at the chicanes?

RB: I think that it is quite useful. It was very difficult for us to know last year if the cars that went through gained or lost time. It is so easy to say okay, someone is going to overtake me and I go straight and lose time, then I close the door on the next corner and that's it. But right now on the second chicane you have the gravel trap and on the first you have the bumps so you have to be really careful. I think it is really useful. It is going to make the race a lot more interesting because if a guy tries to out-brake himself there is not escape.

GF: I agree with Rubens.

JT: I am not really much in favour. We have made a report just to ask if it is possible to remove these speed bumps because they are pretty high and you can damage the car. But on the other hand, as Rubens said, they could also be useful in the race because you don't try to cut the chicane any more. But tomorrow we will talk better about it and see what our feelings are because it is not only one driver that decides it is the whole group.

AY: I think I know what they are trying to do, they are trying to slow it down so that if you don't go straight over you won't gain time and I think in practice it is true, we won't gain time because you don't want to damage the car. But I think in the race if people have the opportunity to use it they will use it and I don't think they will lose much time going over the bumps.

Q: For the two Italian drivers, did you ever come to any race at Monza just as a spectator and when you were young, were you Ferrari fans?

JT: When I was young I never had the chance to come and see Formula One, and when I was young I was more supporting drivers than cars. I was supporting Ferrari when Gilles Villeneuve was there but basically I was a Niki Lauda supporter - more driver than anything else.

GF: When I was young I was following just races close to my house in Rome, the circuit was Vallelunga and there was Formula Three, Formula Two and some other categories. I was a Ferrari fan, but especially for me it was much more important the driver like Niki Lauda, Gerhard Berger, Ayrton Senna, even Jean Alesi. I mean, I was not so young but when I was racing with them in 1997, I was very excited. I remember the first time, at the first briefing, for me was like a dream.

Q: For the other two, were you Ferrari fans?

RB: It is quite funny, I was six when I was driving a go-kart in Interlagos and Renault rented the circuit and they were running so all of a sudden I became a Renault fan. That was back in the 1980s, maybe even earlier. But as a racing driver you always think about the red cars, I think there is no way for you to miss that.

AY: For me, I grew up in Malaysia, so there was never an aura about Ferrari so I was never a Ferrari fan. In fact, you didn't really get any television on Formula One then, so it would be whoever came from England or from Europe would tape a Formula One race for me so I could watch it then. But the same as the others really, you support the drivers. I wasn't really a team supporter.

Q: Rubens, there has been quite a bit made about this new engine. Is that just something people are getting over excited about, or is it genuinely quite a step?

RB: I think we do have steps every time but it is a bit overdone on the press really. The engine is quite good, it has done a race distance, it seems to be a good step, but just a normal one. It is not a huge thing but it is very welcome, I mean, it s a good engine.

Q: Alex, has the team assured you that you will also race in Indy and Suzuka?

AY: Yeah, I am in for the last three races of the season. Next year we will see.

Q: Earlier today the question was asked if the domination of Ferrari is making Formula One boring at the moment. Obviously, Jean Todt said no, it doesn't, but, being in Monza, with 20 percent lass tickets sold in advance compared to last year, doesn't that mean that even the Tifosi think it's boring right now?

RB: It could be boring everywhere but not for the Tifosi. For a while, for 20 years, they didn't win and then the pressure was here and no winning was such a big thing. But now that Ferrari start winning everything, I don't think they are bored, because you have the situation with the tyres, with two companies trying to do the thing. There will always be a situation where sometimes it's so close and sometimes it's not, so depending on the weather, depending on how you chose... if you could bring 15 types of tyres, you could chose something and get the things done but right now, sometimes we go better in the race, better than in qualifying that's it.

Q: But as I said, there are 20 percent less tickets sold in advance compared to last year. That tells me a story that even the Tifosi think it's rather boring at the moment.

RB: It could be, but at the beginning of the year we hadn't even won a race and already there were less people everywhere, even in Melbourne or Malaysia or wherever, there were less people so it might be more of a problem world-wide than just be the races are boring. We got to Hungary, there is no overtaking. Even if we have ten cars following each other, it's going to become boring but I don't agree, I don't think it's a problem with one car winning. Back in '96 it was all about Williams, '98 was all about McLaren and they were winning in such an easy way. Back in '88, '89 it was all about Senna and Prost so it's... I'm working on it, don't worry.

Q: I would like to ask the Italian drivers about the new facilities here in Monza, and then to Jarno if you think it's possible to qualify seventh here like in Spa and for both of you, is it tough to come here in front of your fans and you know your car can't give you the possibility to fight for the podium?

JT: Talking about the facilities, I think they've done a great job here. Every year they keep improving and I'm sure they will keep improving also for the future. They've always done a good job, also in terms of safety, so I must say I'm satisfied about it, even if there's always something to do.

About me regarding seventh position on the grid, I will just say forget it for the moment, because it will be impossible for us, it would be nice to be in the top ten, but it will be very, very tough to do that.

About the last question, I can tell you it's a shame that we come here in Monza and we find such a long straight where most of it is the car so in fact, in front of your fans, you will now show a lot better performance. But that's the way it is and personally I think I just have to work with the team to try to improve the car and come back here next year and have a more reliable and quick car.

GF: First and second answers very similar to Jarno's answer. They did very well in the past and right now about the safety for the circuit I'm quite pleased about this.

The possibility to be seventh for me is nearly impossible, the target is to be in the top ten. What I hope for Sunday is just to score some points because it's going to be very difficult. Maybe in the case of wet conditions, it could be easier for us, and you never know, we could get on the podium but it's always very difficult.

Q: To the Italian drivers, is it frustrating that during the season, the Italian media talks more about Ferrari test drivers than the two drivers in the Formula One championship?

GF: It's obviously not normal and it's not good for us but Ferrari is Ferrari in the world and you can imagine in Italy, so for us it is no good, for the sponsors, for the press but that's life. Maybe the best thing is to have two Italian drivers in the Ferrari cars. I don't know if Rubens would agree.

RB: I have an Italian passport so it's okay

JT: Well, first of all they are not talking about test drivers, they are basically talking about Ferrari and this is the best thing we have in Italy. But it's a bit frustrating, it's just the way it is, you cannot change it because if Ferrari is winning, we are just here trying to do a good job and we are in Formula One, trying to get a good result, but Ferrari is winning now so you cannot say anything about it.

Q: To the Italian drivers, the only Italian driver who can win here this weekend is Giorgio Pantano. Could you give us an opinion about him?

JT: I support him a lot because I know him from karting. I remember when he was struggling to get a drive in a Formula Three car so I just introduced him to my ex-Formula Three team in Germany and he went on to win the championship. Now I think he is doing a good job, especially this year in his second season in Formula 3000 I think he has really done a very good job with an Italian team which I am sure is not the best but he has managed to make it work well and this is very important and I will support him for the last race and try to see if he can the championship because it would be nice for all Italians.

GF: Yeah, he is doing very well, he is fighting for the championship. I think Saturday is the last chance to win the championship so I wish to him to do his best and to win the championship and I wish to him to come soon in Formula One.


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Jarno Trulli , Rubens Barrichello , Jean Alesi , Giorgio Pantano , Gerhard Berger , Alex Yoong , Niki Lauda , Ayrton Senna , Gilles Villeneuve , Paul Stoddart , Jean Todt
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan