Japanese GP: Thursday press conference

Present Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) David Coulthard (McLaren) Olivier Panis (BAR) Mika Salo (Toyota) Takuma Sato (Jordan) Q: A question for you all. Various suggestions have apparently been made to spice up the show of Formula One. Among...

Present


Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari)
David Coulthard (McLaren)
Olivier Panis (BAR)
Mika Salo (Toyota)
Takuma Sato (Jordan)

Q: A question for you all. Various suggestions have apparently been made to spice up the show of Formula One. Among those have been ballasting the winner, there's also the possibility of drivers swapping cars. Does something need to be done; what do you think of the ideas that have been suggested?

David Coulthard: I know that there have been speculative ideas, some of them a bit silly. At the risk of giving a quick answer is that they need the thought that they probably require. But the knee-jerk reaction of putting in ballast and trying to handicap that have done a better job to improve the show, I don't think is right. I think it goes against what Formula One stands for which is a set of regulations of which the people with the cleverest minds and the best budgets do the best job.

Oliver Panis: Well, definitely I want to swap my car with Rubens but I don't think he want that. (Laughter) But after that, I feel that sure, we need something, but it's very complicated. I think it would be quite a good idea if the drivers spoke with Max and Bernie maybe, because somebody will have different ideas on that. But I don't have the best ones. If I do, I will tell you, but I think it's quite complicated. Also we need to be fair to the best teams.

Q: So you don't go along with the idea of ballast and things like that?

OP: No. I don't think so. We need better ideas to be fair to everyone. I don't think ballast is the solution. Maybe it's a bit too quick to say that. Maybe it's the easy answer, the quicker one but for the future of Formula One, maybe it's not the best.

Takuma Sato: Well, I think the ballast situation would make more exciting battles for those outside the circuit in a fairly spectacular way, but for me on the inside, it would be a slight problem because it's not the performance from the car and driver. If you look at touring cars and GT cars, it would be fine because the performance is due to the car's performance and you can see how much the weight affects it and Japanese GT has that regulation which works out OK for those battles, but in Formula One it would be different, because the drivers are affected more than that. That's what I believe.

Q: Now, Rubens, probably everyone would want your car and you might end up with something that wasn't quite as competitive. What are your views?

Rubens Barrichello: I don't want to change cars with Olivier, that's for sure! (Laughter) You can be my guest sometime. To be honest, I don't want to comment too much because a lot of things have been said and I want to wait until they have really been proposed and we see what we're going to have because it's a bit too much up in the air right now and if you think, I think that grooved tyres are already against the spirit of Formula One. We have grooved tyres in Formula One, but we don't have them on go-karts, we don't have them on Formula 3000, Formula Three so why do we have them in Formula One? Because we dream about Formula One and it's already against... (that philosophy). So I want to wait until they have some decision on it before I comment.

Mika Salo: I agree with Rubens, I don't really know, it's not my position to start commenting about it. I also agree with David, that it's not fair if teams are doing a good job and they have worked and they have the best car and then someone puts weight on it to slow it down, it's not fair. And I'm not here next year, so that's another point.

Q: OK, an easier question: why the change of colour of hair?

MS: No reason. Let's talk about the rules!

Q: You're sadly not with Toyota this coming year. What is your view of the job they've done this year?

MS: I think it's gone quite well for the first year. Of course we had a good start to the year because we were very well prepared. We had a one year to prepare for it, so I think it started well, and then it was up and down but overall I think it's gone quite well, they've learned a lot, but still it's going to be difficult for them next year also. This time they will have the normal testing like everyone else with the new car and they start at the same level so it will be more difficult. But for sure, the car will be better, it can't be much worse. There are some areas where they are doing a really good job and some where it's not so good. I think this year has been reasonable.

Q: Rubens, you've had time to look at the finish at Indianapolis, have you changed your views at all?

RB: I didn't have many views, to be honest. I was as confused as everybody else. There have been so many pictures with me looking at the sign, as you can see, I didn't know what was going on, as nothing was said beforehand, so when I saw Michael going up, the first thing that came on my mind was that, OK, he's going to try to give me back Austria. So I went in but I didn't go up beside him and say yes, this is it, I still backed off because maybe it wasn't the idea and I wasn't going to think, OK, just give me this win and I'll take it but then beside me he backed off and I then I just finished in front. I didn't know where the line was, I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know if I'd won the race or not, so it was just a big confusion that, at the end, what I understand was that Michael wanted to give it back from Austria, that's it.

Q: Takuma-san, when did you last race here?

TS: It was the beginning of '98 because I had a scholarship from Suzuka Racing School in Japanese Formula Three.

Q: So what are your feelings coming back this weekend?

TS: It's just amazing. It hasn't started yet, the Grand Prix weekend, but I can see all the fans are already excited a lot and this morning, when I came out here from the hotel, there were already fans out there and it was a great feeling. I feel something very strange here. This is my home and obviously all the Grand Prix teams have moved from Europe and what we have done today is exactly the same as all the other Grands Prix, but the atmosphere has been slightly different for me, so it's going to be a great weekend, I'm sure.

Q: Which bit are you looking forward to most?

TS: I think it is the fans who are so excited, but I can't imagine a moment.

Q: Olivier, moving from Honda to Toyota, what are you feelings about going from one Japanese team to another?

OP: I want to say I feel positive, because I have been working a long time with Honda and we have a very good relationship but what I feel about the Toyota team is that it's still Japanese but I also feel that there are a lot of European people who work inside, which makes it a bit different but I'm still really happy to continue to work with Japanese people.

Q: How do you feel about Toyota's task for next year?

OP: I feel he's right, to be honest. I know next year we have a lot to do but I've taken the challenge and I'm really looking forward to next year but first of all, I don't know the car, I don't have some ideas but I want to say that I agree with Mika, we have a lot to do to continue to develop the car.

Q: David, I believe you were testing with the interim at Barcelona this week. Is that the case?

DC: I never really want to say too much about what we are testing and there are always seems to be more knowledge as to what we have actually been testing than there should be. I was testing a McLaren, developing it for the future, this weekend, for future races. Everyone always seems to know before you've even run anything nowadays what you've been doing...

Q: But Alex set the fastest lap ever around Barcelona and you must have been fairly encouraged by what you were testing.

DC: I think that the test was really positive. The only thing that you can say is that the track temperature was ten degrees cooler than when we were there before, it's such an influential thing on the lap time, and it's typical to do quick lap times in the winter. You think you're making big progress towards the end of the season because it's cool in Europe and through the winter you set quick lap times and then you get to Melbourne and you get a reality check because it's warm. I think you have to be careful looking at the lap times from the outside. The true gauge of performance is always a Grand Prix weekend.

Q: Mika, could you tell us something about your future, please?

MS: No. Not at the moment. I think I am just going to finish this last race and then have a nice holiday and then sometime in November see what I have on offer on the table and if there is something interesting I'll take it. I still love driving, but I want a little bit less stress and I want to stay at home a bit more. I had 20 days at home this year and it was too much travelling for me so I will see what I have then and I will decide if I continue, but if I want to drive for many years more I have to drive something next year so if I don't drive next year I'll never drive again.

Q: A similar question for Takuma. Do you know what you are doing next year and is it in Formula One?

TS: Yes, that's the idea! I have a contract with the team for two years so next year I will be with Jordan. But my feeling now is that I want to concentrate on this weekend. It is more important than that. That's all I can say because I have a contract with the team. Obviously I have a very good feeling from the team and I am confident. So I think it is alright.

Q: Mika, what are your emotions here before your last Formula One Grand Prix?

MS: Funnily enough, nothing special. It feels like any other race and maybe when Melbourne starts next year, or maybe when the winter testing starts, then I will start to feel a bit strange. But at this time it feels like just another race. I don't know. Ask me again on Sunday. At the moment, it feels like any other race.

Q: Rubens and David, what are you doing after this race? Are you going on holiday?

RB: I have to go to Italy for next week's promotion and after that I'll be back in Brazil until I go back for testing.

DC: I will have a week's holiday and then I'll go back home. I will just take a holiday for a week and do nothing - it's a holiday.

Q: Olivier, do you know yet when you will have your first run in a Toyota?

OP: The first test will be on November 27-28 in Barcelona. I think it will be with this year's car, but I am not sure yet.

Q: What are the test programmes for the other drivers for next season?

RB: Can you tell me mine? (Laughter).

DC: Whenever the gentleman's agreement is over, then we start testing.

TS: We are planning end of November with a three weeks programme I think in Jerez, Silverstone or whatever.

Q: Most Japanese believe Bridgestone's performance was a key to the championship. Can you explain why Ferrari enjoys so much the performance of the Bridgestone tyres and not the other teams?

RB: I don't know and it is very difficult to speak on behalf of the other teams and I can speak only on Ferrari's behalf. We test every day with two test drivers and two drivers and we develop the tyre for them (Bridgestone) and any other team has the possibility to test the tyre as well and to say 'yes, it's good' or 'no, it's not'. I can only say that, yes, we have more influence on the Bridgestone minds to say which we think we could go. But I don't know why the other teams don't go as fast.

Q: Rubens, how is the 'virtual Ross (Brawn)' going to work out here this weekend?

RB: In Monza when he wasn't there on Friday it was unbelievable that he could come on the radio via the telephone and so he was virtually there. But here he is not going to come at all, but I think 'Baldo' (Luca Baldisseri) can do a fantastic job, as he knows everything already - and, for sure, Ross is going to get involved and he is getting together with Rory (Byrne) for a night away from bed.

Q: Will he be in England or in Italy?

RB: I don't know. All I can say is he is very clear and it is just a fantastic technology and though I don't know where he is going to be based he can come on the radio whenever he wishes.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Takuma Sato , Rubens Barrichello , David Coulthard , Olivier Panis , Mika Salo
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Jordan