Japanese GP Thursday Press Conference

Drivers: David Coulthard (McLaren) Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Eddie Irvine (Ferrari) Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Team chiefs: Norbert Haug (Mercedes) Jean Todt (Ferrari) Q. Eddie and Mika,...

Drivers: David Coulthard (McLaren) Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Eddie Irvine (Ferrari) Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Team chiefs: Norbert Haug (Mercedes) Jean Todt (Ferrari)

Q. Eddie and Mika, what are your prevailing memories of this circuit and the races in which you have taken part here?

Mika Hakkinen: I have only good memories of this track. It is the circuit where I scored my first podium [in 1993], and then to have won my first championship over here last year was a fabulous experience. There are plenty of other good memories: the team has many partners from Japan. Personally I think this is a fabulous place. I like it!

Eddie Irvine: As you know, I have spent a lot of time here in Japan. I raced here for three years, between 1990 and 1993: I also took part in my first Grand Prix at Suzuka and scored my first Grand Prix point here the same year [in 1993]. I have always had a very good race here, except for the one [in 1997] when Berger tipped me off the road. If I were to win the championship and I could choose where to win it, this is the place I would want to do it. I came out of amateur racing in Europe into what was a very professional series at the time, here in Japan, and this is the country where I feel I became a proper racing driver. I learned so much here that, for me, it would be very fitting to win the championship here.

Q. How would you describe your feelings about this weekend?

EI: I don't intend to treat it any differently from the way I would treat any other race. You can't do that: you must do things the same way that you normally do them. If you try to do too much, you cause confusion. I intend to cruise along in my normal mode.

Q. Are you nervous about the weekend?

EI: Not yet ... There is a lot riding on this race for me, but it's not just that: it is the same for the mechanics, and for all the Ferrari fans around the world. Jean Todt here will probably be more nervous than anyone else. But I have to say that I wasn't at all nervous in Malaysia. We'll see what happens here, but so far, so good. The pressure is there, but luckily there seems to be something just above my head which is holding it all off me. I just have to do my best, and if it happens , it happens. If it doesn't happen, then as long as you know you have done your best there is not a lot you can do about it.

Q. Does it give you an advantage over Eddie to have been here in this situation already, last year?

MH: It could be an advantage, but [the situation] this weekend is different from last year. Through all three days you have to live with the moment as it happens. You have to be ready for new things, you can't rely on past experience. And I am sure this weekend will bring many new things, from which you must be ready to learn -- and to fight.

Q. Jean, how different will be Ferrari's approach to this weekend? How much will you change from other race weekends?

Jean Todt: There's not so much [that will be different]. We know exactly what we have to achieve, both with Eddie and Michael -- and the team. We just have to concentrate as hard as we can. For the third year in a row we are involved in the deciding race in the last round. In 1997 and 1998 it didn't work. We hope it will work in 1999.

Q. Eddie just suggested that you will be more nervous than anyone at Ferrari. Is that what you expect?

JT: I will try to control myself. But this is a very important occasion. How could I remain calm without caring about it? It represents so many years of effort from all the team, years of passion and emotion. I am human -- and I am nervous.

Q. Norbert, is the McLaren-Mercedes team also nervous?

Norbert Haug: I believe that if you let yourself get nervous, then you tend to make mistakes. We want to be very focused, so that we can be ready to go for it, and to fight. But this is the last race and in fact I think everyone [on our team] is actually more relaxed than they were a couple of races ago. When things go wrong you tend to get tense, which is entirely normal, but our plan is to do our best, fight hard and work on having as good a race as we can, without any incidents. That would make a very good end of the season -- and may the better man win. That is what we expect from the race, but we intend to put ourselves in the best possible position. We have had 11 pole positions from the 15 races so far this year, but I would willingly give them all away in order to be on pole position here for the race!

Q. Michael, is your role here the same as it was in Malaysia?

Michael Schumacher: It is a bit easier for me this time: obviously, I just need to win the race if I can. That would do us all a good favour, and that is my target this weekend.

Q. You look remarkably fit for someone who did a full race and won with a leg that was broken as recently as July. Were there any effects that you could feel on the day after the Malaysian race?

MS: The leg was a little more painful than is normal on the day after a race. But it was only a little, and of no major concern. On the other hand, it was not a race in which I had to go flat out all the way, and that's probably why I look a bit more fit than the rest. It will be tougher here, first of all because in this situation and on this circuit I believe everyone's performances will be closer here [than in Malaysia]. I expect to be fighting all through the race in order to win it, which will make things more difficult for me.

Q. Do you expect to have the same advantage over the opposition that you had in Malaysia?

MS: Personally, no. Malaysia is a high downforce circuit, like Monaco and Budapest, which are circuits where we were always good. This circuit tends to be more like Spa, which means we will have less of an advantage.

Q. David, I guess you must have been disappointed when your car let you down at Sepang ...

David Coulthard: Yes, of course. Any race that you don't finish is a disappointment. But as we all know, there's no guarantee of reliability in F1 racing. It is just unfortunate that a small part failed.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Michael Schumacher , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Norbert Haug , Jean Todt
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren