Grand Prix of Italy Friday 11 September 1998 Excerpts from the "Friday Five" press conference -- Drivers: David Coulthard (McLaren), Giancarlo Fisichella (Benetton) and Jarno Trulli (Prost); Team principals: Ron Dennis (McLaren) and Gian ...
Grand Prix of Italy
Friday 11 September 1998
Excerpts from the "Friday Five" press conference -- Drivers: David Coulthard (McLaren), Giancarlo Fisichella (Benetton) and Jarno Trulli (Prost); Team principals: Ron Dennis (McLaren) and Gian Carlo Minardi (Minardi)
Q. Benetton has brought some different bodywork to Monza. What effect has it had on the performance of the car?
GF: When you see the lap times, for the moment it is not very good. But we know the reasons why. Today we had some strange problems on the circuit, with the brake balance, but we are still confident about tomorrow. We worked on the car today with a lot of fuel and in fact the new bodywork is working well in the high speed corners, where it has given us more downforce.
Q. Were you disappointed that Bridgestone decided not to bring the wider front tyres here?
GF: A little. I feel more confident on the wider Bridgestone tyres, and although the difference is not a lot -- for us it's only about two tenths of a second -- it means we have to work hard on getting the right setup. Once we have a good setup, we may even be quicker.
Q. After Spa there has been a lot of discussion about the problems of safety in the wet. Are you apprehensive about qualifying tomorrow if the weather remains as wet as it has been today?
GF: No. Normally I am quite fast in the wet. I even took my first pole position in the wet at the Austrian GP this year. But for the race it would be too dangerous.
Q. Giancarlo Minardi, this year your team has been racing with two young and inexperienced drivers. How difficult is it to be fighting for results with new drivers?
GCM: One of our habits at Minardi is to employ new young drivers. You can see two of our most recent graduates here on the stage today. There is a certain satisfaction in suffering first and then in achieving something.
Q. Your team has had a new management structure this year. How is it working out?
GCM: So far, everything is going fine. We have had a lot of fresh investment in the team this year, and we are looking for the rewards of our hard work to be seen in 1999.
Q. Is it now settled that next year you will continue to rely on Ford V10 power?
GCM: We have already made the official announcement today that we intend to stay with Ford in 1999 and to be using the VJ version of the V10. There are three planned performance 'steps,' the first of which is the adaptation of the Magneti-Marelli engine management system, another is a weight reduction and the third involves making the car even lower. Together with a new car, currently being designed by Gustav Brunner, we look forward to seeing some much improved results next year.
Q. David, what do you feel about the potential dangers of maybe having to qualify in the wet tomorrow?
DC: We were quick here when we tested in the wet last week. It is under intermediate conditions that we still have some difficulties. We are going to have to work on that for the future. Any concern about the wet is based on safety issues, which are inevitably greater in those conditions. In the wet it is always easier to make a mistake, so in qualifying the risk comes when you are pushing hard for a qualifying time. It will be much more enjoyable for everyone if it is dry tomorrow.
Q. Today a surprisingly high number of drivers, including you, were going straight at the first chicane and taking a trip over the kerbs. Was there a reason for that?
DC: I was just experimenting with braking points. But the kerbs there are just too high, so you know that if you run over the kerbs on the way in, then there is a good chance that you will damage your chassis if you try to run over them on the way out. In testing last week we had plastic cones on top of the kerbs, but they were causing damage to front wings and that obviously wasn't a good solution. The only thing to do when you get it wrong approaching the chicane is to run straight on, to learn for the next lap and to avoid the possibility of damage. For next year I think there will be some changes made to these kerbs.
Q. What can you tell us of the reconciliatory meeting that you held with Michael Schumacher yesterday?
DC: Just that it was useful for both of us to be able to talk through the situation face-to-face. There had been so much discussion since the race at Spa, and so many people had put forward their opinions, that it was good to clear the air. I feel comfortable that we have been able to put this behind us. What happened was a racing incident and now I look forward to racing wheel to wheel [with Michael] again.
Q. Does it make any difference to your morale to receive the sort of reception which you have had here?
DC: None at all. Regardless of their nationality, all the Ferrari fans with whom I have come face to face have asked me for an autograph. Not one of them has said anything unpleasant to me. I think what has happened has been a bit of good sporting fun. With Ferrari so well placed in the championship I regard it as inevitable, here, that Ferrari should be favoured over McLaren.
Q. Ron, do the feelings of the tifosi get through to members of your team?
RD: No, we are pretty resilient to most things. In the circumstances in which we find ourselves at the moment it is natural for us to build a psychological wall around ourselves. We have to remain cool and calm, avoiding the understandable media attention on the fight between ourselves and Ferrari. No one is panicking. And if we do our job well enough, we should achieve our goals. We are desperately anxious keen to end the championship in the right atmosphere. In all my years I have never run from a fight -- and I am certainly not about to run from one now. If everything is equal and balanced, the championship will have a good ending.