Malaysian GP: Friday press conference

Drivers: Nick Heidfeld (Sauber) Andtakuma Sato (Jordan). Team Personnel: Flavio Briatore (Renault), Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin), Niki Lauda (Jaguar) and Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone). Q: To both of the tyre men: have you been asked to - and...

Drivers: Nick Heidfeld (Sauber) Andtakuma Sato (Jordan).

Team Personnel: Flavio Briatore (Renault), Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin), Niki Lauda (Jaguar) and Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone).

Q: To both of the tyre men: have you been asked to - and would you be able to - supply the Phoenix team with tyres?

Pierre Dupasquier: We have not been asked for anything. We wouldn't be able to supply another team. We had the capacity already to do so and as soon as we knew that we had a team that wouldn't participate, we re-dispatched the facility. We are maybe in a position to do so after six months or so.

Hiroshi Yasukawa: I have heard rumours, but I haven't heard anything else about this team. It would be very difficult for us, for the same reason as Pierre. No one has asked us.

Q: Pierre, this year, you are supplying two top teams, McLaren and Williams. Earlier this year, Niki Lauda said it would be good for your other teams that McLaren were coming in because they preferred softer tyres. How do you balance that out? Is that still the same situation?

PD: We believe that our job is to improve our Formula One tyres. If you take the figures of the cars, they are very very close to each other. It makes a significant difference at the end of the race but if you take the load per wheel, for example, the engine power, the downforce and all that kind of stuff - the figures that you can integrate to design the tyre - it's very close, even if it makes a difference at the end of the race. So when we improve a front tyre or rear tyre, we believe it is an improvement for the Formula One tyre. Then it's up to the chassis engineers and the car manufacturers to adjust and take advantage of these improvements. That's the way we behave.

Q: Do you find that they use the same kind of tyre most of the time?

PD: We are only at the second race. I believe yes. I don't think it's going to be significantly different, absolutely not.

Q: Hiroshi-san, new tyres here. Can you tell us about them?

HY: We are expecting hot temperatures as usual, but no one knows about the weather. It may be very hot or very cool. So we've brought two dry tyre specifications and three rain tyre specifications. But whatever the temperature or weather, our tyres are suitable for the team.

Q: Tell us about how you're working with Ferrari now?

HY: Our friends at Michelin are very strong, so we need to make good tyres to beat Pierre. We need to test a lot, so we are working very closely to Ferrari, but of course, we are working together with our two Honda teams, BAR and Jordan, and also Sauber and Arrows. But Ferrari, in particular, has a lot of power and they give us good ideas and we are working closely with them.

Q: Flavio, isn't this the big one for you this year? The team was developing for this year, wasn't it?

Flavio Briatore: You need to understand that for us, this year is our first in Formula One. I don't understand why it's Toyota first year and it isn't for us. It's our first year in Formula One, we've changed a lot. Last year, as far as I was concerned, it was Benetton and this year it's Renault. It is Renault's first year. We need to do much better, of course.

Q: You don't see it as a continuation of last year?

FB: I hope not. I'm sure we'll have the pace. I'm sure everything is a little bit better but honestly, we are not ready to fight with Williams, Ferrari and McLaren. In Formula One, it's not a miracle. You need to work very hard. There's a year of consolidation. As everyone knows, the engine is quite new and normally and historically you need three years in Formula One to be at the top. We've changed a lot in the team and you need a bit of time but we hope to finish the season as close as possible to the top teams. I believe that if we finish fourth or fifth, it will be very good for us. This is our target.

Q: How are the two drivers getting on?

FB: Jarno (He means Jenson), for sure, is looking much stronger this year. He had a very frustrating year in 2001. The fact was that our car was not ready, our engine was not ready. It was difficult for a young driver to cope with such a situation. It was quite impossible. I believe he's changed a lot. He's changed his management which looks like it's very good for Jenson. He's much more involved in the engineering, much better complicity for the whole team. Jarno is good, he was very good last year. The two are working very well together. We spent ten days together and I believe this was very important for the team. It's no problem, there's no pressure at all. I see Jarno and Jenson discussing situations. Information is going from one driver to the other, as it should in a team. If Jenson and Jarno work well, the team has the benefit, and that's what we have at the moment.

Q: Nick, tell us about your last few days?

Nick Heidfeld: As last year and as usual for Sauber, we are quite busy here with PR stuff because of one of our main sponsors, Petronas, that's how it is. It was quite OK, it's the toughest week for us all year and from now on it will be easy.

Q: What sort of things have you been doing?

NH: I've been doing all sorts of things. I've been driving a train from KLIA to Kuala Lumpur. That was quite interesting. We've been visiting a school, we've been to a Petronas oil and gas plant, so quite a lot of things which are fun as well, but I would have liked to have had a little more spare time.

Q: What about the disappointment of Australia?

NH: It took us a couple of days to get over it and obviously still now we think about it. But in the end, we saw that our car is quite competitive, we don't have a lot of problems with the car, as we've seen here in practice as well so I'm confident.

Q: How are you getting on with Felipe? You're not worried about him out-qualifying him again...

NH: Very well. Now problems. Maybe I was a bit unlucky in qualifying but in the end he beat me and I will try and beat him for the rest of the season. Of course. I think he will try do the same.

Q: Niki. Still I guess some problems with Jaguar R3. What are they, and is there a possibility of using R2?

Niki Lauda: First of all, we had a bad start with the car whereby we had some mechanical problems at the beginning of January when we started testing the car, with the suspension which needed four weeks to be fixed, with uprights problems, we needed to strengthen them so we had to redesign them and get them built. Then we started looking at the aero package. We had basically lost the first four weeks and then we found out that the aero package is not what the wind tunnel told us it should be. So basically we ended up in Melbourne and even here where the aero is not as efficient as we thought it was going to be.

So all we have to do here now is see where we qualify tomorrow. If it is not much better than in Melbourne, we're going to compare R2 and R3 next week in Barcelona, to do a real test between the two cars and then we have to take a decision.

To bring R2 to a race is more complicated than it looks, because we have to make a a power steering change from last year's regulation to this year's. We have to change quite a bit of electric looms and other things to fit the new engine type into the R2. So next week we are going to do the test, then we are going to see the difference between the two cars.

If the difference is big, then we would go to Imola with an R2 and continue to develop R3. Our wind tunnel, which is our biggest problem, is now in calibration for the last eight weeks, so we are going to use this wind tunnel in Bicester starting first of April. This should give us a big benefit because then, like other teams, we shall have a wind tunnel near the factory, not in California as in the past, so I look forward to have this operational and then we can move forward.

But if we have to use R2, which we are going to decide on next week, it does not mean that we stop R3. This is the most important thing. R3 will then be developed and as soon as it takes over being quicker than R2 we will bring it back.

Q: What's Ford's commitment during all this?

NL: I don't know why there's all this talk. Basically Ford's commitment is as it is. Everything is signed for the next four years and even Bill Ford, at the Geneva Motor Show, confirmed all this. He's my big boss. So there's no problem whatsoever with the Ford commitment.

Q: Takuma, a difficult weekend in Australia. How have you recovered from that?

Takuma Sato: Truly it was a tough weekend for me. Of course everything was new for me and so many dramas happened to me, so it was a very very busy weekend. But I had a good race which is very important and I was happy to race. The start was obviously a big thing, when lots of things happened. I managed to avoid the accident and the debris because I was far back enough. But unfortunately I had to stop because of an electrical problem but at least I experienced a Grand Prix start, for me the first ever, which was really exciting.

Q: What sort of training have you managed to do for this race?

TS: I have been to Langkawi for five days training. It was a really nice and fantastic facility, gymnasium and running in the jungle, swimming a lot but it was really nice. I think it's been very important, because I've now been in Europe motor racing for three years and I haven't had the incredible humidity and higher temperatures. So even though I'm Japanese and used to very hot Japanese summers, my body has forgotten them, and having a long week's training in hot temperature has been very good preparation for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: Niki. I know Gunther Steiner is a good manager but you do need a good technical director with a good technical background. When do you plan to get someone in that position?

NL: First of all Gunther is the technical director today. He is capable of doing this. It needs co-ordination and set priorities of what you are going to do, so for the time being we are going to make the shortest way of getting the car quicker therefore he is in charge of all these decisions then later on we are going to see if we can find an assistant to him, but we are not looking now for a technical director as it has been in the past.

Q: Question to Niki Lauda. Why did the Jaguar Racing have to wait until the third year to get its own wind tunnel?

NL: It was never ordered before. When I joined the team last year there was only the wind tunnel in California. So this was not done in the past, I don't know why, so we never had the facilities like other teams have. So the first decision we took last year was to come up with a quick solution we ordered the wind tunnel and within one year we got it going. From this point of view we did the right decision. Why it was not done before I don't know. But it is certainly a handicap for a Formula One team.

Q: You actually seem to have got it commissioned fairly rapidly. A lot of people take a long time over it.

NL: Yes, because we bought into the Reynard tunnel which originally was planned to be his own wind tunnel so therefore we bought this one off him so we saved a lot of time. Normally it takes two and a half years to get a wind tunnel going, as this was already built half-way through we bought this one to save time and now we need eight weeks of calibration. It is fully finished, on time in February. So February, March is calibration time and we are actually three days ahead of the programme to start on the first of April with the model in the tunnel.

Q: Question to Niki. If you would decide to race the R2, if you take the decision in Barcelona, would the car have to pass a crash test again?

NL: No this is done already, this is basically fixed. There are some minor crash tests we have to do in the back of the car, but that is simple to pass, that is not really an issue. But to make it really clear, the R2 only makes sense to us if it's let's say between half a second and a second quicker than R3 right away. This is what we have to test because if it is only two or three tenths then we could get the R3 going quickly but to find in the R3 today one second takes time and therefore we would overcome the time problem basically by saying if the R2 is really quicker, which we don't know yet, then we can take the decision but if the time difference is very little then it is better to concentrate on the R3 straight away.

Q: With regards to the Malaysian Grand Prix, the heat has become a very difficult factor. How are you all coping with that and what are your preparations?

NL: The preparations are to keep the car cool but nevertheless in a brand new car the winter testing conditions are a little bit different, as you know, the temperature was only between eight and 12 degrees in Europe, so all cars have the same problems here. To run the cars for the first time in the heat, certainly you prepare the cooling and all these sorts of things for the temperatures, but boxes and other things can get hot so basically the race on Sunday will be the first test for all the cars, especially for the new cars, to see how they can cope with the heat here.

NH: Straight after Australia we came to Malaysia. We went to the east coast, to Kuantan, and did a lot of fitness training there, mainly when it was hottest part of the day, about two or three o'clock, as it will be here in the race. I feel well prepared. Today it wasn't really hot, it is very cloudy, so at the moment it isn't an issue but maybe tomorrow we'll see.

FB: I agree with Niki.

HY: Our people are working very hard and they seem fine.

Q: In the past there has been some testing, say, in Kyalami, but this year there hasn't been any hot weather testing at all really.

HY: Just the normal testing and we do our best.

Q: Pierre, what sort of track temperature are you expecting this weekend?

PD: You are talking about the people or the tyres? Well, the tyres are fine. People are dying, but that is a different thing.

Q: To Niki and Flavio. What are your feelings about the Australian grand Prix, the results and the domination with Ferrari. Do you think it will be a concern for the interest of Formula One as a show?

NL: I was very happy first with the accident at the first corner because my Jaguar car finished suddenly fourth. I was really surprised to see the first lap, I couldn't believe that we were fifth and sixth and we had started 19th and 20th, so from this point of view I was quite pleased. Nevertheless, the domination to Ferrari was obvious. Ferrari was there with the new old car, old new car, whatever you want to call it, so they did the perfect job there. Michael did the right thing. He kept out of the accident, his colleague didn't so he won an easy race. It is impressive again how they started the season.

FB: I was impressed with the strategy of Niki to put the cars 19th and 20th in qualifying! But it is the first race and I believe that there is plenty of time. I see Williams very strong and McLaren are very strong as well and this is just the first race. I don't believe it is a domination of Ferrari. We have to see what is happening when we get back to Europe but sure, Ferrari are strong but I believe in Australia there were a lot of factors to help Ferrari. We will see after Brazil, after Imola maybe.

Q: The rule says that you are allowed to change line when you are the leader at the start. If we review the video of the start in Australia it seems obvious that Rubens changed at least two or three times. Did you ask for clarification or explanation?

FB: It is not only a question about Rubens, sometime there is some driver doing a very big mistake in the middle of the field and they take away three or four or five cars, I am not interested if the driver is coming later to say sorry, but I believe the driver when he starts the race should be more cautious, because there were two big accidents. There was the accident at the front and in the one in middle and it is not correct that six, seven or eight cars are out for the mistake of one or two drivers. I believe we need to more severe on that because like we saw in Australia, the race was penalised for the two big accidents. I don't want to know who was at fault, but I am sure now we have all the cameras, we have a way to see who made the big mistake and I believe if a driver has made a big mistake then there should be another punishment. Maybe the next race he should start at the back of the grid. This happened last year and I believe the drivers need to be a little bit more careful, especially at the start to make sure not throw away six or eight cars at the start of the race. There is no rule at the moment so we need to do something. The steward is allowed to talk with the driver but I don't believe he is allowed to penalise the driver.

NL: From my point of view it was very simple. If you look at it from Ralf's camera he moved right in front of him and braked so Ralf had no chance to do anything. He stayed on his line, basically. It is like on the autobahn. If a car comes right in front of you and pushes the full brake you hit him, and that is basically what happened. So from this point of view, I think it was Barrichello's fault because Ralf had no chance whatsoever. If you look in the camera he just moved in front of him and stopped. Nobody can react that quickly so therefore from my point of view it was his fault. Nevertheless, in the past I think the stewards of the meeting took decisions to penalise the drivers. This happened before but in this case they found an agreement not to do it. I don't know why, but this is the way it is.

Q: Just to ask Niki and Flavio about the Phoenix team, leaving aside the legal arguments, what do you think the whole business has done to the image of Formula One over the last few days?

NL: I know very little about it, just that Arrows tried to but Prost, but what happened then, why they cannot race here I cannot comment because I do not know the reasons for it, so basically I do not understand the whole issue, but I do not know all the details. Who's right and who is wrong I do not really know so it is hard for me to comment.

FB: For me, it is quite simple. You have until the time until November to enter the championship and in the championship was Prost Grand Prix and this is what we recognise for the championship. I don't know anything about Phoenix, you know, I think you are talking about the race in America! It sure was no good for the image of Formula One.

Q: For the two tyre men. I went down after practice today and I saw a front tyre that looked like a slick. After the race, where do we draw the line?

PD: We always want to use slick tyres, so, finally we made it!

Q: But seriously, where is the line drawn?

PD: Ask the FIA.

Q: But you are confident that when cars use a tyre like that they are not going to get penalized?

PD: From what we saw today, I am not worried whatsoever.

Q: But are you worried after the race?

PD: No. Not as far as we experienced today. Maybe it will be worse tomorrow, but normally a track is getting smoother. Any track, anywhere, it is normally the rule. For what we know it will be absolutely no problem tomorrow and Sunday.

HY: I think also some cars have seemed to look like they are on slick tyres, but tonight and tomorrow they are going to set up the car and change the balance, and at Bridgestone we are not worried about tyre wear.

Q: Today we saw a complete reversal of fortunes it seemed, with Bridgestone ahead and then all of a sudden it all changed. What made the difference?

HY: I think this course, when we are starting, the whole surface is very abrasive, but after the tyres are going to run and put much rubber on the course. The course conditions are immediately going to change and I think tomorrow. Normally course conditions are better than on the first day.

PD: I don't think we can make any comment on Friday because everybody is working and we don't know what they are doing. We don't know if they are adjusting some electronic diffs or if they are running 110 kilos or 20 kilos or what they are doing, comparing tyres, making long runs, but you can do a long run with 50 kilos not with 90 kilos and so on so it is a complete mess in the result. Lets wait and see. No comment.

Q: To drivers concerning the start in Australia. Do you really think it is easy to keep one line and not change line during the start?

NH: I think the rule is quite clear about that. You are able to change direction once and that's it. I think every driver is able to do that.

Q: It was almost as if the stewards allowed one change of direction then one back to take the racing line.

NH: We have seen some of that last year, but not as extreme as in Australia. I think we have seen a lot of cars closing the inside and then going back a little but not as much as happened in Australia. But then again where do you draw the line. I think it should be more strict. One change of direction and that's it.

TS: From my point of view, for the midfielder it is difficult because we all follow in front of a guy and if a driver is two or three times moving in the front we have to follow to avoid and it is very difficult to do that. (ends)

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Takuma Sato , Nick Heidfeld , Niki Lauda , Flavio Briatore , Hiroshi Yasukawa
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , Jaguar Racing , Jordan