Malaysian GP Thursday press conference

Drivers: David Coulthard Nick Heidfeld Michael Schumacher Tyre suppliers: Pierre Dupasquier Hiroshi Yasukawa To the two tyre men, first of all, your performance in Australia. How did you feel about that? Hiroshi Yasukawa I'm very pleased...

Drivers:
David Coulthard
Nick Heidfeld
Michael Schumacher

Tyre suppliers:
Pierre Dupasquier
Hiroshi Yasukawa

To the two tyre men, first of all, your performance in Australia. How did you feel about that?

Hiroshi Yasukawa I'm very pleased and very happy, and I really appreciate all the teams and all the drivers. I think it was a very good result. We had no problems at all. I was very pleased, especially when the race was over and I looked at the tyres.

Pierre Dupasquier. I think the best think to do is to ask our partners. We were not in the car and we were not driving so I don't know how they feel about it.

There were rumours that it took a long time for the tyres to heat up in Melbourne. Was that the case?

PD Don't believe the rumours! It was alright. We had a general tendency to understeer, that's for sure. But the behaviour of the car is difficult to understand in the first place when you are just a beginner, to know where it comes from: from the adjustment of the car, from the tyres themselves, or from the aerodynamics. Our cars were pretty good on the straight, for example, which is a sign that anybody can interpret.

So, were you surprised at the performance of Bridgestone in Melbourne, or was that pretty much what you expected?

PD We didn't know anything about how Bridgestone was capable of performing in 2001, so we are not surprised about anything.

Mr. Yasukawa, what was your feeling about the performance of Michelin?

HY I think it was very good and for us, they are very good competitors.

As long as they stay second, you mean?

HY Yes!

What tyres have you brought here in terms of wet tyres? I think you are allowed to bring three?

HY We brought a medium, showers and intermediate.

And Michelin?

PD I will tell you after the race if we get some rain, because it is difficult for us to say that we have a good tyre for rain or good intermediates. We will find out, we don't know anything.

But have you brought a full rain tyre, intermediate...?

PD Yes, we are capable of facing any conditions.

But have you brought a monsoon tyre, has either of you brought a really heavy rain tyre?

PD I don't think that with heavy rain in Malaysia, the race can keep going because virtually everything stops.

How do you prepare for a circuit like this that you haven't been to? What are the vital pieces of information that you need about this circuit?

PD Unfortunately, we cannot depend on our experience since even with motorcycles they don't have a lot to do with Formula 1. So we have to evaluate the circuit, the telemetry, we evaluate the line of the circuit and we have some ways to begin to define the rubber according to those parameters. But we are not quite in a position today to be on the circuit, measure the circuit and then come up with the right rubber, unfortunately -not yet.

When it comes to having been here before, what are the track characteristics that you know about which are vital here?

HY I believe our engineers understand about the race track, especially as this race track has very hot temperatures and I think tyre wear is a bit short. But I believe in our tyres.

But tyre wear is one of the major factors?

HY Yes, it is very heavy.

Are you prepared for that, Pierre?

PD Yes!

First race out of the way, which I am sure you are pretty much relieved about, in many ways: was your performance there pretty much as you would have expected?

David Coulthard I think there is always a big question of where you are going to be relative to your competitors and obviously we have always had an advantage over the last few years over the rest of the guys. So naturally there is a little bit of disappointment not to have that same advantage. Also I didn't get it together in qualifying so I was a bit out of position, so for me it was just a case of trying to enjoy the race and enjoy the fact that inevitably I was going to overtake some people.

So over the last ten days or so what have your feelings been? You need more something or other...where?

DC. We need more speed! I didn't go back and test because we didn't have a current car to test, it was one of the interim cars. I know they had quite an interesting test at Magny-Cours and we've got some new parts here which will probably see us improve our lap times.

Can I ask where you have been and what you have been doing between the two races?

DC. I stayed in Australia. I was trying to follow the sun so that I could do some training in the warmer temperatures so I went via Surfers Paradise for a couple of days. Anyone who watches the news would have seen that it was flooded so it was a bit like being in Scotland! So I left there quickly and went up to Cairns and Port Douglas and it was a lot warmer there so a lot better for training.

How much training would you have done up there? How many hours?

DC. It's not something that I particularly want to discuss with all the other drivers but I feel I'm doing enough to make I'm as well prepared as I can be for actually coming here for the warm conditions.

This race being earlier in the season, one might say that physically you are less well prepared for it. How different is it going to be?

DC: I actually don't think it makes a difference. I think if you start the season with the attitude, "I'll get fit as the year goes on," you're already off the pace. My training doesn't stop all year round. The only time we don't drive is November, so I don't feel that I'm any worse off with Malaysia being so early. Naturally, the warm conditions, it takes a bit of acclimatising your body, in comparison to when we do all our driving in January and February in the cool of Spain, but that's why I've been doing all my training outdoors, avoiding the gym as much as possible, because they all tend to be air conditioned, and just giving my body the chance to adapt to the heat here. But obviously it's very warm for everyone, but it's the same for your competitors. I feel pretty comfortable I've done everything I can.

Nick, you've been in Phuket and then you've been here for a few days. Tell us about what you have been doing?

Nick Heidfeld Yes, we were in the South of Malaysia in Sunday and had a show there in the city (Johor Bahru) with the cars and quite a lot of spectators there. Since Monday morning we have been in KL and we have had PR stuff to do from 9 in the morning until 9 at night. But each day we managed to get a couple of hours to do training and we obviously tried to do that each day when the weather was at its hottest.

Australia: congratulations on fourth place. Was that a surprise to you?

NH. Yes, I think it was a surprise to everybody. We have been going quite well in practice, some people actually thought that we were underweight, which I found quite nice. I thought if we were very lucky we would maybe score one point but then actually getting both cars in the point was really amazing. Also we were really competitive all through the weekend, on Friday and on Saturday as well. Obviously we were a bit lucky in the circumstances, but I think we deserved it.

Do you feel that is the potential for the whole year?

NH. No, for sure not. We are third now in the constructors' championship and that's obviously unrealistic but it was a good start anyway. The atmosphere in the team is very good now. We will try to score points from time to time, that will be our goal. Sauber wants to move up from 8th in the constructors and I think we have a really good chance to do that this year.

What about your own feelings, your confidence, because that took a fair battering last year?

NH. Well, it was quite a big relief when I crossed the line. I knew that I was in a good position after qualifying, I felt a bit of pressure which I put on myself because from 10th position in the first race you can get into the points. Actually it was very nice after last season. But I have to say that last year was important to me. I learned quite a lot; it was just not as much fun as I had hoped.

Michael, how have you spent the time since the last race?

Michel Schumacher Stayed around the area, on Langkawi island, and enjoyed my time there.

Just relaxing?

MS. Not quite!

How much have you enjoyed this new generation of cars, in that they have better tyres, obviously with a lot more grip?

MS. As a racing driver you feel obviously very happy with anything that makes you go faster, because we like to go faster on circuits, to put the car more on the limit, to have a more neutral car, more responsive, better behaving, have good tyres with high grip - all that is what we like to have, honestly.

Do you feel that a lot of the speed that has come from Formula One has come from the tyres?

MS. I think you should not do the mistake and compare 2000 Melbourne against 2001. It's quite an unfair comparison. What you should compare is this weekend because we have been here with very good tyres already last year and what we have to look at is the comparison against this year and you will find that the difference will be far less than what we have seen in Melbourne.

The Melbourne difference was almost artificial?

MS. Actually there was no competition going on in the first race of the 2000 season and for sure Bridgestone did a very conservative job. There was no point to push so hard. Coming towards the end of the season they were getting ready more and more for the fight and they did a fantastic job in that respect, but I think that is more the true comparison we have to look at.

Sitting next to you is a young compatriot using the same engine you had last year. How do you feel about those customer engines? What do you feel is their potential this year?

MS. Obviously they are world championship engines, they are very good. Naturally they are probably a little less good than what we have right now, which I think is quite normal, but if you look around the field they are very good engines, very competitive engines against the competition they are racing. Slightly down to us, but not by a big margin.

What is their potential in the first two or three races, do you think? More points for Nick?

MS. Yes, certainly. Sauber is one of the teams, in my view, that will be outstanding this year compare to last year, as may Jordan or Williams. These are the teams that will challenge Ferrari and McLaren and I believe we will see Nick or his team mate a couple of times on the podium this year, honestly that is my feeling.

At the same time another compatriot, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, has made some slightly controversial comments about the engines. What do you feel about those?

MS. I was waiting for you to ask Nick the question because I thought he was talking more about him than me. But if you ask me I clearly have to say it is quite a big mistake to make such comments because it puts the sport in a lot of disrepute. We have a clean start of the season, the FIA declares the car legal, and then one person is making such a stupid comment, people write about it. People think Ferrari has been against traction control from the start of the season and they think why. But the reason that Ferrari is against starting like this is not only the issue of traction control because it is quite a big environment that will be changed from Barcelona on: differential, launch control, traction control, there's quite a lot of things we were simply not ready for and if we wanted to be against traction control or all of these we would have said we don't want it at all. We just simply could have said this. We simply felt we weren't ready at the start of the season, that's why we didn't want it, not because we have something tricky, and if I did my starts wouldn't be as bad as they were last year in my view. So I think it is very unfair of him to make this comment and now he doesn't say it's illegal, it's simply "dubious". What is that? I mean, either it's legal or it's not legal and our one is legal, so it's great. We are doing a good job, we are working very hard, we spent a lot of money for that, Nick did a fantastic job, and that only means that he (Frentzen) has to work harder for himself and not look at other people maybe doing something wrong. I think that's complete nonsense.

Another subject that has held a certain number of lines over the last couple of weeks has been your helmet. Is that all now settled? Which are you going to use?

MS. I'm going to use the new Schuberth helmet. We settled, as you may have seen in the press release we issued yesterday, so that issue is settled and I'm looking forward to now concentrating on other things than that. I just want to clarify one thing, because it could have been misinterpreted. You asked me on Melbourne after the race what I was doing on my helmet and I answered that I was opening the air system to get more air inside. But obviously when you asked me in Melbourne I wasn't sure what you were talking about. After I watched the video I saw you were talking about the sign I made down the straight. This was simply a problem we had with radio communication and Ross asked me to signal him somehow that I hear him. Because I could hear him, but he couldn't hear me. So there were two things but I didn't know which you were talking about. I didn't want to put any hint against my previous supplier, it was simply a matter of fact what I said.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Does Nick want an opportunity to clarify something that Olivier Panis said after the race? He claimed that in the incident for which there was a punishment he had not passed somebody at one point on the circuit. I wonder if you would like to comment on that and tell us what was the sequence of events?

NH. Well, I think the FIA took a decision and that just makes clear that Panis overtook me on the yellow and that's all I can say about that.

Can you tell us which corner Panis actually passed you at?

NH. I think many people thought it was under yellow flags when Bernoldi went off but it was not at this place. It was at the fourth-last corner when Marques went off.

Michael, I think you just gave quite a glowing assessment of Nick and Sauber. What are the factors that make you say that? You just said that they could even get some podium finishes. Can you give a few factors?

MS. I think in Formula One it all concerns the package. Having said this, they had Ferrari engines in the past. Now they have changed drivers and they have a better car. Probably we should talk more about these two factors, that they have a good car and the guys did a good job with it. Being able to finish fourth you have to have high abilities and with Raikonnen finishing immediately in the points in this first race it's a brilliant job. That's outstanding.

DC, the first Malaysian GP was a one-two finish by Ferrari, the second one was first place by Michael and you were second, so how do you think McLaren will do in this race?

DC. We've got some new parts which obviously we hope will make the car go quicker, but I think it's quite clear from Australia that Ferrari have an advantage at the moment and if you simply look at the performance in Australia over the last few years and the performance here, even though we had the advantage in Australia we've always been a little bit behind. So I think that if we are able to be as quick or quicker in qualifying then it shows we have taken a step forward with our development. But I don't think any of us know at this time exactly who is going to perform where on this track.

So you still think the car is not quick enough?

DC. You can only be satisfied that you've got a quick enough car when you win all the races. We have already lost one.

There are some rumours that Mr Max Mosley is going to ask you for one more groove in the tyres. What are your opinions about that?

HY I think the current regulations are very good. I think if we put on another groove this gives a bit more difficulty and everything is just a mess. At Bridgestone we prefer to keep this regulation.

PD It is definitely the FIA's responsibility to try to slow down the cars. If they ask so, we would like to have a more technical device than just one more groove, which will make the tyre perform even more sluggishly than it is now. There are other ways to do it. We made suggestions already but it's a little bit more complicated, I don't disagree. But there are ways to take off some rubber from the ground with a more positive and drivable tyre.

Michael, if you win on Sunday it will be your sixth consecutive win. Only one other driver has won more than that, Ascari, who won nine races more than fifty years ago. Is this something you think about at all or do you just go ahead and race?

MS. No, I'm not driving for records. I'm driving first of all to enjoy competing, to do well and to win races, that's it.

How much in Formula One are you allowed or prepared to say your opinions, because Heinz-Harald just said what he thought, what he felt. How far do you have to act politically and how far can you say if you feel something?

MS. I think we are all free. If anyone wants to slag me off personally, he can do it. There is nothing wrong with this, if you feel a problem with the person then you express this. But to say somebody operates illegally or dubiously or whatever is very hard, it is not what is correct. He should do a protest if he feels that, then we know what the situation is, it can be dealt with, the FIA say yes or no and we have an answer. We are all free and open to say what we think as long as we respect certain rules.

NH. Well obviously I agree. We are free to say what we want. About what Frentzen said or didn't said I'm not clear, but it's very difficult for the whole team, for me, and I guess for Ferrari too, to say anything which makes us look better again because he didn't it was illegal, so what can we do? If somebody thinks we are illegal we go to the FIA, then we will see. But actually our car is legal and that's it.

DC. I've been told I'm not allowed to say anything.

Michael, back to that podium finish regarding Sauber. Do you think they are capable of doing it as early as this weekend?

MS. We all can only speculate about it, but the fact is that this is one of the toughest races for the cars as much as for the drivers and maybe the retirement rate will be higher than it might be elsewhere or even for the first race. So you never know. You can quite clearly see that they are not at the speed of Ferrari or McLaren but if all four fail I would say yes.

If the FIA asked you for a suggestion to reduce the speed of the cars, what would you answer?

MS. No.

NH. I think from time to time there have to be regulations to slow down the cars. If that had not been done in the last fifteen or twenty years I think the cars would be nearly undrivable. But at the moment I don't think the cars are too quick.

DC. I think what Michael said earlier is a very valid point. We have to wait and see what the time difference is here. If there had not been a fatality at the last race I honestly don't think we would be having that conversation over the last couple of weeks, because none of us were complaining that the cars were going too fast. We were enjoying driving the car and it was just tragic circumstances that led suddenly to the spotlight being put back on the cars. A very good point was mentioned to me before, that even if you took ten miles an hour off the top speed, then would that particular incident which has probably started this whole conversation, have been any different? You could maybe do projections of where the car would fly and what have you but probably it would end up in roughly the same place. Everytime we have made the cars narrower and reduced the available downforce you make the cars go quicker in a straight line, so we potentially arrive at the scene of an accident at a higher speed. But I think we need to get into the season and see how we are all enjoying it and how the safety is and then start looking at issues, rather than the usual knee-jerk that we have seen over previous years, going back as far as '94 where we had so many regulation changes during the course of the year that were then taken away because they didn't actually achieve what was necessary, rather than creating more work for the teams when everyone is already up against it.

How will the heat affect you and the car? I remember in 1999 some preparing with dry ice and bigger radiators, and to the tyre people, how will the heat affect your tyres?

NH. It's going to affect every part of the car, the drivers and every part that you just spoke about. Actually I think and I hope that we have quite good cooling on the car and it shouldn't be a big problem with the Ferrari engine. As you have already heard we have been to Thailand and trained quite hard there so I hope it's going to be fine.

PD It's a factor but not a major factor. Sliding of the cars and downforce and stuff like that is probably more important than the general ambiance.

MS. Temperature makes this the toughest race, and the type of circuit. The circuit itself is demanding to some degree because it is so extremely hot and humidity is higher than normal but then we are paid and we have trained for that and that shouldn't be a major thing but it will be hard.

-FIA

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , David Coulthard , Olivier Panis , Nick Heidfeld , Hiroshi Yasukawa
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Jordan