Malaysian GP: Thursday press conference

Present: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), Alex Yoong (Minardi) Team Personnel: Peter Sauber (Sauber), Ron Dennis (McLaren) Q: Peter Sauber, the damage to your cars in Australia was apparently £375,000 worth; what does...

Present: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), Alex Yoong (Minardi)

Team Personnel: Peter Sauber (Sauber), Ron Dennis (McLaren)

Q: Peter Sauber, the damage to your cars in Australia was apparently £375,000 worth; what does that do to a team at this stage of the season?

Peter Sauber: I don't know. It's possible. I think for a small team it's very difficult. You have this big accident at the beginning of the season, and not only the costs is important but the spare parts as well, because we had two accidents during the last test at Mugello.

Q: Have the cars been back to Switzerland since then?

PS: No, everything has been done here.

Q: You obviously have a Malaysian connection with Petronas; is that fairly static now or is increasing?

PS: It is increasing. Now we work together with Petronas more than seven years and I hope we can go together maybe another five years.

Q: Fourth in the championship last year; everyone's been saying can you hold to that fourth place; what do you feel?

PS: Maybe I feel the same like you. It was a disaster for us. After 20 seconds, both cars were damaged. It was very very bad. I think the performance is OK. The performance was OK during the tests and also during the qualifying. It was better than the year before, which not so bad so let's see here.

Q: So do you feel more optimistic this year?

PS: It is very very difficult to keep this fourth place. I think it's more difficult than the last year, if you understand me.

Q: Ron, tell us a little bit, if you can, about David's problems in Australia? Were they a complete surprise? Have they been solved?

Ron Dennis: The parts that failed are a very small part of the mechanism that drives the electronic sensor that determines in which the gear the driver is in so it's an integral part of the selection process. The design of that particular component is about four years mature and the failure was really caused by high level of vibration coming from performance steps by Mercedes Benz and we just missed it in the latter part of our testing. We had such good gearbox reliability through the testing that the last test's gearbox were not stripped until after the Australian Grand Prix and there was an indication of the problem in those boxes so it was a fair and square McLaren mistake, something that we should have picked up and didn't.

Q: Fairly easy to manufacture?

RD: It's all redesigned, all the parts are made and in the gearboxes. It's not going to occur again.

Q: Ron you warned us in Australia about the vote coming up to cut costs. How do you feel about things now with that vote approaching?

RD: There has been quite a bit of discussion in the last seven days. There was the first of three meetings leading up to the Formula One Commission. I think it would be appropriate for me to discuss the content of those meetings, but this first meeting that we had today, there was a good spirit, very constructive and I think that by the time we come to the actual process by which we formalise whatever is decided, I'm optimistic that teams will be in unison in the way forward. I don't think any team does not want to reduce the cost of Grand Prix racing, or certainly curtail the cost spiral but it should be done in a manner where there is enough consideration given to it and the changes are made in accordance with the regulations. After that, I think all the teams agree, and ours isn't the exception, that it would be good to try and bring about some change to reduce costs.

Q: You changed to Michelin tyres this year' how's that relationship going, particularly in relation to the fact that Williams are on the same tyres?

RD: The relationship is excellent. It was discussed with Williams before we actually changed. I think there is a good correlation of the data between the teams. Of course, we're both competitive against each other but our overwhelming desire is just to have better tyres at each and every race. It's a challenge. Bridgestone is a great company and Michelin has a formidable task to match them and better them during the course of this season. I hope that it will be an equal split, but certainly it was a little difficult in Australia.

Q: Alex, a big weekend coming up; how do you feel about your first home Grand Prix?

Alex Yoong: It's going to be very special this weekend. There's a lot of expectation here in Malaysia, but I am just going to treat it like any other Grand Prix. At every race, the team's going to give a 100 per cent and I'm going to give 100 per cent. Just take it one step at a time really and try not to get too distracted.

Q: In Australia you overtook an ailing David Coulthard; but how did you feel about the performance in Australia?

AY: I think the car has got a lot of potential. We haven't had a chance to do any set up work on it yet and it's quite a big step forward from last year's car. It's reached the stage now that it's producing so much more downforce than last year's car, that we're actually struggling to use it because we don't have a power steering system. That's on line, that's coming on line, hopefully for Imola, maybe even in Brazil, and as far as I'm concerned, it can't come soon enough.

Q: What are differences between last year's Minardi team and this year's?

AY: Well, you know we've had quite a nice jump in power with the Asiatech engine, it's nice to have the resources as a back up on the engine side. The other two major things are downforce, we've done some good work in wind tunnel; and weight saving. The car's a lot lighter and actually we are running ballast this year, whereas last year we didn't have any ballast at all.

Q: Michael, what news of the new car?

Michael Schumacher: Still in the garage at home.

Q: When are we likely to see it?

MS: Be patient Obviously our wish is to have it rather sooner than later but we want to be 100 per cent certain to be reliable.

Q: So there's no decision on Brazil yet?

MS: I don't think so. We have an important test happening next week and then well make our decision based on what we learn at that test.

Q: Did you stay out between races?

MS: Yes I have. I spent some quality time with my wife and did a few PR appearances for the team sponsors, but generally I was able to get a good rest. I feel good and ready to go.

Q: How have you acclimatized for the race because it really is probably the most difficult of the year?

MS: Yes, similar to last year. I stayed out locally and prepared myself, did my training as much as I could do and hope it is enough. But for sure, we're all going to suffer in this kind of heat. You can only be physically fit. There's not much you can do about the heat except maybe having a little bit more fresh air through the monocoque to cool the driver down a bit. Physically, you prepare anyway. It's just that you don't come at the last moment from Europe, five degrees into whatever, 30+ degrees and then struggle because that's the only thing: acclimatize.

Q: Did you think the cooler conditions hurt Bridgestone more than Michelin in Australia?

MS: I didn't think that was the way it was. The other way around I would suggest. If you look at the situation of last year, then you honestly have to say that it looks like that Michelin seems to have a problem with that particularly circuit, because last year they haven't been very competitive there, so they haven't been this year. Coming here, the situation seems to have changed quite rapidly. Saying that, since Magny Cours last year, I think Bridgestone has made a huge step forward in terms of consistency in hot weather conditions. I would be surprised to see - it's only up to temperature, I think there must be other reasons, being a factor of it, because after we came from Brazil to Imola and, if you all remember, Michelin seemed to be rather competitive and it wasn't too hot in Imola, so I don't think it was only temperature factors.

Q: Are you expecting them to be more competitive here than they were in Australia?

MS: Yes. I do, I think it's more consistent rather than more competitive. If you look at his (Kimi's) race time wasn't really uncompetitive.

Q: Kimi: your first podium in Australia; what are your aims and goals this season?

Kimi Raikkonen: I hope to be more often on the podium, especially in the middle, but the team pushing and I am doing my best. I think we had a bit of bad luck in Australia also in the first corner, I was pushed off the circuit, and it took quite a long time to get back on the circuit, change some parts in the pits. So the result was quite good and especially if you look after first lap, I was still in last place. We are aiming for a win but it's hard against Ferrari and Williams but we are doing our best.

Q: To what extent do you feel you can challenge your teammate David Coulthard?

KR: Yes, for sure I can challenge him. As I said, the race was quite strange, some difficulties in the beginning, But in testing we had pretty equal speed and we will probably find some other guys are quicker on certain circuits and others quicker in others, but I will try and beat him every time. We will see how it's going to be.

Q: How have you acclimatised for this race?

KR: I spent some time between last race and this one in warm conditions trying to get used to this warm weather, do some training and take it quite easy.

Q: A question for Mr Dennis and Kimi. You and the Williams team complained a little of the tyres in Australia, because of the conditions the temperature was not that easy for them, but don't you think that there is also something in your car to improve, you try to do something in these two weeks?

RD: I don't think we complained about the tyres but it is an inevitable fact that if you have got two tyre companies in Formula One one of them is going to have a slight performance advantage over the other at every race. Sometimes it is small, sometimes it is bigger. I think at that race it was, the idea was widely held by all Michelin teams that the conditions weren't ideal for the performance of that particular tyre - but that's motor racing, that's being, that's part of the tyre war. As regards whether the car is capable of succeeding, winning races, and have we improved it, other than resolving the reliability issues that we have done, we have done testing in Ricard, but that has been to finalise the tyre specification for here as opposed to developing the car. The car's pretty good, but only time will tell if it has the overall performance to win.

Q: Kimi, would you also reply to that question?

KR: I think Ron already explained.

Q: A question for Mr Dennis. Jean Alesi did some testing for you. Is it going to be his one and only test with McLaren or is there a chance to see him doing more testing this year?

RD: That has been the one and only test but that does not mean to say he won't test again. There is no plan for him to test again but that doesn't mean to say he won't test again. There is no plan for him to test again, but it was very useful to have the ability to compare his knowledge of the previous cars, engines and tyres that he has driven in the past year or so and that was the focus of the test. It was a sort of de-loading of his technical knowledge of those elements of the cars that he drove last year.

Q: To Mr Sauber. Did you speak with Nick Heidfeld after the crash in the first turn in Australia and how did you suggest to him maybe to stay more relaxed at the first corner?

PS: It is easy to see that with the eyes of the driver, especially for me. I think that when he realized the crash in front of him that he has to take immediately a decision, and maybe he was the wrong side then he rolls on the grass, the grass was wet, and then he touched, I think, Fisichella.

Q: If I could ask Ron about the events over the last 48 hours involving Phoenix Finance and their alleged team that may or may not have turned up here. Was that discussed today and have you heard any evidence that they do indeed have cars here or that they wanted to race?

RD: It wasn't discussed today. I have no knowledge other than people tell me the cars are here and I have read the press release from the FIA just as you have. I have views, but I think it is an inappropriate forum in which to express them. We need to see how that situation unfolds. All I will say is that this sort of thing is not good for our sport.

Q: A question for the team managers and maybe the drivers if they want to reply. We saw eight cars out in the first corner in Australia. Many of the spectators thought they were robbed by the race not being re-started. The FIA gave what I think was a very good reason for not re-starting the race, which I think we all know. I wonder if you feel that with so many cars being out, maybe there is a case for the race being stopped.

RD: I think there are two criteria under which the safety car is deployed, or should I say there are two criteria which should see the race stopped would be a more accurate statement. One would be if a driver was injured and that the result of that injury it would be appropriate to stop the race and either extract the driver or get medical help to him; the second would be if a car was blocking the circuit, a sort of Monaco situation, in which case obviously cars couldn't continue to lap. But if those two conditions have not existed following an accident like that then I think the right decision is to deploy the safety car. If there was one or two cars that had been taken out in that corner I don't think there would have been a big issue. As it was, there was more than two cars. There were many cars taken out and I think that placed the clerk of the course in a very difficult position, or race director should I say.

That is, there is no regulation that says there is a specific number of cars that, if excluded in a first lap incident, then the race should be stopped. And I think he correctly applied the procedure that is laid down and, in essence, if you correctly apply it, it could be that you only have two cars running. I am not saying in that situation, but you know, you can't have this sort of arbitrary decision of what constitutes too many cars out of the race to stop it and re-start it. I don't think a driver was injured and it was clear that all the drivers emerged very quickly from their cars, the circuit wasn't blocked, the correct procedure was followed, and it was a little unfortunate for everybody that so many cars were lost but I think it was a right but difficult call.

PS: Today I can follow Ron's word but, of course, after the crash I had another opinion.

RD: I would take that opinion too. It's difficult. It's difficult you know some arbitrary clouds it, but they followed the procedure and that's the important thing to do.

KR: Of course I was first a bit unhappy because I also went off and I was struggling to get back on the circuit, but it is not our position to make those things whether we are going to stop the race or not, and I think it was the right decision in the end.

MS: Procedure is procedure and either there is intention to change it and to follow it but that's the way it was, that's the way it has been done and dealt with, correctly.

AY: In our case they definitely should not have stopped the race! It was good to see no-one was injured but, you know, in our case when we are that far back it is what we need really, to score points, and also you can't stop the race because too many cars have gone out. I think with having the safety car the drivers are more careful. I think in the old days they would be a bit more reckless into the first corner because they knew if there was a red flag they could just jump in the safety (spare?) car. I think we are a bit more careful because we know if we go out it probably won't be stopped.

Q: Michael, could you try to explain to us how the heat affects your driving or your physical performance compared to normal?

MS: I don't think it really affects it. You sweat more, you take a drink bottle onboard not to dehydrate, and that's about it. You maybe feel a bit more tired at the end of the race depending on how hard you had to push but it doesn't effect really how you plan the race, how you attack the race or anything. You plan to be fit to be able to push 100 percent from the first to last lap. That is why we all train so hard to be able to withstand the effort.

Q: Alex, since you have become a Formula One driver, how easy is it for you to move around KL. Are you widely recognised?

AY: Actually, thankfully it's not been so bad. I think, trying to get to Formula One I have always had to try to drum up support locally so jumping into Formula One wasn't suddenly a big rise in people knowing about me, it has always been a very gradual rise and now I am in Formula One there are a few more people that do know about me, do know more about me, but it's not been like that. I can still walk on the streets and people are very friendly and offer me congratulation and good wishes. It's not at all like being some sort of superstar.

Q: Alex, following on from the question about your popularity, do you feel that Malaysia is as behind you as much as they should be, perhaps? Could they do more? Could they be more behind you?

AY: No, I think the support is there. I think that because we have just come from Australia and you've seen the great support Mark's had in Australia, maybe you feel that way, but no, I think it is alright.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Jean Alesi , David Coulthard , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Alex Yoong , Peter Sauber
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi