Malaysian GP: Thursday press conference

Present: Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) Jenson Button (BAR) Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Sauber) Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) Jarno Trulli (Renault) Jos Verstappen (Minardi) Q: Jos, you've been away for a year, what's changed in that time? Jos ...

Present:
Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari)
Jenson Button (BAR)
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Sauber)
Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams)
Jarno Trulli (Renault)
Jos Verstappen (Minardi)

Q: Jos, you've been away for a year, what's changed in that time?

Jos Verstappen: New cars, different tyres, not much has changed honestly.

Q: A lot to get used to?

JV: Yeah, a bit of driving would help. I did the last race in Japan in 2001 and did my first race again two weeks ago, and between those two races, I didn't do that much testing so it was very hard to do the race.

Q: You have had physical problems in the past, did you find that in Melbourne?

JV: No, not really. I finished the race and felt really good. I did a lot of training just before the race and obviously that helped quite a lot.

Q: You've been in Formula One longer than most people in your team, how much can you bring to the team?

JV: I know that I can. My first race was in 1994 so I've done 92 races so far, in and out of Formula One sometimes, and that makes it hard. I think it's better to race every year and to develop with it. But to be out for a year, you have to learn, you have to learn on the tyre side, so there's still a lot to learn, I think.

Q: So you're bringing quite a lot to the team?

JV: You have to ask the engineers, but I think so.

Q: Jenson, things have been fairly fraught with Jacques over the last couple of months, and didn't seem to improve in Melbourne...

Jenson Button: Yeah, we get on fine. Yeah, lots of things obviously happened in Australia for whatever reason. That was Australia and it's finished now. We've just got to get on with this race and hope that the same things don't happen.

Q: Could you have stayed out for another lap and delayed your pit stop?

JB: No, no, I would have run out of fuel.

Q: So what has been done to prevent the problem that you had in Melbourne?

JB: Yeah, the radios are fixed now, they work now. Mine's fine. After the race a lot of work has gone into making sure the radios are working well. Hopefully they will be good here.

Q: Apart from Jacques, do you feel that you've settled in pretty well?

JB: Yeah, very good, very very happy. The most comfortable I think I've been in Formula One, and probably the team that I've been most happy with. Everyone seems very positive and we're all working together very very well.

Q: What really makes the difference?

JB: I think the biggest difference is when I came into the team; we got down to work very very quickly whereas other teams, they were a little bit unsure, with me being young and quite inexperienced. But here, we got on very quickly and we started working with the new car very very quickly and they also listened to what I had to say from the word go which is very important.

Q: So I'm sure you feel that the result was not representative...

JB: It was crap. No, but I think that's the same for a lot of teams. The weather conditions, the new regulations. I don't think everyone got it perfect on the day. The car's good. It's not good enough to win but it's still a very competitive car and I think we can show here how good it is.

Q: Heinz-Harald, back at Sauber again. What sort of changes have you noticed in the team in the intervening years?

Heinz-Harald Frentzen: Yeah, in the past years Sauber has grown up as well. The team has become bigger and more professional. They've made a lot of improvements in many areas.

Q: Where do you see them still having to make improvements in your experience?

H-HF: I think, as you know, the car is technically in very good shape. We didn't have many reliability problems in winter testing and the car ran from the first day to the last without any problems. At the moment, we are using the old wind tunnel and to improve the car, we need to develop the aerodynamic side and the new wind tunnel is in the pipeline. It's nearly finished, and by the end of this year it will be finished. That's the dot that's missing. I think it's a team of the future.

Q: Sauber always seem to get points early in the season but they tend to dry up a bit later. How can that be cured?

H-HF: It was a main issue last year as well. I came into the team in Indianapolis and I was right in the middle of the discussions about these problems. The new car, the C22, is designed to be developed at both ends (of the season) in different directions and it is our main focus this year, to make progress from each race onwards. Of course, a more modern wind tunnel will help the situation a bit more.

Q: Jarno, was the Melbourne result indicative of the type of performance you would expect?

Jarno Trulli: More or less, yes. We were already pleased to finish the race with both cars. It was a tough weekend, different for everybody because of the new format of the race. But I think we managed the whole weekend very well, so we were pleased to score points with both cars, especially at the start of the season even if we were behind two McLarens, two Ferraris, two Williams which are currently very strong, but we proved that we are getting there and Renault has done a great job over the winter time. Also, I feel that all the structure around got better and better compared to last year's performance because car has improved a lot. So I think more or less I'm very happy.

Q: Now, it's generally acknowledged that perhaps you don't have as much power as others. Can the new aerodynamic package make the difference here?

JT: Let's wait and see, we don't know. Anyway, it's very hot here so there might be some engines which might be affected by this heat. We'll see. It will be very important to have good reliability and finish this race first of all. But I think the car's aerodynamics are very good. The engine has already been improved since the last race so the team is working very very well. I'm really happy about the work they are doing. The last two seasons, they have always improved and that's the best way to work in a team.

Q: Juan Pablo, a good result in Melbourne and here last year for the team. What chances again?

Juan Pablo Montoya: It's very difficult to say what's going to happen. It's very early. I believe we've got a good car for here. Last year we were very strong. I think the conditions are going to help the tyres quite a lot and hopefully that will play into our hands. I think McLaren will be quite strong as well. We'll see where we are.

Q: What about the HANS device? You have been complaining about being uncomfortable. How was it in the race in Melbourne?

JPM: I was complaining last year when we were trying it. They kind of figured out that the problem with the HANS was with the car so they modified the back of the new chassis so I fitted comfortably and to be honest with you, I didn't even feel it. I did the first two tests in the 25 with the HANS and then I went back to last year's car, the 24, without HANS and it felt quite weird actually, driving without it.

Q: So are you a believer in HANS then?

JPM: No, I'm a believer. I just get on with it. No, it's good. I thought it was going to be really hard. I know Rubens has struggled quite a bit with it. I'm pretty happy with it.

Q: In terms of the heat, Rubens felt this race was the hardest of the year. Is that your feeling?

JPM: It's one of the hardest, especially because you sweat a lot. I think Brazil's pretty tough as well. It's not so hard physically but because the straight is a long corner, you just hold the steering wheel with a little pressure all the way round it's pretty hard, but this one is probably the hardest because of the temperature.

Q: Do you have a drinks bottle throughout the race?

JPM: Yeah, but a lot of times you don't even use it. It's there but I'll probably have to use it here.

Q: Rubens, you talked about the HANS device this morning, but also about your back problems. How much do you think they are related?

Rubens Barrichello: They could be, it's really difficult to see. I have a problem in the lower back which is as far away from the neck but in a way, when I was driving, I had to accommodate myself inside the car because it was hurting, so you try to lower your shoulders and so on. It's really a pain, it's not nice.

But on Friday and Saturday, I had no problems whatsoever. It was fantastic in there. Of course, I would chose not to run it (HANS) if I could because I feel that I can drive better because I feel I can move better inside the car. But come Sunday, the start of the race, and I'm on the grid and something was happening and all of a sudden, I lost the air (out of the air bag). I thought that the carbon fibre was really hitting the collarbone so I don't know how I would have finished the race. As I said this morning, I'm aware that it's something we should use because it's safer but until someone is happy with it, I figure you shouldn't oblige someone to run with something that is so uncomfortable. So I hope that my problems have been finished, because there is another time for me to test it, so hopefully it's going to be fine, but until then, I really wouldn't use something that is hurting. I wouldn't oblige someone to use it.

Q: We'll do a quick poll; who would prefer not to run with the HANS device?

JV: I would prefer not to.

JB: Same.

H-HF: Well, due to the development, it needs some more work for it to be comfortable.

JT: It's difficult to say. Without it it's slightly better but apparently there are strong gains in safety, but I don't know how much.

JPM: I'm happy. Surprising.

Q: Rubens, back to you. You mentioned this morning that the team has probably made a lot of changes in terms of strategy since the last race. Can you give some idea of the sort of changes that will have been made?

RB: I haven't been too specific about it. It's something that I think everyone learned from the first race, but what I was saying was that, as I heard in Brazil, nobody knows if the (Melbourne) race was good because of the new rules or because of the safety car coming out twice and the rain. We have to learn from it. Obviously it was the first race, the first experience, but I don't know actually if the race was good for one reason or another.

JPM: I think it was the safety car, not the new rules, to be honest.

Q: Does the sport have the balance right between technology and sport?

JV: What can I say? If you drive for a smaller team you say no and if you drive for a bigger team you say yes.

Q: So the answer...Not for you?

JV: Yes.

JB: Not at the moment, no. I think when Silverstone comes it will be a little bit closer. We just wait and see, really

H-HF: I think we have to take account that the technical side of the sport. For the engineers it's a sport to develop the cars as quick as possible. For instance, there was a mistake, a funny story I read yesterday morning in the newspapers. Nick did an interview here in Malaysia and it was asking him 'what stops you from driving fast?' And he said, 'well the others are better drivers.' But that was a misunderstanding. It's quite difficult sometimes to explain that the technical package is not right to win the race here for us.

Q: So too much technology?

H-HF: Well, at the end it's a sport not only for the drivers but for the whole team, the engineers and everybody has to achieve the maximum possible.

JT: These are the rules you to have play with and it's a sport anyway. I can't say if there's a balance or not. This is the way you have to play and just accept it.

JPM: I think Formula One, apart from being a sport, it's supposed to be the top end of technology of the cars. That's why a lot of things from here are going to go into the road cars. That is why the manufacturers are in it, to show how far they can go with performance and if you're in a good team, you're happy because if you've got a big manufacturer behind you, like we've got BMW behind us, then it's great because every race, they come with better things. It's the same thing with Williams. They're just pushing their product day after day. And it's frustrating when they're pushing as hard as they can, sometimes Ferrari's getting away with all the wins. At the end of the day, it is a sport for us, because as a driver we can make a bit of a difference and we got to push the envelope further than everybody else but at the same time the technology's needed for the cars to evolve.

RB: I agree with Juan Pablo. You can't be happy inside yourself, inside your mind, because that's what the sport is there for. I have seven years of racing cars that were not capable of winning races but I kept my determination to get a good car. Is that a sport or not? It's what you have inside, what you believe. Of course, you would like to see Formula One with more overtaking, more show, more something, but people are trying to do that and I don't know if you're ever going to see, for example, the amount of overtaking in a CART race. Why is that? You don't know. Maybe because they use a safety car, because they use something more. Formula One is the top quality, it's the one that everyone dreams of having so what is important is what you believe in.

Q: Jenson you lost a lot of time in that pit stop thing. By the end of the race you were very close behind Jacques. Can you tell us how you felt your performance was relative to his throughout the race? Do you think you were quicker over the balance of the race?

JB: I think I did a good job in the race, yeah. The position we were in after making quite a big mistake with the tyres and not pitting as early as we could have done for slick tyres ... Yeah, I think I did a reasonable job.

Q: Jenson, I have a follow-up to the question you were asked earlier. There seems to be quite a lot of camouflage going on around the place. But last weekend I understand that David Richards revealed that Jacques' so-called radio problem was that his earpiece had fallen out of his ear. I'm interested to know if that's what you've been told and, if so, how did it get back in for the rest of the race and do you believe him?

JB: I didn't actually know that so ... I don't know if it's true if his earpiece fell out. It doesn't really matter now. As long as it doesn't happen again. You can't go back in time. So long as it doesn't happen. That's not really an issue, is it?

Q: In what way can the war that started this morning affect F1?

RB: Like I said this morning to some people, I think we are aware that something bad is going on. We all wish it wasn't happening. But I think ... our lives ... we have to get on with it and keep on doing the things we love to do the most. If we can attract some people to come to the track to watch the race and to take their minds away a little bit off the war then we're already doing good. Hopefully, the war is going to finish some time, I hope sooner than later. It's just that we have to keep doing things to take people's attention away from it.

JPM: I think the same as Rubens. But for me being Colombian, war in my country has been there 30, 40 years? You open the newspaper every day and you hear about killings, kidnappings, bombs. I think for a European they never hear anything of this and now it's, oh, we're at war, you know? That's why, for me, Colombia's very important because every day that I race and I do well I give a lot of smiles to people in Colombia and I give them something to think about apart from being in a country when you could be kidnapped or killed in a bomb or something.

JT: I have to say it's a very sad moment for everybody. Not only for us who are here. We have to carry on doing our job and we hope that the war finishes as soon as possible. There are no winners, just losers.

H-HF: I find it also very disappointing. I was hoping a solution could be found at the last moment for a peaceful situation, for a peaceful end there, but, unfortunately, it isn't and hopefully the people are not suffering too much

JB: Yeah, exactly the same, Hopefully there will not be too much suffering going on. Hopefully, we can take people's minds off it all around the world but I think it's going to be very difficult, the amount of publicity and press really.

JV: What can I say? I think it doesn't affect Formula One too much. We are not driving close to Iraq anyway, so hopefully everything will be resolved very quickly

Q: Jos, just your impressions of the Cosworth engine?

JV: Yeah, for me, especially, to be away from Formula One for a year, I was very impressed with the engine. But obviously we need to do a lot of testing to get the car quicker and we're learning every day about the car

Q: It's for Rubens, about the new car. As I understand it, there's only one of them. Have you driven it yet? It's crashed twice which sounds worrying. Can you give us an update on the recent one that crashed and can you tell us just how badly hurt Luca Badoer was in the last one and tell me whether or not he will be the third Ferrari driver here?

RB: Well, I think Luca is fine now but they will give him a little bit of a rest so Felipe is here in his place. To be honest with you, I don't know whether he's the third driver. He should be because he's here anyway. But Luca is fine, he's going to be driving again on Tuesday at Barcelona. All four drivers will have a drive in the new car in Barcelona during the four days there. I think, as far as I'm concerned, they had a problem in Mugello with the left front corner but they have solved the problem, so it wasn't a big deal, it was pretty much a coincidence that in two weeks they have an accident.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi