Monaco GP: Wednesday press conference

Present: Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), Nick Heidfeld (Sauber), Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams), Takuma Sato (Jordan), Jacques Villeneuve (BAR). Q: Nick, Takuma, any effects after the accident two weeks ago? Takuma SATO: My knee and the right...

Present: Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), Nick Heidfeld (Sauber), Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams), Takuma Sato (Jordan), Jacques Villeneuve (BAR).

Q: Nick, Takuma, any effects after the accident two weeks ago?

Takuma SATO: My knee and the right hand leg muscles are still sewing but obviously mentally there is no effect and I spoke to Nick on the Tuesday after the accident and we are all fine and there's nothing between us.

Nick HEIDFELD: Yes, I'm fine as well. I was already testing on Wednesday of last week and I was in no pain at all. It was worse just walking up and down the stairs than being in the car, because I don't really need to use the muscle on top of the leg in the car. It's a bit blue still but it's not a problem. It doesn't really hurt.

Q: How do you feel about the safety measures that have been put in place over the last few years, which almost certainly helped you in the accident?

TS: It was obviously the biggest impact I've ever felt. Obviously, I've seen that the monocoque has had a big holed punched through it which is very dangerous, but luckily, nowadays in Formula One there are huge safety regulations. Obviously the rescue team and the medical team did a really good job so that's why I wasn't hurt and was obviously able to get out of the car. So I was very, very happy with this and yes, I drove the classic Lotus here last weekend and it was very different to Formula One nowadays. You're sitting in the middle of the fuel tank and obviously it's so dangerous compared to nowadays. The improvement is significant.

NH: I'm very happy about the job Formula One has done over the last couple of years to improve safety. It's difficult to say what would have happened a few years ago but definitely more would have happened. I was more worried after the crash about Takuma than about myself because my crash was in the best possible way, just backwards, where you are quite safe. But I think if you hit another car in the middle, it would have been even worse to crash into the Jordan a bit more in the front, then it really gets dangerous. I'm really happy about the improvements.

Q: How do you think the HANS (Head And Neck Support) device might have affected you if you had been wearing it?

NH: I didn't have any problem with my head so it wouldn't have made it better and also I don't think it would have had a negative effect.

TS: I think that in that kind of accident the HANS device wouldn't be so effective because Nick was completely backwards so his head was protected already. My situation was having a side impact, like 90 degrees, and obviously my head was bouncing. But I have no pain in my head and neck, so obviously they were fine. If Nick was forward, then probably the HANS device would have worked very well because there is nothing in the front. But in that case, we were fine.

Q: Nick, how do you feel about your prospects for this race?

NH: I'm really looking forward to this race here although last year we weren't very strong and it was one of our worst qualifying performances, at least. But it's my favourite circuit. Last year, we really struggled here but we tried to analyse it very closely and then in Budapest, which is a bit of a similar circuit, we were quite quick and we've got a lot of new parts since then. Back then we didn't even have a hydro diff and I think that's really important here, I'm quite sure about that.

Q: Takuma, what do you think of the circuit since your experience with it last weekend?

TS: It's a shame that on the Saturday it was raining. Obviously sixties and seventies cars put a lot of oil down on the circuit and I only had dry tyres! The circuit conditions were so difficult! I had a little experience of the circuit and since my days at Macau I have never driven a street circuit so I'm obviously looking forward to driving such a historical street circuit in a Formula One car. It should be very exciting. Hopefully it will go well for us. Giancarlo had a very good race two weeks ago and the team's expectations are much higher now. I'm really looking forward to it. Also, I'm so glad that I could get out of the car myself and that I can drive again this weekend.

Q: Jacques, I don't know what happened between qualifying and practice and the race in Austria, but either you were transformed or the car was transformed or both...

Jacques VILLENEUVE: For the last few years we've always concentrated on a race set-up and in Austria, as in past years, there were ten cars within half a second so the position on the grid made a bigger difference. Then we had a different strategy than most people on the track which allowed me to drive aggressively and I just had to go for it and have a little bit of fun. The problem nowadays is when you do that you end up getting penalties anyway, so there's not much point doing it. It was fun, it was exciting, that's why I started racing years ago, to have fun like that on the track and to play, and that's how it was last race.

Q: And yet sadly the team still doesn't have any points, Olivier has yet to finish; what's still missing?

JV: Well, we're close to where we were in '99, which is not very good. The car's not very reliable and on top of that we're not very competitive, so it's not looking very good for us. But we're working hard and we just need to get points to get a good weekend.

Q: What about these next two races, here and Canada, your home race?

JV: We did have a good race here last year. Our car seems to be better off on the slow corners than on the high speed ones compared to the past, so it should work well in Monaco, I'm looking forward to it.

Q: And they've moved wall away from the final corner (in Canada) apparently.

JV: I've hit it enough times anyway, so I'll stay far away from that one.

Q: Rubens, what do you think of the fact that you're up before the FIA? What do you think is going to happen?

Rubens BARRICHELLO: I don't know. It's something we have to wait and see. Basically we are going to go there and answer the questions. I don't have much to say anyway, not really.

Q: What about the reaction of people? Were you surprised?

RB: In all honestly, when somebody put in people's minds that something is going to happen and all of a sudden you see that that is really not what has happened, then people get upset. So in a way, I would feel sorry if some of them didn't feel upset, because I hope they were cheering up some other driver to win the race. It was huge, it was really huge, especially when we went into the press conference and then I really felt that was huge. That's why I was trying to calm everyone down saying 'it has happened, we're not going to back.' That's it.

Q: Now since you've had the F2002, you seem to have been transformed. Is that the case?

RB: I don't think so. I think it's an attitude. I think my first pole position this year was is the old car and already I think that when they gave me the chance in the last four races of last year to be able to race and to be able to win and so on, I think I've changed the way I approach things. It's very difficult to race against Michael because he's already a very fast driver. So inside your mind you can put a lot of things, but you forget about yourself. It was two years of a lot of experience, a lot of going through things. Since the last four races of last year I've had a good time, a good time to think of myself and then the period of the vacation I had time to reorganise everything. I had a new engineer on board and so on. And the new car is a very good car, but it looks like everything is down to the new car, but I think it's more to attitude.

Q: Nine years ago, here, we listened to Chris Rea singing Happy Birthday to you on your 21st birthday. Tomorrow you're 30, does life begin at 30?

RB: I hope so! As I've said many times before I've always been the youngest in everything I've done in the past. Since Magnussen came on board in the Stewart it was the very first time that there was someone younger than me in a team, so I already started to feel old. But yeah, tomorrow I'm thirty, so I hope it's the big time.

Q: Are you surprised that he's that old, Juan Pablo?

RB: I raced against his father, so I'm old enough, yeah!

Juan Pablo MONTOYA: No, no, no, I knew about it. It's actually quite funny. I shall tease him a little bit.

Q: How good will your singing be tomorrow?

JPM: Hopefully the driving will be better than the singing, we'll see.

Q: What do you expect from this weekend?

JPM: A better weekend than last year. Last year was horrible. If I can get out of here with some good points I will be happy really.

Q: You've said this isn't really a very favourite circuit.

JPM: In F3000 it was really good fun. Last year, in Formula One, we couldn't really find a good balance in the car, I never felt comfortable, so it's very difficult to push it when you are not comfortable with the car. I think things have changed since. Basically after Monaco and Canada last year, things really changed within the team. I think we've understood things we've wanted from the car a lot better and the results are coming. This year, from the beginning, we got that. I think the approach is going to be a bit different and it should be a lot better weekend.

Q: Is the circuit a challenge?

JPM: Yes, it's an interesting challenge. Some corners are way to slow but part of the swimming pool and the Casino are quite interesting.

Q: Looking back at two weeks ago, you looked shocked that there was all this going on around you. What do you think of their actions, in hindsight?

JPM: I was a bit surprised, because it was not the first time that it had happened. I've got to say I was a bit surprised, but I did enjoy that. It was a good laugh to be there!

Q: Could you imagine the same thing happening at Williams?

JPM: Team orders? No, they tried that last year and it didn't work.

Q: Have you been surprised by the reaction of the world in general?

JPM: Yes, I am really, because it happened before. I think the position the team was in, to put out team orders wasn't necessary because they are so far ahead in the championship that they didn't really need to do that. That's the team's decision.

It wasn't necessary to do that. If I was within five or ten points of Michael, you know, get the points, but he's 27 points of me ahead of me, or something like that. That's only three races.

JV: You seem to forget that Rubens is not out of the championship yet.

Q: Nick and Takuma, can you describe your relationships with your team-mates?

NH: I get on very well with Felipe, he is a really nice guy, but in the end it doesn't really matter if your team-mate is a nice guy or you get along with them very well, but it is a positive thing that I get along with him very well.

TS: My situation is a little bit different because I am in my first year of Formula One. Giancarlo has helped me and the team very well, so I am quite happy having Giancarlo as a team-mate and I can learn so many things from him.

Q: To Jacques. How do you feel when you drive at Monaco. What is your favourite part, and how does it feel to drive so close to the fans?

JV: When you drive you don't see the fans. When you are actually racing you are looking more at the racetrack and the guard-rails and the other racers, but on the slowdown laps you do see the people, there is a lot of energy and that is very special. Most new tracks, the grandstands and everybody are so far away that you could be on the moon and it would be the same. Here at least you are very close to the public which is a nice thing and also when you crash there are a lot of people to make you feel good. My favourite parts...I guess the Casino section is interesting and Tabac and the swimming pool, these are the two main areas, but the whole track is fun because you never have time to breathe. You just finish a corner and you are into the next one and there are bumps and you are bouncing along and you just go around and around and you don't think about it.

Q: To all drivers, how important is physical fitness in Formula One?

TS: Formula One has huge speeds, especially in cornering. It normally has over 4Gs in high speed corners, which is incredibly big, and now two-stop strategies, sometimes three stop and one and a half hour races at a sprint pace, so we need to be very fit. When you have such a big upset like I had two weeks ago, you immediately come out well, and if you are tight, you have to come out very well because another Grand Prix is coming in two weeks.

NH: I agree with Takuma. Nowadays in Formula One you just need to be really fit. If you look at all the drivers you just need to be really fit, but again it depends a lot on the circuit. In Monaco it is quite difficult because you don't have a lot of time to relax. Malaysia is very hard because of temperatures, but then you take Austria for example and it is very easy.

Q: Juan Pablo. What sort of fitness regime do you take?

JPM: Sometimes I cycle. I have an enduro bike, I do a lot of that. I am actually pretty happy with the way I am fit. I am fit enough to do all the races, push it all the way through, it is no problem.

RB: I think the best exercise is in the car and we do a lot of testing as Ferrari drivers. But I like running, that is what I have done since, probably, when I met Ayrton in Japan. He said let's go for a run, and then after 15 kilometres we came back and I was dead! So since then, I thought maybe if he calls me again for a run I'd better be better prepared, so I do a lot of running.

JV: You definitely need a physical training, but you also need to be mentally fit because races are long, there is a lot of pressure, and when you get tired that is when you mentally have to go beyond what your body can do so also that side of things is important. But F1, since we got away from slicks, has become less physical, as you can see with all the youngsters who come in and they can all do a Grand Prix without really getting tired. F1 has become a lot easier and at the end of the day it doesn't matter how fit you are, if you get out of the car at the end of the race and you are not tired it means you didn't drive hard enough. So even the fittest guy will look tired when he gets out of the car if he really gave it everything he had, and what I have noticed is when you are in a winning car you don't have to be that fit but when you are at the back it is a lot more difficult.

Q: For Rubens. What reception are you expecting tomorrow. Is there going to be booing and jeering when Ferrari go out?

RB: I don't think so. In a way it has happened and I think probably what is going to happen will depend on the result. If I am on pole and I win the race, then people will be thinking even more about Austria. If that is not the case I think it will be forgotten very easily. But I don't think people will be booing tomorrow.

Q: To Rubens. When you started at Ferrari you said in an interview that if you are pushing hard and are clearly the fastest driver in the race, Ferrari would be wise to let you win. The time has come and Ferrari didn't let you win. Do you think they are not being nice?

RB: I don't think the time has come, I think it is coming. What matters is what you have inside your mind. If I feel I am happy with the race and I am happy with that, I had to follow the orders and that is it. My time will definitely come if I still keep determined to come. It has happened, there is no way I can go back there and I am not going to gain anything by saying something bad about the team. I feel very comfortable inside the team, the car is great, it is the car that is going to give me a lot more wins, but only time will tell. But I think the time is coming.

Q: For Jacques, last year you finished fourth and it was your best result. Do you feel that you have conquered the track?

JV: I have never had a problem with the track. The one year when we weren't quick here we started on slicks in the wet, so I don't think that was a problem with the track. But the last few years we have had good results starting quite back on the grid. It is a very different race to other ones because to overtake here you have to take chances that probably mean you are both going to end up in the guard-rail. So the key is not to get frustrated, to be there at the end and to be fast all the time. In most years that is what we did and we ended up at the front.

Q: Jacques. Have you ever had team orders in your career?

JV: No, actually, never. But it depends what contract you sign. You might sign a contract where you don't have to follow team orders and even if there are some then you don't need to follow them. If you can get into a great team that Rubens did, then you accept different conditions. Of course it is very sad for everybody when you watch a race and see the result of the last race mainly because it is so early in the season and there is no fair fight basically. Even if it was Rubens' race at the end of the day it is Michael that won and that is what goes down in the book and that is what people remember, what is written in the book and that is all that matters.

People shouldn't have been surprised. Everybody knew a situation like that would happen. I think it would have been wiser for the team to have said before the start of the season that that is what is going to happen. That way nobody would have got that angry, instead of acting as if it was a big surprise for everybody even within the team. That is a little bit difficult to then listen to comments saying it happened two laps from the end and I was very surprised when I was told that when it has been clear for a few years. So I don't really have a problem with team orders on the race track. The only thing that I felt was unacceptable was the podium situation. If you win a race, even if it is in a way that you didn't like, be a man and step on the top step and take your trophy. Even if you are embarrassed because everybody is booing at you, step up there. You accepted taking the win, you didn't slow down, you felt good about it, you raised your hand on the last lap until you heard people booing at you. Step up there, take your trophy, and be a man.

Q: Rubens. I think one of the problems with Austria was that you appeared to have beaten the pants off Michael in qualifying and the race and then all of a sudden there was this reversal. At the end, Ross Brawn said this wasn't a race, we controlled the pace throughout, but Michael said he pushed hard all weekend and all race and you had beaten him. What is the truth?

RB: I think what Ross was trying to say is that in Ferrari's mind, with a driver being on 44 points and one on six, the race is already decided in that way, but we were pushing right from the beginning. Michael was there at the beginning, pushing very hard and I felt that was good racing to begin with, and then I opened a gap and honestly I felt good for the whole weekend. When I went into the gravel the second time I really came out of there with anger saying there is no way Michael is going to beat me today to pole position because it has happened twice already. At that time the car was feeling good, I knew that the second and the fourth position would be dirty to start, so I desperately wanted to be on pole position. I felt good, we were pushing the whole time. Sure, ten laps to go, they told us to conserve everything and to look after the car.

Q: Rubens, Juan and Nick. What do you think of the Montreal track and how do you think you will do at the Canadian Grand Prix this year?

RB: I love going to Montreal. Since I went there first it was great, I love the city, the atmosphere at the Grand Prix is great and I particularly like the track. I think it is a good combination of corners. It looks like it is a street circuit but it is difficult to set up and to be extremely fast when it matters, so I like it and I go there with good motivation. Last year we had a good time in qualifying but it was not as good in the race. It is a race that for sure we have to be really prepared because I think Williams will be fast.

JPM: For me it wasn't a great race last year. On the Friday it was pretty good, the car was quick. On the Saturday I had problems since the morning, which really pushed me back in qualifying and in the race I was running second but I went into the wall. Hopefully we can get something better. This and Canada were basically our worst races of the year, so I am sure we can get a much better result. The track is great fun and the city is really nice. It is a good place to go.

NH: I am also looking forward to going to Canada. I think it is a very nice city there as well. The circuit should suit our car, we have been quite quick there last year although I was not able to finish the race. But I think it is going to be a good race.

Q: Rubens. I just wanted to know your personal wish for the end of the season. If it continues like this, Michael can be the world champion already in Hockenheim or Budapest. From this point you have maybe five or six races to the end of the season. Would you prefer Michael to work for you to secure your maybe second place battle with Montoya or you prefer from this moment the real strong race versus Michael?

RB: We are looking too far ahead. My determination is to today. I think it is fairly easy to get into Ferrari as Michael's number two and to get down because the guy is super fast and if you are not determined you are not going to get anywhere. So I am proud of myself in terms of the mental condition of feeling that you can do it. I am going to wake up tomorrow thinking I can be first and we will see. The rest will be the rest and we will see it. I am here to race and to win and that is why I feel the time is coming. Even though I don't have great points in the championship I feel that it is my best year of Formula One. I have spent too many years with bad cars. Now I have a fantastic car, I just have to use it.

Q: Jacques and Juan Pablo. Would you have followed team orders as Michael did in that situation, and also do you think that if Michael wins the championship will this tarnish his reputation?

JPM: I don't think so. Because it happened in one race. I don't think it is going to change the reputation of the other 16 races. The guy has won the other four of five races as well, he is really quick, so I don't know. Being in his position it would be very difficult to make a decision. Probably, in this position, you could stand up and say I am happy with second, if it is a closer call then you would probably take the points. But at this point, you would probably do the opposite, it would have looked much better.

JV: You would be stupid not to take anything you are given, so if you are given a win then you might as well take it but then stick with it, don't fake embarrassment and wrongness and feeling bad about it and stuff like that, that's all.

Q: And do you think it has tarnished his image?

JV: Not the win, but everything that happened afterwards, yep.

Q: Rubens. Has the team discussed what will happen this weekend and will the same thing happen if you are leading Michael on that final lap?

RB: For sure, I think we are going to be talking a lot more before the race to what can happen, but again like I said I don't want to think about tomorrow. I will always enter the car thinking I will be able to win the race. It was probably a good exercise what has happened in Austria, but there is a full weekend ahead of us so we wait and see.

Q: Juan Pablo. Do you think that even in this particular track it is not possible to close the gap with Ferrari?

JPM: I don't know really. It is way too early in the weekend to say how quick we are going to go. We were really expecting in Austria to be as quick as them and we were not. I would be very surprised if we can't be competitive here. We seem to be really strong in qualifying against them, so if that would be the case then we might be able to have a good qualifying and probably if we can qualify ahead of them here then half the job could be done, you never know.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Takuma Sato , Rubens Barrichello , Jacques Villeneuve , Nick Heidfeld , Ross Brawn
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , Williams , Jordan