DRIVERS: Jean ALESI (PROST), David COULTHARD (McLAREN), Giancarlo FISICHELLA (BENETTON) and Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI) Q. Jean, though born in France, you are almost an Italian. What does it mean to you to be racing here? Jean Alesi: First...
Q. Jean, though born in France, you are almost an Italian. What does it mean to you to be racing here?
Jean Alesi: First of all I am very happy to be back here in Imola. This is a very important race for all the drivers, of course, but it is also fun because this is the first race of the year in Europe. And with two wins for Ferrari in Australia and Brazil, for sure it is going to be exciting to see all those red flags this weekend.
Q. The start of the season has been a disappointment for Prost Grand Prix. What has been the reaction inside the team?
JA: I will say that everybody has been working so hard that they are all very tired. We are struggling a little bit at the moment and it is a situation from which everybody, including Peugeot, wants to see us improve. This is a very difficult moment, and everybody is pushing hard. Even though we were not ready in terms of reliability, the race in Brazil showed a big improvement in performance since the first race.
Q. You were testing last week. Has that brought any improvements?
JA: Not really. We were not able to put everything together. We will see more here. We are able to put together more information when we are racing [than we do in testing].
Q. Nine years ago, you had Alain Prost as your team mate at Ferrari. Now that he is a team owner, has he changed very much?
JA: There is a difference in the colour of his hair, but his fingers are the same. He is good to work with because he is so firmly behind the team and he loves his job. He tries to give good advice to me as a friend. It feels strange to be working with him in this way, but it is really interesting. Obviously he doesn't like the [present] situation of the team, but he is pushing hard and it is encouraging for us all to see him working at the factory and pushing things forward at the track.
Q. To remind us how old you are, Jean, you are approaching your 170th Grand Prix. Is the fire still there?
JA: For sure, yes. I still enjoy my job and I love to race. I will continue to be like that for as long as I can drive a good F1 car.
Q. Giancarlo, for various reasons you have now been confirmed as the 2nd place finisher in the Brazilian GP. This means you now have five 2nd places: what do you feel about that?
Giancarlo Fisichella: I am very pleased about the result. This is a great period in my career: I did a good job by scoring two points in Australia and I did even better in the last race by getting on the podium. It feels fantastic to be in second place in the drivers' championship. Now that I have five 2nd places I want to win my first F1 race. I know how difficult it is, but with the car getting better I think there is a good possibility of being able to do it this year. I myself am very confident and I hope to be able to win here in Imola, at my home circuit. Throughout the two days of last week's test at Silverstone I was quite quick. The engine is still getting better and the car was very well set up. Because the characteristics of the Silverstone and Imola circuits are so similar there is a good possibility to get a good result this weekend.
Q. Has Benetton changed since the Renault/Briatore takeover?
GF: After the good result in Brazil, the atmosphere has been fantastic. For me it is great to be a member of a team with such a good feeling inside, with the mechanics and engineers. Now that Renault is back in F1, and now that Flavio Briatore is in charge again, we feel very confident. With Flavio back, there is more aggressivity (sic) in the team.
Q. David, inevitably, what's the reaction after the findings of the FIA Court of Appeal?
David Coulthard: I think I said it all at the time: any emotion that could come from losing hard-won points, I felt it. But the job here, today, is to focus on this weekend's race. It doesn't matter now what happened in Brazil.
Q. Your team said that the circumstances which led to your exclusion at Imola were beyond their control. Do you feel the same way?
DC: That is a difficult thing for me to say because I don't know exactly what the question was that had to be answered [about my car], or whether it was possible to give a full answer. I can only tell you what my understanding of the incident was, which is that we definitely started the race [with the car] inside the regulations. The rules require the car to remain within the regulations at all times, and clearly by the end of the race we were not [within them]. Our defence was that it was the nature of the circuit which caused our car to be outside the terms of the regulations. We felt that because the stewards have the [right] to show a certain amount of discretion, perhaps when wings have become broken or an accident has caused body damage or put the car under the regulation weight, they might understand [our situation] and let it go this time. That was our defence. But they clearly did not think we had a strong enough case, and we have to live with that. Let's hope it doesn't happen again.
Q. What is the atmosphere within the McLaren team now?
DC: We haven't all gathered together yet since the Brazilian GP, and we aren't all together here. Ron [Dennis] isn't here, and neither are Norbert [Haug] or Adrian [Newey]. As far as the mechanics are concerned, everything is upbeat, they're doing their jobs, they have got a quick car that's relatively easy for them to work on - so they're all happy. Driver-wise we would like to have more points on the board than the zero figure that's showing now. But we are here with an opportunity to go for the pole and potentially to follow up with a win. That's a great feeling for us all, including me. I have always gone well at Imola and I am really looking forward to racing here again. I share the same passion for racing that Jean Alesi has. The more you go through your career, and the more bullshit there is, the more a driver focuses on the race start, because it takes you away from all that. So your enjoyment increases.
Q. It must feel drastic to be 26 points behind your major rival in the constructors' championship. How would you describe it?
DC: With 15 races to go, 'drastic' isn't the right word to use. I think Ferrari has been further behind than that at times during the past two seasons, and they pulled it back. We are hoping to be able to do the same. But Nobody wants to give away as many points as that, especially to a team with the sort of reliability record that Ferrari had last year and has shown so far this year. Although we can't change what's happened in the past, we can hope to change things in future.
Q. Before the season started, you said you had intended to change your own approach to racing. How is that resolution going?
DC: I am happy with my performance in the first two races. I could obviously have done better, but it wouldn't have taken much to have changed my positions on the grids in Australia or Brazil and pole position, or to have changed what I was doing in both races, with the opportunities that I had. I am happy with the job I am doing.
Q. You received some high praise for your race in Brazil, where you were short of lower gears virtually from the start of the race. Was it really difficult there?
DC: It wasn't difficult in the same way that it would have been if the car had been twisted or damaged in some way. If you don't have the gears you need, then the car simply won't be quick enough because you don't have the correct gears for a corner, you can't use the [engine] torque correctly and you cannot steer the car properly. To lose gears just makes the car slow. And even if front wing had been within the permitted limitations, we still think the car would have been fast enough to have beaten the Benetton into 2nd place.
Q. Michael, Ferrari is 26 points ahead in the constructors' championship and you have a 12 points lead in the drivers' championship. It can't get much better than that, I guess ...
Michael Schumacher: Exactly, huh? I am obviously pretty happy about the situation, except for having lost one car in Brazil. That wasn't really necessary because it turned out to have been a minor fault [which eliminated Barrichello]. As I said after the first two GPs, I would have loved to have been racing the McLarens to the end, to see what the exact situation is between us. We still haven't see it to its full extent. All we can say is that the two cars are very competitive, very close to each other. By the end of the day we will see who is the winner, but [to win this year] it is enough to be only a little way in front.
Q. I understand that you have been playing football this week. Is it true that until now you were not allowed by Ferrari to play? Have things changed for any reason?
MS: Nothing. I played football yesterday and I was never not allowed to play, honestly. But physically I was not able to play football [until now]. Looking at the final score - our drivers' team won 2-1 [against a team of celebrity sportsmen] - it went well. I guess I played well, although I just missed four beautiful opportunities, which made me just a little upset. Nevertheless, I keep trying.
Q. Who was the star of the football game?
MS: The star of the game was this guy [Fisichella] sitting behind me, who scored our winning goal. It was a good one. He did much better than me: he was free and alone in front of the goalkeeper, and he scored.
Q. You talked football with Pele on the podium at Interlagos. Are you going to be able to follow up what was discussed with him there?
MS: Good question! I invited him to take part in yesterday's game here, but obviously he didn't turn up. Maybe through your help we will be able to get him for the next game.
Q. The next race is Silverstone, a circuit which must have certain memories for you. How does it feel to be returning there?
MS: I have no strange, or strong, feelings. Maybe I will feel a little different when I arrive first time at that [Stowe] corner. But I don't believe I will, because it doesn't matter where it happens if you arrive with no brakes. It can happen anywhere, or at any corner: you can't do anything about it ... except that I hope the run-off area there has better protection.