Thursday 29 April 1999 Thursday press conference Drivers: Luca Badoer (Ferrari & Minardi) Eddie Irvine (Ferrari). Team chief: Gian Carlo Minardi (Minardi). Ron Dennis (McLaren) not present due to unavoidable air traffic control...
Ron Dennis (McLaren) not present due to unavoidable air traffic control restrictions
Q. Welcome, first, to the leader of the world drivers' championship, Eddie Irvine. After last week's testing, Eddie, how do you feel about your chances of retaining your points lead here at Imola?
Eddie Irvine: I didn't get very much work done at Jerez last week because I was still suffering from a very bad 'flu. I was only able to go round and round the circuit, and to be honest I am still recovering. There was also a problem with the car, so we were very slow. But we have a few improvements for this weekend, and although I don't think we will be as quick as the McLarens here, I believe we will be closer.
Q. Did Michael have the same problem at the test with his car?
EI: No, in fact he had a good test and got lots of laps [completed] in the three days.
Q. We know you have accepted that Ferrari will continue to put its full efforts into Michael Schumacher. In your opinion, does he have a realistic chance of being world champion this year?
EI: In Brazil he finished close to Hakkinen, but we also know that Hakkinen wasn't pushing too hard. One thing, though, is for sure: you cannot discount Michael, ever. Last year the McLaren was also a much faster car, but with superior strategy and good teamwork we managed to take the championship to the last race. Points-wise, this year we are actually ahead of McLaren coming here to Imola. Everyone talks about how quick the McLaren is, but Ferrari is leading both the drivers' and constructors' championships. So we are not doing that badly ...
Q. Welcome, Gian Carlo, to your home race. Can you tell us how your team is progressing, for example in terms of the number of employees?
Gian Carlo Minardi: Our factory at Faenza is only 18 kms from Imola and our staff now consists of 120 people, plus ten more working on aerodynamics at Fondmetal Technologies. We have been working flat out on the car, especially in the period after the Australian GP. For Imola we have brought a long wheelbase version of the car, which will be raced by Luca Badoer. We did more work at Jerez, which allowed us to develop the car even more, and we are pleased with the progress.
Q. For most of us, Minardi represents the best spirit of motorsport. But with new teams like BAR coming in with more than twice as many people, is it still realistic for a small organisation like yours to stay in F1?
GCM: I am well aware that small teams will have increasing difficulty in staying in F1. But we are working day by day to improve and it is our intention to grow, too. One day we hope to be a big team like the others. Maybe people will learn to like us less as we grow more successful!
Q. Luca, you missed the Brazilian race because of the hand injury which you suffered while testing the Minardi. Is it now completely healed?
Luca Badoer: The hand is still not 100 per cent, but it is very close now. I have been working hard this month to get it better, but for sure this is going to be a difficult weekend here. I wanted very much to be able to race at Imola and I will be pushing hard to get a good result.
Q. Your professional life is divided between your separate duties to Ferrari as test driver and Minardi as a racing driver. Can you tell us how different the cars feel to you?
LB: First of all I want to say that it is very satisfying to have the two jobs. But it is difficult for me to compare the two cars because the concepts behind them are entirely different. In any case, if I tried to tell you the difference I would be exposing the secrets of Ferrari. So I prefer not to say anything.
Q. Is it difficult to make the change from one car to the other?
LB: Not difficult, because they are both F1 cars. And while there are differences between them, in the context of Formula 1 they are not enormous differences. The speeds and accelerations [of the two cars] are very close to each other, and the downforce is quite similar. But I can get used to those differences in just one lap and it is not too difficult for me to change from one car to the other.
Q. Did Ferrari need you during the period after the accident? Was it possible for Eddie and Michael to stand in for you?
LB: The only important session I missed was the collaudo before the Brazilian GP. Eddie took my place, which meant less holiday for him. I will now continue because my number one job in F1 is to be test driver with Ferrari. My second job is driving the Minardi. But Ferrari takes first place. Next week I will be at Fiorano with Ferrari for three days, which is a very big programme of work.
Q. Eddie you recently appeared on a comedy sports quiz on BBC television. The press doesn't always give you an easy time, but your fellow sportsmen on the show seemed to give both you and F1 racing quite a hard time. Was that a surprise?
EI: I don't remember being given a hard time. Maybe you are hypersensitive because I didn't notice it. I was pleased to do the show because it fitted in with several other commitments that I had when I was visiting London for 24 hours. The producers of the show had been asking me for a long time to appear, and I had a couple of other things to do that day, so we managed to fit the show into my schedule. But to be honest I didn't feel that they were being critical of me or Formula 1.
Q. Eddie, now that you have won your first GP in Australia, how anxious are you to win again?
EI: For sure I want to win and I want to leave here still leading the world championship. In Brazil I was really disappointed to have had an engine problem which cost me what should have been an easy 3rd place. At the same time I am not able to be faster than the McLarens, but they have been having problems with their reliability, and that seems to have continued in the test at Jerez. So if they have problems again here and Michael doesn't finish, then I am next in line to win here. And I want to be in the position of being the guy who picks up victory if those three guts run into trouble.