Spanish GP: Friday press conference

FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 26 APRIL 2002 DRIVERS: David COULTHARD (McLAREN) and Heinz-Harald FRENTZEN (ARROWS). TEAM PERSONNEL: Ross BRAWN (FERRARI), Mike GASCOYNE (RENAULT) and Adrian NEWEY (MCLAREN). Q: A good time today, is that a result...

FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 26 APRIL 2002

DRIVERS: David COULTHARD (McLAREN) and Heinz-Harald FRENTZEN (ARROWS).

TEAM PERSONNEL: Ross BRAWN (FERRARI), Mike GASCOYNE (RENAULT) and Adrian NEWEY (MCLAREN).

Q: A good time today, is that a result of finally getting some testing?

Heinz-Harald FRENTZEN: It's good. Generally, we have been waiting for the test at Silverstone after the season has started. We had a lot of things on the list to do, to try, basically to find the direction we want to go and that was the time that we could do some experiments. We had a good time there, we had some new bits on the car and we are certainly on the right track, so it was quite useful to test at Silverstone last week. The result today is partly because we have made progress.

Q: Are you still going to be there tomorrow?

H-HF: I will have to tell you tomorrow. Just wait. I think we are closer to the top ten than ever. We haven't done anything different really to what we do on Fridays recently. We also have got an upgrade from the Ford Cosworth here and I think we are a step further, generally.

Q: Can I ask you to look back at your old team. They seem to have financial problems. Is that something you imagined might happen?

H-HF: It's very difficult to comment from the outside but I think if Eddie Jordan keeps sacking people, I think he has to consider one day working himself! I don't want to make any further comment.

Q: David, it's eight years since your Formula One debut, how does that make you feel?

David COULTHARD: I didn't really give it a consideration until Sarah Edworthy mentioned it to me yesterday. I've got some good memories of the last eight years. That's it really. You're always looking forward rather than back.

Q: Are things going to be better performance-wise here?

DC: Well, we certainly had some balance issues today and clearly we will study the data closely to try and improve that for tomorrow. You never truly know your performance until you get to qualifying except if you're running quickest and you've still got quite a bit of fuel on then you can feel quite confident. Clearly that's not the position we're in at the moment. I think that we just need to be patient and see what tomorrow brings us.

Q: In terms of your team-mate, he certainly seems to be competitive. Is he contributing to the team, how do you feel about him?

DC: I'm not the team, so it's very difficult for me to comment on behalf of the team. Maybe it's a question better directed to Adrian. I don't know how to answer the question. I don't do the debriefs, I'm not his engineer.

Q: But he seems to be pretty competitive. Is he giving you a hard time?

DC: It all depends what your definition of a hard time is. Clearly my goal is to be quickest of all the cars that are on the grid and in the absence of that, to be quickest in the team. I'm not in Formula One for an easy life. I'm here to compete against the best drivers in the world and beat them. I think that if I was scared of competition I would have taken up a different career.

Q: Adrian, that question about performance - what's happening? You've got a fantastic record at this circuit. What chances are there here?

Adrian NEWEY: Yes, this circuit has been very kind to us over the years. I think this year, for sure, it's going to be difficult. We knew that coming here, Bridgestone against Michelin, there have been some races where Michelin have had an advantage. Equally there are going to be races where they are going to be disadvantaged and our feeling, coming to this race, was that this will be one of the disadvantaged races. We knew it would be a little bit difficult here. We're still very happy overall with our tyre choice, though. We've just got to work to do the best job we can here.

Q: Is the problem at the moment engine, car or tyres?

AN: It's the usual thing, getting the whole lot to work together. I think David and Kimi are both doing a very good job. We haven't so far managed to extract the most performance out of the package.

Q: Ross, when you come to this circuit, where your rivals test more than you, even if you have tested more than in the past, do you feel at a disadvantage? It's noticeable today that you've done more laps than any other team?

Ross BRAWN: I don't think it's a disadvantage, no. I think the preparation of the front teams, certainly is such that there's very little track advantage that remains in Formula One these days. We've done enough testing here to understand what's happening. In the old days, perhaps, where a team would get dialled into a particular track and it was difficult. I remember Adrian was always very good at Silverstone. He had that well sorted out - the old Silverstone track - and it was more difficult to compete there. But I don't feel at any disadvantage at Barcelona.

I think Imola helped us a little bit because we were the only team who tested there before the season started and there were a couple of little things we found, and because the weather was so difficult on Friday and Saturday for sure I think that helped us. We had a very good car in the race, it was well balanced and that came partly as a result of having tested there before the season started.

Q: Mike, it seems to have been a good start to the season, better than expected? What more is there to come?

Mike GASCOYNE: I don't think it has been better than we expected. We said we wanted to be in the top four in the championship. We didn't expect to be challenging for race wins but we wanted to be solidly in the top four and I think we have achieved that and then you look to try and be more competitive with the top teams. So yeah, it's been a good start to the year and we've got to look to develop and get closer to the front.

Q: Is there lots more to come at every race?

MG: Yeah. There's a lot of development gone on the car from the start of the season. I think we are becoming more competitive and today has shown that as well.

Q: A question for all three of you; how can costs be cut, what are your feelings, what's your own solution?

MG: It's always got to be something that's very difficult because for the top teams they're going to spend the budgets that they have and that's right and proper. Obviously we've got to make sure that there are enough competitive teams in Formula One and for some of the smaller teams there are obviously issues at the moment and there are obviously things being proposed to help that situation, but you've got to make sure you do the right thing and it's a well thought out thing.

RB: I think it needs a very logical approach to cost-cutting. I think the subject of costs really needs splitting into two halves. I think there are the compulsory costs that a Formula One team has to meet. It has to bring two cars to a race. It has certain obligations to meet. And then there are the optional costs and to me the optional costs are something which are very difficult to control because it is dependant on the budgets that teams have. Now I hear teams say we should ban testing and to me that is a complete nonsense because testing is not compulsory.

Teams only go testing when they can afford it. All the teams made new cars this year; it wasn't compulsory. It's not compulsory to make new cars next year. So I find it very difficult to accept comments from people about the financial situation when they are testing and they're making new cars and they are bringing a T-car to a race which is not compulsory. So I think it's very important that we only look at the things which, if I say, compulsory costs to see if they can be reduced, because they will reduce the costs for all the teams then and these optional costs... if we don't go testing, we will build another wind tunnel and we will employ another hundred people to do the work back at the factory. I don't want to be conceited because we have the budget, but some of the proposals which are being made to reduce costs don't make any sense at all.

AN: I think I agree with Mike and Ross. They've both basically made the same point, that the teams spend the budgets available to them. What we're really talking about is if we adopt the so-called cost-cutting measures, will that close the gap between the teams at the front of the grid and the teams at the back of the grid. It's difference in performance we're really talking about because as Ross has pointed out, even teams at the back of the grid still do a lot of things that they don't actually need to, simply to turn up. Perhaps an exception to that is Minardi but certainly other teams near the back are doing more than they need to simply to get to the race and turn up and qualify with 107 per cent.

That's what we're actually talking about and I think we should be clear about that. In terms of the measures that have been proposed, what concerns me is that they're not necessarily properly thought through. All too often we've seen in all sorts of walks of life, whatever political thing it might be, there's a regulation or a law is introduced to try to achieve a certain objective and it can be that it actually achieves the reverse. I think if you're not very careful and people don't consider these changes very carefully this could be a classic example.

Q: David. Prior to the season a lot of people in the paddock tipped you to be a championship contender. It has been a disappointing start to the season, how do you deal with the disappointment and how do you attack the rest of the year?

DC: It doesn't really matter what people say, ultimately it is results that speak. You've got to say something at the beginning of the year and naturally we felt we were going to build on what was a reasonably competitive year. Last year, as a team, I think we won four Grands Prix and there is still a long way to go this year but clearly it hasn't started the way any of us had expected. We have been less competitive for a number of reasons and we are working through those in a logical way, in the same way that McLaren have struggled in the past and managed to get back to become a dominant force and that is the same route that we are working on at the moment but clearly there is a long way in the season to go before we can say right, that's what we got from this year.

Q: And how is your motivation now?

DC: It is still the same. My goal is always to get 100 percent from myself and from the car, and of course you want to be quickest in every session and you want to win the race. That is the goal and that is the motivation and the reality is you make best of the situation that you have and that is what you have to do. Clearly there was disappointment at the start of the season because the reality of our performance level has only been coming to us as we go through each of the races. But I am still motivated to do the tests, to do the work, and to get out there and race, and in many ways, not that this is something that I would recommend to anyone who is out in front at the moment, but there is a bit more battling that goes on in the middle of the top pack than if you are just running at the front.

Q: You have a lot of British fans. Do you feel their support waxes or wanes with your success?

DC: I don't know. How can I judge that? I don't run some sort of poll of how many people are supporting McLaren or myself or the other British drivers. There will always be the fair weather supporters because we all like to align ourselves with success, but my motivation to get on the track is not based on public support, it is based on my own enjoyment of going wheel to wheel and driving the car quickly.

Q: David. On Monday Michael Schumacher was in Turkey and at the end of last month Bernie Ecclestone was there and they gave to Turkish people some positive signs. As a driver who has been there what do you think about a possible Turkish Grand Prix?

DC: Well, I have invested some money in a boatyard in Turkey which I presently have lost so I am not feeling too positive about Turkey at the moment. I have been there a couple of times to see the stages of the build of my boat and it was all very exciting, but since it stopped and, you know...Yeah, Turkey's a nice place.

Q: As they haven't built your boat could you see them putting on a Grand Prix?

DC: I don't know. I don't know what the link is between the two. I have only been there twice. I don't know about the country's financial (situation), whether all of the businesses are the same as the one I was involved in or whether they have got a bit more integrity. I would hope they have.

Q: For Ross Brawn. We read a lot about a new combination of gearbox and engine where you can change gear much quicker than before. Is this a major advantage of the F2002?

RB: I think it was overstated. There were a lot of good stories about our transmission, some of which were quite interesting. Really all it is is a smaller and lighter transmission with an improved change. I think to be honest we had a little bit of old technology in the gearbox when I arrived at Ferrari and we never really had a good opportunity to correct that because each year it seemed to be too late to start a new transmission. So two years ago we did start a new transmission and I have to say it is probably more in line with the sort of transmission that Williams or McLaren are using now, but it was quicker and more efficient than what we had. I think the main advantage of a new transmission was that it is a very integrated package with the engine and the rear suspension.

I think it has set a good standard in terms of how well integrated it is and how efficient it is in that respect and a Formula One car is all about packaging, finding the right combination of engine, gearbox, suspension, aerodynamics, putting everything together with as little compromise as possible and optimising all the areas and I think it is a very nice little transmission. We had some reliability issues at the start of the season which is why we didn't race the car in the first couple of races. It is difficult to quickly respond to transmission issues because the parts take so long to make. But we did get the pieces in the end and touch wood it has been okay so far. It has taken our transmission another step and all the Formula One teams are looking at taking each part of the car, chassis, engine, transmission, and trying to find another step. So it is one of the improvements we definitely made from last year to this year.

Q: To the three designers, it is nearly 10 years since Honda was winning in Formula One and in those ten years the three teams you represent have done all the winning. Can you say what Honda should do to start winning again and in particular is the two team policy they are following correct?

MG: Well, it is up to Honda to decide the way they want to do it. Obviously there is top teams and being aligned with a top team is very important. But that is obviously difficult given the current situation and certainly supplying two engines, well that is something that is being discussed at the moment anyway, but to get back to winning you have to have the best engine in the best car. One on its own won't do it, so that involves being with the best team and it is difficult for people outside the top few teams to do that.

RB: I think it is clear that the successful teams in Formula One, and Renault have taken that route now, have to be one entity, they have to be as one, the chassis and the engine. I always thought that was one of the potential strengths of Ferrari. Maybe it hadn't been in recent years, but I think it is a strength of Ferrari now. To me the car is a car, it is not an engine, it's not a chassis, it is a car. And I think Honda have to look at working like that if they are going to be successful and I think if there was an area you could criticise their approach it is the fact that they still look like an engine supplier as opposed to a partner and in my view they need to get together with a team and become one entity. We supply Sauber on a customer basis.

We give them as much support as we can but it has no effect on our main Formula One effort apart from proving some extra budget which is always useful. But I think Honda really need to bite the bullet and become as one with a team if they are going to achieve the success they had in the past because it is more difficult now, I am sure it is more difficult.

AN: I think I wouldn't be presumptuous enough to comment from the outside. I don't know enough about how Honda operate and operate with their teams. I know there is a big Japanese engineering presence at BAR, but how that all works and gels I have no idea so I really can't comment.

Q: David. We read comments that you wanted more attention from Adrian for this year. Were they true and if they were are you happy with the current situation?

DC: Yeah, Adrian reads me a bedtime story and tucks me in at night so, yes, it is very comfortable! No, I have nothing really interesting to say on it to be honest. We are working as a team to try and get the maximum out of our situation so that involves all hands on deck and clearly Adrian is the most senior person who is here at the track so he is the overview and the big picture and any thoughts that come directly from him towards whatever car you happen to be driving has got to be advantageous at some point during the season.

Q: To Adrian Newey. You started testing with Michelin tyres in January and your new car was almost ready at that time. Do you think it has interfered in your performance today?

AN: For sure we are going through a learning curve on how to best use the Michelin tyres and whenever you have a change of tyre manufacturer that is likely to be the case. The tyres are quite different in many ways to the Bridgestones we have been used to previously so we are trying to understand how to best adapt our car to suit the characteristics of the Michelins. I think it is something we went into with our eyes open, we knew that was likely to be the case and how it would pan out this year was kind of unknown but it was from my point of view very much the intention of it being a long-term strategy and we wanted to make a few changes this year that will hopefully put us in a stronger position next year.

Q: To the two drivers. About 20 years ago, James Hunt said a driver could individually contribute crucially to a race or a performance, he reckoned it was about 10 percent. What are your feelings on that all these years on?

H-HF: Obviously we are from a different generation and looking to you I think you have seen the times of James Hunt...It is just difficult to say. For us drivers I think we can contribute a lot, but as David said before it is teamwork. It is basically how the people working inside the team integrate. If an engineer has got an idea how to drive faster he certainly is welcome to say that and also if the driver has an idea how to make changes on the car...these days there are more engine manufacturers and car production manufacturers involved in Formula One and they are bringing also a lot of know how and a lot of effort and I think these days there is a lot more competition than there was 20 years ago. The gaps are much smaller.

Q: But are you more engineers than sportsmen? Have you felt a dwindling of being a sportsman?

H-HF: I have got the impression it has become more complete.

DC: It is very difficult to put a percentage on it but clearly the whole sport has changed and all sports have changed, the demands on sports people, the demands on all of the people who are involved in Formula One be it the engineers, mechanics, designers, I guess they will all feel the same as well. The deadlines you are supposed to meet in the modern world it is not nine to five any more it is however many hours it takes to do the job so I think it is very difficult for us to quantify what it was then because we are part of this world where those are the hours you do. But I don't underestimate the importance of the next comment you make because even if you don't understand fully why you are making it a clever engineer might take those words and find the key to unlock the performance of the car. So you can always do more.

AN: From an engineer's perspective, one of the things that to me makes motor racing exciting is that you have the chassis, the engine, the driver, the tyres and the way the team works and you have got these different facts which you have to get right to win a world championship. Whereas if you take games such as tennis or golf, there is not significant technology in the stick or the racket so it is really down to the player himself, and if you look in motor racing at one make formulas, they have typically not been that popular. I think the public finds it interesting having that mixture of technology and man and machine and from my point of view I very much enjoy that.

Q: Is it unreasonable to ask you to compare your two Finnish team-mates?

DC: No. Mika Hakkinen, two-times world champion, on a sabbatical, lives in Monaco, married, child. I don't know so much about Kimi I am sorry.

Q: Anything more personal from your point of view?

DC: Mika has a dodgy taste in underwear!

Q: To the three technical directors. Toyota dared to enter the championship as one entity. What is your opinion on them technically and managerially?

MG: To go into Formula One with a completely new team and to set everything up is a huge undertaking and they have done it in a very committed way and I think they have been fairly realistic in their objectives and how long it is going to take them. I think they will be very pleased with their start to the season, to score some points, they have taken the opportunities that have been presented to them, but you know this is a very competitive business and I am sure they are under no illusions of what it is going to take to get to the front, but they seem very committed to do that.

RB: I think having probably offended Honda I should stay off the subject! No they have made a reasonably impression. They have opted to set their organisation up in Germany, which is not the obvious choice, but the majority of specialised staff are in England or Italy, so they have an extra challenge in that respect but I have noticed they are starting to attract some of the Formula One personnel.

They started off very much on their own, but obviously they are strengthening their organisation with a lot of established Formula One personnel which I am sure will help them and I think they will be a threat, a competitive team within the next two, three or four years but it will take them time, they have got to build a lot of things up, not just the technical package it is the team, the infrastructure, all the things the top teams have spent many years putting together but for sure they will be a strong team in the future.

AN: I think Toyota certainly seem to be giving the team a big budget and investing very heavily in the future. They have spent a lot on wind tunnels and chassis rigs and so forth and they are showing a great commitment to the whole thing, particularly as Germany is not the cheapest country to operate out of. They do appear to be quite integrated so I think they are going to be very competitive over the next few years, they have come in well, they seem to be reliable.

They are not a totally new team, the essence of this has been their Le Mans team I would imagine so they do have experience of high level motor racing and they do seem to be out head-hunting pretty heavily so they are attracting quite a lot of engineers from other teams through fairly aggressive tactics which in their position is a logical thing to do. The challenge will be having taken all these engineers in from other teams whether they can get them to gel and work together in an integrated fashion.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Mika Hakkinen , Eddie Jordan , Ross Brawn , Bernie Ecclestone , Adrian Newey , James Hunt
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan