US GP: Friday press conference

Present: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Ralf Schumacher (Williams) Jacques Villeneuve (BAR) Jean Todt (Ferrari team principal) Frank Williams (Williams team principal) Ron Dennis (McLaren team principal) MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the press...

Present:
Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
Ralf Schumacher (Williams)
Jacques Villeneuve (BAR)
Jean Todt (Ferrari team principal)
Frank Williams (Williams team principal)
Ron Dennis (McLaren team principal)

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the press conference is about to start. On the ground floor, if you're still in the press room -- Ron Dennis will be with us in just a few minutes. Back row, left to right, just in case you don't know who is whom: Ralf Schumacher, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve. Front row, left to right: Frank Williams, Jean Todt. And Ron Dennis will be with us in just a moment, as I say. Jacques, perhaps I can begin with you. What are your feelings always coming back here to Indianapolis? It's part of your tradition in a way.

Jacques Villeneuve: Great memories here. The racing on the oval in the Indy 500 was very, very special. Being here in an F1 is definitely not the same, the same feeling. But it's nice to be here, nice to be in the States for a race.

Q: You get a welcome, don't you?

JV: Yeah, the welcome is good. The fans are great. It's not as crazy as in Europe, which in a way is a nice thing. But it's the end of the season, so the weather is not as nice as early in the year. It's a little bit gray. But it's nice. The people that are coming are real race fans. It's racing fan base, Indy. So that's good.

Q: We've heard to a certain amount, we heard from a press point of view, we heard from Geoffrey Willis at the last race, who said he was really going to tighten things up in a big way at BAR. What are your feelings about the improvements planned?

JV: Great. I think next year we'll finally have a Formula One car, and that is a very nice thing.

Q: Where were the areas that you particularly wanted to see tightened up?

JV: You can't pinpoint it. It's the overall thing. You know, we have a big heavy car, and then that's not up to Formula One standards. Honda has been stepping up, also, and we're starting to see the effect of it. Mainly it will be next year, so I'm very confident for next year.

Q: Thank you. Michael, I think you like USA a great deal, what about the circuit here?

Michael Schumacher: I think we have talked a lot of times about the circuit. It's a circuit with a big name because of the oval of what the Indy cars are doing here. And we have a compromised circuit on the same package, which is not a big challenge, for example, like we have in Suzuka or Spa. But if you see what has been possible to do, they have done a good job.

Q: Yesterday you spoke about a free battle here in that --

MS:: Free or three?

Q: I think you said free battle during the race for the race.

MS:: Yeah.

Q: Can you explain what you meant by that?

MS:: Basically it was obvious that we wanted to drive in a way that Rubens secured his second position and he supported me in winning the championship as much as he could, so it was a natural that I would support him in his achievement. I believe, if my calculation is right, if I would win this race, then it would automatically mean for him a second, which means that -- maybe Jean can say more about this -- we can race free.

Q: But you haven't yet been told that you can?

MS:: Maybe Jean can clearly say that.

Q: We'll ask later. Thank you very much. Ralf, you've been having quite a few battles at the first corner with your teammate lately and we saw the last one, the latest episode at Monza. What's been happening there? Is there a greater rivalry than ever?

Ralf Schumacher: No, it's just racing. I mean, there was a possibility and I was trying to take it as usual. I mean nothing, nothing special about it, is there?

Q: It looked as though it was quite hot stuff. There wasn't much quarter given, much allowance made.

RS:: Well, that's Formula One racing, at the end of a day. I don't know, I'm surprised. Usually I would be pointed out not to overtake people. So maybe that's why. But, you know, I try my best and if there's a chance, as I usually say, and I see the chance, I take it as I took there. It was very optimistic there. Because of the way the circuit is designed there, it worked out.

Q: Frank recently mentioned that sometimes your effort at the end of the season tailed off and perhaps you've made a special effort this year, is that the case?

RS:: No, I mean I think last year was a very special situation, at least for me. I don't know for other drivers. But I'm just trying to do my job as good as possible. Certainly if you look back to last year in qualifying, or maybe in general for the last few races, you could say they weren't too good, but then I still ended up on the podium, most of them. But I'm simply trying to do a good job all the way through.

Q: OK, thank you. Frank, I think you've got a new wind tunnel being commissioned, what's the stage for that? What's happening with that?

Frank Williams: It's just a wind tunnel.

Q: When does it come on stream?

FW: Not very soon. They take a long time to make.

Q: So when do you expect it to be commissioned?

FW: About 12 months, 24 months, somewhere in that frame.

Q: In what way is it better than the one you've got at the moment?

FW: Well, I didn't say it was better. The plans are in the Abingdon planning office if you would like to see, but they're a slightly more modern version. The existing one is quite old.

Q: Two people who are in the news at the moment, you've just hired Dr. John Davis, I think. What was the thinking behind that?

FW: We needed to strengthen up one of our departments, specifically our aero department, and he appeared to be an ideal candidate.

Q: Somebody else I wanted to ask about, Antonio Pizzonia. How has he figured in testing? In Formula 3000 he hasn't been fantastic, but I think he's better in the Formula One car, isn't he?

FW: He has disappointed himself in Formula 3000 and surprised us at the same time, but we rate him very highly and he should have a strong career in Formula One, there's no question about that.

Q: He deserves to be in Formula One, does he?

FW: He is quick enough certainly, and I think as much of a racer to be in Formula One. He is quite good at overtaking.

Q: Thanks, Frank. Jean, I'll come back to the question I asked earlier. Is there a possibility of your drivers racing one another?

Jean Todt: As Michael said before, at the beginning of the season we had the first objective, which was Ferrari manufacturer world champion, and it seemed like Michael had better chances to be driver champion. So the team did support him as much as it could. And once it was achieved, the second goal was to allow Rubens to win the second position. And now Rubens is leading the third by 17 points. And definitely if Michael is winning this race, then Rubens would be second, and we will achieve the result. But I mean it's many other cases which will happen. So once we see what is happening in qualifying, we will decide what is in the best interest for Ferrari.

Q: Can you just update us on what happened this morning with Rubens and the state of his car?

JT: I mean, he had loss of pressure from the rear left tire and then he lost the car.

Q: What's the state of the chassis at the moment?

JT: It's not so bad. It will be able to be repaired for tomorrow, but nevertheless, we will change the chassis for Rubens for tomorrow morning.

Q: So the chassis will be new?

JT: Yeah.

Q: OK. Ron, Sarah Fisher sadly probably is preparing as we speak. Why is she having this test? What's the significance of this?

Ron Dennis: It's just an opportunity for her to sample Formula One. It was a request made by one of our sponsors and by Tag Heuer and I discussed it with Bernie. We felt it would be good for the American public, and it was just something that was possible. So we agreed to do it.

Q: On another subject, Mercedes has bought into Ilmor. What are you expecting from that association or that acquisition that you didn't already have from before?

RD: It's not a question you can really answer with a sound bite, as it were. First of all, of course, it's taken a great deal of time to arrive at this particular decision. But it's just one of the things that probably reflects how committed DaimlerChrysler is. And, of course, McLaren to winning the World Championship, and any decision we take together -- and that was a significant decision -- is carefully thought through and obviously taken with a purpose to be better on the track. And we have -- DaimlerChrysler developing a significant resource in Stuttgart, have over another 125 engineers now that have been assembled over the last few months, and the acquisition of Ilmor is the last part in significantly raising the efforts to have the best available engine in the pit lane, and that's just one of the many decisions and changes that have been made.

Q: Two-part question. First to Jean Todt. Is there any mixed emotion for you upon being so dominant now that interest and attendance seem to be lagging in Formula One? And part two, Ron Dennis or Frank Williams: Considering all of Ferrari's resources now, has the classic game of technological leapfrog in Formula One stopped to the point that you're no longer able by resources to look forward to overtaking Ferrari technologically anytime soon?

JT: I will say at the moment our dominant position is due to different factors: Strong team, fantastic drivers, fantastic technical partners, and mainly I'm talking about Bridgestone, who is supplying us great tires. I know cycles have happened since years in Formula One, I mean Michael is on the right, and on the left, they have been leading this situation, fortunately for them at the moment. After many, many years of hard time for Ferrari, it's happening for Ferrari, and we know it will not last forever. But as long as it can last, we will do everything we can because we are very motivated. If we would have not won a race since 50 years to go along and try to be still successful altogether, we have a great team.

Q: Now the question for Frank and Ron.

FW: Well, you refer to Ferrari's resource, and maybe it is greater than the one at Williams. Ron will tell you what he thinks from his side. But I've always thought the best racing cars come out of the most creative minds, not necessarily from the most technology. And I guess Jean's in possession of the greatest car presently. This will change, we certainly hope so, Ron and I do at least.

RD: I think, as Jean has pointed out, there tends to be a certain biorhythm to the performance of Grand Prix teams. I often think have we lost the expertise that's required to win races and win world championships. I don't think we have. I think Jean and his colleagues have obviously done an incredibly good job, and I take some comfort from the fact that I think our team has done a pretty poor job. So I think we make them actually look better than -- not that they are, but they certainly look better because of our own efforts not being as they should be. And, of course, you can then inevitably perhaps pose the next question, which is, well, what do you think you've done wrong? And then you get into trying to break down the performance elements of a Grand Prix car and which bits you feel are strong and which bits you feel are weak. But the fact is that, you know, that there is never a magic ingredient in a Grand Prix team or a Grand Prix car. It's the sum of approximately 20,000 components, and the challenge for all the designers and both, you know, in each of the disciplines is try and make each of those components slightly better every year so that when you actually put them together, the sum of all of those components gives you a performance advantage. So there's never any magic. And I don't think it's resource-driven in respect of certainly the three teams that we represent. I think we all have excellent resources. I think it's inevitable that your resources move ahead. I mean Frank is not building a new wind tunnel because he thinks he has the best one at the moment, that's for sure and, you know, as was the case with Jean and Ferrari who have enjoyed the benefits of a new wind tunnel for three or four years now and we're just reaping the benefits of ours. Resources and facilities, you tend to leapfrog all the way through and that's what we're trying desperately hard to do, as is Frank. You're trying to take not an incremental step, but a quantum step, and that means you'll push down various paths, which are not going to give instant technical gratification. It takes time to come back on top. You've got to have the stamina and focus, determination, budget, resources and all of these things and you just have to keep powering forward. In the end, people who have won in the past tend to win in the future.

Q: Thank you. For Sir Williams. Could you please address the qualities that make a driver qualify very well and the qualities that make a Formula One driver win races? And then possibly speak to where you feel Juan Montoya is in achieving both of those things.

FW: I don't think there is a difference, really, between a driver who qualifies especially well and one who races except maybe that of intelligence or racecraft. But I can assure you on that score, Juan is just as good as anybody else I've seen at racing as he is at qualifying. That's the case.

Q: Michael, when you've accomplished as much as you have this year and in the years past -- Niki Lauda was in here yesterday saying if he had won as many races as you, he would have gotten quite bored. What do you have to do to sometimes to maybe self-motivate, look for additional challenges?

MS:: There is obviously a difference between him and me because I'm not bored yet. The motivation simply comes out from the competition you find every weekend on the road. Because I have had races that have been tough, and I have had races that have been easy. But there hasn't been a constant situation either way, and that's what is the good thing about Formula One. You never know what the next race will be like.

Q: Jacques, on the flip side of that, how do you keep the BAR team motivated when so much has already been decided this season and keep yourself motivated?

JV: I don't know. It's become a habit after a few years of fighting at the back. So I don't know, it just happens naturally. I love racing, you know, that's why I got involved in racing. Having won one championship is definitely not enough. So I just want to be ready for the day that the car finally gets good. You have to be on top of it at every moment because even in an uncompetitive season, you never know when there might be one opportunity, and you can't miss it.

Q: Michael, after Rubens' accident, how concerned are you to go back out on the track?

MS:: After we understood the problem, I was not concerned at all. I mean, you clearly saw that he had a puncture and a puncture can have several various consequences and punctures are not normal.

Q: Is there a problem with debris on the circuit here? Do you feel that that's what might have caused it?

MS:: I don't know. I mean we couldn't, because the wheel was damaged too much to really know where the puncture had come from.

Q: Question for Michael. I spoke to Niki Lauda, and he offered Sarah Fisher to come to Europe and fight in a Formula One car and he would love to see Sarah Fisher on the front row next to you. What's your opinion about that, women after 10 years back in Formula One standing beside you?

MS:: I mean, I don't have a problem with women. My opinion is quite clear, there is no reason why a woman shouldn't be able to race a Formula One car because of physical efforts. If you see some athletes, they're certainly stronger than what we are. So they can be as strong as we are and do the job. There's just not enough around to do so. So out of a big mass of drivers, finally they come only so many to Formula One. If you look at how many girls there are around in motorsports, you imagine that the chance is very little. But maybe Niki has another interest as well. (Laughter)

Q: Michael, in Formula One everybody wants to know everything you're doing. So my question is one of deep social significance. Why aren't you wearing your cap? (Laughter)

MS:: Because Sabine is wearing it. (Laughter)

Q: Thank you. I was worried. Thank you.

Q: This is for Michael and Jacques. What do you find to be the most challenging part of this circuit and the least challenging part?

JV: Well, only to figure out if you want to run with low or high downforce basically because you can use both avenues and be competitive. The layout itself is not very, very exciting. There is not really an exciting corner; it's just a difficult track to drive because it's never used and it's very slippery asphalt on top of it. So it's very difficult to get the balance right. But if you're lucky enough that Friday morning, you start and the car is working, normally you're looking good for the rest of the weekend.

MS:: Probably the most exciting area is sort of from Turn 1 to Turn 6, this complex, and other than this, everything is either very slow or full throttle.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Ralf Schumacher , Antonio Pizzonia , Michael Schumacher , Jacques Villeneuve , Sarah Fisher , John Davis , Niki Lauda , Frank Williams , Jean Todt
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams