US Grand Prix FIA Friday press conference transcript with Stefano Domenicali (Ferrari sporting director) Norbert Haug (Mercedes motorsport director) Aguri Suzuki (Super Aguri team principal) Frank Williams (Williams team principal) Moderator:...
US Grand Prix FIA Friday press conference transcript with
Stefano Domenicali (Ferrari sporting director)
Norbert Haug (Mercedes motorsport director)
Aguri Suzuki (Super Aguri team principal)
Frank Williams (Williams team principal)
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, the press conference is about to begin. In the back row, Stefano Domenicali on our right, who is the sporting director of Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro; and team principal of Super Aguri, of course, Aguri Suzuki.
The front row will be Norbert Haug, vice president of Mercedes Benz Motorsports; and Frank Williams, team principal of the AT&T Williams team.
Gentlemen, greetings. Greetings. A question really to all of you about safety, particularly with thoughts of last weekend's accident in Canada. Perhaps would anyone like to comment on that? Stefano, would you like to start?
Stefano Domenicali: OK. Well, I think that what we have seen during the last Canadian Grand Prix show how safety has improved in the last years. This is thanks to the FIA and to the world joint together with all the teams. If I have to say that if you have to think an accident like that a couple of years ago, maybe we would have a different situation. On one side, that's for sure one conclusion. That shows us one thing: That we don't have to forget that this sport is always very dangerous. So we don't have to drop the attention on safety. One of the main things for sure, we have to keep that pressure, together with the FIA, to keep as much effort in that respect because it is so crucial. And this is for sure what we have seen in the last Grand Prix.
Moderator: Thank you. Aguri?
Aguri Suzuki: I think it is the same, but it is very shocking after the crash, it's very, very bad accident. But after the driver has nothing, it is very incredible. And also now the cars are quite very good, is good safety. Just imagine, I drove in Formula One 15 years ago, maybe it's big, big problem, but now the FIA does a good job and the team and everything is very good job. I'm very happy with Formula One now.
Moderator: Thank you. Frank?
Frank Williams: Well, I must say I feared the worst when I saw the initial impact, the very first one, first concrete wall, and I feared the worst. But it is certainly a remarkable testimony to the cooperation between the teams, engineers and designers and the FIA. Because the numbers get higher and higher every year and, as consequence, I think the cars get safer and safer every year. Speaks very highly of Formula One in terms of safety.
Norbert Haug: Yeah, I absolutely share the views. The best outcome of the weekend was certainly that Robert didn't get hurt. I mean it really looked shocking at the beginning, and I think there was a lot of positive work done from the FIA and the teams. As Frank pointed out, you know that the tests got more and more severe, and I think it is important to continue, and we will continue. But it is sometimes really, really painful to pass all these tests, but I think it is very, very important to continue in that direction. It's a statement for Formula One.
Having said that, you know, we I think again once more we saw what speed is and this was really probably a surprise if you saw that in television. Some unfortunate circumstances came together, but in the end it really went well, and I think that is the most important thing. It has a solid background, it did not happen by incidence but still we need to continue and improve and pushing in that direction. I'm sure the FIA will, and I'm sure the teams will be open.
Moderator: Thank you, Norbert. Some individual questions now to you all. Stefano, Kimi has had a fairly difficult start in many ways to the season. Do you feel that he's becoming more confident now with the car?
Stefano Domenicali: Well, the answer is for sure, pretty sure that it is yes. I mean, the more and more he has the chance and the time to drive and the more he learned how to enter a new situation, the new car, the new tires and the relationship with the team. So I'm pretty positive that for sure this is a very important event for him and also for the team, and I'm pretty sure we will see the real Kimi very, very soon.
Moderator: Now, last weekend wasn't a fantastic weekend for the team, but you were looking for increased performance here. This is very much a Ferrari circuit. Have you found that today?
Stefano Domenicali: For sure, the last Grand Prix was not the best one. It was really bad, but we don't have to panic on that. I mean, we had a season where after the sixth Grand Prix we worked through races for pole position. We didn't have, for sure, a lot of circumstances a great race in Canada and also Monte Carlo. Here for sure, looking at the situation over the last years, it was a good track for us. We know that our main competitor is McLaren-Mercedes, has done a great job, but I think today the situation has improved. We have done a good job in terms of learning, in terms of understanding the situation of the setup and the tires here. So that will be positive, for sure.
Moderator: Aguri, obviously two great races for you this year, two points-scoring races. What sort of effect has that had on the team?
Aguri Suzuki: I think I am very happy and also I want to say thank you to the driver and sponsors and everything. But it is very impressive because our team is very small. This year our target is to just get points, one point I think is already. Now already is four points. I am very, very happy.
Anyway, so our car potential is normally it is very difficult to get the points, but if something happens in the race, for example, in Spain and Canada is very unusual race, so we are very important, the ability in the car, just to finish the races is our target. After maybe get some point or something.
Moderator: I realize the team is really quite small and obviously very new. What sort of developments when we're looking around you here, the teams here, they would have developments coming all the time.
Aguri Suzuki: Yeah, but it's very important. It's about our staff is about 140 or -45, something like that. But it is like a family, it is just one piece. And everybody look same direction. And also I can control everything. If it's a -- I don't know, 500, 600, 700, very difficult to control everything. But anyway, it is still small, but it is very good team, I think.
Moderator: And have you got developments coming every race or every few races?
Aguri Suzuki: Yeah, Formula One is very important in every race in development and improve. But depend on the budget, you know. Our team is still small, always looking for sponsor or talking to sponsors or something else. If we get more money, OK, I try more hard. But anyway, so we continue to develop our car.
Moderator: OK, thank you very much.
Frank, you vowed to turn your team around after the performance from last year, and you have done that, I think. How have you done it? Give us some indication of what it's taken.
Frank Williams: The fact it has had very little to do with me. It has taken a few extra people, appropriate people. And reviewed in the last couple years what we did and what we did wrong. We tend to talk on that one and I try again, and so far it's gradually coming back. But I'd remind you of the distance between us and the three premier teams, at least a second on that, which is unacceptable to any team.
Moderator: What about the two drivers? Because obviously you've got one driver who hasn't done a lot of racing for the last five, six years but a lot of experience, and a young chap who is in his second year and is proving to be very, very competitive.
Frank Williams: Well, Nico is young, very intelligent. I'm sure he's got a very strong future ahead of him. Alex is experienced, outstanding and quite a remarkable team member. He will do anything you ask of him. I repeat he has a lot of car knowledge and a lot of car understanding.
Moderator: Of the two of them, do they complement one another well, do they work together well?
Frank Williams: They work extremely well together, yeah.
Moderator: Are you happy with the performances so far?
Frank Williams: Well, reliability has always been our biggest enemy over the last couple years, has never put to bed, no one can ever claim that. But the two drivers get on fine, and we're making modest progress. Never enough, of course.
Moderator: A couple of very frustrating races where I'm sure you're thinking you should have been getting more points than you have.
Frank Williams: While it's easy to think that, that's how it happens for everybody, not just any one team. If you make points, but if you get some, everybody else has to suffer, except his lot presently.
Moderator: Yes, Norbert, you've got the two fastest drivers leading the championship at the moment, potentially taking points off one another in the championship. Do you see that as a problem or a luxury?
Norbert Haug: We have bigger problems in the past, and I think the team worked so hard over the winter and I think engine and chassis are really fully integrated, and I need to say thank you to all the efforts that we have put in. As Frank pointed out, we did have some reliability issues, especially on the engine in the past in the last couple of years and we probably threw a couple of world championships away due to engine problems and that should not happen. But so far I think it was really good, and it was excellent. And, of course, you have an idle situation if the drivers are pushing each other in a positive way, and I think that is what we are experiencing. I cannot see where we are taking points away from each other.
So far it went really good, and it is the first third of the season, but we are not the guys to think now we have done it, we are the guys to say we have a good starting base right now, but now it begins. We never would underestimate the Ferraris, especially. They, in my view, have been very strong today, and they will be strong in the future. I think lots of other teams are pushing. I mean, we have World Championship-winning team Renault, they are pushing and they are coming back, I'm 100 percent convinced. BMW is pushing very hard. And I have to say respect in front of the achievements of Williams, they did a couple of really good races, good starting positions. So, you know, I think we have a very good season.
But having said that, we achieved a good basis so far. And, of course, I would have nothing against if the next two-thirds of the season would work out like the first one. But there will be a lot of hard work in front of us, and I think the team is working extremely well together. The drivers are working together, and that's what it is about. I think we have all these ingredients.
Moderator: A lot has been written about the two drivers, particularly this last week about Alonso allegedly saying one thing, et cetera, et cetera. Can you just clarify the situation between the two of them?
Norbert Haug: Well, you know, we in the past probably we very often work with these guys, steer the drivers, tell them what to tell the outside world. I think we have a situation right now where they speak out their mind, but I have to really tell you it is not a problem at all inside the team. I think it is very, very balanced, and I cannot see any of these frictions. Of course, you have a positive competition between the drivers and between the teams, the left-hand and right-hand side of the garage.
Having said that, you share the data after the practice is over, obviously, and I think that is a good approach and it is, in a way it is like climbing a ladder. You go step by step. I feel that the atmosphere is good. Of course, there is sometimes the feeling that, you know, you need to improve and you need to push, but this brings you forward at the end of the day. I think it is a positive surrounding, and I think Ron, the team principal, is strong enough to influence the whole situation. And, of course, Martin and I, we help where we can, and we, I think, have a positive influence on the guys. But it is not that subject like it is described in the outside. I understand that, you know, people are looking for controversial stories; that is what it is about. But inside the team, it's different. If you look after our -- if you look at our track records in the last couple of races, I honestly do not think that we have the bad feelings inside the team you can achieve that. We must have positive and good feelings, and I think that's what we achieved.
Moderator: Thank you. Some questions from the floor, please. If you'll raise a hand, we'll get a microphone to you.
Q: Stefano, can you tell us a little bit of what Michael Schumacher is contributing and doing within the team now?
Stefano Domenicali: As you know, Michael is part of our team, and you have seen him sometimes attending the races, but that's not the real, the main role and the main activity that he has. He's working with us and mainly with us and with our engineer in order to give his advice, is always his contribution to the way that he knows how to work around the car. This is something connected to the F1 but he has also an important role on the other side of the factory, and that is the work on the road cars. His experience is very important in tuning up the cars for our customers.
Moderator: Some more questions, please?
Q: Aguri, one reason you did well this year is that you have a car based on a race-winning car from last year. Are you worried in 2008 that you might have to run a 2007 Honda that's uncompetitive?
Aguri Suzuki: Sorry?
Q: You are doing well this year because you have a car that won races last year, a chassis. Next year are you worried that you will have to run a car that hasn't even scored points yet?
Aguri Suzuki: It's very -- you know, I don't think so. This car is our car, is no problem. It is not decided next year brand because it is not decided regulations. So anyway, we try to make next year also our car. OK? (Laughter)
Moderator: This gentleman here. Just wait for the microphone.
Q: Simon Lewis, Press Association. For Sir Frank, in the way you described Lewis Hamilton as a phenomenon and unlike any driver you had seen before. Could you elaborate on that and put that in the context of other newcomers to the sport that you've seen throughout your career?
Frank Williams: I'm happy to repeat what I said in my private opinion. I've never seen anyone arrive and be so successful so quickly. That is to say at least his first race, it is quite remarkable. Looking hard to find fault with him, and he is very nice, which is quite unusual, too.
Q: In terms of other drivers that you've seen?
Frank Williams: Totally.
Q: Who does he remind you of?
Frank Williams: Nobody.
Moderator: Some more questions, please?
Q: Frank, you made quite a few personnel changes at the senior staff engineering level and within the department in bringing in new people. Do you think now that that is pretty much all set how you want it?
Frank Williams: Do you mean should I offer you a job as well?
Q: No, I'm worthless at that stuff.
Frank Williams: All right. I wouldn't tell you what we're going to do or not going to do, but we have a very good lineup right now. Thank you.
Q: A second question, are you worried in post-2008 that you might have factory teams with a B team and that might not fit into your sort of business plan?
Frank Williams: Well, I've clearly been uncomfortable about customer teams but essentially if money isn't affected, we'll mind our own business and everybody will mind their own business, so life will go on quite sensibly.
Moderator: Any more questions? No? Thank you very much, gentlemen.