Drivers: Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan) Eddie Irvine (Jaguar) Pedro de la Rosa (Arrows) Team members: Ron Dennis (McLaren) Jean Todt (Ferrari) Frank Williams (Williams-BMW) Q: First of all, I'd like to ask the drivers, just your general ...
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan)
Eddie Irvine (Jaguar)
Pedro de la Rosa (Arrows)
Q: First of all, I'd like to ask the drivers, just your general comments on the circuit please, guys. Eddie, would you like to start?
Eddie Irvine: It's like a mix between sort of Monza and Budapest. The infield is very slow. In fact, it's a bit slower than Budapest in many areas. Then you've also got this very fast section, which is quite easily flat at the minute. I think in the rain it would be a bit spectacular, but in the dry it's not much of an issue, to be honest. But it's definitely a good venue. There's probably a little work to be done on the circuit to maximize it, but it's not a bad start.
Q: We saw you go straight on at the first corner. Is it quite difficult to work out the braking distances there?
EI: It was a bit weird because the track is so wide. You have a lot of white lines as well and you've also got a little curb to sort of show you where the apex is. From the distance you're coming down at into that and the speed, it's quite an insignificant thing to see. Because maybe when you walk it, it looks a lot wider than it seems when you're driving the Formula One car because it seems like a little white line. So it is a bit weird, but, you know, same for everyone. So it's not such an issue.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen: Yeah. Certainly I found the track, as Eddie said, quite similar in the long straight and the twisty infield, very slippery generally. Surface is a bit more slippery than usual. But I found the pit entry the most challenging corner just doing flat. It's a bit bumpy there and I think it's a lot harder to make it than turn or last turn or turn one here on this banked corner.
Q: The banked corner, is it absolutely flat?
HHF: Well, yeah, sure. It's easy. One hand. But it's because we're running quite some downforce for this track here. I mean generally what I've seen, most of the people are running like Spa downforce. Some people went out with lower downforce level than what I've seen. But it looks like that's going to be the way to go. We approach a little bit too slow for this bent, just to be on the limit.
Q: So is it pretty much the way you thought it was going to be? Because you're the only driver who came earlier on to see it.
HHF: Sure, yeah. I was here with a road car even flat on this bend, I didn't sort them out.
Pedro de la Rosa: I think the track is quite good. A little bit, there's two corners too slow, first gear. But for me the track is quite interesting because of the long straight and the banking and then the very slow infield. So I think for the race it will be interesting. I'm pretty sure we'll end up with very low downforce set-ups just to overtake. So it will be very interesting. For me the only thing I didn't really like is the surface, is too slippery. There's a lot of sliding and skating and there's not -- the tires don't seem to be working very well. We cannot generate enough grip out of them. So -- but apart from that it's okay. Just hope it does not rain really for the banking corners.
Q: When you talk about slippery surface, is that just the new part of the infield as it were?
PD: Yes, the infield, there's no grip really. Just different tarmac. The banking is no problem.
Q: Do you think that will improve, the grip will improve with rubber going down and also the fact that you're on hard tires, relatively hard Bridgestones?
PD: Yeah, should improve. I mean the more rubber there is, the faster we will go. But from the first to the second session, there was not a big improvement in grip level. So we'll see. We'll see tomorrow and depends if it rains. If it rains, then we'll start again from zero.
Q: Okay. Can I now ask all the team principals for their first impressions and also relative to the importance of this race as well in terms of Grand Prix racing? Perhaps Frank, perhaps I can start with you.
Frank Williams: I needn't add to what the drivers have said about the circuit. All I care about racing circuits is, A, it allows sensible overtaking or easy overtaking and the event is run the same for everybody. Whether it's a good track or difficult track, I've always felt the team with the best mental and technical approach will do most of the winning. I'm more interested in what the people are going to write on Monday morning. I say that because this is a big opportunity for -- Bernie, in particular, has worked very hard to bring Formula One back to the United States. We couldn't wish for a better start and Monday matters very much to me. That's my answer to you.
Q: Thank you, Frank. Ron?
Ron Dennis: I was pleasantly surprised at the very positive comments our drivers made about the circuit. They both enjoyed the practice sessions, even though a little shorter than we would have liked. From my own perspective, I think obviously the facilities are very good, there's plenty of space, which makes life just that much easier from a logistical point of view. Of course, you can always improve, but I think it's clear the effort that's gone into making it a successful Grand Prix. And, of course, as Frank has pointed out, it's important to all of us that it's a success and that a positive, you know, positive response for Formula One is achieved. I think irrespective of the weather, that will be the case. I think the big difference between us running here and the other categories of cars is really the engine note. I think that's the bit that still gives me a tingle when you hear a sort of engine 17,000-odd revs down a relatively confined space such as we have here. That's what it's all about. I think the audience, the spectators will be enthusiastic about the dynamics of the racing. I know it will be a little more processional than they would normally experience, but I don't think that will be an issue at the end of the day. I think it's going to be a good race.
Q: Thank you, Ron. Jean?
Jean Todt: It's great to be back in the States for Formula One Grand Prix. The organizers did a great job. I mean, everybody I think was surprised to see the facilities, to see the space available to the team. I mean people around are very, very friendly and I mean very enthusiastic to see Formula One. So I mean it's very encouraging.
Q: If I can come on to other matters now. Prost, it was announced today Prost will be using Ferrari engines next year. Can you tell us a little bit more about that sort of deal? It must be quite a big department doing those customer engines now.
JT: Next year we will supply two teams with our engine, Prost and Sauber. It is an important decision but we are opening a completely new shop, completely independent from Scuderia Ferrari which will be only in charge of supplying engines for our two clients. I mean it's one important step in our organization is that we will get the same engine we have this year for next year. So it will, in terms of supply, it will be one year from the one we are using during the race -- or during the season and I mean it's important as a, I would say, as an income for Ferrari, for the team. So it's a very interesting approach which we decided.
Q: Is that department still in Maranello and does development continue on the engine?
JT: It will be based in Maranello outside from the factory and from the Formula One facilities.
Q: Does development still continue or is it sort of pretty much fixed?
JT: Development, as I said, it will be one engine which will be one year back from the one we use during the season.
Q: If I can come to Eddie. A new chief executive officer appointed for Jaguar team. What do you expect from him? What are you going to be asking of Bobby Rahal?
EI: I think his job is the same as it is in any other of the teams, to get the right people doing the right job and get the whole thing brought together. You know, we've had a tough year and there's, you know, in some cases very obvious reasons; in other cases maybe not so obvious. But it's his job to get the right people and put them in the right place doing the right job; and that's it.
Q: Are you pleased to have a former racing driver at the head of the team?
EI: I don't know whether that makes any difference or not, to be honest. Obviously, he understands my problems a little bit better. But, you know, really, it's not so much his job, you know, to understand turn -- you know, understeer and oversteer. It's his job to get the right people to understand that.
Q: Ron, to what extent is David Coulthard going to be helping Mika Hakkinen from now on for these races?
RD: I think nothing has changed from the previous races. The objective that David should have and does have is to qualify on pole and try and win the race. Of course, that's the same objective for Mika. It's easier said than done. If a situation develops where it's in the interest of the team for the team to intercede in the outcome of the race to optimize the World Championship, we'll do it. That's something that we have the contractual right to do at the first Grand Prix and any Grand Prix. Simple fact is that we've done it about three times, I think, in the last ten years, to my knowledge. Possibly will not occur here. The most important thing to always remember is that an incident between Michael and Mika could see David win the race and he’d be back in championship contention. So it's absolutely illogical to come here and say, you know, you will need to do everything we tell you to do and it's ridiculous. The most important thing is for him to the start the best possible and if he can contribute following the outcome of the race, then we will step in; and if we step in, then we will make that known to all the media. But so far this year we haven't had to do it.
Q: Are we expecting any, can we expect any announcement about test drivers this weekend?
Q: Thank you. Frank, if I can get to you. Expectations from Juan Pablo Montoya. What do you expect from him for next year?
FW: Clearly, we think that he is a very talented driver and I don't think he's done anything but learn and improve by racing over here for two seasons. These cars, after all, have 900 horsepower which is embarrassingly more than we have. Beyond saying those words, no one can be sure exactly what his achievements may or may not be. And whether we all like it or not, all drivers' achievements are covered by the team and its equipment; and his success will be very much a measure of our possible success. I think it will be exciting to watch that.
Q: Obviously, you would like to get on terms with the top two teams, beat them preferably. What chance is that for next year? Is it a realistic aim?
FW: Very modest going down to slim.
Q: Heinz-Harald, if I can move on to you. Just looking here, having now raced at Indy, a couple of years ago you actually almost came here to race in the States. What are your feelings now having actually raced here?
HHF: Well, I didn't do in the end any racing in America. This is my first racing in America. But certainly I have to say it is very impressive moment here, the racetrack. It is entirely fun to drive here in America, which is different kind of racing. Well, I'm -- I feel happy in Formula One, but I'm also a racer and my natural human system -- I would have raced anything if I had a chance.
Q: Still the possibility you might like to come back another time?
HHF: Well, I don't know. We'll see. Looking forward for this race here and looking forward for racing in the States generally, yeah.
Q: You've had a tough time since Monza. What are your feelings about the Monza accusations?
HHF: Excuse me, accusation, what do you mean accusations?
Q: The things that Rubens [Barrichello] has said.
HHF: Well, generally I understand what Rubens said right after the race. I mean, he was basically very upset with the situation that he has been kicked off the road in the end by me; and he was racing in Monza, in Italy, and he had great expectation for the race. But what he said after the race probably was overheated. I mean, it's now hard really to say whose fault was the accident but it was a race incident. I'm not upset about what he said. I mean it made life for me a bit difficult afterwards. But I never went to the press, I never went too detailed what's happened afterwards. But I think the press afterwards explained the situation what happened and I think it is all cleared out now.
Q: Pedro, we keep hearing about the future, perhaps you're going to be confirmed for Arrows for next year. Is there anything definite?
PD: No -- well, I think you should ask Tom about this. But my opinion is there's no reason why I shouldn't continue with the team. But we'll have to wait a little more until we make it official basically.
Q: Here you were talking about low downforce earlier on. The car generally seems to be a fairly low down force car, would that be true?
PD: Our car you mean? Our car is very good on low-downforce circuits. We were hoping to come here and make the car work with low downforce set-ups. But I think everyone started with low downforce and they gradually went more and more, putting more downforce because it was faster. But in the race it will be a completely different story. One thing is qualifying where you just need one fast lap and probably higher downforce set-up is quicker. But in the race distance, you need to be able to race and overtake or not be overtaken. So I think lots of people will have two set-ups, one for qualifying and one for the race; and the race setup will be very low downforce. I think we will be much stronger then.
Q: The next couple of races?
PD: Well, Suzuka, I know Suzuka well, obviously, because I have been racing in Japan for three years. I like the circuit, I think it will suit quite well our car because it's not -- there are not many slow corners where we seem to struggle. Malaysia will be a little bit difficult for us, I think. But, anyway, we'll see. I mean, it's very difficult to say how good we will be in any circuit because sometimes we were expecting to go very fast and we were not quick enough. And other circuits we were expecting to be slower and we've been up in the top ten. So we'll see.
Q: Frank, could I just ask you, you rated your chances there as modest to slim. You paid to have the engine package and the designers and the drivers certainly. Why do you rate your chance slim?
FW: I would rather be not pessimistic but take a very simple view of how difficult Formula One is and remembering how good these guys are. They're a second a lap quicker than everybody else. They don't have any miraculous powers, they're just very, very good at what they're doing. We have a reasonable idea of their assets, the people, the strength and depth of both of those teams behind me have. It's just not an easy achievement to overtake or even run with them. So I would rather talk small and maybe deliver big than talk big and deliver not.
Q: Could I also ask you about Montoya? Would you be expecting him in his first year to be matching Ralf or beating him?
FW: We hope so but every team principal who signs up a driver hopes he's acquiring somebody who's better than his present incumbents. But there's no telling. It's not really on my mind right now.
Q: Ron and Frank, why did you try and overthrow Max Mosley?
RD: Well, first of all, we didn't -- we didn't try. It's not the right forum to discuss it in depth. But it's understandable that there's lots of things said that come out of a meeting with such a large number of people present. We share many views, Frank and I, and those views are often comparable and similar to other Grand Prix teams who perhaps lack the ability to be as open and direct about addressing some of those problems. And most of the dialogue that's taken place in the last few weeks has been constructive dialogue, seeing either changes made or changes that will possibly be made in the future, which will be to the benefit of Formula One. Inevitably, whoever sits in the position of president of the FIA ultimately has to support or not the position of the teams; and if he's not supporting it -- and that is often the case because you can't expect the teams to get everything that they want -- but if he's not supporting it, then you obviously have a disagreement. Out of disagreements come the sorts of comments supplemented by huge helpings of rumors and Chinese whispers and the whole thing gets taken well out of proportion. So, you know, it is completely wrong to identify two, perhaps even three or four teams as having a specific opinion. This was, you know, it was an open forum in which everybody was encouraged to speak their mind; and yet, you know, I for one was somewhat disappointed that so much of what was discussed was shared with the rest of the world. But that is, you know, almost inevitable in motor racing. It's the way it's been for years. It's unlikely to change, but it most certainly was not some sort of revolution. It was voicing of discontent perhaps.
Q: Have you heard Max's version? Because it's a lot racier.
RD: Well, if I was in the position that Max is in, I think I could afford to be a lot racier. The fact is that we're here primarily to focus each and every race on winning the race. It's always been a very political sport. It's not going to change. It's going to, you know, it's going to be that way. And it's not productive to get into some verbal game of tennis. You know, I think that the people whose opinions that I, for one, value have consistent opinions; and it's inevitable that if you are fortunate to be in a position of succeeding in this formula, whatever position you hold, you're inevitably going to get the knocks and criticisms that have come out of it. But I sleep comfortable at night. I believe we run the company with a lot of integrity; and that's the beginning and the end of it. I'll always be judged on the standards of the team and nothing else.
Q: And, Frank, your comments, please?
FW: I have two comments. The first is that after 29 years of attending Formula One constructors’ meetings, I have ingrained in me an original requirement from Bernie in the first meetings, which was say nothing to anybody. I try, sometimes I fail to keep to that. That's just inside me like that. Number two, Max did write a letter, which I guess has propelled your question. He chose to circulate it to the other teams. It was leaked, that's how these things happen, I guess. In the mentime I've replied to him and I have chosen to not circulate my reply. Or to put it another way, I have always felt the best business is done in private.
Q: This is not the time to change that view?
FW: I have no intention of changing that view. I'm sorry I can't say more. I'm such a disappointment to many people, including Max.
Q: For Frank on a little bit different subject. Jacques Villeneuve said the other day that he would probably not be in Formula One today had he not won the '95 Indy 500. He felt he caught your eye at that time and kept your attention through that season; he won the CART championship. Then there was a lot of word over here that you were quite impressed with Montoya's drive in this year's Indy 500 and that was the beginning of your decision to bring him back. Could you tell us, A, whether that was so for that oval race; and if it is so, what characteristics you see in an oval race drive that would translate to Formula One?
FW: I could say that again this is private business. But regarding Jacques, I was very impressed by the wheel-to-wheel stuff around this fantastic oval circuit. But we did test Jacques and we were, Patrick and myself, were undecided. Bernie put a lot of pressure on. So maybe Jacques could thank Bernie rather than thank myself and Patrick is the truth. Regarding Juan, it was obvious to many people, including myself and Patrick -- Patrick Head, my partner -- that in Formula 3000 he was very gifted. We just felt we would continue to make every effort to secure him; and that has happened. Regrettably, I want to state, at Jenson Button's expense. And Jenson is going to be another great driver. We're very sad he's had to go elsewhere for a period of time. But we had already made an unspoken commitment to Juan and we didn't intend to back out of it because suddenly it was inconvenient.
JT: I mean he has to get the agreement before the final name is chosen.
Q: Could I ask a question and put it the other way around to Ron and Frank. Max says he's now standing for another four-year term. Are you happy with that?
RD: Do you want to go, Frank?
FW: Private business.
RD: It's an understandable question to receive, but it's certainly not going to get a response from me either. That doesn't mean yes or no. It's not constructive to debate these issues in public, as Frank has already said. There is nothing that we wish to do other than ensure a stable future for Formula One and that's the beginning and the end of it.
Q: For Frank Williams. Going back to Montoya, he was your test driver in '98. Could you just explain why you didn't keep him in your race team at that time?
FW: That's very simple. Because we were also talking to Ralf. We had begun to talk to Ralf Schumacher and Ralf had spent the first 18 months driving for Eddie, flying off the road. There were two theories, either he didn't know what he was doing or he was just exploring the limits. And the last half of the year, about the time we became interested in '98, he was putting in some steady, sensible and fast drives. We didn't go for Juan only because Ralf had two years of critical experience. It was such a close decision, that fixed it.
Q: Question for the three team bosses. Bridgestone had been worried about safety this weekend. This is on a minimum tire pressure, at least one team has run below that pressure today. What are your views on this balance of safety over performance?
FW: I'm at the front, I'll answer first if you don't mind, chaps. Very sensible. If Bridgestone thinks a team is conducting its tire operation unsafely, it will be told by Bridgestone this afternoon. And I've got no idea what tire pressure we were running.
RD: I think it's an appropriate answer. Nothing to add really.
JT: I mean, we've been working together with Bridgestone and done what we were told to do.
Q: Eddie, at the last race they announced a new teammate for you. What do you think of Luciano and would you prefer to have a more experienced driver rather than a rookie next year as a teammate?
EI: Obviously, there's an advantage of having someone that's got experience. If I have a feeling about something and a more experienced guy backs it up, obviously it carries a little bit more weight. But Luciano, I think, has done a very good job for us in testing. Okay, he doesn't know the circuits and he doesn't particularly know Formula One and, you know, you do learn a lot. I learned a lot at Ferrari my four years there. You know, I only realize now how much I learned really. He's got to go through that. But I think he's very capable. He's clever. There's no doubt about that. He definitely has a good head on his shoulders. On the speed and all that, I really don't know yet. But I think he has a good feel for the car and he is intelligent and they're two basic requirements.
Q: A question for Jean Todt. In your new facility, are you equipped to build some gear boxes as well, first of all? And second question is: Did Alain ask you to provide him with gear boxes?
JT: The new facilities will be exclusively for engine assembling with its own test bench. And concerning gearbox, of course, we have been talking about different matters, but no decision has been taken so far about other things else than engine.
Q: Is this to say that it is still a possibility? I mean gearbox providing.
JT: At the moment it's not part of the agreement.
Q: For the drivers, please. There's been some comparisons made between the chicane where the accident happened at Monza where you were slowing down from high speed to a tight chicane and the first corner here. Do you have safety concerns? Is that not a justifiable comparison?
HHF: Well, I think after the incident in Monza, I mean this is a very -- I would say I wouldn't put too much weight on the situation talking about first corner here. I mean, of course, this is a very quick corner with a very quick straight braking into the first corner. But you have to judge it differently. I mean, basically the start situation is always the most critical situation in the race. You see it in Spa, the first corner is much tighter. And statistically-wise, we have seen more accidents in Spa than everywhere else. But this is generally the way we have to live in Formula One. You can't guarantee maximum safety; and there's no -- it's generally safer the faster the corner, the first corner after the straight but it's unfortunately not in every circuit. The circuit is designed really in the safest way as possible.
Q: Pedro, any thoughts?
PD: I think every case is different, so it's not comparable. But in any case, this is a dangerous sport. So if we go from 340 with several cars wheel-to-wheel and you just have to brake for a tight chicane, you always -- there's a risk issue there, you know, and we all know and this is motor racing.
EI: I think there's a lot more space down at the first corner than there is say at Monza, first corner or second corner. There's a much more funnel effect at those ones than there is here. It's very wide down there. You know, if you want, if you brake a bit too late, there's a lot of room to run wide and come back a little bit in this first corner. So I really don't see it being such an issue. Also, there's a lot of space straight ahead. The only issue is this sort of fake curb that comes out a bit and that might become an issue at some stage, but I really think it's a lot safer, this first corner, than Monza for sure.
Q: I just want to ask -- I realize this has only been one day. I guess this is open to anybody who wants it. But with what's happened today and also with what's happened in the past few months, do you think Indianapolis holds the allure of making a lasting track and a lasting stop on the Formula One circuit, that it will gain some of the prestige that it has in CART racing and elsewhere in the racing world?
EI: I think this place can really be up there with Monaco in a way because it is a special place. The venue is spectacular. It is really second to none. Monaco is an odd ball but this as a road course, you know, our normal circuit, the potential is phenomenal. Okay, the basic circuit itself probably needs, you know, could be a bit better but the actual venue is second to none.
RD: I think inevitably you can compare both the drivers and the team as sort of actors on a stage; and there's no question that we like to perform to big audiences just like any actors. So I think we've still got the emotion to come of just having so many people in the stands, hopefully happy for us to be there, happy to see the drivers competing. I think the emotion that we -- I anticipate that we'll be sharing on Sunday is something that will be quite unique on the Grand Prix calendar. Therefore, I think it will be, just as Eddie said, I think it will have its own unique character. It will be a race we enjoy coming to just because of the enthusiasm of the spectators. So I think the best is yet to come.
Q: Jean Todt, by supplying engines to Prost, you've helped him out of a great difficulty. They probably wouldn't have an engine otherwise, it seems. Are you disappointed that Ferrari is in a position where it is supplying two other teams in addition to your own when some other major engine manufacturers are only supplying one team still?
JT: I mean, you know, I respect the decision of manufacturer and engine supplier. I mean, it's up to them to make their strategies, their own choice. And for us it was not easy decision. So we wanted to make sure that we were able to do -- would service to organize ourself in order to be able to supply two teams without disturbing the -- I mean, the service we have to do as a priority for our Formula One team. And after deep consideration and reorganization of this department, we decided that it's something which was worth to be done. That's why we did it. I mean what the others do is up to them.
Q: Was it a business decision or a sporting decision?
JT: I mean, I would say it's more a business decision. We are looking for -- I mean, improving our financial situation and definitely it's like trying to find more sponsors, better sponsors. I mean to supply two teams was interesting, of course. I mean, it was interesting synergy to have strong contact with other Formula One teams.
Q: Frank, you said that regrettably at Jenson's expense you had made a commitment. Does that mean that you had decided to hire Juan Pablo Montoya for the 2001 season before you hired Jenson for this season?
FW: Not as a firm decision. But I repeat, we had a verbal commitment. And Jenson and his management knew the way the contract was constructed. There was no sleight of hand.
Q: Regarding the sponsorship, we see here three different liveries of the cars. West is in the full West livery, Marlboro is hidden, not at all, and then Jordan was in Buzzin’ Hornets. Why is that so in this race?
JT: Our major sponsor, which is Philip Morris, as everybody knows, is already committed in racing in the States and they do not allow them to have more than one series where they're involved. So, I mean, being involved in Indy racing, they could not be in Formula One.
RD: It purely reflects the contractual decision with the government.
Q: Frank, I would like to have your thoughts on an earlier question. With Formula One coming to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, looking five, ten years down the road, does it appear to be a natural marriage? Just your reflections on what could evolve here.
FW: I can't be very helpful because I can't see that far into the future. Bernie is brilliant at looking into the future. He would have a better answer for you. But all of us here are very, very hopeful. As Eddie said, Indianapolis is up there with Monaco, has great sex appeal around the world for motor sport. If we can participate and justify our presence, it should have a very -- and we all want it to have a very, very long future. I should just add to when others were commenting about what they felt about the circuit. That it wasn't lost on me the cheer when the first car left the pit lane. Unfortunately, it wasn't a white and blue Williams BMW, it was somebody else's. But it raised a great cheer and I thought, jeepers, these people love racing. I'm pleased to be here.
Q: You spent, I think, some difficult days in the last two weeks after the Monza accident. Please, if you want, could you explain to us, what did you feel now and it could be nice also to explain why did you follow the funeral of the poor guy died in Monza, please.
HHF: Well, the incident in Monza, it was -- I can speak, first of all, generally for every driver. If there is an incident like that, first of all, and with a fatality of somebody who supports our sport as well as voluntary, they are there for us to help us in case something happens. And in this incident, I mean everybody has difficulties; and for me it was as well emotionally difficult to cope with the situation because certainly you go for racing and you try to do your best and you don't want to have accidents. In this case, there was an incident that might have been different, but you can't change it. The only way really to feel sorry about everything there, is to attend the funeral and be there, give the relatives the support and give them the support that these guys are really there for us. So I felt at least I should be there as well when there's an opposite need, yeah.
-Indianapolis Motor Speedway-