Transcript of a telephone hook-up with Australia's Formula One driver Mark Webber by Australian media on February 4, 2004, organised by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation. Q: Mark, what should they do to put more back on the driver ...
Transcript of a telephone hook-up with Australia's Formula One driver Mark Webber by Australian media on February 4, 2004, organised by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation.
Q: Mark, what should they do to put more back on the driver in Formula One, to get more passing rather than for you to be under the control of electronics and smart boffins back in the pits with laptops?
MW: Well, electronics is not the issue, the issue is the downforce. That's the big problem. The braking areas are so late and so short that it's very hard to get into the inside of other cars. I think on the control side that is something which in the electronics side is a relatively healthy thing for Formula One, because that will filter into the mass market. I'm a big fan of getting as much as they can back to the driver. We still have a huge amount on our plate to do the Grand Prix as quick as possible and try to pass, and passing is the frustrating thing, no question about it. All the drivers talk about it, but we all know it's very, very fast corners, it's very, very hard to follow. If they were to look at things, the aerodynamics would be the area if they were to chip away on, but it's very, very difficult to slash the aerodynamics because if you slash the aerodynamics then you have cars that are a lot more unstable - and potentially more unsafe. With the tyre war last year, we saw some pretty good racing and different people over different phases with their tyres. We will see. I hope this year can provide some more racing.
Q: Mark, isn't passing, or potential passing, diminished a little bit by the fact that often times people, when they've caught somebody and might in past times have tried to get past, these days it seems to be smarter to go in and do a pit stop? MW: Yeah, your strategy these days is you have your windows to do your stops and not only to be able to be moved around within two laps really so, yeah, you can look at the stop to be a very powerful tool to pass somebody. But we did have races, as you well know, we had races where they start with 220 litres (of fuel) and do the whole race and not see the pits at all, so I thought when we did the pitstops and more activity and different fuel loads that it actually is more entertaining and more interesting to know what is actually happening in terms of strategy and fuel loads. And the pitstops, again, are very, very important and it would be interesting to see what is going to happen to the outcome of the race. There always will be issues in terms of how we best make the championship better or more exciting, but I think, as it is at the moment, we've still got the qualifying, you have a few people out of position, the different fuel loads, it's pretty good.
Q: The new engine regulation (only one for each driver for the whole GP weekend)? Has that made the engines any different to drive? And has it changed, for instance, the number of gears you need? Are they any least "peaky" powered than they were?
MW: Good question. We've looked at that. Your torque curve might change a sniff. Our power for Melbourne will be very similar to what we had there last year, which is a good thing. I think a lot of teams will be on the same sort of level, if not a little bit more. The engine will have a lot more different modes in terms of safety and security modes on the engine to look after the engine, certain running of certain parts of the Grand Prix, so from the driver's side we don't feel a huge difference, to be honest, but we will have more demand put on us, I suspect, in terms of us having to nurse the engine.
Q: When you talked about fuel stops and pitstops and whatnot, are you counting on an extra pitstop, a third stop in Melbourne this year because of the straightening of the pit lane entry?
MW: I'm sure the boys have looked at it. I don't know yet. Until we do some running down there, see what the track is up to. I wouldn't be surprised if we had three stops there for the first time. And it's great that it has been straightened to potentially make a three-stopper happen. We will see.
Q: From a local angle, you're really driving with the hopes of people from Canberra and Australia. How conscious are you of the support you have in Canberra and around Australia when you are driving? Is that a pressure on you?
MW: Well, I'm very proud to fly the flag for Australia, especially for everyone there in Queanbeyan. And Canberra is very, very close to my home there. Like I touched on before, I think the Australian fans are extremely knowledgeable, they do understand how my career is trying to progress, and I hope that in the future I can give them even more to cheer about and stay up late nights and really give them something to look at on TV and hope we can do that this year and in the future. I'm very proud to fly the flag and try to do my best and I'm still true blue, even though I don't get home much, and I still love performing for my country.
Q: Just a follow-up on the questions about engines. Last year Cosworth (Ford and Jaguar's engine company) had more failures than most and you've just told us this year there will be more modes on the engine, more things perhaps to worry about. Is it the mechanical side that's a worry to you, or will it be electronics that you're looking at and things that you can still work on despite the one engine rule? Or is the engine the major concern to you?
MW: No, I think the engine should be quite reliable, I hope. The dyno work has been quite encouraging, also our circuit work has been backing that up quite well. It is the major components that will probably let you down, if they are going to. We've seen a few crashes in testing with teams obviously getting to the last part of the mileage of their engine and whether you have got a hole in your floor where the rod has gone through the bottom of the floor, or you've got some serious amount of smoke flying out your exhaust, which is a top-end failure. Cosworth. what's important is that Jordan (team) have the same engine as us, which is very important in terms of mileage, and in the integration of what Jordan and Jaguar are doing it's easier for Cosworth logistically to have those two teams: one program going out the door for them, so that's good because last year they had three different types of engine which was a bit strange and obviously Paul (Stoddart, the Australian who owns the Minardi team) was the only one with the older Cosworth engine, so it should be better for Northhampton (Cosworth's base).
Q: Just to follow-up on the situation with your future. You mentioned performance clauses in your contract, and obviously if you didn't perform no one would want you. What is your feeling looking at the reverse direction in terms of your view of the performance of the car and the team? Do you have a performance standard you expect from the car and team, or in fact do you have clauses where you have a way out if the Jaguar is not performing in the opposite direction?
MW: Clauses both ways, always has to be. That's what a contract is all about. Both of us have to perform, and you always want more. I went into the Jaguar agreement a very, very happy man and I still am a very, very happy man, so we have to make it work and do the best we can. The opposition is something that we can't control, and I want to be able to control the situation I'm in at Jaguar. That's all I can do. We will do our absolute utmost to make sure that we keep as many smiles on our faces as possible and not have a season that we don't enjoy.
Q: Just also looking back a little bit earlier in the year, Tony Purnell, the boss of your operation, was reported as saying there were some fundamental issues with the car. They were later denied by another team spokesman. Those things seem to be at odds with each other, the explanations. Is there a fundamental problem and is there some instability in the team from that point of view in having a common view of what is really going on?
MW: What was amazing with that is that I read that the same time you guys did. (I thought) That's interesting that we've got major problems, I actually don't know about these things, and Tony was massively misquoted. I think he did he send an e-mail out to every single person in the factory to apologise for that, and he was very disappointed that his quote was not handled as he would like it to have been. I think in Australia, also, that it got some reasonable mileage, from what I've heard. The car hadn't even run properly. It was a strange one. Our superb PR man covered the situations superbly.
Q: You said earlier it's a bit hard to tell what is going on with other teams testing and you sounded almost sceptical. Where do you think BAR is at the moment? If you were to guess, if you will, and just overall, where do you think Jaguar needs to improve to get a bit closer to those teams in your area, and perhaps even the next-level teams like Renault?
MW: BAR aren't where they are (in) testing now, that's for sure. They're going to be strong, they'll have a good year. I will be very surprised if they're on pole and drive to victory in Melbourne, and it would be good for Formula One if they do, but I will be surprised if that happens. The thing in testing, there is a whole raft of different tyres floating around, there's different weights in the car. Mrs De La Rosa puts the washing up on the line out at turn three at Barcelona and the whole track changes, so when you're out on the track you're there for eight hours, when you want to do your run there is so many different windows. [Pedro De La Rosa is a Spanish driver whose home track is Barcelona; he has raced for the Arrows and Jaguar teams and is now a test driver for McLaren].
So with testing you get a rough idea, but until we get to Melbourne, that's what really counts. What Jaguar needs to do, we need to improve on our racing performances. Clearly qualifying was strong for us last year, that was something which I was actually over to be honest, I was over doing well in qualifying and was a bit disappointed that we couldn't convert that into races, and it didn't reflect well on myself or the team - and it's something where we could be a lot stronger team with stronger race performances. And that's where the experience and the resources come into play. You look at Williams in 2001 and Juan in 2002 had seven pole positions and only one win, so they've clearly switched that around, so it's the whole package. Experience is what we need. This is the first time Jaguar has had some good stability, so we are going to learn a lot from this and there is some bloody good blokes there and we just need more time, more experience. That's what we need.
Q: Ryan Briscoe seems to be in line to be the next Aussie in Formula One at the moment and he is going down the test driver route. Do you think that's now the way to go, or do you think a Minardi drive, much like you took, is probably still the better option of getting a foot in the door?
MW: I think clearly if the Minardi thing could work for him Paul (Stoddart) would do a great job for him. And, also, as long as he doesn't have to cut his ties with Toyota to achieve that then I'm sure that would be the good thing for him to do. The most important thing for Ryan is obviously his association with Toyota, which is clearly going to be a force in the future. They are going to win Grands Prix, it's just a question of when, not if. And they've looked after him well and been very patient with him some through some of the championships that he's done, so what's the right thing to do? It would be great, it would be good to see him in a Minardi. Paul would be very happy to have that, I'm sure, if Toyota are happy to help him out to get in there and keep that link up, then that's great.
Q: You said before that you thought a podium finish was probably out of the question this year. What would you see as good result in Melbourne?
MW: A good result in Melbourne depends how the race goes. If we finish eighth we might not be that happy with it, but if we finish eighth and all the big guns have finished that's a decent afternoon for us. Whoever finishes in front of you, the overall pace of the car, might finish fourth, or finish fifth like I did in the Minardi (on debut in 2002), but clearly that's probably going to be your last chance and you won't be happy. So I will be taking two things on board that weekend: one, obviously, it's a great weekend for me and I enjoy driving there, but it's the trend for the next four or five months for my life basically. The performance of the car in Melbourne is a big reflection on what I'm in for IW i145234 (Modified) Row 600 Col 20 8:30 Ctrl-G for help the future, in the short-term, so that is something that shall be more on my mind than probably the short-term result in Melbourne.
Q: You talk of finishing eighth in Melbourne and we know that Ford isn't putting in anything like the commitment and the money that some of the other manufacturers are. This is the problem, isn't it, that in a sense eighth isn't going to please Ford and isn't going to encourage them to put in more money. How do you do that? How do you wind up their need for value, in a sense, in terms of results. And the public sees value as being, perhaps, on the podium? How do you reverse that trend?
MW: It is pretty tough, to be honest. All I could do is absolutely do my job, have absolutely no regrets, do as professional a job as I possibly can, and it's up to my bosses to make sure that they sort their bosses out, that the team has a healthy future. The control I have over that is obviously what I do with my feet and hands in the car. And I felt we had a strong year last year and if we can do something like that again then maybe the guys above me can do something.
Q: A few teams, and Jaguar was one, were flattered by the point- scoring system last year with first getting less of a margin over the rest of the field than they had in previous years (and points being awarded down to eighth place instead of the traditional sixth)?
MW: Yes, they were. But what was absolutely clear was the point system was the same for everyone last year. The old point system I liked a lot more - top six was a good result, top eight a lot of people can get points now. But that's how it is now. Everyone had a good chance to get points at race weekends. We clearly had a massively strong part in the middle season where we got points, where a lot of teams were reliable and weren't fast and we were there to get some points. So we did chip away quite well in the middle part of the year. I think the gap from first to second is quite harsh in terms of Michael (Schumacher) and Kimi (Raikkonen). Kimi won one race and was still in with a chance at the last race, which is a bit strange - but that's how it is.
Q: Can you crystal ball who will be the regular podium people this year?
MW: McLaren and Williams are very strong. I think Renault will be there. Ferrari will be there. They're your four. Renault will be a lot closer than people think. I think they will have a strong year. Toyota and BAR. Probably BAR more than Toyota will be there grabbing the odd one, but I really doubt we (Jaguar) are going to see consistent podiums. I think we (the sport) are going to have a good mix of people on those steps and it's going to be good. It's absolutely guaranteed we are going to have fireworks at the front - it's going to be very, very close and very, very competitive. And it will be great to see Michael try to defend it. It will be good.
Q: It is interesting that you are tipping or would like to see Schumacher win again when there is a sense that the pendulum is swinging towards Williams and McLaren and that the tyres could be decisive. You are going to be on Michelin tyres, as are McLaren and Williams, and yet you are still basically favouring a Bridgestone driver (Michael Schumacher) to win the championship.
MW: No, I'm not favouring him to win it. I want him to win it, but I don't think he will win it. I think a Michelin driver will win the championship. I think Kimi or a Williams driver (Montoya or Ralf Schumacher) could give it a good run, (with) Fernando (Alonso, the young Spaniard with Renault who won last year's Hungarian GP) on the outside. Michael (Schumacher), you can't underestimate the guy, he's just unbelievably consistent, unbelievably cool, every session, every race weekend. He's just got the whole thing under control. So Ferrari and the whole package will need Michael to win the championship, as they did last year. It was Michael who won the championship last year.
Q: Of the drivers most likely to beat Michael, how do you rate Kimi against Montoya in terms of speed, consistency - consistency not only through the race but over a race weekend?
MW: I think Kimi is slightly stronger just as an overall. If I was a team boss I would probably say Kimi. There is not much in it; both very different characters in terms of how they go about it. They're very, very quick and very, very fast, but they've got a long way to go before they get to Michael's level.
Q: In absolute flat out speed, just on a lap, how do you rate those two?
MW: Consistently, I would say Kimi is quicker.
Host: Obviously you hold Michael Schumacher in the absolute highest regard, so it was interesting some weeks ago to note that your new teammate, perhaps while he might have regard for Michael as a racing driver, cheekily suggested that he was perhaps too arrogant and too serious. Do you think that was a wise thing for a 20-year-old fellow to be doing?
MW: I don't know. There's lot of history over there, as you well know, what happened through the '50s and '60s. So I don't know what they're playing at. I will leave it at that.
Host: Let's wrap it up there. Thanks very much to everyone for participating, particularly Mark Webber. Thanks for your time again, Mark, and all the best with the testing and we look forward to seeing you in Melbourne soon.