Sao Paolo, Brazil, March 29 The Brazilian Grand Prix
held the traditional Thursday press conference. Present were reigning World Champion Michael Schumacher of Ferrari; Jos Verstappen of Arrows; Jarno Trulli of Jordan; and Benetton technical director Mike Gascoyne.
Following is the official transcript:
Q: Mike, can I start with you first of all? So far, three finishes out of four, but not exactly sparkling performances. What has been going on?
Mike Gascoyne: I think, as we said before the start of the season, our expectations weren't too great at the start of the season. We've got a very new engine. It's very early in its development cycle. We're not going to be pushing very hard on the reliability of the engine. They [Renault] have had their problems, which everyone has seen. But they're working very hard. We've been aiming at reliability, to get the cars to the finish. We've managed to achieve that; not competitively, but perhaps that will come.
Q: How much is innovation involved at this stage of the year?
MG: Well, Renault have come back into Formula 1, the team is being renamed in a year's time and they are certainly aiming at that. If you look at Renault's history with the engines – the turbo, pneumatic valves – they've introduced a lot of innovation in their time, and they've done that with this new engine. Pioneers have arrows shot at them, and they are certainly going through that phase at the moment, but if you look at Renault's history, they get it right, and when they get it right they tend to dominate and do very well. We're certainly aiming at the future, when the team is renamed, and we're happy with the progress we're making.
Q: Would you say that, roughly speaking, you're doing your testing in public?
MG: There's an element of that. I think Renault would be quite happy to admit that they are behind on the program from where they want to be, but that's inevitable when you try to introduce new things; things do go wrong. But they're very happy with the direction that they are taking. We have to take the criticism when people say they are not doing the right thing, but that's happened in the past with Renault and they've always come through. I think if you're going to back anyone to get it right in modern engine development in Formula 1, then back Renault. We're certainly very happy with the way we're going.
Q: When would you expect to take a step up?
MG: I think it will be ongoing. Because of the reliability problems, they have not been able to do the development that they want to do, and that's now starting as we get the reliability right. They are starting on the development. I think it will be an ongoing process throughout this year, so I think you will see it happening at every race.
Q: Now with the expletives deleted, can you give us some idea of what the radio traffic was like as "Fisi" lined up for the Malaysian Grand Prix?
MG: We were as confused as probably he was with what was going on. He obviously made a mistake and got it wrong. He was the first one to hold his hand up and say that. He started from the back, made an excellent start – he was 13th after the first lap. So it was one of those things.
Q: How are the two of them shaping up, Fisichella against Button?
MG: I think it's a very intriguing challenge for them both. Giancarlo is at the stage in his career where he has to beat the young guy, and I think for Jenson it's a step up in competitiveness and he needs to push himself to push himself – to raise himself to Giancarlo's level. So they are pushing each other on, which is good for the team.
Q: But at the same time, you're probably reining them back because you want them to finish...
MG: Er... not really. We have concentrated on reliability, but we say to them at the start of a race that it's a motor race. When they drive down to the first corner, these guys can tell you that there's no reining back, they drive the cars as fast as they can.
Q: Jarno, is this the big year for you, the year when you really want to show what you're made of?
Jarno Trulli: Well, I've started with a good performance, but I couldn't yet get a good result for several reasons. I believe that Jordan has done a great job during the wintertime; they've got a very good car. It's good to see them back in good shape after 1999, so it's a very good opportunity for me. For sure, I have to get it right as soon as possible.
Q: Is the car good enough to demonstrate your abilities?
JT: Yes, I think so. I think we've got a pretty good car this year. Reliability seems okay. [In] Melbourne, unfortunately I had a failure so I had to retire when I was fourth, but basically it seems that the car has got good reliability. We still have lots of gearbox problems. They work really hard in the wind tunnel, so the aerodynamic package is really good. We've got a good base to start with and a good base to develop. So we are really looking forward to the new season because I think with the new engineer that we've got we will have a big boost through the season.
Q: There have been a lot of changes during the year, including the departure of Mike Gascoyne beside you; has the team settled down again?
JT: It takes time but I think they've managed to do a great job, the team now. It means that the organization is getting back to the right position, and everybody is doing a good job. Both drivers have a new engineer, and we are both getting on well with them. It seems that, at this stage of the season, the team is showing that they are really working hard and very well in the right direction.
Q: And still a certain amount of rivalry with Heinz-Harald?
JT: I think that in every team, between the two teammates, it's always just like a war. That's normal, but it is a very good rivalry because it helps the team, but it helps each other because we push each other very hard and try to develop ourselves, develop the car and go as quick as possible. The results are pretty good, and the relationship is pretty good because everything is clear. I really don't have any problems at the moment with Heinz.
Q: Michael. I think you've been here for a day or two, and doing a little training yesterday [playing in a charity soccer match].
Michael Schumacher: Yes. It was quite enjoyable. The stadium in particular, and the guys we played with. It was quite fun.
Q: Just tell us who you were playing with, how goals were scored, how many people were there?
MS: Eleven a side, and in particular there was Zico and Rinaldo and there were some other guys I didn't actually know. We finished 10 to 9 – thanks to Rinaldo, we won it. It was great fun, that was the main thing.
Q: And you scored a goal, I think; a penalty?
MS: Yeah, yeah; they allowed me to do the penalty, which is like a present, like a gift.
Q: They were a little bit better than the Swiss side you usually play with?
MS: Not quite, but... It's not difficult, obviously.
Q: A full match, an hour and a half?
MS: Yes, twice 45 minutes. I thought the second half was shorter.
Q: And a huge stadium?
MS: Yes, I don't know how many people can go in there. I heard it was the biggest one in the world. 100,000? I've been in Rome, and that is about 80,000, and this one is 100,000. It's quite impressive. But there were only about 20,000 people there. Maybe less. It's huge.
Q: There have been a number of stories which we would like to comment on. They're probably fiction. What about the Sauber story?
MS: I don't know. I don't know where it's coming from, but it's totally illogical. I've always said that I never really want to get involved in some kind of job like that, can't see myself as being a team owner. We joked. Jean (Todt), he came along and said, "Listen, before you buy Sauber, you should [buy] Ferrari." I said, "I would have to drive until I'm as old as you to have the money to afford it!" No, there is no truth in it.
Q: Then there was even a story about the possibility of you going to Toyota.
MS: You always have stories like this. You have a new team coming, and then automatically probably several drivers get mentioned which may be in contact with the new team. The fact is that I said I don't want to get into any discussion; [not] with Ferrari, neither with anyone else before the end of the season, because I really want to concentrate on the job I'm doing and that's it. It's possible that they may have approached Willi [Weber, his manager] for a meeting, but I'm not aware of this. I've told Willi purposely that I don't want to get involved in anything. Do what you have to do, but we don't negotiate until a certain point and don't approach me with any message you get.
Q: Obviously, here in Brazil, there's a lot of focus on your teammate, Rubens. Just tell us about Rubens, how he's changed in his year with Ferrari, what he's like as a teammate, how much of a challenge he is?
MS: If you see qualifying in Malaysia, you see how much of a challenge he is. He is very close, he's doing a very good job and he has improved his game to the beginning of last year, which I think is more than natural. I expected that, although at the end of the day, the situation is I'm lucky to still be on top. But it gets tighter, and I did expect that. But as a team, we work together. For sure, it's like in any relationship. We have difficult moments. We may disagree at certain moments; that has maybe been the fact in Malaysia. But I don't see that being a particularly bad situation; having a little disagreement, but we can sit together and talk and find a solution. I'm sure of that.
Q: Have you done that?
MS: No. We haven't had the time. I saw him for a photo before I came here, another press conference. That's it. Things like that you don't discuss on the phone. We will have our chat over the weekend. Even if we don't have it, I don't see that as being a drama. I don't see that the relationship and the professional working side will be influenced by that at all.
Q: You have a fantastic record here. You've finished every single race of nine here in the points, plus a win last year. Ferrari haven't necessarily got the same record. How do you feel coming to this race?
MS: I feel comfortable, because we know we have a very good car, and that's the main factor that can make you comfortable or not. Knowing that, all you have to do is finish, do as good as you can and you know you will most likely be on the podium. We have seen the weather circumstances can be very special here, so let's see what happens during the weekend. It's probably difficult to predict what's going to happen.
Q: Is that going to play a major part?
MS: If it's suddenly pouring down with rain, you have to consider it; you have to react. Depending what moment it happens, depending on which position you are on the circuit, it can decide the race.
Q: Mike, do you program that into your thoughts for the weekend?
MG: Every day it's raining, so it's something we have to think about. The more variability there is, the better it will be for us. But on the other hand, when it does rain that hard, it's going to be dangerous. It's not a straightforward thing. It's not something that [you] actually want to see. We've had races here in past where it's rained beforehand, and conditions have been terrible. You have to think about it, for sure.
Q. You were very quick in the opening stages in Malaysia. Is the car even better than last year? What's been making the difference?
Jos Verstappen: Our car is generally better in race set-up than in qualifying. As well, the rain helped us with that. As well as last year, our car seems to work well in the rain this year. It's not as good as it should be in the dry.
Q: So you would prefer another wet race?
JV: Maybe a dry start and it rains after.
Q: People were saying how you were pulling away from the McLarens...
JV: I think I chose the right tires for that moment. Not as good as he [Schumacher] did, but the car was really very good. As well as the balance, we had very good traction. We can do it.
Q: Do you have a policy during the opening laps to charge harder?
JV: I think you have to when you qualify in 18th position. You have to take your chance. Normally, our starts are very good. We gain some places there. The most chance to overtake is in the first two laps. If you want to overtake, that's the greatest chance that you have. Later on will be more difficult.
Q: At times it looks as though your finishing position should be higher. Is that not a frustration?
JV: Yes. We know why, but we're working on that. We had a very good test in Barcelona. We know what we have to work on. The engineers are concentrating on that, and hopefully we will soon have some development coming on that side. If that happens, I think we can make the car a lot better.
Q: Can you be more precise?
JV: It's mainly aerodynamics. We know where the problem is, and that's where we have to concentrate. If we can solve that, we will really gain a lot of time.
Q: Have the other three teams represented here had problems with their aerodynamics due to the changes in regulations?
JV: I think so. So far we haven't noticed but last week in Barcelona, we found out where it was. Now they're going to concentrate on that.
Q: Have the other three here had problems because of the loss of aerodynamics because of the regulations?
MS: Not too much, obviously.
JT: This new car was very good from the beginning. I think people did a very good job over the wintertime in the wind tunnel. Our car has got a good baseline, but for sure we can see some room to develop it on the aerodynamic side.
MG: The change of regulations – history shows that the engineers solve problems very, very rapidly, take a step back and then solve the problems. All the teams will have been working very hard to solve that. It's not particularly any problem, you've just got to improve the car aerodynamically. It's one of the most important areas on the car.
Q: Michael, a lot of people are saying that Ferrari is a big step ahead of everybody else in the field. Do you feel that?
MS: What does big mean? If you see the race in Australia, where Coulthard came from and where he finished, you can't say it's that big. If you take Malaysia, which I think is completely unrealistic because of the choice of tires that we had, then you may say it is big, but I don't think it's right. Let's wait and see what happens this weekend.
Questions From the Floor:
Q: To Mike Gascoyne: What sort of obstacles do Toyota face doing engine and chassis in-house? What lies ahead for them?
MG: Well, they have a huge job. All the teams that are in Formula 1 have a wealth of experience. To set up a new team, to set it up in Germany, to do what they are doing is a very, very big step. I think their expectations will be very high, but they have a huge task in front of them. It will be a long road for them. But as long as they have the commitment to do it, and the financial commitment, they will get it right.
Q: For all three of you, apart from Michael: You all invest a huge amount of money in testing. How is it possible that only Ferrari makes a different choice [in tires], which makes such a huge difference in Malaysia?
MG: It's easy for me to answer, because we don't have intermediates because we have a different tire supplier. I think, in the warm-up, Ferrari obviously tested the intermediate tire and found it very good and they made the right call. But that's got to be up to the driver and to the team to make the right call. It's very confusing in those moments when you come into those situations. The guy on the ground has to make the right call.
JT: Well, obviously when I came in to the pit, I thought I was going to put on intermediates, but unfortunately I didn't. On the other side, I didn't ask for them because it was a hot situation for me, because I was just coming back into the pits after I'd spun, so I didn't ask for the tires. But in the morning, I did test the tires and I realized that they were much quicker. So my first thoughts were intermediates; but I didn't ask for them, so the team put on normal wet tires and I had to race with them. But the point was that the car was badly balanced, so the race was over for me.
JV: When I came into the pits to change tires, I didn't know that the safety car was going out. I think the safest solution was to put wets on. But on certain parts, there was so much water that the intermediates, with so little groove in them, would still be dangerous.
MG: At the end of the day, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Everyone can judge it now on what actually happened: It stopped raining, the safety car went out. At the time that people were coming in and making the call, they didn't know any of that. Had it kept raining, had the whole circuit been really wet, it might have been a different story. At the time, it was pouring down with rain like that, it's not so clear-cut.
Q: Mike, two questions: Have Michelin got intermediates for you now?
MG: They do have intermediates. We've tested them. They are quite good in some circumstances but possibly not as durable as they should be, but that's something that they're working on.
Q: Secondly, is there a case for establishing with the race director at which point he is going to restart a race? We had the representatives of the tire companies up at a press conference in Malaysia, and they said there was no point in bringing monsoon tires because they wouldn't be racing in monsoon weather. Is it getting to the stage where there's no point in bringing full-wet tires because you won't be racing in wet weather, only intermediate conditions?
MG: Well, they obviously try to keep the race going, which is why the safety car is deployed, to ensure that it is safe, that cars are slowed down until it is safe to start racing again. It's a very difficult call. Again. you don't know what's going to happen in two minutes’ time, in five minutes’ time. You can argue that the race should have been stopped because everyone was going off, but then again, it was a good race in the end; people finished, Michael won the race. You can argue that it should keep going. It's very difficult to call in the end.
Q: How [have you] approached continuing a winning streak? Second, do you get upset when you read in a magazine that Ferrari is already using traction control?
MS: We work very hard in getting the car right, the set-up, and the result in the end is the result. You try your best. I'm lucky for the moment, but I wonder if my luck will stop as well. The second point is that I made some comments in Malaysia, and it's certainly true [that] you feel upset. We're working very hard. Without doubt, we have the best car in the pit, we have the best engine, or very close to the best; no one knows 100pct. All in all, we have the best package. Rubens and myself do a decent job as well. But to come down and put it into discredit with comments as happened is completely unfair. The FIA is there to check the cars, to prove the car is right after the race. They do so. Normally you should say now everything is clear, but still somebody doesn't want to believe that. But then he's not fair enough to do a protest to really clarify it. He just wants to put out some rumors, which is the most unfair thing. You can't protect yourself from it, and you can't really do anything against it.
Q: What is so special about the Renault engine? We know it has a wide vee-angle. What have been [the] technical problems? What are the technical features?
MG: The engine does have a wide vee-angle. It is [a] very low, very lightweight engine. That obviously leads, from a chassis point of view, to handling benefits. There are aspects of the engine which lead to vibration which you have to solve. We have had problems with them, and [Renault is] very confident that they can solve them and, in fact, have addressed [them]. Then you have to develop an engine, find more horsepower from it. Specifically, I don't want to go into it, but we're very confident in [Renault], but we have a very long way to go together.
Q: What are the problems racing on an anti-clockwise circuit?
MS: Here we have a lot of left corners which [have] high G-force which are particularly hard, for which you have to prepare in order not to see your helmet leaning against the head protection. You have to exercise specifically for it.
Q: How exhausting are the bumps?
MS: I hope less than last year, because I have heard that they have resurfaced. That was at least the target, to resurface the main straight. It was certainly not in good shape for Formula 1 cars. How it has been done, I'm not sure. They've done it before, and it has been worse. We shall find out.
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