Friday European GP Press
Jean Todt, Norbert Haug, and Mario Theissen
May 27, 2005
Ferrari team Principal Jean Todt is joined by Mercedes and BMW
bosses Norbert Haug and Mario Theissen in Friday’s press conference
Q: First of all, Mario, as you know, a very uncharacteristic
Nürburgring weather today. How much has this caught you on the hop
for your tire manufacturers as well? The track temperature was one
degree less than it was in Bahrain, now who could have ever guessed
that? How much has that affected you and how much has it affected
your tire suppliers.
Mario THEISSEN: Obviously it plays a big role, but I can say that it
is certainly an advantage to have had these conditions more than
once this season already. It is very unusual for here, I think only
once a year the temperatures go up in this region to what we have
now, and I don’t even know if the prediction for tomorrow and Sunday
is identical. We should be able to deal with it but it is not what
we expected here.
Q: So in terms of technicalities, what does that affect?
MT: Certainly not the engine, there is no difference in the engine
configuration or engine mapping due to temperature. I think all the
rest is affected, but the engine not.
Q: Jean, were you expecting these sorts of temperatures?
Jean TODT: If you had asked me the question two weeks ago we were
not expecting these temperatures, but since the beginning of the
week we knew that was the prediction and that is what we will
probably have tomorrow and a bit less on Sunday with 20 percent risk
of rain, so that is what we know for the time being. But, I mean,
this kind of information can change, but we will see.
Norbert HAUG: Well, I think it is nice to see the Nürburgring with
these conditions for a change, and as Jean pointed out Sunday should
be a little bit less hot, maybe a chance of thunderstorms, we will
just have to wait and see, but so far it’s perfect.
Q: Has it affected the tire suppliers at all?
NH: Not really, I would say.
Q: Okay. Changing to qualifying, to all of you, is it going to
help you or hinder you do you feel?
MT: I don’t know yet. Maybe the driver has a preference for one or
other system, the individual driver, but I don’t think it makes a
big difference from the technical perspective. I don’t see a car
that is particularly good on low fuel and bad on a full fuel tank.
The tire situation doesn’t in my view depend too much on the vehicle
weight, more on the question of if you do one lap or more than one
lap. I think most of it is down to the preference of drivers.
Q: Jean, you thought it would favor Ferrari a little bit.
JT: No, I didn’t say it would favor, I said it would not be a
disadvantage. Take it the way you want. But I confirm, we know very
well that since the beginning of the season and even sometime last
year our weakest point was over qualifying. It has been a bit more
this year, and this year we had two qualifying, so once should not
be against us.
NH: I think it stays the same, but I think we will probably see
different strategies. We will see people being in seventh place and
doing five laps more than the other guys in front of them and still
being in the position to win the race. That is the chance. If you
are top five that should be possible, seventh is a little bit more
difficult, but I think we will see higher fuel loads and race wins
not coming from pole position.
Q: Norbert, you didn’t have a very good first couple of races but
since Bahrain things have come much better and obviously the last
couple of races have been perfect. Give us an idea on some of the
developments that have taken place, particularly from the engine
NH: Well, first of all I think if you start your season and you
qualify in the wet and the other guy qualifies in the dry then guess
who is going to be faster. I mean, that happened to Ferrari, that
happened to us, if a world championship will be decided like that,
if I look back at 1998, between Michael and Mika, I think nobody
would be happy, so we need to think about that system again for next
year. I just think that the tires were quite conservative at the
first races, we didn’t get our act together in qualifying but the
basic speed was there. And if you look at Kimi’s season, in the
second race he was on his way to third place when a tire went, in
the third race he was third, the fourth race he was leading but
dropped out with a driveshaft, the fifth and sixth he won. So I
think the speed was there from the beginning, but starting tenth or
11th, look at Ferrari, if that happens to you, you need half the
race to get the speed and come closer to the front. But I think our
first test in Paul Ricard helped us a lot to understand how to use
the tires and how to set up the car for the first fast lap both with
and without fuel and so that helped from then on, but I wouldn’t say
we made a big, big step in terms of speed, we just got the right
grid position and from there it is just easier.
Q: Norbert, the last couple of years here you have had a pretty
miserable time, particularly with it being a home race. You must be
much more confident this year.
NH: You never know what the race brings. We have had very good
results here, it is going up and down and you have to realize there
are five or six strong competitors and this is what Formula One is
about. When we were world champions in 1998 there was Ferrari as a
very strong competitor but not as many strong competitors as we have
right now. And so, you know, if you start being confident before the
race even starts, I think you are badly advised. Anything can
happen. We need to get our act together, for sure, we have a better
package right now but I think it is very important to be 100 percent
disciplined, focused, concentrated, and not only saying it but doing
it. This gives you the right baseline to win races.
Q: Jean, I know you have told us in your press conferences on a
Sunday night what you feel the problem is with Ferrari at the
moment, but can you just explain to a wider audience what the basic
JT: I mentioned before, so far mainly we have a problem in
qualifying. We did not keep our standard in reliability, we had some
problems, which, I mean, the new rules with one set of tires for
qualifying and for the race, I mean, we did not know when the rules
were decided but once they were applied we did not interpret it as
well as our competitors. And having one engine for two Grand Prix,
we had to change one engine on Rubens and he had to start at the
back of the grid, which I say is a disadvantage. But the same rules
are for everyone, so it is nothing to complain, it is just up to us
to deliver better. And again, the first lap we are too slow, during
the race we are quicker, sometimes much quicker than the opposition,
but you know a car not specifically of Formula One, a racing car in
front, I mean, it is like a wall in front of you, it is very
difficult to pass even if you have three or four seconds of
difference in lap time. So, I mean, when we start far behind it
compromises the race.
Q: On another subject, there has obviously been a bit of a
dispute between your drivers, what have you been able to sort out?
Does it change anything?
JT: You know, I can understand that it makes a headline, but it is
not a problem for me. It is very, very little controversy, which
makes you happy and I am happy for you, but honestly I don’t care so
much. They will be very motivated, which is a good thing. You know,
there has been a lot of speculation about team orders over the last
years. I knew I was going to be asked this question, so I wanted to
be accurate. In six years I think it happened twice that we asked,
for the championship, in 2001 and 2002, Rubens to facilitate the
race for Michael. When we speak about that it seems like it happened
every race, but it happened twice in six years. So, I would not make
a big thing out of it. And, yeah, I can understand Rubens’ feeling,
he was disappointed, I can understand Michael feeling to try to pass
a car that was in front of him. So, I mean, I don’t say one should
or should not have done it. It is part of racing. The only thing
that is important is that they didn’t compromise the work of all the
team, of the company, by hitting each other. It did not happen, so I
have nothing more to say.
Q: Mario, after a great weekend last weekend in Monaco, quite an
action-packed day for you today.
MT: You mean the free practice? Well, we suffered from two problems
in the second session. We have as a support race Formula BMW here at
Nürburgring, the 15- ,16- , 17-year old kids. They did their two
qualifying sessions today which was very interesting to watch. So I
was here quite early this morning. In Formula One we had problems in
the second session with both our drivers. Mark left the track a bit
early, and then Nick had a technical problem, a driveline problem,
so that causes us some difficulties now when making the tire choice.
We didn’t gather the data we expected to get, only about a third of
that, so it is a challenge for the engineers to take a tire choice
on this basis.
Q: Mario, I know your company will not comment on its Formula One
ambitions, in terms running its own team, but you are someone who
has been around racing for a very long time. What about your own
personal ambitions? A lot of people would suggest that you want to
become a team principal.
MT: My ambitions are absolutely in line with the ambitions of BMW
and that means we want to be successful, we want to win races and we
want, eventually, to win the championship. The set-up in which we
win the championship, the team structure is of secondary importance,
and that applies to me as well. I am very happy in my current role.
Q: (Dusko Dragic – Ekipa) Jean, yesterday I asked why the Ferrari
drivers will not attend the fans with the drivers’ show, when I
should have asked why Michael wasn’t coming? Who in Ferrari decides
which driver is going to attend the promotion and which not?
JT: I don’t know about that, honestly. I know there was some planned
promotion with the organizer of the Grand Prix and we agreed to do
some promotion. But I arrived late last night and I am not aware of
what happened. I will ask for more information and I will make sure
that Luca Colajanni is not angry when he gives you the answer. I
need an hour and then you can go and see him, and he will have the
Q: (Mike Doodson) Jean, sorry to take you back to the first
question which was asked you about the relationship of your two
drivers, but I think you have to understand that our editors see two
drivers, one of whom says the other one almost killed him; that’s an
on-going story for all of us. Now you say that you don’t want the
two drivers to compromise the working of the team by hitting each
other but it seems the working relationship between Michael and
Rubens is virtually finished, at least if this Italian paper is to
be believed. Can you please tell us if that is the case, and if so
how are you going to prevent this dispute between your drivers
compromising the working of your team?
JT: You are in this world for many years and you know there is a lot
of emotion. So if you ask a driver, and I think what is very
important, myself, I have had the possibility in the first part of
my career to share the seat close to a driver, being a co-driver,
and there is a lot of emotion. Sometimes you don’t control your
emotion, which is human, and if you ask a driver for comments
immediately when he comes out of the car, that comes out. You have
two options: either you ignite the statements of the driver, and you
have a piece of paper (newspaper cutting) which maybe states that,
or you try to calm things down. In my position I will try to calm
things down and make sure that they speak together. It was Rubens’
birthday on Monday, Michael called him. They were happy to discuss
things. There is no controversy in the team. But it’s competition.
They have the same ambition, same car, same support, and your first
opposition is your team-mate. So it has always been like that. We
try to minimize as much as we can the opposition between them, but
up to a certain limit. It is something we have to pay some attention
to, because on the other hand, I have always said that what does
matter are the interests of the team, of the company, but at the end
of the day we did manage quite well over the years and the drivers
are happy to be together, they are happy to have dinner together,
and very often, I see in this business drivers don’t speak to each
other. They (our drivers) speak to each other, they share opinions,
they share opinions about private life, about business, so I would
say that after six years together it is not going too bad.
Q: (Mike Doodson) Does this mean that in your opinion the work of
the team has not been compromised by the current dispute?
JT: No, not at all.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen) Mr Todt, the perfect race car
doesn’t exist, nor does the perfect race tire. Obviously Ferrari is
presently experiencing problems. How would you like to proportion a
percentage in either direction? Is it 30% or 70% Ferrari-
Bridgestone, or vice versa?
JT: You know, let me thank Bridgestone for all the support they have
been giving Ferrari over the last years. Ferrari has been winning
six Manufacturers World Championships in a row, Michael won five
Drivers’ championships, and if you take each race we have won, we
emphasize how important was the contribution of Bridgestone in
helping us. That was probably one of the biggest advantages over our
competitors. This year, definitely, we are at a disadvantage in
qualifying mainly. They are a great partner, we are happy together,
we will solve the problem together. If you ask me when, I don’t have
any idea when, I hope as soon as possible, maybe on Sunday, maybe in
two weeks, maybe at the end of the… I don’t know. But still, what
Bridgestone has been doing is fantastic, and I will not get into
playing how much it is the tires, how much it is the chassis, how
much it is the driver: it is the whole package. We need Bridgestone
to put tires on our cars and we want to stay with them.
Q: (Heinz Prüller – ORF TV) Jean, would you welcome other teams
from Michelin joining Bridgestone for next year?
JT: It is Bridgestone’s choice. If Bridgestone wants to have some
other top teams, we are very, very happy about that. And it will
definitely help us, but it is not up to us to decide and there is
nothing in our contract that says that they cannot have another
team, so all that again is wrong speculation.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Mr Haug, was that
not the reason why you switched to Bridgestone because you were
thinking that Bridgestone was helping them too much and was not
giving the same importance to your team?
NH: No, I can only underline what Jean says. We have had a great
relationship with Bridgestone until now. We were together with them
since DTM days, in GT days, since 1992 and we experienced a lot of
support and really absolutely positive co-operation. But we took a
choice: we sat down together, within the team, and we thought we
will try the Michelin way, that has a background, for sure. And I
would not say that it is impossible that Bridgestone comes back
tomorrow. So you have these phases, sometimes racing is up and down.
You guys complained last year - me too - when Ferrari was dominant,
and now it’s the other way around so we should accept it and respect
it and they are going to be strong. Look at the fastest race laps,
look at Imola, look at Monaco, it will be a different story very
soon. I can only say positive things about Bridgestone and Michelin
as well. And these days we are partners with Michelin, but I think
we have to have that style.
Q: (Rene Hofmann - Süddeutsche Zeitung) To Mr Theissen, as I know
you traveled home from Monte Carlo to Munich by car, you traveled
MT: Right, like last year and the year before.
Q: (Rene Hofmann – Süddeutsche Zeitung) Any stop-over in the
region around Zurich?
MT: Yeah, if you drive 800 or 900 kilometres you have to stop from
time to time! (Laughter) But I can tell you, I went there without
refueling. (More laughter)
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