MAY 16, 2003
AUSTRIAN GP - FRIDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT
Ferrari 1-2, Webber third
Michael Schumacher (1st, 1:07.908): "I am happy with the work we have done today, as it all looks very positive. We are learning more about the car every time we run it and this afternoon it worked very well. I have the best possible start position for tomorrow, when of course the final qualifying outcome will be affected by the various fuel load options. So I think we can be confident for the rest of the weekend. As for the incident at the final corner, I just ran a bit wide, but luckily I managed to control the slide."
Rubens Barrichello (2nd, 1:08.187): "It is great that Ferrari are first and second today, as it guarantees us the theoretical best starting positions for tomorrow's final qualifying. However, I was not perfectly happy with the balance of my car today, but I am sure we will be able to sort it out for tomorrow and definitely for the race on Sunday."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "The day had a positive outcome and we are happy with what we have achieved. In this morning's free practice session we worked towards the race, looking for the best set-up, as well as carrying out the usual comparison of the two types of tire available. Our drivers set the two fastest times in qualifying, which is encouraging for the rest of the weekend. Having said that, we know that this afternoon's result is only valid for setting the running order for tomorrow afternoon, when drivers will run the fuel load with which they plan to use for the first stint of the race. Bridgestone did a good job, giving us a very good tire."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "We are fairly happy with the performance of the car, although being at the front today is not so relevant for the race. We are pleased with the tires we have here and they worked well with the car, which is beginning to show the performance level we had expected of it. That is partly as a result of a very positive test session last week. Both drivers made small mistakes on their lap this afternoon, so there should be more to come."
Juan Pablo Montoya (6th, 1:08.839): "I had to abort my first run due to a red flag, but in spite of this, it seems like we have managed to get on top of the car and have figured it out a bit here - we have rediscovered our feeling with the car, which is positive. The last few races it has been really hard for us but this session makes me think that things could go much better here. My qualifying lap was quite good even if had a bit too much understeer, but overall the car was easy to drive and I am pretty pleased with it."
Ralf Schumacher (20th, No Time): "During my qualifying lap the car oversteered going into turn three. I could not control it and I spun off the track. There is nothing else to say as it was a driver error. My first sector time wasn't too bad but this is irrelevant. Although I am disappointed and today's time sheet doesn't clearly show it, I hope we can position ourselves between Ferrari and McLaren. It should be an exciting weekend."
Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "Juan's car was not too badly balanced, even though there is still room for improvement. Ralf made a mistake into turn three, which leave us also with some work to do. But we are still optimistic for the weekend as the long run performance of our cars seems to be ok."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "In this morning's free practice, both the drivers completed their sessions without any problems, but in qualifying Ralf lost the car due to some oversteer. As a consequence he will start tomorrow's final qualifying first. Juan Pablo was expected to leave the garage after Ralf, but due to the red flag, he had to abort his lap and return to the pits and start again. Despite this, he managed to complete a clean lap and gain a good qualifying position for tomorrow. Both engines ran with no problems."
David Coulthard (7th, 1:08.947): "Today's time is a bit disappointing as I was faster in this morning's practice with more fuel. At the first two corners I felt that I was not really on the limit and as a result at the third corner, I tried a bit more and ended up with lots of oversteer. However we will see what happens tomorrow as I know there is still a couple of more tenths to be found."
Kimi Raikkonen (8th, 1:08.978): "Of course I would have liked to be further up the grid. I took it pretty easy in order to get a time and tomorrow we have more time to work on the set up and should be able to further improve the car. Today's qualifying is just a little practice before the real thing."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "Inevitably on the first day of running the circuit cleans up throughout the session and the pace quickens, which coupled with a somewhat conservative approach to Friday's qualifying saw us finishing seventh and eighth. However as always it's tomorrow and the race that count."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Friday's qualifying has not been our strong point so far this season and this is the case here in Austria as well. However more rubber and more grip on the track should help us tomorrow and on race day."
Jarno Trulli (11th, 1:09.450): "We have a lot of work ahead of us before tomorrow's qualifying, since, as we expected, this track does not suit the R23. However, the potential of the car is there, and it is simply a matter of finding the way to exploit it and I think we will be ok for the race."
Fernando Alonso (13th, 1:09.680): "We knew this is not the best circuit for our car, so I am not too surprised by my position today. Overall it was a productive Friday, this morning we worked on a series of things and in the afternoon, I had a straightforward lap, but going out third didn't help me too much as the track was not in the best conditions. I am confident I can improve tomorrow."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "Although we had a very productive session this morning, in which we covered almost three race distances, we didn't maximize the advantage we should have got from it in this afternoon qualifying. However I believe we now have a good idea of how we could have improved things this afternoon and we should be able to apply this tomorrow to improve our competitiveness."
Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "A disappointing performance this afternoon. Now we have to analyse what went wrong, knowing that both drivers encountered the same difficulty to get the best of the car in this circuit."
Nick Heidfeld (12th, 1:09.479): "In the morning I was struggling with oversteer and the car didn't feel good. We made some changes for the qualifying which improved the balance of the car a bit. I am not satisfied with my position, but I'm a bit happier than I was in Barcelona."
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (15th, 1:10.055): "As I did this morning, this afternoon I had problems with the very low level of grip on the track and the car was very nervous. I wasn't able to attack. Now we need to analyse the data and find the reasons for this. I'm sure there is room for improvements."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "We could only partly transfer our positive results of the morning to qualifying. Now we must analyse the results from the data, particularly from Heinz-Harald's car, to find out why he was unable to match expectations."
Giancarlo Fisichella (10th, 1:09.281): "That was not too bad, to be honest, as the top ten is our target. The car was quite good in qualifying but curiously it was completely different from this morning so because of that although I did a clean lap, I didn't push to the limit. I'm sure we could have been a bit better so I'm quite confident for tomorrow. I hope to be in the top ten again and score some points."
Ralph Firman (19th, 1:11.171): "It's a shame. The car felt really good and I was pushing hard, but obviously too hard on the final corner. As I came through the corner I ran a little bit too wide and tried to keep my foot in to get a good lap time but I went on the grass and hit the wall. I'm disappointed for myself as I was on a good lap and I also feel sorry that the boys have got a fair bit of work to do repairing the car. It was pretty good this afternoon, a lot better than this morning, maybe because the temperatures dropped off. We have to try our best tomorrow - that's the important one."
Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "I'm reasonably satisfied with the top ten. Ralph going off was not a good situation but he was doing a reasonable lap at the time. It looked like he had a bit too much understeer through the last corner, got a bit wide and kept his foot in it which is what you need to do when that happens. He did everything right but it just didn't recover the way it should have done, I think without the accident he would have done a 1:09.6 or 1:09.7. Giancarlo was looking good in testing and then during free practice we seemed to lose our way a bit. It was a bit difficult to know where we were, so adjusting the car was not easy. He did a competent job but there was probably a 1:08.8 or 1:08.9 in the car. Overall the day was okay."
Mark Webber (3rd, 1:08.512): "We came here expecting a good and respectable performance given the amount of work we have undertaken and I am pleased with our start to the weekend. The Jaguar R4 felt really good all-round today. The balance, Michelin tires and Cosworth CR5 engine worked in complete harmony to produce a higher qualifying position than any of us expected. I was aiming for a top eight slot but P3 is simply brilliant reward for all the hard work going on in this team. I really enjoyed the lap too but like anything in life, you always want more! The car is particularly good into the corners and this gives you extra confidence on the entry. To be the highest placed Michelin runner is very encouraging indeed as we head closer to race day and we'll do our homework in preparation for an optimum strategy. As we showed in Barcelona two weeks ago, a reliable Jaguar crossing the finishing line has the pace to score points and that's what we need more of this weekend. The early signals are good!"
Antonio Pizzonia (9th, 1:09.024): "I am pleased with my position but I felt I could have done better had it not been for a brake issue which has been affecting me all morning. It's not a new issue but because the brakes are safety sensitive, the team is working diligently towards finding a solution and this takes time. The car's balance, however, is very good around this circuit and I certainly wasn't pushing too hard in an effort to avoid unnecessary risk. My familiarity and comfort is growing all the time with this car and I have more to give as we go into qualifying tomorrow. The Michelin tires seem quite competitive and assuming we can carry the reliability into Sunday, there is nothing to stop us from making a serious points challenge this weekend."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "A super performance from both drivers. We were actually aiming to put both Jaguars comfortably into the top ten and the fact that Mark has put the car onto P3 is testament to how well it is working around this circuit. The grip wasn't great this morning when we first ventured out for the two-hour free testing session but as the rubber went down, so too have our lap times. While the rain clouds have stayed away so far, the track temperature is a little colder than we expected and as we have seen all morning, quite a few drivers have been caught out by the general lack of grip. Nonetheless, our preparation going into this weekend has been extensive and our three-day test at Paul Ricard last week has played an important part in our performance here today. The points and prizes, however, are on Sunday and tomorrow we'll focus our efforts on race strategy. All in all, a very positive start to our weekend here and full marks to both drivers and the team for making the most of our potential."
Jacques Villeneuve (4th, 1:08.680): "It was a good lap and I'm happy that the car is working well. I knew we'd be competitive here but that's a little faster than I expected. We had a few problems this morning in free practice but we changed certain things with our set-up for qualifying and that did the trick. The car has been quick all season and we're making small improvements all the time, but it's quite cool here at the moment and the car seems to work better when it's not too hot. I feel good. I like this track and I have great memories of racing here. There are some good overtaking opportunities so there is always a lot of action. Our strategy will determine how well we do through the rest of the weekend but we're looking better than we have in other races this season."
Jenson Button (5th, 1:08.831): "We expected to be quite high up in first qualifying here. So far so good. From the off though the car had far too much oversteer. We thought we had made a set-up improvement after free practice but I think we over-compensated and the car was too nervous at the rear. It's not a big problem, we just need to do some more work on the set-up. Over one lap the car is good but we'll have to work on the longer runs now. I'm reasonably confident at this stage and looking forward to a good weekend."
David Richards, Team Principal: "Both drivers can be very satisfied with an excellent start to the weekend. There is obviously a lot of further work to be done to put us in the best position for Sunday, but nonetheless it's always good for team morale when Friday goes this well."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "We had a trouble-free session this morning and were able to keep to our program. The car wasn't very well balanced to start with but we were able to make good progress through the session. Clearly it's good to start the weekend in this position but Friday qualifying times are not always a good indication of relative performance. I think both cars will continue to go well here this weekend and we will now focus on getting the right set-up and strategy for the race."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Fourth and fifth is encouraging and overall we've had a strong day. However, we've got to make sure we get the best out of the package tomorrow and convert our speed into points on Sunday."
Jos Verstappen (17th, 1:10.894): "I had a reasonable qualifying lap. The car had slightly too much oversteer, but it's quickest like that, and it also prevents too much wear on the front tires. There was maybe a tenth of a second to be found in the lap time, but otherwise, that was pretty much it today. We did a lot of work in the two-hour session this morning, and the mechanics did a really fantastic job to get everything finished in the time available. We then concentrated on finding a reasonable chassis balance for qualifying in the one-hour session, and that certainly helped this afternoon."
Justin Wilson (18th, 1:11.056): "The car picked up a little bit of oversteer in the first qualifying run, and as a result, I just couldn't get the car settled in the middle sector. That cost me some time in the quick corners. We got through a lot of work in the test session this morning, though, and we'll see if that results in an improvement during the rest of the weekend."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "Today was an excellent start for the Minardi team at what is, sadly, possibly the last Austrian Grand Prix for the foreseeable future. After a disappointing Friday and Saturday in Barcelona, the changes implemented by the team seem to have paid dividends, with both drivers having an excellent Friday here in Austria and finishing 17th and 18th. More importantly, they set competitive lap times that were within a few seconds of the front-running teams. Hopefully, we can build on this start, and make the 2003 Austrian Grand Prix a memorable one for European Minardi Cosworth. Both Jos and Justin did excellent jobs today, swapping ever faster lap times throughout the sessions."
Olivier Panis (14th, 1:09.764): "I am not really satisfied, to be honest. We had a very difficult free practice with set-up problems and we didn't make really any changes to the car during the session. We made some adjustments for qualifying and I think the performance this afternoon was acceptable, but we still have a lot to do ahead of the race qualifying tomorrow. I am not too worried though. I think we can still realistically expect a top ten grid position, which will put us in good shape for the race."
Cristiano Da Matta (16th, 1:10.370): "Today was my first time on the A1-Ring, and I suppose that could have something to do with the result, but I think the biggest reason why we are struggling right now is down to the set-up of the car. I believe there is still something more I can get from myself on the track, but the main part is going come from the car. Since we started this morning, the set-up of the car just hasn't been working. Something with the balance of the car just isn't right. We haven't been able to find any representative improvements, so we have to keep trying."
Gustav Brunner, Chief Designer: "We have struggled a bit today to find any sort of good set-up on the cars. We made some changes after this morning's practice and the drivers did a reasonable job in qualifying with some handling issues that still need to be resolved. I don't think we should be too concerned. We have 90 minutes of practice tomorrow to make further progress. I think tomorrow's qualifying will be a different story - and that is the one that counts."
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - MAY 16, 2003
ENGINE MANUFACTURERS: Norbert HAUG (MERCEDES) and Mario THEISSEN (BMW)
TIRE MANUFACTURERS: Pierre DUPASQUIER (MICHELIN) and Hiroshi YASUKAWA (BRIDGESTONE)
Q: The FIA have asked the tire companies to bring a wet tire which they will control. How has that affected you, what sort of tire is it, how easy has it been to supply it, is it one that you're developing constantly? Can you give us some information about that?
Pierre DUPASQUIER: It's a bit of a confusing situation because it has been decided that we were supposed to bring one wet tire only. Both of us, I guess, had made specific development to try to offer a solution that would cope with the rain pavement we are supposed to face. Which one? How is defined? It's not - understandably - and so they and we came up with some solution that we guessed was capable of coping with the wet conditions of tarmac. Then the FIA came and said, also understandably, yes, but we want to race anyway, and start the race at 2 o'clock whatever the conditions. So we said, okay, listen, in open-wheeler cars you will not race in any conditions. To do it, we have to prepare a tire for that. What about that monsoon tire? We said good, let's do a monsoon tire which will do five laps in the rain and then it will be destroyed, it will disappear. So we are in that kind of situation where we understand that the FIA want to start the race at 2 o' clock whatever conditions we have, but technically it's not feasible to have a rain tire for Formula One that can race with five centimetres of water on the track as could happen. Then in addition you could have some rivers crossing the track like in Brazil , so what can we do with a river? It's not in our capability. There are conditions where an open-wheeled car cannot race. So what type of rain tire do we have to prepare to satisfy those conditions? We don't know exactly. I don't know. So we brought four or five different types of rain tires - I'm just kidding - but just to make sure that we can face any conditions.
Hiroshi YASUKAWA: We are a bit surprised. Until last year we can use three specifications, but suddenly the FIA said you cannot bring just one spec. But of course you know we have to respect the FIA regulations. Anyhow we brought tires, but if a storm is coming, like in Brazil, our position is that we think it is very dangerous and I think the FIA's decision was very correct and we are basically respecting their idea. At this time, after the Brazilian Grand Prix, we discussed between ourselves, Michelin and the FIA, and finally we brought extreme weather tires. This time we are following the guidance of the FIA and we bring an extra spec of extreme weather tires here.
Q: So what is the ideal solution; what would you like for next year?
Yasukawa: I think this time the FIA's idea is very correct. Basically, we brought one spec and in case a storm is coming, we have brought what some people call storm tires, or extreme weather tires. I think it is a good idea.
Dupasquier: If I make a joke I would like to say that we would like to have total freedom to bring the suitable tires for the conditions. That's what we would like most. Obviously that's not possible for several reasons - practical, logistic and cost - so if you don't do that, I would go along with Mr Yasukawa in definitely having a decent tire to race on normal wet conditions and if we definitely want to start the race at 2 o'clock, a kind of monsoon which will prevent anybody from criticising anything because the tire is available even if it's not practical or it will be a mess. But technically the race may start at 2 o' clock, that's a possibility.
Q: Now in terms of dry tires, the choice has been widened a great deal this year for the teams that you supply. How has that changed for the tire manufacturers, including technically speaking?
Dupasquier: Well, we may not have exactly the same approach but what we feel is that our job is to prepare a tire according to the current technical regulations, having two tires the same because we may have eight degrees on the ground or 45 or 48 degrees on the ground so definitely one tire would not do it. So the circuit will remain the same, the pavement will remain the same, and the difference between cars are very important if you check the result of the race because we are talking about hundredths of seconds, or tenths of seconds. But technically, if you want to put in the computer the differences between those cars, to define a suitable tire, you will come with the same tire. But racing in Zeltweg is not like racing in Monte Carlo or Barcelona or whatever, so we listen to whatever information we get from our testing with our teams. Whatever they like we will do it, it doesn't matter so much for us because we can do it, but normally they concentrate on two or three different types or tire which will suit them. Sometimes somebody wants to do something a bit more... construction differences or rubber a little bit softer, so we do it, but normally when we come up with something it is almost the same tires.
Yasukawa: Actually, of course, we are respecting the FIA regulations but I think one side of this regulation is good, one side is not so good. The good thing is that we can make many specifications and also the teams can chose. But the bad thing concerns costs because it is expensive for us and also expensive for the teams. If we produce just two specifications and the team concentrates on these two specifications - but if you can chose tires, if there's A, B, C, D and if some teams say A is good and B is good, then if one team has the ability and R&D know-how - and also budget-wise in this case - they can follow it up. If we are concerned about small teams, for me, I think it's very difficult.
Q: Norbert, we are looking forward to the new McLaren. Is it going to be a new Mercedes engine as well?
Norbert HAUG: It is a new engine, indeed, certainly the baseline is the engine we are using right now but it is completely new in every detail at the end.
Q: So to some extent the track testing must involve Mercedes as well as McLaren...
Haug: Yeah, as usual. We did a lot of testing on the dyno already and we will start soon with the new car and then we see where we are.
Q: Now it has recently been announced that the idea of multi-race engines is going to be dropped - are you happy with the idea of single race engines?
Haug: Well I certainly think that was a step in the right direction and I think we can cope with it. It is a much better rule than the one that was suggested like six races with one engine, not that we couldn't do that - I think all the manufacturers could. In DTM, for example, we had three engines for a two car team for the whole season but obviously that is limited on revs and I think Formula One should be in a position where really the technical side counts at the end of the day so the strongest limit I can imagine is one engine per weekend. We shouldn't go any further.
Q: In terms of customer engines, are you quite happy to supply them?
Haug: Yeah, we made the offer and we will see what is going to happen. We need to develop possibilities and are in discussions. Nothing is fixed, everything is open.
Q: Mario, you have said you cannot produce customer engines...
Theissen: We certainly can produce customer engines but we are not in a position that we can say we can do it for next year and we can get the cost to the figure that is on the table because this would be below our own cost and I think we are not prepared to do that. We certainly can produce some 50 engines for that amount of money but it wouldn't help the independent teams because what they need is competitive engines and not some engines and they are certainly more expensive.
Q: So it is a logistical problem to some extent?
Theissen: As I said we are not prepared to do it in 2004. This is a question of logistics and capacity in our factory, machines as well as people, and on the other hand it is a matter of cost.
Q: A lot has been written recently that BMW wants to stay in Formula One but they haven't signed with Williams. What is actually stopping you signing with Williams?
Theissen: I wouldn't say there is anything stopping us - we are still in the process. We have certainly several options but first option and priority would be to extend our partnership with Williams. But, of course, if we do that we want to be successful not just BMW but also Williams and certainly at the moment we are not in the position we want to be in so we are currently talking about how the team has to be structured, has to be organised, what the processes have to be in order to get to the top and this is I think quite a constructive process that is going on and I am quite confident that at the end of this process we will have a satisfying result.
Q: What has to be restructured?
Theissen: Well, if you look at the operations of the team it is about processes, how people work together, how development processes are organised, and of course the structure related to this †- how people are grouped within the company. Then, of course, it is about the competence of the people and about the resources and tools available. That is what we are talking about.
Q: Does that suggest you are not happy with the way it is happening at the moment?
Theissen: We are not happy and saying we I mean BMW as well as Williams. We are not happy with the position and the competitiveness we have at the moment and we have to talk about how to fix that, and it is about the operation of the team.
Q: So it is for the present as well as the future...
Theissen: Certainly more about the future than the present - if we went to Williams talking about the future partnership we certainly don't talk about the FW25 because at that time this year's car will be history. We are talking about the key factors of competitiveness of a future team.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Max Mosley said in an interview that he expects two manufacturers to drop out of Formula One. Given that the GPWC depends on manufacturers, will your companies stay in Formula One for the long term?
Theissen: For BMW I can say we haven't decided in which way to go ahead but there is a decision that BMW will stay in Formula One beyond 2004.
Haug: We will stay in Formula One for a very long time I would say. We are committed, we are not starting negotiations with GPWC to stop it tomorrow. We have a long-term commitment and if the FIA president chooses to speculate he had better speak to me before he does that and he didn't. I read the interview as well, I am as surprised as Mario is and I cannot understand these speculations. We are committed for the long term. Mr Hubbert is actually leading the GPWC, it will change next year or towards the end of the year, but I think it is very logical that if we do that we do not plan to stop in the short term. I do not know where this story comes from - I would say pure speculation. We are happy in Formula One, it gave us back a lot, we promoted our brand in a very good way, we have a great partnership with McLaren, our tires are getting better and better, our engine is getting stronger and stronger, so we are on the right path and I have a good friend with Mario so we keep on going.
Q: We have seen some kind of a deadline has been issued for whatever is going to happen with Formula One but it seems to me that we all accept that any kind of split in Formula One could be complete madness because we have seen what happened in the United States and other forms of sport. It seems to me that one of the most important factors in this whole thing is the role of the banks that made ludicrously big loans that they are still carrying on their books. Can you let us know if Norbert or Mario can tell us the manufacturers' attitude towards the banks - are the manufacturers prepared to buy our or pay any money to those banks?
Haug: Well, I have to ask your understanding that I cannot go into the detail because it is a GPWC issue, it is behind closed doors, the negotiations are taking place and I think it would not be right to go into detail. For sure, we are informed what is going on and I can tell you that splitting is not what the manufacturers want, it is not what the GPWC wants, we want a constructive way forward, we want to have a Formula One that is absolutely secure in the future and has a solid base and I think it is fair enough for us to try to stabilise Formula One in the middle and the long term, that is what we are working on. It is not about the manufacturers making rules or steering the sport, that is not the idea behind it, it is stabilising Formula One and it will help the teams. The teams will be better off and it is not about us. I think Mario can confirm that as well - it is not our job to do rules and to be the governing body and maybe there is a misunderstanding but I think we have very constructive discussions and the plans we have for Formula One are very positive, that is for sure.
Theissen: Well, same position basically. I agree that a split of the series would certainly be negative and you can be sure that everybody involved is very much aware of this. I can only speak for BMW, not for the banks.
Q: Mario, how good do you think the BMW engine is compared to Mercedes and Ferrari?
Theissen: That is what I ask myself every day and night.
Q: You must have some technical performance details...
Theissen: Certainly I don't have any exact data and certainly the engines are not that far apart that you could judge on this just by looking at the engines. What I can say is that so far in this season we are very satisfied with our engine. We haven't had any single reliability problems so far and we have made a step forward in terms of power last year. We are currently using the same engine spec in qualifying and in the race so I am really satisfied with the situation and the position that we are in at the moment.
Q: Do you think the engine is better than where the car is currently performing on the track?
Theissen: If the engine is better than the car that is a difficult question and you need both certainly to do a lap and there is no point in pointing at weaknesses and strengths. We have to improve every day, we are developing the engine every day no matter where we are and this is the only approach to get to the top.
Q: Gerhard seems to be pointing fingers at the moment...
Theissen: He has got his hands in his pockets already again.
THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - MAY 15, 2003
DRIVERS: Cristiano DA MATTA (TOYOTA), Nick HEIDFELD (SAUBER), Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI), Ralf SCHUMACHER (WILLIAMS) and Mark WEBBER (JAGUAR)
Q: Mark, you've recently signed for Jaguar for an extra couple of years. Given your recent performances, did you not think of hanging on for an offer from one of the top teams?
Mark WEBBER: As I've said already, I'm very excited about staying with them. The sense of loyalty is something that's very important to me. It's been a very short period of time with Jaguar but they got me out of Minardi and they gave me a chance and I'm really enjoying being there. The work that I put in there will hopefully be fruitful next year and then in 2005 will be when we are at our strongest. You never know what's going to happen with the big teams. At the moment I'm in a situation I can enjoy and hopefully have some control over as well and enjoy with the people I'm with.
Q: You have mentioned a bit of an atmosphere over the last couple of races with the Pizzonia thing. Can you tell us more about that?
Webber: Well it was probably, as usual, blown out of proportion a little bit. It's very, very clear there was a lot of media attention around that certain situation for the last few races and I think it would be totally unrealistic to say that the team didn't feel some of that. We performed, at the last few races. Antonio was unlucky at the start and, like I said, we are totally through all of that and ready to go for the rest of the year.
Q: You scored your first points in Spain ; how has that changed things?
Webber: We said on the grid in Barcelona that it was crucial to get that little monkey off our back in terms of non-finishes. We have shown some potential, but on some days we have a lot of issues which have been very special for us, so we were very happy to see the chequered flag in Barcelona even though it was our least competitive weekend in terms of performance. It was nice for us to get the car home and it was very rewarding because when the boys took off all the bodywork they said the car looked as if it was brand new and everything was looking good for us.
Q: So is there a different atmosphere now?
Webber: Yes. We've got our points. OK, we've missed a few opportunities but it's nice. We had a good test at Ricard in terms of reliability as well, so we know what we need to work on. The goalposts are ever moving in this game and the competition - whether it's Toyota or BAR or whoever we are with - they're always looking for performance as well. It's very, very tough but the performance that we've gained over the last six or seven months has just been phenomenal. We have to keep chipping away. The guys have done a super job, there's no question about it.
Q: Cristiano, I believe that after you gained points in the Spanish race you said ?the season starts here' so you obviously feel there's a difference having scored your first points...
Cristiano DA MATTA: Well for me it was a big relief in a certain way because of course I was starting to feel more and more pressure so it was good to go out there and finally be able to score some points. I believe that we?ve had some other opportunities that we've missed earlier in the season when we could maybe have scored a couple of points so it's important when you go to a track that you know that your car has a performance like we had in Barcelona. We had tested there and we knew that the car was good so it is good to capitalise on that good performance and score two points which is something that we weren't able to do before.
Q: Olivier has said that he felt that the team could be the surprise of the season - do you agree?
Da Matta: Well, I think we have a lot of work to do to get into this stage. We are definitely looking to be more and more competitive every day and we're just concentrating on our work. If we stay the way we are right now I don't think we are going to be the surprise of the season. We still have a lot of work to do to get there.
Q: What about here? I believe you've been in Austria for all of a day. What have you thought of it so far?
Da Matta: Well, I just arrived last night. It's my first time in the country. I have never been here before. I haven't been able to go round the track yet so I'm looking forward to doing so right after the press conference here. But for me, it looks great - a beautiful place, mountains. So far I like it. I'm looking forward to going out on the track and giving it a try.
Q: Just going back to the team's performance so far, what's it going to need to get both cars to the finish?
Da Matta: Well, we've had a good test in Paul Ricard regarding reliability last week. I've been a little bit more fortunate than Olivier in this matter. He's had a couple more issues happening on his car than I did. I finished four out of five races so, if you look at my car, even though in Malaysia I had a finish with all types of problems and everything, we finished four out of the five races. That's not so bad. But for Olivier, he finished only one out of the five so we definitely have some work to do. We know what's going on with his car but we don't know why it's only happening in his car so far. But we just think it's a matter of coincidence and the things that have happened in his car so far have happened in my car in testing too so it's nothing new to us. So we're working on those pieces. I believe last week was very, very encouraging for us and hopefully this week is the first time that we see both cars crossing the start/finish line at the end.
Q: Nick, you've qualified well here but it hasn't been so good in the races, you've had a couple of incidents. What are your feelings about this circuit?
Nick HEIDFELD: I'm quite looking forward to this race because in the last two years our car performed really well here. Last year I was fifth in qualifying, the year before sixth, but not so good in the race, as you said. Last year I had the big crash with Takuma, which for me was the biggest one I've ever had, but luckily nothing happened. And the year before my car stalled on the start but I got into the points anyway. And after the last two races, which were very difficult for us, especially Barcelona , I hope that this circuit will suit our car a lot better.
Q: How has it been this year with Heinz-Harald? Obviously you speak the same language, come from the same town even. Is it a great advantage having his experience?
Heidfeld: That he's German and we come from the same city doesn't really make a difference. It's simply nice having somebody that experienced in the team, especially compared to my previous team-mates, Felipe and Kimi, who are definitely very quick but obviously didn't know a lot about the set-up of the car and didn't know what was possible in Formula One. With Heinz, he's really into it. It's interesting to watch and see his ideas. Sometimes he sees things from a different perspective than I do, so I think I can learn something there.
Q: But in some ways the team has been overtaken, by Renault for example. What's been going wrong? What is needed to get you back into fourth place?
Heidfeld: I think at the moment it's unrealistic to aim for fourth place if you see how strong Renault has become. I think it's simply very difficult for us, not having a big manufacturer behind us, not having the amount of money that the other teams have, so our aim at the moment is to be fifth, and even that is going to be very difficult.
Q: Michael, you won in Barcelona and said you were in love with the new car. Do you think it is going to be suited to this circuit?
Michael SCHUMACHER: Barcelona is a circuit which shows the true potential of the car, specific in aerodynamic purpose so if it goes well there it is supposed to go well everywhere.
Q: But some of the rival teams felt you were going to be quicker than you were. What are your feelings about that?
M.Schumacher: Well, we were quick enough.
Q: You certainly were, but were you not surprised to be further ahead?
M.Schumacher: Honestly, looking at the weekend and studying the data and the times of the other competitors, no I was not. I was expecting a tough fight, particularly with Fernando and I don't know how much we have seen about the others. Obviously McLaren were out, Ralf in the first stint was able to follow at a distance and then after they sort of disappeared with their strategy. I think a lot was tires there and tires sort of overruled the potential of the situation. I believe that we couldn't show the true potential of the car and we will have better opportunities. If you see in relation where Bridgestone runners had been over that weekend compared to the Michelins I think our car showed what it is able to do. And if you remember we started in a similar way the new car (last year) in Brazil a very tough fight with Ralf and from then on it just went better and as you can imagine, you learn a new car, †you improve it as well because new bits and pieces will come - on the old car it was not the case; it has remained what it was last year and we just kept on using it while we waited for the new car so I believe we have a very good car that should only go better, not worse.
Q: This circuit has not been the best for you, so do you still feel you can do well here?
M.Schumacher: We will keep trying.
Q: Ralf, the last race, although the two cars were reliable it wasn't really a success for the team. What was going wrong there?
Ralf SCHUMACHER: Well, it's fair to say that we decided to go to the wrong strategy. We overestimated the potential of our tires a bit, or I did. It was my decision to do so, so it was basically my mistake. All in all, after what we saw on Friday and Saturday in qualifying it went a bit better than we expected and we were reasonably strong and able to follow, as Michael said, from a small distance, but able to follow the leading cars so that wasn't bad. I have said it many times and I will say it again: the 25 has the potential to be a winning car. We have not yet managed to put it all together for various reasons. One is from a mechanical point of view. The 25 is a totally new car to us and we underestimated all the possibilities it has and we were too much mechanically fixed in the directions we had in the previous years, so there is a lot to come, there is a big push going through the whole factory, more than I have personally experienced in my years with Williams which have been very long now and that is why I am very much looking forward to this season. It will take us another couple of months and I am pretty sure there is the winning potential there.
Q: So what are the hopes here?
R.Schumacher: It is difficult to have any predictions. For Barcelona I expected to be very strong. As you saw we weren't particularly strong so here I am just waiting. I think here we are going to have a good tire, we have a strong engine, so it should be okay.
Q: You seem to have overcome the problems you had with qualifying earlier in the year. How have you managed to do that?
R.Schumacher: Well, let's wait and see how this weekend goes, but there were various reasons in the first two races. I made mistakes, I just couldn't find the right set-up of the car and that was it, and since you only have one chance it sticks out. But luckily me and my engineer together have found quite a good balance in the last few races and that's why.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: To the four of you who have race here before, what are your thoughts on this being the last Austrian Grand Prix? Ralf first, particularly as you feel it is your home Grand Prix...
R.Schumacher: Yeah, definitely. It is a shame. It is a very nice area to come to, it is very nice anyway in Austria - good food, great hotels around - so it is good to be here, so it is just a shame but I am sure there are various reasons for that decision.
M.Schumacher: I agree.
Heidfeld: I would also say I have always liked to come here, especially as I mentioned before the car was quite quick here in the last couple of years. But on the other hand I am also looking forward to going to a new country and a new circuit.
Webber: Yeah, very similar. It is a nice part of the world to come to, the track is not the most challenging in the world but it is one of the circuits we have to come to and compete and I am sorry to see it go, actually.
Q: If I could ask the inevitable question about team orders to all the drivers, they are banned now, but is that the right decision and is the ban actually enforceable.
M.Schumacher: Well, I think it is down to you that the team orders have changed, I guess, because you sort of didn't like it. Whether it is enforceable or not, I don't know. Certainly the obvious team orders will obviously be enforceable and we have made a clear statement from our point of view on how we are going to do things and there is nothing else to add from my side.
R.Schumacher: I think once we had a little problem but I think it is impossible to get rid of team orders and it should be down to the team to decide whatever they think is necessary to do in this moment, so I don't have a problem with what happened here last year, I thought it was the right thing to do, and that's it.
Heidfeld: Usually we do not have team orders in our team but I agree, I think it is not really possible to ban them or control it. The only thing is that perhaps it changes things so it is not so obvious for the spectators any more which you could argue about if it is better or not.
Da Matta: I think when you are on the track you are competing against the other people you just decide who is best on the track and I think the team has their interests on the sponsors and everything but for me the sport should be on top of everything first.
Webber: We don't have any team orders or any favours going any particular way but there could be scenarios in a race where you are on a different strategy and it is quite a powerful tool for you to move out of the way for your team-mate to make your strategy work or a better situation for the whole team and that could swing around to the next race because he is doing something different, so again if it is subtle differences I think it can happen. It's still a team sport at the end of the day but with the obvious ones it's open to debate.
Q: There has been something in the papers about Juan Pablo Montoya finding a rather unsympathetic traffic cop. I wonder if each of you could tell us experiences that you might have had with policemen and whether they ended more happily than they did for Juan Pablo.
R.Schumacher: I have never had an experience with that, sorry. (Laughter)
Webber: For sure, if they pull one of us over they are very honoured to book us. There's no risk of that, and I think we have all been booked at some stage by going far too quick. It's easy to do 130mph in a nice BMW I suppose. That was Juan's problem at the time and they are not going to mess around.
Da Matta: I come from Brazil . I never got caught - there are not many police on the roads there anyway.
Heidfeld: The most tickets I get are for wrong parking but I tell you if any racing driver tells you he is never caught speeding he is lying .
M.Schumacher: Maybe in the pit lane...
R.Schumacher: Actually, the pit lane is more expensive, isn't it?
Q: To Michael and Ralf. It is the 100 th Grand Prix you are racing together. Are there some special feelings?
M.Schumacher: We had some great fighting here in 1997, so we look forward to some more of that.
R.Schumacher: In 100 races maybe we met each other about 10 times on the circuit I think, that is about it. Usually it was always quite tight and quite exciting.