EUROPEAN GP - FRIDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT

Raikkonen fastest in dry-wet qualifying

Kimi Raikkonen, European GP 2003

Kimi Raikkonen, European GP 2003 

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Ferrari

Michael Schumacher (2nd, 1:30.353): "All in all, I am happy with this result. I did a good lap, being a bit careful in the first sector before going flat out. The time isn't bad and puts us in a good position for tomorrow afternoon's qualifying. We are optimistic about the rest of the weekend. Obviously if the weather in the race is similar to what we have seen in the second half of this session, we would not be disappointed! The modifications to the chicane seem to work well, but the question of the bollards needs to be resolved."

Rubens Barrichello (5th, 1:30.842): "I am very confident for tomorrow. There is still a bit of work to do on the car, but I am optimistic. I had good grip on my lap, but the car was not perfectly balanced and because of this I lost time in the first sector. In any case I have managed to get a good position which will allow me to make my qualifying run towards the end of the session."

Jean Todt, Team Principal: "The result of this first qualifying session - with one car in second place and the other fifth - will allow us to take part in the second session in pretty much the same conditions as our closest rivals. We can expect a very closely contested weekend. As usual, the performance of the car-engine-tire package will be crucial in determining the final result. On the first day of practice at this track we have seen rather more problems with front wings than usual, because of the changes to the chicane. This will require extreme caution, especially in the race."

Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "I am quite satisfied with today's result. The Bridgestone tires are very consistent which means we can be optimistic for Sunday's race. I think there is still room for improvement on the car, given they were not perfectly balanced on a light fuel load. The key will be to see how our rivals' tires last over a distance. From what we saw this morning, we might have an advantage."

Williams-BMW

Juan Pablo Montoya (3rd, 1:30.378): "I am reasonably satisfied with my qualifying lap today, despite losing a bit of time in the first corner. I turned in and my car just understeered. I had suffered from some understeer during this morning's Free Practice too, but apart from that it was quite good and I believe we should be pretty strong for the weekend as we've got a great car. With regards to the new chicane, I must say that I preferred the old one as I think it was more exciting. We seem to be able to pick up the pace here, and this is what counts. We are aiming to be ahead of Ferrari and McLaren and I am confident we've got the equipment to do so."

Ralf Schumacher (4th, 1:30.522): "My flying lap was more or less all right and the car had quite a good balance. I didn't really get the last chicane right, which cost me some fractions. However I believe we are facing a demanding weekend here as McLaren seem to be very strong on this track. We still have a lot of work to do in order to improve the car's set-up for tomorrow and the race. With regards to the changes to the NGK corner, I must say I like it now more than it was before."

Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "It was a good Friday to start the weekend with. The improvements we brought to our cars are working and we are looking forward to having a competitive weekend. I am not too happy with some of the changes to the circuit as we saw a lot of car damage this morning. Hopefully there will be improvements for tomorrow."

Gerhard Berger, BMW Motorsport Director: "Today's sessions showed that this track suits the Michelin tires well. However, we cannot take into consideration the times set when the rain had started to fall. Both our drivers produced good laps and were almost identical in time and they both can be pleased with their performances."

McLaren-Mercedes

Kimi Raikkonen (1st, 1:29.989): "The car has been perfect all day and we improved it even more for qualifying so I`m very pleased. The whole lap was pretty good and I made no mistakes. There is no doubt that the MP4-17D is quick, but it's a matter of making all the parts work together and for me not to make any mistakes and then we are there. I look forward to the rest of the weekend."

David Coulthard (6th, 1:30.903): "Obviously you always go into every session wanting to be fastest, but the important qualifying is tomorrow. The goal for today really is to be in the same group as our main opposition. There is nothing particular to say about the run, as my plan was to do a safe lap without pushing too hard."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "A disciplined performance from both drivers, the engineers and the team as a whole which not only gave us the on-track performance but perhaps more importantly resulted in a good balance for the rest of the weekend which may have the added challenge of variable weather conditions."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A strong performance by Kimi and the entire team. We haven't been Friday qualifying specialists so far this year, which makes the fact that Kimi was fastest today and the only one who achieved a time under 1 minute and 30 seconds very pleasing."

Renault

Jarno Trulli (7th, 1:31.143): "I had a clean lap this afternoon. We worked throughout the morning on finding a good set-up, and the right solutions for the tires. We both changed our set-ups before qualifying, and the result wasn't too bad. However, we are not looking particularly strong at the moment, and we have a lot of work to do tonight and tomorrow morning in order to investigate, and try to solve, the problems."

Fernando Alonso (8th, 1:31.533): "From my point if view, the balance of the car was the best it has been all day. We had a good morning, and managed to complete the program without any problems, learning about the tires and set-ups. My lap was good, with the car well-balanced and I didn't make any mistakes. I am quite pleased, but we are still a long way from our competitors, and we need to work tonight to try and find some solutions."

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "In spite of changes made for qualifying, we still have not got the car working well at this circuit. We need to look at a lot of data, and study our models, to make improvements for tomorrow. If the wet conditions persist in the morning, we will have some difficult choices to make."

Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "Already this morning, it was difficult to establish a reliable hierarchy of performance, but this became impossible after rain disrupted qualifying. On the engine side, we are pleased to note that the engines in each race car completed more than a race distance today. We now have to continue working on our preparation for the race."

Sauber-Petronas

Heinz-Harald Frentzen (10th, 1:32.201): "On the whole it was a good lap until the final sector. The two previous sectors were good, but by the third it had begun to rain and the last chicane was quite slippery already and therefore difficult. I probably lost four tenths of a second in that sector."

Nick Heidfeld (13th, 1:52.300): "Because of the heavy rain which started after the first half of the qualifying session, I had to go out on extreme wet weather tires but still had to struggle like several other drivers before and after me with serious aquaplaning on the track. Nevertheless, I think I made the most of it under those very difficult conditions. Having finished 13th is quite a good result given those circumstances, given that this was quickest in the rainy conditions."

Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "If we consider only this qualifying session then I am quite satisfied with the results. Although it started to drizzle in the final sector Heinz-Harald still performed well. Nick had to go out in the extreme wet yet still finished quickest in the conditions."

Jordan-Ford

Giancarlo Fisichella (9th, 1:32.196): "For the first time in my life, I think, I've been lucky and my place in the starting order allowed me dry conditions. It was a good lap and the balance wasn't too bad but I was two seconds off the pace which is frustrating. It's a combination of tires and our whole package."

Ralph Firman (14th, 1:53.893): "It's disappointing for me that it rained halfway through the session but I suppose it was inevitable that it would happen at some point this year and unfortunately I wasn't on the beneficial end of it. 14th place is okay as it means tomorrow there will be a few cars out before me and that should be a good thing."

Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "It is a bit difficult to judge where we are compared to everyone else because qualifying was split in two with the weather change. I have to say that we weren't looking very competitive with Giancarlo's time as far as dry weather conditions are concerned. As Giancarlo says, we need to improve our complete package - chassis, engine and tires. Ralph did a competent job in the conditions. He had to get a lap in to make sure he's not out first tomorrow, which is important - if it's wet tomorrow, as forecast, there will be a few cars out before him to move some water off the track."

Jaguar-Cosworth

Mark Webber (12th, 1:35.972): "We were performing very well this morning and anticipating a good qualifying session but there is little you can do when it starts raining in the middle of your lap. There is always a risk of this happening with one-lap qualifying and it was only a matter of time before it turned against us. That said, the rules are the same for everyone but it's a shame given the good work and competitiveness we demonstrated up until the rain came down. It's not the be all and end all and we'll just have to see what tomorrow brings now. Our lap times are very competitive in the dry and we just have to stay calm, focused and hope for track conditions that allow us to fulfil our true potential."

Antonio Pizzonia (18th, 1:57.435): "Not what any of us hoped for but what can you do! Our preparation going into the session was very good and the car feels very competitive around this circuit. The balance and tires worked very well but given that I was the 18th man on the track today, the surface water by that stage was unbearable. The car was sliding around all over the place and it was also difficult to see because my visor was so steamed-up. The aim of the game was to get the car home and build upon the good work we achieved this morning."

Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "We are disappointed to have been on the receiving end of the weather today, especially since the other Michelin runners managed to get out while it was dry. That's one-lap qualifying for you and today, it went against us. We are, however, very pleased with our progress thus far. Between them, our drivers completed over two race distances this morning in terms of mileage and we have experienced no issues. We worked on race preparation and tire comparison work this morning and both drivers did an excellent job with Mark finishing 2nd fastest and Antonio 6th fastest. We were well prepared and looking forward to a good qualifying session but in the end, it was about damage limitation given the amount of surface water on the track. Let's hope for a dry session tomorrow and if we get that, our competitiveness will show through."

BAR-Honda

Jenson Button (11th, 1:32.479): "My lap had some potential but I made a mistake in the last sector; I hit the kerb too hard, then the bollard and broke the front wing. Its disappointing because I did the same thing this morning so I'm not particularly pleased with myself. Having said that we've seen before that bollards don't work and several people had the same problem as me today. The bollards just break front wings. I was lucky in the sense that it was only spitting with rain when I did my lap, whereas it was starting to come down hard by the time the last six or seven runners went out. I was pleased to see the rain though because I think we're going to need that. Hopefully it will be wet for final qualifying tomorrow."

Jacques Villeneuve (20th, No Time): "Webber, da Matta and myself were the unlucky ones today as we were the first cars out on a wet track. When I did my lap we were only allowed to change to wet tires but the later runners were able to put on extreme wets. Halfway round, the wheels weren't even touching the ground; I was just floating like a boat. Normally when you aquaplane it's only for a tenth of a second or something, but there it was all the way down. I'll be the first one to go out for qualifying tomorrow, which is never a good thing, so now we have to just keep working on the car as best we can and hope that the weather turns the same way as it did today. Our tires aren't competitive here so that's the best we can hope for tomorrow."

David Richards, Team Principal: "The typically fickle weather conditions look likely to have a hand in the outcome of this race, and today set the tone with a difficult start to the weekend. This morning's free practice gave an indication of how much work the team and Bridgestone have to do under dry conditions here, although with a mixed forecast ahead of us it's anyone's guess what we'll be facing in qualifying tomorrow or the race on Sunday. Jenson had already damaged a couple of wings at the chicane prior to qualifying, so he can't be feeling too happy with himself, and if it was going to rain for anyone in qualifying, it had to start seconds before Jacques went out on the track. Things can only get better."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "We were struggling for grip this morning despite being reasonably happy with the car balance, and we were not happy to find ourselves fifth and seventh out of the Bridgestone runners. Jenson's qualifying lap should have been better had he not hit the bollard in the chicane, breaking a front wing for the third time today. Jacques was very unfortunate with the timing of his qualifying run because it had just started to rain, leaving us with insufficient time to make any car set-up change except to fit wet tires. As he started his timed lap, the conditions had worsened dramatically and he spun off as a result of aquaplaning. By the time it was appropriate for the FIA to permit use of the extreme wet, we were already on our timed lap, effectively on the wrong tires."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "We expected to have both guys in the top ten today but we obviously didn't achieve that. Jenson finished just outside in 11th which is not too bad considering the damage to his front wing. But unfortunately Jacques, who was already at a disadvantage because of the weather, didn't manage a competitive time either."

Minardi-Cosworth

Justin Wilson (15th, 1:54.546): "We had the advantage of having several people go ahead of us in the wet, which helped us to assess the conditions and adjust the chassis. During the run, the car was good in wet trim, and I just concentrated on driving as smoothly as possible. I'm happy with the result, but we've still got a lot to do tomorrow. We'll just keep working on it."

Jos Verstappen (16th, 1:55.921): "The car was quite good in the dry, but when it starts to rain, there are only so many things you can alter before a qualifying run, and you also have to assess how much risk to take in making those changes. Compared with Justin, I wasn't as quick in the wet qualifying session, but I was quicker in the dry sessions this morning. In any event, sixteenth isn't too bad for Friday, and it also means we don't have to go out first in qualifying tomorrow. Personally, I hope for a dry session, and track conditions that are consistent for everyone."

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "Today saw European Minardi drivers Justin Wilson and Jos Verstappen struggle to find grip in the early sessions. Rain interrupted Friday's first qualifying session, however, and thanks to our fantastic Bridgestone wet tires, we were able to show the true potential of the Minardi chassis, pleasingly finishing in 15th and 16th places."

Toyota

Olivier Panis (17th, 1:57.327): "We were not very lucky this afternoon with the wet weather, but there is absolutely nothing we can do about that. It was too wet to set any sort of decent time, so I just concentrated on getting the car back to Parc Fermé safely. I want to remain optimistic though. We were very competitive this morning and I am extremely happy with the job everybody did this morning to get us in P1. Hopefully we will be able to recreate that sort of speed in tomorrow's sessions, especially in front of our employees, who are watching from the grandstands this weekend."

Cristiano Da Matta (19th, No Time): "We thought that we could get a time done in the dry conditions, so we opted for slick tires for my run. The initial part of the track was actually quite dry but then I suddenly picked up a part of the track that was really wet and it was impossible to drive, so we decided it was safer to abort the lap. This morning was quite a competitive session and the car felt pretty good apart from a bit of understeer. I reacquainted myself with the Nurburgring quickly and I think that was reflected in my 9th position."

Ange Pasquali, Team Manager: "The fact that we had to run both cars in the wet conditions in qualifying is obviously very disappointing. We carried out such good work in free practice this morning, coming top of the timesheets, that it is extremely frustrating for the drivers and the team to have to endure the rain, but that is out of our hands. The weekend has only just started and we showed that we can be in a good shape around here. Let's see what tomorrow brings."


FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - JUNE 27, 2003

TEAM MEMBERS: Ove ANDERSSON (TOYOTA), Norbert HAUG (MERCEDES), Peter SAUBER (SAUBER), Otmar SZAFNAUER (HONDA) and Mario THEISSEN (BMW)

Q: The first question I'd like to ask is to the engine manufacturers, regarding their situation with customer engines.

Otmar SZAFNAUER: Honda have supplied customer engines in the past as you know, just the recent past, as well as in many of our other formulas as well - ?bikes, IRL, CART - so we're not against or afraid to supply customer engines. However, our focus in Formula One, having said that, is to stay with one team in the short term. We want to help Formula One and we think the best way we can help Formula One is to have the one team we're with become more competitive. So in the short-term, we're looking at staying with one team and making that team as competitive as we can to help Formula One as a whole.

Q: So you won't be able to supply customer engines, say, for next year?

Szafnauer: We have no plan at this time to supply customer engines for next year.

Ove ANDERSSON: Well, we have said that if it will help Formula One we will study to supply engines from 2005 so, clearly, if someone wants to have our engines from that time and it will be positive for helping Formula One we will do it.

Q: Do you think you can do that for what is a commercial price?

Andersson: Yeah. We can do it for a commercial price but you cannot set this price until you understand what kind of package you have to supply for a team. I mean there are many, many different kinds of service and that needs to be decided first, I think, and then the price can be decided afterwards.

Q: Norbert, you seem to be on everyone's shopping list?

Norbert HAUG: Yeah, I think so. We stick with the plan and it is certainly not easy for us, but we think we have to set a sign and we think we should be a good example and that's why we will do it. This is the plan. No decision has been taken who the team will be but we certainly continue developing ourselves in that direction.

Q: When you say ?the' team, does that mean you would only supply one team?

Haug: We only can. We need to put all the effort behind it, to supply an additional team, and that is the maximum. Everything else would compromise our own efforts and we cannot afford that.

Q: Would you say there's more than one team asking you at the moment?

Haug: Well, we were approached by more than one team but we did not go into the details so far. This will happen within, I would say, the next six weeks.

Q: And that would be for next year?

Haug: Yup. It will not be a Mercedes Benz engine, to point that out very clearly. It will have a different name. This is certain. We are only going to have one team called West McLaren Mercedes in Formula One. This (the customer engine) would be a sponsor's name or an artificial name or whatever.

Mario THEISSEN: Well, we are not in a position to supply a second team in 2004. You could take two approaches. If you supply the same engine that team number one uses, you mainly have to gear up production capacity. If you provide a different engine you have also to increase design and development capacity and both are currently not under way at BMW.

Q: Peter, are you pretty much in the market for an engine?

Peter SAUBER: Generally we are happy with the situation we have now with Ferrari. We have worked together now for seven years but of course we have to look for other possibilities but at the moment there is only one: Mercedes.

Q: When it comes to Ferrari, you've had quite a few problems over the last few races. You've had a few blow-ups, what's been happening? It's been a very reliable engine in the past, why not now?

Sauber: I don't know. It's necessary to look very carefully at the situation we have now, but when we see it for the last five or six years, I think we are in a very comfortable situation with the Ferrari engines. Overall, the engine has been very, very reliable.

Q: What sort of explanation has Ferrari given you?

Sauber: At the moment, it's really not clear what the problem is.

Q: So it's not really to your satisfaction because you haven't actually tied it up?

Sauber: No.

Q: What about from a general chassis point of view? I understand you may be using another wind tunnel. Do you want to speed up development?

Sauber: Our biggest problem at the moment is the aerodynamics, of course, and we're working very, very hard on this problem. We have an old wind tunnel, it's for sure not a bad one, but it's not a state-of-the-art wind tunnel and our own wind tunnel is ready for use at the end of this year, that's late. Maybe we will use another wind tunnel in England for a short period to look for a comparison between the wind tunnel in Emmen and an English one.

Q: Otmar, I think you've just had one major step forward in terms of engine development. Are you planning more?

Szafnauer: Yes we are. The last one, as you say, was at the Canadian Grand Prix and the next one will be at Silverstone, so for this race and the French Grand Prix we will be using the step that we had in Canada and the next big step will be at Silverstone.

Q: Are those steps coming every two or three races, that soon?

Szafnauer: Every two or three races. At the beginning of the year, they came a bit quicker as well, some races back to back.

Q: So the pace of development is pretty rapid?

Szafnauer: Yes, we're not satisfied where we are and we'd like to do better so we're pushing on development as well as reducing the weight of the engine and improving driveability, so those three areas we're focusing on.

Q: BAR have said that they are not going to introduce their 2004 car until at least after the first four races. What's Honda's reaction to that?

Szafnauer: Well, that was planned with us in mind. Our engine will run early in the interim car. I think the entire back end will be new so the introduction of the new car will happen, I think, after the fly-aways and we think it's a good plan. Strategically we will be better off for it.

Q: Are you planning a brand new engine for next year then?

Szafnauer: Yes, especially with the new rules, the engine will be brand new. It will run for the first time in November and I think it's bench testing sometime in August.

Q: Ove, to what extent is this a home race? Obviously, you haven't had to get into an aeroplane to get here.

Andersson: Yeah, I live only half an hour away from here so that's very good. Obviously, this is our home race. Our workforce is 75 percent German. We are near the area and it really is our home race.

Q: Will they all be coming to the race?

Andersson: Yeah. We have the whole team coming, not everybody on the same day but over the weekend we have everybody from the company here.

Q: What your feelings about the team's performance in the first half of the season?

Andersson: I am asked this question very often. I would say I'm a little disappointed with the first few races because our winter testing was going reasonably well and then we came to Australia and Malaysia and we had these problems that we never saw during the testing because of the temperatures. I think that really pushed us back a bit, but then as the season came to Europe I think we have dropped behind the other teams in terms of development speed and I hope we can catch up again until the end of the year.

Q: What about Cristiano's performance, given that he's new to Grand Prix racing?

Andersson: I think he's doing very well, in my opinion. He's very strong mentally. He has the speed, he only needs to get used... I mean more or less every circuit is completely new to him. So we are very pleased and think he's doing a very good job.

Q: Norbert, there have been problems with the McLaren chassis and obviously it's not going to be introduced as early as was hoped. What's Mercedes' reaction to that?

Haug: It was a basic plan that we introduced the car later in the season. This is a big step forward and I think we really are? our current car is still competitive, but we want to do another big step so this needs a lot of research and development work and then if you start testing and you lose two cars within two tests then that certainly doesn't help. But a strong team is in a position to collect the pieces together, to come back on the race track, to come back on the test track and I still hope that we will have a good test in Barcelona, that we will pass the next FIA crash test. I speak very openly about that because there were rumors but it was as late as last Friday that we failed, not before. So we are going to push, we are going to continue. I think we showed today that we have a good package still and if the new car comes and it is a step forward then we are in a good position. And this, as I have pointed out at various occasions, this is not an excuse, it is certainly a late car for this year, but believe me, it is a very early one for next year. And if everything works according to plan, then maybe, at the end of the season, everybody will say this was a good approach. Now we are criticized, I can live with that. We need to do our work, we need to get focused, get concentrated and we are a team that can deliver and can achieve that.

Q: Have you been happy with the new engine in the new chassis?

Haug: Well, we're never happy. We still want more, that is for sure, but I think you can see in our current engine that we did big steps in the right direction. I think even Mario (Theissen) will admit that. So we are heading in the right direction and this is positive. And the new engine will be another step and I'm not worried that we're going to achieve our goals. I would like to be one month earlier but ask the question to every team who does not want to be earlier, but I think our first half of the season was quite a positive one. We have had two bad races in Barcelona and in Canada, but we still scored some points in Canada, but basically our package, our car was all the time in a position to be first or second. We have had four second places, two wins and a third place, so this is not too bad and we are still in the hunt. I want to have a second half of the season that sees us as competitive as in the first one, then it's good for the sport, it's good for us, it's good for everybody and it's not like last year where Ferrari were dominant so this is the plan. I think a lot of other teams will join. We saw good performances this morning from both Toyota and Jaguar. We saw good performances from BMW and Williams and so it's a much better World Championship than we used to have in the past. This is what counts.

Q: Do you think, between the two of you, you've got Ferrari a little bit rattled?

Haug: That's certainly the plan.

Theissen: We're just starting.

Q: Mario, there is a press release just come out from BMW-Williams about extending the partnership to 2009 and it talks a great deal about integration. How do you expect to achieve that integration?

Theissen: We have discussed this with Williams for half a year now. You know that has always been the main topic of our discussions. We are just aiming at what is the usual way to go in the industry today, in the auto industry; every company has to deal with separate locations, different locations. The key to success is an integrated project management, program management, and we have spent a lot of time together with Williams to exchange our ideas and to try and find a common idea how to proceed. That was achieved in the past weeks so we were able to close the deal.

Q: You talk also about starting off on the drive train and gearbox. We have seen the gearbox being very important at Ferrari, we know McLaren-Mercedes are bringing out two different types of gearbox. Is that the same sort of thing that you are talking about as well?

Theissen: Well, as I said before the project management is the backbone of all the operations. Besides that, we want to offer our resources, which of course have been put in place for road car development, and to adapt them for Formula One needs in order to speed up our development slope and to include all the best knowledge a big automobile company has and to come to common solutions. We will start with the power train. We have been supplying the engine for four years now and now we are, as our first focus, we are looking at the gearbox and parts connected to this. I wouldn't say we are out to do gearboxes in competition with Williams. I would rather say we will integrate our resources, our knowledge, our test facilities, simulation facilities, and the aim is to have an integrated powertrain program with people from Williams and people from BMW working at the same project.

Q: You said it took a long time to get the negotiations settled. Was it the negotiating or the fine detail that was taking the time?

Theissen: I would say it was a very fruitful learning process. We have approached each other from different positions, both parts of the team have learned about the experience of the other side and so we got together and that in the end was the key to come to a deal.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: To all five gentlemen, after what we have seen in this afternoon's qualifying, what sort of changes would you like to see next year?

Sauber: I believe the qualifying is okay, the Friday qualifying and also the Saturday qualifying.

Szafnauer: Well, if it mixes it up for the fans and it is good for the fans then it is good for all of us. We have Friday to show our ultimate potential speed and Saturday is a bit strategic now.

Andersson: As long as it is good for the spectators and fans... it mixes the grid up and mixes the races up a little bit. I think this is the first year for a long time that we have had so many different winners in the first half of the year and I think it can only be good. Maybe what needs to be considered is the total program of the weekend because the Sunday mornings are becoming a bit more boring now, otherwise I think it is okay.

Haug: Well, I think as long as we have the same conditions in the qualifying sessions it is okay but if you think about the fact that maybe two or three guys are fighting for the world championship at the last race and one gets on a dry track and one on a wet track then I think this will be heavily criticized because nobody wants to have the outcome of a world championship influenced like that. That is probably the occasion to think carefully about it. I have to say in general the qualifying works very well, the qualifying with fuel in the car works better than expected. It not only mixes up the grid but it creates surprises and after Saturday you sometimes don't know where you are, you have to look at the race on Sunday. I think that is what we all want, so that works, but the problems are all the different weather conditions. Maybe one idea would be what we are doing in DTM, which is nine laps with three sets of tires and then a top-ten qualifying. But maybe, I am saying. We have good experiences with that and if you put that on today's qualifying then everybody would have been in the rain at the end and the window is just tighter than it is if the one-by-one single lap qualifying happens, and maybe one can think about that. This is not a short-term solution, but I think we have to discuss the fact that weather is influencing the outcome of a race or even worse the outcome of a world championship.

Theissen: I agree with what Norbert says about the weather influence. Generally speaking I like it that there is only one car out at a time because every car, every driver gets the same attention. I think that what we could think about is a second shot, maybe like in skiing the top ten or 50 percent gets a second try because in qualifying in the past years the most exciting thing has been the counter-attacks - if there is one at the top then the other guy has a second chance to top this. I think this would be interesting. I think that, aside from qualifying, we should try to get back to a common testing scheme - I am not so much in favor of having two different schemes with some teams testing at the racetrack and not between the races and others doing the opposite. I think it would be good for the show to do more testing at the race weekend and there could be a chance to make the races more attractive for the spectators and the organizers. I think the regulation to qualify with race fuel is better than expected. Originally I was quite critical about it because it certainly is interesting for us but it is hard to understand for the spectator but meanwhile I see there is a growing understanding of what is going on and I feel that the teams are not so far apart from each other in terms of race strategy so I think it can work.

Q: How do you rate Nick Heidfeld's performance so far and what about his future in the team?

Sauber: About Nick? It is too early to speak about drivers. I am happy with both drivers; they have done a good job. It is not easy for the drivers at the moment because the performance of the car is not good enough.

Q: Otmar, I know you have some Honda people at BAR. Are there plans to bring more people there and integrate the two sides?

Szafnauer: Yes, we are continuing to do that. Next year's effort will see more Honda chassis people come to BAR and help in some areas where we haven't been helping before. So the answer is yes.


PRESS CONFERENCE - THURSDAY, JUNE 26, 2003

DRIVERS: Heinz-Harald FRENTZEN (SAUBER), Nick HEIDFELD (SAUBER), Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI), Ralph SCHUMACHER (WILLIAMS) and Jos VERSTAPPEN (MINARDI)

Q: Nick, the Sauber train seems to have run out of steam at the moment. Are you happy with the pace of development? Are you happy with the way things are going?

Nick HEIDFELD: No, obviously not. We're not where we want to be. The last two years we've been a lot stronger but we knew before the season, and already for the last two years, that it's going to be tough to compete against these big manufacturers. I think that only shows how good our performance was over the last two years. Some people said that this year's car has been designed completely wrong but I can't agree with that. We definitely made a step forward from last year to this year, but other teams definitely made a bigger step.

Q: What about your own future? How do you feel about next year?

Heidfeld: Well, as you say, my contract runs out this year, so I have to look around for next year. I'm confident but I can't tell you right now.

Q: With Sauber?

Heidfeld: Well, we are talking to a couple of teams and also I have a good relationship with Peter, with the whole team, I've felt comfortable there for the last two years but it's too early to say anything.

Q: Heinz-Harald, this is your 150 th Grand Prix but I hear you're not very excited about this fact.

Heinz-Harald FRENTZEN: Well, I never count the races. Actually it took me a long time to figure out it really was the 150 th Grand Prix. I counted them all together but yes, indeed, it is.

Q: Does it make you feel old, then?

Frentzen: No, nothing special. It's a good reason to talk about it and talk about the past and the future and whatever. It's a good moment to talk with journalists about it. It's one of the only reasons!

Q: You've been having a really rotten time of it in the last three races, not only in the races themselves but also in qualifying. What does that do you to your spirit, your morale?

Frentzen: I think we are not the fastest at the moment for sure, but we try to keep on fighting and try to do our best in the circumstances we are in at the moment and our main focus is to develop the car a little bit faster. That's our main focus.

Q: But your own problems have been extraordinary - seven laps in the last three races?

Frentzen: Yes, it's true, it's a little bit short of mileage. But as I said, I try to do my best, to help the team. We are trying to get the best strategy for the race, to score points. Even though we have got points down to eighth place it is not that easy at the moment and our main focus is on speed at the moment.

Q: Jos, this is your 100 th Grand Prix. I'm sure that there must have been times when you never thought you were going to get there.

Jos VERSTAPPEN: Like last year, huh? No, we've had some difficulties but here I am.

Q: How has your driving developed in comparison to the past?

Verstappen: Obviously I'm happy to be in Formula One but as soon as you are driving a car you want to have the best results, of course. It's not so easy at the moment but we will still do our best, do the maximum we can, and see what we can do for next year.

Q: Talking of next year, one of your compatriots was saying that you're quite an attractive proposition with so much experience and a lot of Dutch sponsors. What are your thoughts about next year?

Verstappen: I think that's right! No, of course, we're working on the sponsorship and at this time if an experienced driver can bring some money to the team I think that will help of course.

Q: You've got a lot of Dutch sponsors, a new one here apparently?

Verstappen: Yes, that's right, nearly the whole shirt! No, we are working very hard. Even last year when I wasn't driving we worked on it ready to come back, and even this year we were even working harder to get good names and a lot of money and see what we can do for next year.

Q: Have you got any ideas as to how the Arrows chassis that the team has bought would be?

Verstappen: I have no idea. We haven't run it, of course, and I don't know what they will do. I haven't spoken with Paul about it so I have no idea what that will bring or not.

Q: Michael, at the last race you were pursued by two other chassis and Williams were fastest at the Silverstone test. How worried are you about the competitiveness of the Ferrari at the moment?

Michael SCHUMACHER: As long as we keep winning races I am not so concerned.

Q: But they are really knocking on the door, aren't they.

M.Schumacher: Yep, but I have been saying that since the beginning of the season so I don't need to be surprised now.

Q: Is the pace of development as quick as it always has been, if not quicker?

M.Schumacher: I think we are doing a sort of high level job as we have done in the past but the others simply have picked up the game on top and closed the competition, but again that is what I had expected and that is where we are.

Q: Could you see Ferrari again picking up the pace of development?

M.Schumacher: I could not see Ferrari getting up in sort of a margin as we had last year, no, because simply in all the areas the other teams have raised their game and there is not much margin left actually.

Q: Now, your brother came in for a certain amount of criticism for Canada but you have come to his defence. Can you just repeat what you have said about the fact he didn't try to overtake in Montreal ?

M.Schumacher: No, I think it is very simple - there is a lot of people that talk without knowing what is going on and that is a problem. Then you get criticized for something that people shouldn't even make a comment about and if I hear things like this I don't feel very happy because I wouldn't feel happy if it went the other way around. If you look, it wasn't only him being behind me; there was Montoya behind Ralf and there was Alonso behind Montoya and no-one could pass anyone. I was behind Ralf before and I couldn't pass him either. It is all about a nice story, how to create a story, how to make people look a little bit stupid and that is what I dislike.

Q: So what is your reaction, Ralf?

Ralf SCHUMACHER: Well, there has been talk over the last one-and-a-half to two years and I think it all started here at the Nurburgring. I personally don't understand it but it might be due to the fact that people, as Michael said, do comment where they shouldn't. Wherever there was a possibility in my past, and it will be in my future, to overtake I will take it. There, there wasn't one and I never even came close enough. He had a higher straight-line speed and I was not even able to try it. That is why I didn't and I would rather then take the eight points instead of trying to take the two of us out. And even for that I wouldn't have been close enough.

Q: Talking of taking points, you have finished every race in the points so far this year, the first half of the year. Every driver wants to do that, but has it been a surprise to you?

R.Schumacher: Yeah. We had reliability problems before the start of the season and to be so consistent is a surprise. But then, after last year, the whole team worked really hard on that because we had a few problems, as you know, last year, and if you want to win a championship that shouldn't happen.

Q: So, in terms of you still looking to build up the points score, is that more important than, perhaps, overtaking?

R.Schumacher: No, it has nothing to do. I mean, every racing driver, as soon as he sees a possibility he will take it and even if it works or if it doesn't that doesn't matter. As long as I don't see one, I don't even try a stupid move. That is the way I have always been and I will always continue to do that but it has nothing to do that I am not willing to overtake or to try. Scoring points is always good but certainly after we started one and two we would have liked to finish one and two. The possibility was there, our pit strategy might have been a lap short, a bit unlucky, otherwise it would have looked like 2001 and he would have been the whole race behind me, so it only changed it by the one or two laps, that was it.

Q: And obviously the qualifying has been good as well.

R.Schumacher: Qualifying has improved but whatever way you do it, last year I got criticized by not being good in qualifying. This year I am good in qualifying and reasonably good in the race, I think, I am in front of my team-mate so it can't be that bad but I still get criticized for that so it doesn't really matter anymore, does it?

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: This weekend is going to mark the tenth year Jean Todt has been with Ferrari. You have spent many years with him, where do you think he stands in the big results Ferrari have had over the last few years?

M.Schumacher: I think it is very clear what Jean Todt has achieved for the team. I think Ferrari, in the past, has been the highest political team and everybody feared to be in a position as Jean Todt is, to be a driver for Ferrari, to work even for Ferrari, because you weren't sure how long you would stay there. And now you see Jean Todt is there for ten years, I am there for seven years and so many other high level people, mechanics, and everybody is there for so long. We have achieved stability and stability has come from Jean because he has certainly hired the right people, made them stronger and made them happy to stay on and keep on fighting, keep on pushing, keep on being motivated, and that is something which is an outstanding achievement from him.

Q: Ralf, can you explain to us what the team has done to improve the car performance since the beginning of the year? In which areas have you improved the most?

R.Schumacher: Well I don't think we've got enough time to go through all the points, but it's fair to say that we started with a pretty basic car on the mechanical side and even on the aero side. Aerodynamically, the car has improved massively and I think working on a car that has developed year by year but was basically very similar basic car, we changed everything on the 25 and we had to learn a lot on the mechanical and set-up side and in which direction to go. Plus Michelin have made a huge development throughout the season so far as well. All these factors have come together.

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