JULY 18, 2003
BRITISH GP - FRIDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT
Michael back on top
Michael Schumacher (1st, 1:19.474): "I am reasonably happy and this was a good day for us. I am not surprised, as we had a successful test session here a few weeks ago. Today's performance is also the result of all the hard work the team did last week in getting new parts tested and ready for this weekend. For sure, the Silverstone track seems to suit our car. Now, I hope everything goes equally well for the rest of the weekend, so that we can pick up some points. It was a shame for Rubens, but maybe on this track going out first or last does not make such a difference, looking at my lap today."
Rubens Barrichello (19th, No Time): "I am very disappointed with what happened. I could have been first or second, which would have seen me running at the end of tomorrow's session. However and hopefully, given the changeable weather, today's result might turn out to be an advantage tomorrow! I was on a really good lap, then after the second split, there was a bit of drizzle and having clipped the kerb, I ended up off the track. I am not too bothered. This morning,the car was handling very well in race trim and I am confident for the rest of the weekend."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "It was an encouraging qualifying for Ferrari. We set the quickest time with Michael Schumacher, while Rubens Barrichello was running at a similar pace to his team-mate until he ran wide and got stuck in the gravel in the final sector, when the track was a bit damp. It is always great to see a Ferrari ahead of the rest and Rubens' inconvenient incident should not prejudice his chances of doing well. This morning, in free practice, we worked on finding the best set-up for the F2003-GA and on tire choice, with the Bridgestones performing well. The weather forecast for the rest of the weekend is very uncertain, which makes it even harder than usual to make any predictions."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "We had a very good test here after the Canadian Grand Prix and last week's test was also very productive, leading to improvements on the chassis, engine and bridgestone tire package. Today's qualifying result is the first visible sign of that improvement. We did quite long runs this morning to evaluate the two types of Bridgestone tire, to make a choice for final qualifying and the race. We are happy with the performance of both. I think we will be in good shape for this race as the car is very well balanced. I feel much more comfortable with our situation than I did in France, but here at Silverstone, a lot will depend on the weather."
Juan Pablo Montoya (2nd, 1:19.749): "My car had was very well balanced in qualifying and it felt really good. It's an improvement as this morning I had a bit of a struggle finding the balance and I thought qualifying could be tough. My engineers and all the team did an excellent job in setting up my car so well, and the they deserve my thanks. However, I hope there's more to come in our car for Saturday because Ferrari is going to be very strong here."
Ralf Schumacher (3rd, 1:19.788): "My car was not at all bad. I experienced some understeer. but this is something we can sort out, so in summary it was a good Friday session. Since the First Qualifying is not critical for the final grid, it is important to complete a safe lap in order to ensure a good starting position for the Final Qualifying on Saturday. Ferrari seem to be very strong here, which is no surprise. I think the circuit's lay-out and the current weather conditions suit the Ferrari package pretty well. However, we have had similar gaps to Ferrari on Fridays before now, so I am not too worried."
Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "This was good start to the weekend with both drivers up at the front. Tonight we will look at the race set up and consider our strategy. We are quite confident to have another strong race performance this weekend."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Michael Schumacher has fulfilled the general expectation to be favorite, and behind him are both our drivers in a good position. The weather will be the deciding factor in final qualifying as we cannot be sure that every driver will qualify under the same conditions."
David Coulthard (7th, 1:19.968): "I'm reasonably happy as the times are pretty close at the top. I was a little bit too cautious in the first sector compared to this morning's practice, as I wasn't sure about the weather conditions. It was spitting with rain whilst they were recovering Rubens' car, but in the end the track was fairly dry and as a result I know there is more to come tomorrow. In Friday's qualifying the main thing is to ensure that your lap time is good enough to put you in the same group as your main competitors, so you will have roughly the same track conditions in tomorrow's qualifying, which is when it really counts."
Kimi Raikkonen (12th, 1:21.065): "I have struggled a bit to get comfortable with the car today, so we will be looking at where we can make improvements before tomorrow. During my qualifying run I made a mistake at Stowe, which cost me a lot of time. However its tomorrow's session which is important, so we will wait and see what happens then."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "The higher ambient temperature, which is predicted for tomorrow and Sunday, will certainly help our competitiveness. Kimi's mistake at Stowe kept him out of the top group, but neither his nor David's seventh position should hamper their ability to qualify well tomorrow."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "As has often happened in this year's Friday qualifying sessions, we are not where we want to be. The competition seems to be pretty close as there is only a little more than two tenths of a second between second place and David's seventh."
Fernando Alonso (4th, 1:19.907): "Everything went well all day. We had no problems with the car during the various sessions, and we found a good balance for my timed lap. The new aero package is better everywhere, with more grip all the way round the lap. I hope we will be able to fight with the top teams again this weekend."
Jarno Trulli (6th, 1:19.963): "I'm happy with the result. I have had a good day, in spite of a few problems finding the right set-up this morning. We got on top of the situation, though, and I didn't make any mistakes on my qualifying lap. Our package is working well here, and we are competitive."
Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "In spite of difficult conditions, the session went very well. We ran through some well-structured programs today, and they paid off this afternoon. It is always difficult to make any precise judgments about our competitors' speed, but what we can say is that we are currently in a promising position."
Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "We expected this to be a competitive weekend for us, and it is proving to be so. Fernando had a good balance on the car all day, and was able to achieve fourth. Jarno struggled more this morning, but did an excellent job with his engineers to improve the car and set a very good time in qualifying. Tomorrow, we need to look to get more out of the car, and pick the right strategy to allow us to fight for the podium on Sunday."
Nick Heidfeld (14th, 1:21.211): "I am quite happy with my lap under these circumstances. But I must say that it didn't go that well for me in free practice as my car was understeering a lot. In preparation for qualifying this afternoon we made a change in the set-up without having the chance to test whether it would be good or not. Fortunately it paid off and gave me a much more balanced car."
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (15th, 1:21.363): "I think my lap was pretty good. I didn't have any major problems and in contrast to today's free practice session in the morning, the car's balance was improved for qualifying."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "After today's morning session when both drivers were not happy with the handling of the cars we were able to make an improvement for qualifying. Now the engineers have to analyse the data again and must try to make another step in this direction."
Giancarlo Fisichella (16th, 1:21.500): "It's disappointing not to be moving up any higher than this. Our lack of pace is frustrating."
Ralph Firman (17th, 1:22.335): "I'm a bit frustrated with my lap time. I was quicker in the morning with more fuel so obviously I was hoping to have had a better lap. I had lots of oversteer. We'll try and address it tomorrow and do the best we can."
Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "This morning we had a gearbox pump oil leak on Ralph's car and had to change the engine because some wiring was damaged. He was in the t-car for the rest of the session and had a fuel pressure problem at the end which turned out to be an internal tank problem. Giancarlo had no real dramas and we got through our tire evaluation work. As far as qualifying goes, it's the same as normal. We have to be quicker and there's a lot to do."
Mark Webber (8th, 1:20.171): "That was a good lap and the best I could manage. I locked up a little bit going into Vale that may have cost be a tenth but overall, I am pleased with that qualifying performance. It would have nice to have been a bit closer to the front-runners but tomorrow is the ultimate test ? not today. I have the fastest third sector time and it's a part of the track that I really enjoy driving. The low speed section really highlights a driver's finesse and it's nice to have posted the fastest time there. There is still, however, a long way to go and a lot of work ahead of us this weekend if we are to seriously chase for points. Michael Schumacher is very quick and the tire war between Michelin and Bridgestone will be very interesting this weekend at what is my second home Grand Prix after Australia. The atmosphere is fantastic here and with Jaguar Cars, HSBC and so many of our other partners based within a hour or so of Silverstone, the importance of this particular race weekend takes on a slightly different, albeit very positive meaning."
Antonio Pizzonia (11th, 1:20.877): "That worked out pretty well considering the challenge we had this morning on finding a good set-up which we achieved for qualifying. The car felt very good throughout the lap and the balance is now to my liking. The track was quite slippery this morning and improved somewhat for qualifying but it could be better. I made a mistake on the last sector coming out of Bridge into the complex section. This probably cost me a few tenths and subsequently a few places on the grid. Nonetheless, there isn't a great deal to be had from Friday qualifying and as long as we maintain the balance and speed of the car for tomorrow, we are looking well-prepared for Sunday."
David Pitchforth, Managing Director: "That was a pleasing qualifying session given how green the track was when Mark went out. The grip levels out there could be better but we are around three-tenths off the front-runners and that is very encouraging indeed as we prepare for the real qualifying test tomorrow. We were unsure of what tires to opt for prior to qualifying and took a very late decision that paid off in the end. Both drivers did a solid job today and Mark posted the fastest time in T3 ? quite ironic given that both Jaguars are carrying the T3 logo on the engine cover as part of our promotion with Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Terminator 3 movie. Maybe we should consider putting T1, T2 and T3 on the car for tomorrow!"
Jenson Button (9th, 1:20.569): "The run wasn't too bad. It started to drizzle with rain a little which has given the circuit more grip strangely, but there's a lot more grip than we had this morning. It wasn't a perfect lap; I don't think I got the best out of it but we have definitely made a step forward with the car from the last race. The new bodywork has made quite a big difference but we are a little further behind than we wanted to be, so we have just got to hope that we can make progress for tomorrow. We still have quite a bit of work to do on set-up."
Jacques Villeneuve (13th, 1:21.084): "The car was good for the first half of the lap but by the last two corners the front tires were gone. It didn't seem slippery out there but it was a little bit difficult as you get to turn one and don't know how much grip there is. Today was the day to try things on the car - Jenson took a different tire and it looks like that choice is better, so I will go with that choice tomorrow. We have made improvements to the car for this race and we have certainly taken a step forward. We already know what we have to do tomorrow to improve the set-up."
David Richards, Team Principal: "We've had a constructive day with both drivers getting their full quota of track time. More importantly the improvements that Honda and ourselves have made to the car have translated into real performance on the track. This has given us renewed momentum and I am confident that, with more fine-tuning, we will have a competitive weekend."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "Our new aerodynamic upgrade package and Honda engine evolution are working well at this track and we appear to have closed up the gap to Ferrari. In this morning's session we focused on car set-up and tyre comparison. Weather conditions this afternoon were a little variable with the rain always threatening to upset the qualifying times but both drivers were unaffected and were generally happy with their car balance."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "We will be able to improve the driveability of the engine overnight as well as make some changes to the car, so our target is for both drivers to qualify inside the top ten tomorrow."
Jos Verstappen (18th, 1:23.418): "I think that was a pretty clean lap, and I was reasonably happy with it, even though the time was not as fast as my best of the morning. There was less grip available this afternoon, and as a result, the car was sliding around more. We have some ideas to improve the situation that we want to try tomorrow, so we'll see if we can find a little more time."
Justin Wilson (20th, No Time): "By this afternoon, I was happier with the car's handling. As a result, my confidence has been building, but there are still a couple of areas where I need to improve. As for my qualifying run, I just went out the pit lane, and as I went over the bump at the end where it joins the track, the engine lost all power. The car fired up when we got it back to the garage, and the engineers now suspect a problem with the ignition switch. As ever, tomorrow's another day, and we'll be aiming to do better."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "Despite it looking for a brief moment as though we might have a repeat of the Magny Cours Friday qualifying result, the rain stopped, and it was not to be. Both drivers spent the day setting up their cars for the demands of the Silverstone circuit, and by the end of the practice session, they had split the Saubers and were within sight of the Jordans, the two teams we feel we are racing against. Sadly, qualifying didn't work out as planned, when Justin's car came to a stop with what appears to have been an ignition switch problem. Both drivers, however, put in a solid performance, and we look forward to a better day tomorrow."
Olivier Panis (5th, 1:19.959): "I am very pleased with this result. We expected to go quite well here, because the car suits this kind of high-speed track. We had a productive test in Barcelona last week and we have some new aero parts on the car for this race, which look promising. I love this circuit and Cristiano had a good test here at the beginning of June, so I am in a very positive frame of mind for the rest of the weekend. Michelin has again supplied us with some competitive tires for this race, which helps us even further."
Cristiano Da Matta (10th, 1:20.765): "As a team, we appear to be looking quite strong here this weekend, but my lap time wasn't all that great. Of course, tenth place is a good result, but I think there is more to come from the car and we have to make the overall balance a bit better. We should be encouraged by getting two cars in the top ten. I am happy with the progress we have made over the last couple of races, and if we continue in this way, I think we are looking in good form the rest of the weekend."
Gustav Brunner, Chief Designer: "Two cars in the top ten is really a fantastic achievement. We have a new aerodynamic package here this weekend and it appears our TF103 suits the Silverstone track well. We have been continually improving as a team over the past few races, getting better in every department. The drivers are also performing exceptionally well, so as a unit we are making big progress. Although it is only the opening day of the British Grand Prix, I think our 5th and tenth positions today reflect this improvement, and we hope it continues for the rest of the weekend with points as an obvious target come Sunday afternoon."
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 18 JULY 2003
TEAM PERSONNEL: Ross BRAWN (FERRARI), Mike GASCOYNE (RENAULT), Patrick HEAD (WILLIAMS), Martin WHITMARSH (MCLAREN)
Q: A question for all of you: people are talking about an engine capacity cut to slow down the cars. Is that the best way to slow down the cars? Patrick?
Patrick HEAD: I know there was a meeting yesterday between the engine suppliers. I think the technical working group thought that continuing to reduce the performance of the cars without paying some attention to the performance of the engine is getting not to the limit but has been rather continuous, so certainly it's been suggested that the power of the engine should be reduced. But in a way, it's best to let it be sorted out between the engine suppliers, what mechanism they use to achieve that.
Q: So should we ask Mike and Ross this question?
Head: Yup. I'm not actually right up to date with what happened at the meeting yesterday. I think it was one of those ping-pong things where they bounced it back to the technical working group I think.
Ross BRAWN: I think there is, as Patrick said, a feeling that it would be nice to moderate the engines a bit. When we started with this formula, we probably had around 700/750 horsepower, approaching 900 now. I think stability is there until 2007 and for sure it's going to be 950, maybe even 1000 by then, so with a wish to slow the cars down, it's certainly one of the things that needs to be considered very seriously. Unfortunately, there's... there's my phone. (Laughter). Sorry, I'll turn it off, as I should have done when I came in. For us, the easiest way is to lop two cylinders off the back of the engine, so now there's a formula of three litres, ten cylinders ( Head: You couldn't do it tomorrow, could you?). With three litres, ten cylinders it would seem to be 2.4 litres, eight cylinders because it would mean that the combustion, the piston, the valves, all those things would stay the same and there is a general agreement that 2.4/2.5 would be an appropriate reduction, but some of the engine suppliers have, let's say, marketing policies which revolve around the V10 so it's difficult to get agreement because for us to do a V10 small capacity would be a pretty expensive exercise. It would be a high revving engine, a higher revving engine that we have now. So it seems difficult to get a solution, but it's certainly something that would, without any doubt, reduce the performance of the cars. It's a fact, whereas a lot of the other proposals we're debating are a little uncertain as to what result they would have.
Q: Mike, won't power come down anyway with these one weekend engines?
Mike GASCOYNE: I don't think you'll see power come down greatly. Certainly there may be, for a year, a sort of a bit of a plateau out in terms of development, but I don't think you're going to see large reductions in performance from the one engine per weekend formula. For me, it's exactly the same as Ross and Patrick have said: there's been quite a lot of frustration in the technical working group that measures that are brought in to slow the cars down are always aimed at the chassis and that that should be matched by a sensible change in the engine regulations, but as Ross said, it's very difficult to get full agreement on that. But I think it is the right time to do something along those lines.
Martin WHITMARSH: I think I would agree with everything that's been said. In reality, no one likes change and all of the engineers on the chassis side and on the engine side are striving to find performance, so it's always difficult to accept change, which is designed to control performance. There have been a lot of initiatives over the last ten years to control the performance via aerodynamics and other factors on the car and I think we've got to keep a balance and the engine power progressively increases and that's why the technical working group felt it was sensible now to find ways in which we could control the power. When you set out to do that, you can start to have discussions about air restrictors, fuel economy, rev limiters, but all of those seemed unattractive to the technical working group and that's why that group passed the proposal to the engine manufacturers that they consider a reduction in capacity. But as Ross has said, I think there are a number of organizations who have developed marketing strategies; they feel they've invested in a particular format of racing, they've got a guarantee, under Concorde, of stability and understandably some people are reluctant to accept that change.
Q: Does that include yourselves?
Whitmarsh: No. Mercedes in fact, have, for some time, been very reluctant to accept that change and that's been an issue because I personally have felt that we should consider it but in fact, in the last discussions, Mercedes Benz have been prepared to discuss a reduction in capacity.
Q: Onto another subject, to all of you, once again: there are proposals to change the format of a race weekend. How would that affect your tasks, particularly the design of a car?
Whitmarsh: Well obviously I'm not a designer but I think changing the format wouldn't change how we design the car. Obviously we would have to take a view on development of cars because any plans to change the race weekend format are associated with a reduction in testing. I think that's something that all of the teams are conscious, at the moment, of a need to control costs and also improve the show. I'm not sure that having more testing on Friday and moving the qualifying to Saturday and Sunday is necessarily the right thing for the format of Formula One, to create and build the interest. Here we are now, we've had one qualifying session which has created some interest, it's created something to talk about. I think if we were at the end of a test day, I think it would be a much less conclusive set of discussions about the relative performance of teams so I think it would be a shame to lose qualifying on Friday, because that's what feeds the weekend newspapers.
Gascoyne: Obviously we as a team are one of the teams that signed up for the Friday testing here and that's had benefits for us and it's got downsides for us. It's been a very interesting exercise with the limited testing, to try and ensure that we don't suffer from that and we've certainly changed the way we test and how intensively we work the cars and drivers and that's actually been quite a beneficial process for us. We've actually done more testing mileage at this stage of the year than we did last year. But there are downsides: we certainly can't match the tire testing that the other three major teams do because obviously it would use up too much of our available time. But having said that, it's been an interesting exercise. Whether we need to change it again, what we need to do to keep interest up on all three days because I think it is important - we've made a change and I think there are interesting aspects to it. It's very difficult when you make a change to get it right first time and I don't think anyone would say that we've got it 100 per cent right. But if we want to go further, I think it needs to be very carefully considered and with the full agreement of everyone. If you're going to do a change, it needs to be a beneficial one.
Head: I think the same thing. But one sees these things come up and very often the decisions to make a change seem to come from behind closed doors and you're never quite certain where they come from; presumably either driven by Max or Bernie, one or the other. I've heard Bernie express that he doesn't think that the current qualifying is that exciting. I think it's a little bit of a sacrifice in order to have more uncertainty about what the outcome is going to be on Sunday, and that was the intention of it. I think a little bit more time settling down around what we've got would be a good idea, but equally, if there are proposals for change I would hope that it wouldn't come out of a closed room as a fait accompli. I would hope that we would have some chance to participate in a discussion about it.
Brawn: I think there's a fairly critical decision on the format of racing which is this concept of keeping the fuel for qualifying and racing because that, by definition, ties you into a one lap qualifying, because you couldn't logically have a series of qualifying laps and have fuel for qualifying and the race. So if you follow a little bit of a logical diagram, I don't think the decision that has to be considered is whether the fuel for qualifying and the race is a good thing, because it ties you into several things. I think the unfortunate thing about it is that it was perceived as a way to give lesser teams a bit of a moment in the spotlight because they could run light to succeed in qualifying etc. I don't see that. I think they're still sensible enough to realize that would be a very short term gain. And I think after a year of racing this year, we will find next year that everyone's following the same pattern of qualifying weight and race weight. I'm not sure that that side of it is working so well because what did happen last year, even though it was an unusual year from our side, you started the race with several cars on different strategies and different types or tire and so on, you saw a lot of overtaking at the beginning of the race because cars were on different strategies. You don't get that any more. By definition, the race starts with the teams in the order of their relative speeds so the guy at the front, even more so than it used to be, the guy at the front's got a certain level of fuel, a certain speed, and the guy behind him is a little bit slower and so on and so on. You can't apply different strategies. The problem is that affects the design of the car. Your original question was how is the design of the car influenced by the format and that's the main thing, because the fuel capacity is determined by the regulation we have and I think people will be moving towards small capacity cars and then it will be very difficult to reverse their concept and I think that's the first thing: we have to decide if it's working, because once we can decide if that's working, then it either opens up or closes down a number of other possibilities. I think the jury's out on the one lap qualifying. I have to say I was very keen on it, I thought it would be a good move but I'm not so sure now that it's been, certainly for us, has been so successful as a spectacle. I'm sure the smaller teams get a bit more TV coverage, but in terms of a spectacle, it doesn't seem to be capturing the public's imagination. I think the one lap qualifying needs to be considered - whether it's been a success or not.
Q: Another question to you all: how do you find Silverstone as a facility to work in?
Brawn: I think the facilities are very good. The size of the garage and all of that side of things is excellent. I don't know if you experienced it, but it was a bit difficult getting in this morning, on the A43, so not all the problems have been solved, but as a facility for the teams, certainly for us, to work in, it's as good as any other circuit, no doubt.
Head: Yeah, I'd agree with that. We don't see any downside in terms of the facilities and many many other tracks we go to have less room in the garages. I know there has been calls new pits here but, there's probably one or two circuits with slightly bigger garages, but we don't notice a lack of space, or a lack of amenities. It seems very good to us.
Gascoyne: Exactly the same. We certainly have more garage space here than we have at a lot of places. We obviously come here a lot as a facility. Yesterday, it was very typical because it was cold, wet and miserable, which Silverstone always is but as a facility for us to operate at, it's very very good.
MH: We race at many circuits which have worse facilities than here. You can always improve them but they are totally satisfactory from a team's point of view. Whether they meet the commercial and the marketing objectives, I don't know, but from a team point of view, it works.
Q: Martin, unfortunately I am asking about the MP4-18. What is the situation? It doesn't seem to have done many laps. Is someone's head on the block?
Whitmarsh: Thank you! I think I will try to answer that as briefly as I can because obviously it is not a one-line answer. During the course of last year we obviously assessed our performance and contrasted it with that of Ferrari and it was clear to us at that time that we had to make a big performance increment if we were going to get back on pace. And therefore we decided to embark on a strategy, which saw us develop a very advanced car and an advanced engine. When you do that you introduce a degree of technical risk. We realized that there was more potential in the MP4-17 that we were racing last year and I think we have demonstrated our ability to develop that vehicle. In the meanwhile we have developed a car, MP4-18, which we have had a range of troubles during its birth. I think we have demonstrated to ourselves at least, and to others, that it is a relatively quick car and there is no doubt that it will be a quick car. But we have to, particularly with this championship, it is a tight championship, we are eight points behind the championship lead at the moment, it is a formula where the colleagues around me have got outstanding reliability and performance and if we are going to compete for a championship we have got to ensure that we have got a race-worthy and reliable package. Until we have MP4-18 in that condition then we wouldn't be introducing it at a race circuit and the truth is, at the moment, we have a quick car but not one that has sufficient reliability to allow us to have the confidence to bring it to a race meeting and be confident we will score more points than we will do with an MP4-17D that has continued to benefit from the MP4-18 development program, we have continued to enhance it and it has remained, we think, reasonably competitive this year.
Q: Is it one thing that is going wrong with the car?
Whitmarsh: No it isn't. MP4-18 is a totally new car. It has got a smaller number of carry-over parts than any of our cars that we have had before and consequently there are a whole range of issues that we have got to develop and enhance and make sure we have them race-worthy. All of them have been relatively minor and niggling but we have had 15 days of testing and together with Mercedes we have taken a decision that until we are confident about its race reliability we wouldn't bring it to a racetrack.
Q: Mike, we have heard rumors that you are being offered an enormous amount of money to go to Toyota. Also, we haven't seen you at quite a few races for a while. Are the two linked? Are you off to Toyota?
Gascoyne: Well, I think unlike Martin's question that is one that could easily have a one-line answer. I mean, I haven't been at the last few races quite simply because my son was born three weeks ago, which was a very important event for me. Also, we have a philosophy at Renault that you win races in the wind tunnel, in the design office and in the R&D labs. You can only lose them at the racetrack and what is important is the development of the car and the development of next year's car and that is something I am very much focussed on. This is a pit lane that thrives on rumor and this is a room full of people that thrive on it as well. I think two years ago at this time of year I was being sacked for the performance, now I am being poached for our team's performance. I mean, I have no comment on what I am doing in the future but while I am here, sitting here, my job is to put 100 percent of my effort into my two cars beating the two cars that these three guys put out and that is a difficult enough job as it is without having to worry about rumors in the pit lane. So on those, absolutely no comment.
Q: Patrick, you have been quoted as saying you could have problems with your two drivers thanks to your renewed success. What sort of problems can you envisage having?
Head: I am not sure whether these quotes are true but basically Ralf and Juan both want the same piece of track, which is the bit of track at the front. But there is a certain red car occupying that piece of track quite a lot as well... But they have got to be mature in the way that they handle themselves and I don't think it will be a problem. I think we have got much more problems competing outside the team than inside the team.
Q: Do you think you are going to have to have a word with them at any stage or do you think they are going to be mature about it?
Head: They never take any notice of me anyway, so...
Q: Ross, there is a rumor going round that Bridgestone have sent a letter to Ferrari asking Felipe Massa to be taken off tire testing. It sounds like you have never heard that one before, but is that the truth?
Brawn: I don't know who writes your questions for you but you need to get a better scriptwriter because I think that is the least factual question of all the ones you have asked. Felipe is a very good test driver, he gives good information and, in fact, we are lucky in that we have four drivers that give very good information and we have very little preference over who does what. There is often an occasion when we are picking a final tire for a race and we will ask a race driver, or both race drivers, to make that final decision, and that is what happened last week. But if you will excuse my language, that is complete bullshit.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Ross, Rubens has been struggling a little bit. What has been happening with him?
Brawn: It has just been a few unfortunate circumstances and there is a very fine line between success and failure in this business as we have seen from last year to this year with our team. There are far more people capable of filling the top six positions in the race so if you make a little mistake or error at the moment then you lose it. Last year, Rubens started this race in last position and came second. You can't do that at the moment and if you have a glitch or a problem then you are out of the running. He has had a few little unfortunate events. What often happens is it seems to fall to one driver in a team and it looks very odd but I think all the things that have happened... his qualifying at the last race, there was an adjustment made between warm-up and the race (means qualifying) that was not correct and that caught him out in qualifying. So then he started a bit further back than he should have been and his race became very difficult. There is a very fine line at the moment and it is a more normal year in that respect. Rubens is a very good driver and he is obviously being compared to Michael, who is exceptional, exceptional for the last several generations, so he has a tough job in that respect but we are happy with Rubens' performance and if we get our package more competitive then Rubens would be doing a similar or better performance than he did last year.
Q: Patrick, back in the eighties you used to design race cars that were well in the excess of 900, not to say 1000 bhp. So given the current situation and the balance between the downforce a car is capable of generating, the road holding you get from the tires and whatever, do you think there is really an urge for a reduction in the maximum power delivered by the rear tires or should the question be addressed instead to have a direction just to try to limit the performance without affecting the pounds to sheer horsepower and driveability?
Head: Well, I am not sure I got quite all of that... Yeah, the fact of the matter is, I remember in '98 or so we were told by the FIA that they didn't want to see lap times at any circuit get faster than the lap times that the cars were doing in 1997 and they said that that was all tied up with insurance for the cars and the suitability of the cars for the tracks and the tracks for the cars. Now, I think, at just about every track, and I think Barcelona was about the last one, the lap times, certainly in qualifying conditions if the cars are on low fuel, are faster than they were in 1997, on some tracks quite a lot faster. It doesn't necessarily mean to say that they are unsafe but recently, without any real discussion about the whys and wherefores, we were told that the intention for next year we should go to a set-up whereby we had the downforce of Monza and the drag associated with Brazil. It was sort of presented as a fait accompli and I am not sure quite whether it was driven totally by safety or whether it was driven by a perception that the overtaking would be greater. But it is true to say that the less time the cars spend under braking going through a corner and accelerating out of a corner the less opportunity there is for one car to overtake another and if the cars were slower and had to brake a lot earlier then maybe there would be more opportunity for overtaking. I think in truth it is quite good that the cars should have lots of power but the power, of course, is quite tamed, or held back at the critical moments by the traction control so you don't see some of the effects of the amount of power that we have. But, anyway, it was a proposal from the Technical Working Group in response to the request for those car performance reductions that the suggestion came out to say well, we will look at holding the engines back a bit as well.
Q: Did the original suggestion come from the FIA?
Head: Certainly the statement of the downforce levels and the drag levels came from the FIA.
Q: Martin, at what point does it become unfeasible to run the new car and what are the chances that it will not run until 2004.
Whitmarsh: I guess it becomes unfeasible when we ship the cars to Japan. When does it become unlikely? I think we will race MP4-18. We are saying now, with the self-imposed testing ban, that it is not appropriate to introduce it before Italy. We have got a test at the end of the ban, in Monza, we will be taking the car there. We are doing a fair amount of work on the car in that intervening period and that has got to be our goal, to be racing it in Italy. But we will decide after that test if we are comfortable with the reliability and performance of the car.
Q: Also for Martin, there was a story from sources about the failure of your car to get through a crash test. How serious was that failure?
Whitmarsh: We had a failure this week that was a technicality on a side-impact test. We passed all of the structural tests bar the side impact test. In the side impact test you may be familiar that there are four structures on the side of the car and the regulations require that the energy absorbed by each independent structure should be no more than 35 percent and in one of the structures it absorbed 35.1 percent. So it was a very marginal failure. Obviously we were disappointed but I don't think it is one that is going to give us any undue problems. The survival cell itself was completely intact and undamaged so we merely have to tune those structures, replace them on the chassis and re-test.
Q: Mike, if I can just ask about the speculation on your future. Isn't the simplest thing to just give a one-word answer or, as Ross said, it is all bullshit. Or is that not the case?
Gascoyne: Well, I think my previous answer summed up all I wanted to say on it.
Q: Okay, a separate question for Patrick. Juan was saying yesterday that he is going to get Frank Dernie working with him for the rest of the season as well as the rest of his engineers. Can you explain the rationale for that and what help Juan needs?
Head: We have got two very good but quite inexperienced in terms of the number of years they have been acting as race engineers. A chap called Gordon Day on Ralf's car, who is in his first year as a race engineer, and Tony Ross on Juan's car, who is in his second year as a race engineer, albeit that he was engineering on the test team before that and before that he was on the Le Mans sportscar projects. So they are not inexperienced in racing terms but in Formula One terms they are relatively inexperienced and earlier in the year we brought Tim Preston in, who is more experienced and runs our test team, and he is having a very busy year because since Malaysia he has been backing up Gordon Day on Ralf's car, and I think Juan felt that Ralf may have had a bit of an advantage having a more experienced guy on Gordon's shoulder so we decided that instead of having Frank as a general engineer in the garage dealing with general matters to, during the practice session itself, to have him more focussed particularly around Juan's car. Some of it is just a matter of confidence of the driver and some of it is certainly, you don't have the number of years of somebody like Frank Dernie or even myself for that matter without, at various points, that being a benefit to a chap that may be much more into the fractions of a millimeter of ride height gaps and tiny details but may not have the experience behind him to make some of the bigger judgements. So it is just a question of trying to make sure we are giving the drivers the best opportunity to get the best out of themselves and the best out of their cars really.
Q: Patrick, Ralf looks very much more easy going than he was last year. How did he improve as a driver or a person in the team?
Head: Obviously he had a difficult time at the beginning of the year, he had difficulty with some of the one-lap qualifying right at the beginning, the first couple of races for him were not that good. He is happier with the car now. It is better aerodynamically, never perfect, better mechanically, again never perfect. I think it is a better car for him to drive and suits his driving style a bit better but I think like most drivers if things are going well then he is happy and if things are not going well he is less happy. It is a fairly normal formula.
THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 17 JULY 2003
DRIVERS: Jenson BUTTON (BAR), David COULTHARD ( McLAREN ), Ralf SCHUMACHER (WILLIAMS), Justin WILSON (MINARDI)
Q: A question to all of you, what do you feel not only about this race, but also the next three, given the testing ban? Justin, I guess it doesn't make that much difference to you?
Justin WILSON: No. I think we do the same as what we've always done - move onto the next Grand Prix and work away hard on Friday morning.
Q: Do you think Friday morning now comes into its own as an advantage for you?
Wilson: I think most of the other teams have done a lot of work and missing a month's testing is not going to make much difference as to how far they've progressed. I guess they've done all that work already and it's not going to see a big difference. As I say, we'll just keep working away. It will help us having the two hours in the morning, getting to set our cars up and we'll just do what we can.
Jenson BUTTON: Obviously there's not a big difference for Justin, not testing, but for us, we've obviously had to work very hard and getting the parts ready for the Barcelona test because we don't get to try anything out before the next races and obviously you want to test stuff before it goes on the car for a race. So hopefully the car is going to be pretty reasonable here because, again, we can't test and we can't get any new parts on the car.
Q: So are things pretty static from here on, in terms of new parts?
Button: Well, they are, yes. Hopefully we've got a reasonable car here and hopefully that will continue.
Ralf SCHUMACHER: Well, it's all about making the best at the actual race meeting. There are still new parts coming in all the time, so we just have to do it at the weekends. It's a problem, but it's the same for everyone. That's the way it is.
Q: Does that mean you will be expecting to test parts during a race weekend?
Schumacher: Certainly. But that's the same for every team I guess, even if it's only small parts. You know, the teams agreed to the rule and certainly, if you ask the main teams, they will always say the same - that they need more testing time. But that's the way it is.
David COULTHARD: Well, very similar to what the other three have said. We have the test ban. We've been aware of that since the beginning of the year and you just try and fit your test schedule around it. And as Ralf said, we'll still introduce things during race weekends, electronic changes or small things in the engine. tires, of course, will be different from each of the races.
Q: But right from the beginning of the season, things have been channelled into this six-week gap have they?
Coulthard: Well, we've all known about the gap but inevitably some things run a little bit over. Things like... obviously the new car; we would have preferred to have done more running with it prior to the testing break but that the situation we're in. Race weekends... you can go from one track and a given set of tires that you've chosen and have a great performance and then go to another circuit and feel pretty good. But if the tires aren't quite working then obviously, with development of tires, you're choosing a tire with an educated guess as to how it's going to perform but if the track conditions are significantly different from what you expect... the weather that we've had for the last few days in England has been incredibly hot but this is a bit back to what we would have expected.
Q: So you would have been surprised if it had been remained hot, but you're less surprised that it's cooler?
Coulthard: I don't think I'm alone. I'm not the only person in Britain who would be surprised if it's cooler. You can get long-term weather forecasts but then things like this come along.
Q: But from a tire point of view, this is more what you were expecting?
Coulthard: I didn't expect it to have been as hot as it has been in London over the last couple of days. It's been incredibly hot, which I presume likewise it's been up here.
Q: Justin, since the last race you've driven British sports minister Richard Caborn in Hyde Park in London . Tell us about it?
Wilson: Yeah, we took the two-seater round and it was the first time that I've driven the two-seater car, so I had to get used to that. It was simply down the road, spin the car around, back up and do a pit stop, and then spin the car around and that was the run. It was quite interesting. Like I say, when it's your first time and you get the message that you're just going to spin it round in between these kerbs that are only a little bit wider than the car's length, it was good fun. Hopefully he enjoyed it.
Q: What sort of crowd did you get there?
Wilson: There was probably about 50 people there, mainly media. I believe it got a good response.
Q: This is your first Grand Prix at home, what are your thoughts so far? What do you think it's going to be like?
Wilson: I'm interested to see how the weekend's going to pan out, but I personally am going to treat it just as any other race, try not to get too carried away, keep working hard on the car set-up and make it as driveable as possible.
Q: Jenson, what are your feelings about your home race?
Button: Again, we have to drive exactly the same so to our driving it's no different. But it's great to be at the British Grand Prix because the atmosphere is normally very good, it's good to see Union Jacks where you don't normally see them, at the Grands Prix, and the backing for all the drivers seems to be very good here.
Q: More distractions? You've already done an event for Honda?
Button: And I won, I won the lawnmower race, which I'm very happy about. No, not more distractions really. It's a normal weekend.
Q: How do you feel about the tire performance recently, and has the testing recently helped with your tire projections for the next few races?
Button: We've obviously been tire testing last week, three days. I think we've made a step forward in certain areas so that's positive. We've just got to see if they work well here.
Q: Are you quite confident of that?
Button: Reasonably, yeah.
Q: Ralf, you come here having won the last two Grands Prix. What are your feelings of a third, or even a fourth perhaps?
Schumacher: Well, let's wait and see. The last two races were great as a team with places one and two. Depending on the weather, looking back to the last test we had here McLaren were really strong and so were Ferrari so it is going to be quite a tight battle I guess.
Q: Are you confident of the tires in all conditions?
Schumacher: Concerning dry tires, definitely. On wet tires we can be competitive, no doubt, but it sometimes appears to be a bit difficult. It depends what Bridgestone have done or changed.
Q: We understand there have been some changes in the Williams team in terms of personnel. Does that affect you at all?
Schumacher: When was that? Ah, you mean my race engineer on the engine side I guess. Um, no, not at all. That was before Nurburgring anyway, or around Nurburgring. It was a shame. I liked him very much personally and I got on with him well but you know, everyone has to look at his own future and he had a better deal I guess. I don't know.
Q: Sorry, I didn't know about this person. He has left to go where?
Schumacher: I think that was the person leaving to go to McLaren . I thought that was what you were referring to.
Q: No, I understood there were personnel changes elsewhere in the team.
Schumacher: No, not that I am aware of. We have had so many personnel changes over the course of the last six months that I don't know which one you are talking about. But I think that everything we have changed so far has made us quicker.
Q: David, obviously this is your home race and you have said some very positive things about Silverstone. Can you share those thoughts again?
Coulthard: Well, there has been a lot of negative publicity about Silverstone. I am not batting for either one side or the other, I am just giving my own personal opinion as a driver. I am a little bit confused to the media coverage, what I have seen. I don't know enough about it to try to understand the real reasoning behind the negativity but from a circuit point of view it is an interesting challenge for the driver. You ask most drivers what their favorite track is they say Spa, so that doesn't make Silverstone one of the classics but historically it is an important race and it is one that I enjoy coming to.
Q: It is one of the quicker circuits on the calendar and that is something that the drivers usually enjoy.
Coulthard: Yeah, absolutely. High speed corners, it is a different sort of challenge. That is not to say that Monaco , as one of the slowest tracks, isn't a great challenge by it is nice to feel the car at high speed, especially through the Becketts complex. I still think that is probably one of the better complexes for spectators to watch the cars at high speed.
Q: Because actually the trend seems to have come down to a lot of very slow corners, particularly looking at the changes at Magny-Cours .
Coulthard: Yeah, I think we need to change the... We use the same designer every time so we end up with the same type of corners. I think the hairpin at Magny-Cours is actually a good example of a good hairpin, one where you can actually overtake because there is enough run-off at the exit that if you do actually make a mistake you don't end up on the grass. Typically over the years that has created some overtaking manoeuvres, so if I was going to be involved in the designing of a track then I would re-watch all the races, suss where most of the overtaking takes place and then create that with some high-speed corners that the drivers would enjoy.
Q: But here there are still overtaking possibilities, do you think?
Coulthard: Yeah, I think down Hangar Straight, if a car has a problem off the last part of Becketts and has a lot of understeer for instance and you hook into the corner you kind of slipstream them down to Stowe. Other than that I think it is quite difficult to overtake unless a car makes a mistake. But in the wet there are quite a few different lines, out of Club you can be wide or narrow and create something a bit different.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: The inside word seems to be that you will be staying with McLaren for next year but I am sure you are aware of the fact that Bernie Ecclestone says that a change would be good for you. I think Niki Lauda made a similar suggestion a couple of years ago. Jenson made a change of team this year and it has obviously been to his benefit. Do you think about making a change and the benefits that it would have for your career?
Coulthard: Well, no. I think McLaren is the best opportunity for me to win Grands Prix, to answer your question briefly. To then come on to something like, say Jenson, I think he was going from a car that was qualifying on the back row in some races to a car that is more competitive so I don't think it is a very good example of how changing teams can make you step forward.
Q: Ralf, Juan Pablo said a couple of days ago that he just has to work on his qualifying performance because at the races, on the track, he is the faster guy. Could you comment on that?
Schumacher: Well, I think the two of us are a very good combination and he is doing a brilliant job. I don't know, the last two races at least I won, for whatever reason, so I can't be that bad. But certainly he has the same car, the same possibility, and it will always be very tight between the two of us.