SEPTEMBER 26, 2003
UNITED STATES GP - FRIDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT
Trulli takes provisional pole
Rubens Barrichello (2nd, 1:09.835): "Overall, I am happy with this result. The car went well and I was lucky to be out on track when the conditions had improved. Theoretically, second place gives me a very good start position for tomorrow afternoon?s qualifying, but the unpredictable weather could change everything. We still have some work to do on the car set-up in the dry, given that we only managed two runs in the dry before the rain arrived this morning."
Michael Schumacher (8th, 1:10.736): "Once again, the early runners in qualifying were slightly disadvantaged, especially after the rain which fell in the morning, which meant the track was a bit dirty and lacked grip. This goes some way to explaining my time and position. However,if you look at the times set by Rubens and Ralf, it is clear that the situation is very close between us and our main rivals. As we expected, we look competitive. This morning in the dry, I was quite happy with the performance of the car, even though the rain meant we cannot draw too many conclusions about set-up. Hopefully, we can all run in the same track conditions tomorrow and have a good fight for the front row."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "We did not get to do much work in the dry because of the rain during free practice. It seems that, in the wet and thanks to the Bridgestone tires, we have an edge over our rivals, while in the dry, we can expect a very close fight between the top teams. Once again, Michael paid the price for being first out on track: this time the surface was still a bit damp, but all in all, his time puts him very close to his closest rivals in the title fight. Rubens did a great job, only beaten by a driver who made his run after him, when track conditions were much better. Given that the forecast is for unpredictable weather tomorrow, anything could happen in qualifying. Only tomorrow afternoon will we have a clearer picture of the situation."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "Obviously the conditions were changing during the session, with the track getting faster after every run in the dry. Michael had to cope with making the first run in the dry, after morning rain had left the track 'green' and dirty. But as today?s times only serve to establish tomorrow?s running order, there is no cause for concern. Both drivers are quite happy with their cars, although the rain prevented us from doing much tire testing. We have only tried one of the dry types of tire and will have to do an assessment of both tomorrow."
Ralf Schumacher (4th, 1:10.222): "I am reasonably happy with what we have achieved today and I feel reasonably well too. My lap wasn't very good, I braked too late into turn one due to some understeer. It's a shame we couldn't find the optimum balance this morning, but we had very little running in dry conditions. However, it's still very encouraging for tomorrow. I believe we have the strongest package, no doubt about it and it's going to be a very tough race for Ferrari if they want to win."
Juan Pablo Montoya (5th, 1:10.372): "It was a bit of a gamble to know if the set-up of the car was ok for qualifying, since this morning I didn't get much running in the dry. I lost a bit of time in a couple of corners because I braked too early. However, I hope it will be dry tomorrow and on Sunday notwithstanding the fact that Michelin has brought here some very competitive wet tires. I am very pleased with my car, I think we've got a very good package for this weekend, I wasn't the quickest today but I am in front of my main rivals and this is the most important thing."
Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "The circuit appeared to get faster for the first ten cars before the rain came, which makes it a bit difficult to assess the lap times. However, we have had a good first day and have now some work to do on the race set-up. We are confident about taking the challenge to the front in tomorrow's qualifying session."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Today's qualifying was strongly affected by changing weather conditions. The second half of the field had to run on a wet track. Both of our drivers ran in fairly good conditions which will allow them to start tomorrow's final qualifying in the top five. If the weather remains consistent these should be good start positions for the qualifying. BMW has done a further step on the engine side for Indy and Suzuka and both cars had a trouble-free day."
David Coulthard (6th, 1:10.450): "We only managed to do one proper run on dry tires in this morning's practice before it started to rain, so qualifying was a bit of a journey into the unknown. It was spitting with rain as I was starting my lap, which always makes you a bit apprehensive. I went a bit sideways in the last corner before the start, so there is still room for improvement. However under the circumstances I think it was a reasonable result and I look forward to tomorrow."
Kimi Raikkonen (9th, 1:10.756): "I'm not too worried about today's result as the car felt good despite us only having limited running in the morning due to the rain. In addition I didn't do a very good lap and had a moment early on, so I'm sure we will do better tomorrow."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "The ever changing weather is reflected in the current qualifying positions. Our weather forecasters predict better conditions for the rest of the weekend, which I'm sure will suit most of the field."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A qualifying session which didn't provide a real picture of everybody's competitiveness as the track became faster and faster with every lap before the rain started. However the three World Championship contenders are reasonably close in fifth, eighth and ninth places."
Jarno Trulli (1st, 1:09.566): "Of course, I am extremely happy with this result. Everybody did a very good job this morning, and this result is based on that good work during testing and practice. I was happy with the handling of the car straight away this morning, and we seem to be very fast. Looking ahead, I am very confident for the rest of the weekend."
Fernando Alonso (7th, 1:10.556): "No dramas for me on the timed lap. I have been suffering from understeer all day, and that improved slightly on low fuel for this afternoon?s qualifying session. Overall, I think we did a good job this morning and Jarno has shown that the car is competitive here. We still have some work to do on set-up, but with the information we gained this morning, I think we will be strong for tomorrow and Sunday."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "Jarno put in a fantastic lap to take a well-deserved provisional pole position. With the possibility of rain tomorrow morning, and drier conditions later, the fact that Jarno will be last to run could prove a decisive advantage. The balance on Fernando?s car has improved throughout the day, but is still not quite where he would like it, hence his lower position. If it is dry tomorrow, it should be no problem to fine-tune the set-up, and even if it is wet, we have enough data to get very close."
Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "A superb first place for Jarno this afternoon, which is the result of all the elements of our package functioning at their optimum. Having said that, the gap between our two drivers illustrates how important it is to have everything working right in order to fight with our usual rivals. We will continue working this evening and with everything we have learned today, I believe we will be very competitive during the rest of the weekend."
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (13th, 1:13.541): "By the second and third sector of my lap the rain had set in and the track was soaked. I was on dry tires, which therefore weren't ideal for these conditions. Obviously I wasn't able to attack. However, I can say that the car felt better than it did this morning, when we had some problems with the balance."
Nick Heidfeld (15th, 1:17.768): "I think it's quite impossible to have more bad luck! It started to rain just before I left the pits and so I was the first driver on the wet track after the break. Usually we are quick in the rain, but not under these conditions."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "Rain yes, but please let's have it for everyone! Heinz-Harald ran on dry tires but during his lap it started to rain. Nick was the first driver to leave the pits with wet tires. These were certainly far from ideal conditions but considering that, the performance of both drivers was very good."
Giancarlo Fisichella (12th, 1:12.227): "I didn't get enough laps in the morning, because I had a problem with the gearbox oil tank in testing and an engine blow-up during free practice. As I lost most of today's track time there wasn't enough time to do all the work we wanted on set-up. Considering that, qualifying was okay, the last part of the circuit was a bit damp when I went out. I hope we have these wet conditions again on Sunday."
Ralph Firman (17th, 1:19.383): "It's great to be driving the car again and I'm feeling fine. I was a bit unlucky with the timing of the rain in the qualifying session but hopefully it will do the same tomorrow! I think perhaps the deep grooved tires weren't the best choice and the intermediates would probably have been quicker. It was good experience for tomorrow."
Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "Fisichella had a problem with a split gearbox oil cooler which lost him a lot of time in testing although he was able to do a reasonable job at the end of the session. It was Ralph's first time back since his accident and he did a competent job, learning the track pretty well in both the wet and the dry and he got up to speed okay. Bjorn also did a good job with some tire testing and adding to his F1 experience. His biggest handicap was probably me engineering his car as our test car engineer had to go back to the UK! Giancarlo had an engine failure early on in Free Practice which lost him most of that session as well and hurt his qualifying because we had a few things we wanted to try but never got them done. Qualifying was a bit disappointing but that was mainly down to the weather and also Giancarlo had to go out with a lower performance step engine. We took a gamble with Ralph's tires and sent him out on extreme wets, which is always difficult in these conditions. We did the best we could, and hopefully Sunday will be wet and we'll get something out of it."
Mark Webber (3rd, 1:10.081): "I'll take that! Given that our low fuel runs this morning were compromised by the rain, qualifying was the first real stab in dry conditions and it was a little difficult to judge the braking point at turn one. The car however felt very good and while it was a little greasy in places, the overall lap was clean, tidy and very pleasing in the end. We have been consistently quick over one lap this season but the bigger picture for us is Sunday and that's what we are really concentrating on. The race set-up is critical and we will work hard to prepare ourselves for what will be a hard race. We didn't have the best weekend here last year and the progress Jaguar has made in twelve months has been nothing short of impressive, albeit we still have a good climb ahead of us before we are truly satisfied. A good start to what will no doubt be a long weekend and hopefully, a productive one for all concerned."
Justin Wilson (18th, 1:19.491): "At some point my luck has to change but obviously not today. Mark set a brilliant time on his qualifying lap and while I had a few niggles to contend with this morning, my overall feeling going into qualifying was good, albeit until the rain gods arrived. The team took the correct decision to switch to full wet tires but there was little I could do out there today apart from setting a clean lap. The car felt quite good but in those conditions, it was impossible to make an impression on the pace. Tomorrow's qualifying session will dictate the order for Sunday and all I can do is hope for a fair crack at the whip unlike today."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "An excellent lap by Mark, especially since it began raining very lightly just as he left the garage. Justin, however, was unlucky to have been on the receiving end of the heavy showers and given that he has never raced around this circuit, he did a pleasing job in what were very difficult conditions. We learned a considerable amount this morning and for Justin in particular, the track time was invaluable. We would prefer a dry race on Sunday but given how changeable the weather has been, we are prepared for all conditions. The pace of the Jaguar R4 is pleasing and the car's balance in the infield section is particularly good -- a point proved by Mark's second sector time which was less than a tenth slower than the fastest time set by Jarno Trulli. Overall, a pleasing start to the weekend but a long hard slog is ahead of us if we are to add to our points tally this weekend."
Jenson Button (10th, 1:11.847): "Not a great first qualifying for me. I didn't make any mistakes and the car balance is good. But there was very little grip and we just seemed to be slow today. We worked through our tire options this morning but I think we made the wrong choice for qualifying. There is definitely room for improvement during the rest of the weekend but it looks likely that the weather is going to play a big part."
Jacques Villeneuve (16th, 1:18.547): "For the second time this year, I went out just as the rain started to fall. And in those conditions, there's nothing you can do. You still drive as hard as you can but you know you're going to be slow and way down the time sheet. The car is quite good in the wet and we did some laps in the wet this morning but there's no way you can get close to the times set by those who were running on a dry track. Wet weather makes qualifying a bit of a lottery and if it continues tomorrow, then it only takes a few seconds to make the difference between a good or a bad grid position. If it's wet for everyone, then I think we have reason to be optimistic."
David Richards, Team Principal: "After a promising start to the day our qualifying positions are somewhat disappointing. There is certainly room for improvement but the weather looks certain to have a hand in the outcome this weekend."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "This is a disappointing first qualifying session for us, despite a stronger first session. The car was reasonably competitive this morning, particularly when the rain started to fall and we were able to use our wet tires. This afternoon, Jenson?s car wasn?t working well and was suffering from very low grip. We considered using the other tire with Jacques but unfortunately just prior to his run, it rained very heavily forcing him out on wets. We?re confident that we can improve the car overnight and qualify in a stronger position tomorrow."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "The on-off rain played a big part in the times today. Who knows what will happen tomorrow ? it might be our turn to benefit from the conditions."
Nicolas Kiesa (19th, 1:21.973): "It was difficult to decide on the best strategy for qualifying. It was the first time I had driven an F1 car in full wet conditions and I didn?t know what to expect. I wanted to set the best possible time, but I didn?t want to push so hard as to risk going off, as I needed the experience of the full lap. In addition, with Jos not able to complete his qualifying run, I didn?t have any sort of benchmark to work with. In the end, I didn?t push hard enough, but I also know where significant improvements can be made. I also know the oval section of the track can be taken flat, even in the wet. By the end of this morning, we had a really good car for the dry conditions and I felt we had a realistic chance of challenging one or two of our nearest rivals in qualifying. Still, we?ve now got a good wet set-up as well, which we may be able to improve further tomorrow."
Jos Verstappen (20th, No Time): "Initially the car didn?t feel particularly good this morning, and as a result, we changed a lot, which lost us time. A spring change improved the situation, but on what should have been my fastest run in the two-hour test session, the car stopped with a fuel pick-up problem. We changed the brakes for the one-hour practice session, as they had been locking quite badly, and I was reasonably happy with the balance of the car in the wet conditions. Unfortunately, the engine wouldn?t pick up in qualifying, and I failed to set a time, which is pretty disappointing. We?ll just hope for a better day tomorrow."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "Despite today?s changeable conditions, it was a useful day for the team, and in particular for Nicolas, as it was the first time he had ever experienced the awesome power of a Formula One car in the wet. Sadly, Jos?s car suffered an electronics problem on the out lap, which prevented him from completing his qualifying run. Nicolas, however, recorded a very creditable time when one considers he had never driven a single lap on extreme weather tires in his life. We gained some useful data today, and look forward to the rest of the weekend."
Cristiano Da Matta (11th, 1:11.949): "It's great to be racing here at the Speedway this weekend, although the weather could be better. We performed quite well in this morning's practice and the car seems to handle pretty well at this track. I am not too concerned with the outcome of this afternoon's qualifying session because we were unlucky with the rain on our run, so we cannot really read anything into the times. In the wet-dry conditions this morning, I wasn't able to learn the track completely, so I hope we can get some good running in the dry tomorrow."
Olivier Panis (14th, 1:17.666): "We were not at all lucky with the weather conditions in qualifying today. It started to rain heavily on my run and I did the best I could in the circumstances. I was very happy with our performance in free practice this morning. We showed that we have a good car for this track and we were quite competitive, setting the third fastest time. I am still confident for the rest of the weekend - all we need is a bit of luck with the weather!"
Ange Pasquali, Team Manager: "The weather has been very unpredictable all day, but unfortunately we got caught out on our qualifying runs this afternoon. Cristiano set a very commendable eleventh fastest time, despite damp track conditions. Olivier had the worst of the rain as he embarked on his flying lap, but had a trouble-free run to take fourteenth. Luckily, we managed to get some laps in the dry this morning and we are pleased with what we achieved. Now, we will look to continue in a positive way tomorrow morning as we prepare for final qualifying."
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 26 SEPTEMBER 2003
TEAM MEMBERS: Norbert HAUG (MERCEDES), Ange PASQUALI (TOYOTA), Pat SYMONDS (RENAULT), Otmar SZAFNAUER (HONDA) and Mario THEISSEN (BMW)
Q: First of all a question to all of you: tell us about your commitment as a whole and how you see the strength of Formula One and it's importance here in the United States ?
Mario THEISSEN: I think the strategy of BMW or our commitment to Formula One has been made very clear earlier this year when we entered into a new partnership with Williams for another five years. So we are committed to be in Formula One until 2009. This goes along with an increase of our effort which we put behind it. We will go beyond the role of an engine supplier supporting Williams and in several other areas, getting much closer together with Williams, which in total tells everybody that BMW is very committed to Formula One. Looking to the American market, it is the most important market for BMW. It passed the German market last year and, of course, we would very much like to see the importance of Formula One in the States growing because we cannot do more than coming to the U.S. doing Formula One racing. So far, of course, our colleagues here in the U.S. are not really happy about the impact of Formula One, and everybody would love to see Formula One gaining importance in North America . I think we are on a slope, on an upgrade slope and I very much hope we continue on that. And I could even imagine having more than one race here.
Otmar SZAFNAUER: Two-part question, first our commitment to Formula One. Honda is committed to Formula One. We have had a contract with BAR, a three-year contract which next year will be the last year of that contract. And in due course early next year we will look at the options that we have with BAR. We have a two-year option. We'll start discussing the details of that option at the appropriate time and also looking at extending it. So we're committed to Formula One. We will be here. There are no plans at the moment to pull out. Regarding the American market, it is the biggest market for Honda and has been. I think we sell about 50 percent of our cars in North America . So, yes, a very important market to us, to Honda. And I think it's a big global economy as well, North America , and it's good that Formula One comes here. And like Mario said, two races here wouldn't go amiss, perhaps one here, perhaps one on the West Coast. It's a big country.
Norbert Haug: We definitely have a long-term commitment to Formula One. We don't have a contract that ends in X or Y, so we are long-term committed. For sure we need the right podium. I think all of us know that as Formula One community we need to do a much better job in the future for the spectators. I think we have a very good season in terms of sport and racetrack that is fantastic. But a lot of things can be improved and I hope there are fruitful discussions in place. But we shouldn't underestimate the fact that we need to raise our game. I have to stress that this needs to be the future, we need to be closer to the customer. We need to do more for the spectators and so on. We all know that but we need to come to conclusions and in a way it's a shame that everything is blocked because you need unanimous decisions, which is not easy to achieve. Look at test bans, look at limited testing, look at rules, look at whatever, and I think people need to sit down and realize that if we are blocking each other, that's certainly not good for the future of the sport. And what the sport can achieve, I think this season showed, presented quite clearly. We need to do a better job in that direction. The American market is a very important one, the second largest one after Germany . We have record sales here again this year. We have had record sales last year. It is very, very important for us. You can see we are focused to this Grand Prix. We've had track advertising here for a couple years which is not usual to us but we wanted to set a sign as the brand Mercedes Benz and we show our commitment to the U.S. and especially to Indianapolis . We easily could do with a second race here. I think it would be fantastic for Europe particularly. We need to have more prime-time races, no doubt about that. I think in future, it would be fantastic if the season could start with a couple of prime-time races. This is my personal view because if you have a viewer ship, and I just can describe it from Germany , if you broadcast in the morning four o' clock, you probably get three million people. If you broadcast eight o' clock in the evening, you get 13 million people as an average. And to start the season with, I think, it could be a concept for the future. It's not my job, but this is what we at Mercedes Benz certainly would like. Having said that, I want to add that for the future Formula One, we need to discuss cost reductions, we need to set ourselves limits and this is for me a very important baseline and conclusions are imminent. They have to be taken sooner rather than later.
Ange PASQUALI: I think that the commitment of Toyota is definitely a full commitment in Formula One. When we stopped the 24 Hours of Le Mans project and rallying, it was a big decision obviously, and at that time we were around 250 people in the motor sport division in Cologne . Now we have passed over 600 people. So this shows the commitment and Toyota has always said it was a long commitment in Formula One. It was a big decision, of course. And because Formula One is the pinnacle of motor sport, if you enter Formula One, you have to enter properly and give the full commitment. Concerning the States, it is, of course, a major investment for us and we expect a big return on investment. We can see already after nearly two years a big return, even if so far we can't play the front row roles. In America it's a major market, obviously, and not far away from here, an hour south from here in Kentucky , we have the biggest Toyota plant in the world. So of course this race for us, it's very important. And I have to say that Canada at the moment, of course, for Toyota is a bit of a pity it is not in the calendar because it is also a huge market. All over the world we're developing quite well, and for us it's very important to be present everywhere. At the moment the calendar of Formula One is serving our interest and our target in terms of sales. We're the new ones in Formula One and we have to develop. But already when you think about 350 million spectators for every race on TV, of course, this shows how big Formula One is. I think as Norbert Haug said, we have to keep that going and to make sure that the show doesn't decrease but increase to make sure that the response of the public is there. Yesterday it was quite interesting to see that this pit walkabout. To be honest, I don't know if it was free entry or not for the spectators, but the amount of people yesterday was just amazing for a first day when you have no cars running on the track. So we have to work at that for the future and I'm quite confident, especially if you look at the end of the championship this year and the fight which will be till the end, I think it's quite promising for the future.
Pat SYMONDS: Well, Renault is a full manufacturer. Our Formula One team is a hundred percent Renault. It's not a question of an engine supplier to a chassis manufacturer, it is fully Renault. Now that is a huge commitment and not one that the board of Renault takes lightly. So I think our commitment to Formula One is self-evident, really. It goes to an awful lot of people involved in the project, nearly 700 now. It goes to a lot of investment in the two sites that we have, one in England , one in France , and everything that's in those. So I think that the commitment of Renault to Formula One is self-evident and beyond doubt. The second part of the question is quite interesting, because here we are racing in North America and it's not a market that Renault is involved in directly. Now, as I'm sure you all know, the alliance between Renault and Nissan is a very strong alliance. And in North America , our products are branded as Nissan, but it's not something that we in the Formula One team actually make much of. But I think that what's important is that Formula One is a global sport. Yes, we're racing in America this weekend, but we are broadcasting that race all over the world, and we go to many countries. For example, we race in Malaysia . Now Malaysia is not a huge market for any of the manufacturers, but we do rely on the fact that people all over the world are watching us, and we're trying to get our name in front of people worldwide. So personally I'm very pleased to be racing in America . It's a great country and I think, you know, a World Championship is not a World Championship unless it involves North America . But in terms of our local marketing, it's perhaps not as important to us as with our competitors.
Q: Thanks, Pat. If I can stay with you for just an individual question. Interestingly enough today we saw Jarno Trulli fastest again for the second time in three races in this afternoon's qualifying session. Has he really turned the corner, do you feel he's really developed and has he been pushed perhaps by Fernando? Has he changed a little bit?
Symonds: I think Jarno's speed has never been in doubt. That's why we employed him in the first place. I think what's significant is that he had a very poor run at the beginning of the season, and I don't mean a poor run personally, a lot of luck went against him. Yes, he's pushed by Fernando, and yes, he's pushed by us. You know, that's what it's all about. I think that the car is coming on in leaps and bounds. It was a good car to start the season and I think our rate of development has been good. Lots of other circumstances come into it. For example, today I think probably most of our competitors who weren't involved in the early morning test session had got what, around 11, 12 laps in the dry before qualifying, whereas we were greatly in front of that. So circumstances helped us a little bit today. But the car is competitive; the whole package is working well. This is the type of circuit that we believe we can be competitive on; and I think this afternoon's qualifying showed that we will be strong all weekend.
Q: Ange, it has been suggested that Toyota might be interested in the Friday testing, is that a possibility for you guys?
Pasquali: Well, it's something to consider, we obviously have discussed it. We have not made our mind up at the moment because still a lot of things are up in the air. And during this weekend the team principals meeting will happen and we hope to make some progress and try to reach an agreement which would be suitable for everybody. It's not excluded for us at the moment but no decision has been made so far.
Q: Norbert, early on this year there was quite a lot of talk about customer engines and that you were offering customer engines. How far has that progressed? Is there interest in your customer engines?
Haug: There was one interest but it is kind of a start/stand still situation because things I can't discuss publicly need to be sorted out by the team. And that's it basically. Our offer is there but we need to have the right circumstances.
Q: Otmar, great interest in who will be your second driver next year. What is your situation? A lot of people interested in the career of Jacques Villeneuve and suggested Takuma Sato may be the preferred choice. What is your situation, Honda's situation there?
Szafnauer: Well, as many of you know, the driver decision is taken by the team and not the engine manufacturer. However, it is fair to say that the team, BAR, have consulted with us, as we're a major partner, and we have given our opinion and our thoughts on the driver situation there to BAR. But those delicate discussions between us and the team, we'd like to keep those out of the public domain and privately. We're confident that the team will make a good decision on the driver situation next year, and that should be announced shortly after that decision is made.
Q: Mario, similar question to you really about Friday testing. Is it an option, do you feel for Williams?
Theissen: It could become an option. You cannot decide on something if you don't know exactly how it would work. Norbert said before we have to cut costs and certainly testing drives costs up enormously. Currently we do a ridiculous amount of testing, much more than we do racing. We spend lots of money, we have separate teams; and we would absolutely support an approach to cut that back provided every team joins the queue. And I think turning or cutting testing back and putting in place Friday testing at the racetrack would have several advantages. We wouldn't need a separate team, at least not as big as today. We would do something for the spectators, something for the race organizers; and it would give us valuable input as well, valuable data. If you test at the track which you have to race at two days later, it certainly makes sense. So if the right balance is offered of testing time, let's say on Friday, maybe the complete Friday, and additional days you can choose yourself at different tracks, I think we could be in a position to join it. I would support it. To me it's really important that we get back to a common testing scheme, all the teams doing the same and not having such a split situation. I think it's hard to understand for spectators why some cars run, others don't, others run between the races and you get not aware of the results. So to me talking about testing on Friday, the first question is can we get back to a unified testing scheme?
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Yes, to all of you. What's your opinion about the possibility of having the qualifying session and the Grand Prix on the same day, the Sunday, maybe for next year?
Haug: I can start. I think everything that helps to make a weekend or even a race day more attractive needs to be considered. I have to fully support Mario's opinion on these issues. I think it is absolutely vital for the sport. This is our view that, you know, everybody has got the same chances. So you might say, well, Friday you could have chosen it, on the other hand, other people have 90 test days and these guys have only the weekend or whatever. It should be a level playing field. And cutting costs would mean that this is achievable. I know that team principals sometimes see it in a different way, but I think there must be an open discussion. I think manufacturers, we've always have certainly the right and the duty to think about the future of Formula One. And I only can underline what Mario has said. I think this is a very important message to the outside world.
Szafnauer: If we make changes to improve the show in Formula One, we're definitely all for it. So if those changes come for next year and we change the format again and it's better for the fans, then we should do it. And as far as -- what was the second part of that question? But the other important point, I believe, is the level playing field. It should be the same for all of us, that's really important, so some of us don't have an advantage over the others. So if it's a level playing field and we improve the show, then, yeah, we're all for it.
Theissen: Concerning Sunday qualifying, we could certainly go out on Sunday as we do now on Saturday, no difference to the teams. I personally would prefer to stick to Saturday qualifying because we have to maintain Saturday as well as an interesting day. If we put qualifying to the Sunday morning, I think there is less, even less interest on Saturday. I would certainly prefer to have a two or three-day event rather than a one-day event. In my view, it's good to have qualifying on Saturday because there is lots of speculation, you see something, you know something about competitiveness but not everything. So you can prepare for race day. I think it's right to have it on Saturday. Certainly we should take every chance to improve the spectacle on Saturday and on Sunday, but focusing only on Sunday with the Formula One activities, in my view, would not improve the show.
Symonds: Well, not unusual for me, I have a contrary view. I think that qualifying on Sunday would be a very good thing. I think at the moment Sunday is a little bit empty for the spectators. And I rather like the idea of it being the sort of final shoot-out just before the race. From a team's point of view, it's very good, too, because we can then operate the parc fermé conditions effectively between Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon, which would make our life a little bit easier. Mario is absolutely right, we can't do that at the expense of Saturday becoming the dull day, but I think there are plenty of proposals on the table at the moment, one of which our team have put forward, that I think can satisfy these requirements. Slightly different subject, we were talking about leveling the playing field. I think that's a great idea, but I'm not sure that communism in sport really mix. I think sport is about the winner being the best, and I don't see how you will ever totally level the playing field in any professional sport.
Pasquali: Well, I think everything has been said so far. Of course, we have to find the best balance, and I agree that you can't sacrifice one day to promote the other day. But everybody would agree, I think, that Sunday this year would be empty. It's quite difficult to draw spectators to a circuit where they would arrive in the morning and they have to wait until two o' clock in the afternoon to have some action. We used to have the warm-up in the past, which was kind of already excitement because we were trying, of course, all of us in the warm-up some strategy already. I believe personally that qualifying, the qualifying with fuel and the parc fermé conditions on Sunday morning just before the race would be really increasing the excitement. Considering that, the Saturday would be also filled in. And why not if we would have the qualifying on Saturday, what we could call the low-fuel qualifying on Saturday and qualifying for the grid position on Sunday might be a good combination. But, again, it's up in the air, a lot of scenarios have been discussed already among the teams. And I really hope that we will come up with a common decision and agreement as soon as possible. Because, as Mario Theissen said, the spectators, they have to understand as well what's happening and there should just be one unique rule and format for everybody.
Q: Norbert talked about almost any move being blocked, and for testing, for example, let's face it, one team has a lot of money and a test track outside their back door, they're never going to agree to a testing limit. Don't we have to make a fundamental change to Formula One in that you don't need a hundred percent agreement to make major changes, maybe 80 percent or something like that to get something through, otherwise things will just stall and stall and stall?
Theissen: Just a short answer, I agree.
Haug: Me, too. (Laughter)
Symonds: I think we already have an arrangement rather like this on technical rules. If technical rules would be changed within a year, there has to be a hundred percent agreement, but they can be changed within 18 months or two years with an 80 percent agreement. And I think that has worked very well for the technical rules and technical working groups' recommendations. For that to be applied to sporting rules may well make life easier.
Q: Just go back to qualifying, the one thing you've got to remember from a press point of view, if you qualify on Saturday, you get quite a lot of publicity. For instance, whoever is on the pole tomorrow is going to be in the Indianapolis Star, the Chicago Tribune and whatever, and that's going to give people an added incentive to come on Sunday. How about doing something, God forbid, that's already been tried, where you lock in the front row on Saturday and qualify the rest of the field on the Sunday. That way you get the public to get two bites at the apple, they get the front row locked in on Saturday and you get to run on Sunday, which you obviously need to do at the moment. This parc fermé until the race starts is obviously not good for the spectators. I do think another point that I hope you guys did take home on Friday is when we had the pit walk, it took people an hour and a half to get in here because the pit walk took up so many people. For the last two decades, Formula One has distanced itself from the people who have paid for it, i.e. the spectators. If you go to Silverstone, I want to be the chain-link fence manufacturer at somewhere like Silverstone or Hockenheim, you've never seen so much chain-link fence in your life. And you guys, you pay the piper, and you should call the tune. You should make your drivers far more available than they are today at the moment. I think Friday was a really good example for you guys.
Symonds: I'm not sure if it was a question but I will certainly pick up on it. I agree very, very much with the issue of the spectators and what they get for their money. It really was good to see how many people were here yesterday. We used to see a similar thing in Montreal when that was opened to the public on Wednesday or Thursday. I think it's very good for the sport. You know, those are the people who come in, and I know I said earlier that we were a global sport and television is important, but we have to seed that audience with the local people. We are distancing ourselves far too much, and I think particularly here in America, our local audience must find it very alien because we've all seen champ car racing on TV and how close they get to the spectators. I really think we should be doing something similar in Formula One.
Pasquali: I think the will from everybody to increase the show to get closer to the spectators, again is a question of compromise and it's true that it's difficult to compare racing like NASCAR or other kind of racing to Formula One in terms of spectators because I don't think we have ever had the chance to reach 400,000 spectators or maybe 500,000 for the Indy 500. But all the effort, I believe, are made at the moment to try to increase that; and a similar pit walkabout was organized in Hungary and was a big success as well. I'm sure it will improve it. Concerning the drivers, I can only support your point of view that they have to be more available for the spectators. We work on it and I think all the effort are in the right direction.
Q: Question to Pat Symonds. Can you please talk a little bit about Franck Montagny who will be your official test driver in 2004? Do you think he will be the new generation driver that France is hoping?
Symonds: Yeah, I certainly do. We ran a number of drivers last winter with a view to taking on our second test driver, because obviously Allan McNish is our primary test driver this year. Franck came out of that very well. He wasn't actually the fastest driver when we did those tests but if we looked at consistency, if we looked at feedback, we give these drivers quite a grilling when we test them. And certainly it's not just about lap time. He came out of it very well, and from that we decided that we would take him on as our second test driver. Now, the second test driver gets to do some pretty boring things driving up and down in a straight line and taking measurements and stuff like that. But we gave Franck an outing at the French Grand Prix in the Friday test session, and not only did he do very well, but he did very well in some very hard circumstances. He had a problem with his engine and had to change cars. Shortly after that, it started to rain. And I was really impressed with the way he handled it. We took him to Barcelona last week to do some work for us, and it was a full-test program. He was looking at some of our Suzuka tires; he was working on some developments that we were applying to the 2004 car. It was everything we'd expect of any test driver. And once again, he did a very good job. As you know, we've announced he will be our primary test driver next year. His racing in the Nissan series has been really exemplary, and I think he's got a very, very good future in front of him.
Q: All of you talked about the value of racing in America . Are any of you willing to commit to have an American driver and not just as a token but one that is capable of going out there and doing well?
Theissen: Well, to us it would be very positive to have an American driver. Of course, he needs to be competitive and it's a long way to get competitive. And it's very -- it's maybe more difficult here in the States to develop himself into a competitive Formula One driver than in Europe . That's why we are about to set up a new race series here in the U.S. , Formula One BMW, which has become very successful in Germany already. In Asia this year as well. And next year we are going to start two other series, one in the UK and the other one here in the U.S. This series is aimed at 15, 16, 17-year-old kids who come out of karting and get their first formula car, single-seater car. And we are not only providing the car and the series, but we are also providing an educational program, an education to become a racing driver to learn everything it takes to develop in the world of motorsport and to be able to make his or her way in motorsport. It's a very big commitment. You will hear about this in a few days. And I think this is the first step to enable young drivers to become a Formula One driver. Of course, it takes another one, two steps between Formula BMW and Formula One. And probably seen as today, they need to go to Europe in between in order to prepare for Formula One.
Haug: Maybe to add something, I think that would be a perfect solution if you start here in this new junior Formula BMW, that's great. I mean lots of good talents are coming out of that formula in Germany and the next step is Formula Three, obviously. These guys learn a lot of in Formula Three. We supply an engine in Formula Three; we are very much focused on helping young guys. But a typical way for a young American driver could be to start in a BMW junior series and then do the next step in Formula Three in Europe . I think you need to come to Europe and you need to learn there, you need to learn the race tracks. It's a completely different form of racing compared to what you have in IRL. It is comparable probably to champ cars but it is not very likely that you start like Indy Lights, go to champ cars, go to Formula One. The obvious way would be starting Formula BMW, go to Formula Three to Europe and then make it to Formula One. This is a program that would take a couple of years. But as soon as talents are there, we would be happy to help them.
Symonds: Start in Formula Renault. (Laughter)
Q: Otmar, many factors go into deciding on the drivers for next year. You say the team makes the decision but you also consult with the team. Looking at one facet, it seems very strange to get rid of Jacques Villeneuve, who is one of the most recognized names not only in North America but worldwide. You're obviously trying to promote Honda and the team sponsors, and to replace somebody like Villeneuve, who is still a good driver and a world champion, with a young driver who's perhaps only known in his country, seems a bit strange. Maybe you could comment a bit on that.
Szafnauer: Like I said, we had those discussions with BAR, and they will be making that decision. The discussions are a bit delicate, and publicly I'd like that you respect the fact that we'd rather not comment, and shortly the decision will be made by BAR. They've got many other people to consider other than what Honda believes and it will be announced shortly thereafter.
Q: To Mario and Norbert. Normally the order of the pits is a function of the ranking of the championship from last year. But this year we see Ferrari, McLaren and then Williams. Is there a special reason for that?
Theissen: I don't know, I was surprised myself when I saw McLaren on the right side. I expected Ferrari to be on the left side. But there was Renault. So I don't know the reason.
Haug: Have already changed it for next year. Mario gets used to it. (Laughter) I think there was a cooperation between the teams really. It didn't happen by coincidence but it's better to speak to Frank and Ron about it.
Q: As we get to the close here of the second season with Toyota and nearing the end of the first season with Cristiano, can you just kind of just general update on how you see the progress of both?
Pasquali: Cristiano has proven already since the first race, I think this year everybody remembers his qualifying on Friday in Australia, which was quite impressive until he had his mistake at the end of the lap, but mid-lap he was running second and he had a fourth time in Barcelona. He did the same in Monza . Cristiano is extremely quick. He has the disadvantage this year of discovering most of the circuits, which is not an easy task because last year we had two hours free practice on Friday and this year he has an hour where he has to make a comparison, learn the track, assimilate lots of things and go straight into qualifying. Cristiano is coming up very, very well. His technical feedback is very valuable for the team. He has proven to be very quick in race conditions as well. Think what he did in Silverstone, even if it was out obviously by the safety car situation, was quite remarkable because he's been leading for 17 laps and he was not kind of mobile chicane but he was really making his way through. So we very happy and impressed by Cristiano's job so far.
THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 25 SEPTEMBER 2003
DRIVERS: Fernando ALONSO (RENAULT), Cristiano Da MATTA (TOYOTA), Juan Pablo MONTOYA (WILLIAMS), Kimi RAIKKONEN (McLAREN), Michael SCHUMACHER (SCHUAMCHER) and Jacques VILLENEUVE (BAR)
Question: Fernando, first of all, your feelings for this race?
FERNANDO ALONSO : It will be a tough race for us because the characteristic of the circuit is not fantastic for our car. But you know, we are confident in the tires. They should work fantastic (sic) here. And, you know, we have a new spec engine with a little more power. So that should help. We'll see, but will be a tough race we think.
Q: Do you think you can get in amongst these three?
Alonso: It will be difficult because they are fighting for the championship and they will be very strong here. But, you know, in Monza, which was a difficult race for us I started from the back with one lap less than the others. At the end, I finished eighth with a difficult car to drive and everything. So with a normal race, even in Monza, we were quite competitive. Here we can do something if we work well tomorrow morning in the test session and maybe we can have an advantage here because, as you said, this track is new for everybody basically because we cannot test even the season here. Maybe the test session is a big help for us here.
Q: The team was saying that was a pretty heroic drive at Monza; the car was probably in fairly average condition.
Alonso: Yes, was very damaged after the first crash and the other start. Then I miss the second chicane and I lost a few pieces more. Yeah, it was very damaged but still quick.
Q: But it wasn't underweight because of all the bits that had fallen off?
Alonso: No, because I didn't lose too much weight because I lost carbon pieces, you know, some grams only.
Q: OK, thanks, Fernando. Well done. Jacques, you had a fairly good race at Monza as well. Was that encouraging?
JACQUES VILLENEUVE: It was fun to finally have a race where we could show what we could do. The car lasted until the end, and we had no problems.
Q: There have been fairly interesting ideas about how you're going to keep your drive with BAR, what are your feelings about those?
Villeneuve: You make it sound as if I'm begging to stay with the team. It's right now the team is looking to see if I'm the right driver for them; but on the other hand, I have to see if it's the right team for me as well.
Q: Obviously, you've got a great following here in North America as you have for many, many years, this huge number of fans even in this room, as well. What can I tell them about your career for next year?
Villeneuve: Right now there's nothing exciting to say. Two more races to go, and that's all I know.
Q: Cristiano, similarly, here you are back in North America where you spent some past few years. What are your feelings about coming back and racing Formula One here?
CRISTIANO DA MATTA : Well, for me just to be back in America is a great feeling again, a chance to see many people I haven't seen for a year now. So it's a good feeling. It's going to be my first time racing in this circuit, not even in the oval I haven't been here before because obviously I was racing CART, not in the area, also. It's going to be a new experience for me but it's exciting for me to be here, just a chance to see a lot of good friends.
Q: How much do you feel you've changed in the last year since you were racing here?
Da Matta: I think I'm the same.
Q: Not changed at all?
Da Matta: No, I think everything is the same.
Q: How would you say your workload has changed in the last year?
Da Matta: Testing-wise, I have a lot more this year than I had last year. Racing, I had a lot less races than I had last year. Especially at this time of the year, the schedule here in North America is quite busy, so I was quite busy at this time last year. But overall probably working a little bit harder, especially on the PR side.
Q: OK, thanks, Cristiano. Juan Pablo, your aim obviously this weekend is to stay in contention in the championship. Has anything changed?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA : Not really. It's ?go out there and do what we can'. It's three-point difference, and we can narrow the gap, so it could be ideal. We've got to try to stay in contention with Michael and make sure Kimi doesn't get ahead of us either. So it's going to be quite interesting race, but I think we should have a very good race here.
Q: What about the fact that it's going for a lot of noisy Colombians in the grandstand this weekend?
Montoya: It's nice to see a lot of support here, a lot of Colombians and a lot of Americans here, as well, from my years in CART. I think for the Americans when I won Indy, it was a big thing, and they remember that, and I got a lot of support out of that. So it's good.
Q: One of the questions that a lot of the specialists in Britain want to know is how are you going to get out of your Williams contract to drive for McLaren?
Montoya: First of all, I have a Williams contract for the end of '04, and then I am a free agent. As far as I know I'm driving for Williams next year.
Q: So you don't need to get out of it?
Montoya: Not really.
Q: Thank you very much, Juan Pablo. Michael, you have a fantastic record here; pole every year, a couple of second places and a first. How does that mean that you come to this race?
MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: You know I don't think what happens in the past relates very much to what will happen this year. It's a new start, and we have to see what we can do.
Q: You spoke about Ferrari, the challenge of Monza and the fact that they had the result, you had the result you had at Monza, fighting talk I think was something that was associated with the fact that they've woken up almost a sleeping giant, your rivals. Do you think that's going to continue for the next couple of races?
Schumacher: How you mean sleeping giant?
Q: Well, that they had awoken Ferrari up. Perhaps, not that they were asleep, having said that, but perhaps that you had to work on the car so much for Monza that, you know, the car is now the top as it was before.
Schumacher: Yeah. (Laughter).
Q: So what's the reaction, what's your feeling about that as you come into the next few races?
Schumacher: As I said before, I think we have a good car, we have a good package. We have worked very intense on every option last week. We feel we are very well prepared, but at this stage, less talking, more showing is better.
Q: OK. Thanks, Michael. Come on to Kimi, do you feel greater pressure now that there's a little bit more of a gap than there was?
KIMI RAIKKONEN : Not really. I think we just need to do our own things and try to be quicker than those two guys.
Q: What about your preparations for this race?
Raikkonen: Exactly the same as before. We had the testing and mainly concentrate on the tires. But I think our car should be more prepared here against Williams here and Ferrari than it was in the last race, at least I hope.
Q: Do you look at your own record here?
Raikkonen: Actually, I haven't finished a race so far here, but it has been many, many other circuits, also, where before I haven't done very well, and then this year has been going much better.
Q: So you are not unconfident of coming here anyway?
Raikkonen: No, I think the car was quite good here last year even though I was running with the nine cylinder at the end of the race, but I think it should be quite good.
Q: For Michael. When was the last time you were in a fight for a championship that was this close coming toward the end of the season?
Schumacher: '94, '95, 2000.
Villeneuve: '97. (Laughter)
Schumacher: We had the second-to-last race.
Q: Does it make any difference that it's been essentially such a long time since you were in a close fight? Does it add any more excitement or pressure for you?
Schumacher: No, I don't think so. It's exciting, it's good. We are strong; we won the last race. We obviously believe in ourselves and the rest is, you take it as it comes, and you do your best.
Q: Michael, when the rules package was announced last year, did you envision that the race would be this tight at this stage of the season?
Schumacher: I don't think that the rules in itself make the situation as tight as it is right now, in all honesty. They have created some excitement in certain areas and made less in other areas. Depends who you ask. But at the end of the day, the reason why the competition is so tight is that simply the teams are much closer together than they have ever been.
Q: Michael, Juan, the wheel-to-wheel stuff at Monza, the first lap, fantastic excitement for us watching it. Do you think that sort of set the tone for the competition between you going forward for the next two years' races because you enjoy it yourself?
Schumacher: I think we have had a few of those, and Monza was one of those, and who knows what comes next?
Q: Jacques, every day there's a new rumor about you and that's picked up by the newspapers and magazines. Does that unsettle you or do you ignore that stuff about shootouts and Sato coming in and everything happening?
Villeneuve: Rumors are powerful, and sometimes they're rumors because people get bored and they hear something that a friend of them told them and so on. Sometimes they're created on purpose to push people in some direction or other. I don't really see much what is going on, but I'm being told most of the time what happens. But a lot of entertainment.
Q: Yes, one question for Juan Pablo and then one for Fernando. Juan Pablo, would you feel more confident if (Marc) Gene is starting instead of Ralf?
Montoya: Not really. I think Marc did a great job in replacing Ralf in the last race, and I think it was good to keep us in the constructor championship, but I don't think it will change anything really. I think probably for the team Ralf has more experience than Marc, and I think coming here would be a good thing. Marc has never driven here, and Ralf has. I think that would make a big difference for the points championship.
Q: Fernando, it looks as though you've accomplished more than your expectations so far this season already, but there are still two races left, this one and Japan. Are you confident of perhaps taking another podium?
Alonso: Yeah, always, when we have a positive weekend we try to get another podium or another good result. Obviously the expectations are already surpassed because we have had better results that we expected and probably here or in Suzuka, we will enjoy the race, do the maximum again and why not another podium.
Q: Juan Pablo, I'm sure you go to every Grand Prix hoping and trying to win it, but does it make a difference knowing that this weekend really to stay in contention you've almost got to win this race?
Montoya: No. It's kind of odd but I don't have to win the race. But with the idea of going for the Constructors and everything I need to make sure I finish in front of Michael and Kimi and that doesn't make it necessary to win. If we're running in the top three positions then yeah. I think the way the championships might is that whoever wins the Drivers might win the Constructors as well because he's probably going to have the best car and that's going to make a difference. We have to wait and see what happens.
Q: Cristiano, there's always great interest in America when a CART champion goes to Formula One. The big question is how much more difficult is it, how much tougher is it? Have you found it a lot different, have you found it a lot tougher than you anticipated or can you describe what makes it so much more difficult?
Da Matta: Well, definitely the biggest difficulty there is is because the two series are so different, so you come into a new series, you have to learn many many different news things. You just have to go through these processes of getting used to everything all over again and that's why it's difficult.
Q: From a car standpoint, what is the one thing that's more difficult to get completely on top of compared to what you're used to here in the States?
Da Matta: On the car standpoint, basically it's the braking, just in Formula One you can brake deeper and also brake and turning at the same time, a lot more than you can do in CART. I'm not sure if this is due to the grooved tires or due to the weight of the car, just for the whole technology of the car but that's the biggest difficulty. And that makes the driving style a bit different too because in Formula One these days there's not much of a mid-corner part of the turn, there's only the entry and the exit while in most of the other cars I've ever driven in my life you always have the mid-corner part of the corner so this should change your mind, just to do that naturally, I think it takes a little while.
ANTI-SMOKING MOMENTUM CONTINUES
A FOOTNOTE OF HISTORY
A HINT FROM THE PRESIDENT
FIRMAN WAITS TO SEE
WHY FORMULA 1 WANTS TO BE IN CHINA
THE FUTURE OF JACQUES VILLENEUVE