MARCH 5, 2004
AUSTRALIAN GP - FRIDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
Friday Press Conference
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - MARCH, 5, 2004
TEAM PRINCIPALS: Flavio BRIATORE (RENAULT), Eddie JORDAN (JORDAN), David RICHARDS (BAR), Peter SAUBER (SAUBER), Paul STODDART (MINARDI).
Q: Gentlemen, we've had all of one day of the 2004 season. What are your impressions of your own team performance, of the new regulations, of other teams' performance, particularly some people who seem to be rather far ahead of everyone else?
Eddie JORDAN: Pretty disappointed, I suppose. I think the way the series is now, this business that we used to use in years gone by of very little fuel on the Friday one run, that probably is no longer evident, but we'll see tomorrow. I think it's not necessarily an important thing to do, so I think the times from Friday are still a bit of a mystery, because you don't know what people are actually trying to achieve by Friday at this stage. My opinion is that... I didn't really look at any other teams apart from my own and I wasn't particularly happy with what I was seeing so there's certainly room for improvement tomorrow and hopefully we can find some.
Paul STODDART: I think pretty much the same as Eddie: a bit disappointed with our performance today, certainly the gap between the top of the grid and the bottom of the grid has become even bigger. I probably shouldn't be too surprised about that, but we thought we'd found quite a bit over the winter but clearly we've got a bit more work to do. It will be even more interesting tomorrow to see how these new qualifying procedures work because they worry me quite a bit as well.
Q: David, Jenson's performance was obviously encouraging and then perhaps there was disappointment. I don't know what happened...
David RICHARDS: No, nor do I. No. I've been in meetings since then so I'm just texting someone to try to find out. No, reasonably encouraged by that so far.
Q: What about Ferrari's performance at the front there, the general structure of today, how did it go do you feel?
Richards: Well, clearly Ferrari's performance was very, very impressive, but let's wait and see where everyone is when we're actually running for the grid tomorrow afternoon.
Q: So are we being a bit premature if we...
Richards: No, no, I don't want to undermine... it's obviously a very quick car and obviously they've obviously done a very impressive performance and probably even if we drained all the fuel out I suspect we might not be able to get those times but nonetheless, let's wait and see what happens tomorrow. I think today is rather a strange day. You're never sure what anyone's running and what strategies people are working to and even tomorrow afternoon people I guess will still be speculating, what laps everyone is going to stop on, so in many ways, it's not the clean way it used to be with qualifying with low fuel etc. It is quite confusing. If it's confusing for us, it must be very confusing for the spectators out there.
Q: Perhaps the next question is should it be confusing for the spectators out there?
Richards: Well that's the bigger debate, that's the bigger debate. Have we overcomplicated the sport or do people like this slight mystique about it. What is going to unfold on Sunday, because that does create that question and maybe that is a valid way of looking at it.
Q: Flavio, what are your feelings about today?
Briatore: Not bad, not good, normal. Like David said, Friday is the testing day. I'm very happy with the performance of the car on long runs, more than one timed lap, because one timed lap today means nothing. What we have been doing today is preparing the car for tomorrow. We're happy with that. Our car on the long runs was very, very quick and this was good for Friday because now we can concentrate on the race Saturday and Sunday. I don't think the people are confused because Friday is the testing day, there's no qualifying. It's different from last year. Last year you had qualifying but now you are only testing. What are you doing? You are preparing the car for tomorrow, logically, and I'm quite happy with this. We're close to Williams, to McLaren. This is very good. If all the team are close like this, it is very good for the championship anyway.
Peter SAUBER: My team was not so bad today, but it's very difficult to speak about performance after Friday practice.
Q: You've got a strong couple of drivers; what about the possibility of a third driver for you?
Sauber: At the moment, it makes no sense for us. We don't have the infrastructure to drive with three cars properly.
Q: Eddie, did you feel there was an advantage with a third car today? Did you gain an advantage?
Jordan: Our philosophy on a third driver is that Jordan has to go back to where Jordan got its best results from and that was developing and creating. It's something with the idea of young drivers and young engineers, and if you're going to do that, well you'd better take full advantage of it. Yes, of course, Peter is right. There's a significant cost in the running of a third car but we will gain out of it as the season goes on. It's difficult to say. To say what you actually get at any one given moment, probably at this moment in time gives a complete novice driver a bigger advantage than perhaps the team, because he's thinking about himself and the car but in Timo Glock, the driver we're making reference to, it is part of the education that is so vital to prepare for a quality race-winning Formula One driver these days. It's not like when Michael came into it and immediately he got the chance. There's a lot of very experienced drivers in Formula One and if we've ever going to bring up the level of the young drivers we have to stand up and give them a chance, and to be honest, I think it's teams like Jordan and Minardi and of course Peter in the past that have given these young drivers the chance I don't think that will change, that's the way it should be.
Q: What is your situation with a third driver Paul?
Stoddart: We had one here. As you all know, we announced Bas Leinders as our test and reserve and Friday driver but sadly, as we've now gone under super-licence rules - this is a big chance from last year, last year, I could have given him permission, he has his National A, he's done thousands and thousands of miles in open wheel racing - that's now taken away. I tried to get the super-licence quickly, wasn't able to, so the guy's got to get back on a plane now and go and drive a Grand Prix distance in Italy and come back for Malaysia. I think we made a lot of mistakes by changing the regulations last year. We had a massive change, everybody got used to them, it was deemed to be a success overall and then we go and change the whole lot again. I just can't see the sense in it.
Q: But according to FIA releases, a lot of changes were made at the demands of the teams.
Stoddart: Well, the changes were made at the demands of some of the teams, and some of us in that meeting did not vote for those changes but like in any democracy, we have to accept them. If we're outvoted, we are outvoted and in that case, we were. The Friday testing for us, last year, really, really worked and I think it's fair to say that everybody sitting up here would have joined it this year and yet we didn't have that opportunity.
Q: David, how good was your third driver, Anthony Davidson for you today?
Richards: Anthony is an integral part of the team. He's been a part of the team for some time now, he's tested all last year with us, and all through the winter, and provides great feedback and we have a very good relationship with Jenson and Taku, so it's very helpful.
Q: You had benefit from him today?
Richards: Oh, I'm quite certain of that.
Q: Flavio, you're not running a third driver, but last year you were. Would you go back to last year's rules?
Briatore: The rules are these ones. I would like to go back to '93, '94 and '95 but it's impossible. We need what we have now and to look in the future. This is the past. It doesn?t make any difference what you prefer, because it's not possible any more.
Q: Peter, is the possibility of a third driver for you later on in the season?
Sauber: Yes, it's possible.
Briatore: Can I drive for you?
Q: And who is it likely to be? Will it be Neel Janni?
Sauber: No, that makes no sense. When we drive with the third driver, it's important that we have a driver with experience who has the knowledge of the circuit. Badoer, for example. It could be.
Q: Eddie, back to you, how difficult has it been with Georgio Pantano learning the circuit?
Jordan: Absolutely. I think any young driver, and particularly a driver who's just signed a contract two weeks ago, with the limitations of the testing that was able to be done before the cars came here, the more mileage you get, you know that the better the situation is going to be, but we're not the master of our own destinies. That was a choice I made, I know when I was signing him that we would suffer the penalty for the first couple of races, but Georgio is a seriously professional, and anyone who has CVs like what he's done in karting and winning Formula Three championships and races that he's won in F3000, he deserves his crack at Formula One, there's no doubt about that, but it is a daunting prospect, current Formula One for a young driver, coming in now. Unlike years ago, there are so many gadgets, there are so many things to remember and you know there are going to be more pit stops too, so coming in and out of the pits. Today, he made a classic little mistake, he was two kilometres over the 60 kilometre pit lane speed limit and he was fined seriously and... I'll say no more. You don't like it.
Q: And that hurts.
Jordan: You don't like it.
Q: Paul, situations regarding engines, cheap engines. Just give us the situation as it stands at the moment.
Stoddart: Short version goes something like this: You all remember last year traction control was going to be banned. We had a meeting on 29 April with all the team principals and in attendance with all the technical directors as well together with Max. An agreement was made, an absolute agreement, to provide the commercially affordable engine and thus far it's not been implemented. And no matter how you look at that it doesn't make it easy for the teams that rely upon the customer engines. Much was said last year about the fighting fund, much was said about cheap engines. All I think that people like me would like is for those promises to be honoured. It was a contractual commitment and all I would say is that I would like to see the manufacturers sort out their lives and particularly on the engine issue bring this to a conclusion.
Q: How close is it to a conclusion?
PS: That's perhaps a question best answered by them, but I think it's fair I don't believe it's all of them; we are very clear here that people like Ford have been tremendous supporters of us through their engine, Cosworth, people like Renault have been supportive of the independent teams and supporting our plight, but perhaps those at the other end that actually have all the money seem to be holding up. At least that's what I'm told.
Q: David, different subject. You've spoken about the tobacco legislation and I don't know if you have had a word on the European arrest warrant as well, but those are two things that I think concern you at the moment. Perhaps you can tell us your concerns and what is happening there?
Richards: The direction that concerns us at BAR is the situation to do with - it's specifically the UK legislation in respect of tobacco. Just to clarify the point, we are not complaining because the fact of the matter is that the BAT had already voluntarily agreed, as had all the other tobacco companies, to withdraw sponsorship until the end of 2006. But the way the legislation has been drafted in the UK will effectively mean that we couldn't carry any advertising in places like China, Bahrain, Malaysia, where it is legitimately allowed after July 2005. Now, that puts enormous pressures on our team in terms of the financial structure of the team, the business, and the income sponsorship. That's what we are trying to get clarified and I firmly believe it's just an administrative issue inside the way that the drafting has been done, I think there is almost an admission of that by members of the government in the UK. And we are hopeful we will get this clarified in the coming months. We will then run to the end of 2006, as was planned, it gives us plenty of time then to have alternative streams of income in place and resolve matters.
Q: Flavio, one of your things has been cost cutting. Are you happy with the measures that have been taken? Are you still looking for more cost cutting?
Briatore: We spend more, I don't think was ..... Nothing happened. I believe in the future the fact we have one engine for weekend we go in the right direction. For me, talking about Renault, we doing chassis and we are doing the engine, if you arrive at one point to have maybe two weekends with one engine is better because sure less pieces you use, the cheaper it is. I believe as well we need, talking about 2006, what we are doing about the engine because now we are at the point we need thinking about something in the future and for me the right way to go is go down in power if you want to saving money....the V8, 2.4 engine, and everybody the same and I think it is the right way. Two weekends. This is for the engine, you are saving a lot of money and in the chassis side depend to us, to have an agreement to spend less because really every time you change any rule in Formula One we are spending more. The fact we take away the traction control -- the launch control -- was not cheap because we are spending more again. Every time we try to stop something, we are opening different windows for doing something else. I believe the team principals needs to sit together really and look at 2006, 2007, 2008. If you are serious, we need to cut the costs dramatically. If not, I don't think when you cut five per cent, we need to cut 50 per cent of what we spend and it's possible to do the same show. Absolutely possible. I was looking in 1994 we spend less than 50 per cent than what we spend now and we have a very good race and I think every team had a good race in 94 and 95. The escalation of the price is completely crazy and between engine and chassis you are talking about 1,000 people and in this way the economy going I think we are going completely (the wrong) direction and one day somebody is hurt, before somebody is hurt, I believe we need to sit together and about this time finalise what we need to do for cutting the costs.
Q: Peter, this year you are using the same specification engines as Ferrari themselves as opposed to the years past. How much has things changed for you running that same specification?
Sauber: We had some advantages in the past with the old engine but the difference was not so big between the new and the old one. The advantage was we know exactly how many energy go to the water and to the oil and we know exactly the size of the radiators, for example. The engine was very well tested (indistinct) and for sure that was an advantage. Now we have the same engine and when there are problems with the engine then we have the problems too.
Q: Does that mean you are running them more cautiously, more carefully?
Sauber: Yes, of course.
Q: So more control by Ferrari of the engines?
Q: Some questions from the floor, please.
Q: One question for Paul. How much cost your engine for this year? It's been the big deal so far so we would like to know how much you pay your engine for this year?
Stoddart: None of us will tell you exactly how much we pay because we contractually can't tell you, but I will tell you it's a multi-million dollar deal and that it is probably more than what I would have hoped it was going to be had the agreement been honoured.
Q: It's a question for Mr Sauber. You now have the same engine as Ferrari and the same gearbox, apparently. Your chassis is very similar to last year's Ferrari, you get the very, very good driver so are you surprised to be nearly two seconds behind the Ferrari today?
Sauber: Yes, but there are some teams that are one second behind Ferrari, that's also a surprise. Also two seconds, not only we are two seconds behind Ferrari, but the Ferrari were very, very fast today.
Q: Eddie, you have been a key campaigner for fully-affordable engines in Formula One. What's your view on the current situation, the promises that were made on April 29 last year?
Jordan: I was hoping that the conference wouldn't sort of just target in on some of the things like that but once you mention it, it has to be addressed or answered. I was sure of the situation that obviously promises were made, documented and in place, and my reference is actually two letters of January when certain manufactures made a commitment to supplying an engine which was the affordable engine of the 10 million euros, if that's what you are talking about. Well, to my knowledge, that has not been honoured. But you know, I'm not going to make a witch-hunt, this is a private matter and I think that this is something that is my obligation to resolve those things and I don't think that we should be talking about an internal issue, as such, between all the teams and the manufacturers because it's not a fight, it's not a private team against a manufacturer's team, it's a matter of finding a solution to resolve it but at this moment in time there doesn't seem to be any solution.
Q: Mr Sauber, you didn't bring a third driver to the practice today. For what reason, didn't you see the advantage or what reason?
Sauber: I don't understand your question.
Q: You don't bring a third driver. And I just want to know the reason.
Sauber: I told that before.
Q: I came in a little bit late.
Briatore: It's not our fault that you are late.
Sauber: We don't have the infrastructure to drive with a third car.
Q: This is to Eddie and Paul. With regard to cutting costs, particularly with the independent teams, what are your views on being allowed or not allowed to run customer cars, for example next year's or this year's Williams or McLaren?
Stoddart: I think the problem with that is simple: you need a unanimous decision within the team principals to get that through. It's something that has been suggested and just like other things it got voted down so it's just simply not going to happen. Could be a good idea, maybe something for the future, but in today's world it's just not a reality, I'm afraid. We will find other ways to cut costs.
Jordan: I think two ways of looking at it. I would be quite keen to go and buy Flavio's car but it would be the conditions of the contract that would be the important thing. The devil would be in the detail, and by that I mean I'm not making any suggestions about any team but for Jordan it has to be totally independent, as the word you said is quite appropriate, and by that it means it has to be allowed to win, if it has the chance to win, it must be able to take it and it must be the master of its own destiny at all times. It also has been one of the main reasons that I've probably all endured, we have all endured, pain one way or another. There's two ways of looking at it. I support it strongly, I have no objections to anyone doing it, but I would have to have serious thoughts with myself as to whether I thought it was the right thing for my team, the brand, what I have come into this business to do, and that is I feel that there is something - like the birth of a child - to build a car, to design a car, to create a car, and to try your best to beat everyone else. Whilst at the moment I'm not able to do that I believe I can do it otherwise you would have to stop. But you are either a complete fool or a complete optimist, and I will accept that I might be a bit of an optimist.
Q: Mr Jordan, what about the issue of co-operation between you and the Bahrain international circuits?
Jordan: Great question. That's at least a more positive thing and I think that something we can attract. I think these two new races, Bahrain and China, are a huge, huge, asset to our business. They've opened up a complete new territory and area for co-operation and sponsorship. I went not just to Shanghai but I also when to Bahrain to be part of getting ourselves as a team established there and I was able to discuss with the Crown Prince the opportunity of accompanying on a humanitarian mission which he had, if you like, thought about and put together and we have come up with some ideas, he came up with some ideas, and the launch last night was something unique I think where somebody actually takes over space on the car and is less selfish, let's say, and they have an opportunity financially or otherwise to be able to point out and point messages to the world at large. Remember that Formula One still has the biggest platform in TV audience, 350, 400 million you hear great figures. Hopefully we are able to get the car on the telly, I'm not sure after today, but we should be able to get the car and I think the message of the dove of peace is particularly appropriate because there is an association between Australia and Bahrain, they work well together and the first message we wanted to get across to emphasise on what we are all doing on this planet and trying to get some semblance of peace established. So I applaud them, they have been fantastic in this and if some of the other circuits and countries that are providing races they will, I believe, just when Australia came in to do the races here, they did a fabulous job and I'm sure they will too.
Q: Flavio, what are Renault's ambitions this year? Do you think you can actually go for the championship? Are you in that bracket just yet?
Briatore: We compete to win some race and the beginning is very difficult for us because only Imola we had the final engine, the first race we know was difficult, but the car looked good and this winter we done much more mileage than in the past and with the points, eight points if you are winning, 10 points if you are winning, eight points if you are second, etcetera, etcetera. If you are there every race, at the podium, or close to the podium, why not? I don't know. I don't know. I think so we need race by race what happen, first we need to win the first race and after we see. But I believe it's four or five team basically at the same level, look like Ferrari today was very, very quick but like we said before, we never know the position in one day. I see at least four teams very close.
Q: You mentioned testing, that you've done massive testing. Bernie mentioned that he thinks that 20 races a year would be better and far less testing, maybe only 20 days testing. Would you go with that?
Briatore: With testing we spend the money, when we are racing we make money because our business is doing racing. Normally, we are doing three times mileage for testing and not racing. I believe this is not only saving in testing, I think so like we said before, we need saving 50 per cent of what we spend now. It's not only ten days or two weeks. More you test, more you spend because it is the pieces more chassis and all this cost you. But I believe the Formula One problem is not only saving 5 per cent or 6 per cent, we need reducing our budget around 40 50 per cent. It's possible doing. I still don't understand why we are not sitting together and doing it because really it's possible doing it and I'm very happy to have a 20 race.
Q: Which teams don't want to save money?
Briatore: I don't know. A few. Always the same.
Q: You must know from the Formula One Commission?
Briatore: I'm sure everybody knows. I don't think so only me. Is team make you spend money because if I want to compete with Ferrari, example, doing more than a day of testing. I was very happy to testing only Friday with Jaguar with everybody last year, but we know it was impossible and whenever everybody said was one year deal. Logically, was more logic, if everybody was testing Friday with us. But look like people love spending money and this is the way we are going. I don't know, just at the point when you stop thinking about what we are doing because really if we caught in the test and we have more race and very happy to doing it, everybody is happy to do it like that because our business is racing, it is not testing. Some teams still like doing 40,000, 50,000 kilometres of testing and maybe 20,000 a race. This is completely mad.
Q: Any of the other team owners as well?
Stoddart: Simple fact is that the teams at the top are spending so much, whilst the manufacturers have done a great job bringing all these billions of dollars into the sport eventually at some point I think people have got to stand up and take notice of how much money is being spent. Flavio is right, we could easily save 50 per cent, probably more, but it's got to be a full commitment and you are just not going to get that from the teams that have the money. The teams that have the money will keep spending, spending, spending, spending. Why not trying to win the world championship? If you take it away from them one way, they will find another way to spend it. If you try to put some kind of a ban or limitation on certain things, it will be spent somewhere else. It's just how it is. And if you're trying to keep up with them, it's a pretty difficult world.
Q: All three private teams are represented here. With the one-engine rule this year, it should be a lot of savings for the motor manufacturers. Is that saving been passed onto the customer at all, without going into numbers of course? Are any of you getting discounts on your engine deals?
Stoddart: Absolutely not. That is what we were talking about earlier on, that we were supposed to, through the one-engine rule and through other things that were given to the manufacturers who said it would cost tens of millions of dollars to lose traction control per engine manufacture, that was to enable a situation so it could be passed on and the commercially affordable engine was what it was all about. Has not happened. Let's hope it does soon.
Q: Do you get a discount on your engine, Peter?
Sauber: Yes, but we have Petronas as an engine supplier and that helps us to save money. About 20 per cent. For us is good.
Jordan: It's difficult for me to answer because I'm getting the same engine as Jaguar. In the past I had a year behind so if you compare apples with apples I can't do that but the cost is more, and this is no reflection on the people who are supplying the engine in Cosworth's case, the problem is that a figure that I believed that I had in my cash projections required for this year and the figure that I'm paying is substantially more than what was the 10 million Euro deal. If that's what you are asking, then that's the facts. Whether I'm saving money or losing money or making more money has nothing to do with it, all it is is the cost with a different engine.
Richards: Clearly we are in a slightly different position but I think one of the things that comes out of all this discussion is there are a whole raft of issues out there that could easily be addressed, whether it's the engine supply to the private teams, whether it's testing, many other aspects of Formula One need looking at. Whilst we talk about these individually it's far more important we resolve a new Concorde Agreement, we get the GPWC thing sorted out, we move this whole sport forward and move forward in a positive way and that's what our focus should be, not on these individual elements for just getting that next big jump forward and taking it into the future.
Q: That is happening now?
Richards: I hope. There have been lots of promises made by the manufacturers, GPWC group, various things, but I just sincerely hope that is actually happening but certainly on the face of it it's moving very, very slowly. Not fast enough for me.
Q: Towards the end of last year there was a government warning about travelling to high-risk areas of the Middle East. What is your understanding of the status of that, and are you all happy with your insurance positions vis-a-vis Bahrain?
Stoddart: I suppose I see the security warnings in my other business with airlines and at the moment the risk is, as it is with many other countries, considerable. We live in an age where, sadly since 9/11, terrorism is a real threat. I think we are all very responsible people in the way we look at our security and the way we take precautions but we should not target out any single country; we are at risk anywhere in the world, that is the sad fact of the age we live in post 9/11. I think Formula One proved when it went to Indianapolis so shortly after 9/11 that we are a sporting community that is not going to allow politics and world events of that kind to interfere with the sport. But we are also responsible people and we take necessary precautions.
Jordan: From my side, I was somewhat surprised with the government warning - and I don't want to make this a political issue - but my daughter wanted to go to a party last week and she told me it was in Zimbabwe and if you go to the government warnings, there is no government warning about going to Zimbabwe and yet there is to Bahrain. I have been to Bahrain three times in the last couple of months and I don't think you could find a more peaceful, homely place. Now, I think you may be talking about a major event and the opportunity, so whatever applies anywhere, so I'm at a loss as to how these things are actually worked out. It's a confusing situation. I can only say from my personal experience I would be staggered if anyone had the slightest hesitation about going to Bahrain.
Q: Anything further to add?
Richards: I think it's all been said.
Q: But you are all happy with your insurance positions?
Stoddart: I can certainly speak that we carry war risk and terrorism risk and I suspect everybody else does, it's just standard business practice, and it's not just Formula One.
Q: Just going back to where we started this afternoon about the times that were being set this afternoon and how representative or not they are. I'm a bit confused by what I see and I was just a bit surprised that some of you guys expressed confusion. Can't you give us some insight into what is going? David and Flavio, what were you guys basically doing, were you using today largely to prepare for your configuration tomorrow and then for the race, or were you going for lap times?
Richards: We were preparing for the race, it's part of a race weekend and it's part of our whole testing strategy working towards qualifying tomorrow and the race on Sunday.
Briatore: The same.
Q: So they are representative of the race pace?
Briatore: Like we said before, Friday now is really the testing day, meaning the testing day is the preparation for the race. Tomorrow we have the qualifying and, you know, we have two different lap, one we call a strategy and one not. Normally, I believe today is the preparation for the race. Today is the day you need to choose the tyre, and the tyre is very important ruling in our race now and you need to evaluate the tyres.
Q: So then it's logical to assume that Ferrari were doing the same?
Briatore: I hope not.
Q: What benefit would it be for them to go for a lap time?
Richards: You have to ask Ferrari that.
Q: Come on, guys, you can give us some insight.
Briatore: I hope not. Not too quick.
PS: No benefit, Mark, and I think you might have just seen a very quick car out there today.
Q: That's what I'm trying to determine and you guys are supposed to know more than us.
Jordan: Don't bet on it, Mark.
Q: Considering that Formula One is facing problems for a few years, you team principals often say that we are altogether to be more focused on show, fun, sport. But for the first Grand Prix of the season this press conference is all about contracts, money, business. Do you think you deserve the media to be more focused on this point?
Richards: Good question. Very good question.
Jordan: I think you have to ask Bob first because, no disrespect, but the tone of the way the questions were asked didn't invoke a lot of fun and, quite honestly, normally at this stage I would be throwing water at Flavio and he would be doing something nasty to me but the thing is that this particular conference seems to be more doom and gloom than normal and we can't ask the questions for you so if you give us something that we can have a bit of fun with, I'm promising you we give you a bit of fun.
Q: What would you think was a good fun question, Eddie?
Jordan: I won't entice you, I'm sorry Bob, you can think up your own.
Q: Why don't you throw some water over Flavio then?
Jordan: He's going for a grooming, he's got a sensational new girl for tonight's performance and I think I'll let you in on that later.
Q: Just talking about fun and the sport and the showing sports. Do you guys think that today's show was worth the price of the ticket for the public grandstand?
Stoddart: You are a bit lucky here in Australia because the prices are quite sensible and people can come in and I believe, just as we came in, that we possibly got a record crowd today so a lot of people do actually think so. Yesterday was a record crowd and, of course, Formula One wasn't even running yesterday. But I think that's a testimony to Australian Grand Prix for the amount of work they put into making sure we are entertained all weekend.
Richards: I think that's a valid point. This event puts on more for the people out there than any other event in the championship, I would say. It does beg the question when you turn up at the certain Grand Prix whether it's just a Formula One race on the day, whether that represents value.
Stoddart: And the ticket prices...
Richards: I don't have the ticket price, unfortunately I have not had to buy one recently. I think all the promoters are aware of this and I think it's beholden on the teams as well to support them and I think this weekend we are supplying our drivers for autograph sessions and trying to work with the promoters more and more.
Briatore: Is exactly the same. I don't see the difference between Friday last year and Friday this year. Friday is always like this. I don't know, I believe the public enjoy to see the car, at least we are running the car. At least today the fact we had a third driver in the same team was always ..... But I don't see really the difference between last year Friday, this year Friday. The interesting is tomorrow and tomorrow I believe if you concentrate it's very difficult to keep the event for four or five days, we don't have material for three or four days. I believe if you are doing very well Saturday, Sunday, it's what we need doing. Friday is always ideas, always the people .... For me it was easier on the Friday and only Saturday and Sunday. But really nothing changed from last year because last year was the same, everybody ask Friday's work is work for the public but the same. This year at least we have a very busy Saturday and hopefully a very good race Sunday, like usual.
Q: Thank you very much indeed, gentlemen.
THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - MARCH, 4, 2004
DRIVERS: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) and Mark Webber (Jaguar)
Q: Mark, tell us all about the pins and the scheme that has been launched by the Grand Prix Drivers Association to give fans a chance to tour the paddock...What is it all about?
Mark Webber: The GPDA decided to try and put a little back to the fans and to give them a chance to get a little bit closer to our world. Michael and I had a bit of a discussion about this a few weeks ago about how we could come up with an idea. The helmet pins idea was already under way because I was a patron for Brainwave Australia which is a cancer charity for the young kids here in Australia so we thought we would incorporate the pins and a raffle or a draw on Sunday morning and then six people can come into the paddock and have a photo taken. I think it is a very good idea and I'd like to see if we can do it at five or six races this year maybe with some karting or some football. Its just the way in which the GPDA wants to be able to do something to help the fans a little bit more.
Q: Are there other ideas in the pipeline?
Michael Schumacher: Yes, as Mark said, we are planning different things and we will find out something else for the future for the fans.
Q: So this is really something that has come from the drivers?
Schumacher: Yes, I think so.
Q: This is the drivers' giving something back?
Schumacher: Yes. I think Mark explained it very well. Things have just moved further and further away, but there is no real thing to just open the pit lane and let the people come to you as that would be a disaster so Mark and I sat together and thought what can we do, what is possible. That was the first step and we've gone on from there.
Q: We saw what happened in Indianapolis last year when the pit lane was open and quite a few of the drivers were available as well....
Schumacher: I think it is very critical to do things like this as well in my view because you have to imagine if you do that and take the top teams and top drivers and they will be under a big command you only one person against so many and you will make only a few happy and a lot more unhappy because you cannot deal with those. So with having a lot of people to control this in certain countries it would get out of control. So I am a bit sceptical to see this as a general happening.
Q: Here the promoter has arranged general autograph sessions. Is that something you may be thinking of as well?
Webber: We are still looking at quite a few ideas and the main thing is that everyone wins. We have to please as many people as we can, but we have to draw the line somewhere. And also the charities have got to win as well and we want to try and kill a few birds with one stone and make sure the GPDA can sell off some race suits for the benefit of some of the charities. Clearly, the charity here in Australia will have a good win from what we've done here and more autograph signing sessions is a possibility and Mr Ecclestone has supplied the passes for the winners so everyone is pushing hard.
Q: You said five or six other Grands Prix, but could it extend to the whole championship?
Schumacher: We'll see how it goes and then we'll take it from there.
Q: Are there any other GPDA concerns at the moment?
Schumacher: No, not really. We have some little issues that we deal with internally, but otherwise things are going smoothly.
Q: Michael, looking forward to the coming season, you had a fantastic test at Imola...
Schumacher: Not only at Imola!
Q: Tell us about it...
Schumacher: We had good test session all winter long. The car came out with no serious trouble and we were running very competitively in our view and reliably too. That was the impressive thing. You cant stress that enough. To achieve what we did straight out of the box is tremendous.
Q: How much of an improvement is it on last year's car?
Schumacher: It is an improvement, but exactly how much, and where, we don't know because none of us - Rubens, Luca Badoer or myself - has stepped into the old car and back into the new car to do a real back to back straight comparison. We know its better but how much we will find out here. You have to take into consideration the temperature and the circuit condition and in the winter time it is different from how it will be here.
Q: At Imola the particular run was 14 laps at about three degrees I understand?
Schumacher: It was three degrees for the others as well. Its not a concern. We don't know. Nobody knows. That is why we are here. We will find out. That is why we are here. It will be a thrill to get behind the wheel and get the new car going.
Q: A thrill? No apprehension?
Schumacher: No, none at all. It is just pure pleasure and thrill. One hundred per cent.
Q: And confidence?
Q: That's really worrying.
Schumacher: Not for me.
Q: What about the Bridgestone situation. People say they are on their own with Ferrari, but what are the advantages and disadvantages?
Schumacher: You can argue in two ways. I have heard from the competitors side that when they are alone it is an advantage, but now there are so many teams it gives them an advantage that way too. You can argue the same way for us. At the end of the season, you look at the points and then you can see what is right.
Q: Do you feel there is enough feedback?
Schumacher: We work very closely with Bridgestone and having Sauber the way they are cooperating now and doing the tests it is very helpful. Sometimes it is quality work rather than quantity work. Sometimes you are not able to do enough. It is possible, but I don't see that problem for us at the moment as we have been able to work through all of the programme we wanted and we have done a very methodical job in sorting out the directions and separating things and I am pretty confident. Bridgestone have certainly raised their game.
Q: You have noticed an improvement?
Q: In what way? In the way they work as well?
Schumacher: Yes, because they are much closer to us so it keeps on improving. The relationship of Ferrari and Bridgestone is going on and on.
Q: New people?
Schumacher: Ask them.
Q: What about the new schedule. How will that effect you, particularly, with Sauber, tomorrow? Will they work for you to some extent in the morning?
Schumacher: No. I don't think there is a third car for either of the two teams. I am not involved in this honestly.
Q: What about the new schedule for qualifying on Saturday?
Webber: Well, to be honest, I thought Friday was a very strange event last year. The circuit was always very dirty and the guys who were doing well in the championship always had a difficult situation. That may have flattered some of the other people on a Friday and given us a good slot for Saturday but I think it is nice to have both sessions together. I think the new 100-minutes session is good, ten minutes in between, what fuel level you run in the first session is down to you and as for the second one it is first stint fuel and race set up so I think the changes they have made for qualifying are good for the fans and good for the teams in general.
Q: Michael, your feelings?
Schumacher: More positive than last year because the way the circuit has been most of the races on Friday in the first qualifying session I thought it was in bad shape due to other cars running after our last free practice, before qualifying, and I think this is not the case on the Saturday and there is no racing happening and so the circuit should be consistent and should be a fair chance to the first drivers out for the first flying laps and help you settle in for the runs straight after.
Q: Mark, how do you feel things have gone?
Webber: I am very happy with the R5. We have made some good progress over the winter. We didn't get the mileage we would have liked at first, but the guys worked very, very hard at the factory to make sure that when we got the new car out... The last few tests went very well. We always did about 120 or 130 laps per car which is not easy with good tyre testing with Michelin as well and the vices we had on the R4 last year, we tried to chip away at those areas - you know, tyre management and chipping away at the aero and the brakes and things so we were doing it in a very controlled manner and it was very disciplined testing. We are not kidding ourselves. Clearly, in Valencia, we did a very reasonable lap time, but that wasn't the real pace of the car and we were concentrating on the long runs as well. And we've made a good step on that too in this year's car.
Q: So, have you succeeded in getting to where you wanted to get to?
Webber: Yes, I am very happy with the progress we have made with the RG. Initially, we couldn't get the running we wanted, but at the end we could and we could fine tune a few things and start to work. We have a bigger balance window with the R5 and we can move things and make things easier for us to balance the car and make it better for us or globally better over a Grand Prix weekend, or over the 18 races of the season. So, yes, we have made clear progress and there a few departments doing a very, very good job with the car and I am very happy for them.
Q: Michael said he faces the season with total confidence. What about you?
Webber: I am very, very confident as well to be honest. I probably won't get as many points as Michael, but I am looking forward to the season. It is a building process from last year and I thoroughly enjoyed last year. The reputation of the team has made it easy for me and I did the easy job in driving the car and I think this season will be phenomenally competitive and there are a lot of teams up there doing a very, very good job. The level in Formula One now is very impressive. Everybody is pushing very hard. Not that they weren't in the past, but it just seems very compact at the front. If we can hang on the back of that, it would be nice. We have full respect for our opposition, but we try and get amongst them when we can.
Q: There must be a lot of pressure on you at this race?
Webber: There is and it is getting worse every year in terms of the off track activities and we are trying to control it as best we can. Its always something very special for me to come and race in Australia and not just because it is the first race, but to compete in front of my home nation is special. When I watch other sports I like to see Australians do well and I suppose they like to see the Aussie do well down here as well so that's important for me to get the best result possible here. Probably a few more percent than other races but always pushing very hard at all races so once I'm in here, once I start I obviously focus on the weekend and I'm in the car, then I am working with the engineers, I could be at Valencia, Jerez, Brazil, it doesn't really matter, I'm getting the most out of the package.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:
Q: Michael, do you think Juan Pablo was justified to react as he did when a couple of comedians came into his press conference yesterday?
Schumacher: Its funny but I am not surprised you asked that questions.
Q: I live to serve.
Schumacher: I think to live in Formula One and do what we are doing means there is always a lot of tension and sometimes you feel better and sometimes you feel worse and do things you don't do normally. I don't know what happened exactly I've heard a couple of things but everyone has his personal reaction.
Q: Would you have seen the joke if a couple of comedians came in...
Schumacher: I was not there so I don't think it is a point to talk about how I would have behaved.
Q: There is a lot of discussion particularly after your sixth world championship about who is the all time great in Formula One. Who do you regard as the all-time great and why?
Schumacher: I don't think it is fair to say there is one in particular in anyway as each one is responsible for his time and working and being successful or not.
Q: But who do you most admire of your predecessors?
Schumacher: It's actually not anything I was interested in. I wasn't interested in racing before I got into Formula Three or sports cars. So I never watched any of those guys or had a hero in that era. Not in the way you would say. Not in the way I did in soccer because Toni Schumacher, he was my idol in soccer. But I didn't have the same thing for any of the racers.
Q: If you were not involved in motor sport in any way, what job would you like to do?
Webber: Probably in some outdoor activity. Probably biking, with some racing activity in there, but definitely something that tested the body. An adventure school in Tasmania, yes, exactly, somewhere I can drink all the red wine and eat all the chocolate!! Exactly. Providing the school runs itself.
Schumacher: And, can I join you for the later part?
Q: We have a lot of incidents here every year and Pat Symonds of Renault has suggested that while the drivers test a lot in the winter, they are not racing... Do you feel you lose the edge of your race craft during the winter?
Schumacher: No, I don't have that feeling. But I sometimes do some competition in karting here and there in the winter. I think this is just a coincidence.
Webber: I probably agree. There's been some races where nothing happens and it is just straightforward. Actually, in testing, I like sometimes to get close to the guys and get a feel for the disturbed air and have a look around at some of the other cars as well. We are not racing, but we are still close to each other in testing. Pat may have a small point.
Q: We have two new circuits this year, Bahrain and Shanghai. What do you think?
Webber: I am looking forward to going there. It is always a great chance for the drivers and the teams and it is a great challenge. Bahrain will be hot potentially - like Malaysia which is a hot race - but it is just new and I've never been to china before or Bahrain so I am looking forward to going there. I think the whole paddock and the whole industry is excited about it. I think expanding it to 18 races is quite a good thing actually and broadening our touch with people is good.
Schumacher: I agree absolutely. It is great to see the new circuits and new countries and I have heard of two very impressive projects in Bahrain and in China so it would be good to see them.
Q: You touched on the 18 races. Are you worried about the six races in eight weeks after Monaco?
Schumacher: So there is less testing and more racing and that is good.
Q: And physically it doesn't worry you?
Webber: I think it is fine and of course you have to be in good shape for that period. Like Michael said, there wont be a huge amount of testing going on so if you are going through a bad phase there whether it is reliability of something with the team you have to make sure it is not there because it will all happen very very quickly in those races. There are a lot of different circuits, high downforce, low downforce, all different characteristics, a real blend. So it will a good part of the championship.
Q: Michael, Suzuka was an odd race from your point of view. Do you just forget it, park it, or have you analysed it?
Schumacher: I went through it, but there were certain circumstances that made it into an unusual race for me but to come from where I came and to finish where I finished, I was in the end not really happy, but I had no need to be disappointed. I could have finished further down and other things could have happened. But qualifying decided that and that is the way it is.
Q: But, nevertheless, it certainly wasn't one of your better races was it? Was there any reason for that? Did you feel any different on the day?
Schumacher: You know sometimes in life there are moments when it is difficult and you know that for whatever reason it is supposed to be a difficult race and it is just one of those bad days that you have from time to time.
Q: This year there is no launch control or automatic gear change. Are you happy with this?
Webber: Yes, I think it is good and it gives more responsibility back to the drivers. I think the start this year in Melbourne will this year be quite interesting and everyone will have their own philosophies about how to get their cars away as quickly as possible. And we have ours. I hope it goes well and it is also down to me to do a good job and that is what it is about. Not like in seasons gone by where someone who might be a very average driver would be able to beat Michael off the line because he has a better season, which is not really the name of the game. Now I hope we have a system which gives a bit more feel to the driver and so a lot more finesse is required. It's going to be a difficult part of the race to get the cars away with all the noise and all the rest of it. It is a tough part. I think the fans will win there. We will see some different starting events to those we have seen in the past. And the manual shifting thing is not really a big deal for the drivers. It takes you three laps after the winter, testing, and you get back and sometimes you go into the limiter and then, you know, you are pretty sharp after that. It is not a problem.
Q: Alonso said two days ago that he believed some of the drivers he raced in karts were harder than those he races against now. What is your opinion?
Schumacher: It is true to some degree, because you don't have the close competition in Formula One that you have in karting, because in karting it is permanently wheel to wheel. It's a close thing plus its easier to get the good equipment and be there. In Formula One it is something else again. And that is why I like karting very much. To say that means the drivers in Formula One are not as good as the ones in karting would be the wrong way to look at it.
Webber: I agree with Michael totally.
Q: What is your impression of the one-engine rule - do you think it will open up the podium positions for the smaller teams?
Schumacher: I would not expect that because if you imagine the resources that a big team has available and the way they approach this new rule they will be very well prepared. The top teams have done very many kilometers and they have prepared themselves. It is just a question of preparation. I see the possibility of an engine failure just as big as I did last year. We will adapt to that strategy. The smaller teams have less resources available and it will be a bigger struggle for them than for the bigger teams.
Q: So you think Ferrari can make a 750 kilometres engine better than Renault, better than McLaren?
Schumacher: I don't think Renault or McLaren are not top teams. I am talking of teams further down the grid in terms of resources because you suggested we would have problems, but I see it the other way around... The new rules sounds impressive from a mileage point of view, but it is not as difficult to achieve as you or we may have thought. Not such a problem.
Q: And will it make you more cautious over the beginning of the weekend?
Schumacher: Oh, yeah, you will be aware of that fact and deal with it appropriately and not try to stress anything unnecessarily.
Q: So you might have a lower rev limit?
Schumacher: There are plenty of ways to deal with it.
Q: Does that include less laps?
Schumacher: It may include less laps, but on the other side you want to work and prepare for the race and to check out the tyres and prepare properly and you cant reduce your laps too much. You have to find the right compromise.
Q: Mark, what about from where you are, what are your feelings, and what work is Bjorn Wirdheim going to be doing for you, for example?
Webber: Bjorn is going to do a lot of running tomorrow in both sessions. Clearly, it doesn't matter how much mileage he puts on his engine, compared to the two race-cars. We are expecting to do some good mileage tomorrow, even on my car and Christian's car to confirm things for ourselves and I think we will see the one engine thing changing slightly in the next two or three months in terms of what teams do, just to build a bit of confidence with the new regulation. We will see when we get back to Europe -- in terms of maybe laps completed or how aggressive they are even with the general running of their engine. Like Michael says, there are lots of ways to adjust the engine so it's feeling happier when it's on the track than when it's highly stressed. So, we have done some good work in testing to make sure that we have enough laps to prepare for the Grand Prix and also make sure we get to the chequered flag on Sunday.
Q: Is the third car going to be a big advantage?
Webber: I think it's nice to have in your pocket, definitely. Ideally, it would be good if Bjorn had more experience under his belt in general, just before he came to this race, but that wasn't possible, unfortunately. So, I think he will do a good job for us tomorrow, but he will learn in general because his experience in the next few events can make it better for us as team. But it's great for Michelin that he can fulfill our work for us.
Q: How much do your engines deteriorate over the period of a race weekend? I know it's hard to judge now because you haven't used the one engine for a full period, but would there be an advantage in perhaps bolting in a fresh engine and taking the 10-places-down-the-grid penalty to start the race with a fresh engine?
Q: No advantages?
Q: Do the engines deteriorate as they get older to any noticeable degree?
Schumacher: Very small amount, I would say.
Q: Thank you very much indeed, gentlemen. Thanks for your time.
DRIVERS: Jenson BUTTON (BAR), Juan Pablo MONTOYA (WILLIAMS).
Q: Juan Pablo, give us an idea of your feelings as you come to this race in comparison to what's been happening in testing? You've done a huge amount of testing, haven't you?
Montoya: Yeah, myself, I've done over 7000 kilometres of testing. Our main focus has been reliability. Of course there have been some aeros bits that have come in and stuff. The car from day one seemed very driveable. I think set-up-wise we are pretty close, we've got a good window. We tried a few different things, but we definitely knew from day one where we wanted to be. So our main focus was on reliability. We had some gearbox problems but those problems were solved. We've done a lot of race simulations and it's good. It just keeps going and going, it just runs.
Q: The transmission problem is solved, you say.
Q: What was going wrong?
Montoya: I can't really tell you.
Q: It's been solved for several weeks?
Montoya: Probably the last two tests we didn't have any problems. New parts came in and we tried to look what happened, because in December we didn't have any problems and then new bits arrived and then suddenly, whoa, everything started to break. And then we went back to what we used to use and everything was fine. I think the car is very competitive, it's a lot quicker than last year. We'll see. The only question is how competitive we are in compared to the rest. It doesn't matter how much quicker you are than last year. What matters is how much quicker you are against everybody else. I think we have a strong car. I don't know if it's a winning car or not. Hopefully it is. We're much better prepared than ever going into the first race. We know we gave away both championships last year mainly because we didn't score any points in the first five races. Based on that, you've got to think that if you could start scoring good points from the first race you'd be fine.
Q: What about the atmosphere within in the team. It's rather a strange situation: Ralf hasn't signed yet, there's a strange thing there, you're leaving at the end of the year. So what's the atmosphere like?
Montoya: I think it's good. I don't have any problems with anybody really. The team seems to be working exactly the same as last year and before I even signed. It's good. They want to win. It would be nice to win the championship before I leave, to be honest. I'm here to race. I can't say I'm going to take it easy because I'm leaving at the end of the year. I'm here and I want to win, and if I have the chance I'm not going to give it away.
Q: You don't notice any difference in the atmosphere?
Montoya: Not really