MAY 28, 2004
EUROPEAN GP - FRIDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
Friday Press Conference
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 28 MAY 2004
TEAM MEMBERS: Ross BRAWN (FERRARI), Sam MICHAEL (WILLIAMS), Peter SAUBER (SAUBER) and Tsutomu TOMITA (TOYOTA)
Q: Peter, apart from a blip in Monaco, things seems to have been going better recently with the team. Can you tell us why that should be?
Peter SAUBER: I think the team has been making progress since Imola. Monaco was a very special race. Maybe Giancarlo could have had a very good race, but we needed a lot of luck with Felipe.
Q: Can you tell us why they've made progress? Is it because you understand the car better or perhaps is it your new wind tunnel?
Sauber: I think it is a combination of many things together. We have two new drivers, two new race engineers and of course they work better together. Then it's the new wind tunnel, slowly we understand the new wind tunnel better.
Q: Is that now producing parts?
Sauber: Sure, yeah. We used the first parts at Imola.
Q: What about Felipe? Today we saw him have several incidents. He still seems to be a little bit prone to incidents.
Sauber: No, he's much better than he was two years before. I think the year with Ferrari was a very good for him, especially on the technical side. Don't forget, he's two years older.
Q: Now, one thing you're able to do but have not done so far is run a third driver on Fridays. Is that likely to happen?
Sauber: Yes, it makes no sense for us to drive with a third driver. The team can work more quietly with only two cars. It makes no sense for us to do it.
Q: Tsutomu-san, there's a lot of talk about Toyota and drivers and everyone seems to be joining Toyota! Can you tell us what the situation is, equally with your current pair of drivers?
Tsutomu TOMITA: We are very satisfied with the current two drivers and I know of the existence of some rumours about the replacement (of the current drivers) in the middle of this season but we have no mind to replace them. We are confident with them. And talking about next year's driver line-up, we are now investigating and no decision has been made yet. It will be announced in the summer as other teams regularly do.
Q: What is the contractual situation with the current pair of drivers?
Tomita: They have two year contracts from last year and that means that the termination will be made by the end of this year. But both drivers have options for next year.
Q: What about your own situation? You became team principal at the start of the year. How do you feel about your own job?
Tomita: Our team is not so strong yet, and therefore I will go forward gradually, slowly.
Q: It's a big team to lead, so it must be quite a difficult team to get on top of.
Tomita: Yes, exactly, and now we are making all efforts to develop more our company.
Q: And presumably the car that is going to appear in Hockenheim is part of it?
Tomita: Yes, we hope so. We are doing a lot of jobs to create a new car for Hockenheim. All efforts.
Q: Sam, congratulations first of all on your new job. How does it change things for you?
Sam MICHAEL: Well, it's obviously a lot more responsibility and it's a situation where a lot of my role at the circuit... I still will retain some of the jobs that I do during the race weekend. There will obviously be some changes within the guys that already work for me so they take on a bit more responsibility in different areas with some of the meetings and the way we go about things but I will still be very much involved in the set-up in the garage and the strategy during the race and I'll still be on the pit wall. I think it's very important that you're still on the front line so you understand the problems that the drivers are going through and you keep up-to-date with tyre developments so that you've got an impact on those. You can't really step away from that as a technical director because you've got to use that information to drive the factory and the wind tunnel. But obviously there's a lot more work to do at the factory than what there was before, and it's like anything when you change jobs, the first month or so your workload goes up significantly and then you get used to it and carry on, but there's obviously just a change in workload. Patrick's still there and he's still supporting me through it as well which is good because he's obviously got a lot of experience and it's more a case of going to him for advice on things where he would have been making decisions in the past and now it's down to me.
Q: How is it going to change things in the short term? Yesterday Ralf suggested that things could change in three or four races time.
Michael: Well, we've got a short term plan for this season and then obviously medium to long term plans for next year already. How long it takes us to turn around this year is a bit hard to debate, but we're concentrating on three or four main areas to try and improve the car. We know where the problems are, it's a matter of how fast we can bring those improvements. But we're definitely not about giving up on a season, right up until the last race. We're not happy with where we are in the Constructors Championship and our immediate aim is to get ourselves back into second place but at the same time we still want to win. We're not about gap years or putting all the investment into next year because it doesn't work, you can't afford to stop and give up on the current season. We're not far behind that it's not that recoverable. In Malaysia we finished within ten seconds of Ferrari and we've had a couple of bad races since then. We know that Barcelona and Imola would be hard for us and we thought that it would be Monaco, Nuerburgring where we would start to turn around. But we've got to spend the next two or three races getting through with the current performance and then hopefully we can bring some more steps.
Q: Where do you see the second wind tunnel contributing to that recovery process?
Michael: We've already started doing some tests in the new wind tunnel, but it's still in commissioning stage and won't really start being used for development of the car... probably in a couple of weeks' time but it's primarily geared towards the FW27, next year's car, because the wind tunnel itself is useable but all the systems that go with it, all the production facilities and being about to respond quickly, race by race, all that process is already there for the old tunnel so it makes much more sense to use that as a response mechanism and use the new tunnel to look forward to next year. But that's not to say that we won't bring parts to the track that have been developed in the new tunnel and in fact we've already done some studies that have helped that anyway. But some stages of it are still going through. The guy who set it up, Dr John Davis, he's still going through some commissioning tests now and it will still be another month, I would say, or two or three weeks at least before we start seeing anything serious out of that.
Q: Ross, looking back to last weekend, you came out pretty strongly against Juan Pablo Montoya for his part in Michael Schumacher's subsequent accident. Do you still feel the same?
Ross BRAWN: I'm not sure how strongly I did come out against him. I was just very frustrated to lose a car in such stupid circumstances, so my frustration was to be knocked out of a race in that situation. I think we'd been fortunate in the way the race had developed because I think we had at least a chance of upsetting the order. I think Jarno and Renault had done a fantastic job all weekend and they were probably the worthy race winners, but I think that last safety car opened a window for us that was at least worth having a go at. I was just frustrated that we lost that opportunity because I like to race and to lose a car in that circumstance is very frustrating.
Q: What about your feelings here - your performance so far is quite interesting?
Brawn: We've had a little bit of a messy day today. We lost Michael's car this afternoon with a hydraulic leak. After the accident in Monaco we changed chassis and the chassis that he used today sprung a hydraulic leak. Lucky it happened now. So he didn't really get the programme done that we wanted to. Rubens had a reasonable afternoon but the first lap on the tyres we think we're going to race was spoiled with a little problem we had: He went straight on at the first corner, so we didn't see the true lap time on those tyres. So the morning was good but the afternoon was a bit messy.
Q: Is it going to delay tomorrow do you feel?
Brawn: It will make the tyre choice more difficult because Michael didn't get a chance to try both tyres this afternoon, only Rubens did and, of course, it's much better if you've got both drivers giving input on the tyres.
Q: So it's just going to be guesswork...
Brawn: Educated guesswork.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mark Hugues - Autosport) Ross, do you know any further what the problems with Rubens' car were at Monaco?
Brawn: Not really, no. We've had a very good look at the car. We can see from the data that it was inconsistent and I think what was disturbing Rubens was that it was unpredictable. He would enter a corner and in one situation it was fine but on the next lap he would enter the corner and he would have a different car to deal with and, of course, around Monaco that's the last thing you need. But these things are a pretty fine combination of settings and the set-up, the differential reacts to certain things like brake pressure and the way you enter a corner and he just couldn't fine a consistent car. But there was no physical problem we could find with the car. I think it was just the way we arrived with the car; it was a bit too critical.
Q: (Mark Hugues) Is he using the same car here?
Brawn: Yeah, yeah.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Ross, at the start of the season Giancarlo Fisichella was looking at having a test with Ferrari at some point. It now seems there is a problem and I understand that it is maybe something to do with his overalls. Can it really be that a pair of overalls can stop him having a test with you?
Brawn: I am not aware of that. Peter might be able to shed some light on that. I am not actually aware of the background to that although I did hear the story. Technically there just has not been an opportunity for him to run so from the point of view of the programme we have so there has not been a convenient time for him to run, but I am not aware of any commercial issues.
Q: Peter, any comment?
Sauber: Yeah, it is a small problem, but it is an internal problem.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sports News) For all four of you, there has been a lot of talk about improving the show, the spectacle. If you could change one thing for the fans, both at the track and on television, what would you do?
Brawn: I am a bit biased but I think the whole technical side could be interesting for people. I think the fuel quantities should be known to all the people watching the race so they know exactly where it is. I mean, I bet if I asked you lot how much fuel we had in the car in Monaco after the safety car I would be amazed if any of you knew, and that is wrong, because you should know what could develop in the race. We had 17 laps of fuel in the car at Monaco and that gave us quite a good opportunity to have a go at winning the race. But no-one actually seemed to know that. And there is a whole technical side of Formula One that is not presented to the interests of the public and I think the whole race strategy side could be a lot more interesting if we knew what fuel the cars had in qualifying, what fuel they had in the race, how much fuel went into the cars, you know. There are enough bright guys commentating to be able to display what is going on. In Barcelona we had Rubens on two stops and Michael on three and it was very close whether Rubens was going to win the race or not. That didn't really get picked up on and I think that is a great shame. I think the whole format of racing is a much more difficult thing because there is so much mixed opinion but from my side I think all the technical information should be available to the public and I think the radio should be available to the public as well.
Michael: Well, I think the thing that could probably help in the short term would be harder compound tyres. Not going to a single tyre supplier but a restriction on the number of sets you could use. At the moment we have ten sets for the race weekend and if you dropped that to three or four sets it would force the tyre companies to go to harder compounds. That would also solve other problems, not just for the fans but the speed and lap times problems, it would also reduce testing costs because you have to develop compounds that are going harder and hopefully improve the show.
I agree with the other thing on strategy as well. I think I have mentioned that before. Inside a race, even if you are racing for seventh or eighth place, there is still quite a lot going on in terms of strategy on the radio that everyone else just missed out. It can be quite exciting from the pit wall, not because you are not winning but because you are trying to compete to beat one person, and that gets missed, it gets missed even off the pit wall really and anyone who can sell that will go a long way.
Tomita: I can fully understand the necessity of cost reduction, but we should never forget the spectacle of this event and the technical challenge. After the team principal meetings I completely understand the situation with each team about cost reductions.
Sauber: It is a good question and an important question but it is not easy to give you an answer, there are a lot of ideas. One thing is the qualifying. I think now the qualifying is not as good as the old - with fuel, without fuel - and the same is for the race. And maybe the idea with the harder tyres is a good one, maybe also the idea with wider tyres, harder and wider tyres would mean the braking area would be longer and maybe it would be easier to overtake. It is very difficult to improve the show.
Q: (Mike Doodson - Mike Doodson Associates) Ross, at the beginning of last year a group of journalists had exactly the same idea as you did that we should know what the fuel levels were. We broached the subject with the FIA and were told that a number of teams, including yours, had actually refused permission for that information to be given because it is confidential information that is made available by the FIA. Can we have your undertaking now that if the question came up again that Ferrari would vote for us to be able to have the fuel figures?
Brawn: To my knowledge, that problem was tied up with the commercial issues, it was not a confidentiality or secrecy, because we were quite happy to try to improve the show. I can't recall, to be honest, exactly what Ferrari's position was, but I do know that when the topic has been raised of information from the teams going to the promoter to improve the show the stumbling block has been the commercial situation at the moment because there is really not a great deal of spirit of co-operation between the promoter and the teams at the present time. I am not sure what Ferrari's position was then, but certainly I think this commercial situation is causing a lot of difficulty in a number of areas of potential co-operation between the teams and improving the show. I know it may seem like we are biting the hand that feeds us but it is a great problem at the moment, the whole commercial side, and it does cause a lot of difficulty in those sorts of areas. But to me it would be a great thing to add to Formula One to have the technical information available, the technical insight, the radio discussions that go on in the race. You would need a bleep-meter occasionally! But I think it would be fascinating. You look at a sport like cricket, which is a relatively tedious sport, apart for those real die-hard enthusiasts, and they have made it really entertaining in the last few years with some of the technology they have introduced. I think we are really backward on that side and I think we need to get the commercial side sorted and then get all the teams co-operating to put on a much better show, that aside from the basic format of the racing.
Q: (Mark Hugues) In light of Patrick's announcement last week that he will be taking a bit more of a back seat, Sam and Ross, do you have any anecdotes?
Brawn: There are a few anecdotes, but I am not sure I can tell them here unfortunately! Patrick was my tutor because I started in Formula One with Patrick, my first job in Formula One was given to me by Patrick, in fact. Patrick offered the job to somebody else, who turned it down, then Patrick gave me the job. I have never been able to find that person who turned it down because if I could I would buy him a beer at least! Patrick has been a reference point for a huge number of people in Formula One - myself, Adrian (Newey), Sam now - and he has been a huge figure in Formula One.
Michael: And yeah, he is obviously still around. For me, from my position, it is a fantastic opportunity to have him there as opposed to saying right, that's it, I'm quitting, it's all yours, because it helps for a seamless transition from one position to the other and he has given no time frame of being around, you know. It is going to be quite a few years yet I would say. He is still a shareholder of the company and he has no intention of changing that, so from my point of view it is still very much business as usual with Patrick.
Q: (Alan Baldwin) Sam, last month you were very complimentary about Scott Dixon when he tested. He has now signed a multi-year contract with Ganassi in IRL, but there are still reports that he is going to be testing with you in July. Is that true and is he off your list now or is he still a possibility?
Michael: I haven't seen any report saying that he is going to test with us in July and definitely there is nothing confirmed. We have got a list of drivers and Scott was one of the drivers on the list. It's something that we are working on and it will still take us another few months before we start talking about who is going to be driving the cars next year.
Q: (Mike Doodson) Peter, you have had two engine failures this year, can you explain what has happened? Did you have one engine failure or two today?
Sauber: Today was one engine failure but at the moment we don't know what the problem was. The other one was a failure in the electric system and the first one in Australia was not a real engine failure because Massa spun and he over revved the engine close to 20000rpm and that was too much for the engine.
Q: (Ted Kravitz - ITV) Ross, you said Michael had 17 laps of fuel left after the safety car. That was lap 45 or 46, which would mean he would have made it to lap 72. Isn't that still five short of the race distance or would you have had to stop him again?
Brawn: 63, in my reckoning. He would have made it to 63.
Q: (Ted Kravitz) So you would have had to stop him again, whatever, and the other cars behind you didn't have to stop again, who did stop under the safety car.
Brawn: Yes, the numbers are that he had about 15 laps less fuel than Jarno had, which, around there is worth six tenths of a second, so he would have been six tenths of a second faster because he had less fuel. He did a lap which was four tenths of a second faster than Jarno at the end of his first stint, so potentially the car was four tenths of a second faster, which is a total of one second per lap. That makes 17 seconds over 17 laps, the Monaco pitlane is 13 seconds long and we had a very short fuel stop which, in fact, would have been controlled by the tyres, which makes 17 seconds, which means we had a chance of winning the race. And that is why the information should be available to the media to help you guys enjoy the potential of something like that. That is why I was so frustrated because I thought we had a chance. It was a slim chance, because everything had to go right, but if I was putting my money on someone Michael would be the guy. And those were the numbers we had in front of us.
THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 27 MAY 2004
DRIVERS: Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI) and Ralf SCHUMACHER (WILLIAMS)
Q: Ralf, you won here last year, how do you feel coming here this year?
Ralf SCHUMACHER: Well, certainly great. It's always nice for us to be back here. It's not snowing, so it's perfect conditions. It's a bit early for Nuerburgring, but it's certainly enjoyable to be back.
Q: What chances for the race?
R.Schumacher: You can never tell. It's obvious that this year it's a bit more difficult for us but we keep trying, trying to do our best and we will see what the outcome is.
Q: Now, there have been some management changes announced at Williams - how soon do you expect those to have some effect?
R.Schumacher: It will take Sam a while. I'm sure Sam will do great things within Williams but there's all the existing structure and things have to be changed. The cars are still the same so you won't turn it around overnight. It will take at least three or four races until we see some slight changes, but the biggest change will certainly be next year.
Q: You think slight changes in three or four races then?
R.Schumacher: Yes sure. The car will improve, almost certainly things are going to change, but, obviously, you have to ask Sam himself what he's going to do.
Q: What about your own future? Have you got anything to tell us?
R.Schumacher: Nope. Why? Nothing is decided yet. We are still talking, certainly still waiting for what is happening in our team and then I will see what the outcome is.
Q: Do you see the end of the road in sight, as it were?
R.Schumacher: Yes. I would consider it quite sure that I will be in Formula One, so that's not a problem, but obviously not where and I will obviously try to be in the best position.
Q: Just going back to last weekend and obviously the incident in the tunnel, how dirty off-line was it?
R.Schumacher: From looking at it, it looked to be pretty dirty. There were a lot of marbles out there. As I said in Monaco, it was a shame but it wasn't my mistake, it was clearly his own mistake. To blame me - I didn't take it seriously. Obviously losing third in Monaco is not very nice but it wasn't my problem.
Q: Michael, would you have overtaken round the outside - or did you overtake round the outside - in the tunnel?
Michael SCHUMACHER: You sort of know, or you should know, that if you do get off-line there it gets very dirty and very tricky and especially in that place. It's easily flat out for us but there's not that much margin to go around the outside. If you see it, as well, there was a lot of space for Alonso to go further inside because Ralf was moving over very close to the barrier and he didn't need to leave that much space between him and Ralf.
Q: What about your own incident in the tunnel, to keep the tyres warm, the brakes warm and everything else must be difficult particularly when you've got the entire field behind you and they're relying on what you're doing?
M.Schumacher: Yeah, but this is the point because the guys behind rely on what the guy in front is doing, and that's what you have to watch for and I certainly wasn't watching my mirrors behind because I believed that everybody knows how to accelerate and brake and so it was a bit of a surprise for me. Seeing the pictures, if I had maybe watched in the mirrors then maybe I could have not gone on the normal line but I wasn't expecting him to be there.
Q: I suppose to some extent the one thing you don't want to do is go off-line onto the dirty side as well.
M.Schumacher: This is quite true but, well, it's history. We can't change it anyway.
Q: What was your reaction to the stewards' conclusion?
M.Schumacher: I did accept it but probably did not agree one hundred percent.
Q: Is there anything further you can do about it?
M.Schumacher: I'm sure the GPDA and drivers will discuss certain issues which happened over the weekend and we'll find out how much of a conclusion can be drawn for the future.
Q: Now another story that's emerged is this possibility of Mika Hakkinen coming back. I don't know how much truth there is in it, but do you feel he could still be competitive? Does he lose anything in two years?
M.Schumacher: I think it will be difficult being completely out of Grands Prix for two years.
R.Schumacher: But he's gained (suggests weight) from my understanding, hasn't he?
M.Schumacher: Yeah, he gained, but apparently he's lost it all. He has this natural talent. He will always have that but to come back after a long pause and not doing anything with Formula One - even testing here and there - will be difficult. But I think a lot of people will be very happy - and I would be one of them - to see him back. He has been a great competitor. We'll find out, but obviously we're in the silly season, that's the other point!
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Peter Windsor - Speed Channel) Michael, sorry to go back to Monaco again, but you appeared to have a very confusing weekend. You were quickest in the first four sessions and then in pre-qualifying you were two seconds slower than you had been on Saturday morning, much more than anybody else. Obviously you were out first, but I wonder if we could have your thoughts again on perhaps other people running less fuel than you'd thought at that time? And secondly, why didn't you come in when the safety car went out and you therefore effectively put yourself a pit stop behind Jarno and Jenson Button?
M.Schumacher: It's pretty easy to explain. First of all the circuit, certainly, was very, very dirty and very, very slippery, much more than anyone would have anticipated I think. Taking out the fuel would have maybe gained you one position. That's it, honestly. The fact that we didn't come in was simply a strategy decision because I still had quite a lot of fuel on board. I could have stayed out for very long and maybe get the advantage that was needed. As the pit stop is a little bit shorter this year in Monaco it was worth trying, because if I had done the same as Jarno I would certainly have been second. This way, I had an opportunity. This could have been a risk, but I had an opportunity to be first as well and if you don't try, you don't win.
Q: (Will Buxton - Metro) Michael, there's a school of thought that maybe on entering the tunnel in Monaco you had a problem with your left front suspension which is why the black tyre mark was so long even before your brakes locked up and that would have been what caused you to veer to the right. Do you have any comments on that?
M.Schumacher: Yeah. Certainly not true. I had a big problem afterwards with the left suspension, that's true! (Laughter).
Q: (Peter Windsor) Juan Pablo said that categorically from where he was on the grid Takuma Sato jumped the start and he thinks no action was taken because he (Takuma) didn't finish the race. Bearing in mind he hit you off the line, what are your thoughts on that? Secondly, he says that the reason the drama in the tunnel occurred was because he was surprised at how much you accelerated. In other words, you went through the gears and then you braked hard, but he said that was more than normal acceleration and braking. Again, could we have your comments on that?
M.Schumacher: I think Takuma was called to the stewards to have (his errors) explained and to be - whatever - done to him but I don't think he stayed in the race long enough to be penalised because they needed to study the data and it takes time them a certain time. That was the main reason, to my understanding.
Q: (Peter Windsor) But he hit you, he could have taken you out...
M.Schumacher: Yeah, but okay, still, you asked the question why nothing was done against his jump start. It just takes time. That he hit me is just another part of the question but he thought that there was enough of a gap and in a way there was, because nothing happened because I was obviously paying enough attention to move over a bit. And the second point is that had I kept accelerating I would have hit the safety car, that's another point, and at some point I have to stop. Whether I do it a bit harder or less hard that's... If you ask the drivers they will give you the opinion that it's the guy that's at the back's responsibility to make sure he doesn't hit anyone, that's very simple.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) Michael, do you think you and Ferrari can bounce back from Monaco this weekend?
Q: (Dan Knutson) Let's put it another way, how do you see your chances this weekend?
M.Schumacher: Good. There's not much to say, but I believe the Nuerburgring should be good for our car.
Q: It's been pretty cool here, is that an advantage as well?
M.Schumacher: (Ralf nods) I think anything that's very hot could become a disadvantage but I don't expect the Nurburgring to be very hot.
Q: (Adrian Huber - Agencia Efe): Ralf, did you have any exchange of opinions or are you planning to have any exchange of opinions with Fernando Alonso about the incident in Monaco?
R.Schumacher: No. He had his opinion, which I understand, from his point of view. He was looking somehow to explain his accident. It was simply a bit unlucky, but the team already made an announcement about it and at the end of the day he was 15km/h, nearly 20km/h, slower than the lap before, going off, steering to the right and not to the left so for me there was no more need to explain it really, other than for your questions. It was a shame for him, because he would have deserved to be third, I guess or second, or whatever.
Q: (Jonathan Legard - BBC Radio 5 Live) Michael, just to pick up that point about you thinking Ferrari will go well here; people watching the race last weekend, with BAR and Renault ahead of you might think the balance of power has shifted a little bit so why do you think you're still going to be so prominent?
M.Schumacher: Well, it was not a surprise to see Renault and BAR being strong in Monte Carlo, it was predicted, but we were there, we weren't that far away off fighting for victory, probably the nature of this circuit is more in our favour again compared to Monaco.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) Michael, along with the rumours that Mika Hakkinen is coming back are the rumours that Jacques Villeneuve is coming back. I know you guys were not the best of mates, but what would you think of having Jacques back in F1?
M.Schumacher: He obviously has a great name and Formula One is always happy to have those names. There are 20 drivers in Formula One. You are friends with some, but you have less to do with others, but that's life, that's pretty normal and I have no feeling at all in a bad way not to see him back, honestly. I would be quite happy. We saw each other at the party after the race in Monaco, we had a chat. The atmosphere between us was pretty relaxed.
Q: (Will Gray - Collings Sport) Ralf, you have a very good relationship with Sam Michael, a long-lasting one. Do you see his promotion as being a) helpful for the team, obviously, but b) helpful for yourself in terms of staying with the team?
R.Schumacher: It was definitely a very helpful step for the team which, hopefully, I'm sure he will prove and whether it has anything to do with my situation I'm not sure yet. That will take a while. I'm simply waiting to decide what I'm going to do. That's all I can say at the moment.
DRIVERS: Fernando ALONSO (RENAULT) and Juan Pablo MONTOYA (WILLIAMS)
Q: Fernando, you had improvements to the car in Monaco and obviously the team won. Do you think we are going to see that even greater here, those improvements?
Fernando ALONSO: It will be difficult. In Monaco we had a fantastic weekend, we finished first and third in the qualifying and probably first and second in the race with no problems and it was a very strong weekend for Renault. But Monaco is a very special track and here is different, maybe things will come back to normal. But, anyway, I think we have improved the car a lot. In Monaco we saw a little bit of that and here in Nuerburgring I hope we can confirm that Renault is closing the gap with Ferrari and we can fight with them on some occasions.
Q: What do you think will be the effect of the win on the team?
Alonso: Well, the team has much more confidence now, after the last two races. In Barcelona we finished third and fourth; in Monte Carlo we were there, we won the race, and I think from a reliability point of view we are very strong, we have finished all the races with no problems in the car and we are looking quite competitive so I think we are up and rolling with good confidence and ready to get a good result and finish the race again.
Q: What about your own race in Monaco. Just for the sake of everyone here, can you just repeat what you saw happening there?
Alonso: Again. Well, as I explained already, after more than half a lap with blue flags I had no space to pass Ralf and then when we arrived in the tunnel, the corner before, I think it is Mirabeau, he put on the inside and I planned to pass him after the tunnel into the chicane. But because in that corner he moved to the inside part, you know, and he slowed down, I tried to overtake him and we were side-by-side and he went on the throttle up to fifth gear and we arrived in the corner in the tunnel together, side-by-side, and I went off. He managed to put me into the wall.
Q: But we now know he had a gearbox problem.
Alonso: Yeah, if you have a gearbox problem it is a time to slow down even more when you have a blue flag to let the person pass, I think. And he did have a big, big problem with the gearbox - he retired, nearly. In Monaco, at 300km/h, it is not very professional to do this.
Q: But it was pretty dirty off-line as well, wasn't it?
Alonso: Yeah, but I was not off-line. We were side-by-side in the corner, even if it is difficult with a blue-flag car to have to fight with him in the tunnel, we managed to arrive side-by-side in the corner.
Q: Juan Pablo, BMW-Williams won this race here last year. What chances of doing the same again?
Juan Pablo MONTOYA: Well, I think it is a bit different to last year. We are in a bit of a harder position. Last year, at this point, we had a really strong car. I think we were a bit lucky to win here last year because I remember Kimi was the guy leading the race. But, you know, sometimes you need to be lucky, sometimes you need to be the quickest guy out there to win and, you know, we are going to try as hard as we can every weekend at least to make sure we try to be the quickest Michelin runner.
Q: Now, since Monaco, I believe you have been in Bulgaria. That is quite a lot of hard work.
Montoya: Yeah, I just went to Bulgaria on Tuesday for an Allianz day, they were launching a road safety campaign.
Q: But you feel quite rested for this race?
Montoya: Yeah, okay.
Q: There is also the rumour you are going to stay at Williams or you are not going to McLaren. Can you just clarify that?
Montoya: Nnyaah, somebody asked me and said: 'Ah! You are going to BAR!' And I am, like, 'really!?' No. I am 100 percent committed to going to McLaren and I am actually really looking forward to it.
Q: So, their current form doesn't worry you at all?
Montoya: I am not driving the car so I am not too concerned! That's the truth. You know, I know they are coming out pretty soon with the new car, hopefully it is more competitive and I am sure they will be ready when I get there. Even if they are not then we need to work together to be able to win. I am here at Williams at the moment and we are not very competitive either, are we?
Q: So, just coming back to Monaco again, can you give us your version of your incident with Michael?
Montoya: We were warming up the tyres, he went up the gears, I went up the gears, he braked hard to try to warm up the brakes, I braked as hard as I could to try to avoid him, I moved to the right to avoid him and I think he was following the safety car, trying not to pick up any debris from Alonso's incident with Ralf, and I was beside him. I was against the wall and I think he wasn't expecting that I would be there trying to avoid him. His back wheel went over my front wheel and that was it.
Q: How eager were you to end the lap? Did you know the safety car was coming in at that stage?
Montoya: Yeah, everybody knew before that because, you know, they tell the teams that the safety car is coming in on this lap and the lights on the safety car go off.
Q: So you were pretty keen to be right up behind him...
Montoya: (Interrupts) Why do I want to be keen to be behind him in the tunnel? I would be keen in the last corner...
Q: That's what I said, yes.
Montoya: I was actually, you know, you look at a shot from the inside of the tunnel and you see him braking with the front tyres locking and you see me coming straight up the back of him and I actually managed to avoid him. I said at the last race, you know, that it was not the first time it had happened, with Michael, you know, warming up the brakes and things like that, and it is the first time that he was the unlucky one in the incident. I wasn't really interested in going from fifth to fourth by taking Michael off, really.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Adrian Huber - Agencia Efe) Juan Pablo, what it your personal opinion of the incident involving Ralf and Fernando?
Montoya: To be honest with you, I haven't seen it. Honestly, honestly, honestly, I haven't seen it on TV. I had plenty of problems when I finished the race and I didn't have time to watch it.
Q: (Jonathan Legard - BBC Radio 5 Live) Juan Pablo, what is your opinion of Sam Michael's promotion because your team-mate thinks that in three to four races then Williams are up there. By the sounds of it, you don't?
Montoya: No, I don't know, you know. It is very hard to know how it is going to change, is it going to be Patrick completely out? I know he is going to be senior, you know, chief of the team, but I don't think he can do too much in the short-term. I don't know, are we going to have a new car? As far as I know we are not. He is probably going to try to push the team harder to come up more goods. Hopefully it can improve because I am still driving the car and I would like to have a quicker car. It is a matter of time, so we have to wait and see what happens. I cannot go and say, you know, Sam is in a higher position, so now we are going to win.
Q: (Jonathan Legard) It sounds as though the rest of the season is going to be just as much of a struggle as the first few races, then.
Montoya: Well, hopefully not. You know, hopefully like Ralf said, Sam can bring the things around. But I would be very surprised because Patrick was doing a very competitive job anyway. It's not like Patrick was fingers crossed and waiting to see a miracle happen. Patrick was working really hard behind the car as well.
Q: (Jonathan Legard) But you can understand why Williams have made the changes, something needed to be done?
Montoya: Well, I don't know even if the changes needed to be done that extremely but I am not involved in that. That is Williams' decision, not mine. I drive the car.
Q: (Mike Doodson - Mike Doodson Associates) Juan Pablo, you said you didn't see the incident with Ralf on the video but I guess you did see the one between yourself and Michael because I am assuming that when you went to the stewards' inquiry they showed the video. After the race, normally when these things happen you are pretty aggressive but on this occasion you were very careful. Were you careful because, on this occasion, you thought the evidence was entirely in your favour?
Montoya: No, I think I was careful because I think it was really sad. I actually felt bad to see Michael out of the race like that. If we were fighting for position and we hit each other and we were both off the track or one off the track, you can be pissed off about it. I was a lap behind and that was as far forward as I was going to go because the third car was Rubens and he was probably 30 or 40 metres behind me, so, in 30 laps I wasn't going to get the lap back, was I? So I wasn't really bothered, I was going to push like always and that was it. I feel really bad because I wasn't interested in getting involved in an accident, especially behind the safety car.
Q: (Adrian Huber) Fernando, after what happened last Sunday how difficult is it for you to focus 100 percent on this Grand Prix?
Alonso: No, it is very, very easy. I think all the drivers, we manage to be 100 percent focussed on the next Grand Prix no matter what result you have in the previous race. I am sure that Jarno won the race in Monaco and will be 100 percent here, I didn't finish in Monaco and I will be 100 percent here, it hasn't changed.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) There are rumours that Jacques Villeneuve will return next year, maybe replacing you or maybe at another team. What would be your feelings at having Jacques back?
Montoya: I don't know. I don't know what to say. Great! You know. Good for him, that's the only thing I can think of. The last few years he probably had some really tough years at BAR and I think, for him, it has to be really sad to see the car become competitive as soon as he left and he worked so many years with the team to try to get that, so I think it was pretty tough.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) To both of you, do you think this is going to be a weekend where Ferrari comes back strong again?
Alonso: At the moment, before the free practice starts, in the picture we see the Ferraris in the front because after we saw in the first five races with four pole positions and five victories I think they have to prove they are still quick in all the circuits. Maybe in Monte Carlo was some exception, so I think Ferrari will be the team to beat, for sure.
Montoya: I don't think they have been off the pace at all, really. You know, in Monaco, as Fernando said, it is a different race than the normal races. The crucial thing is the tyres and how they behave and everything and I think here it is going to be probably the same old story. But, you know, we will try our best to stop it.
Q: (Adrian Huber) Fernando, what do you like best and what do you like least about this Grand Prix?
Alonso: I like all the circuit, all the parts, probably the new sector, with the new corners, is not very interesting because it is very slow but it is a nice track here and we can see a good race here if the weather is okay.
Q: Both of you, but first to Juan Pablo, there is a rumour going around that Mika Hakkinen is coming back and going to Williams-BMW...
Montoya: So, Jacques and Mika next year at Williams?! (Laughter)
Q: If Mika does come back, do you think he could be competitive?
Montoya: Probably could, if he does plenty of testing he will probably be competitive, yeah. I think something you learn like driving you are not going to forget. You probably need more time to get the experience back but it would probably be okay, same as Jacques.
Alonso: Same. I think he would have to do a lot of tests to come back but he would still be quick, for sure.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri) Juan, were you surprised when it was announced that Sam Michael was going to replace Patrick Head?
Montoya: No, I knew about it. I already knew about it when it was announced, so no. It really doesn't change anything. Probably the biggest effect on the team is going to be a long-term effect, rather than a short-term, and in the long-term I am not there so...