SEPTEMBER 24, 2004
CHINESE GP - FRIDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
Friday Press Conference
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 24 SEPTEMBER 2004
DRIVERS: Fernando ALONSO (RENAULT), Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI) and Ralf SCHUMACHER (WILLIAMS)
Today's guest questioner was Dan Knutson of National Speed Sport News
Q: I will ask you about the track in a second, but first, let's talk about Shanghai and China. Tell us about when you arrived, what have you seen, what have done, what do you think of the city, the country and the people?
Fernando ALONSO: Obviously, for me it is the first time in China and I am very impressed with the city. I don't know how many people are in the city but quite a lot compared with the cities in Spain. Everything is so big, especially here in the circuit, the facilities etc, etc. I have felt quite impressed from the beginning. I arrived on Tuesday morning and I spent the time in the hotel, in the gym and I went out shopping on Tuesday afternoon and I enjoyed my time until today, today even more when I'm in the car
Q: Michael, what do you think of the city and the country?
Michael SCHUMACHER: I can't say much about the city, honestly, because I only know the hotels from the functions that I've been at away from the circuit. That's all I have seen. The circuit is obviously quite impressive, the way it is done, it has been done very interestingly, pretty unique, I would say. It's quite a challenge for us because there are a lot of blind corners and it is very tricky. So I think most of us, at least from my point of view I'm quite happy to be here and to enjoy and experience this adventure.
Q: And Ralf?
Ralf SCHUMACHER: Certainly, since I am used to holidaying over the last three months, the first day I organised a city guide and made the tour through the city which was quite interesting. I had some lessons in making tea and saw the Bund area and saw some very interesting stuff. It is a very nice city, actually. There's a lot of building going on. It is surprisingly clean for a huge city like that in various areas. Good food, nice people, the traffic is a mess, it is a bit dangerous to cross the street but apart from that it has been brilliant.
Q: Fernando, what about the circuit itself?
Alonso: I think, as Michael said, it is quite unique with very different corners to what we are used to. Turn One and Turn 15 are very long corners. It has been done in a different way to make a few more opportunities to overtake with a very long straight. I think for the mechanics, the engineers, they work in a nice area in the paddock. I think for the journalists as well you have good facilities so I think it's been done with good ideas.
Q: And Ralf, your comments on the track?
R.Schumacher: I heard there were a few complaints about Tilke (the architect) building similar tracks and I must say it is a totally different thing here. It's enjoyable, very enjoyable so I think they did a great job again, it is very technically demanding place for a driver, it's very safe, very good facilities, so it's really great to be here, yeah.
Q: Ralf, for the first time since you were a boy, you have had a long break from racing. You had time to think, about everything, about your life, racing, driving. Did this break change you as a person and as a driver? And maybe now you have a different perspective on life and on racing.
R.Schumacher: First of all, after being back in the car after three months I realised how much I missed it and how enjoyable it really is to be allowed to be a driver of a Formula One car. It is really nice to be back working with the people although it's only for three more races. It was my wish to be back and doing something. I have never really for one second thought about not racing again. That was never my problem, for two reasons. First of all, I love what I do and secondly, I can't remember a thing about Indianapolis. So for me that race stopped before the start, it never started really for me. So even if I see pictures it's basically as you would look at them, I just see them as a spectator so that's never been a problem for me.
Q: Michael, the same thing in 1999, maybe not thinking about retiring but just thinking about everything when you're away from the cockpit for so long.
M.Schumacher: I don't think you think so much about everything. You just think when you are going to be ready to drive next, that's what you have mainly in focus, because when you have had an accident you have to be a certain time in hospital, you see your muscles going away so you get concerned, you think about your training and it's all about focusing to get ready for the next time you're ready to race. And that doesn't leave you a lot of time or maybe you don't want to think about other things because that's what is the priority to think about.
Q: Ralf, you watched the races from a different perspective, on the TV instead of from the car. What are Grand Prix races like on TV?
R.Schumacher: It is actually very interesting to watch a Grand Prix, to have the time to really just look at it: what kind of strategy people have and obviously getting the information from the track, what's happening to the car and to the team. Certainly, it's not so easy. For the first three or four weeks really, I didn't mind so much because I could barely move but then after that it got back to the state where you think you could drive even if you're not allowed to, it starts to be a bit annoying and boring to watch races because you think that you could try and get back in the car and help the situation a bit. I must say Antonio and Marc, both of them, did a very good job anyway.
Q: For all of you, this is a magnificent track and we have tracks like this in Bahrain and Malaysia, but we also have some great old tracks in Europe like Silverstone, Monza, Spa. Those tracks maybe don't have the money to be like this. How do we balance having new tracks like this, but also keeping the history of the old tracks in Formula One?
Alonso: I think it is a good combination what we have now. All the new circuits are safe and are nice, with good facilities, as we've said. So it's good to come here, out of Europe, to show Formula One to everyone, to open the doors of Formula One for the Chinese people, or those in Bahrain or Malaysia. At the same time we drivers like to race on the historic circuits, like Monza or Silverstone or each driver's home Grand Prix. I think what we have now is a good combination of both. More old circuits† means that it's maybe less safe, less money and less facilities. More new circuits I think is a little bit less feeling for the drivers and less legend for Formula One.
M.Schumacher: Not much to add, honestly. That's what we should have, a nice mixture.
R.Schumacher: I have nothing against the mixture but obviously as soon as the budget could be found to improve even the older circuits, concerning the safety, I wouldn't mind so much but apart from that, yes.
Q: Fernando. Let's talk about team-mates. How difficult was it from a personal and technical point of view to lose Jarno Trulli?
Alonso: It was not an easy solution. For me, I think I had to concentrate on my job, to get the maximum out of myself and to help the team and to help myself. It doesn't really matter who is with you in the garage. But obviously, as you know I have a very good relationship with Jarno. We still have, as if nothing happened outside the races, we can be normal friends. For the team, it is a team decision. I think Jarno was not completely happy with the team, the team was not completely happy as well and they agreed to stop now for these races to improve the atmosphere for both of them and if they are happy with this I am happy as well. With Jacques, I have a good relationship as well, we've been working only two weeks at Silverstone and here, but so far it has been fantastic.
Q: In the last few races, the momentum has switched from Renault to BAR; how difficult will it be to switch that momentum back to Renault?
Alonso: I hope a little bit easier than it was at Monza but I don't know. Obviously it will be a close fight, as it has been in the last five or six races, very close, and in Monza we had a very unlucky weekend when we didn't score any points and they finished in a strong position: third and fourth. They overtook us, but our job is to try to change the coin as well, to be second at the end of the year. We are putting all our effort into that. We are completely confident we can do it and I think it will be a good fight.
Q: Michael, the relationship between you and Jacques Villeneuve was not always really good, but I hear that things are now quite nice and smooth between you. Can you tell us a bit about that?
M.Schumacher: So far we have only spoke through the press to each other. I have not met him yet at all. Put it this way, the past is the past and now we are living in maybe a different situation and maybe we have a chance to get on better.
Q: Ralf, how much better is the car now than the one you drove back in June.
R.Schumacher: The car is a bit easier to drive. At the beginning of the year we had a few problems. It is obviously not up to the speed it should be although it's looking relatively good here so there's still a lot going on, but it has become easier to drive, especially in high speed areas which is good for me. It's simply enjoyable to be back and it's easier to set up. It was far more difficult to get it to a decent racing car before than it is now.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Beniamino Natale - Ansa) Michael, what motivation do you have to win this race?
M.Schumacher: To beat the others.
Q: (Richard Williams - The Guardian) Michael, could you be a bit more specific please about what makes this circuit different to the other Tilke circuits and what features seen on the evidence so far to offer an interesting challenge to the driver?
M.Schumacher: Simply a different architecture of circuit, corner combinations. Like Turn One and Turn 13, with a long straight getting into such a tight hairpin. I don't know if we have that elsewhere. I don't imagine we do. There's slight banking in Turn 13 and it is quite interesting to see because if you see Turn One, Two, then suddenly you get into this tight business at Three, it's all very different, for me at least. Very challenging, because you can make a lot of mistakes but at the same time you can make up a lot of time. So that's probably, from our point of view, very different. I didn't explain it enough, but you can see it enough.
Q: (Richard Williams) Where do you think your main overtaking opportunities are?
M.Schumacher: Mainly towards Turn 13 I would think, but because it is very easy to go off line here and you can make mistakes, as happened to me today, then you can be overtaken quickly.
Q: (Bob Constanduros) If I can follow up on that, it looks as though it was very bumpy at the end of the back straight here going into the tight corner, is that a concern for you guys?
M.Schumacher: No, it's not.
R.Schumacher: It is not a concern yet but it might become over the years. It is the only place where you really have bumps.
Alonso: It's not too bad.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzeta dello Sport) Ralf, did you expect a performance coming back? How did you judge your performance today?
R.Schumacher: Well, it is a bit early. It is really only Friday. I felt really familiar with the car at Silverstone already. I've been driving a Formula One car for eight years, so even if you're out for three months, it's like riding a bicycle. The circuit is a bit difficult technically. I think I get along with it quite well which is important. I think we've found a decent balance, so yes, I'm pretty happy with what happened today.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi) Michael, did you expect to be so far from the top today, what is the picture for Ferrari after the first day?
M.Schumacher: If you look at the time difference, I think Rubens was three tenths off what Jenson is, so we are pretty much all close together. Usually I may be up front but for whatever reason we are not today and I'm pretty sure we will find solutions to that.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi) And Fernando, how do you judge the performance of your new teammate today?
Alonso: I think Jacques did a good job today. The timed lap is very close to what I did today, so it means he could go well in the car. It should be difficult for him, it is only his second time in the car and even without that he's performing well, so I am sure tomorrow he will do a good job and hopefully both Renaults are in the top of the cut.
Q: (James Allen - ITV) Fernando, you were in the meetings with Jarno in the last few Grands Prix since Magny Cours when his performance started to tail off. You've been close to him all this time.† What explanation do you have as to why his car and he were just not on pace the last few races?
Alonso: I don't know. Who knows? I think we have to be careful with that as well, because Jarno had an engine problem in Hungary so we don't know what was the† position at the end. And then he did pole position in Spa, the results are too important at the end of the race and it doesn't matter what you did before that, for you especially, for the journalists. I think Jarno maybe lost motivation a bit, or who knows, when the team announced their drivers for next year. The atmosphere was not perfect in the team from both sides and they decided to stop. They are happy. Who knows?
Q: (Matthias Brunner - Motorsport Aktuell) Michael, what happened to your car this morning?
M.Schumacher: We had a software issue that stopped the car.
Q: (Frank Schneider - Abendzeitung) Michael, you have spent quite a few days here in China. What is your impression of the Chinese fans? How do they treat you?
M.Schumacher: They are quite enthusiastic about Formula One as far as I can see from the fans I have had contact with. It's quite good to see, coming to a new country with such an impressive set-up and see that the emotion and interest in our sport is there in the way it is, so it's quite positive.
Q: (Marco Evangelisti - Corriere dello Sport) For all three drivers, even though it's probably more a matter for the technical directors, what is your opinion about the fact that the main teams can be forced next year to have three cars on the grid because Jaguar is quitting and other cars are not in a good situation?
Alonso: I don't know. We have to wait and see. At the end we don't know what is the position of these teams, they have no engine supplier, so we don't know, and also Jaguar will maybe find a different solution. In my opinion we have to wait a little bit.
M.Schumacher: I don't even think this is a question to the technical directors, it's to the owners.
R.Schumacher: What can I say other than I hope not, because otherwise we have three Ferraris on the podium each time. (Laughter)
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) Ralf, we were talking about Jarno. Jarno has signed for Toyota and will be your teammate next year. What is your opinion about him?
R.Schumacher: It's very good, it's good for us that he could start that early. It was the best solution for us, as Toyota, that Jarno could already test last week at Silverstone. I think, as we saw, he's a very strong teammate and so I'm really happy to have him with me. It will be a lot easier, with a teammate like that, to bring the project forward.
Q: (Yi Lu - China Radio International) All three drivers, we saw some drivers off track today. What do you think of the difficulty of the circuit and the safety of the drivers?
Alonso: The track is not in perfect condition today. It is quite a new circuit so it is quite dirty, especially in P1 this morning at 11. Now the track conditions are improving, tomorrow we will see less people going off and Sunday hopefully no-one. This is normal when we come to this type of circuit, so we have not to be too worried about this.
M.Schumacher: Exactly. It just needs to have a good clean-up after the first proper usage and then it should improve each day. Safety, anyway, is not a problem as far as I could see.
R.Schumacher: The circuit is certainly nothing. The only thing is in the pits it is pretty dirty and slippery so that is something for the mechanics to look after, otherwise we might find some of the mechanics in a different pit stop area. I think that's really desperately necessary.
Q: (Alain Pernot - L'Auto-Journal) There are 18 Grands Prix this year, 19 next year, what is your feeling about the increasing number of Grands Prix?
M.Schumacher: Let's wait for number 20.
Alonso: We enjoy being in the car and more races, less testing. It should be good for Formula One.
R.Schumacher: Yeah, well, nothing to add.
Q: (Alain Pernot) Does Michael share the same opinion about less testing?
R.Schumacher: No. Definitely not. It's not good, less testing.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi) Michael, if Ferrari had to run a third car, do you believe that it is possible that there is some chance to see Valentino Rossi in the third red car? (Laughter)
M.Schumacher: Interesting thought. I think he liked very much his experience. But there are too many ifs, anyway.
Q: (Frank Schneider) For Michael, this is the first racing day ever in China for Formula One but there are hardly any spectators at the circuit, what do you think about that Michael?
M.Schumacher: As far as I have heard the circuit is sold out for Sunday. We have seen very often this year that people keep the main focus for race day and I guess that is why we have not seen so many today. Let's see what happens over the weekend.
DRIVERS: Rubens BARRICHELLO (FERRARI), Juan Pablo MONTOYA (WILLIAMS) and Jacques VILLENEUVE (RENAULT)
Q: I would like to ask you about the track but first of all can I ask you about the sights you have seen. When did you arrive in China? What did you see? What have you done? What do you think of Shanghai? What do you think of China? What do you think of the people? Juan Pablo, I hear you have been climbing a wall...
Juan Pablo MONTOYA: I have been in Shanghai and Beijing for a day and I went to the Great Wall and that was an awesome experience, you know, it was really nice. Here, the city is awesome, it is really nice, a lot of traffic but apart from that it's really nice.
Rubens BARRICHELLO: I quite like the city as well. I have been here since Wednesday. It's modern, it's beautiful, we have been visiting some places. But like Juan Pablo said, it is difficult to get out of the hotel because of the traffic. They say Brazilian drivers are good because of the traffic - they should have many drivers here. They should be all in Formula One! Unbelievable!
Jacques VILLENEUVE: I didn't see the town. I got here Tuesday evening and I have been at the track since, getting ready. The track itself is gorgeous. Maybe it's because it's the first time I have raced this year, but it is a very, very beautiful track.
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about the track, the overtaking spots and so on?
Villeneuve: There are a few heavy breaking (areas) and there's high-speed, low-speed corners, good rhythm, even a bit of a banked corner, a little bit of everything. You never see that any more on the new tracks. This track has a layout more like the old tracks, just with the wall pushed out.
Barrichello: I quite enjoyed it as well. The first time out it is always a bit slippery because nobody has been out, but it is a good layout, the shape of turn 13 is quite good and will provide some overtaking down to the end of the straight, there are a lot of good points as well on set-up, because there is a mix that you can do, such as Indianapolis. For example, you have a long straight but you have so many other corners that you have to go fast, so quite a good track in all respects.
Montoya: I think the same really. It's a good track. As Rubens said, hopefully it picks up more grip, but the layout is really cool.
Q: Jacques, you tested at Silverstone, but tell us how your first day back in action in competition went?
Villeneuve: It feels like being back home. Good. The team is working well. They all made it very easy for me to come back and work, they made me comfortable, and it is a team with no pressure, no stress, and we can just get down to working. This morning was mainly getting used to layout, where the limit of the car is and covering the track at the same time so there was a lot to do and it seems to be going well.
Q: You are quite close to Alonso, does that please you?
Villeneuve: Yeah, it is always good to be close to your team-mate, so that's good. It took a while to get there, though, but I can use the benchmark from my team-mate and work from that.
Q: Physically, how are you feeling? Things like your neck, you can't really train for those sorts of g-forces can you?
Villeneuve: I have been training hard since March and it seems to be okay. We did 45 laps today, which is almost a race, and there is no problem.
Q: Juan, your last three races in a team that you have been with for four years. What is the atmosphere like within the team?
Montoya: Ah, it's okay.
Q: Could you expand on that please?
Montoya: It's okay, I mean, the relationship with the mechanics that I work with has always been pretty good and that hasn't changed.
Q: I know you are keen to get to McLaren but in a way are you sad you are leaving the people at Williams behind?
Montoya: I made quite good relationships and friendships there more than anything else and those people are still around. I am going to work with other people and create new relationships so it should be okay. Of course you are going to miss some people and everything but in life you have got to move on, you know, and I am really looking forward to doing it again.
Q: You spent quite a lot of time in a simulator practicing this track, how close was it to the actual thing and did it help a lot?
Montoya: I think my first lap was about 1.5 seconds faster than everyone else's, so I think it kind of did.
Q: Rubens, Monza was a fabulous race for you and you seemed to raise both yourself and the car to a new level, especially around the time of that third pit stop. It seems that other times this year you haven't reached that level. What was different in Monza and maybe can you continue that for the last three races?
Barrichello: To be very honest I think nothing was different. The attention of everyone, not the team, but everyone, seems to change a bit on to my side because the championship was over and people were like ?okay, now it is time for Rubens to win'. I was driving the same, I didn't do anything wrong, it was magic, the fact that I had the speed to overcome the problems of being behind and putting myself onto a three stop was good enough, so, I just pushed as hard as I could, the set-up was good, but it was some other times in the year as well, so nothing was different. I am not driving better because the championship is over, that's for sure.
Q: You have had so much bad luck at the Brazilian Grand Prix over the years, we are going back there at the end of the season for a change. Are you feeling the pressure already mounting to do well in front of your own fans?
Barrichello: First of all, I don't believe in bad luck. I believe that so many things happened, human errors or other things that happened anyway, that cost me finishes in the Brazilian GP. I finished only my second Grand Prix in Brazil, in 1994, which was a fourth place, so I think Monza was a really good pre-qualifying, that's how I put it, because the tifosi were there, some of the pressure from the Ferrari fans and the pressure of being home was a good pre-qualifier of me getting to Brazil. Being the last race is good because the car is very reliable, as we know, so that is one factor less. Anything can happen in any of the races, but to be the last race you have more reliability than the first race. And with the speed of the car and so on we are going to Brazil with a good realistic chance of winning the race. And if I could win in Brazil, I guess I would be happier than winning the whole championship.
Q: Jacques, yesterday you talked about being mellower now than you were a few years ago. Can you just expand on that?
Villeneuve: When you have a year at home, whatever it is you are doing you relax. I have been in racing since I was 17, almost every day with two months off once in a while, but there were always pressures, and the last few years have been very difficult, political and so on. It was just great to be able to sit down and relax. It allows me to come back with a lot of positive energy.
Q: In Felipe Massa's rookie season, you were critical of him...
Villeneuve: I was critical of many people!
Q: But he is going to be your team-mate next year. How is it going to go with him?
Villeneuve: I was critical in the first season and everyone in the first season has to learn and you make mistakes. There is nothing wrong with criticising mistakes as long as people learn and he seems to be doing a very good job now, he doesn't annoy anybody or anything, and it will be quite good. He has a lot of experience, he tested Ferrari and he has been driving with the Sauber team for quite a while so it will be great.
Q: A question for all three of you. We all sit down here and ask you the questions. Say you were sitting down here. What question would you like to ask one of your fellow drivers?
Montoya: Nothing really! My job is to drive the car, not to ask the questions, that's your problem! (Laughter)
Barrichello: I agree with him completely. I don't know, I have never thought of asking. I think you guys do so many questions that at the end of the day the answers are there but, erm, maybe I would ask the team principals why they choose so many different things in terms of drivers for next year.
Villeneuve: It wouldn't be about racing, it would be about women or something, something more interesting.
Q: One more thing for all of you. What do you have planned between now and Suzuka?
Montoya: I go back to Europe. I have a PR thing or something.
Barrichello: My wife is here so we will be going somewhere which I won't tell you! But I will stay in Asia.
Villeneuve: No idea. Everything was a bit last minute, so I haven't thought about that yet.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (James Allen - ITV) Looking at the TV pictures and incident reports, it looked like T16 was where most people were going off the road in the two sessions. Is that the most difficult corner to get right, and if not, which corners have you particularly been working on today?
Montoya: I think the last corner you always want a good exit. I ran wide once there. It is a difficult corner.
Barrichello: The last corner is difficult to pick up the apex because you are going up and all of a sudden it turns, so it is difficult to see where you are. But for me I have problems in visibility for turn two, to actually see the corner itself. The track is pretty straightforward although you have some more demanding corners, I don't think there was a problem anywhere.
Villeneuve: Yeah, like Rubens said, the visibility of the last corner is a little bit difficult to see where the corner is and also it's a short corner so there is no room for error. All the other corners you can run wide, brake too late and still stay on the track but in the last corner you'll just go off. The hard corner is turn one and two.
Q: (Richard Williams - The Guardian) Rubens, this circuit has a long straight by modern standards. Do you like that because maybe it gives you a chance to catch your breath and perhaps does it give you a better chance to make adjustments in the car?
Barrichello: To be honest, you have so many things to do in the middle of the straight that it's actually quite amazing. In Monza, for example, you have to be careful if someone is going slower you can catch the tow very quickly and damage the front wing or have an accident. Here it seems to take forever to go down the straight, so the changes, you could make, but in a way it is a bit boring because you are running so much more downforce so the speed is stopping at some point and you don't see it going at some point, so it's quite nice to come out of T13 but when you look at it it's pretty amazing. It was worse on the bike, yesterday, when I saw the beginning of the straight!
Q: (Jacques Deschenaux - TSR) Jacques, when the deal between yourself and Renault was revealed it was almost the same time as the one with Sauber. What was the reaction of Peter Sauber when he was informed?
Villeneuve: He was aware of everything going on and he agreed to it. If not, I would not have done it.
Q: (Bettina Mayer - Focus) Juan, when do you change teams? Do you have your timetable?
Montoya: The teams are talking about it. There is a test at the end of the year. I still have PR commitments with Williams until the end of the year. I think driving-wise I should be driving the car hopefully before Christmas, yeah.
Q: (Alessia Cruciani - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Rubens, your president Mr Motezemolo said if Ferrari used the third car next year then Valentino Rossi could be a good choice. What do you think about it and what do the other drivers think?
Barrichello: I have no idea of that at all. Obviously I don't know if it is a PR thing that is just good for the press and so on. I was there the day that Valentino was running the car. He ran very well. Obviously, for him to race I think he will need more than just the month of December to test to be able to get to reasonable times for the car, but I don't know if that's it's true or not. I would have no problems running with him. I am a big fan when I see his riding and if he could do in a car what he does on a bike he would beat all of us.
Villeneuve: He's a great rider. He is so quick on a motorbike there is no reason for him to be slow in a car so I am sure that with enough testing he would be up to speed something like halfway through the season. But the main difficulty would be that when you get to F1 you have been in other formulae before, and F1 hurts. If he hasn't been in a car, only on a motorbike, then the first winter would not be enough physically. You just need a lot of mileage.
Montoya: Much the same, really.
Q: (Jean Francois Begin - La Presse) Rubens and Juan, how much of a challenge do you think it is for Jacques to come into the championship with three races to go?
Barrichello: Well, he's been around and he knows what he has to do. It is just what he mentioned now, being out of the car is quite a tough thing because you can try to do anything out the car but it is not the same as driving. So, if it is not a problem physically, it is not a problem.
Montoya: I think he should do pretty good. I think this year will really get him into shape for next year.
Q: (Jacques Schulz - Premiere) Jacques, what is the difference between driving the last race with the generation 03 car and being here with the Renault of 04. Is there a big difference?
Villeneuve: This is a beginning instead of an end, so that is already a lot more positive. I had been in a situation where it was a long tunnel and you didn't see the light and it just seemed to get worse every day. There were a lot of other things going on that made it difficult, driving wasn't the hard part it was everything else around it. Right now it's like being in the first race in 1996.
Q: (Jacques Schulz) Considering we have a situation that there are three cars for each team next year, now you are contracted to Sauber when you could have four or five different opportunities. Was it a wrong choice?
Villeneuve: It would purely depend on the budget and who the third driver would be.
Q: (Luc Domenjoz - Le Matin) Driving a Sauber car that will probably not be able to win a Grand Prix, where you will find the motivation?
Villeneuve: I drove for five years in a bad situation and the motivation was there. I am sure that next year will be a very positive atmosphere and that is what will make the difference. Just see the step that BAR made this year, anything is possible. You never know what will happen. But I am not even thinking about next year right now, there is enough work to do in the next month. But I am happy about next year.
Q: (Jacques Deschenaux) Jacques, what was your feeling to see BAR improving this year?
Villeneuve: It depends who I was thinking about. I was very happy to see Jenson doing well, I was happy for the guys who had been there for a long time, and a lot of the work we had done over the last five years and finally it was producing results and there was pride in that. Of course, there is also a little part of me that would be a little bit unhappy that it was someone else getting the points.
Q: (Jacques Deschenaux) What was the reason for this extremely high improvement?
Villeneuve: It takes everything, you need the car, the engine, the tyres, the drivers, the team, and after the season Jenson did last year he was very comfortable this year and he could be aggressive from the start of the season and it all worked well.
Q: (James Allen) Jacques, what was the overriding emotion for you, sitting outside Formula One for such a long time, leaving aside the whole BAR element, just not being in Formula One. And did you believe that you would get back here and you would work again in Formula One?
Villeneuve: What was great was I could watch a race from start to finish and not because my car had broken down! That was quite good! Did I think I could come back? Yeah, because I started training since March and when you train and don't have a drive there is a big pain, so somewhere you have got to believe you are coming back.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sports News) Jacques, obviously you are looking forward to racing in all the races next year, but just from the North American perspective, you have a large amount of fans back in Montreal and Indianapolis. Are you looking forward to racing again in the US and Canadian Grands Prix next year in front of all those fans?
Villeneuve: It will be great. It is so far away right now, but there is always great memories of Indianapolis and Montreal is my home race.
Q: (Luc Domenjoz) Now you are back, do you think you will be back for many years and will you use Sauber as a springboard to another team?
Villeneuve: I have never used one team against another. Some people say I signed too early and I could have raised my value by waiting but that it is not something I wanted to do, it's not the right way to work, so that is not my thought process right now.
THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 23 SEPTEMBER 2004
TEAM MEMBERS: Flavio BRIATORE (RENAULT), Eddie JORDAN (JORDAN) and Tony PURNELL (JAGUAR)
NOTE: Eddie Jordan is representing the Jordan team rather than Ian Phillips and David Richards is not here through Force Majeur as he was retained in Europe, for the Contracts Recognition Board hearing. Continuing the policy of a guest questioner, we have, this time, Matt Bishop of F1 Racing.
Q: A question to all of you. Here we are in China, an extraordinary facility. Can you just say something about the achievement and the importance and significance of the first Chinese Grand Prix?
Eddie JORDAN: I came out here, I think, at Christmas time and was hugely impressed and similarly, a little bit like Bahrain, not really believing they could get it all completed. What we see here is absolutely amazing, fantastic, and they need all the congratulations that you can imagine because it's the detail, it's things like the teams' rooms and the facilities there and we don't have that anywhere else, and these people have set the benchmark. Also, I think China is particularly important. It is the emerging or emerged marketplace of the future, we have collected three sponsors from here, which is always a good sign - I might as well give them a plug: Citibank, B&Q and Beijing Chateau - and look, to get those people to come to someone like Jordan I am enormously pleased, so long may it continue here in China.
Tony PURNELL: I have travelled around China a bit in the last few months and the way the country has modernised is incredible. It is a statement to the world that China is arriving and is one of the most modern nations on the planet. This is the way to do it, with Formula One, and I am looking forward to the weekend.
Flavio BRIATORE: I agree with Eddie and what everybody has said - the circuit is fantastic. This is an example, in Asia, we see Malaysia, we see Bahrain, we see Shanghai, it is much better than Europe. The circuits in Europe are now looking really, really bad. We should invite promoters from Europe, from Magny Cours and Silverstone, to come here.
Jordan: He obviously hasn't said Imola and...
Briatore: Eddie, I said examples...
Jordan: Okay, sorry.
Q: So, you are saying, Flavio, that the European facilities are not comparable and aren't satisfactory?
Briatore: No, honestly, you see enough in Bahrain, forget Malaysia, this is fantastic and, I mean, to beat this one is really, really difficult. For me, Bahrain was already impressive but this one is better. Really, the circuits in Europe, the facilities are very poor. We have six or seven circuits that are not for Formula One any more, there are no facilities at all, and we pay the same price anyway.
Q: Okay, well, the Chinese Grand Prix is the good news. I suppose the bad news was provided by Tony on Friday. Tony, could you please clarify Friday's announcement for us all? Ford has said that Jaguar racing will not be in Formula One next year but the team is for sale is that correct?
Purnell: That's correct, yes.
Q: Any interest yet? Buyers?
Purnell: There is masses of interest. Of course, Formula One generates a lot of people who want to take a chance and we are sifting through the realistic buyers from the, erm, chancers, if you will, and there is masses of interest and I think one has to be fairly confident that a solution will be found.
Q: You say there is a lot of interest and you are sifting through the bids, but can you answer this: Is HSBC and Ford, because I gather HSBC are handling the sale, are you only going to take bids from credible, blue-chip parties or would you be willing to sell to an ambitious entrepreneur for the right price?
Purnell: The fact is that we are only going to sell to a credible buyer and the idea of buying a Formula One team is a little bit of a misnomer, it is all about funding a Formula One team on an ongoing basis and we are only going to change the ownership to somebody who has the means to do a credible job for two or three years. There is no interest in taking a chance with someone who is hoping for a sponsor on a wing and a prayer and goes bust halfway through next year. That's not going to happen.
Q: And it is pretty common knowledge that Red Bull was a possibility earlier in the year and that possibly that didn't happen, maybe, because of the Ford Motor Company, but Ford Motor Company is not an issue any more.
Purnell: The whole process is a confidential one, so I am not going to talk about any individual bid, but rest assured, I have contacted every potential buyer that I know of and I have to say one of the big challenges at the moment is finding time to sleep because it is a global business so I am getting phone calls night and day.
Q: And you said in the last few months you have travelled extensively in China. Presumably that was just tourism?
Purnell: (Laughs) No, I see what is going on in this country and one day I am sure they will be a player in Formula One and like Eddie I saw there was real potential here for sponsorship and maybe something to produce a compelling business case for Ford. Sadly that wasn't the way it ended up.
Q: You are a Ford man. Do you think Ford has behaved properly in this matter?
Purnell: When you are a company as big as Ford you do have to make brutal decisions and with their Jaguar car brand they had a lot of difficulties this year, they have had to close a big plant, so I understand why they feel this was a necessary move. When you look back, in retrospect, there are always better ways to handle any situation and I am sure that's the case here as always, but hopefully this will turn out well for the employees. I have had nothing but complements from the Ford board about the way we have managed the company in the last two years. The press have been very kind to how good the team is and how well it's run these days, and I think that if we don't find a sort of keen new owner it says much more about the health of Formula One as a business than anything to do about the present players. So, Ford today are being helpful in trying to find a buyer and that's what I want more than anything.
Q: Well, we all want that, I am sure everyone hopes that there is a buyer both for Jaguar Racing and Cosworth Racing, but Eddie to your right and Paul Stoddart, who is in attendance here, have both, I am sure, had potential interest from buyers over the last little while and due diligences and so on. Do you really think it is possible that you can sell the team by November 15, which is when you have to lodge your application to compete in the 2005 championship?
Purnell: Absolutely I believe that, and if I didn't I wouldn't be here.
Q: Okay. What would your message be to the mechanics and engineers and everybody, who have done such a good job?
Purnell: Well, look, the spirit in the team, given the circumstances, is phenomenal. They have come here absolutely wanting to prove that the team is capable of running and getting points, and that's this weekend's mission. I know some of the top guys at Jaguar have been approached by some of the very top teams in Formula One, been offered fabulous jobs and instead, they have said ?no, we want to stick with this' because they have something really, really good going here. I can't imagine handing someone who wanted to be in Formula One a better starting point and, compared to previous years, the barrier to entry is as low as possible now. So, for somebody who really wants to see their brand globalised through success in Formula One, there couldn't be a better opportunity than there is now.
Q: Staying on the same subject, but moving to Eddie, we have just had Black Friday. When did you get notice of Ford's decision to pull Jaguar Racing, and more particularly Cosworth Racing, out of Formula One?
Jordan: Well, my situation is slightly different, where I have an instruction from Tony that I am only allowed to speak to Tony or Bernard Ferguson (of Cosworth) on any matter relating to our relationship. Either they were busy or their phones were turned off, but I wasn't able to reach either of them. But, to be fair, I was told that they were not allowed to speak to me as well. So, it was kind of complicated. I wasn't sure what was happening, but then I was in a meeting and at 20 or 15 minutes before 12, when the announcement was made, there was a bit of panic but Richard Parry-Jones did speak to me, he did tell me then.
Q: Obviously, you have spent a lot of money on Cosworth engines in recent years. Do you think that was an appropriate way to be treated as a customer?
Jordan: Well, you can have your own view but I am not so sure the people in the media need to know that and if you have spent $38 million (Dollars) someone should have told you in advance to give you some notice to tell your sponsors and stuff so it wasn't out the dark, I don't know. Everybody plays this differently, so I am not going to castigate somebody. But when you give people notice then it spreads out and it leaks, so there are obviously different arguments for both. I felt very much a part of Ford. It's not easy to win a race these days, we all know, and I have won a race with them, albeit extremely luckily by some peoples' standards. It was lucky, but we did win a race for Ford, so I can feel that the relationship has split with some element of success. But I am really, really disappointed because I thought they were going to change the name and that Jaguar was going to become Ford. Tony himself went to see our sponsor, Deutsche Post, with Ford Motorsport and told them what they were going to do and that was only two weeks ago. That obviously came back, Tony and I discussed that at the last race and they had felt very good about us and the Ford connection. So I don't know what happened in those two weeks but obviously a complete change of tack has happened, but it completely blew me away. I had no idea that Cosworth and Ford were going to exit through Jaguar. And I have written to Tony and said I am disappointed for him and his staff.
Purnell: Eddie gave me just about the first phone call I got after the announcement and it was a very warm...
Jordan: It wasn't that abusive at that stage! (Laughter)
Q: Actually, I was going to bring you in there to say, obviously, that it is significant that Eddie feels understandably disappointed, but there are significant things he is not saying as well. How do you react to his indication that he has been hard done by and unfairly treated?
Purnell: It's a business arrangement, you know, and it is always wrong to use these events to discuss business relationships.
Q: Eddie, you obviously were expecting to use Ford Cosworth engines next year. That has now gone into a very questionable area. What impact has this news had on your team's chances of survival?
Jordan: Well, I think it's fair - I don't know if Tony wants to discuss it - but there are certain things with Ford now no longer....what surprised me, when Richard Parry-Jones spoke to me he gave me a glimmer of hope when he said ?look, Tony will speak to you tomorrow or whenever it's possible for you to get together' and I wanted to speak to Tony straight away because he gave me a glimmer of hope and said ?look, I think there may be something that we can do to supply you with Cosworth'. When I spoke to Tony, actually the thing that Cosworth were prepared to do was to double the price of the engine, which was because Ford could no longer put money in to develop the engine. So, the good news was that maybe Cosworth would give us an engine, but at a price that was double that we were already paying, so I can't see how that would work.
Q: So you wont be taking them up on that offer then?
Jordan: Well, they haven't put it in writing yet. I am eagerly awaiting that piece of script.
Q: Well, I have to ask the question Eddie: Will Jordan be on the grid in Melbourne next year, do you think?
Jordan: Well, it's a difficult one to answer if one is to be realistic about the situation. I am an absolute fighter, as indeed, may I say, are the vast majority of the private teams, and I am not just giving a little ?one-up' for the private teams. But, look, what happened last weekend with Ford is every justification that the private teams are very essential to Formula One, because we are there through hard times, tough times, and it has been a tough time for Jordan. We had our good times, but we are happy to wait around...(microphone cuts). I'm back, they can't get rid of me that easy! (Laughter). Somebody from Ford in there, doing the...sorry Tony! Where was I? Look! I believe firmly that Formula One has to have a strong element of the private teams because manufacturers come and go as and when, and the private teams are the people who keep preserving that platform to enable manufacturers, who we all need in the championship (to enter). But the foundation of that championship has to be on the continual performance of private teams, so I will fight tooth and nail to be on that grid in Australia next year, but can I guarantee anything? I am not prepared to discuss that at the moment. But for sure I won't go down without a big fight.
Q: Eddie, you say Formula One needs the privateer teams, but Bernie Ecclestone doesn't agree with you. Yesterday on Radio Five Live, and I can quote actually, he said: ?Sure, the brand in Formula One is big enough to survive all these things, in fact it will probably be better. Three cars from all the top teams and we will have 20 very competitive cars.' In the circumstances, when it's no secret that your team's for sale, Tony's team is for sale, other teams are for sale, Paul Stoddart is sitting here, his team's for sale. Do you think the commercial rights holder has been helpful by publicising that view?
Jordan: I am sure he has his own view as to why he said that, but just taking a cold view without going to talk to him about what his rationale was (behind that comment)...how can you create and motivate staff when you get those sort of comments from the leader of your championship? When you are talking to a sponsor it's very easy for another team to come and say ?look, you have heard what he said, why bother being with Jordan, come with us', and the same with the staff. But I am sure Bernie has something in the back of his mind which he may be trying to help, but I wish it was just a bit more obvious for us. I am not going to make comment as to why Bernie said something. He said it, it's what he believes in, he is a very straightforward guy, that's what he believes. I believe differently. I believe there is a place for the private teams. I believe we need as much assistance as we can because, remember, we have all done particularly well out of this business because most of you people here have been the same people here 20 something years ago. And on that basis, we owe our career, our lives to this sport, it has been very good to us, but when it's in trouble you have to dig deep and pull it back out - and we need to dig deep at the moment.
Q: Tony, do you think Bernie's remarks have helped your chances of selling the team?
Purnell: I think they are neutral at the end of the day. Formula One's health will be measured by a good grid of well-funded teams with sponsors that are there because it makes good business sense. The teams are there because it adds up. At the moment there is a little bit of a crisis because for the top manufacturer teams it adds up and for the rest of the grid it doesn't, and I have urged reform over the last year, both commercially and technically, to get the sport under control, and it does need to lower its costs, it needs to improve the business case to be healthy. Bernie is well aware of that and he will take action.
Q: Flavio, Bernie Ecclestone has talked about three car teams. What would the implication be for running three cars for a team like Renault?
Flavio BRIATORE: I think this press conference makes no sense. Here we are in China for the first race and you start talking about the problem for Jordan. If Jordan has a problem and if Tony has a problem, I'm sure this is not the place to resolve the problem. Instead of being enthusiastic to come to this place, where the people have made a lot of effort to prepare for an incredible race, you guys try to turn things around as usual for no reason. Really. I'm not prepared to answer any questions because I don't like a press conference like this, only talking about the problems for Formula One. Everybody has problems, not only in these areas. We need to resolve our problems. If somebody makes a $300m or $400m investment in Formula One, I think this is very positive for Formula One, but you guys only like to look at the bad things. There's a lot of jealousy and you guys are part of that jealousy. I think this press conference is completely disgusting.
Q: I'm only asking the questions because Ford has made this announcement, so it's of interest to all journalists.
Briatore: Yeah, I don't think people in China are so interested about Cosworth or Jordan. I think they are interested to see the race, to make sure that everyone's on the grid on Sunday and it looks like everyone will be on the grid on Sunday and if Jordan is on the grid in Melbourne, I don't think it's really a question you need to ask to Jordan. Jordan has a team, has the consultants... You know, we are running a business, we are not shy and sure, we are not resolving our businesses in front of you guys. This is completely mad. We are losing time, you guys are losing time for nothing.
Q: Well I did want to ask you questions about this weekend, for instance, your driver Jacques Villeneuve, would you like to answer questions about how that came about?
Briatore: Yeah, because it's part of the race, it's part of the show we're putting on in China. I like to answer this question. But if you ask me about my budget, or Renault's budget, or whether Renault wants to give engines to Eddie, I would tell you no. I'm sick and tired of this kind of conference.
Q: OK, but I'm asking you if you could explain how the Jacques Villeneuve deal came about?
Briatore: Jacques Villeneuve is driving for me tomorrow; tomorrow he starts practice like everybody. We've going to give him as much mileage as possible because he hasn't been in the car for ten months. I believe it's good news for all of Formula One, because now that the World Championship is finished nobody is asking any longer ?is Michael winning this race or the next one?' And only the good news, or the different news is Villeneuve. I believe we are making a contribution to talking about positive things in Formula One.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Stan Piecha - The Sun) Flavio, you were talking about Jacques Villeneuve. Do you think he's still got what it takes to be a winner, and if so, why didn't you sign him for next year?
Briatore: I don't know. (Laughter). I needed to have something in the team and I'm not in the same situation as Tony or Jordan. When you're in the same situation as I am in for the last four races, you have 800 people in the team, you are pushing everybody very hard to make the pieces for both cars, to make sure the car is competitive, and afterwards you see one driver making a big effort and one driver making less effort. It was very very difficult for the team, and I needed to do something. I believe what I've done is something sensible, it was my only opportunity. I talked to Jacques and he looked like he was together. He wanted to race and was very motivated to race against BAR anyway, so this was something more, a plus and it looked good. If you tell me tomorrow what he's doing on Sunday... he will make the car finish in the points. This is what I need from Jacques, to motivate the team, motivate Fernando and this is what I'm trying to do, to have a point, to finish second in the championship. And next year? I've already signed Fisichella. It was very difficult to sign both drivers.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) Gentlemen, as you say, this is a state of the art track, it sets the benchmark. But how do we balance out keeping those tracks in Europe that maybe don't have the money but have supported Formula One for 30 or 40 or 50 years, and do have the tradition that we do want to keep in there? How do we balance out maybe keeping those tracks in, compared to having this one and Bahrain etc?
Purnell: I think that the way it's heading is that we're going to have more races. Formula One attracts massive publicity, people want to see it and the solution seems to me to give them more races, so I think that's the way it's going to head. Whether the teams find that arduous or not, I think the future beckons with more races so that the great European races are kept alive and the great new world race tracks are used to their fullest extent. It's actually a good problem to have.
Jordan: Yes, that's exactly right. You have to make sure that you keep putting the level of the benchmark up, the bar as if you're doing the high jump and this is at the highest point now, this is World Championship. Bahrain, here, as Flavio said, Malaysia, a couple of very good races. Of course we all enjoy... What is happening, unfortunately, is that the - as we call them - flyaway races seem to have that much better edge to them at the moment and there's more excitement. People talk about them and this is a big race. Not many people knew what they were going to expect. The city, what they've built in the last ten years, is just phenomenal. Next year we're going to Turkey and then there's talk about a race in Northern Africa or one in Russia. You can see what's happening. There is money, there is a bigger demand for this kind of business and usually supply and demand come together quite well and that's what's happening. I think that you will find that there will be more flyaway races because these countries see that there's a huge economic value for it, which may be because the European people have got a little bit lazy or tired with that or maybe there's too many other sporting issues: football, rugby, golf, God knows what. In China and these other places, maybe this is the biggest sporting event on their calendar every year so they're making sure that they put a huge effort into making sure that they get full recognition and value for that.
Briatore: I think the same. What is important to understand as well is that at this moment we have done double the mileage in testing and not in the race. You know the race is all about winning money, testing we are losing money and we double the mileage. Our point is that we should stop that. I agree as well that we need to have more income and everybody is happy about that and I'm sure we are getting to the point where we have more income for the team, it's fundamental. But we need to cap the expenses as well, because if you have $50m more you spend $50m. Our people are phenomenal at spending money. I've never seen people like that. If I have ten, people spend eleven. We need more races. Our job is racing and we need to cut testing, because testing costs you exactly the same as racing, and a facility like this is fantastic for a sponsor, fantastic for Formula One. People are investing millions and millions of dollars in our business.
Purnell: Just an observation: don't forget that this is the newest track in the world, it should be the best track in the world. The European ones are 20- or 30-years old. One day this place will be 20- or 30-years old. It's very very attractive now, it's the benchmark but the European tracks were built a very long time ago. You can't really redo them every week.
Jordan: It's like a car. If you don't invest in it you don't sell it.
Q: (Ottavo Daviddi - Tuttosport)† Flavio, you did a good operation with Supertec when Renault was in a similar position that Ford is in now. Are you interested, as Flavio Briatore, not as the manager of Renault, to repeat the same operation with Cosworth?
Briatore: I think the timing was different. Sure, I was with Renault and they gave us notice one year before. But it's something if you have one year notice you know what you are doing. And it's something if you have two months notice, you know what you're doing. I think the situation with Eddie and Tony is really difficult. With Renault it was quite simple. A year before, they told me that next year they had a different strategy. Was I interested in taking Renault Sport at the time? I had one year to think about it, one year to find a customer because at the time, the problem for me was to find a customer. And in the end I did the deal. It was great for me, for Renault, for the team. Now the situation is a little bit different because Formula One is very demanding and the manufacturer has a different speed, different expenses as well and I am too busy trying to keep Renault in second place this year and maybe win the championship next year. I don't really have time to do that.
Q: (Anthony Rowlinson - Autosport) If, as you indicate, there is so much money in the sport and so much demand for more races, why is it so difficult for the smaller teams to find enough money to survive in Formula One?
Briatore: Like I said before, Formula One has changed a little bit with the manufacturers.† I started with a small team, very very small, and basically started at the same time as Eddie - one year earlier, two years earlier. As a matter of fact, I tried to get Eddie to work for me at one point. Eddie had a F3000 team. It's different, the world changes;† now it's very very difficult. I tell you why; it is very simple: Formula One costs too much, it is no secret. For the sponsor, it's a big big investment. You need the decision of the board of the company before... In our time, the commercial director did the deal with us. Now, because it costs