Friday Press Conference

David Coulthard, Japanese GP 2004

David Coulthard, Japanese GP 2004 

 © The Cahier Archive



NOTE: Continuing the policy of a guest questioner, we have, this time, Steve Cooper of F1 Racing

Q: Just a general question to all of you, it is a topic at the moment. The typhoon has been up rated to a super typhoon. What preparations are you making for tomorrow and possibly for Sunday? How it will affect qualifying? How you would like to see qualifying re-scheduled if tomorrow is cancelled and how prepared you are to deal with an extreme weather situation as we are facing at the moment?

David RICHARDS: I think the first thing is, I notice everyone is stocking up with sandwiches and Alpen bars and booking the Log Cabin for lunch tomorrow! Clearly it is an unfortunate situation, more thinking of the fans actually out there, the poor people that have actually sat in the grandstands today and didn't see much action, and of course I suspect that if things carry on the way they are, probably tomorrow will be completely cancelled so it's a bit concerning. It leads on to qualifying of course and what we do for qualifying is the next issue. It's all very well coming up with random ideas but it's got to be fair for everybody and it is a fairly decisive point in the championship for many teams, so we can't have anything that is unfairly biased towards anyone. I suspect there are three solutions. I think the first solution is to cram both qualifying sessions into Sunday morning, which hopefully the organisers can accommodate. If they can't then clearly one qualifying session would have to be based on perhaps the last result but in reverse order, as if it were the second session, so you would start with the race result and the winner of the last race would go last. Alternatively a grid position based on the finishing position of the last race might be the final solution to that, but I would suspect one of those would be fairest.

Paul STODDART: I think firstly again, for the fans, they are the biggest losers out of this. The teams will survive I'm sure. We will batten down the hatches and make the most of tomorrow if we are running and if we're not running, then, as David said, Sunday will become a bit of a lottery. I am sure we will squabble over what the final outcome is going to be as to whether or not we go for reverse grid, we go for championship order, we go for last race or, indeed, we take Bernie's idea and draw lots out of a hat, but one way or another we will come up for a grid for Sunday's race and lets hope the aftermath of the typhoon doesn't interfere with Sunday's race because I think it's bad enough if we don't have qualifying tomorrow but if we also have to have a very poor or indeed an aborted race, I think that would be even worse for the fans.

Peter SAUBER: There are a lot of possibilities. I think if we started to think about it immediately then two weeks later we would have a solution. (Laughter)

Stoddart: Two years, Peter!

Q: Tomita-san, perhaps you have more experience of these conditions in Japan. Will a typhoon last for several days or will it be over by Sunday? Will it be safe to drive on Sunday?

Tsutomu TOMITA: My opinion is quite similar to David's - I do hope that we will cancel tomorrow and on Sunday morning we will have qualifying and then after two thirty or three thirty or four o' clock we will start racing. This climate is quite abnormal in Japan because currently October is our finest month! (Laughter) And therefore I want to apologise to you. (Laughter) But nobody can control the climate. (Laughter)

Q: Peter, perhaps employing Jacques Villeneuve for next season after Shanghai doesn't seem to be such a good idea. Are you worried or do you have any regrets about signing him up for two years now?

Sauber: After Shanghai? It is nothing to do with Shanghai. I think it was the right decision to drive with him, for him and for us too.

Q: There was a test scheduled with Vitantonio Liuzzi which was arranged before you signed Jacques but took place after you'd signed him. It seemed quite confusing that you were arranging a test with Liuzzi for possibly a race drive. What was the logic there?

Sauber: We promised him that he could do a test after a successful Formula 3000 season and I think it was okay to do it. It was nice for him to drive for one day in a Formula One car. On the other hand it was very difficult to show his talent for only one day testing. But I think overall the test was very good.

Q: Paul, you have asked for dispensation to run your PS04B again next year, because as a small team the rules aren't settled and it's a financial burden to do that. I just wondered if you could you explain the sequence you would need to get permission to do that, whether it would be from the FIA, from the team bosses and whether you are confident it will happen?

Stoddart: Well, first of all, it has to come from the team bosses. And let's just clear up what it is I'm actually asking for. It's not a dispensation against the cost. The cost does have some issue here but if you look at it from our position, we have no technical regulations as we speak now. We had thought, like all other teams, that the technical regulations would most likely be what Max has put forward, what the FIA's put forward, but we don't actually know that, as we sit here today. So we, like most other teams, if not all other teams, have taken a gamble on designing a car around an engine that we had a signed contract for next year. Suddenly with the news of Cosworth and Jaguar, everything was thrown into turmoil and as we sit here now, we have to face the reality that there is just a chance there may not be an engine available for independent teams next year, or certainly not the engine that we thought we would have. That is actually a case of Force Majeure. It is not an issue of money, it's an issue of unavailability, so we've made all we can do, contingent plans to make sure that Minardi is on the grid next year. We are a little but lucky in that we are able to do our own engine if we are forced to do so. It will be slower, there's no doubt about that. Because it's going to be slower, we've asked the teams to allow us to run to the 2004 regulations for one year only and, let's face it, all of these regulations and lack of clear regulations came about because the FIA want to slow the cars by - and I quote - three seconds. Anybody that's looked at Minardi realises that we are already slower by three seconds so there is no safety issue involved here. It is just a common sense approach to try and keep some independent teams in Formula One. We are a dying species. You all heard recently, in fact one race ago, certain quotes were made that Jordan and Minardi wouldn't be there in Melbourne. And that kind of behaviour, I can only speak for myself, put me under enormous pressure from both potential sponsors, drivers and so on asking the question ?will Minardi will be in Melbourne in 2005?' Well Minardi will be in Melbourne in 2005 and we are asking for, in the first instance, the teams to support us running to the 2004 regs and I have to say that we have had a lot of support there, more than half of the teams have said yes. I am not going to name and shame but there's an incredible temptation to do so. There are a few teams who don't seem to be interested in letting it happen. I'm sure it will come out in due course. But if we do get the teams behind it, we then need to ask the FIA for the dispensation. So it's not guaranteed and the worse possible case is that we would be in Melbourne next year with a car that complies to the 2005 regs with an engine that's cobbled up into it because we have to do it that way, and we will be slow.

Q: Can I ask the other three guys whether they would allow Paul to run a 2004 car in 2005?

Richards: Our position at BAR is that this is an FIA situation. They have introduced new regulations on the basis that they claim it is a safety issue. If they accept Paul's car is safe to run in those conditions then we wouldn't object.

Tomita: Toyota is supporting the FIA proposals because they are saying two things. The first thing is the safety, the second thing is the cost reduction. Now we completely agree with this because we know Formula One is in severe crisis now and we therefore should make a solution for the future.

Sauber: It is a political question, it's not easy for me to give you a good answer. On one side I would like to help him because I absolutely understand the situation. On the other hand we have to be careful when we go in this direction because there are other teams, maybe between Minardi and Ferrari, Sauber for example, and what would be our compensation to go closer to Ferrari? That's an example.

Q: When you mentioned that come hell or high water you would be on the grid in Melbourne next year, I wonder whether you could perhaps clarify what's going on with the engine, with the car, with the team? Will there be new ownership? Will you be running a Cosworth engine? Will it be a customer engine, your own engine? How will you be paving the way to be in Australia next March?

Stoddart: First of all, if we had to, and I stress we do not want to go down this road because it's not right for Formula One and it's not right for Minardi, but we're very lucky that we ran our own engine programme in 2001 and that both that car and that engine are still compliant to today's regulations and we keep updating it every year. But sometimes people have asked me why I bother because it's clearly not competitive, but for one reason or another we have kept the 2001 car homologated to 2003/2004 and we will homologate it to 2005. I do not want to be in Melbourne with that car, let me be very, very clear about this. But equally I will not be pushed out of this sport by politics.

Q: Are you any closer to finalising what will happen with the engine for next year?

Stoddart: Not at all. To put it simply, I asked a very direct question to... and I have to be very careful here because the people we deal with in Cosworth, as you probably understand, we have tremendously good relationships with, but at this moment in time, in their crisis, they are not able to actually have any executive decision-making power, so I have to look at the worst, worst, worst case. What could I do if there was no engines and no assistance and no will for anyone else to support us? I will get to Melbourne on my own, with my own engine which nobody can take away. However, we will be incredibly uncompetitive. Minardi has prided itself, in all these years, that when cars come round to lap us it's never an issue, we get out of the way, we make sure we get out of the way. Well, I don't think it's very wise to have a Minardi lapped six or eight times in a race. It's crazy.

Q: Tomita-san, with the talk of the loss of Cosworth engines for next year there has been talk that Toyota has been involved in perhaps providing customer engines to teams next year. Can you perhaps clarify the situation and whether you are going to supply a customer engine to a buyer for Jaguar for next year? What's the situation?

Tomita: It is possible, but talking about next year, 2005, it is much too late, to have the preparation, for both that team as well as ourselves.

Q: So you are reluctant to get involved then?

Tomita: No mind to get involved, for next year, but in the future it would be possible to supply an engine to a second team.

Q: So you are saying too late for 2005 now? For any buyer, at any price?

Tomita: Too late. It is too late. It is October and every team should be preparing the car for 2005, for the end of this year. It is only two months away, it's impossible.

Stoddart: Just picking up on what Tomita-san just said there, he's absolutely correct. It's too late for people to start thinking about engine supplies and that is why I'm saying it is a case of Force Majeure. We are going to be forced down a route we don't want to go, not because people aren't willing to supply, but in October, we haven't got any technical regs and we haven't got any engines. Not a very good position.

Q: Do you see a future for Cosworth, perhaps in a different guise, down the road?

Stoddart: I do, I do. But whether or not the owners of Cosworth, whoever they may be... I mean Cosworth is a bit like Minardi, it's had more lives than a cat and more owners than we've had. It will survive, I'm sure of that, but will the owners, whoever they may be, want to subsidise a commercially affordable Formula One engine for 2005? We don't know the answer to that question and it would be irresponsible to just continue on the basis that it will be alright on the night, because many times in Formula One it's not right on the night. It needs sorting out now.

Q: Another question to Tomita-san. This is the first race for Jarno Trulli for Toyota. When he tested at Silverstone he seemed quite reluctant to get in the car this year. What has changed to make him drive in the last two races this season?

Tomita: It is also surprising for us because we had no plan to use Jarno Trulli for the last two races but fortunately we had some opportunity to get him and therefore we decided to use Olivier and Jarno at Suzuka and then Jarno and Ricardo in Brazil.

Q: Wouldn't it have been easier to put the faster driver in for the last two races rather than just chop and change or was it a marketing decision to put Ricardo in for Brazil?

Tomita: It isn't marketing, it is very good for him, I think.

Q: David, this is an important race for you and for Honda, you have a major step here on the engine, you've got an improved gearbox here, it seems like you are going very aggressively towards the end of the season, to maintain the second place in the championship. Is that right?

Richards: I think that's a good observation. We haven't let up, we've been testing quite a lot recently and we were testing back in Jerez last week again and we will test again next week. We have further modifications as you so rightly said. Honda always come up with another step in their engine development here for their home event. They have not let us down on this occasion. Geoff has come up with some further design tweaks on the car so we will carry on hopefully the progress for here and for Brazil.

Q: A question about finance. Earlier this year you said that sponsors were almost falling over themselves to get involved with the team...

Richards: I don't think I quite used those terms, Steve, but I wish I had though.

Q: But to paraphrase it, there doesn't seem much evidence that that's actually happening. I do wonder if it's the uncertainty over the future of Jenson with the team that's maybe making people lose confidence. If Jenson does move to Williams next year, do you have a financial back-up plan to replace the sponsors that may be lost by his absence?

Richards: On the sponsorship side, what I would have said is that interest in the team has grown substantially over this year as obviously performance comes in. It is no rocket science to suggest that sponsors follow performance and natural budget cycles go in 12 month cycles, so I wasn't anticipating any significant increase or coverage until next year, despite the fact that we have, as you can see on the car, we have Epson here now, we introduced Ray-Ban not so long ago, there's another one that may possibly appear before the season's end as well, so we're actually looking for next year in the main and so the situation is very much as I described it earlier in the year.

Q: Are any of those major deals contingent on Jenson being in the team for next year?

Richards: No, I wouldn't do a contract based on an individual driver at all. That's not the way we do things.

Q: David, I want to ask you about tobacco sponsorship. There are obviously people talking about the July 31st deadline for next year. Could you explain what will happen after that, will you run without Lucky Strike branding for the rest of the season, will you run with it, who will become culpable because it's against the law in Britain, will someone be going to prison because of this, I mean, what will actually happen, it sounds naive but...

Richards: Let me explain this just very simply again. The law in England, well, basically the European Union put forward proposals on the tobacco legislation, tobacco advertising law, a couple of years ago. Each member state then has to put its own legislation in place. Great Britain, being very careful about these things and fairly pedantic, has rather gold plated some of the regulations and has, as a result, created a certain ambiguity in the legislation because the basic legislation was only intended to cover what went on in EU states, i.e. what we did within the European Union. It was never intended, and the government has recognised this, it was never intended to cover what we did outside the EU, for instance here in Japan or China or Brazil for that matter. And yet the way it is drafted at the moment could be interpreted to have that effect. So at the moment we are seeking clarification on that. I hope that clarification will come shortly and that will mean we can run outside Europe with our sponsors and advertising legitimately to the end of 2006, when the tobacco industry themselves have volunteered to remove their advertising. If that legislation doesn't get clarified then potentially we do have to remove the advertising after July next year at all races worldwide and the consequences of not doing that, for UK-based companies, registered in the UK, both the sponsor and the team, are a potential criminal offence.

Q: A question to the other three just to wrap up on that, even though we are saying tobacco is ending at the end of 2006 the GPWC and Marlboro have both said they will stay beyond that date. Do you think that the long-term involvement of tobacco sponsorship in Formula One is damaging the sport?

Stoddart: It is an interesting situation because I think we need to watch very carefully what happens post July 31st next year. I am quite sure that if we see Bernie or Jean Todt going to jail then you can rapidly see the demise of tobacco in Formula One. Having said that, I think now Philip Morris are perhaps in a different situation. The red and white is synonymous around the globe with their brand, they are probably the one company that could actually run unbranded but still get the benefit of the advertising, so I think they are in a slightly different situation and I would like to hear what the others have got to say post next year.

Q: Is it hurting Formula One, tobacco sponsorship, Peter?

Sauber: I don't understand the question.

Q: Does having tobacco sponsors staying in Formula One affect new sponsors coming into the sport? Does it affect the teams who don't run with tobacco sponsorship?

Sauber: No, I don't think so. You have a lot of people without tobacco advertising and people smoke more than the others: China, Denmark, for example, there are a lot of examples I think. It won't be a problem for Formula One

Tomita: We can understand the gradual movement to ban tobacco sponsors, but it is a fact that they are big sponsors supporting Formula One currently, so we don't like to stop the tobacco. But talking about Toyota, Toyota decided not to use tobacco sponsors.

Q: You cannot avoid hearing talk about the British Grand Prix and its future and the ongoing political games. Can we get from each of you your own take on what is happening to the race at Silverstone, with Bernie, with everything that is happening, like, with Nigel Mansell? What do you think is happening to the British Grand Prix? Will there be a race at Silverstone next year?

Stoddart: Yes. As I said, there will be a race. Anyone who wants to put their money on that is a pretty safe bet. Why is it all happening? One word: Politics.

Sauber: There are two sides. On one hand, I think 16 or 17 Grands Prix are enough, on the other hand Great Britain is the homeland of motorsport and I think it is important to have a British Grand Prix. Personally I like the track at Silverstone.

Tomita: I am sorry, I don't have much information about Silverstone, but everyone knows Silverstone is very famous and we would hope to keep it.

Richards: I am very confident there will be a solution found and we will be racing at Silverstone next year.


Q: To take that on a bit, are you expecting to be paid for the extra Grand Prix?

Richards: I think you should firstly understand the finances and how little we actually see, as teams, of the money that goes towards staging Grands Prix. I think, in round terms, Paul is probably better at the numbers than I am on this particular point, but if I remember correctly we get 30 million dollars shared between all the teams for 16 events, am I right Paul?

Stoddart: It's a little bit more than that, but it's probably simpler to put it in terms that we, the teams, share 23 percent of the Formula One cake and we then divide that disproportionately amongst ourselves, so when people talk about an 18th or 19th race there is a cost to the teams. It does vary enormously, but very few of us can go to a race for less than two million dollars, and in fact that is probably on the lower side. We do need to be compensated. But please don't anyone think of the teams being greedy. I think with 23 percent of the overall cake the teams are anything but greedy.

Q: Anything further to add?

Stoddart: There will be a Silverstone race.

Q: (Joe Saward - Grandprix.com) Paul and David, do you think it is a fair price that is being asked to hold a race at Silverstone, given the fact that the price goes up 10 percent every year?

Richards: Well, number one, I am not party to the actual negotiations or know the precise price, but clearly the price has got to be what is affordable, or what is the market rate, if you like. And to that extent, these events elsewhere in the world can afford whatever they pay, and logic dictates that there are a finite number of races that can be run then that is the market forces that determine the situation.

Stoddart: I think if you are wondering why David and I and perhaps these other gentlemen seem a little bit evasive on the question, the answer is we don't know how much each of the races contribute. We have a fair idea, but we don't see that information, so it is very hard for us to comment on something that we don't have exact information on.

Q: (Joe Saward) To just follow up, do you think that tradition is important in the sport or is market forces all that matter these days?

Richards: I think tradition is a very important aspect of Formula One but it is a balance at the end of the day. Everything moves on, everything evolves in life, whether it is a sporting event like Formula One or anything else, so it's finding that balance and I don't think anyone here would argue that the addition of Shanghai and that wonderful circuit there has benefited Formula One, but so does keeping some of the older circuits and keeping them going.

Stoddart: If I can add to that, keeping the teams going as well. I mean, you all think I would say that but to be absolutely honest I do actually fear for Formula One the day we have only half a dozen manufacturer teams, because I really just don't think that is keeping in the tradition of Formula One. Certainly the circuits, again, there are some very historical circuits. Sometimes facilities are used as an argument, I don't think that washes with most people because I think all of you sitting in front of me know the circuits that have good facilities and know the circuits that have bad facilities and most certainly Silverstone does not feature at either end of that scale, it's somewhere in the middle, so that's not much of an argument.

Tomita: Of course, we don't like to lose such a traditional Grand Prix event and, sorry to Bernie, but 10 percent increase every year is a little bit too big.

Sauber: Again, I like Silverstone and I think all the tradition is important for Formula One. But when you speak about Silverstone you speak about money and I think it is not only the money, it is also the time and I believe that 19 Grands Prix are too much.

Q: (Marc Surer - Premiere TV) We understand that if there is a cancellation of tomorrow, the organisers and the stewards can change the time schedule, for example they can change qualifying for Sunday morning, but they cannot change, as I understand, the way the qualifying happens, because if they change that they change the sporting regulations and that means all of you, all 10 teams, have to sign. So my question is, would you sign to change for qualifying?

Stoddart: I am probably the most experienced at trying to get all 10 teams to sign something and all I would say is good luck, because we have never managed to agree on anything else!

Q: Maybe it is a good chance to get the regulations for next year?

Stoddart: Yeah, it's possible, isn't it. Good idea mate! I've had all day to canvass it, haven't I?

Sauber: Why don't you start immediately, you need a minimum of two weeks!

Stoddart: Two years?

Tomita: We should always think about the customers, who are the fans who are coming to the circuit.

Stoddart: Good point.

Richards: I would just wait and see what is proposed tomorrow. Let's see what comes out of this, but hopefully they can put the qualifying on Sunday morning in the standard format that we have had all year.

Q: (James Allen - ITV) Paul, I don't know if you are aware of this guy Alex Shnaider, who is looking at coming into Formula One in 2006 (with Midland F1) and put a statement out today. One of the reasons he says he wants to come into Formula One is because he says he believes the franchises will be worth a lot of money in the future. I remember doing an interview with you about three or four years ago and you said the same thing to me. Your franchise isn't worth any more now than it was then. Have you given up hope that it will be worth more in the future or do you share your optimism that post-2007 there will be a gold rush of teams coming into Formula One, a cheaper Formula One?

Stoddart: There are two points there. I think I hold the track record for number of due diligences done - I am up to 23, including a 10 million Euro bounced cheque that sits on my office wall for one of the fly-by-nighters that didn't have the money to go through with it. So, no, I don't believe the franchises have a value. I think when we lost Prost and Arrows and now perhaps if we have lost Jaguar we have fallen below the minimum number. I think it is a battle for the rest of us to survive to the end of this Concorde agreement. We have all had so many false starts, you know, you guys saw the MOU (Memo of Understanding) signed last Christmas, before that it was the GPWC that was going to come in and save everyone. I suppose I have almost given up on anything happening before the end of 2007 and, as such, someone coming into Formula One saying that they value the franchise, um, it's good to hear but I have been down that road and it is not such an easy road to go down. I wish them good luck.

Q: (Byron Young - Speed Sport) David, you said earlier with a large degree of certainty that the British Grand Prix will be held next year. Is that based on more information you have had over the last 24 hours or just a gut feeling?

Richards: No, just my own personal feeling and my personal wish that it should happen next year. I think it's, you know, going back to the point before about traditional events and, you know, for us as a team and I am sure for many of the other British-based teams, the commercial impact of not having the event and the affect on all our staff as well is, to me, not acceptable. We need to find a solution.

Q: (Byron Young) Have you had any contact with Kim Cockburn and the Nigel Mansell consortium?

Richards: No, not a clue. Never heard of them.

Q: (Steve Cooper) At the last race Bernie said he would be happy to see all the independent teams out of the way and the manufacturers running three-car teams for the whole season. Could you clarify how that would work? What point do the grids have to get to before you have to run a third car? Who will pay for it? How would it be run? Is it paid for by Bernie or do you pay for it? Will you receive more money for it? How will it work? Has it been decided yet?

Stoddart: It is something to be clear on: it is not really for Bernie to say. Bernie does not run my business, I don't run Bernie's business. That was a personal opinion and I think enough has been said about it. Were the teams to fall below 20 cars, and we all assume that is 10 two-car entries, there is a mechanism in the existing Concorde agreement at which point there is a way of putting a third or two third cars up and running. Currently in the Concorde agreement, which obviously needs unanimity to change, which is something we can rarely achieve, it says those cars can't score points, that there is no money paid for them and that they can take no part in any formalities, so one would assume that in that event that we fell below 20 cars that we would get together and decide a way to go forward with the third cars. Now, I think also just to pick up on the point there, Bernie did not chastise all of the independent teams he made it very specifically directed towards Jordan and Minardi and he did not in any way, shape or form say anything about Peter, and nor should he because Peter has done probably the best job of any of us, let's just be clear on that. But I just think it would be a very sad day for Formula One if you do lose the independents, including Jaguar for that matter. If we fall below 20 cars it is not that team that has failed formula One, it is Formula One that has failed that team, and that is a very, very important point.



NOTE: Continuing the policy of a guest questioner, we have, this time, Eric Silbermann of Silbermann Says.

Q: Mark, we are coming to the penultimate race in a not very long and not very glorious career for the Jaguar team but it must be very difficult to keep the motivation going for these last two races. What's the mood like in the camp?

Mark WEBBER: China was very impressive, actually. The guys were in a good frame of mind. We did a good job there; I think it was as good as we could have done with that track layout and the whole situation with tyres and things, it was a good result for us, nice and reliable. Yeah, but even if everything is going well, this time of the year is hard for most teams. It's a long season, any job you have, as a journalist or a photographer or whatever in Formula One, it is a long season, but I think there are a few offers floating around so the team are still in a pretty good frame of mind and looking forward to finishing with a high. These guys don't know how to work any other way, you know, you have to work as hard as you can and hope we can have a good finish to the season.

Q: Now, I gather you have the new chassis here this weekend. What's it like, and how come Christian ran it in the last race rather than you?

Webber: I tested it in Monza and we made a decision that I would stick with what I knew for China and Christian decided he would take it, so I have got it here. It's not a chassis that is, you know, two or three tenths of a lap quicker, there's probably not much in it at all. It's probably more looking for next year for the team, so it's an interim chassis, if you like; it's not a big step over this year's car.

Q: Of course, it will be an interim to nothing now...

Webber: Not necessarily, not if the team is bought by someone who is passionate about going forward with the whole team next year. So, it's not an interim at all.

Q: You are all done and dusted, you are moving over to Williams. They say the secret to getting on there is having a good relationship with Frank and Patrick, so have you taken any advice from your fellow countryman Alan Jones, who always got on famously with them?

Webber: Well, I saw Alan in China and he was full of advice on how to deal with Frank and Patrick and it's nothing that really surprised me, of course. They are racers, they're straight up and down, good people I believe, and that is why I am so motivated to go and drive there for the future. It's a dream for me, to drive for Williams, an absolute dream. The team has had a tough season this year, for lots of different reasons, and next year we have to go forward together. It's a great opportunity for me and getting on with Frank and Patrick, I am sure the lap times will help, that's one of the easiest ways to get on with them if you are performing in the car.

Q: Does it bother you that at the moment you are not quite sure who your team-mate is going to be there next year?

Webber: Not really. I am not really worried about who will be in the other car, that's how it is. I think it would be good if we had Jenson, for Williams, but yeah, I just hope it is settled sooner rather than later.

Q: Takuma, everyone assumes you do well here, which you did last year and the previous time, because you are Japanese but I gather you have hardly ever raced here. Is that the case?

Takuma SATO: Well, Suzuka is very special, but as you said I don't have as much experience as anybody has because although I drove in the Suzuka Racing School when I started motor racing when I was 20, the next time I raced here really was when I raced in Formula One in 2002 and surprisingly, or accidentally, I had a big opportunity to race again here last year as a third driver, but really that's all. This is going to be special again, because this is the only circuit I have been to and raced three times so it is probably better than the other circuits.

Q: I gather earlier this week in Tokyo the team confirmed you will be driving for them in 2005, which must make you feel very good, but at the moment it looks like you are the team leader. Have you got any thoughts about who you would like as your team-mate next year?

Sato: Not really. At the moment we are just concentrating on this Grand Prix and then Brazil, obviously, this season. It is not surprising they confirmed me for next year because obviously I had a three-year contract already at the beginning of 2003, one year of testing and obviously second and third as a race driver option and automatically it should be confirmed, so to me it is not a surprise. But it is good to have it confirmed now because the team really needs stability through the development programme, so I am looking forward to the winter testing and to next year.

Q: Now the big problem you have had this year has been your engines, and it's a mystery to all of us because I think you have had six failures including one in China and Jenson has had hardly any. Nobody seems to come up with a good reason for why this is happening to you, is it something to do with your driving style or the way you use traction control or are they trying different things in your engine to Jenson's?

Sato: No, I mean, everything is the same. At the very beginning of this year our approach of traction control and engine management was different as every driver has a different driving style. But because I kept having failures we decided to try exactly the same traction control and the way to shift down the engine and everything. We tried it but still had it (problems) and that is why we call it a mystery because I didn't know that and Honda obviously couldn't prove what was the problem and also we had to move forward. So as we developed, we fixed some problems. By the middle of the season, I think we were confident with reliability, but unfortunately I had another engine failure at the last race in Shanghai, which was nothing to do with specification probably just something unfortunate. But no, Honda is now confident they are reliable and also we had very successful testing at Jerez last week so we should be able to be very strong again here.

Q: And some general thoughts about this weekend. You will be under more media attention, more pressure, but have more support from the fans than the other 19 drivers. How do you feel about that?

Sato: It feels great, always great to come back to your home Grand Prix. Every single driver who has a home Grand Prix is going to find it really special for him. After Shanghai, I came straight back to Japan, had a relaxed time with my family and all my friends but also had lots and lots of attention from the media and we had so many functions. But it is good for us because Formula One is always enthusiastic in Japan in the past but I think this year, it seems to be the people who had never heard about F1 or motor racing or were never interested, who have started to become very interested, which is very important for us, particularly in Japan, and if you look at Suzuka this weekend there will probably be a lot of fans coming, 160,000 or whatever. So it is all great news and, of course, we will have extra pressure but also we will have extra support, which is great.


Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) Mark, you have always praised the whole team, the personnel in Jaguar. If a potential buyer came to you and said ?why should we buy this team?' what would you tell them?

Webber: Good question. The depth that we have actually got on the floor now in terms of talented guys and continuity within the factory there, each department works very well together, there are areas you can improve but in general it is, if you are a buyer coming into Formula One, and I am not just saying this to try and help the team, honestly, I want to see the guys around next year, personally, but also I know I have been very lucky to work with the guys I have this year. There are some very clever guys there and, through trying circumstances and a lot of adversity, they still absolutely give their blood and guts to the situation so they are talented boys and that is why with some stability and some passion, if that did come along, then the team could look to the future and perform to a very good level in Formula One.

Q: (Marc Surer - Premiere TV) Mark, what do you think safety-wise about this circuit. After all the run-off areas at the last circuit, now we come to an old fashioned circuit. What do you think about it?

Webber: Again, another good question. It's a track that is very, very quick, there are some quick corners in places, generally if a driver makes a mistake then he should be okay but if there are failures then that is, of course, the big problem. We saw McNish here a few years ago and I think 130R has been revised since that crash but, yeah, we need to constantly keep looking at these. I am going to go for a walk around the track this afternoon and actually inspect the circuit on behalf of the GPDA, we take it in turns, the drivers, to have a look around and see what it looks like. But the FIA are doing a good job, we work together with (them and) the drivers on areas that we think are on the edge, but this track is one of them that has a few places where you can go in pretty hard. But the drivers know that, there are quick corners, but you are right, it's an old track, it has been the same layout for many years. The run-off areas have been fudged around a little bit to try to help the situation but it's quite quick in places so we need to look at it.

Q: As an extension to that question, you are going to probably be seeing it in wet conditions as well this weekend. What are your feelings about that?

Sato: I think it depends on the Typhoons, which way they go, and if they hit Japan then there will be lots of rain. We experienced a few weeks ago that we were hit by a big Typhoon and all of turn one and turn two was completely flooded. We don't want to see that, because if it happens we have to stop the race completely and that would be sad. But if it is just normal rain, we should be able to have a good race here because we had a few years here when there have been wet races but it is always very exciting in Suzuka and there are none of the big dangerous places, as far as I remember, at this circuit in the wet.

Webber: Yeah, normally the spray is a big problem for the drivers and, like Takuma says, if it rains very, very heavily it is the same at every track, the aquaplaning level is the thing that stops us from running and then the visibility is the next thing, so when we are running as a group it should be okay. It's tricky for all of us, but yeah, it should be fine.

Q: (Dan Knutson) Takuma, you talked about the rising interest of the fans and the media. What is it like for you now to go and walk through the streets of Tokyo? Can you walk through the streets of Tokyo?

Sato: Yes, I can. I am a human, same as you, so I still go shopping, eating, restaurants, go to hotels. People do recognise me sometimes, which is great because they just give me a cheer and I really like it. I feel it is a really great support from the fans and that is a great feeling.

Q: (Dan Knutson) But do you not always get surrounded by autograph people?

Sato: It does happen occasionally, if you come to this circuit it is a big problem, so I have to go away from the fans, unfortunately, because we would like to give them all the time but it is sometimes very difficult. But basically I treat them very equally.

Q: (Dan Knutson) But in Tokyo are you always asked for autographs or can you pretty much always walk okay without being chased all the time?

Sato: Not really. I didn't have a chance to walk in Tokyo, to be honest, but I cannot see them following me all the time. If they ask me, I do give them autographs.

Q: (Yuuki Ishihara - Tokyo Sankei Sports) Takuma, how confident are you about a wet race? I hear there is a 60 percent chance of rain on Sunday. Would it be better for you if it rains on Sunday?

Sato: It is very difficult; it depends on how much rain we have. Obviously in Spa qualifying it was very difficult to choose the right tyre on the condition of the circuit because we had a lot of spray on it and we thought it needed full wet but actually the intermediate was miles faster. But we learned from that, we had another experience, so we should be able to judge the right tyre for it. Obviously the key point is our competitors. It might be that they have a really big wind that we have to forecast. But certainly for the damp conditions we should be very strong so in those circumstances, I think we would be very confident.


Q: Jenson, here we are at Suzuka which is a great track with average facilities and across the other side of the world we have Silverstone which fits the same description. As a British driver what's your view on the fact that there might not be a British Grand Prix next year?

Jenson BUTTON: From a driver's point of view, it's disappointing. Your home Grand Prix is very very special. I have loved Formula One for many years, from when I was a youngster and the only race I used to watch was the British Grand Prix because it was my home Grand Prix and it would be devastating, I think, not just for myself but for all the fans in the United Kingdom, if we didn't have a Grand Prix. For me, Silverstone is a great circuit and if it's not on the calendar I think we would be losing a great race. There are obviously lots of reasons why it might not be there but that is not for me to comment on.

Q: Now you made your decision to switch to Williams a long time ago, and now we're nearly at the end of the season. A lot of bookies are allowing you to bet on races and championships, putting Ferrari out of the equation. Now if we do that you're the World Champion and so is your team. In the time since you made that decision, have you had any second thoughts about leaving BAR-Honda for Williams?

Button: I am not going to comment on that because this is not the correct place to be commenting on that, I don't think. On the 16th October, we will know where I am next year or we'll know the decision of the CRB (Contract Recognition Board) and then I can talk about it a little bit more but at the moment I don't think it's correct for myself or either team.

Q: Yeah, but I am not asking you to say where you're going, I'm just saying in your own mind, we know you want to go to Williams, that's fair, but have you looked at the performance of your team and that of Williams?

Button: I haven't compared them, but I think that in the last few races, as a team, we have done a good job. We have had some very good results but that doesn't change anything.

Q: This is obviously a sort of home race for your team with the Honda engine but I guess you get to play second fiddle to Takuma here in terms of all the attention that he gets. Is that nice for you? Is it a bit of a weekend off from the media side of things, the PR, the promotions and everything?

Button: It's still a busy weekend; it is for all the drivers, but especially Taku. I have been watching him so far today and it's been very busy for him and we will be able to see how he performs under pressure. I think he will do well, but it is always very tough, your home Grand Prix, especially how much of a following he must have after a reasonably good year. So it is going to be tough for him but we will see what he is made of.

Q: Now there is a lot of talk of a lot of rain heading this way for the weekend. This is a bit of an old fashioned track; it looks quite dangerous in the dry... Maybe Jarno, after Jenson, would like to comment on it as well. What are your views on racing here on a wet track?

Button: I think on any circuit you are a little bit more nervous racing if it is wet because you can't see 20 meters... even five metres in front of the car because there is so much spray if you are in traffic. Wherever, it's pretty scary and I don't think this is any different. I do enjoy driving in the wet, just not when you're in the middle of a pack. I think we had a very good race in Monza - I know it wasn't wet wet but it was damp and the car seemed to work very well. So I think we will be quick here if it is wet but again, for the drivers in the race, it's not a nice situation if it rains.

Q: Jarno, would you like to start by giving us your views on that as well?

Jarno TRULLI: As Jenson said, it is never nice to be racing in wet conditions, especially here in Japan at Suzuka. As you said, it is an old fashioned circuit, it probably needs more run-off areas but we have been quite committed during this season, trying to improve what we have but we are a little bit limited, there is not much space we can gain. Naturally it's a very high speed circuit so none of us will enjoy it as much as we can enjoy the track in dry conditions. That's all I can say.

Q: And you've only tested the car twice so far, the Toyota. Where are you in your learning of the new car?

Trulli: Pretty much zero! When you jump in a new team and you go to a race after three days' testing it's not going to be easy, especially here in Japan at Suzuka and especially with a wet track. But I am very confident and I am motivated to do well because the team is nice, I have had a very warm welcome and all we have to get is experience.

Q: And there is a lot of extra pressure for you in some ways because you are coming in from nothing and this is Toyota's home race as well.

Trulli: It doesn't matter where you are, what you are doing, there is always pressure and it's part of the job. It's going to be a home race for Toyota and we all want to show good things but obviously we know our limits and we will try our best for the weekend.

Q: Both of you have experienced the pleasures of being sacked from Renault at some stage. Jarno, looking back now, it's a few weeks on now, do you think the whole thing could have been handled better by the team?

Trulli: I think neither of us has been sacked, to be honest. I've just left the team.

Q: Alright maybe I used the wrong word, but do you think the situation could have been handled better?

Trulli: I am not going (to comment) on this matter any more because I think everything has been said - a lot - and I'm looking forward to this new experience, new adventure and we're pleased to be joining the Toyota team, that's all I can say.

Q: I guess you must have watched the Chinese Grand Prix on television. Do you think Jacques Villeneuve did a better job than you could have done?

Trulli: Jacques did what he had been expected to do. He has been away for a long time before driving the car again and it is never easy when you stop for a year to jump in a new car and then do an extremely good result. I think Jacques did what he could do and you can always argue that he could do better or not, but I am sure he would improve his performance nowadays because he's got a bit more experience in the car. I can only say that it was nice to watch the Grand Prix from the television.

Q: Next year you're staying with the team and you have another new team-mate. You've always got on well with your team-mates in general. How do you think you're going to get on with Ralf Schumacher?

Trulli: Well, to be honest, we already started pretty well. The other day I met him at the hotel, and just stopped to have a chat with him, telling him about what I thought of the team, the little experience that I've had in these first few days testing and honestly I cannot see any problems, any reasons and even Jenson has had quite a good relationship (with him) in the past. It depends on the way you approach people. It depends on what you expect from people. We are not all the same and we have somehow to deal with the positive and negative things. We cannot be nice for everyone. I am a very nice person but I'm sure not everyone likes me in the paddock.


Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Jarno, how difficult is it to move from one team to another team technically?

Trulli: It is a bit complicated because everything changes, from a different seating position, the car, the team, you know, it's all new, but actually a driver is meant to be a driver and can drive anything he has. It's just a question of time to take the car to the limit, experience and the team so far has been really nice to me. I've had a very warm welcome and it is not going to be an easy weekend because I think I moved pretty quickly. But it is a new adventure and in all adventures you are very motivated because you can see people are happy, you can see people are positive, and at the moment I am really happy to be here. Obviously I'm looking forward to working at this Japanese Grand Prix even if I know it's going to be difficult for me.

Q: (Marc Surer - Premiere TV) Jenson, you have been very close to the Ferraris many times, but not able to beat them. In which area are you losing out? What is the Ferrari's secret?

Button: It is something we really don't know. They seem to be just strong in every area, really, a step above everyone in every area I would say. They are a very complete team, they have a lot of experience and they have just chipped away at it over the years.

Q: (Marc Surer) If you follow the Ferrari, can you feel where they are gaining?

Button: For me, as I said, they seem to be gaining in every area. I don't think we should have been able to beat them in the last two or three races because they are quicker than us, and it is a better car. I think that we are a little bit closer now than we have been during the season, but there is still a way to go. Over one lap we are relatively quick, but on a long run we are about half a second off of the Ferraris at most circuits now.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi) Jarno, coming back to the other question, is it difficult to set up the cockpit, how do you find the different steering wheels?

Trulli: Yeah, when you drive a Formula One car it is not like sitting in a road car and just driving it. At 300 kph, things happen very quickly, you have to have a good feeling with the car, you've got to be extremely confident and you've got to have everything in place so you know which buttons you have to press in which corner and what you have to do. And also, the visual things, when you're sitting in a new car, despite the fact that you are so concentrated on driving and the feeling of the car, everything has to be quite natural and it takes a bit of time before you can settle in. I've had three days' testing in Jerez which went pretty well. On the last day, I did about 111 laps so I think I made a good step from when I first started testing the car at Silverstone, but it's never enough, especially when you're driving such a quick car.

Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) Jenson, Jacques Villeneuve is back, he says he's a changed guy and he seems a lot happier. He says all the bitterness has gone and so on. Have you talked to him at all and how does he seem to you?

Button: He seems like he is very happy to be back, definitely. He said the same thing when we were going around on the (drivers' parade) truck in Shanghai. Everyone wants him to be bitter Jacques but he's got no reason to be like that, he's here to race and do the best job he can. He seems to be fit, I think he was consistent throughout the last race and it is good to have him back in Formula One I think. With a bit more experience in the car, I think he could do reasonably well, but it might be too late for them.

Q: (Dan Knutson) As Marc Surer said, you're getting closer and closer to the Ferraris, at the last race you were one second away from victory. At this track, do you think you might be closer or further? How do you see the race going?

Button: This is a very similar circuit to Silverstone and Ferrari were very quick there and McLaren were also very competitive. So I don't know. It is going to be a tough race, I think there's going to be quite a few cars up the front, it's going to be very difficult to say that we are going to have an advantage or we're not. We have got to wait and see really, but the McLarens and Ferraris, we know, will be competitive. We obviously want to win here, but our main aim is to beat Renault, so it's a tough one. We've got to look behind as well as forward.

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