AUSTRALIAN GP - FRIDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE

FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 4 MARCH 2005

TEAM PRINCIPALS: Pierre DUPASQUIER (Michelin), Nick FRY (BAR), Christian HORNER (Red Bull), Colin KOLLES (Jordan) and Hiroshi YASUKAWA (Bridgestone)

Q: In the end, I believe, you all signed the document supporting Minardi. The Stewards have made their own decision. What is your feeling?

Christian HORNER: I am happy to state that I am delighted that the Stewards have taken it on. As far as I am concerned, the FIA are the regulators of Formula One and I don't see why the teams should be involved in saying whether someone should break the rules or not. The rules are the rules at the end of the day it is ultimately down to the regulators to police that.

Nick FRY: I think it is good that the teams eventually all stuck together and tried to be supportive of Paul, but at the end of the day the referee is the referee and the sport does need to have an independent referee and I think they made a brave decision and good on them.

Colin KOLLES: Basically, I have the same opinion. We didn't sign the paper today. We just said we wont protest against Minardi because we think that rules are rules. I think that Jordan was in a worse situation than Minardi in December and January. We managed to bring the cars confirming to the 2005 regulations and so I think it should be possible for Minardi.

Q: Colin, for you, it is quite a jump to go from your own Formula 3 team to Formula One, and much the same for Christian. What are your feelings and how are you getting on with the job?

Kolles: I don't have any problems until now. We will see in the future. For the moment, it is quite okay.

Q: Is the team going to change in the future?

Kolles: The biggest change is that we have some motivation in the team now. It was low in December and that is the biggest change. In respect of personnel there is no major change.

Q: You have lost Mark Smith, however... Are you looking for a new technical director?

Kolles: I think we have a good choice for this.

Q: How do you think the drivers got on today?

Kolles: Yes, it is a transitional year for us and we are not looking only at this year, but also at the future. We have to improve on today. We are not happy with our positions. We will do some improvements in times and I think they did a good job.

Q: Nick, new to the job as it were... How much have things changed for you?

Fry: New to the job but not new to the team and worked with David (Richards) the last four years, the last three as MD. A lot of it is much the same with additional responsibility of doing things like this. Having Honda on board as 45 per cent owners has made life much easier and a lot of barriers have come down and communication is much easier and we can draw on their resources and I am having a blast.

Q: But you were second last year so ...

Fry: Yes, different objectives. Obviously last three years we've gone from eighth to fifth to second and it has been a great improvement but we didn't win a race and we were a country mile behind Ferrari. So, we shouldn't pat ourselves too much on the back. Our objective this year is to win a race even if we have to compromise our championship position somewhat, we will make the trade-off. It is good fun. We have a highly-motivated team and two hugely-motivated drivers and a great team spirit. We will go for it.

Q: You and Christian have a marketing strategy for a fun factor for Formula One. Is that going to carry on and develop?

Fry: From our side, we have to recognise that we are competing against each other, which is clearly key to this, but we are competing as a sport with a whole bunch of other sporting activities like watching Desperate Housewives or American Idol, or whatever it happens to be. And I think there is an increasing realization that while Formula One is very popular our school reports tend to say 'could do better'. And that's what we have to do. Adding more entertainment and listening to the fans, I am glad we have experts like Red Bull, a marketing company, really involved. We can learn a lot from them.

Q: Is that your strategy?

Horner: What to have some fun? Yes, well Red Bull has a very clear objective. They want to appeal to the man in the grandstand and that is what this activity is all about. And coupled with that we have a clear objective of what we want to achieve on the circuit and one has to work hand in hand with the other. Red Bull obviously is a marketing driven company and has interesting plans for this year.

Q: And for yourself? It's a big step up from Formula 3000...

Horner: Yes, that's why I've got names on the shirts so I can recognise who all the people are to be honest. The philosophy remains the same. It is a people sport at the end of the day and if you surround yourself with good people that are motivated, focused and share a common objective, that is what it is all about. It is how you react to problems and deal with them. I will use the methods that I utilized at Arden here at Red Bull.

Q: And today, was it a surprise for you?

Horner: It was a positive start. I got used to seeing Vitantonio's times at the top of the sheet last year but there were some impressive names beneath him today. Obviously the drivers were working to different programmes. We are happy with the progress we made and we think we are in reasonable shape.

Q: Hiroshi-san, you have done less testing than your rivals. Is that a problem for you?

Hiroshi YASUKAWA: I don't think so. Of course, they can do a lot of mileage. We can do just a small one. But our engineers and team work very well. I believe our quality from our testing is very good. And I believe we can achieve well this year with the new regulations.

Q: Would you like another team, as you had with Sauber last year?

Yasukawa: Of course, if I was concerned about the balance of this field, it is better to take some other team. But our company always respects contracts.

Q: This time last year we came here after a test at Imola that showed Ferrari were in the ballpark. Have you had a similar indication prior to this year?

Yasukawa: No, not dramatically, but I believe our engineers are producing a very strong tyre and always we are concerned about the safety issues and this year durability is very important. Until last year, the maximum was around 100 kilometres, but this year with two qualifying sessions and 300 kilometres race distance I think the philosophy must be changed. But this is a good challenge for us.

Q: Pierre, you have the other problem with so many teams. Is it complicated with so many?

Pierre DUPASQUIER: First I apologise for being late. I didn't see the time running. I was going too fast, I guess! In fact, yes it is a problem. But we like that and we have a lot of data and results and we get a lot of opportunity to see what is going on which, with a single team, you cannot understand. That is what we believe. You only know what the package gives you, but you don't know where it comes from. Good or bad!

Q: But Ferrari don't seem to have that problem.

Dupasquier: We can all have our own view on that. We believe that, and you can remember two years ago when Ferrari had that narrow tyre and they pushed our friends from Bridgestone to make a tyre that was ridiculous, so at the end of the day they understood that and after seeing some examples they decided to ask for a wider tyre, for example.

Q: So what is the tyre challenge in these new regulations?

Dupasquier: The challenge we will see more on Sunday, but to go from Spain in the winter in cold temperatures, Jerez, for example, to Melbourne or Sepang, with high temperatures, we have done a lot of simulations for the approach to that kind of move from virtual to reality. Only facts on Sunday night will tell us the right and the wrong.

Q: Will Sepang be one of the most severe?

Dupasquier: It is demanding circuit, it is true, and the temperature is another factor, where degrading is seen to be better on Sunday than on Friday as usual. Yes it is a challenge but we know how to make tyres that last for 300,000 miles so we should do it.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) Colin, tell us about the new team owner, Alex Shnaider? How much is he involved in the day-to-day running of the team, and also the larger decisions of the team?

Kolles: Well, on the day-to-day running he is not involved because we are involved in this, but we are reporting to him. I think that we have quite a good relation between us and we discuss matters together and we decide together. He is involved in major decisions and I have a daily contact with Alex Shnaider.

Q: (Dominique Fugere - Le Journal de Montreal) To the three team principals. Two of you Nick and Christian said that the fun factory has to be brought out, that you're working for the man in the stands but with the new rules today we saw very little traffic, ten, 12, 15 laps in practice. The people in the grandstand didn't get to see many Formula One cars, and with no pole on Saturday. How do you think the public will react to those changes.

Fry: I think that we're really looking towards the future rather than what's going on at the moment and I think it could be improved. From my personal point of view it's not optimal and it would be rather confusing if I were a customer of Formula One. The work that Christian and I trying to do with some of the other teams is redefine where we go from here after the end of the Concorde Agreement. We've got to look forwards and we've got to look outwards, towards with competing with other disciplines, other sports and other activities and we all want to be successful and certainly Honda are in this for the long run. This is not just a short term activity and what we want to do is built the popularity to reach everyone's objectives, so our objectives are rather longer term than just commenting on what we should do tomorrow, but I think there's a commonly held belief that we probably haven't found the optimal solution yet.

Horner: I would agree with that latter statement that the optimal situation isn't there yet regarding the racing. It will be very interesting to see how Sunday unfolds and to see with new regulations with the single tyre rule and then also in Malaysia in two weeks time, to see who's around at the end of that race. So I think we need to reserve judgement until we've seen it in action and just keep an open mind really.

Kolles: Try to have some more fun for sure, but I think that they are more professional in this sector. Red Bull is a marketing machine. For sure we want to increase the show and bring in more spectators at a race track and to have more people on TV and to improve the sport. And we have to try all the best to achieve this. This is for sure our aim because this is the future of the sport.

Fry: Is the hat part of the team gear, Colin?

Kolles: Yes, everyone gets one. You want one? I will save you one.

Q: (Dominique Fugere - Le Journal de Montreal) All three of you seem to agree that the optimal situation is not here. Do you have any ideas to bring about that optimal solution?

Fry: I think the answer is no, not the ones that I would be prepared to throw out. I think that frankly this is part of the problem, is that some of the solutions and some of the changes that are made really don't have the level of analysis that they should do, and I that that knee jerk reactions are exactly the wrong thing to do. This is a big sport, lots of money involved, lots of people involved, lots of livelihoods and I think we should maybe a bit more considered in judgments rather than just chucking out stuff. I don't think we're short of ideas but it's a matter of developing stuff which is properly researched and properly thought through rather than just coming up with stuff on the hoof which sometimes doesn't have the required outcome and ends up costing even more money which is completely counterproductive.

Q: (Fritz-Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Question to Colin. Colin, you said earlier on that you made the correct decision in terms of your technical department. You could expand on that please? Who heads it, how it works? Who's in what positions?

Kolles: We will announce at the right time, please understand this, because the situation with Mark Smith is not clear at all. From our side at least. This is what I can tell you. There are some announcements made, maybe he signed some other contract. We still have a contract with Mark Smith, that is the fact.

Q: (Dom Taylor - F1 Racing) Speaking to people at BAR, you get the impression that over the winter the Honda takeover is happening quicker than many people expected it to happen, or certainly the influence of Honda is growing quite quickly. When are we likely to see a team called Honda in Formula One and is this process perhaps being accelerated by the July 31st tobacco sponsorship deadline?

Fry: Ok, a variety of questions. I'm a bit surprised at what you say in terms of accelerating Honda involvement because there's really not been that much change. Mr Tanaka who was previously based at Bracknell where the engines are built in the UK is now alongside me in the office next door and there are a couple of other extra people but apart from that, frankly there's been that much change and I think the commonly held view is that the changes have been for the good because people on site, we can make decisions that much quicker than we could before. I think all that has been positive. There isn't any intention at the moment to change the name of the team or for Honda to own all of the team. British American Tobacco are passionate about supporting the sport and at the moment, our assumption is that we are not going to do anything different after July. We don't think the British government ever intended for the so-called extra territoriality to have the effect that some people predict. We've consistently asked for clarification and no clarification has been given, so where sit at the moment we are just going to continue, or planning to continue as we are. As far as BAT involvement, it will make no difference whatsoever. Our funding is now semi-independent of that and BAT is committed to the team. I think we are probably in a lucky and unique position that we've got two completely blue chip partners as 55 and 45 per cent shareholders so our future is secure and for us the objective is to win World Championships, simple as that.

Q: (Niki Takeda - Formula PA) Question for Christian Horner. Dr Kolles has confirmed to us that he had signed the paper. Can you tell us whether you have signed, or that the signature still belongs to Tony Purnell?

Horner: Obviously I was not party to the discussions that took place in Shanghai - I believe - last year where Jaguar Racing undertook a commitment to Minardi. I stood by that commitment that had been made, although, as I say, not being party to those discussions, I can't comment on what happened there. I was just a little surprised that technical regulations being handed to the teams to deal with when it should, in my view, it's clearly the role of the regulator and the FIA.

Q: (Anthony Rowlinson - Autosport) Could you clarify the remark about Mark Smith, because you put out a statement last week saying that he was now your new deputy technical director?

Horner: As far as I am concerned he will be joining the company imminently but Colin's comments today are obviously the first I have heard of anything to the contrary.

Q: (Anthony Rowlinson - Autosport) I just wonder if Colin Kolles could perhaps clarify from your side?

Kolles: Well, we will clarify that situation, maybe not in front of the journalists. He has a very clear contract. I'm not supervising somebody if he's signing two or three or four or five contracts. Everybody has to decide for himself. If he works professionally or unprofessionally. What kind of statements they make or don't make. So it's a question for me of dealing in a proper way, in a professional way.

Q: (Fritz-Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Christian, you are obviously aware of the fact that at this stage, even before the July 31st cut-off, wherever tobacco marketing is banned, the tobacco-sponsored teams will run an alternative livery of some kind. The way that I understand it, your product is banned in certain countries, one of which does run a Grand Prix. What will you be doing then?

Horner: I don't believe there is any advertising ban in that country. Certainly Red Bull logos run in France and Magny Cours which I guess you're referring to, in previous years. I'm not aware of that being any different in 2005.

Q: (Fritz-Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) So there's a product ban in the country, but you can market it there, is that it?

Horner: That's how I understand the legislation to be.

Q: (Niki Takeda - Formula PA) Pierre, there is one familiar face missing in your squad Pascal Vasselon. What is the current status of him and is it true that some teams are interested in his services?

Dupasquier: You know in a big company like Michelin people are moving all the time and every week we see a sheet of paper that says that a person has been moved to another place and it is permanent. I personally don't think it is right because it goes too far sometimes and they don't adjust to the job and we have to change. But that is the way it goes in big companies. As to the other parts of the question, we don't know yet what Pascal will do. He has been assigned a job in the United States and he is preparing for that. I know he loves Formula One and the sport as well. It is up to him. I have no idea what will happen.

Q: Are you satisfied with the regulations in terms of advertising of products?

Yasukawa: Regulations are regulations. We are not decision-makers for them. We are very happy to stay in Formula One and we are not worried about these regulations.

Dupasquier: I do not understand the question too well. Is it about the relationship between the regulations and the advertising?

Q: Maybe without the tyre-changes at the pit-stops...

Dupasquier: Our job is to develop the tyre, it is not to keep stopping in the pits and hoping that something will happen, that a mechanic will be hurt by the car or some rubbish like that. We can only follow the regulations. If they ask us to do one or two Grands Prix fine, we can do it. Or we quit. If we don't like it.

Q: (Doodson): Are you satisfied that the new regulations can reduce the danger of sudden tyre deflations and are this year's tyres more durable than last year's?

Dupasquier: Experience will tell. Yes is the answer to the questions in both parts. The regulations are going the right way.

Yasukawa: Whatever the regulations we have to comply to them and to the safety issues. It is very important. This time we have to produce long-distance tyres. This case, we are concerned about them in construction and compound in relation to the safety issues. I think we shall do our best for the safety issues.

Dupasquier: The tyres now are really safety parts and when you introduce a tyre to the track it is up to you and your testing to prove that the tyre will do two or three times a job. Not a tyre that may do the distance, but may explode. That's a total joke. So when you get an accident, you try to find out where it came from. Like last year at Spa, we found out by the way. Who can imagine that we would bring a tyre that would just go the distance? No way.

Q: (Anthony Rowlinson): Flavio Briatore suggested only this week a more sensible way to run Grand Prix weekends would be to have testing on Friday, qualifying on Saturday and racing on Sunday. It seems a very sensible idea. What are your reactions?

Kolles: I think he is right.

Fry: I think anything that moves towards less testing and focus on racing ... I think we often hear complaints about doing 19 races, but there are Nascars doing I think 38. And frankly doing things in front of fans and customers seems to be a better way to conduct the sport so generally that would be a positive mood.

Horner: Its perfectly rational at the end of the day. It's all about giving value to the spectator and it is still a spectator sport at the end of the day and condensing running in that manner could be very attractive.

Q: If that is the case why is it so difficult to make it happen?

Fry: You've got three of us here and you need ten to agree. I think it's a good idea and Flavio has a lot of ideas in that respect because he is focused on the marketing and the good competition side of it. If it is exactly the right solution, I don't know. I think we need to take a bit of time as we are at the moment, certainly among the nine teams, to determine exactly that format.

Q: (Mike Doodson) : On the basis of what you have seen today, who will the race on Sunday?

Horner: It won't be Vitantonio Liuzzi.

Kolles: And it wont be Robert Doornbos.

Fry: We will be disappointed if we are not on the podium. We expected the McLarens to be strong and they are so if it is one of the McLarens we wont be surprised.

Horner: I think Nick is right. McLaren look strong today. Ferrari are there. Renault's performance in the winter has been impressive so it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.


THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 03 MARCH 2005

DRIVERS: Jenson BUTTON (BAR), Narain KARTHIKEYAN (Jordan), Juan Pablo MONTOYA (McLaren), Michael SCHUMACHER (Ferrari) and Mark WEBBER (Williams)

Q: Narain, welcome. Everything is a little bit new for you. How do you come to your first Grand Prix? Excited? Nervous?

Narain KARTHIKEYAN: Well, I'm obviously excited. It's my first Grand Prix, I'm the first Indian in Formula One so lots of people are watching and I'm here to do the best I can.

Q: What does it mean to India to have a Grand Prix driver?

Karthikeyan: India is really happy for it, for sure and there's a lot of support back home. But people kept saying that I'm here for commercial reasons but what I would like to say is that in British Formula 3 I was a race winner and also in the World series so speed-wise I'm not bad, I think. It's going to be quite good.

Q: Is it all very new for you?

Karthikeyan: Yes, it's new and it's very different from what I'm used to but I'm quite excited to be here and hopefully I can do a good job.

Q: Jenson, this time last year we saw what we thought last year was a slightly different Jenson Button, you'd taken steps forward. Have you done the same thing again?

Jenson BUTTON: I don't really know. I've just been doing the best possible job I've been able to do in testing. I think everything's run reasonably smoothly as far as winter testing goes, so yeah, I'm happy to be back in Melbourne and looking forward to the first race.

Q: Are there particular areas that you have been concentrating on in preparation for this season?

Button: No, it's the normal areas really. It's the same every year. I think with experience you might learn a little more what you have to do, but no, it's pretty similar to last year. Obviously we had a good year last year and so we're just building on that at the moment. As I said, it's been a pretty good winter testing, a few little issues but I think we've shown how strong we are as a team and got through them and we're looking pretty good for the first race.

Q: Obviously there's been a lot of talk about tyre management, how vital is that going to be this season. What are your own feelings about that?

Button: It's something we worked on a lot over the winter. I've been doing a lot of long runs to see what the tyres are doing and yeah, it's going to be a very different race for everyone. It's not going to be three or four sprints. It's going to be an endurance race, really.

Q: Do you feel your style of driving is good for that?

Button: Hopefully. We will have to wait and see, but it should work well.

Q: Have you gone through the drivers and said 'well, he's not going to be very good on tyres etc.' Have you done that?

Button: It's very difficult to say. It's difficult to know what people's tyres are like after a race. We don't get that much information so we've just got to wait and see.

Q: Mark you've been very much involved in the build-up...

Mark WEBBER: It's my first interview today! (Laughter)

Q: You've been very much involved in the 10th anniversary of this Grand Prix and you've done the Sydney bridge demonstration and yesterday on the streets as well. What's it been like, being involved in all of this?

Webber: Well, of course it gets bigger every year, starting with Minardi and then the two years of Jaguar and then coming to Williams. Each year the expectations get higher, which is only natural. There's no question about it, it's going to be an exciting year. I think the expectations of the fans is two things of course. They are happy to have an Australian racing of course but also they expect high things, because the media of course is excited as well and the media have really no one else to write about which is also dangerous for me but I'm lucky, I don't read too much of it and I'm just here to arrive in Melbourne as late as possible, leave as soon as possible, do the job for the team, and for myself but also for my country and then we leave.

Q: Do you feel that the expectations are too high? You're a relatively inexperienced pair, you and Nick. Only Jenson and Takuma have done fewer races of the pairings that have done races...

Webber: Yeah, the expectations are... I suppose it's excitement coming through from the local press and people that are excited about the event and also hopefully me having a reasonable result here so we can only go out and do our best. All the preparations in the winter are behind us, testing is good but racing is even better and that's what we're all here to do and that's what we need to do right now: find out where we are and get on with it.

Q: How good do you think the Williams is at this stage?

Webber: We need to find some more pace, no question about it. You always want more in Formula One. There are some other teams which are slightly better prepared for the first few races of the year. But you can't dream in this game. You've got to go out there and work hard and keep delivering so I hope that we can get back... we haven't even turned a wheel yet. We don't know, but we're expecting to be a little bit off but how much? We don't know. We're obviously doing everything we can to find more pace every day at Williams.

Q: Michael welcome. Earlier on in the off-season you were talking about the actual driving of a Formula One car. I think that was just before you'd driven on the new tyres. What is it like...

Michael SCHUMACHER: Actually I had done some testing because we had already done late 2004 testing for 2005 and because of this, my comments were that I expected a lot more sliding and excitement and working the steering wheel. Quite frankly the car, the pace is not far away from what it used to be, so we're back where we started.

Q: So it's not sliding...

Schumacher: ... not sliding, not as extreme as I tested initially, because initially, you imagine you make this big step but then the engineers have worked very hard to try to get performance back and they've been quite successful.

Q: A year ago, you had had a very good test at Imola. Have you had a similarly good test this year, to give you an indication of how you're going to be...

Schumacher: We haven't been at Imola.

Q: But it's been snowing...

Schumacher: Exactly. No actually, I think those guys that had been at the last test in Valencia probably had all been a little disappointed because conditions were just terrible. We were just talking about it. There was so much wind, it was almost undriveable. The circumstances were not available for a positive test.

Q: But that was really going to be the indicator, was it?

Schumacher: No honestly not because we have done an intense programme all winter long and we have done pretty consistent preparation. We're quite happy with what we have - you always think you can do better.

Q: Are you feeling you're at about the same level as this time last year?

Schumacher: No, certainly not. Last year at this time I had my new car and obviously that was a very fast toy. Now we are running the older car which I'm pretty sure a lot of people would love to have, an old car as we have, but I would obviously look forward to the new one and I'm pretty sure that's going to be faster than what we have now.

Q: So what sort of level do you feel you're going to be at in these early races?

Schumacher: We will be reasonably competitive, probably not completely up front. It's difficult to predict, honestly, because we have been testing in cold conditions and then Australia and Melbourne is usually quite good to us. We seem to find extra performance. So we will be running close to the front, whether it's exactly at the front or it's second or third we will find out.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Mike Doodson) Question for Michael, as the GPDA representative. Narain, through no fault of his own, had done no driving from the end of the season that he did in Europe last year, until he sat in the Jordan for the first time, and I think he's done three or possibly four days while the rest of you have been testing at every possible opportunity. Do you feel apprehensive at all that you're racing against someone who has got so little experience in Formula One?

Webber: I think Narain has done a lot of junior categories. He's done many years in Europe so that's healthy. What frightens me is if someone comes in very very quickly with really limited running - of course, he's had limited running in a Formula One car but I think he knows where his mirrors are and he's sensible about how he goes about his business. He's a good little driver and he will do his best with what he has.

Schumacher: Obviously I think he himself would have wished to have more running availability, but that's not the case. I'm pretty sure... as I saw him in Barcelona during the test and I looked a little bit at him but he did a good job there. Obviously with the speed of the car he had to watch his mirrors quite a bit and he did so. He respected everything perfectly well so I think he's capable of doing so. Race and test situations are slightly different but I believe he's doing a good job. (Turns to Kathikeyan) Don't you?

Karthikeyan: I think so, yes! (Laughter)

Q: Juan Pablo: new car, new team, new culture, is it all a bit new for you?

Juan Pablo MONTOYA: No, it's actually pretty good, it's been really good. It's been a good time for adaptation. I had plenty of time with the test team and everything and I had quite a few tests with the race mechanics so I'm pretty settled in.

Q: It doesn't take long?

Montoya: No, the car is pretty good to drive. At the beginning it was a little bit hard to adapt to the car but they really worked around me to get it suited to me so it was good.

Q: Do you feel there's a different culture to the team?

Montoya: The way they do things is different but I think both approaches are pretty good.

Q: Are the engine companies similar?

Montoya: As I say, there are different approaches and I am really happy to be honest.

Q: Everyone's saying the car is going to be one of the front runners, it's going to be well up there...

Montoya: We don't say much to be honest. We will have to wait and see. I think we've done a bit of work in testing and everyone reckons they've done the same. It's a matter of wait and see where we really stand.

Q: What's the relationship like with Kimi?

Montoya: It's good. We've got quite a few things in common. We both really enjoyed riding bikes and stuff, so it's good.

Q: Is there a rivalry there?

Montoya: Not at the moment, to be honest, not at all.

Q: Do you like the car the same way, basically?

Montoya: Yeah I like the car. I'm a lot more comfortable in the 20 than I was in the 19 so it's a good thing.

Q: But between you two drivers, do you like it set up the same way?

Montoya: Aah, I don't know. I think it's too early to say. We've only done two days of testing together and when you're in different programmes, you're in different datas.

Q: (Chris Lowne - Motorsport News) A question for all the drivers -- apart from the cars, the biggest change this year is qualifying. Are you comfortable with the complexities of the split session and, frankly, is this what F1 should be about. It was not that long ago that you guys came up to a crescendo late on a Saturday afternoon and fought out pole position, but this aggregating it -- are you comfortable with it as drivers?

Montoya: I don't care. To be honest I am pretty happy with it it's the same for everybody it will be interesting to see the way the cars are going to be balanced. For us it is not a big thing, to be honest, I think the big thing is for the spectators and how they react to it.

Schumacher: I think first we should experience it before we discuss it. We sit here and we have not even done it. Lets wait and see.

Webber: I'm not that worried about the one lap qualifying, but I think the aggregating of the times is a little bit of a shame. I think qualifying, over two days effectively now, well, we've seen sessions interrupted before by having qualifying of this complexity over three hours and now it's over 12 or 14 hours, so weather can definitely play more of a role, in the lottery if you like, so that could prove frustrating. But that is what they want. Then, it is the same for everyone so we just have to get one with it.

Button: It is going to be quite interesting as everyone says because on Saturday we are going to be running with low fuel on new tyres and then on Sunday morning coming straight from that to running fuel and old tyres and it will be interesting. From the fans point of view, we don't know so it will be interesting to see what the reactions are.

Q: Michael this question is for you. About a week ago, Ron Dennis went on the record and said that back in 2000 he spoke to you about the possibility of you going to McLaren and I wondered if you could tell us if that was the case and how far the discussions went and interestingly why at that point in your career you were thinking of making the change to McLaren, if that was the case...

Schumacher: Indeed, yes, there was an approach from Ron and obviously it didn't work out - obviously, as you can see! And I am pretty happy where I have been and it is perfectly natural that we have had lots of discussions over the years. Every so often he comes around and he checks up and so it was in 2000 that he checked up, but it was not only in 2000...

Q: Has he approached you since then?

Schumacher: Yes

Q: If you don't mind me asking, when was this... the most recent approach that he made?

Schumacher: I don't think it is fair to get into that detail, but he did and I think that's enough of that.

Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) Jenson, last year you guys were basically second best. Looking at the three teams in front of you, plus Renault, who do you think will be your biggest competition this year?

Button: Looking at testing, the McLarens and the Renaults look very quick. But what can you tell from testing? It is very difficult and we are not going to know after qualifying on Saturday I think to see who has got the one lap pace and then after the race to see who has got good consistency. We have to wait and see, don't want to say too much.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) A question for Mark. It was here with Minardi a few years ago that you finished fifth. You are Australian and Paul Stoddart is Australian. How do you feel about Minardi not starting on Sunday?

Webber: I don't think my opinion is that important to be honest, in terms of the politics of it all. But of course I will be very disappointed if Paul is not racing here on Sunday. The fans are very much behind the Minardi team and they are basically a family team very passionate and the spirit in that team is incredible so they want to come here to compete of course they can't go of for overall honours but they do their best with what they've got. In terms of the politics, I don't really understand it all.

Q: (Ken Cavanagh - Triple M Radio) A question for Michael: Given the Minardi situation, a two-part question - one do you think Minardi is a serious threat to you in the race? And two what would you like to see when Jean Todt and Paul Stoddart meet this evening?

Schumacher: Leave it up to them, its not my part to be involved in this. Regarding the first question I know they are good guys and I had a nice occasion with Paul myself when he sort of realised a promise he gave me once to go in his double-seater and I enjoyed that with some friends and my wife and so on. He is very nice. It is very unfortunate to hear these things and you have to make up your own mind on the question.

Q: Given they are not a threat can you see any reason why they should be excluded?

Schumacher: If .. you play soccer?

Q: I used to..

Schumacher: Imagine there is a new rule in soccer and you always play with ten people and there is always one team that is not doing very well, would you accept they play with 11 or more people...?

Q: If they were effectively playing with their hands tied behind their back already, yeh.

Schumacher: I don't think it is a serious subject to discuss.

Q: (James Allen - ITV) Michael is there any concern with you with single lap pace for Ferrari and Bridgestone and how important will your position on the grid be in the new form of racing that we are going to have in 2005?

Schumacher: Qualifying is always important, but whether it has the same importance we shall find out with the new rules. You might approach the weekend and the race differently and put qualifying in a different position. We have to find out a little bit. Our performance in qualifying last year in general was not too bad and we have to find out this year. We had winter testing and we had some difficulties and now we have different temperatures and environment and we had similar things last year so now we have to wait and see.

Q: (Michael Leach - The Age) We have people ringing radio stations to ask if you are going to win the world championship this year and how many Grands Prix you are going to win. Has the hype from the local media and the expectation been built up to unrealistic levels and if so what are the realistic levels this year?

Webber: Like I said at the start I think there is a lot of excitement and just a general feeling that they want us to do well of course . They had me in Formula One three years before I was in F1 and now they'll have me world champion before I am ready for that, but I hope we can win races this year no question about it. But as to being an absolute and complete total operation to go and take the world championship from Ferrari - it's probably a little unrealistic to be honest. But, you never know. It's a long season. You can have a strong patch in the season and both cars are running well and things can go your way. No question about it. We will give everything, you can never count Williams out and they have shown they can bounce back. So, we will be wrapping our fish and chips with the newspapers next week -- so its not a big deal.

Q: (Alain Pernot - L'Auto Journal) To Michael, there was a lot of tyre work for preparations for this season. Was it a disadvantage for Ferrari to be the only top team using Bridgestone tyres compared to Michelin with seven teams?

Schumacher: Whether you should call it a disadvantage I am not sure, but it is was hard work for us.

Q: But the fact that you are up against seven teams on the same rubber, that sounds like a disadvantage doesn't it?

Schumacher: It could be an advantage to have one big company just behind one big team. It has proven pretty good so far.

Q: (Matthew Clayton - Sunday Times) Michael, there is a lot of talk about the 10th anniversary in Melbourne this year. Your first race with Ferrari was obviously your first here in Melbourne so can you give just a few thoughts and recollections of those early days when you were not in quite the position you are in now and of Melbourne as a Grand Prix city.

Schumacher: That's a good point. I hope it runs better than it started, obviously I look forward to it big time. Melbourne is always a great place for us to come to. My love was not there initially, but it has improved. The environment is so positive, it has improved and it is a beautiful place to come to. You see the places we go and the temperatures we test at -- and the weather we have... Then, you look forward to come down to Melbourne. It is a good city, with good spirit and nice people.

Q: How much have things in the team changed over that decade for you?

Schumacher: Obviously big time. It was my start with a new team. We have built up strong relationships and I can only say we have fantastic harmony and relationships in the team and that is what has developed over all those years.

Q: To Juan Pablo and Michael, does an Australian paper tell the truth about Juan Pablo complaining that Frank Williams did not pay for him to have a fitness coach.. What do you think of the duty to be fit as an F1 driver?

Schumacher: What part of the question is for me?

Montoya: As far as I can remember, I did not complain. They asked me if there was a difference and that was the difference. It is not about the money. Just they had somebody there for me the whole time and that's it.

Q: The impression from this article was that you hadn't a fitness coach...

Montoya: I had one (a coach), but this one is full-time. This one is full-time and that is the only difference. I thought I was pretty fit to drive. I won the last race and that was one of the hardest races. I was fit.

Q: (Mike Doodson) How much lighter are you now than at the end of last season?

Montoya: Three or four kilos and beginning of last season half a kilo...

Q: What drives you to be so much fitter?

Button: I think you feel better in yourself if you are fitter, helps you mentally as well. But I don't know where the limit is.

Schumacher: That's about it, as Jenson said.

Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) Juan, is your relationship with Kimi already very different than the one you had with Ralf?

Montoya: I think the one with Ralf at the beginning was a bit aggressive and that was more the way with how the press handled it than with with ourselves. In the end, it was a very good relationship to be honest and the press never thought we did, but we actually did (have a good relationship). I get on very well with Kimi and did before I started driving with McLaren.

Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) Can you see that it would be good for the sport if you did not dominate this year and you struggled a little bit?

Schumacher: I think I would disappoint plenty of people.

Q: You would, but a lot more people...

Schumacher: That depends on your point of view, but you don't know how much support we have. If I look around, we have plenty. I understand your question to some degree, but there is no real sense for us to do anything from our side.

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