SAN MARINO GP - FRIDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE

FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 22 APRIL 2005

DRIVERS: Jenson BUTTON (BAR HONDA), Alexander WURZ (MCLAREN MERCEDES)

TEAM MEMBERS: Ron DENNIS(MCLAREN MERCEDES), Gil de FERRAN(BAR HONDA)

Q: Alex, first of all, following the problems getting you comfortable in the car, were you comfortable today?

Alexander WURZ: Yeah, I've been very comfortable after the test, coming here and now I'm a race driver, that makes me extra comfortable, so I'm pretty OK.

Q: So you're just not complaining, full stop!

Wurz: Full stop, no complaints. No really, I'm sitting alright, I can handle the test, I've done more than a hundred laps in testing every day so I'm very comfortable now.

Q: When you are third driver, what is the feeling? Is it frustration or just a matter of getting on and doing the job?

Wurz: No, we have the opportunity this year to run a third car and to be honest it's actually quite a cool thing, because after driving for four years only on Spanish tracks it's a real relief going somewhere else to be honest.

Q: It was interesting to see Pedro de la Rosa's race in Bahrain. There seemed to be a certain freedom of spirit, almost as though there was nothing to lose. What is your feeling when you're going to be racing on Sunday?

Wurz: Well, I hope I can answer you that question here on Sunday, but at the end of the day I very much enjoyed Pedro's race. It had high entertainment factor on the TV and I've said it many times and so has he, but I think the test driver duo at McLaren is probably better than some of the race driver duos in Formula One. He and I are really pushing hard in every test, and now also every Friday, whoever has the opportunity. He showed his potential in Bahrain and I hope I have the opportunity to show mine over the next few days.

Q: Is it a case that there's no pressure, no team orders, that you have a freedom of spirit, you're not thinking of the championship?

Wurz: I'm here to drive as quick as I can and full stop, that's it. I'm enjoying it. Opportunities like this don't come up every day for a race driver to race for West McLaren Mercedes which is one of the most successful teams in Formula One, and after many many years of dreaming I've got this opportunity so it's here. It would be wrong not to enjoy it but on the other hand it's... I wouldn't say pressure, but it's something special which you realise when you sit in the car and you're out there.

Q: Jenson, your impressions of the first three races?

Jenson BUTTON: I think I've made myself heard in the past. It's been a very tough start of the season for everyone involved in the team. Our issues have mostly been down to failures at the start of the season. Our pace has been relatively good but you just haven't been able to see it. We've had two very good tests, one in Barcelona, one in Paul Ricard since Bahrain and for me, we've made a good step forward in reliability, the reliability is much better now, and aerodynamically with the car so for me we've made a big step forward and everyone is very positive for the rest of the season.

Q: Is that what you were looking for from those first three races?

Button: Of course, those were the two areas we needed to work in and those are the areas in which I think we've done a very good job since Bahrain.

Q: Obviously the performance today bears that out...

Button: It does. It's only Friday, you can't say too much. We did all our test items and everything went very smoothly for us. The car for me is a much better car to drive, it reacts better to changes and it's more predictable which is a big thing now in Formula One for consistency.

Q: Gil, welcome to Formula One. How did it all come about?

Gil de FERRAN: I think this is one of those situations where opportunity meets desire. Certainly when I stopped driving at the end of '03, I didn't want to get out of the sport completely and this type of role was something that I wanted to do. I met Nick years and years ago through Sir Jackie Stewart when he was working at Ford and eventually for Aston Martin and basically we got in touch in December and we've been talking since December. I guess that period gave him an opportunity to get to know me better and I was delighted because certainly this was the best opportunity I could hope for and in a way it feels like a natural progression of my driving career.

Q: So how was the first day on the pit wall?

De Ferran: My first day on the pit wall was wonderful thanks to that man behind me (Jenson). It was great and I guess my task right now is basically to listen and to observe. I've been going to all the meetings - engineering meetings, planning meetings, so on and so forth - really to try to understand how the team functions and who does what and understand the personalities involved, and today it was great to be there in the heat of battle with my finger on the pulse.

Q: How steep a learning curve is it?

De Ferran: Very steep. Actually I started two weeks ago and let me just say that sleep has not been a luxury that I have afforded very much.

Q: And presumably you're back in Britain again?

De Ferran: I am back in Britain again, yes, after a ten year stint in the US, I am back to live in the UK. My wife has been looking for schools and a house for our family.

Q: Ron, a good day today, so far?

Ron DENNIS: So far. Yes, it's going OK at the moment, but it's premature to be able to predict whether we can carry the momentum through Saturday and Sunday but so far so good.

Q: What improvements have been made since Bahrain?

Dennis: Not a great many components are new on the car but the set-up and other parameters that you can adjust have been adjusted as it were. A lot of it has just come out of testing. Most of the car/engine improvements are scheduled to come in Spain so whatever our performance here, it will be better in Spain.

Q: So it's something that will carry through for all the races...

Dennis: Definitely.

Q: Is it a bit of a different approach?

Dennis: Not really, it's just that we're a bit more conservative about introducing into the race cars new developments. We really want to prove them out, make sure they don't have any impact on reliability. We've enjoyed total reliability so far this year and we want to keep that momentum through the season.

Q: Is there a difference in tactics in the way you run a third driver?

Dennis: No. Obviously they are there to perform a different task, evaluate the tyres a little more aggressively and maybe the odd alternative set-up, but their role in a Grand Prix weekend is different to that of a test event, but they're an integral part of the team and they've got a role to play which is clearly defined and I think they enjoy playing it.

Q: And when they actually get in a race as well there seems to be that freedom which comes from not thinking of their own championship...

Dennis: Not at all. They're really, I would say, driving even more for the team than perhaps your own drivers because of course what they can bring to the team is points and they certainly start with a clear understanding that they're not going to be contesting the World Championship, so perhaps they have in the back of their mind that fact, but you could also argue that that makes them take a little more risk and push a bit harder because there's no down side of throwing away a race which may contribute to a World Championship, because that isn't relevant to them, so they have to find a balance. As Alex pointed out, Pedro did a very good job in Bahrain and I'm sure Alex will strive to match it or better it.

Q: What was required to get Alex comfortable in the car?

Dennis: It was not any of the primary structures of the car, it was just components which actually sit around the driver that needed to be specially made, but they were always programmed into the system. Getting any driver comfortable, irrespective of size is always difficult. If they are a little taller than average, it's just a bit more challenging.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Steve Cooper - F1 Racing) Jenson, at the start of the year you said the 007 was quite erratic to drive, particularly when you were in the slipstream, but today the car seemed really smooth. Have you just unlocked the key in the last few weeks? Can you explain what it felt like in March compared to what it feels like now?

Button: At the start of the year the car was very twitchy and very unpredictable, especially at the end of braking when you were turning and trying to commit into a corner. Now it is very different. You have the confidence to push the car to the limit and it does make all the difference. It is not just a quicker car it also gives the drivers' more confidence, which is a big part of racing.

Q: Is it a long-term thing, or just in the last couple of weeks that it has come good?

Button: It was more the last couple of weeks. We improved the car in the first couple of races but it wasn't a big step forward, it was when we put the new aero package on the car in Barcelona when we noticed we had made a good step forward. We had to make a few changes to make it work but we gained a good chunk there and we are positive for a good race here. Hopefully we are back up there fighting where we should be.

Q: (Andreas Groebl - Tele 5 Germany) Ron Dennis, what is the latest news on Juan Pablo and the chances of him racing in Barcelona?

Dennis: The bone has actually healed quite well, but because the arm needed immobilising he has had quite a bit of muscle wastage and that has got to come back, the muscle strength has got to come back. He will go through some more scans and is scheduled to go in a simulator before the Spanish Grand Prix and we will determine based on his performance in our simulator whether he is fit to race.

Q: (Andreas Groebl - Tele 5 Germany) And assuming he is not back, have you sorted out the third driver rule for the rest of the season?

Dennis: No that is not a decision taken yet.

Q: (Andreas Groebl - Tele 5 Germany) So does Alex's performance here in Imola more or less depend whether he will be the third driver or Pedro?

Dennis: Clearly Alex's performance is going to play a role in the decision and it would have been inappropriate to take any decision before we had seen how well he does this weekend. But at the end of the day it is one of those decisions that is going to be a more quality decision with the benefit of the knowledge that is going to come out of this weekend.

Q: (Alain Pernot - L'Auto-Journal) Ron, it looks like McLaren has a good pace during the race, but tends to get beaten during qualifying. What is your opinion about that?

Dennis: We have more of a first corner weakness, but I think so far that is heating the front tyres but this weekend we seemed to be very much on top of it. There are a range of developments that will come onto the car in Spain that should even further address this issue, but our testing has proved that with the package we have we have been able to get the tyres to function faster, so we have to wait and see tomorrow and Sunday. But it doesn't appear to be such an issue here.

Q: (Marc Surer - Premiere TV) Alex, at the chicane on the top they have asphalt on the run-off area and it is painted white. First, it didn't look like it reduced a lot of time, secondly are you worried if it is wet on the white paint?

Wurz: Well, the white paint is concrete, which I think is okay, but the problem is there is artificial grass behind the kerb, about one-and-a-half or two metres and that is quite slippery and I think it will be extremely slippery in the wet. But the best is to hit the kerb right in the chicane and not end up there, because that is not the line you should be on.

Q: (Andreas Groebl - Tele 5 Germany) Alex, today it is four-and-a-half years since you last raced in a Formula One car. How can you practice wheel-to-wheel racing and the start of a Grand Prix when you are a test driver?

Wurz: Right, what should I answer now? At the end of the day, we practice a lot of starts, so to play with the throttle and clutch I am really comfortable because we do a lot of starts. The rest will come automatically. I am not worried. I did a good job when I started Formula One. I have a lot more experience now, I feel much more ready for the challenge so I don't think there is an issue at all.

Q: (Mike Doodson) Ron, after Bahrain, where you said you would know exactly what happened to Juan Pablo when you looked him in the face, can we ask you if you have looked him in the face?

Dennis: I haven't seen him yet, so I can't give you any better explanation than the one I gave you. He is back in Europe, he is back in Madrid, and a physiotherapist has seen him and the situation is as before, nothing to add.

Q: (Mike Doodson) We were a little baffled because clearly there was nothing in his contract with you that could prevent him from doing things other than playing tennis, perhaps a little more violent. I wondered if there were personal insurances?

Dennis: He wasn't actually insured for any injury of that nature.

Q: (Byron Young - Speed Sport News) Ron, how would you evaluate your drivers' chances of winning the world championship this year?

BY: The points, with the exception of Alonso, are pretty spread. Obviously, it is a very long season and this race is going to probably have various swings in points, I think obviously the competitiveness of the BAR has improved, we think we are quite strong, you can never write off Ferrari, they are much more competitive here, so the points are probably going to be spread slightly differently and it is really the points coming out of this race that will see people being able to predict a bit more the outcome of the world championship. But even after this event it is provably going to be four or five races before you can make any predictions, and certainly nobody is out of it. You have only got to look at Michael's performance, and he has, what, two points? And anyone that would write Michael Schumacher off for this year's world championship would be a fool, so I don't think it is late enough in the season to make any predictions.


THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 21 APRIL 2005

DRIVERS: Giancarlo FISICHELLA (Renault), Nick HEIDFELD (Williams), Vitantonio LIUZZI (Red Bull), Michael SCHUMACHER (Ferrari)

Q: A question I am going to be asking all of you: about new developments on your cars for this weekend and what you're hoping from them? Giancarlo, I believe you have a new spec engine this weekend and new aerodynamics?

Giancarlo FISICHELLA: Yeah. I have the B-spec engine which is a bit lighter. It is not stronger but we can run with a bit more revs and a new front wing. That's all.

Q: And how have they gone in testing?

Fisichella: Not too bad. We had a good test at Paul Ricard and it looks (as though it's) a small improvement so already our package looks really good and those things look promising, yeah.

Q: You ran a car in Rome last weekend; tell us about that?

Fisichella: Yeah, it was a fantastic day for me because that road show in Rome was exactly the first time for me...it was a really exciting day because I was born in Rome and running with a Formula One car, in front of all my friends, my children, a lot of fans, was fantastic. But unfortunately the weather conditions weren't fantastic, it was raining, but apart from that, more than 25,000 people came to watch it, so it was good anyway.

Q: I should think Roman streets in the rain was quite interesting, fairly slippery?

Fisichella: It was very slippery because it was wet and it was really bumpy, but it wasn't a race weekend. It was good to show everyone what a Formula One car can do and especially to listen to the engine noise was nice for the people.

Q: The season for you has been very much up and down, obviously with the win in Australia followed by the problems in the next two races. What are your feelings, particularly as your team mate obviously capitalised on that?

Fisichella: I told you we have a good car, a good package and we won the first three races. Unfortunately, in Malaysia I had a problem with the front flap which I lost just after the pit stop, and in the last race I blew the engine just after two laps, so I was really disappointed for that because I couldn't score some more points, points which are very important for the championship for drivers. But I am looking forward, because I have a great car, I have a great team, and here we are in my home Grand Prix so I try to do my best to get on the podium again. Obviously the dream is to win again. But it is going to be quite difficult, especially because in the first qualifying session I will be one of the first guys around the circuit and the circuit will be much better at the end of qualifying.

Q: Nick, how are the modifications on the car, what are you hoping for?

Nick HEIDFELD: As in the last couple of races, here again we have a few new aero parts which I am sure are going to improve the car but we have to wait and see how the other cars have improved as well.

Q: And you tested them?

Heidfeld: Some of them, yes, but a lot of them we didn't, as in the last races. We have quite a strong belief in our wind tunnel now. It worked for the last couple of races. We just got the parts just before the weekend. We put them on and they usually worked.

Q: Now, I believe you had a shoulder injury; is that OK now? What happened?

Heidfeld: It's fine. It happened testing in Paul Ricard. I didn't crash, it was just unfortunately that while driving, probably going over a bump or something, a muscle went into spasm and it's still a bit irritated now but it is not going to be a problem for the weekend.

Q: Now you have settled into Williams. I don't think they were expecting such a good start to the season, but has it surprised you?

Heidfeld: Yes, I think it has surprised all of us, especially after testing. In testing we were not happy with the car at all but already by the first race, we made such big improvements that we were in a reasonable position and after that I was able to finish on the podium in Malaysia and it was certainly more than we had hoped for since we got the new car. Obviously we would have hoped to be even stronger than that but we are all working very hard.

Q: So, it's been a nice pleasant surprise...

Heidfeld: Yes and no. It was a pleasant surprise from what we have seen when we launched the car but then again, we would have hoped for a stronger start whereby we would have hoped to be able to win races straightaway, of course.

Q: Vitantonio, modifications on the car?

Vitantonio LIUZZI: Yes of course. We had some new developments on the aerodynamic side and on the electronic side which we tested in Barcelona and we did a shakedown this week at  Silverstone and we are looking forward to this week. It seems quite OK. We improved a little bit but for sure, as Nick was saying, everyone is developing the car and we have to see our level. Fortunately Imola is a track which fits in quite well with the whole team so we are looking forward to the weekend.

Q: What about the role of third driver which you have been filling up to now.  Has that been frustrating or did you always know that you were going to get these three races?

Liuzzi: In our team we knew from the beginning that me and Christian would share, since we sat in the car for the first time in December. Fortunately the situation has been quite clear between us. When it was decided he would drive the first three races, I was OK. For sure it is difficult to see the other person racing on television, because we are born for racing and we would like to be there. But I accepted this situation because it was good for me, I learned the first three circuits which I had never been to before and now fortunately it is my turn in Imola, in my home country, and it is great to be here as a driver.

Q: Red Bull, seems to have a different attitude to Formula One...

Liuzzi: Are you sure? It seems like it?

Q: ... and so do you, when I saw you under the trees in Bahrain surrounded by pretty girls.

Liuzzi: Of course, since Red Bull bought Jaguar, everything changed in the team. I think also from our side in the paddock, because I think the team has put in a bit more life, because they have a big change, they have a really big attitude, big mentality and they are showing to everyone that when they do things they do things right, they do it properly. So I think, as they show with the motorhome, as they've shown in the past with some events, they are really great. Mateschitz has got a great mentality and I think that as he is supporting the team for this kind of event with these facilities, he is doing it for the team. We are pushing to improve the car and we are putting a lot of effort into it and I think we will get a lot of results soon.

Q: Michael, developments on the car. Have there been developments since Bahrain?

Michael SCHUMACHER: Yeah, we have a new aero package here, on the tyre side we have improved, or we have a different construction at least. I think that's about it.

Q: What about the gearbox? There were some worries about the gearbox and it does suffer here over the kerbs. Are there worries about that?

Schumacher: No, the kerbs, anyway, don't make worries to the gearbox. We have had a few situations which strangely enough, did not seem to appear during testing but I think we understood that and sorted it.

Q: So you're quite confident that you're not going to have the reliability problems from Bahrain.

Schumacher: As confident as you can be with a Formula One car, honestly. A Formula One car is a prototype and it might stop at any point in any day. It hasn't been doing that for a long long time for me. In Bahrain I stopped because of a problem with last year's part but they can still fail at certain times but I think we have a good record and we shouldn't be too concerned.

Q: You've said that your championship  really begins here...

Schumacher: In a way I haven't done too much so far. Coming here to Imola with the preparation we have been doing, we are reasonable confident that we can fight back.

Q: Can you clear up the story about the discussions with Jean Todt concerning the extension to your contract? Is that the case?

Schumacher: You have to put it from the start. The question was does Ferrari talk about Fernando. I said that from my point of view, they talk less about Fernando rather than Jean having conversations in private relationship about my future. These are more the subject than talk about other drivers.

Q: So you are actually in discussion about an extension to your contract.

Schumacher: I have had a private chat, we are not in discussions. It is quite open to me about when and what time I want to extend my contract. I think it's the best situation I can live in. I have open doors any time I want to take a decision I'm welcome to do so and the team supports that.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Dusko Dragic - Ekipa) How much satisfaction do you get out of helping people by donating money, as you did for the Tsunami, and then when you stop and help someone at the side of the road, when the person knows who has helped them, the difference between helping someone individually as opposed to putting a lot of money into a fund?

Schumacher: What can I say, it has been a long time back that I have thought about this and in 1990 I won two races behind each other in Formula Three and got quite high prize money. And while I was about to win this race, that was my thought, what I was going to do with this money, who I could help with this money. So, ever since then I try to help other people who have difficulties. There is always, if you look amongst your friendships, initially there are always a lot of people you can help in your family and after that it goes beyond that. It is a good satisfaction seeing the smile of kids you have helped. I have been in Sarajevo, with kids together, in other places, it's nice.

Q: (Peter Windsor - F1 Racing) Michael, can you talk a bit about Bahrain? Obviously, you retired early, what sort of shape are you in, specifically the tyres, and how do you think you would have been over the last ten laps of the race? How was that weekend for you?

Schumacher: I think the weekend certainly was better than I expected it to be after the Malaysia experience. I think it is fair to say that I would have had some sort of problem like Rubens had, but how extreme it would have been is an open point, because starting from the back of the field and working your way through uses your tyres in a different way than I was doing behind Fernando, I didn't have to work too hard behind him, just go a nice and steady pace without pushing the tyres, but it is difficult to say how bad it would have been for me because there would have been a point at some stage before the first pit stop and I think I could have taken action against the big drama that we had with Rubens at the end, but where it would have put me in the end, my feeling is I still would have been on the podium.

Q: (Thierry Tassin - RTBF Belgian TV) Michael, just going back to Bahrain, you were right behind Alonso, what were the good points of the Renault for the first three Grands Prix?

Schumacher: Probably the point that after Malaysia where we were so far away we saw in Bahrain where we were back and we can fight those guys. It is not out of our reach any more.

Q: (Thierry Tassin - RTBF Belgian TV) What are the strong points of the Renault?

Schumacher: I think they have not one particular strong point. As it has always been for me as well in the past, there is not one thing only that is a reason for success, it is a package, it goes through the car, the tyres, the engine and everything. Everything has to be right and they have managed to do a very good job on that.

Q: (Luciano Clerico - ANSA) Michael, you are German, the new Pope is German, what does it mean for you and for Germany?

Schumacher: Put it this way, for me it is not so important that I am German, the new Pope is German and what does it mean for Germany because who is the Pope? The Pope is a person who looks after the whole world, and whether he is German or whatever nationality, I don't think that is important. Certainly, for me, I am an international person myself and for me it's not about nationality but who the person is.

Q: (Bob McKenzie - The Daily Express) Michael, following on from the question about talks earlier, what are the factors that would encourage you to continue?

Schumacher: What I have right now. I have said this many times. My love for the sport is so high that I still like to continue, but I don't see any reason to fix myself too early.

Q: (Bob McKenzie - The Daily Express) When do you actually need to begin talking to Jean Todt?

Schumacher: That was what I was just trying to say before, they leave it open for me. Open means open.

Q: (Peter Windsor - F1 Racing) Michael, just continuing on that theme, as I recall you have actually said what you love about racing is winning, as distinct from the sport in general. When you are not winning, and I am sure you will be winning, we all hope you will be winning again soon, but when you are not winning and you have to fight from the midfield, do you enjoy your life as much as a Formula One driver?

Schumacher: If I can fight my way through from the middle of the field to the back of the field, that wouldn't be the thing I would want to do, that is pretty certain, yes.

Q: (Peter Windsor - F1 Racing) What about the racing at the moment?

Schumacher: That's pretty nice. That's a challenge. You can see ahead, we have a chance to win.

Q: (Byron Young - Speed Sport News) Michael, can you see yourself driving for Ferrari to the end of your career, whether it is a couple of years or ten years?

Schumacher: Yes.

Q: (Byron Young - Speed Sport News) Sorry, can you just say why? Is it the comfort factor, obviously as we said just now...

Schumacher: I think it is very obvious why I want to do this. It is much more than comfort. It goes beyond many things, it is difficult for you to imagine maybe. There are a lot of good people around.

Q: (Byron Young - Speed Sport News) Sorry, is it the support you get from the team, they back you up, the effort they put into Grand Prix racing, all those things?

Schumacher: It is a bit of everything, and even more.

Q: (Peter Windsor - F1 Racing) Vitantonio, your first Grand Prix, by how much would you want to out-qualify DC in order to feel happy at the end of the day?

Liuzzi: I will do my best and, for me, as long as I am in front it will be good. But it won't be that easy because this is my first race and everything is new for me, qualifying in just one lap, so it will not be that easy, but if I can have the chance to be in front that would be great.

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