EUROPEAN GP - FRIDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE

Fernando Alonso, European GP 2005

Fernando Alonso, European GP 2005 

 © The Cahier Archive

FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 27 MAY 2005

TEAM PRINCIPAL: Jean TODT (Ferrari). ENGINE MANUFACTURERS: Norbert HAUG (Mercedes), Mario THEISSEN (BMW)

Q: First of all, Mario, as you know, a very uncharacteristic Nurburgring weather today. How much has this caught you on the hop for your tyre manufacturers as well? The track temperature was one degree less than it was in Bahrain, now who could have ever guessed that? How much has that affected you and how much has it affected your tyre suppliers.

Mario THEISSEN: Obviously it plays a big role, but I can say that it is certainly an advantage to have had these conditions more than once this season already. It is very unusual for here, I think only once a year the temperatures go up in this region to what we have now, and I don't even know if the prediction for tomorrow and Sunday is identical. We should be able to deal with it but it is not what we expected here.

Q: So in terms of technicalities, what does that affect?

Theissen: Certainly not the engine, there is no difference in the engine configuration or engine mapping due to temperature. I think all the rest is affected, but the engine not.

Q: Jean, were you expecting these sorts of temperatures?

Jean TODT: If you had asked me the question two weeks ago we were not expecting these temperatures, but since the beginning of the week we knew that was the prediction and that is what we will probably have tomorrow and a bit less on Sunday with 20 percent risk of rain, so that is what we know for the time being. But, I mean, this kind of information can change, but we will see.

Q: Norbert?

Norbert HAUG: Well, I think it is nice to see the Nurburgring with these conditions for a change, and as Jean pointed out Sunday should be a little bit less hot, maybe a chance of thunderstorms, we will just have to wait and see, but so far it's perfect.

Q: Has it affected the tyre suppliers at all?

Haug: Not really, I would say.

Q: Okay. Changing to qualifying, to all of you, is it going to help you or hinder you do you feel?

Theissen: I don't know yet. Maybe the driver has a preference for one or other system, the individual driver, but I don't think it makes a big difference from the technical perspective. I don't see a car that is particularly good on low fuel and bad on a full fuel tank. The tyre situation doesn't in my view depend too much on the vehicle weight, more on the question of if you do one lap or more than one lap. I think most of it is down to the preference of drivers.

Q: Jean, you thought it would favour Ferrari a little bit.

Todt: No, I didn't say it would favour, I said it would not be a disadvantage. Take it the way you want. But I confirm, we know very well that since the beginning of the season and even sometime last year our weakest point was over qualifying. It has been a bit more this year, and this year we had two qualifying, so once should not be against us.

Haug: I think it stays the same, but I think we will probably see different strategies. We will see people being in seventh place and doing five laps more than the other guys in front of them and still being in the position to win the race. That is the chance. If you are top five that should be possible, seventh is a little bit more difficult, but I think we will see higher fuel loads and race wins not coming from pole position.

Q: Norbert, you didn't have a very good first couple of races but since Bahrain things have come much better and obviously the last couple of races have been perfect. Give us an idea on some of the developments that have taken place, particularly from the engine side.

Haug: Well, first of all I think if you start your season and you qualify in the wet and the other guy qualifies in the dry then guess who is going to be faster. I mean, that happened to Ferrari, that happened to us, if a world championship will be decided like that, if I look back at 1998, between Michael and Mika, I think nobody would be happy, so we need to think about that system again for next year. I just think that the tyres were quite conservative at the first races, we didn't get our act together in qualifying but the basic speed was there. And if you look at Kimi's season, in the second race he was on his way to third place when a tyre went, in the third race he was third, the fourth race he was leading but dropped out with a driveshaft, the fifth and sixth he won. So I think the speed was there from the beginning, but starting tenth or 11th, look at Ferrari, if that happens to you, you need half the race to get the speed and come closer to the front. But I think our first test in Paul Ricard helped us a lot to understand how to use the tyres and how to set up the car for the first fast lap both with and without fuel and so that helped from then on, but I wouldn't say we made a big, big step in terms of speed, we just got the right grid position and from there it is just easier.

Q: Norbert, the last couple of years here you have had a pretty miserable time, particularly with it being a home race. You must be much more confident this year.

Haug: You never know what the race brings. We have had very good results here, it is going up and down and you have to realise there are five or six strong competitors and this is what Formula One is about. When we were world champions in 1998 there was Ferrari as a very strong competitor but not as many strong competitors as we have right now. And so, you know, if you start being confident before the race even starts, I think you are badly advised. Anything can happen. We need to get our act together, for sure, we have a better package right now but I think it is very important to be 100 percent disciplined, focused, concentrated, and not only saying it but doing it. This gives you the right baseline to win races.

Q: Jean, I know you have told us in your press conferences on a Sunday night what you feel the problem is with Ferrari at the moment, but can you just explain to a wider audience what the basic problem is?

Todt: I mentioned before, so far mainly we have a problem in qualifying. We did not keep our standard in reliability, we had some problems, which, I mean, the new rules with one set of tyres for qualifying and for the race, I mean, we did not know when the rules were decided but once they were applied we did not interpret it as well as our competitors. And having one engine for two Grands Prix, we had to change one engine on Rubens and he had to start at the back of the grid, which I say is a disadvantage. But the same rules are for everyone, so it is nothing to complain, it is just up to us to deliver better. And again, the first lap we are too slow, during the race we are quicker, sometimes much quicker than the opposition, but you know a car not specifically of Formula One, a racing car in front, I mean, it is like a wall in front of you, it is very difficult to pass even if you have three or four seconds of difference in lap time. So, I mean, when we start far behind it compromises the race

Q: On another subject, there has obviously been a bit of a dispute between your drivers, what have you been able to sort out? Does it change anything?

Todt: You know, I can understand that it makes a headline, but it is not a problem for me. It is very, very little controversy, which makes you happy and I am happy for you, but honestly I don't care so much. They will be very motivated, which is a good thing. You know, there has been a lot of speculation about team orders over the last years. I knew I was going to be asked this question, so I wanted to be accurate. In six years I think it happened twice that we asked, for the championship, in 2001 and 2002, Rubens to facilitate the race for Michael. When we speak about that it seems like it happened every race, but it happened twice in six years. So, I would not make a big thing out of it. And, yeah, I can understand Rubens' feeling, he was disappointed, I can understand Michael feeling to try to pass a car that was in front of him. So, I mean, I don't say one should or should not have done it. It is part of racing. The only thing that is important is that they didn't compromise the work of all the team, of the company, by hitting each other. It did not happen, so I have nothing more to say.

Q: Mario, after a great weekend last weekend in Monaco, quite an action-packed day for you today.

Theissen: You mean the free practice? Well, we suffered from two problems in the second session. We have as a support race Formula BMW here at Nurburgring, the 15- ,16- , 17-year old kids. They did their two qualifying sessions today which was very interesting to watch. So I was here quite early this morning. In Formula One we had problems in the second session with both our drivers. Mark left the track a bit early, and then Nick had a technical problem, a driveline problem, so that causes us some difficulties now when making the tyre choice. We didn't gather the data we expected to get, only about a third of that, so it is a challenge for the engineers to take a tyre choice on this basis.

Q: Mario, I know your company will not comment on its Formula One ambitions, in terms running its own team, but you are someone who has been around racing for a very long time. What about your own personal ambitions? A lot of people would suggest that you want to become a team principal.

Theissen: My ambitions are absolutely in line with the ambitions of BMW and that means we want to be successful, we want to win races and we want, eventually, to win the championship. The set-up in which we win the championship, the team structure is of secondary importance, and that applies to me as well. I am very happy in my current role.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Dusko Dragic - Ekipa) Jean, yesterday I asked why the Ferrari drivers will not attend the fans with the drivers' show, when I should have asked why Michael wasn't coming? Who in Ferrari decides which driver is going to attend the promotion and which not?

Todt: I don't know about that, honestly. I know there was some planned promotion with the organiser of the Grand Prix and we agreed to do some promotion. But I arrived late last night and I am not aware of what happened. I will ask for more information and I will make sure that Luca Colajanni is not angry when he gives you the answer. I need an hour and then you can go and see him, and he will have the answer.

Q: (Mike Doodson) Jean, sorry to take you back to the first question which was asked you about the relationship of your two drivers, but I think you have to understand that our editors see two drivers, one of whom says the other one almost killed him; that's an on-going story for all of us. Now you say that you don't want the two drivers to compromise the working of the team by hitting each other but it seems the working relationship between Michael and Rubens is virtually finished, at least if this Italian paper is to be believed. Can you please tell us if that is the case, and if so how are you going to prevent this dispute between your drivers compromising the working of your team?

Todt: You are in this world for many years and you know there is a lot of emotion. So if you ask a driver, and I think what is very important, myself, I have had the possibility in the first part of my career to share the seat close to a driver, being a co-driver, and there is a lot of emotion. Sometimes you don't control your emotion, which is human, and if you ask a driver for comments immediately when he comes out of the car, that comes out. You have two options: either you ignite the statements of the driver, and you have a piece of paper (newspaper cutting) which maybe states that, or you try to calm things down. In my position I will try to calm things down and make sure that they speak together. It was Rubens' birthday on Monday, Michael called him. They were happy to discuss things. There is no controversy in the team. But it's competition. They have the same ambition, same car, same support, and your first opposition is your team-mate. So it has always been like that. We try to minimise as much as we can the opposition between them, but up to a certain limit. It is something we have to pay some attention to, because on the other hand, I have always said that what does matter are the interests of the team, of the company, but at the end of the day we did manage quite well over the years and the drivers are happy to be together, they are happy to have dinner together, and very often, I see in this business drivers don't speak to each other. They (our drivers) speak to each other, they share opinions, they share opinions about private life, about business, so I would say that after six years together it is not going too bad.

Q: (Mike Doodson)Does this mean that in your opinion the work of the team has not been compromised by the current dispute?

Todt: No, not at all.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Mr Todt, the perfect race car doesn't exist, nor does the perfect race tyre. Obviously Ferrari is presently experiencing problems. How would you like to proportion a percentage in either direction? Is it 30% or 70% Ferrari-Bridgestone, or vice versa?

Todt: You know, let me thank Bridgestone for all the support they have been giving Ferrari over the last years. Ferrari has been winning six Manufacturers World Championships in a row, Michael won five Drivers' championships, and if you take each race we have won, we emphasise how important was the contribution of Bridgestone in helping us. That was probably one of the biggest advantages over our competitors. This year, definitely, we are at a disadvantage in qualifying mainly. They are a great partner, we are happy together, we will solve the problem together. If you ask me when, I don't have any idea when, I hope as soon as possible, maybe on Sunday, maybe in two weeks, maybe at the end of the... I don't know. But still, what Bridgestone has been doing is fantastic, and I will not get into playing how much it is the tyres, how much it is the chassis, how much it is the driver: it is the whole package. We need Bridgestone to put tyres on our cars and we want to stay with them.

Q: (Heinz Pruller - ORF TV) Jean, would you welcome other teams from Michelin joining Bridgestone for next year?

Todt: It is Bridgestone's choice. If Bridgestone wants to have some other top teams, we are very, very happy about that. And it will definitely help us, but it is not up to us to decide and there is nothing in our contract that says that they cannot have another team, so all that again is wrong speculation.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Mr Haug, was that not the reason why you switched to Bridgestone because you were thinking that Bridgestone was helping them too much and was not giving the same importance to your team?

Haug: No, I can only underline what Jean says. We have had a great relationship with Bridgestone until now. We were together with them since DTM days, in GT days, since 1992 and we experienced a lot of support and really absolutely positive co-operation. But we took a choice: we sat down together, within the team, and we thought we will try the Michelin way, that has a background, for sure. And I would not say that it is impossible that Bridgestone comes back tomorrow. So you have these phases, sometimes racing is up and down. You guys complained last year - me too - when Ferrari was dominant, and now it's the other way around so we should accept it and respect it and they are going to be strong. Look at the fastest race laps, look at Imola, look at Monaco, it will be a different story very soon. I can only say positive things about Bridgestone and Michelin as well. And these days we are partners with Michelin, but I think we have to have that style.

Q: (Rene Hofmann - Suddeutsche Zeitung) To Mr Theissen, as I know you travelled home from Monte Carlo to Munich by car, you travelled through Switzerland?

Theissen: Right, like last year and the year before.

Q: (Rene Hofmann - Suddeutsche Zeitung) Any stop-over in the region around Zurich?

Theissen: Yeah, if you drive 800 or 900 kilometres you have to stop from time to time! (Laughter) But I can tell you, I went there without refuelling. (More laughter)


THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 26 MAY 2005

DRIVERS: Jenson BUTTON (BAR), Nick HEIDFELD (Williams), Michael SCHUMACHER (Ferrari), Ralf SCHUMACHER (Toyota)

Q: Jenson, can I start with you considering you have been a little unemployed over the last few weekends. What was it like to watch as a spectator rather than drive?

Jenson BUTTON: I was employed. I was commentating for ITV. It was quite interesting actually, to watch the race while it was actually happening.

Q: And how was the commentary?

Button: I was quite good! Quite impressed with myself.

Q: And modest too! Coming here, are you frustrated? Are you like a greyhound on a leash?

Button: I am not frustrated now. I have been, but we are back racing again so I am very excited and counting down the minutes to go out on the circuit. It has been a tough couple of weeks, not being in the car considering we think we have a reasonably quick car. But we have to get our heads down and get on with the race.

Q: Is the rest of the team thinking the same way?

Button: Definitely. I think everyone is very positive. They handled the situation very well and as a team we are very strong and we are very positive.

Q: So you are going to come back with a bang?

Button: We have to wait and see. We haven't got the easiest slot in qualifying, first and second, so that won't be very easy, but I am sure we will make the best out of the situation we are in.

Q: Michael, Monaco is always regarded as a bit of a one-off. How do you come here for this race weekend?

Michael SCHUMACHER: With a lot of optimism, I think. In most of the races we have been very competitive, it is just qualifying that we struggle. We are optimistic we can handle it better here.

Q: Is the change in qualifying going to be good or bad for you?

M.Schumacher: Put it this way, even if it is bad, it is only bad once, not twice any more!

Q: So, in a way that is good, in a way that's an improvement.

M.Schumacher: Yeah.

Q: You came under fire from both Rubens and your brother after the Monaco Grand Prix, is there more to say on that or is it all said?

M.Schumacher: It is all over. I mean, Ralf and myself had a nice chat about it. It is racing.

Q: Ralf, do you understand his viewpoint?

Ralf SCHUMACHER: As he said, we discussed it and it's done. It is not right to discuss this any more.

Q: Gerhard Berger said after the race that you had problems with mirrors, what was the problem?

R.Schumacher: Yeah, he is well informed! I lost my left-hand mirror, left mirror? I think it was left-hand mirror. Just the mirror blade went off, it does happen with the vibrations we have.

Q: And was that a problem around Monaco, where it is so tight?

R.Schumacher: No, I think in Monaco the last few laps were a bit of a disaster because of all the slower cars and there was a lot of fighting going on and that is why it was a bit close towards the end.

Q: This is the home race for you and for the team as well. What does that mean to you?

R.Schumacher: It is always great to perform well in front of a home crowd. We have a chance to score some good points and maybe a bit more but we have to wait and see what the weather is doing.

Q: So Nick, second in Monaco. Has it sunk in yet, or has it gone past?

Nick HEIDFELD: No, it's definitely sunk in. It was the first second place of my career, obviously it was great it happened in Monaco, and I definitely realise it.

Q: Obviously this is a very different circuit to Monaco, are you quite confident here after last weekend.

Heidfeld: Yeah, clearly we are moving in the right direction but I am sure it is going to be a bit more difficult here. Obviously, a couple of teams were struggling with their tyres at the last race, so that is not going to make things easier.

Q: What about the changes in qualifying here. Is it going to make a difference to you?

Heidfeld: I don't think it will be a big difference. I find it strange that lots of people seem to love this idea when I think it is more or less the same as last year, and last year we changed it because nobody liked it. So I think it is a bit strange.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Stan Piecha - The Sun) Michael, no doubt you will have already read or heard that Liverpool won the champions league last night after being 3-0 down. Does that give you any hope in the situation that you find yourself in that in sport anything can happen?

M.Schumacher: I think you want to upset the Italians, mentioning again Liverpool won. Yeah, quite clearly, yesterday shows as well that you have to fight to the last moment.

Q: (Dusko Dragic - Ekipa) Michael, after the race at Imola a fan jumped over the wall at the Variante Alta and ran towards you with a flag. The same thing happened here at the Nurburgring in 2001 and that was a positive thing. The negative moments came in Hockenheim in 2000 and Silverstone 2003 where in fact a fan who was trying to ruin the race helped Ferrari win. Are you afraid that some day someone will deliberately try to destroy your race?

M.Schumacher: No, I hope not. You never know what goes on in the minds of people, but it has happened twice in a negative way. Actually, normally in the past fans would run onto the track after the race had finished, 20 years ago or 15 years ago. Now they don't. To talk about the two obstacles, I guess safety and security systems have been improved to avoid that happening.

Q: (Dusko Dragic - Ekipa) Why didn't you pick up the Ferrari flag at Imola?

M.Schumacher: We are not allowed to. The rules forbid us to stop and take any stuff because we could literally take weight off the car.

Q: (Livio Orricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) ) Michael, Rubens complained that you overtook him in the last race on the last lap. What do you have to say?

M.Schumacher: Yeah, it's true. I did. It is racing and I mean, if you see the situation in general, you have a race, you are tired, you have emotions, when you think about it and you see the race you may think differently. I haven't seen him today but I spoke to him on Monday because it was his birthday. He was pretty relaxed. He is Brazilian, anyway, you should know, he is a bit more temperamental.

Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Germany) Michael and Ralf, in the German press there has been this brother war going on the last four days. What do you think about it all?

M.Schumacher: Honestly, I think we are both very highly competitive race drivers, we fight on the circuit, everyone for his own interest, in a way for his team. But you never forget it is your brother, and you love your brother. You finish the race, you may have some more emotions, but it doesn't really matter. At the end of the day, it is your brother, your blood, and everything that has been written in these silly newspapers at this moment, if you know each other, if you would know us two then you know it is 'BS'.

R.Schumacher: Nothing to add.

Q: (Mike Doodson) (The microphone did not work initially.) The incident between you and Michael follows a number of incidents in which Michael was involved. Back in 1992, at the Brazilian Grand Prix, Michael was almost put off the road by Ayrton Senna. He was very upset about it. He was upset about it at the time and he never complained about it again. All he did was, to change his whole attitude, he adopted Senna's style. The question I have for you, Ralf, is why don't you adopt Michael's style and do to him exactly what he has been doing to you and other people for so many years?

M.Schumacher: I think there was a good reason why your microphone didn't work! (Much laughter)

R.Schumacher: You should answer that one! Basically that is the way it is. In racing situations sometime you see things in a different way. We all fight for positions, people do think it is a bit tough or too tough, and maybe those things happen to me as well. Maybe for the future we adapt all that. At the end of the day we are all sensible. Nobody wants to hurt another driver but obviously, at the same time, you have to fight for your position, for your team and your own points, and it is a decision we sometimes have to take within a couple of tenths of a second. It might not always been the right one. It is like a start incident, things like this can always happen.

Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News). Jenson and Nick, not referring to Monaco at all, how do you guys draw the line between an aggressive pass, safety, maybe not passing, etc?

Button: Every situation is different. You can't explain now what you would do in a certain situation, it's impossible. When you are there at the time it is always very different than what you can ever imagine. I'm sure it is in the back of your mind, your limits, but to talk about it is very difficult.

Heidfeld: The same. You have to look at each incident individually. You cannot explain what is good or what is a clean overtaking manoeuvre. You just have to watch it and then discuss it. It is not that easy.

Q: (Markus Gotting - Stern) Ralf, as far as I know, the comments that you gave were not exactly after the race, but even a day after the race or two days after the race. So that seems to me that it is not a matter of overheating after the race, you still seem to have the same opinion on what Michael did. And what does your wife have to say now that you've talked to Michael about it? (Laughter)

R.Schumacher: I think she concentrates on her Mini Challenge. I think she was involved in that by accident. She didn't really want to, because that was her words from Sunday. You have an opinion, it is nothing to do with being emotional or anything. Obviously, straight after the race, you can be slightly more emotional. You have an opinion and you stick to it. But it has nothing to do with a war, a family or brotherly war, it is just a different opinion. Whether it would have been Michael or anybody else, at that moment I had a different opinion than a competitor. So I don't really see what the fuss is about. I understand to some extend that it is interesting for people to write about. It was maybe a good advert for tickets at the Nurburgring, so it's great for all of us, isn't it? (Laughter)

Q: Ralf, did you change your opinion that your brother sometimes switches his brain off?

R.Schumacher: I think we all do from time to time. As I said before, you have to take a decision within a couple of tenths sometimes and it might not always be the right one.

Q: (Leopold Wieland - Auto Bild Motorsport) We discussed about the special track, Monaco, do you think it is still okay to race in Monaco because it's very dangerous. The outcome could have been even much worse.

R.Schumacher: I think for drivers, to some extent, it is really enjoyable to drive in Monaco because it is the ultimate racetrack, where you just cannot make mistakes and you're trying to be quicker than else, but it still doesn't change the fact that we go quicker and quicker each year, basically, and that the run-off is not particularly big, as I experienced myself on a qualifying lap. So from safety grounds maybe we shouldn't be there anymore but it is not up to us to decide that.

Q: (Dominic Fugere - Le Journal de Montreal) Michael, Ralf has been saying a few times now at this press conference that you have to take a decision in a few tenths of a second and it might not be the right one. Did you feel that the decision to fight for position that late in the race with your brother was the right one, or do you think it might have been taken a little quickly, and as Ralf says, it might not have been the right one?

M.Schumacher: Listen, I think we both said that we have to race each other. It is racing, maybe we might disagree on certain points of view but it's pretty natural. We are both very competitive, we have our opinions and I think we have to have our opinions. But to now make a detailed fuss about it, and 'he has said this little word there and he has done this little thing there.' Let's be serious and stop the idiot business and let's continue again with the normal stuff.

Q: (Dusko Dragic - Ekipa) Michael, here at the Nurburgring back in 1957, Juan Manuel Fangio drove probably the best race of his life before he retired. Do you think you still need that last big win before, as Fangio would say 'now it's time for the youngsters?'

M.Schumacher: No.

Q: Every one has been a big win.

M.Schumacher: No, but each one is different, each one is special in a different way. There are some which are more outstanding than others, but even a race like Monaco, I have to say I did enjoy it. It was a tough time, I was at the back and I had to fight my way back into position. I enjoy it but it doesn't always need to be the best race that you won. It is most likely to be, but it doesn't need to be.

Q: (Dusko Dragic - Ekipa) Last year the director of the Nurburgring circuit organised a show where the drivers took lucky fans for one lap around the circuit in the team's engine supplier's cars. This year, the show is going to be repeated, but again without the Ferrari drivers. Why are you not coming? I realise that this is more a question for your superiors.

M.Schumacher: Yeah, I guess so. It is a commercial question, and I don't know what the commercial background is.

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