UNITED STATES GP - FRIDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE

FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 17 JUNE 2005

TEAM CHIEFS: Ron DENNIS (McLaren Mercedes), Nick FRY (BAR Honda), Peter SAUBER (Sauber), Frank WILLIAMS (Williams)

Q: Peter, first of all, we all thought your heart was totally in your racing and your team. So can I ask why do you want to sell your team?

Peter SAUBER: It's principally not my intention to sell the team but I think it's very important to do the right things at the right moment. Is that enough for you?

Q: Because I've heard you wanted to safeguard the future of the team to some extent, to make sure the future of the team is safe.

Sauber: That's normal. I follow two goals. I think it's important to make progress on the sporting side and that has to be the intention for every team. And the other point is it's important to keep the infrastructure and the people.

Q: On another controversial subject, obviously there is a lot of interest here, Jacques Villeneuve, a former Indy 500 winner. Is his position safe within the team?

Sauber: Since the beginning of the season, there were constantly reports that we would replace Jacques. The fact is that he is still here, as you can see, and there is nothing to add to this.

Q: Nick, Danica Patrick is the big name over here in the States, there was the possibility of her running in a BAR Honda, which isn't happening. Is there a possibility of her running in the future in the BAR Honda?

Nick FRY: We haven't got anything planned at the moment. Clearly she is doing a good job for Honda over here and wants to focus on running the car tomorrow and in the end it just proved totally impractical. Danica had to be in Phoenix, where she is at the moment, and she had a sponsor's obligation. I think, as you saw yesterday, she causes a huge amount of media interest here in the States. So nothing planned at the moment.

Q: You unfortunately received a ban from a couple races earlier on in the season. Looking back now, how did that affect the team morale?

Fry: In terms of morale, not much. It's amazing how well the team has pulled together. That's not only just the people within the team but the support we've had from all the sponsors has been frankly absolutely outstanding. That's all of them, from the small ones right through to the owners of the team. So I think with that support, it's been relatively easy for everyone to pull together. But I think these things you just put behind you and get on with it. I think the team has an unbelievable fighting spirit. I think you saw the effort that guys put in to change Takuma's gearbox during the race last week to get him a bit further up qualifying. That was an indication of how good the fighting spirit is. So BAR is a team that has had a few knocks over the years and spent the first few years being extremely unsuccessful and I think that has led to the team being strong. We lost a bit of momentum, which was unfortunate, probably more than we anticipated, but the last race wasn't bad and we're hopeful for this weekend.

Q: Frank, how do you see the current performance of the team, because it seems to be a little bit up and down?

Frank WILLIAMS: Well, we were making quite a bit of progress until the last race, we seemed to struggle there, indeed we did struggle there, probably going to be the same here. But we will be back in due course and in Europe we will have more performance.

Q: We saw in the European Grand Prix, for example, you were on pole position there.

Williams: Well, as you saw, we stopped quite early in the race, but tactically it did help our car to be quite competitive.

Q: One of the questions that you have been asked many times I'm sure is about BMW but I'm not going to ask that. Are you actively seeking another engine partner, are you talking to other engine manufacturers?

Williams: I can't really talk about that. We're waiting for BMW to provide an answer, which we anticipate will be next week. After that we'll have to think about which direction we want to go in, if we need to think about it.

Q: Ron, a race ago, before the Canadian Grand Prix, in theory, if Kimi had won all the races thereafter and Alonso would have come second, Kimi still wouldn't have been champion. Do you think there's a problem with the scoring points? It's ridiculous to say at that stage that situation existed. Do you think there's a problem with the scoring system?

Ron DENNIS: Not really. I think it's the same for everybody and it places a great emphasis on reliability. I think that is something that is a good thing for Formula One. I did quite enjoy the period of time in which you were able to drop some races so that the odd car not finishing a race wasn't penalising you too severely. So if I had to solely and exclusively decide to change that element of Formula One, I'd probably leave the points alone and maybe it just be the 16 races, the top 12 races or something count. I always felt that was interesting for the teams but I recognised it was somewhat confusing for the public and the media reporting to the public. So I could see the wisdom in changing it, but finishing races now has almost gone the other way as Nick's just pointed out. The concept of changing a gearbox during the race in order to affect your qualifying position is really in some ways perverse. In one way we're saying one engine does two races and then another you're saying you can do anything else, etc., etc., even during the race. It was a strategy well executed because, of course, I think they finished eleventh or something with the level of dropouts and that was well worth the effort.

Q: You also had your own controversy or drama, shall we say, during the race in Canada. Have you changed procedures since then?

Dennis: Well, you know, I think it was pretty accurately reported as to what happened. But when we were explaining things after the race, we certainly weren't as well informed as we are now because we now categorically know that there was an obvious concern coming from Juan Pablo that Kimi wouldn't drop his pace if Juan Pablo dropped the pace and they were instructed to drop the pace and to maintain a five-second gap between them. There was discussion going on, from both drivers, and Juan Pablo was on the radio discussing it, and I stress discussing it. It wasn't an argument, there needed to be assurances given that if he dropped his pace that it would not be to the detriment of his ability to win. The amount of time that was between the point at which the safety car came out and the pit lane entrance, 50 percent of that time, I think, and that's an approximation, but 50 percent of the time he was on transmit, talking, and when he finished talking Davey responded. And it was in that conversation that Davey and his engineer missed the call. And, of course, they were pretty mortified at the time, but the fact is that if I had to write my own mistakes down, it's a very, very, very long list. And we are in a pressured situation, mistakes happen. But there was no way we were going to influence the outcome of the race to the detriment of Juan Pablo, there was absolutely no chance of that. We practice what we preach. So, you know, you carry the frustration of the outcome but the lack of criticism that Juan Pablo has had in our mistakes is reciprocated in the lack of criticism of his and that's what a team is about. You take your successes and your failures as a team. And it's hugely embarrassing to us because we pride ourselves on our professionalism but at that moment we weren't particularly professional.

Q: So if I could go on to this question to all of you about the proposed 2008 regulations, I'm sure most of you will say that it's a starting point for negotiation. But there must be bits that you like and bits that you don't like, so I would be very interested to hear your comments on that. Peter, would you start?

Sauber: I read proposals and proposals over the last, I don't know, couple of years. And if I'm honest, I didn't read the new one completely.

Q: Completely?

Sauber: Yeah. I think the direction is clear to save money, but that's the direction since many years. And when we change something, Formula One gets more expensive and not cheaper, except maybe the engine for two weekends. But all the other things, all the rule changes we had, Formula One gets more expensive.

Q: Are you planning to read it when you get back to Europe?

Sauber: Yeah, sure. I think it's important to read it, yeah.

Q: You just haven't for the moment, okay. Nick?

Fry: Since Montreal, Geoff and myself have been occupied doing other things. We've read it but haven't digested it. I think generally anything that improves the excitement of the racing for the fans is to be applauded. Whether these are the right things or the wrong things, I think is simply too early to say at this stage. We haven't had a chance to go through it properly. So when we have time to do so, I'm sure we'll respond probably collectively, I'm sure there will be some discussion between the teams and I'm sure there's some very good bits and probably not so good bits. But I think it would be premature to say anything definitive at this stage.

Q: Frank?

Williams: I think Nick said exactly what I was going to say.

Q: How convenient. Ron?

Dennis: The first thing to remember is that we're talking about 2008 and we're halfway through 2005 and clearly that gives us the opportunity to have very considered views about change. There is nobody, no team principal or chief executive of a manufacturer, who does not embrace the concept of making Formula One better. And if it can be made less expensive at the same time, that is a huge bonus. But as Peter has pointed out, most of the changes have effectively cost money and you could even argue that the tyre regulation and the engine regulation has most definitely saved money for some teams but it has moved costs. In the instance of tyres, it saved the tyre companies money, in our opinion, and increased the teams' costs because there is very extensive testing that you have to do. On the engine side, a lot more work has to be done on the test beds and we have to run engines to prove them out on the circuits. So our testing costs have gone up. If you don't have to do that, your costs are going to go down. So perhaps it's a little bit of a Robin Hood-type of regulation where the teams who have enjoyed a little bit more of a financial cushion to the smaller teams and a bit more money are doing the lion's share of the work and, therefore, the smaller teams are saving money. But whether it saves Formula One money, that's very much an open issue. The regulations, I have to admit I've only seen them for the first time today. They primarily went to the manufacturers first for their comments and the first thing is we need to understand as individuals, either as teams or manufacturers, what our own views are and then try and come to a collective position which hopefully allows us to see those things that we think are positive and perhaps are already contained in our own ideas, are easy to adopt and those things that we feel aren't so, that we have the opportunity to discuss them. But nobody is against change, we just want to learn from the past and we don't want change that costs us money or change that doesn't benefit Formula One. So we've got the time and we should use it wisely and I think the important thing is no single entity should be pressuring the situation unfairly. And that is a criticism that I think we could levy at virtually everybody involved at one stage or another has increase the pressure and we should be balanced and discuss these issues and negotiate these issues behind closed doors. We've got the time to do it thoroughly and we should do it thoroughly.

Q: Are there things in there that you like?

Dennis: I think that to cherry pick out of it would be dangerous. I think everybody's got a common objective and, you know, in the right environment, I'm sure we can improve Formula One and reduce some of the costs. But there are those people that are definitely going to resist some of the easy wins on cost reduction, which is number of races, controlled testing, you know, these things are very easy wins and there is a list of easy cost wins where everybody knows there is a real saving there but for some political reason are fighting against it.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Jose Carron - La Tribune de Genève) Peter, can you confirm the BMW deal for the engine supply will be announced before the end of the month or not?

Sauber: I can't confirm but I hope because we need an engine for the next season and I hope we can do it before the end of June.

Q: (Marc Surer - Premiere TV) A question to all of you about the philosophy of Formula One. The new proposal says same engine, V8, same angle, internal of the gearbox is the same. What else? EU is the same, brakes are the same. Is it the future of Formula One? It is like GP2 and now maybe called GP1 and everybody is the same? Why should the manufacturers stay in Formula One if everything is the same?

Dennis: As far as I'm concerned, the temptation is to have a discussion about it. But I think that the right place to have the discussion is behind closed doors. But I mean, I think you've made some valid points, but we most definitely will consider everything but behind closed doors and then come hopefully to a common position.

Williams: There's just one comment I'd like to make and that is how does Max truly define an independent team? Is an independent team a team with no money or is it the opposite, namely RBR owned by a billionaire with lots of money, clearly with only one mission and that is to win every championship he can get his hands on? That, too, is an independent team. Are we an independent team? We certainly are. We've managed to get through merit a freebie engine but next year, maybe, we have to pay engines. It doesn't suit me to want to have to fire 500-plus people next year. But much more importantly, if you want to field a perfect field of ten independent 30-man teams, would Formula One still be Formula One and would it still have the world's third largest sporting TV global footprint?

Fry: I think it's just a general principle, we've said, I think, and a number of the other teams have said several times, we want to see Formula One be at the so-called pinnacle of motorsport and I think we need to define what that is. As Ron says, cherry picking from the list put forward at this stage is probably inappropriate but I think most of the companies have made it clear that they want to see Formula One at that apex. I think that's as far as we should go on that at the moment.

Sauber: I follow what Ron said.

Q: (Anthony Rowlinson - Autosport) Question for all of you. We haven't heard much from the group of manufacturers recently. Is there anything more you can tell us about behind-scenes negotiations or what your latest position is?

Dennis: I think it's for them to voice the current status of their discussions. But I think the teams are the catalyst to the momentum in the process and as such, you know, these back-to-back races, especially these ones that see us out of Europe for a period of time, tend to mean that it is hard for us to build into our week the capacity to address these issues. So the momentum does tend to go up and down but that shouldn't reflect as a lack of commitment from anybody.

Q: Does anybody have any further comment on that?

Dennis: I think actually it reflects also in the timing of the issuing of the document, if you get my drift.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) A question to all four gentlemen. You're all signatories to the test cap. How does the test cap affect the requirement to test cars for next year's engine regulations? Obviously the cars will be totally different to those you have this year? Has the committee or the group thought of that? What decision have you reached on that?

Dennis: It's not documented but I'm led to believe that everybody agrees that the V8 running should be part of the existing testing agreement. That's been circulated and agreed but it is undocumented at the moment.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Is there not a case to be made then to stop development on a car that's not competitive at this stage and concentrate on next year's car?

Dennis: One is free to do that. But I think you'll find that engines are still at the very beginning of their development curve and engines for cars are going to come out probably over the course of the next three months. But anybody's free to do what they want and perhaps that's why the teams, in recognizing that point, said let's keep it under the umbrella of our existing testing agreement. You can't profess to have a desire to keep costs down and then act in a different way. It is the strength in unity of the teams, all those teams that are part of that testing agreement which is somewhat unusual and, of course, for someone that's uncompetitive to be faced with being restricted against those people who don't wish to be part of this testing agreement, that's even more difficult.

Fry: I think the thing you probably have seen happen is that, as Ron says, we've all stuck together over this. We all, by e-mail, sort of loosely agreed that we'd contain the V8 testing within the present restrictions. But probably what you have seen, I think everyone is working like billyo to maximize the benefits of every single day. So the test mileages, I think, of all the top teams have gone up dramatically, unfortunately taken the costs with it. So to some extent, we've just used it more efficiently, but obviously miles mean money at the end of the day because lots of the parts for the car have a finite life.

Q: (Jose Carron - La Tribune de Genève) Question for Ron Dennis. To what extent is it an advantage to run a third car on a Friday? You know, can it win you the championship?

Dennis: Well, to be honest, it certainly gives us the ability to verify tyre choice but whether it's a huge advantage or not is constantly debated within our own organisation. The fact is that there's a degree of official and unofficial sharing of information out of the Michelin organisation and we're very comfortable with that. So I think everybody benefits that's a Michelin runner from us running a third car. I don't think it's unique to us. But it is an advantage, but, of course, it puts pressure on the logistical side of Grand Prix racing, it increases those pressures. But I wouldn't say it's a huge advantage.

Fry: From a team that had it and lost it, I'd say very big. (Laughter)

Q: And do you benefit from the Michelin side or do you know that you benefit?

Fry: I think there's a reasonable exchange. Michelin are tremendous to work with in many ways in that there's a lot of Chinese walls there, so obviously we don't get information which is specific but obviously they use the information they get generically to give gentle guidance. But I think we've noticed quite a big difference. There's a lot of things you can do with that additional car on Friday which you lose and certainly we've noticed it hurts a bit. It's not the end of the world, but it's an advantage.

Williams: We've not had the opportunity to run a third car. We're all a bit jealous of Ron this year in a way.

Q: Peter, still no chance of you running a third car?

Sauber: No. Makes no sense. It is too expensive.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Question for Nick. Nick, at your launch in February, you said that you're seeking clarification regarding tobacco from the British government in particular and that you felt that would be forthcoming fairly soon. You have got three race days left after this one where you can run tobacco livery. Have you had clarification? What is the status on that?

Fry: In our absence over here, and maybe Ron will have some information for his sponsors, my understanding is that a question was asked in the House (of Commons, London) and to Mr. Hoon with a fairly positive response that the so-called issue of extra-territoriality was not intended, it was not intended to mean that pictures shown abroad transmitted back to the UK would result in any kind of penalty. Now, that was a verbal response in the House. Our lawyers are currently looking at that to decide whether it has a material benefit. So it's still a little bit up in the air. But at the latest I heard, once I've been out here, was that was a positive sign.

Q: Have you heard anything, Ron?

Dennis: No, I haven't, to be honest. One of those rare occasions where Nick is better informed than me. (Laughter)

Fry: It's the age that does it, Ron. You've been around longer.

Q: (Tony Dodgins - Autosport) I'd just like to canvas a few opinions on the single tyre because some say the effect of the tyre on the overall package is disproportionate and therefore there is a case for regulating the tyre. Others say that it makes racing more interesting and it would also obviously if it was a single tyre, cut your budgets by a considerable amount. Where do you stand on that? Do you agree or not?

Fry: I think it comes back to what I said earlier about the pinnacle of motorsports. We all want it to remain there at the top. I think a rhetorical question is, is restricting one particular thing compatible with that? And the answer is I think that's part of the whole discussion process. Why pick on that one thing? So I think it's just part of the mix that we have to discuss as we review what we do post-Concorde agreement.

Sauber: The same opinion.

Dennis: Well, I've got mixed emotions. If we go back to the beginning of the season, I would say in the cost discussion issues, I think everybody accepted that there would be significant cost reduction as a result of a single-tyre formula. We are, in fact, spending more money at the moment on tyres, primarily because the cost has moved from the tyre companies to the teams because the teams have to run them for greater distances and the evaluation process is just longer and more mileage-oriented. So those are the sort of negatives.

I think the positive, and I don't know if it was by design or by accident, is that clearly the racing becomes very, very interesting in the latter parts of a Grand Prix as those cars that do not have particularly good balance suffer more and more with tyre wear and the imbalance that was shrouded by the opportunity of changing tyres through the race. And it's an area, as always in motor racing, if you have anything that you think gives you a slight edge, you're very reluctant to give it up. At the moment we feel pretty sure that in most races the phenomena that comes from high tyre wear and an imbalance is felt more by our competitors than ourselves. So it certainly plays to our strengths, as it were. Does it make motor racing more interesting? Well, I think actually some latter parts of the races have been really great this year.

Williams: Well, I remember the Goodyear days when they supplied Formula One uniquely and for many years racing was arguably just as good as it is now. I also I must say that cost cutting is king, at the moment you have to have one tyre only but two tyres availability means a better spread of performance. Because if you go back to when, let's say Bridgestone were the only supplier, one was always jealous and worried about the top two teams who did all the development testing. But they were inadvertently driving development in their direction. So there's always been plenty of room for complaint.

Q: (Niki Takeda - Formula PA) It's a question to all of you. The business aspect of Formula One is increasingly important now. How difficult is it for you to find the sporting side of it? Or are you just feeling pretty objective about it? Can you separate the two quite easily?

Dennis: Mine's easy. If there wasn't sport in Formula One, I wouldn't be in it. Simple answer. But it's a fact. I love Formula One because of the sport, not because of the financial aspects. You have to be a competent businessman to succeed, but it's too demanding on your time and your life for it to just be a way to make money.

Williams: Raising money is very competitive. (Laughter) That, too, can be very much fun if you're successful.

Fry: I think there's much easier ways to make money than this. It's extremely tough. This is my first full year and the amount of travel we have to do and even in between races is very, very significant. If you didn't enjoy the fun of the sporting side, then frankly there are better things to do. So at the end of the day, I think it's all about racing and the rest is just there to support it. Frankly, the sooner we get some of the question marks out of the other side of it, the better, and then we can concentrate on having fun racing and making the whole racing more entertaining which I think has been fairly successful this year so far, albeit with a bit of controversy, but I think that's what we need to all focus on.

Sauber: I think the sport is very important for me. I'm a racer and I like Formula One. But unfortunately we need a lot of money to do it properly.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) A question for Ron about what you said before, we have to discuss behind closed doors between us. Do you mean nine teams or also the red team?

Dennis: There's going to be an inevitability that everybody has to sit and discuss and agree. But I think if you have a situation where there are groups of people that can agree about it, then you should try and get to a situation where there's a majority view, and then obviously if that majority needs to temper its position to get a unanimous view, then that's what has to happen. But some of the discussions in the past have been very difficult to have because of the total intransigence of some people and that, I think, was the driving force that saw the majority of teams sit down and say we want to see if we can agree. But we don't accept that that's going to be an automatic given. But it's more constructive to have discussions with like-minded people.

Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Frank, as you were talking about money earlier on, in the eventuality of BMW going elsewhere, what proportion of sponsors of your team are, shall we say, Williams sponsors and what proportion are BMW sponsors and are you confident you can retain most of those sponsors?

Williams: Well, that's a business question and I'd rather not answer it. But in simple terms in the event of a switch, it means we're still solidly in business.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Question to Ron. Ron, last year at Spa when it became evident that you could qualify for a third car, you said you thought the rule may be changed. What does it take to change that rule? Because as things stand now, there's a certain competitor running an opposition tyre lying fifth in the championship and therefore could qualify for a third car next year. What does it take to change the rule?

Dennis: I think it requires a change to the sporting regulations, which does not require unanimous agreement up to a specific point, and when that point was reached - I'm trying to think of the date...

Williams: 31st of October.

Dennis: ...31st of October, up to that point it doesn't have to be unanimous and after that it has to be. When I was speaking about my view that maybe it would change, it was prior to 31st October.

Q: (Anthony Rowlinson - Autosport) Another general question. There's been some talk that the calendar might shrink next year from 19 races. Do you think that's desirable? If so, do you have any guidance on whether the calendar will decrease next year?

Sauber: About the 19 races? I hope to have less, 17 is enough. Especially all this back-to-back races, it's too much for the team. And it could be worse next season because there is, I believe next season is the Soccer World Championship or something and maybe we have more back-to-back races than this year.

Fry: I do wonder whether the four races in five weeks that's coming up is simply too much for the customers. I think when they're that close, just how willing people are to give up their Sunday afternoons or, will they be allowed to give up their Sunday afternoons to watch motorsport four out of five times? To me that's a question mark; I don't know the answer to that, so I support Peter. I think forget our side, I think we should be the entertainers, but I think the public needs to tell us whether they want that many races. For me, I don't know the answer, but I think spreading them out a little bit is probably a better move and if that means reducing it a little bit, then so be it.

Williams: Well, I remember something Ron said at a recent team meeting; he said, the more races there are, the richer Bernie gets and the poorer the teams get. That's about right, Bernie makes the money. It costs us a great deal of money to go to extra races.

Dennis: Well, I've always had the view that we need a balanced championship. Obviously it costs us money to go motor racing, otherwise we wouldn't need people to invest in us by way of sponsorship, which I always hate the word because what we sell is media exposure. But putting that aside, if I had any reservations about these back-to-back races, they were definitely removed last weekend because I decided to wait until Kimi's car was released from the parc ferme, and that was delayed because of the issue of the gearbox change in Nick's car. So I was there, I think, until nearly eight o'clock. That was three really hot days. I walked up and down and watched the guys working and I tell you, they - to do what they had to do and to disassemble and assemble, you could see everybody was extremely tired and not everyone had the motivation of a positive result. So you've got the psychology of not getting the result that you wanted blended with three hot days. And they're all back at work effectively on Tuesday lunchtime. It's too much, it's too much. The impact, also, is dramatic on the families. Because you would think, of course, that they go back and have a rest, but there is no rest. They get back and within two or three days they're working, preparing the cars for the French Grand Prix. So it's just too intense at the moment. It really is.

Q: (Tony Dodgins - Autosport) We used to start the season in Argentina or Brazil or wherever in January and I think finish in Australia sometimes in November. Is there any reason we can't expand the envelope of the season or does it have to be in the window that it is for car-build reasons and things like that?

Fry: I kind of like the idea of expanding it a bit regardless of the number of... having done world rally for the last three years, it seems to work quite well there. You know, you don't have the time obviously to do so much testing. Obviously in rallying, usually you're not doing a new car every year. So if you tie it in with some of the other proposals, maybe spreading it out a little bit and giving people a bit more time between races, not only on the provider side, on our side, as Ron says it's very intense for every team member at the moment but also for the public point of view, maybe there's some merit in that. The rally side starting the third week of January in Monte Carlo seems to work quite nicely. Just means you can't spend all that time running around in circles in Barcelona or Jerez which may be positive.

Q: What would you feel about that, Peter? Starting earlier perhaps?

Sauber: I don't know. I think we need the time during the winter to build the new car and to develop the new car. We have not had a lot of testing. We started in the end of November, two tests in December and some tests in January and February. It's not a lot. And when we reduce the tests during the season, I think the tests over the winter are necessary. And it's too complicated to do that together with races, especially for us because we have a small test team and we do all the tests with only one car.

Dennis: It's pretty complicated. It's not as simple as you first think. If you look at the simple mathematics, we all strongly want a three-week break in August. That's a very important break for all of us, especially when we say 'and no testing in that break.' If you have races every two weeks, we think that we can take that in our stride. So if you reduce the number of races down to 16 or 17, then the calendar does not require back-to-backs and you can have a reasonably close season. I think everybody looks forward to the beginning of the Grand Prix season but if we could run all the year round, I think it would be detrimental to Formula One. I think you do need a break, you need people to say, okay, that was that World Championship, forget everything that went the previous year and embark on a new one. The key is just reducing the number of races to avoid the back-to-backs.

And in support of Bernie, you've really got to look at the reason why certain races happen at certain times of the year. It's climatic, it's national holidays, it's all sorts of things' influence. We like to steer around World Cup Soccer and Olympic games. It is not quite as easy as you would imagine. But the simple mathematics are less races. That will remove some of the back-to-back races and they are the ones that are really hard to accommodate.

Williams: I've done lots of both and would rather have what we have now than starting in January.

Q: (Steve Cooper - F1 Racing) Quick question for all of you. Given there's a fair likelihood that this championship could go to the wire and some things may have to in some way or other implement team orders to perhaps win the World Championship, do you think F1 is better served by banning team orders and having you guys play dumb and perhaps not admit that you are perhaps manipulating the results or would you rather have it open so the public would know what the true results were?

Dennis: I can give you an easy understanding. I believe that the drivers in our team, if one was faced with a mathematical impossibility of winning the championship and the other one could, I would be surprised and disappointed if by choice the drivers didn't drive in an appropriate manner. And I think one driver permitting another driver to overtake because it's in the interest of the team and his teammate does not constitute an instruction by the team. It's called having honour and integrity.

Q: Frank, would you agree with that?

Williams: Yeah, I do. Ron knows what he's talking about. Max has, notionally at least, banned team orders but even he recognizes the team has certain requirements as long as any manoeuvering doesn't grotesquely offend the public. The guys here are clever enough to make sure there's none of that.

Fry: When we get in that position, I'll let you know. (Laughter)

Q: Wolfgang Rother - Premiere TV) It's a good last question maybe. It's coming down to some human aspects. Ron, it's a question for you. I saw Kimi walking a dog in the paddock lately and I just saw Juan Pablo playing with his newly-born son at the backside of the pits. How do you like this new image of McLaren being a family place? (Laughter) Have you had discussions about it? Tell us a little bit how these discussions progressed, please?

Dennis: If wearing a Ronald McDonald uniform personally made the drivers go quicker or get better results, I'd be the first one into it. (Laughter). The simple fact is that if these things... if I see something and I feel it's positive to the performance of the drivers, I'm completely comfortable. If I felt it was negative, I'd say something about it. And at the moment, for different reasons, I think the two things that you've pointed out happen to be positive in the sense that the dog incident had some humour behind it which was not known. And I consider Juan Pablo's wife an extremely positive influence on Juan Pablo. So if the price the team has to pay to have Connie around is to bring the baby too, then absolutely fine by me. And if it appears to be an uncharacteristically human aspect of McLaren, then, as I've said so often, you need to be in the team to understand the team. That's the way we always are, is just the circumstances in the past haven't led us to embrace the concept of prams and woofers. (Laughter)

Williams: Do you allow the dog in the motor home?

Dennis: No way. Actually, it was in there. (Laughter)


THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 16 JUNE 2005

DRIVERS: Fernando ALONSO (Renault), Juan Pablo MONTOYA (McLaren Mercedes), Michael SCHUMACHER (Ferrari), Scott SPEED (Red Bull Racing)

Q: Juan Pablo, memories of Indianapolis, a nice place for you to come?

Juan Pablo MONTOYA: Yeah, it's a nice race track to come to, it's a bit different to any other track, there's the big compromise between the infield and turn one. It's pretty interesting. The car should be really quick around here as well, so I'm looking forward to that.

Q: The performance in Montreal must have been very encouraging.

Montoya: Yeah, but the Renault was quite strong as well so we thought the race with them was going to be quite tight but I think it was going to be a good race to the end.

Q: Give us your take on the timescale of what happened in Canada, when the safety car came out etc etc?

Montoya: The safety car came out... my side of the thing was that we were discussing what pace to do, because we had around a 30-odd second lead and they said 'we're backing off both cars', to look after the cars because the Renaults were out. At the same time that they were talking the safety car came out and when they noticed it, it was too late (to come into the pits). Then they decided to pit me on the next lap and they said normal thing, came out of the pits, I saw the red light and as I approached it the blue light came on and I radioed through and said 'do I stop or not?' and I don't think they heard me. At one point, when the blue light came on, I thought maybe the red was a mistake because it shouldn't have come on, and I decided to go through it. It was my mistake, in a way, but I thought they would give me a drive-through penalty or something, I thought initially they might just ask me to go to the back of the line or something, but then after that, for some reason, they decided to get me out of the race. I think it was very harsh to be honest, and unfair. But that's what it is.

Q: So you've got over it now?

Montoya: I'm over it. It's been a tough season for me, I've been very unlucky. And this thing with the FIA hasn't helped.

Q: Scott, you've had a pretty tough schedule over the last eight days or so, prior to coming here; tell us about it?

Scott SPEED: Yeah, well, unfortunately, in the GP2, the championship I'm running in and concentrating on this year, we've had very limited test days and the last two official days were in between Montreal and here so I had to fly back and drive on Tuesday which was not so productive because it rained. I got back last night. Doing the travel.

Q: Fairly fresh? Feeling OK?

Speed: Yeah, yeah. It's the training that you do in the off-season which prepares you for this kind of schedule because it's to be expected.

Q: How did you find driving a Formula One car, how did you find your first Grand Prix participation?

Speed: Ok, I think all the media around is one of the biggest differences. The day goes by a lot quicker. The car itself is quite nice to drive, it's obviously got a lot more aerodynamic performance. Yeah, it's quite pleasurable.

Q: Do you find it difficult to drive, a big difference from GP2?

Speed: Yeah, it's quite a big difference from anything. It's just that aerodynamic performance, the driving style is a bit different. But once you get used to it, it's not so bad.

Q: You mentioned the media a moment ago; you're very important for Formula One, you're very important for the United States as well. Is that a lot of pressure?

Speed: Yeah, I don't think there is so much pressure at this moment. When you're driving on Fridays you're not really competing with anything and you're not compared with anybody so I think the pressure would be a lot more when you get into qualifying and the race.

Q: Michael, I know you've just had a great press conference outside, a great reception as well, but there was one question you didn't answer: chicken or beef? Did you not hear that?

Michael SCHUMACHER: I don't know the meaning of it.

Q: I suppose it's whether you prefer chicken or beef.

Schumacher: Think so?

Q: Yeah. (Laughter)

Schumacher: I like beef if that's it.

Q: You've also had a great record here, three pole positions, three wins. That must be encouraging for you, especially with the performance last week.

Schumacher: You have to be pretty honest about what happened last week. I would have been fifth in normal circumstances and not second as I finished. So at the end of the day, it didn't show off very much last week but we have had some very good performances through the year like at Imola, like in Monte Carlo in the race. So it depends on where we are at this circuit whether we're sort of more Imola like or whether we're more whatever, Barcelona or other races.

Q: Now, your brother has been quoted in Bild as saying that you will retire, you are not having as much fun as you did last year and for that reason you will retire soon. What's your reply to that?

Schumacher: I don't know how he comes up with that. I speak with him as much as I do with you, and tell him how much I enjoy it actually. Even though I'm not winning, you can enjoy it. You don't need always to win to be happy. The race last week, the race in Monaco, there were plenty of races, Imola, that were great fun. So I'm not lacking fun, neither I do motivation. There are phases like this that are not so successful but we have been so successful that I think it's pretty normal. And for me, I knew it would come to go through as long - and we are, in my view - as long as you're competitive and not completely somewhere gone and you have no chance, I'm pretty happy to go through this as I'm pretty sure we make our way up to the front again and we'll be there. And honestly, I think he has a couple of other things to think about and speak about. (Laughs)

Q: Fernando, your feelings after the Canadian Grand Prix.

Fernando ALONSO: The first moment you are little bit sad because it's the first retirement of the year. But these things happen in motor racing. After that, I think it was nice to have only one - three days off and come back to the next race because you forget very quickly and we can prepare this Indianapolis race a little bit more strongly.

Q: But was the performance of McLaren and to some extent Ferrari a bit worrying as well there?

Alonso: The McLaren, yes. I think after the first pit stop of the Ferrari, we knew that we were in good shape with them and the McLaren were the big opponents there. And yeah, obviously we pushed very hard in the race, especially when Giancarlo retired. The team told me that I should go quicker, to have a nice gap to Juan Pablo because probably in the second stop they were longer than us. So this pressure was maybe too much.

Q: What about the fact that you've never actually finished at this circuit before, does that worry you?

Alonso: Yeah, a lot. Always in Indianapolis I never finish the race. So I hope this year to break this thing and we have fantastic car this season and we were able to fight for the podium in all the races, in fact. And to finish here on the podium or to finish the race for me will be a big, big pressure.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Steve Cooper - F1 Racing) Juan Pablo, before you joined McLaren, Ron Dennis said he felt he had a certain way of dealing with South American drivers, he knew how to make them work, to press their buttons. Can you explain to me how your relationship with Ron is, and how he motivates you and how he makes things go, particularly with the troubles you've had in the last few races?

Montoya: I think the team has been very supportive. The last few races have been a bit unlucky. The first two races when I came back, I think the first race was really hard for me and I hardly could drive the car with the pain. Monaco was a bit of the same. Next race, Nurburgring, was good, there was hope there and I got run by another car, nothing my fault, nothing I could do about it. And the last race was this. So it's been frustrating. Ron has been, I think, not only Ron but the whole team has been 100 percent behind me and that makes my life a lot easier. They know I can do the job and I proved at the last race that I can do it. So I'm not too concerned and they're not too concerned, it's just a matter of getting the things together. The way he presses buttons, I don't see it. He's nice and he's very straightforward with everything and I am the same way with the things that I don't like to him. So when you have a very straightforward relationship, things work.

Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) To Scott Speed, how much is David Coulthard with all his experience and even Christian Klien been able to help you and just give you advice on circuits and driving the car?

Speed: I think all the drivers at Red Bull have been quite open and helpful in every way they can. So it's quite a good relationship that we have with the whole team. Everyone there is kind of like a big family.

Q: (Derek Daly - Speed Channel) Michael, with the amount of investment with the top teams, particularly Ferrari, the massive amount of information that you have, it's hard for people to understand that Ferrari struggle this year. Is it because McLaren and Renault in particular have taken a quantum leap or do you believe your car is as good as it was last year?

Schumacher: The point is that the development rate of Formula One can be and is extremely quick. We have had quite an advantage last year. There's been rule changes which sort of re-zeroed things, and quite frankly, we as a whole package probably didn't do as good a job as we have been doing last year. That's in a way the situation. And the other teams have done a very good job on the other side, which leveled out the situation.

Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber - EFE) Question for Fernando. Would you be happy here with a podium or could you expect a fifth victory of the year here?

Alonso: At the moment before we start in the process, I think to think of a podium is a more realistic target for us, especially because we go out third, I think, in qualifying. So this would not help us, our grid position. I think to finish on the podium is a great result for us here. But at the same time we always approach weekends with victory in sight and we have to do the maximum we can. I think we have a good car, we can have some luck, also, and a good start, you never know. We'll see how the weekend is running, but at the moment the podium, I think, is a good target for us.

Q: (Derek Daly - Speed Channel) Juan, with the experience you had with America and yellow flags, did you know pretty quickly that you were screwed when they didn't call you in immediately?

Montoya: Yeah, hundred percent.

Q: (Derek Daly - Speed Channel) So is the decision only from the team or can you override...

Montoya: No, it's not about overriding, you've got to be a part of the team. When the safety car came out, the team is on the radio going 'safety car'. They had about two or three hundred meters to call me in. The problem is, both of my guys that run the race, they were talking to each other at that exact moment when it went to safety car. They were trying to decide what pace, how quick we should go because we had enough pace to win the race where we were. And even if the safety car wouldn't come out, we were beating completely over a second a lap and they were trying to have both cars doing the same thing. So they were discussing that at that point when the safety car came out. When they radioed them, they were on the radio, so they couldn't hear it. It's not lack of anything, they made a mistake like I had made a mistake before. We've got to get the things together. It's unlucky but that's what it is. I think a lot of people thought - I heard this comment that they were trying to favour Kimi to win the race. It sounds pretty stupid when I would have been only nine points behind Kimi. One of the goals is to win the Constructors Championship. Myself scoring zero points and Kimi ten doesn't help, does it?

Q: (Derek Daly - Speed Channel) When that happens, you were so close to the win?

Montoya: It's not the first time.

Q: (Derek Daly - Speed Channel) Do you scream in your helmet, shout in the radio?

Montoya: When I was here in America, Ganassi did it twice to me in Detroit two years in a row and I was winning the race both times. He was doing something else when it went yellow. It doesn't matter, you know. That's what it is. For me, actually I don't care really that I didn't win the race, I don't really care that - it doesn't matter, it doesn't change anything now. You're out of the race and whatever. But after all, for me the most important thing is I was struggling to drive the car quickly. You know, I could have my run - race pace was good but I haven't been able to do much qualifying pace, I couldn't get the most out of the car or anything, and I did. We did a lot of work, went a different way from Kimi the whole weekend and it paid off.

Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) Scott, we often hear Americans say why is an F1 car so cool to drive? You've driven it three times. When you first got in that car, what really impressed you about the Formula One car?

Speed: I think the same thing the first time when everyone gets in it, the aerodynamic performances are on a completely different level than everything else. The amount of G-forces and power you have is incomparable.

Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber - EFE) Fernando, are your worries limited to the McLaren Mercedes team or are other rivals going to be big here?

Alonso: I think a lot of teams are very competitive in this race. I think McLaren obviously are one of the strongest and Renault, Ferrari is coming back, BAR-Honda, sometimes they are quick as well like they did the pole position in Canada. You know, every race is very open. When you arrive on Friday, it's difficult to predict a result for qualifying, for the race. I think our main competition now is with the McLaren, one, because Kimi is second in the Drivers' Championship from me. Also because the McLaren is second in the Constructors after us. So we have to race with them probably in this race these days.

Q: (Philippe Joubin - L'Equipe) Michael, this weekend Sebastien Loeb will participate in the Le Mans 24-Hours race. What do you think about this position and would you be interested in to race at Le Mans after your Formula One career is finished?

Schumacher: It is a question of if Le Mans still exists then! It is quite interesting to see that he jumped into this side of racing. I competed against him in the Race of Champions and that was nice to meet him actually. So, it will be interesting to see what he can do in this category, I am pretty sure he has the ability to drive those cars fast. I don't feel attracted very much to it, mainly due to the level of safety that is on that circuit.

Q: (Curt Cavin - Indianapolis Star) Scott you said things would be different when you got to Indianapolis and maybe all this would hit you. It is still early in the weekend but you are already sitting with Michael, Fernando and Juan Pablo in a press conference at Indianapolis. This has all happened so quickly.

Speed: Sure, everything has happened quite quickly. For one it is great to be back in America driving a Formula One car here, so yeah, it's quite a good week, my dad is here and he will watch me drive a Formula One car, which is quite nice as well, and yeah, I am really lucky the situation I am in, I have had a great opportunity with Red Bull and we are making the most of it.

Q: (Derek Daly - Speed Channel) Scott, you leave your family, your home country, you go to a different culture, different race tracks, I mean, that's a tall order for most people. Was it difficult for you or is it just what you have to do to chase the dream? And how difficult was it leaving everything behind?

Speed: Leaving home at 19 to move to Europe was a bit difficult, on top of everything I developed a disease called ulcerative collitis, which is a disease of the intestines, which after two years was quite debilitating at times. Fortunately it has been in remission and we have found a way to control it and now the living situation I have in Fuschl am See in Austria is quite nice and I have a quite good situation there, of course missing the family and friends from home is the biggest thing.

Q: (Heinz Pruller - ORF Vienna) Michael, you followed Fernando very closely and you followed Kimi very closely at the last race in Canada. What differences did you notice in motivation, concentration, technique, style?

Schumacher: First of all, I wasn't that close to Kimi as I was to Fernando at Imola. Second, there is not much to say. Those guys are great drivers and they know how to drive their cars. You cannot really judge unless you know the car because you don't know if it is the driver doing something or the car is doing and he is controlling that, so there is no point really in getting into that. Except I wish Fernando had done something similar to what Kimi did five laps to the end in Imola.

Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber - EFE) Juan Pablo, would you ever accept any indecent suggestions from your own team?

Montoya: What do you mean indecent suggestions? You just ask straight, I don't care.

Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) To tell you to back down?

Montoya: You know, if I am mathematically out of the points then yeah, it would be case of working with the team. Then again we still have quite a few races and I think I have got the pace to close the points on Fernando and Kimi. I am not too bothered about that to be honest. In the press I read somewhere that they thought they were going to let Kimi by and I was only 11 points behind Kimi, I think it was quite stupid actually, but you can write whatever you want. I don't care.

Q: (Tony Dogins ) Michael, in the Bridgestone press conference you talked about riding a motorcycle earlier this week. When you retire would you like to do something like ride a motorcycle from say New York to California, across country? And the second part is how was it as a driver to hear questions from the fans who asked about your dogs and things we don't usually talk about with you?

Schumacher: Yeah, there were some quite interesting questions today, a great audience. It is sort of interesting when you think that America every time we talk about it doesn't know Formula One but when you see the audience then at least those guys here are very well informed. Riding New York to California, I don't know about that, at the moment I have more important things to think about.

Q: (Tony Dodgins - Autosport) Juan, the situation you were in at the last race, you said you knew from the minute you didn't go in the pits that your race was ruined and you had a bit of time, obviously, the team had time to get you in. The obvious thing was to bring you both in and stack one behind the other.

Montoya: That was what they were going to do, that was the plan.

Q: Did you ever consider just arriving in the pit lane or is that a huge no-no?

Montoya: Well, I don't think, if the team is not prepared for you...I think you've got to work with the team. You cannot, the same way, you know, they, they were going to call me in and they were late, what happens if I would have done the other thing? What happens if I go into the pits and they say what are you doing here? You know, you've got to be a part of the team and if you don't trust the team, you know, you shouldn't be racing for them or shouldn't even be doing it, to be honest you shouldn't be racing. People forget this is a team sport, not only a driver sport. We're the ones people see on TV but there are over a hundred people working here for us to make sure we get the good results, and back in the factory over 500 people doing the same thing. So if you're not that part of the team, then you shouldn't be involved in it.

Q: (Steve Ballard - Indianapolis Star) Michael, your brother obviously doesn't have fond memories of the race here last year. Has he expressed any concerns about coming back here this year?

Schumacher: No. Obviously when this happens it can happen at any other circuit at any other time, that is how we would see it. It is not circuit related. When I had the accident in 1999 at Silverstone, the next time you come to it you don't want to think about it but then you just continue as normal.

Q: (Livio Orricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) To all drivers, we have seen a communication from the FIA with suggestions for the regulations for 2008 and we can see that the clutch cannot be used with the hand, and slick tyres, as far as I understand. What do you think about it?

All: No comments made.

Q: (Dave Kallman - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) Fernando, Michael had to answer some questions about his dogs and so on at the Bridgestone press conference, what should American fans know about you, what would we find interesting about you?

Alonso: I don't know! Every person is different and I think that because I am quite young I think the young people like me because I like to do the normal things, nothing really special, be with friends, do sport, I will play tennis this afternoon with friends here and I also have family living here in Oklahoma, so I like America and I think the American people like me.

Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber - EFE) Michael and Fernando, what are your thoughts about the talk that maybe Danica Patrick could enter as a woman in Formula One? And do you think that could be definitely push for Formula One being more known in the States because of that? Would that be sad or does it matter to you?

Alonso: For sure, it is a help for Formula One to be in America. I think for Danica it is a good opportunity to drive here on Friday, I guess, with Honda and for us it is also a pleasure to be a part of a big group in Formula One and also to have some women. I think it is good for the sport, for Formula One, and not only for America.

Q: We understand that Danica is not actually going to drive.

Schumacher: Oh, she's not going to drive? That's a shame.

Q: So your feelings on that?

Schumacher: Yeah, pretty similar. Not much to add.

Q: (Derek Daly - Speed Channel) If I can follow up on that. Scott, your opportunity obviously is part of this Red Bull American Driver Development Program. Have you been told that if you're quick enough or develop enough, that the seat is yours? Is it sort of one day at a time, one race at a time, one championship at a time?

Speed: Right now my focus is clearly on winning GP2 races and the Friday testing is something we're able to do in between the GP2 schedule and it's mostly just to gain valuable Formula One experience.

Q: Which means you didn't answer my question (Laughter). So with Red Bull, they haven't intimated to you that you are going to be in the seat, this is the plan, this is the development, this is the course we're going to take?

Speed: Yeah, okay. Of course, the plan the whole time has been to try to get into Formula One. There's no set date or anything at this moment. We're kind of taking it as it comes.

Q: Obviously, the demands on your time are going to be huge as your Formula One involvement increases. Does it bother you when the media focuses on the driver so much that the time requirements at the interviews, all the stuff you have to try and fit in, is that a distraction? Does it bother you?

Speed: No, it's not such a big distraction. You have your time to focus on the car before you get into it and to do your job. I think it's quite all right. It makes the day go by a bit quicker.

Q: (Jacques Schulz - Premiere TV) Juan, one question to you. Can you clarify once more what happens if Ron comes over the radio and goes 'Let Kimi pass for the...'

Montoya: I don't think he would do that because we're not allowed to do that, are we? I think the rules say that there are no team orders. I think if that would happen, it would be my decision, not Ron's decision to help the team. You know, I think I'm pretty clear on what we have to do. I'm clear. I still believe I have a chance for the championship. But being realistic, having a chance for the championship, you've got to be realistic to know when it stops. Honestly, I'm pretty straightforward. If this year I need to help Kimi, it doesn't mean the end of the year because I had my injury, the bad luck I've been havi

Print Story