The Friday-Six Press Conference - Spanish GP
Friday May 5th, 2000
Participants: Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan), Mika Salo (Sauber), Jos Verstappen (Arrows), Cesare Fiorio (Minardi) and Tom Walkinshaw (Arrows)
Q. Heinz-Harald, we didn't see much of you in your car today. Why was that?
Heinz-Harald Frentzen: I am on paternity leave, so I was taking it easily. No, I wasn't running ... for tactical reasons. One timed lap seemed enough for me today. If it had been my decision, I would not have done even one lap today.
Q. Is that because you knew enough about the track from all the testing you have done here?
Frentzen: It looks like it. Basically, this track is different from all the others. Barcelona is a test track and we did a lot of mileage here over the winter. The car is in good shape, with a good setup. Qualifying tomorrow will be very important, but we have already done everything else we needed to do, things like race setups and long runs.
Q. But Jordan's reliability has not been very good this year ...
Frentzen: No. Although it was alright today. We made some changes which we tested here after Silverstone, things like new gearbox parts which have helped the situation. I can't say yet whether the gearbox problems are solved 100 per cent, but we improved the box by at least a couple of percent. We certainly have to get back our reputation for reliability, and the challenge is ahead of us. We have lost a lot of points so far, but the season is long and I am optimistic that we will slowly get back into our rhythm. The car will be improved, too.
Q. Is your new team mate giving you a hard time?
Frentzen: Yes, luckily he is. I say 'luckily' because he gives me, and all of us, a challenge to fight for every tenth of a second. Jarno is very motivated. He wants to learn as much as possible. And he has a good racing spirit. I can't think of anything bad to say about him.
Q. Jos, right from the moment you returned to Arrows, you have been going quickly here ...
Jos Verstappen: Yes, the car performed really well in the winter tests, and it is still going well. Things don't look too bad. Qualifying tomorrow will be very tight again, because everybody knows the circuit so well [from testing]. Today the circuit changed quite a lot from this morning to this afternoon. I still think it will be a very hard qualifying tomorrow.
Q. Tell us about the best features of the Arrows A21.
Verstappen: The new car was quick straight out of the box. The aerodynamics are very good. It is fast, with good top speed. But to win races you need every feature of a car to be good. The engine feels good, and it is very driveable.
Q. You and Pedro have had strangely sympathetic start to the season, with exactly the same problems hitting you both in Australia and San Marino ...
Verstappen: Yes, we both had the same problem in Australia, but in San Marino I finished the race. At Silverstone, I had very good qualifying and an electrical problem in the race, but a different type of problem from the one which Pedro had. The car was very reliable here in testing last week, though, and I see no reason why we shouldn't finish the race on Sunday. In those terms it looks very good.
Q. In what position do you think you can expect to finish?
Verstappen: Anything is possible, between 8th and 15th.
Q. Mika, you have also had a rather strange start to your season. Do you feel it has really got going now?
Mika Salo: Yes. We should also have scored a lot more points than we did so far. We have had lots of early-season problems: we were set back a bit by what happened in Brazil. Now the problems are all sorted out and we can continue to develop the car. Last week here was actually the first time since January that I have been able to go testing and get the car set up for me, because we got a bit lost along the way. Now the real work starts. We have to make the car go a lot of quicker. There are plenty of new parts coming for the next couple of tests, things that we should have done already, maybe even a couple of races ago.
Q. Have you been able to find a good qualifying setup now?
Salo: Not really. When we started qualifying-style runs here in the test I had an oil leak and I spun off on my own oil in the final corner. I was just starting a qualifying lap, so at least I now know where to start pushing. We did a little more work on that the next day, but the important thing is timing. As Jos said, anything is possible. The gaps between 8th position and 15th are so close that it only takes a little mistake in the weekend to find yourself dropped to 15th. I feel that in qualifying I should be 8th, every time.
Q. The Sauber team has announced some personnel changes. What effect have they had?
Salo: Very good effect. Definitely in the right direction. The pace of development is faster, yes, but there have been lots of other things that have changed, too. For example our briefings are much more strict now, and more efficient. Everything is working well. It was all a bit of a mess early in the year, now it's all getting together. We get more out of the team this way and it is going the way we want.
Q. Cesare, can you tell us more about the progress which the team is making towards acquiring new business partners?
Cesare Fiorio: Well, the team cannot continue to rely on [Fondmetal owner] Mr Rumi alone and will have to go somewhere. So far Telefonica is our main sponsor, and a good one. Every other team seems to be trying to pick it up from us, but we are still holding on. Having said that, discussions are going on with two or three others situations. But nothing has been defined so far.
Q. How much engine development is coming?
Fiorio: We have one small step of engine development this weekend, both for qualifying tomorrow and with one car for the race on Sunday - if everything is fine tomorrow. This is the engine we will use for the rest of the season. Unfortunately there will be no more changes after this one. The car continues to improve and here we have an all-new cast titanium gearbox, which is something new for Formula One. This has not yet been completely developed because it affects the whole setup of the car. We are trying to get it as good as possible, but unfortunately we had only one day of testing with it last week here in Barcelona. The rest of the development will have to be done at the race venues, which is not an ideal situation. But once it is OK, for sure it will be a good step forward.
Q. What are the advantages of the titanium gearbox?
Fiorio: It is much lighter and much more rigid. Only Gaston Mazzacane is using it here: he had it all day today and did 37 laps without problem, so we are confident. The whole project has been quite expensive, but it serves to show that even a small team like Minardi can be a leader in new technology in the sophisticated world of Formula One.
Q. What are your feelings about your drivers and their progress?
Fiorio: Marc Gene did an excellent job last year. With more experience this year, he knows what he is doing and he helps the team a lot with development and car setup. He hasn't had his good race yet, but it should some shortly. Gaston has surprised quite a lot of people. Some of them said he would not be able to say in Formula One, but he has all the qualities to be here.
Q. Tom, would you agree that the season has started competitively for you?
Tom Walkinshaw: I agree that it's very competitive. It's now up to the complete team to get its act together and fulfil the potential that is there. We have let one or two opportunities slip through our fingers. Everyone has slipped off the pace, or slipped up. We have one or two technical upsets, and problems with the drivers. But we all know it and we are working together to improve things. It is one thing to have the aspiration to be a front runner, and quite a different thing to be able to deliver it. We really have the ability, but we really have to work hard and stay focused to accomplish it.
Q. With the return of Renault in 2002, what happens to you and Supertec in the future?
Walkinshaw: Pedro mentioned yesterday that the Supertec engine was a bit better than the one we had last year! But if Supertec decides to have a second team next year, we have first option on that supply. I hope to have a decision on that in the next few weeks.
Q. Has development stopped on your own V10 engine?
Walkinshaw: No, but it's just ticking along at a very low-key level, as a prudent precaution. Until we know exactly where we can expect to be going we need to have it as a back stop. But I am hopeful about having a deal with Supertec again next year.
Q. Your drivers make an interesting combination of hungry young men. What are your feelings about them?
Walkinshaw: They are both coming on well. They are accomplishing what we hoped to see in them, because they are putting pressure on each other. I think we'll see them getting better as the season goes along. The car was late and we hadn't given the drivers enough running to get race-fit, so Jos's fitness problem in Brazil was as much our fault as it was his. We both know we threw away the possibility of a 4th place there. I have to say that since then Jos has worked really hard on getting himself fit. He's been down to the rugby club [at Gloucester], where the guys are real animals when it comes to fitness, as I am sure he will testify to you if you ask him in private. He has worked really hard and impressed the whole team with his dedication to getting himself sorted out. Now I think we will see just what our drivers are made of. As the season goes on it will be interesting to see which one of them can impose himself on the other. I like to see drivers under pressure!