Thursday April 26th, 2001
Participating: Mika Hakkinen (McLaren), Ralf Schumacher (Williams), Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin), Mario Theissen (BMW) and Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone).
Q: Ralf, what difference has the win at Imola made to those winning for the first time? Has anything changed?
Ralf Schumacher: No not really. There's no reason for anything to have changed. I was happy for the team, happy for the result itself. But then coming to the next race, there are a few pressures on us to prove that we are competitive.
Q: Drivers often say that the most important thing is to have done it, to know how to win.
RS: Well Niki told me that the first one is the most difficult and the other ones are easy and there are a lot more to come. I hope he's right. We'll see.
Q: Pierre, you know this circuit because you've been testing here. What difference is that going to make?
Pierre Dupasquier: It's a completely different circuit compared to those which we've had since the beginning of the season, that we know. How different, we don't know, because everything has changed since we were here for testing. The cars have changed, the engines have changed, the drivers are the same, but maybe a little bit more different now. Constructions have changed. We have to rebuild everything. We have done things, and hopefully we will be on target, but it's not sure at all.
Q: What difference does traction control make to the tyre manufacturers?
PD: The main area of traction control is when the wheel is spinning. If you don't have any spinning, you don't need it. It doesn't play any role. So on circuits where you have a lot of stop and go, it is very different but apart from the start where it is very important, if the circuit is high speed that doesn't oblige you to go under third gear, traction won't change a lot. We'll see, we'll find out. Monte Carlo will be significantly different. But not too much here. We didn't test a lot, just a little bit. We've had so many things to test.
Q: Hiroshi, how has Bridgestone reacted after Imola? Have you made a special effort here?
Hiroshi Yasukawa: We have been trying many tests. Anyhow, Michelin make good tyres. But the package is very important. If we are working badly, but if driver and car is good, then perhaps we can make a good result. But consider the opposite: if we are going to make good tyres, but perhaps it doesn't work, but the team work and package is very important, then we are going to tyre the most suitable tyre in the race. Hopefully we will find a good specification for this race. Race is race, no one knows the result.
Q: You're supplying two of the top teams. How difficult is it to supply them, and how different are their demands?
HY: I believe always in top drivers and top cars require just one thing. We're not going to split too much. Then of course sometimes they split between our medium or soft tyres but basically not such a big difference.
Q: Mario, were you surprised that your first win came so soon?
Mario Theissen: Before the first race of this season, I would have been surprised about a victory in the fourth race. After then having seen the first races, it wasn't that much of a surprise any more. We showed our performance in those first three races, certainly in Brazil, already, Juan Pablo was in the lead for more than half the race distance. So apparently we saw that we could win races on our own, so we were very happy that Ralf did it last time.
Q: In the team's preview, Ralf has suggested that your control isn't as perfect as it might be; is that the case?
MT: That's right. We are in a development process. It certainly hasn't been finished yet. We will have something here. I think it won't be the optimum you can achieve. It takes experience again because it's not just about engine parameters. You can develop and set at the dyno at home. It's up to manufacturers, track, tyres, car, even the driver preferences. I think we might end up with having different set-ups for the two drivers in the end, which we certainly haven't got up to now. So in my view this is something to be developed over a season and we will see where we are this weekend.
Q: Mika, the challenge may not be so much on the circuit, but more on the setting up of the car? What is the challenge of the new regulations?
Mika Hakkinen: It has always been a challenge to set the car up for different circuits in different conditions, but certainly now, with the new regulations, it gives more options to drivers and teams to find different limits in different corners, and you can definitely now set the car up differently in high speed and low speed corners. In the past, it was definitely a case where high speed and slow speed circuits were very similar in terms of electronics.
Q: Is the challenge just traction control; what else is involved?
MH: There are definitely a lot of different parameters that you can use. It's not only just traction control which is the main gain in the performance of the car. There are a lot of other things. There are a lot of things that you can do to help the performance.
Q: If you look at where your teammate is, is that encouraging or depressing?
MH: It is encouraging in one sense. David has driven an extremely fantastic start of the season, finishing Grands Prix every time on the podium, and winning in Brazil for example. I think he's done a fantastic job for himself and for the team. Overall, that result has given a lot motivation for the team to work hard and find the solutions to make the McLaren to handle even better. Generally, I look at that as being very positive. Yes, you're fighting against your teammate, but that's not the driver who you are fighting against most. It should be fighting and winning Grands Prix and winning the championship. That's the most important.
Q: It' s a question to Mario because the two drivers seemed a little reluctant to tell us about the changes that will come from the revision to the regulations - could you summarise the things that will be different? Are we going to see perfect starts from all 22 drivers in future?
MT: I hope so. The three issues are traction control, launch control and automatic gearshifts that are basically what has changed from now on. All I can say is in terms of hardware it's not a big deal, virtually nothing's changed because all the tools were on board already. In terms of software it's quite a complex thing. We are allowed to use engine management for torque reduction but not the brakes, which we do in production cars so the system is certainly different to what we are using in road cars. In terms of engine management you can talk about ignition, injection and throttle, which means air supply and the tricky thing is to get all these things in order to have an orchestrated system.
Q: We've seen very little from drivers in recent years in terms of cornering skill, but occasionally we do still see a nice powerslide - is that finished?
MT: Well if the drivers like it they can switch traction control off.
RS: You order it beforehand and we'll see what we can do.
Q: Mika and Ralf, could you just tell us what are your own personal feelings about these driver aids?
RS: What should I say? I think the problem is for Formula One the way all the rumours didn't do any good so I think it was the right decision to change the rules to stop all the discussions about it. I think the situation would have been a lot easier in all this if the press problems hadn't have been there, I think I would have preferred to leave it. The way it is I think it's the best decision the FIA could have taken to be honest.
MH: I definitely think it is a very positive thing for Formula One. It definitely brings more safety because coming out of the corners with traction control does much more control the back end in wet conditions.
Q: Sorry to ask a sad question, Michele Alboreto died yesterday, I wonder if you heard about that and if anybody knew him?
RS: What do you expect me to say. Obviously I just knew him by name. I just heard it this morning so I can't say anything about it, I just heard it was a very bad accident at high speed in a test he did but obviously it's a very sad thing I just can't say anything about it.
MH: Exactly. It's an extremely sad thing. It's terrible, I understand he had a wife and two kids and he was not that old yet - I understand he was only 44 years old so his whole life was basically in front of him so it's a terrible loss and not generally nice for motor racing or anything.
Q: Mika, you touched on this weekend but one of the differences is that it's your team mate out front. Do you think this is in any way a last stand? How vital is it to get on the podium this weekend?
MH: It's always vital to get on the podium! My target is just to maximise the performance for the car, for myself and for the team and try to win Grands Prix. So far I haven't been able to do that so I will try again this Grand Prix and the next Grand Prix after this. It's definitely going to be interesting to see what happens through the year but I'm just going to do my own race for myself and the team. Maximise - try to win it.
Q: I was just going to ask Mika - this time last year the points difference to you and the championship leader was the same but this year there are two drivers at the head of the points table. You could reasonably expect Ferrari to mess up like it did last year but the chances of your team mate doing so as well must be remote musn't they?
MH: Well you never know what's going to happen this year. I can only look myself to be professional, to be optimistic and to try and work for the team as much for points as I can and in the end we'll count how many points I have and then we'll see where the David is and where the Michael is.
Q: This is a question for the tyre guys - I'm interested in the deadlines to which you work. How late can you leave it to manufacture the tyres for the next race: for example what tyres are your factories manufacturing at the moment? How far ahead do you like to look - would it be better to make tyres for the Italian Grand Prix now or do you like the challenge of having to make tyres to a very tight schedule?
PD: Well we like to have plenty of time to make the tyres, but since we discover things at each race we usually do the production of tyres for a race in a few days.
HY: Yes in a few days. We are also same. Always after the Grand Prix we have to make new tyres for next week's Grand Prix. We are in very quick order.
PD: It isn't fair this business. With a good engine you are good everywhere, with a good driver you, but the poor tyre has to be adjusted at every race... it's a headache, I think it's unfair.
Q: A question to Mika - how hard is it to be mentally focused coming back, how tough is it getting that peak back again?
MH: It's a good question but I don't think it's the right time for me to start explaining that yet. I'll have to answer you another time.