Friday August 17th, 2001
Participating: Jean Alesi (Jordan), David Coulthard (McLaren), Giancarlo Fisichella (Benetton), Craig Pollock (BAR), Bobby Rahal (Jaguar) and Paul Stoddart (Minardi).
Q: Bobby, how happy were you about the recent announcement that your Cosworth engines would be used by another team next year?
Bobby Rahal: I understand the reasons for it. Ferrari seems to do it and to do it well so I see no reason why Cosworth can't, they've done it before. I don't think it's going to have an affect for us, although I think it helps Cosworth and financially it helps them. From and R&D standpoint it might help. In the end, I don't believe it's any kind of a detraction for us as a team. We've got to beat Arrows and everybody else for that matter so I don't worry about it one way or the other. We have a bigger job to do, to worry about, than just what Arrows are going to represent as far as a threat.
Q: There are also stories about the potential conflict between the engine manufacturers and the technical directors, about reducing speed; what are your views?
BR: I guess I have multiple views. I can't speak for Cosworth per se, but the stability of the rules is very important no matter what it may be, because any time you change the rules it just raises the costs. The rules are set for it, there is a mechanism in place, so I think stability is a very good thing. At the same time, although I haven't heard from any of our drivers that the cars are going too fast, the cars are supposed to be fast, so it's kind of different feelings, but I think rules stability is a key issue.
Q: Craig, what are your feelings about it?
Craig Pollock: I kind of agree with Bobby. I think changing the rules just for changing the rules doesn't make any sense, and if we can get stability, it helps us with the costs, so I would agree with everything he said.
Q: Have you heard of any conflict from your technical guys?
CP: I haven't heard of any conflict at all from our technical guys and I haven't heard any comments from Honda about it.
Q: After Hockenheim, you said how important it was that you were now ahead of your rivals, you said that was an important moment that you were now ahead of Jordan. Why was that a particularly important moment?
CP: I think we were going into the holiday - it was the first time that we had had a three week break - so going into the holiday it was a boost for the whole team. Obviously we want to be in front of all the team, it's not going to happen, but the closest driver that we have is Jordan. We both have the same engine, so we have a very good benchmark. It's important for us. It's not just Jordan, we can't just think of Jordan, it would help us if we could get ahead of Sauber as well. We don't think we are going to get ahead of Williams this year for some reason. Of course it was important, not for any political reasons at all. I get on very well with Jordan, like him, good guy.
Q: Paul, what's the situation with Alex Yoong?
Paul Stoddart: At the moment, as you know, he's been testing for us and he will continue this week and if his FIA Superlicence goes through then I would hope to have him in the car this year and I think it will.
Q: What does he need for the Superlicence?
PS: More kilometers basically. He's done quite a bit now but you can never say when enough is enough but we've put the application in and certainly he's pleased us, he's done everything we've asked him to do, he's done it in a very professional way, he hasn't had any problems, a couple of minor offs but everybody does, nothing serious and I think he will be OK. I think the earliest we could get him into the car would be Monza. If we can get him in for the last three races then that would give him a good benchmark and then he will have the winter to do a lot more testing for next year.
Q: What's your situation regarding engines for next year?
PS: You're probably about two weeks early to ask me that. Ask me in two weeks time. No, we've obviously got options and the next two weeks before Spa will see those options all exhausted and we will have made a decision. Very encouraging. It's nice to have choice.
Q: Giancarlo. Points in the last race, looking good today: what's made the difference?
Giancarlo Fisichella: Very good in the last race, finishing fourth and fifth with Jenson so it was good for the team. Thanks to that, we had a very good holiday. Here we have a new aerodynamics package which is very good, we are very happy, very impressed. We are working with race fuel so we are confident to be in the top ten tomorrow. Obviously it's the biggest change of the season. Tomorrow we will even have a qualifying engine so we are very optimistic.
Q: What about the future?
GF: I don't know yet. We are still in discussions with the team. I've got a few options but my target is to stay with the team, and I'm confident to do that.
Q: Is true your option ran out last night?
GF: Yes, the option was the 15th of August, now the option is gone so it's my decision now to make my choice of team, but I think I will stay again.
Q: David, tell us what happened this morning?
David Coulthard: First of all I made a mistake going into the corner and understeered wide and there's a different kerb there, the same type of kerbs that we have on the inside of the last chicane in Canada which seem to work quite well there for not pulling the dirt and grass onto the track. But I looked at the track yesterday and I thought this might be a bit difficult to have them on the exit of the corner, because they are about three and a half inches high and it's not ramped up - you just run straight into them. So in this case, I ran wide and it smashed the underside of my chassis. So we will have to change cars for tomorrow. So I was a little bit surprised, not just because I made a mistake and I paid the price for it, but I'm a little bit surprised that we allowed those kerbs to be put in place and it's one of the thing that we need to talk about with Charlie this evening. We've discussed many times in the drivers meetings that the penalty for making a mistake should be a loss of time, it shouldn't be damaging your chassis. If you hit the barrier, well, there you go, that's the limit of the circuit. But to have your car smashed on a kerb like that is just stupid really, so we will be discussing it this evening.
Q: Not the ideal way to start to a vital weekend really.
DC: I'm pretty chilled. I had a nice lunch, saw what all you guys do during the sessions, which appears to be not a lot. Yeah, I would have preferred to have been on the track but it's all about getting the balance on your car more than just running around just for the sake of doing laps. Interestingly, I was still quickest in that first sector and I only did one set of tyres at the beginning. I just need to piece together the other two sectors and we will probably not be too far away.
Q: The third sector seemed to be your undoing...
DC: Yes, on the first timed lap that I registered as my quickest time, then I ran wide at the second last corner, so that's why I was sixth tenths off in that sector, and obviously on my lap was when I ran wide at that corner.
Q: What are your feelings about this weekend?
DC: Well, it has started in terms of the lap times I would have expected, close with Ferrari and ourselves, Williams just a little bit behind. Williams tend to be a bit further away on the first day so they could be pretty close in qualifying. I'm reasonably optimistic where we are relative to Ferrari. They've been better in qualifying than us all season, so if we can be close to them, and maybe even quicker than them, then we have a good chance for the race, because it appears that we have not too bad a race balance.
Q: Is this weekend crucial?
DC: I'm not really thinking about it. It's the same at the beginning of the year when people are asking about championships and all the rest of it. It's not won or lost at one race. It's a combination of... or accumulation of races that give you a championship or lose you a championship. The fact is that at this point, they as a team have done a better job than we have as a team, myself included in that team element. There's no magic, you just have to get on and do your job. If we lose the opportunity to, in theory, keep the championship alive this weekend, it won't just be because of this weekend.
Q: Jean, what's it like to be back with Eddie again?
Jean Alesi: It's very exciting. I'm so happy to be driving for Eddie - obviously too excited because this morning I went off, but I was enjoying too much my first laps!
Q: What went wrong at Prost: can you tell us more?
JA: I don't know if it's more because now everybody knows but I received a letter and I did not like it... so I decide to quit.
Q: Are there legal proceedings involved?
JA: Obviously it was more complex but at the end the lawyers found an agreement with Alain and I'd left four points in the team that I think will help him for next year and I wish him good luck.
Q: But you can't tell us what was in the letter.
JA: It's really some things I did not like. I spoke with my brother because - although now I'm very happy because I'm driving for Eddie - but at the time I was really down and I understood my career in Formula One was finished. I had no feeling to work anymore with this kind of relationship.
Q: Do you feel this is your last opportunity?
JA: I would say I'm close to the end anyway, but I will use this opportunity the best I can because I enjoy very much when I am driving the car and I understand that it's a fantastic chance for me so I will concentrate on this opportunity.
Q: It seems to have gone pretty well today.
JA: I finished the session very well, tomorrow will probably be a lot easier for me now I've started with Eddie and I want to do a good job.
Q: Is it a lot different to be thrown into a session like this with an entirely new car?
JA: You know, the first time I drove in Formula One it was like that so it is difficult when you drive with a difficult car but when you drive with a good support and a good car it's easier anyway.
Q: A question to Bobby Rahal, what do you think as an American: do you think that Formula One can catch up in popularity in America?
BR: I think for Formula One to achieve any kind of general interest in the United States - it's very much a kind of a niche sport in the United States, unlike anywhere else - it will take an American to be driving in Formula One driving and certainly more young Americans are in Europe and England, which they have to. There's about three or four in England currently and ultimately I think that's what it's going to take. Formula One was at it's height in popularity in the United States when Mario was racing, but ever since it left Watkins Glen, and when it left Long Beach to go to a series of less than ideal circuits it really dropped off the radar screen, so it's going to take some time. Indianapolis will certainly speed up that gain in popularity but ultimately I think it's going to take either an American team or an American driver.
Q: To the three team owners - we've got Toyota coming in next year. Ove Andersson, the boss of Toyota, says that his team has been cleared by the FIA to continue testing all the way to the end of the year - could you comment on how you regard the regulation position and whether you regard it as fair?
CP: In my opinion - I think probably it will be the same as Paul's and Bobby's - but they have regulations they have to comply to and they shouldn't be allowed to. The regulations are there for all the teams; all teams should be treated exactly the same.
Q: But the FIA has told Mr. Andersson that his team is clear to continue testing to the end of the year - is that your interpretation of the regulations? And if the FIA sticks by that will you try to get it changed?
PS: First of all that clearance was initially given last year, and I believe it has been reinforced recently. I don't think any of the teams are happy about it - there can't be one rule for some and one rule for others - and Mr. Andersson needs to abide by the rules like we all have to, otherwise there's no point in having a testing ban. I certainly for one would not be happy if they were allowed to test during the ban and I certainly would - if nobody else did, which I'm sure they would - raise the question at the next team owners meeting for that not to be allowed to happen.
BR: I agree with both gentlemen. They've had all year to test, so it seems as though this would be an advantage for them, there's no question. How the FIA is acting, on what premise, I think is probably the issue. If rules are rules and it fits the rules, well, we may not like it but that's it. If it doesn't fit the rules then it shouldn't be out there.
Q: Might it also be an advantage for your tyre company as well?
BR: If they're two or three seconds off the pace I don't think that's too much of an advantage.
Q: Craig - if Toyota isn't officially entered until 1 January 2002, can't they do anything they want up until that time?
CP: My understanding is that the minute they put in their entry there is a certain amount of time - actually just a few days - before the entry becomes official. The minute the payment is accepted, as I understand it, they have entered the championship.
Q: Jean and David - could you give me your memories of last year's US.GP and your thoughts on the track?
DC: Well I remember starting before the lights went out, which was a big problem. I remember being pretty disappointed to be honest - very impressed with the facilities of Indianapolis Motor Speedway but pretty disappointed with everything outside the track. I thought this was somewhere that was used to many years as a world renowned sporting event, but the town wasn't quite as impressive as I expected. But to balance it out the village I come from isn't very impressive so I don't want to alienate myself from the locals, but put it this way: I'm staying in a motorhome this year because I wasn't impressed with the town. I thought the track was good, they did a pretty good job of creating a road course inside the oval, it was fun to come round the banking - although it didn't present any great challenge - organisationally it was slick and the grid girls were beautiful as well!
JA: I was really impressed as well when I cam inside the oval because it's a huge facility and I mean the first time I came through I was impressed. The Formula One track on the infield - we were wanting a little bit more, because Indianapolis is a big name and we have been a bit surprised we wanted more than what we have but at least it is a circuit where we can overtake and we had a very good welcome and we are pleased to be in America.
Q: David, would you say looking back over the last four years, McLaren's performance has been consistently high but your performance has been higher this year than previous years? And if so, is that a frustration?
DC: I think I've definitely improved with each year I've been in Formula One, been in a better position to make use of the machinery that's been given to me. It doesn't look good today but I have actually made less mistakes. Of course occasionally it does cross my mind that had I been able to perform at this level when the car was clearly the class of the field I could be sat here with 'WC' after my name but I'm just doing what I'm doing and winning is the ultimate goal but the journey to get to that goal is what gives you the enjoyment. Even when the machinery is not performing as well as you'd like, if you disliked it that much you could always stop. I love doing what I do, and when I hear Jean talking about his enjoyment after all these years I think I'll be in that same category. There's no feeling like being in a race car and it's all the other things round and about the sport that are displeasurable. But the pure get in there and giving it one even when it's not quite working, it's a great freedom and I wish that everyone could get the opportunity to feel what it's like to be in a Grand Prix car.
Q: Jean, you've got a massive challenge here, it's different tyres, different engine, different car, different team: could you talk just a little about the individual elements?
JA: Honestly the biggest problem I had this morning was to stop the car on the correct place because I went at the end of the pits. Bit by bit to analyze the car I need a little bit more time and it's not fair to straight away make a compare.
Q: You drove at Prost with a different pedal arrangement, can you tell us what Jordan has done for you or have you had to adjust - and how have you reacted to that?
JA: I have to say to all the press: you explain to the people not very well because I was on the beach last week and a fan came up and he said "how do you break with the right foot and use the throttle with the left?" So I said no, it's not like that...! The biggest problem - because the clutch now is not so important - is that I'm breaking and using the throttle with the right foot, so it's a setting problem because with the space we have inside the foot well it's important to have a good distance between the two pedals and Jordan did that easily and I have no problems.
Published at 15:57:30 GMT