Atlas F1 News Service

Thursday-Five Press Conference - Australian GP

Thursday March 1st, 2001

Participating: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), Mika Hakkinen (McLaren), David Coulthard (McLaren), Bobby Rahal (Jaguar) and Ron Dennis (McLaren).

Q. Bobby if I could start off with you: recently you have been joined by Niki Lauda in the team. Can you tell us how you and Niki are going to operate together, which responsibilities each person is going to have?

Bobby Rahal: Niki has been brought in to basically coordinate the efforts of Pi Electronics, Cosworth Racing and of course I report to him. I'm CEO of Jaguar. My job hasn't changed at all. Really his position is to ensure that the three entities operate as one to the betterment of Jaguar Racing, frankly, and that just that is fairly seamlessly run. Ultimately, most importantly, I'm going to be the guy who goes to Niki and tells him I need a lot more money, and he's going to have to find it for me. So far, it's worked quite well.

Q. Is he going to be coming to all the races? Will he be on the pit wall, for example?

BR: I'm sure he'll be in most of the races. I haven't heard precisely, but because his position is more of an overview position, I don't know if that will include every race, although I'm sure Niki being a racer, he'll want to be here. I would expect that he would be at every one.

Q. How is Jackie Stewart involved, if he still is?

BR: Jackie is on the board of Jaguar Racing and of course does commercial work on our behalf. That is really no different than last year. So Jackie will still be involved in a team in that capacity. But being a board member, that's pretty much hands-off. Again, as CEO you report to the board on a quarterly basis, just to bring them up to date with what is going on and get approvals for funding and various other issues - like any business.

Q. And he will come to whatever races he wants to?

BR: I would imagine so, yes.

Q. Does he still have a function to do when he comes to these races here?

BR: Again, on a commercial side, he of course represents HSBC, and is very involved with many of the sponsors that are associated with the team.

Q. A lot of people have been saying that your team - unfortunately for you - could be the disappointment of the season, which is a terrible thing to say.

BR: After last year?

Q. How do you see it?

BR: I think we're going to let our results speak. I think all too often, particularly at this time of the year, there's a lot of talk. Our mantra is under-promise and over-deliver, and I anticipate we'll do that.

Q. Has Eddie been doing that so far?

BR: I don't think Eddie ever under-promises anything, but he is over-delivering, he is doing a great job for us in testing, and I'm very pleased with his commitment to the team.

Q. He's talking a lot.

BR: He's Irish.

Q. Does that worry you, what he has been saying?

BR: No, it doesn't worry me at all. I'm not sure what he has really said. I read a lot of things, but I'm not sure what he has really said. I know, when we talk, that he's committed to this team and, frankly, we're not going to let all the things distract us from what our job is.

Q. He said you were under-staffed. Is that the case?

BR: I would say that I'm not sure what under-staffed is. Could you always use more people? I'm sure everybody could always use more people. I think we have enough good people to do the job and certainly over time, we will expand, but I don't that is going to be our issue this year.

Q. So what is?

BR: What is our issue? Our issue is, as I say, to really get back to basics, to put in place the people that can do the job, which we're doing. I don't expect miracles, I don't expect things happening overnight, but as I said to our team, we're committed for the future. I know Ford's commitment and Jaguar's commitment is many years out, as are its sponsors. And for us to be in a position to vie for honours in the future, we have to start the process now, and that's what we're doing.

Q. One final comment. You have seen most recently the guy sitting beside you racing. How do you think he's going to get on?

BR: I think he's going to do just fine. It should be an exciting year. I'm looking forward to being a part of it. You know, he's got a lot on his shoulders, there's a lot of talk on his behalf, but I have great confidence in Juan.

Q. Juan, there you have confidence of another team owner anyway. Tell us basically how you've got on in Formula One so far over the last two or three months?

Juan Pablo Montoya: I think it's been very good, to be honest. Testing has gone so far so good, some tracks have been better than others. I think I've done plenty of miles, so we have to wait and see how fast the car is going to be here.

Q. The testing you have done so far includes Kyalami. How important is that going to be for this race?

JPM: I think Kyalami is quite important because, apart from BAR and us, it is the only teams in hot weather. I think for the tyres and everything it is a plus.

Q. But are you worried about reliability?

JPM: Not really. We have done quite a lot of long runs and stuff, and the car seems to be quite good.

Q. You say quite a lot of long runs. Have you done race distances? How many have you done?

JPM: Yes. I couldn't really tell you exactly how many we have done, but we have managed to do a race distance already.

Q. Are you prepared physically? I don't wish to go back to what Simon Arron said at the launch, but are you physically prepared?

JPM: Yeah. I think these cars are a bit less physical than ChampCars, to be honest. It's not that they're easy to drive, but you have so many driving aids, like the power steering and stuff like that, that it makes your life a bit easier.

Q. You won't have power steering next year.

JPM: I don't think I'll have a problem, to be honest. I raced the last two years in ChampCar, a heavy car, a bit more downforce and slick tyres. So I should be all right.

Q. I asked you at the launch what surprised you, what has surprised you about Formula One. You have had a little bit more time now, probably other things have surprised you now?

JPM: It's the amount of time involved in it. You don't think how much time you actually have to be involved in it. There's a lot more testing than I was used to, to be honest. We test every week. Weekly when we're not racing, we're testing. There is a lot of work, there's a lot of PR commitment as well, but that is what I choose.

Q. You're pretty happy with that. It has come as a surprise, but you are still happy with it?

JPM: I'm really happy. I enjoy working with the team. I think I've got a great bunch of guys, so now we have to work, that I learn through the races a lot of stuff, because I think the strategy here is a lot different than what I was used to. So through the year, I've got to learn a lot of stuff.

Q. Looking forward to it?

JPM: Thank you.

Q. Mika, here we're back again, already in your racing suit. You've been in a way quite negative about your prospects for this particular race. Is that correct?

Mika Hakkinen: There's always obviously different comments or opinion that you're reading, and some could be misleading. But certainly the way the winter testing has been going, there have been certain problems that the team has been able to solve. To go in always, the first Grand Prix, there is always some little issues that you are not a hundred per cent sure, but I think what I have experienced already now, a couple of days, when I 've been doing certain interviews and things, there has been a lot of discussion about reliability, are we going to be strong, and things like that, because of what has happened last couple of years, but it should not be an issue at all at the moment, because with the amount of testing the team has done, with the engine, gearbox and also with the new car, we should be quite strong and reliable for this Grand Prix. So we just have to wait and see what happens on Sunday.

Q. How many race distances have you done so far?

MH: To be honest, what we have done on the dyno, with the engine, for example, or with the gearboxes, a massive amount of kilometres in an extremely reliable way. Personally, I haven't done any race distance myself yet. That way, from start to finish, the race distance I haven't done.

Q. But the team has?

MH: The team has definitely, yes.

Q. What about Alex's role and his input so far?

MH: Alex's role is obviously to take some load off mine and David's shoulders and to do some miles, and definitely to test the car to be a quicker and faster car. What he has done so far, I'm positive and he seems to be a very professional driver. Obviously time will show his real potential and his real talent to understand the car and how quick he really is. But so far, he's done a good job.

Q. The same as Olivier, for example?

MH: Yeah, basically. Like I said, it is early days to really comment about Alex's performance. But on the lap times he has done, you really have to keep your foot down to keep him behind.

Q. In terms of the weather this weekend, we're expecting 79 degrees on Sunday. I can't remember what 79 degrees is in Fahrenheit - it's something like 27 or 26, something like that. Is that going to be a problem around here?

MH: Yes, basically. It's going to be a problem for everybody, certainly. I don't think there's many teams who have been testing in very hot temperatures, for example, so the reliability is an even bigger issue. Driving-wise, I don't think this circuit is more physical or more difficult to drive in a hot temperature compared to, for example, a Brazilian track.

Q. In terms of the car, do you feel it is doing all the things you want it to do? Is it, roughly speaking, the same as you found in the past couple of seasons?

MH: It is very quick.

Q. And it is reacting the way you want it to?

MH: It's funny, but to be honest with you guys, the reality is from last year, where the regulation has been changed and the way the tyres have changed, it's quite complicated to say the real performance or potential of the car, because one moment you can run the tyres where the car doesn't handle so well and other times it feels fantastic. So the way the tyre development goes, for the driver it's very difficult to really tell you exactly what is the real potential. So this weekend we'll see.

Q. Is the aerodynamic loss around here going to make a big difference for you guys?

MH: Definitely, yes.

Q. What sort of difference is it going to make?

MH: You basically need a car which has a good aerodynamic balance. You have some high-speed corners and you have very hard braking points here, so you need to have very good aerodynamics in your car to have a stable car on entry.

Q. And losing as much as you had in the past, the wings, in terms of aerodynamics?

MH: The tyres have so much grip now, so that compensates the downforce a little bit compared to other years.

Q. Mika, thank you. Michael, world champion again, your third year reign, as it were. First of all, we were just talking about the fact that the regulations have changed. Is personal fitness going to be more important now, do you feel?

Michael Schumacher: It could be because lap times, I believe they will be much faster than we have seen in previous years, so the demand on the driver will be slightly higher, possibly, concerning G forces and so on.

Q. The grippier tyres, higher G forces, as you say?

MS: Yes.

Q. Have you felt that already, for example, at Mugello?

MS: Yes, you do feel that. Already in Barcelona, we did some testing with the old car and the new tyres, and in Mugello during our winter testing, lap times are faster. So in one way sometimes it is easier because the car handles better, has more grip. Sometimes it's easier when a car handles better that you don't need so much personal effort, but then the G force is heavier. So it is a combination, and it depends how tricky the car is to drive, whether it is fast and tricky or it's easy and fast, so there's a combination of things. It depends how the physical effort is affected.

Q. How much is reliability an issue with you?

MS: As every year, you come to the first race and you feel like you would rather have another one or two weeks of testing, to sort out everything, every question mark. Looking back at the past years has always been the same, that you come here and you say there's a few little question marks. But as Mika said before, we have now bench testing and all these kinds of facilities, which do simulate very well what is going on in the Grand Prix. I would be surprised if there will be too many issues.

Q. How many race distances have you done trouble-free?

MS: I certainly know one Rubens did. I was troubled by one in the last day, with a gearbox failure. We did more than 4000 miles with the car, which was about our target. We wanted to do one more race distance to what we did. But as I said, the gearbox problem stopped that.



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