Thursday March 29th, 2001
Participating: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), Jarno Trulli (Jordan), Jos Verstappen (Arrows), and Mike Gascoyne (Benetton).
Q: Mike, can I start with you first of all? So far three finishes out of four but not exactly sparkling performances. What has been going on?
Mike Gascoyne: I think, as we said before the start of the season, our expectations weren't too great at the start of the season. We've got a very new engine. It's very early in its development cycle. We're not going to be pushing very hard on the reliability of the engine. They've had their problems which everyone has seen. But they're working very hard. We've been aiming at reliability, to get the cars to the finish. We've managed to achieve that, not competitively but perhaps that will come.
Q: How much is innovation involved at this stage of the year?
MG: Well, Renault have come back into Formula One, the team is being re-named in a year's time and they are certainly aiming at that. If you look at Renault's history with the engines - the turbo, pneumatic valves - they've introduced a lot of innovation in their time and they've done that with this new engine. Pioneers have arrows shot at them and they are certainly going through that phase at the moment, but if you look at Renault's history, they get it right, and when they get it right, they tend to dominate and do very well. We're certainly aiming at the future when the team is re-named and we're happy with the progress we're making.
Q: Would you say that roughly speaking you're doing your testing in public?
MG: There's an element of that. I think Renault would be quite happy to admit that they are behind on the program from where they want to be, but that's inevitable when you try to introduce new things - things do go wrong. But they're very happy with the direction that they are taking. We have to take the criticism when people say they are not doing the right thing but that's happened in the past with Renault and they've always come through. I think if you're going to back anyone to get it right in modern engine development in Formula One then back Renault. We're certainly very happy with the way we're going.
Q: When would you expect to take a step up?
MG: I think it will be on-going. Because of the reliability problems, they have not been able to do the development that they want to do and that's now starting as we get the reliability right. There are starting on the development. I think it will be an on-going process throughout this year so I think you will see it happening at every race.
Q: Now with the expletives deleted, can you give us some idea of what the radio traffic was like as 'Fisi' lined up for the Malaysian Grand Prix?
MG: We were as confused as probably he was with what was going on. He obviously made a mistake and got it wrong. He was the first one to hold his hand up and say that. He started from the back, made an excellent start - he was 13th after the first lap. So it was one of those things.
Q: How are the two of them shaping up, Fisichella against Button?
MG: I think it's a very intriguing challenge for them both. Giancarlo is at the stage in his career where he has to beat the young guy and I think for Jenson it's a step up in competitiveness and he needs to push himself to push himself - to raise himself to Giancarlo's level. So they are pushing each other on, which is good for the team.
Q: But at the same time, you're probably reining them back because you want them to finish...
MG: Er... not really. We have concentrated on reliability, but we say to them at the start of a race that it's a motor race. When they drive down to the first corner, these guys can tell you that there's no reining back, they drive the cars as fast as they can.
Q: Jarno, is this the big year for you, the year when you really want to show what you're made of?
Jarno Trulli: Well, I've started with a good performance, but I couldn't yet get a good result for several reasons. I believe that Jordan has done a great job during the wintertime, they've got a very good car. It's good to see them back in good shape after 1999, so it's a very good opportunity for me. For sure, I have to get it right as soon as possible.
Q: Is the car good enough to demonstrate your abilities?
JT: Yes, I think so. I think we've got a pretty good car this year. Reliability seems OK. Melbourne, unfortunately I had a failure so I had to retire when I was fourth, but basically it seems that the car has got good reliability. We still have lots of gearbox problems. They work really hard in the wind tunnel so the aerodynamic package is really good. We've got a good base to start with and a good base to develop. So we are really looking forward to the new season because I think with the new engineer that we've got we will have a big boost through the season.
Q: There have been a lot of changes during the year, including the departure of Mike Gascoyne beside you; has the team settled down again?
JT: It takes time but I think they've managed to do a great job, the team now. It means that the organisation is getting back to the right position and everybody is doing a good job. Both drivers have a new engineer and we are both getting on well with them. It seems that at this stage of the season the team is showing that they are really working hard and very well in the right direction.
Q: And still a certain amount of rivalry with Heinz-Harald?
JT: I think that in every team, between the two team-mates, it's always just like a war. That's normal, but it is a very good rivalry because it helps the team, but it helps each other because we push each other very hard and try to develop ourselves, develop the car and go as quick as possible. The results are pretty good and the relationship is pretty good because everything is clear. I really don't have any problems at the moment with Heinz.
Q: Michael. I think you've been here for a day or two, and doing a little training yesterday.
Michael Schumacher: Yes. It was quite enjoyable The stadium in particular and the guys we played with. It was quite fun.
Q: Just tell us who you were playing with, how goals were scored, how many people were there?
MS: Eleven a side, and in particular there was Zico and Rinaldo and there were some other guys I didn't actually know. We finished 10 to 9 - thanks to Rinaldo, we won it. It was great fun, that was the main thing.
Q: And you scored a goal I think, a penalty?
MS: Yeah, yeah, they allowed me to do the penalty, which is like a present, like a gift.
Q: They were a little bit better than the Swiss side you usually play with?
MS: Not quite but... It's not difficult obviously.
Q: A full match, an hour and a half?
MS: Yes, twice 45 minutes. I thought the second half was shorter.
Q: And a huge stadium?
MS: Yes, I don't know how many people can go in there. I heard it was the biggest one in the world. A 100,000? I've been in Rome and that is about 80,000 and this one is 100,000. It's quite impressive. But there were only about 20,000 people there. Maybe less. It's huge.
Q: There have been a number of stories which we would like to comment on. They're probably fiction. What about the Sauber story?
MS: I don't know. I don't know where it's coming from, but it's totally illogical. I've always said that I never really want to get involved in some kind of job like that, can't see myself as being a team owner. We joked. Jean (Todt), he came along and said 'listen, before you buy Sauber, you should Ferrari.' I said I would have to drive until I'm as old as you to have the money to afford it. No, there is no truth in it.
Q: Then there was even a story about the possibility of you going to Toyota.
MS: You always have story like this. You have a new team coming and then automatically probably several drivers get mentioned which may be in contact with the new team. The fact is that I said I don't want to get into any discussion neither with Ferrari, neither with anyone else before the end of the season because I really want to concentrate on the job I'm doing and that's it. It's possible that they may have approached Willi for a meeting but I'm not aware of this. I've told Willi purposely that I don't want to get involved in anything. Do what you have to do, but we don't negotiate until a certain point and don't approach me with any message you get.
Q: Obviously, here in Brazil, there's a lot of focus on your team-mate, Rubens. Just tell us about Rubens, how he's changed in his year with Ferrari, what he's like as a team-mate, how much of a challenge he is?
MS: If you see qualifying in Malaysia, you see how much of a challenge he is. He is very close, he's doing a very good job and he has improved his game to the beginning of last year which I think is more than natural. I expected that although at the end of the day, the situation is I'm lucky to still be on top. But it gets tighter and I did expect that. But as a team we work together. For sure, it's like in any relationship. We have difficult moments. We may disagree at certain moments; that has maybe been the fact in Malaysia. But I don't see that being a particularly bad situation, having a little disagreement but we can sit together and talk and find a solution. I'm sure of that.
Q: Have you done that?
MS: No. We haven't had the time. I saw him for a photo before I came here, another press conference. That's it. Things like that you don't discuss on the phone. We will have our chat over the weekend. Even if we don't have it, I don't see that as being a drama. I don't see that the relationship and the professional working side will be influenced by that at all.
Q: You have a fantastic record here. You've finished every single race of nine here in the points, plus a win last year. Ferrari haven't necessarily got the same record. How do you feel coming to this race?
MS: I feel comfortable, because we know we have a very good car, and that's the main factor that can make you comfortable or not. Knowing that, all you have to do is finish, do as good as you can and you know you will most likely be on the podium. We have seen the weather circumstances can be very special here so let's see what happens during the weekend. It's probably difficult to predict what's going to happen.
Q: Is that going to play a major part?
MS: If it's suddenly pouring down with rain, you have to consider it, you have to react. Depending what moment it happens, depending on which position you are on the circuit, it can decide the race.
Q: Mike, do you program that into your thoughts for the weekend?
MG: Every day it's raining, so it's something we have to think about. The more variability there is, the better it will be for us. But on the other hand, when it does rain that hard, it's going to be dangerous. It's not a straightforward thing. It's not something that actually want to see. We've had races here in past where it's rained beforehand and conditions have been terrible. You have to think about it for sure.
Q. You were very quick in the opening stages in Malaysia. Is the car even better than last year? What's been making the difference?
Jos Verstappen: Our car is generally better in race set-up than in qualifying. As well, the rain helped us with that. As well as last year, our car seems to work well in the rain this year. It's not as good as it should be in the dry.
Q: So you would prefer another wet race?
JV: Maybe a dry start and it rains after.
Q: People were saying how you were pulling away from the McLarens...
JV: I think I chose the right tyres for that moment. Not as good as he(Michael) did, but the car was really very good. As well as the balance, we had very good traction. We can do it.
Q: Do you have a policy during the opening laps to be charge harder?
JV: I think you have to when you qualify in 18th position. You have to take your chance. Normally, our starts are very good. We gain some places there. The most chance to overtake is in the first two laps. If you want to overtake, that's the greatest chance that you have. Later on will be more difficult.
Q: At times it looks as though your finishing position should be higher. Is that not a frustration?
JV: Yes. We know why but we're working on that. We had a very good test in Barcelona. We know what we have to work on. The engineers are concentrating on that and hopefully we will soon have some development coming on that side. If that happens, I think we can make the car a lot better.
Q: Can you be more precise?
JV: It's mainly aerodynamics. We know where the problem is and that's where we have to concentrate. If we can solve that we will really gain a lot of time.
Q: Have the other three teams represented here had problems with their aerodynamics due to the changes in regulations?
JV: I think so. So far we haven't noticed but last week in Barcelona, we found out where it was. Now they're going to concentrate on that.
Q: Have the other three here had problems because of the loss of aerodynamics because of the regulations?
MS: Not too much obviously.
JT: This new car was very good from the beginning. I think people did a very good job over the winter time in the wind tunnel. Our car has got a good baseline, but for sure we can see some room to develop it on the aerodynamic side.
MG: The change of regulations - history show that the engineers solve problems very very rapidly, take a step back and then solve the problems. All the teams will have been working very hard to solve that. It's not particularly any problem, you've just got to improve the car aerodynamically. It's one of the most important areas on the car.
Q: Michael. A lot of people are saying that Ferrari is a big step ahead of everybody else in the field. Do you feel that?
MS: What does big mean? If you're see the race in Australia, where Coulthard came from and where he finished, you can't say it's that big. If you take Malaysia, which I think is completely unrealistic because of the choice of tyres that we had, then you may say it is big but I don't think it's right. Let's wait and see what happens this weekend.