Thursday May 3rd, 2001
Former world champions Benetton may be struggling at the back of the Formula One grid at the moment but they expect big improvements soon.
"We're looking at the second half of the season...so don't write us off just yet," the team's technical director Mike Gascoyne told BBC radio on Thursday.
Gascoyne, who joined Benetton from Jordan this year, said the team had suffered considerable problems in winter testing but was making progress with reliability, with both cars finishing the last Grand Prix in Spain.
"You'll see big steps coming on the engine around Magny-Cours, Silverstone time. Renault are very confident, making a lot of progress, the same is true of the chassis as well," he said.
The French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours is on July 1, followed by the British race two weeks later. Benetton, now owned by Renault, have been running an experimental engine in what they have said is an interim season to prepare for a real push next year.
"We've made a lot of personnel changes at Benetton and again, you don't see the results of them for six months, a year after you've done them," said Gascoyne. "You can't expect people to come in and the next day redesign the car and make it go quicker."
"We're building a team for the future and that's taken a bit of time. It's very frustrating for all of us, especially the drivers and both of them are doing a fantastic job under the circumstances."
Gascoyne defended 21-year-old Briton Jenson Button, who joined the team this year on loan from Williams and qualified on the last row of the grid in Spain last weekend. He said Button needed time to settle down and added that his Italian team mate Giancarlo Fisichella was one of the fastest drivers in the pit lane.
"Giancarlo has done a fantastic job this year and he's very, very quick," said Gascoyne. "But we've got no doubt in Jenson's ability and he's learning all the time and getting better and better."
Gascoyne said Button was showing signs of frustration, particularly after a stunning debut season at Williams when he became the youngest driver ever to score a point.
"He looks at Ralf Schumacher, whom he outqualified several times and outraced several times last year, and he's won in Imola. He's thinking 'That could be me' for sure."
Fisichella had reacted to Button's arrival by raising his performance, Gascoyne said.
"If he (Button) outqualifies Giancarlo every race, Giancarlo's history. So he's got to go out and do the business. I think one of the criticisms that was levelled at Giancarlo is that he was inconsistent, he was lazy.
"Well he can't afford to be any more and part of the reason Giancarlo is going so well is that Jenson's pushing him."