Friday May 11th, 2001
Participating: Kimi Raikkonen (Sauber), Jenson Button (Benetton), Jarno Trulli (Jordan), Gerhard Berger (BMW), Niki Lauda (Jaguar) and Norbert Haug (Mercedes-Benz).
Q: Kimi, what about these rumours about Ferrari wanting you? How long is your contract?
Kimi Raikkonen: I don't know anything about these rumours. We haven't talked to Ferrari. My contract is for three years with Sauber. After that we can look at something else but until then, only Sauber.
Q: Jenson, is your shoulder OK now?
Jenson Button: Yes, it's OK. I had an injection last week and it's cool. No problems at all.
Q: You seem to be having a pretty tough time, particularly here. Is it all engine-related or is the chassis not getting sorted out or is the chassis not good?
JB: There's lots of different areas that need to be sorted out I think. It's not just the engine, there are other areas. I can't obviously say which ones. But we've just got to keep pushing and pushing. I know everyone is doing the best job that they can back at the factory, at Renault and also back at Benetton. That's the main thing. We've just got to keep going. It's not great at the moment. Me and Giancarlo are on the back row behind the Minardis. They've been our fighting companions this year. It's been an interesting battle at the back there, but I think I'd rather have it nearer the front. So now we've just got to keep pushing on and hopefully we will get some performance gains later on in the season.
Q: Jarno, you went off three times today, I think. Why is it about this circuit that has meant that so many people have gone off?
Jarno Trulli: Basically, this circuit hasn't got lots of grip. It's normally very dirty on Friday and as most people do just one stop, many people are running a lot of fuel, as I was running today. All these things make your life very difficult on the track. Obviously, we try very hard, we try to improve our lap times and you can make some mistakes. Another thing is that we don't really test on this circuit, so everybody pushes really hard and they don't know all the tricks around the track.
Q: At the Spanish Grand Prix, we saw your team-mate have problems getting away with the launch control, what is the procedure you have go through to get away?
JT: To be honest, it isn't really complicated, it's very simple. You just have to stop the car, and once you want to use the automatic start, you just as usual, pull the clutch, get the gear in and then you just push a button and then the system is on. It's very very simple. It was pretty reliable but these things can happen, like Heinz said, this kind of problem in Barcelona. I think it's very simple now for everybody as the electronic systems are allowed for everybody so you don't really have to hide the system, as probably we did before.
Q: Is your system that simple, Jenson?
JB: We haven't got launch control, so it's quite easy to use. We've got traction control for the start. You've still got to get the car off the line, you've still got to use the clutch and a certain amount of revs to get it away and then the traction control starts working. We just pull up at the start, put it in neutral, pull for a gear and then we're away.
Q: Is it fairly simple on the Sauber as well?
KR: Yes, it's pretty much what Jarno said. You just need to pull the clutch, select first gear, press one button and then the clutch go and that's it. But sometimes you get problems with the electronic start button then it's not very good, but those things happen sometimes.
Q: Gerhard, what are you and Niki discussing?
Gerhard Berger: We were just asking Niki why he fired Tomas Scheckter. Couldn't believe the reason but...
Niki Lauda: He blew himself away!
Q: I'd just like to get a little serious...
GB: That is serious! Ask Scheckter, it's very serious.
Q: I would like to ask the two engine men, Gerhard and Norbert (Haug) about what's happening with engines and traction control? It's almost as though the engine is being told to do one thing and then being told to do the opposite.
GB: Our engine will always doing the opposite to what we want it to do, so no big difference! Traction control, as we've discussed several times, is not something that the sport likes to have, but on the other hand, as has been discussed, it's impossible to control by the FIA, so it's the best solution for the moment. We are not happy with it, but I think the worst thing for the sport would be if we didn't know under which conditions competitors are racing, so I think from this side, it's now clear and it's better. Our technicians are sweating at the moment, yes, it's true. It's quite difficult for the car in different areas and the heating is different, the vibrations are different, so we had quite a difficult time until Barcelona. Since then we had another test in Barcelona when we could improve the systems and now it seems that we are slowly getting it under control but it's still very critical.
Q: Norbert, how does it affect your engines?
Norbert Haug: Well, first of all, I think we have to repeat that traction control for a well-known reason was the only way forward, so I think that's a fact. We still see spectacular driving which is positive, but it rather affects the engine, but on the other hand it's the same for everybody. It's quite new for all of us but we are learning and we are learning at every test. In fact we are learning every free practice session, and I think we get it under control. You know that we had a mistake in Barcelona so in hindsight, the Barcelona race without traction control would have been better for us. We would have performed in a better way, definitely, but again, I think it is the way forward, and now we need to improve and as Gerhard pointed out, there is a big influence here on this race track from traction control because it makes a lot of difference whether you have wheelspin or not on the sharp corners.
Q: Niki, can I ask you how much of your job is racing and exactly what your job is?
NL: I'm getting tired of explaining my position. It is very simple. Neil Ressler was the man in charge of the group: Jaguar Racing, Cosworth and Pi. Neil Ressler went into pension and I took over the job. Very simple. So I'm on top of the three groups: Cosworth, Pi and Jaguar Racing. This is my position and this is my full time job. I live in London and it's what I'm doing.
So there's no confusion, just to come to the point which everybody wants to create, between Rahal and myself. First of all, we are in different positions. He runs Jaguar Racing, I run the group. But there is no problem whatsoever.
Q: Are you in charge of establishing the new Jaguar racing factory? Is that still going ahead?
NL: The Jaguar Racing factory is also part of the programme that we're working on, yes, certainly it's going ahead. We're new premises, we're just evaluating different opportunities. The first thing that we have to establish is the wind tunnel because as you know we are limited on wind tunnel use in California which is certainly no good. So that is the first programme we're going to start as soon as possible.
Q: Were you influential in the driver changeover from Luciano to Pedro?
NL: Yes, I was part of that thing. Irvine as you know is fixed for this year and next year, so this was done before I came. Burti was with us. It was a good coincidence for us in the end that at Imola Prost was asking for de la Rosa to drive. We certainly didn't want to let the test driver go. In the end, Burti was happy to join Prost because he gets a drive next year so we found a solution where everybody was completely happy, and therefore we changed drivers.
Q: Niki, who makes the final decision on hiring and firing drivers?
NL: First of all it's Bobby's responsibility the running of the racing team, but we work like twins together so if there is a situation coming up we sit and discuss it and then take a decision together on major items.
Q: Niki, there's been a report that you're already having a wind tunnel built in Brackley, by somebody involved with BAR, can you confirm that?
NL: We certainly have no wind tunnels produced for ourselves, we have a Southampton solution where we are trying to get some hours but in January the new Reynard tunnel will be ready where we are trying to get some hours but this is nothing to do with our own wind tunnel project. In the meantime we're going to use other people's wind tunnels to try to make improvements to our car.
Q: To the team members, with the announcement that there will be a race in Russia obviously one of the existing races must be removed from the calendar, do you have any preference over which should go?
NL: I don't know really because it's not our job to think about it. Whoever takes a decision for us, Mr. Ecclestone, we will know together with Mosley in the end which race has to go.
NH: I think that was a good answer from Niki.
GB: It's not up to us.
Q: Do you feel that this race is the most in danger?
NL: The Austrian situation is very simple: next year the contract is still running and tomorrow there will be some more discussions to see if this contract can be renewed. Maybe there are other ones in the same situation.
Q: Niki, there have been reports in the British press that Eddie Irvine is lazy, a playboy, doesn't want to test... how do you see him?
NL: I have no problem with him whatsoever, he's doing a perfect job for us driving the car, what he does off the track I don't really care but as long as he is here together with de la Rosa I think that they're the perfect team. If there's a problem or not doesn't really concern me because he can't take the girls in his Formula One car and when he drives he does the perfect job.
Q: Are you going to be looking for another test driver?
NL: At the moment I think it's not necessary because Irvine and de la Rosa can test as much as all the others, I don't think in the middle of the season you can find an experienced test driver. For the next couple of months we will test with Irvine and de la Rosa and if we can find the time later in the year then we will think about it.
Q: Norbert, Keke Rosberg has said that Mika has no chance to win the championship this year and he is just to enjoy himself and win races when he can - do you agree with that?
NH: I feel differently. Sure it's difficult with a gap of 32 points but with 12 races to go nothing is impossible. If you look back at the beginning of the season everybody said nobody could beat Ferrari, then it turned around. Then it was said Michelin will not perform and they won a race, remember last year Michael had three races where he only scored two points or so and if Mika can win three times and Michael not score a lot then he's there. For sure mathematically David's chances are better but things are changing and in theory Mika can win 120 points and that just shows you how much 34 points are. Mika is fully motivated and let's wait and see what happens.