Thursday May 24th, 2001
Participating: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), Jean Alesi (Prost), Olivier Panis( BAR), Jos Verstappen (Arrows), Jean Todt (Ferrari) and Ron Dennis (McLaren).
Q: Jos, tell us about that front wing you've been running today? Does it make any difference?
Jos Verstappen: It seems to make some difference.
Q: What's visibility like around it?
JV: It's no problem. You can still see very well and doesn't disturb the view so it's fine.
Q: Was today the first time you used it?
JV: No, we checked it in straight-line testing a couple of weeks ago.
Q: It's not very pretty is it?
JV: I don't care as long as it's quicker, it's fine. It feels like it has more downforce on the front to me.
Q: Olivier, we always think back to when you won here in 1996; does it hold a special affection for you?
Olivier Panis: Not really. I remember 1996 but it's beginning to fade a little now. We need to continue to work hard and I need a podium again. It's good to remember, but I like all circuits. I like Monaco because for the driver it is maybe a little easier to close the gap, but it's not just this place.
Q: Were you expecting Jacques, your team-mate, to be stronger than he is?
OP: Well, for me, Jacques is a very strong driver, he's quick, and the best thing is that we work very well together. I push him, he pushes me, it's very positive for the team.
Q: Ron, inevitably the question about team orders; could you cover that so that we don't have to talk about it again?
Ron Dennis: There are none. We have the contractual ability to instruct our drivers at any stage during the season to follow an instruction and that applies at the first Grand Prix through to the last Grand Prix. We will effect judgement in any given situation and if we instruct a driver to do something we will tell you. There's no plan.
Q: In terms of launch control, I think you've had some problems; are you confident it's OK now, are you going to use it here?
RD: The nature of the problem, which I would rather not share with you does not create any difficulties for us using it here or the last Grand Prix.
Q: So the fact that people have been practising them today suggests that people are going to use them during the race.
RD: I can't speak for the other teams, but we certainly intend to use them and the reason that you practice them is not to ensure that they work, it's to ensure that you are constantly able to optimise the performance of the system, because of course it's designed to give you the best possible start given the circumstances. So the surface of circuits vary a little bit, the adhesion of the tyres vary a little bit, the fuel load that you start the race with can vary according to how many times you're going to stop. Therefore you're just optimising it through the weekend. It's not a 'is it going to break system situation?' We've performed well over 1000 starts, I think, so it's not a system issue.
Q: Jean, things seem to be going better here. Is it you, the car, the circuit?
Jean Alesi: It's always the car when you're going well. For sure it's important for me to have this chance here in Monte Carlo to try to get the best result as possible, because it's been quite difficult for us for the first part of the championship.
Q: It looked so good pre-season, then not so good thereafter. Can you see it coming back now?
JA: I hope so. For sure the car is different now. We have a new floor, we have a new front wing and the whole package looks like it's an improvement, so I hope to have the chance to get the first good result here on Sunday.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yesterday's drivers' meeting?
Michael Schumacher: The main purpose was that we voted for a new director and as you may know Jarno Trulli is now the third director. Then we had a couple of internal discussions, certainly concerning safety and circuits. There were a couple of other things which were internal. It's good to get together. We even used the opportunity to talk between ourselves about behaviour on the circuit and so on, which was very good. There's a good understanding between the drivers, although sometimes maybe things get a bit hot in the action but at the end of the day, when we sit together, everybody is very clear and very straightforward.
Q: What about the incident in Austria with Juan Pablo? Have you worked out in your own mind what happened?
MS: Looking at it on video, it looks different that what you see from the internal car view and I rated it afterwards as a normal racing situation.
Q: Can you go through the significance of the re-signing of the contracts with Michael and Rubens?
Jean Todt: Rubens had a three year contract including an option for 2002 and we had to decide whether we wanted to exercise the option or not. We thought Rubens was good for the team and we wanted to exercise the option for him until the end of 2002. For Michael, his contract ended at the end of 2002 and as you know, we renewed the contract of the key people at Ferrari until 2004 and we thought that Michael was part of the key people and that's why we extended his contract until the end of 2004.
That means Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, Paolo Martinelli, Michael, myself, we have a contract until the end of 2004.
It means we have stability. I think in the past, Ferrari paid a lot for stability, and Ferrari is getting a lot because of the stability. We know that, we understand that, the shareholders, the president of Ferrari, they share this point of view and we thought it was very important.
Q: Are you confident with launch control for here? Will you be using it on Sunday?
JT: Yes, I definitely think we will use it. I mean confident? I'm always a little bit anxious and I was right to be anxious because of what has happened in Austria, but I think I share the opinion about the FIA to decide to have these tests after each session. It's very important. The grip in Austria was a bit unexpected which created some problems and here, this morning, we saw few problems, so I'm quite optimistic about the start on Sunday. We will use launch control.
Q: Jean and Ron, do you worry about other people's launch control?
JT: Yes, we do worry about other people's, but there's not much we can do about other people's. Hopefully they can solve their problems, and on top of that, I hope we can be in front of them, not to be facing this problem.
RD: I certainly to be hope to be in front. But it's just like any other device on a Grand Prix car. The systems that control a Grand Prix are quite sophisticated. Sometimes when they are introduced they take a little time to de-bug but it's not different than any other component. If it's not correctly utilised or programmed or assembled then it's going to fail and the difference between this and the other systems on a car is that it's failing in a position where all the other cars are involved, the Grand Prix start. But I would think anybody, and definitely I would put Jordan in this category, if they do feel they have a problem they will probably do a manual start. I don't think they would want to risk not starting the race properly. Everybody has that option and if they don't feel comfortable which what they have then they should take that position.
Q: Michael, have you talked about perhaps starting behind the safety car?
MS: Before we had launch control and all these systems we have been able to start as well, and here and there, we've had problems and that's the way it is. Austria was a very exceptional circumstance. It was good to give the chance to the teams to test here in order to find out whether they can fix their problem, and I'm pretty sure that whoever cannot fix their problem will not risk starting with this system, because they won't finish the race or even start it. So they will use a manual system and in the past they have been able to start manually as well. So I'm not really worried and there's no real point for the drivers to discuss this because we are not really concerned with this safety for the future. What happened in Austria happened, but it will not necessarily happen in the future.
Q: Mr Todt, has there been any change in Rubens's contract for next year or is he still number two to Michael?
JT: As I've said before, we have exercised an option, so that means the contract was already written. The only thing we had to write was confirmation that we were exercising this option, so that's it. I was expecting this question even earlier. Rubens is not number two. The thing is that since Michael and Rubens comprised the team, most of the time Michael has been in front and being in front, he has put himself into a priority situation. If, in the future, it happened that Rubens or Michael's team-mate is consistently in front of Michael, Michael will have to help the team and his team-mate. That's the way it has been, and that's the way it will be in the future.
Q: Mr Dennis, could you confirm that Mika's problem in Austria was his mistake?
RD: In this instance, it was Mika's mistake, but there were extenuating circumstances because he had a stalled car in front of him. This created the unique situation.