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Thursday's Press Conference - Australian GP

Thursday February 28th, 2002

Participating: David Coulthard (McLaren), Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams), Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), Ove Andersson (Toyota) And David Richards (BAR).

Q: David, as I say, welcome back and nice to see you. The new job, how hands-on are you going to be?

David Richards: As hands-on as is necessary. At this moment in time I am very much hands-on, spending a lot of time at the back track, very much involved on the racing side here, but that's not my style of doing things in the long-term; I intend to sort of have the right people doing the right jobs.

Q: Have you made a lot of changes already?

DR: No, I have also said that it will be first 90 days or so, when I sort a few things out and get to know things, I would expect to be able to - by the time we get to Imola we will have a proper press conference then and explain any changes that are necessary and what we are going to make in the future.

Q: Have you got a definite plan, a definite strategy?

DR: What do you think?

Q: Depends how long it takes. I'm sure you have.

DR: Yes.

Q: What about Jacques Villeneuve, everyone is asking how is David Richards getting on with Jacques Villeneuve?

DR: You obviously don't get to know somebody in a few weeks of working with them but there is no problems there; he is very professional, he has got a job to do, I have got a job to do and we have both got the same objectives.

Q: Will you be at every single race? Can you be at every single race?

DR: Most certainly, yes, no problems on that front at all.

Q: When is your next week-end off? 2003?

DR: I've got a busy year ahead of me but nonetheless it's all good fun.

Q: David, I'm sure there will be questions in a moment. Ove, welcome. How is the feeling at Toyota at the moment?

Ove Andersson: Thank you very much. It's a feeling of concern, I suppose. This is the first time we do a race and we like to see where we are on Saturday.

Q: A bit nervous then?

OA: I would say, yes, it's a bit of stress over the whole operation for the time being.

Q: At one time you felt you were a little bit excluded for Formula One. Do you feel a little bit happier now?

OA: I think we feel very welcome. I can't say anything else; everyone we meet says welcome.

Q: It feels better than it did?

OA: It feels a lot better because finally we made it to Melbourne and I think that was our first concern and now we are member of the family so it feels just good.

Q: Are you pleased with the way it's come together, the testing over the last couple of months?

OA: Well, I suppose we feel always, I guess, everyone feels that there is a lot more to do and when you find out, as you go along, during testing. We have to start and I think the first proper test will be on the weekend and then we have to take it from there.

Q: Your ambition has always been just to qualify, that's what your stated aim was. Is that still the same or are you a little bit more?

OA: I believe that has to be the first aim because otherwise we will not go racing if we don't qualify. I think now the first few races, for sure, has to be to learn and this year the team has to grow together and beginners are beginners and we need to learn to walk before we can run.

Q: Juan Pablo, a year ago you were very much a newcomer. How do you feel coming back here to Australia?

Juan Pablo Montoya: I think it's good to be back, a lot more relaxed about it. I understand the car better, I know the team now, and things are shaping up much better.

Q: The team has made a massive testing effort over the last couple of months, probably the biggest of anyone in many ways. How are your feeling of the way things have developed?

JPM: I think they came pretty good. You always want a bit more but I think from the equipment we had, we did the best we could and we know the car is a little more reliable than last year and I think that's a big thing. We don't know where we are and I think nobody knows where they are until we get down to qualifying on Saturday.

Q: Are you as confident of everything because there have been some problems, haven't there?

JPM: I think everybody has got problems but I am pretty confident with the car; it's definitely a step forward from last year and the question is how much against everybody else.

Q: So you are fairly eager going into this race?

JPM: This is what we've got and we can't change anything now. If we did enough, good. If we didn't, then we still have got to have to work either way.

Q: Michael has got last year's car. What do you think is going to be the program over the next three races, do you think you are going to have next year's car or this year's car, rather?

Michael Schumacher: Honestly, depends really how much work we are going to be able to do between now and Malaysia. We have one week of testing available, we are going to use this obviously to the maximum and then it depends what kind of job we can achieve.

Q: What was the problem basically not using the new car?

MS: Basically it's time; we haven't had enough experience, we haven't done a long run with it because there were a lot of weather issues initially which stopped us and a few mechanical issues which stopped us from running and we never really got onto the situation and then there was a point of decision we had to take where to concentrate on, and this decision was as well earlier than the last day of testing so we then decided to concentrate on the old car.

Q: Does it upset you not being able to use the new car?

MS: To some degree yes. I mean, to some degree you are not so delighted but what can you do? That's the situation and the situation has obviously been provoked to some degree because we knew we have a backup solution so we pushed very hard, everything to the limit, which might pay out later; it didn't pay out initially. How much we suffer from that, that's going to be the question mark which nobody knows.

Q: Is there a big difference between the two cars?

MS: Oh, yes, I would say. It looks quite different, I would say.

Q: Feel, I think.

MS: You cannot tell, honestly. When I tested initially the car, there was quite a lot of bits still missing which had to be put onto the car. We never made a proper back-to-back old to new car. Last... Suzuka or what it will be first race and the new car, we never did that yet.

Q: You've got pretty much an exclusive, not quite an exclusive, deal with Bridgestone but how important is that going to be for their number one team? You have got teams of people in one another's factories, do you think that is going to make a big difference?

MS: Yes and no. I mean, any decision will have the positive and the negative side, honestly. In the past there was two top teams driving the tyre, pushing the company, and now it's probably one team itself which means that maybe the concentration can go more towards one team than it has been before. But then you suffer from the other factor I just mentioned. Saying that, we have Sauber which is quite strong now too, so we really have to find out. You can only tell after.

Q: The same question over to David, different situation obviously. Do you feel there is a bit of a war over the tyre choice with Williams?

DC: I don't think it's a war to choose the tyres because clearly Michelin bring tyres to develop to the tests and if you have a tyre which is significantly quicker then I would expect that to be the case in both cars. There may be small differences of opinion over tyres, the compounds that give some lap time and in that case I guess Michelin have to make a decision of where they think they have got the best chance of victory.

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Q: How do you feel the testing has gone over the last couple of months?

DC: Well, first of all I enjoyed for the first time not testing in December - that was great - and therefore I had a lot of energy for January, February testing and we have managed to complete more miles in the new car than we have ever done before. Probably brought on by the fact it was a little bit earlier than we have seen in previous years but certainly most kms we have ever done since I joined McLaren and statistically that shows on paper we have got a better chance of getting both cars to the finish here, and the car seems to be a step forward over last years's car and none of us know exactly where the performance is going to be until we get out and qualifying and see how we run the race.

Q: New teammates with Kimi, how are you getting on with him?

DC: Getting on fine, thanks.

Q: So you are missing Mika?

DC: To say no would be unfair and to say yes wouldn't be correct either. My goal in being here is not about having a nice teammate; it's about winning so Mika is a nice person and I've enjoyed a lot of good times racing against him and enjoyed some good social times and maybe we will get the opportunity to do both of those things again in the future. If not, it will be down the Rascasse having a few beers.

Q: Is Kimi contributing quite a lot already, considering his experience?

DC: I think that experience in itself doesn't necessarily just come from doing lots of Grands Prix. Experience of the way you approach things and the view you have and the opinion that you give is something that we can all learn from, irrespective of whether you have been around for a number of years, and I think he can bring things to the team - and has brought things to the team - innocence of youth, that makes you think in a way that you probably wouldn't have thought before so he is learning things, and I'm learning things, and I don't believe there is ever a day in Formula One that that isn't the case.

Questions From The Floor:

Q: Can I ask the team bosses what their opinion is of the proposed changes to the sporting regulations for next year, the limitation of engines and Friday becoming a promotion day?

OA: Well, I think it's probably a good idea to try to limit somehow the number of engines. Personally, I think one engine for the whole race weekend is a little bit too much maybe.

DR: I think it's a very sensible move forward. I think it's very clear that there are teams struggling at the back financially, we need to put a cap on some of the costs, and it just changes the challenge slightly. It's like doubling the race distance or something like that but it's just a different challenge. I don't see why it shouldn't be received very well by most teams.

Q: David, does it feel like your team now, do you feel like you own it because at least it seemed before like it was Mika's team but now you are the man; is that right?

DC: For a minute I thought you were talking to David Richards. I think that the team naturally have to, if they want to know something about the past, they need to come and ask me about it and I feel very comfortable with that position and I don't underestimate the challenge in the year ahead and Kimi is quick and he is going to be pushing very hard, and I'm quick and I'm going to be pushing hard, so the truth will be in the results at the end of the day.

Q: Can you feel a difference, can you sense the team being fully behind you now like never before?

DC: I think just from winter testing you have to appreciate the whole team isn't there so when I will be able to answer that question properly is in the heat of battle, and it's going to be in the course of the weekend and the future Grand Prix. The biggest difference I feel at the moment is these... trousers with the fitted underpants has given me an interesting time as I walk.

Q: Michael, compared to your first years with Ferrari would you say as a pilot that there is more pressure because the team is performing and the car is excellent?

MS: No. You have to imagine all the times we have had where every year we kind of wanted to promise the title to our tifosi and we weren't able to deliver, these were years of pressure. Now it's a lot more calm.

Q: Michael, on the whole, what are your expectations from last year's car for this weekend's race?

MS: That's what I'm very much curious to find out myself. I have no idea; we are going to be upfront somewhere but who is going to be in what position between the three teams sitting up here, I'm really looking forward to finding out.

Q: You say the three teams; is that the way you see it? Is this going to be the three teams?

MS: I mean, sport is never predictable 100 per cent but from winter testing that's the sort of idea you should have. There is a question mark on probably Sauber, which seemed to be very well in their performance. There have been here and there some other interesting times from Renault in Barcelona, but that's why it is so interesting to come here in the first race and see what is actually the real story because you never know - weather conditions, fuel capacity and all this kind of things, they don't give you the 100 per cent answer.

Q: David Richards has taken a very sanguine view about the possibility of a one engine per car per weekend regulation for next year. Could I ask the three drivers how they would personally feel if an engine failure docked them 12 places on the starting grid from the first race of next season?

DC: If you are offering me that, it doesn't sound good so can I have the one that is reliable, please?

Q: What do you feel about the one engine rule suggested in general?

DC: I think it's a suggestion, it was last week in one of the mags, so I haven't really been made aware of all the things that are being suggested so a bit reluctant to really give an opinion without knowing all the facts.

MS: I'm not 100 per cent into the picture but the basic idea is to save costs and I believe there will be no rule which if you have a problem that you don't have a backup situation, at least for whatever many times a year because it's no point if in the beginning maybe they all blow up on Saturday and we have no cars racing on Sunday so I don't think anybody is doing a rule like this, that's not the intention; it will be a clever rule worked out in the end.

Q: The idea would be that if you had an engine breakage on the Saturday, you could have obviously a spare engine but you might lose 10 places, 12 places on the grid?

MS: You see, this is all details we don't know. I don't think it's fixed anyway; it's a matter of discussion at the moment so there is no point to get into detail right now until all the team owners which in the end have to do the decision to see what is final and then we can go through all these kind of points.

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Q: What are your feelings, Juan Pablo?

JPM: I think it would be bad if you actually - if you are in the front and suddenly ended up with a problem with the engine and you've got to start from the back of the grid, but everybody would be in the same position. I don't know. Have to wait and see what happens.

Q: Question to David Coulthard, is it a personal catastrophe to you if Raikkonen happens to be faster from the start?

DC: Well, you don't have to be a brain surgeon to work out it ain't going to be good, is it, if I'm not quicker? The fact is Kimi is quick and on that basis it would be unlikely to think I'm going to be in front of him all the time and he has got every chance to be quick in the beginning as he has in the end. It's not like he has just learnt to walk, he has been racing for a number of years. And as I mentioned before, the experience thing is only maybe about drawing on information from the team in the past and different situations in Grand Prix events but he has done a complete year and he knows how to drive a car quickly. I recall when I started in Formula One with Williams, I started at the front and I don't remember any big pressure with that because you're just concentrating day-to-day. I think in many ways, as you gain experience, you start to see the bigger picture and you become of more use to the team in the course of a season but also it can wear you down a little bit because you are involved in some of the decisions so I'm trying to find the balance between having that sort of pure seat of the pants driving and not thinking too much and using experience to help me.

Q: Michael, a horrible hypothetical for you: you're a betting man and you have $50 left to your name, who would you put it on this week-end?

MS: Put it in my pocket.

Q: David. You can't use the same answer. You would like to make more out of it?

DC: On myself.

Q: Juan Pablo?

JPM: Probably myself as well but, I don't know.

Q: I have a question for the drivers. Have you been reading your contract after the sacking of Jos Verstappen? Or any comments?

DC: I'm sorry for Jos Verstappen. It can't be a nice situation to think you have a contract and you're geared up for the year ahead and then it changes. I think in all these things, there has got to be reasons behind it and only the people that are involved have all of the facts so really rather than just adding opinions without knowing everything it is better not to say anything.

MS: I don't have a contract with Tom.

DC: Are you sure?

MS: I haven't read mine and pretty happy with what I've got at the moment.

Q: Question for David Richards: David, when you parted company with Benetton four years ago, you said you wouldn't come back into Formula One unless you were financially involved with the team. That isn't, as I understand it, the situation at the moment but presumably you haven't changed your principles. Can I ask: is there an agreement in principle for you eventually to take over a major shareholding or a shareholding of any kind in BAR?

DR: Understandably, these things tend to be behind the scenes and somewhat confidential but I haven't changed the principles which I said at the time.

Q: Could I ask the drivers, the three of you, which of you is the best driver in Formula One?

MS: Which is the best journalist?

Q: The richest. I thought every driver believed he was the best driver in Formula One.

DC: I think the point is it is not a boxing match or something like that, it's not WWF, we are not doing all the big promo: I'm going to knock you out. Clearly you have confidence in your own ability and each of us sitting here have won Grand Prix - obviously Michael has won a few more than Juan and I and it's a bit unfortunate to be racing in a period against a guy who has won more Grand Prix than anyone else in the history of the sport but there you go, that's the challenge and it's one I relish and I enjoy and I'm looking forward to adding to my meagre 11 Grand Prix victories.

JPM: Well, I don't know. I have been always a big fan of Senna since I was a kid and I would say Senna.

Q: Of the three of you?

DC: That's how important he thinks your questions are; he doesn't listen to them.

JPM: I never considered myself the best driver but I never considered myself inferior to anybody. I think if somebody can do it, you can do it. Simple.

Q: Juan Pablo, do you feel any more pressure on you coming to Melbourne this time last year as a rookie or is there more pressure this year going into the first race as a genuine Championship favourite?

JPM: I think last year was more pressure because everybody was expecting that I would fall the same way, like Zanardi had a bad year so everybody was expecting I was going to go the same way. Always you get a bit of pressure to do well in everything, but as long as you do what you are meant to do, drive 100 per cent and see what happens.

Q: Have you got a chance to see the circuit this year and if you have, do you have any safety issues that you would like to bring out? I guess it's to all three of you. Who has actually been around the circuit?

JPM: I have been.

Q: Any safety issues, anything you are worried about?

MS: We always feel - and that belongs to every circuit - that there is room for improvements. We have seen the improvements have been done in terms of the fencing for marshal safety, passive safety for the people. I have seen doubling the fence down the pit, the start and finish line straight, so there has been done quite an effort to improve safety. We live in a world where total safety doesn't exist, whatever sport, whatever event, wherever you go, total safety doesn't exist, but from the GPDA side we always find issues where we can improve safety, and I'm sure after this race we are going to come up with some solutions again to ask the circuit to do something.

Q: To the team bosses, going back to the two day weekend thing, isn't the cheapest place to test a car on the Friday before a race?

DR: Clearly you have got all the equipment there, you have got the people there on the Friday before the race, but I think you can't look at that out of context with testing as a whole so I think there has got to be a debate about testing as a whole and throughout the whole year; you can't just sort of look at Friday in isolation from testing between races and through the winter period as well. An overall restriction on testing would sort of be equal for everybody and certainly make dramatic savings.

OA: I agree with David in this case.

Q: When you say dramatic, what percentage of budget? With the engine thing, how much money would you save by just bringing one engine?

DR: It's not what the teams would save on the engine side, you have got to think of an engine manufacturer now is looking not just at one engine but you are looking at an engine for qualifying, an engine that you are probably going to throw away at the end of a Saturday afternoon, and then an engine for racing, and the numbers of engines involved. Ove can answer the question far better than I can because he is actually doing it so he knows firsthand. You have also got to look at it in the context of how the public perceive our sport as well: a sport that sort of throws engines away after 50 kilometres and does special developments for that, is that the right image for us to be projecting in the future in the current environment we are in?

OA: You've answered the question.

Q: To the drivers: Have you been informed about the shooting incident on track overnight, the police investigation of a guard said she was shot at by a masked intruder and has security been unguarded around you?

Q: Does that answer your question? Is there more security, David? Notice anything?

DC: I haven't personally but I was not aware of the incident last night.

Published at 08:44:38 GMT
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