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FIA Thursday press conference 03 Jul 2003

(L to R): Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota, Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault, Jarno Trulli (ITA) Renault, Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams and Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren in the FIA press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, French Grand Prix, Preparations, Magny-Cours, France, 3 July 2003

THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 13 JULY 2003
DRIVERS: Fernando ALONSO (RENAULT), Olivier PANIS (TOYOTA), Kimi RAIKKONEN (McLAREN), Ralf SCHUMACHER (WILLIAMS), Jarno TRULLI (RENAULT)


Published with permission from the Federation Internationale de l' Automobile.

Q: Olivier, ten years in Formula One. Are you leaner and meaner?
Olivier PANIS:
No. First of all, I feel happy about this. I invite you, everyone, to celebrate my first ten years in Formula One and maybe the second time for the next ten years. No, I'm really happy to be honest. It's different, different things in my car already. But I haven't proved anything I want to prove which is why I continue to be really motivated and push really hard.

Q: I hear you're upset that people think you're such a nice guy.
OP:
I am a nice guy when nobody breaks my balls, you know! But otherwise I'm a normal person.

Q: Last weekend, the car performed well, but the end result was disappointing.
OP:
I'm a little bit scared that Jarno is next to me because once again last week we stopped on the same lap. Definitely for us last week it was a really positive weekend from the performance point of view and everybody did a very good job but definitely we are a little bit frustrated, the team and myself, not to finish the race again. But we need to take some positive things from this. We have had some brake problems due to parts failures but at the end of the day we need to improve the situation and I'm sure one time something quite good will happen to us.

Q: Are last weekend's problems going to be solved for this weekend?
OP:
I really hope so. Yeah, I think so.

Q: Now you're the only French driver in Formula One this weekend. What does it need for France to promote more French drivers?
OP:
If I knew I would tell you or the FFSA (Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile), you know, to improve this situation. I think now that Jean Alesi works with the FFSA to try to get some young drivers and to help improve them to go up and maybe to put someone in Formula One in the future, but I don't have the idea how to create that. I think we have some very good young drivers like Franck Montagny, like someone really, but now we need big help from a big sponsor, a French company, and maybe the Federation too.

Q: Franck is going to be doing this weekend's test session for Renault; Jarno, how important, how useful has the third driver been this year?
Jarno TRULLI:
He's always been very important because we do the Friday morning session so we can collect a lot of data from the engine point of view, from the tyres point of view, long runs and different feedback so we've go three drivers and we can work on three different parallel ways. It's good to have Franck Montagny on board this week. He knows the track very well. He's been running here with the new configuration in another category. He already gave us some good advice about this new track, so I think it's also a good opportunity for him as a French driver, and for Renault, as a French team.

Q: What are the changes to the circuit and what do you think of them?
JT:
Well, they did quite a good job. They've basically changed the last part and they introduced two hairpins and probably a very slow speed corner, like first gear, and a chicane. It's difficult to say whether we can have any overtaking opportunities, but it looks like that before the last chicane we might have some opportunity under braking. We just have to wait and see, it's too early to say until you drive on it so you can get a better and clearer idea.

Q: Now you've raced for Prost and now for Renault as well; are you a bit of an honorary Frenchman?
JT:
I really think that I've got a lot of support in France, also because I speak French and people appreciate that. I've learned it because I think it's important also for them, to communicate with them. This is a special Grand Prix for Renault and this is special for me because it's just like my second home Grand Prix.

Q: And you hope that you can forget last weekend, quickly.
JT:
Well, I hope I can forget many weekends. I'm not looking behind me, I'm just looking ahead of me because I know I've got a very good team and for sure, a very competitive car this year. It's just a matter of having a bit better time.

Q: Kimi, have you got over last weekend's disappointment yet?
Kimi RAIKKONEN:
Ah yeah. I guess you just need to look forward for that which happened in the last race.

Q: And of course this race last year wasn't too good for you either. It was a bit of a disappointment in some ways.
KR:
Ah yeah, in the end I was close to having my first win but then it all went away a couple of laps from the end but second place was quite good, but OK, disappointing that I didn't win, but that's a year ago and I don't really think about those things any more.

Q: Are you confident that the problem last weekend has been cured?
KR:
Yeah, because we haven't had any problems so far this year and then suddenly we had one in one of the home Grands Prix and it was a big surprise for all us because the engine has been running very good all year and it's the same engine that we have been using. It was one of those things that suddenly sometimes goes wrong and it's not good to have it in the race, but it just happened.

Q: David's had reliability problems as well, the reliability of the car and the engine and the fact that you have a new car and engine coming up as well - it must be a difficult balance?
KR:
Yeah it's difficult to try to improve both of them. In the end you need to say that this car is like this now and we need to work on the new car. We use whatever we can on this car but I wouldn't say that the reliability hasn't been bad, it has been really good this year and it's the first time really this year that it has been my problem and hopefully we won't have any more.

Q: So you're looking forward to this weekend?
KR:
Yeah, I think so. The car was going well last year and it's much quicker than it was last year at this time and it should be good.

Q: Ralf, this time last year when we came here the championship was virtually won; how do you see this year's championship, it seems to be much more open, doesn't it?
Ralf SCHUMACHER:
It looks to be, certainly for the two in front. I don't think we're yet involved in it clearly. That's something we will figure out in the next two races, but it's definitely more interesting for everyone around Formula One to have it that way.

Q: Jean Todt said that Williams were now Ferrari's major rivals now after last weekend.
RS:
I hope he's right. We'll find out. Thanks for the compliments really. From where we started it's great to be in that position, anyway close to it. But you know how quickly things go wrong, looking back last week, so I will be rather careful and see what we do over the next few races.

Q: How do you feel about this race and Michelin here because it's such a tricky surface?
RS:
It is a tricky surface, it has always been good to us, we've always been reasonably quick here, a bit unlucky sometimes, but I'm looking forward to this weekend. Michelin has been better for the last three or four races. I don't see any reason at all why it should be different here, so it's pretty encouraging. Hopefully we shall find out tomorrow. Our car has never been bad in the last few races on any of the circuits, so it can be a good weekend.

Q: Last weekend we saw an overtaking manoeuvre to which certain people at Ferrari reacted quite badly; what did you think Juan Pablo Montoya's overtaking manoeuvre?
RS:
I think the manoeuvre was alright. Michael, at that point of the corner, couldn't do anything about it because drivers do know that at that stage of the corner, depending on the angle you attack it, you get some understeer. Although Juan left enough room for him but not enough room to react against the understeer, he couldn't do anything about it. I think it was a normal race incident, it was a shame, probably a good overtaking manoeuvre.

Q. Fernando, I think you've also had a look at the circuit today. What are your feelings about the new sections?
Fernando ALONSO:
We'll see tomorrow on the track, but today I think it was a positive change because I didn't like too much the last chicane before and now we have two more corners...the one before the last chicane where, as Jarno said, we can have some overtaking opportunities and the last chicane is also quite challenging for the qualifying and for the timed lap for the practice. I think it was a good change and we will check this weekend.

Q. You are in reasonable contention with the world championship, how do you feel about that at the moment?
FA:
For me it is always difficult to fight with them, but at the moment I have scored many points, 39 points, that for me was a big surprise this season and I am still dreaming each weekend because even when the things look quite bad or we don't have a good balance in the car or something like that, we also get results from that weekend so I think we are doing a good job and we will try to keep this level until the end of the season.

Q. More pressure this weekend because it is Renault's home race?
FA:
No. I think we always have the same pressure, have to do the maximum that we can. We know that sometimes the results are coming and sometimes that they are not.

We will put all the effort in here at Magny-Cours because it is an important race for the team.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q. Fernando, a bit of controversy with (David) Coulthard at the last race. Can you tell us in your view what happened?
FA:
I think this question has been answered so many times. I was happy to prove that I didn't brake early and you know the marshals and race director checked the data in Nurburgring, the laps before, the laps after the incident and you know everything was clear. I braked at the same point and I was happy to prove that...a lot of people talk about if I braked early, if was not sporting and I was very happy to prove I was in a normal situation.

Q. Fernando, has David spoken to you about that incident since?
FA:
Not really. We spoke in Nurburgring after the accident before we went into the marshals room and it was not really anything important.

Q. Were you surprised to see him go off the circuit at that point?
FA:
Yes. I took the inside line to protect my position and after the corner I looked in the mirror and David was not there. I feel a little bit bad because it was a good fight for the position and I didn't know what happened really. It was a normal part of the race weekend.

Q. A question for both of the Renault drivers. We've been very interested this year to see the Renault is sometimes up and sometimes down. You had a particularly spectacular race in Barcelona. I wonder if you could tell us the reason for this inconsistency. Is it to do with the weight distribution that you get, which is the advantage of the wide-angled engine, coupled with the lack of power you have because of the sacrifice you have to make with that engine? I'm interested to know if you can give us some explanation that journalists could understand.
JT:
Our car is definitely a competitive car this year, but we still probably struggle to find the best performance on every circuit consistently. This is coming a little bit from the circuit layout with the engine power, but for example at the Nurburgring we had a problem to get our tyre working. That also happened in Austria and in some other circuits. It is definitely a compromise that we are struggling to find. We are working on it to improve it for the future because the Williams, McLaren, Ferrari are much more consistent. Even if you look at them they are still suffering in some circuits more than others. I think it is typical from every chassis and every team, but maybe at the moment we are looking a little bit bad compared to the top teams. But I think we will be able to sort out this problem for the future.
FA: I think as Jarno said it is always difficult to find the constant balance with the tyres because sometimes they work a little bit better and sometimes a little bit worse. But this happens to all the teams, we see all the teams going up and down in the races. I'm quite happy, I think we are one of the most consistent teams, we are always in the top-eight, top-six and definitely we have to find some solutions to the races where we cannot find the perfect balance with the tyres. But this is normal for this type of season.

Q. Can I ask you if you think the narrow angled engine that you will be going to next year is the right way to go. Will you be sorry to see the wide-angled engine go?
FA:
I don't know. I drive the car. I think we have very professional people working for us and they choose to change the strategy in the angle of the engine and if we change the strategy it is because we will be better. I think Jarno and me are confident it will be no problem for next year and it will be a step forward.

Q. Kimi, this time last year you were trying to win your first race, this year you are trying to win the world title. Does that make a difference in the way you approach the weekends?
KR:
No it doesn't make any difference. Last year was completely different to this year but we are going to have this weekend as any other and hopefully we can go as strong as last weekend. It is always different, it depends how we start going and maybe we change something from practice to qualifying if we feel we need to do something different, but so far this year it has been always the same story and I think this will be the same.

Q. Does this make you take less risks in the race because you want to get as many points as you can get?
KR:
No I think we need to take a risk more because otherwise we are not going to catch the people in first. For sure in the races I'm going to get as many points as I can and hopefully fight for the championship.

Q. Fernando, throughout the race at the Nurburgring you seemed to be struggling to control the car. It looked quite difficult to drive. How did you feel, how did you manage to keep the pace up?
FA:
Yeah, the last part especially the last stint on the third set of tyres I suffered a bit with the rear end of the car. I probably had some problem with the rear tyres. It was difficult to control it. If you see the timed laps I was one-and-a-half, two seconds slower in the last stint and these things happen unfortunately.

Q. Question for Ralf. Given the points situation do you think it will be more difficult to catch your brother and Kimi than it would have been with the points from last year?
RS:
To catch someone it can work in your disadvantage, but if you have a problem that kind of disappears quick. Lets wait and see. But as I said before I'm not really thinking about that yet, I think 15 points we are so far away. Just lets wait and see. Maybe try and win this one and see where we are.