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FIA Thursday press conference 17 Jul 2003

(L to R): Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams, Jenson Button (GBR) BAR, David Coulthard (GBR) McLaren and Justin Wilson (GBR) Minardi in the FIA press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, British Grand Prix, Preparations, Silverstone, England, 17 July 2003

THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 17 JULY 2003
DRIVERS: Jenson BUTTON (BAR), David COULTHARD (McLAREN), Ralf SCHUMACHER (WILLIAMS), Justin WILSON (MINARDI)


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

Q: A question to all of you, what do you feel not only about this race, but also the next three, given the testing ban? Justin, I guess it doesn't make that much difference to you?
Justin WILSON:
No. I think we do the same as what we've always done - move onto the next Grand Prix and work away hard on Friday morning.

Q: Do you think Friday morning now comes into its own as an advantage for you?
JW:
I think most of the other teams have done a lot of work and missing a month's testing is not going to make much difference as to how far they've progressed. I guess they've done all that work already and it's not going to see a big difference. As I say, we'll just keep working away. It will help us having the two hours in the morning, getting to set our cars up and we'll just do what we can.
Jenson BUTTON: Obviously there's not a big difference for Justin, not testing, but for us, we've obviously had to work very hard and getting the parts ready for the Barcelona test because we don't get to try anything out before the next races and obviously you want to test stuff before it goes on the car for a race. So hopefully the car is going to be pretty reasonable here because, again, we can't test and we can't get any new parts on the car.

Q: So are things pretty static from here on, in terms of new parts?
JB:
Well, they are, yes. Hopefully we've got a reasonable car here and hopefully that will continue.
Ralf SCHUMACHER: Well, it's all about making the best at the actual race meeting. There are still new parts coming in all the time, so we just have to do it at the weekends. It's a problem, but it's the same for everyone. That's the way it is.

Q: Does that mean you will be expecting to test parts during a race weekend?
RS:
Certainly. But that's the same for every team I guess, even if it's only small parts. You know, the teams agreed to the rule and certainly, if you ask the main teams, they will always say the same - that they need more testing time. But that's the way it is.
David COULTHARD: Well, very similar to what the other three have said. We have the test ban. We've been aware of that since the beginning of the year and you just try and fit your test schedule around it. And as Ralf said, we'll still introduce things during race weekends, electronic changes or small things in the engine. Tyres, of course, will be different from each of the races.

Q: But right from the beginning of the season, things have been channelled into this six-week gap have they?
DC:
Well, we've all known about the gap but inevitably some things run a little bit over. Things like... obviously the new car; we would have preferred to have done more running with it prior to the testing break but that the situation we're in. Race weekends... you can go from one track and a given set of tyres that you've chosen and have a great performance and then go to another circuit and feel pretty good. But if the tyres aren't quite working then obviously, with development of tyres, you're choosing a tyre with an educated guess as to how it's going to perform but if the track conditions are significantly different from what you expect... the weather that we've had for the last few days in England has been incredibly hot but this is a bit back to what we would have expected.

Q: So you would have been surprised if it had been remained hot, but you're less surprised that it's cooler?
DC:
I don't think I'm alone. I'm not the only person in Britain who would be surprised if it's cooler. You can get long-term weather forecasts but then things like this come along.

Q: But from a tyre point of view, this is more what you were expecting?
DC:
I didn't expect it to have been as hot as it has been in London over the last couple of days. It's been incredibly hot, which I presume likewise it's been up here.

Q: Justin, since the last race you've driven British sports minister Richard Caborn in Hyde Park in London. Tell us about it?
JW:
Yeah, we took the two-seater round and it was the first time that I've driven the two-seater car, so I had to get used to that. It was simply down the road, spin the car around, back up and do a pit stop, and then spin the car around and that was the run. It was quite interesting. Like I say, when it's your first time and you get the message that you're just going to spin it round in between these kerbs that are only a little bit wider than the car's length, it was good fun. Hopefully he enjoyed it.

Q: What sort of crowd did you get there?
JW:
There was probably about 50 people there, mainly media. I believe it got a good response.

Q: This is your first Grand Prix at home, what are your thoughts so far? What do you think it's going to be like?
JW:
I'm interested to see how the weekend's going to pan out, but I personally am going to treat it just as any other race, try not to get too carried away, keep working hard on the car set-up and make it as driveable as possible.

Q: Jenson, what are your feelings about your home race?
JB:
Again, we have to drive exactly the same so to our driving it's no different. But it's great to be at the British Grand Prix because the atmosphere is normally very good, it's good to see Union Jacks where you don't normally see them, at the Grands Prix, and the backing for all the drivers seems to be very good here.

Q: More distractions? You've already done an event for Honda?
JB:
And I won, I won the lawnmower race, which I'm very happy about. No, not more distractions really. It's a normal weekend.

Q: How do you feel about the tyre performance recently, and has the testing recently helped with your tyre projections for the next few races?
JB:
We've obviously been tyre testing last week, three days. I think we've made a step forward in certain areas so that's positive. We've just got to see if they work well here.

Q: Are you quite confident of that?
JB:
Reasonably, yeah.

Q: Ralf, you come here having won the last two Grands Prix. What are your feelings of a third, or even a fourth perhaps?
RS:
Well, let's wait and see. The last two races were great as a team with places one and two. Depending on the weather, looking back to the last test we had here McLaren were really strong and so were Ferrari so it is going to be quite a tight battle I guess.

Q: Are you confident of the tyres in all conditions?
RS:
Concerning dry tyres, definitely. On wet tyres we can be competitive, no doubt, but it sometimes appears to be a bit difficult. It depends what Bridgestone have done or changed.

Q: We understand there have been some changes in the Williams team in terms of personnel. Does that affect you at all?
RS:
When was that? Ah, you mean my race engineer on the engine side I guess. Um, no, not at all. That was before Nurburbring anyway, or around Nurburbring. It was a shame. I liked him very much personally and I got on with him well but you know, everyone has to look at his own future and he had a better deal I guess. I don't know.

Q: Sorry, I didn't know about this person. He has left to go where?
RS:
I think that was the person leaving to go to McLaren. I thought that was what you were referring to.

Q: No, I understood there were personnel changes elsewhere in the team.
RS:
No, not that I am aware of. We have had so many personnel changes over the course of the last six months that I don't know which one you are talking about. But I think that everything we have changed so far has made us quicker.

Q: David, obviously this is your home race and you have said some very positive things about Silverstone. Can you share those thoughts again?
DC:
Well, there has been a lot of negative publicity about Silverstone. I am not batting for either one side or the other, I am just giving my own personal opinion as a driver. I am a little bit confused to the media coverage, what I have seen. I don't know enough about it to try to understand the real reasoning behind the negativity but from a circuit point of view it is an interesting challenge for the driver. You ask most drivers what their favourite track is they say Spa, so that doesn't make Silverstone one of the classics but historically it is an important race and it is one that I enjoy coming to.

Q: It is one of the quicker circuits on the calendar and that is something that the drivers usually enjoy.
DC:
Yeah, absolutely. High speed corners, it is a different sort of challenge. That is not to say that Monaco, as one of the slowest tracks, isn't a great challenge, but it is nice to feel the car at high speed, especially through the Becketts complex. I still think that is probably one of the better complexes for spectators to watch the cars at high speed.

Q: Because actually the trend seems to have come down to a lot of very slow corners, particularly looking at the changes at Magny-Cours.
DC:
Yeah, I think we need to change the... We use the same designer every time so we end up with the same type of corners. I think the hairpin at Magny-Cours is actually a good example of a good hairpin, one where you can actually overtake because there is enough run-off at the exit that if you do actually make a mistake you don't end up on the grass. Typically over the years that has created some overtaking manoeuvres, so if I was going to be involved in the designing of a track then I would re-watch all the races, suss where most of the overtaking takes place and then create that with some high-speed corners that the drivers would enjoy.

Q: But here there are still overtaking possibilities, do you think?
DC:
Yeah, I think down Hangar Straight, if a car has a problem off the last part of Becketts and has a lot of understeer for instance and you hook into the corner you kind of slipstream them down to Stowe. Other than that I think it is quite difficult to overtake unless a car makes a mistake. But in the wet there are quite a few different lines, out of Club you can be wide or narrow and create something a bit different.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: The inside word seems to be that you will be staying with McLaren for next year but I am sure you are aware of the fact that Bernie Ecclestone says that a change would be good for you. I think Niki Lauda made a similar suggestion a couple of years ago. Jenson made a change of team this year and it has obviously been to his benefit. Do you think about making a change and the benefits that it would have for your career?
DC:
Well, no. I think McLaren is the best opportunity for me to win Grands Prix, to answer your question briefly. To then come on to something like, say Jenson, I think he was going from a car that was qualifying on the back row in some races to a car that is more competitive so I don't think it is a very good example of how changing teams can make you step forward.

Q: Ralf, Juan Pablo said a couple of days ago that he just has to work on his qualifying performance because at the races, on the track, he is the faster guy. Could you comment on that?
RS:
Well, I think the two of us are a very good combination and he is doing a brilliant job. I don't know, the last two races at least I won, for whatever reason, so I can't be that bad. But certainly he has the same car, the same possibility, and it will always be very tight between the two of us.