Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
With Takuma Sato (BAR) and Mark Webber (Jaguar).
NOTE: Continuing the policy of a guest questioner, we have, this time, Eric Silbermann of Silbermann Says.
Q: Mark, we are coming to the penultimate race in a not very long and not very glorious career for the Jaguar team but it must be very difficult to keep the motivation going for these last two races. Whats the mood like in the camp?
Mark WEBBER: China was very impressive, actually. The guys were in a good frame of mind. We did a good job there; I think it was as good as we could have done with that track layout and the whole situation with tyres and things, it was a good result for us, nice and reliable. Yeah, but even if everything is going well, this time of the year is hard for most teams. Its a long season, any job you have, as a journalist or a photographer or whatever in Formula One, it is a long season, but I think there are a few offers floating around so the team are still in a pretty good frame of mind and looking forward to finishing with a high. These guys dont know how to work any other way, you know, you have to work as hard as you can and hope we can have a good finish to the season.
Q: Now, I gather you have the new chassis here this weekend. Whats it like, and how come Christian ran it in the last race rather than you?
MW: I tested it in Monza and we made a decision that I would stick with what I knew for China and Christian decided he would take it, so I have got it here. Its not a chassis that is, you know, two or three tenths of a lap quicker, theres probably not much in it at all. Its probably more looking for next year for the team, so its an interim chassis, if you like; its not a big step over this years car.
Q: Of course, it will be an interim to nothing now
MW: Not necessarily, not if the team is bought by someone who is passionate about going forward with the whole team next year. So, its not an interim at all.
Q: You are all done and dusted, you are moving over to Williams. They say the secret to getting on there is having a good relationship with Frank and Patrick, so have you taken any advice from your fellow countryman Alan Jones, who always got on famously with them?
MW: Well, I saw Alan in China and he was full of advice on how to deal with Frank and Patrick and its nothing that really surprised me, of course. They are racers, theyre straight up and down, good people I believe, and that is why I am so motivated to go and drive there for the future. Its a dream for me, to drive for Williams, an absolute dream. The team has had a tough season this year, for lots of different reasons, and next year we have to go forward together. Its a great opportunity for me and getting on with Frank and Patrick, I am sure the lap times will help, thats one of the easiest ways to get on with them if you are performing in the car.
Q: Does it bother you that at the moment you are not quite sure who your team-mate is going to be there next year?
MW: Not really. I am not really worried about who will be in the other car, thats how it is. I think it would be good if we had Jenson, for Williams, but yeah, I just hope it is settled sooner rather than later.
Q: Takuma, everyone assumes you do well here, which you did last year and the previous time, because you are Japanese but I gather you have hardly ever raced here. Is that the case?
Takuma SATO: Well, Suzuka is very special, but as you said I dont have as much experience as anybody has because although I drove in the Suzuka Racing School when I started motor racing when I was 20, the next time I raced here really was when I raced in Formula One in 2002 and surprisingly, or accidentally, I had a big opportunity to race again here last year as a third driver, but really thats all. This is going to be special again, because this is the only circuit I have been to and raced three times so it is probably better than the other circuits.
Q: I gather earlier this week in Tokyo the team confirmed you will be driving for them in 2005, which must make you feel very good, but at the moment it looks like you are the team leader. Have you got any thoughts about who you would like as your team-mate next year?
TS: Not really. At the moment we are just concentrating on this Grand Prix and then Brazil, obviously, this season. It is not surprising they confirmed me for next year because obviously I had a three-year contract already at the beginning of 2003, one year of testing and obviously second and third as a race driver option and automatically it should be confirmed, so to me it is not a surprise. But it is good to have it confirmed now because the team really needs stability through the development programme, so I am looking forward to the winter testing and to next year.
Q: Now the big problem you have had this year has been your engines, and its a mystery to all of us because I think you have had six failures including one in China and Jenson has had hardly any. Nobody seems to come up with a good reason for why this is happening to you, is it something to do with your driving style or the way you use traction control or are they trying different things in your engine to Jensons?
TS: No, I mean, everything is the same. At the very beginning of this year our approach of traction control and engine management was different as every driver has a different driving style. But because I kept having failures we decided to try exactly the same traction control and the way to shift down the engine and everything. We tried it but still had it (problems) and that is why we call it a mystery because I didnt know that and Honda obviously couldnt prove what was the problem and also we had to move forward. So as we developed, we fixed some problems. By the middle of the season, I think we were confident with reliability, but unfortunately I had another engine failure at the last race in Shanghai, which was nothing to do with specification probably just something unfortunate. But no, Honda is now confident they are reliable and also we had very successful testing at Jerez last week so we should be able to be very strong again here.
Q: And some general thoughts about this weekend. You will be under more media attention, more pressure, but have more support from the fans than the other 19 drivers. How do you feel about that?
TS: It feels great, always great to come back to your home Grand Prix. Every single driver who has a home Grand Prix is going to find it really special for him. After Shanghai, I came straight back to Japan, had a relaxed time with my family and all my friends but also had lots and lots of attention from the media and we had so many functions. But it is good for us because Formula One is always enthusiastic in Japan in the past but I think this year, it seems to be the people who had never heard about F1 or motor racing or were never interested, who have started to become very interested, which is very important for us, particularly in Japan, and if you look at Suzuka this weekend there will probably be a lot of fans coming, 160,000 or whatever. So it is all great news and, of course, we will have extra pressure but also we will have extra support, which is great.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) Mark, you have always praised the whole team, the personnel in Jaguar. If a potential buyer came to you and said why should we buy this team? what would you tell them?
MW: Good question. The depth that we have actually got on the floor now in terms of talented guys and continuity within the factory there, each department works very well together, there are areas you can improve but in general it is, if you are a buyer coming into Formula One, and I am not just saying this to try and help the team, honestly, I want to see the guys around next year, personally, but also I know I have been very lucky to work with the guys I have this year. There are some very clever guys there and, through trying circumstances and a lot of adversity, they still absolutely give their blood and guts to the situation so they are talented boys and that is why with some stability and some passion, if that did come along, then the team could look to the future and perform to a very good level in Formula One.
Q: (Marc Surer Premiere TV) Mark, what do you think safety-wise about this circuit. After all the run-off areas at the last circuit, now we come to an old fashioned circuit. What do you think about it?
MW: Again, another good question. Its a track that is very, very quick, there are some quick corners in places, generally if a driver makes a mistake then he should be okay but if there are failures then that is, of course, the big problem. We saw McNish here a few years ago and I think 130R has been revised since that crash but, yeah, we need to constantly keep looking at these. I am going to go for a walk around the track this afternoon and actually inspect the circuit on behalf of the GPDA, we take it in turns, the drivers, to have a look around and see what it looks like. But the FIA are doing a good job, we work together with (them and) the drivers on areas that we think are on the edge, but this track is one of them that has a few places where you can go in pretty hard. But the drivers know that, there are quick corners, but you are right, its an old track, it has been the same layout for many years. The run-off areas have been fudged around a little bit to try to help the situation but its quite quick in places so we need to look at it.
Q: As an extension to that question, you are going to probably be seeing it in wet conditions as well this weekend. What are your feelings about that?
TS: I think it depends on the Typhoons, which way they go, and if they hit Japan then there will be lots of rain. We experienced a few weeks ago that we were hit by a big Typhoon and all of turn one and turn two was completely flooded. We dont want to see that, because if it happens we have to stop the race completely and that would be sad. But if it is just normal rain, we should be able to have a good race here because we had a few years here when there have been wet races but it is always very exciting in Suzuka and there are none of the big dangerous places, as far as I remember, at this circuit in the wet.
MW: Yeah, normally the spray is a big problem for the drivers and, like Takuma says, if it rains very, very heavily it is the same at every track, the aquaplaning level is the thing that stops us from running and then the visibility is the next thing, so when we are running as a group it should be okay. Its tricky for all of us, but yeah, it should be fine.
Q: (Dan Knutson) Takuma, you talked about the rising interest of the fans and the media. What is it like for you now to go and walk through the streets of Tokyo? Can you walk through the streets of Tokyo?
TS: Yes, I can. I am a human, same as you, so I still go shopping, eating, restaurants, go to hotels. People do recognise me sometimes, which is great because they just give me a cheer and I really like it. I feel it is a really great support from the fans and that is a great feeling.
Q: (Dan Knutson) But do you not always get surrounded by autograph people?
TS: It does happen occasionally, if you come to this circuit it is a big problem, so I have to go away from the fans, unfortunately, because we would like to give them all the time but it is sometimes very difficult. But basically I treat them very equally.
Q: (Dan Knutson) But in Tokyo are you always asked for autographs or can you pretty much always walk okay without being chased all the time?
TS: Not really. I didnt have a chance to walk in Tokyo, to be honest, but I cannot see them following me all the time. If they ask me, I do give them autographs.
Q: (Yuuki Ishihara Tokyo Sankei Sports) Takuma, how confident are you about a wet race? I hear there is a 60 percent chance of rain on Sunday. Would it be better for you if it rains on Sunday?
TS: It is very difficult; it depends on how much rain we have. Obviously in Spa qualifying it was very difficult to choose the right tyre on the condition of the circuit because we had a lot of spray on it and we thought it needed full wet but actually the intermediate was miles faster. But we learned from that, we had another experience, so we should be able to judge the right tyre for it. Obviously the key point is our competitors. It might be that they have a really big wind that we have to forecast. But certainly for the damp conditions we should be very strong so in those circumstances, I think we would be very confident.