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Thursday Press Conference - Part Two 04 Mar 2004

Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams takes part in an Allianz Press Conference at Sandown International Raceway.
Australian Grand Prix Preparations, Rd 1, Albert Park, Australia, 3 March 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

With Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya and BAR's Jenson Button.

Q: Juan Pablo, give us an idea of your feelings as you come to this race in comparison to what’s been happening in testing? You’ve done a huge amount of testing, haven’t you?
Juan Pablo Montoya:
Yeah, myself, I’ve done over 7000 kilometres of testing. Our main focus has been reliability. Of course there have been some aeros bits that have come in and stuff. The car from day one seemed very driveable. I think set-up-wise we are pretty close, we’ve got a good window. We tried a few different things, but we definitely knew from day one where we wanted to be. So our main focus was on reliability. We had some gearbox problems but those problems were solved. We’ve done a lot of race simulations and it’s good. It just keeps going and going, it just runs.

Q: The transmission problem is solved, you say.
JPM:
Yes.

Q: What was going wrong?
JPM:
I can’t really tell you.

Q: It’s been solved for several weeks?
JPM:
Probably the last two tests we didn’t have any problems. New parts came in and we tried to look what happened, because in December we didn’t have any problems and then new bits arrived and then suddenly, whoa, everything started to break. And then we went back to what we used to use and everything was fine. I think the car is very competitive, it’s a lot quicker than last year. We’ll see. The only question is how competitive we are in compared to the rest. It doesn’t matter how much quicker you are than last year. What matters is how much quicker you are against everybody else. I think we have a strong car. I don’t know if it’s a winning car or not. Hopefully it is. We’re much better prepared than ever going into the first race. We know we gave away both championships last year mainly because we didn’t score any points in the first five races. Based on that, you’ve got to think that if you could start scoring good points from the first race you’d be fine.

Q: What about the atmosphere within in the team. It’s rather a strange situation: Ralf hasn’t signed yet, there’s a strange thing there, you’re leaving at the end of the year. So what’s the atmosphere like?
JPM:
I think it’s good. I don’t have any problems with anybody really. The team seems to be working exactly the same as last year and before I even signed. It’s good. They want to win. It would be nice to win the championship before I leave, to be honest. I’m here to race. I can’t say I’m going to take it easy because I’m leaving at the end of the year. I’m here and I want to win, and if I have the chance I’m not going to give it away.

Q: You don’t notice any difference in the atmosphere?
JPM:
Not really. Towards the end of the year you might start feeling a little bit, but at the moment I’ve done quite a bit more testing than Ralf and everything. I can’t say I’ve had any disadvantage or anything. It feels very good at the moment.

Q: We were talking to Michael about his situation with Bridgestone in comparison to the Michelin teams, there are so many of them, all exchanging information, and he said that we will find out the best solution at the end of the season. What are your feelings about that?
JPM:
Well, in a way, we could be in a good position because we can… you know different teams try different things, but in a way, you can play both ends. If Michelin can get all the information together and develop the tyres based one everybody’s information, then it’s a good thing and I think they have so far, against having one team only developing the tyres for one single car. It limits the amount of miles they do, even if they try to run and run and run. It’s not the same as 15 cars running as two. So we’ll see. It will take a bit of time to know where you are and if you look at the pace they had in Imola, it was unbelievable, you’re going to say, but it’s the only time they’ve been quick, and it was zero degrees ambient and about five degrees track temperature and we’re never going to race… well, I’m not really planning to race in that weather. (Laughter).,

Q: But surely the tyre company has to compromise to look after all you guys on Michelins whereas they can specialise looking after…
JPM:
No, I think Michelin has done a really good job in being able to develop everything each team wants. I can’t say that Williams are suffering a little bit because they are developing tyres for another team. I think they have been 100 per cent behind every team and I’ve seen a lot of the development during the winter and I’ve got to say that Michelin has done a fantastic job so far.

Q: What are your feelings about that, Jenson?
Jenson BUTTON:
I think we’re very happy with the situation. As Juan said, nobody’s that reliable at the start of the season. Throughout the winter, you’re never going to have 100 per cent reliability, or what you want. So it’s great that there are so many top teams able to test different things, and I think that is very important.

Q: A new situation for you in the team, in that it can be said you’re the old boy in the team now. Does that change things very much for you?
JB:
It has done. I think it’s just a natural progression really over the winter. I’ve just had more feed back and more input, whereas last year when Jacques was around, he was obviously very opinionated as we all know, but it was a good thing, because he would push very hard for new parts on the car, whereas I would sit back a little bit more. But I’ve learned from him that you really do need to push, even when there aren’t any problems, you’ve really got to keep the whole team on their toes and that’s where I’ve been working very hard this winter.

Q: So in that way, you feel you’ve changed, you’re a bit more demanding?
JB:
Yeah, definitely, a lot more demanding.

Q: And Takuma’s contribution? What is that?
JB:
He’s been doing a good job. I think it helped that he was racing in the last race of last year in Suzuka. He seems to be confident, and doing a good job in testing.

Q: What about Anthony, what’s going to his contribution as third driver tomorrow?
JB:
Well, we’re lucky that we’ve got a third car… well, it depends which way you look at it really. We finished fifth last year. But he’s going to do a lot of miles tomorrow when we’re not going to be doing as much. We can save the engine a little bit more, which I think is going to help us over the weekend. So yeah, I think you’ll see Anthony out on the circuit more than anybody tomorrow.

Q: And of course, he’s not only competitive and quick but also, he’s been around for a long time and done a lot of testing.
JB:
He has. He’s been involved with team for a long time. In testing, he’s been quick, especially over long distance runs and his feedback’s very good so he’s good part of the team.

Q: Would you say that in terms of the third drivers, he’s probably going to be the most useful?
JB:
Definitely, definitely the most useful.

Q: So what difference is that going to make to the team, then?
JB:
As I said, it’s great to have three cars and he’s able to do a lot more laps, so I think it’s really going to help us when we get to the weekend. He can do all the long running on Friday, whereas other teams won’t be able to do that so much, or some teams, anyway.

Q: You really are going to be saving the engines tomorrow?
JB:
I don’t think you’re going to see many cars going round and doing 40 or 45 laps in practice. I think everyone’s going to be a little bit cautious, especially being the first race.

Q: Is that going to be a worry for you, Juan Pablo, the fact that you guys have got to go out and do the work?
JPM:
Er, yeah. I think the first session you’re probably going to have to do one or two runs to get a balance and you’ve definitely got to go out in the second session like you used to do before, back to back the tyres, and then make up your mind. It’s like it used to be before, you had to make up your mind on the tyres and that was it. You couldn’t really start changing tyres on the Saturday morning because you were working on race set-up, especially with the new speed limit and everything, a lot of races are going to be three stops. You need to have the good tyres for the race. So it won’t be such a clear opinion on the tyres like probably they will, but Ferrari’s in the same position, McLaren’s in the same position, and Renault’s in the same position. I’m pretty happy.

Q: Is it going to change the hierarchy, the fact that they can do more work on the day that they’ve got to decide on the tyres?
JPM:
I think that what you’ve got to do is have a good look at what they’re doing. You know, you’ve got reference numbers and things. You can probably figure out what tyres they’re running and what things they’re doing, and if you have a good look, you can probably learn a lot from them as well. I think the team’s going to be well prepared for that.

Q: Jenson, your feelings on that? Can you see that happening?
JB:
Oh yeah, definitely. I think people will be watching us, because I think we will be strong this season so I think that the top four teams will be interested, especially the three Michelin teams.

Q: You seem to have been quick at three or four tests, really substantially quicker on some days. They have been low fuel days I understand…
JB:
Yes
JPM: Really?

Q: … but it’s not worth that much is it?
JB:
Well, we dropped it from 100 to 60 on those days.
JPM: Ah, very impressive.
JB: The car’s strong. It’s a nice car to drive, it’s very stable and that gives you confidence. Also, when you make a change, you can really feel the difference with the car which is good and I think that we’ve made a good step forward. I still don’t know where we are compared to the top teams, but hopefully we’re a lot closer than what we were last year.

Q: Is it a huge advance compared to last year’s car?
JB:
Yeah, it’s a very good step forward. But again, it hasn’t been one big step, it’s been throughout the winter, we’ve been improving. We had the interim concept car and then the 06 is again, it’s just little steps but it seemed to work for us.

Questions from the floor

Q: For both of you, if you were not involved in motor sport in any way, what job or profession would you like to do?
JB:
We are.
JPM: I don’t know. Yeah, probably an architect. My father used to be an architect. So when I was a kid I wanted to be an architect.
JB: I’ll be a secondhand car salesman then. (Laughter)
JPM: Be washing cars or something.
JB: Exactly.

Q: Is that what you want to do?
JB:
No, that’s what my old man was. No, it would have to be something pretty crazy I think. I don’t know what.
JPM: Stunt driver or something.
JB: Fighter pilot.
JPM: Yeah, that would be cool.

Q: Juan, you’ve seen or you’ve heard the reaction to what happened yesterday. Two things: are you surprised at how much coverage you got and in hindsight, do you think that you should have gone with the joke a bit more?
JPM:
I think I will go with the first question. You know it’s very hard to say whether you react too hard or not. I was very polite to him. I think that especially when you’re doing a day for a sponsor, you’ve got to be very professional what you’re doing, and when it’s not handled professionally, then I don’t think you’ve got to be there. There’s a lot of money involved in it from everybody: from the sponsors, from the team and if it’s not controlled properly and they’re not respecting not only myself but everybody in the room… I found out…. If you’re in a place where you’re joking and having fun then it’s alright but I wouldn’t really find if funny… you know I didn’t find it funny, a guy asking me if I wanted to play golf with his grandmother or whatever. I didn’t tell him anything. I wasn’t rude to anybody. I just said ‘sorry, ‘scuse me’ and I stand up and I left. It was very straightforward. If you look at the pictures and everything they’ve got in the newspaper I find it quite amusing actually, because it wasn’t even from yesterday. If you look at the pictures from yesterday I was laughing on the way out because I was talking to a friend of mine. You’ve got to establish a precedent that you’ve got to do a professional job and it wasn’t done professionally, and it wasn’t handled professionally by anybody so I decided that I didn’t have to be there. I just stood up and left.

Q: Are you concerned at all though how it came out and how it portrays you and maybe Formula One drivers and how they react?
JPM:
No, I don’t care to be honest. I talked to Frank, Frank is OK with it and that’s all that really matters. I talked to Frank and he said to me ‘I’m glad you behaved in a good way, it’s a shame we couldn’t complete the day.’ I said ‘yeah, it’s a shame, but it wasn’t handled properly from the beginning.’ When the two guys after the first time it should have stopped and nobody in the room did anything to stop it so I decided, they not interested in stopping it, then I will. They’ve got respect me, I’m doing a professional job for them. I’m not lacking in respect to anybody so I decided to leave. Of course, as Formula One never comes here, only each year for three or four days, it’s a big thing if something happens and like everything, the press wants to be with Formula One and people want to see if they can stir some bad things about it and they did, and that was all. I don’t think it got out of hand or anything. You can ask any of the media who was there because there were a few guys from Formula One you can… I didn’t shout at anybody or anything, I just got in the car and left.

Q: So is the report that there was some friction between you and some staff members from Williams, is that not true?
JPM:
There was some friction but it wasn’t in front of anybody. It was a closed room, and we had a discussion about it. I told them why I was leaving. Of course they didn’t want me to leave because it’s a sponsor day and everything, but I gave them my reasons and they said OK.

Q: This question is for Jenson; you’re the only driver who has driven on the track in Bahrain. Do you think you’re going to have any advantage on the other drivers? (Some laughter)
JB:
What did you say, Juan? Not really, because there wasn ‘t any tarmac there. (More laughter). If we were racing a 4x4, then maybe. But it wasn’t very interesting to go there and have a look at the facilities and the layout of the circuit, so it was a great visit for me but no, I don’t think it’s going to help me in circuit experience.

Q: The question is to Juan Pablo: you talked about Frank’s reaction, but what was the sponsor reaction?
JPM:
Well, the sponsor can’t really say anything because the sponsor was the guys who let them in. From what I read this morning, I think part of the sponsors, the guys who were based here in Australia, they knew about it. At least the guy sitting beside me knew about it. They probably wanted to play a joke on me and it didn’t work too well, not as planned.

Q: Jenson, you’re sitting next to a guy who’s leaving Williams at the end of the year and going to McLaren – I know you don’t want to answer this question – but there’s a lot of speculation that you might take his seat. What will it take to keep you at BAR? If you are halfway through the year and you’re sixth in the World Championship, are you going to stay at BAR?
JB:
I don’t have a choice.

Q: There’s no performance clause?
JB:
If I’m sixth in the championship I’m at BAR and that’s…

Q: The team is sixth in the Constructors’ championship, perhaps….
JB:
(Laughter) It’s difficult to say, you know. What I would like to concentrate on this year is this year.

Q: I know that, but I’m not asking you about this year. If Williams comes along and offers you a pile of money to go and Juan’s car are you going to take it?
JPM:
That would happen would it?
JB: Your car?
JPM: No, driving the car yeah, but the pile of money?! (Laughter)
JB: The most important thing for me as I said is this year and no decision will ever be made until part of the way through this season and if I don’t perform this year, it doesn’t really make any difference and if our team doesn’t perform or Williams don’t perform, we won’t be having this discussion. I really don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s a decision we’re going to have to make when we get to the time. At the moment, I’m not thinking about that at all. Not interested at the moment.

Q: Do you think you could be World Champion in 2005 with BAR?
JB:
I think there’s a chance, yes. The amount of progress we’ve made over this winter, not just through lap time but also as a team, we’ve really moved forward. I think it’s possible.

Q: Do think you could be World Champion in 2005 with Williams?
JB:
Not if I’m at BAR! (Laughter)

Q: Just to make it even more painful, Jenson, to follow on from that: isn’t it inconceivable, though, if you had a choice between BAR, even if it’s on the rise, and Williams… BAR in the near term future is never going to be a Williams is it?
JB:
We don’t know, nobody knows. The only people who know are involved and we know the amount of improvement we’ve made over this winter, it’s been huge, and we don’t 100 per cent know how we’re going to compare against the top teams, but I think we’re going to be very strong. So if you ask me in six or eight races time I’ll probably have a slightly better answer but not much.
Q: I’m a bit incredulous, so excuse me but if you were offered a drive, if it came, the opportunity to go to Williams in your career, could you really say no?
JB:
You could if they weren’t the top team, yeah. I want to win the World Championships and I want to do it… it doesn’t matter how I do it really, I want to be World Champion, but I would rather do it with BAR because I’ve really built a good team around me, I think.

Q: Jacques Villeneuve was a great character, the outlaw of Formula One drivers, you worked with him, you saw him off, so basically you killed his career (Laughter) so do you miss him, did you like having him around?
JB:
Yeah. The start of the season I didn’t really because he said a few things, but I did also. But he was a good teammate. He was very opinionated as I’ve said before, but he really got the job done and he pushed the team very very hard for improvement so yes, he was a very good teammate, but things move on and I’m very happy having Takuma as a teammate. I think he’s really done a good job over the winter and he deserves to be in the team.

Q: Juan, your opinion on this please, do you think it’s a shame that a driver of Jacques’ calibre is not in Formula One?
JB:
If you say he’s good, that means I’m awesome! (Laughter)
JPM: I think he put himself in that position really. I think he’s got to look after his career himself. As Jenson said, Jenson beat him last year and if Jacques had done a good enough job, he would still be here. He did a very good job when he was World Champion and I think he lost a lot of motivation when he went to BAR and struggled for a few years. Of course he wanted to win but he didn’t have the equipment to win, so I’m not sure how hard he was still trying to win and maybe he just backed off too much, took it too easy and suddenly he realised he didn’t have a drive.

Q: Juan, over the winter, a lot’s been said and written about events at the French Grand Prix being a possible catalyst for you talking to McLaren. It’s been reported that you weren’t happy with Ralf stopping a lap early and all the rest of it. He had the pole, he was leading the race, what was it about the French Grand Prix that you were actually upset about?
JPM:
Er, nothing really. (Laughter). No, there was a lot of shit happening in that race and I’m not going to say no, it didn’t happen, I’m not going to tell you what happened. Yes, he did piss me off. I can tell you that, I’m honest. I can tell you I was talking to Ron before that race.
Q: Was it team orders?
JPM:
No, no, no, no. I don’t remember (Laughter)
JB: It was a long time ago, wasn’t it?
JPM: Jeez, about eight months ago and I can tell you I was talking to McLaren and to Ron before that and of course that added up to making up my mind but that wasn’t the only reason. There were a lot more things that happened. It’s like when you’re having a girlfriend, it gets to a point when it’s just too much. (Laughter)
JB: What. With every girlfriend?
JPM: Exactly, that’s why I’m married to Connie because she’s alright.

Q: Juan, you’ve mentioned what you think of Ferrari’s lap times in the recent test; what do you make of the problems that McLaren have been having in the recent test. Do you think that they will hit the ground running this weekend, or do you think that they genuinely have some difficulties?
JPM:
I think they did have some difficulties and from what you’ve seen in testing, especially on new tyres, they don’t look very strong. If you look at the long runs, ours or BARs, I think if somebody’s got stronger long runs than us you’ve got to see it’s Renault, it’s somebody who over one lap we might be quicker than them but in the longer distances they look to be quite strong. The question is, how much have they had? Everything is always based on fuel, on weight of the car, I don’t know if everybody’s been running with the weight they have to run. I think they’ve been running with lower weight just to find some sponsors. There are so many political things going on that… I think by Sunday we’ll get a bit of an idea who’s quick and who’s not.

Q: Juan, obviously you’re going to McLaren next year. You’re an opinionated person which make it an interesting concept for some of us who know Ron very well, who’s ever so slightly restrictive of what he likes to hear his drivers saying. Do you think it’s going to be an interesting relationship?
JPM:
I think it will be really interesting. You know I’m really looking forward to it. It will be nice to have a year with Williams but when I made up mind, I made up my mind after meeting Ron and talking to Ron and negotiating with Ron. When you make a decision like that, he knows what he’s getting into and I know what I’m getting into.

Q: You’re not going to sign anything that says you can’t have your opinions?
JPM:
I haven’t, as far as I remember. (Laughter)

Q: To Jenson Button. Last year Honda had a lot of unreliability in the car. This year, you have a very good chassis but what about the engine?
JB:
In the winter, in November and December, we were fine, we seemed to be very reliable, not only with the engine but also with the car. But in January we did have a few problems with the reliability but we’ve improved dramatically with that in the last few tests, we’ve had no major problems, so I think we’re looking strong.

Q: This year, there are six teams running Michelin and four running Bridgestone. If next year another team decides to run Michelin, do you think it would be much better to have one tyre supplier?
JB:
Are they allowed to?
JPM: I think having two is definitely better, because the tyres are softer and there is a lot more grip. As soon as they go to one, you know we will start going three or four seconds a lap slower, I guarantee you, because manufacturers don’t want to have problems or anything, so it’s going to be a tyre that is more reliable, doesn’t grain, it doesn’t do anything, but it just doesn’t have grip. I like it the way it is. It’s good because you’re fighting against Ferrari and there’s a lot more things to it. You know you think we can get the edge on them in qualifying because of tyres, but maybe they will have the edge on us in the race or it depends on the temperature. There’s a lot more factors and it just makes racing more interesting.
JB: I don’t think…other team can’t go…
JPM: I think it’s got to be 60-40, doesn’t it.