Thursday Press Conference - Part Two 18 Mar 2004
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
With McLarens David Coulthard and Williams Ralf Schumacher.
Q: How did you see your own teams cars performance at the last Grand Prix, the opening Grand Prix of the year?
David COULTHARD: I think it was quite clear to all of us that it was not where we wanted to be and we just got on with the hard work of trying to develop the package rather than wasting too much time talking about it.
Ralf SCHUMACHER: Pretty similar actually. It was clear to see certainly we are not pretty happy with it. First of all being behind Ferrari so far away, then obviously behind Renault, that is what we didnt expect, but I am sure we can turn it around. It will take a bit of time but I guess it will be a bit different here anyway. Melbourne was pretty cool for our circumstances at least for the tyres and everything, so it should be better here.
Q: Do you feel the same about that David?
DC: Yeah, I think if you just look back a year ago then the gap Ferrari had in Melbourne was significantly more than they had here. Obviously the two races were affected one by weather and one by Michael having an incident at turn one, but if that same trend follows then it will be much closer. I think the warmer conditions as well will help the tyre choice we have here.
Q: How much of a surprise was it to be back where you were in Melbourne? Was it a bit of a wake-up call for both teams?
DC: I dont think that certainly for me when I was looking at winter testing, we were always a little bit behind in our one-lap performance and at different times our race pace was reasonable. But then you are presuming the level of fuel you are running relative to the others, just based on how many laps theyve done but they could finish a 20-lap run and still have significant levels of fuel on. So, it wasnt a big surprise that were werent quick in Melbourne and I think inevitably, when you are on the front line you are more aware of that and I think it was more of a surprise to other people, other members of the team.
Q: Was it a surprise to Williams to be where they were?
RS: Definitely. I think winter testing went pretty well for us, we were pretty much at the top, so we expected to be at the top in Melbourne as well. Qualifying, at least for my team-mate, was decent, but then in the race it was clearly a different world. That is what we didnt expect and we woke up pretty quick. We were really surprised, yes.
Q: So, both teams have got improvements in the pipeline, the normal development. Has that now been accelerated? What is the situation post-Melbourne?
DC: Well, we had a reasonable test last week in Valencia and we have some new parts to run on the car which were actually available before Melbourne but we didnt have the right conditions in Imola at the last test prior to going to Melbourne to be confident they were actually a step forward. In that situation you leave them on the shelf until you can actually evaluate them properly, so I expect if we were able to re-run Melbourne now with those parts we would be a little bit quicker.
RS: Well, we tested as well. There are no significant changes here for us because we are a bit short of time. For Bahrain we expect something but for here it is basically the same package, only little changes.
Q: David, it has been said that you were rev limited during the Melbourne weekend. Can you confirm or deny that?
DC: I could confirm that all Grand Prix cars are rev limited, so anyone who is in any doubt, obviously you have got that I think inevitably in these sort of situations you can get misquoted by trying to give someone a direction and I was asked a question on whether we had been handicapped at all on engine performance to achieve reliability and I said they should speak to someone from Ilmor, meaning you will get an exact answer based on the facts. My read on it was it might have been perceived as me trying to say oh, talk to Ilmor, I am not happy about something which wasnt at all the case. If you used the rpm detector that is on the bottom of the tv screen although I dont know how accurate it is I dont believe you would see us as being significantly lower in rpm compared to our competitors and not significantly different from last year.
Q: Obviously, turning around an engine is somewhat different to a chassis at least you can bolt bits onto a chassis whereas an engine is a bit more fundamental.
DC: Oh, its incredible the technical challenge of getting an engine to work over 18,000 rpm. Its quite phenomenal to imagine how they can get them all to hang together and obviously technically it is much more tricky to get the engine to work. But I think our starting point this year is reasonable considering where we finished last year and the one-engine rule, which obviously means a lot more kilometres on one engine.
Q: Did you feel handicapped by the one-engine rule? You didnt seem to enjoy it.
DC: Well, the problem Kimi had wasnt actually an engine problem it was another problem that led to the failure, so I think we have got a much higher level of confidence in reliability which will see us run more laps during practice. Inevitably, when you are not sure 100 percent or you want to give a bit of a margin, then you restrict the mileage you do. I dont see the benefit of that to Formula One as a whole to the fans, to the drivers in restricting the laps. I can see the cost benefit in one engine for the entire weekend but whether we will ever get back to the complete free running that we saw in the past when you had an engine for each day ultimately it might not make any difference maybe people dont really mind what happens on a Friday.
Q: What were your feelings about the one-engine rule over the weekend?
RS: We werent limited in mileage, we did our programme, but in a way it is right. And anyway I cannot see the cost saving effect. Talking to our supplier there is no difference basically. And obviously for smaller teams it is going to be more difficult because we will see less driving, definitely.
Q: How about the lack of launch control? Did you enjoy that?
RS: Well, it could be an advantage because starting is not going to be as consistent as it used to be but it is something the driver takes care for and it is another mistake we could do and not blame it on the team so it makes our life more difficult.
DC: My start in Melbourne, from doing the analysis afterwards, was the third or fourth best start after the Renaults, who were obviously the best. So I was reasonably happy with that and if it was to continue as a trend and we can improve on that then if you can average your starts out like that all year then you would be reasonably happy. Obviously it is an important part of a race and as we move up the grid hopefully we will be able to make good use of it.
Q: Ralf, since the Australian Grand Prix your name has been connected with Renault and Toyota. Are these just rumours? What is going on?
RS: I have no intention to stop yet, or for the next ten years maybe. No, but, definitely, my clear I just Im pretty clear about what we want to achieve with Williams this year. Obviously we are a bit far away from that at the moment but we saw last year that can always turn around, so I am pretty confident in that. And whatever will be the future, as soon as we know it, we will let you know, obviously.
Q: But is Renault true? Is Toyota true? Have you been talking to all these people?
RS: At the moment I am talking to BMW-Williams, that is the team where I am and where I would like to stay and we are still talking about it. That is all I can say.
Q: David, should you leave McLaren, would you consider one of the vacancies, should there be two, at Williams?
DC: Yeah Ralf, hurry up and make a decision, for Gods sake! Yeah, it is my intention to be on the grid next year and obviously that means finding the most competitive drive I can other than McLaren, because McLarens position is quite clear.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Stan Piecha The Sun):Ralf, after Melbourne Juan Pablo was quoted as saying you nearly had him off the track. Do you have anything to say on that?
RS: Um, the only thing I have to say is that it was a pretty strong move and next time I WILL have him off the track.
DC: Phew, thats brilliant! Oh, sorry, I was just meant to think that! I was thinking how mild the question was, because I was thinking you would have said something a bit more like Juan Pablo said you were an idiot you know, really wind him up, but you didnt need to!
Q: (Stan Piecha) Do you feel that strongly about it?
RS: No, it was just a move that was based on me making space for him, which I did not, obviously because that early in the race I did not want to put our positions into danger on the basis of scoring as much as possible and getting the best out of the weekend. I just think that move was not the right thing to do at the time.
Q: (Stan Piecha): And have you had a word with him about it?
RS: I dont need to say anything about it, other than what I said before.
Q: (James Allen ITV): So, presumably what you are saying is you detect quite a significant difference in him and his approach to racing this year. How much of that do you put down to the fact that he knows he is leaving the team at the end of the year and that he knows he doesnt have much to lose in his relationship with you or the team?
RS: To be honest, we have a reasonable relationship as team-mates, thats not the thing. Sometimes we clearly do not agree on the circuit, which is normal because we both want to win. Otherwise I am concentrating on the teams problem at the moment, which is trying to fill the gap, that on whatever my team-mate does, to be honest.
Q: (Byron Young The Daily Mirror): What didnt you like about his manoeuvre?
RS: I think I have said enough about it. The only thing I would add is that if someone brakes into a corner with the intention of either crashing into somebody or assuming that he will give space then that is the wrong move, lets put it that way.
Q: (James Allen): David, what sort of timetable do you think you are working on in terms of turning this situation around? You have an enormous amount of experience now and you have been in this position before in the mid nineties. Based on your experience, what is your view of how long it will take to get the thing turned around?
DC: Well, even before we went to Melbourne the 19B was already in the pipeline so there was a number of changes already put in process and the ones that can be accelerated will be. Certainly, I dont have an absolute date on what the outcome of the post-mortem from Melbourne will be, a lot of the analysis is still being done, but I would expect that before we get halfway through the European season we will see some significant changes.
Q: (Shing Huei Peh The Straits Times): Can both of you comment on how the heat affects your driving here?
DC: Obviously you lose more fluid and it is medically proven that as you lose fluid you lose performance so you are just trying to make sure the training you have done beforehand is to acclimatise to that as much as possible and that the amount of fluid you take on board will reduce the performance loss.
RS: Yeah, very similar. I think that besides losing fluid it is not a big problem. It is really depending on how hard it is to drive. When I won here two years ago it was a nice easy Sunday afternoon drive but last year it was more difficult. It depends whether the car is easy or difficult to drive.
Q: Do you both have water bottles in the car? Do you have fluid available during the race?
RS: Yeah, if I want to, yes, maybe I will take some on board
DC: I havent had over the last several years because of not having run it in other races and the one time I did run it here it was a relatively straightforward race and I never used it until the in-lap. Obviously from a team point of view, in terms of packaging, they are not so keen to have it in there but I have requested it will be in for this weekend.