Press Conference - Coulthard and Webber 19 May 2004
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
With drivers David Coulthard (McLaren) and Mark Webber (Jaguar).
Q: You are a two-time winner and have had pole position here. What are your feelings coming into this race?
David COULTHARD: I am still pissed off about the car stalling in 2001! I am not coming here, I live here, I am at home! I dont feel anything particularly different about being in the paddock. Obviously I am looking forward to seeing just how the car performs here. They talk about this being a drivers circuit but you still need a car to get around so we will wait and see just how far up the grid we can get.
Q: I mean, is it going to be slightly more advantageous here than perhaps the previous races, from a rev point of view and that sort of thing?
DC:I think that really the track here is re-surfaced in some section every year so it is not as bumpy as it first was when I started in Formula One, so it is pretty much a regular track so you need horsepower, you need grip and you need confidence in your car.
Q: Of which you have ?
DC:Well, we have enough to be where we have been in the first few Grands Prix of the year.
Q: You have spoken of confidence in the past. Do you have confidence in this years car?
DC:I dont have a particular problem in confidence in the car, it is just not quick enough.
Q: Going into six races in eight weeks as we are, as every team is, do you feel you are prepared for that? Is there more to come? What is the situation?
DC:Well, as it has been said before, there will be an updated version of this car available at some point between now and the end of the season, date to be advised, and then hopefully that will be a fix to the problems we currently have. As to racing every weekend, I think it makes a difference for you, because you are not used to doing something every weekend. We are used to going straight from a race, straight to a test, straight to a promotion, straight to the next Grand Prix the following week, so it doesnt actually change anything other than we are not testing and there is more difficulty squeezing the promotions in.
Q: But from a technical point of view it will be difficult to introduce any changes, wont it?
DC:Yeah, a lot of things that have been initiated several weeks ago and they arrive when they arrive. I think people have a romantic vision that engineers go away from a Grand Prix, sketch something on the plane on the way home and have it built and take it testing the next week. In reality it is the fundamentals of what makes a Grand Prix car go quickly - tyres, downforce, mechanical balance, engine they all take time. Set-up is such a small part of what really makes a car a championship winner or not so, when people say oh, we got the set-up wrong that weekend there sometimes may have been a problem in the set-up but that is not going to fundamentally make you a race winner the following weekend.
Q: Now, a lot of rumours have come out about your future, the latest one is Jaguar. Can you shed any light on that, whether you are going ?
DC:No. You know the score. Announcements are announcements and until that time what am I going to say? Ok, just between you and I and everyone else in the press room, dont tell anyone else Erm, everyone has just got to wait for all the announcements. People continue to speculate about all the drivers that are up for contract renewal or potential to move away but that is all it is until there is an official announcement.
Q: But can you just give us an idea. How is it going? Are you hopeful of being on the grid next year?
DC:Well, I understand the question, but the first priority is making sure I am on the grid here this weekend and making sure I do the best job I can, so that is where my focus and energy goes.
Q: Do you feel you need to have a car to show off your talents or do you feel your history, your form in the past should get you a ride for next year?
DC:I think that if you dont have a history, you either have the word potential beside your name or you are not considered someone who will be in Formula One for very long. So I have gone through a period in my career where I started with no history and just that word potential. Then you turn that word into race results, so I am comfortable to look back on the results I have and use those.
Q: You feel that is going to stand you in good stead?
DC:Lets wait and see what happens.
Q: You are not giving out very positive vibes here, David.
DC:No, I am very positive, but I cant tell you
Q: I dont want details, I am just saying, you know
DC:What are you asking for?
Q: I said are things looking fairly good? and you didnt say yes they are
DC:Well, you know, yes, things are looking very good. Is that better?!
Q: Can I have a big smile as well?!!
DC:Ok, sorry, what you have to do is ask a question and tell me what answer you would like me to give to make you happy.
Q: It is just there are lots of people who will re-interpret the answer, that is the trouble.
DC:That is the trouble, and I have always maintained a level of either I cant tell you or I give you an honest answer and some of your colleagues dont respect that, so I have nothing to say until I have something to say. And let the speculation continue, you know Its all just bollocks at the end of the day, anyway, isnt it!
Q: Mark, moving to you. You are a F3000 winner here and I believe you pretty much like this circuit, dont you?
Mark WEBBER: Yeah, I do. I always enjoy street circuits, it is a good challenge, but like David said they are making it a little bit easier for the drivers with some re-surfacing in places, which is good but it is also a little bit of a shame in some cases, you got the car moving around a lot more in the past here. So, yeah, looking forward to another race here. A Formula One car is very impressive around here, you need to be very accurate, very precise, and you get punished for your mistakes, which is a good thing I think. I am looking forward to it.
Q: What about the chances for Jaguar. How do you feel they are compared to the first few races?
MW:No better than our other races that we have been to. We have clearly missed a few points opportunities. You know, Barcelona wasnt a good weekend for us in the race, we should have got some points in Imola and Malaysia and Australia but we didnt, so hopefully we can just be where we have always been, fighting on the fringes of the points if we can, probably not too far away from these guys, you know, see what we can do.
Q: Has there been a push going into these six races over eight weeks?
MW:Yeah, well, Cosworth are trying very, very hard, they are doing a very, very good job considering the competition they are up against, the manufacturers, and they are doing a very sound job at Northampton. It is not easy for them. Aerodynamically, they are doing a very good job with the car. Mechanically we can still be better, I think, the mechanical grip of the car could still be improved, so we will just see how that goes. And also, obviously, the tyre war will be interesting this weekend with the Saubers and those sort of things we wont worry about the red cars but we are going to worry about the Saubers.
Q: What about Christian, he hasnt been here before. Can you give him any help?
MW:Erm, well, it is not my job to help him. Formula One is not a finishing school. I wont do anything to, you know we spoke about the track a little bit at the last function we were at and you cant personalise it. He has got to go out there and get his head around the track and build from there, which he can do. He has done that very well at the last few circuits, so it should be fine for him.
Q: Didnt he come here last weekend for the Historic Grand Prix?
MW:He didnt do it, no.
Q: What about the various messages on your shirts and all about Hollywood and all about the film and that sort of stuff. Whats happening there?
MW:Yeah, well, I am trying to get a role in Friends! It is off now because they knew my salary was too high, so ! I am just wrapped to be here with Wayne Rooney I mean George Clooney! and all those guys. Its brilliant! Fantastic!
Q: You are going to leave the starring role to Nav are you?!
MW:Yeah, Nav is in full control of all the legends, so we will leave that up to him!
Q: Is that going to be a bit of a distraction, though, this weekend?
MW:No, not really, you know, once I am in the car it is no problem at all. I always want to get a good result and it hasnt been lucky for us in the past but hopefully we can change it here by doing different things.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mike Doodson Mike Doodson Associates) David, I am not trying to get back at you but can you tell us whether you actually want to race next year because at the beginning of the year Ron Dennis said that if you didnt find a team that was up to the level of your abilities you would probably prefer a testing role. Can you just tell us whether you are interested in racing next year?
DC:Well, not a very original answer, but I would like to race this year! I am sure you probably thought of that one, didnt you?
Q: (Tomi Sirren - STT) David, you just mentioned, you live here and it is unlike any others. Is it any harder or any more special to win here?
DC:Yeah, of course, it is a different challenge. There is no opportunity to find the limit by going over it and running wide onto the grass. Any mistake here and you hit a barrier so it is a much harder challenge for the drivers and there is more hassle involved in doing a Grand Prix here because there is more contact with the public when you come into the track and understandably they are here to see the cars, they are here to see the drivers and you should give them some of your time. And, just, it is a tough environment for everyone to move around much more difficult than in contrast to Barcelona, which is quite straightforward. But therefore the rewards are higher if it all works out, you can know you have really had a good weekend.
Q: (Gil Leon Nice Matin) What is your opinion about the new pit lane and pits here?
DC:Well, I think that from what I have seen of it, it is significantly better than what we have had in the past. All the cars are up there, you know, I know that some people probably enjoyed being able to walk up and down and see the cars in the old pit complex but it was well behind its time in many respects and now I think it represents a proper pit lane.
Q: (Randy Philipps The Gazette) David, getting back to rumours, there are rumours circling around that there is a possibility of Villeneuve returning. I know that in the past you were, and still are, good friends with him. Would you like to see him back and do you miss him being around?
DC:Well, as well as him being a friend I think he is a character for Formula One because he expresses his views without always giving full consideration to the consequences of how that may endear him to the team and sponsors and all the rest of it. But it is interesting and entertaining out of the car and in the car he is also entertaining because if you tell him that a corner is almost flat then he is the guy who is going to try to take it flat, even if it means shunting it the other side of it. He will come with the data and say hey, I may have crashed and destroyed the car, but I was flat-out. That is an interesting quality that he has so, yeah, I think it would be interesting for the sport for him to be back if he was able to find a spot.
Q: (Steve Cooper Motorsport News) Mark, from your point of view, is it more frustrating this year that the car has lots of problems in different areas rather than one normal problem that you can overcome? And do you think the team is getting on top of it?
MW:Well, as I said, this year we have had more surprises. The issues we had at the start of last year, some of them were not surprises because they were consistent with our testing problems. But this year we have been surprised by some of the problems we have had on Sunday afternoons my one in Melbourne, and in Imola, both of them we had neither seen in practice or testing, so they are just as big a pill to swallow because they are totally new and you dont want to learn about them on Sunday. We have done this year, they havent come back again, but they shouldnt have been there in the first place so, yes, a little frustrating.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazetta dello Sport) Mark, can you guarantee you will remain in Jaguar in 2005 or not?
MW:Well, like David touched on before, unless you have got something to say it is not really good to speculate. There are a few seats moving around I think but I am very, very happy at Jaguar and that is where I am at the moment.
Q: (Tony Jardine ITV) David, just going back to last year, the 17, the 18, new car and so on, a lot of people, including McLaren, were hoping that as those cars morphed it would result in all the cars being really good. Obviously it has disappointed lots of people and it is difficult for us to understand what is actually wrong with it. Can you pinpoint the areas where it is weak and where you can make improvements to the car for the existing one before the new one comes along?
DC:Well, I think that in Bahrain I sort of touched on a few of the areas. Obviously there is no substitute for horsepower, there is no substitute for consistent levels of downforce and mechanically understanding the car. That mechanical understanding gives a driver confidence and if a driver is confident you can pull tenths. You know, it is difficult to quantify, but you can gain a lot of time from the feeling that you are driving the car rather than reacting so, I think, the only area we cant question at the moment is the tyres, which quite clearly have been performing perfectly well on other cars. Then it becomes difficult just how much of the Bridgestone performance is the Ferrari and its strengths versus the next best Michelin runner. It is not a one-word answer because it is a combination of the things I mentioned.
Q: (Tony Dodgins Tony Dodgins & Associates) David, you have a good record here and I know you have had a bit of a torrid time with the car so far. Do you think this is a place where you can actually get a hold of it and make a difference or is it just going to exaggerate the problems you have got?
DC:Well, to be perfectly honest I am quite curious to know just how well the car performs around here. Part of the Ricard test last week was aimed specifically towards this weekend and tyre selection and picking areas of the Ricard track we were driving and trying to identify those main areas that would be similar to the track here. Obviously high-speed corners and the horseshoe and places like that at Ricard, you just dont have those corners here, so it is kind of irrelevant whether you are quick or slow in those corners. So I am hoping and I have a hunch that we could be a little bit better on this circuit relative to some of the others but racing drivers, I think, have the ability to mentally re-set, you know. Monday morning after a bad Grand Prix you are already thinking you can win the next one! That belief that we can be better here could all come undone. After five laps on Friday you will get an indication of how quick you are. So again, it doesnt really answer your question but the truth is we honestly dont know how quick we are going to be on this track because if you analyse our time loss around the various tracks we have had so far and the speeds of corners it is a little bit everywhere. So do the sequence of corners here, the tyre choice we have made and the engine performance we have this weekend which is a higher performance than I had in Barcelona last week will all those factors give me the confidence to pull something out? Obviously I hope that is the case.
Q: (Wolfgang Reuter Premiere) David, the problem areas of the car, it seems a bit strange that teams like McLaren find out that there are problem areas at the beginning of the season. Why havent you guys found out about these earlier?
DC:Well, the difficulty in answering these questions is that it puts the team separate to the driver, but, as you asked the question, I felt the car was a small step forward over the 17D when I first tested it and I did the first two tests with the car and I chose not to do the third test in December and that was the test that everyone started saying the car was fast and reliable, and I am sitting at home thinking, well, where did it become fast and reliable just, maybe, because I didnt drive it at that test? First of all, you cannot judge reliability in testing, really, because you can be 100 percent reliable in testing but if you dont finish any Grands Prix that is what really counts. And the speed thing, I think you have to be honest, and too often, looking at a lap time, you log onto a website and what does it tell you? The end of day results. That doesnt tell you anything other than who happened to be quick on one lap. You need to know more did they do a 20-lap run? Did they have a development tyre? There are so many factors. For me, I didnt get to Melbourne thinking we had a fast and reliable car. I knew we had some difficulties, the media were allowed to really believe McLaren were a threat this year, based on two or three one-lap quick times in testing. That, ultimately, you have got to say, was a mistake from the team to allow that to be out there.
Q: (Mike Doodson) For both of you, you are both close to the GPDA and we understand that there is due to be a meeting here. Juan Pablo Montoya was anxious for some sort of clarification on the one-move rule which seems to have been breached a couple of times this year. Can you keep us up to date on what is happening are you having a meeting here and is that on the agenda?
MW:Yeah, we are definitely having a meeting tomorrow and no, that is not on the agenda, but it might come on the agenda if the little Colombian wants to talk he always wants to talk about things so I am sure it is going to be covered. There are a lot of issues we will be talking about tomorrow and that could be one of them. Yeah, it is good for the drivers to get together and a whole range of issues from safety through to the public to charities, all sorts of stuff.
Q: Can you give us a bit more of an idea?
MW:Well, those things really. It is drivers as a group, all singing from the same song sheet if we can, just discussing the issues we need to. Safety is right up there, communication with the FIA, just making sure we are in the look of everything we need to be.