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Press Conference - Barrichello, Panis, Trulli 19 May 2004

(L to R): Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota; Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari; Jarno Trulli (ITA) Renault in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte Carlo, 19 May 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

With drivers Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), Olivier Panis (Toyota) and Jarno Trulli (Renault).

Q: Olivier, how do you feel about the team performance so far this year? So far there have been some quite good grid positions but haven’t resulted in points as yet…
Oliver PANIS:
What do you think yourself? Well, for me, I just need to say that we started the season quite badly, but Grand Prix per Grand Prix, we keep pushing, we keep going and I’m sure that Mike Gascoyne in the team will be a big help. We start to feel the effect of what he’s doing right now and I think we will keep improving. It’s true that in qualifying we have done a good job sometimes, particularly at the last Grand Prix at Barcelona I did a very good lap, and I’m sure that Michelin helped us in that. You know on the first lap they are really really competitive. But after that, I had a hydraulic failure and I didn’t finish the race. That’s a bit of a shame when you’re in a good position, but I just need to be positive every time, keep pushing the team, working together, impose good stability and keep improving.

Q: What effect has Mike Gascoyne joining had on the race team?
OP:
I think we have a quite a big team, a lot of people is quite good, but sometimes nobody has the right idea to take the right direction. But Mike has been in the business for a long time, he knows exactly what we need to achieve to have a good car and now he pushes the people in the right direction more or less all the time. This, I’m sure, for the future, is a big help. But now, what we need to do is to be patient, to help improve the car in the middle of the season, like a big step forward and after that I think we will be in the right direction.

Q: Six races in eight weeks; do you feel the team is well prepared for that or do you still require more bits and pieces to come through?
OP:
I think the guy to speak to is Mike. But I don’t think we have a lot of things, because we are more or less preparing a new car for the middle of the season. It’s difficult to do both. Now I think we need to carry on with what we have, do the best with the car we have. If you start to cry it doesn’t help, you know? Keep pushing and wait for the new car and we see afterwards, but I don’t think we will have a lot of new things before the new car arrives, which should normally be in Hockenheim.

Q: Final question, we hear about a lot of people joining Toyota; everyone keeps saying so-and–so’s going to Toyota… what’s your own contractual situation with Toyota?
OP:
My contract finishes at the end of this year. I need to state this year, clearly, and I just say welcome to everybody else.

Q: Rubens, looking back at Barcelona, you must be particularly pleased with your race tactics in that race.
Rubens BARRICHELLO:
Well, it was just different from everything else we’ve seen so far this year. I was almost in front of Michael - if it wasn’t for a second or two I could have made it. It was different. It was nice to drive the car for the longer stints, because the car was behaving quite well. The reason for going for two stops was to try to beat everyone, not to make a show. It almost happened. For sure, it’s something that people are going to be looking at in more races this year.

Q: You’ve had a couple of second places here in Monaco; what chances this time?
RB:
You know you always have to take the season as it’s starting and I’m always up to it. I’ve always welcomed the new challenges. I think Michael has been very very strong throughout the year. In this current period, he has been really really strong, but I just keep on doing my work and I’m sure the win will come, when you’re working and you’re maintaining your calmness and everything. I’m working quite well with the engineers so there’s no problem there. Barcelona was a good race for me in terms of set-up. I just got a little more of a hand on the car. Last week I tested quite well in Mugello and Fiorano so I’m quite optimistic.

Q: How serious is this thing about Bridgestones not being as quick as Michelins over the first lap?
RB:
I don’t think it is a problem at all. I think there was a particular problem in Imola because the track was a little bit cold and probably the way we went to the grid was a little bit too slow, people were trying to hang back a little bit on the grid, and there was a bit of a problem. Apart from that, I don’t think it’s a problem at all. In Barcelona, Jarno did a fantastic start but Michael was right up with him for the first lap, so I don’t feel it is a problem at all.

Q: Michael’s won the first five races so far this year - do you think he can go on and win them all?
RB:
The pressure’s on him, apparently, because people are trying to make him win the whole 18 which I think is impossible. There are lots of people trying to win the races, including myself. There are tracks where he’s stronger at than others. You just have to take your chances whenever they come. He’s been very strong and it’s really good to see that, after all this time, he’s still doing well. As I said, I’m proud to be driving alongside him in a team because I’m really being compared to the best out there. But I don’t fear him. I think my time has to come during the year and hopefully he won’t score many points whenever I’m scoring.

Q: Jarno, what are your feelings looking back at Barcelona? Have you replayed that start? How are you going to do it again?
Jarno TRULLI:
Barcelona was a fantastic weekend for me, all the way through, because it was a faultless weekend, with a great job together with the team, the mechanics, the engineers, because we managed to do a great qualifying and then a good start, keeping a very good high placing during the race which eventually gave me third position as a result. It was the best result for us during the season. It’s good because I’ve been climbing up the order from the beginning of the year, from Australia: seventh, fifth, fourth and then third, so I’m assuming that the next step will be second, so I’m really looking forward to the future!

Q: Do you think the car’s suited to this circuit?
JT:
Well, this is one of the circuits where you just basically have to wait and see because sometimes you are so optimistic and then you hit the track and you are not quite there. Some other times, where you think it is not the track, you are fast and then eventually you find yourself flying. It has happened to me in the past. But we are actually very optimistic because our car has so far been competitive in every condition, on every track. We are a team which is definitely climbing up in terms also of competitiveness, in terms of improving the car. We’ve got some more bits coming for this race. We have to be confident that we can do the job but it’s difficult to beat Ferrari at the moment. But every race is a new story, another race is a new challenge, so you have to go for it.

Q: What about your own feelings about this race?
JT:
It’s a typical track, one that I like but you never know what can happen because it’s one of those tracks where you mustn’t make a mistake throughout the weekend because it can cost you a lot. Qualifying is important, even more important is the start of the race. But, as usual, the most important thing is to finish ahead.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Mike Doodson – Mike Doodson Associates) Rubens, you suggested that it was just a matter of a second which cost you a possible win in Barcelona and I know that after the race you drew attention to the fact that the team had 1m 20s of advance warning before you came in. I looked at the video and the team was slow with the tyres but I think the fuel took more time to get in than it took to put the tyres on. Can you clarify for us – are you disappointed with the performance of the team? Do you feel the team could have gained you that one second that would have given you the chance of winning the race?
RB:
No, I don’t think so. The one second that I was looking at was when he came out of the pits in front of me, when I was just behind him. That second… if I was in front, it could have been a different story. At the pit stop, there was apparently a little bit of a mess with the information and they got it wrong but it wouldn’t have made my race. There was a second, earlier, and if I was in front then you can dictate the pace and my car was only getting stronger, so with all the backmarkers and everything, you can play with them and then have the advantage. Then I could have lost in the pits and then it would have been another story but the second that I’m referring to is the one when he came out from his second pit stop and I was on the racing track and he came right in front of me. Then it would have been different, I guess.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) Rubens, you live in Monaco. Besides the obvious tax reasons, why do you live here and why do you like it? And the other two guys, why don’t you live here and why do you chose to live where you live?
RB:
For me it’s quite clear. It’s very close to Italy. Sometimes you fly, sometimes you drive. It’s just quite easy to go from here. And it’s quite nice for my kid, the weather is nice and this place is so peaceful when you don’t have anything. When you have the tennis, sometimes, there can be quite a lot of people. When you have other things going on, yes, but during the week it’s so nice, so quiet. You can walk and have a peaceful time, so that’s why I live here.
OP:For me it’s different, different things. If I lived here I would have to pay French tax anyway. And I prefer to live in France in a big house than to live here in a small apartment! I have a fantastic life in France. I like Monaco, to be honest, but it’s enough for one week.
JT:I moved to England when I joined the Renault team because we have a lot of work to do. We actually have meetings after the race, which is not usual for most of the teams, but for us it’s important, because we are a team which wants to grow up, we want to improve and we are definitely doing a very good job. Monaco is nice for me. As Barrichello says, it’s a nice place, quiet. I don’t live in London, I don’t live in Oxford, I live in a quiet place in the English countryside. It’s not Monaco but it’s close to the team, which makes my life easier, especially on the Monday after races.

Q: (Tomi Siren - STT) Rubens, as you have memories going back over ten years here in Monaco, what’s the minimum celebration you’re going to have on Sunday, as it’s your birthday?
RB:
Well, as the years go by, you don’t celebrate any more. I was 20 when I first came here. For me, it’s actually going to be quite a good day. All my family are coming to visit me – my sister, my father, everyone is here, so it’s going to be fun. And, hopefully, with a good and positive way of thinking, I could win the race. That would be the maximum. And I invite you for some drinks after the race. (Laughter)

Q: (Niki Takeda – Formula PA) It’s a question for all three of you – your impressions of the pit lane layout please?
OP:
It’s much bigger compared to last year. I think it’s safer and it looks positive but wait and see during the race.
RB:I think it’s quite good, I like it. I just saw the facilities, I‘ve been up there and it’s quite nice to walk from one side to the other and it’s a bit quieter as well. You can stay in there as well and just be quiet. But last year, you tended to walk a little bit and there are a lot of people, but now at least you have a small place where you can stay.
JT:I think it’s fundamentally a good improvement and it’s something we have to praise the Monaco organisation for, because historically Monaco has always been a very difficult race for everybody to work at, for you journalists, for us drivers and teams and now things are looking much better and clean so I think it’s a big step forward.

Q: (Dan Knutson) There are lots of stories that Jacques Villeneuve will come back next year. We hear he’s testing with Williams. What do you think about him coming back and also we heard a lot of stories about how difficult he was to work with but you were his team-mate, what can you tell us about how he was?
OP:
Well, I am still a good friend with Jacques. We worked together for two years. I don’t have any problem with him, because one of Jacques’ qualities is that he respects people who are working really hard and this is what I did for two years with BAR, and we still have a good relationship. If he’s coming back, then welcome again, because I’m sure he’s still quick, still motivated but now he also needs to find a good place to prove that he’s still good. Because if he restarts with a team, it’s maybe not with one that is in a good place right now, it’s maybe difficult for him, but if he starts with a strong team maybe it would be a big help for him.

Q: (Randy Philipps – The Gazette) This might be an unfair Rubens, but do you ever, in your quiet time, think that in all your years at Ferrari, if Michael wasn’t there – let’s say he wasn’t racing or was with another team – can you ever imagine how many victories you would have at this point?
RB:
You could take life in this way. You could think, OK, if I didn’t race in F3000 and jumped straight into Formula One it would have been different. A lot of things could have been different if Michael wasn’t there. Maybe the team wouldn’t be as strong as it is right now, but I don’t actually think about that. I enjoy the fight, I enjoy the challenge, I don’t fear and with all the input that I’ve put in since I started with Ferrari, I think I have gained a lot of respect and a lot of races when he was there, which was something that never happened with other team-mates. So yes, maybe if Michael wasn’t there, I could maybe have won many more races and maybe a championship, but why don’t I think that I can win when he’s there? I think that’s more of a challenge, that’s more something that brings a smile and the challenge keeps on going. That’s how I take life.