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FIA Friday Press Conference - Europe 28 May 2004

(L to R): Peter Sauber (SUI) Sauber Team Owner; Ross Brawn (GBR) Ferrari Technical Director; Tsutomu Tomita (JPN) Chairman of Toyota Racing and Toyota Team Principal; Sam Michaels (AUS) Williams Technical Director  in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, European Grand Prix, Nurburgring, Germany, Practice, 28 May 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Team members: Ross Brawn (Ferrari), Sam Michael (Williams), Peter Sauber (Sauber) and Tsutomu Tomita (Toyota).

Q: Peter, apart from a blip in Monaco, things seems to have been going better recently with the team. Can you tell us why that should be?
Peter SAUBER:
I think the team has been making progress since Imola. Monaco was a very special race. Maybe Giancarlo could have had a very good race, but we needed a lot of luck with Felipe.

Q: Can you tell us why they’ve made progress? Is it because you understand the car better or perhaps is it your new wind tunnel?
PS:
I think it is a combination of many things together. We have two new drivers, two new race engineers and of course they work better together. Then it’s the new wind tunnel, slowly we understand the new wind tunnel better.

Q: Is that now producing parts?
PS:
Sure, yeah. We used the first parts at Imola.

Q: What about Felipe? Today we saw him have several incidents. He still seems to be a little bit prone to incidents.
PS:
No, he’s much better than he was two years before. I think the year with Ferrari was a very good for him, especially on the technical side. Don’t forget, he’s two years older.

Q: Now, one thing you’re able to do but have not done so far is run a third driver on Fridays. Is that likely to happen?
PS:
Yes, it makes no sense for us to drive with a third driver. The team can work more quietly with only two cars. It makes no sense for us to do it.

Q: Tsutomu-san, there’s a lot of talk about Toyota and drivers and everyone seems to be joining Toyota! Can you tell us what the situation is, equally with your current pair of drivers?
Tsutomu TOMITA:
We are very satisfied with the current two drivers and I know of the existence of some rumours about the replacement (of the current drivers) in the middle of this season but we have no mind to replace them. We are confident with them. And talking about next year’s driver line-up, we are now investigating and no decision has been made yet. It will be announced in the summer as other teams regularly do.

Q: What is the contractual situation with the current pair of drivers?
TT:
They have two year contracts from last year and that means that the termination will be made by the end of this year. But both drivers have options for next year.

Q: What about your own situation? You became team principal at the start of the year. How do you feel about your own job?
TT:
Our team is not so strong yet, and therefore I will go forward gradually, slowly.

Q: It’s a big team to lead, so it must be quite a difficult team to get on top of.
TT:
Yes, exactly, and now we are making all efforts to develop more our company.

Q: And presumably the car that is going to appear in Hockenheim is part of it?
TT:
Yes, we hope so. We are doing a lot of jobs to create a new car for Hockenheim. All efforts.

Q: Sam, congratulations first of all on your new job. How does it change things for you?
Sam MICHAEL:
Well, it’s obviously a lot more responsibility and it’s a situation where a lot of my role at the circuit… I still will retain some of the jobs that I do during the race weekend. There will obviously be some changes within the guys that already work for me so they take on a bit more responsibility in different areas with some of the meetings and the way we go about things but I will still be very much involved in the set-up in the garage and the strategy during the race and I’ll still be on the pit wall. I think it’s very important that you’re still on the front line so you understand the problems that the drivers are going through and you keep up-to-date with tyre developments so that you’ve got an impact on those. You can’t really step away from that as a technical director because you’ve got to use that information to drive the factory and the wind tunnel. But obviously there’s a lot more work to do at the factory than what there was before, and it’s like anything when you change jobs, the first month or so your workload goes up significantly and then you get used to it and carry on, but there’s obviously just a change in workload. Patrick’s still there and he’s still supporting me through it as well which is good because he’s obviously got a lot of experience and it’s more a case of going to him for advice on things where he would have been making decisions in the past and now it’s down to me.

Q: How is it going to change things in the short term? Yesterday Ralf suggested that things could change in three or four races time.
SM:
Well, we’ve got a short term plan for this season and then obviously medium to long term plans for next year already. How long it takes us to turn around this year is a bit hard to debate, but we’re concentrating on three or four main areas to try and improve the car. We know where the problems are, it’s a matter of how fast we can bring those improvements. But we’re definitely not about giving up on a season, right up until the last race. We’re not happy with where we are in the Constructors Championship and our immediate aim is to get ourselves back into second place but at the same time we still want to win. We’re not about gap years or putting all the investment into next year because it doesn’t work, you can’t afford to stop and give up on the current season. We’re not far behind that it’s not that recoverable. In Malaysia we finished within ten seconds of Ferrari and we’ve had a couple of bad races since then. We know that Barcelona and Imola would be hard for us and we thought that it would be Monaco, Nuerburgring where we would start to turn around. But we’ve got to spend the next two or three races getting through with the current performance and then hopefully we can bring some more steps.

Q: Where do you see the second wind tunnel contributing to that recovery process?
SM:
We’ve already started doing some tests in the new wind tunnel, but it’s still in commissioning stage and won’t really start being used for development of the car… probably in a couple of weeks’ time but it’s primarily geared towards the FW27, next year’s car, because the wind tunnel itself is useable but all the systems that go with it, all the production facilities and being about to respond quickly, race by race, all that process is already there for the old tunnel so it makes much more sense to use that as a response mechanism and use the new tunnel to look forward to next year. But that’s not to say that we won’t bring parts to the track that have been developed in the new tunnel and in fact we’ve already done some studies that have helped that anyway. But some stages of it are still going through. The guy who set it up, Dr John Davis, he’s still going through some commissioning tests now and it will still be another month, I would say, or two or three weeks at least before we start seeing anything serious out of that.

Q: Ross, looking back to last weekend, you came out pretty strongly against Juan Pablo Montoya for his part in Michael Schumacher’s subsequent accident. Do you still feel the same?
Ross BRAWN:
I’m not sure how strongly I did come out against him. I was just very frustrated to lose a car in such stupid circumstances, so my frustration was to be knocked out of a race in that situation. I think we’d been fortunate in the way the race had developed because I think we had at least a chance of upsetting the order. I think Jarno and Renault had done a fantastic job all weekend and they were probably the worthy race winners, but I think that last safety car opened a window for us that was at least worth having a go at. I was just frustrated that we lost that opportunity because I like to race and to lose a car in that circumstance is very frustrating.

Q: What about your feelings here - your performance so far is quite interesting?
RB:
We’ve had a little bit of a messy day today. We lost Michael’s car this afternoon with a hydraulic leak. After the accident in Monaco we changed chassis and the chassis that he used today sprung a hydraulic leak. Lucky it happened now. So he didn’t really get the programme done that we wanted to. Rubens had a reasonable afternoon but the first lap on the tyres we think we’re going to race was spoiled with a little problem we had: He went straight on at the first corner, so we didn’t see the true lap time on those tyres. So the morning was good but the afternoon was a bit messy.

Q: Is it going to delay tomorrow do you feel?
RB:
It will make the tyre choice more difficult because Michael didn’t get a chance to try both tyres this afternoon, only Rubens did and, of course, it’s much better if you’ve got both drivers giving input on the tyres.

Q: So it’s just going to be guesswork…
RB:
Educated guesswork.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Mark Hugues - Autosport) Ross, do you know any further what the problems with Rubens’ car were at Monaco?
RB:
Not really, no. We’ve had a very good look at the car. We can see from the data that it was inconsistent and I think what was disturbing Rubens was that it was unpredictable. He would enter a corner and in one situation it was fine but on the next lap he would enter the corner and he would have a different car to deal with and, of course, around Monaco that’s the last thing you need. But these things are a pretty fine combination of settings and the set-up, the differential reacts to certain things like brake pressure and the way you enter a corner and he just couldn’t fine a consistent car. But there was no physical problem we could find with the car. I think it was just the way we arrived with the car; it was a bit too critical.

Q: (Mark Hugues) Is he using the same car here?
RB:
Yeah, yeah.

Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Ross, at the start of the season Giancarlo Fisichella was looking at having a test with Ferrari at some point. It now seems there is a problem and I understand that it is maybe something to do with his overalls. Can it really be that a pair of overalls can stop him having a test with you?
RB:
I am not aware of that. Peter might be able to shed some light on that. I am not actually aware of the background to that although I did hear the story. Technically there just has not been an opportunity for him to run so from the point of view of the programme we have so there has not been a convenient time for him to run, but I am not aware of any commercial issues.

Q: Peter, any comment?
PS:
Yeah, it is a small problem, but it is an internal problem.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sports News) For all four of you, there has been a lot of talk about improving the show, the spectacle. If you could change one thing for the fans, both at the track and on television, what would you do?
RB:
I am a bit biased but I think the whole technical side could be interesting for people. I think the fuel quantities should be known to all the people watching the race so they know exactly where it is. I mean, I bet if I asked you lot how much fuel we had in the car in Monaco after the safety car I would be amazed if any of you knew, and that is wrong, because you should know what could develop in the race. We had 17 laps of fuel in the car at Monaco and that gave us quite a good opportunity to have a go at winning the race. But no-one actually seemed to know that. And there is a whole technical side of Formula One that is not presented to the interests of the public and I think the whole race strategy side could be a lot more interesting if we knew what fuel the cars had in qualifying, what fuel they had in the race, how much fuel went into the cars, you know. There are enough bright guys commentating to be able to display what is going on. In Barcelona we had Rubens on two stops and Michael on three and it was very close whether Rubens was going to win the race or not. That didn’t really get picked up on and I think that is a great shame. I think the whole format of racing is a much more difficult thing because there is so much mixed opinion but from my side I think all the technical information should be available to the public and I think the radio should be available to the public as well.
SM: Well, I think the thing that could probably help in the short term would be harder compound tyres. Not going to a single tyre supplier but a restriction on the number of sets you could use. At the moment we have ten sets for the race weekend and if you dropped that to three or four sets it would force the tyre companies to go to harder compounds. That would also solve other problems, not just for the fans but the speed and lap times problems, it would also reduce testing costs because you have to develop compounds that are going harder and hopefully improve the show.
I agree with the other thing on strategy as well. I think I have mentioned that before. Inside a race, even if you are racing for seventh or eighth place, there is still quite a lot going on in terms of strategy on the radio that everyone else just missed out. It can be quite exciting from the pit wall, not because you are not winning but because you are trying to compete to beat one person, and that gets missed, it gets missed even off the pit wall really and anyone who can sell that will go a long way.
TT: I can fully understand the necessity of cost reduction, but we should never forget the spectacle of this event and the technical challenge. After the team principal meetings I completely understand the situation with each team about cost reductions.
PS: It is a good question and an important question but it is not easy to give you an answer, there are a lot of ideas. One thing is the qualifying. I think now the qualifying is not as good as the old – with fuel, without fuel – and the same is for the race. And maybe the idea with the harder tyres is a good one, maybe also the idea with wider tyres, harder and wider tyres would mean the braking area would be longer and maybe it would be easier to overtake. It is very difficult to improve the show.

Q: (Mike Doodson – Mike Doodson Associates) Ross, at the beginning of last year a group of journalists had exactly the same idea as you did that we should know what the fuel levels were. We broached the subject with the FIA and were told that a number of teams, including yours, had actually refused permission for that information to be given because it is confidential information that is made available by the FIA. Can we have your undertaking now that if the question came up again that Ferrari would vote for us to be able to have the fuel figures?
RB:
To my knowledge, that problem was tied up with the commercial issues, it was not a confidentiality or secrecy, because we were quite happy to try to improve the show. I can’t recall, to be honest, exactly what Ferrari’s position was, but I do know that when the topic has been raised of information from the teams going to the promoter to improve the show the stumbling block has been the commercial situation at the moment because there is really not a great deal of spirit of co-operation between the promoter and the teams at the present time. I am not sure what Ferrari’s position was then, but certainly I think this commercial situation is causing a lot of difficulty in a number of areas of potential co-operation between the teams and improving the show. I know it may seem like we are biting the hand that feeds us but it is a great problem at the moment, the whole commercial side, and it does cause a lot of difficulty in those sorts of areas. But to me it would be a great thing to add to Formula One to have the technical information available, the technical insight, the radio discussions that go on in the race. You would need a bleep-meter occasionally! But I think it would be fascinating. You look at a sport like cricket, which is a relatively tedious sport, apart for those real die-hard enthusiasts, and they have made it really entertaining in the last few years with some of the technology they have introduced. I think we are really backward on that side and I think we need to get the commercial side sorted and then get all the teams co-operating to put on a much better show, that aside from the basic format of the racing.

Q: (Mark Hugues) In light of Patrick’s announcement last week that he will be taking a bit more of a back seat, Sam and Ross, do you have any anecdotes?
RB:
There are a few anecdotes, but I am not sure I can tell them here unfortunately! Patrick was my tutor because I started in Formula One with Patrick, my first job in Formula One was given to me by Patrick, in fact. Patrick offered the job to somebody else, who turned it down, then Patrick gave me the job. I have never been able to find that person who turned it down because if I could I would buy him a beer at least! Patrick has been a reference point for a huge number of people in Formula One – myself, Adrian (Newey), Sam now – and he has been a huge figure in Formula One.
SM: And yeah, he is obviously still around. For me, from my position, it is a fantastic opportunity to have him there as opposed to saying right, that’s it, I’m quitting, it’s all yours, because it helps for a seamless transition from one position to the other and he has given no time frame of being around, you know. It is going to be quite a few years yet I would say. He is still a shareholder of the company and he has no intention of changing that, so from my point of view it is still very much business as usual with Patrick.

Q: (Alan Baldwin) Sam, last month you were very complimentary about Scott Dixon when he tested. He has now signed a multi-year contract with Ganassi in IRL, but there are still reports that he is going to be testing with you in July. Is that true and is he off your list now or is he still a possibility?
SM:
I haven’t seen any report saying that he is going to test with us in July and definitely there is nothing confirmed. We have got a list of drivers and Scott was one of the drivers on the list. It’s something that we are working on and it will still take us another few months before we start talking about who is going to be driving the cars next year.

Q: (Mike Doodson) Peter, you have had two engine failures this year, can you explain what has happened? Did you have one engine failure or two today?
PS:
Today was one engine failure but at the moment we don’t know what the problem was. The other one was a failure in the electric system and the first one in Australia was not a real engine failure because Massa spun and he over revved the engine close to 20000rpm and that was too much for the engine.

Q: (Ted Kravitz – ITV) Ross, you said Michael had 17 laps of fuel left after the safety car. That was lap 45 or 46, which would mean he would have made it to lap 72. Isn’t that still five short of the race distance or would you have had to stop him again?
RB:
63, in my reckoning. He would have made it to 63.

Q: (Ted Kravitz) So you would have had to stop him again, whatever, and the other cars behind you didn’t have to stop again, who did stop under the safety car.
RB:
Yes, the numbers are that he had about 15 laps less fuel than Jarno had, which, around there is worth six tenths of a second, so he would have been six tenths of a second faster because he had less fuel. He did a lap which was four tenths of a second faster than Jarno at the end of his first stint, so potentially the car was four tenths of a second faster, which is a total of one second per lap. That makes 17 seconds over 17 laps, the Monaco pitlane is 13 seconds long and we had a very short fuel stop which, in fact, would have been controlled by the tyres, which makes 17 seconds, which means we had a chance of winning the race. And that is why the information should be available to the media to help you guys enjoy the potential of something like that. That is why I was so frustrated because I thought we had a chance. It was a slim chance, because everything had to go right, but if I was putting my money on someone Michael would be the guy. And those were the numbers we had in front of us.