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Press Conference - Sato & Fisichella 10 Jun 2004

(L to R): Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR  and Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Sauber in the press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, Preparations, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada, 10 June 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

With drivers Takuma Sato (BAR) and Giancarlo Fisichella (Sauber).

Q: Takuma, first of all, how positive was testing at Silverstone last week?
Takuma SATO:
In the end it was very good. The first day we had rain, so we couldn’t do much and also we had a little problem with the car so did only ten laps or whatever. The second day was a lot more encouraging, we had a new Honda engine and it was more powerful and hopefully more reliable and we tested in the morning and I think we did 80 percent of the tyre tests we wanted, so that was good. The third day, I think Jenson did more than 100 laps so I think for all of us it was quite encouraging.

Q: Giancarlo, you weren’t at Silverstone but you were at Monza.
Giancarlo FISICHELLA:
Monza, yes. It was a good test for us, I did more than 160 laps in two days. We had a problem on the second day with a puncture but it was an encouraging test. We did tyre development and we tried different brakes for this race and for Monza, some set-up work and the lap time was quite competitive, especially on the first day. So, we are a bit more optimistic because the car is getting better and better and they are doing a very good job in the wind tunnel. In the race we have a good pace, we just need to improve our performance in the qualifying session.

Q: You said about developments to the car and improvements from the wind tunnel. Is that coming on a race-by-race basis now?
GF:
Yes, exactly. From Imola they started to work very well in the wind tunnel and each race we had a few components in the car and the car is getting better, I have more feeling, it is easier to drive it so I feel more comfortable and more confident.

Q: Do you get developments from Ferrari on the engine as well?
GF:
Honestly, no, we still have the same engine from the beginning of the year. Maybe in a couple of races or whatever we will have a small step but the engine is very strong, it is reliable and easy to drive.

Q: You mentioned the brakes. This is a crucial race for brakes and the fact that you are now doing lap times at many circuits two or three seconds faster than last year makes it even more crucial doesn’t it?
GF:
Yeah, exactly, it is very critical this year for the brakes, especially because we run with very high temperatures front and rear and it is quite difficult to find good brake ducts for the cooling. Maybe, I think, the lap times are very quick, they did big improvements on the tyre development and I think that Formula One is now maybe a bit too quick.

Q: Overall, looking at your own career, obviously you wanted to attract the attention of Ferrari and you are obviously going in the right direction with the team regularly in the points now.
GF:
Yeah, we are going in the right direction. We need to improve a little bit more and it is not easy but we will see.

Q: Takuma, having had a look at your attempted overtaking manoeuvre on Rubens at the Nürburgring from the outside, what are your feelings about that now?
TS:
Never changed for me, it was totally on, that move. I was confident and had an opportunity because the Michelin tyres work really well on the out lap and the first lap with new tyres. I had a new tyre with massive grip on it. You know, with that distance, yes, you could see I was significantly driving deep but I never locked up and never went sideways, I was totally controlled so, to me, at the end of the day we touched, unfortunately, but I was very, very happy with that manoeuvre.

Q: You mentioned you felt that maybe Rubens was surprised.
TS:
Yes, to me it looked like he was totally surprised when I was there because it looked to me like he braked quite early and there was obviously a big gap inside his car. I saw the opportunity and just went for it because I was totally confident. But it looks like he was just driving as normal.

Q: You mentioned a new Honda engine for here and I think you have got a further step for Indianapolis as well, haven’t you?
TS:
Yes, I think we have developed a lot since the beginning of the season and we were going to have a lot of further steps here for Canada but because we had a few problems in the last few races we are looking more at reliability. So we probably won’t have as massive power as we expected but, to be honest, reliability is going to be a lot higher than the last few races, I believe.

Q: You have had the problems more than Jenson. Has anyone come to you and said there is a problem that you have more than Jenson or is there anything that you are able to do?
TS:
It was a little bit of a mystery. We didn’t find any problem between both of the two cars and both of the drivers’ cars. Obviously nowadays the electronics is so dominant a driver cannot break the engine but obviously there should be something in there. Honda is obviously looking into the cause of the problem and we know, obviously, we have a few problems, but that is why we started developing for the reliability issue. But I think I have just been unlucky and hopefully the Nürburgring will be the last failure for me.

Q: Now, what about your performances as they are seen in Japan? You are about to become the most successful Japanese driver ever. What is the reaction in Japan to your success?
TS:
I think the Japanese fans are very excited about it. Obviously all the Formula One fans are more enthusiastic and the people who were never involved in any motor racing or Formula One are starting to look at and to talk about Formula One. And that is great news for me.

Q: Have you been back to Japan recently?
TS:
No, after Melbourne I have not been back to Japan but I have heard lots of positive stories from the people.

Q: So, when will you go back to Japan then?
TS:
After Shanghai, just before Suzuka! So it will be a long space but I am sure they will be very excited about it.

Q: It could be a big shock for you.
TS:
Possibly, but for me every circuit and every Grand Prix is the same. Obviously a home Grand Prix is very special, but what you have to is exactly the same to achieve what you want and hopefully by the time we arrive in Japan, in Suzuka, we can get really strong results both Jenson and I.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Bill Beacon – The Canadian Press) I just wanted to ask a question to both drivers. There are reports that Jacques Villeneuve may be back in Formula One next season or whenever. How do you feel about that and do you feel the sport is missing him?
TS:
To me, whoever it is is nothing to do with me. But I think Jacques has had a very successful career in Formula One, he obviously showed a lot of talent and a lot of exciting racing in Formula One. It’s nice to see somebody who is a really strong racer is coming back if they have got the chance.
NH: Jacques is a nice guy, he is a friend of mine and he did very well in the past. He has been a world champion, I think we miss him and if he has a possibility to be back it would be nice for Formula One.

Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) Giancarlo, I think you have a two-year contract with Sauber. Could you say at the moment that for sure you will stay at Sauber next year?
GF:
Well, as you know, I have a contract even for next year but obviously my dream is to race with one of the top teams. I don’t know if there is any possibility, I don’t have any contact still, but anything can happen. Even Peter Sauber said, as he did a few years ago with Kimi Raikkonen, even with me there is a possibility to more to a different team but if you want to know that it is better that you ask him.

Q: (Pino Allievi – La Gazzetta Dello Sport) Takuma, in the beginning of the season you were saying your team would be ready to win in the middle of the season. Now you are saying it is earlier?
TS:
I think realistically we have to say middle of the season or towards the end. Winning a Grand Prix is very difficult, very tough. Although we are challenging Ferrari a lot closer than we were last year there is still a significant gap between us and we still have to close the gap first. Once we are ready to race side-by-side with them then we can think about winning. But to win a Grand Prix now, I think we need a lot of luck, otherwise it is probably very difficult.

Q: (Heinz Prüller – ORF TV) Takuma, what is the difference between the Ferrari car and the BAR car?
TS:
It is difficult to see from the outside. Obviously it is a totally different package between them and us. They were very strong the last few years, totally dominated, but I think now the BAR-Honda is getting closer and closer. We did a significant step-up since last year and we are in a learning curve situation. We have more to come. It is possible to catch them up this season but realistically we are taking it step by step. I am very pleased, so far, with the team’s development since I was there over the last two years as a test driver and it is very encouraging to see that Honda and BAR and also our new partner Michelin is working very well together.

Q: (Heinz Prüller – ORF TV) In top speed you are already quicker on most occasions so is the difference in the braking, the aerodynamics, the mechanical grip? What do you think?
TS:
Yeah, top speed, as you said, I think Honda’s commitment is quite unbelievably high at the moment and we are achieving quite a lot of power and that is giving us quite a high top speed. Also the Michelin tyre characteristics give us good traction from the low speed corner exits and straight line braking. Perhaps the Ferrari is just overall better balanced for the high speed turning and braking and stability, possibly, but as far as I can see we are getting closer now and that is very encouraging.

Q: (Bill Beacon – The Canadian Press) Mr Sato, this was Jacques Villeneuve’s home race and you replaced him. Do you feel any pressure or desire to do well here to justify that?
TS:
No, as you say, this is the Gilles Villeneuve circuit and I know it but it is nothing to do with me, to be honest. The team is looking really exciting every single race and I am getting more comfortable and more confident with the speed and the team and the work that is done, just gradually, step by step, and every single race I am looking forward to. This is just one other race. It is the same with Suzuka, it is not a big difference, I just want to have a good strong race this weekend.

Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) Takuma, you are gaining fans not just in Japan but all over the world because you are giving us a lot of entertainment this year. You say you are feeling more confident and comfortable in the car but have you, going back to your earliest days, always been this aggressive and come up behind and pass immediately rather than sit behind like some drivers do, or is it just that you are getting comfortable with the car now?
TS:
Yeah, to do an aggressive manoeuvre you need a car that is very stable and gives the driver a big confidence. If you look back to 2002, Giancarlo and I were together in the beginning of the season and the EJ12 was quite nervous and difficult to drive but I think Jordan did a great job with the car. Its improvement was significant and at the end of the day in Suzuka, Giancarlo and I really performed well, so it is a question of how the team’s performance is. But even so I was very aggressive at the beginning of 2002, I was racing, although that was perhaps for 14th place, 15th place, something like that. Now we are doing top five battles, which probably you can see on the television, that is what the difference is. To me, it was not changing my driving style but gaining more experience, you can judge more accurately, and I am certainly more comfortable.

Q: (Stephanie Morin - La Presse) Takuma, can you talk a little about your relationship with Jock Clear? What have you learned mostly, working with an experienced engineer like him?
TS:
Jock Clear, it is a very big thing to me at the moment because I have to trust him 100 percent and he trusts me 100 percent. That sort of relationship is needed between race driver and engineer. Obviously he had worked with Jacques for such a long time and he won the championship so he knows how to win a single race and also how to win the world championship, so his experience is great to me. But to me it is more like coach and athlete. If you are talking about is Jock Clear the best engineer in the paddock? I don’t know, because I haven’t met any other engineer, but to me Jock is getting the best out of me at the moment so our relationship is very strong.

Q: (Tony Dodgins – Tony Dodgins and Associates) Taku, all you have said about the strengths of the car - the power, the straight-line braking, the traction – and you look at this circuit, does that make you think that this is one of your best chances of beating Ferrari?
TS:
Actually, I was going to say our package should suit this circuit. If you look at Imola, which has very similar characteristics - high kerbs, a lot of fast chicanes, stop and go, long straights – and the downforce level is very different from any other circuit we have been to this season, it is interesting to see how the different teams are going up or down. But we are confident we have a good aero package, good engine, good brakes and tyres and chassis for stability under braking, so we will be very strong, we hope anyway.