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FIA Press Conference - Coulthard and Button 08 Jul 2004

(L to R): David Coulthard (GBR) McLaren and Jenson Button (GBR) BAR in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, British Grand Prix, Rd 11, Preparations, Silverstone, England, 8 July 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

With drivers Jenson Button (BAR) and David Coulthard (McLaren).

Q: Both of you took part in the London demonstration earlier this week; can we have your impressions of it?
David COULTHARD:
Well, I think first of all you’ve got to be clear that that was the Grand Prix demonstration and not the Gay Rights demonstration, just for anyone who might be in any doubt as to what we were doing – not that I don’t think that Gays have rights but…
(JB: Keep digging!) ( Laughter) Anyway, I think it’s shame that we didn’t have a bit more of an open track to drive the cars on. I think that everybody was pleasantly surprised how many people turned up. You hear anything from a couple of hundred thousand to significantly more than that. It was quite scary actually, seeing people hanging off buildings and all the rest of it. But pretty impressive that Formula One, with a relatively small amount of promotion, can attract that many people.
Jenson BUTTON: I think it was a fantastic event, even though the circuit wasn’t very wide so we couldn’t really play too much, but it was a fantastic turn-out. Hearing the sounds of the engines within the buildings was fantastic. The crowd seemed to be really into it as well which is great. It’s good that we’ve got a lot of fans down there in London, and probably a lot of people that won’t be coming to the race this weekend, because it’s sold-out or they’ve got other things on – like the Party in the Park. But as I said, I think it was a great show, the logistics of it were obviously very difficult, putting eight Formula One cars on the road in rush-hour but they did a great job.

Q: And the atmosphere?
JB:
The atmosphere was pretty special; it really was, especially when we were doing the doughnuts at the end. There was a big cheer from the crowd and they seemed to be really getting into it which was fantastic. It would be great to see a race there in the future.

Q: David, can you envisage a London Grand Prix?
DC:
Well, I think in many ways you would have more scope to produce a good street circuit than you have in Monaco and if you can do it in Monaco every year, then there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t do it in London. It would just be a question of getting everyone to agree. I guess in Monaco it’s just the Prince says this will happen. But in terms of having the space, you can imagine something round about Hyde Park, that would be the pit area and you could have a very wide street circuit which would create overtaking which would be fantastic. But it just might be a dream, but nonetheless if they can actually get the cars out there doing a demo then why not?

Q: David, the new car last weekend seemed to be good, but perhaps a bit disappointing in the race. What are your own feelings about?
DC:
Well, we take the positive that the car was significantly better in the race than we’ve seen. We were a good 20 odd seconds further down the road and closer to the winning car than we have been in any other Grand Prix this year, so we are a step forward, the race first stop showed that we were in a similar area to others and the amount of fuel that we had in qualifying and the weight effect is less here than we had in Magny Cours so I expect the grid to be even closer and it shows that we can be anywhere from the front row to whatever if you don’t get it quite right.

Q: I guess the only problem is that you haven’t got long to test now, in that the test ban is coming up?
DC:
I think that the reality of testing is that if you have development parts then that’s what will give you a potential step forward in performance. In terms of just driving round in circles to do set-up is very much ‘on that day in history,’ what you learn from doing set-up. Everyone tested here a couple of weeks ago; well, I’m sure they’ll still be changing their car when they run tomorrow and through the weekend, so not having the testing ban is only a problem if we’ve got a number of new parts that can be fitted to the car, whether they be aerodynamic or mechanical, that we think can take us forward. And then of course horsepower, you gain that on the dyno before you put it on the track anyway so I expect that even without doing the testing, we will take a step forward at Hockenheim because some of the changes that we have we will be testing next week at this test at Silverstone and that should hopefully give us a wee bit more.

Q: Can you envisage a development programme with the new car?
DC:
Yup. I think it’s unlikely that McLaren are going to try and build another new car before the end of the season, so they are going to develop this car as much as they can. They are already working on next year’s car as you would expect, but it’s important that we continue to go forward in the remaining races so I believe that they will do as much as they possibly can to get the most out of this 19B.

Q: And were you pretty happy with the engine as well; that’s been a bit of a problem so far this year?
DC:
I think the step forward we’ve had since Melbourne to where we were at the last Grand Prix is significant. I would be surprised if anyone’s gained as much power and performance as we have in that period of time. You know I would rather not have started where we did, to have made that step forward, but nonetheless, we’re into a good area now and we can start building from there. Everything just needs to be tweaked now, a wee bit more from the car, a wee bit more from the engine, drivers hopefully will continue to build in confidence and the performance will grow from there.

Q: What about your own future? When are we going to hear something from that?
DC:
When there’s something to say and that’s always going to be decided by more than just myself. It will depend on the other party as well so I don’t suppose you’re all holding your breath but there will be an announcement in the future.

Q: But there is another party is there?
DC:
I hope so. What have you heard? There’s always a party to go to.

Q: Jenson, the last race, obviously you had a pretty good chance to compare the BAR-Honda with your major rivals Renault. What did you think of them, where were they strong, where were you strong?
JB:
The start is obviously where they are very strong and we are losing out there quite a bit. To be sat behind Jarno for the whole race was not where we expected to be and I found it very difficult to overtake the Renault. I think we would have had them in the last pit stop but we had the unfortunate problem of the anti-stall kicking in when I pulled away from the stop.

Q: In fact their straight-line speed going into Adelaide was relatively slow - it was the second slowest - but you still couldn’t get past?
JB:
No, it’s very difficult, you lose a lot of downforce out of turn two when you’re behind another car and to drag by is very tough and I couldn’t get close enough. But that’s not the real issue - it’s being behind them after the start really. That’s what lost us a lot of time. I think we had a very good strategy and we worked very well on moving it around when we thought Renaults were coming in but we were just lacking in a bit of speed I think and, as I said, the starts are something where we are losing out to the Renaults.

Q: When you say lacking a bit of speed that happened a couple of races ago in Canada where you felt the same sort of thing.
JB:
Yeah, it’s strange, you know the circuits… When we arrived in Canada and also in France for Magny Cours, we expected to be very quick from the word go and it didn’t really happen for us like that, whereas at Indianapolis it did. So it’s very strange and we’re looking into it, it’s difficult to understand why it’s not working as we thought it would do. But even so, we are confident that we are going to be quick here. We have tested here previously and the car has been running very well in a long run and also in qualifying trim. We’re pretty confident coming here.

Q: What about Anthony Davidson? We’re going to be talking to him after you guys leave, but what sort of contribution has he made to the team?
JB:
He’s done a good job, he really has. This is obviously the first year where we’ve had a third driver driving on Fridays and he’s done a very good job. The long runs he’s been doing have been very consistent and we’re getting a lot of useful information from that so he’s very important to the team. Obviously he would rather be racing and I’m sure he’s going to be looking around next year for a race drive, but I would be sorry to see him go if he does because he’s doing a very good job.

Q: So what should we ask him when he gets here?
JB:
How much fuel he runs on Fridays - that would be an interesting one! No, I’m kidding. We always run the same sort of fuel level, just so people know he is doing a good job and he is very quick.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Alastair Moffitt – PA) A question for both of you - it’s been a disappointing summer of sport for the British fans. How keen are you to do well here, not just for yourselves but for the home crowd as well?
DC:
Very.
JB: He’s Scottish.
DC: I’ve got a British passport. (Laughter) Very keen, obviously, to get a result. I think that there’s always a certain amount of pride in competing in your home event and having been fortunate enough to win this Grand Prix twice I know how the crowd reaction can be, so it’s obviously very important that we try and get the best result we can.
JB: I remember 2000 when it was my first year and then David won here and the crowd just went wild, it was great to see, and hopefully we can emulate that this year with either of us, which would be pretty special I think, in front of your home crowd.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) Jenson, in the first five years the team, I think, got two podiums. This year you’re disappointed if you don’t get a podium. Can you talk a little bit about just how and why the team has made this huge step forward this season?
JB:
There’s lots of reasons to do with the car and the improvements with the car. But a lot of it comes through BAR and Honda working so closely together. We’re working as one team which is very, very important I think. We’re not blaming each other for certain mistakes which a lot of teams seem to do between the car manufacturer and the engine manufacturer. So we’ve got a very positive atmosphere in the team and we’re all moving forward together and we’re also very open with our opinions which I think is very important.

Q: (Juha Paatalo – Financial Times Deutschland) Jenson, what’s your outlook for the German Grand Prix? How do you like the circuit and how do you think your car is going to suit the circuit and how do you see your own chances to maybe get your first win there?
JB:
I do like the circuit. The first year we drove there I didn’t enjoy it very much because you’re always comparing it to the original circuit. It’s difficult to compare because it’s very, very different. But I enjoy it now, I enjoyed it last year, I had a good race last year with Mark Webber so I’m looking forward to going back there. Our car should suit the circuit well, it seemed to be very good on traction and that’s a circuit where you need that. If the car’s working well there, my chances should be OK. For us a podium is what we always aim for. We would love to beat the Ferraris but it’s very difficult at this moment because they are very strong, not just speed but also their strategies seem to work very well and the reliability of their cars is very good at the moment. It’s tough but we’re working on it.

Q: (Bob Constanduros) How astonished are you - either of you - when they win from sixth on the grid as they did in Canada or go to four stops last weekend, the way they just seemed to be so adaptable and manage to think right the way across the board like that? What do you think of their performance in that way?
DC:
I think that the performance advantage they have is clearly enough that they can have a poor qualifying – you know quite often you see Michael make a mistake in qualifying which would really put another driver out of contention and he’s still able to be near the front, so I think it shows the strength of the package. It happens from time to time. I’ve experienced that in cars that I’ve driven in the past where you can’t imagine driving any slower and you’re still going over a second lap quicker than cars in the race. They’ve just got the package working fantastically well and the only thing that will trip them up will be if they get caught out on reliability - but they redefined Formula One in terms of reliability several seasons ago. Michael hardly ever doesn’t finish a race because of a mechanical problem, so the rest of us still go through a season with a few mechanical failures which makes them very difficult to beat when they have the speed and the reliability.
JB: As David says, when the car is so strong it is very difficult to make a mistake on the strategy. A four-stop strategy should not work, especially at Magny Cours, but when you’ve got a car that’s so strong it’s easier.

Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) David, we’ve seen Ralf’s move announced this week. You’ve won more than twice as many races as him, you’ve been out-qualifying Kimi, you’ve got more points this season. What more do you have to do? There’s still uncertainty about your future for next season, what more do you have to do?
DC:
Sounds like a cash for question that, doesn’t it? It sounds like I planted that one. It’s a question of whether you fit into… you can tell (we didn’t) prepare that because I don’t know the answer. It depends whether you fit into what’s available out there. Teams may have different agendas, they may be hunting down someone else. There’s possibilities for me and it’s just a question of getting those finalised and announced. But yeah, I think that any doubt over whether I have the ability is based on last year’s qualifying performance rather than this year. I think that this year a lot of teams are obviously scrabbling around trying to deal with their own weekend-to-weekend performance rather than looking at the next season or the future of how they really develop a winning package and clearly I can be part of that.

Q: (Jacques Schulz – Premiere TV) David, would you stay as a tester with McLaren, is that a possibility that you really consider?
DC:
I’m firmly focused on racing next year.

Q: (Wolfgang Rother - Premiere) I would like to go back to the strength of Ferrari - would you guys consider the competition right now to be fair? Or, in other others, how easy or difficult is it to win races in a Ferrari?
DC:
Well, I don’t think it’s unfair. They’ve quite clearly done a better job with the regulations as they stand and having experienced being in a package which is pretty dominant as well it’s difficult to put your finger on why you have a package which is much quicker but you don’t really question it. And it’s as difficult to work out why you’re in a situation where you are nowhere and trying to find a solution, because there are so many elements that make up the performance of a racing car and the loads are so difficult to monitor, once the cars are out on the track. If you watch any of the slow-mo footage, you see the amount of tyre deflection you get off the kerbs and all of these things which are very difficult to control. So I don’t think there’s any doubt that they are running the car within the regulations so that is what you can achieve and that’s what we have to do. I am absolutely against handicapping success to make the rest of us look good. You either do the job and perform or you don’t. It’s got to be a difficult business.
JB: As David said, they are obviously doing a better job than we are. For us, we still are a young team compared to Ferrari, but the performances this year have been staggering. It’s also quite strange because the four teams behind are very, very close. Renault, McLaren, Williams and ourselves are quite close now but we’re still a little way behind the Ferraris. But that’s not their fault, it’s down to us.

Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) David, if I can just return to something Ralf said yesterday, he said that his move wasn’t motivated by money, money didn’t matter to him, he’s got enough in the bank already. Is money a factor for you and how big a factor is it for you next season, and would you race on a cash-for-points basis?
DC:
Well, it’s not really been my habit or style to talk about my personal contractual situation, but I’ve said many times in the past that your primary goal has always got to be to get performance from the car rather than get a financial package and then performance, so that’s the order in which I work.

Q: (Byron Young – Speed Sport) What are the chances of you two guys ending up on the podium together on Sunday?
DC:
Yeah, I think there’s a chance of that.
JB: It would be a great party.

Q: (Byron Young – Speed Sport) You are both great friends. How does that come into play when you are on the track going wheel-to-wheel. I guess would you fight as hard against each other as you would as, say, Schumacher?
DC:
I think that, as well as being friends we are both professional and therefore you react to the competition you are around, maybe in a slightly different way depending on whether you trust the person or not, but otherwise you have got to plan your manoeuvres and position yourself in the same way as if it is any other competition. I always find the on-track battles interesting because it is almost like you are having a conversation with the guy but you can’t hear. If you get the better of them you know he is thinking ‘oh bugger, he got me’ and likewise if you get overtaken. I think we should have intercoms between the cars. That would make it interesting – ‘I’m behind you!’
JB: I think we proved last year that we don’t hold back, when we touched in Barcelona, but hopefully that won’t be happening again. I think you treat everyone differently because you know the way they work on the circuit. But, you know, people are very different out of the car than they are in the car. Different personalities.

Q: (Alastair Moffitt – PA News) Jenson, you mentioned in the build-up to this event, in the BAR press release, that your long-term plan was to be in a position to win by this time of the season. Is that still on track? Are you still confident you are in a position to win a race?
JB:
I think here it would be a great achievement but I think it is going to be very difficult the way the Ferraris are at the moment, but, you know, anything can happen. We know we are quick here and we need to put them under pressure but I am sure that there is more than just BAR thinking of doing that this weekend. It is going to be a tough weekend and a very competitive weekend but there is always a possibility.

Q: (Byron Young – Speed Sport) That Barcelona crash between you was, I guess, the low point between you. What is the high point?
DC:
It was funny the Barcelona one because we had boats parked beside each other in the harbour and then we were flying back the next day to England together so we had to kind of get over it very quickly. I am not sure we can share the high point with you Byron! (Laughter)
JB: No comment.

Q: (Jonathan Gill – Auto Express) One for both of you. There is talk of showers at the weekend. How far have Michelin got with tyres in the wet now? Are you a match for the Bridgestones, or better?
DC:
I think the reality of the situation is there are very specific weather conditions that suit the Bridgestones better than the Michelin and likewise with the Michelins over the Bridgestone. We have a new rain tyre which is available to us which we believe to be a step forward. Michelin have done a lot of wet testing with some of the other teams, we haven’t taken part in that but nonetheless it gives us a step forward. And it really comes down to does the duration of rain, the type of rain suit your tyre at that time? This track does hold puddles, so aquaplaning can be a bit of an issue, especially if it stops raining and you are on the shallower of the wet tyres rather than the full wet. So I think it will be a very changeable circuit that you would see if we had a downpour and then it was running into a dry track. I don’t really know if that answers your question, but also the truth is it is going to be down to how much track temperature there is. It is not just down to the quantity of rain, it is how much temperature there is on the surface and how much that effects how the compound works. It is very variable but that would make it very exciting.

Q: (Jonathan Gill – Auto Express) Are you better in full wet conditions?
DC:
Yeah, I think we can handle full wet conditions pretty well, it is the sort of transitional period that might be tricky because it is a question of how quickly your tyre is actually wearing down to almost being a slick and if that happens too quickly, basically overheating the compound, then you can end up losing a lot of time there. I think you saw in Brazil last year, the weather was very changeable conditions, Michael flew off the circuit and various other people flew off the track but we performed quite well. So that was quite a warm track temperature but quite wet conditions.
JB: We haven’t done that much testing in the wet this year. The first test at a race circuit before the race weekend was Magny-Cours and it wasn’t very consistent conditions. The last time I drove when there was a Ferrari out on circuit was in Mugello and we performed pretty well actually, I was quite happy with our performance. Things have changed a little bit since then, but I was reasonably happy. The grip level in the wet is quite similar to here, so it should be quite good.