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Press conference - Barrichello, Raikkonen, Sato 26 Aug 2004

With Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren) and Takuma Sato (BAR).

Q: Rubens, first of all, tell us about this circuit, what is the challenge here?
Rubens BARRICHELLO:
It’s a circuit which is very difficult in terms of set-up. It’s a circuit where, to do a really good time, you need to be very fast through all the corners. You have to have almost a perfect balance into the high speed and low speed corners, and that’s why it’s very challenging, because sometimes you can’t reach a balance for low speed corners – you have to make the car a little bit pitchy, shall we say, whereas normally in the high speed corners it has to be even more on the edge than normal, so it’s quite enjoyable.

Q: They say this circuit sorts the men from the boys; is that still the case?
RB:
When I used to race Formula Opel here, we used to be in these garages here below us and we could quite clearly see the Formula One cars going by and at the time, Senna was racing with Berger in the McLaren team, and Berger was quite clearly flat through the corner (Eau Rouge) and Senna wasn’t at all, yet by the end of the lap, Senna was a second faster than Berger. So it’s something that is true but is not. Eau Rouge is a corner where you lose very little by not taking it flat, but the combination of corners over the whole circuit makes it very special.

Q: Is it a buzz, a rush that you feel here, which makes it so exciting?
RB:
It used to be, but when the cars began to improve it became easier and easier. Back in ’93, ’94 it was quite difficult to do it (Eau Rouge) flat. Nowadays, I don’t know how the corner at the back (Blanchimont) is, but it used to be more scary because you know that… it’s just like the old Tamburello, you know that if you do just take it flat normally you have no problems, but if you have some sort of a problem, it might just hurt. So it used to grab your attention more than here (Eau Rouge).

Q: What about the new Bus Stop; have you had a look at that?
RB:
No. I had the chance to see a race on TV but not personally. I have to go there and have a look.

Q: They’re worried about it being less of an overtaking place than it was; does that worry you?
RB:
Well, it used to be very difficult to overtake already. You had to attack the kerbs. You could overtake there but you might lose the nose or something. I have to get there and have a look but on the TV it looks as if you go more to the right before you come to the left. It looks very slow as well. I don’t know, it’s tough to overtake there. You have to make the braking, to open wide, just to make it as late as possible.

Q: And what about the chances of wet weather here?
RB:
I guess 100 percent, isn’t it? It’s always like this. The only thing I would say is that we should pray that it’s wet or dry, because here, normally, it rains for a couple of corners and not for the rest, so that’s the most important thing, because travelling with slicks in the wet could be quite dangerous.

Q: It’s a circuit you’ve been quite successful at.
RB:
Yes, in Formula Three, Formula 3000 and Formula Opel and Formula One. It’s where I scored my first pole position back in 1994. It is a circuit I like. Whenever you like something you do quite well. It’s the 700th anniversary of Ferrari in terms of races, so hopefully we can have a good weekend.

Q: Takuma, your feelings about the circuit; I think you’ve been a winner here as well?
Takuma SATO:
Yes, I think I’m the same as Rubens. I was here in my Formula Opel time in junior formula and of course in Formula Three in 2000 and 2001. I think junior formulae drivers are always dreaming of going into Formula One here at Spa. It’s always very exciting at this circuit.

Q: Are you hoping it’s going to be wet here?
TS:
I don’t care what the weather will be. Look at today, no one knows what it’s going to do, the weather conditions are so unpredictable but we hope our strategy or the package we have for this weekend give us a little chance to mix up the grid and perhaps even the race.

Q: Looking ahead, what are your possibilities for next year?
TS:
I’m very happy where I am. I’m obviously very happy with the team and I’m expecting to be racing next year with BAR Honda because originally I had a three year contract, including one year testing and two year’s racing of which this year is the first year. So we should be able to develop together and next year as well.

Q: When’s that going to be announced? Do we expect an announcement, or do we take it as read?
TS:
I personally don’t know what is the deadline or which date it will be, but I’m sure this is no longer an issue. At the moment we are concentrating on weekend by weekend, for every Grand Prix, not thinking deeply about next year. But we need some stability for the longer development so you just carry on what you’re doing and extending it to next year.

Q: What’s the atmosphere within the team like, particularly with the “Jenson Button situation”? Is it pretty much the same as it was before?
TS:
I think it’s a lot more settled now. Two weeks ago it was just shocking everybody, but we are really professional people, I believe and especially at the Grand Prix circuits, the mechanics, engineers and designers, drivers. The atmosphere itself hasn’t changed since nothing has happened so we do continue and we are very focused on single races every time.

Q: Kimi, dramas getting here?
Kimi RAIKKONEN:
I left Switzerland this morning but I needed to go to England, to the factory, so it took me a little while to come here.

Q: Hungary, I guess, was a disappointment, not just your own problems but the performance as well. What are the chances of doing better here?
KR:
I think so. The car was even quick on Friday (in Hungary), but we didn’t really improve the car enough for the next two days. But Hungary has always been difficult for us. Every year, when I’ve been there, the car has never been perfect so I think this race should be much better for us. It’s more like Silverstone or the German race, so I think the car should be good here.

Q: What are your feelings about wet weather here?
KR:
I guess it’s the same for every driver and every team, but I still think that Bridgestone has a little bit better wet tyre, so I would hope for dry conditions to be able to fight against Ferrari.

Q: And what sort of development have you got here for the MP4/19B?
KR:
I don’t know really. Of course, we are always working hard to improve the car but with the testing ban it’s also a bit difficult. I think next week we will have some new parts and we will test them and hopefully improve the car more for the Monza race.

Q: Better for the final races than perhaps for here?
KR:
Yeah, hopefully, but like I said, I don’t know really, so we just need to wait and see.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Stan Piecha - The Sun) Rubens, Michael only needs to beat you by two points this weekend and he’s got his seventh title. Are you going to make it easy for him, or make him wait until Monza?
RB:
I hope I can make him wait until Brazil to be honest. And if we get there, then I hope he can wait until next year, but you know, in all honestly I think we have to be realistic about the chances. I still haven’t beaten him fair and square this year, as I managed to do so many times last year. But you know, my life is all about positives, it’s all about being focused and doing my job. It is a place that I like very much. He’s had a phenomenal year altogether, as much as I had, in terms of finishing. I’m not winning, so I’m looking for that win, yet again, over here. Hopefully we can just get going. I don’t mind too much about thinking of the championship but I would love to win the race here.

Q: (Alberto Antonini - Autosprint) Kimi, have you been able to detect exactly what happened in Hungary?
KR:
I don’t know exactly what happened but they had some sort of a problem with the electricity, the fuel pumps or one wasn’t working or something, so the engine didn’t get enough fuel at high revs, so that’s why we retired.

Q: I’m sure you would say that there’s no point in getting upset with the team but how frustrated do you get within yourself when that happens?
KR:
Yeah, it’s not nice, but in the end it’s not my fault. I couldn’t have done anything different so I’m not blaming myself, but it’s not good for anyone in the team, because we haven’t had such bad luck – it’s difficult, is it bad luck or something else – but it has been a difficult season, so it’s not good for the team or for me, but I don’t really blame myself so I just come to the next race and hopefully things go better.