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: Its a circuit which is very difficult in terms of set-up. Its 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 thats why its very challenging, because sometimes you cant 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 its 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 wasnt at all, yet by the end of the lap, Senna was a second faster than Berger. So its 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 dont know how the corner at the back (Blanchimont) is, but it used to be more scary because you know that its 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: Theyre 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 dont know, its 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, isnt it? Its always like this. The only thing I would say is that we should pray that its wet or dry, because here, normally, it rains for a couple of corners and not for the rest, so thats the most important thing, because travelling with slicks in the wet could be quite dangerous.
Q: Its a circuit youve been quite successful at.
RB: Yes, in Formula Three, Formula 3000 and Formula Opel and Formula One. Its where I scored my first pole position back in 1994. It is a circuit I like. Whenever you like something you do quite well. Its 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 youve been a winner here as well?
Takuma SATO: Yes, I think Im 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. Its always very exciting at this circuit.
Q: Are you hoping its going to be wet here?
TS: I dont care what the weather will be. Look at today, no one knows what its 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: Im very happy where I am. Im obviously very happy with the team and Im expecting to be racing next year with BAR Honda because originally I had a three year contract, including one year testing and two years racing of which this year is the first year. So we should be able to develop together and next year as well.
Q: Whens that going to be announced? Do we expect an announcement, or do we take it as read?
TS: I personally dont know what is the deadline or which date it will be, but Im 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 youre doing and extending it to next year.
Q: Whats 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 its 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 hasnt 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 didnt really improve the car enough for the next two days. But Hungary has always been difficult for us. Every year, when Ive been there, the car has never been perfect so I think this race should be much better for us. Its 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 its 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 dont know really. Of course, we are always working hard to improve the car but with the testing ban its 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 dont 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 hes 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 havent 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, its all about being focused and doing my job. It is a place that I like very much. Hes had a phenomenal year altogether, as much as I had, in terms of finishing. Im not winning, so Im looking for that win, yet again, over here. Hopefully we can just get going. I dont 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 dont know exactly what happened but they had some sort of a problem with the electricity, the fuel pumps or one wasnt working or something, so the engine didnt get enough fuel at high revs, so thats why we retired.
Q: Im sure you would say that theres no point in getting upset with the team but how frustrated do you get within yourself when that happens?
KR: Yeah, its not nice, but in the end its not my fault. I couldnt have done anything different so Im not blaming myself, but its not good for anyone in the team, because we havent had such bad luck its difficult, is it bad luck or something else but it has been a difficult season, so its not good for the team or for me, but I dont really blame myself so I just come to the next race and hopefully things go better.