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FIA Friday press conference - Japan 07 Oct 2005

FIA Press Conference, from top row (L to R): Yosuhiro Wada (JPN) Honda, Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR, Tsutomu Tomita (JPN) Chairman of Toyota Racing and Toyota Team Principal and Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, 7 October 2005

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: Takuma Sato (BAR), Jarno Trulli (Toyota). Team representatives: Tsutomo Tomita (Toyota), Yasuhiro Wada (Honda).

Q: Wada-san, what was the thinking behind taking the controlling interest in BAR?
Yasuhiro Wada:
As you know we already have a 45-percent holding in the team and also the tobacco situation, BAT have to leave sooner or later, and we have been discussing the situation and we thought the team’s stability was very important and sooner or later we would. To me zero to 45 is a big difference, but 45 to 100 is not that much!

Q: Also can you tell us more about this potential second team, everyone wants to know about it?
YW:
I wish I could tell more but this is an independent team already doing some racing activities and they are keen to enter Formula One. We agree with what they are aiming for and their objectives, we have finally decided to give full support, maybe not just engine supply but on top of that the technical assistance.

Q: When do you think we will know more about that?
YW:
I think we will have to wait for the team to announce. Our part is already said, I think they are finalising all the details, so it is hopefully going to be happening soon.

Q: Owning BAR means you are already putting a lot of money into the team, but are you not worried that it might become a big spending war with your compatriots here?
YW:
We are not expecting to spend that much. I think we will spend a reasonable amount of money to make the team stronger but nothing more than that.

Q: Tomita-san, you have already said you are going to spend more money on a second wind tunnel. Are you worried it is going to become a spending war with your compatriots?
Tsutomo Tomita:
We decided to expand the wind tunnel to a second, but it is not so expensive. And, you know, two wind tunnels in the top level teams I find that quite reasonable. Additionally, we are thinking of a long-term project, not only for the motorsport but the road car development.

Q: But are you worried about it becoming a spending war?
TT:
Yes, and we have to always be careful about spending too much money in Formula One.

Q: What about Bridgestone? It hasn’t been announced that you will be moving to Bridgestone, but Michelin seems to have announced it. What is the situation?
TT:
We basically give our thanks and appreciation to the Michelin team over the last three years because their tyre performance is getting better and better but it is a good time to re-consider the contracts and I am very sure the Bridgestone tyre will be very nice for us.

Q: What about the Jordan situation? That was done a year ago this weekend, what about for next year? How many years does that continue?
TT:
We make annual contracts with them and nobody knows about the year after.

Q: And have you had an approach from Williams?
TT:
It has been rumoured, but I don’t know the details.

Q: Jarno, there is a 17-point gap between Toyota and Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship. What chances of third place?
Jarno Trulli:
We still have some chance, but very little. We had our chances but we didn’t use them unfortunately. We still have two races to go but I really feel at the moment that we have to do our best for the remaining races without thinking of third position in the championship.

Q: Now you have chosen to run the B-spec car here. What are the differences?
JT:
Well, the car is definitely quicker than the old one, especially on the long runs. That is why we brought the car here, but we still have some problems, especially I have some problems in terms of handling, car reaction and feeling. It is a bit frustrating for me to drive this car because I don’t feel quick at all; I actually feel slower but even being slower with this car I am quicker than with the old car, that is why we took it here. This is the direction for next year and that is the reason we had to take the car for the last races because it is a step forward. We still have some problems and we still have to understand the problems to improve over the winter and to make a good step for next year’s car.

Q: Now, also the story has come out about you carrying the Olympic torch. Can you tell us a bit about that, although it is a long way into the future?
JT:
I think as a Formula One driver I will not be involved in any Olympic games but it is nice. I thought it would be nice for a driver that will never be involved in the Olympic Games to be part of it, even if it is just taking the torch. To me, as an athlete, it will be very nice to be present and also probably to watch some of the competition.

Q: So how far will you run with it?
JT:
I don’t know if I can do it, maybe 200 metres.

Q: And that will be in Pescara?
JT:
Yeah, it is my home city so it is a big pleasure to be there and to be the last to take the torch to the top, so it will be a nice atmosphere and I think I am going to enjoy it.

Q: Takuma, what are your plans for next year?
Takuma Sato:
Such a straight question, isn’t it? I can’t say a lot at this stage. The only thing I can say is what Wada-san said. Honda had a press conference on Tuesday in Tokyo where they (said they will) supply an engine. Obviously I’ve had an offer. After Brazil, a lot of things have happened so quickly and I’m obviously very excited about this offer and I have more options for next year. I am expecting to race in 2006, whether with a new team or an existing team, and I really want to be racing next year. So having had this great opportunity and more options, it’s just such exciting information. But obviously there’s still this weekend at Suzuka and also Shanghai and as I am still a BAR-Honda driver, I will give 100 percent commitment for these two Grands Prix and then I will think about it very carefully as to what is the best for me next season.

Q: Could you summarise this season for you? Has it been very disappointing?
TS:
In a way I am obviously disappointed I didn’t get the results I wanted. Obviously we had a successful season in 2004 and unfortunately we couldn’t carry that huge momentum into 2005. But having had a really difficult season in the beginning, I think we made a really good step forward in the second half of the season. We showed a really good performance and were very confident with that, that we can do a really good job with the team, especially in the last two races.

Q: This race last year was very important to you, a good weekend; what are your feelings this year?
TS:
Again, luckily I have had really good opportunities to race in Suzuka than at any other circuit. 2002 was a really amazing weekend, 2003 was such a big surprise for me and 2004 we had the best package at that time, so we were very surprised. And again, in 2005, strictly speaking, technically we face a harder challenge than last year but we have learned so many things and fundamentally the team is much stronger now and so am I. So really, looking at the fans who are supporting us this weekend is incredible, so I really want to do my best race at this Grand Prix.

Q: Three questions for both drivers: what has been the most significant point this season for you?
TS:
Well, it’s a significant point. There are a few, but I think at the moment I’ve only got an eighth place, one point, unfortunately and lots of dramas happened with lots of difficult circumstances. But to me that point is more than just a number. It is so important and obviously I want to get more in these next two Grands Prix.

Q: Maybe I shouldn’t have said points, what is the most significant and important feature of this year for you?
TS:
I know, that’s why I answered like this! It should be now, really. After Brazil, the circumstances were difficult for the teams and drivers and everybody but we had that in Brazil. It is a shame and disappointing that I can’t be a member of the BAR-Honda (team) next year, but now as a career I have more open doors and I can develop my own future and that is why, after Brazil, mentally and physically, I’m more committed than ever.
JT: For me so far it has been a very good season, better than expected. Straight away from the beginning: Australia, first row and then the week after in Malaysia with the first ever podium and second position was confirmed the race after in Bahrain. All that momentum we kept from the beginning was a great moment for me, for the team, for everybody, so I found a much better team than expected, very very good on the technical side and in general I’m very happy with the season.

Q: What have you learned from this year?
JT:
There is always something to learn, there is always room to learn in every year, every race, every day. Nothing special, other than always trust the team and give the best in every condition in every race because the results can always come.
TS: Same thing. As Jarno said, as we are human beings, every day is so important: improving something, learning something. In terms of the racing point of view, obviously we have had a really difficult and tough season, so we’ve really kept building. Another year’s really good experience, and in some ways, I really wanted to do this one for the future.

Q: Hopes for 2006?
TS:
Racing. I think I am really concentrating on these two Grands Prix and we will make the best possible option for 2006 and then we can really think it was the best performance, the best out of it in 2006. But at the moment, the main target is racing in 2006.
JT: If I look at the season the only thing I can hope for next season is to improve from where we are. This season, as I said, has been great so far and with the potential that Toyota has, and with the resources. I only expect to be better next year. Of course, we have quite a few new challenges because we have new tyres, Bridgestones probably, and also a new V8 engine, so it will be a nice challenge and that is why Toyota is in Formula One.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Tony Dodgins - Autosport) Wada-san, it seems in a way a little bit strange that this announcement (about the new team) has been made and very little is known about it. There’s been some speculation that the reason it was done so early is because there’s been a bit of a backlash in Japan after Taku was not being retained. Obviously you’ve got to have more depth to it before something can be announced but is there any truth in that, and how much of a backlash has there been?
YW:
I wouldn’t disagree with your whole story, what you said. Regarding the situation, we wanted to announce something, if anything, before Suzuka because the Japanese market is very important and there was a lot of news going around. So given the equity issue we wanted to announce whatever we could say before Suzuka. So that was the plan, but unfortunately things have not moved as well as I personally would have wished, so what we said was just a little but I think better than nothing.

Q: How much of a backlash has there been?
YW:
Personally nothing. We as a company, Honda, have received a lot of e-mail letters. I would take those letters not as complaints but as a lot of the support we felt. We realised how much people expected Honda to do something more, something exciting, so that’s why we are here.

Q: (Ken Kawakita - Sportiva) Wada-san, regarding the Formula One future beyond 2008, what kind of an effect can you expect, having another new team coming into Formula One?
YW:
I would say not much. If you remember what five manufacturers announced in a statement earlier this year. In that document we have already clearly stated that we will promote and support independent teams through supplying engines and technical assistance, so what we are going to do is just realise that goal. So it’s nothing different from what we said.

Q: (Ken Kawakita - Sportiva) But having another team, supported by Honda, means you have another vote for discussion?
YW:
Well, again, as I said before, this is an independent team and we will have a contract and we will supply technical assistance but all the decisions will be made by the team and not us.