Bridgestone press conference at Suzuka 06 Oct 2006
Present: Takuma Sato, Sakon Yamamoto and Aguri Suzuki (Super Aguri); Michael Schumacher, Felipe Massa and Jean Todt (Ferrari).
Q: Mr Suzuki, within a very short period of time you've been able to start up a new team. What sort of team were you trying to build and what are your hopes for it?
Aguri Suzuki: Well, in November of last year we made the announcement of our participation in F1, and everyone said that it would be impossible to do that, that it was a crazy plan, and that it would be impossible to accomplish that. But we built up the team, bought the cars, gathered people, and until we went to Bahrain, we had minimal time to really think about it, we were just desperately working hard. At that early stage the core members numbered five people and then we built up the team. Right now we have about 154 people. We're still quite a small team, but with this small team we made it to Bahrain in time, and we updated the cars during the course of the season. It was a tough job to do that. So instead of thinking what kind of team we wanted to build up, every person had to work without any breaks at all - 24 hours a day. So when you ask me what kind of team I want to make, the first thing was that all of us had to move in the same direction, and we had to try and make a good team, so that attitude alone kept us going. Now things have stabilised, and we've been through some tough times with a small number of people. So for me, everybody is like a family member. None of the members are looking in another direction; all of us are united in trying to improve the team as we compete.
Q: Takuma, the engine is Japanese, the tyres are Japanese, and the team owner is of course a Japanese person. You're working in a different environment than before. In this Japanese team what are you proud of, and what do you think you can accomplish?
Takuma Sato: Everybody is united in this team, and naturally the Bridgestone engineers speak with me in Japanese to gain subtle nuances, but like in other teams they speak in English with the other team members, and likewise for the engines. For me what made me most happy was that in 2003 I was a test driver [for BAR Honda] and I worked on various tyre tests for Bridgestone. I still even recall now that in 2003 in the Monza test they brought a unique tyre that I tried out. I remember the feel, and I was greatly impressed. The feel was completely different from before. Things started there. In 2004 we were not using those tyres, but in 2006 in this manner we were able to work together with Bridgestone. We were not able to test that greatly, but we have evolved tyres and I could see how the tyres evolved. I was very happy about that. We see the Japanese technology has once again reached the top pinnacle, and the fact that I was able to work together with Bridgestone, and the fact that our team was able to work with Bridgestone, was truly a fun thing and a challenging thing as well.
Q: Sakon, you started racing with the team from the German GP. Not much time has passed since you started, but what has left the greatest impression on you so far?
Sakon Yamamoto: Well, it's quite tough to come up with one single thing. However, the moment that left a great impression on me was when I went to the factory for the first time, and seat adjustments were made at that time. It was a typical British rainy day that was quite cold. I entered the factory and almost immediately the atmosphere changed. All the staff members had very high motivation, and even just for a seat adjustment they were able to listen to detailed requests from my part, and respond, they were a highly motivated team. I was impressed about that. And also in the Shanghai Grand Prix last week when I finally managed to get the chequered flag, along the pit wall all the mechanics greeted me. As Takuma has mentioned, the mechanics have worked all night long building up the car for us, and because of their efforts I was finally able to respond to what they've done. Always the Super Aguri team is working until late at night.
Q: Mr Suzuki, it was in 1990 that you stood on the podium at the Suzuka circuit. How does it feel to now take on the challenge of Suzuka as a team owner?
AS: There are 18 races in a season, and Suzuka for our team is something that we have been preparing for over the past 16 races. Over the past 20 years I have both participated in and observed races here. Now we're facing the 20th F1 Grand Prix which will be the last race for the time being at Suzuka. I'm very glad that I'm part of a team and actually back at Suzuka. We're still a small team, therefore I don't know how much performance we can get vis-à-vis the other teams, but with our two drivers and our staff members we want to do whatever we can, and show all of our capabilities at Suzuka.
Q: What are your goals for this weekend at Suzuka and your hopes for the next season? First of all Takuma
TS: Every year I get tremendous encouragement from the fans at Suzuka. This year all the team members are going to be able to get that same support. The Super Aguri team has been strongly united, as you are well aware, but I think we are going to be even more determined so we can get the best results of the season. Technically at the Chinese Grand Prix we were able to show our capabilities. We hope that we can beat our rival teams so that we can move forward as much as possible in the race.
Q: That's fighting talk. Which teams are you aiming to beat?
TS: The closest would be Spyker; I want to beat them and then try to compete directly with the even higher ranked teams.
SY: When I was in elementary school I went to Suzuka to see an F1 race, and since then I have always wanted to be an F1 driver. This weekend I'll be able to go back to Suzuka as an F1 driver. This is something that is a truly happy thing for me, and the fact that I can race at Suzuka is something I am really looking forward to, and I want to get the best result possible. I want to be able to show 100% of my capabilities, or perhaps 110%.
Q: Mr Suzuki?
AS: It's been a very confused year. We may have inconvenienced our drivers this season, but the two drivers have not complained. They've done whatever they can with those cars. The other teams have been able to run tens of thousands of kilometres before competing, whereas our team was not able to do that. So throughout the season it was like we had to do our winter testing during the races. However, next year we are going to prepare properly so that from the very first race we are going to be able to compete well. And I think I can convince myself that we will be competing from the beginning very strongly and when we come back next year to Japan I think we will build up a team that we will be even more proud of.
Q: Mr. Todt, there are more teams using Bridgestone tyres this year. What impact has this had on Ferrari?
Jean Todt: The major difference is that we have been able to share information with other teams, and to have some point of reference, because last year we were not competitive. This year we have a better understanding of the situation, we can focus better on other developments, and on different choices. Together with Bridgestone it has made us stronger and more competitive this year, and the results prove it.
Q: Felipe, has there been a major change as a result of your victory in Turkey?
Felipe Massa: Well, it was definitely a fantastic feeling for me to win the first Grand Prix of my career in F1. Definitely it gave me a lot more motivation. I was really improving a lot already at the beginning of the year, and especially from the middle of the championship to the end but I think it was great to achieve and experience that first victory. So I'm now really happy, and much more mature, and more experienced, and more motivated for the end of the season to fight for the championship. For sure also to fight for my position in the championship, which can be a top three position, and I'm really looking forward to achieving that.
Q: Michael, from last year to this year, in what way were you involved in Bridgestone's tyre development?
Michael Schumacher: Right from the beginning, which is important. The tyre development didn't only start this year. To start with, even when things weren't going so well for us last year we were able to understand some of the issues. And we did it all together, and that's the great bit of our working relationship, with Bridgestone we set down after we may have won together, and even more so maybe after we have lost together, what is necessary to make the next steps. And we understood during the winter time in particular what would make us go forward, and we obviously worked very closely together and developed it to the point where we now have a very competitive package: car and tyres together, and this year we're back on the road of winning races.
Q: Michael, what can you tell us about this season?
MS: We have points to recover from the beginning where things didn't work out for us very well, but if you look since Canada how many points we have taken in comparison to our opponents, we're very strong. Our aim now is to keep this strength, obviously at the same pace, and hopefully get enough points that we win both the championships. This is the last year where we're going to have tough competition in the tyre segment, and from our side we want Bridgestone to win, and naturally Bridgestone wants us to win, so that we can achieve this together.
Q: Mr. Todt, you have two more races. As a team principal and as a team as a whole, what are the main points that you have to be careful about?
JT: There are so many things, so many things that we have to be on top of including proper tyres, a good choice [of tyres], and that's combined work with Bridgestone, but also reliability, performance and strategy. The only thing we are sure about is that we have two great drivers. All the other factors we have to demonstrate at each race.
Q: What are your hopes and objectives for the Suzuka Grand Prix? First of all, Michael...
MS: Well, I think our hopes are pretty clear and straightforward. We'd like to win, with both cars being on the podium in the first two positions. That is our aim, it is the most certain way to secure the championships, and satisfy us in the best way we can. Particularly being here in Suzuka, at our home Grand Prix for Bridgestone, we would like to achieve this particular result.
FM: I think Michael said everything. A very red podium - that would be fantastic! If we could put both Ferrari cars in front at these two last races, that would be our target. And honestly, these are two very important races for me, firstly because Japan is Bridgestone's home Grand Prix, and secondly, the last race is Brazil, my home Grand Prix. So I'm looking forward to that weekend to achieve everything we want. And as Michael said, we are looking quite strong at the end of the championship, and hopefully we can make the right strategy to achieve what we want.
(At the end of the conference Michael Schumacher was presented with an engraved silver tray by Mr Shoshi Arakawa, the CEO, President and Chairman of the Board of the Bridgestone Corporation, to commemorate his contribution to the company's F1 success. The following was his response).
MS: This is the last time I'm going to race in Japan, and I really look forward to this particular Grand Prix for many reasons: for the championship and for Bridgestone, as it's their home Grand Prix. In particular for Bridgestone, because in all these years, when we have had such an amount of success, winning five titles in the drivers' and six constructors' titles, there has been a tremendous friendship that has built up over these years. This was proven even more so in the years that were difficult, like last year. But in these moments it's even more important to stick together, work together, and to find a way out to come back in a fighting position. We have achieved this through a lot of support from Bridgestone in particular, and naturally our other partners, and from Ferrari. I am proud to be back in this position of being able to contest my last year and my last round of races in a position where I am fighting for the championship. So I wish to give a thank you to everybody and in particular to Bridgestone.