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FIA Thursday press conference - Britain 08 Jun 2006

(L to R): Mark Webber (AUS) Williams; Jenson Button (GBR) Honda Racing F1 Team and David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, British Grand Prix, Preparations, Silverstone, England, 8 June 2006

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: Jenson Button (Honda)), David Coulthard (Red Bull) and Mark Webber (Williams).

Q: David, you suggested that Monaco was a one-off in terms of result. Is that the way you judged it?
David Coulthard:
It’s a bit premature to say. There’s still a lot of races to go, but clearly, there were a number of things that played in our favour during the race. People dropped out, people got penalties, that can happen at other circuits as well but I think that all weekend, in all the sessions, we were always in the top six throughout most of the sessions, so that’s why I was disappointed with the eventual qualifying position, because I didn’t actually get a run at it - we chose to do one lap which in hindsight was a mistake, and we got traffic. At that type of track, mechanically the car obviously worked well. The engine, we know, has won Grands Prix already with Ferrari. It’s on the more open circuits that we don’t have quite as an efficient package so in contrast, this track will probably be a lot more difficult for us. That’s the challenge. You’ve got to react to it.

Q: Some of the English press coverage suggested that that was going to help you keep your seat for next year. Do you feel you’re fighting for your seat for next year?
DC:
I think it’s a bit silly to suggest that one result is what people decide on why they are going to put someone in a car. I’ve got a history of consistency, scoring points, obviously won a few Grands Prix and the team know very well what I do on track, with engineers and back at the factory, so I don’t believe there’s any fight or struggle. It’s quite clear that I want to drive the car next year with all of the people that have been brought together. This is the year that hopefully they gel and I see no reason why that car, next season, can’t be competing for serious points, podiums and victories and I know that I can deliver those.

Q: An interesting story today in Autosport suggesting that you’re in contact, in discussion with Ferrari. What have you got to say about that?
DC:
Well, it’s inevitable that everyone has to know what the market-place offers. If you look at Ferrari from the outside, they’ve got one driver scoring serious points and the other one not. Any team needs to have two drivers in a position to capitalise and as I say, I didn’t score over 500 points by accident.

Q: So you have been in contact with them.
DC:
That’s none of your business. As I said, everyone talks to everyone at this stage of the season so I’m sure that even Jenson, although we believe he’s contracted to Honda, I’m sure he’s probably talking to someone as well.

Q: Jenson, you seem to be very much aiming for third or fourth team here. Is that the position of the team at the moment?
Jenson Button:
We’re not going to suddenly jump forward compared to Monaco and the previous few races. Renault and Ferrari are very strong at the moment and I think McLaren are also, so it’s very difficult. It’s so competitive out there at the moment. But for us to say where we are going to finish is a silly thing to do. I think we need to just try to get the best out of the package we have and that is our aim at the moment, and then we will see where we end up. We don’t know where we will be.

Q: Can you envisage fighting with Renault and Ferrari?
JB:
No, not this weekend.

Q: But in the future?
JB:
Yeah, definitely. I think every team would hope that they can challenge Renault and Ferrari in the future, and that’s the reason why we are here, to hopefully be the best, but it’s not going to happen overnight. We are improving things, the new full-size wind tunnel coming on line, it’s going to make a big difference to us, so for the future, I’m very positive that we will be challenging at the front. But this weekend is really a weekend that we are all looking forward to, it’s a very special weekend, especially for us two (indicates Coulthard), it’s our home Grand Prix and we’re hoping for a good result and that good result is us getting the best out of the package we have at the moment and then, on Monday, we talk about where we go from there.

Q: Just tell us about racing here at Silverstone, for you, your home Grand Prix?
JB:
It is a great feeling, especially when the weather’s like this. The Australian weather was pretty poor when we were there… But this is great to see: the sun’s out and it’s going to stay out for the whole weekend which is great and it’s going to be pretty special for the fans, I think, especially the English fans, having the footy on Saturday and being able to watch it on the big screens.

Q: Mark, Bridgestone seem to have had a good test at Barcelona but you were actually playing it down a bit, that it wasn’t so good for Williams.
Mark Webber:
Well, I wasn’t at Barcelona, I did all the work before Monaco, and I was at the Silverstone test, so it was my test off. But in the Barcelona race, Michael was fighting with Fernando but not that hard, obviously, so that’s really the last test we’ve had on a high speed circuit like Barcelona and Silverstone. The tyre testing obviously allowed Michelin… they do their work for those sort of venues to test the tyres for this race. I think that it will all come into play actually, in terms of the track temperatures which will be pretty similar which is good, but it’s the same for both companies. But I wouldn’t say the Bridgestones can’t do the job. I think that at Williams, we need to probably get a little bit more complete on the higher speed sort of circuits. We are looking to do a really really good job here of course, in terms of pace, but so are the other guys. There’s a big group after the gap to Renault and McLaren.

Q: Where do you feel you’re really lacking, in terms of pace, is there one particular area?
MW:
Normally, in Formula One, aerodynamics play a huge role and I think it’s less of a role in Monte Carlo and more down to mechanical grip, and the tyres need to work well as well. Barcelona and Silverstone - there’s nowhere to hide. We need to work on the efficiency and work on having the car behave itself through all types of high speed corners and finishing the lap in the Complex, so that’s probably the main area we are focusing on as heavily as we can like most of the other teams, to close the gap to Renault because they are probably the best team aerodynamically at the moment.

Q: It’s said that the deal is done between Toyota and Williams. What are your feelings about a possible change of power for next year?
MW:
Well, there’s loads of speculation but as usual, until it’s all done, you never know. But first of all Cosworth have not let us down anywhere this season in terms of… we had the one rear of the field at the start of the race in Nurburgring, but the pace of the engine has been absolutely phenomenal for us all year. It’s one of the best V8s if not the best V8 ever. It’s an incredible engine and there are some very good guys there. So if we do change, there’s a big set of shoes to fill, to fill Cosworth’s role that they’ve done for us this year.

Q: So a question for all three of you: your feelings about the World Cup, who’s going to win, who will you be supporting?
MW:
I’ve lived in England for ten years and I’ve loved the English people and the comedy and all that sort of stuff. But when it comes to sport, I hope they get absolutely battered in the World Cup, so I’m going for Australia.

Q: Do you know where you’re going to watch Australia’s opening match?
MW:
Australia? I don’t even know when they are playing first.

Q: That’s how much you follow them!
MW:
Err. Well I’ll take some interest when… like all the other Aussies, only when they’re doing well.

Q: Jenson?
JB:
It’s quite an obvious one: England, I think, have got a fantastic team. Hopefully they can work well together and yeah, I think this could be a very good year for English football.

Q: Do you know where you are going to watch the opening match?
JB:
My debrief room, after qualifying, I think.

Q: David, you’ll be supporting England of course…
DC:
Yeah. Honestly, I haven’t really got a big interest in football but as the British flag, British passport holder… the St George’s cross lies below the St Andrews flag, I guess England.

Q: But you won’t necessarily be watching the match…
DC:
It’s not my passion. I can understand the excitement of everyone here wanting to know what’s going on, but I take it as it comes. I guess everyone else is going to be watching it, so it’s going to be difficult to escape it.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) Question for DC and Jenson; I have a newspaper article here in which David is quoted as saying that basically Jenson should be ruthless. If he believes Honda can win he should stay, if not, he should get out of there now. Could I ask both of you for your comments on that?
DC:
I think it’s quite a good quote isn’t it?
JB: Yeah. That’s always going to be the way. If things are going good, you want to be there. If not, you don’t. It’s a difficult one. I think it’s a good quote as well. But it’s not all down to just the one race, and maybe not even one season. Looking back from experience, you cannot keep just chopping and changing teams season to season because things do change and I think you need to understand where the team is and where they are weak and where they are moving forward and at what stage they are. For me, where I am at the moment is the best thing for me for the future. The way things are happening with the wind tunnel, and many other things within the team, I’m very positive that this is the correct place for me.

Q: (Adam Hay-Nicholls - Two Paws Agency) Mark, after the frustrations of Monaco, where you were clearly very upset, you probably had another podium robbed from you due to mechanical failure. Are you considering moving to another team for next year?
MW:
Well, I would pretty much echo what Jenson said: you always think it’s greener somewhere else. Williams have so far been so close and yet so far. We’ve probably thrown away a good part of 20 points in terms of mechanical failures but there could be a mistake around the corner which could cost us some points, but we are all suffering together with those failures and next year, it could look very very different. We’ve got a year’s knowledge with the Bridgestone tyres, including myself as a driver but also as a team, and they are not as simple as just bolting them on the car, so that is a huge positive for Williams next year, so of course, I have to weigh things up but there’s a lot of potential for Williams to come out of this rough storm that we’re in at the moment which is not where we want to be. I think we’ve got ten points in the Constructors’ which after seven races is clearly not where we want to be. We’ve got to get our socks lifted and get on with the job.

Q: (Heinz Pruller - ORF) To follow this up, Mark, we had Jack Brabham in Vienna for three days recently and he told me that you are the most unlucky driver of the year. Would you agree, and what exactly happened in Monaco?
MW:
Well, I think I’m probably up there with Kimi. I think Kimi’s had a bit of bad luck but a couple of pretty straightward podiums, I would say, a fourth place not really a threat in a few races. It’s never nice to lose points like that. Monaco? Exhaust, exhaust exploded basically. It’s all pretty tight there in terms of installation so burnt it instantaneously.

Q: (James Allen - ITV) Mark, you’ve just said that you reckon you’ve thrown away 20 points this season. How many of those were Monaco, then? Was that ten or eight or six?
MW:
Aaah. Well, Kimi was the quickest guy for sure. Fernando was controlling us. I don’t think we could have won the race. I think that Kimi’s retirement probably came because of my safety car anyway, so I think there was a minimum six, of course, but I think there was obviously another six in Melbourne, but then Kimi had a nose… you can ifs and buts, but no one’s interested in those. The results have gone, mate. No one’s interested in a shopping list of excuses why it didn’t happen. We’ve missed some solid points. But Monaco, to the second stops, Fernando wasn’t that strong before his stop. He was controlling the middle part of the stints, and I had a bit of graining and stuff but Kimi was the strongest out of the three, I think. He was the fastest car and driver to get to the flag.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport): Jenson, how frustrating is it for you to start every season as a professional driver who has not yet been able to win a race. Is that something you keep in your mind?
JB:
Yes, of course its frustrating because as racing drivers we’re all here to do one job and that’s to win and it is frustrating, especially this year, because this was the year when we came into the season with everything very good. The winter testing was very positive, the car was very reliable and we were setting some very good lap times – not just over one lap but over long runs as well – we showed a lot of consistency throughout the run. The first couple of races were pretty much where we thought we were – things were going pretty well and in Bahrain we were very fast but we made a mistake, sorry, we had a problem with the clutch and the second race we finished on the podium. We weren’t quite on the pace of the Renaults but it was pretty good – we were quite a long way ahead of the rest of the field, so it was, those two races were very good and then it started to go downhill after Australia, or during it and I think the reason is Renault and Ferrari especially have made really big improvements in every race – they just seem to have had new bits on the car and they’ve really stepped up their game. With us, we have made improvements but nowhere near as much and that’s an area we really do need to work on as a team, because we can produce very good cars at the start of the year; it’s staying competitive for the whole season that’s where were losing out a little bit.

Q: (Juha Paatalo – Financial Times Deutschland): Jenson, continuing that, you’ve had 108 Grands Prix. How big is the pressure? I know you’re waiting desperately for your first win out there. How do you cope with that and what keeps you thinking you can be a candidate for world titles?
JB:
Numbers mean nothing if you haven’t got a car that can win races. What does a number mean? Nothing at all. It might happen this race – it’s very unlikely given the speed of the Renaults, it might happen in four races time, it might not happen until next year or even the year after. Nothing changes, you still give 100 per cent and you give everything you can to achieve your goal, but like I said, it is a team effort and it’s not just down to one individual.

Q: (Ian Parkes – Press Association): Jenson, the weight of expectation’s probably far greater when you drive here, but given that the nation’s eyes are on the World Cup, is that less pressure this weekend?
JB:
It’s great to be here - it’s gonna be a fantastic atmosphere this weekend for a British driver, but for any driver on the grid. It doesn’t make me feel like I’m under more pressure at all because I know exactly how quick the car can go and I will do everything I can to get the best performance out of it, and I can’t do any more than that so there is no outside pressure because that’s it and I can achieve that.

Q: David, are you pleased with the progress of the RB2 this season and what are your objectives for the remainder of the season?
DC:
Well, it’s only in the last few tests we’ve done where we’ve been able to rack up some serious mileage. In all of the previous testing we’ve done this season it’s been troubled. If you look at the amount of races we’ve actually finished, it’s not been much because obviously our goal is to finish them all, so only time will tell when we look back on the season to see whether we improved progress throughout the season. It’s a little bit early to say, but I’ll echo what Jenson just said in that the goal is to keep on improving as a team and we’ll look back at the end of the season and see how much we got out of it.

Q: (Serhan Acar – CNN TV Turkey): Question for Jenson, the World Cup is starting tomorrow so do you think it will affect the interest of British spectators on Sunday? Will the Grandstands be full of people to support you and DC?
JB:
It depends how well we do on Saturday in the World Cup I suppose, we’ll see if they’re still capable of coming along tomorrow, sorry, on Sunday. For me, we should have a full house because apart from being in Germany and watching it there, here is the absolute best place to be watching it, definitely. We’ll have a massive crowd with the big screens and we should have a great atmosphere. Sunday, we’re not playing in the World Cup so it should be busy, especially if the weather’s like this.

Q: Question for all three of you. Tomorrow there is a meeting of the GPDA. Are you going to talk about Monaco and what happened with Michael, and are there going to be any consequences?
DC:
Yeah, I believe it will be on the agenda. But, it’s an issue between drivers that’s how I feel it should be handled. Inevitably there’ll be someone who has to say their two pence worth, but they probably won’t say it in front of each other in the meeting. What I hope we can achieve is that all those who were quick to give their opinions to the masses, but won’t look Michael in the eye, I think that’s a lack of a man, and I think we’ll find out tomorrow just who’s prepared to say what around the table.

Q: (Kevin Garside – Daily Telegraph) David, some of your colleagues say Michael Schumacher’s position as president of the GPDA may be under consideration after Monaco. Is that something you think is appropriate?
DC:
Personally speaking, I don’t, but as a group of drivers though, we have an opportunity to take a vote. Personally were are stronger in our opinions and can influence more the sport today and the future if we are united. Drivers don’t always see eye to eye of course, but the Monaco events should just be taken as they were. Michael got his punishment, and anyone who wants to discuss it can, and then we should get on with the business of driver and track safety.

Q: (Kevin Garside – Daily Telegraph): Same question to Jenson and Mark.
MW:
I’m totally in agreement with David and Jenson on this one. We, the drivers, can sit down with him face to face and all of our opinions can come out. He was punished for what he did and it was correct and, onwards and upwards really. I don’t think the GPDA will be affected too heavily.

Q: (Ian Parkes – Press Association): David, again, just to clarify, if there is a vote taken do you need a majority, or for it to be unanimous? How does it work?
DC:
Yes, we need a majority, but I don’t believe that will be the case. I understand the question, but the outcome I don’t believe will be anything different to what we have today, so there’s no point running with it.

Q: Jenson, are Honda capable of winning before the end of the year and do you think you have a chance of podiums?
JB:
That’s a difficult one – we don’t know that yet. We don’t know when we’re getting a new aerodynamic package, whether it’s gonna be exactly what we need and whether it’s gonna be good enough to challenge the top teams or not. All I know is that we’re working very hard on improving the car in many areas and we’ll see. I hope we have a chance of getting more podiums this season and obviously I hope we can win a race, but that doesn’t make the car go quicker.

Q: (James Allen – ITV): Can you take us through the first series of corners based on the tests you’ve done. Am I right in thinking you don’t really use the brakes until the other side of Stowe?
DC:
I think in my case, I use the brakes for the last part of Becketts, but I believe some people were flat in the test here, but that depends on what fuel level you’re running. I think if the conditions are right, in qualifying through turn one, you can go flat through Becketts, maybe lifting for the middle part then down a gear for the last part. It’s fairly impressive now because this V8 formula arrived at a slightly lower top speed along with the development in tyres has seen much less difference between straights and corner speed. It’s quite impressive even somewhere like the swimming pool in Monaco. I was over 20 kph quicker over the chicane than the previous year because you don’t have to take so much speed off and the balance of the car is therefore less effected because of the pitch, so it’s definitely an impressive place to go and watch cars go quickly.
JB: We were dabbing brakes off the maggots chicane - the left-hander there we were tapping the brakes, but even Stowe you’re not tapping the brakes so hard because you’d scrub off too much speed. The first place you really hit the brakes is into Club.
MW: I think they’re all pretty similar really. It’s always been quick at Silverstone, but now it’s really fast, and as DC said, you have to be pretty accurate as well. It’s a good challenge.

Q: (Ukkola Sanna – Ilta-Sanomat) Mark, how has it been driving with Nico Rosberg and does he have a big future as a driver?
MW:
I’ve enjoyed driving with Nico actually - he’s been a very good team-mate. I’ve had some team-mates in the past who’ve not backed up their testing pace in races, but Nico’s shown he can do the business on race weekends which is important to the team. He deserves his chance in Formula One having come from GP2 and showing he can perform well there. He tested a lot with us last year. I think it was a nice time for him to slot in to Formula One with the V8s and the new tyre rules – that was good for him, and I think he’d have done a great job with V10s anyway. Clearly he’s a talented guy and he does have a very big future in Formula One, so he’s done a good job, yeah.