FIA Friday press conference - Turkey 24 Aug 2007
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Team principals: John Howett (Toyota), Frank Williams (Williams).
Drivers: Ralf Schumacher (Toyota), Alexander Wurz (Williams).
Q: Question for all four of you - we saw a lot of drivers going off the circuit today with minimal penalty; is that something were going to see in the race, is it something that you approve of? Its interesting to see mistakes relatively unpenalised?
Ralf Schumacher: What do you mean by penalised? Its happening more and more in Formula One because of safety. You have a tarmac run-off and thats why you come back onto the track, which I think makes sense anyway, doesnt it? It has happened here in previous races, yes, so I guess it will happen again. Turkey is a very slippery circuit and especially off-line its very difficult and thats why a lot of drivers - we obviously try to push - we try to be as fast as we can do that. You cant always be one hundred percent within the line and thats when it happens.
Alex Wurz: Ralf is right. We discussed this at length in the GPDA with Charlie (Whiting) and its the compromise you have to make, but we all want safer race tracks and high safety standards. Thats why we have the asphalt run-off areas and thats the simple reason why we are not penalised coming back on it and you dont lose too much time. And Im sure you would agree with me that you prefer safer race tracks and us being around a bit longer than in some early days.
Frank Williams: Well, the first thing I want to say is that you are clearly an FIA man because you hadnt started before you mentioned the word penalty! I think my view is a bit different. I think Formula One needs to make race tracks more like this for one reason: they actually promote - unlike other tracks - overtaking. The other side of that is that if a driver does make a mistake, it costs them five seconds and a bit of dignity but hes back in the race. The antithesis of what Im saying is the corner at the end of that fabulous straight at Barcelona, which, in my opinion, is screwed up by a very fast - too fast - chicane, and gravel and sand traps everywhere. If you get in there youre finished. Every year someones off there and the race is over for him. I cant speak for a driver, but I get the impression the track is very safe. They take risks but thats fun, it jumbles up the order. Its what Bernie wants, isnt it? Were all here for TV. Its a show, Flavio says and I think in the main hes right.
John Howett: I dont think I have anything more to add. If you lose five seconds, youve probably lost a couple of places, thats a big enough penalty.
Q: A question for drivers and perhaps team owners as well: have you run both specification of tyres here, are you quite happy, are they going to last the race, especially with excessive heat here?
RS: This years situation, as we are all in the same situation for the first time we are here, both tyres seem to be in a workable window, although the track temperatures are very extreme, so that shouldnt be an issue at all.
AW: Youre never happy but Im sure the tyres will last, both sets of tyres. The soft one - there are not any problems like we had in Canada where we had super high graining on the soft tyre. Thats definitely ok here but there are still differences in the tyres, so it still gives you a little bit of a challenge for the race: which tyre to use at the start and the other stints youre doing.
Q: John, can you just clarify the situation with the contracts with your drivers?
JH: I guess its no secret, really. Jarno has a contract and were in discussion with Ralf and were studying the driver market and Ralf is still definitely on our list. Hes doing a very good job at the moment, as weve seen in the last two or three races and were just not prepared at this moment to make a decision which is very tough and I have a great deal of personal sympathy with Ralf but thats the position. Were waiting to see what moves and I can assure you that Ralf is on our list. We feel that we can wait longer.
Q: This Grand Prix is the 100th for Toyota
JH: Its the 100th Grand Prix, I believe, yes. The reason were not really pushing it (is because) the fiftieth year of Toyota in motor sport I think was last week and therefore thats the predominant issue and I would say that within that total chapter Formula One is one small part, but yes, were happy its our hundredth Grand Prix and were still pushing for the elusive win in the future.
Q: Ralf, obviously a good result in Hungary, and here you started fifteenth last year and raced to seventh. A good time today; how are you feeling about this race?
RS: Well, last year, I qualified fifth but I had an engine change, thats why I started fifteenth. The track, for both last years and this years cars seems to be alright. Its only Friday, you dont know how its going to look tomorrow but our aim is to have both cars in the top ten and from there to score some points which we desperately need if you look at our championship points' situation at the moment, and thats what were fighting for. I think in the last few races we have really picked up pace. If anything, I was a bit unlucky in Hungary not to score a few more points and thats why I hope we can achieve it here.
Q: So you really feel that you are top six regularly?
RS: At the moment for the last few races, yes, we have momentum. There was a clear trend after America. We have had a few issues, my mistake in America and other technical reasons why we did not finish but the team is working really hard and the car is improving and we are finding our way with the tyres and things are looking good.
Q: Alex, Friday driver here last year, you must be looking forward to racing, what are your feelings after the first day?
AW: It is a very difficult track. You already mentioned that we are driving off without being penalised, but it is a very tough track to get right. There are two or three corners that are really slippery and then there is the super quick Turn Eight, and medium speed corners in the third sector. All the corners dont require one set-up and so its a compromise of driving style and set-up from start to finish. On top of that it is very hard physically. Turn Eight has seven seconds at 4.5g, which is pretty tough for our little necks!
Q: One of my colleagues pointed out that you have scored points in crazy races so far this season. Are you happy with your performances?
AW: Well, better to score points in crazy races than not to score points! They are races where you can make a bit of a difference if you think about what is going on and drive in a controlled way as well as having a very strong team behind you, which pits you at the right time and makes the correct decisions on tyres, like at Nurburgring. And I was very happy not only with this race but other race craft as well. Like straight into my head comes Malaysia where I started 18th on the grid after some technical issues. But forget about this, the race was great and in the first 10 laps I overtook eight guys and they were not out there for a Sunday afternoon drive. I had great races together with Nico (Rosberg) in Bahrain, you know, we were overtaking each other at least six or seven times. Monaco was a super strong race with no mistake from the first to the last lap, I only slid wide once which cost me two tenths and that was it, every other corner was on the limit. Of course I am not satisfied with some of my qualifying, that is clear. I seem to make it up in the race but I could have a much easier time and could bring even more benefit to the team if I could just put the corners together. It is not that I am missing the speed, it is just getting it together for that one qualifying lap.
Q: Frank, could we just tell us what the contractual situation is with engines and drivers for the future?
FW: I cant tell you because I dont want to! John has said it all really. Alex is very highly regarded in our team, as Ralf is in the other Toyota team and our short list is very short.
Q: But both drivers are out of contract at the end of the year?
FW: It depends how you want to read or describe the contract. I am not going to talk about it anymore, so best move onto something else.
Q: What about the situation with engines? Have you got Toyota engines for another year?
FW: I would rather John answered that, I think he knows the contract better than me.
FW: There are two parties to this contract, it is better that one of them says, rather than me blurt out what the truth is.
Q: Frank, you are perhaps the only independent only involved in racing. Other teams have other business interests. How difficult is it in that climate to keep the team going?
FW: It is meant to be difficult in F1. I am sure Honda and Toyota and even McLaren, who have their own difficulties of one sort or another, so its nothing different for our team. Everyone enjoys very much what they do and it is worth making the effort to carry on. There is no regret whatsoever as you can imagine. As you can well imagine being here and being asked difficult questions in press conferences is not my favourite time but being in F1 is very enjoyable for most people in the paddock, I think. Running any business is difficult and if you say it is easy you are heading for a big fall.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Richard Williams - The Guardian) Frank, you are one of the few people in the history of the sport who know what its like to have two drivers in your team fighting for the world championship at the same time. When push comes to shove is there anything that a team principal can, or should, tell his drivers in order to regulate that state of affairs and keep the team's competitive healthy?
FW: Our view, for which we have sometimes been criticised, has always been to get on with it but dont knock each other off the road stupidly.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Frank, you mentioned that your driver short list is short, but are you confident that Nico Rosberg will be staying with Williams next year?
FW: Well, I think he knows the value of a fixed contract, most racing drivers do. We have a fixed contract with Nico, that is beyond question.