Thursday Press Conference

THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 20/04/2000

Thursday Press Conference

DRIVERS: Mika HAKKINEN (McLAREN), Eddie IRVINE (JAGUAR) and Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI); TEAM OWNERS: Sir Frank WILLIAMS (WILLIAMS) and Eddie JORDAN (JORDAN)
Q. Frank, is it fun for you to be coming to your home Grand Prix?

Sir Frank Williams: The British Grand Prix is no more enjoyable for the teams than any other race, although it is a special race for those of us who have personnel who get an opportunity to attend the race. As far as the change of date from July to April is concerned, I am confident that it won't happen again. But it all depends on which way the politics are swinging.

Q. Eddie, by Monday, when you return to your office on the other side of the road, the fields around will have been churned into liquid mud. How do you feel about the date change?

Eddie Jordan: Let's be clear about this. No racing team wants to bring guests and sponsors to any venue if the weather is not conducive to what our business is about. The reason we go to Australia and Brazil in March is to chase the [most suitable] weather, so it is hazardous to be coming to Silverstone in late April. But those of us whose racing careers developed in this part of the world know that the weather can be precarious even in July and August, so to hope for fine weather here in April is asking for a miracle. Of course we may benefit from having our fields churned up. Irvine here suggests we might [start a farm], to be able to supply cheap potatoes to the other teams.

Q. Eddie, is it true that you have been in London working as a deejay?

Eddie Irvine: I was quite busy yesterday. It started at Harrods, where I was quite successful in selling off a few Eddie Irvine tee shirts. Then we went to Capitol Radio, where we played a few records by Van Morrison and Stiff Little Fingers. Then we went to Manchester to see United playing Bayern Munich. [After their performance] I don't expect to be invited back. I don't really regard this as my home race, in fact there won't be a home race for me until they decide to have a Grand Prix in Conlig, back in Northern Ireland.

Q. Mika, after so many years of racing in England, does Silverstone feel like a home race to you?

Mika Hakkinen: As far as weather is concerned, yes. Having a lot of friends in England, and because I have always raced for English teams, it obviously feels a little bit like a home race to me. I won't be looking forward to wet weather, but if it is wet on Sunday then we shall have to get the best that we can out of the situation. At least it's windy here, so spray will be less of a problem than on other circuits because it will get blown away.

Q. Michael, how do you feel about having to race here in April?

Michael Schumacher: It's not the right time to be here, honestly. I had a couple of runs here in the wet last week, but it really is too cold [to be racing]. It feels like winter testing in Italy, when we're doing out preparation in January and February. We will be well prepared, technically, but there must always be a question mark over your preparation when the weather turns bad.

Q. After the Zonta accident here last week we heard that you were on the phone to [FIA Safety Officer] Charlie Whiting to discuss some changes at Stowe corner. What was decided?

MS. We have made detail changes, not only at Stowe corner but also at other points on the circuit, after last week's inspection. You always have to face the fact that you will never achieve 100 per cent security, but we saw a new kind of accident [with Zonta's BAR] last week and there are a couple of ideas we have in mind [to improve things].

Q. Frank, we understand that you may soon have to make a decision about whether to retain Jenson Button next year. What are your feelings about his performances so far and do you intend to renew his option?

FW: What you say isn't strictly true, and we don't have to reach any decision today, or prematurely. He has exceeded our expectations, and he is available to us if we should so choose. There are certain other factors involved in the decision anyway, and clearly we need more evidence before we can make an advised choice. I hesitate to elaborate on everything that has already been so extensively written about Jenson, but he is very mature for a 20 year old. And from what we have seen of him in the cockpit, he is exceptionally calm.

Q. How is he matching up to Ralf?

FW: He has about four years' less experience, which is a vital component of any driver's need to succeed. He was struggling to learn Brazil and Imola: even one year's experience would have been valuable [in that regard].

Q. Mika, does it weigh heavily on your mind to be 24 points behind Michael in the world championship?

MH: No, not at all. If I look serious, it is only to give you an honest answer.

Q. Frank, now that you have had time to reflect on Alessandro Zanardi's performances in your cars last year, what went wrong?

FW: I don't want to answer in any detail. Maybe I have forgotten everything. But we never got the best out of him, and consequently he couldn't get the best out of himself. He wasn't in the world's best Grand Prix car last year, either ...

Q. Mika, what is your opinion about the restrictions in technology that have been introduced by the FIA since Imola?

MH: Last week we were able to experience [the effect of] these changes, in our test, and it wasn't as big a shock as everybody thought it would be. The way I see it, it didn't do too much harm to us.
MS: The pit lane speed limiter - which was the biggest worry for us - is now back. It means that [instead of staring into the cockpit] our eyes will be back where they should be looking, which is at the circuit. Other than that, I can't see any effect.
EI: The big worry [in getting rid of the speed limiter] was that we would not be able to see things in the pit lane. No it's pretty much back to what it was before, with just a small modification.

Q. Mika, what did you think about Zonta's accident last week?

MH: What else can I say except that it was shocking? As I understand it, a wheel came off his car, and obviously you lose control when that happens. I haven't seen the video, but from the comments of the people who did see it, I understand that he went over the tyre wall and landed upside down. Shocking.

Q. Can you tell us more about the detail changes to safety at Stowe corner that you mentioned earlier?

MS: One point that was not good was that the surface of the gravel there was not even, so Zonta's car dug in and rolled over. We go to [inspect] every circuit before the Grand Prix [takes place] there, and we mention it to Charlie if there is anything that concerns us. Every circuit tries to make things as smooth as possible for us, but inevitably there are little bumps that the people there don't see in the same way that we do. We found a couple of other areas here where we had to do the same job. I believe the tyre barrier here has been raised to the same height as the wall, which meant increasing it by maybe 50 cms. We made a couple of other changes at Bridge and Becketts.

Q. Frank, your man Button was quoted last week as saying that the car felt more difficult to drive following the changes to the electronic rules. One is tempted to ask what was taken off, and my question is whether there was any reason why it should have been more difficult.

FW: The easy answer is that I didn't see the quote and I haven't asked him what he meant. But I do know that the test after the changes were made was held in very slippery and windy conditions, and all the times recorded were slower than in previous tests. I haven't spoken to him since then.

Q. As a team owner, are you satisfied that the FIA's changes will discourage the cheating which, as the President told us in Imola, had been detected last year in one unnamed competitor?

FW: That is a very broad question, but the changes that have been introduced by Max were necessary. I suggest that they were made too speedily, but then controlling electronics is rather like having to squeeze the genie back into Aladdin's lamp. Such action cannot necessarily shut all doors, should there be evil intention - and I don't believe there is any - on the part of one or more teams competing in the world championship. But when it comes to electronics I am told that it is possible to do things today that could not even have been dreamed about only six months ago.


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