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Archive for January 30th, 2008

 Jenson Button

 Q: What is the new car like to drive? 

The 30 laps that I drove at Valencia was all system checks and reliability checks. The basic car itself to me feels a lot more predictable which is the important thing. But it is still the basic car. The car in front of me here is actually more advanced than the car that I drove at the test by quite a bit. There are quite a lot of differences already for the Barcelona test so I think we will get a better read at Barcelona, but the good thing is that there is nothing that is wrong. It is not as quick as the Ferraris and McLarens or whoever but there is nothing wrong with the car. It’s predictable, you know what it is doing, we just need to improve it a lot. And that is exactly what we are doing.  

Q: How excited are you to work with Ross Brawn? 

It is great working with Ross, but it is not just Ross you know – we’ve always had a lot of good people here and they are still here because they are good. We’ve employed a lot of people, not just Ross, but aerodynamically we’ve got a lot of new people heading up that department. Also in engineering there is a lot of new people so there is a lot that has changed around here for the better. It’s a very positive place at the moment, as it should be.I’m really looking forward to working with Ross at the circuits; he has had a lot of good input.He can’t really have a lot of input on the way the car is at the moment – because the initial, basic car has already been designed – but for the future, for sure, he knows what to do to build on it along with the aerodynamics team that we have. And not just aerodynamics, but engineering, mechanical grip and so on. So I am happy with the way things are going, it’s the strongest this team has ever been and for me it’s the strongest team for the future.I think we have everything in place to be challenging for the world championship in the future and there is not one other team I would rather be in for the next few years. This year we are not going to challenge for the world championship – that will be McLaren and Ferrari I feel – but you have got to be looking for 2009. There is a lot changing in 2009, we have everything in place to be challenging then, but for now we need to work very hard on improving this car race-by-race to achieve our goals in the future. It’s not going to be easy; it’s actually getting more and more competitive and there are so many good teams out there now. But I think we can do it, we really can.My aim is to be stronger in the last race than any other race. The aim is to improve with the car every race, and I don’t just mean feeling the car improve; I mean compared to our competitors and moving up the grid in every race. 

Q: Ross says he needs to give you a better car; are you still motivated after a year like last year?

I don’t think any driver in Formula 1 would not be motivated with the team that we have. With the people that we have employed, the people that were here before and the way this team is going. I don’t think anybody wouldn’t be motivated. Personally I am very motivated. I wouldn’t have spent my whole winter training my arse off in Lanzerote where it wasn’t necessary, maybe. I feel I am the fittest driver on the grid and I am as focused as any other out there.I have been giving as much input over the winter, listening to what they have to say and also seeing how the car is growing. I am definitely hungry and I definitely want a competitive car. We have to work it though, it’s not going to happen on its own. 

Q: Do you think there is anything Ross can teach you from the way that Michael Schumacher operated?

There is always speculation as to what Michael did within the team. I think he worked very hard and he was very strong in every area.But I think I have had as much information as I need from Rubens. He was his team-mate for so many years and you can really see that because Rubens also works very hard, and that’s clear to see.It’s good to have a team-mate that works hard, gives a lot of good feedback and that actually cares where this team is going. I don’t think I have really felt that before with my team-mates. So I know hard Michael has worked and I am working as hard as I possibly can to take this team forward. Ross can’t do it on his own, I can’t do it on my own. It needs a team of people to be pulling their weight and I think that is exactly what they are doing.  

Q: So you think what you can learn from Ross is probably more technical stuff and what to do with the car?

It’s not what I learn from Ross but what he can put into to practice with this car and the ideas he can give the team and also working with the different areas of the team and strengthening them. The guy has so much experience in Formula 1 and has also been challenging and winning world championships. He brings a lot to this team and it’s not just about making the car quicker; it’s a about building the team and making sure there is nothing missing. 

Q: Last year it was control tyres, this year it is lack of driver aids – what is the bigger process of adaptation?

For us it is a difficult one because we had such an unpredictable car with the Bridgestones last year, but for me getting used to the tyres was pretty tough. I found it quite difficult but I think that was because the car was so hard to drive. I have found it pretty easy to get used to driving without TC. I haven’t driven in the wet without it, but in the dry it’s easy to get used to. But what you have to realise is these engines have been built to use TC, so taking that away we really do have to work on the driveability of the engine, the torque curve, etc. There is more effort from the drivers going into the driveability of the engine than there has been before because it has become so, so important.And we are improving all the time, we are still not 100% yet, but we have made some good improvements since last November. 

Q: Can you give an insight into how the lack of TC will manifest itself in the races?

I think it is going to be mainly on low fuel when the tyres are getting a bit older. Because when the fuel comes off the car is easier to drive. It’s lighter, more predictable, the change of direction is better so you are going to see the drivers pushing very hard and getting a bit out of shape. Personally I think it is going to add a bit more excitement and you are going to see us more out of shape than we were last year. And when it comes to overtaking, the same thing. You want to get out of the corner, you want to get on the power so the guy doesn’t get you in the next corner, and you going to have big broad sideways moments which I think adds to the spectacle. 

Q: What do you expect Alex Wurz to bring to the team?

Alex brings a lot of experience from working with McLaren and Williams and the great thing about him is that he has been around for a very long time now. He has a real understanding of a Formula 1 car aerodynamically, mechanically… so it’s nice that we can have a driver that is not looking to further his career as a racer, he can knuckle down and be consistent in testing and give very good feedback. I have always heard very good things about Alex, and it’s nice to have that, to have someone that we can really trust in. He is not out there to set the world alight in one lap, like a lot of young drivers would be. For me it’s a no-brainer. You need a guy that’s good at testing, that can be consistent and not just think about himself but the whole package, think about moving the team forward.That’s what Alex loves doing, he loves playing his part in the team and moving it forward and when we start winning on the circuit some of it will be down to him. I think that is what he gets his buzz from. 

Q: Do you expect 2008 to still be dominated by Hamilton-mania in this country?

I think that he is in a position that he can challenge for the world championship for sure. He did a great job in 2007 with McLaren, didn’t quite get the championship, but all the same he did a great job.I think that they will be strong again; we don’t know yet if they are really going to take the challenge to Ferrari, if McLaren are just going to walk it, we really don’t know. But looking at the times in testing they both look very quick.Nobody seems to have closed the gap to them but that could all change by the time we get to Melbourne.For sure, though, if he is at the front challenging for wins I expect people to be writing that he is doing a good job and challenging for wins. Until we get into a position where we can win races then it is going to be all about Hamilton, and I can understand that and I really have no issues with it. It means I can get on and concentrate on developing the car with Honda. 

Q: What’s an acceptable minimum for you this year?

I don’t want to mention points or position finishes. All I have to say is that we need to be at our strongest at the end of the season, and getting stronger at every race we go to. If we are at our strongest at the end of the season and that means winning the race then fantastic, if it means podium great, if it means fifth place that’s where it is. But we need to just keep moving forward. We understand this car, its aerodynamics, we understand the wind tunnel. And to have that is already a massive step forward for us. We can just keep building on what we have, which is something we didn’t have last year. 

Q: You keep talking about the future, do you see yourself being here for three years, five years…?

I think that Honda has to be the team to be with in the future, it has everything now.It is the first time that I can truly say that in every area we are strong and we know which direction we are going in.We have great technical direction with Ross and that is going to make a big difference to this team. I am very happy where I am. 

Q: How much did you push the team that something had to change after last year? Did you set them any deadlines?

We never had an option to not be here this season [pause]. But I wasn’t really thinking about that because I know that Honda want the same thing as me. For sure last year was very tough, and I think Honda realised that something needed to change – I think all of us realised that something needed to change. If we had had a year that was reasonably good where we had finished third or fourth, we would have kept on the same path and maybe achieved the same this year. We never really would have found a way out, but having such a dreadful year we have realised that something seriously needs to change. Not just the personnel but the direction with the car.It’s all good at the moment but as I said this isn’t the final product. There is a lot or work that we need to do to make it competitive. 

Q: You drove well on several occasions last year; how frustrating was it that very few people actually noticed?

Not really. I know F1 is about the front and that is why we want to be at the front because we then achieve our goals which is to win races. China, if nobody noticed in the press it makes no difference to me because me and the team know what I did. We had a great race. 2007 was a very tough year but people who know about F1 said some very nice things about my season and I think that people picked up on how tough it was but also how good a job we did. 

Q: Do you think that mentally and physically you are more prepared than you have ever been?

Yeah I have got every experience possible. I have had it tough, I think a lot of drivers in F1 have and you always go through ups and downs in your career. I couldn’t possibly be any more ready. I feel like I have everything: the fitness level, I have the focus, I have such determination to achieve success in the sport. I have been racing for eight years in F1, but I have never been in the position I am now with a team that I feel is complete. We just have to keep our heads down, forget about the future, and focus on improving and make sure that each part of this team is doing 100%. 

Q: Do you have contract talks coming up at the end of this season?

At the end of this year I’m sure we’ll be talking. 

Q: What sort of improvements would you be looking for?

I want to see improvements throughout the whole year. There is not one area that we have to improve in massively: every area within the factory has to step up another gear and the same with the performance of the car.As I said the most important thing is that we understand this car and where it is in the wind tunnel. Last year when it came to understanding the car we were lost. It was unpredictable and we didn’t know which direction we had to go with it.

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 Justin Wilson

Ex F1 driver Justin Wilson who used to drive for the Jaguar Racing Team has become one of the favourites to win the 2008 Champ Car World Series.
He has signed a contract to race for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, the team that has taken Sebastien Bourdais to titles for the last four seasons.
He will team up with 19-year-old Graham Rahal, who will go into his second season with the team.
“For the entire time I have been competing in Champ Car, they have been the strongest team, Sebastien has left pretty big shoes to fill, but I have big feet! I am hoping to learn my environment quickly and let the results take care of themselves.”

Wilson has raced in Champ Car since 2004 after being dropped by the Jaguar Team
He finished third in the series in 2005 and was runner-up to Bourdais in 2006 and 2007.

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Gil de Ferran the Ex Honda F1 Sporting Director will drive with his own team in the 2008 American Le Mans sports car series.
The CART and Indy 500 winner, who left the Honda F1 team six months ago, will drive his own Acura ARX-01b prototype in the LMP2 class this year.
His new team will be called De Ferran Motorsport Engineering. He is expected to make his series debut at Long Beach in April.

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