Drivers: Jenson Button (BAR-Honda), Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Sauber), Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren) and Michael Schumacher (Ferrari).

Press conference.

Q:
Heinz-Harald, how satisfying was the result at Indy for you?

Heinz-Harald Frentzen:
Ah, great pleasure, great pleasure to be on the podium after some time and to see some old mates. And for the team it was also a nice situation, particularly in the championship where we were not able to be close to our target, finishing fifth in the Constructors' championship as we were planning at the start and now we're a bit closer to that target. And coming to this race, we again feel that we still have to finish the job.

Q:
Since then, both of you drivers have been told that you won't be continuing with the team next year. Do you feel the team has been justified in getting rid of you both, even though Peter Sauber has said that there's nothing wrong with his drivers?

H-HF:
Well, Peter Sauber is someone who has big responsibility to his team and he needs to make decisions which take care of everybody in the factory for the future of the team so from my point of view, I would wish him all the best for the next years. I think he's bringing forward a strong package for the future together with his future manufacturer and he has got a very modern wind tunnel, perhaps the most modern wind tunnel in the world starting at the end of the year and this is a very strong package. So I could be a little bit jealous of the situation but obviously our destinations are in different directions.

Q:
What direction is yours going in, have you still got more to offer in Formula One?

H-HF:
Yeah, well, there are some options which I am considering at the moment, what I could do, driving with another team next year and I could also leave Formula One and do another championship. I'm still pretty much in favour of motor sport, I like the sport and whatever happens, I will be happy doing my motor sport. I will see. I'm weighing up the options at the moment and I am in no hurry to make a decision.

Q:
Jenson, I believe you've been here for a little while, three days of promotions. Tell us the high spots of those promotions?

Jenson Button:
I've been here for three days doing stuff with BAT and also with Honda. I went to Tochigi, R&D, which was quite good fun, where there is the longest corridor I have ever seen in my life. It was good, it was good to meet everyone and good to see what they've got for the future.

Q:
I hear you had quite a good reception from about 6000 engineers?

JB:
Yeah. The corridor must be about 500 meters long and it's just crazy, people clapping and waving flags. It's very unusual for us, but it was a nice feeling and I think it was for everyone there also.

Q:
Now you had a bit of a problem while leading at Indianapolis, with an engine failure. I believe there's another step forwards here. Did they reassure you that you wouldn't have the same problem here as at Indy?

JB:
The important thing is the step forward, not just in speed but in reliability, that's the main issue. But that's something that they have been working on very hard and I think they've sorted that problem out.

Q:
Of course the other thing is that we've just heard that your former teammate, Jacques Villeneuve, is not going to be driving this weekend, but instead you've got Takuma Sato lining up with you. You've got to defend the team's fifth place in the championship, which is very very close as well, so how do you see the weekend coming up?

JB:
Very tough. Hopefully Takuma is going to do a good job and I think he will. Hopefully the pressure won't get to him, but I think it's a strong team. I think we've got a good car for here, hopefully the reliability will be good, and I think we've just got to wait and see.

Q:
You become team leader for this weekend and next year; does that change anything?

JB:
I'm not sure about team leader, but I'm very happy and what's happening with the car over the winter is very interesting for next season.

Q:
Any thoughts on JV's leaving?

JB:
It's disappointing that he wasn't here for his final race. Things change. He's been there for five years, he's had a very up-and-down time, but it's disappointing to see him leave Formula One.

Q:
Kimi, obviously the pressure is on you this weekend. Are you approaching this weekend any differently?

Kimi Raikkonen:
Um, no, not really. I guess the same way as the last race and I guess we just need to win the race and then see what happens.

Q:
Are you feeling the pressure?

KR:
Not really because we can only gain. I don't mind because if we don't win the championship then I don't really mind if we lose the second place to third place. It doesn't really make much difference if you finish third or second. Only first place is really worth winning.

Q:
Is there any more than you can do this weekend? Any more that the team can do this weekend?

KR:
Drive as hard as I can and hopefully it will be enough. I guess we are doing exactly the same things as in all the other races this year and it's difficult to say if we are quick enough or not but I think what we did in the last race seemed enough to be quite competitive and hopefully this is the same here.

Q:
Your compatriot, Mika Hakkinen was very popular here in Japan; what's your following like?

KR:
It seems to be OK, lots of people asking for autographs. Maybe they like Finns, but it's not the easiest place to win fans so I guess we're doing quite well.

Q:
So is people power going to help over the next few days?

KR:
I don't know. We'll see what happens but I guess it's nice when you have people cheering you on from the grandstands. But I don't really know, it doesn't make any difference to my driving, because you can't hear them, but it's nice if they are enthusiastic.

Q:
Michael, has it been a bit strange over the last couple of weeks, because you're fairly certain to be World Champion - but you're not? How difficult has that been?

Michael Schumacher:
Not so difficult because my mathematics are quite good and I obviously feel that I am the champion if I am and I'm not. So a lot of people think that the thing is done, most of the people do, but I don't think so.

Q:
So how do you approach this race, especially given the team's position in the World Championship?

MS:
That's the point. We still have to win the Constructors' championship and accept the typical approach where we have to be very careful not to retire which we have been in the last few races as well. We obviously have more to lose than to gain in a way, as I said before, but in the end, as you sit in the car, you just do what you naturally do. There's not much about it. It depends a little bit on the situation you're in after qualifying, how the start will go, but I will just enjoy racing and that's what I'm here for.

Q:
Someone has trawled up the fact that the last two times you've tried to win the World Championship at the last race, you haven't managed to do so each time, although you have managed to do so earlier in the championship. Does that enter into the equation at all?

MS:
I think there are many statistics you can put out which can speak in favour or against you. You took one which speaks against me but probably you can find some others.

Q:
A lot of talk about retirement over the last couple of weeks; anything to say on the matter?

MS:
I thought I was asked about this at Indianapolis and I made very clear statements. I keep on making clear statements but some people struggle to understand that no, no, I'm not thinking about it at all.

 

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