Monaco Grand Prix 1999 - Thursday Press Conference

Alain, is there any significance in the fact that the three fastest times today were set by the three drivers in the first who have won here previously?
I don't think so. For sure, a driver who has won at Monaco must be good, and you always find the best drivers at the front of the grid here, even with average cars. But it is best to be careful when looking at the results here on Thursday because by Saturday there are likely to be some big changes. The track conditions will be very difficult. And although we are pleased with today's performance, it will be quite difficult to hold our position on Saturday.

Your team has only one point from three GPs. After last year's setbacks, how is the 1999 season going for you?
For me, it is completely different. We have worked hard since last year. But there are two ways of looking at it. From the point of view of results, one point is not enough. But the potential both of the car and the team is looking quite good, especially for next year. We are still improving all the time, which is very important for us. Even on a track where we were not expecting to go well, things are looking quite good.

What specific preparations have you made for this race?
I cannot tell you too much about what we have done on the chassis. But Peugeot has been doing a good job on the engine to give us a more progressive delivery of power, which shows good results very quickly on a track like Monaco. We are seeing small changes to the engine from Peugeot at almost every race, and next year there will be a big development with the new engine. It will go on the dyno next month, which is early. But the Peugeot engineers are also still working on improving the power and progressivity of the current engine.

Is there any significance in the fact that Peugeot has not embarked on a big programme in the World Rally Championship?
I was worried, and I told Peugeot about my worries at the beginning. But you must look on the positive side, and whether it is good for Peugeot. Formula 1 is mostly about technology and the image of the company, while rallying is more on the quality of the company's products. If Peugeot starts winning in the WRC it will be good for the company, which will be good for me also and for the F1 programme. We have to be positive about that.

Alain, the controversy over what happened at Imola won't go away quickly. In the interests of fair play, will you defend the interests of your driver Olivier Panis? Do you think he behaved correctly as regards David Coulthard when he was trying to lap Olivier?
In this case I am not going to defend my driver. I want to take an objective position, and I talked to Olivier exactly the same way I would do when any of my drivers is one lap behind. I wanted to be very correct, and I told him very quickly. For sure he was fighting with Fisichella, and the problem was... normally there is a big difference between a McLaren or a Ferrari, and maybe the gap was a little bit bigger than he thought. That's what he told me. I [instructed] him many times to let David go through. In my opinion it was not good enough, but for him, you know, you can't tell. I could not have done more than I did. I was telling him all the time, 'let him go, let him go,' because I was also aware of the flag and afraid of a penalty. I don't know what more I can say. After the race I told Ron, 'excuse me, I did the best I could.' Olivier was correct, although maybe on the limit. But I don't think David lost the race because of that.

Alain, what would be the difference of having a young and experienced driver and suddenly replacing the young driver with a more experienced one?
It always brings the team up if you have two experienced drivers. But if the young driver has a big talent then he can also push the experienced driver to work harder. It depends on the team, the performance of the cars, the potential of the team, and the character of both drivers because it can be a big help, but it can also be a shock. You never know. That's part of the decision of the team manager to choose the type of drivers.

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