FIA post-race press conference - Spain 04 May 2003
POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE - MAY 4, 2003
1. Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI), 1h33m46.933s
2. Fernando ALONSO (RENAULT), 1h33m52.649s (+ 5.716s)
3. Rubens BARRICHELLO (FERRARI), 1h34m04.934s (+ 18.001s)
Published with permission from the Federation Internationale de l' Automobile.
Q: Michael, a lot of pressure from Fernando at the end there, perhaps it wasn't as easy as it looked.
Michael SCHUMACHER: No, certainly not, but honestly it wasn't a surprise. By looking and studying the sort of lap times they were doing all weekend, I was thinking that's going to be a tough race, and they didn't do the times on Friday just by luck - Jarno, for example, and then Fernando yesterday in qualifying. So I was expecting a very tough fight and so it was. We have to say that we are lucky to be here with the new car because I think with the old car we wouldn't have been able to make it. This new car is something very special. It works so beautifully and so fine. I am so much in love with this car. It's just fantastic what they have done.
Q: There was a moment just before your second stop when it was very close between you and Fernando in terms of lap time; were you leaving a margin then, or was that indicative of how close the race was?
MS: I think in terms of tyre performance it looked like that we had the better beginning and then towards the end my tyres dropped off a little bit more than theirs so we were quicker initially, then we lost out a little bit towards the end of the stint. I guess that was the reason. Then traffic was at one point a little bit difficult. I lost quite a bit of time in the early part but in the end it worked out and I have to say that in the end, the longer we were on the circuit the better it was for our tyres and for the car. We were then more and more consistent and I was even able to pull away at the end.
Q: Fernando, a great race, but what was it like between those two Ferrari drivers into the first corner?
Fernando ALONSO: It was a special moment. Our launch control is very good, obviously one of the best or the best in Formula One. I tried to overtake Rubens. I did, at the beginning, but then he took the outside line and they were very close to touching each other and I was ready to pass both of them, but in the end it wasn't possible. Then I tried to fight with Rubens but it was difficult to fight with him and to pass him, and then after the first pit stop I was doing my race alone, Michael in front, Rubens behind, but always a significant gap between the three drivers and then it was quite an easy race: always pushing but not really big pressure.
Q: But you did actually pass Rubens in those laps just after your pit stop?
FA: Yes, I passed Rubens. At the beginning, as Michael said, I think the Ferrari was quicker than us. He caught me a little bit in the first three or four laps and then, with a little bit of traffic and everything, I was lucky at that moment, Rubens had a little bit more than me and I was able to put a gap between me and him and maintain that gap to the end of the race.
Q: Rubens, can you talk us through that first corner, and also a summary of your race?
Rubens BARRICHELLO: I don't think I've ever been so close to Michael. I think we were closer than this, probably. But it was a good first corner actually, because I had to try to overtake Fernando and I saw that Michael chose the inside line to protect his line so I was braking on the right tarmac and I just said I'll give it a go. I did actually go through a little bit in front but we were too close. I had to give way a little bit and then I went on the grass, so therefore I couldn't keep the line but that shows how much we respect each other and how much we have fun together and it's really good to get the new car on the podium.
Q: How was the car for the rest of the race?
RB: I think, in terms of set-up, my car was brilliant for the first five laps of the tyres if not the best car out there but for some reason I couldn't keep the pace going through the stint and for my last five laps of the tyre I was a little bit in trouble in terms of times. There was one point - and it was the worst point for me in the race - when I got close to those five cars trying to overtake each other, and I had difficulty myself to drive fast and that was the point where Fernando pulled away.
Q: Michael, a great win but also Kimi Raikkonen, the championship leader out at the start. You have 28 points to his 32.
MS: Yeah. Obviously at one point in the season you would have expected a retirement. We had our one in Brazil, no points; we had a difficult start, not maximum points, so everything went perfectly for them, and so at one point you expect this to happen. Today was the day. It's a perfect day, in both directions, for the championship, for the new car. Yeah, we can be very, very happy.
Q: It surely doesn't get any better with a brand new car, does it?
MS: That was an almost perfect day. It would have been perfect; obviously, if we had Rubens in second position, but today we had a tough competition with Fernando and that's the way it went.
Q: You said you were almost expecting Fernando to be that competitive here; do you expect that elsewhere as well?
MS: I think we have seen that on the tyre side we were sort of struggling a little bit and whatever they had in particular, the Renault team was sort of very good on that side, so I guess that when we come to other circuits it might be different, but we have to find out.
Q: Do you think you and Rubens actually touched at the first corner?
MS: That's a good question; we did ask ourselves. We don't know. He thinks no, I don't know actually, but very close because he quite rightly pulled in because he was slightly in front after he braked very late and I didn't expect him there and then he pulled in. I was still there so I had to go over the inside kerb a little bit on the dirt. I slid then, and I thought, during the slide, I was onto him but I think he slid at the same time as well because he was outside, so we may just have avoided each other but it wouldn't have been anything that would damage each other. We just would have had a light touch, but that's the way it has to be. It's racing and it's competition.
Q: Apart from that, did it go perfectly thereafter?
MS: Yeah, no complaints. We were able to pull out a gap at the beginning and although it was difficult, I think in general we were just fast enough to win the race.
Q: I thought I heard a slight change of engine noise in the last three or four laps.
MS: Usually we start to shift earlier, which may change the sound, I don't know.
Q: Fernando, what about this result in front of 96,000 of your compatriots?
MS: Yeah, that's fantastic. It's probably the best place to do it for me. All weekend has been perfect for the team. Unfortunately Jarno didn't finish the race; otherwise probably both Renault cars could have been on the podium. We did our maximum, we fought with the Ferrari team which is very good for us and we try to keep this level for the next Grands Prix.
Q: Did you change your strategy at the first pit stop; did you come in slightly earlier than expected?
FA: No, it was that lap. It's true that in the first stint Rubens was a little bit slower than me and to stop a little bit earlier than him was an advantage, because I came back on the track in front of him and I pushed a little bit and I took a few seconds from Rubens and it was the best thing to do for second place.
Q: How much of a problem did you have with the backmarkers? It seemed that perhaps a red car was a bit more noticeable.
FA: Yeah. The race was very difficult for all the drivers from a traffic point of view, blue flags. But anyway, we did 65 laps, it's the fifth consecutive race that I've finished in the points and I cannot dream any more at the moment, because I am dreaming.
Q: How much of a threat can you be at other circuits now?
FA: I don't know, it depends on the tyres but I'm sure that the Renault car is very good overall. We can be competitive on all of the tracks. We saw in Malaysia and Barcelona that we were especially competitive, maybe because they are aerodynamic circuits, and probably we are very strong on that side. But I don't think there are any downsides with the car and we can be competitive for the whole season.
Q: Rubens, as you said a problem with the tyres... were you running the same spec as Michael?
RB: Yes exactly the same.
Q: So there was no apparent reason why that should be?
RB: No. I think if you go back and think Friday and Saturday I've always been very quick, if not quicker. But for the stint it was like 10 laps the tyre was very good but we didn't know what to expect later on. I think we were a bit conservative in some ways and a little bit optimistic on others. As it shows we are probably the fastest lap. The car was always very fast, but in my case it didn't last for too long so that was that. As Fernando said he got me because I had a little bit more fuel than him and my car wasn't doing very well at that time. He came in and he just went faster and overtook me. Then, as I said, before I had a difficult time with people fighting each other and a difficult period for me actually with the tyre so it was difficult to overtake them and easy to go off so I had to take care, and that was the time that Fernando pulled away.
Q: The last set seemed to be a little bit better because you maintained that gap between Fernando and yourself...
RB: Yeah. I was playing with our video game steering wheel a lot and finally I got a little bit better in terms of set-up and we changed the car a little bit in the pit-stop. It did help a little bit with the front wing so it was better, but it was too late anyway.
Q: A front wing change... what can you change from the car?
RB: Only that and maybe some other small things but that is all.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Fernando, tell us about the cool down lap. You were going very slowly and seeing the crowd around you cheering. Tell us about that....
FA: It is difficult to explain. It was a very special lap to be in front 96,000 people with the flags coming from all the parts of Spain and they were very happy, very exciting about my position in the race. It is a special moment for me, I will never forget this day. I will try to repeat this every time I come here to Barcelona.
Q: Rubens, you said your engine, or your power, wasn't performing particularly well... some of us noticed that your engine sounded a little bit flatter than Michael's. I wonder if you were getting any information in the car or from the pits about possible problems with your engine or any other part of the car?
RB: Not really. I mean, the wind changed a bit during the race so, as Michael said, you sometimes change gears a bit differently, but I personally didn't feel that I had any problem with the engine. As I said, I did have some problems probably with the set-up more than anything because my car was really competitive for the beginning stint on the tyres but it was just not as competitive towards the end of the tyre life. So that was the only reason.
Q: We all enjoy seeing you and Michael having a good fight. If you had got ahead of him at the first corner would you have changed the pit-stop sequence, would you have been able to stay in front or would it have been a fight to the finish?
RB: Obviously if I was in front after the first corner I would have had a better chance of winning, although I would still have the problems I had during the race and the first stop I would still stop at the same place. I might have had the chance to change a little but, but it was not only Michael to look after, there was a Renault coming and we didn't know if people were on two stops. At that time I would have kept the lead, but we never know anyway.
Q: Michael said that the first stint the longer you stayed on the track the better it was for the tyre, for the car. Why was it the other way round for Rubens? How do explain such a difference? Is it because due to the settings and because you are looking for the optimal potential of the new car?
MS: I don't think you understand exactly what I have said. I had exactly the same sort of tendency, maybe less extreme. The only was later in the race with more rubber on the circuit it seemed to be less of that problem for me at least. It is a matter of set-up as Rubens said. You set up your car in a way that you think it is best for the whole time and sometimes you achieve it, and sometimes not 100 percent.
Q: Fernando was pushing very hard until lap 50. At what time of the race did you decide to settle for second?
FA: The last two laps I slowed down a little bit because lap 50 or lap 52 the team told me that Michael had some traffic in front of him and slowed him a little bit. They said 'push, push a little bit more because Michael has some traffic' so I pushed until two laps to go. It was 60 qualifying laps for me today.
Q: Michael what did you think when you saw Kimi's car wrecked on the track after your first lap?
MS: The only thing you think, because before you were thinking from the position he was: Where could he finish? How many points could he get? And in terms of the championship what could that mean? ...and at the moment you are sort of aware that he couldn't get any points. Today we had to simply do our job to get the maximum number of points.
Q: Michael can you describe the battle with your brother?
MS: Straight and fair, honestly tough. He was on old tyres; I was on fresh tyres so I obviously had a lot of potential to overtake him. I was expecting to overtake him at the end of the straight, but even with the old tyres he got a good run out of the final corner so it was not enough to go for it. We were very close to each other there. Then I was a little bit surprised that I was able to overtake him where I did. I sort of pushed him a little bit into a late brake into the corner as I was aiming to overtake him at turn five, he had to brake late to avoid that and that meant he had a slow exit and I could out-accelerate him. But it was a bit unfair again because with his tyre at that stage he had very little to fight with.
Q: Michael at the end when you came up against those four cars in their own battle how concerned were you that maybe you would get caught up in that? Especially Da Matta and your brother were having a huge battle, were you concerned about getting caught up in that battle?
MS: I was not aware of the battle in a way that I had seen it. I had been told on radio that there was some sort of wheel-banging between the two so I was supposed to be careful. But I have to say that the two behaved very fair and Da Matta sort of improved his situation compared to Imola where he wasn't so good, but here he was fair and moved over no problems.
Q: Fernando can you take us through the closing stages where you were trying to overtake Ralf and he seemed to give you a hard time?
FA: I didn't know if I was lapping him or fighting for position at the time because I didn't see any blue flags for him. At that time I thought that he was second and I was third and I was fighting with him. He thought that as well because he didn't see any blue flags and closing the door a little bit and at the end I put a little bit of pressure on him, he made a bit of mistake in turn three and I passed him in the inside part of the corner. It was an important part of the race because with three or four laps behind Ralf at that speed maybe I was in trouble with Rubens at the end. It was a very important part of the race to overtake Ralf so quickly.