Published with permission of the Federation Internationale de' l Automobile.
US Grand Prix, Indianapolis, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2003
Winner: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 1:33:35.997
2nd: Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren, +18.258 seconds.
3rd: Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Sauber, +37.964 seconds.
Q: Michael, a great, great win for you. Qualified seventh; that problem on Saturday morning. Didn't look brilliant in the early laps in the wet, but a great win for you.
MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: Yeah, a great and an important one. Obviously, an important outcome for the rest of the competitors, what concerns my position for the championship. And now I'm so pleased. I mean, it's such an emotional day today, so fantastic. After, as you said, not a great qualifying performance, having a good start, being back in the race, falling back due to the rain with slick tyres, then coming back with rain tyres, then not knowing what's the weather going to do, being back in slicks, starting to rain again towards the end. There was everything in it today. To win this one in the crucial stage of the championship meant a lot. I am just so thankful to all the guys of Ferrari, because they just carried us to this success. I'm just so thankful.
Q: We thought that you just pulled up the master stroke of the day coming in on lap 20 as the rain was falling, yet you went out on dry tyres.
MS: Yeah, it was a crucial moment because we had this sort of rain before which just came and went straightaway. It was for sure too dry to go to wet tyres. And this rain just looked it would be another one of those, and it was just a gamble. Coming into the pit lane, I was thinking and actually saying on the radio, "I wonder if we shouldn't change our decision." But it was too late anyway. It would have caused a fuss and a mess. Well, afterward, you always know more. We went out on dries. The guys still just did a great job. We came back in straight away, just had a fantastic car for this condition. Unbelievable tyres for this condition, which just gave us the victory today.
Q: What was your feeling at that point when you went back out on the wets? Were you thinking, "I can still win this"?
MS: Yeah. It was clear that everybody sort of - of the front-runners at least, Heinz-Harald did the right move. He was probably one of the only ones that did the right decision. For the frontrunners of the championship, all had done the pit stops earlier than me, which meant they were on dry tyres and had the same sort of problem that I had, meaning that I was not too far away and would be able to close this gap because we knew pretty much before that our rain tyres would be better than our competitors'.
Q: What do you think now looking back at that seventh qualifying position? What happened yesterday?
MS: I think we were just a bit unlucky, honestly. Afterwards we sort of checked the data, and we got in trouble in Turn 1 and 2. Checking it, it was just a big blow of wind coming at the time I was going through that corner. And that cost me a couple of 10ths. I knew that. So I was trying to make up in the rest of the circuit. May have been just pushing a little bit too much. It wouldn't work out. I think it's one of those unlucky days where it doesn't work together. But obviously we have worked very well on our starting system, and I was able to catch a lot of positions straight at the start, which brought me back into the fight.
Q: Thank you, Michael. Kimi, looking so good, great start, took the lead at the start, then the rain.
KIMI RAIKKONEN: Yeah, I think so: we lost the race because we were very unlucky with the weather today. But what can you do? I was fighting as much as I could. We only got second place. Of course, it's not the best, because Michael won, and we came second for the championship.
Q: But you are still in the championship.
KR: Yeah, but he's always making our life more difficult. But at least we're in the championship. You never know, maybe we have another very difficult race in the last one, and it can all happen there.
Q: It's amazing the differences between the Bridgestones and the Michelins in those conditions.
KR: Yeah, I think so. It was just when it's a little bit wet, you can still run with the slicks, which is always to be more stronger. But if it gets really heavy rain, I think we're in with a good chance. If it's between those two, it's just not working, our tyres are not working as well as the Bridgestone. It is much better than last year or beginning of year. Hopefully we're going to get there.
Q: Thank you, Kimi. Heinz-Harald, last time you were on the podium was here at Indianapolis in 2000.
HEINZ-HARALD FRENTZEN Yeah, good memories. I'm very happy, especially now our situation, we had a very difficult season. The podium places would not be really our regular target this year. But the perfect conditions for us today helped me. And the team did a good job helping me.
Q: Perfect conditions for the car, and you always seem to go well in these conditions, too.
H-H F: Well, I have to say I do like it. We seem to be more competitive on wet conditions. We used our joker today.
Q: How enjoyable was the race for you?
H-H F: Well, I had great fun. But I was really concerned, thinking about finishing second and third in the championship -- excuse me, in the position on the podium (laughter). We had similar situation this year where we were in the points and we had a last lap, for instance in Monza, a gearbox problem. I was thinking, "OK, I'm going to enjoy it as much as I can." I don't think about finishing, I just do what I can.
Q: Michael, amazing atmosphere at Indianapolis this year. I'm sure you'll agree. On the grid, massive cheering and support for you, and also for the other championship contenders. Talk a little bit about Indianapolis this year and your thoughts going into Suzuka now.
MS: Yeah, I think it was a great event down here. As you say, if you look at the atmosphere, I think it was outstanding, was probably one of the best ones we had this year. The two or three groups, the ones for Ferrari, for Williams and McLaren, and for their drivers, we're cheering up each other and competing each other. It was great all weekend. I mean, if you saw on the Thursday how many spectators there were already to watch the pit walk and to see the cars. You were surprised about this if you saw the first sort of years, it's picking up a lot. That's what everybody I guess suspected would happen. We're happy to deliver something back and give them a good show today.
Q: Kimi can still do it at Suzuka, it's almost mathematical, you need to fail to score, he needs to win.
MS: Obviously, it's a very good position for us to start the last race. We just need one point basically. But you never know. I mean, you have first to finish, and that will be obviously the main target. On the other side, I think we have a very reliable car. We have a good record for this, so we will be obviously very optimistic - particularly, my target will be to win another race.
Q: We have Kimi Raikkonen first of all, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Michael Schumacher. Michael, once again, congratulations. The wins seem to get better, and the next one is going to be even better.
MS: It is true. I mean, if you see the situation, it just was outstanding in Monza. This tops it again. Who knows what will be the next. But I'm just so delighted and happy about the way things have gone. If you see everything, if you obviously see the amount of pressure that is on, although you handle it, but it's still there. It's just so beautiful when you get the result like that.
Q: How surprised were you to be here after qualifying yesterday?
MS: I was not completely surprised to be at least amongst the first three because I knew from where I started I could make up some positions. I felt I was strong in the race. No, I wasn't too surprised. It was just a matter of whether I would be behind Montoya or in front of him. I thought it would have been difficult to catch Kimi under normal circumstances, but I wouldn't have been too concerned on that knowing the points situation.
Q: How much were you kept in touch with what was happening to the others?
MS: I was in permanent contact by radio, informed myself of what was going on, who was in what position, and what sort of pace was needed.
Q: The tyres were a deciding factor today. Would you agree with that?
MS: Yeah, I would agree pretty much on that. Bridgestone has probably got a lot of criticism this year, as much there will be - how you say - will be pushed up, boosted by the performance we have seen today. The one thing makes me happy, I mean, we have this sort of joker in our hand for so long already, and we never have been able to use it. Today was the first time we were able to use our wet tyres, sort of won the race with it.
Q: Now, quite early in the race, lap seven, you lost several places. We didn't see what happened. Can you tell us what happened then?
MS: I guess it was raining, and under this condition we were slightly -- it was for sure more difficult to us on our dry tyres compared to the Michelin dry tyres. They were just able to perform much better in the high-speed area, and I got overtaken.
Q: I believe my colleagues upstairs are talking about a potential moment when you overtook under the yellow flag, when Barrichello was off the circuit. Do you know anything about that?
MS: I know I have overtaken Panis, but well before the yellow flag started. I knew where the yellow flag started. I was by by that time. Just meant that the nose was in front, so it was, so no problem. Braked early enough and was safe for the accident.
Q: Thank you very much for clearing that up. Well done. Kimi, leading the early stages, then you had those two stops. Are you surprised to be in second place after that?
KR: A bit unhappy to finish second, really. But I think the weather wasn't in our favor this time. The beginning of the race was good, we were strong. Just our rain tyres are not as good as Bridgestone's. We lost the race pretty much. But second is still OK.
Q: You're still in contention. What are your feelings about that?
KR: Yeah, but it would have been much better to be other way around, to win the race and able to help us more. Again, there is always a chance now. You never know what happens in the next race. It can be another very difficult race for all the people. We just need to make most out of it.
Q: We'll see you in Japan, see what happens. Thank you, Kimi. Heinz-Harald, great to see you on the rostrum again. The decision at the first rain, who took that decision about your tactics?
H-H F: Yeah, we were about anyway to come into the pits. I had to make a decision. The rain was about to come. Then I had to make a decision quickly because we could have put dry tyres on. But I look up in the sky before, and it looked like it was going to rain for quite a long time, so I decided to ask the team to choose for wet tyres.
Q: It was your own decision, your own personal weather forecast?
H-H F: Yes (laughter).
Q: Lap six you also lost a few places as well. Can you remember that?
H-H F: Lap six? When it was initially starting, yes, it was starting to rain. It was a little bit slippery. I had I think Webber behind me. He was a bit pushy. He slipped away there, slipped to the inside. I couldn't do anything about it. At that stage they were faster than us.
Q: Now, we don't know what your future is in Formula One, but might this change anything?
H-H F: I don't know. I mean, I'm at the moment thinking about what option I have got for the future. Certainly I like motor racing. So I'm weighing up the chances.
Q: Michael, how difficult is it with the varying weather conditions to guess the right time to come in with the tyres? Went from hail to dry to very wet to sunny.
MS: Yeah, it's a knife edge, honestly. It can be either right or wrong. You've seen some guys coming in very early when the first rain came in, like Panis, I think, putting on wet tyres. It just needed a little extra rain and it would have been the right decision, but it didn't come, then it was the wrong decision. So it was for us sort of when we came for the first pit stop, we thought it would be another one of that just spit of rain, then stopping, and it would have been wrong to be out on rain tyres. So we thought, "OK, dry." That was the wrong decision. Fortunately, every one of the front-runners at that stage had made the same decision, so it didn't cost us too much. With the performance of our rain tyres, I was able to make up the deficit I took from the time before.
Q: After a day like today, how do you celebrate?
MS: Well, nothing was prepared, so we have to see what happens. I mean, for sure we have a drink. We're going to celebrate a bit together. Saying that, we have to prepare for the next race in Suzuka. The mechanics are already packing together. They have a job to do. It's unfortunately a shame that we can't hang out for like Sunday night and have fun, then maybe worry about all this the next day. Unfortunately, time schedule doesn't allow that because we're going to start testing Tuesday onward again. So we just have a little party.
Q: Any fun for Kimi?
KR: Actually, I'm going to fly home this evening. Not much else. Well see maybe in the home a little bit. We celebrate after the season if we get something good.
Q: HH, you know how to party...
H-H F: We have a good reason to have a party. I'm open for any offers. Where is a good place to invite all my team to have something to drink? So any offers, I take it.
Q: Kimi, what was the toughest moment for you in this race? When you lapped Montoya, did it cross your mind that he could resist?
KR: No. He let me pass quite easily. Once you get the blue flags, you need to let the people behind you pass. I think the whole race was quite difficult. Had a little bit fight with Ralf, then he went out when I tried to pass him. Got a little bit sideways on the oval part because I went inside of him. It was raining, on the slick tyres, then side by side, had a little fight. No, it was a good race. Was quite good fun. Unfortunately, we didn't get the win. But we're still in the championship and see what happens.
Q: Michael, you're testing on Tuesday. Are you testing in Europe? If so, how do you get over the jet lag?
MS: No, we always only be allowed to test in Europe. Yeah, time to get over the jet lag is probably getting in the car and drive, be concentrated, be so tired at night that you fall asleep and sleep through. I guess myself, I will not start before Wednesday, so I have some rest.
Q: Michael, did you expect a stronger challenge from Montoya today? Do you know anything about what happened between him and Barrichello on the second lap?
MS: No, I don't have a television with me obviously. The conditions were simply in a way that we didn't have a great competition. We had a little competition in Turn 9 and 10 in the hairpins, where I was just so slow, I was sliding almost into him. But I was no competition for him at that stage. He was easily passing me. Then I was lapping him. He was just giving way very fairly. It was not a day of competition between us today.
Q: Michael, your career is full of milestones. Where does being the first two-time winner of the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis stand in those accomplishments?
MS: I said before, I don't know if you heard that, I said earlier in Monza is one of my best days in my life. I have to add up this one into it. It's just such an important moment, such an unusual race with so many things that happened, so many possibilities to make mistakes, and to finally win such a race is obviously crucial. And, therefore, I have had good memories in the past about Indianapolis, and this just adds up.
Q: Michael, we could see in your left sidepod a sign of tire damage. What happened?
MS: I had a little incident with David, which I was already inside. I was basically through, then he just closed the door. So that meant that we hit each other. It was very tight. I could have easily lost my nose by that stage. I don't know what went through him. Usually when you're that far inside, you just leave a little bit of room to survive. But he just pushed me inside. I touched the curb. I had no option. But, you know, that's the way it is.
Q: Could you explain why after so brilliant a start you were struggling, you were passed by Renault, Coulthard, Juan Pablo, then nobody from the team by radio give you the information about the championship because for a long time you were the world champion today?
MS: Doesn't matter about the last question, honestly. Only when the checkered flag falls down, it matters what is the real situation. And to explain the situation why I was so overtaken was simply that at that stage we had some rain coming. We sort of had difficulties in this condition. It was very easy for our competitors to pass the Bridgestone drivers. But then when it got more rain, obviously everything turned around.
Q: Did you ever feel comfortable with your tyres? If so, what kind of adjustments did you try to make, you and the crew, during the race?
KR: Yeah, I think so the beginning of race was really good, the tyres were working really well. Even when it got a little bit wet, I mean, when we were on the slick tyres, I think so it was a good moment for us. Then once we went for wet tyres, I think so the first like five laps was OK because it was so wet that the Bridgestone, they have as much advantage over us. But then once it started to dry up, we started to struggle little bit. When I came in the pits, all my four tyres was almost slicks. It was hard to just keep on the circuit. But we didn't want to come earlier in because you never know if it start raining more or drying. We were try to keep going as long as we could to make a right decision, either go on new wet tyres or on the slicks.
Q: Michael, you talked about your rain tyres. But you still have to drive the car. How do you find the trust to go as hard as you do into the turns and drive when it's pouring down rain?
MS: I mean, I guess it's simply an ability we all have. I mean, we all go to the limit of our circumstance. So every driver, every car, every circumstance offers a different limit. We search for it. Usually we find it.
Q: Is it hard to find?
MS: It's very difficult to find, yes, in this condition because it's very tricky. It's again, like a knife edge situation. You have grip until a certain moment, then off it goes very rapidly, where the slicks could be more forgiving. Depends obviously, again, what condition exactly you are - especially in the banking, it's very tricky situation.
Q: Kimi, if you could change something of your tactic today, what would you change?
KR: I would change the weather, I think so. Right choices, every time we came in the pits, almost all the Michelin runners (inaudible) on that part of the race when it was wet. It was just unlucky with the weather.
Q: Michael, how much do you practice in the rain? Is that something you do normally?
MS: We do from time to time. Lately I don't remember when I last have been out in the rain except the one we had on Friday or Saturday when the circuit was wet. Before that, it's quite a while ago. But I sometimes do go-karting in the wet. It helps.
Q: Heinz-Harald, you made only two pit stops, whereas Michael and Kimi made three. You were one of only three guys to make two stops. Do you think that had a lot to do with your podium position?
H-H F: Yes, certainly. It was quite important in our situation. It helped a lot. I think I was the first one in on changing into wet tyres. The other people lost quite some time on dry tyres on wet conditions on that stage. That caused, of course, a gain of some places.
Q: Michael, I know you have answered this several times, but the moment is different. You are very near to be world champion again. What is true about these rumors you are going to retire if you get the sixth title?
FIA post-race press conference - Indianapolis 28 Sep 2003
Published with permission of the Federation Internationale de' l Automobile.