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Japanese Grand Prix - selected driver quotes 10 Oct 2004

Race winner Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, 10 October 2004 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes at the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, 10 October 2004 Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, 10 October 2004 Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota before his final GP.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, 10 October 2004

Michael Schumacher may have been unchallenged up front, but there was plenty of action behind the world champion. The men involved explain their afternoon at Suzuka.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (1st):
“This was a historic day for Formula 1, taking pole and the win on the same day. It was certainly exciting, but I think I prefer the old system! This one is quite stressful for the engineers and mechanics. We wanted to do well for Bridgestone in their home race to thank them for all their efforts. The fact that I did not do well in China, certainly helped my qualifying in terms of when I made my run in pre-qualifying. It was clear to us that we would have a strong race pace, but after the start, I had Ralf in my mirrors for quite a while and the gap between us was not growing as quickly as I had expected and he was certainly hanging on. Because there had been no running yesterday, it was hard to understand what the other teams’ race strategies would be and before the race, I was concerned about this. But in the end, it all worked out fine and I had a trouble free race.”

Ralf Schumacher, Williams (2nd):
“The start went ok and I was surprised I was able to follow Michael. I pitted four laps earlier than he did, so he was obviously heavier. But after the pit stop I got stuck in traffic and when you are fighting at the back it is always difficult. Our car was good today. We chose the right strategy and the result speaks for itself. We had a good overall weekend considering the good starting position I achieved. We also widened the gap to McLaren which is important. Now I am happy to go back home and celebrate with my family.”

Jenson Button, BAR (3rd):
"Achieving another podium is a fantastic result here as we celebrate BAR's 100th Grand Prix and in the 40th year since Honda's F1 debut, so I'm very happy. It's also a great team result, with Taku finishing 4th and our combined result enabling us to pull even further ahead of Renault. The car was very difficult to drive at first because with a two-stop strategy I was very heavy on fuel. As we got further into the race though, the car felt great and, once again, two-stopping really paid off for me. I think the last few races have demonstrated a great team effort by BAR, with Takuma and I achieving exactly the results we needed to beat Renault. The whole team should be very proud of that. There is still one race remaining though and although Renault will have a very very tough job on their hands to beat us, we'll wait until Brazil before celebrating what has been a pretty amazing year for BAR."

Takuma Sato, BAR (4th):
"It was great that we managed to have a race this afternoon after yesterday's cancellation, although it was extremely difficult to work out the set-up as we were not able to practice on a dry track. That's why we ran two different strategies to enable us to cope with the widest range of possibilities. As it turned out, I was not able to get the result that I wanted and be on the podium, but at the end of the day, it was a great result for the team and really helps us to secure 2nd in the Constructors' Championship. I felt so much support from my home fans; they were fantastic and really motivated me during the race. We have one more race left in Brazil and I will be doing my best to have another strong race performance there."

Fernando Alonso, Renault (5th):
"It was a good performance in the race today. Qualifying didn't really favour us today: I suppose that sometimes we get lucky with the conditions, like we did in Spa, and sometimes not. From eleventh position, the only thing to do was to go maximum attack. Unfortunately, when you start back in the field, you never have a clear track in the early laps - and it was only at the end of my first stint that I could run at my true pace. That meant I was no longer able to fight for the podium. I think I did the best I could have done today but unfortunately, the points I scored will be more useful in the drivers' championship than the constructors."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (6th):
"A fairly uneventful race for me. I was struggling with the car and from 12th it's fairly limited what you can do. I didn't make a brilliant start, but I gained one place and that was really it. I had an incident with one of the Jordan cars when I was trying to lap it towards the end of the race at turn nine. Basically I was on the inside and he just turned in on me. He hit me quite hard and damaged my steering a bit, so I was struggling to keep the car on the road. A race to forget to be honest but bring on Brazil."

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams (7th):
“My starting position compromised my race today. I got stuck in traffic and I was losing between one and two seconds every lap. The best I could do in that situation was collect some points, and that is what I managed to do. I can only hope my poor position today will maybe give me an advantage so as to get into a good qualifying position at the next race, as Ralf had here.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber (8th):
"For me it was an excellent race. The car was really good, and my only problem came on lap 16 when I ran off the road briefly in the Spoon Curve. There was a sensor problem with the fuel alarm and I was just radioing the pits for a report; unfortunately I left my braking a little bit too late as I lost concentration, but I recovered quite well. The best I could have hoped for without that was seventh, so I'm happy. It was great to push hard all the way and do lots of overtaking. A point today was our target, and we achieved that."

Felipe Massa, Sauber (9th):
"I wasn't very happy with myself after my mistake in qualifying, but I think I made up for that in the race today! It was fantastic! I really enjoyed myself. I was able to push hard right from the start and I did a lot of overtaking. I pulled some really good moves, so it was really, really satisfying."

Jacques Villeneuve, Renault (10th):
"When the race started, we quickly found that the set-up was not ideal for the dry conditions. The car was understeering a lot, so we added front downforce at both pit-stops, but I could not increase my pace in the final stint. It's a disappointing result, especially as our main rivals scored points with both cars this afternoon."

Jarno Trulli, Toyota (11th):
"I do not think that we could have achieved anything better today. After a good qualifying, which put me sixth on the grid, I got a good start and was up to fifth place at the end of the first lap. Unfortunately, during the race, there was a big tyre drop-off, which compromised the car balance and grip levels and made it a tough afternoon for me. However, there are only positives to take away from this weekend; it was my race debut for Panasonic Toyota Racing and I gathered a lot of valuable experience, which was my priority here in Suzuka this weekend."

Christian Klien, Jaguar (12th):
“My start was ok today and I did my best to maintain my position although with a Ferrari behind me this was not do-able. I was also in an unfortunate position in that I had not had any dry practice on this track and so the race was really my first opportunity to learn the track. As the race progressed I became more comfortable with the track and the car and although we had not had any time to set-up the car the balance was ok. The circuit is incredibly challenging on the car and driver and I was pleased that my race went smoothly and I was able to finish. It’s disappointing for us not to have scored points but the pace of the car was really good and I am now really looking forward to the race in Brazil."

Nick Heidfeld, Jordan (13th):
“I got a good start and gained a position or two. For the first part of the race I had quite a loose rear and we made some adjustments at the first pit stop, which certainly helped. I had one or two small electronic issues, maybe something on the gearbox as on one of the pit stops I couldn’t get into neutral. Also at one point suddenly the pit lane speed limiter was on while I was on the circuit and I lost a couple of seconds there. Otherwise, I think in the circumstances, given that we did not have a lot of time to practice here, I’m happy with our starting set-up and what we achieved in the race.”

Olivier Panis, Toyota (14th):
"Although I am not satisfied with the result, we did our best in today's race. We took a risk with the tyre choice after the bad weather restricted our running on Friday, but I had a lot of graining this afternoon and I simply could not push. I am very happy that I could complete my last F1 race in front of all the Japanese fans. To stop racing after eleven years is a special moment. I would like to thank everyone in Panasonic Toyota Racing for two enjoyable years, all the support and for the F1 car that has been generously given to me as a gift. Although I have stopped racing, this is not the end because I have signed a two year contract as third driver. Now we have to continue the challenge."

Timo Glock, Jordan (15th):
“My start and first couple of laps were not too bad but overall it was difficult today. The car set-up was not that good and I had everything: oversteering, understeering, changes in the pit stops didn’t seem to help much and the car didn’t feel easy to drive. I had big problems and couldn’t find a rhythm. Added to that I had gear problems and a crash with Kimi Raikkonen that I didn’t see coming – all in all it was a bad race for me.”

Gianmaria Bruni, Minardi (16th):
"It turned out to be quite an uneventful race, but it was good to finish here at Suzuka, as that is always the first ambition of the team. We struggled with the package we have, though, and in particular today with oversteer, but I'm looking forward to Brazil now and hoping to get another solid finish there."

Zsolt Baumgartner, Minardi (DNF):
"Overall, it was not my weekend here at Suzuka, although my pace in the race wasn't too bad, especially considering I had never driven in the dry here before. I like high-speed circuits, which is probably why I got used to this one quite quickly. Unfortunately, I made a mistake while pushing really hard after my final stop and went off the track. I'm upset not to have finished, particularly for the guys, as I caused them quite a lot of work this weekend. I'd like to thank them for their efforts."

David Coulthard, McLaren (DNF):
"It goes without saying that I'm really disappointed with the end to my Japanese Grand Prix. We were looking to score points but unfortunately on lap 38 I had a coming together with Rubens at the Chicane whilst he was trying to pass me. I don't think anybody is to blame; it's just one of those things which happen when you are battling for positions. The incident broke the front right hand suspension and that was it, but it was a good race until then. I gained a place at the start but got stuck behind Webber, however when I finally got past I was immediately able to speed up. It was a shame for things to end this way? It would have been nice to have scored five points or even more."

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (DNF):
“I was certainly penalised in qualifying by being first out in the wet pre-qualifying. It was a shame about the incident with Coulthard. I think I caught him by surprise, he didn’t see me, closed the door and we touched. It was a racing incident. I was having a great race, the car was very good and I was doing excellent lap times. In the early stages, I got stuck behind Montoya and Trulli, but then I was able to push very hard. The set-up was really good and the team did a fantastic job of finding the right solution in a rush. Now, I head for Brazil, thinking only of the way things went in Monza and China.”

Mark Webber, Jaguar (DNF):
“Starting from third position on the grid today was a good result after all the hard work that has been carried out at Jaguar Racing during this season. The team did an excellent job in preparing the car for this weekend, despite the lack of practice that we experienced in the run up to today. Unfortunately my start was not as good as I would have liked and I lost three places. Then I was being held up by the Toyota of Jarno Trulli so that was frustrating for us. It was then on lap seven that I noticed that the cockpit was becoming increasingly hot and in particular my right-hand side. I pitted as planned on lap eleven and the team tried to cool me down and solve the problem. We could not find the cause for the heat and so I carried on in the hope that it would cool down or at least remain static. It didn’t and the heat soon became excruciatingly hot and I had no option but to retire. You need to be completed focused on the race and when the temperature is so high that you are being physically affected and thus distracted then you need to take the decision to stop. I am of course disappointed that I could not have continued with the race and finished in the points. We enjoyed a good morning today and I hope that by securing third in qualifying goes some way to rewarding the team for their unwavering commitment and in addition highlights the pace and future potential of our car."