Post-qualifying press conference - Australia 06 Mar 2004
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1m 24,408s; 2nd Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), 1m 24,482s; 3rd Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams), 1m 24,998s.
Q: That was a great start to the season for you and the new Ferrari car. You must be delighted with its potential?
Michael SCHUMACHER: Yes, it showed a great potential. Here, again, you go out and you can do the lap times - and you can work on the car and we have a great feeling with it, but tough times will come in my view.
Q: Did it feel like a pole winning car a couple of weeks ago when you were still testing in Europe?
MS: It did, to be honest, for Australia, in particular, because if you look at the statistics we have always been very strong here in Australia - and then comes Malaysia which is traditionally a little bit more difficult for us so it did feel good for the first race.
Q: Rubens, a great performance. Obviously, you did your time earlier in the afternoon, what were the track conditions like then?
Rubens BARRICHELLO: Well, the first session, when I went first, it was very dirty and so I was just carrying the car around and I knew the potential was there, so in second qualifying I just pushed as hard as I could. I dont know if the track was better. It was just a great lap and fortunately, or unfortunately, Michael beat it by just a little bit. So I am disappointed not to get that little bit, but I am a happy guy because I pushed as hard as I could.
Q: Juan Pablo, it looked as if you were in a bit of trouble yesterday, what was the car like today?Juan Pablo MONTOYA: A lot better. I think it has been a bit of a tradition at Williams to always take a bit of time to get to the circuit and then get everything working. It seems we always struggle a bit on Friday, with our tyres, until the track rubbers in and then it gets better and better. I was surprised in the first qualifying and I was amazed at the lap time. I knew from the first qualifying that I could go a bit quicker and I tried a bit too hard at the fast chicane, I went into it too fast and under-steered off. It is a bit of a shame, but we are trying.
Q: This year we have a new rule with 800 kilometres per engine, what has it been like so far running with new rule?
MS: I have to say that, initially, it sounds very impressive to go from 300 to 800 kilometres with an engine, but we worked very hard on that and we have not had too much trouble. It is down to preparation and our guys have done a great job in that. They worked well to get the rules into account and do the kilometres and not lose too much on the power side. In fact, I think we have gained in this.
Q: Juan Pablo, you set the same time as Jenson Button, who set his first, so we are surprised to see you
JPM: I would say its probably because it is in the back order or something
FIA comment: It is due to Article 141.
MS: And what does that mean?
JPM: It is probably because the qualifying is backwards. I was quicker in the first session?
FIA comment: Thats it, Juan Pablo set a fastest time than Jenson in the first part of the qualifying session.
RB: Send him to the gaol, his team Send them both to the gaol.
Q: Michael, really an extraordinary start to the season?
MS: Yes it has gone quite well for us and honestly we are not too surprised by it because Australia has always gone very well for us and if you take last year we were very strong and I dont know by how much, we led the time trail, and then we came to Australia and the thing went completely reversed. So I am obviously concerned by this and warn that things look good here, but might not be elsewhere.
: And the cars seem so quick on race fuel this afternoon as well?
MS I think the circuit improved a great deal. We had the saloon cars out between the sessions this morning and the afternoon and they put a lot of dust on the circuit and Rubens had to experience that being the first car, the difference is enormous and a lot, I guess, is in that.
Q: Is the new pit lane entrance and speed limit going to make a difference to strategy tomorrow?
MS: Thats a good question I hadnt thought about that.
Q: Rubens, its only a fraction of a second difference to Michael, do you have any idea where you could have caught that up?
RB: It was a good lap and you have to be happy with yourself and thats it.
There is no reason to go and find where I could have gone faster. It was a good lap for me, overall, and the time was seriously quick, so the set up was good and the car felt good and I am second, right now, and looking forward to something better tomorrow. But, right now, it is good for ourselves.
Q: And a comment on the one engine rule. Is it making any difference?
RB: Yes, it did. You are running and just looking, not speeding up all the time, on Friday and Saturday and you have to take care with the motor you have behind you. To be honest, I think everything is working. I think the only strange thing is the first qualifying because it seems to be that only 10 per cent of the people were trying to do a time and the rest were trying to take the car around (safely) for the second one - because it is too much of a pain, if you have an off in the first one, and then you dont have time for the second. Its pretty cool. The one engine rule is no problem. It is actually better.
Q: Juan Pablo, you are just four-tenths behind the Ferraris. Can you catch them tomorrow?
JPM: Well see. Our tyres always get better as the weekend goes on and it should be a good race. Youve seen in previous races where we struggle on Friday and Saturday and then on Sunday we have a really quick car - and I hope this is the case. I dont think it (the gap) is as much as four-tenths. I made a mistake in the last sector. Actually, I was over a tenth slower in the last sector.
Q: Weve seen a lot of people, including you, go off at turn 12.
JPM: Which one is turn 12? Oh, yes, the fast chicane. Yes, I had to get off the throttle there because the car had too much speed.
Q: Weve seen a lot of people going off there. Will that happen in the race itself as well?
JPM: Oh, yeah for sure. When people follow each other and they get close, and then they get under-steer, and they run out of room.
Q: Is that the problem?
JPM: Yeah, the way the circuit is there is a certain line you take and it works very well and if you change it then it doesnt work. Take the right line and you go through there very nicely, miss it and you under-steer off.
Q: Michael did you change your line in the last turn?
MS: It was slightly different because I made a mistake in the first qualifying session in the second to last corner and ultimately it influenced the last corner.
Q: Could you have run a 23?
MS: No, it was a good lap.
Q: Regarding the changes in the qualifying format, is there any reason to keep the first run?
MS: Well, you know, honestly, I think it is you, the media, and the spectators, wanting something different. There were complaints two or three years ago and it was changed and then more complaints and it was changed so this is what we have. And now you complain again. Yes, maybe it is fair. For us, too, it is not that interesting. We just sit around and wait.
Q: Michael, was your car in the same configuration and carrying the same fuel load for all your fast times?
MS: We developed the set up through the weekend.
Q: I want to know if you had the same fuel load.
MS: Basically at certain stages you prepare for the race and at other stages you do other things. But obviously it is not something I want to go into detail about too much.
Q: Do you feel a sense of satisfaction, after all that has been written in the off-season, that you can come here and you and Rubens go bang bang and it is situation normal?
MS: Yes, to some degree. You all know what has been written over the winter time and to come here and to prove what a fantastic job the engineers and everyone in the factory has done and to put it into a result as we do here is a great satisfaction, but I dont want to be too ambitious because I know it is going to be a tough season. Other races will suit us less well than this one.
Q: And what do you think Juan?
JPM: From the last test, we knew they had found something new on the tyres and they were going to be very strong. Most of the testing, when they had the old car, it was easy to keep the upper hand on them and it was good and Bridgestone were struggling and doing a lot of tests. They probably found something that has given them a bit of an edge. But its a long season and last year we were struggling from race one and we qualified third and this year we qualified third. We cant really count anybody in or out. Youve got to finish, score the points and see what happens at the end of the year. I was surprised how many problems we had with the car yesterday to really make it work. We had to do a lot of changes and today I am a lot happier with the car and I think we have a really good race car. And I think thats the most important thing.
Q: At one stage we had eight drivers, separated by seven tenths and drivers from five different teams. Is that the face of Formula One this year?
JPM: I think it has always been that way. In the middle pack there are a lot of teams that are close and I think we see this often.
RB: You mean the first session. I dont think you can see anything. You have the choice of low fuel or high fuel, so people doing that just equalised each other. I dont think it tells you too much.
Q: Do you think it is likely we will see some four-stop strategies?
JPM: Four stops, I will be very surprised.
MS: Me, too. If you have strange weather or safety cars, perhaps, but not in a normal race.
Q: Michael, (Mr) Ecclestone has been quoted saying it is time for you to lose your title. Ron Dennis said he is sure you will quit in 2005. Why are so many important people impassioned to have you out of the game?
MS: First of all, I am pretty aware of what Bernie said and he said simply that he thinks Raikkonen is a great contender for the championship, not that I should not win it and it is just part of the game. And what Ron says is down to him.
Q: Michael, the GPDA expressed concerns about the inexperienced drivers on Fridays. Were there any problems?
MS: No, I have to say from my point of view all the drivers had reasonable experience and did a good job, doing things in the right way.
Q: Any problems for either of you two?
JPM: I had a lot of traffic.
MS: Yes, there are some experienced drivers who sometimes stay in the way.
RB: Yes, I had more problems on that side too! (hinting that Montoya was one laughter)
Q: Michael, are you not concerned that the ring master comes out and says when Ferrari are dominating again that it is a disaster.
Q: What do you think about that? Are you disappointed?
MS: Listen, you wont get a quote from me on this one
Q: Gotta try. Well, did you think the first qualifying run was useful?
MS: To quote him, basically, he said it is too long a thing and I agree.
Q: Is it more important to have a lap in the configuration for the second run, that counts, rather than track position by taking fuel out on the first run? Will that change from circuit to circuit?
(After delay and silence)
RB: I was just waiting
JPM: I think it depends on each team and what they want to do. Some people run lighter fuel to look good and others dont.
RB: It is too early to say. To be honest, I didnt like the first run. There was no need to go fast if you see what I mean. I would rather try hard on Friday because it is something and it is part of the weekend and today I didnt feel I had to push. Okay, I had to come out first when the track was dirty and dusty and so on but I didnt feel like pushing.
JPM: It is very hard to go out and push in the first session and then if you make a mistake and you shunt the car you are 10 places back and you dont have time to change engines or anything So you are going to see in the first qualifying that people are just cruising around.
MS: I agree.