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Australian Grand Prix - selected driver quotes 07 Mar 2004

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2004 celebrates his victory as he enters the Parc Ferme.
Australian Grand Prix, Race Day, Rd 1, Albert Park, Australia, 7 March 2004 Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams.
Australian Grand Prix, Race Day, Rd 1, Albert Park, Australia, 7 March 2004 Christian Klien (AUT) Jaguar on the grid shortly before his first GP.
Australian Grand Prix, Race Day, Rd 1, Albert Park, Australia, 7 March 2004 (L to R): Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari talks with Mark Webber (AUS) Jaguar.
Australian Grand Prix, Race Day, Rd 1, Albert Park, Australia, 7 March 2004 (L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault talks with Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota.
Australian Grand Prix, Race Day, Rd 1, Albert Park, Australia, 7 March 2004

Ferrari made it a clean sweep in Melbourne, but there was plenty of action behind them, with a number of tightly fought battles for position. How did the drivers view their first race of 2004?

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (1st):
"A perfect race but a tough one in the early stages, when Rubens was pushing me hard. That made it exciting and I could not afford to make a mistake. The car was going well, it's a step forward and more consistent to drive. It is great to leave Australia with 2 more points than I had after the first three races last year. After the last test at Imola and knowing the characteristics of this track, I was sure we would be competitive but I did not expect such a performance. The backmarkers were well behaved, but two guys tried to do me a favour by braking early which caused me a slight problem. But I am keeping my feet on the ground, because this race and the weather conditions suited us perhaps better than the others. We will have to wait and see what happens in Malaysia where it will be much hotter. I do not want to predict the season based on just one race."

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (2nd):
“Rubens Barrichello: "I was happy with my start and it gave me a chance to run deep into the first corner and try and pass
Michael, but I decided the move was too risky. Then I tried again at Turn 3, but there was no way round. I kept on pushing him hard and closed up when he got delayed a bit in traffic. But by then, I started having brake problems, although I kept pushing and trying to pass him up to the point of the second pit stop. But after the stop, the brakes did not seem to have cooled very much and I had a very long pedal. Combined with the extra fuel load I was worried that I might crash if I pushed too hard, so from then on I backed off. Apart from that, the car was very good and Bridgestone has done a fantastic job with the tyres."

Fernando Alonso, Renault (3rd):
"I made a great start, even though Montoya forced me onto the grass. After he out-braked himself at the first corner, I found myself third and from then on, it was a pretty easy race. I was too slow to be able to fight with the Ferraris, but I managed to pull out a gap to Jenson and the Williams. Our objective for this race was to start scoring points before the start of the European season; to take a podium is everything we could have hoped for."

Ralf Schumacher, Williams (4th):
“Of course I cannot be happy with today's result, even if, after all, I have made up four places from my starting position and I have collected some points for the team. We were on a good strategy and the team did an excellent job in the pits. Worrying is the fact is that at this race, we are missing one second from Ferrari, which I didn't expect and I believe this is down mainly to the design of their car as well as to some tyre graining for us, which we have to overcome. The whole of our package needs to improve slightly and this is going to take maybe a couple of races, but I am confident we can make it.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams (5th):
“I didn't take advantage at all of my third place on the grid, since right after the start I was trying to defend my position from Alonso and I went off track, losing four places. After that, I spent my race trying to find the right moment to overtake the cars in front of me but that was no easy job, since the balance of my car wasn't ideal and on top of that I had quite a lot of tyre graining. I also experienced a problem with my right rear wheel during my third pit-stop which lost me some more time.”

Jenson Button, BAR (6th):
"It's good to finish in the points in the first race and have three points under my belt already. It's the first time I've finished with points in Australia. My start wasn't particularly great and it was very slippery out there, but I managed to hold on to fourth for some time. Ralf was able to get past me in the pitstop when we had a delay with the refuelling nozzle. Then Montoya got by on the circuit. I think we need a little more in the way of race pace but it's a solid start to the season. We had good reliability but then so did everyone else, which was quite surprising given the predictions. It's tough but at least we were up there with the competition throughout. We need to keep the momentum going now and hopefully we can look forward to better things in Malaysia in a couple of weeks."

Jarno Trulli, Renault (7th):
"Overall, it was a disappointing race from my perspective. I got a very good start, but somebody - Sato I think - hit me and damaged the diffuser. After that, the car just lacked grip and the rest of the race was very tough. It is obviously disappointing to finish seventh after having been as high as fifth, but it is nevertheless positive to have finished in the points with a damaged car."

David Coulthard, McLaren (8th):
"It has really been an unsatisfying weekend for us and the one point we achieved today is a very small consolation. I made a good start and gained a few places but eighth was all we could do. We are not where we want to be, but we will work very hard on getting there and hopefully should be able to improve for the Malaysian Grand Prix in a few weeks."

Takuma Sato, BAR (9th):
"It was quite a busy race. The start was good but then I was squeezed into the first corner and made contact with the Renault, damaging my nosecone. The team asked me if there was any problem but as it was the first lap and I had no reference for commenting on the car balance. At the first pitstop though, we found some damage to the nose and we changed it at the second stop. Immediately the car felt much better and I was able to consistently lap a second quicker than in the first stint, so it had clearly upset the car. The car felt good throughout the second and third stints but then after the third stop, the gurney started to lift from the rear wing and it was flapping around for the last few laps, upsetting the airflow quite a bit. I'm a little bit disappointed with ninth to be honest, but I'm pleased we got both cars to the finish in the first race. The reliability of all the teams has been quite surprising but everyone has done a lot of work in testing over the winter. Generally, a good start to the year for the team but I'm sure we can do better in Malaysia."

Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber (10th):
"I'm disappointed because we had an opportunity to do well today. I lost a lot of time early in the race behind Heidfeld, who was driving very defensively, and I knew I was much quicker. Once I got by I was immediately able to prove this. The balance of the car was really good and my lap times were very encouraging for the future."

Christian Klien, Jaguar (11th):
“To have finished my first Grand Prix race in 11th position is fantastic. I was frustrated at first to be starting in 19th position, however, it actually allowed me to work my way up a few places and build my confidence. My start was slightly slower than I had hoped but the track was really grippy. I managed to stay out of trouble and when I saw the opportunity to overtake the Toyota of Oliver Panis I took it. I am really pleased with the balance and set-up of the car, Cosworth and Michelin have done a great job and my mechanics prepared the car really well. It 's good to have these laps under my belt now as I head to Malaysia for the second race. I will be working hard on my fitness between now and then in order to be as prepared as I can be for the extreme heat that I have been warned about.”

Cristiano da Matta, Toyota (12th):
"It was a difficult race for us today. The car's performance was not good at all, but at least we are under no illusions now. We know where we are and we have to work really hard to make progress up the field. There are few positive things to take away from this first race of the season, but at least we showed that the car was reliable in the race and we will be able to benefit from that as the season goes on."

Olivier Panis, Toyota (13th):
"It was a disappointing start to the season in Melbourne today. After our pre-season testing in Europe, I really expected us to be in a better position today. At least now we know where we stand in comparison to everybody else. We are far away from the top teams and there is a long road in front of us, but we are all determined to work harder than ever before. I fully trust Mike Gascoyne and the technical team and I would like to say thanks to all the guys who have been doing their utmost all weekend."

Giorgio Pantano, Jordan ( 14th):
"I enjoyed my first Grand Prix and am very glad that we made it to the end. We kept ourselves relatively close to the field and finished just two laps down from Michael Schumacher which I think isn't too bad for our first race. I'm learning about the car very quickly and it will all keep coming together. Finishing the race was the target for this, my first Grand Prix, and I did it."

Felipe Massa, Sauber (DNF, engine):
"I had a great fight early in the race with Kimi, and at one stage I was so close behind him that I couldn't even see the brake marker boards. When I saw him brake I just braked a little later and managed to overtake him.

"My car was pretty good early on but then it picked up some understeer, which made it difficult to drive. That's what caused my spin in Turn Five on lap 19. I understeered wide and caught the kerb, but fortunately I didn't hit anything. I was heading for a finish when I was forced to retire due to an engine problem."

Nick Heidfeld, Jordan (DNF, transmission):
"What happened in the pit stop has never happened to me before and I was pretty afraid for the mechanics. Luckily they are fine and that is the most important thing. It's not a problem we have had before but we noticed something wrong with the clutch and at the pit stop it didn't work at all so the car just kept pushing whilst stuck in first gear. It was the same problem that forced me to retire. In terms of our performance, I actually expected we would be better in race conditions, however I struggled with tyre graining throughout most of the race. We definitely have a good basis to improve the package and find that performance level for the next couple of races."

Gianmaria Bruni, Minardi (not classified):
"It was good for the first 15 laps or so. I made a good start, passing Zsolt, Panis and Klien early on in the first lap, and then Pantano under braking near the end of the lap. At that point, the car and engine felt good, but then, around lap 20, the car started to misfire and lose power. I carried on through one more pit stop, but the problem was getting worse, so the team decided to bring the car in and try to repair it, which they did. I then went back out for the last 10 laps. It was a shame because, in the end, we found a good chassis balance for the race, but that is the luck of racing. Despite the problem, I really enjoyed overtaking people who had a lot more power available than me, and it also feels good to have finished my first Grand Prix. Now I'm looking forward to Malaysia."

Mark Webber, Jaguar (DNF, transmission):
“Of course I am disappointed not to have finished today at my home race but these things happen and you have to take the rough times with the smooth. The boys did an excellent job in preparing the car for me and it was clear that we were competitive out there as I settled into 8th position and kept on Montoya's tail. The balance of the car was good and to have lost 6th and 7th gears is frustrating since we have not had this problem before given that we have completed over 6000km of testing. At a race where we are at 65% throttle I could not continue with only five gears and we had no choice but to retire. The R5 has been good all weekend and I am pleased with the progress that we have made versus last year. I posted some good aggressive laps out there and there is more to come from us, roll on Malaysia.”

Zsolt Baumgartner, Minardi (DNF, electrical):
"Our basic strategy today was to keep the car on the track and avoid trouble. Things were going well until lap eight, when I started to have a problem with the engine, and after that, I was struggling. I came into the pits a lap early for my first stop to see if the guys could do anything. They tried to fix it, and I went back out, but then the engine stopped altogether on lap 16. It's sad, but up to that point, the car had been going well and my lap times had not been bad."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (DNF, engine):
"I'm very disappointed with our performance this weekend, but hopefully we can do better in the next race. I stalled at the start and lost a few places but managed to regain most of them during the first couple of corners. The car felt good, but unfortunately it didn't last very long, and I retired with an engine failure - definitely not the best way to start the season."