Post-qualifying press conference - Malaysia 20 Mar 2004
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1m 33,074s; 2nd Mark Webber (Jaguar), 1m 33,715s; 3rd Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), 1m 33,756s.
Q: In Melbourne you said you thought things might be a little bit closer here in Malaysia but on paper you still seem to have a serious advantage.
Michael SCHUMACHER: If you look purely on paper, absolutely true. It was a mind-blowing lap, I have to say, just everything perfect and spot on. We worked very well with the car, we were looking in difficulty yesterday but we managed to work the car very well and put it back on the road. I hope the numbers are true, because we spoke about the numbers, but I am slightly concerned and we will have to work out what that means for the race tomorrow, what we have seen today.
Q: You were fourth quickest in the first session but you found 0.8 seconds in the second. Can you talk us through a little bit about what transpired between the two sessions?
MS: I would say the main difference was actually the circuit because being out as the first car you are the circuit sweeper and you pick up quite a bit more grip and I did feel that was available more than in the first session. Then, naturally, you adapt to the sort of temperatures that you saw in that moment and we were able to work the car perfectly right and spot on for the final lap.
Q: Mark, splitting the two Ferraris in the Jaguar a great lap and a great final sector too.
Mark WEBBER: Yeah, very happy with the lap. I think the first session went well for us and I just needed to do another one of those laps. We didnt touch the car at all really between the two runs. And the first sector: just getting the two low speed corners right and I was very confident with the second sector. The car worked well and as Michael said the circuit was - even though I went late in the first session - the track was a lot better. And the last sector: it was just a case of getting the hairpin right, which I got wrong last year, so I wanted to make sure I got my braking point right and the team were absolutely wrapped, we are absolutely over the moon. We have done a really good job this weekend, we have done our preparation with Michelin and worked hard and we hope we can get some good points tomorrow.
Q: Rubens, P3 but I guess you are pretty happy to be up there?
Rubens BARRICHELLO: Absolutely. I think the situation tomorrow is going to be very difficult in terms of the weather. It is very hot, so I have been working really hard for my race set-up and to be very honest with you I dont think my car was spot on for qualifying but I am very happy for the race and I am just looking forward and hoping tomorrow everything I am expecting comes my way.
Q: Michael, everyone is talking about the temperature, can you talk us through how it affects you and the car?
MS: The car performance is probably very equal, it is much more the tyre performance that is influenced by the high temperature and once you go above a certain temperature you simply have less grip available. Inside the cockpit it does make a difference and it makes our work tomorrow very hard. As you see the lap time improvement compared to the past is quite significant so we are going a lot faster and still the temperature is very high and that means our work tomorrow is going to be very hard. We did expect that, it is not a surprise, Malaysia is known to be the hardest race of the year but every year it seems to be a step harder.
Q: Michael, a remarkable lap. Where were you particularly pleased about?
MS: Well, just everywhere. I mean, I didnt leave anything open and just got it spot on. It is pretty tricky here with the high temperatures and it is a bit of a knife edge in certain areas but we worked the car very well and that is the secret for us.
Q: Where was the most crucial part of the lap for you?
MS: The last sector is open to a lot of errors, the last two corners in particular. They tend to make you believe you can go much faster and it never works out. You always, initially when you come here, sort of overdo it and you really have to pull yourself back.
Q: Have you concentrated much on the qualifying set-up or has it mainly been race set-up?
MS: Well, we know there is a race to do, so naturally we should be prepared for that.
Q: So you are saying you have not done much on qualifying thats what worries me!
MS: Well, you sort of work with your fuel level and you prepare for that. It is not qualifying as qualifying used to be, it is what you race with tomorrow so we work the car for that circumstance.
Q: How much did you change the car between the two sessions?
MS: We just fine-tuned the car.
Q: Mark, well done, congratulations. I dont suppose you expected to be on the front row did you?
MW: Absolutely not. We are very, very surprised but pleasantly surprised. The car was working very well yesterday, the work was very heavily geared towards our long runs just to get on top of the car, make it as best balanced as we could and get as much data on the longer runs. And today we just stayed cool and waited for qualifying to come to us and I was very happy with the lap and the guys have done a great job for me.
Q: Obviously you have developed the car throughout the weekend, just talk us through that a bit.
MW: Not massively, to be honest. We started off with a very, very good balance when we first arrived here. We made a few little changes here and there, a bit of roll bar, a bit of this, a bit of that, but nothing actually very huge. The car was always pretty well balanced here, it is just getting a good understanding of the tyres and making your choice and understanding what levels are good for you and we are happy going into the race tomorrow.
Q: Now the problem is going to be sustaining it going into the race itself, isnt it?
MW: Well, I would be very pleased if we can get the second fastest race for 50-odd laps, that for sure, but we are looking to get decent points tomorrow. We have got to get away, we will have to get away aggressively, get in there and fight very hard and that is the plan. We need to finish the race, which we didnt do in Australia. I think we could have got Jarno before the end and I lost two points, which was a shame, so we need to prove ourselves in race conditions, which we havent done yet this year.
Q: Is reliability still a problem?
MW: Well, there is no car out there that is bullet-proof, especially in these conditions. I think there is a few parts of the circuit which are a bit bumpy here and there for gearboxes and stuff, so you never know. It is a hard race on the car so until I see the chequered flag I will not be happy.
Q: Rubens, 0.6 of a second down on Michael. Is that a bit of a worry or a disappointment for you?
RB: Not at all. I think Michael put a really good lap in but my lap was good as well. I made a small mistake on the last corner so I wasnt able to actually set the ideal time, which for me probably would have been a 33.5, something like this. But I am quite happy with it, not with the distance to Michael but just happy that we worked seriously hard on the race and hopefully tomorrow everything that I expect is coming my way.
Q: So should we read into that that you are on different strategies then?
RB: I didnt say that. Could be
Q: You said earlier in the unilaterals that you have a good car for racing but not for qualifying. I dont see the difference.
RB: Well, you have to come and spend a week with us and you will understand.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Matthias Brunner Motorsport Aktuell): Michael, in the TV part, you said you were slightly concerned about tomorrow, concerned about what?
MS: Dont remember saying that. Did I say that? At least, it cant be anything very specific except hot temperatures which is going to be hard work, but other than that, I dont have particular concerns.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo): Michael, how can you explain that this morning Montoya was a tenth or less away from you and now almost a second?
MS: I think there are plenty of possibilities to explain this. Which is the right explanation I would like to know too, honestly. You can have tyres, you can have mistakes, you can have fuel, you have temperature, set-up, plenty of options.
Q: (Peh Shing Huei The Straits Time): Michael, you are moving closer and closer to Prosts (Sennas) record. Can you tell us how that feels?
MS: I have never really worked my way towards records, honestly, so Im not thinking too much about this.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speedsport News): Mark, what was the reaction of the team over the radio on your cool-down lap?
MW: You know, very very happy into turn one. My engineer said very very good job. I saw when I crossed the line, I was looking at the big screen anyway to see if Id just got Rubens because I knew it was going to be very very close. I didnt know if it was second or first and I was very happy to see it was number one at the time. Its good to see some other people making some mistakes and its quite tough with this guy (Michael Schumacher) but Im happy to get second.