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Malaysian Grand Prix - selected driver quotes 21 Mar 2004

(L to R): third placed Jenson Button (GBR) BAR with race winner Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Race Day, Rd 2, Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 21 March 2004 Third placed Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams BMW.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Race Day, Rd 2, Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 21 March 2004 Mark Webber (AUS) Jaguar on the grid.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Race Day, Rd 2, Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 21 March 2004 Gianmaria Bruni (ITA) Minardi at the drivers' parade.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Race Day, Rd 2, Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 21 March 2004

Michael Schumacher did it again in Malaysia; Juan Pablo Montoya proved that Williams are back in contention; and Jenson Button stood on the podium for the first time in his Formula One career. Each driver's race in his own words, direct from Sepang.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (1st):
“It was a tough fight all the way to the end, but I was quick enough when I needed to be at the start and end of each stint. The gap to Montoya opened and closed throughout the race and it was pressure all the way. At the start, as I was first I had no reference as to where the water was. In fact Turns 4 and 11 were slippery. Even though it was not sunny it was a tough race. As for the championship, it is easier to lead rather than have to fight back like last year. But we have only done two races and we know how quickly the other teams can progress. I have to say that Bridgestone did a fantastic job here, after we struggled at this track in the past.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams (2nd):
“I had a good first few laps and I managed to get in front of Rubens. Then I had quite a smooth race. Towards the end I was trying to catch Michael because I felt my car was just getting better and better. Unfortunately, after my third and last stop I exited the pit lane behind Rubens. I tried to pass him but then I preferred to back off as I did not want to compromise a good second position. I realised at this point that the most important thing was taking home some valuable points for the team and for myself.”

Jenson Button, BAR (3rd):
"There are no words to describe the feeling of your first podium and this one has been a long time coming. It's a fantastic result for the team in only our second race of the season and I'm delighted for everyone - the team, Honda and all our partners - because they have worked so hard for this. It was a tough race but so enjoyable because we were very competitive. Everyone has done a great job over the winter and made such a good step forward. This really is a sign that B·A·R has some very exciting times ahead."

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (4th):
“I pushed hard all race long, doing as much as I could. I made a different tyre choice to my team-mate and it did not pay off. On top of that, in the opening laps, when it rained, my tyres quickly lost temperature and that’s why I lost a few places. Unfortunately, the two seconds that kept me away from Button in the fight for the podium were lost when I was overtaking Baumgartner. In any case, I’m satisfied with the car, which confirmed its potential. Of course, I would like to have won, but at least I brought home five points which will be important for the championship.”

Jarno Trulli, Renault (5th):
"It's a satisfying result, given that I started eighth and all our competitors were very strong today. I got a very good start, but must apologise to Jenson: I touched his car on the way to the first corner. I had a good battle with him and Rubens in the first stint, very clean, and I was enjoying the race. However, after my first stop, the front tyres started graining, and I lost time in the second and third stints relative to my closest rivals. The car was understeering a lot during this part of the race. Having said that, we were reliable and once again have two cars in the points: we can't be too disappointed."

David Coulthard, McLaren (6th):
"We can take some satisfaction from the fact that we have improved our package since Melbourne, but we still have some way to go. I made a good start, gained a few places and got involved in some quite exciting battles. I found it difficult to hold the car in the fast corners and at one point had a bit of a moment where I very nearly lost it but managed to stay on track, however I lost a few seconds in the process. Sixth place is not brilliant, but at least we have improved and I know that everybody in the entire team will continue to work hard until we are where we want to be which is at the front."

Fernando Alonso, Renault (7th):
"I am pleased to score two points after what happened yesterday. Obviously, everything changed for us after qualifying and in that perspective this is a pretty positive result. However, our strategy didn't really work out and I think I could have finished even higher up. The car was competitive, but quite tricky to drive: the balance wasn't particularly good during the race. It is always difficult here in Malaysia, and our mistakes during the weekend didn't make life any easier. But when you finish seventh after starting last, things could be worse."

Felipe Massa, Sauber (8th):
"I had a bit of a clutch problem from the start of the race, which made all my pit stops a bit nerve-wracking. I also found it very difficult on the first lap out of the pits on new tyres. That's why I had that moment in Turn 13 around lap 42 - I just couldn't hold the steering wheel! I went right over the grass and luckily Michael managed to miss me.

"It was very difficult to try and catch the drivers in front, but in the end this was a really good result for us. I scored my first point here in 2002, so it's good to come back and do the same two years later. This was very important for us, to score a point for Petronas."

Cristiano da Matta, Toyota (9th):
"It was quite a difficult race. The limited running I had during the practice sessions did not affect my qualifying lap yesterday, but I think it hurt us in the race today. I suffered from a lot of understeer throughout, and unfortunately the adjustments we made during the pitstops did not really help much. I got a good start up to eighth place into the first corner, but I was forced to run wide at turn 4, which lost me a lot of places. From there, we used some good pitstop work to make up the places we lost, but I have to admit that it is a bit frustrating to finish ninth and just outside the points."

Christian Klien, Jaguar (10th):
“My start was not good and I am certainly frustrated with this. I did however, actually enjoy the race and it was good for me. The first few laps were made difficult by the rain and I was pleased just to stay on track. The pace of the car was good and the balance and set-up for the track was ideal for me, thanks to my mechanics. I was racing with the Jordan of Fisichella and the Toyota of Panis and
I felt really confident in the R5. Unfortunately my third pit-stop cost me a couple of places as my fuel cap would not open and the team had to do it manually. Before Bahrain we will be looking to understand more about why I had a slow start and why the fuel cap did not open. The main thing for me is finishing after what has been an incredibly tough ninety minutes but also rewarding for me.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber (11th):
"I had some moments in the first two corners after the start and lost a lot of places, so after that we decided to change our refuelling strategy slightly. Then unfortunately the engine stalled in the second stop and again in the third, so I lost even more time. The car wasn't too bad in between all that."

Olivier Panis, Toyota (12th):
"My start was very good and I made up a couple of positions, but I think that somebody must have pushed me from the back because I spun. I worked hard to make my way through the field after that to regain positions and was running quite strongly in tenth place until a radio communication problem resulted in an unscheduled pitstop. It is a real pity because the car felt good and was handling well. The final result showed that we could have been in contention for a point today. Nevertheless, I take heart from the hard work the team has put in since Melbourne to significantly improve our overall package and I am looking forward to the next race in Bahrain."

Giorgio Pantano, Jordan (13th):
"I have to say it was a hard weekend for us, the difficulties started in qualifying when we had a problem with car. In the end we were able to fix it for the race so I used my original car although it meant starting from the pit lane. I think I drove quite a consistent race, but it was just a little bit hard at the end because my drinks bottle didn't work throughout the race and it was quite exhausting by the finish."

Gianmaria Bruni, Minardi (14th):
“It was a tough race, particularly as I had to drive the last 30 laps without power steering. Overall, the car was consistent and the balance was good for what we have. This was my first ‘full-distance’ Grand Prix finish and I particularly want to thank the guys for the fantastic job they did today, and all weekend. We did the best we could today with the package we have and now I hope we can go forward. I am very happy.”

Takuma Sato, BAR (15th):
"Obviously it was extremely disappointing that we weren't able to finish the race with only three laps to go. The car was very strong and we had good race pace. Unlike many of the drivers, we chose a two-stop strategy but it was working very well. I had a very good start and was determined to make up places off the grid. I was up to 11th by the end of the first lap and then obviously I wanted to keep pushing because I knew a points finish was within my grasp. Unfortunately I made a mistake at turn 6 at the time when the track was starting to get damp and as a result I went off. I was able to rejoin the race and I just put everything I had into getting back into the top 8. I concentrated hard on every lap and it was great to be racing with the Renault at the end. Despite the disappointment, I'm very happy for the team and we have shown today that there are some very exciting race performances to come from all of us."

Zsolt Baumgartner, Minardi (16th):
“It was a tough race. I was struggling for much of the time with a chassis imbalance – the front end was quite good, but the rear was unstable, with too much oversteer. I got in front of Gimmi at the start, but then made a small mistake and he got me back. One of the most difficult things this afternoon was letting people pass while still trying to keep racing. This was definitely one of the toughest events I’ve ever done, and I’m very pleased to have finished.”

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (DNF):
"It's never nice not to finish a race, not only for me but also for the team. However, whilst we need to become even more competitive at least we have taken a step in the right direction, and I know everybody will continue their efforts to improve even further. We were close to getting on the podium today, but in my second pitstop we struggled to get the fuel nozzle to come off, so we lost important time to BAR and Jenson could take third. A few laps later something broke in my transmission, and that was the end of that. I'm now hoping that we can take another step in time for the next race in Bahrain."

Nick Heidfeld, Jordan (DNF):>
"I had to retire because I was getting stuck in gears for short periods and although at first I was able to shift again, it got worse until I was stuck in fifth gear for more than a lap and after that there was no point carrying on. Realistically the race was over for me after my first pit stop because no fuel went into the car and I had to come in to stop again, very slowly as well so as not to run out of fuel on the circuit. I was trying to move up the field when the gears went. Although it's disappointing not to finish because of technical problems, on the positive side I made a really good start and my speed wasn't bad at the beginning. I kept a few cars behind me - Toyota, Jaguar, Sauber - our pace was quite good."

Ralf Schumacher, Williams (DNF):
“I had a reasonable start but got trapped in traffic, so I lost several positions and dropped to 9th place. At the third lap I had contact with Webber and my front wing was damaged, causing massive understeer, especially in sector two which was obvious from my times. I was trying to overtake Mark but then I realised there was not enough room and I backed off, trying to avoid the collision, however Mark didn't give me enough space. Finally I had a technical failure, which caused an early end to my race.”

Mark Webber, Jaguar (DNF):
“I am really disappointed with the outcome today after all of our hard work and our fantastic place on the front row of the grid for the race. I had a bad start with the car and things did not get much better after that. After overtaking Ralf Schumacher twice he hit me from behind and my rear right tyre had a puncture and the car may have suffered some damage too. I then had to limp to the pits to be re-fuelled and have the tyres changed. The drive through penalty added to my troubles and after then going off-line several times to let people overtake me I spun under braking. A very difficult end for us which should not have been the case. The pace of the R5 is evident and we had a great package and set-up for today. I know that the team are going to be working very hard over the next few weeks and I am confident that together with Michelin, Cosworth Racing and Pi Research we will move forward.”