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Post-race press conference - Malaysia 21 Mar 2004

(L to R): second placed Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams; race winner Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari; third placed Jenson Button (GBR) BAR in the post race press conference.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Race Day, Rd 2, Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 21 March 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: 1st Michael Schumacher (Ferrari); 2nd Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams); 3rd Jenson Button (BAR).

TV UNILATERALS

Q: Michael, you thought it might be more difficult here and it looked a little tense on occasions. Early in the race, Juan Pablo put some pressure on you, but ultimately, it was another great win.
Michael SCHUMACHER:
Yeah, it’s true. In the moments where we needed to be quick we were just quick enough - at the beginning of the stint and at the end of the stint. But the beginning of the race was very tough as it was so unpredictable, where the water was, and how much there was. Being the first car having no reference didn’t really help so I had to be cautious and, at the same time, be careful of Juan and not give him an opportunity. And then, each time after the pit stops and before the pit stops it opened up and closed down quite rapidly at those stages so it was a tough fight until the end and it wasn’t granted at all, until the end.

Q: Was it a hard race? We talked about the heat but obviously it wasn’t quite as hot today, but there was pressure all the way?
MS:
It was pressure all the way, and Malaysia is a tough circuit. It is still hot enough to make it a hard race. It would have been even harder if the sun had shone but I didn’t mind not having the sun and I guess my colleagues (didn’t) too.

Q: Juan Pablo, you set fastest lap after your second stop. You were able to put pressure on Michael at various stages of the race. Talk us through the race from your point of view.
Juan Pablo MONTOYA:
I think it went pretty well. In the first few laps I got in front of Rubens. He made a mistake. Then I was trying to catch Michael towards the end of the race. The car got better, the tyres were just getting better and better and better. It was a shame I came out of the last stop behind Rubens. I went to pass him straight away but he blocked me. In a non-Ferrari, it’s better to back off than try to… you know, it’s better to go home with eight points than out of the race.

Q: You did get close to Michael. How did you think the two cars compared? Do you think we’ve got a championship?
JPM:
It’s very hard to say, you know. It’s very early days. The car still needs quite a bit of work because in the end we’re not trying to be at their level but above really, and to be above you need to have a car that is consistent enough to win everywhere. And they have the car. We’re close in places but we still need to do quite a lot of work. But the guys did a very good job here.

Q: Jenson, you must feel elated. The moment is yours, talk us through your emotions?
Jenson BUTTON:
Amazing. You know it’s as much the team’s as mine. They’ve worked so hard for this. It’s obviously not the pinnacle of what we want but it’s a good step in the right direction, so I’m ecstatic and I can’t wait to get back to the team and congratulate them.

Q: You did a superb job throughout the race, a little bit of a race there with Jarno Trulli early on and then I guess, late in the race, when your team-mate’s engine went, that might have been a bit of a worry was it?
JB:
It was a little bit, yes, but I also touched Jarno after the start, we hit wheels on the straight so that was a little worry, because I thought something might be wrong. But everything felt fine and I had a good fight with him for the first few laps in the damp conditions. And it was great to have a gap to the car behind me, because here, for the last two years, I’ve had cars breathing down my neck on the last lap, so it’s nice to have a bit of a gap.

Q: Michael, I couldn’t help but notice that you were able to get the exact right beat at the end of the Italian national anthem there on the podium - a lot of practice now. How do you see the season progressing? It must be quite difficult leading the championship as you are now? Where do you go from here, how do you stay on top?
MS:
I think it’s easier to lead the championship, from the position we are in than to come from where we had to come last year. But no doubt it’s only two out of 18 races, 16 to go and we all know how quick development can be for various teams. I think it’s going to be a hard year, honestly. We have another tough race to come in Bahrain. Nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen there, what sort of characteristics it has, who it favours and what’s going to happen in the meantime with development for the various teams. But the sort of difficulties that we’ve had here in the past, specifically with our tyres, I have to say Bridgestone have done a fantastic job. We have had to overcome that and to compete in such conditions, which are extreme conditions and I’m really happy for them, that they have fought their way back and we are where we are.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Michael, you were talking about the conditions on the opening laps. How much rain was there, how wet was it?
MS:
The very first lap there was just a little bit in turn four, for whatever reason, very slippery in turn eleven and then OK, but then rain came again in turn four and in turn eleven. In certain corners, during the first five or six laps spots of rain came here and there but it was corner dependent and you didn’t know how much rain there was, and how wet it was on the next lap. It was very unpredictable, very tricky.

Q: What about your start and that opening lap? You’d opened up a two second lead by the end of that first lap.
MS:
Yeah, I guess I maybe handled it better than Rubens was able to handle it and the rest were stuck behind Rubens, who seemed to lose significant time in that phase of the race, so Ross (Brawn) said. I don’t know. I gave it all the speed I thought I could, but it was very tricky, very close.

Q: What was the thinking behind that really short opening stint, just nine laps?
MS:
The thinking of the strategy? Good qualifying and to be in a good position. When did you stop (to Montoya)?
JPM: 13

Q: It was almost as though there might have been a different strategy there?
MS:
Well, it’s four laps, not that much difference.

Q: Strategy was pretty clear-cut, wasn’t it? No problems with that?
MS:
No, it was very straightforward, the strategy we had from where we started the race.

Q: And you were on different tyres to Rubens - any problems with them at all?
MS:
They worked perfectly well, but there was not much in it, honestly, within the tyres.

Q: Juan Pablo, what about the start for you, behind Webber?
JPM:
Yeah, it was a shame because the reaction in the car, compared to the last race, was a big difference. It moved off the line very quickly and I had a very good start but straight away I had to swerve and that kills the acceleration. But apart from that it was good, no problems.

Q: You mentioned Rubens but you also had traffic at other times?
JPM:
Yeah, there were quite a few times. I had Massa as well. It’s a bit of a shame - the “blue Ferrari”. (Laughs)

Q: How did you feel about the race overall, because, let’s face it, you were pretty competitive?
JPM:
It’s good. It was a lot more competitive than I had last time around and I think, if I hadn’t had Rubens in the last stint, I think we could have been quite a bit closer because at the end I was really cruising and I was under 36s – no problem – so it is a bit of a shame but there will be another time. I’m happy to go home from here with eight points - good for the team, good for myself.

Q: There was extraordinary reliability in the whole field. But Ralf stopped out on the circuit…did you have any problems?
JPM:
I don’t know what happened to Ralf. My car was fine. At the end we backed off revs, we backed off everything when Rubens got in the way.

Q: Jenson, that was an extraordinary difference to Melbourne because you were right up there all the time but there you lost places and here you gained them. What has turned it around?
JB:
Melbourne was the first race on the Michelin tyres, obviously, so we got a lot of information in that and we realised what we were lacking in after the race and I think we have really changed it around, which is great.

Q: In fact, earlier on in the weekend you weren’t very happy with the tyres so you are obviously still learning a great deal.
JB:
We just found it difficult to find a balance. If we had a bit too much understeer it would lose us a lot of lap time where as I didn’t want an oversteery car going into the race so it was a little bit difficult finding a balance but we were able to, which was good, and thanks to all the guys, they did a great job.

Q: The strategy seemed to work well. Did anything not work well?
JB:
The start was okay but as I went around Webber, Jarno was on my left side and we touched wheels, which was actually quite hard, and I thought there would be something wrong with the car but it seemed to be working okay, which obviously I was very happy with, and then we had a good little race together, myself and Jarno. It was an enjoyable race, not just great to finish third I enjoyed the whole race.

Q: Takuma raced well as well, so is this really the arrival of BAR?
JB:
I think we have done a great job over the winter, we really have made a good step forward and that is everyone in the team. Everyone is really positive, which is great. There is not one person in the team that is negative and we are just making little steps forward every race, getting used to the tyres and we are very happy.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Matthias Brunner – Motorsport Aktuell): Juan, after what happened to Ralf did you get a warning?
JPM:
No, I don’t know what happened to Ralf. I just saw him stop but I don’t know what his problem was. I didn’t hear anything, no.

Q: (James Allen – ITV): Jenson, can you describe the emotion of this moment. I know it’s not a win but it’s a podium and it has been 68 races in coming so it must be quite some feeling.
JB:
It is. I love you guys very much but I can’t wait to get outside really and see the team because I know they are going to be ecstatic and so am I. It’s a great feeling we’ve worked so hard, and this is the first time in my career I have been on the podium in four years so it’s been a struggle but with a lot of hard work it is a fantastic feeling to be here. It is a step in the right direction.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News): Jenson, you talk about making a step forward. Looking to the next races over the year, how do you guys think you are going to go?
JB:
It would be nice if we could be as consistent as we have been here, that is what we have been fantastic at. Qualifying we seem to be pretty consistent but I don’t know, we have to wait and see. Things can change within the season as we saw with Williams last year, they seemed to be able to make a huge step forward. We hope we can move forward at the same time as all the other teams.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazetta dello Sport): Michael, in the last two years you have struggled a lot in these hot conditions so how important is this victory from a psychological point of view? Does it make the rest of the championship more relaxed?
MS:
Relaxed would be certainly the wrong word. This is one of the races we sort of struggled in the past but whenever we looked strong here it helped us a lot in the difficult races through the season where it is going to be maybe very hot and difficult. I don’t know whether you can translate it and compare it to last year or not. I would wish to see it that way but I may have my doubts about that, we have to find out. It is two out of 18 races, we have the 20 points in our pocket which is certainly a lot more than we had last year but there is still a long way to go.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazetta dello Sport): Juan Pablo, what do you say to this? This is a track that everyone was talking about being more suitable to Michelin than Bridgestone…
JPM:
It was. I think it was, to be honest. If you look at two years ago Michael was on pole here, last year they were strong as well and he touched in the first corner. It is very hard to say if they are any slower. I think today on race pace we had a very good pace, it is a shame the first stint wasn’t as good as it could have been.

Q: (Marco Evangelisti – Corriere dello Sport): Juan Pablo, do you think this is a lost chance for you or a big hope for the races to come?
JPM:
I think it is better. Last year I think I had 12 points by five races. I have got 12 points now by two races and it is a matter of consistency. You never know when someone is going to break down or go out, and it’s like last year – keep scoring points and see what happens at the end. If we have good points and later in the year we have a car to win then it is up to them to score the points and for us to win. We will see.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi): Michael, do you know anything about the problem with Rubens because he lost two positions on lap four?
MS:
I think it was the wet conditions and maybe he went wide. Maybe you ask Juan – he was behind him and he might know something.
JPM: Yeah, he just braked too late and ran wide.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi): In the last Grand Prix, Michael, you challenged a bit with Renault, here you have two other guys. Will it help if you have a different challenger in every race?
MS:
Well, this would be the ideal situation if I can be in front and have a different challenger all the time but it will not always be that way and we don’t live in dreams.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News): Juan, Scott Dixon is going to test in an F1 car. You saw him race in Indy Lights, he has won the IRL championship. What do you think of him and what will he have most difficulty getting used to?
JPM:
I think the last one or two years he has been doing ovals so it is going to take a little time to get into the rhythm, especially in an F1 car. He’s pretty good. I think he will do alright. The first test I don’t expect anything from him but I think he is doing two tests and if he does then the second test will be a little bit more competitive. It will be a good experience for him.

Q: (Saravana Kuppusami – Radio 104.9): Michael, without the launch control and the automatic gearbox, as a driver is it more or less exciting as before?
MS:
It is obviously more exciting than before. You have a lot more responsibility and it increases the excitement. Before it was down to just watching the light and pushing the button and now there is a little bit more to do.

Q: (Saravana Kuppusami): So, you really enjoy racing these things?
MS:
Yeah, it leaves a little bit more margin and possibilities for us drivers.

Q: (Saravana Kuppusami): So are you in favour of the current qualifying system or would you prefer last year’s?
MS:
It doesn’t really matter very much what we prefer because it doesn’t really change anything.

Q: (Kevin Garside – The Daily Telegraph): Juan, can you tell us, did you attempt to get past Rubens and were you rebuffed in some way?
JPM:
Yeah, I think it was into turn four, I got a bit of a run on him and as soon as I moved he closed the door straight away and his pace backed off and the lap before he came into the pits he pushed again, so I lost a bit of time but that’s racing.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri): Was it a bit of a dirty move?
JPM:
Yeah, you know, I got a run on him and as soon as I went to move he moved and there was no point even trying to pass. There were 12 laps to go, I had new tyres so I just backed off and cruised.