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FIA Friday Press Conference - Bahrain 02 Apr 2004

(L to R): Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren, Giorgio Pantano (ITA) Jordan, Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari, Christian Klien (AUT) Jaguar and Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams in the press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 2 April 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

With Jaguar’s Christian Klien, Williams’ Juan Pablo Montoya, Jordan’s Giorgio Pantano, McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher.

Q: First of all, a question to all of you; what do you think of the circuit and Bahrain as a whole?
Kimi RAIKKONEN:
I thought that the circuit is quite nice. It’s a little bit slippery because there’s quite a bit of sand there but it was getting better. Overall, I think the place is pretty nice. I like it.
Michael SCHUMACHER: Yeah, very much the same. I’m quite pleased with the circuit and the layout, it’s interesting, very tricky, nice up and down moves. They’ve done a good job, and the newness of the circuit makes it a bit difficult. Coming off line a little bit, there are all the little stones, sharp edges of the tarmac which we brush away and that obviously goes next to the line and any time you go a bit off-line you see all the cars going wide or into a spin or whatever
Juan Pablo MONTOYA: I think they were really good. I think they did a fantastic job here. It’s great to come to the Middle East. It’s been a very good experience for me so far, the car thing seems to have worked really well. It’s nice. It’s a pretty challenging track, you know, up and down and quite demanding. It’s nice.
Christian KLIEN: I think I like the circuit quite a lot, it’s good. I think they’ve done a fantastic job in a short time, and it’s good fun to drive here. It’s quite a challenging circuit and obviously it goes up and down. It’s quite hard on brakes. It was good for me and a good first session.
Giorgio PANTANO: I think it’s pretty much the same as what they say. It’s very good, it’s wonderful here and the only problem that we have is that off the line it’s quite slippery at the moment, but that’s the only problem.

Q: Today you were fastest Italian and fastest team on Bridgestones after Ferrari. Was that slightly reflected by the fact that this is a circuit that everybody has had to learn, not just the newcomers?
GP:
Yeah. It’s helped me a little bit, but I think we’ve worked quite hard to understand what was the problem in the last two races. We found quite a good balance with the car. I also I have to say thanks to Bridgestone, they’ve come with good tyres, but the team has also worked quite hard to make the car’s balance better. My feeling is also improving more and more with the car.

Q: What about Formula One as a whole, what surprises have you had?
GP:
To be honest, I think it’s more about the press, interviews, TV; that’s quite impressive. That was my first impression about Formula One, that there’s a lot of press interviews, television, all this stuff.

Q: Christian, what has surprised you about Formula One?
CK:
Obviously driving the cars is a bit different to Formula Three or some other categories but the biggest thing I think is working with the team, with the engineers. You have so many people around you. You have to work with them, to motivate them and work closely with them. I think that’s the biggest thing for me. For sure, there’s quite a lot of work with the press and media but that’s part of the job and it’s OK.

Q: What about today? There’s obviously been a tremendous lap from you today?
CK:
Yes, it was a really good day today. The circuit was new for everybody. For sure it’s been difficult in the last two races learning the circuit and I could only drive the circuit on Playstation. But this is new for everyone and it’s good for new drivers and I think the track looks quite good. The team did a fantastic job as we saw in Malaysia with Mark Webber and I think it’s moving forward.

Q: Juan Pablo, first of all, looking back at Malaysia, was it a bit of a disappointment; I know you were second…
JPM:
I think it was really good you know, from where I was in the first race where we weren’t even close to Ferrari to having a competitive car where we did the fastest lap of the race and everything. The tyres could have been a bit more consistent, that would have helped a little bit, but Michelin came back quite strongly, and here it looks quite close. Normally on a Friday we’re miles off but I’m within a thousandth of Rubens. It’s fantastic. I think it’s a good start for the weekend and we’ll see what happens during the weekend. The tyres will get better. I’m happy with the car. I’m very pleased with the way we’re progressing with the car. Since we’ve arrived, we’ve changed little on the car. We’ve a very good balance here.

Q: Have you had any tyre worries at all?
JPM:
We haven’t really. We have had very little problems with my car or with Williams in general. My car was very good. It’s been very consistent, both tyres that we’ve run have been very consistent.

Q: Have you any theory where these punctures could be coming from?
JPM:
People going off probably.

Q: Michael, you had a certain hand in this circuit. How much did you change, how did it come about?
MS:
I think you have to put it right. At certain stages they do come and ask whether there are any sorts of problems or advice on how to create overtaking opportunities and that is the area I looked into. I guess I wasn’t the only driver to do so. The input was to take care of some of the run-off areas and to create a slowish corner into a long straight into a slowish corner, which we have with the final corner to the first corner, to allow us to have overtaking possibilities.

Q: And do you think there are quite a few overtaking opportunities here?
MS:
I am not sure there is a lot. There is probably specifically this one and there might be another one up to turn four although that is a bit more tricky because of being off line but over the weekend that may create itself into an opportunity.

Q: From an outside point of view it doesn’t look very exciting but it is obviously very challenging. Can you tell us about that?
MS:
For us we are sitting very low and very often the camera never transmits the speed we are doing but for us you do feel it quite a bit. There are two interesting chicanes - well, high speed corners - where you don’t actually see where you are going, there are some corners which you brake into that are very tricky, very easy to make mistakes. It is exciting for us because where we sit is obviously much lower.

Q: Kimi, obviously you have had a rotten start to the season. How is your morale? How do you feel?
KR:
Of course it is not nice. It is not nice for me or for any of the team but that’s racing. Of course, we would like to be in a better position than we now are but everyone is pushing hard and trying to improve it. It is always taking a little while before you get there, it doesn’t happen over two weeks and also I haven’t had the best luck yet but that is the way it is.

Q: Are there still worries for the rest of the weekend?
KR:
I don’t know really. I think today we had a fuel leak in the engine that caused a fire inside the engine and then the engine stopped. We don’t really know if we have to change the engine or not yet, we will see.

Q: What about the problems with the tyres – David had a problem – do you agree that it is the stones?
KR:
Maybe because there was another car also on the same corner, one of the BARs, so maybe there are some sharp things on the kerb or somewhere. It seems to damage the tyre but there are only parts where it is a problem for the tyres so they go around the circuit and have a little look.

Q: Is that something you will be asking for?
MS:
Yep

Q: Will you personally?
MS:
Well, it’s done already, I mean. It is more of an issue when you see what happened. It doesn’t need to be requested I believe.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (James Allen – ITV) Some of the other drivers are talking about the dust on the outside of the track. When you get off the track completely there are huge plumes of dust coming up. If that comes onto the track it can be slippery. Does something need to be done about that?
MS:
I haven’t seen a car that has a brush on the front of it to push the dust onto the circuit! I don’t worry too much about that.

Q: Does the dust actually affect the handling of the car? Do you pick it up on the tyres?
MS:
I think you are mixing up things. I mean, as we were talking before, it sprays the dust up big time if you go off really out in the run-off areas but if you just go off line, yeah, there is a bit of sand, there are a few stones like we have in other circuits, it is a little bit more, because of the circumstance and the first-time usage. There are these two levels, but neither will cause an issue and anyway there is nothing we can do about it. Just keep cleaning, they have the right equipment to do so, and then we have to see how it develops.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) Christian, how much has Mark helped you in these first few races and do you run different set-ups?
CK:
No, absolutely not, we are racing. I mean, a slightly different set-up, that’s for sure, but the car is the same. I think Mark is one of the best drivers in Formula One that’s for sure and he also has lots of experience. It was my first two races and that is why I think there was such a big gap but, for sure, I can learn a lot off him because he is a good driver and a very friendly person to work with. Today we had quite a good practice session. I think it was the same for everyone and we did a good job.

Q: (Dan Knutson) Can I put the same question to Giorgio?
GP:
I have to say, the first two races we had a different set-up me and him, but I think we need to understand that me and Christian have just turned up in Formula One. There is nothing you can compare these cars to, Formula Three cars, Formula 3000 cars, it is completely different, and we have two new tracks. I think we came here and for everybody it is new so I think we can improve a little bit. We need more feeling with the car, to understand the car more, and then I think we will be close to our team-mates because Webber and Nick are quite good drivers.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Juan Pablo, from what we have seen do you think it can be a race between Ferrari and Williams this weekend?
JPM:
Well, you have got to say that a lot of Michelin teams have been quite strong here – BAR have been quite strong, McLaren have been strong too – so we will see. We have to see what happens when we get to race day. I am very pleased, being a Friday, with the performance of the tyre because as you know Friday is the worst day for us and it just gets better. So if we are quick today then it should be a good weekend for us.