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Post-race press conference - Bahrain 04 Apr 2004

(L to R): Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari, Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari and Jenson Button (GBR) BAR in the post race press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 4 April 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: 1st Michael Schumacher (Ferrari); 2nd Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari); 3rd Jenson Button (BAR).

Q: Michael, you scored your third win in a row for Ferrari by almost half a minute. Well, they say the epitome of the art is when you make it look easy from the outside – that’s how it looked for you. What was it like in the cockpit?
Michael SCHUMACHER:
It was hard work because the brakes were sort of marginal and we had to keep an eye on the tyres. You saw both tyre companies were fighting with blisters so you had to drive on a fine line, not push it too hard, not overdo it otherwise you would fall into this problem and that makes it look less spectacular. But I thought I finished just a couple of seconds ahead of him rather than half a minute.

Q: Well, I was referring to the team, of course.
MS:
No, but it was a superb weekend. We worked our way through, it was tough at times, we looked reasonable on Friday, had a bit of difficulty on Saturday to get the balance right as conditions changed but in the final moment we had everything spot on, we managed the first row and we managed the first and second position – that is obviously the dream result.

Q: It looked like quite an interesting first corner, a bit of locking brakes there?
MS:
Yeah, obviously tyres are cold, especially the front tyres, and I started to lock up my inner side front wheel. I couldn’t allow it to come off the brake to recover because I was already on the limit in terms of braking point, so I had to keep it locking. That caused some vibration, which made it sort of interesting, those sorts of nine laps I had to go with that flat spot. But it worked out fine.

Q: And when you have that sort of concentration is that a problem lapping slower cars?
MS:
The biggest problem was to stay on line, honestly, because it was so difficult and slippery just going a little bit wide and it happened a couple of times to me because braking was so marginal and tyres were slippery, were on the edge, that I just ran a bit wide. Actually, when, I think, I got by Juan. At the end of the race that was the case, I came off line and I struggled immediately at the next corner so it was very tricky.

Q: Rubens, you backed up Michael with a great team performance and Ferrari were very dominant today. How was your car?
Rubens BARRICHELLO:
My car was great. Unfortunately the rain, we had some drops at the start, didn’t come my way again, just like Malaysia. I hoped that some short-term rain might help just because my brakes were a little bit too cold and I needed to warm them up but at the same time I needed to save fuel a little bit on the out lap. I almost had to avoid Michael on the first corner and then he was very, very fast for the first couple of corners. So he got a gap and it was difficult to follow but I was within two or three tenths. I knew as my brakes were coming better that I would have a chance to race with him a little bit closer but unfortunately I had a small problem on the pitstops and he opened up the ten seconds. Even though I got it sometimes to eight seconds it was difficult with traffic and so on and he was fast anyway so it was just that ten seconds it was difficult to get back.

Q: Jenson, another great drive, two podium finishes in a row.
Jenson BUTTON:
It’s fantastic, it really is. This one was a little bit more difficult. Starting sixth wasn’t the best position for me; I was a little bit disappointed because I think we had too much understeer in the car, which lost me quite a bit of time in qualifying. But it was good to fight through, as we did in Malaysia, and the car seemed very, very good throughout the race. It was very consistent. But again, as Michael said, you really had to be careful about staying on line; it was a little bit dusty off line.

Q: You had some interesting battles today – you followed your team-mate Takuma Sato, of course, and you passed Jarno Trulli in the pit stop.
JB:
Yeah, I mean, the guys in the pitstops normally do fantastic jobs at our team. We do a lot of practice, as every team does, but they are simply very good and I think our strategy really paid off this weekend.

Q: And how was it with Takuma? Were you racing him there or just sort of sitting behind him, waiting to see what happened?
JB:
I wasn’t going to push too hard behind him. It was very close between what lap we were going to stop on, so I was conserving fuel a little bit. But then he made a mistake up the back and I was able to pull alongside him and get past.

Q: Well, Michael, I have to ask you – what was the rosewater like on the podium?
MS:
Smells very good, I have to say. Usually we sort of smell a bit strange but now all three of us have a beautiful smell after this race.

Q: Can you give us a few words after this race about this first Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix?
MS:
I think everybody here has done a superb job. They have prepared a circuit for us which was very interesting to drive, technically very difficult, a big challenge. As well, the organisation in terms of pits and space availability, it was just superb. The welcome of the fans, all the people here, was very warm so it was a very, very nice experience I guess we all had here and we look forward to coming back.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Michael, congratulations, well done. It did look easy out there, but it seems a knife-edge?
MS:
Yeah, that was the secret of the weekend, not to overdo it and just stay always within or slightly below the limit. That is why you probably saw very little corrections on the steering, just driving very smoothly.

Q: How much of an advantage was it that it was slightly cooler today, that your tyres perhaps adapted better than your rivals’ did to the temperature change?
MS:
I don’t know who on the opposition was on soft or hard tyres and that may have an effect. But as far as I am aware, Montoya was on soft tyres so I think that was equally the condition. For the guys that were on hard tyres, maybe it paid a little bit, it was a penalty.

Q: Now, the last three times we have had a new circuit in Grand Prix racing – Malaysia, Indianapolis and now here – it has been a Ferrari pole position and a Ferrari one-two. Is that just coincidence or do you prepare better than anyone else?
MS:
I guess it is coincidence in respect that there is no special secret, other than that we are prepared properly in terms of having a very good car and a very good team, so we are using our opportunity. I have no other explanation and I don’t think that it is specifically down that others don’t do as good a job over the weekend. I wouldn’t say so.

Q: One point about the race itself, the only time you actually lost time to Rubens was early in the third set of tyres. You just lost a little bit of time to Rubens before you pulled away again. Is there any reason for that?
MS:
At certain stages of the race there was traffic out there and maybe it was this, I don’t know. At some stages of the race, anyway, Rubens was very strong. In other stages I was stronger, so it went one way or the other, depending on the stage of the race.

Q: Did you have any worries about your brakes?
MS:
We had to be sort of looking after them and not overdo it, but predictions were right.

Q: Rubens, did you have any worries with the brakes, especially after Malaysia?
RB:
Mmm, no. Again, as Michael said, we had to be conservative, we had to look after them, but in a way, my brake pedal stayed quite consistent.

Q: What about the start? You were off-line, was it very dirty?
RB:
More than being off-line, I was a little bit more worried by the fact that there was a little bit of oil from a historic Formula One car on my rear tyres, so people were cleaning it and so on. When you are concentrated and you’re so cool and focused and something like that happens, you might get a little bit worried because I didn’t want to lose out for sure, but having seen the other races, like the Formula BMW and the historics, the second car on the grid always pulled alongside the first one, so I was looking good. In fact I was on his (Michael’s) rear tyre going into the first corner. It was a little bit marginal because both brakes were cold but he managed to outbrake me a little bit more.

Q: Then during those opening laps Michael was pulling away from you; what was happening there?
RB:
The track was a little bit tricky at that point and my brakes didn’t really start to work until the second lap and at that stage Michael already had a lead of 2.5s and he was going quite fast. I knew he had a little bit less fuel than I had, so I just had to try to do the same times and stay with him. Unfortunately, he just pulled out more than I thought – he was something like four seconds ahead at the first pit stop – but I came really strongly then. Unfortunately I had that small problem in the pit lane and then in the pit stop and then I lost something like five seconds. So for him, for a champion of his calibre, some ten seconds is too easy, because then he can just manage the gap in a way. On this circuit, here, it’s easy to go faster if you go slower, but if you try to push, you can lose more than a second in one corner. So I was really pushing the whole time, not making a gap but I had moments in my race when it was better with
tyres than others, so I had good moments and bad moments.

Q: Jenson, what happened at the start; it was pretty lively for you, I think?
JB:
It was. I didn’t actually get a very good start. My start off the line wasn’t too bad but into turn one I was stuck behind Ralf who also got a bad start. I dropped back to eighth position, I think it was. I was able to get back past the Toyota into turn three and then I found that I had quite a lot of understeer in the car so I was losing quite a bit of time through high speed corners, especially being so close to the cars in front. So at the first stop we made a wing change and it was a big improvement.

Q: Any panics at the end of the race this time?
JB:
Not at all. The car was working very well. I worked my brakes very hard trying to catch Juan Pablo and then he had his problems so the next lap I cooled them down quite a bit, but apart from that, the car was working very well.;

Q: You were catching Jarno and Jarno was catching Juan Pablo until his problem got much worse. But the tactics in getting past Jarno were extraordinary…
JB:
Yeah, I know. I think we had very good strategy again as we did in Malaysia. They always seem to come out of the pits in front of us at the first stop, Renault, or Jarno does, but by the end of the last stop, we’re back in front again by a few seconds. We did have a very good strategy and it’s great to be on the podium again.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Matthias Brunner – Motorsport Aktuell): This is for Rubens: what exactly was the problem at the pit stop, which cost you these five seconds; and then we were told about an incident with Jarno, but we didn’t see it?
RB:
At the pit stop, I’m not so sure what happened, but I think it’s something that happened on the right rear wheel because I thought they told me to go, I thought I had seen the lollipop move up, but then the car didn’t depart and when I looked, I was still on the rear jack. So then I had to pull it all… I may have lost five to six seconds there. I don’t know what really happened. I think it was this.
With Jarno, it was the same thing that happened to me in Malaysia. I was coming down the pit lane and he cut across me and I had to brake. I don’t think it was as severe as he was with me because the problem here is that the pit lane surface compared to the asphalt has so much less grip, so the speed that I had compared to Jarno was much greater on his side. So I was trying to slowly get off this surface because I had no grip and I was actually having problems and when I saw him, I actually braked to avoid him, because he was going past me, but nevertheless, the team told me to keep on pushing because I might get a penalty because of that. It was a bit worrying and a bit sad if that does happen, because it was not my intention to block Jarno at that point.

Q: Rubens, you sound quite tired and you’re quite red in the face as well. Did you find it a very exhausting race?
RB:
No, I sweat a little bit more than I normally… like Malaysia was no problem at all. I didn’t have a very good night’s sleep for the last couple of nights so I was a little bit tired three-quarters of the way through the race, and I kept on pushing. I just sweat a bit more than normal.
MS: It was the champagne he got!
RB: Yeah, I drunk the champagne before the race!

Q: (Nikhil Taneja – Young Times): This is to Mr Schumacher: so you are already six time World Champion and it seems you are all set to become the seven time World Champion. Is there anything, according to you, that you have yet to achieve?
MS:
I don’t’ want to talk about what might happen or what might not happen, but the fact is that I love the sport and may I keep going as long as I love it.

Q: (Mark Fogarty – Auto Action): I hesitate to say this Michael but this is looking a lot like 2002 again. Is it feeling that way? Three in a row.
MS:
Well, you might be able to compare it this way. I don’t have any problem with that honestly! (Laughter)

Q: (Mark Fogarty): No, but for the rest it’s looking ominous, isn’t it? I mean you’ve again had such a fast start to the season so…
MS:
Yeah but, I’m afraid that I think the others will raise their game and they will come back to competition but it’s not down to us.

Q: (Mark Fogarty): Do you really think they will? You would have said that in 2002…
MS:
Sure, but did you think that after last year, Australia, we would have a championship? I think you made the same question or comment after Australia last year. I simply believe we have done three out of 18 races; there’s a long way to go.

Q: (Thibault Larue – Sport Auto): Yesterday you talked about a very comfortable car, a very easy car. Now we go back to Europe and it will be the real starting point in the development of the F1 cars. Do you think there is a big enough margin of progress in your incredible Ferrari?
MS:
Naturally, as the situation is what it is, I guess we have less margin to improve our car, though we will keep on trying, compared to the others; there will be more margin and we deeply believe that the others will catch up strongly and we’d better be prepared, otherwise we have the same situation as last year, and we’d rather finish a bit more comfortably than last year.

Q: (Nikhil Taneja): Jenson, you were first in the third and fourth qualifying sessions (practice sessions) but you were still third in the race. What do you think you still have to do to finish first?
JB:
I wasn’t actually first in the qualifying sessions; that was in the morning practice. We were very quick on Saturday morning but we lost a lot of time when we got to qualifying. I don’t really understand what the reason was but that’s something we really need to look at in the data. It’s all gaining experience for us. This is our third race with Michelin tyres and working out how they work is not as easy as it seems. We’re gaining experience and hopefully by the next race we can make another step forward.

Q: (Marco Evangelisti – Corriere dello Sport): Jenson, what is the secret behind BAR’s dramatic improvement in performance here?
JB:
I’m going to say the same as I always do. We’ve worked very hard over the winter and I think we gained a lot of experience last year. We’re still a very young team in comparison and that’s it really. We’ve all worked very hard, it’s not just in one area, it’s in every area that we’ve stepped up our game and everyone is very determined in the team so it’s a very exciting season for us.

Q: (Mark Fogarty): Jenson, when you were chasing Takuma, how hard did you have to work, or were you just sitting back waiting for the inevitable?
JB:
Inevitable? I think I was being held up, but it wasn’t a bad thing because I was able to conserve fuel and able to pit a bit later than we expected, so it wasn’t a big issue.

Q: (Nikhil Taneja): To all three of you, how different is fruit juice to champagne?
MS:
Smells better afterwards (Laughter).
JB: We smell like ladies now. (Laughter).