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FIA Thursday Press Conference - Part One 22 Apr 2004

(L to R): Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari and Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR  in the Thursday press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Preparations, Imola, Italy, 22 April 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: Takuma Sato (BAR) and Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)

Q: Michael, since Bahrain can you tell us a bit about your testing programme?
Michael SCHUMACHER:
We have obviously been in Barcelona testing, I was there two days, and after that in Fiorano for two days. The funny thing is that it is rare, and I don’t remember when we had the last test and we didn’t have any rain period. It has been a rainy season during testing at least.

Q: And I think you were there yesterday with Valentino Rossi…
MS:
Yeah I was there yesterday and it was pretty interesting.

Q: Tell us about it. How did he get on?
MS:
He got on very good. He took some time to get into it but in the end he ended it very impressively.

Q: Obviously being a racer on two wheels he has the general feeling for it…
MS:
I guess so. I didn’t know that but I heard yesterday that he has some karting experience which I guess did help him. But once you have the racing blood you sort of know what to do.

Q: This race is a home race for you with Fiorano close by, but I believe you also have some responsibilities with San Marino. Can you tell us about those?
MS:
Indeed, it is a sort of home Grand Prix for me. As the ambassador of San Marino, I am going to be at the sports awards tonight. It is good to come here. Obviously we all know about the rumours for the future of the San Marino Grand Prix, so from my side I hope that they don’t come true.

Q: Can you do anything about that?
MS:
If I have anything to do I will try, but I think there is very little I can do.

Q: The other thing since Bahrain is that you went to Dublin and did some work with the FIA on road safety. Can you tell us about that?
MS:
Yeah we have been doing a few events together, the FIA and myself, in order to campaign road safety. We have the 10-second campaign and it is always about how little attention and little time you need to improve your road safety. There is little things like putting on the safety belt, having luggage in the right position, having the children’s seat properly – they are little things but they have a big effect. People who have not seen the difference do not do it and they risk their lives. So we try to raise the attention because if you know the numbers of road accidents, if you see the ambitions in what there is to achieve in the next years, how much to reduce death in traffic that is pretty ambitious, especially with all the new countries coming to the European statutes – it is important to work with them and make them aware.

Q: Is that something you will be doing more of?
MS:
We are doing it quite regularly honestly. Whenever there is the right time because if you do it every day it is going to go in there (one ear) and out of there (the other ear). You have to do it at the right time and in the right way.

Q: So quite a busy few weeks since Bahrain?
MS:
I mean Dublin was in that respect busy because I had just come home and had to leave straight away again to go to Dublin so it was pretty busy. Then with the testing and so on the next week was okay. I just had two days and I was a bit easy until yesterday.

Q: Last night…
MS:
Even last night but I don’t know if we should speak about that.

Q: That was a busy match wasn’t it?
MS:
I was running around with my colleagues. We had a sort of positioning for our players and after sort of two minutes I saw the game and I said to all the good players like Fernando (Alonso) and some others ‘you have to come to the back, you can’t be the attackers’. There was no game in the front for us in the beginning, we only had to defend against these professional people. But it was fun and it was particular fun in the second-half when we changed the players.

Q: What about this weather, are you expecting this weather throughout the weekend?
MS:
It would be beautiful especially for the spectators. Even if the temperature went higher it would be ideal for everybody. I heard some forecasts, which doesn’t seem to be for the rest of the weekend this kind of weather.

Q: Would prefer cooler temperatures? Do you think that Bridgestone need cooler temperatures or is that a bit of a myth these days?
MS:
There is maybe the open point of the very, very hot conditions, which we could have had in Malaysia and could have had in Bahrain – what is the situation. I believe the sort of low to normal temperature is pretty equal for us so these temperatures are good.

Q: How do you think things have gone so far this season?
Takuma SATO:
Obviously we are very happy about the things that have happened and obviously the racing wasn’t easy for me the first three races but the car has worked very good and strongly. All three drivers, test driver Anthony (Davidson), Jenson (Button) and I are very confident about the car and putting so much commitment into the team. We are working well. For me to come back to the Grand Prix for a second season is very good and exciting.

Q: Did you think it was going to be this good?
TS:
The beginning of the season was nervous, but the car had a lot of potential. I had a really exciting race in Bahrain so it is nice after this.

Q: There was an accusation after the first two races that you were over-driving. Do you feel that you have got that sorted out now?
TS:
It is a difficult question. Obviously a driver is always driving as fast as he can and you are always committed. The difficult things are that we have a small number of laps before the qualifying and there is a lot of things that we have to do. It is never going to be perfect. But I think now we are back in Europe it is more relaxed with the structure and the way things happen at the weekends, and more, I think, enjoyable now.

Q: What about the battle with Jarno Trulli in Bahrain?
TS:
Jarno was a little bit at the start, but basically I started with Ralf and the last 15 laps to the finish was with Alonso.

Q: And how enjoyable was that?
TS:
It was good. We were fighting for the points. I think Bahrain has a really great opportunity for overtaking people and those last 15 laps were tough, but it was a good battle.

Q: And the testing since then – Jenson did 150 laps in one day at Ricard, I presume that is pretty good…
TS:
As Michael mentioned we all went to the Barcelona test and it was a good test. Then we went to Paul Ricard and Jenson completed nearly 300 laps in two days. Unfortunately the day I arrived was stormy weather and we couldn’t complete any timed laps. Basically we just did out laps to collect data. But we are on the pace in testing and we are confident for Europe and particularly here.

Q: After these first three races have you slightly reappraised your ambitions for the season? Have you thought I can do a little better than I thought I was going to do?
TS:
I think that probably the biggest grey area was how the BAR-Honda would be performing. But we did a lot of hard work over the winter and I’m particularly pleased we have shown some good performance. We have scored a lot of points and I think we will rightly continue with the package throughout the season.

Q: To come back to Michael, one of things that has come up since the last race is the certain amount of talk over weather Formula One cars should be slowed down. Do you think they should?
MS:
It is probably a matter of whether we arrive at a limit where we can cope with it or still can cope with it and from a drivers’ point of view it is clear that we can still cope with the speeds we do. I think for the future if you see development going there has to be a direction and there is something in plan to do. If you see the relationship between the horsepower and what the tyres do and the aerodynamics are, then we have, in my view, to look at that and reduce the horsepower.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Hans van der Klis – Race Report): Michael would you like to jump on a bike now in return….
MS:
I do pretty regular jump on a bike. It is more a Harley Davidson bike but anyway. There is no ambitions to jump on a real race bike and try to go really racing speed. That is not my ambition. Going from a bike to a car is a pretty safe thing to do, going from a car to a bike lesser.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sports News): Could you just give us your general step on this weekend and the competition and how you think it will go….
MS:
There is two views you can have. One is that we have been here in the winter and were very strong, the other is that in Barcelona Takuma and Jenson have been very fast. So what does it mean? I don’t know myself actually.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sports News): Michael in Bahrain you drove a fantastic race and obviously got tremendous satisfaction out of winning in such dominant fashion. It is not your fault that the other don’t have a package good enough to compete direct with you but do you miss wheel-to-wheel racing with the competition?
MS:
You know racing and Formula One in particular has always been like this, that there is no way to get 100 percent wheel-to-wheel racing. There is periods you have more and there is periods you have less. The other periods will come.

Q: (Ian Parkes – PA News): Michael I can imagine this must be an emotional weekend for you in more ways than one, not only the death of Ayrton Senna ten-year anniversary but this time last year you lost your mother. Can you put into words your thoughts…
MS:
You’re pretty right. Unfortunately we only think about one driver and I like to remember both drivers who have died in the same weekend. Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton died and everyone was obviously shocked about this and from my point of view it was the first experience with death in the sport I most love. The only positive I can take out of this one, and at least that is important that we have seen a lot of action in terms of safety happening since that day. Max Mosley was very much the person to drive this safety campaign very strongly forward to not let this happen as much as it is possible in the world to have a safe sport. Because to everything there is a limit but he and his group and the drivers and everybody sort of pulled on the same line in order to improve safety and if you see what safety level we have in these days, then it is a tremendous success. In this way we have to say that this is the feedback we have had since 1994. It doesn’t really justify it, but at the end of the day we can see something positive out of it.

Q: (Ian Parkes – PA News): What do you remember most about Ayrton?
MS:
I have very mixed and many memories. The first one is in 1980 when I saw him racing in a go-kart race, and I was very impressed. Nobody knew who he was at the time, it was purely a fantastic kart racer with a lot of abilities and talent and he worked his way through to Formula One and became as successful as he did. It was a privilege for me to be able to race against him. We had some tough fights, very good fights, we had some tough times on a personal level, but we also had some good times on a personal level, which I am always keeping in good memory.

Q: (Ian Parkes – PA News): Many people try to compare the two of you. Do you think that is an unfair comparison?
MS:
I never wanted to be compared or try to be someone different so naturally I don’t draw the comparison.

Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters): Going back to Valentino Rossi. Do you think he could have a future in Formula One?
MS:
I think it is not easy to answer. He has great ability, he has shown that many times on his racing bike and he has shown them to some degree in what he did yesterday. As he knows what it takes to do what he is doing in motor racing, in motorcycle, how much experience he needs, how much basic knowledge and experience you need in the lower classes you need to build up to this top level. I would probably say he would come to a certain level, which would be maybe competitive, but to come to the final bit is usually the difficult bit. I don’t think it is the point because he just wanted to en joy himself and I’m pretty sure he did looking at the grin he had on his face yesterday. I guess today he is working on his neck to get that back in order! Otherwise it was a fun day for him.

Q: (Maurice Hamilton – The Observer): Michael, going back to the question about slowing the cars down, you mentioned engine power but the biggest gains come from the tyre war and the reduction in lap times. Is there an argument for controlled tyres?
MS:
I think the only way is to tell them what to do, but as we have a free sort of sport it is very difficult. To put more grooves then we’ll be back on slicks basically. Not much you do about that in my view. If you see the improvement over the years, when we went from three-and-a-half litre to the three-litre we were down to 600 horsepower and everybody said the maximum you will arrive at is 700, 750 that’s going to be it. Give it another two years we will be knocking on the 1000 door in my view and this is out of proportion with the size of the tyres we have, to the grip, to the aero package and that why I think that is the thing to look at.

Q: (Livio Orrichio – O Estado de Sao Paulo?): Coming back to Valentino Rossi, are you curious to ride his motorcycle as he was to drive a Formula One car?
MS:
I am curious to feel simply the acceleration of such a bike, not find the limit on the corners. I said before that is not my playing field.