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Press Conference - Michael & Ralf Schumacher 27 May 2004

(L to R): Brothers Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari and Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, European Grand Prix, Nurburgring, Germany, 27 May 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

With drivers Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) and Ralf Schumacher (Williams).

Q: Ralf, you won here last year, how do you feel coming here this year?
Ralf SCHUMACHER:
Well, certainly great. It’s always nice for us to be back here. It’s not snowing, so it’s perfect conditions. It’s a bit early for Nuerburgring, but it’s certainly enjoyable to be back.

Q: What chances for the race?
RS:
You can never tell. It’s obvious that this year it’s a bit more difficult for us but we keep trying, trying to do our best and we will see what the outcome is.

Q: Now, there have been some management changes announced at Williams - how soon do you expect those to have some effect?
RS:
It will take Sam a while. I’m sure Sam will do great things within Williams but there’s all the existing structure and things have to be changed. The cars are still the same so you won’t turn it around overnight. It will take at least three or four races until we see some slight changes, but the biggest change will certainly be next year.

Q: You think slight changes in three or four races then?
RS:
Yes sure. The car will improve, almost certainly things are going to change, but, obviously, you have to ask Sam himself what he’s going to do.

Q: What about your own future? Have you got anything to tell us?
RS:
Nope. Why? Nothing is decided yet. We are still talking, certainly still waiting for what is happening in our team and then I will see what the outcome is.

Q: Do you see the end of the road in sight, as it were?
RS:
Yes. I would consider it quite sure that I will be in Formula One, so that’s not a problem, but obviously not where and I will obviously try to be in the best position.

Q: Just going back to last weekend and obviously the incident in the tunnel, how dirty off-line was it?
RS:
From looking at it, it looked to be pretty dirty. There were a lot of marbles out there. As I said in Monaco, it was a shame but it wasn’t my mistake, it was clearly his own mistake. To blame me – I didn’t take it seriously. Obviously losing third in Monaco is not very nice but it wasn’t my problem.

Q: Michael, would you have overtaken round the outside – or did you overtake round the outside – in the tunnel?
Michael SCHUMACHER:
You sort of know, or you should know, that if you do get off-line there it gets very dirty and very tricky and especially in that place. It’s easily flat out for us but there’s not that much margin to go around the outside. If you see it, as well, there was a lot of space for Alonso to go further inside because Ralf was moving over very close to the barrier and he didn’t need to leave that much space between him and Ralf.

Q: What about your own incident in the tunnel, to keep the tyres warm, the brakes warm and everything else must be difficult particularly when you’ve got the entire field behind you and they’re relying on what you’re doing?
MS:
Yeah, but this is the point because the guys behind rely on what the guy in front is doing, and that’s what you have to watch for and I certainly wasn’t watching my mirrors behind because I believed that everybody knows how to accelerate and brake and so it was a bit of a surprise for me. Seeing the pictures, if I had maybe watched in the mirrors then maybe I could have not gone on the normal line but I wasn’t expecting him to be there.

Q: I suppose to some extent the one thing you don’t want to do is go off-line onto the dirty side as well.
MS:
This is quite true but, well, it’s history. We can’t change it anyway.

Q: What was your reaction to the stewards’ conclusion?
MS:
I did accept it but probably did not agree one hundred percent.

Q: Is there anything further you can do about it?
MS:
I’m sure the GPDA and drivers will discuss certain issues which happened over the weekend and we’ll find out how much of a conclusion can be drawn for the future.

Q: Now another story that’s emerged is this possibility of Mika Hakkinen coming back. I don’t know how much truth there is in it, but do you feel he could still be competitive? Does he lose anything in two years?
MS:
I think it will be difficult being completely out of Grands Prix for two years.
RS: But he’s gained (suggests weight) from my understanding, hasn’t he?
MS: Yeah, he gained, but apparently he’s lost it all. He has this natural talent. He will always have that but to come back after a long pause and not doing anything with Formula One – even testing here and there – will be difficult. But I think a lot of people will be very happy - and I would be one of them - to see him back. He has been a great competitor. We’ll find out, but obviously we’re in the silly season, that’s the other point!

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Peter Windsor – Speed Channel) Michael, sorry to go back to Monaco again, but you appeared to have a very confusing weekend. You were quickest in the first four sessions and then in pre-qualifying you were two seconds slower than you had been on Saturday morning, much more than anybody else. Obviously you were out first, but I wonder if we could have your thoughts again on perhaps other people running less fuel than you’d thought at that time? And secondly, why didn’t you come in when the safety car went out and you therefore effectively put yourself a pit stop behind Jarno and Jenson Button?
MS:
It’s pretty easy to explain. First of all the circuit, certainly, was very, very dirty and very, very slippery, much more than anyone would have anticipated I think. Taking out the fuel would have maybe gained you one position. That’s it, honestly. The fact that we didn’t come in was simply a strategy decision because I still had quite a lot of fuel on board. I could have stayed out for very long and maybe get the advantage that was needed. As the pit stop is a little bit shorter this year in Monaco it was worth trying, because if I had done the same as Jarno I would certainly have been second. This way, I had an opportunity. This could have been a risk, but I had an opportunity to be first as well and if you don’t try, you don’t win.

Q: (Will Buxton - Metro) Michael, there’s a school of thought that maybe on entering the tunnel in Monaco you had a problem with your left front suspension which is why the black tyre mark was so long even before your brakes locked up and that would have been what caused you to veer to the right. Do you have any comments on that?
MS:
Yeah. Certainly not true. I had a big problem afterwards with the left suspension, that’s true! (Laughter).

Q: (Peter Windsor) Juan Pablo said that categorically from where he was on the grid Takuma Sato jumped the start and he thinks no action was taken because he (Takuma) didn’t finish the race. Bearing in mind he hit you off the line, what are your thoughts on that? Secondly, he says that the reason the drama in the tunnel occurred was because he was surprised at how much you accelerated. In other words, you went through the gears and then you braked hard, but he said that was more than normal acceleration and braking. Again, could we have your comments on that?
MS:
I think Takuma was called to the stewards to have (his errors) explained and to be – whatever – done to him but I don’t think he stayed in the race long enough to be penalised because they needed to study the data and it takes time them a certain time. That was the main reason, to my understanding.
Q: (Peter Windsor) But he hit you, he could have taken you out…
MS:
Yeah, but okay, still, you asked the question why nothing was done against his jump start. It just takes time. That he hit me is just another part of the question but he thought that there was enough of a gap and in a way there was, because nothing happened because I was obviously paying enough attention to move over a bit. And the second point is that had I kept accelerating I would have hit the safety car, that’s another point, and at some point I have to stop. Whether I do it a bit harder or less hard that’s… If you ask the drivers they will give you the opinion that it’s the guy that’s at the back’s responsibility to make sure he doesn’t hit anyone, that’s very simple.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) Michael, do you think you and Ferrari can bounce back from Monaco this weekend?
MS:
Yup.
Q: (Dan Knutson) Let’s put it another way, how do you see your chances this weekend?
MS:
Good. There’s not much to say, but I believe the Nuerburgring should be good for our car.

Q: It’s been pretty cool here, is that an advantage as well?
MS:
(Ralf nods) I think anything that’s very hot could become a disadvantage but I don’t expect the Nurburgring to be very hot.

Q: (Adrian Huber – Agencia Efe): Ralf, did you have any exchange of opinions or are you planning to have any exchange of opinions with Fernando Alonso about the incident in Monaco?
RS:
No. He had his opinion, which I understand, from his point of view. He was looking somehow to explain his accident. It was simply a bit unlucky, but the team already made an announcement about it and at the end of the day he was 15km/h, nearly 20km/h, slower than the lap before, going off, steering to the right and not to the left so for me there was no more need to explain it really, other than for your questions. It was a shame for him, because he would have deserved to be third, I guess or second, or whatever.

Q: (Jonathan Legard – BBC Radio 5 Live) Michael, just to pick up that point about you thinking Ferrari will go well here; people watching the race last weekend, with BAR and Renault ahead of you might think the balance of power has shifted a little bit so why do you think you’re still going to be so prominent?
MS:
Well, it was not a surprise to see Renault and BAR being strong in Monte Carlo, it was predicted, but we were there, we weren’t that far away off fighting for victory, probably the nature of this circuit is more in our favour again compared to Monaco.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) Michael, along with the rumours that Mika Hakkinen is coming back are the rumours that Jacques Villeneuve is coming back. I know you guys were not the best of mates, but what would you think of having Jacques back in F1?
MS:
He obviously has a great name and Formula One is always happy to have those names. There are 20 drivers in Formula One. You are friends with some, but you have less to do with others, but that’s life, that’s pretty normal and I have no feeling at all in a bad way not to see him back, honestly. I would be quite happy. We saw each other at the party after the race in Monaco, we had a chat. The atmosphere between us was pretty relaxed.

Q: (Will Gray – Collings Sport) Ralf, you have a very good relationship with Sam Michael, a long-lasting one. Do you see his promotion as being a) helpful for the team, obviously, but b) helpful for yourself in terms of staying with the team?
RS:
It was definitely a very helpful step for the team which, hopefully, I’m sure he will prove and whether it has anything to do with my situation I’m not sure yet. That will take a while. I’m simply waiting to decide what I’m going to do. That’s all I can say at the moment.