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Post-race press conference - Europe 30 May 2004

(L to R): Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari, second; Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari, winner; Jenson Button (GBR) BAR, third in the post race FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, European Grand Prix, Nurburgring, Germany, Race Day, 30 May 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

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

Q: You are wearing a black armband, I guess, in tribute to the passing of Umberto Agnelli. I guess as tributes go it doesn’t get much better than that – a one-two led virtually from start to finish.
Michael SCHUMACHER:
Unfortunately we have to face with what is happening but obviously we would like to dedicate this success to him personally as he was a great supporter of Ferrari for all the years, he has always been around and we would always contact everyone in the team to him and it was a shock to hear the message so I hope you sort of understand that the celebration and excitement is obviously reduced.

Q: You made a very, very nice clean start into that first corner on what looked to be a pretty light fuel load, we now know.
MS:
Yeah, we were a little bit lighter but I guess if you see how much lighter we were it doesn’t justify all the gap we had in qualifying, it simply means that we got a very good qualifying lap in and everything worked fantastically for us. I had a good start and that was half of the race, basically, to get the gap I needed and then just sort of drove it home safely.

Q: Any bad moments after that in traffic perhaps?
MS:
Actually yes, there was one particular one and I don’t know what was going on there with Mark when he came out of the pit lane. I went past him and he must have seen what car was in front of him and as I was turning in suddenly, in the sort of side line, very late, I saw him flying into me and I was really shocked. Fortunately I could open the door. It was just this little moment of me not seeing him and he would have crashed into me. I don’t know what was going through his head, what he was trying to achieve there, but that was a bit of a moment.

Q: Rubens, you used a two-stop strategy compared to the three of the bulk of the race and had quite an eventful race. There was a lot going on in the first corner behind you.
Rubens BARRICHELLO:
Well, actually, I just saw that because I had a good start, I was alongside Jenson and we were going into the first corner pretty clean. Everyone had a problem there because it is really a corner where you practically stop. I think I may have touched one of the Renaults but I didn’t see that there was a Williams behind but there was no space for another car there.

Q: Can you tell us what happened on the opening lap when Kimi Raikkonen took second place? Did you see that?
RB:
No, I had too many things to do before I could see! When I opened my eyes I saw that I was in fifth and he was already in second, so I didn’t actually see what was going on.

Q: And then there was the incident with Takuma Sato, where he collided with you in the first corner. Did that damage your car?
RB:
Yeah, the car was strange afterwards. I think I lost a part of my bargeboard and aerodynamically, especially at high speed, the car felt a bit strange. So, I was lucky that the race was getting towards the end, basically. I am sorry to say it but I think it was a bit too amateur from Sato to do that because he wasn’t in a position to actually try and overtake. He came completely sideways and luckily, the same as Michael just mentioned, I saw the nose coming and I just took avoiding action and I was lucky that nothing else broke on my car. He could have eventually overtaken me because he was fast enough but he didn’t need to be that lap. He wasn’t in contention on that lap.

Q: Jenson, this is your fifth podium position of the year. It is getting to be a habit.
Jenson BUTTON:
It is. This one was a little bit more lucky than the others. Takuma, obviously, drove a great race up until the moment where he lost his front wing but I had a pretty tough race because after the first two pit stops I came out in traffic with cars on the same lap as me so I had to get past them and it was pretty tough. It is pretty tough overtaking here. I was able to do that but it cost me a lot of time.

Q: You would include David Coulthard in the traffic there and you eventually got him on the outside of the first corner.
JB:
Yeah, he made a bit of a mistake on the last corner of the circuit and I was able to get him into turn one on the outside which is pretty brave, I suppose, on the outside, but I had to get past because he was slowing me down by almost two seconds a lap so we were struggling.

Q: What are your thoughts on the weekend? Obviously Taku got a little bit more out of the car in qualifying. Is that what made the difference for you?
JB:
He had a very clean lap in qualifying. I don’t know if I was over-driving or what, but I just felt like I had very low grip. And it shows, you know, if you are starting at the front it really can help your race position. But, as I said, he drove a good race and it is obviously a pity for him.

Q: Michael, that was Ferrari’s fourth one-two of the season. It looks as if it is just getting better or perhaps is the opposition falling away?
MS:
Well, I think as Jenson just mentioned, it wasn’t a very clean race for him and then Takuma was very quick but didn’t finish the race and he had this collision with Rubens and we won’t find out what could have been if he had finished. We are there, we are strong, you know, we do look better due to other circumstances at the moment.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Michael, those opening laps must have been absolutely remarkable because you built up a lead of 17 seconds in just seven laps. What was it like driving those laps?
MS:
Well, it was fantastic to see how much I was able to pull away. I think I was greatly helped by Kimi being second and not being able to be passed by whoever was behind because I felt that the consistency of his pace compared to Takuma and the Renaults and Rubens would have been different. So this gave me the edge in the race and I just had to save that until home.

Q: So, how confident were you at that stage?
MS:
I was pretty confident because I knew strategy-wise what that meant to me in coming out straight behind all the other guys after the pit stop. It sort of gave me the confidence that that would be 90 percent of the race already.

Q: And that educated guesswork on the tyres - no problems with those?
MS:
No, didn’t look like it.

Q: Certainly didn’t! Rubens, two stops instead of three stops, are we going to see you using a different strategy to Michael every time from now on?
RB:
No, it is not that. I mean, sometimes you think that if you are first in qualifying you can pretty much take your pace and do everything you can. Looking back on it now I had the pace to fight with Michael eventually for a qualifying lap but just before that we thought that Michael was a little faster so to be second on the grid, if that was the case, would have been bad because, you know, on that dirty side and so on, so you had to play with a little bit of luck. So then another option was given to me and I liked it and I think the tyres were doing a superb job and eventually it worked out, worked out in a way that it was good to pass almost everyone but not Michael, so it was still good to start seventh and finish second but not good enough not to be in first place.

Q: You mentioned that the car was damaged when Takuma tried to overtake you. How hard could you push, because at one point we thought it was possible that Jenson could catch you?
RB:
Well, I had to push really hard to begin with when my tank was full. That was the period where I knew I was damaging my tyres but I had to push because there was no other way and I was in the middle of the traffic so it was really hard. Eventually when we had the crash it took me two laps to get the handling of the car, to know what it was doing. It was a little bit worse on the high-speed corners, it was definitely worse over the bumps to turn 10 and 11, and then the team told me Jenson is coming faster and you have to push again. But the car didn’t have the pace of before so I couldn’t go much faster than that anyway.

Q: Could you see any damage to it when you got out?
RB:
No, no, no. The front wing was intact, which was good and I was asking on the radio. I felt a bang but I was lucky that when he was hitting me I was turning left and I just saw the nose coming too fast and I just took that avoiding action which I think kept me alive.

Q: Jenson, you were fourth at the end of the first lap, what did you see of that very lively first lap?
JB:
First of all Takuma was in second position and then they got into turn four and I think Jarno – or one of the Renaults – was down the inside of him and he turned in and they both ended up going wide and Kimi was able to get into second place.

Q: And what about your own first lap?
JB:
My own first lap wasn’t that good. I was surprised to see Rubens able to get past me off the grid. My line for the first corner was to be on the outside and brake as late as I could to get as many cars as I could round the outside. But Rubens was in the way so it was a little bit difficult.

Q: How was the car after that?
JB:
The car wasn’t to bad but the problem was that we were all stuck in a train behind Kimi, which I am sure helped Rubens as well because the cars at the front weren’t able to pull away at all. As soon as he pitted the car felt very good but the problem was that after my first two pit stops I came out in traffic that was doing two stops, I think, and I struggled to get past them.

Q: And then you were pushing at the end?
JB:
Yeah, at the end the car felt very good. There was a little bit of oversteer on the exit to the corners and apart from that the car was good. But, you know, I’m trying to conserve the engine as well, as well as pushing, so it’s quite difficult but when I got to the last lap I knew I couldn’t catch Rubens so I backed off.

Q: You say you were conserving the engine - was that because of Takuma’s problems?
JB:
It’s quite normal at the end of a race. It’s normal for most teams, but obviously we’re doing it more than normal because of Takuma’s problems?

Q: Is there a reason that these things happen to him and not to you?
JB:
I’m not sure. The strange thing is that it happened immediately after his pit stop, after his fourth pit stop because of the wing problems, so I don’t really know. He drove a very good race and he was very, very fast. But one mistake like that can cost you the race.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Michael, yesterday you seemed very confident, very optimistic about the race, but were you expecting it to be so easy?
MS:
I don’t think it was that easy in reality. I think all of us have explained that Kimi being in front and being second sort of created that huge gap and that gap sort of stayed for the rest of the race. Yeah, there were times that I could have gone a little bit quicker, but not by the margin I was able to open in the first laps.

Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) Michael, yesterday you said that you were not worried about the start and today you did a very good start. Is there a secret to this?
MS:
No, there is no secret. It has worked the first four – and even the fifth race in Barcelona, which was the exception, and I try to explain it every so often that there was only one car overtaking and that was the reason for Trulli going earlier than everybody else rather than better. And Monaco was an exception. In Monaco, we were clearly not performing well at the start, we didn’t have the grip available at the start and that’s why we lost positions. If you go back to all the other races, and including this one, we do good work at the start.

Q: (Peter Hess – Frakfurther Allgemeine Zeitung) Rubens, last year you were much closer than this year, you were able to challenge for victory. What are the reasons that you’re not able to do that this year?
RB:
We seem to be playing with the strategy a lot more. I don’t think I’m any faster or slower than Michael than last year to this stage. I think he had a very strong opening to his season. He was superb in qualifying laps and the race. By this stage, I think we are getting closer and we just keep on working and try to beat the man but it’s obviously very difficult.

Q: (Will Buxton - Metro) Jenson, last year Kimi was able to take the championship down to the wire, despite having won only one race all season. With the current points system rewarding consistency over winning that many races, is the championship something that you’re allowing yourself to think about or not?
JB:
Michael hadn’t won six races last year by now, so that obviously makes a big difference and the way it’s going at the moment it’s going to be very, very difficult for anybody to challenge except for Rubens.

Q: (Hormazd Sorabjee – Autocar India) Michael, six out of seven, complete domination, but to do it at this stage of your career, 200 Grands Prix on, at a time when younger blood should be giving you a hard time, what’s the motivation, how do you just keep doing it and how would you compare your driving now to ten years back when you won your first championship?
MS:
I think you used the right words, young blood, and I do have my blood checked every so often and when I listen to the result, I sound very young. So I think it is one which says the age, and another says what you are. I’ve said it very often, I feel pretty young, not my age. I’m having fun, I have a fantastic team behind me who give me the opportunity to do what I’m doing. It’s great. I just love what I’m doing.

Q: (Mike Doodson – Mike Doodson Associates) For Jenson, today was a horrible day for McLaren. You were held up at the beginning by Kimi and then later on for a long time by David. I wonder if you could give us and perhaps McLaren some indications of where their car is lacking. Is it brakes, cornering, acceleration, over the bumps, whatever?
JB:
I don’t want to help them too much, but you can see the car’s difficult to drive. DC was having lots of problems keeping the car in the right place on the circuit and that’s the only reason I could get past. I don’t think I would have got past if he didn’t make any mistakes.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri) Rubens, the fact that Kimi was second for so many laps, how much did that help you get second position? Do you think that if Jenson or Taku was able to be in front of Kimi you could still have made it to second place?
RB:
Well, there’s two ways of looking at it. There’s the way of you saying that there were people with three stop strategies being held up but they were holding me up as well. Whenever Takuma was free he was obviously a little bit faster than me at that stage because he had no fuel at all and he was coming into the pits. But eventually I had the pace to go fast. When you have such a good car and that amount of fuel, you have to push as hard as you can to be with the guys in front before they come into the pits and then push even harder. But they were holding me up as much as they were holding up everyone else.

Q: (Alastair Moffitt – PA News) Jenson, you mentioned you were held up quite badly in traffic at the pit stops. Do you think you would have been able to push Rubens harder for second? Do you think second was achievable had that not happened?
JB:
Well, if Taku was still in the race I don’t think I would have had a chance because he was obviously in front and it is very difficult to overtake here, especially when you’re driving the same car. I really don’t know. There are so many things that could have happened in the race. There’s no reason to comment really.