Post-qualifying press conference - Canada 12 Jun 2004
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Ralf Schumacher (Williams), 1m 12.275s; 2nd Jenson Button (BAR), 1m 12.341s; 3rd Jarno Trulli (Renault), 1m 13.023s.
Q: Ralf, you had two great laps fastest in pre-qualifying then pole position.
Ralf SCHUMACHER: I must admit we are a bit surprised. I had a big struggle on Friday due to brake problems and the team did a great job and just got the car right. Honestly, I did not expect to be as strong but already after Michael was out I thought this could be a rather good one but I didnt expect pole position.
Q: When did it all start to come together? Was it this morning or work on the car last night?
RS: Actually the first qualifying! That was the first time the car started to feel right to me, to push, really, to be able to get the best out of it. I had some little mistakes in there but it didnt cost me anything really. We expected to be somewhere maybe in the top five but fourth to sixth or something.
Q: It looks like a very good lap quick on the sectors and also quick in terms of top speed.
RS: Yes, everyone knows that in Montreal you need the straight-line speed so it is always a compromise and I think we did that quite well. Sector times, well, I think they were pretty good, it is always easy to make a mistake like Takuma did just touch the kerbs too much and you get thrown off. Luckily it didnt happen.
Q: Jenson, I guess for a while there you probably thought you had the pole, again?
Jenson BUTTON: Yeah, I enjoyed the lap very much. I made one mistake in the hairpin, which probably cost me a bit of time, but it was a very good lap and to be a second quicker than Michael, for us we were very happy with that and it was good to get some cars in between us really. Then Ralf came along and piped me at the end and it makes the start very difficult for me because I have got Jarno starting right behind me.
Q: What was the mistake you made into the hairpin and also what do you think about the antics of your team-mate right at the end of his lap?
JB: Yeah, I just braked a bit late and locked the front right slightly. It cost me a bit of time but, you know, thats part of it and I was pushing very hard. Taku, I am not really sure. I havent seen his lap but I heard that he made a mistake on the last corner.
Q: Jarno, the first question, I guess, is how the voice is?
Jarno TRULLI: It is getting better but I have been struggling with it for some time, since the Monaco victory. So, it is a bit frustrating because I cannot really talk much to the journalists but I am feeling okay.
Q: Well, 0.7 seconds away, you are P3 of course but it is quite a margin, isnt it?
JT: You know, at the moment I am somehow surprised and disappointed because when I first came here in the car I didnt think we could be so quick and in fact we have been quick all yesterday and today. I didnt expect these two guys to go so quick in qualifying but sometimes with a lot of gap strategy could be a big difference. We will see tomorrow.
Q: Ralf, as you say, your brother is down in P6 this weekend. What are your thoughts on that and do you think you have a realistic chance of winning tomorrow?
RS: Well, from where we are definitely, yeah, we have a good chance of having a great race. Concerning Michael, I think Ferrari realised the Michelin runners were particularly quick in the first laps, or the first few laps, so I guess they obviously changed their strategy a bit. I dont think Ferrari all of a sudden from being the quickest car by a long way is a second slower than us, I have difficulty believing that. I am sure Michael is going to have a great race but from where he is it is a bit difficult. You know, you need to get past first and I will be surprised how they are going to do that.
Q: Ralf, you were saying just now it was all a bit of a surprise to you and the team. Just talk us through the changes you had to make from Friday through to Saturday morning and afternoon.
RS: Well, on Friday I was more off the track than on the track due to brake problems. Really, we couldnt really work on the car much because I couldnt see anything. Then we went a bit up and down all Saturday morning and had a lot of work to do actually, so it was a bit of a difficult one, I must admit. I think due to the fact our car historically works quite well here and the experience we have got with this circuit, it was not such a problem but it eventually took us until the first qualifying where I was reasonably happy with the balance.
Q: So was it a bit of guesswork with the balance?
RS: Um, kind of. I mean, we turned the set-up around before first qualifying quite a bit in order to just try and see how it was and luckily, well, not lucky, it was good.
Q: What about the brakes? Have they been sorted as well?
RS: They have been sorted but, I mean, Montreal is always very marginal on brakes. We know that from the past years but every team is the same, so it is going to be a difficult one, maybe for the race, for all of us, you know, I dont know.
Q: And you really picked up time on Jenson - although he said he was a bit slow at the hairpin you really picked up your time to go quicker than him in the final sector.
RS: I am a bit surprised. Again, there, I struggled a bit this weekend because the car is a bit difficult on kerbs but since the cone was away for second practice, it disappeared (laughs), it was a little bit easier.
Q: What about the race? Are you pretty confident for that?
RS: Um, being on pole position you are always confident you will have a good race but we clearly struggled so far this season, or lets say for the last three or four races, so it is going to be a difficult one and certainly, with Jenson on my tail, clearly so far this year he has a quicker car, I just maybe got a bit better in qualifying. It is going to be a tough one anyway, but we will try out best and maybe I can repeat what I did a couple of years ago. We will see.
Q: Jenson, it was really so close, wasnt it?
JB: It was, yeah. Before Ralf went out I was quite excited because I had seven tenths on everybody so, yeah, I am a little bit disappointed, as you would be when you think you are going to be first, but even so it is great to be on the front row.
Q: Can you tell us how much that seven tenths is strategy and how much is a new spec engine?
JB: I think me and Ralf just drove better than anybody else! (Laughter) No, I dont know. I think we have got a very good strategy for the race and I am sure the engine has helped us. It is not just in power but it is also in reliability, which is obviously something that is very important now in Formula One and something that Renault and Ferrari have had for the last few races, so hopefully it will help us in the race.
Q: Everyone has been talking about brake problems. Have you had any so far?
JB: Yeah, a few. I think that is normal for everyone. We do a lot of testing on Friday to make sure they are all okay and I think we will be okay in the race. We shouldnt have any major problems but we have to be very careful, obviously.
Q: And second on the grid, I dont know whether it is the left or right side but it was very interesting
JB: I dont know actually, is it left, I think?
RS: No, its the right side.
JB: The clean side?
Q: It was very interesting, the cars seemed to go over both sides of the line, so both sides are just as clean as the other as far as I can see.
RS: No, it hasnt made a difference really this year, not so much, since we are back to hand starts.
Q: Jarno, as you said in the unilaterals just now, you are a little bit disappointed because you had been so quick over the weekend.
JT: Mixed feelings because yesterday I had a terrible day, you know, a lot of problems and I couldnt work on the car set-up so I just had to do everything in the morning and then step by step we were getting closer to the top and actually I was the quickest after the free session. And when I saw the lap time in qualifying I was very surprised, maybe Jenson is right and they drove better than us but we will see tomorrow. So far I am happy about my job because I did a very good lap in qualifying and the car balance was there. We have got everything in place for a good race tomorrow.
Q: You seemed to gain in the third sector as well. Was that something that you were concentrating on?
JT: You have to concentrate, really, everywhere if you want to be quick. We have got a good package, we have a new engine spec which is definitely helping us but it is not enough. You have to put all the three sectors together.
Q: Is the strategy complicated here? Last year it was fairly clear cut as two stops.
JT: Well, it might be different. Not complicated, but different. Sometimes you have braking problems then it can get really difficult. For ourselves, the Renault team, we are perfectly alright with everything, with the brakes, with the strategy we have, so we are very confident for tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Rob Martier CJAD Radio) Jenson Button, with all that has been said in the past when you were team-mates with Jacques Villeneuve is this somewhat vindication for you now you are here on what would be his home course and you have performed quite well?
JB: No, it didnt change the way I performed. I didnt perform better because this is Jacques home circuit, but this is the first time I have ever gone well here. I have always struggled here in qualifying, last year was tough after (my crash in) Monaco in qualifying and in the race so it is a great feeling to be second on the grid and on the front row.
Q: (Massimo Lopez La Gazetta dello Sport) Ralf, after a disappointing season what does this pole mean for you and your team?
RS: Well, as I said before, it is great and obviously it was a bit special for me for qualifying this year. Monaco was decent, I had a bit of a problem in the Nürburgring but I seemed to somehow find the back of it. It is simply great. Honestly, we did not expect it and that is even better just to go into qualifying, have a perfect lap and be on pole at the end. It is clear this year that we have problems with the car but we expect something good to be coming soon so already here to be high up the grid is a good sign.
Q: (Bill Beacon The Canadian Press) Ralf, what do you recall of last year and what do you do differently to go that one step further like you did a few years ago.
RS: Well, lets go into the race. First of all, obviously, I havent had a chance this year to win a Grand Prix. That might have changed today due to my car suddenly working good but we will have to wait and see. I think and I hope that we have the right strategy and that is going to be a key factor this year, as it was last year when Michael stayed out one lap longer, came out in front of me and that was it, as much as he followed me for the first 20 laps I followed him for the rest of the race. That is the way it simply is, especially here. Although you have a very long straight, if you have similar cars with relatively similar speeds you wont overtake, end of story, unless the guy in front of you makes a mistake. So lets hope we have the right strategy and I somehow manage to stay in front and we will see what the outcome is.
Q: (Mark Fogarty Auto Action Magazine) Ralf, when you are with a team that is capable of turning in performances like that and giving you a shot of victory and it is not in the overall unusual, I just wondered why would you even consider leaving that team, especially to one that is a lesser team?
RS: First of all, if I stay, which is not decided yet, I would have loved for Juan to stay as well because I think the two of us are a great team. We are not the best mates next to the track but he is a great driver and for a team I think nothing better can happen than two drivers like that, I think we have been quite a strong team. Secondly, we all saw this season we were expecting to go for the championship but we are further away than we have been in the last two years if I remember rightly. And that is why it has taken so long it is a very difficult decision to take and I just want to do it as good as I can.
Q: (Mark Fogarty) But do you really think the alternative is a better bet?
RS: Well, the thing is, short-term there is no other team than Ferrari, in my opinion at the moment, where you can say you are going to go for the world championship in the next year because we havent proven so far, we might towards the end but we did towards the end of last year and we couldnt go for it this year. So, you never know.
Q: (Neal Jones Performance Racing News) Last year when the GP was in question there was a lot of emotion about keeping it on the schedule. Could each driver relay a story about why the track is so popular amongst the drivers?
RS: First of all, it is great to be in Montreal. Montreal is a Formula One city, basically, from what I understand. You go there and it is just great. There is a huge crowd out there and it is great for us to be here. I wouldnt mind if the circuit could be resurfaced for next year, that could help us a bit and it would give us less of a headache if someone could find the money for that but apart from that it is really great to be here again.
JB: As Ralf said, it is a fantastic city. I enjoy driving the circuit as well but I think it is quite a lot of fun and it has got a lot of history. There is only one circuit that has been around for longer I think, which is Monaco um I am guessing. It sounds good. (Laughter) It has been around for a while.
JT: The only thing I would like to add is it is not down to us to decide where we go to race. We all enjoy this city because it has fantastic people, it is a fantastic city, the track is okay, we all enjoy it, but unfortunately it is not down to all of us.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) We saw clear advantage from the Michelin tyres in qualifying. What about the race conditions?
RS: As I mentioned before, it looks like we have a clear advantage this weekend. I dont think we will have any problems in the race. We have seen some very stable and good lap times amongst the Michelin runners this morning as far as I am aware so I dont have any doubt that we will be as strong in the race. So I guess it is going to be difficult for Ferrari this weekend. Lets hope so!
JB: Yesterday we were struggling a little bit with consistency compared to Ferrari but today, this morning, we seem to have improved a lot when there is more rubber on the circuit and it is higher temperatures so it is good.
JT: So far we have not had any problems with the tyres but I guess we have to wait and see tomorrow.
Q: (Bill Beacon) Jarno, you seem to have trouble speaking. Do you have a cold or something?
JT: Since Monaco I lost my voice. They are all saying I partied too much but not yet I didnt manage to celebrate my victory yet because I didnt go home. But step by step I am getting my voice back, which is the most important thing.
Q: (Mark Fogarty) Jenson, can you explain something, I am a bit puzzled. With the best will in the world before the start of the season, nobody would have expected that Taku would be so close to you and out-performing you on occasions, so what is happening there? Is he just really, really underrated or is that car such a rocket ship that it actually masks the difference between the two of you?
JB: Not at all. He has done a great job and he works as hard as anyone on the technical side. He has always been quick in the past. If people look back on what he has done in his career, he has only been racing for five or six years and he has won everything he has competed in. So he is a fantastic driver and as I said he works very hard at it so he deserves everything he gets because he is very quick.
Q: (Mark Fogarty) So, had you expected that he would be pretty much shadowing you all season?
JB: Yeah, because I was driving with him all last season and all the way through the winter and he has done a very good job. In testing he is fantastic, he is non-stop. His life seems to be Formula One he lives for Formula One and I think he has proved that on occasions. He has done a very good job this year.