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Post-qualifying press conference - US 19 Jun 2004

(L to R): Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari, Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari and Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR in the post qualifying press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Indianapolis, USA, 19 June 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: 1st Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), 1m 10.223s; 2nd Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1m 10.400s; 3rd Takuma Sato (BAR), 1m 10.601s.

Q: How do you feel about your first pole of the season, here at Indianapolis?
Rubens BARRICHELLO:
It feels nice to be here, I think it’s a wonderful time. There are loads of Brazilians out there and I had quite a positive run, just going out, it was nice. I could almost hear them shouting.

Q: You were very very quick this morning and quick yesterday of course; how’s the weekend progressed for you and how do you feel about the race?
RB:
I think the car has been good all the time. We made some progress since yesterday, but I think Michael has made progress even so, so we were very close together this morning. Just before pre-qualifying, we made a small change to the car and it became a bit better. In qualifying, I think it was difficult for everyone because the wind was picking up and it was quite difficult driving on the qualifying lap. I didn’t have much of a reference (point) because as you go out last you’re just trying to do your best, but it was just an easy lap, trying not to make a mistake, on the limit and finally my first pole of the season.

Q: Michael, you spoke yesterday of having a reasonably difficult day and, of course, you were not out when the track was quickest in qualifying. You must be very pleased to be P2.
Michael SCHUMACHER:
In a way, yes, I’m pleased we’re both on the front row. Naturally I would have preferred the other position but Rubens did a better job so that’s where we are.

Q: What were your thoughts as you were waiting for Rubens to go out? Did you think he had a realistic chance of beating you?
MS:
I think he had, yeah, because I struggled in the mid sector. I had to fight far too much oversteer in there and I lost reasonable time and there was obviously the doubt that I would keep that position. Actually I was expecting to drop further back.

Q: Takuma, that’s your third top three qualifying position of the year and here you are, right next to the two Ferrari drivers at Indianapolis. Surely it doesn’t get any better than that.
Takuma SATO:
I think it’s a great result today, for the team as well. I lost yesterday’s practice session so I’m really pleased, myself, to get back on the pace and also the team has done a fantastic job so far and it’s resulted in the second row and that’s a really good result.

Q: Do you think you can take the race tomorrow to the Ferrari drivers?
TS:
They are always very strong in the race, race pace, but I think we’ve improved our consistency in long runs so we are pretty much hoping we can get closer. That’s what we’ll have to do tomorrow afternoon.

Q: Rubens, you pushed Michael very hard in the Canadian Grand Prix, we saw you racing closer there. Ferrari are on record as saying they are looking forward to seeing you racing, what are your thoughts tomorrow about the fight with Michael?
RB:
You know, being in front, I hope that he doesn’t get as close as I got to him in Canada, but it’s always a nice fight. As I said, I have no problems with Michael, I’m always proud to be racing against him. If I’ve won the pole today, I’ve won it against the best so I think it’s just a positive side. I’m starting in a good place tomorrow, there’s going to be a lot of people cheering us on tomorrow, especially the Brazilians, so just a good night’s sleep and off I go, trying to win tomorrow.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Your tenth pole position, you’ve been quick all weekend; what is it about you and Indianapolis?
RB:
It is just a fact that I think I am on a high. I finished quite well in Canada even though the results didn’t go… I was expecting a little bit better. But it is definitely a high.

Q: Now you mentioned how the wind changes. How does the wind affect the car and where in particular?
RB:
When I started my lap and went onto the banking it was very gusty and the car was moving around a little bit more and so in a way you just want to be precise more than be ultimately fast because you can quite easily make a mistake in those sort of circumstances. Even though the car was behaving quite well and so it was nice to get it done.

Q: In a way your first sector was slightly slower and you picked up the lap as you went through the sectors.
RB:
Yeah, I don’t know if it was preparing the tyres or anything like that but my car didn’t feel as good on the first sector but it did feel quite good from there onwards, so because the midfield is probably the longest one it was good to set a good time there.

Q: Michael, you were very quick on the first sector and if anything it just sort of eased away from you later on.
MS:
No, not really, it went away in the second sector though I think I was even quickest in the last sector. I just slid it around too much, just couldn’t keep it on track properly in line. There were a couple of corners where I particularly lost time against Rubens and he just found a better way to deal with it.

Q: Have you been happy with the car’s performance here this weekend?
MS:
I mean, we are on the front row. I am fighting against Rubens, who has had a fantastic weekend, he has been very strong all weekend long, and that is the way it is, that’s the way we push each other.

Q: But you have had bigger margins on other circuits over the rest of the opposition.
MS:
Yeah, I did, but maybe then Rubens didn’t get it together as good as I did at that stage and now he got it together just perfectly and I didn’t.

Q: You have a phenomenal record here in the past races, you have never finished lower than second.
MS:
So, let’s keep it. But obviously I still aim for one up than my lowest one. That is going to be the interesting one between us tomorrow and as well Takuma and Jenson and whoever is in a position of doing so.

Q: Takuma-san, you were fastest in the second sector overall and then if anything you lost a little bit in the final sector. Can you say where that would have gone?
TS:
I don’t know. As Rubens described, it was a little bit gusty and I wonder if the wind affected it a little bit. But nevertheless I am very happy with the result today, and particularly both two cars on the second row for the first time as a set. It was a great result for the team and I am really pleased about it.

Q: It is a long straight here, probably the longest at full throttle in the championship. What are your feelings about that, particularly has the team made any changes for you given the reliability over the past few races?
TS:
Well, that is a bit of a grey area. We really don’t know what is going on with the reliability issues. It is just that I was a little bit unlucky and also with Jenson the engine was quite on the edge and anything can happen any time. But I always had the problems this season so far but obviously Honda is working really hard to solve the problem and obviously in the short time from Canada to here we did a little, not treatment, but a step for the engine reliability issue. So we hope this one is okay for this Grand Prix.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Massimo Lopez Pegna- La Gazetta dello Sport) Takuma, what kind of a chance do you really have tomorrow to beat these guys? Is it going to be a question of luck or something more?
TS:
To win a Grand Prix I think you need everything but to be honest, trying to beat Ferrari is obviously very, very difficult as everybody has seen this year so far. But that is our aim and objective so we are trying and obviously having had these free practice sessions yesterday and today we seem to be a little bit consistent through the longer runs, which they are always strong. So we are hoping we can catch them up. We are getting better and better all the time so that is what we are going to hope tomorrow afternoon.

Q: (Bruce Martin - Sports Ticker) Michael, is there a part of the track which is crucial in the race?
MS:
Not on course, just next to me. (Laughter)

Q: How far does that extend, all the way down, the first corner presumably as well?
MS:
We all want to aim for the win and to do this you have to finish. Most of us know that, all of us I guess.

Q: (Michael Vega - Boston Globe) Rubens, you seem to be pretty quick on this course since you got here. What is it about the circuit that suits your driving style and where do you think you were particularly fastest on your qualifying lap?
RB:
To be honest, as we were talking back there on Thursday, I have been saying I have been through so many changes in terms of driving. I started the season driving one way and I was finding it quite good in race pace and everything but in qualifying I couldn’t get it going. Obviously I did a little bit of adapting and right now I feel that I am driving the best (I have) so far this season. I don’t think it is specifically this track. Obviously I like it, I think Indy is, you could call it a part of Mickey Mouse and so on but it is quite a difficult part of Mickey Mouse. I mean, for you to go fast there it is quite difficult so it makes a challenge which for me is something quite nice. So, obviously, I think I got it right in terms of set-up. I am quite happy with the car and the engine and the tyres but there is no specific reason why that is.

Q: Rubens, is there one sector or another which has been important for you?
RB:
I think Michael has been going quite well in sector one and probably sector two is the one, not just in qualifying, but sector two I have always been quite happy with the car and making up some good times. Sector three we are pretty much even, so probably in sector two.

Q: (Thierry Tassin - RTBF) Rubens, you just said driving in a different way. Can you be a little bit more specific in how you drive differently?
RB:
It is just a fact that it is just because everyone is asking that. I have been driving a little bit on my left foot more since the beginning of the season but I am naturally a right footer, so obviously I am kicking with both feet now and a footballer who kicks with both feet can be better. So I am a little bit of both but I have just got better as the season progressed on everything. I think I am driving a little bit back to last season right now.

Q: (Massimo Lopez Pegna) Sato, what kind of following do you have in Japan? How famous are you over there?
TS:
I think in Japan they are all very excited about this season. Obviously, like, 15 years ago we had a massive following for Formula One and then we kind of lost it a bit in the late 1990s but we have come back quite significantly this year and I have got lots of cheering from Japan and I am really feeling positive information from all the guys. So, we are very happy about the progress we have made.

Q: (Jonathan Ingram – Palm Beach Post) Tomorrow’s race will probably be the hottest race of the season and there has been a lot of talk about consistency. Do you think the Bridgestone tyres will hold their own over the long runs versus the Michelins in the hot weather?
RB:
Well, I think the answer is yes. We have a good Bridgestone tyre, we have done some analysis and everything and since we have been testing since December and the tyre likes the heat as well. We proved that in Malaysia, so we are quite optimistic. Of course, we know the competitors are quite eager to beat us, to win the race, but I think we can be quite optimistic.