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Post-race press conference - US 20 Jun 2004

(L to R): Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari, Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari and Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR in the post race press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, United States Grand Prix, Race Day, Indianapolis, USA, 20 June 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

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

Q: Michael, that was a dramatic race, a dramatic first corner, obviously the dramatic accident with your brother. What are your thoughts at the moment?
Michael Schumacher:
The biggest concern I had was seeing Ralf sitting for so long in the car as soon as I saw and I was aware that Montoya was in position whatever and there was a safety car and so on and I saw a (Williams) BMW parked there. The worst thing was seeing him for so long there. They kept telling me that they were informed that things weren’t too bad, everything was looking alright, but still, I mean, I have heard this many times in the past and it turned out differently but as far as my information is concerned Ralf is well and that is all that matters.

Q: Indeed. You took the lead at the first restart. Can you talk about that and also how you managed to maintain the lead after the safety car after you made your pit stop?
MS:
Well, taking the lead after the safety car was purely that here the nature of the circuit is that the safety car switches off its light in the last sector and then you don’t have much time in sort of preparing yourself to get your set-up right. Except having a long straight and having a car right behind and slipstreaming like I was able to do with Rubens allowed me to pass. I don’t know exactly what happened during the safety car phase, obviously, I slowed down enough to get in the slipstream right for the situation but I wasn’t aware of what was going on behind me at the time.

Q: Well, with the pit stop behind you the two BAR-Hondas had no pit stops and that was a very impressive performance. Rubens, how was that from your point of view? Talk about that pit-stop situation.
Rubens Barrichello:
Well, yeah, it was a bit confusing because at that time I was right behind Michael and I was focussed just to get past because unfortunately on the re-start I had a lot of wheel spin and I am sure that allowed Michael to just take the slipstream and get past. I even got a difficult turn 13 on the banking, it was difficult to keep flat-out, to be honest with you, because the car was bottoming with the pressures so low so I didn’t have any chance to actually close the door or anything like that. Then we were running very close by and we had the information of the safety car and they told me ‘come in, come in’, so I was slowing down enough when I came in actually it worked okay because Michael was just leaving so I didn’t lose much time. Of course, it is a pit stop and I lost all those positions so I lost the race pretty much there.

Q: But you recovered well and it was a good race at the end there.
RB:
Yeah, it is very unfortunate in a way. It is good to have a one-two again and we must be part of our team and everything but I am just disappointed because really, more than Canada, more than ever, I thought I had the win in my hands. I had a quick car and I was driving well and I was pushing like hell in all those laps. Unfortunately there was something on the racing track, I don’t know what, a piece of white stuff, when I got out of turn four that affected my lap. I lost more than a second and a half at that stage and it was two laps to come to the pits and I didn’t know whether the car was behaving or not because it was a big shunt on the wheel. That is probably the second that Michael won back.

Q: Takuma, a podium for Lucky Strike BAR-Honda. It was a great drive and an interesting first corner. Fernando Alonso was very aggressive there as well.
Takuma Sato:
Yes, this is a really great result for the team, not from a personal point of view but also for the team. The mechanics are working so hard and also the Honda engineers in Japan, everyone working to solve the problem that we had. And I am so happy for the team to bring some result here. Obviously in turn one I was really surprised when the Renault came out to the right side and I lost the position and the restart was just okay but with the Ralf situation it was obviously very, very concerning, him sitting for a long time. Under the new regulations, you cannot push hard under the safety car so the team came on the radio and said ‘keep on the fuel and slow it down’. When I came onto the front straight there was so much debris and you had to avoid all the debris and obviously Ralf was in the middle of the track so I had to nearly stop and that is why I let Michael join as the leader under the safety car situation, so we will have to look into that one. Nevertheless, third place for me is just fantastic.

Q: And how was the car in the remainder of the race?
TS:
The car was beautiful, to be honest. It was working so well, having had a bit of luck with the pace in Canada we struggled under the consistency for the long runs. But today the car was so consistent and I was able to push so hard to battle and getting back my position. It was so close at the end it was really great.

Q: Michael it was a confusing race, can we just have your closing thoughts on how it went for you in terms of your strategy, tyre wear and performance of the car relative to the opposition.
MS:
Obviously, I don’t really have that picture relative to the opposition – I was at that stage looking after Rubens. There was obviously the option before the last pit stop to go for another pit stop or to call it the last pit stop and it was a bit difficult because I didn’t really have a very good second stint, my tyres were completely gone at that stage and I couldn’t really push very hard. Then putting in a lot of fuel, not knowing how much I could push, knowing Rubens was going fast as he was, it was very difficult just to manage the situation. And luckily there was this board (debris) which put it into my favour and it was a very close fight.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Michael, how important was that pit stop at the second safety car period and how important was the changed strategy because of that?
MS:
It is a good question. I mean, I really need to go through the race because we were then obviously staggered in different conditions and I don’t know. Obviously, in the end we were on the same strategy. I hear Rubens had a long stint first and a shorter one last and I had the long stint last and the shorter one first, so I guess in the end it evens out, but I don’t know.

Q: You were always going for a two-stop strategy were you?
MS:
I think we had a flexibility, honestly.

Q: Presumably, coming in at that moment, the calling of that pit-stop was crucial?
MS:
Yeah, in a way it was. I didn’t know the reason we had a safety car, I just heard a car spun in turn one at the last corner, and knowing now what was happening, obviously it was crucial because probably it was quicker through the pits with the pit stop than it was going through the accident itself. And Takuma just said that he almost had to stop there for the reason of Ralf having an accident.

Q: And you were pushed hard by the BARs, as well, after the safety car.
MS:
Yep, obviously they were pretty light at that stage and we were pretty heavy and it was natural they were going to push.

Q: The news the team were able to give you about Ralf, did that sort of relax you?
MS:
Yeah, it helped big time because I was shocked when I saw it was Ralf. I knew at some stage that it was, Montoya was behind in whatever position, and I didn’t know about Ralf having an accident, even during the whole lap around and coming to the accident itself I saw a (Williams) BMW and it was clear to me it was Ralf and I saw the way the car hit the barriers so I was very concerned.

Q: There wasn’t actually a tyre barrier there where he hit the wall.
MS:
I don’t think it helps to have a tyre barrier there. I don’t think we need to discuss whether anything needs to be different, honestly. I think it is better to have a wall there just to keep it sliding like they do at Indycar. Tyres would probably have a worse effect, in a way. Obviously I just got the information that Ralf is okay and that is all that matters.

Q: Rubens, tell us about the start. How did that go?
RB:
The actual start was very good, I had a brilliant start and at the time we went under the safety car I had probably a second or so, so I tell you my car has been working fantastically well this afternoon. The only thing that I was sorry about - but it happened anyway so it doesn’t matter – is that we didn’t have any information about the safety car and all of a sudden the lights went away and the pressures on the tyres dropped too much. It could happen both ways because you could argue saying that Michael prepared his tyres very well but it would have happened both ways because whenever we had the pressures down I had a lot of drag coming onto the straight. When I went into turn 13 I was just having an oversteering car pitching very much and obviously Michael had a clear run and caught my slipstream. But I think it is fair to say it would have happened both ways so I had no chance at that time but a big chance after that. I tried everything I could. I really had a car to win the race today so that is why I was a little bit sorry even though it is a great result.

Q: If you hadn’t been trapped behind Raikkonen for about six laps, would that have made a difference?
RB:
Yeah, probably. And also the fact that - I was just saying in the press conference - that Michael was just telling me that probably Fisichella hit some board and brought it onto the track because it was right in the middle of the exit, which is a blind exit, you don’t see it. Because I was going flat-out I was using the whole track and as soon as I came I felt a bang and I backed off. I thought that’s it, I had lost my suspension, because it was a big hit and the car turned to the left. It took me half a lap to see if the car was okay but then I did a 12.5s, and it was the same that he was doing. With the 10.4s and 10.5s I was doing I would have managed to be in front.

Q: And then you really had a go at Michael.
RB:
I did at one stage because I had new tyres and he was already using the tyres. There was no way to pass. Unfortunately he closed the door fairly and there was no point. So, again, just Canada and the US I scored 16 points, happily, but both I could have won, so there is no ifs, I go out of here happy but wanting to win sooner than ever.

Q: Was that a bit of a touch and go moment, Michael, when Rubens had a go at you after the second pit stop?
MS:
No, it was expected, obviously. I was in the phase of having my trouble with the tyres and he was on fresh tyres so for one lap I expected him to have a go, but it wasn’t that close the way worked out.

Q: When did you have trouble with the tyres then, was it that stint?
MS:
I think every time we put on new tyres after a couple of laps, when the tyres are pretty new it moves a little bit and you can’t really push that hard because we were marginal on blisters. You have to give the tyres a bit of time to wear down and then you are able to push, and that was the phase, obviously. In the later part, before the last pitstop, when he was going flat out and putting in good lap times and I was in a struggle. And when he came out with new tyres, for one lap you can do it, as well for two and then we get into this phase where Rubens was dropping back.

Q: Takuma-san, what does this podium mean to you?
TS:
It means a lot to me, and not only for me but also the team, the staff are really working hard and obviously the Honda engineers who were looking into what was the problem in the last two races and I am very pleased sitting here, coming back after yesterday’s press conference, to be in the same position. It was really a first step but it is a very important result for us today.

Q: You had quite a moment with Olivier Panis on the back straight. Tell us about that.
TS:
Before that, there was drama through the race. Right at the beginning, at the start, and obviously Alonso had a really good start and passed me into turn one. But sooner or later he had a puncture in front of me, probably hit some debris or whatever after the first incident into turn one. That is why, when the second safety car came in, and Ralf was obviously sitting in the middle of the track and there was so much debris and I was the first person to come through and there was just debris everywhere so I really had to try to avoid everything and had to stop the speed and that is why I didn’t take advantage of having a lot of fuel on board as a two-stop strategy. But after that I had to fight back my position and obviously the back straight with Olivier, I thought it was just okay but he seemed to be fractionally coming in to me. I was a little bit surprised at that, but I had a good battle with David Coulthard and Olivier and in the end we had a result we wanted and that was the important thing.

Q: Did you touch with Olivier?
TS:
No, we never touched. We never touched a car today.

Q: And what about with Jarno, down at the first corner here?
TS:
It was a bit of a drama again. Into the last corner I saw the oil flag was waving and Jarno was a little bit hesitant on the throttle onto the banking and I was really coming in on the slipstream. And still there was oil flags everywhere but I didn’t see the yellow flags. When I was diving to him, just in the middle of the straight, I saw the yellow flags just into turn one but I was sure it was before the yellow flag that this move was completely done. The team came on and said ‘yellow flag, yellow flag’ and there was just so many flags over there that I was a bit confused at first. Firstly I jumped off the throttle and then I came back into neutral into the braking and at the same time one of the McLaren cars came in and I had to brake and I couldn’t turn in because there was a McLaren and I lost it in the middle of the corner and obviously Jarno was on the outside and we both went off on the grass. But we didn’t touch and it just happens in racing I think.

Q: Then the team was a bit worried the car was damaged and something flew off later on.
TS:
Um, did we? I don’t know. Obviously the car was working pretty well after that. The team radioed me and asked how’s the balance, how’s the tyres?’ and I just radioed back and I was perfectly happy with the car and the balance and the car was working very good. I am very impressed with the work of the Michelin tyres. Today we made a significant step for the consistency through the race. We never had this much consistency as we have here so I am very happy.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Bruce Martin – Sports Ticker) Michael, the fact you have won three of the five Grands Prix here, does that mean any more to you than if it had come any other venue?
MS:
Obviously I love to win any Grand Prix in all honesty. To win Indy is in a way special because it has a lot of reputation and a history, although we don’t race the Indy circuit. But still, being in front of the crowd which cheered us up quite well - it’s great. I am just worried about one thing: America has always been a country where I could go about quietly. I hope that remains the same! (Laughter)

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Takuma, on the podium, the crowd was cheering wildly for Michael and Rubens but also for you. Tell us what it is like to be up on that podium with that crowd just going wild and cheering for you?
TS:
It’s just great. We have been supported by the whole of the fans in the United States of America all week. Even when we’ve walked into town and had food in restaurants, everybody has been cheering, not only for me but all drivers, and I felt a huge energy in Indianapolis. When we finished, obviously we could hear the cheering from the crowd, but on the podium everyone is so happy and obviously I was happy so it was an unbelievable experience today for me.

Q: (Lewis Franck – Herald) Takuma, this is a great result, obviously any driver worth his salt wants to win a race. Is it too soon to think about a win this year or next year?
TS:
Obviously I want to win, everybody aims to be the best of the best but you have to do it step by step, and for me, I was waiting for a long time to have a result like this. And as I said, this is only the first step. It is an important day today. Now we have a car with tyres matching with consistency going back to Europe and obviously we are challenging these guys closely. Obviously, we want to win – I don’t know when – but obviously we will try really hard for the rest of the season.

Q: (Jonathan Ingram – Palm Beach Post) Takuma, were you aware that your lap times were often faster than the leading Ferraris and was it frustrating to you to be in heavy traffic from the time after your first pit stop to the end?
TS:
It was. I had a car really capable of great lap times and not only for the first lap as historically but also remaining in the long runs, it was really consistent. Obviously Jock (Clear, race engineer) came on the radio and every time he was saying ‘great lap, great lap, you are the fastest on the track’ whatever the reason. Also one time Michael came after the pit stop when I was gradually catching so I knew our pace was right on the pace. But as you said there was heavy traffic after the pit stop and I had to hold back. But obviously the racing is very, very exciting, whatever the position, the overtaking is a fantastic feeling so I really enjoyed it today.

Q: (Fritz Dieter Rencken – The Citizen, South Africa) Michael, as a director of the GPDA, today a driver was informed – black-flagged – more than 90 minutes after the decision to black flag him for the alleged transgression. He raced for 90 minutes needlessly. What is your thought as a director of the GPDA about that?
MS:
I don’t think we should have many thoughts from our point of view, because there is nothing dangerous in that if you race the T-car. It’s just a matter for the FIA, I think, to deal with it and to find out when Juan Pablo was aware of it. Usually you are able to jump into the T-car. You have to do it before a certain time. As long as you do that, it’s not a problem to do so.
Q: (Fritz Dieter Rencken) Michael, I’m not questioning the safety of the T-car, I am saying it took 90 minutes of needless racing before the driver was black-flagged and wanting your thoughts from a GPDA point of view about that?
MS:
Before I answer the question I should know all the story rather than just what you tell me, honestly, and I can’t give a comment on that right now.

Q: (Bruce Martin) Rubens and Michael, was it unusual today that on this particular circuit we had a lot of incidents that basically happened on the front stretch that required two safety cars to come out? I don’t believe that at any of the other GPs here we’ve even needed the safety car yet.
MS:
Obviously for us it is difficult to say because we didn’t really see what was happening, what was the cause of the accident and so on. But that is the nature of racing, where accidents are possible to happen and the track is blocked and you need a safety car to get the marshals out and clean up the circuit, to have a safe situation for everybody in terms of debris and so on, and I imagine that if you didn’t put out the safety car it would obviously be lethal. I think there were reasons, whether the reasons were acceptable or not acceptable is not so clear for us to say.
RB: There’s very little more to say. The way that the cars looked after the first lap it looked like they were tangled and because they were too close they couldn’t actually go because it was like one was on the top of the other, so it was difficult to move the cars. Nevertheless, I didn’t see, as Michael pointed out, so it’s difficult to say. As for Ralf, I don’t know whether he touched with someone or went by himself but there was obviously a lot of debris on the circuit, a lot, a lot, so the safety car was needed for sure.

Q: (Ian Parkes – PA News) Michael, you have had many emotional moments in your career. Bearing in mind the situation with Ralf, was that the lowest you have had to go through?
MS:
It is one of the toughest, yes. We had a similar situation in Monza, when he (Ralf) had an accident. Obviously there it wasn’t so clear what was happening to him. I was in the garage, the test was basically finished and in the last two minutes I just heard that he had had an accident. I went to see him in the medical centre and I was pretty shocked because he wasn’t in very good condition at that stage. And actually you don’t know what was going on, seeing him sitting for so long and knowing what had happened at Monza to him, I was a bit concerned.

Q: Can you explain your thoughts when you drove around behind the safety car each lap and you were still seeing Ralf there, sat in the car. Can you explain your thoughts and what information were you receiving from the team at that time?
MS:
I was constantly in contact with the team. I was just asking questions - what’s going on? Why is he still sitting there? Just being concerned. It was, in a way, tough to keep your concentration. It wasn’t needed, obviously, running behind the safety car, but imagine having to race normally, it wouldn’t have been possible for me, very clearly.

Q: At what point did you definitely get the all-clear that Ralf was OK?
MS:
Obviously during the safety car phase it was explained to me by the team just do be careful and they said that he was going to get out of the car by himself but they stopped him. They wanted him to stay and they just wanted to be very careful and take extra careful steps and I think it is right to do so. But that was obviously a good message that he wanted to get out himself and I was less concerned by that.

Q: Presumably once you’ve finished here at the track your first thing will be to go and visit him in hospital?
MS:
That’s what you would imagine.

Q: (Kurt Cavin – The Indianapolis Star) To Rubens or to Michael, third place to most of us looks like just something that happens. Can you explain what it means to finally be on a podium, like Takuma was today? Can you remember back what a podium felt like? We know a race victory means a lot, but can you talk about just making a podium for the first time?
RB:
For Michael it must have been about ten years ago. For me it was just back in 1994, it was a fantastic feeling. It was actually in Japan…
MS: ’94? I think it’s (ten years ago) as well. (Laughter)
RB: OK, I should call my teacher. I mean more, so it’s OK. It was back in Japan as well, so it was a great feeling, it’s always a great feeling to finish on the podium. I guess we were quite honoured to have him (Sato) there for the first time because it is pretty special to be up there.
MS: It was Mexico in 1992 and in a way it is probably similar because at the time there was Williams and McLaren and really we in the Benettons weren’t expected to be quick enough to be near the podium and we were and it was probably like Minardi today scoring a point. For them, it is a sort of victory and it was a sort of victory for me at the time and so I can well imagine how Takuma feels at this time, how excited he is. In a way we have a car that allows us to be there pretty consistent and to be there, you have to put in a pretty good effort and I guess he got a good welcome today on the podium, in terms of champagne as well.

Q: (Lewis Franck) From the television camera when you tried to re-take the lead from Michael it appeared that you put one wheel on the grass. Can you tell us how close that was, how much of your car was on the edge?
RB:
It was very close. Did you see?
MS: No.
RB: I guess not. We are actually joking but if he wasn’t expecting it, it is fairly difficult to see from the side. I attacked 100 per cent but at one point I suddenly thought he hasn’t seen me because he could have turned the corner a little bit on the outside and still probably would have managed but it was very close. I had to go to the grass because we were about to touch.
MS: Where was that?
RB: In turn four, inside.
MS: Aah. (Laughter) I thought it was in turn one.
RB: I knew I had a couple of times to try because I had the new tyres and there were flags here and there, there was a bit of oil there, and in a way I had the chance, I tried but I didn’t get it, but I think the race was lost before that.

Q: (Bob Kravitz – The Indianapolis Star) Michael, can you derive the same kind of joy winning now as you did, say, back in 1992 when you are as dominant as this? Do you still have the same feeling being up there, after a race, or is it different?
MS:
You know, Formula One is the ultimate motor racing sport. We are in a position… and we can be proud of being in the Ferrari team, and to win with Ferrari is just the best thing that can happen to you. We are such a great team and for that success we have had to work very hard and I know that each of us does very hard. And if you win, you’re just excited. It doesn’t matter how long I am there, each one of them is different and it’s always a big thrill. Today was a hard work-out, Rubens pushed very hard, he was quick all weekend, and I wasn’t really expecting the win today. I thought I would have to settle for eight points today and managing it obviously gives you extra pleasure.

Q: (Cammy Clark – Miami Herald) Rubens, what is it about Michael this year that has made such a special season where he has dominated so much. As a team-mate what can you see happening?
RB:
I think, as Michael said, we have a great car, we have a great team, great effort, great work. Michael drove especially well at the beginning of the race, better than anybody, and he was able to conquer all the points. It was pretty amazing. Having said that, I am very excited because the last two races were a good show. They were two races, even though I don’t play ‘ifs ifs’ because they are already gone, there were two races that maybe I could have won. We have a great car, we are pushing each other very hard and that is probably putting ourselves in a better situation, even compared to the other teams, because we are putting pressure on each other. But I think we enjoy the other factor, we are fighting. Today I was hoping that I would leave Indianapolis with a 14 points (gap) compared to him but I am leaving with 18. But if you see that I have 62 points in the championship and last year, in the whole championship, I had 65, I still have a chance this year.

Q: (Bruce Martin) Michael, when you look back and see what you and Ferrari have achieved, and you just look at the numbers, do you just sit there and think ‘darn, that’s really impressive what we’ve been able to accomplish together?’
MS:
Honestly, I’d rather look forward and look forward to what I can achieve rather than… there will be many years available to look backwards.

Q: (Dave Kallman – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) Michael, can you give us your reaction to Rubens telling you how close you guys came when he was trying to get inside at turn four? Now that you know how close it was, what’s your reaction to that?
MS:
Well, it doesn’t cause any particular reaction. Turn one is obviously the ultimate spot for overtaking. Turn four, I can see that you want to try but you must be really alongside and if you’re not then it’s kind of difficult because the way you can brake into that corner, you can’t brake very deep into that corner, but naturally he was trying, it’s an open fight and you go for every chance you have.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Michael, were you surprised when you saw the back of Rubens’s car so close to you when we had the restart of the race?
MS:
When I was so close to him? No, I was not surprised because I saw how late we got the information for the safety car to come in. There was hardly time to prepare the tyres. I anticipated it and warmed up my tyres maybe a touch better than Rubens did and that allowed me to get out of the last corner pretty close and then, on that long straight, I was very much aware that I was going to go for a move. I wasn’t sure if he was going to go for the right side and I was going to have to try on the left side, but with that much overspeed that I had, I would have managed to go by on the right or left, due to the amount of slipstream I had.