Post-qualifying press conference - France 03 Jul 2004
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1m13.698s; 2nd Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1m13.971s; 3rd David Coulthard (McLaren), 1m13.987s.
Q: Fernando, a great looking pole lap. A couple of big moments going into the chicane this morning which perhaps disguised your speed, but no real mistakes on that lap.
Fernando ALONSO: Yeah, it was a good lap. This morning we suffered a little bit with the set-up. I had to push a little bit more to find a better line in the chicane which is very complicated here. At the end, the qualifying laps were fine. I had two or three big moments in turn eight, I think. I braked a little bit too late, but at the end, I didnt lose too much time and to be on pole here for the home Grand Prix for the team is really nice and a good feeling at the moment. But we have to wait and see how the race is tomorrow.
Q: Youve shown a lot of speed over the last four races, but also a lot of bad luck and a great start at Indianapolis. Is it all going to change tomorrow?
FA: Yeah, I believe so. I believe so because at Monaco I had very bad luck, Nuerburgring I had a steering problem, and in Canada and Indy I retired with two mechanical problems so Im sure that here the luck will come back and hopefully tomorrow we will finish the race.
Q: Michael, the lap looked very good going into it but fell away slightly towards the end there.
Michael SCHUMACHER: Yup. If you look at the sector times, thats what happened. We just werent competitive in the last sector, in qualifying in particular.
Q: Is that a function of the car and the circuit or perhaps how tyres react to this circuit?
MS: I think there are various factors that could be playing into that one. The ones you mentioned, strategy and set-up.
Q: What sort of weekend has it been for you, obviously fragmented with that rain yesterday.
MS: Obviously yesterday was a bit of a watch day rather than active day and we were able to recover today quite easily, I have to say. We found a good baseline and set-up so not too much of a worry anyway, it was the same for everybody.
Q: And your thoughts for the race tomorrow from your point of view?
MS: Well, were in the first row, so were going to be there.
Q: David, great to see you here, first time McLaren have been in the top three in qualifying this year, the new 19B car showing a lot of promise.
David COULTHARD: Yeah, obviously I think weve got to be pretty pleased with the result of this qualifying session. I think that fuel-levelwise we are where we would expect to be had we had the 19 here, so you can say that we have definitely taken a step forward and patched in some of the problems we had earlier on the season, so hopefully we can see a strong race and get some solid points and start building from here.
Q: Fun car to drive?
DC: Well any car thats doing a lap time is fun and my experience in the past is when you have a quick car, sometimes its more difficult to drive than a car thats further off the pace so its tricky, but if its doing the lap time I dont mind.
Q: Fernando, you have a slight gap over the two gentlemen next to you but the grid looks very very close. How do you see the race tomorrow?
FA: It will be a tough race. Always short circuits like this, where we run in 1m 13s/14s, always the times are very close, but tomorrow is a tough race like the others. I think, from the strategy point of view, it will be very interesting. Tyres will be interesting as well because yesterday no one ran on long runs with the tyres so tomorrow will be a little bit a surprise for all of us and we hope to have luck with us.
Q: Fernando, how do you feel about that? Pole position here at Renaults home Grand Prix?
FA: Any pole position feels great but to be here I think is very important for the team and me as well. I feel extremely happy but calm as well because the race is tomorrow.
Q: How do you feel about the lack of track time that youve had, having not had very much yesterday?
FA: Yeah, but thats one important point for tomorrows race. No one ran with the tyres that long and tomorrow we will have a surprise in the teams because I dont know how the tyres will behave, so this is one important point but anyway, we were lucky, we put the car on the track yesterday for a few laps and this morning and the car performed very well. We were competitive from the beginning and well, its a surprise to be on pole but its not a surprise to be in the top five or something like that because the car performed really well this weekend.
Q: I think youve got a new spec engine here, can you feel the difference in that?
FA: Well, we have a little more revs but thats difficult to feel, but any help they can give us is very appreciated by the drivers.
Q: And youve obviously got a lot of confidence in the strategy.
FA: Yeah, Im very confident and tomorrow we will see, but I think we are with the right strategy. Tomorrow will be a tough race for everybody but we are in a good position at the moment.
Q: Michael, what do you think happened in the third sector where you lost the time really?
MS: Basically we just werent quick enough. I was pushing very hard and losing a tenth in turn 13 pushing a bit too hard, but the main loss came in the last two corners and there was nothing more I could do.
Q: This race seems to be the closest challenge that you have had so far, four different manufacturers in the first four places
MS: Yeah in a way it is true. I mean you have obviously the McLarens and the BMWs (Williams) back with a competitive car or a more competitive package so everything is a lot more close. So the challenge tomorrow will be quite interesting.
Q: Are you feeling that challenge already? Are you thinking I am on the dirty side of the track as well?
MS: Well I know. That is the fact. We will have to see what we do from there.
Q: David good to see you. What does the new car bring to you, more confidence for example?
DC: I think its lap time. Obviously we need to wait and see what the race gives us because maybe we are significantly lighter than everyone else on the grid and we dont look so good. But Id be surprised if that is the case. And youve got to say that we have been generally a lot more competitive around this track than what you would have expected so it is certainly a journey of discovery for us because we havent done any Grand Prix distance with the car. Weve accumulated more miles obviously than a Grand Prix distance but we havent done consecutive laps so it going to be interesting to see how the car performs.
Q: So the fact that you lost out on track time yesterday means that you feel you might have done better?
DC: I definitely think that we could have done better. That lap was erring on the side of caution and when you see how close it is now then with a bit a confidence like you gain from seeing that youre competitive I think it is possible to go a step quicker.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Stéphane Barbé LEquipe) David, McLaren have always been very consistent here in Magny-Cours year after year, have you an explanation about that?
DC: I know that some teams particularly go well at certain tracks and it is right that we have generally been quite quick on this circuit, even last year which was quite a tough year for us as well we performed reasonably well, Ferrari dont seem to have gone so well here despite Michael having won quite a few times. So no I cant explain it other than the nature of the track is certainly a lot smoother than a lot of other tracks we race on so maybe that suits the aero set-up we have.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sports News) Can I ask all three of you what you think of the news that Max Mosley is stepping down in October?
FA: Well you know it is a big change for the FIA and Formula One but I think the next one who will come will do a good job as well. For the driver point of view it is not too much the change.
MS: I believe that Max has been very good for the sport, has achieved a lot, had clear targets and put them through. Sometimes you agree and sometimes you dont agree, that is the nature of life. But I think he has done a good job, so obviously it is a shame to lose such a strong powerful man but now we have to see who is going to replace him and what that gives to us.
DC: Yeah I think the guy following in his footsteps it is a very important role that they play because it influences all of motor sport across the board. To find someone who can put ego to one side and try to take a vision for the good of the sport is difficult so Im interested to ear who is going to replace him and hope he can take what has been done and improve.
Q: (Livio Orricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) David, the new car seems to be step forward compared to the last one, but what about the engine? Or is there a new engine?
DC: I think the package that we have here is an improvement on the car and also the engine has improved. We have more power available for this circuit, which is always nice to have you dont have to pedal as hard on the straights. I think that Mercedes have made big steps since the beginning of the season and there are still some more revisions due for a couple of races time. We are getting into the right area and it gives me a lot of confidence to believe we can build upon this.
Q: (Jonathan Noble Autosport) To all three drivers. There was some concern after Indianapolis about the amount of time it took for the medical crews to attend Ralf Schumacher in his car. The FIA said it was happy that the first medical car got there within the two-minute time window it lays down. As drivers are you satisfied with this time limit or do want to see something done about the situation?
DC: If I can speak on behalf of the other drivers, it was something that we discussed in the drivers briefing yesterday and also the GPDA meeting and we have obviously been given information as to what is acceptable from Charlies point of view and we are going to have a conversation with Sid to be more aware of all those factors because obviously it is a very specialist area. Charlie is limited in his knowledge and we are certainly limited in our knowledge so we will have more information when we go into the British Grand Prix.
Q: (Stéphane Barbé) Michael, you have said that perhaps you lost a bit of time in the last sector because you pushed a bit too hard. How penalising is it to go over the kerbs?
MS: How much is penalising over which kerbs.
Q: (Stéphane Barbé) At the chicane for example, it seems to be a little bit penalising
MS: Yeah but the kerb is there for everybody. We were just not good enough and there could be many reasons. There could be the reason of simply not having the right set-up, could be the reason that there is a different strategy, it could be the reason that the tyres work better in one area compared to another area. Lets find out what it is tomorrow.
Q: (Pascal Dro Auto Plus) Question for David. You said you could have been a bit quicker than you were today on track. Can you tell us how much quicker you could have been?
DC: For sure I think I gave away a tenth in the last sector because in my warm-up lap and in my previous qualifying lap I got a bit out of shape in the last chicane. We changed the car to try to accommodate that. But you dont start your lap 100 percent. The only time you find out is when you get there. Having realised I had done a reasonably good lap I didnt want to drop time there so I was a little bit cautious.
Q: (Pascal Dro) If I get it right so this means that your car is a real challenger today right?
DC: Well the difficulty with this ongoing qualifying format is that you cant ever say that that guy was the quickest guy given his car in the most competitive situation because fuel is always going to be a factor. It is only at the end of the race you can say who did a reasonable job. Wed like to think that we have qualified with a strategy which is going to give us a good chance in the race, but I think thats why it is important to get back to low fuel qualifying so that we can say at the end of the qualifying day that was the quickest driver-engine-tyre combination and then go into the race, which is another part of the weekend.
Q: (Carlos Miquel Gomez Diario As) Fernando do you think that with this pole it will start a new season for you, a new lucky season for you?
FA: I hope so because I think I did quite a good job in the first half of the season but I have only 25 points. That is okay but maybe not enough of what I did in the car probably. I think with a little bit of luck this last half of the season I will be more competitive, take more points and I will go up in the championship.
Q: (Dan Knutson) David, the new car is obviously better than the old car. But are the differences subtle or when you got in the thing did you say wow this is so much better?
DC: The difficulty with not testing the car back-to-back is that the first time I drove the car was at Jerez last week and it was 58 degrees track temperature. You know in those conditions the cars always struggle to give consistent performance. But through that it was more consistent than I would have expected for those conditions and all you can do is compare to the other guys. The answer to your question is that you dont go in and go wow because you know certain parts are carry-over from the other car, but we all had a confidence that it was a step forward. Again this is just one stage of showing that and we have got to get the race results to prove really whether the car is consistently better.
Q: (Stéphane Barbé) A question for the three, during the Grand Prix here last year we had absolutely no overtaking. Is it a big concern for strategy for tomorrow or is it mainly the same as everywhere?
MS: I think it is the nature of the circuit that it simply doesnt allow overtaking unless you are a lot faster. And the circuit hasnt changed. You have to use the strategy if you are going to overtake unless you make mistakes, but you dont consider that up front.
Q: (Carlos Miquel Gomez Diario As) For the three drivers, do you think it is okay not to change the qualifying system?
FA: As David said we all like to drive with low fuel to see the challenge of qualifying, to see what we are. But it is a difficult decision to make for them.
MS: Imagine if they cant agree. What can we do.
DC: As I said I think everyone would benefit from being able to say on that day in history that was the quickest package, for better or worse. And then have the race as where you gain your points.
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) A question for Fernando. In Imola Jenson Button to the pole but Michael won because of the good strategy. Are you afraid of a similar race tomorrow?
FA: Who knows? I think every race is different. We know that we have to be careful from a strategy point of view. I think our timed lap is okay enough to be in the fight for the victory but we have to be smooth as well in the pits. We wait and see, but at the moment I think we are very confident with our strategy and our fuel load and probably Jenson was a little bit too light in Imola.
Q: (Pascal Dro) A question for Michael. Could you rank your different challengers, the different teams and cars. Who is the best of the other contenders for the World Championship? Five of them is okay
MS: Another time.