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French Grand Prix - selected driver quotes 04 Jul 2004

Race winner Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari celebrates on the podium.
French Grand Prix, Rd 10, Race Day, Magny Cours, France, 4 July 2004 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Sauber.
French Grand Prix, Rd 10, Race Day, Magny Cours, France, 4 July 2004 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault and Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari in parc ferme.
French Grand Prix, Rd 10, Race Day, Magny Cours, France, 4 July 2004 Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota on the grid.
French Grand Prix, Rd 10, Race Day, Magny Cours, France, 4 July 2004

The Magny-Cours race by the men in the driving seat

Both Ferraris on the podium, but they really had to work for it. A cunning strategy switch gave Michael Schumacher victory, while Rubens Barrichello caught Jarno Trulli napping at the very last corner to steal third place. The drivers explain their race.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (1st):
“The strategy and the precision of the team in the pit stops were fantastic today. Before the start, I was not so optimistic, but it became clear that our Bridgestone tyres were very good at the end of their stints, which was not the case with the opposition, so I was able to close the gap before the stops. Then, after the second stop, we decided to switch to a four-stop strategy. There was not much discussion once the team told me I would not be threatened from behind. I had nothing to lose and it was a case of no risk no fun! I only accepted I could win five laps before my final pit stop when the team told me I had enough of a gap to keep the lead. We might have won on a normal three stop, but this would have involved passing cars on the track. Based on last year, I had expected to struggle more here, but this season is proving to be really outstanding. However, the opposition is getting closer which does not surprise us and I expect another tough fight at Silverstone.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault (2nd):
"I have been waiting for this podium for a long time: I could have had it at each of the last two races were it not for mechanical problems, so I am really happy to be here! I had a good race, and fought as hard as possible, but I think Michael was just stronger today. To score my best result of the year at Renault's home Grand Prix is a great feeling; the only disappointment I feel is for Jarno, because it would have been great to be on the podium together."

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (3rd):
“From tenth to third – I am very happy and I had a lot of fun today. The car was very fast and the Bridgestone tyres were fantastic, especially at the end of each stint. I had a great race and the other drivers were very fair on the track. It was a shame that I paid the penalty for my pre-qualifying problem, without which I could have had an even better race. I gave it all I had. As for Trulli, although I had better corner speed in Turn 3, it was difficult to follow him through the chicane and then he had better traction. But then, on the final lap, he slowed a bit too much at Turn 13 and so I was able to get alongside at 15. It was risky, but I thought it was worth the risk, even if I was a bit careful not to damage the car as it would have been a shame to get from tenth to fourth and then not finish. So, I was trying 85% and when I saw I had a chance, I added another 20% making it 105% in total!”

Jarno Trulli, Renault (4th):
"I am gutted for myself and the team to have lost third place at the very end of the race. I made a fantastic start to get in front of Button and Coulthard, and the car seemed pretty competitive; even so, I couldn't keep up with Fernando because the car was quite nervous to drive. The race was going to plan until the last stint, when the car had less traction and was oversteering a lot. I defended against Rubens as much as possible, but on the last lap, he was quicker on the exit of turn 13 and passed me under braking for the next corner - I tried to close the door, but couldn't. At the moment, all I feel is disappointment, but I will have to get over it and come back stronger at the next races."

Jenson Button, BAR (5th):
"I’m very disappointed because we expected to do a lot better here and fifth is not good enough. The strategy was working well for us but at the last pit stop the engine went into anti-stall mode and cost me the time advantage that could have put us on the podium. We lost a possible third place today and, with Taku’s problem, two much-needed points finishes, having worked so hard to close the gap to Renault. They had a good result today so we really have to have solved these problems going into our home race."

David Coulthard, McLaren (6th):
"At the start I lost two positions to be fifth after the first corner. This was a shame as the race showed that both Kimi and I were able to have the same speed as the three cars ahead of me who were fighting for third. I lost some grip during the middle of the race and had a few problems with traffic. However an encouraging and reliable race debut for the 19B and I'm looking forward to my home grand prix at Silverstone next weekend and the rest of the season."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (7th):
"It's always difficult starting from ninth, and I think if I had not messed up in qualifying yesterday we would have done much better. I made a good start and gained two places but it was not enough. The speed of the 19B is good, and I'm confident for the rest of the season particularly as we have further developments coming."

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams (8th):
“It has been a very difficult race for me, especially because of an intense pain in my neck, which nearly prevented me from being able to keep my head up. I hurt my neck on Friday, when I crashed, but I didn’t expect the pain to become so sharp in the race. With regards to the race, I maintained my grid position at the start but after 20 laps or so hit a kerb too hard and spun, losing three places. After that I tried to close the gap with Kimi Raikkonen in front, but I wasn’t able to get close enough to pass him because I just wasn’t quick enough. Also the balance of my car wasn’t ideal, especially in the first part of the race, which caused me to make a few mistakes. I really hoped I could get much more than one single point today.”

Mark Webber, Jaguar (9th):
“Today’s race was incredibly competitive with most teams both reliable and fast. The team has done an amazing job all weekend and to see us finishing both cars in 9th and 11th after only one retirement is really testament to the hard work we have been undertaking here at the track and back in the factory. Michelin has done a good job as always and we are very pleased with our progress with them. Their is no doubt that the R5 package is competitive and worthy of points finishes, you now just need to be perfect all weekend to get them since the competition is so tough. I am very motivated going into the team’s home race and I am excited about getting back behind the wheel as soon as possible.”

Marc Gene, Williams (10th):
“Tenth place is not what I had hoped for. I had a problem with the clutch on the grid but since I didn’t want to jump the start I released it very slowly and lost three positions. This is when I lost 50% of my chances to get good finish. Then Mark Webber and I touched on turn 3 and I nearly spun. Two of my sets of tyres were very good and allowed me to catch up with the drivers in front, like Mark Webber or Juan Pablo, but even though I tried my best, those in front were too fast. Both my car and I just needed more speed, today!”

Christian Klien, Jaguar (11th):
“This weekend has really been a good step-forward for me as I feel everything is coming together. I have been gradually improving all weekend in my pace and to start 13th and finish 11th with a problem-free race is fantastic. The car was very well-balanced for me and I got a good start. I certainly raced hard and I was very pleased to be able to stay with my team-mate through most of the race. We both need to be finishing in the points and this is my goal. I was held up marginally by the Minardi cars and the Jordans, and the blue flags slowed me down a little bit. However, overall this has been one of my best racing weekends so far and I hope that there will be more like these to come.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber (12th):
“It was a difficult race for us, as we expected. Our original strategy was to run two stops, but then we decided to go to three as our pace was not fast enough and we were struggling for rear-end grip. After that it was better, but now let’s look forward to Silverstone, where we will get the next batch of our new aerodynamic components and be able to fight harder.”

Felipe Massa, Sauber (13th):
“Looking at the last two races we figured it might be better for me to stay with a two-stop race here, and I think it was a good idea to try both strategies by switching Giancarlo to three. The tyre degradation is so high here that I had a really tough afternoon. It was a real struggle for me all the way through.”

Cristiano da Matta, Toyota (14th):
"I think the hot weather was detrimental to us in today's race, particularly in the way our car was set up. The situation was the same for everyone, but it is apparent from the final results that we suffered a lot more. I cannot really pinpoint a specific reason, but the car was simply a lot slower compared to what we showed it could do on Friday and Saturday. The only thing that has been different today is the temperature, but we have to look deeply into the data to see what caused such a big drop off in performance."

Olivier Panis, Toyota (15th):
"I had a problem at the very start of the race when the clutch got stuck and the antistall was activated, which is why I lost all the places. That was very painful for me and I am sure also for the team. There was one main problem today, namely that we were not quick enough to fight with the cars in front of us. However disappointing today's results are for everyone at Toyota, we must immediately look ahead to Silverstone to keep concentrated, motivated and continue to do our best."

Nick Heidfeld, Jordan (16th):
“It was not a good race for us today but it’s easier to handle as there was no chance for points anyway with most of the cars finishing. Unfortunately I had a poorer start than my teammate again and I have tried to analyse that over the last weeks. I overtook him after the first pit stop and then later there was a misunderstanding with my engineer so I went through the pit lane once too often and I was behind Giorgio again then passed him again. Overall the balance of the car has been better at most other races so far. With new tyres the rears were good for a few laps and then dropped off and I had a lot of graining on the front. Added to that there was a lot of lapping and blue flags. A difficult race.”

Giorgio Pantano, Jordan (17th):
“It was good that we finished the race as it’s quite a long time since I did that. I had a really good start then I felt some problems with the car especially with braking. Finishing reliably is the positive thing to take from here and then let’s get going to the next race.”

Gianmaria Bruni, Minardi (18th):
"I had a good start and was really thinking we might have a good race, but the performance was compromised during the first 20 or 30 laps by some problems with the set-up of the car. In the last stint, however, we reset the tyre pressures and found the right balance. Mechanically, the car was fine, but unfortunately, right close to the end of the race the telemetry indicated there was a gearbox oil leak and the team asked me to come into the pits on the very last lap rather than risk some expensive damage. It's a shame not to have been able to take the chequered flag today, but we did the most we could."

Zsolt Baumgartner, Minardi (DNF):
"I made a good start and it was clear the car was nicely balanced. I was able to pass Gimmi straightaway, and although he re-passed me at Adelaide, I was able to push him hard after that. Unfortunately, though, I made a small mistake at turn three, soon after my second stop, and the car went into the gravel. I'm upset not to have been able to finish the race today. We'll just have to aim to do better in the next race, at Silverstone."

Takuma Sato, BAR (DNF):
"It is a shame that I could not finish the race after our performance in Indy. The lap times were very close and everybody was competitive, so it was a tough race. I immediately felt a loss of power after the pitstop and we knew there was a problem down the main straight but there was nothing we could do. It was a different problem than before - not sudden but gradual. We have only a week to look into the problem before the team’s home race at Silverstone which is one of the most important races on the calendar."