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Post-race press conference - Germany 25 Jul 2004

(L to R): Second place Jenson Button (GBR) BAR, Race Winner Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari, third place Fernando Alonao (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, German Grand Prix, Race Day, Hockenheim, Germany, 25 July 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: 1st Michael Schumacher (Ferrari); 2nd Jenson Button (BAR); 3rd Fernando Alonso (Renault).

Q: Michael, what a day in front of your home crowd!
Michael SCHUMACHER:
Yeah, what a weekend, you have to say. Yesterday pole position, today the victory. It was a pretty tough race, especially the beginning when Kimi was putting on the pressure and then Jenson had a fantastic drive, together with Fernando. It was a battle. The gap I had initially I was able to keep but not really extend. In this way, it was a little bit difficult, especially at the beginning as Jenson was staying out pretty long after his first pit stop and it wasn’t sure whether they would maybe even be on a two-stop strategy. So it was a tough race not knowing what was going on at several stages in the race.

Q: And just before he went off at turn one, Kimi was right behind you there after that first pit stop?
MS:
Yeah, he was right behind and he was quick, no doubt. I think you have the general trend that between the tyre manufacturers, you have certain stages in the race where one is quicker than the other and then it’s the other way round later. So I wasn’t too worried as long as he was behind me and, as a strategy, it could have worked out. But it would have been a tough one, no doubt.

Q: There looked to be some pretty nifty pit work from the Ferrari crew on lap 47, on your third stop, just after Rubens had cleared the road there. Rubens had just come in and then you came in straight after him,
MS:
OK, I didn’t know that. When I came in everything was clear and our guys were just superb. Even though they are under pressure they don’t crack and that’s what’s so fantastic about them.

Q: Jenson, a great drive. I guess it is a complement that Michael thought you were on a two-stop race at one point?
Jenson BUTTON:
The car has been working great all weekend. It is difficult because I am so happy to have finished second and for me it was the best drive of my career and I had the best car underneath me. You know the car performed fantastically and also the engine. But it’s slightly disappointing that if I had started third it could have been a different story, there could have been a lot more pressure on Michael which I would have enjoyed very much. But that’s not to be - we’ve got to wait for that. But all in all, it’s a fantastic result and I’ve got to say a big thank you to the team.

Q: You actually led the race as early as lap 13. Can you talk us through that early stage?
JB:
Sure, the first lap I initially got a good start and then I got stuck behind Taku at turn one, on the outside, and I lost a lot of places. I think I ended up the first lap in 13th still and then just worked my way up a little bit and then after the first stop the team did a fantastic job and I came out in fifth or sixth or something, so I’m very happy.

Q: And a brilliant race with Fernando Alonso.
JB:
Yeah, we had a good little tussle. He’s not the easiest guy to overtake but he’s very fair and I enjoyed it.

Q: We saw you on the camera playing with your helmet quite a lot on the side there. What was the problem?
JB:
The team initially thought it was a visor but it wasn’t, it was the strap under the helmet was a little bit loose and the problem is then that when the helmet is loose it lifts up slightly and it was really catching on my throat and it made it really very difficult to breathe so I had to hold it on every straight to keep it down so that I could get some air in.

Q: Fernando, looking fantastic for P2 there, but with 14 laps to go what happened?
Fernando ALONSO:
Well, I don’t know really. At the beginning I thought a front wheel problem, I thought that something was broken there and then I thought a suspension problem. It was impossible to turn in, no front end at all. I did three laps running in the 1m 18s, 1m 19s. David arrived and Montoya was very close. I even called the pits to come in on that lap and check, and they said stay out, there are 13 laps to go, the maximum you arrive in is sixth or seventh and you take some points. I was really worried at that stage and then what happened, I touched one kerb at turn six and the car was back to normal so from there it was a normal race for the last ten laps, eleven laps.

Q: You’ve made many brilliant starts in your career with Renault, was this one the best start you have ever made?
FA:
This was one of the best. I think the best one was in Indianapolis, from ninth to third, but this one if I had qualified fourth yesterday, probably I would get first position. But anyway, to be second was a great surprise.

Q: And then that great race with Jenson, tell us from your point of view how that was.
FA:
Yeah, it was very fun, I think, for both of us. We had two or three moments of big risk, I think in turn seven, I believe. I think we both enjoyed the fight. I think we are two very aggressive drivers, not easy to overtake, very aggressive, we think we can overtake as well, but we are both very fair. I enjoyed it in those laps.

Q: This is now your 50th straight race without a technical failure on the car, what does that say about the team?
MS:
It’s just self explanat… it explains itself! And it is just fabulous, absolutely wonderful, it’s not only the reliability, the pit stops, just everything, it’s just spot on. We are able to achieve 100 percent most of the time and that is what makes this team so strong and us so difficult to beat.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Michael, that seems to have been another faultless and flawless win. Were there any problems at all?
MS:
Yeah, to the right and left of me! It has been a tough one, although maybe I was always in a safe situation in terms of distance but it was not foreseen what would have been possible to happen especially at the end when Jenson was stuck behind Fernando. I think before the last pit stop there was a while Jenson was behind him and at that stage it wasn’t sure whether he could get by and what sort of lap times he could have gone, because before his first pit stop I was behind him and he was going quite quick so at that stage. I was obviously a little concerned that I was pushing flat out and trying to make sure that I didn’t leave anything open and feel sorry later.

Q: Was he the one you were worried about most?
MS:
Obviously Kimi in the beginning, he was a big threat, he was very quick, but then I don’t know what would have happened later, because he seemed initially to be quick and then I was able to pull out a gap to him in the first stint so I guess I should have pulled out a gap again in the other stints but who knows?

Q: Were the tyres consistent?
MS:
Tyres were consistent, yep. They were good. We worked very well in Jerez last week for very hot temperatures and we just got tyres together spot on, especially for the race.

Q: The achievements you are enjoying with the team, obviously - Peter just mentioned 50 races since you last had a mechanical retirement – and these fantastic victories. What do they mean to you?
MS:
I’m just extremely happy. There are no words for this feeling. If you see what happened yesterday, this morning I was out on the parade lap, all the emotions from our fans here, it was just fabulous. And then to win the race and to do it at home where I haven’t been that greatly successful over the years, it’s just unbelievable. Several numbers are coming together again this weekend which simply makes it extra special. I’m just feeling very great.

Q: Could you hear the reception they were giving you?
MS:
Yeah. It’s difficult not to, even over the engine, you really feel it.

Q: Jenson, you had a tremendous battle with Fernando and tried to overtake a couple of times. Tell us about those dives down the inside and the outside as well?
JB:
Well, Fernando had very good traction out of turn three so I would lose a bit of time but on the straight I was able to get quite close to him. At the hairpin it is very difficult to know where to go on overtaking. Fernando has put the car on the inside so I went to the outside first and tried to come back on the inside and that didn’t work because he had very good traction and could stay on the outside. I tried it a couple of times, a few different ways, it didn’t work, and then after the pit stop I found myself right behind Fernando again and, erm, I can’t remember what happened! I went down the inside and got the move and I was just holding onto it around the next corner, which is the flat-out right-hander.

Q: I mean that was what it was about, being able to stay on the inside up to there, wasn’t it?
JB:
Yeah, it seems here that you make a move and that’s not it, you know, it continues for three or four corners, which is great. It makes it more exciting. But it would have been a bit nicer if it was a bit easier!

Q: How close were you coming to the pits with your problem with the helmet?
JB:
Not very close. The problem I had was that the strap came a bit loose and when it does that the helmet lifts up and it was slightly choking me. I couldn’t breathe very well and it was just more worrying than anything else. I was just slightly pulling it down to get some air in.

Q: Fernando, can you just explain how you got back on the pace again after your problem with the suspension. It wasn’t that clear when you mentioned it just now. What happened?
FA:
I think it is still not clear. With 16 laps to go after Jenson overtook me I felt the car like in the air in the front, no front grip at all and I thought that I had a front wing problem or I had lost the front wing or something. So I called the pits, my engineer, and said ‘check when I go in a straight line and check if I still have the front wing’ because, I don’t know, I don’t feel the front wing at all and I was running five seconds slower. He said ‘it’s okay, stay on the track because you would lose too much time if we have to check’ and after two laps the car went back to normal, so we have to investigate a little bit more or maybe, they said on the in lap coming into parc ferme that maybe it was something going underneath the car and at one point it came away. So, I was lucky to finish on the podium

Q: Now, just going back to the start of the race, you were right behind Michael on the first lap but then Kimi got past you. What happened there?
FA:
Well, we had not enough straight-line speed so to keep position in turn six (hairpin) was always a problem – if I went on the inside they would take me on the outside by braking later, if I go on the outside they overtake me on the inside, so there was not much to do. I think I did all I could to keep my position with Kimi and then with Montoya, then with Jarno, then with Jenson. So I had a tough race and, as I said before, after the problems I had with the car and everything this podium feels much better than a normal podium.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Adrian Hubert – Agencia Efe) Fernando, this podium is a great start for the next two races for you because you already know how it is to win in Hungary and in Spa, one with Formula One and one with Formula 3000. I think they are two circuits you like a lot?
FA:
Yeah, I think we have my two favourite tracks coming now, Hungary and Spa, and we arrive with a very good motivation. I think the team is doing a very good job. We need to improve a little bit in some areas to be competitive in circuits like that because I think we were a little bit down compared with Ferrari and BAR but I think Hungary will suit our car, Spa as well, and we will go for the podium or victory if we have the possibility.

Q: (Charlie Wyett – The Sun) Jenson, after what happened yesterday did you seriously believe you could finish second today?
JB:
No, I didn’t! I knew we would be quick but I expected probably to be about fifth come the end of the race. This year it has seemed very difficult to come through the field. A few times we have seen people starting low on the grid because of a penalty and they have found it very difficult so I didn’t hold too much hope. But it was a fantastic race, it wasn’t the best first lap of the year – I didn’t actually, I don’t think, move forward at all. I tried but I ended up moving back, locking wheels, going off and all sorts, so it made the race very exciting. Yeah, probably for me it was the best race of my career. In one way it is a bit disappointing because if we had started where we qualified we would have had a very good chance of challenging Michael, I think. It is hard to come to terms with that really, but I am sure there are going to be a lot more chances this year.

Q: (Alastair Moffitt – PA News) Jenson, did you always intend to stop after all the other guys in the first stint or was did it surprise you how early they pitted?
JB:
No, we expected to pit when we did and we thought the other guys would pit around lap 10 or lap 11. So that was the reason why I was so happy after qualifying yesterday. We didn’t expect to be third.

Q: (Alastair Moffitt – PA News) It says a lot about your qualifying, as you say. It was a good lap, wasn’t it?
JB:
Yeah, I mean, we (unclear) when you look at the lap we pitted on. So yeah, the car has been very strong all weekend and the team have done a fantastic job because in the last couple of races we haven’t been slow but we haven’t had this pace. So, I think we have come through well and we are moving forward.

Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto Motor und Sport) Fernando, at the start Raikkonen was crossing your line. Without this would you have been able to even overtake Michael?
FA:
No, I don’t think so. I tried to avoid Raikkonen and I think I lost one metre, two meters, so it was a little bit too far anyway to overtake Michael.

Q (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Michael, if you had lost the first position at the start would it have been too much difference for you?
MS: I think so.

Q: (Milan Sako – Augsburger Allgemeine) ) Michael, there are now three weeks off, what will you do in this time before Hungary?
MS:
Take some vacation and just prepare myself for Hungary.

Q: (Alain Pernot – L’Auto Journal) Jenson, how confident are you about the next races?
JB:
It’s really difficult to know how confident to be because we expected to be very quick at Silverstone and, you know, our pace was quite average. It is difficult to know where we stand. I know we have some new parts that maybe we will use in Hungary that will help us and I think that we have made the correct tyre choice for Hungary. I think we have to be quietly confident that we can have a good race.

Q: (Adrian Hubert) Michael, do you think 17 victories are possible?
MS:
I think it is impossible.