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FIA press conference - Fisichella & Schumacher 09 Sep 2004

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Sauber in the official FIA press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Preparations, Monza, Italy, 9 September 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

With Giancarlo Fisichella (Sauber) and Michael Schumacher (Ferrari).

Q: Michael, if I can come to you first, we all know you had a big crash here last week in testing. Can you tell us what the cause of it was and what the consequences were?
Michael SCHUMACHER:
The cause was leaking air from the tyre and the consequence was that the tyre blew up and the crash was a result of this.

Q: And I think we are all interested in the consequences as far as you’re concerned. I know you spoke to the German press on Sunday. Would you like to repeat what you told them?
MS:
There is no consequence. I felt a bit stiff the next day but nothing of a drama. Actually it was quite alright because we have invested a lot of time in the seat, in the headrest area, in all the surroundings in the cockpit area in terms of safety and it paid out, so I felt pretty good afterwards.

Q: Of all the crashes you have had – and there have not been a huge number of them - how would you place it in terms of seriousness?
MS:
I don’t think it is important. Any crash is too much and you don’t want it but it’s part of the game.

Q: This leads us onto a bigger question of the tyres, because we saw several instances, particularly in Spa and again in the testing here last week, as a member of the GPDA you are presumably quite concerned about this. Is it a matter for worry, is some action required?
MS:
I am not worried for what happened here at Monza but naturally I am worried about what happened in Spa. I believe, from a GPDA point of view, it is pretty clear what we would like to ask but it is nothing we would want to discuss publicly, but in the end it is up to the FIA to sort of take consequences and we will find out what they think about this.

Q: Maybe I can nudge you along a bit in this direction because we have seen a lot of tyre incidents this year that have followed crashes that have left carbon fibre debris on the circuit. Do you feel that maybe the time has come to reconsider the question of the safety car and perhaps re-introduce the stopping of races so tracks can be cleaned up?
MS:
The problem is if you take one decision in that direction it might have other consequences and we have learned very often to make quick change and immediate change is not wise unless you have studied correctly so I would never want to enter into suggestions which are not carefully thought through.

Q: So, presumably you are continuing dialogue with the FIA on this?
MS:
Certainly. We have regular meetings happening after the drivers’ briefing where we drivers discuss what we think are the topics and the issues and we have a very good dialogue with the FIA in that sense because we have a lot of trust and belief in each other and that is what moves things forward, not what you try to distribute around with maybe unnecessary comments.

Q: If we can move forward to the four races left to go this season. You have got the championship safely under your belt. I think you went into the Spa race fairly conservative. You didn’t look as unhappy about finishing second after that race as you have done on previous occasions. Was your objective there just to protect your championship from Rubens and what will the policy be at Ferrari for the remaining four races as far as Rubens is concerned?
MS:
I think in a small degree it is true that there was some attention to what Rubens was doing because he was the person who may cause me problems for the championship, although the problems weren’t very big in a way, but I was looking for what he was doing. But nevertheless, in particular after what happened straight at the beginning, I was much less concentrated on what he was doing, I was trying to drive my race. I was in the position not to be able to be very aggressive, due to various circumstances such as safety cars and the way we worked with our whole environment of car, tyres and so on. It may appear to be conservative but I think I just did what I could do and did nothing wrong, in a way, that I can say in the end I should have done something different. There were limits to myself and I prefer to drive within my limits.

Q: So you were obviously very satisfied with your Spa race?
MS:
I was satisfied but I wasn’t particularly satisfied with the result because I would have rather won the race together with the championship but sometimes you can’t have everything and then you have to think back and it took a little moment and that’s why there wasn’t an instantaneous happiness there because I wasn’t sure what I should think about that race. It took a while to analyse everything and see whether there were things that I should have done different and better or not but in the end the conclusion was I had very low possibilities to do something different or better.

Q: Giancarlo, Sauber is looking quite strong towards the end of the season. What are your hopes for these last four races and particularly this weekend?
Giancarlo FISICHELLA:
Honestly, the team, Sauber, did a fantastic job in the last few months, especially with the new wind tunnel. They are working well and from Silverstone, with the new bodywork, we made a big step forward, so we can easily score points everywhere. Now I am very concentrated for the rest of the season to do my best to keep the sixth place in the championship for Sauber and we are quite optimistic to do well on Sunday.

Q: Can I talk to you about the performance of the tyres, because your tyres are basically the tyres that are developed by Michael. Do they suit your car reasonably well? Are you happy you have had good performance from your tyres this year?
GF:
I am really happy about the Bridgestone tyres, especially in the race distance. They are very consistent from the first lap to the end, which is very important. The balance of the car stays very similar and so I am quite confident, even for Sunday. We are still struggling a bit on the first lap, we are not competitive enough so the qualifying session is a bit tough for us, but the race, our pace, is quite consistent and that’s very important to go through to the end and score some points.

Q: Next year you are going to Renault and they qualified first and third in Spa. Did that give you good feelings for next year?
GF:
It was a good feeling but it was a different qualifying session. It was wet and they were the only two drivers who went out with the intermediate tyres and maybe it was the best moment if you talk about the circuit performance. But I can see Renault is doing very well, they are on a programme, they have very good potential and I am confident for the future.

Q: You were at Renault for four years before. What is different about Renault, what attracted you back to Renault this time around?
GF:
It was Benetton and then just one year with Renault. But, yeah, I am really, really happy. I think they are pushing very hard to be competitive, to win. Most of the engineers and mechanics are still the same as a few years ago so it is very important to move to a new team and find the same people because it is very important to be more comfortable at the beginning, to know how they work, so it is going to be easier for me.

Q: Your career has not always taken you into the right team at the right time. Is there a reason for this – is it management or is it just bad luck?
GF:
I don’t know but now I am sure I am in the right moment in the right team.

Q: Has it been a help to have (manager) Mr (Enrico) Zanarini on your side?
GF:
Of course, yes. He did very well. Now I am just concentrating on my work, I just prepare myself, do lots of training and I think just about my job. Zanarini is doing very well and it is even because he did a good job that I am now in Renault next year.

Q: I think many of us are interested to know just how close you came to being with Williams for next year.
GF:
I was very, very close, honestly, yes. But I hope I made the right choice, first of all because at the moment Renault are quicker than Williams and they are second in the championship and then, as I told you, because most of the people are still the same as a few years ago and it’s very important to go there and feel comfortable straight away.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Frank Schneider - Abendzeitung) Michael, how important is it for Ferrari to establish Rubens in second place in the championship?
MS:
We have had a pretty much perfect year so far and to really make it perfect would be to have Rubens in the second position in the drivers’ championship as well because that’s the thing left to achieve. If you look at the points situation in the championship it’s probably fair to say that there is a fair chance this will happen, so we will try.

Q: (Frank Schneider) And you will help him?
MS:
I don’t know if I can help him, I mean, first of all he is responsible for himself. But if there was a moment I could do, certainly I would.

Q: (Peter Windsor – Speed Channel) Michael, you said the tyre failure was down to a loss of air. What does that mean exactly? Do you get that from tyre pressure sensors or did Bridgestone establish that was the cause. And if that was the cause, do you know where the air leak was? Through the valve or seal or what?
MS:
As far as I know we had a puncture somewhere, we didn’t know exactly where but it wasn’t something that had been indicated for a long time so it must have been a rather quick puncture which then resulted in exploding immediately.

Q: (Peter Windsor) Giancarlo, correct me if I am wrong, but at Indy this year you had a sudden deflation but that did show up on the tyre pressure sensor and I think they managed to get a radio message to you just before the tyre went down. Is that correct?
GF:
Yeah, yeah. Maybe we did too many laps, in fact it was just my last lap before the pit stop but unfortunately I had a puncture. I lost pressure, I don’t know why.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - Gazetta dello Sport) Giancarlo, the tyres here in Monza, you had a problem in June, I think, so coming here to this fast track are there worries not only for the tyres but also other parts like wings and suspension?
GF:
I had a problem in June but it was a different tyre specification. Here we have a completely different tyre specification than we had in June so we are quite optimistic for the weekend and I believe in the Bridgestone choice. Last week we did lots of laps, even long runs with tyres, and the performance was okay.

Q: (Bob Constanduros) Andrea also talked about car parts, as well. Are there any worries about car parts?
GF:
Well, honestly, no. In the last few months we did a good job in the factory after the suspension failure in the middle of the season, in Canada and Monza in testing, they did a very good job and now the suspension is much, much stronger and in the last few races and testing we have done lots of miles without problems.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) Michael, a two-part question. First of all, the competition is getting closer to you so how do you think, from a performance point of view, it will go for you and Ferrari this weekend? Secondly, can you just give us a bit of your feelings and emotions that you will be racing in front of the tifosi having brought them yet another drivers’ and constructors’ championship this year?
MS:
I mean, starting with the second one, it is obviously great to have achieved what we have achieved and to be able to celebrate that with the big supporters that we have, who have been there in the difficult years and now live with us in the good years. The competition, we know, is going to be tough here – (McLaren) Mercedes and Renault looked very strong at the test here and you can never discount Williams and BAR because we know they are strong – so we are in a position where we know we have the possibility to fight for the win but we are going to face tough opposition.

Q: (Helmut Uhl - Bild) Bernie said in an interview, Michael, that you are not the new world champion until the season is over. Do you feel like the new world champion?
MS:
I don’t know what he has or has not said, but I do know that in the past, some years ago, there was something like this was said and maybe one clever or not clever journalist took that statement and refreshed that statement, rather than to speak about this. And, no, considering the points and what the media has written I think I can feel like the champion.

Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Michael, this time last year you arrived here with, I think, five races without a win and the Italian press was saying that Ferrari were in crisis, questioning you and the team. Now I think you have won 14 of the last 17 races. Can you just say how much that criticism stunned you and also how much satisfaction it gives you to have the run of success you have had?
MS:
You are never satisfied not to be competitive, that is pretty clear. Although we were able to explain the situation to ourselves, we knew what were our strong and weak points, and this is the point of Ferrari. We don’t get nervous too much and we don’t start to criticise each other. We analyse each other and we try to look at the weak spots and improve them and we have done that quite efficiently and that has brought us back to the championship road.

Q: (Byron Young – Speed Sport) Michael, you said your tyre deflated because it lost air. What exactly caused it to lose air – was it a valve or a tear?
MS:
You know, I was not in a position to be next to the tyre when it happened and it was far too destroyed to analyse that afterwards.

Q: (Byron Young) So you cannot say with any confidence whether that could happen again or whether it was a freak occurrence?
MS:
I am pretty sure we can exclude that to the minimum of what you can ever exclude in Formula One, because there is always this minimum risk that anything can happen any time and it is the same in other life stories – it is this typical part of fate.

Q: (Byron Young) Bearing in mind that is the situation, you race like that as a racing driver, you have a seventh world championship, 82 wins, why do you carry on doing it?
MS:
(Mimics a yawn)

Q: (Byron Young) Because you’re bored?
MS:
You understood the answer. At least, your colleagues did! (Laughter)

Q: (Byron Young) No, it’s a serious question. That could have cost you your life, what happened last week. You know that.
MS:
First of all, I don’t think it could have cost me my life. And second, I still love what I am doing, and I keep repeating it and it is difficult for you to understand. For me it is very easy to understand.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi) Michael, we saw during other Grands Prix some very dangerous situations like the rear wing of Kimi Raikkonen in Hockenheim. Speaking as a GPDA member, are you a bit worried for this Grand Prix on such a circuit like this?
MS:
The only percentage worry you have to have extra is because it is high speed compared to other circuits but therefore you have lower corner speeds. So, in a way, no I am not more concerned than any other Grands Prix.

Q: (Peter Hess – Frankfurt Allgemeiner Zeitung) Michael, some sources mentioned it was your 15th serious accident during your career, some said it was your 13th. Do you count your accidents?
MS:
No, I leave it up to those guys who do that.

Q: (Peter Hess) How do you overcome such an incident? You were quoted as saying ‘I slept a little bit longer and that was all, no consequence at all.’ Maybe you can tell us some of your feelings. Did you really sleep well, did you dream of the incident? Or are you so tough?
MS:
No, it’s not about being tough or not. First of all it is about doing everything possible to make your survival cell in a way as safe and as comfortable as possible and I spend a lot of effort doing this, together with the team. We have tried to analyse the accident in terms of what was the impact. It was a little bit difficult with the information we had available but I think at some time we can be a bit more precise. It wasn’t un-heavy but the consequences the next day were rather small. I had not too much to worry about because I felt pretty good. It happened here on Thursday, I had Friday off and, as you quite rightly said, I slept a little bit longer on Friday and I was only concerned that I couldn’t do the soccer match on Saturday. And that actually happened without problems.

Q: (Tim Bowdler – Motorsport News) Kimi did well at Spa. Who would you regard is your biggest rival for next year - would it be Kimi or not?
MS:
I think it depends very much who is in what competitive car. We have seen several drivers being very good – several young drivers and several experienced drivers. This year nobody would have thought that McLaren would be able to turn around that much but they have. In a natural way you should never discount them, which I never did, and I believe they are going to be strong next year. So will Williams, so will Giancarlo with Renault next year and – I don’t want to forget somebody – no, Williams, McLaren and Renault. I think these are the teams you have to worry about. BAR is strong too but there’s a little bit of a question over who is going to drive that car next year. It is difficult to pick one driver because all of them have very high potential and it is just who can make the best out of his car with his team. He can be the one.

Q: (Steve Cooper – Motorsport News) Michael, you spent a lot of time in Belgium, basically on the rear wing of Kimi for the whole race. Did you find it a refreshing change, to be involved in a chase, to be finding yourself in a chase, to be finding yourself actually have to push and look for opportunities and gaps? Back at the start of your career everyone said that you were a real driver who liked to chase and hunt down your opponents. Did you find that you had perhaps missed that for the past year and it was a new thrill in Spa?
MS:
First of all, I was obliged to be hunting because I didn’t have a car that allowed me to be in front and be hunted. Every area of my racing career has had a thrill and was exciting, whether it was leading a race, winning a race without direct competition or whether it was hunting down somebody. But when you sit in Spa, behind somebody knowing that you actually don’t have a chance to overtake him because you can’t really compete because of certain circumstances which were available, that my tyres didn’t get up to temperature quick enough and so on, then I don’t think that is great fun. Great fun is if you really go wheel-to-wheel and chase somebody and can be in the position to try that move.

Q: (Byron Young) What would you say to people who say you’ve had one guy that’s won all but two races, this is the most boring year in the sport’s history?
MS:
You know there are people who prefer to see things negative and there are people who prefer to see things positive. I have had a lot of people coming to me and saying we love what you have been doing. It depends on who you ask. I certainly can’t say I found it boring. We had a great race in Hockenheim, we have had a great race in Spa. We’ve had less interesting races such as in Hungary but Formula One has always been like this.