Post-race press conference - San Marino 24 Apr 2005
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Fernando Alonso (Renault); 2nd Michael Schumacher (Ferrari); 3rd Jenson Button (BAR).
Q: Fernando, what a blistering final 11 laps of the race, talk us through those closing stages?
Fernando Alonso: It was probably one of the best fights I have had. I knew that Michael was more than one second faster than me so my only chance was to hold him up a little bit in the middle of the corners and then to be on the throttle a little bit earlier than him, just to have this little space for the straight and it worked well. We had a two or three corners where we were very close, and I was doing my maximum. The tyres and the car were not performing perfectly and I knew that.
Q: In the very closing stages of the race, you were quite close to slower traffic in front of you and it looked as though you were matching their pace, perhaps staying back from the traffic.
FA: Yes, the last ten laps I had the Red Bull and the Williams in front and I was hoping not to catch them because maybe I would lose a little bit of downforce and Michael may be able to overtake me. So in the really slow chicanes and in the slow corners I was braking more than normal, maybe, just to protect my rear tyres and just to keep a gap if possible.
Q: Was there ever a moment when a small voice said in your mind settle for second place, dont make a race of this, youre leading the championship?
FA: No. (Laughter) I was always hoping for the win after Kimi retired and I had only one picture for the race, that I was winning the race. I was ready to fight for the last laps, I really wanted the victory here.
Q: Michael, what a day, from 13th on the grid, obviously slowed down a lot in traffic but once they came in for their earlier pit stops you had a longer first stint the race became yours.
Michael Schumacher: Yeah, indeed, that was obviously the strategy due to the weather conditions and position we had been after yesterdays qualifying. I am happy in one way for the race, Im obviously quite excited but naturally, on the other hand, Im a bit disappointed after what happened to me this morning. If you think what would have happened if this didnt happen it would have been the perfect day for us. But here you go, we have second place, we have stunning pace and performance, thats what we take out of this race after a tremendous effort and work from everyone in the team: test team, engineers, test drivers, Luca Badoer, Marc Gene. Everyone was just flat-out working on the limit and it paid out. I have to say a big big thank you to Bridgestone who have suffered at the start of the season from some (bad) publicity and I think they get back some very good ones pretty soon. This was the first step and there is more to come.
Q: Tell us what did happen this morning when you went wide at Rivazza in qualifying?
MS: Basically something similar to what happened to me on Friday during free practice. There is a little bump into this corner and due to the fact that we have a heavier fuel load we brake a bit earlier and I just hit this bump, heavily enough to unload the front wheel and youre on maximum brake pressure and it just locked up and once it is locked you are just lost, you cannot really recover. I dont think that is an excuse, that is just the facts. I am disappointed that it happened to me. In one way I should not be too worried because I dont do too many mistakes, but one is enough and it is a sad one.
Q: You passed Jenson in very spectacular fashion at the Variante Alta, but did you have any thoughts about overtaking Fernando in those closing stages? Were you looking at a specific place or just waiting for an opportunity?
MS: I was helped a little bit by the two Williams guys, who did a I dont know what they did to each other into Acque Minerale, they put some dust on the circuit at some stage, and Jenson just slipped on the dust, which gave me a run at him. Otherwise I dont think it would have been possible. With Fernando it was slightly different, because he struggled with his performance in a way and he was not that quick any more in the acceleration areas. I had a couple of areas where I thought I could have had a go but it wasnt quite enough to finally do it. I tried, we got very close in a couple of corners, but he did a great race and did not make mistakes but that is why he won the race and I got second.
Q: Jenson, switching to you, great to finally be on the podium.
Jenson Button: Yeah, definitely. It has been a tough few races for us already this season. Its the same sort of situation that Michaels been in. We have all worked so hard since the last race to turn things around and we have. We are not yet on the same pace as Ferrari but they have done a fantastic job. I know they have been working night and day to turn this car around and I would just like to say thank-you to them, because it is a different car and Im very positive that we can keep making these improvements throughout the year.
Q: How did your pace early on compare with Fernandos?
JB: We were suffering a little bit with our fuel load. When the fuel load got a bit lower we were very competitive. I dont know if Alonso was slowing down but I was able to catch him a little bit towards the end of the stints. But as soon as we put the fuel back in we were struggling again. It doesnt matter any more. Im very happy to be here on the podium. We have got so much information from this race, it is the first one we have finished this year and so it is great to be back on the podium and I think we are going to be strong when we arrive in Barcelona.
Q: Fernando, pressure doesnt get any greater than it was today but nonetheless, the Spanish Grand Prix in two weeks time is going to be a serious event!
FA: Yeah, after three victories, maybe I have a strong point for me in the championship and I hope the people enjoy the race. I know the atmosphere will be amazing, it will be completely full from Friday to Sunday and as I said before, we are at a good moment for me and the team and hopefully we can finish the race, and I am sure that with the performance we have, we can get a podium again. So I really hope it will be a big party for everyone.
Q: Fernando, three in a row, you must feel on top of the world!
FA: On top of the championship. On top of the world I dont think anyone can beat that. Its true that its the third (win) for myself and the fourth for the team. We knew that here would be a difficult weekend but even without that, the performance was good. It was competitive, our race pace was not like the Ferrari but anyway, with an advantage on the grid and being conservative over the last couple of laps with Michael, I think I was able to win and this is probably the best of the three Ive had so far.
Q: What did you think of the pace of McLaren early in the race?
FA: I dont know what fuel load he had. Obviously during the first two laps he was very quick, after that he was opening the gap at maybe two tenths a lap, not more, so probably we hope he had less fuel than us.
Q: What about those last 12 laps, what is it like to have Michael Schumacher breathing down your neck?
FA: Well, it was difficult but in the end I managed to be first. Obviously Michael was much quicker than me, more than one second quicker, and I knew that my only possibility was first not to catch the people in front of me and second in the corners where he had the opportunity (to pass) to brake a little bit more in the corner before and have better traction than him. I was playing this game at every corner and at the end it was OK.
Q: He had a couple of looks around you, didnt he?
FA: Yeah, there were two moments when we were very close but I think everything was under control. Probably my engineers were more excited than me in the car because every lap they continued to tell me four laps to go, three laps to go, two laps to go. I can do it.
Q: Michael, did you feel that you were being controlled? Was it quite frustrating behind Fernando?
MS: No. It would be a quite negative approach to see it that way. It was quite an exciting fight. I was quicker, I knew that, it was quite obvious, and I was trying to find my way through but we know Formula One, there are certain rules you cannot jump and either there would have been a mistake or a Hari Kiri action, none of which happened, and a bit of a good race so that is where we are.
Q: At the start of the race did you think you could be on the podium?
MS: No, because it was a bit far away from the podium and having known the pace we had I was not expecting to be that much quicker, although we saw some of that during free practice but normally by Sunday it levels out a bit to normal gaps we have seen in other races and if that had been the case I wouldnt have had a chance to be on the podium today.
Q: That middle stint when you were catching Jenson, the pace of the car there must give you enormous encouragement.
MS: It does indeed. Everyone worked extremely hard and this is the payback. Bridgestone got quite heavily criticized and all of us have done a great job to show that you should think about us, we are still there and we will continue to be there.
Q: Jenson, it must have been frustrating feeling you couldnt go any faster and he was closing on you relentlessly.
JB: Yeah, the pace of Michael and Ferrari was staggering. Everyone else seemed to be doing around the same lap times except for Michael, I mean, it was just a staggering performance. When he got past me there was no use fighting him because I knew he was stopping later than me and really I just had to hope he would catch up with Fernando and you never know then.
Q: But obviously some relief at having opened your score.
JB: Yeah, it is fantastic, I mean, its great to get back on the podium again. We have had such a tough season. The first three races I havent finished and it is great to be back up here and its fantastic for the team to have two cars in the points. I think we are just going to go forward from here. We are very positive and confident we can make new improvements so I am looking forward to Barcelona.
Q: The car is obviously better, have you got bits coming that can make it better again?
JB: There are always bits, always parts to the car to improve it and we are very positive that they are going to make a difference. It has improved in a lot of areas. Obviously, we have got more downforce but it is the drivability that has changed. Now you turn into a corner with confidence that it is actually going to go in and its not going to go backwards. So I am very happy with the car, we have just got to up our game a bit so we can challenge Ferrari.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Panos Diamantis Car and Driver) Fernando and Michael, did you believe your fight was justifiable to a new era of competition in Formula One?
FA: I think it was really a fight because I was first and Michael was the quickest starting from the back but I am sure it is nothing really more than one fight for the Imola Grand Prix. If Kimi was not out, maybe it would have been three in a fight. Every race is different.
MS: At the end of the day, that is the way it is. The only difference is that Fernando now has a car that he can compete with, which he didnt have in the past. I dont think there is a secret the three of us sitting here are good drivers, and there are some others like Kimi and so on, so it is normal. If they have the right car they fight amongst each other.
Q: (Anne Giuntini LEquipe) Fernando, can you tell us if you really had some concerns about your engine before the race during the weekend?
FA: Yes, I think now we can say. From Friday we knew that maybe we had some problems with the engine so we limited the laps on Friday and Saturday morning a lot and that cost me a bit of time, in qualifying one especially because it was my third timed lap of the day. And in the race we were running very low revs and just try to finish the race. I was expecting to be in the points in the Imola Grand Prix and now I have won it. It is the first engine ever to win two Grands Prix, so I think the guys from the team on the engine side did an unbelievable job between Bahrain and here just to analyse and be ready for the Imola Grand Prix with a percentage of security in the engine.
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) Michael, after the big improvement at Ferrari in the last few weeks, what more do you need to win a race this year?
MS: Maybe start a little bit further forward!
Q: (Michael Schmidt Auto Motor und Sport) Fernando, which corners were the most difficult to defend against Michael?
FA: The two on the straights, into turn one and in Rivazza in turn 14 because normally even if it is difficult to overtake that is where you have more possibilities. Due to the characteristics of my car at the end of the race and his car I found turn seven was more dangerous, Tosa was the corner that we were close at a few times, but I knew that corner is quite difficult to overtake on.
Q: (Anne Giuntini LEquipe) Michael, although you didnt win will this race remain in your mind as one of your strongest and your favourites? You enjoyed it a lot I suppose?
MS: Indeed I did, yeah, but I have a long career behind me, so there are some other races probably of that nature. But it is honestly one of the good ones and I have said many times that it is not always you need to win a race to enjoy a race.
Q: (Steve Cooper F1 Racing) Fernando, your tyres looked to be losing a lot of rubber towards the end of the race, particularly the rear tyres. Was it hard to defend knowing the tyres were going away, do you think they were going away?
FA: I think the tyres worked again perfectly for me, but as I said before I had no runs on Friday so we chose the tyres based on the other teams and a bit based on Giancarlos running and for me it was the first time I went out with more than three laps in a long time, so the car was not perfectly ready for the long distance, maybe, or the tyres and the pressure, I dont know, but anyway I was able to push the whole race. In the last ten laps I had some difficulties, probably because I pushed the tyre quite hard due to the fact I was not able to use the whole engine in the race so I pushed the tyres a little bit more to get the timed lap.
Q: (Steve Cooper F1 Racing) Michael, do you think Bridgestone have cured the problems they had in the first three races?
MS: Obviously, we have cured our problem, otherwise we would not have been able to do what we did.