Chinese Grand Prix - selected driver quotes 01 Oct 2006
Changeable weather conditions made for an exciting race in Shanghai on Sunday, not least for title rivals Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher. In all 17 drivers crossed the line to complete the Chinese Grand Prix and here, they and the five retirees report back.
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (1st):
I am so happy! I want to thank the team for this result, as they did a fantastic job. After the start, I was surprised to find that I could match the pace of those ahead of me, which was better than I had expected. After a while, I was able to close up on Fisichella. I thought that if I could pass him, even if I could not win, then at least I would only lose two points to Fernando (Alonso) and given where I started that would have been a good result. It was very important to reduce the gap to the Renaults when the track began to dry. The crucial moment came with the switch to dry tyres. I knew that even if Fisichella managed to stay ahead of me after his stop, I would have the chance to pass him going into the first corner as he would be in trouble with the temperature of his tyres and that is what happened. In the final laps, I drove very carefully. I had a good gap but the track conditions were getting difficult, however, I was never worried about getting caught. Now we go to Suzuka, a track that I love. But it is difficult to make any predictions and as usual, tyre performance will be crucial.
Fernando Alonso, Renault (2nd):
"This was a difficult race for the team because we lost a very good opportunity today. I built up a good lead in the first 20 laps, but my front tyres were badly worn - and the conditions were difficult as the track was drying very slowly. We made the decision to change the fronts for a new pair, and it was the wrong one - as we saw with Fisi (Giancarlo Fisichella) and Michael, who kept all four tyres on the car and were much quicker. After that, the only thing we could do was go to dry tyres as early as possible - and hope to catch up the time to Michael. In the end, there were not enough laps left. So it was a bad day, but this is a fantastic fight for the championship, and I go to Japan feeling really confident. We had the quickest car today, and we have two more good chances to win. I believe we can do it."
Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (3rd):
"This was a good race for me - and a good result for myself and the team. Finishing third means I go ahead of Massa in the drivers' championship, and the team is leading the constructors' championship again. I started with the biggest fuel load of any car at the front, so the first laps were quite tough - but the conditions came to me really well as the circuit dried. We kept the same set of tyres at the stop, and I was able to be very competitive and pull away from Michael. But when I came out on dry tyres, the track was so slippery - and the tyres weren't at temperature yet. I slid wide, and Michael got past. After that, we turned the engine down to save it for Japan, and made sure of the podium finish. After seeing how the car performed today, we know that we have the performance to win both titles, beginning next weekend in Japan."
Jenson Button, Honda (4th):
"I'm really pleased to have finished where I started in 4th position. Initially the car felt really good; I was pulling away from the field well and staying in touch with the cars in front. Then I started to struggle with the rear tyres which were practically bald so I had to come in early for my first pitstop. I had no rear grip and because of that I was losing 3 seconds or more a lap. In the dry there was only one line and from that point I was just in my element really! It was a lot of fun and reminded me of the karting days when I won the European Championships back in 1997. Into the last corner I was in front of Rubens (Barrichello) and De la Rosa and I came down the inside of Heidfeld, turned into the corner and when I looked into my mirrors I could see the people behind me were going straight on and into each other. There are a few areas where we are weak which we need to work on, but we are still fired up for our home race in Japan next weekend."
Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (5th):
"A difficult race for everybody. I made a wrong call after the first stint when I asked my engineer for a different set of intermediate Michelin tyres. In hindsight I should have stayed on the ones I had, like Kimi (Raikkonen), as the track was drying, and I suffered from graining. This lost me a lot of time but apart from that our pace was good. I didnt see much of what happened towards the end of the final lap. It had started raining slightly again, and we were all on dry weather tyres coming into what is a hard braking area. I was lucky to stay out of trouble and gained two places as a result. Our car seems to be on the pace. I'm sure we will win a race before the end of the year."
Rubens Barrichello, Honda (6th):
"My race was OK, although my car was better on the wet tyres than the 'slicks'. It was a real shame that my last lap was ruined and there were some problems with the backmarkers so I lost time and two positions. Heidfeld was forced to make an avoiding manoeuvre in Turn 2 but I was there on the track already and we touched, which damaged my front wing. With the resulting loss of front downforce, I lost more time over the remainder of that final lap. There was more confusion at the hairpin, and again Heidfeld and I came together, but I managed to recover to finish the race. 4th and 6th is another good team result. We are looking competitive for our home race next weekend when I hope we can secure another good team result in front of the Japanese crowd."
Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber (7th):
This was the most disappointing race of my career - not only in F1 but in my entire life. Right up to the end I was certain I would be fourth, but then a few backmarkers caused trouble. The first one was Albers, who stayed on the dry line and didnt let me pass. I had to brake on the wet, almost spun, went on the grass and lost a few seconds. Then Super Aguri Honda driver, Sato, blocked me for almost a lap. He was fighting, although he was a lap behind, and using an advantage he had at this stage of the race due to his Bridgestone tyres. Because of this, the other two Hondas caught me and Albers and Sato were in the way. Barrichello crashed into the back of me and after this I had to be happy to make it to the finish. Before all this happened I was very quick today.
Mark Webber, Williams (8th):
I had a reasonable start to the race and I got into the groove okay and started to catch David (Coulthard). Once I had got past, I started to think about when I should change to dry tyres, but the track took a long, long time to dry, so we decided to leave the same tyres on in the first stop, which was the right thing to do. However, I did have a spin and it took an age to get the traction back on the synthetic grass. When we eventually did stop for dry tyres, I had another 360 degree spin but pushed hard to keep the gap from Coulthard behind me right to the end and make sure we finished in the points, which is great for the team.
David Coulthard, Red Bull (9th):
That was a tough race. At the beginning, my intermediate tyres had quite a lot of graining and I was being passed left, right and centre. I was also heavy on fuel. But as the track dried, the tyres wore down and it all came good so I was very quick at that point. Unfortunately I later had an incident with Massa. Two or three laps before, he'd come down the inside of my car, but I managed to avoid him. He tried the same again, which resulted in us colliding. I'm disappointed as it damaged my car. I lost steering assistance in left hand corners, so it was pulling to the left. I was able to still go quick, but had difficulty braking at the hairpin and ran wide, which allowed Mark (Webber) to pass. That was us out of the points."
Vitantonio Liuzzi, Toro Rosso (10th):
Overall, quite a good race as P10 is pretty much what we could have expected from what we saw on Saturday, when we saw we had good pace and hoped we could fight for points today. But the fact the track dried up did not suit us so well as the bigger teams had much better pace in these conditions. I was expecting us as a team to have a better day as we were lying 8 and 10 after the start, but then I had problems with my rear tyres as I was on a one stop strategy and so had a heavy fuel load. But we called the pit stop at just the right time which was good, but still no points today. Now, Im looking forward to Suzuka.
Nico Rosberg, Williams (11th):
It was, without doubt, a difficult day. What messed up my race was not being able to get past Coulthard and I lost a lot of time behind him at the beginning of the race. It was just very difficult and I didnt want to risk too much and compromise the rest of my race. Then when we switched to dry tyres the situation improved, but towards the end of the race it became difficult again with graining on the front tyres. This took me off the dry line occasionally, and it was not easy to hold the car in the wet! I have learnt a lot again today about a new circuit and of course a lot about tyre behaviour under different track conditions.
Robert Doornbos, Red Bull (12th):
"That was pretty exciting for my first race with Red Bull, but I was hoping for a bit more having started tenth on the grid. It was tight going into Turn 1, I touched Kubica's car and lost time when I had to come in the pits to change the front wing. But it was good fun after that. I passed eleven people on the track, which was a good performance on used intermediates. We got the switch right changing to dry tyres, did the job and finished the race. I'm looking forward to the next one."
Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (13th):
The race was very difficult as already in the first corner I was hit, I think by Robert Doornbos, so I was at the back. After that I was doing a pretty good job, but I didnt know I was as quick as I was. Then unfortunately I risked putting on grooved tyres too early. It was impossible to drive, and I went off twice on one lap and lost a lot of time. I changed back to intermediates, and re-started behind Giancarlo Fisichella, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso and was keeping up with their pace. However, after this it was game over for me in the race.
Takuma Sato, Super Aguri (14th):
It was a fantastic result for us really and indeed it was a truly exciting race in incredibly difficult conditions for everybody. I did a lot of communication throughout the race with my engineer and I think that we chose the right tyre at the right time. At the beginning of the race I got held up, but when I got clear air I was then able to push really hard. At one stage we had a small gearbox related problem, but we were able to fix it quickly. I think that this was a great team effort and it was so important for us to have a good race here in China so that we could carry our good momentum on to Suzuka.
Scott Speed, Toro Rosso (15th):
The car was pretty good at the beginning and I got by some cars. Then I picked up some understeer, but it was looking good as I knew that on a two stop strategy and I knew the track would take a long time to be ready for dries. Then I came in and took on new intermediates and the car felt horrible and I was losing three seconds, as with all the new tread on the tyres we didnt have enough grip. After the next stop for dry weather tyres, I struggled a bit for a while, but then it was pretty good towards the end.
Christijan Albers, Spyker MF1 (16th):
"Unfortunately this has really been a race to forget. During the weekend there were some great developments for the team off track and I just wished I could have achieved something to compliment these. Now I just want to get to Suzuka and prove again what we are really capable of achieving."
Sakon Yamamoto, Super Aguri (17th):
It was a really tough race for me because the track and weather conditions were constantly changing. We made a decision to change to slick tyres too early one time and I found the car difficult to handle, but after that I pushed hard for the rest of the race. This was my first F1 finish and it feels brilliant. I would like to thank everyone who has always supported me and, of course, the SAF1 Team boys, engineers and everyone at the factory. I am now looking forward to returning to Suzuka with good motivation from my race in China.
Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (DNF):
"It's been a difficult weekend for us. Given that we were starting from so far down the grid, we knew that today would be hard work and so it proved. In the race we were reasonably competitive but I spent much of the early laps in traffic. So the team took the risk to change to dry tyres before the track was really ready. It was a difficult decision to make but we took the gamble because we were such a long way back. It enabled us to fill up until the end of the race but we lost a lot of time in the first few laps after the stop. The situation gradually improved and ten laps later I even twice set the fastest lap of the race that far. Unfortunately we then had an oil pressure spike so we need to look into that. But we just need to get things right during a weekend and then we can be competitive."
Felipe Massa, Ferrari (DNF):
I was very quick all through the race, both on the wet track and when it was drying out. Maybe it was a bit of risk fitting the dry tyres a bit early, but once they reached the right temperature, I was one of the quickest on track. Its a shame what happened with Coulthard. We were right in the middle of a fight and at the end of the straight, I went a bit long because the track was slippery and we ended up touching. Unfortunately, I damaged the front left suspension and had to retire. I could have finished in the points, helping the team in the fight for the constructors and to defend my third place in the drivers classification. I have to say I plan to make up for it and do my best in Suzuka.
Jarno Trulli, Toyota (DNF):
"That was a day to forget. Of course it was always going to be difficult starting the race from so far back. We haven't been competitive all weekend in wet conditions. The balance was not too bad on the first stint but we were in a very long queue of traffic. The pit stops came before the ideal time to switch to dry tyres but the team took a gamble because we were so far back and we had nothing to lose. Unfortunately it didn't pay off. It was very hard to keep the car on the road after that and we lost a lot of ground on the rest of the field. To make matters worse I then suffered a problem with the engine's pneumatic pressure and we had to retire. But every day is different so we head to the next race hoping for a better weekend and a change of luck."
Tiago Monteiro, Spyker MF1 (DNF):
"It's always frustrating to drop out of a race but it's the first time in 35 starts that I had an unforced error. Under today's sort of conditions you can expect things like this to happen. I think the decision to change to dry tyres came at a good time but you have to be extra cautious but due to aquaplaning I spun and stalled. Up until then I was having a reasonably good race, enjoying a good fight with Rosberg and one of the Toro Rosso cars; I am sorry to the team for my mistake and am looking forward to making amends in Japan."
Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (DNF):
"That was a shame as it was looking like we could achieved a win today. I don't know exactly what happened, but all of a sudden the throttle didn't react correctly and the engine went into safety mode and selected neutral. I made a good start and then got on the outside and gained a couple of places - it was a bit tight, so I didn't manage to get past Fisichella at that point. I overtook him later on and was gaining on Alonso before my first scheduled pitstop. I'm disappointed, but at least we showed that we have the speed, so I'm looking forward to Japan now."