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FIA post-race press conference - China 01 Oct 2006

The FIA Press Conference (L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault, second; Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari, race winner; Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault, third.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, 1 October 2006

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

1st Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1h37m32.747s; 2nd Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1h37m35.868s; 3rd Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), 1h38m16.944s.

Q: Michael, what a day, what a win, from sixth on the grid and after nine laps, 22 seconds behind the leader.
Michael Schumacher:
Yeah, quite an exciting and extreme weekend, being pretty much competitive in the dry on Friday, then came to the qualifying, suddenly a downpour, and almost didn’t make it into the first ten. Finally got into sixth which was vital, obviously, to start the race. We had a reasonable pace to start with. I could at least keep up with the guys in front and slowly overtake and then our tyres started to work because, as we saw in Hungary already, at different stages of the race we were certainly slower or quicker. Then we found the right moment to change to dry tyres and luckily I had enough of a gap to drive home safely.

Q: Your pace on the intermediates, even before you switched to dries, was just phenomenal. That’s effectively what won the race. Talk us through that phase of the race.
MS:
It was a gamble to stay on the tyres because it’s very difficult to see in what state the tyres are while you’re driving so you have to gamble and judge what you’re going to do. So we decided on the option to stay on the same tyres which worked perfectly fine and it was the right moment to change because they were just about to lose performance and it got too dry for them and then we obviously had the option to pit and change to dry tyres.

Q: And a great pass on Giancarlo when he had switched to dry tyres going into turn one there, and then pressure from Fernando at the end with the storm clouds building again.
MS:
First of all, concerning Giancarlo, it was clear that turn one would be difficult because I had a moment there and I knew from practice that several drivers spun off so I took it reasonably easy, but even that was almost too fast so I was thought there could be an issue with Giancarlo and there was so I got that opportunity to dive in and that won the race. Afterwards it was obviously turning down the rpm and driving it home safely, with some doubts, obviously, because in between there were some drops of rain a couple of times and when you’re in such a comfortable position, you sort of have to weigh up and judge how much risk you want to take. Obviously I decided to play it safe.

Q: Fernando, no doubt a frustrating day for you: that large lead in the early phase of the race and it all changed for you when you changed the fronts at the first pit stop.
Fernando Alonso:
Yeah, we had a good start and a good 15 or 20 laps and then we decided to change the front tyres because it was nearly a slick tyre, the left front, and that didn’t turn out to be a good thing to do because Giancarlo and Michael left their tyres and they caught me really quickly, and the gap disappeared. After that, we were at a disadvantage. We took the risk, we obviously pitted and we tried to put on dry tyres to try and find a miracle but it was too late.

Q: There was a period just after that first pit stop when you were doing 1m47s, quite off the pace. What was going on with the car at that point?
FA:
Well, you really need to lose the groove of the tyre. In the conditions we were running, you need a slick tyre, you don’t need any groove from the intermediates, so these eight or nine laps were the laps that the intermediates took to wear out all the rubber.

Q: And I suppose it’s not a consolation but you got fastest lap when you were chasing Michael in the closing stages; you were really quick at that point.
FA:
Well, no consolation but I think that the weekend has been fantastic. We have to look at the positive aspects. Unfortunately the race conditions were the only ones in which we weren’t particularly quick. When it started to dry out, you didn’t know if intermediate or dry tyres would work. In wet conditions we were much quicker and I think we were in dry conditions as well, looking at our tyres on Friday. So we have confidence for the last two races, but one opportunity lost.

Q: Giancarlo, a strategy race for you: it looked as though you were playing a very good team role early in the race there, holding up various cars behind you, but equally very quick when you needed to be.
Giancarlo Fisichella:
Yeah, at the beginning of the race I was a little bit heavier than everyone else and I was struggling a little bit with the grip but I was just trying to keep the car on the ground and to keep a good pace. After the pit stop, I decided to keep the same set of tyres, and when as soon as I got back on the circuit, the car balance was good, the grip level was good and I was able to be competitive on the circuit. Then obviously we went onto dry tyres and it was quite difficult, there was very poor grip and we decided to drop the revs and to save the engine for the next race. Anyway, third is a good position for me because I am finally third in the drivers’ championship too.

Q: How bad was the car on that first lap when you switched to dries at the end?
GF:
Ah yes. Quite difficult, especially when I went into turn one and I was very cautious there but in spite of that, I lost the rear end and I went onto the wet a bit so Michael was able to come and overtake me easily.

Q: Michael, two races to go in more senses of the words than one, 116 points each for you and Fernando.
MS:
Yes, looking back some while ago, it’s a quite a miracle that we’re there, but thanks to great work from everybody we managed it and now we go to the last two races and I believe that we will have to wait until the last one before a decision can be reached and yes, it’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks that we are going to have to face. I really look forward to that.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Michael, you really seemed to have enjoyed that one. The team obviously did a fantastic job. Were you surprised to be so competitive today?
MS:
Basically, I was a little bit surprised in the early stages of the race that we could follow the pace compared to the guys in front, because it was still reasonably damp, but then as the circuit became more and more dryish, then I was not surprised that things were working out. But the most critical decision was obviously after the pit stop, which tyres to go on, and that was kind of a gamble.

Q: Were there a few moments on the wet track?
MS:
Off the circuit? Well, you slide a little bit but off the track? I don’t think I have been off the track.

Q: Obviously you overtook one of the Hondas early on.
MS:
Yes, I had a little battle with Rubens, pretty straightforward. With Jenson as well, yeah, I overtook him as well, and then it was it was just closing the gap to Fisico which was looking pretty good and then I picked up the pace and it was sort of stopped from there on.

Q: Was the car good in all the different conditions that were thrown at you today?
MS:
Yes. We knew already from Saturday morning, when it dried out, we didn’t have an issue with our tyres in those conditions. The dry tyres were very good. The intermediates or rain tyres worked towards these conditions pretty well. We had experience with those, so from that point of view, it was just the perfect combination in a way, and after that I just had a big gap, reduced the rpm, saved the engine and just drove it home safely. Watched out for the conditions in order not make mistakes.

Q: And then of course when Giancarlo came out of the pits ahead of you and then slid wide, that must have been a relief as well.
MS:
I sort of expected something like that because I had a moment myself, getting out of the pits, even though I was very cautious but I kept on line, luckily. So coming along the pit straight, and him knowing that I was coming along the pit straight and that it might be tight, I guessed that he would obviously press to a certain limit which could cause a moment and that sort of happened and that was enough for me to go through and honestly, in these conditions, any of us who went out of the pits had a moment there because conditions were very tricky coming out of the pit lane. Having to go through the wet at a certain period and then turning into turn one was the most difficult moment of the race overall.

Q: You really seemed to have enjoyed this one!
MS:
Oh yeah! Absolutely!

Q: Fernando, did you see Kimi trying to come around the outside of you at the start?
FA:
No, I didn’t see him. I was concentrating on the right part with Giancarlo on the inside so I didn’t see anything.
GF: He was with me! He was with me on the left at the start.

Q: When you had the problem with the fronts, did you think about coming into change them?
FA:
No, I thought the gap was big enough and with Giancarlo second maybe it wasn’t a problem to wait for four or five laps to clean the tyres and then I could start going quick again, but obviously I was too slow and it took eight or nine laps to really wear the tyres enough to be quick on the nearly dry circuit.

Q: Would you have changed that in retrospect?
FA:
Well, for sure, after the 20 seconds gap we had, the best option regarding these two guys was to leave the tyres on at the stop, but who knows? When you come into the pits on lap 21, the left front tyre was nearly slick in 20 laps so maybe you change the tyres because you need to do another 20 laps more or less with that tyre and you are worried that something happens to it, so you also change it for safety.

Q: And what about the conditions at the end?
FA:
It was very difficult, only two meters of dry line. If you put one centimetre of the tyre off line you lose the car completely, so you drive as fast as you can and you do nearly dry times: 37s, 38s. With that amount of risk, it was a little bit too much but it was the thing to do.

Q: Giancarlo, you saw a fair amount of Kimi during the opening stages.
GF:
Yes, during the first part of the race Kimi was much lighter than me and I was just trying to keep the car on the ground, keep a good pace and I was doing that quite easily. Once he had made a pit stop, it was a little bit quieter but the good part of the race was just after the pit stop when I decided to keep the same set of tyres on and there was just fantastic behaviour, great grip and I was able to be very competitive on the circuit. I was leading the race at that moment and then we did the second pit stop, I obviously took dry tyres. I had quite a big moment in turn one, at the exit of the pit lane, and Michael was able to overtake me there. After that I was struggling a bit with grip, so we decided to drop the revs and I was just cautious to the end of the race. Third is not too bad. It’s good for me because I’m third in the championship now and it’s good for Renault because we scored more points than Ferrari today.

Q: But still a little bit disappointing, given that you were leading?
GF:
Yes, a bit, you know, when I was the leader and I was confident and comfortable in the car and I was enjoying it. I was pretty convinced I could do a good race, but then after that obviously the circuit conditions changed and the position, unfortunately.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Anthony Rowlinson – Autosport) Michael, after a race like that, why are you retiring?
MS:
I explained myself pretty extensively at Monza and it is very nice that you ask the question and it is better to go maybe when you are still asking the question than that you hint that it is time to go…

Q: (Ranran Li – Xinmin Evening News) Someone said that Shanghai is an unlucky place for you – do you still think that? What do you think of Shanghai now and will you return as an ordinary visitor in the future?
MS:
Indeed, the last two years weren’t very good for us, we were not - lucky is not the right word because Rubens won the first year and I had a bit of unlucky moments there losing time and last year we were just simply not competitive and it was very straightforward. I thought yesterday that the way the weekend was going it may be one of the unlucky ones again when things don’t work out for you, but obviously the pendulum of luck has swung the other way around and hit me and I am naturally very delighted about it for having another win for the championship and for the conditions altogether, just beautiful, and particularly if you don’t expect to win a race and just think to keep the damage as small as possible. Concerning Shanghai, an interesting city, very interesting people and I would like to express a lot of thanks to all the fans here because they have been extremely nice and enthusiastic all the week I have been here, very nice to see, in particular the tribune at the end of the
straight, a beautiful atmosphere over there with all the pictures of my history, my family and everybody. Beautiful. Thanks a lot for this. If I come back again, we’ll see. It is possible in a way. But I don’t know yet.

Q: (Mathias Brunner – Motorsport Aktuell) Fernando, I am puzzled by the time you lost after the first stop and how you lost so much time to your team-mate Giancarlo – can you explain what happened?
FA:
We changed the front tyres at the pit-stop and the other guys left the same tyres at the pit-stop so when I went back to the track for the second stint the front tyres were graining and it was too dry for the inter, so you need to wear them to take the groove out of the tyre to become quicker and quicker and to find grip and that normally takes in dry conditions that we were more or less running four or five laps to completely slick the tyre and be quick. Today, it took eight or nine and, obviously, it was too many. Giancarlo and Michael came very quick.

Q: (Mathias Brunner – Motorsport Aktuell) So you don’t think there was any tyre-pressure related problem?
FA:
Oh, no. You take the gamble. I think I stopped two laps earlier than Fisi. We changed the front tyres because the left front looks a little bit scary to do another 20 laps and after my first two laps with the times so high I think the team decided to leave the same tyres for Fisi because the option was not working very well.

Q: (F1 Express Shanghai) Fernando, you are one of the new directors of the GPDA, do you think you will work well with Mark and Ralf when you next see them?
FA:
I think so. I think we have 22 drivers and we all have a lot of respect for each other and in terms of safety that is the GPDA main thing I think all 22 drivers work perfectly okay and there is only one direction to go and to promote safety for drivers in Formula One so to work with Mark and Ralf will be good.

Q: (Tony Dodgins - Autosport) Fernando, did you push too hard in the first stint?
FA:
Yes, I had to push hard because I had a 20-seconds lead so, for sure, I was quicker than other people on the track and you push the tyres more. And there was a small safety issue, also, I think looking back now if we had left the tyre, nothing happened and we would have been okay. But at that point, we had another 20 laps in front of us and with a nice gap that we had I think that to put on some more front tyres and to wait these four or five laps that it normally takes to clean up was the right thing to do. But I think the surprise for us was the time it took to clean up.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Some mechanics with tyre pressure instruments showed something to Flavio Briatore and he was very angry – did you have any tyre pressure problems?
FA:
I don’t know. I don’t think so. The car felt okay. We only had one problem in the second stop, but the rear tyre took a little longer than normal to fit, but other than that the pressures for me driving were okay. I don’t know what you saw with Flavio.

Q: (Juha Päätalo – Financial Times Germany) Fernando, as you have already said, it must have been quite a terrible moment for you to have problems at the second pit stop – what were your thoughts?
FA:
Nothing, no thoughts at that point. When Fisi and Michael overtook me in the second stint, the race became very hard for us for me and obviously being third and losing time with them we took the risk to put (on) the dry tyres, to be the first of the top drivers to put the dry tyres and maybe I lost even more time there because the first lap, the out lap, was little bit too wet still. I think, I wait another four of five laps. To wait five seconds more in the pit stop was not any more important.

Q: (Huifang Sun – Super Car) Giancarlo, once you overtook Fernando, at that moment what did you think about that?
GF:
It was just great. I was confident in the car and I was concentrating to push and to keep a good pace and to watch Michael behind me, but unfortunately I lost a lot of time with the blue flags and I think I was two and a half seconds in front of Michael and there were three guys in front of me and in the hairpin I lost those two and a half seconds just because of the traffic. Apart from that I was confident and really happy.

Q: (Wuh Shanjing Fan – Changjiang Times) Today you are the champion, so do you give a wonderful kiss goodbye to your Chinese supporters?
MS:
Yes, well, I think so… Chinese fans down here and in particular at turn 14 all the guys everywhere else who were cheering for us saw a great race and a lot of entertainment and from my side a good result and a little present and give-back for the last two years.

Q: Michael, Suzuka is one of your favourite circuits and Ferrari and you used to be very fast there – how do you analyse the next two rounds of the championship considering your car and the Renault as well?
MS:
It is very difficult to predict the characters of a circuit and then to draw conclusions for the cars, which one it is going to suit better to the circuit and so on. I really puzzle to have a strong feeling. You are right in terms of driving style and so on I love Suzuka. It is a fantastic circuit. Our car has been good and we have to see if we can manage the tyre situation as we have done in other circuits and we have to take it from weekend to weekend because it is difficult to make predictions.

Q: (Yijing Shi – Junior Science & Technology) Fernando, what are you going to do for the next two races to make your car faster?
FA:
We will try to improve and to win every race. Sometimes we can and sometimes not. Today we had a great opportunity and we lost at the end on Sunday with weather conditions that were not favourable for us. For Suzuka and Brazil, we need to believe in our tyre, but at the moment both cars, Renault and Ferrari, have been since quite similar in terms of performance and each race is dominated by the tyres so hopefully Michelin can give us something more for the last two races.

Q: Fernando, do you feel today like the moral winner of the race?
FA:
No, it doesn’t matter what feeling you have inside. The winner is Michael and he deserves the victory because he finished in front of the other drivers and that’s it. I think we lost one big opportunity and I had nine or ten laps in the race when I was completely off the pace and too slow and I think the race finished there.