Japanese Grand Prix - selected driver quotes 08 Oct 2006
Fernando Alonso on his surprise win; Michael Schumacher on his ill-timed retirement; and Jenson Button on a welcome fourth place at the Honda teams home race. All 22 drivers report back on the action.
Fernando Alonso, Renault (1st):
This win is a surprise for us all, a beautiful surprise. After qualifying, Ferrari seemed to be a long way in front, but as soon as we started racing today, I could feel that the car was well-balanced, and that we had the same speed as Ferrari. I took a risk to pass Jarno (Trulli) at the start, because it was the only chance, and then later in the stint I could see Ralf (Schumacher) was having problems - and I got a run on him into turn 1. After the second stops, I still thought I could win, because the gap to Michael (Schumacher) was only five seconds, so why not? Then I saw the smoke coming into turn 8, and I was watching the asphalt for oil. I thought it was a Spyker in front of me, and only when I went past did I realise it was Michael. After that, we turned the engine down, and just took things carefully to the finish. This win means a lot to the Renault team, and we have deserved it, and been waiting for it, ever since Hungary. The guys at the track, at the factories in Viry and Enstone, and at Michelin, have never given up all season. Now we feel confident for Brazil - but we are taking nothing for granted. The races are long, and you have to get everything right to make sure you finish in front. We have a good situation for the championship, but we will be racing the same way at Interlagos, to win.
Felipe Massa, Ferrari (2nd):
What happened to Michael (Schumacher) when he was leading is a great shame. I also had a problem in the first stint, with a puncture in my right rear wheel, which had led to a slow but gradual loss of air. As a precaution, the team brought me in for my pit stop three laps earlier than planned. I went out on track behind a slower car and that cost me my chances of staying ahead of Alonso and, as things turned out, of winning the race. We can still win the Constructors title, even if we know it is very difficult. For my home race in Brazil, I will give it my all to achieve that.
Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (3rd):
This was a great result for me, for Fernando and for the whole team. But psychologically, this has been a hard weekend for me. My best friend ever Tonino (Visciani) died last Thursday, and it hasnt been easy for me. I just want to dedicate this podium to him, and to say ciao. In terms of the race, the car was not bad and we had a good strategy, because I was able to pass the Toyotas at the stops. The Michelin tyres worked perfectly as well, and we had the pace all the way through the race. Now, we need to go to Brazil and be aggressive. The team is determined to win the constructors championship, and I want to make sure I get third in the drivers championship. So we will be aggressive, be focused, and try to win.
Jenson Button, Honda (4th):
"I'm reasonably pleased with 4th place here today. We had a solid race and I think we did the best job possible given the fight going on for the Championship. We started a little better and I overtook a Renault off the line. The tyres came good and we were able to get past the Toyotas. Again, the team did an amazing job in the pitstops; we've been right up there since Hockenheim. We just haven't quite got enough to beat the two Championship contenders right now, but we will get there, trust me! I'm very sad that we won't be coming back to Suzuka next season because this feels like a home Grand Prix for me. For now though, it's nice to get another 4th place and pick up five more points for myself and the team."
Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (5th):
"That was a good result for where we started the race, but it is not really good enough to be fighting for fifth place, and not what we wanted out of the weekend. The car felt a lot better today especially in the long runs, but our race today was lost in qualifying yesterday where we just couldn't get the speed out of the car that was possible."
Jarno Trulli, Toyota (6th):
"Three points is not a bad result at the Japanese Grand Prix, but we thought we would do better today. I made a good start but I was boxed in going into the first corner and when I tried to go around the outside I lost a place. Early on the car felt good and I was easily able to stay with the leading cars. After the pit stop I was able to put in a quick lap on new tyres and I gained a place. Unfortunately it turned into a hard race for me after the second stop. Our strategy was pretty good, but I had several problems and struggled with my last set of tyres, especially on the first ten laps. We need to analyse what was different to yesterday, but the conditions were a bit cooler today and so that maybe affected our tyre performance. My pace improved after that but by then I was in traffic and it was difficult to pull away. So we could have had more but the important thing is that we both scored points for the constructors' championship."
Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (7th):
"I'm glad that we have come away with a total of five points for the team but we could have achieved more today. We made a strong start and I held third position into the first corner. In fact the car felt good early on and we were able to keep up with the pace of the front-runners until the first stop. Jarno (Trulli) managed to get ahead of me on his new tyres and from then on I spent most of the day following him around the track. After the second pit stop he was slower than me. I tried to overtake but decided that it was too dangerous and too much of a risk with points at stake. Still, given our difficult weekends at the last two races I think we can be pleased with what we have achieved today."
Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber (8th):
My race was good and relatively unspectacular. At the start I gained one position and moved to eighth. The car was good, but I had trouble with the tyres. In all three stints I had graining on both the front and rear tyres. I have been on the softer compound, which was certainly the worse choice for the race. However, the decision had not been easy as, due to the weather conditions on Friday, we were not able to compare the compounds on long runs.
Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (9th):
It was a good race and I was happy with my pace. But from the beginning I struggled with grip, as I already had an oversteering car from yesterday. I also made a mistake, which lost me about ten seconds, because following cars here in Suzuka is not easy, especially in the quick corners. I perhaps risked too much, but I was able to come back and at the end finish very close to Nick (Heidfeld).
Nico Rosberg, Williams (10th):
Unusually, we didnt have the best start. I dont know why, but it meant I lost one place in the first couple of laps and then I had a bit of a struggle passing Barrichello, who had a problem with his front wing. I had to go around the outside, which wasnt ideal, and I made a little mistake and lost another place to Kubica, whom I had just passed. Also, the conditions were not perfect for our tyre today, especially in the last stint when the temperatures dropped. I think the maximum result achievable would have been a ninth place. It was not a bad weekend for me because its my first time at Suzuka, which is one of the most difficult tracks on the calendar. It was also the second race in a row that I have finished, which is good as it gives me more race experience.
Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (11th):
"That was really a difficult race for me today. Starting from 13th on the grid it was always going to be tough to move through the field as everyone around me was on very similar strategies. I really struggled to get any pace out of the car as my tyres just had no grip. This weekend could have been a lot better if we had been on different tyres."
Rubens Barrichello, Honda (12th):
"It was very unfortunate that I had another coming together with Heidfeld. He closed the door really fast and I had nowhere else to go so I locked wheels and tapped him. Sadly, I damaged the front wing. After that I was very fast but this is Suzuka where it's very difficult to overtake. A disappointing result for me in front of our home crowd but I still have my own home race in Brazil to look forward to and hopefully we can do better there and end the season on a high."
Robert Doornbos, Red Bull (13th):
It ended up being quite lonely on the race track this afternoon. I had a very poor start, I dont know why, I think maybe there was a problem with the clutch, which meant I couldnt defend my position as I pulled away. But, after that it was good to overtake the guys again and get the positions back. I was behind Tonio (Liuzzi) and David (Coulthard) for quite a long while. Tonio lost a little time, I dont know why, and David unfortunately stopped so I was out on my own in thirteenth towards the end of the race.
Vitantonio Liuzzi, Toro Rosso (14th):
It was a very difficult race and it started with a collision with Mark (Webber) which I think affected the handling of the car for at least the first five or six laps until I got used to it. I also had some graining on the tyres at the beginning, which caused me to spin. After that, I was struggling a bit with set up, but as we were far away from getting any points, it did not make much difference.
Takuma Sato, Super Aguri (15th):
This is an absolutely fantastic result for the team - we could not have asked for anything more. Our performance at the beginning of the weekend was not as it should have been, but I believe that we have done everything that we could for the race. The start was very exciting. I overtook a few cars into turn one, but then I got held up and re-overtaken, but then at the Esses I re-overtook Scott Speed, which was an exciting moment. Unfortunately my pace then was not enough and I was overtaken by Speed again. But after I settled into the race the car worked very well and the Bridgestone tyres gave superb performance, so I was able to run competitively. The boys in the team did a tremendous job - I think that the pitstops were the best we have done all season - very quick and very accurate. And the fans were incredible! We had great support and at the end I could see all of the flags shining through the sunlight. For me, counting down the laps to the last lap at Suzuka is a very special feeling, but also very sad as the race is ending, and especially as this may be our last race here for a while. I think that the team is really satisfied with our two-car finish today.
Tiago Monteiro, Spyker MF1 (16th):
"Overall I think we had a decent race, the first stint was very good considering we were carrying a lot of fuel. I was able to fight with the Toro Rosso and Red Bull cars after passing Sato and Yamamoto very quickly. I followed the rhythm of the people in front very closely, knowing I had more fuel onboard. We were the last to stop but during the second stint we had some tyre issues which made the car difficult to drive. The times dropped off and although we were good towards the end of the race we need to analyse what caused this. We brought the car home which is always good and it's nice to be back finishing races again."
Sakon Yamamoto, Super Aguri (17th):
I really appreciate the support from everyone who has come to the race this weekend. Their support gave me the extra power to finish the race. I would like to thank the team, sponsors and everyone who has supported me through my career. It is a fantastic feeling to finish my home grand prix at the Suzuka Circuit, but on the other hand I am a racer, and I always want to go faster, so I will review my race and prepare myself for the next grand prix in Brazil.
Scott Speed, Toro Rosso (18th):
Ive had great starts all season and this was another really good one. I was battling around the outside of Tonio (Liuzzi) but I didnt want to crash into my team mate, so I gave up fighting for that particular position. I had a strong first stint managing to keep David (Coulthard) behind me, but we lost out to them in the pit stops when they came in ahead of us. Then I had a spin because I was pushing probably a bit too hard trying to pass Doornbos. I turned in a bit early and clipped the inside kerb which is hard to see at that corner. I was over aggressive. I pulled into the pits at the end with a power steering failure.
Mark Webber, Williams (DNF):
I was struggling for balance at that chicane all day really. When we put fresh boots on after the first stop, I had massive power understeer. I had no front grip and the car then went just two inches onto the grass and I couldnt bring it back. Its a shame. Theres only one race to go now so I hope we will have a good finish in Brazil.
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (DNF):
We are a great team. Our guys are the best and I have a great affection for everyone at Ferrari and am always more than satisfied in the way we work. Incidents like todays can happen and they are part of racing. You win together but you also lose together. Today we did our best, I was leading the race and then my engine broke. Thats the simplest way to sum it up. That is Formula One. We can be proud of what we have achieved since Canada: we were twenty five points behind and no one could have thought we would be back in the fight for the championship, but we did it. Now we are nine points behind in the Constructors classification and we will do all we can to win this title in Brazil. As for the Drivers, it is lost. I dont want to head off for a race, hoping that my rival has to retire. That is not the way in which I want to win the title.
David Coulthard, Red Bull (DNF):
I had to retire my car when it lost fourth gear. We were racing the Spyker team for much of the race and it was clear we were quicker in some areas, but slower in others. After Tonio (Liuzzi) spun, I got stuck behind Scot Speeds car who was running a little slower than me, that held me up a bit, but other than that I was just trying to run my race.
Christijan Albers, Spyker MF1 (DNF):
"After the start we had some problems but we still managed to be competitive with the Red Bull cars. They were holding me up a little in the corners but then their top speed meant they were able to pull away on the straights. I think it was a shame for all the guys as we worked hard this weekend. The team will investigate what happened to cause my retirement and we will see what we can achieve in Brazil."