FIA post-race press conference - Bahrain 12 Mar 2006
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
1. Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1h29m46.205s; 2. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1h29m47.451s; 3. Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), 1h30m05.565s.
Q: Fernando, it was close all the way, but a great start, you got up to second place on the first lap.
Fernando Alonso: Yes, the start was good and from there it was a little bit easy to think about the race but about the start maybe was two down on the first lap and then impossible to recover. In the first stint, Michael was too quick, nothing to do. We thought that we had more fuel than the others, especially yesterday in qualifying, up until lap 20 and then from there the car was performing well. We were on a similar pace to Michael and in the second stop, thanks to luck, thanks to the mechanics who did a perfect stop again, I was very close but in front of Michael and from there, I think we had a similar pace again but with me just in front.
Q: It looked to be a bit of a tense time for you going into that second stop when you knew you had to make up time and you were in traffic there.
FA: Yeah, a lot of traffic and I think all the guys were OK to let me past but there were no blue flags at all, so the marshals were not in the race at that moment, but I was lucky enough to be in front of Michael and it was good, it was really nice and a really fun race for me.
Q: How did you drive that last stint with Michael behind you?
FA: At the beginning quite slowly, quite conservatively, because I knew that at the beginning maybe the Michelin tyres were a little bit better and at the end maybe the Bridgestone tyres would be better. So I knew that at the end, the last four or five laps, we would have some problems with Michael, for sure, so I was a little bit conservative and I really conserved the tyres to the end, but at the end, I also had quite a nice gap one second, one second and a half and all the last stint was quite relaxed.
Q: Michael, for a while Felipe was second on that first lap but by the end it was Fernando in your mirrors.
Michael Schumacher: Yes, but quite honestly if you think where we were last year, if you see what has happened over the winter time, if somebody would have told us we would finish second in this race we would have been absolutely happy about it and we are honestly happy. Its eight points, just two down (from the maximum). Victory is certainly always nicer, no doubt. We got pole position yesterday, unfortunately I lost one lap in qualifying where, for traffic reasons I had to back off and I didnt get the fuel, and if you look at it now, its the one lap that I was missing, in a way. Nevertheless, good result, good work from the team, reliable car, fast car, very promising for the rest of the season and good fighting and good racing.
Q: Brilliant second stint from you, a lot of fuel in the car, a long run there and Fernando behind you the whole way.
MS: Yeah. Obviously he was a bit quicker in certain moments. Then I seemed to be able to just open up a little bit and got traffic, close to my pit stop, but nevertheless, you shouldnt complain. It just goes around one or the other way and it was a good race at the end of the day. I feel a bit sorry for Felipe that he couldnt take the result of his race but there are many races to go for him.
Q: And how was that phase for you, following Fernando?
MS: You know what it is in Formula One, sitting behind a car, you need to be a lot quicker. When you have equal cars, its almost impossible to pass. Once there was a moment with a backmarker, I got a bit closer, I was having a look whether there was an opportunity but then finally it wasnt close enough to seriously try.
Q: Kimi, from the back of the grid, what a sensational drive from you on a one stop strategy. Talk us through the early phase; you picked up a lot of places very quickly.
Kimi Raikkonen: Yeah, I think it was a bit disappointing what happened yesterday because the car has been pretty good all weekend and we got a good set-up, especially yesterday morning so starting from the last place, we knew that we had a good chance to score some points, but it really depends on the first few laps and whatever happens during the race but I got quite a few places in the first corner and I was able to follow and overtake people who were lighter, so I got past them during the first stint. We ran quite a bit longer than anyone else so we were able to gain some places and in the end, the Honda came behind me, Jenson, and it was a little bit difficult because I had quite old tyres already which had done many laps, and he was behind me with brand new tyres, so I needed to look out for him and I was able to keep him behind for five laps and then I knew that his new tyres werent going to be as good any more so I was able to take it easy and then come home in third place.
Q: But you must feel encouraged by the tremendous speed from you and the car.
KR: Yeah, because we didnt really know where we were after testing and people said we werent very good, but during the last month we really improved our position and when we came here the car was pretty good so it wasnt surprising, but we didnt really know where we were. So it was nice to see that we were strong in the race and we could have been very strong in qualifying also.
Q: It looks like its going to be a very very close season, Fernando.
FA: Yeah, it will be very interesting. There are four teams fighting for victories at any circuit at the moment: Honda, McLaren, Ferrari and Renault, and I think any of them can win races, and this would make the start of the season, especially, very very interesting.
Q: Fernando, how did you get past Felipe?
FA: Felipe went a little bit long into turn one at the start of the race. I tried to overtake him at turn four, on the next straight but it wasnt possible, but he braked on the inside line where it was dirty and he missed turn four, so it was there that I overtook him. On the fifth or sixth lap, he overtook me but only for a tenth of a second, because he passed really quickly and dangerously and at that moment I was lucky enough not to touch.
Q: Did you see him coming, sideways or backwards?
FA: Yes, but there was nothing I could do, the speed was too quick and you have no reaction time, basically. I was lucky.
Q: Then it was absolutely vital for you to get out the pits ahead of Michael at that last stop.
FA: Yeah, it was the only opportunity to win the race and I was going for it. I really knew that the car was tougher than Michaels, especially the first ten laps on the tyres. So it was my moment, I knew that if I was in front of him at the exit of the pits, the race was for me. I really pushed with a good in lap and a perfect pit stop from the mechanics and thanks to this I was in front of him, very close, but in front.
Q: Were you getting a lot of instructions on the radio?
FA: No, I was pushing them more for the blue flags, so they had more radio than me, probably.
Q: How much were you surprised by Michael five laps from the end?
FA: No, we had some people in front, and sometimes they slowed me down, and Michael was close to me, and sometimes it was the opposite. They were nice with me and not so nice with Michael and the gap would open again. I was quite sure that the victory was in my hands.
Q: Were you a bit worried during the opening stages when he was pulling away a bit?
FA: No, not really. We thought that the fuel load was significantly different, and it was not the time to push at that stage.
Q: And whats the new swagger on the podium?
FA: Its a secret, Ill tell you later in the season.
Q: Michael, the end of the pit stop was the crucial point, wasnt it?
MS: Yep. Probably the pictures show how close I was. I was on the outside, I tried, but there was no opportunity.
Q: And obviously later on as well.
MS: Yeah, once youre behind, you have to wait for a mistake or a bad situation with a backmarker. It didnt really occur, so I just sat and waited and watched.
Q: But youre really happy with what was obviously a very close second place.
MS: Yeah, you know in 19 or 18 races, however many its going to be, all points are very important and if you lose or gain two points its not really so important at this stage. It would have liked to win but then there is only so much you can do for it and this time it was Fernando. As you see, we have four very competitive teams on the grid and its a long year.
Q: Did the opening laps go as planned?
MS: Basically, yes, it worked out well.
Q: No more or less than the time you would have hoped to have made up?
MS: No, actually, I was quite happy to see a gap opening up and if you consider that we lost a lap of fuel returned in qualifying due to being just a bit above 110 percent anyway, so it shows where we are and how good we probably can be for the rest of the year.
Q: Kimi, you made up eight places on the first lap; do you remember any of them?
KR: Yes, in the first corner I got quite a few around the outside, and then people were really going too quickly into turn four, and they were sliding around and I got a few places there but the car was good, even though we were much heavier than the guys in front of us. The biggest problem was Villeneuve, he was the most difficult guy to overtake because I was hitting the rev limiter in seventh gear in a straight line so whenever I got close I was not able to pass him. But then finally I got close enough and got him under braking so that was very good. But the car has been good all weekend really so it was a bit disappointing what happened yesterday. But at least we got six points, so we didnt drop too many points behind the two guys in front of me. There are many races to go and we seem to have good speed and the car is working, so maybe we can see what we can do.
Q: Much pressure from Jenson Button in the closing stages?
KR: Yeah, when he came behind me he was on new tyres and my tyres were a bit old already, so I knew that he could try to overtake me at that point, but I was pushing hard and then after about five laps he started to slow down so I knew then it should be OK barring a mistake, but at that moment when he just had new tyres it was quite close.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Michael, your team tested here for several days so you got used to the circuit and the Bridgestones as well. Is this the real power of Ferrari or is it down to the test?
MS: I guess at the start of the weekend you have advantage. Normally, by the end, people know what they have to do, and I dont know if I should say it but there is something still left over for another (race). Who knows, but it certainly did help our preparation.
Q: (Anthony Rowlinson - Autosport) Michael, do Renault have a car advantage over you or is it down to tyres? Can you analyse where they are quicker?
MS: I think, if you look at it in real terms, were very close, so Im not sure if anybody has the advantage over anybody. Probably, if you analyse, Kimi has done a very fast race, so well have to wait and see. It really is important where you start at the beginning of the season and where you finish. Development is a key factor and well see who has the better base on that.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Fernando, in qualifying, you and Giancarlo (Fisichella) were at the bottom of the times for eight or nine minutes, in which you possibly burnt off 10 per cent less fuel while doing the same amount of laps. Was your victory won in qualifying because of the extra lap over Michael?
FA: No. I think all weekend we finished top. We worked in a different way and yesterday in qualifying we did a different approach to the new system, which is why we looked different. Everybody else all did a pretty similar strategy, but all weekend has been a case of finding the best approach. We had a perfect Friday, we did a lot on Saturday with our strategy and then won the race. The combination of all these factors went to make the victory.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Kimi, how risky were your tactics tyre-wise, given the one-stop strategy?
KR: No more risky than doing two stops. The tyres have been working very well. We were on a hard compound and it seemed to come back well and there was no big drop-off. We thought anyway that we could do the whole race with no problems.
Q: (Mathias Brunner - Motorsport Aktuell) Fernando, due to what happened to Fisichella, were there any warnings from the team and did you change anything in the car?
FA: No, nothing. He had some problems in qualifying, so I think he took a risk today. They didnt change anything and he started in the same car. Unfortunately, something happened and he had to retire, but in my car it was okay and we had no problems.
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) Was Kimis performance ominous? Can we assume he would have sped off if he started on the front row?
FA: I dont know. During the race I did not know what Kimi was doing. I was surprised he was on the podium because he started from the back, because I thought Jenson was third. I think he did a good race and if he started from the front it would have been a close fight again, between two or three cars, so well wait for the next one (race) now and the opportunity to see him in a more competitive start.
MS: You have to analyse all the laps and times, so its difficult to say from here. He was very quick and its no surprise how quick we found them.
Q: (Jerome Bourret - LEquipe) Michael, do you think you can challenge Fernando when we get back to Europe and have colder temperatures?
MS: I hope so. Theres no reason not to believe that after this race.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, is the pace of your car what you expected, or is it as a result of the track conditions?
FA: No, its as I expected. We were quick, but we are not the favourites like some people expected. They said Renault was a little bit in front of other people. We always said we are not the top team but that we are a top four team who are all very close. With that race here today with Ferrari Ferrari were very quick here last year but Michael had the hydraulic problem. We now have to look at the next few races. They are at tracks where we cannot test, so some teams will be fast and some will be slow and we will see.
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) Kimi, whats your feeling about the pace you displayed? Would you have run away if you started up at the front?
KR: I for sure would have had a chance to win the race, but I dont know at what point they (Alonso and Schumacher) were quick, so its not easy to say right now. I think we could have been fighting but we will have to look at the data to see what the difference would be and if there was any difference.
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) Did the car feel quick to you?
KR: Like I said, the car is good, so that is the main thing and I definitely think I will have a chance to win races and fight for the championship, so thats the main thing too. We were fast today, so thats good.
Q: (Juha Päätalo - Financial Times Germany) Kimi, when did you realise youd be on the podium today and how much satisfaction was it after yesterday?
KR: Of course, were very happy where we finished today because after yesterday it was not so good. I think before my only stop we were already in third place behind the leaders so we knew then if we could keep the speed up that we could fight for the podium, so I was happy we could. That was the moment.
Q: (Juha Päätalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Fernando, can you explain the moment when Felipe Massa almost hit your car?
FA: Interesting moment. For a little time, I thought he would hit me when I saw him coming. I tried to turn left into turn one, when he came past me at speed. Everything happened very quickly. He didnt hit me, and after that I just relaxed, because he didnt touch me. He was maybe close to me, but I just concentrated on my race.
Q: (Carlos Miquel Gomez - Diario AS) Fernando, are you worried that you have Ferrari and McLaren closer than last year?
FA: No, Im not worried. We have the right people and the right car to be fighting all season. We saw in China their capacity to make an update to win the last race and win the championship for constructors. In the past two years it is true that some of the teams have been developing the car a little bit more than us, so we have to, in the first part of the championship, win as many points as possible.
Q: (Mark Fogarty, Australian Auto Action) Michael, is it more interesting to be fighting the new generation?
MS: I dont feel like the old generation to be honest.
Q: In motor racing terms, you are.
MS: Its true, it says so in my passport, but it makes no difference to me I think
Q: Is the challenge more interesting though? You couldnt do it last year but now you can.
MS: Did you listen to what I said before? Same question, same answer.