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FIA post-qualifying press conference - Imola 22 Apr 2006

(L to R): Jenson Button (GBR) Honda Racing F1 Team, Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari and Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda Racing F1 Team  in the post qualifying press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Imola, Italy, 22 April 2006

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: 1st Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1m22.795s; 2nd Jenson Button (Honda), 1m22.988s; 3rd Rubens Barrichello (Honda), 1m23.242s.

Q: I guess you know the statistic, you’ve just broken Ayrton Senna’s record for career pole positions.
Michael Schumacher:
Yeah. With the car we had, getting a pole position in Bahrain, it was sort of obvious at one stage that we should be in a position to do so. We worked very hard, naturally - because of our misfortune and the mistakes we made in the last weeks – to make up ground and here we are, and we’ve made up significant ground. Obviously the race is important – this is one step towards it – but seeing where Fernando, in particular, is it’s great for us in terms of first strategy and hopefully result as well by the end of the race.

Q: Can you just describe your feelings, right now, here at Imola on this beautiful day, to achieve that record and to be back in front of your home crowd on the pole, what it means to you?
MS:
Well, the record is less important in a way. You look at it once you finish your racing and you may think about it, but not now. It was a little bit mixed feelings because I came in and I didn’t know (whether I was on pole), because I saw one Renault still out on the circuit and I wasn’t sure whether there could have been a change in position or not, so it was a little bit of mixed feelings. But being here as an ambassador of San Marino, and getting pole position for all our tifosi after all the pain they’ve had to go through in the last weeks, I’m obviously very glad and very excited.

Q: It looks to have been a very troublefree weekend so far; a little bit of incident there with your teammate at the top chicane, he went off just in front of you, but otherwise a great qualifying.
MS:
Yeah, it wasn’t really an incident, he was just trying to find his way and nevertheless, we performed very well. We kept mentioning and talking about it. This weekend I sort of stopped talking about it and rather thought I should show (our performance) and here we are.

Q: Jenson, a great performance. Not particularly happy with the car yesterday but a great recovery today.
Jenson Button:
Yeah, you know we’ve done a lot of work overnight and also during the day and we’ve really improved it. We needed to because we were quite a long way off yesterday, not just on one lap but also the long run pace. I’m much happier with the car now. We did a reasonably good run in practice also so not a bad position to be in.

Q: And a strong position relative to the Renaults and the McLarens.
JB:
Yeah, it’s quite interesting. We’ll have to see how the race pans out but yeah, they must be stopping very very late or they made mistakes, I don’t know. I’m happy with my qualifying and it’s great to have Rubens up here as well, for us both to be up here so it’s a good start for tomorrow and hopefully we can make good use of it.

Q: Rubens, great to see you up here next to your old teammate Michael Schumacher.
Rubens Barrichello:
It’s nice, very nice and I want to thank the whole team. The team has done a great job and in testing they were able to improve the car to my liking and the braking seems to be a lot better so I want to thank the whole team, the mechanics, the engineers, everyone for their effort. They know that I’m pushing very hard. I don’t want to be playing second fiddle. There were some problems for me adapting to the car. Obviously I’m a little bit happier. Imola is quite a good place for an improvement and I think most of it, after the problems that we had in Australia, we had to improve the car on race pace, so tomorrow is a good test and we’re going into it with a lot more optimism, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Q: Michael, your final thoughts on the race tomorrow?
MS:
Yeah, it’s interesting to study this weekend. Up to a point, Renault were miles ahead of every other Michelin runner and then suddenly it seems to have turned around a bit but nevertheless the race pace seemed very competitive from them. So is ours, honestly. We don’t have anything that is only good for one lap. We have worked very hard together with Bridgestone to have the optimum first lap but also have a very strong race pace and here, I think, we can certainly show this and at the end of the day we hope it’s good enough to beat the rest. That’s what it comes to and what counts.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Michael, you’ve been quick all weekend, so I don’t suppose this was too much of a surprise.
MS:
No, it’s not too much of a surprise. Not only have we been quick here, we have been quick in testing in Barcelona. We were quick in Australia as well but we couldn’t really do it all the time and now we worked very hard with Bridgestone to have a tyre which, quite frankly, we already had available in Australia but due to testing, bad weather conditions, we couldn’t test it and we didn’t want to risk it. Now, nevertheless, we know what we have to use and obviously it works very well.

Q: How much of a gamble is the tyre choice this weekend?
MS:
No big gamble. We’re probably clear on what we brought here, what we wanted to have and Bridgestone is very well in this respect, in particular this year where we have made huge progress.

Q: It looked pretty fraught with the two of you coming in for your tyre stops at the same time.
MS:
We planned to be out very early which meant that we were together and as you go together, we have the same strategy in terms of trying to achieve the number of laps and in this respect, it was normal that we would stay together for almost all the time.

Q: So it wasn’t too fraught.
MS:
No, no, no. Not at all, not at all. My first stop took a bit longer because of the front tyre but then there is always some margin in time, it’s not a race pit stop, so it worked out well.

Q: Jenson, you have been on pole here before, so it must be becoming your favourite circuit.
JB:
It’s a circuit I enjoy very much. It’s a beautiful setting, it’s very narrow and you have to bounce the car off the kerbs quite a bit. I enjoy it – it’s a circuit I’ve always gone very well at. Yeah, it’s always gone well for me here.

Q: Rubens was talking about race pace. We’ve seen you qualifying very well but not being so good on race pace. How confident are you for tomorrow?
JB:
It just shows what we’ve been doing in testing. We had some good runs today and we just have to see tomorrow, but we’re reasonably happy that we’ve solved some of our issues and whether we have completely solved them – we’ll just have to wait and see.

Q: Are we going to see a vast improvement for the rest of the season?
JB:
I’m hoping, yeah. I know I’m smiling, but it is only qualifying. Tomorrow’s the important day and hopefully we have quite a good car for the race and I’m sure we’ve made enough improvements.

Q: People were complaining about a lack of grip yesterday. How much better was it today?
JB:
It was a bit better today with the grip level – maybe it was because of higher temperatures. I’ve struggled to get a set-up with the car, I struggled especially yesterday, and today also it’s been tough, but we found a set-up that works and I’m positive for tomorrow, but it hasn’t been an easy day for myself.

Q: High hopes then?
JB:
Today’s been going well, so hopefully we’ll continue tomorrow.

Q: Rubens, well done. Are you surprised to be up here?
RB:
Not really. Obviously it looks like chaos from the outside with the car, but it’s been hard to drive going to circuits with a new team and a new car. Still, our pace has been good. In Australia I should have been in the top ten but I got traffic on my quick lap and was knocked out. With these new rules, that can happen to the top guys as well. But like I said, I’ve been working very hard with the team. The team has been listening to my requests and this is the proof of it, that’s why I want to thank them so much, because they put a lot of effort last week into improving the car. Jock (Clear) has been quite good engineering and putting the car right for me. It’s still not 100 percent but I’m enjoying it much more. Imola is not actually a place where I go that well and so I’m quite happy.

Q: But how marginal is race strategy here?
RB:
We’re only going to learn that tomorrow, but the most important thing is that we have to rely on ourselves. We understood a lot of the problems that we had in the races, since the beginning, not just in Melbourne. We made the car faster, there’s no doubt that the car is faster on race pace. Ferrari, with Michael, seems to be on another level in a way, but we’re here to win the race and we’re going to give it everything and see if our work from last week paid off and I think it will.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado do Sao Paolo) Michael, you are now first in the ranking of pole positions. Is there any special meaning for you?
MS:
Yeah, obviously it has a special meaning for me but then, as I mentioned before, those sorts of statistics and records and so on, they will mean much more when you’re over it and look back to it. Right now, you’re so much focused on what comes next that it’s a nice achievement but you don’t pay too much attention to it.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Michael, can you explain your voice. Do you have flu?
MS:
I just have an allergy.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) To the Honda drivers, the key question seems to be tyre temperatures. Do you think that you found the solutions in the long runs that you did yesterday and this morning?
JB:
The issues we had in Melbourne with the tyre temperatures and the tyre grip, I think we’ve solved a lot of the issues and I don’t think we’re going to have a problem here. The temperatures seem to be very good all weekend so I don’t think we’ll have an issue but you never know. We’ve got to wait and see. It’s difficult. We hadn’t driven in such cold conditions like Melbourne so it’s difficult to see if we have solved the problems completely.

Q: Is it a problem that there seems to be a very narrow temperature range with the tyres this year, and this is perhaps hotter than you thought it was going to be?
JB:
No, I think this is good for us. The hotter temperatures seem to work for us as a team and also for Michelin so I’m happy that the temperature has been good here, it’s been the best for quite a few years here in Imola, I think, so it’s positive for us and also for Michelin, so we’re very happy.

Q: Michael, is that a problem for you, the fact that it’s warmer?
MS:
No.

Q: (Dario Torromeo – Corriere dello Sport) Rubens, with Alonso having such a bad position in the order, do you think the World Championship is still open for Honda and you in particular?
RB:
No, listen, I was much more optimistic when I went to the first race and obviously what happened put us down a little bit, even though Jenson has being doing a superb job to be qualifying up there. In the first two races, he showed the pace of the car and he was on the podium once. We’re going to have to work really hard to get the car to where we want. It is a good car, there’s no doubt of that. We need to improve small areas to make it a real contender for race wins but the championship is still too open. You can see that from Ferrari’s pace. It’s a kind of a McLaren situation from last year; they start late… they start here in Imola actually, where they were faster than the Renaults. If that’s a bluff, just because of the track, we don’t know but the championship will be very open until very late, I guess.