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FIA post-race press conference - Imola 23 Apr 2006

(L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault, Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari, and Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) McLaren in the post race press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Race Day, Imola, Italy, 23 April 2006

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

1st Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1h31m06.486s; 2nd Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1h31m08.582s; 3rd Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren), 1h31m22.354s.

Q: Michael, it’s been a while since we’ve see you conducting the Italian national anthem on the podium. How does it feel?
Michael Schumacher:
Yeah, great. What else can you say? We had an amazing weekend. We’ve had a lot of work. We made some mistakes in the last races, very obviously, and to come here and perform the way we performed – although there was obviously some struggle at some moments – but in general, over the weekend, we were very competitive and that’s thanks to a lot of us, our many partners, starting with Shell who came up with a completely new fuel, some more horsepower; Bridgestone working very hard on the tyre side and obviously the team itself with new bits for the cars. On the engine, there has been a big push from everybody and as you say, that’s the result and it paid off.

Q: Great start from the pole, great first stint and then it looked as if you had to work very hard to sustain the pressure from Fernando. What was the car like at two thirds of the race?
MS:
It started off OK after my first pit stop and then I ran into some trouble, I don’t know what it is, we obviously have to check the car. It was some graining but not a big issue, honestly, but the car never came back (improved) and never really performed as it was in the beginning and it was quite a bit of a struggle, but luckily this is a circuit where we know from another year – last year – that overtaking is almost impossible unless you make a mistake so obviously you study who is behind and in that case it was Fernando, and where are the moments where it could get critical, and to prepare yourself just for those areas and it worked out.

Q: And of course, it was the reverse from last year. What was the traffic situation like for you today?
MS:
Pretty good. No complaints, the guys did a good job out there.

Q: Fernando, you were looking very strong in that second stint; sliced into Michael’s lead and then just stuck behind him for the rest of the race:
Fernando Alonso:
Yeah. It’s true that I arrived quite quickly to him but then, as Michael said, here it’s very difficult to overtake, nearly impossible if there is no mistake. Michael didn’t make any mistake so I just waited for my opportunity and at the end it didn’t come. But I’m happy. We qualified with much more fuel than the others, obviously, and we assumed that that was the right thing to do. In normal circumstances, on a normal circuit, we should win the race. Also we didn’t plan to make the second pit stop on that lap, we came in much earlier just to try to overtake Michael and it didn’t work – maybe the opposite. Maybe I should have waited until my normal pit stop, maybe that would have worked better. But who knows? I think this eight points is better for me. Second in the championship were Kimi and Fisichella and I took another four or five points off them, so championship-wise it was a perfect result.

Q: We saw you run a little bit wide out of the second chicane with three laps to go, what was the car like at that phase of the race?
FA:
Well, on the limit. I think Michael was very slow in the second stint but not so slow in the third stint. I think the last set of tyres again worked quite well for them and it was not so easy to be behind him and try to overtake, so I really pushed, with five laps to go, just to try to overtake him. I was able to use all the revs in the engine etc, I tried hard. When I saw it was not possible I just went down a little bit and as I said, it was a risk moment and I thought it wasn’t the right time to risk any more.

Q: Juan Pablo, congratulations to you, a strong drive after your problems in practice yesterday, leading your teammate and Felipe Massa in the Ferrari.
Juan Pablo Montoya:
I think it was good. I had a really quick start. I went onto the inside of Fernando, I think he went to try to pass a BAR (Honda) so I had to lift and I lost a couple of places there when I backed off but on and off it was a really good race. I think we did a lot of work over the last couple of weeks and I think we’re going in the right direction. I think our car performance wasn’t as good as we expected. As you saw, we had a lot of fuel in the car as well. I think it was good, we passed a lot of people and everything and I think we had a really good car to fight for the lead but when I got to third I was 13 seconds behind. What can you do, you’re too far behind.

Q: And the pressure from Felipe in those closing stages?
JPM:
I was pretty much cruising to be honest.

Q: Michael, returning to you. After a great start in the first race, a couple of problematic races as you said, now the championship for you is well and truly alive.
MS:
Yeah. It hadn’t really gone away, honestly, even with two difficult races, but points-wise it’s looking two points better now, but there’s a long way to go.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Michael, a sunny afternoon, an adoring crowd, victory; do Sunday afternoons get any better?
MS:
No, certainly not. That’s the maximum you can have.

Q: Everything seemed to go pretty well today, even off the grid. We saw your guys doing a major clean-up operation…
MS:
Yes, there was some incident this morning so there was oil on my grid position, so that’s what was going on, removing the oil.

Q: And did it feel OK?
MS:
It felt pretty slippery initially, to pull away, but probably I cleaned enough off to be OK. It finally worked OK.

Q: How hard was Fernando pushing, or was it a matter of controlling, or a bit of both?
MS:
In a way it was similar to what it was last year honestly, because you had very little opportunities, and if you close the door and you do the job in the right way then you don’t give a chance, really, to the driver behind. In the middle stint, I had to work a bit harder and in the final stint I just drove the car at a nice limit, not to over-push anything and just controlled what was necessary.

Q: I think all the cynics in here remembered the irony of last year.
MS:
Yes, it was funny, just the other way around in a way. Interesting.

Q: You mentioned the graining of the tyres in the second stint; did you have it also at the start of the third?
MS:
No, I obviously drove in a way that this wouldn’t happen. Obviously Fernando was behind me, so all I had to do was keep him behind me, whereas in the second stint, I really needed to keep the race alive and it was a different way to attack. But that wasn’t really the issue honestly, why we went so slowly sometimes and even at the end we were probably not as competitive as we were initially, so we have to look at the car to see what happened, because you ride very heavily over the kerbs so it’s easy that something might not be at 100 percent as it was before the race.

Q: Fernando, I guess the irony is not lost on you.
FA:
Yes, it was something similar. As last year, it is very difficult to overtake here - nearly impossible, so not bad for trying to stay in front. I was waiting for the opportunity, but it didn’t come. So, I tried to push Michael as hard as I could. The second pit-stop was the time to overtake him. We took a risk to come a few laps earlier than planned just to overtake him. I’m sorry they copied the strategy – a lap later they came in and got a better position – so it was a good day for them. As far as me being competitive, this track was never a good track for us, but we were still the fastest car on the track today so I am very confident for the next races and the championship – it looks a little bit better because Kimi and Fisichella were second in the championship and they are behind me by six points, so it’s a positive result for me and the championship.

Q: What happened on lap 59 when you lost a couple of seconds? It looked like you hit a kerb and went wide on the outside.
FA:
Yeah, I hit the kerb in turn five and I pushed hard to make up for this time loss and then went wide in the Variante Alta again, so, we had to lose. Too much risk with eight points after 30 laps of trying to throw that result away.

Q: It looked as though you got very close at Tosa every time, but maybe you were losing downforce?
FA:
No, the downforce lost was not too much – it was not too difficult to follow him in the corners, but on the straights, there was nothing to do (about Michael).

Q: Juan Pablo Montoya – you must be pleased with the tactics that brought you up to third.
JPM:
I think I had a really good start and it was a shame because it was probably the quickest start of all, but I came down the inside of Fernando and he came across so I decided to lift rather than hit him because I needed the points. Having so much fuel didn’t matter - I was stuck behind Ralf (Schumacher) in the first stint, and when he pitted, I pushed hard for a couple of laps until my stop and from there on in it was the same thing. Like Fernando said, the Ferraris had so much more top speed than me, that there was no way to pass them unless Massa made a mistake, and Massa was the same as Ralf so when he pitted I pushed, passed him, and then there was 13 second to Fernando so there was no point to push and I just maintained the gap to Massa and that was it. I think it was pretty good. We changed a lot on the car from last week from the Barcelona test – we did a lot of work there and did a lot of work in the factory as well. I’m very happy with that.

Q: You were controlling it at the end?
JPM:
I wasn’t even pushing, so it was good. I was pretty comfortable.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe), Michael, How did you leave your last pit-stop, with your feelings?
MS:
Pretty straightforward. We saw that they (Renault) changed their strategy and came in early, so at this moment all there is to do is push hard, so I could get a good pit-stop and hope to stay in front. It worked out much better than I thought. Excuse me, I was just watching that on tv. It was a big deal to come out in front and it was clear then that we should be in a good position to win the race.

Q: (Ottavio Daviddi – Tuttosport), Michael, do you think that Ferrari have closed the gap to Renault with all the work the team have done on the car?
MS:
As Fernando said, they feel less competitive here than elsewhere. We were very competitive except for at one point when I think something was wrong with the car. We’ve had good testing in Barcelona and I think we should be pretty good from now on honestly. It’s honestly getting very close between the top teams for maximising their performance so it should be good.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo), Michael, on your second stint, were they new or old tyres?
MS:
New. The second and third stint were new tyres.

Q: (Juha Paatalo – Financial Times Deutschland) Fernando, do you think it would have been a better idea to stay out any longer before your last pit-stop?
FA:
who knows? Probably. After the race, it’s time to stand there and see what was better, but in those moments, you take a decision in one lap or whatever. I think we did the right thing. We were two seconds slower than our pace behind Michael, so we thought one lap we come in should be enough. Unfortunately, it was not enough and it was easier to say that it is better to wait for the planned stop, but it is too late. I think we did the right thing ,but it didn’t work this time.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport), Fernando, don’t you feel you lost the race yesterday?
FA:
No. I think the strategies were all different. We want to be on Sunday afternoon in the top position, not on Saturday. We have had four races. I have won two and finished second in the other two, so that is not bad for the championship.

Q: Did losing two laps of fuel allowance effect you much?
FA:
It’s a bad thing but one was impossible to avoid because I had a bad lap on new tyres and I had to find my gap, and the first one was the out-lap. We were tenth car in the traffic and it was impossible to overtake and impossible to recover.

Q: (Anthony Rowlinson – Autosport), Michael, does this result have an effect on your feelings for the future?
MS:
No

Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe), Michael, were you scared a bit when you saw Fernando coming back?
MS:
No. The moment I saw my lap times falling out of the window, it was clear that he was coming. There was nothing to do.

Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport), Michael , are you confident for the next race considering that the track is very different from Imola and also the weather could have a big effect?
MS:
As I said before, we should be competitive everywhere from now on, but it is always the same - at the end of the day, who maximises their opportunities will be in front.

Q: (Philippe Joubin - L’Equipe), Fernando, do you consider Ferrari or Michael Schumacher your main contender for the title this year?
FA:
We have to wait and see. Michael for sure will be contender and a big rival at the end of the championship, but he is not the only one. Both McLarens will be there and I hope Fisichella will be at the end fighting. It can be more than two or three drivers at the end of the championship. We also have to remember that Ferrari had a very bad season last year but here at Imola they were one second quicker than us. Imola is a quite different circuit so we will find out in the next two or three races who the quick cars are in 2006.

Q: (Juha Paatalo – Financial Times Deutschland) Michael, was your second pitstop planned this way or did you have to react to what Renault did?
MS:
I didn’t ask that question yet because I wasn’t watching what lap I was on – I was just watching what the team was telling me, and the team told me to get in and I didn’t have time to check what lap it was.

Q: (Federica Ferri – Il Nuovo Diario Messaggero) You know there will be changes to the Variante Bassa next year. Do you think next year it will be possible to overtake more on the track? Will Bassa changes reduce overtaking?
MS:
If you have a longer straight with the right combination of starting the long straight and finishing it, then you get an overtaking opportunity. The way it is now, it’s almost impossible.
FA: Same.