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FIA post-qualifying press conference - US 01 Jul 2006

The post qualifying FIA Press Conference (L to R): Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari, second; Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari, pole position; Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault, third.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Indianapolis, USA, 1 July 2006

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Drivers: 1st Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1m10.832s; 2nd Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1m11.435s; 3rd Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), 1m11.920s.

Q: Michael, here, it appears that everything is heading in the right direction for you.
Michael Schumacher:
We have been very strong all weekend long, very consistent, had a good pace in general. I’m very surprised about the amount (of time). I would rather give up something and use it for other races because to be almost a second or something ahead of the rest is a lot. But it shows that when the package works, we can be extremely strong. We have been suffering a little bit in the last races where things didn’t work out so well but here, on this circuit, everything just matches perfectly.

Q: Very quick on light fuel and in race set-up here.
MS:
Yeah, it all means we are quick, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if we have a good chance to win tomorrow.

Q: How was the qualifying lap from your point of view, perfect lap?
MS:
The first one was very good, the second one – obviously I had nothing to lose, so I just pushed a little bit harder and that didn’t work out exactly. I did exactly the same lap time again, I lost a tenth, because the fuel effect is about roughly that, somewhere around the track but by the look of it, it was still enough.

Q: Felipe, front row of the grid for Ferrari as in Bahrain. A slight outbraking manoeuvre with Fernando Alonso in that last session!
Felipe Massa:
We do everything in qualifying to avoid traffic. I had good speed on the straight, I took his tow and I had the opportunity and I passed him. I was a little bit freer for doing a lap on those tyres we saw that straight away when the green light went on, it was a little bit more like a normal race start, so anyway, I couldn’t do my lap. We are on the front row and that’s the most important thing.

Q: Very very quick this morning like Michael, but not quite as quick in this qualifying session. Was that the traffic situation?
MF:
No, no, not really the traffic. Honestly, my car, in qualifying, was a little bit more oversteering and in the first qualifying, in the first session, I had a little bit of oversteer, in the second one I had even more, so I didn’t want to push even more to make a mistake, so in the end it’s OK.

Q: Giancarlo, well done, but what does it look like to you, in terms of your race strategy for tomorrow?
Giancarlo Fisichella:
Well, we are really surprised by Ferrari’s pace, which is almost a second here. Already this morning we were very surprised about that when they ran on scrubbed tyres and they have been able to be really quick, very competitive. So I think there is no question, they are quicker than us here in the USA, but we have a long race to do tomorrow, it’s going to be a tough race for the tyres, physically, mentally, so we’ve got a chance to do well and I hope to score lots of points and get on the podium.

Q: Can you be specific about where you think the Ferrari is quicker here than the Renault?
GF:
We don’t know why because I don’t know what changed with them but as the last race, we have the same so maybe it’s the characteristics of the circuit or - I don’t know – maybe Bridgestone tyres are working better than our Michelin tyres. I have no idea.

Q: Michael, returning to you; America obviously a very important market for Ferrari. Talk a little bit about your time in America and what it means for you to be on the pole here at Indy.
MS:
It’s obviously the only race we have done here in America and it has always been a great time for us coming here. We as Ferrari have been very successful here. I very much look forward to put myself into the books as the fifth time winner tomorrow. That would be ideal, but as we said it’s a long way to go before we can achieve that. Nevertheless, it is one of the 18 races where you get ten points for a win. We need to make sure we score as many… and the gap as big as possible to Fernando who is on fifth position, but then we will see what comes out at the end. The market itself naturally is a big market for all manufacturers, so we like to do well here. We like to please our supporters and fans. They were obviously a little bit disappointed last year so we hope we can make up for that. So let’s cross fingers and see what happens tomorrow.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: So, Michael, what is it with you and Indianapolis? This is a great bounce-back.
MS:
What is it with us? I mean that's probably the better question because if we have- we try always to maximize our opportunities and package, for whatever reason we were not able to do so in the last races. Here it just fits in relation to the other guys extremely well. What is the explanation for it? I don't know other than here straightaway we went out and had grip, and other races we didn't. So it's characteristic of little details which have big effects. I've been talking about those very often, and here is a little bit of proof of that. It's a long race anyway from here to go, but naturally with this much advantage, we have vast opportunities. Having Felipe in the first row as well, I mean, that's just ideal for us.

Q: It was an interesting start to the session, wasn't it?
MS:
Yeah. It was a good way to figure out what may happen tomorrow at the start anyway. Obviously we lost out initially, but been quick enough to recap.

Q: And you could become the first ever five-time winner here.
MS:
Yeah, it would be nice. I'm not really great in these sorts of statistics, but you've been mentioning that several times to me, so I can't get around that.

Q: Felipe, very quick, as well. Disappointed not to be on pole position?
MF:
Oh, I think the most important for sure. We try to be as quick as we can. If I was on pole, I would be very, very happy, but I'm very happy to be in the first row. I think that's very important for us. When you think about the temperature, it's still open, difficult but open, and we need to do everything we can to be in front of Renault. This race, we can be in the qualifying, hopefully tomorrow, as well.

Q: Have you made any changes to the car in the last couple of days?
MF:
Yeah, we made some modifications but the first day the car was already competitive. Just make more modifications to improve the setup, and I think we have a good car for the race, also.

Q: And the track conditions; the wind?
MF:
It was pretty hot, especially on the scrub tires in the circuit. It was quite slippery, and it was difficult for the car on the track. We saw other cars sliding a little bit, and the track was very hot. But I think we are in a good direction.

Q: Giancarlo, third on the grid. Are you happy with third?
GF:
Yes. Honestly, I’m quite happy because I did my best. I did a good lap. It was a good car balance, but I was struggling just with the grip. It wasn’t easy to do better than this and I think we realised straight away this morning, when we saw Ferrari’s lap times were consistently quick, it was really in that qualifying session for us to be in front of them, but now, with more than a second, it’s a lot, so I think it’s not looking good for us at the moment, and the race will be tough with the tyres and we will see some chances to do well and to score lots of points with both cars, which is our target.

Q: Is it understeer or oversteer that you’re suffering? A former driver suggested to me that you had understeer.
GF:
In Q1 there was a little understeer but then we managed that understeer with some turn of the wing. Apart from that the balance wasn’t too bad, just struggling with the grip really.

Q: And you don’t think the fuel load will change anything during the race?
GF:
I don’t think so. Compared to other things it’s not so important.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Bruce Martin – Sports Ticker) Michael, were you surprised that you had that big a gap on everybody?
MS:
Well, if you look at the last few races, how close we were then from when we were even behind by sometimes about two tenths. Once we were here, if I’m not wrong, we were about a second to Fisico – is that correct? That’s extreme. Coming from Canada and calculating fuel effect and everything and coming from having two tenths slower to one second quicker, you know, that’s just nuts. I’d rather finish the lap here by one tenth and then use the rest of time in reserve for the next races, split it up so we can use it, but there you go, it just shows that when things are optimum for us and that’s what we can do.

Q: (Matthias Brunner – Motorsport Aktuell) Michael, in Barcelona, that was a track where things went away from you. From your experience here, is the track evolving a lot throughout the race here?
MS:
It can evolve absolutely. A lot? I don’t know, but to have a second in hand – it will be difficult to lose a second. Obviously in Barcelona was one of the worst situations for us and we lost about half a second from Saturday to Sunday somehow, so I don’t see us in too much trouble compared to temperatures this…they heat through at the beginning – they tyres were very consistent, so we don’t really anticipate any problems.

Q: (Anthony Rowlinson – Autosport) After what happened last season, are you surprised at how enthusiastic the fans have been? That’s to all three of you.
MS:
No, not at all. The people who were that disappointed that they would not want to come and see us, they simply haven’t. They will not come and see us. The people that come, they are still enthusiastic and they want to come and see us. They believe in Formula One and we believe in what Formula One can do and again last year was a single event and they understand it should be measured to a single event.
FM: I think people understand about last year that it was not a joke with the race and that was the case and everybody understand we’re gonna race here and do a good job in the race – in competition for making people happy and show F1 as a nice sport.
GF: I agree with both of them, there are people who love that sport and they understood about the problems we had last year and I’m sure I was quite surprised to see quite a lot of people today, and it’s Saturday, it was exciting, after what happened last year. We’re expecting a lot of people tomorrow to welcome.

Q: (George Montgomery – ABC Sports Radio) Michael, how important is it for you to cut into Alonso’s lead this weekend, being halfway through the season?
MS:
If you imagine in any race from now in having a 25-point disadvantage it’s important to open or to clear up a lot of, or as much as possible, so this can be an important and good race to achieve that and we obviously qualify very strong, and we are happy with our race performance so hopefully we can manage in the race and take the points away and take down the gap.

Q: (Matthias Brunner – Motorsport Aktuell) Giancarlo, is it the conservative tyre choice of Michelin after what happened last week?
GF:
I don’t know. I cannot say yes or no. I told you we have the same package as the last race and it was a hard year, but the car balance was not bad, we were just struggling with the grip. The tyres, I don’t know if it’s that conservative or not. It’s a second.

Q: (Bruce Martin – Sports Ticker) Michael, for so many years you were on that great run. Now you’re the chaser. Is that a challenge that kind of gets you excited when you’re chasing somebody rather than being the guy that’s being chased?
MS:
Whatever way you’re in, you try to see the positive side of it. There’s no point to see the downside of it, so it’s what is left to me. We have a good opportunity and a great car in our hands, still nine races to go, so we will work for it and put as much pressure on as we can.

Q: (Tim May – Columbus Dispatch) Michael, with a car like this, what’s you’re frame of mind going into tomorrow, particularly after last week?
MS:
I mean last week it was only to minimise the damage. This one is to have a good feeling for victory and hopefully opening up the points as much as possible.