FIA post-qualifying press conference - France 15 Jul 2006
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1m15.493s; 2nd Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1m15.510s; 3rd Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1m15.785s.
Q: Michael, so the momentum continues?
Michael Schumacher: Yes, we did a good job in qualifying and a big, big compliment to all of my mechanics, whove done a great job to get the car ready obviously and performing that well. A little gesture to one of our important guys, Nigel Stepney, who received a new baby and so I would like to dedicate that to him. He always does a great job, great effort. So, yes, thanks to all the guys and obviously we are happy and look forward to tomorrow.
Q: Very few laps this morning, could you explain what the problem was and how that may have affected your thinking going into qualifying?
MS: Basically just one part of the heat shield caught fire. It got hot for whatever reason, probably being too close to the hot parts. Thats pretty unusual, honestly, but not too much of a concern for the future because we know how to fix that but obviously it meant that we could run very little this morning and had a lot of work for the mechanics.
Q: What were your expectations going into this race, bearing in mind it is the home Grand Prix not only for Renault but also for Michelin?
MS: Yeah, well, I dont think it really matters where you are. Obviously they have a lot of jobs to do during a weekend like this but finally when youre on the track, you dont really care much where you are, especially in qualifying. Youre so concentrated, youre so focused, so naturally we are happy wherever it is to have pole position and to have Felipe that close to me in second position.
Q: Felipe, congratulations to you too, on the front row again for Ferrari.
Felipe Massa: Yeah, it was very good, very good qualifying for us. Like Michael, I had a little problem with my car, with the clutch and we tried to fix the car in practice this morning, but the time was really tight and I almost lost the possibility to go out in first qualifying, so lets say also it was a fantastic job from my mechanics as well, and I have to say that the people did a great job. The car is good so tomorrow will be a very interesting race. Im sure its going to be close, but hopefully we can be in front.
Q: Refinements in this race to the qualifying system, what was that like from your point of view and any affect on strategy for tomorrow?
FM: Honestly, from my point of view, it doesnt change a lot, it just changes the burning of fuel at the beginning of qualifying. Instead of managing to do ten fuel burning laps, we maybe do four or five, so it doesnt change a lot for us.
Q: Fernando, it looked as if we had a bit of a rehearsal for the Grand Prix tomorrow in the opening laps of the burning phase of Q3 there.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, the same as Indianapolis, it seems the most interesting part of qualifying at the moment. We tried to be at the front of the queue for the fuel burning laps and you know we managed to do it at the green light, in the pit lane and then Michael overtook me. I think the important thing is to be back here in the conference, in the top three. At Indianapolis, I had a bad weekend and now were back to normal positions here so Im happy and confident for tomorrow.
Q: We saw you sliding around a little bit at the end of practice yesterday. We had a lot of rain yesterday; what sort of weekend has it been for you in terms of the grip and balance of the Renault?
FA: It was OK. We honestly didnt change the cars set-up too much from the beginning to the end. OK, the overall grip is sometimes not fantastic, depending on the temperatures, as we saw today. In P3, I think the Michelins were a little bit dominant in terms of times but now with more temperature on the track, all the Bridgestones are in the top ten in Q3. The overall grip depends on the temperature but the cars balance is always still good.
Q: Michael, finally, your thoughts on the race tomorrow: interesting strategies out there, an interesting day, Michelin versus Bridgestone as well.
MS: Yeah, due to the fact that you have the new qualifying procedure, and burning less fuel, it obviously opens up windows for the strategies, it changes slightly. Well have to see what that means to the field, who is going to chose what, but yeah, it looks to be an interesting race tomorrow.
Q: Michael, another interesting race, as it were, in qualifying. How was it for you?
MS: Yeah, its interesting. We already had a little battle, a little race going in Indianapolis. They should give points for these sort of things. It was nice.
Q: Is it because youre missing five minutes now from the final qualifying session that its important to be out at the front in final qualifying. How much are you missing those five minutes in final qualifying?
MS: So you run five minutes less, thats it.
Q: It doesnt make it more important to be first out on the circuit?
MS: No, no. Percentage-wise, maybe even less, because youre doing less laps in the minutes available.
Q: How much of a handicap was the fire that you had this morning, because you obviously lost a little bit of time? Were you doing more adjustments, those that youre allowed to do during qualifying?
MS: You are only allowed to work on the electronic side of the car, obviously. You cannot touch the car except the front wing. Yeah, it didnt really help. We were planning to do a couple of other set-up options but nevertheless, it is important that the mechanics were able to get the cars back together for Felipe and myself for Q1 and they did that superbly and managed to get us onto the first row, and thats pretty impressive.
Q: Felipe, second again, you must be very happy to be on the front row.
FM: Yeah, definitely. I think after Indy, until now we are having a good weekend, so the car is competitive, the tyres are working and hopefully we can also have a similar result tomorrow, but I think it was very good for us to put both cars on the front row and as Michael said, the mechanics did a great job between the sessions. I had a clutch problem and it took quite long to fix and I almost lost Q1 because of that, so it was really a great job from them to put everything together. I think it was a really great qualifying for all the team, my-self and Michael.
Q: In the past, weve seen two, three, even four stops here. How important is it to have a few sets of new tyres available?
FM: Yes, sure. I think here the new tyres make quite a big difference and its important to have at least one or two new sets spare to use during the race so we will see, we will see who has more sets tomorrow to make the difference going out of the pits.
Q: Fernando, are you unhappy to be third? Did you think that Ferraris Indianapolis performance was a one-off?
FA: No, no, Im happy to be third, for sure. I did the maximum and I think we saw in the times that its not possible to catch the Ferraris over one lap, so to be third is the best possible position for the others. I think I did the best possible job. Its true that at this temperature the Bridgestone tyres work quite well because we are seeing a lot of Bridgestone cars in the top ten, so we will see tomorrow. Our tyres consistency is fantastic so the challenge will be tomorrow.
Q: What were your thoughts about the new qualifying system with five minutes less?
FA: Its very similar for us. Instead of burning fuel for eight or nine laps, now we are doing five or six, so its no big change for us. It doesnt change
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazetta dello Sport) I would like to ask Michael and Felipe for the technical reason to stay in front during the first part of qualifying? How and why is it important?
MS: Naturally, when you have been in front, you have the 15 minutes available and sometimes it is just not enough or enough to do an extra lap depending on how long the lap time is and that is why you want to be out at the front to make sure you get the maximum number of laps or if you have a little problem you can fix the problem, you can have a longer pit stop, or traffic, or whatever, something where you need to have some margin.
FM: Yes, I think Michael said everything already.
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) Felipe, the problem you had is the same as you had in Indianapolis you had a problem with the clutch in the first or second pit-stop
FM: No, Completely different. I didnt have any problem in Indianapolis. It was just the clutch was slipping going out of the box. It wasnt a real problem.
Q: (Juha Paatalo Financial Times Deutschland) Michael yesterday your performance looked like no more than average and today you had a small fire on your car. Are you surprised to be on pole?
MS: A little bit, yes, because as we didnt have any reference this morning usually we put new tyres on so we can see where we are roughly we were a bit concerned, but after Q1 and 2, we saw that we had good performance which was not really a surprise in a way and therefore it wasnt a concern and we could go for it. Yesterday, you have to see the conditions and why somebody is going quick and not quick. He can put new tyres and do certain things, which can alter and change the position.
Q: (Marco Evangelisti Corriere dello Sport) Felipe, Michael asked you for help a little during the last races for the championship and now you have the possibility to help him really. What are you going to do tomorrow?
FM: Think about the championship and try to do the best I can to help Ferrari to win the championship and for sure I am not inside the fight for first place and for sure I am able to help Michael if I can
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) Fernando, considering you have 19 points can you expect to reduce the risk tomorrow?
FA: No, not at all, I think I have competitive car and a very a consistent car in the long runs and I think my chance will come to me tomorrow and for one lap we were not quick enough we knew that and it was not a big surprise but tomorrow hopefully we have a chance and I think I have nothing to lose. I have 19 points and I am leading the championship and the risk is for the others I think every race.
Q: (Juha Paatalo Financial Times Deutschland) Michael and Fernando, how much did the track change or has it changed this weekend and how did it affect the car performance?
MS: I cant say too much about it honestly I havent been running too much today.
FA: Nothing big, only the temperature is changing obviously. Very hot during qualifying today and yesterday in P2. This makes the car a little bit nervous and for us a few more problems, but we shall see tomorrow.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) The question is to Michael and to Massa as well. You didnt have the opportunities to be on the track a long time today. Do you have indications that your tyre has as great performance in long runs as in one single lap?
MS: Obviously, we dont have as much experience because we lost out today.
FM: Yeah, I didnt do so many laps this morning because of this problem I had and I had to stop in my last run so it could have been a reasonable long run to check the balance in the tyres and in terms of consistency, but I couldnt, but we expect to be in good shape tomorrow. Hopefully, together with the temperature and everything, we can be competitive.
Q: (Marco Evangelisti Corriere dello Sport) Fernando, today we saw much more attacking during the qualifying than in several races. Michael already talked about that. Did you enjoy it?
FA: (laughs) Well, I prefer to start first and dont change positions. But it is true that in Indianapolis and here we have seen some good fights and good overtaking manoeuvres in the burning fuel laps and obviously we are not racing so you dont close the door too much if someone tries to overtake you, you open the door and then you try next corner to overtake him. Its not so important as in the race when it is much more difficult to overtake.
Q: (Serhan Acar CNN Turkey) A question for Michael, at Indianapolis both Alonso and Massa were very fast at the start, what do you expect at the start of tomorrows race?
MS: You know it is not within us drivers very much. You know you have a certain way and you move the clutch and although you do everything manually, but you can only do so much as a driver. So obviously I dont know what the situation is and mostly it depends on tyre grip what you have available in conditions at the start and that very often is different to what is on the race-track because tyre temperatures are very different in these moments.
Q: (Mattias Brunner Motorsport Aktuell) For Michael and Fernando, what has the bigger influence on Sunday variations in temperatures or more and more rubber on the track?
FA: I dont know. Everything is important. You dont know how your tyres and your car are going to develop with the rubber you put in the corners and the drag normally improves each lap but sometimes the car reacts in one way and sometimes in another. So tomorrow, we have to have our fingers crossed at the start and obviously hopefully everything goes well for you and badly for the others, in terms of performance, but you never know until the race finishes.
MS: Only the normal things obviously.
Q: (Thierry Vautrat Sud Ouest) I would like to ask Michael if he has a special motivation to win for the eighth time here because he has won seven times?
MS: Yeah, I do, but I have every time the same motivation. That is the difference. No, honestly, in the situation that we are in, we have to win as much as possible.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) I dont think it is a secret so may I ask you please how many sets did you use in the qualifying?
FM: Yes, the same.
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) Michael, did you enjoy the concert yesterday evening?
MS: Yes, it was nice, not only the concert, but to get to know the people and to go back stage a little bit and meet them again this morning, so it was interesting.
Q: (Carlos Miquel Gomez Diario As) A question for Fernando, are you afraid of the position of Felipe in the first lap, to pass and go to Michael?
FA: No, I dont think so. I think all of us, we try to do our race and sometimes Felipe is there and sometimes Giancarlo and we never see anything different. We just try to be first in the first corner. Everyone, as we saw in Indianapolis, where Felipe started second and he tried to overtake Michael. It is quite normal. We are all very competitive and I have no worries for tomorrow.