German eyes more podiums after Hungary success
He has been living in the shadow of team mate Jarno Trulli this season - that was until he scored his first podium with Toyota at last weekends Hungarian Grand Prix. Afterwards Ralf Schumacher spoke to the team's press office about his performance, about new qualifying formats and about his plans for the summer break
Q: How did it feel to finish third and score your first podium for Toyota?
Ralf Schumacher: Great. And the really positive thing is that we achieved it on merit. People had been suggesting that we have good qualifying speed but aren't so strong in the race. But at Hungaroring we proved that we had the speed in both qualifying and race. It was an excellent all-round performance by the whole team. And if you look at my race times at Hockenheim a week earlier they were strong too, and so I think the TF105 is also a really good race car.
Q: Were you surprised to be so quick in Hungary?
RS: I think everyone was concerned about some tyre limitations because we knew it was going to be really, really hot. Other than that, I don't think we had any worries and the whole weekend went really well.
Q: But you did seem to have taken a step forward. What do you attribute it to?
RS: We thought that due to the temperature and the tyre we were able to choose, it would all fit together well in Hungary and that's the way things worked out. But I must say, we didn't expect to be that quick compared to the Renaults. A lot depends on how you use the tyre and how well it fits with the circuit and car. At Hockenheim that was good in the race and in Hungary it was even better.
Q: Were you surprised by Ferrari's pace?
RS: Theirs was a better performance and perhaps the margin by which they took pole position was even a surprise to them. Maybe they just got everything to work the right way, which sometimes happens. Theirs was the only car to go really quick at the end of the qualifying session, because the circuit conditions seemed to deteriorate again from the middle of the session onwards. That might have been down to rising temperature.
Q: What do you think of Hungaroring to drive? Is it quite physical?
RS: It is, because you don't have a real chance to relax anywhere on the lap except for the one straight. But it's a nice circuit now - you have an overtaking possibility and it's safe.
Q: Is overtaking really feasible into Turn 1?
RS: It is, and in the 2003 race I overtook quite a few cars there. I guess it's still possible but the problem is that in order to do it, you have to be very close to the car in front through the last corner. And when you do that, you lose the effect of the front wings and the car wants to understeer straight on. That tendency is even exaggerated a little bit this year because of the aerodynamic rule changes which make the front wings less efficient. It's not so much of a problem when you have a slow corner onto a straight but in Hungary the last corner is not that slow. It's the problem I faced when trying to pass Michael in the last few laps. I was quicker but unless he made a mistake I couldn't pass him. And he didn't make one.
Q: Is the Hungaroring in better shape than in recent years?
RS: They have resurfaced almost everything but it still has quite a few bumps, but the layout is definitely better.
Q: Are you one of the drivers going to meet FIA president Max Mosley to talk about safety issues this week?
RS: Yes, I'll be there.
Q: What are the main issues you want to see addressed?
RS: There isn't any really huge issue but it's mainly about safety concerns in testing and a few opinions and questions surrounding Formula One's future direction. We are meeting in Cannes and it will be good to take the opportunity to be away from the race track in a calm atmosphere.
Q: Considering you sometimes do two race distances at a test day, do you agree that testing safety needs to be at least on par with a race weekend?
RS: That's logical, sure, but on the other hand it's not the FIA's responsibility at the moment. They can suggest things, which they are doing, but then it's down to the team principals to fulfil those ideas. I am confident that will happen. I'm not too worried about it.
Q: When will you have your first test with a 2006 specification V8 engine?
RS: I think it will be after the season. It is not really a necessity at the moment.
Q: How do you see the rest of the year? Can you keep going forward?
RS: I hope so. There is still a development programme going on and we have new parts at every race, so I'm quite positive. If it goes as it has done so far, I might even be able to score more podiums.
Q: Which qualifying system would you prefer to see next year?
RS: On one hand it's quite good to qualify on your own when you can't have any traffic, although I still managed to have some here in Hungary! On the other hand, four chances on low fuel was quite a good system as well, and everyone knew who had the quickest package. But I'm not sure about having to do a lap every 15 minutes, as has been suggested.
Q: The traffic you mentioned - was it (David) Coulthard on his way back to the pits?
RS: Yes. It wasn't a big problem but it momentarily distracts you, takes your attention off what you are doing and it shouldn't happen. David apologised and it was all okay, so let's just hope it doesn't happen again.
Q: Your brother has said that qualifying has been changed too much and that it's not good for the sport. Do you agree?
RS: I don't know. Under the old system people complained that only the last 20 minutes mattered, during which there was too much traffic. But rather than complaining, we need a better solution and, personally, I don't have one. Whatever they were trying to do was for the good of the sport. It hasn't worked out perfectly yet. With single-lap qualifying spectators can at least follow every car but the main problem on the outside is that they don't understand the different fuel loads and so on. They don't see the technical side of it and I think many of them just want to see a lot of cars running and things happening.
Q: So you think there's no ideal solution?
RS: I guess you will never satisfy everyone because even among the team principals everyone has their own opinion and their own suggestions.
Q: Is F1's secrecy necessary? For instance, if qualifying weights were known, TV could do a more informed job and it wouldn't really affect the racing?
RS: It would affect the racing. Not in the first stint because you can't change, but if you knew what all the other guys were doing and when they were stopping, you could adjust the rest of your strategy accordingly. So I think the secrecy is necessary, but on the other hand I agree that it makes it more difficult to explain things to the spectators, viewers or readers. And even for us drivers sometimes, it's impossible to give the press proper answers because we are not allowed to share the information. So we also have to live with some wrong assumptions or estimations.
Q: Are you going to have a holiday in F1's three-week summer break?
RS: I'm not sure. I think we'll just stay at home. It will make a nice change not to be travelling for a while!