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Exclusive interview - Ralf Schumacher 18 Mar 2006

Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, 17 March 2006 Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota TF106.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, 17 March 2006 (L to R): Richard Cregan (IRE) Toyota General Manager F1 Operations talks with Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, 17 March 2006 Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota TF106 in the pits.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, 17 March 2006 Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota TF106.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, 17 March 2006

Based on their improvement last year, it seemed Toyota might just be the team to bring Ralf Schumacher his dream of becoming world champion - a dream that would finally enable him to escape from the shadow of his older brother’s achievements. Then came the disaster that was last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix. However, Schumacher’s and Toyota’s spirit remains unbroken, both confident that the sun will rise again for the Japanese team…

Q: Toyota ended last season on a high - a high that the team were expected to continue this year. However, in Bahrain last weekend, reality caught up with you. How painful was that?
Ralf Schumacher:
Last weekend was somewhat painful in the sense that we did not expect to be so far back. However, as a team we are strong enough and we will fight back with a vengeance.

Q: Just as it seemed there was light at the end of the tunnel, suddenly you are fighting towards the back of the grid again. How does that affect your motivation?
RS:
I am very motivated, just like I always am. I’ve been in the business for too long to let a situation like this get to me. My motivation continues to be based around winning races and to have the best possible results with and for the team.

Q: What impact does this setback have on your strategy for the season and the dream of more podium finishes?
RS:
Our strategy now is to analyse the situation and to find solutions in order to remedy the lack of performance. Our dreams stay the same though, we want to fight at the front of the grid and ultimately to win the championship. It’s actually more than just a dream, it’s our goal.

Q: With the team travelling directly from Bahrain to Malaysia and then on to Australia, there seems little chance of improvement at the next two races. How will the team approach Sepang and Melbourne? And when can we expect Toyota to resume their upward trend?
RS:
Well we won’t be able to change an awful lot for the race in Malaysia. However we are fitting in a test in between the races of Sepang and Melbourne. Our results in Bahrain do not reflect our true results and potential. I believe that in Malaysia we should already be in a much better position than we were in Bahrain.

Q: How sensible do you think it was for the team to switch tyre suppliers just as you were starting to enjoy some serious success?
RS:
We’ve changed the tyre company with a long term perspective in mind. We’re confident that in the long run it will pay off. When Michelin leaves F1 next year and Bridgestone is the sole tyre supplier for F1 we will have an advantage over the teams that are still on Michelin this year.

Q: Toyota has two highly-regarded drivers and one of the strongest engines. Are there any areas in which you feel the team failed to do their homework properly over the winter testing period?
RS:
Toyota has a strong engine, but it is early in the season to tell if this is the strongest one. Last year we had the strongest engine in F1. This year I believe that Cosworth has an initial advantage over the rest of the F1 grid. You just need to look at Nico Rosberg’s overtaking manoeuvres over the Red Bull cars at the end of the start-finish straight in Bahrain and you see that Cosworth might have an advantage over all of us.

Q: Following your split with Willi Weber last year, you are the only top driver to not have a manager, at a time when contracts are the talk of the Formula One paddock. Do you feel comfortable and competent representing yourself in this respect?
RS:
Yes I do represent myself, but not by myself. I have a team around me consisting of my officials back at home in Austria. I also have Guido Piedade who takes care of my private PR issues as well as my marketing and commercial interests, which includes management interests. I’m very well taken care of at all the races.