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Q&A with Toyota’s Ralf Schumacher 04 Sep 2006

Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Turkish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, 25 August 2006

Ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, Ralf Schumacher chats to the Toyota press office about team mates, mass dampers, his brother’s championship chances and his own prospects for the Monza race…

Q: Your team mate Jarno Trulli has just signed a new deal with Toyota. What is your position?
Ralf Schumacher:
I will be with Toyota again in 2007 and then we will see. I am very happy where I am, which is why I signed a longish term contract in the first place. Formula One is a difficult business, you cannot start from scratch and win overnight and I think everyone is well aware of that and still highly motivated to keep moving forward.

Q: Has the fact that another Japanese team won in Hungary had any impact at Toyota?
RS:
Certainly not in any negative way. Our motivation is to keep improving until we win and, in a way, when you see another team achieve that, it only sparks people's motivation even more, if that's possible. There was a bit of good fortune involved in Hungary but they still deserved the win. I'm equally sure that we will win too, and hopefully more often in the long term, so I'm not worried.

Q: What is your view on the mass damper rule change coming mid season?
RS:
Any rule change that comes in the middle of the season is not nice because it affects car development. Ideally these things should be sorted out beforehand. The full implications of something are not always obvious at the outset, so there will always be things that the FIA feels it needs to get rid of.

Q: What do you think will happen in the championship battles?
RS:
It will be interesting. Some people are saying that it could be a disadvantage for Renault because Michelin is leaving F1, but I don't think so. I'm sure they are strong and still working hard on finishing the season in a good way. So I don't see it as a disadvantage. But, having said that, Bridgestone is working exceptionally well and I think the evidence of that has been clear in the last few races. We'll have to wait and see. If Michael (Schumacher) and Ferrari have an advantage in the remaining races I can certainly see Michael winning the championship, and I actually think he will.

Q: Will this year's Michelin users be at a disadvantage in 2007?
RS:
I don't think so. Next year the tyre regulations will be different again, with different compounds, so I don't really see any disadvantage there.

Q: Suzuka may host its last Formula One race this year. What do you think about that?
RS:
I've got two different hats: I like Suzuka but I certainly like Fuji as well, it being somewhat Toyota's track. I've always enjoyed racing in Suzuka and I will again this year. And who knows, maybe it will come back or perhaps we will have two GPs in Japan. We have had that situation before, with Aida in 1994, so why not?

Q: How important to your career was winning in Formula Nippon in Japan?
RS:
It was a very good time, and actually quite a hard time for me being young and in a different country. But I learned to enjoy Japan, which was nice. For my racing career it was very important because I could concentrate on racing without distractions. But I was over there by myself and it was very hard. Harder than I expected I must admit.

Q: What are your expectations for Monza?
RS:
Pretty high I've got to say. We've proved in the last few races that we're quick, with podium potential, it's just that we have had some problems. I think we did a great job to come away from Turkey with points given everything that happened, so I think we should be strong in Monza too.